The Inane Bystander – Chapter 10

"I don't matter." Over and over again, that's all he said. Well, Link was sick of it. He may not have mattered to himself, but he surely mattered to Link. Shounen Ai, LinkXSheik. M for swears and later-to-come naughtiness. Sheik isn't Zelda in this. Only one OC, but it's nothing.

Disclaimer: Wow… I just got inspired by writing this disclaimer. Being a writer is so much fun sometimes! XD Oh, I don't own Zelda or any of the characters (except the tailor and her assistant; but this is their only chapter).

Warning: Well, it's evolved into Yaoi now, so it's no longer Shounen Ai. Its innocence is entirely smashed. There's violence, swearing, and mentions of a past OC that has since only made a few appearances. WEWT!

Tee-hee: Hey, I wanna know your favourite genres of music. Don't ask why; I want to know, because a song I'm listening to is inspiring me, and I'm curious about whether or not you guys know it. I'll ask in more detail later, but for now, I shall commence Chapter 10!

WEWT!: Happy 10th chapter, all! This is officially my longest published fic (going by the most words)! :D

Sigh: I suck, don't I? I was supposed to post this chapter on Bystander's birthday. This fic's a year old, guys. Sorry for the wait. *facepalm*

((Chapter 10: Shameful Metaphors))

Morning swept over Hyrule like a blush, vermillion pouring into the sky. Powder-white clouds dotted the sky aimlessly, moving only by consent of the wind. The first few streaks of dawn's light fell, like broken angels, to the ground, liquid gold columns illuminating the earth's flawless face.

By the first streaks of light, Link was awake; upon opening his eyes and habitually blinking out sleep, he looked around. For some odd reason, his faculties found colour to be extremely important today, and he focused on nothing else. The floor glowed where the light hit it, smashing its dull brown colour into pieces, revealing a bright cherry wood. The walls shone a platinum blonde from the reflection of the floor. The one shaft of sunlight that rained through the window illuminated every dust particle that flew in its midst, vaguely reminding Link of the effect that the woods had on him as a child.

And then his eyes strayed to the Sheikah in the bed with him. Blonde hair glowed gold in the sunshine, tan skin taking on a bronze hue. Sheik was made of precious metals in the morning light, and Link was very appreciative of this fact, his eyes tracing Sheik's every contour. Sheik sighed peacefully, turning his head toward Link, who held his breath as he watched the eyelids flutter, but remain closed. He released his breath and smiled genuinely, marvelling in the beauty of the Sheikah. He looked to the window, gauging what time it was from the intensity of the light. Deeming it only just past sunrise, Link gently hoisted himself out of bed, feeling very sated, his skin buzzing happily from a night well-spent. He donned his clothes, his eyes still trained on the Sheikah who rested in the light. He wouldn't wake him or disturb him in any way. Sliding on his cap, he descended the stairs and walked out the door.

Closing it as quietly as he could behind him, Link turned to the town; it was quiet, but he guessed it was from a night well-spent at the inn; people were sleeping in late, nursing hangovers from the excellent brew the inn's pub provided. The town was nearly finished, and so people began to celebrate; never mind how early it was.

Link walked the few paces toward the stairs, adjusting his belt as he walked down them carefully. He had just finished descending them when he'd heard it.

"Where darkness lingers, I shall not! The fire is warm, and the food is hot!"

It was a mixture of song and chant, but Link knew the tune nonetheless. He froze in all of his actions, his hands fiddling with his belt pausing as he listened for more of the mantra he'd memorised like a tattoo to his soul.

"Where I linger, time is well! The birds sing, the flowers swell!"

He grew lightheaded as he stumbled toward the voice; it sounded as if it were going away, moving further from him. Every last shred of his being begged him to follow the sound, and so he did, fastening his belt and setting off at a light jog, so as not to disturb the singer. They continued on cue.

"The people here will take you in; they'll love you as they love their kin! So settle by the riverside, where everyone makes merry!"

Link hurried toward Anju's cuckoo paddock—where the voice resonated—and saw Darron, the source of the voice, walking up the stairs to the windmill. Link stared, not moving or following, but observing. Darron passed the door, not even sparing it a sidelong glance as he jumped up on the thin railing separating him from the ground below. He looked around before sighing and beginning the next verse.

"We'll drink a toast to all the best, and send you off like all the rest! Should you choose to stay in place, a toast will be made in your grace!"

He smiled and ran, jumping from the fence and landing on the stronger wooden one across from him. He landed expertly, as if he'd been doing this his whole life. He ran along it, hopping up onto the land that surrounded the windmill. His voice echoed from that area like an arena.

"Then we'll send you off to bed, and lay down your weary head! And you shall dream of things far off, and no burden shall you carry!"

He rounded the windmill slowly, leisurely; it was enough time for Link to quietly dash to the windmill stairs and brave the same jump Darron had. As he climbed up onto the ledge, he heard Darron sigh, and froze as the voice sang again; softer, though, and more mournfully.

"I knew a girl who came to this place; the sun defined her lovely face. She spoke to me in words so soft, her very laugh held me aloft."

Link felt his heart sink as he quietly rounded the windmill, pressing his shoulder to the stone as he watched Darron stare sadly over the village, as if every age of Hyrule had been witnessed by his eyes; he looked tired and desperate.

"What came of her, I do not know; no love for me she cared to show. She'll wander on, there's no mistake; and I'll remain here, waiting."

Then, he sighed. Link approached him and wordlessly sat next to him, and Darron spared him not a glance. For a while, they surveyed the town, companions in silence. Then, Darron spoke.

"I know what came of her. Don't waste your time in telling me."

Link looked at him, but he still stared over the town. His blonde hair was briefly rustled by the wind. It was apparent from his indifferent expression and his distant eyes that he was elsewhere.

"So you don't need to wait for her anymore," Link breathed, feeling a pit in his stomach. Darron laughed sardonically.

"No, I don't, do I?" he asked in a dark manner, but he hung his head and murmured, "I'll wait anyway."

