Story Title: Step and Turn
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight Princess.
Author's Notes: Though it has already been put in the summary, I'll repeat that this oneshot will contain the pairing of Shad and Link. If you don't like this pair or slash in general, this oneshot will probably not be to your liking.
I rather enjoy this pairing immensely, though I have come across so few stories of them. Seemed to be a shame for them to have so few, so there needed to be more. Thank you for reading.
Story Title: Step and Turn
Shad gave the room a final once-over, in case there were any books he missed or furniture sticking out just a little too in the way, and when nothing caught his attention, he tested the dance floor by making a few sweeping strides about the open space and found it was a sufficient and clear area for practicing.
As matters happened to be, a peculiar wind of fortune (or ill fortune, by Link's account) had swept into the young hero's life and Link found himself the honor of a royal ball and as such was required to attend and perform the commencement dance with Princess Zelda.
Only Link did not know how to dance.
So when a distressed Link appeared in Telma's Bar while the Group met and after he had explained his situation, Shad had seen no other recourse but to assist his friend and had offered to instruct him in the art of dance. His burden lessened, Link had brightened immediately and had gladly accepted the scholar's offer.
And now the room and Shad was ready. All Shad had to do was wait for Link's arrival, which was bound to be any moment.
The swordsman's knock came exactly as Shad's requested preparation time ended.
A bit of haste in his step, for really no reason he realized, Shad answered the door and welcomed Link inside. The swordsman looked about wide-eyed as he saw the scholar's apartment for the first time.
Contrary to what his friends and colleagues thought, Shad kept a neat and orderly apartment. Mostly. He did not allow his resources to disorder his home but he did have a lot. All categorized, put away, and in its place but there was a lot. Shad didn't know what color were his walls, for every inch of wall space was covered by full bookcases or shelves lined with books, but Shad had long since decided the color was irrelevant and his books and interests were more important.
Shad entered the prepared living room first, turned to face Link, and clasped his hands together in front, "I say, shall we accept no delay and promptly begin?"
Link shrugged his shoulders in a manner that said he saw no reason for them not to.
Truthfully, they needed all the time they could spare. The royal ball being held in Link's honor was tonight and the young hero had only a few hours to learn how to dance. Much to Shad's annoyance, Link had failed to mention how dire and pressing their time was until after they had spent a good portion of the day searching and failing to find Link a practice partner.
Shad wound up the phonograph while the swordsman removed his weapons and laid them aside. When ready, the scholar placed the stylus on the record, and through the bit of crackling, soft, slow music began pouring into the room.
"What's first?" Link asked, moving toward the center of the floor.
"Manners," Shad said. "A gentleman first bows to his lady and offers his hand to dance. Like so."
Shad demonstrated the gesture and then Link mirrored him.
"Okay, then what?"
"When the lady accepts your hand, you two shall move out onto the floor and dance."
"You mean I'm not dancing yet?"
"Every dance begins with proper manners, old boy," Shad replied. "Now place your feet together like mine."
Link tried as best he could to match Shad's pose. He placed his feet together as close as he found comfortable, though it was not quite enough. Shad moved Link's feet into proper position.
"That's too close," Link said, wobbling and flailing his arms a bit to keep from falling over.
Shad softly laughed. "That is proper stance. It is difficult for you, old boy, because you are accustomed to grounding yourself with a wide stance. Proper and good for fighting, yes, but a poor show if you want to dance."
"Well, I don't really want to…" Link grumbled.
"Have to, then," Shad rephrased, laying a hand reassuringly on Link's shoulder. "I say, we both know you would rather not be doing this but the truth is that you must. Now keep stance, give me your hand, and put your other about my waist."
Keeping his other hand on Link's shoulder, Shad took Link's gloved hand. Link put his right against Shad's waist and drew the front of their bodies gently together. At the feel, Shad's heartbeat fluttered. He did not understand why. The reaction rather baffled him. And the scholar could not figure out why there was a particular, sudden uplift in his mood, a new, extra brightness to his smile, and just a general sensation of warmth in his chest as Link held his hand and waist and their bodies were close and they prepared to dance.
Odd, but nothing further than a spot of nervousness and anticipation, I suppose, Shad thought. Nothing to make ado of.
"R-Right," Shad stuttered. Perhaps I am a tad more nervous than I gave credit. "We'll take each step slow. Now you'll step forward—"
"Why do I begin first?" Link said, blinking his widened eyes, evidently unnerved by the idea of making the first move. "Why can't you?"