Link couldn't deny his heart was breaking at the sight. Darron was really hurting for Ponn, wasn't he? Darron shook his head, his hair flying about his head like a frayed patch of hay. "You know," he said, and Link was suddenly attentive to him, looking at his abstract eyes, distracted by distant thoughts floating in the confines of his addled mind. "I grew up with her, here, in Kakariko. She was the new kid when she was younger, living here to give service to the King's horses."

He chuckled darkly. "She was worth so much more. The boys in this little gang called the Brass Knuckle Boys used to pick on her for how she dressed—she refused to blend in, you know, wearing her old Termina clothes instead. The boys used to shove her around and call her 'Termina Termite', thinking she was useless. Well, suddenly their token 'brass knuckles', kept by each member, began disappearing. I'd watched them all disappear, each member be berated by the captain for 'losing' their proof of membership. And then the captain's knuckles disappeared too."

Again, Darron laughed. "He was livid. That was when he was convinced someone was stealing them. And Ponn just came out into the open, wearing all the knuckles on both of her hands." Darron's eyes were alight with a type of glee Link had never seen before. "The captain then grudgingly made a bargain with her; leave her alone, keep the knuckles. She threw them back at their proper owners, simply remembering who she stole which from. And then I approached her after all was said and done, and introduced myself. I thought she'd shun me or something, but she just smiled at me and replied with her own. It was a great day."

He sighed. "And then I remember the day she left—she was sixteen, and her father had just died. The kingdom was headed for hell. She swore she'd never come back to Kakariko until she found what she was looking for. I won't lie; I practically begged her to stay. She'd been my best friend since the day she won against the knuckles. She said she'd never stay, and she wasn't sorry for leaving. I asked her what she was looking for. She told me it was hope."

Link watched as Darron sighed, his story trailing into nothingness. Link was hit with the realisation that out of all of the ones who were grieving, he'd probably been hit the hardest. He'd known her longest; he'd watched her grow up, grow stronger under the education of her father; and he'd watched her leave Kakariko, pleading her not to leave. He watched her grow darker as she realised a chance would not simply come to them. She had to seek it.

She had definitely found it in him, he supposed mildly to himself. He hung his head. "Darron," he murmured quietly. "I'm sorry I took her from you." He closed his eyes, feeling the Kakariko villager's eyes staring at him. "I never meant to deprive you of what you loved most." All went quiet for a moment; maybe for thought? Maybe for a simple way to measure out his words before yelling at Link?

No, the silence was not for thought; for Darron was laughing, and Link looked up to see him smiling to himself, giggling and nearly teetering off the side of the sediment. "Did you really just say that? Link, I can't believe you just told me that!" he exclaimed, nearly breathless. "My goodness, Link, you're sorry for absolutely nothing! You never stole her from me. She went looking for you, didn't she, and not the other way around." He calmed down quickly and put a hand on Link's shoulder. "You have nothing to apologise for." His blue eyes sparkled.

He stood, looking better than he had a few minutes ago, and held out his hand for Link to take. Link accepted it gratefully, tugged to his feet by the handyman. "Now, enough depressing talk! I have had my minute of mourning, and now we shall move on. There's a festival going on this afternoon in honour of Kakariko's rebuilding; if you could stall your quest a night longer, we'd love for you to attend." His eyes glimmered with hope.

Link couldn't help but smile at his rather childish expression. "Of course I'll attend," he said, flashing a grin of his own. "I wouldn't miss it for the world."

"Excellent!" Darron replied, heading toward the ladder. "I've got to help the inn prepare; they're in charge of the ale, you see, and I want to make sure they have enough for everyone. If not, I'll just run to the Gorons up in the mountains and see if they don't have any of their special brew. I heard it was hard stuff, but what other choice do we have? Kakariko goes through ale faster than it used to." He laughed again, climbing the ladder down.

"See you tonight, then, Darron," he called, simply jumping off the edge in front of him, rolling on the ground to stabilise his fall. He then began back to the house at a jog to see if Sheik had woken up yet.

He opened the door slowly and entered the house on his tiptoes, intently watching his feet to avoid the creaky floorboards he had memorised earlier. He turned and shutting it quietly behind him, just in case he still slumbered, and turned around, only to see Sheik leaning against the table, all garbed up, holding a mug of what appeared to be steaming tea between both his hands. He wasn't sipping it, for his cowl was up; it merely looked like he was warming his hands. His one visible eye was twinkling with mirth. "You're being awfully cautious there, Hero. Did you intend to not wake me?"

Link smiled sheepishly, still adoring his lover's ability to be cocky so early in the morning. His lover. He smiled at that thought. "I just wanted you to rest well," he said, abandoning the quietness but still speaking in a low tone. "You'd had a rough night last night, what with that nightmare." The other happenings of the night seemed irrelevant. Sheik apparently thought so too, though it appeared his cheeks were red; a bit of his cowl betrayed that quite nicely.

"I had dreamed badly, yes," he said. "But that's no excuse for me to sleep in. I could've gotten assassinated, or attacked. My guard was gaping open—"

"Sheik," Link said, taking the whole two strides it took to approach him quickly and removing the mug gently from his hand, setting it on the table supporting him. His hands were on either side of Sheik's waist. He looked directly into Sheik's eye, and Sheik stared evenly back. Link's hand brushed the hair away from his other eye.

"Not everything has to be about attack or defence. You're in Kakariko; we're safe here. And besides, you know very well that I'd never let anything hurt you. Especially now." Sheik's eyes faltered, darting back and forth between Link's own. "I told you I'm never letting you go."

Sheik's hand hesitantly scaled up his arm as the room grew silent, Sheik's eyes never leaving Link's as it curved across a broad shoulder, arcing up a beautiful neck and burying itself underneath a cap that incidentally fell off. Sheik's other hand remained on the table. Link smiled, leaning forward and nuzzling into Sheik's neck. "I love you."

Sheik laughed dryly as Link just nuzzled, his hand still buried in his hair. "You're going to make me lose myself."

"Get lost in me, Sheik," he replied, shifting so he was whispering in his ear. It wasn't sensual; it was sweet, meaningful, true. "I want to be the forest that engulfs you." Sheik pushed him back lightly, and Link was surprised to see his cowl had disappeared in the transition.

"If you keep saying stuff like that, I'll never come out, you know," he said, smirking. "I want to be lost, and all because of you." He leaned forward and kissed Link lightly. "You seem to possess some kind of manipulative power, Link. People just fall over themselves trying to please you. What must I do to make a lasting impression on you?"

Link laughed quietly, kissing Sheik's nose. "You've already done it." Then, he closed their lips with a kiss. "The others don't even compare," he murmured in between kisses. "My heart belongs to you."

Sheik snorted, tugging on his hair to pull him closer. "Then will you shut up and kiss me?" Link laughed, but obliged politely, pushing Sheik's hips into the table with his own, his hand covering Sheik's hand that remained on the table, the other keeping them balanced on the table's edge.

It was like this for a while; a series of passionate kisses and some bouts of intimate conversation, impatience on Sheik's part (which Link was actually starting to adore) and romanticism on Link's (which Sheik couldn't help but love). And it was in the middle of this that Link remembered about the festival, having forgotten all about it upon seeing Sheik.

"Oh," he said, pulling away from a kiss, and Sheik nipped lightly at his ear as he listened. "Darron asked us to attend the festival here, tonight; in honour of Kakariko's reconstruction. Would you like to go?"

Sheik leaned back flexibly, his hand on his chin as he pondered, almost hovering over the table. "We've only one last temple before we're free from our obligations. I suppose a break is in order, especially after the hellish ordeal we've just undergone."

Hellish. Link's eyes narrowed. "Sheik." Sheik's gaze turned questioning, leaving Link room to continue. "What did Bongo Bongo do to you? When he captured you?" Sheik's eyes turned cold as the memory came back to him. Link thought for certain that he wouldn't tell, but he closed his eyes and sighed before opening them again, effectively giving him a tired look.

"When I was taken by Bongo Bongo, he trapped me in a room of ash and abyss," he began, his tone suddenly calmer. "He began to speak to me. He didn't hurt me, just left me floating on a stone platform above total blackness. It rained ash like snow, there. It was cold, too. It was like he'd trapped me in Death's Stomach after he'd swallowed Kakariko's burning. But he spoke to me. He told me about your progress through the Temple, about how Ponn was with you, about how you two were amiable companions and that I was a third wheel."

Link's expression changed, and Sheik saw it. "I know his words were poison, Link. I know you both cared for me throughout the whole ordeal. He told me how you two never spoke of me, and how you'd supposedly quell off the loneliness in the dark by warming each other with inner fire."

Sheik laughed sardonically. "He was trying to break me mentally, I guess. He spoke of how often you touched one another, and all of the places one could possibly do things in the dungeons. I just sat there and meditated. At one point I could feel his cold hand on me, touching me…" he shuddered. Then, his eyes met Link's and Link was shocked to find a helpless look there. He looked almost on the verge of tears.

Link instantly surged forward, capturing his lips in a tender kiss; and Sheik sighed into it, arms wrapping around Link's shoulders, his responses slow and leisurely. Link intended to capture him in warmth, to dispel all the dark thoughts Bongo Bongo had implanted in him.

"I will always be here to warm you," Link murmured against Sheik's cheek, holding him close. "When nothing else can thaw the ice in your thoughts."

"Warm me," was Sheik's reply, breathy and saddened in his ear.

And Link did.

Sheik and Link emerged later to help set up the festival with the others, and while Sheik was assigned the acrobatic task of hanging decorations from rooftop to rooftop and various maypoles arranged throughout town, Link was assigned with simply making himself ready for the festival.

"You'll need to change your clothes, of course," Darron said, taking a wide stance with his hand on his chin as he looked him up and down. Anju nodded in agreement as she, too, checked out the Hero of Time.

Link followed his eyes, frowning as he went. "What's wrong with my tunic?"

Anju cut in. "Nothin's wrong with yer tunic," she said. "But Kakariko's festivals are a big deal amongst the villagers. We all come out in our best. Even Master Sheikah has some clothes set aside for these occasions. The favoured colours are bronze, gold—no silver, that's always been reserved for Sheikah guests; silver, indigo, and purple are their colours—green, orange, brown, and yellow. If you've got anything of the sort, ye can wear it."

Link shook his head sadly. "I don't have anything of any of those colours except my tunic." Darron smiled at that.

"We assumed you wouldn't," he said. "So we asked our local tailor if she'd make you something nice. C'mon," he said, patting Link's shoulder. "I'll take you to her shop." He walked Link up the hill, hand still on his shoulder, jabbering about the festivities at hand and the massive amount of guests, the likelihood that someone was going to get drunk and break a table this time (as opposed to last time?) and other inane things. Link was acutely aware of crimson eyes following him; he couldn't see them, but he could feel them.

The tailor's shop was tucked right next to the watchtower, so it wasn't very large; but tailors didn't need much room. He was ushered in by Darron and instantly laid eyes on all sorts of garments; only with the colours bronze, gold, green, orange, brown, and yellow.

Wooden racks lined the front of the store, decorated in these hung garments that fluttered when the door opened. The walls were lined with hand-carved shelves, filled with accessories, shoes, and decorative masks. Behind the fantastic clerk-counter (which was also hand-carved), there stood a rather large man, dressed in, for some odd reason, the darkest brown jacket and breeches Link had ever seen. He looked bored, resting his squared chin on his open palm, staring abysmally into the shop as if it were a hypnotist's watch. His black hair fell halfway over his eyes, but not quite, giving him an inattentive and ultimately sleepy air. His brown eyes looked up at the perky blondes walking through the door and stood, no emotion crossing his face. "Hold up," he said monotonously, and he walked through the beads hanging in the doorway behind him (Link noticed he had to duck a little to get through) and disappeared.