"Because the gentleman always leads. And please old boy, it is discourteous to interrupt a person mid-speaking," Shad said. "Now let us proceed. Follow my count. One, tw-OW!"
Through his crushed foot's striking pain and his wincing and agony, Shad realized something new about Link—that Link took strong steps. As expected…of a hero…I suppose.
Link apologized readily. The young hero, his head bowed and sad eyes peering up at Shad for forgiveness, was the picture of remorse and shame. Even if the scholar, for some foolish reason wanted to bear a grudge for an act that was clearly an accident—which Shad did not and never intended—seeing Link like this would dash that thought out of his mind.
Amazing… For all his trials and heroics, he still has a quality of innocence to him. It's… Shad considered several words but a different one came to mind first. …It's sweet.
The scholar blinked at his unexpected choice of words but realized getting Link over his shame was more important than mulling over a matter of strange diction.
"It's quite all right, Link," Shad said, smiling reassuringly. "Really, it is. I quite anticipated such an incident to occur and they are likely. Just try not to repeat it, okay? Now we will try this over."
Again Shad's heart fluttered as Link took his hand and waist. A part of his mind was worried—after all, his heart had never acted like this before. That same rational part of his mind hoped it was not some sort of developing heart condition, reminded Shad that he was far too young, in good health, and that he and Link were the same age, for Hyrule's sake…
The rest of Shad did not pay one bit of attention to the corner of his mind spouting nonsense about hearts and ages. The rest of Shad was too happy, happy to be helping his friend, his only friend his own age, happy to be aiding Hyrule's young hero. Link had done so much—for Shad's research and for saving Hyrule. Shad just wanted to repay him back, if even a little, for everything he had done, even though the scholar knew his skills were limited and few.
And now, Shad was. If just a little. He was assisting Link in a problem the hero had no means of tackling himself.
The bit of warmth of…of admiration in Shad's chest grew a bit and burned a little brighter.
It was a funny feeling, Shad's admiration. Sometimes it felt like just what it was, but other times, especially of lately, his admiration did not always feel like just admiration. What it was, he did not know. But the feeling was growing and the mystery of it disconcerting and confusing.
I suppose I have little grounds to worry, for now, Shad thought, as he continued to count the beat and was pleased to see Link finally start to stay on tempo. It is, after all, a pleasant feeling. Quite, I say.
A little over two hours into their dance practice had gone by now and Shad was quite convinced that, at least when it came to dancing, Link was a slow learner. Shad could rather see why—dancing was something his body was wholly unused to doing and his mind was persuading the rest of him that he did not have the capability. Shad never believed he would ever think this, but Link lacked confidence, the self-assurance that he could dance. It was not as if the swordsman lacked the skills dance required and taught. Link had balance. He had fluidity. He had grace. He had precision. When he had a sword in hand. If only Link could somehow translate the confidence, the grace, fluidity, and precision he had in fighting to dancing, they would have more than half their problem gone.
As it was, however, Link did not have confidence in his dancing.
"Link, head up," Shad gently ordered. "Look at me, not at the floor."
"But I can't see my feet—" Link protested.
"Of course, and you are not supposed to," Shad said. "Now, really, are you going to look down at your feet the whole time when you dance with Princess Zelda?"
Link averted his stare to the side and made a low groan. "I guess that would be embarrassing…"
"Quite. Now—one, two, three and one, two, three—do not look down. Keep the Princess's gaze—and step and turn! Excellent, old boy!"
At hearing that, Link's smile beamed. Pride for Link's success swelled in Shad and blended in with his admiration. Which did not feel like admiration should and flickered in his chest. It seemed to grow brighter as long as Shad held Link's smile in sight. Shad made himself look to the side and composed himself before the all-too-enjoyable distraction forced a misstep.
This is, after all, about Link. I cannot allow myself to entertain such foolish behavior and permit it to sidetrack me from the important task at hand.
"Link…" Shad, catching Link staring at his feet again, gave a firm reminder, "Princess's gaze."
Link quickly raised his head back up and met Shad's eyes.
"This isn't fair, y'know," Link said. "You're taller than me."
Unable to stifle himself, Shad laughed. "Do tell me how that has any relevance to you not keeping your head up and meeting my gaze?"
His point defeated and annoyed by it, Link did not respond but did as he was told and kept his head up and his eyes on Shad's.
"Just wanted to have an excuse to watch your feet, did you?" Shad added playfully and smiled, "Sorry, but you were well aware of and not bothered by our height differences when you asked me to also be your dance partner. You cannot indubitably claim ignorance or unfairness, now can you?"
"When it comes to words, I'll never beat you," Link said, though contrasting with his tone, he was smiling and his eyes were bright.
"I shall hope not! Words are my only weapon." Shad's smile broadened into a full grin. "And surely you cannot be the master of everything."
"Shad, we've already proven that," Link said through a partial laugh. "I wouldn't need to learn how to dance if I could do everything."
"Frankly, I am rather delighted you can't," Shad said before he could stop himself.
Link blinked, tipped his head slightly to the side, and stared at Shad curiously. Shad's face glazed in stunned shock, his eyes widened, and his ears burned. They had stopped dancing, though their hands still remained in position as if they were.
Why did I say that? Why? Shad's heart hammered in his ears. He will ask what I meant… I don't even know! Exactly what did I mean? What?
Shad stood frozen and waited for Link to speak, to ask him what he meant, to innocently and inadvertently highlight Shad's embarrassment, and in the meantime, the scholar struggled to make up an explanation for what he said but so far all he had was blank space for a brain.
Link did not ask. He met Shad's eyes, smiled, and led Shad straight back into dancing.
After that, Link had eased and relaxed as he danced. Shad delighted in Link's newfound comfort and confidence in dancing—it promised an assured possibility of Link greatly improving in the next hour. Link's movements grew more fluid and he glided Shad along more than he used to, rather than stiffly shift him from spot to spot as he did in the beginning.
And Link did not look down once at his feet. No, his head remained up and his eyes stayed with Shad's. Blue matched blue and for the longest time saw nothing else. The scholar found that he did not mind, that he rather enjoyed seeing nothing but Link's eyes. Of course, Shad had met Link's eyes before but never for this long and never had he deeply admired them before. His eyes were a lighter shade of blue than Shad's and in them, Shad saw many of the traits he associated and admired about Link: his pride, his determination, his strength but also his kindness, his hope, his courage, and his peculiar inner wildness Shad did not quite understand because he did not possess it himself but admired nonetheless.
For a moment, Shad wondered what Link saw gazing in his eyes.
The thought made Shad's ears red again and his steps a little quicker. Really, Shad felt quite silly all of a sudden. But it was such a good feeling. Shad decided to be a little lenient on himself and not chastise himself too harshly for being a bit foolish.
Though he did wonder about his admiration. Shad felt it again and he was certain there was even more of its strangeness now.
The time for the ball was now very close. Link and Shad were in the middle of what was guaranteed to be the phonograph's final play. By the scholar's calculations, as soon as the song stopped playing, it was best for Link to leave to ready himself and head over to Hyrule Castle.
It was some time before either one realized the phonograph had stopped playing long ago.
"What time?" Link searched frantically about Shad's apartment for a clock among the books, books, and yet more books and still more books.
"Half an hour, it appears," Shad said. "Not much time to prepare, I'm afraid."
"Didn't plan to," Link confessed. "I'm dressed. They'd probably expect me to wear the hero's clothes. Nicest thing I own anyway."
"Yes, well…" Shad said, extending his hand, "Good luck, Link. You'll do well."
"Thanks," Link said, taking Shad's hand and pulling him suddenly into a hug. "You're the reason why I'll make it," he murmured into Shad's ear.
Shad's heart no longer fluttered. No, the scholar was quite positive his heart had stopped beating altogether. Or if not that, beat like a hummingbird's wings so that it only presented the illusion of not beating. Whichever the case, no beat or fast beat, neither allowed Shad to speak. Or move for that matter, though Shad's arms had mysteriously wrapped themselves around Link without Shad's personal knowledge.
For a moment, though in actuality was for a shorter time than Shad perceived, Link held Shad and Shad held Link. The hug was warm and brought so much goodness into Shad. But as quick as Link brought him into the hug, the young hero let Shad go. Link gathered his weapons, flashed the stunned scholar a quick farewell smile and wave, and headed out the door.
Shad was warm and happy but also hurting. There was so much of his admiration there in his chest now and it clearly wanted Link to stay.
And, for that matter, so did Shad.