Link turned to Darron, who was walking past all the racks to get to the counter. "I thought you said this tailor was a girl."

Darron turned back to him momentarily. "Oh, she is," he replied, and he continued walking. Link followed him without any other questions, waiting at the counter. Darron was absorbed in an armband he picked up along the way; it was made of boiled leather, ironed to a smooth finish and laced with a thick leather strip to adjust its grip. He said it went well with his own ensemble, and Link even admitted to admiring it. "This tailor does more than tailoring, doesn't she?" he asked, watching as Darron flipped it in his hands.

"Yeah," he replied. "She designs and sews; but everything else, her assistant does. He carved every rack, shelf, stool and door in this shop by hand, and works mostly with the leather and decorative armour. I never thought he'd get into this kind of life, but there are weird things you do for love."

He grinned broadly at Link, taking his confused look as a sign to continue. "He used to be a guard at the castle, don't you know. And then he met the tailor in Castle Town, before it was dreary. He fell instantly in love with her and moved with her, here, to Kakariko when Castle Town was ruined. They instantly started business together, he selling weaponry and armour, and her, selling jewellery and talismans to protect the people. Then, when she got the supplies, she resumed her work as a tailor, and he followed suit, seeing as nobody wanted to fight anything, especially with the weapons he made. My father actually frequently visited him while he still made armour daily, and they'd talk for hours over a new idea he had about something to impale something on. My dad was always too much of a man for my taste, so I never came along."

Darron's tale was interrupted by a loud bang, followed by the large man running out to the counter and past the boys, through the store, effectively knocking over a rack of clothes before darting out the door, which slammed behind him.

"That's right, you keep running and ignore those racks," a voice said from behind the boys—for they'd turned to watch him flee for his life—and they turned, Darron instantly beaming. Link found that he was instantly shocked that the one who sent the behemoth of a man running so fast was so small.

Not that she was tiny, merely dainty; she had spidery hands and thin fingers, small palms and thin arms. Her neck was thin, and her face was elegant. Her black hair was pulled into a messy bun, and she squinted her strange, teal eyes to look at them.

"G'afternoon, gentlemen," she said, having clearly adopted the Kakariko accent as her own. "You must be Master Link. May I just call you Link? I think it'd be easier." She didn't wait for a response; she gestured to Link to follow her and moved behind the curtain—Link noticed her elbow hit the doorframe as she did so. Darron looked to Link to lead, and so he did, walking slowly behind her, for it was very dark in there, and eerily mysterious.

The back was a lot bigger than that meagre doorframe made it look; it was a rectangular room filled with two stoves, a sewing machine at a desk, a desk covered in parchments, and what appeared to be a metalworking smithy in the corner. A fire crackled in its pit.

The tailor was at the sewing desk, staring at the wall opposite her and feeling around for something. She finally picked up a thick leather strip with marks on it and held it out, not handing it to anyone in particular. "Darron, can you measure his biceps, triceps, chest, waist, hips, thighs, and shins for me? You know me, I'm losing my sight. Right now I can't even tell which of you is which. You both look alike."

Darron laughed but graciously accepted the measure, and Link allowed him to take the measurements, figuring it was to fit him just right with the clothes. All was silent for a moment as she moved to her desk, sat down in a flurry of bronze and gold, and began sketching on the paper with a flame pointing directly at it to light her way. Then, as Link held out one of his arms to get measured, he spoke.

"I don't mean to be rude," he said sheepishly, and she turned around, hands on her knees, eyes squinting in his direction. It looked like she was leering, but he was comforted to know it was only her sight going… even though second thought actually told him that was a horrible thing to be relieved about. He decided to ignore that pressing moral issue and instead focused on his question. "But I've given you my name and I haven't heard yours." She smiled, and her squinting eyes looked benevolent.

"I'm sorry," she said amiably. "I forget sometimes that my clients don't always know me. Most of the Kakariko folk know me because they're either Castle Townies like me, or they're villagers. I rarely get outsiders. More to the point, I'm Isa. My rack-tipping, no-good assistant is Zar." Her smile remained. "I'm pleased to meet the Hero of Time. A lot of people would die for the ability to design your festival clothes, you know? Why, just earlier, Anju told me I was a lucky gal for being able to see you half-naked while I fitted you."

Link coughed, having inhaled some of his own saliva (as she'd caught him during a swallow) as he gasped, and Darron laughed. Link gave him a glare, coughing out "You sadist", but it only made Darron guffaw harder as he measured around Link's waist. Isa continued as if none of this was occurring.

"I told her she'd be able to help if I wasn't so certain she'd make you look like a fucking cuckoo."**

Darron's cries grew louder. He leaned his head on the sewing table, where he'd just written down the last measurement, and laughed. Link couldn't help but let out a few chuckles himself, despite his initial awe at the unladylike language he'd heard from her. Not even Ponn had thrown out that word. But not everyone was Ponn, he mused; and, besides, Darron seems to be getting a kick out of it.

"She told me feathers were flattering," Isa continued, arms akimbo. "But I told her no self-respecting Hylian would want to attend a party costuming as poultry. Seriously. What is up with her obsession with those things? They're flightless, moronic birds who are only good for barnyard ambience."

"And instant death and mayhem," Link said instantaneously, and Isa's gaze flitted over to him. "If you attack one of those, they get a bunch of friends to come out of nowhere and beat you senseless; and only a swift horse can outrun a fleet of the angry poultry cavalry. It sounds ridiculous, but trust me; Anju may very well be a harbinger of death and destruction."

"Guys, no!" Darron gasped, sounding more like he needed water for his lungs with every passing second. "I'm going to die of laughter if you keep this up!"

Isa glared at him playfully. "You'd better not before those measurements are done. I've almost got the design ready." Then she turned once again to her paper, scribbling a bit more as Darron finished laughing and recorded the rest of the measurements.

After a few moments, he was done. He set down the leather strip and said, "Alright, Isa; I've got your measurements. Now what would you ask of me?"