Shad sat in his restored to typical order living room on the sofa and frowned miserably at his research notes fanned out atop the coffee table. For about the fifth time now, the scholar picked up the same parchment and attempted to read it, only to manage the barest semblance of skimming, and put the page down an instant later. Shad leaned back into the plush sofa and sighed.
Little tonight seemed to keep the scholar's attention. To quiet his mind and momentarily give him something else to do, Shad had brewed himself a cup of tea but the cup remained untouched on the coffee table where he set it and the tea was no doubt cold. Shad picked up the cup and saucer and laid it in the kitchen sink. He walked back into the living room, ignored his awaiting research, and stood in front of the room's bay window.
Shad saw the towers and steeples of Hyrule Castle in the distance and thought of Link and wondered how well he had done on his commencement dance with Princess Zelda.
By the conclusion of his lessons, Link was rather comfortable and had gained quite a bit of proficiency in such little time, Shad reflected. I have all the confidence in the world that he did a satisfactory job.
For the first time since Link left, Shad smiled.
He wound up the phonograph and listened to the soft, slow music play as he gazed inattentively out the window into the dark blue night of the early evening. Shad's living room window did not have by any means a great view of Castle Town but whenever Shad stood in front of it and looked out, it was always to think, not to view.
The music brought back recent memories and impressions of dancing with Link. Shad felt the leather of Link's fingerless gloves and his calloused fingers holding his hand. He felt the gentle touch on his waist and the warmth of their close bodies. If Shad closed his eyes, he could see Link's blue eyes and smile. If Shad listened, he could hear Link's laugh or the light annoyance in his voice to being told he could not stare at his feet while he danced or his soft whisper in his ear, 'You're the reason why I'll make it'.
As Shad raised a hand to adjust his slipped spectacles, he found his hand bore a faint tremble as he recalled the whisper. His cheeks were also quite warm. And his admiration bubbled in his chest, making Shad feel rather silly again and lightheaded and very happy but also made him want to be near Link.
I may not understand this feeling, but, I say, I think I rather should inform Link of its existence, Shad considered. Perhaps he could assist me in deducing the exact nature of what it is, its possible origins, and how to go about managing it, in case it does not simply go away.
When he would tell Link of his admiration, the scholar did not know. What Shad did know was that he preferred the idea of getting a bit of fresh air in him than being locked up in his apartment for one more moment. Taking his short purple jacket off the coat stand, Shad slipped it on and locked his apartment door behind him.
Shad's footsteps tapped lightly against the brazier fire-lit cobblestone roads as he walked the mostly empty streets of Castle Town at night. There really was no need for him to have worn a coat tonight, Shad realized. The temperature was fair enough. A scant amount of dark clouds floated above and briefly obscured a patch of stars from view. The moon was out, full and bright. The braziers had not really been needed lit tonight but had and battled the moon in where to bring light and cast shadows. Shad noticed spots illuminated that hadn't been before and shade in little places never hidden.
He didn't have a destination in mind, though he knew Telma's was open and that he would be welcome. He did not want to go there, however. Shad wanted to stay outside. So he wandered back alley to back alley and his wandering brought him eventually to the central square.
Shad paused mid-step and blinked as he saw Link by the glowing water fountain staring up at the starry night sky.
"Link? What in heavens are you doing out here?" Shad asked as he walked toward the fountain and Link. "I say, something go wrong? Surely the ball cannot be over by now."
"It isn't," Link said.
"Then why—" Shad questioned at first and then understood, "Link… Don't tell me you left. It was in your honor."
"I wouldn't say I left…"
Seeing the spark of wildness flash in Link's eyes and listening to the incriminating tone in his voice, Shad smiled and laughed. "Just that you temporarily excused yourself with absolutely no intention of ever returning."
"You put it so much better," Link grinned and Shad laughed again.
Link put his arm around Shad's shoulders and led him over to the stone barrier around the water fountain where they sat down beside one another. They sat in silence, not needing to speak if they didn't want to and enjoyed each other's company, while the water behind them glowed bright blue for no telltale reason and flowed down from the pedestal displaying a stone statue of the Hylian royal crest.
"How did it go?" Shad asked.
Link casually shrugged his shoulders. "I survived," he said. "Zelda's feet didn't."
"Poor show, old boy, poor show," the scholar teased, bowing and shaking his head in a pretend display of disappointment.
"She made me nervous!" Link said in his defense. "And I didn't look at my feet once," he added proudly.
Shad smiled, "Suppose it would not be impetuous of me to say there will be no more royal balls held in your name from now on."
Link grinned sheepishly, "Hope so."
Link draped his arm around Shad's shoulders as they fell into another comfortable silence. A cloud blanketed the moon and slipped on by before either boy spoke again.
"But y'know…" Link said, "Dancing wasn't so bad."
Shad looked at Link and blinked. He had a comment ready almost immediately, including a light jab at how the young hero had grumbled and groaned about dancing early on in his lessons but found he rather didn't want to speak and wanted to listen, that it was important he listened.
"I think it matters who you dance with," Link continued, looking straight out onto the empty square. "There were all those rich nobles watching me, which I know didn't help, but what threw me off more was dancing with Zelda. It was awkward. Didn't feel right. I didn't think anything like that would matter but it did."
"Well, it is said that an audience will judge a pair of dancers more highly and more desirable to watch if the partners both display a form of natural magnetism between one another," Shad said, now all too aware of Link's arm still around his shoulders. "If memory serves me right, it's called chemistry. Perhaps that is what you and Her Majesty lacked."
Link peered up at the moon, let its pale white beams brighten his face, and said, "I think we have chemistry."
Shad jumped in his short jacket and swallowed his breath dryly. "P-Pardon me, but w-whatever makes you think t-that?"
"Because things were different when I danced with you. I felt different. I wasn't very good, I know, but I was comfortable, I had fun," Link turned to Shad and smiled, "I liked dancing with you."
Shad's face was red and burning like a dodongo's breath. He knew his mouth was hanging open, giving the scholar a less-than-intelligent image. His breath must have quickened, he knew, because his heart was racing. Shad's only wish was that he didn't appear as foolish as he thought he looked and that he could tell Link how much he had enjoyed dancing with him too.
Link rose from his seat, bowed to Shad, and extended his left hand.
It took the length of a long, full breath for Shad to recognize the gesture, the very same he had taught Link, and for him to realize Link was inviting him to dance.
Without hesitation, Shad took Link's hand and followed his lead away from the fountain and out onto the town square. By now, the feel of Link's hand in his and the hero's touch on Shad's waist was all too familiar and welcomed.
Despite no music to accompany their steps, Link led Shad into their practice dance out in the open square. They glided across the gray-blue stones, their next step lit only by the moon and the fire braziers and with the stars for their audience. Link missed not a beat, hitting turns and every step exactly as Shad taught him, and held Shad's gaze.
And then he took Shad into a long, winding twirl.
"That wasn't in the choreography," Shad said, rather thrown by the sudden misstep.
"I know," Link admitted, "but it's more fun this way." He grinned and the wildness shone in his eyes.
From then on, they eschewed the proper steps and Shad let Link take him wherever he so pleased. Steps and turns and lifts and steps and turns, their feet weaved about in complex patterns but somehow never stepped on one another. With all the turns, Shad grew dizzy. They moved so fast and there were so many turns—everything but Link was blurry. Feeling very wobbly and concerned he'd stagger into the ground, Shad took his hand from Link's shoulder and wrapped his arm behind Link's neck. If the more intimate touch bothered Link, he did not show it.
Their dance was chaotic, awkward by the looks of it, but between Link and Shad, every step was graceful and flowed right into the next. Shad was flushed and his heart beat fast—understandable, he considered, given the feverish nature of their dance. And he was happy. More so than he had ever been. In fact, he felt rather giddy and his mind was fuzzy. And he was laughing, a silly, girlish giggle, but didn't mind so much because Link was laughing too.
But there was his peculiar admiration-that-was-not-just-admiration. The thought to tell Link about it hit and passed over Shad like an ocean wave spilling over the shore. Shad couldn't be troubled by its mystery right now—he felt too happy, too warm, too wonderful, too content to be concerned with anything else. He wanted to be here. Shad wanted to be with Link. Forever.
And then he understood. Whether he really hadn't known what the feeling was or simply forced himself ignorant to the truth, he did not know and it did not matter which was true. Now, Shad undeniably knew what his admiration really was.
It was love.
Shad was in love with Link.
The shock came but didn't show. No, Shad was filled with such happiness, such elation, such love that no fear or worry could break and sour his joy. Briefly, the wonder if Link possibly felt the same flitted through his thoughts but Shad let it go by in favor of savoring the moment in the moment. He would worry later and be happy now.