She stood from her perch and walked toward them, her nose still buried in her paper. She said, "Can you retrieve some bronze and gold fabric? A bit of yellow would be nice, just a smidge; maybe a four by four square ought to do it. Then, I shall need you to see Zar about some leatherwork I want done, and ask if he can possibly stud a leather belt by the time the festival starts; if he says he doesn't even have the strip readied, then just get an unsoiled strip and some of that coarse gold fabric I have; you know, the see-through stuff? Then I'll need some of that darker leather and a bit of gold velvet. I also want you to talk to Zar about fetching the comb mask I've set aside for whenever I found the right hair to use it. Tell him to cut it into the cruel teardrop idea we talked about, except upside-down. I shall need you to starch a bit of the gold fabric after I cut it out, enough to make it pliable but still firm when I'm done. I also need the gold and bronze paints that I have near the fabrics. I'll need to ask Master Sheikah if I can borrow some of the hair from his bovine's tail; the one that's upstairs in the cage? Just a bit; if he refuses, could you ask Anju if she has a brown cuckoo? Don't let her talk you into any other colour; it's blasphemy. White's too close to silver, anyhow. I'll need to check the shop for any leather boots we possibly have that are roughly as dark as Zar's; if not, could we take one of his old pairs and refine it to fit his foot? We'll need heel-to-toe measurements and wideness measurements if we want it to fit right. Can't have him tripping while he's dancing." She paused a moment and looked over her paper again. Link gaped. Darron was to do all of that? He looked to his companion, but he seemed relatively composed, his hands folded attentively in front of him, watching her with expressionless features. Isa's head shot up and she smiled. "That about does it."

Darron nodded and walked to the door quickly, apparently getting straight on it. "Thank you, Darron!" she called after him, and began gazing at the measurements before sheepishly turning to Link and asking him to read them to her. Link obliged, leaning down and reading them aloud as Darron returned with a large roll of bronze fabric and another, roughly the same size, of gold. On top of it he set a four-by-four square of yellow, and two little jars of what appeared to be paint. The front door closed with a bang, and Link thought Zar must've been back; he could hear voices beyond the beaded curtain separating him from the rest of the shop. And so, as Darron flitted around, busily obeying Isa's every wish, she planned his outfit with surprising deftness.

After a few moments of him feeling useless, he turned to her, about to ask her if he could help Zar and Darron with the leatherwork; and was promptly stripped of his belt. The red leather was folded deftly and set gently on the table. His tunic hung baggily around his form. He gaped at her, and this expression she seemed to register, for she said, "Sorry, Link. I know you won't undress willingly—don't give me that look," she said as he was about to respond that he would, "I know my clientele and nobody ever wants to strip for me." Link blinked twice at her innuendo, but she apparently didn't notice it, for she was too busy unbuttoning a gauntlet too fast to be a normal human being. It, too, was set neatly and gently by the sewing machine, as was his other glove, and his boots were neatly placed on the floor, propped up by the leg of a stool to avoid getting dirt on them. He pulled his tunic from his body, leaving him in his tight white breeches and undershirt.

She turned away, waiting for him to get rid of the garments, which he placed, unfolded, by the others, after nervously and shakily removing. He was left, now, in only his undergarment, and Isa assured him that her blindness was a real ailment (which, if nobody else believed, he certainly did; she nearly tripped over the stool trying to get back to him) and even if she did see anything, it'd never change her high opinion of him. Nice to know.

She then began fitting him; pinning pieces of bronze fabric to his torso, and yelling suddenly for forgotten items—"I knew I was forgetting that gold silk! Zar! Can I have some gold silk, please?"—which came to her rapidly and left with a polite 'thank you'. It was actually usually Darron who came, even when she called for Zar, but Zar did come, once, of his own accord; and his brown eyes seemed more alert, and he traced her bronze-clad body with a look of adoration Link was hard-pressed to miss.

"Isa," he said softly, his voice improved from its usual stone resonance. She didn't look to him, humming instead to show she was listening, pinning gold silk to Link's torso (after removing the bronze; she wanted to make comfortable underclothes for him so the fabric wouldn't chafe and irritate him). "I've actually got a leather strip ready, and we're studding it now. I just took a break to cut the mask into the cruel teardrop and Darron said he couldn't find Master Sheikah anywhere, but to let you know he actually secured a few feathers that match the bronze, even though they aren't cuckoo. Do you feel fine with owl feathers instead? They were actually donated from an anonymous source; Darron said he found them with a note attached to them by the front door, but there was only a 'KG' on the paper."

Link flinched, remembering Kaepora Gaebora very well; but Isa merely clapped her hands and mumbled 'splendid' around her pins, and Zar departed after one last look of longing at her. And, for once, Link actually felt bad for the tailor as she finished his underclothes and sewed them together deftly; for despite all her talents prevailing over her troubling blindness, she could not even see the loving looks being sent her way. He didn't even know if she knew he loved her; did she think, instead, they were just friends, living together after less-than-favourable incidents occurred? His mind flashed to Sheik; they couldn't find him? Where could he be…?

"Alright, Link," she said, folding the silk garments next to his original clothes. "We've got your undergarments made, and now I shall work on your bronze tunic." She quickly pinned the fabric to his body, asking if it was too tight on his chest, inquiring on his preferences in regards to how baggy it was, showing him what she was to do with the starched gold fabric, and fitting the studded belt on him.

After a few hours of toil and labour, his boots were finished (Zar seemed almost proud as he announced, "Custom-fit leather boots, waterproofed and ready for either fancy-dress parties or duels") his belt was completed ("Studded with finished, polished bronze studs, clasped on either side for a reversible effect"), his mask fitted ("It's supposed to hold by your hair, Link," Isa said, sounding accomplished. "The hooks on the ends are made for a specifically gentle tug, and your hair naturally flows back, so it will hold. It's fitted with the owl feathers coming off the side to give you a warrior-type look, you know? Do you like the paint? It's supposed to be mostly wooden like that to give off a sturdy, brave feel"), his silk undergarments ironed and pressed ("They're softer toward your skin and rougher near the tunic, so it won't bunch up, I swear to you"), his breeches assembled ("Gold breeches give a good contrast to the bronze of your tunic, and show just how godly your legs really are") and half his tunic completed.

Everyone was now working closer to Isa, seeing as how all the leatherwork was done, and Link was ordered not to move or let death be his punishment. He believed his captors when they said that and made extra sure not to move anything. Zar was starching the gold fabric Isa cut out while Darron was cutting out a vine pattern from the gold velvet she'd requested. Isa was fitting the sleeves to his arms.

"They're going to end with those gold cuffs Zar's starching," Isa said, making sure the sleeves didn't cut off his circulation. "And the hem of your tunic is going to be that fine pattern Darron's cutting out. It's also going to be around your collar. The yellow's simply to cover up your gold undershirt; it's gonna fit in that little V right there," she said, pointing to the V-dip of his collar. "We're going to leave that neck of yours visible for any viewers who want a taste," she said deviously, and Darron nearly dropped the scissors giggling. Zar briefly snorted. Link blushed bright red, his thoughts instantly jumping to Sheik's lips on his pulse. Isa seemed to ignore his sudden increase in body-temperature and fitted the other sleeve with ease.

Soon, the tunic and finished sleeves had been sewn, the starched cuffs (done so well that they earned Zar a sweet kiss on the cheek, which he seemed to enjoy) added to the end using golden thread ("I'm so crafty. The cuff'll hide the seam!"), and the final finishing touches were appended; the square of yellow, and the hems. The result, when Link was implored to put it all on together, was a rather fetching Hero of Time.

"Yes!" Isa cried, hugging Zar tightly. "Link, you look fantastic!" Link smiled at Zar's arm snaking around her waist, musing that he could clasp half her stomach with one hand and encase her with the other. He met Zar's usually dull gaze and found it vibrant; he gave Link a nod that seemed to say 'you've got the goods now, kid'. Link nodded back.

"You do really look great, Link," Darron replied, smiling. "I'm glad our hard work has paid off. You're going to be the apple of everyone's eye!"

"Watch your drink, Link," she said, then looked out the window; and gasped. "It's nearly time for the festival! We've got to get dressed, Zar!" She ushered him toward a small bureau in the corner and waved to the boys. "Link, when the festival starts, and I mean officially starts, come back here to change. There's no way I'm sending you home with this with the chance of people looking. Now, both of you get outta here!" She grinned cheekily at them as they exited, Link feeling rather normal in his usual tunic.

It felt strange, walking out of the store and seeing sunset on the horizon; the last time he was outside, it was midday, and Sheik was jumping amid rooftops, hanging decorations. Now, the festival was all set up; a stage had been placed near the inn, a few large kegs set out in front of it. A sign that read 'festival attendees sleep free' was hung over the inn door. Darron noted it was because so many attendees got drunk, and the best thing to do was give them some place to sleep it off besides home.

Link inquired to Anju about the whereabouts of Sheik as they passed by her; she was carrying what appeared to be a stool toward a nearby table. Anju replied that he'd just gone inside a few minutes ago after retrieving something from the Zoras.

"Really? He told you all this?" Link said, astonished Sheik would stop by Anju and give her a heads up before he headed off anywhere.

"No," she replied. "He just left and came back pretty soon after with a bundle wrapped in what appeared to be scales and he was sopping wet. I jus' assumed the obvious." Link's astonishment was short-lived. "Anyway," she continued. "He's at home now. Why aren't you boys dressed for the festival yet? Everybody but the hard-workin' folk are inside, primping and pampering like there's no tomorrow!"

Darron grinned. "We are the hard-working folk, madam," he said, and, bowing to her, asked, "May I deliver that stool for you, madam? 'Tis a long walk to the nearest table."

Her response was a quick little giggle, but she dashed off without saying another word. Darron laughed. Then, he turned to Link, still grinning. "I ought to leave you alone now, Link. I've been bugging you all day. I'm going to go change for the festival; I'll see you after it starts, okay?" Link nodded, not feeling bugged at all as Darron headed toward his house, waving to people he passed by. Link started toward his own, ascending the stairs, reaching the door and turning the knob; only to find it locked.

"Sheik?" Link asked, rapping his knuckles on the door softly, and Link heard someone swear within. "Can I come in?"

A moment passed, in which he could hear something fall to the ground; it sounded eerily like rain. "Sorry, but, no."

Link laughed a little. "How much effort did it take you to say that 'sorry'?"

A pause. "Just a bit, to be honest."

Link laughed again. "Alright, I'll leave you be. I'll see you at the festival." He turned to leave.

"Wait!" Link paused, looking at the door. He didn't expect it to open. It didn't. "How'd your fitting go?"

"It was terrifying and delightful at the same time, Sheik," he replied. "The tailor's half-blind, her assistant's a killer, and Darron was zero help." His tone was obviously mocking, for Sheik's sake. Facial expressions are a bit hard to read through a door.

Sheik's laugh could be heard through the barrier between them, and Link marvelled at the sound; it was sweet and pure, even when muffled by the door. He smiled, too, prompted by Sheik's sudden chipper attitude. "Okay. I'll see you tonight?"

"Alright," Link replied, and he once again descended the stairs, instantly taking up helping the villagers out with setting up tables and lights. Din's fire actually helped light a bonfire up on the hilltop, so that if the wind hit the lanterns hard (for wind always swept down the mountain), the bonfire would remain intact and light the way. The decorations were all mounted, the lanterns all lit, the fire roaring, the food brought out; and suddenly the band began to play, and it appeared that the festival had started.

Link retreated to a safe place and watched, enraptured, as well-dressed citizens came out, looking for all the world like autumn (and some like spring; one young girl was wearing all yellow and green, looking like a chipper sunflower). Dances commenced, drinks were consumed, and as soon as Link was assured that the festival had truly begun, he darted across the rooftops to the tailor's, where he snuck inside.