After a sweeping stride and a sharp circle, Shad lost his balance and stumbled. As he fell, Link curved his arm about Shad's waist and caught him. Link's arm remained protectively around Shad's waist from then on. Shad felt its presence, his strong muscles, but was too lightheaded to think on it. He thought that maybe he was laughing too much, not getting enough air, while they danced, so he tilted his chin down to suppress the giggles.
As they turned, his cheek swept along Link's fringe.
Shad raised his head high in surprise. Then another turn and a just as dizzy, laughing Link grazed up Shad's neck. Shad shuddered, the tremor sobering him up at once. He was aware now of Link's right arm around his waist. His own draped behind Link's neck. The moon's pale light and fire's amber glow. The water fountain's splashing and its bright blue light. Dancing under the stars.
Link's calloused finger on his jaw guiding Shad's face to meet his again.
"Princess's gaze," Link teased and grinned.
"R-Right," Shad said breathlessly, as his air caught in the back of his throat. He felt shaky.
Shad complied and kept his gaze with Link's. Link was smiling and Shad felt his mouth part open, his breath ragged. His face burned, but hardly because of their dancing. He recognized his admiration for Link was love now but was surprised to also find an intense desire for him as well. He wanted Link. He wanted to kiss him.
He was just too terrified to do it.
After all, there were too many risks involved and Shad did not haphazardly leap into danger. No, Shad would wait. He would carefully plan and one day tell Link of his love and if Link returned it, act on his desires then.
Shad closed his eyes and settled on his decision. Link took Shad into another turn.
Their lips brushed.
Shad immediately opened his eyes. Link was staring back at him with a similar expression of shock. They stopped dancing. Shad's natural reaction was to apologize, though he couldn't, not knowing if he had brushed him first. That and because he was not sorry. He wanted to kiss Link. Unabashedly.
The delicate brush had sparked a bomb fuse in Shad. It would not be long before the spark burned down to his longing and desire and exploded.
Which, really, did not take as long as Shad thought it would.
"Pardon me," Shad murmured and kissed Link.
Shad savored the deep press of their lips, knowing it may be his only chance he would get and the only time they would ever kiss. His time, after all, was most likely short. Shad quite expected Link to push him away any second. The scholar feared that moment and the moment after that—facing his irate best friend and his sword after he forced his kiss upon him.
Seconds came and went and yet Link showed no inclination of pushing Shad.
Realizing they were still in their dance position, Shad unclasped his hand from Link's and wrapped it around his waist and pulled the swordsman closer to him. Whether the thumping heartbeat he heard was Link's or his own, Shad could not tell. Shad removed his arm from behind Link's neck and slid his hand down his back, feeling for Link's firm muscles, but found nothing, the hero's clothes being too thick. So instead, Shad slipped his hand up Link's neck and underneath his floppy green cap, causing a short, low moan in the swordsman's throat, and ran his fingers through his sandy hair.
Link still had his arm curved around Shad's waist and in fact was pulling himself closer to Shad. The realization of this—that Link was wanting and enjoying this as much as he—sent jolts of pleasure throughout Shad's body.
The first touch of their lips was rather hard, what with Shad fearing Link's rejection, but the second touch was lighter, sweeter, as were the next, the ones after that, and after that. Shad took a moment during his series of kisses to stare into Link's eyes. They were bright and happy and the wildness blazed inside them. Link smiled as Shad leaned in to place another soft kiss on his lips. A satisfied sigh escaped Link's parting lips.
It was then Shad realized he could take this kiss deeper, slip his tongue into Link's mouth and that Link would not object. Knowing the young hero well enough as is, he probably would enjoy the rush and rise to the thrill.
But Shad upheld propriety and did not believe snogging in public out in the open central square for anyone to see would ever be accepted as decent in the rulebooks of proper decorum. He was probably flouting that decree, or hitting the limits dangerously of it, already.
So Shad pulled away, enfolded his arms around Link in a warm embrace, and rested his forehead against Link's.
"Why'd you stop?" Link asked, his voice husky.
"Because, old boy," Shad said, "it isn't much of an exploration if you settle down and find out everything there is to know in one sitting."
Link grinned, his eyes full of determination and anticipation, "So there's an adventure ahead…"
"Yes, for us," Shad nodded, "…If you'd like to be my partner along the road."
"There's going to be a lot of dancing on this road, isn't there?" Link said, taking Shad's hand and interlacing their fingers.
Shad kissed the top of Link's forehead and smiled, "I hope so."