As soon as the door was closed, Isa called out his name. "Link, I'm assuming that's you," she said, and he moved toward the back. "Come on back, friend, we're just fastening the last of Zar's attire." Link crossed the counter and the beaded curtain, instantly seeing Isa in the firelight. She was tiptoeing, craning her neck to tie one last leather knot on Zar's neck before turning around to face him.

She looked beautiful. Her hair had come out of her messy black bun and had been rolled up into an arch that framed her head, two sticks holding it in place. She was wearing what appeared to be a ceremonial frock with incredibly long sleeves and a very long skirt, the neck itself very high. The dress was covered in glittering gold, bronze, orange, yellow and green autumn leaves that appeared to fall; sparse at the top; but accumulated at the bottom of her gown. The backdrop was brown, a brown akin to Zar's. She looked literally like fall.

To top it off, she had a strange contraption mounted on her nose; it was wooden, apparently carved by Zar, but it was too small to be something he'd do normally; it came in squares around her eyes and then hooked behind her ears. Two pieces of glass were settled into the squares. She wasn't squinting at him.

Zar, on the other hand, looked handsome. His hair was pushed up, away from his eyes, and his body was adorned in various kinds of shades and types of dark leather, and nothing but; buckles seemed to be placed at random, but he knew they held everything together. Zar seemed fond of studs, too, for he was studded in some places and not in others. Link mused that if you pulled the two costumes together, they would look like a tree; Zar would be the rough bark, and Isa, the gentle, descending leaves.

"Are you ready to dress, then?" she asked, and he nodded. She helped him out of his old and into his new clothes, making sure all the hems were even and no loose strings were visible.

"Because that's what I hate most," she said, giving him one last once-over. "Icky visible strings. Alright, I think you've passed. Come out when you're ready, alright?" Link nodded, and Zar took Isa's arm, nodding to him as Isa waved, and the next thing he knew, the shop door closed, and he was alone.

Link was honestly nervous about leaving the shop. He was dressed in a manner he was not used to, about to embark on a strange, twisted journey with the sadist-yet-masochist-looking tailor and her masochist-yet-sadist-looking assistant; not to mention their dear pet, Darron, who only wanted a leather armband out of all of this. But it wasn't just his strange friends that made this night nerve-wracking.

It was waiting for Sheik that had him all stressed out.

He was wondering why he'd gone to see the Zoras, though he didn't ask out of politeness, and what he'd look like for the festival was anybody's guess. Link knew he'd be stunned either way, and so he wondered if he'd look like a complete idiot, transfixed by how amazing Sheik looked.

Could Link even dance? Hell, he didn't know.

He was screwed.

He sighed, rubbing his face and looking at the wooden mask in his hands. It had been painted subtly; the bronze was a thick stripe around the eye and down the cheekbone, the gold stripe thinner and following directly next to it. It made him look fearsome; like a warrior, as Isa had said. Now if only he could embody the courage of this warrior he was dressed up as he'd be all set to go.

Kaepora Gaebora. He felt the long feathers donated by his old friend, who was no doubt alive somewhere. That old owl had scared him senseless when he first called 'hoo' down from the tree above the Kokiri entrance. But he'd stood back up and found him to be a friend, not a foe, and listened as best he could to his words of wisdom. Link was pleased to make a friend and glad to say he had been brave enough to stick around (for a young boy, this was certainly an accomplishment).

He felt the feathers again. Was this Kaepora Gaebora's mysterious way of telling him to have courage? Because even if it wasn't, he was still going to believe it was, just so he could feel better about getting up and walking outside the door.

He stood, pushing the mask into its place in his hair and strode to the door, opening it and stepping into the night. He was ready.

Link's senses were overwhelmed with the delicious scent of food and burning fires, his ears enveloped with beautiful music and joyful speech and laughter, his eyes embraced by the most colourful and jovial sight he'd ever witnessed.

He moved forward, quickly, down the stairs and into the fray of the crowd, searching for a familiar face. People were dancing all around him, though a few people stopped and stared at him as he strode by, apologising when he accidentally bumped people mid-dance. He saw a flurry of robes and instantly knew it was Isa and Zar, dancing in their own special way. He looked around for anyone else, not wanting to disturb them in their sanctuary, when his hand was tugged and he turned, instantly meeting Darron. His eyelids were covered in something brown, making his blue eyes stand out all the more. His hair was tipped with brown, and his long-sleeved green shirt was hidden beneath his brown vest. Brown trousers and leather boots completed the ensemble, the arm-band he'd wanted earlier wrapped around the green shirt. It appeared his neck, arms, cheeks, and hands were covered in brown symbols he couldn't read but were optically pleasing.

"You finally came!" he cried joyfully over the din. "Have you seen Anju yet?" Link shook his head. "Well, she came as a cuckoo, the sweet thing," he replied, and Link laughed a little. "Come," he said, tugging on Link's hand gently. "Let's get some ale, shall we? Don't worry, I drink in moderation. I rarely splash out, even on nights like these." Link was grateful for that, and so ale sounded perfect. As Darron filled up two mugs with ale, Isa and Zar emerged from the crowd, taking two mugs for themselves. Of course Zar went for seconds almost instantly, considering a mug wasn't much for him, but Isa didn't seem to notice, smiling at Link.

"You look good by firelight," she said, and he smiled.

"As do you," he replied, and she nodded thanks.

"What's got you so nervous, then, friend?" she asked, and he paused, looking at her. She sipped her ale innocently, peering at him over the rim, but Link knew she knew; she could sense his nervousness.

He sighed, giving in, staring at his custom boots. "I'm waiting for Sheik to come out. I'm usually with him, and so I feel more comfortable around him, you know?"

Isa nodded sagely while Zar grunted in response. "Yeah, being roommates can do that," she said, sipping her ale once more. "Zar and myself are rarely seen without each other. It's because he'd probably end up wiping out an entire population if someone looked at him funny, and I'd probably fall into a river and end up in Termina." Link smiled as Zar pat her shoulder while drinking his ale. She gave Link a look that said 'he would, too', when Darron tapped on his shoulder.

"Wait's over, my friend," he said, and he pointed up to Sheik's house. Link's eyes followed and he froze at what he saw.

In the firelight, the figure glowed an eerie white; but that was silver's reflecting fire, and Link was mesmerised. Before anything else could be seen, he seemingly disappeared. Instantly, Link turned to look for him in the crowd. After a few moments of scanning, it just wasn't enough; saying goodbye for now to his friends, he turned and plunged into the fray, looking at individual faces, hoping to see a spark of white dance somewhere in his vision. The smell of sweat and ale was intoxicating, and it frustrated him more and more that he couldn't find him. He needed to get out of the crowd before he was lost, and so he moved toward the closest edge he could see, which was by the well. Link could see two teens sitting on the steps to the windmill, but the dark corner cast by its walkway remained uninhabited, and so he sat there, head in his hands, trying to remember what fresh air smelled like. It smelled like grass, it smelled like dirt, it smelled like Sheikah sweat…

"Come out from the dark."

Link's head shot up at the voice. He knew that voice.


"I need to see you."

Link sighed, stood, putting his mask back on, and stepped into the column of light cast by the bonfire and the lanterns. He could see a glimmer in the dark from a brief movement, but that was all. Link stood, captured in the firelight, a bronze statue for all to behold.

"It's your turn."

Sheik sighed, frustrated. "Must I?"

Link smiled. "It's only fair." He tried to hide the fact that his whole body was screaming 'yes', and his heart was pounding.

"I suppose so."

And so, into the light stepped this beautiful creature, and Link nearly gasped at his beauty. Sheik's hair was flecked with silver scales, all staying in place even as he moved, flickering with every stirring. The lower half of his face was covered in a silver cowl, outlining his lips with grey shadows. A long column of silver ran up his neck and down over his shoulders, but the rest of the garment was purple and indigo, except the silver braces and shin-guards. His shape was outlined by the mesh of indigo and purple combining on his torso. Purple and indigo scarves were tied seemingly at random on his person, a silver hood falling behind him.

Link's breath caught and he swore he would've swooned had he not been so focused on the fact that Sheik's eyes were hungrily raking over him. He felt greatly inadequate next to Sheik, but apparently he didn't think so.

Link decided to joke about it, spreading his arms slightly. "Like what you see?"

The joke was not taken as such, for soon they were back in the darkness, and Sheik was descending hungrily upon him. Link tried to stifle the forthcoming groan as Sheik attacked his neck, sensually licking and sucking and kissing to his heart's content.

"Why'd you let her dress you like this?" Sheik asked, switching sides. Link stifled a gasp in his throat at the ravenousness of his beloved. "How did you expect me to keep my hands off you once I saw you?" And indeed, his hands were on him; pulling and feeling, pinching lightly and sweeping all over him, setting him on fire even as he spoke. Sheik pulled back and looked at Link, and Link was hard-pressed not to laugh at the actual annoyance written all over his face. He was seriously as annoyed as his words implied. "Are you mad?"

Link actually laughed at this, for the question was said so seriously he couldn't take it seriously. "No, I'm not," he replied. Then, he fixed a feral gaze at Sheik. "What about you?" he asked, and Sheik seemed to freeze. "I spotted you, the only silver ember in all of the firelight. I could ask you the same question." Link leaned forward slowly, tugging on Sheik's earlobe with his teeth. "You're doing this to seduce me."

"Festivals in Kakariko are often played as such," Sheik mused aloud as the hero kissed his jaw. "The ale, the colours… It's like a peacock's plumage. Everyone is trying to win a mate tonight, using the same colours in different ways."

"Are you saying everyone out there wants to seduce someone else?" Link asked, pulling away, and Sheik nodded, pressing closer to Link in the dark. The heat of his body generously radiated toward Link, making him feel as though they were one entity.

"Everyone but me," Sheik replied, his voice nothing but raw, dark hunger, a drastic change from his whimsical musing just a moment earlier. "Because I don't want you. I need you. I have to have you." His hands resumed exploring, his lips caressing Link's neck as he writhed before his lover.

And then Sheik suddenly stopped, his mouth close to Link's ear. "I've never felt this maddened, this brash," he whispered. "I know we must leave soon; to face the desert together. And that will be the end of our merrymaking, and our apparent safety. We should make the most of this night together, because… How many more have we to stay together, to live, to simply be?"

Link was frozen, thinking; in his mind's eye he saw Ponn, lying dead on that dungeon floor, and realised his mortality once more; and Sheik was alive in his arms, his heart beating, his hands stable on his ribcage as he whispered to his lover, a silent plea he wished not to say aloud; 'Take me home with you, please, so we may be human one last night.'

Link pulled back from his lover and kissed him with all the love he possessed; this kiss was void of previous lust, and Sheik felt it, and he responded all the same. And when Link pulled away and gently stroked his neck with his fingers, he said, "Do not be scared of what the future brings. No matter where I am, you'll always be mine, and I, always yours." He grinned. "Let's go." 'Please come home with me, so we may be human one last night.'

Sheik smiled in reply and allowed his hand to be taken, allowed Link to slip by him and lead the way, and didn't notice the trio heading up the steps in search of him smile as they walked past. For tonight was their night, their one last night before they were thrust into that world of hate and pain again, and there would be no time, then, for what they wanted to say. So they'd say it now, and say it together. Link, to worship Sheik's body in the moonlight, admiring the flecks of silver in his hair… Sheik, to admire Link's heart in the heat of the moment, feeling it beating against his own…

They went home so they could be human one last night…

…before the world fell down again.

Sweet mother of mercy. This was too much fun.

Mind you, the festival was never supposed to happen. And all that fancy costuming made the festival that much shorter, all because Link and Sheik couldn't help themselves. Oh, boys. XD

Hey, at least I updated! :D I'll never do this again, I promise. This I vow! *dramatic pose* Anyway, enjoy. d:

**First use of the 'F' word in this fic. Trololol.

This chapter is dedicated to my Zar, who knows very well who they are.