A/N: For the romance development, there's a sliver. And I'm sorry this took longer than expected to finish, but to make it up to you guys...

Disclaimer: All characters of Zelda are property of Nintendo.

-o-o-o-

Goddess Plume

Chapter 3: Bond

"Machi, for thf rasp tieb, noffink's gonna ee chu!" yelled an exasperated hero, hands pulling hard on the kikwi stuck to his face. Try as he might, the animal continued to stubbornly clamp on for dear life. In the eyes of the townsfolk, Link was sporting a new mask – one that apparently was too tight to get off and had no visible air holes.

"No! D-don't, Linkwee! I'm scared, kew!" cried his companion, tiny little arms clawing much to close to Link's eyes for his liking. The kikwi's soft body smothered the hero's nose, making it hard for him to breathe.

"Ib canb breapth!" came the muffled response. Link continued trying to pry Machi loose with no luck. Only when he started coughing in spasms did the kikwi loosen his grip and unwillingly crawled off his face only to settle rigidly on his waistline.

"Ahaha, Link! Didya get a new belt? It looks kinda funny!" asked an energetic Kukiel who stopped running as she saw her friend wrestling with the new accessory. "Did you get it from the surface?"

"Oh hello, Kukiel! Yes...as for the belt part..." Link prodded Machi's tendril and the animal squirmed in discomfort. "It's not really one." Kukiel gawked at it in wonder, amazed that whatever it was moved. She was sorely tempted to touch it. Reaching out a hand, she timidly aimed for the leaf-like growths until a loud holler resounded through the air, rendering her efforts useless.

"Kukiel! Lunchtime!" her mother called from far in the distance. "It's time to come home!" The little child pouted, unhappy that she didn't get to check out Link's new...whatever it was. She stared at it for another second or two and then hurried off without another word, glancing back every few yards. As soon as she disappeared from sight, Machi scooted down a little lower, now clutching at the hero's kneecap.

"You're almost there," urged Link sweetly. He gave up trying to forcibly detach his tiny companion. "The ground on Skyloft is solid, you know. No worries about falling off." At that, the kikwi looked up in delight and inched closer to the floor. He gazed at the cobbled road in amazement and then cautiously lowered one foot to test the waters. "Suppress the urge to shake him off...suppress it..." "See? Nothing happened, right? You're overreacting, Machi."

"I-I suppose you're right, kew..." Letting go, Machi flopped onto the ground, shaking a bit. He immediately began scouting for the nearest tree or equally high flora. Spotting a weathered oak to his left, he scurried over and sniffed at the base frantically before climbing up. As soon as he settled in the crook of a low branch, he gave a satisfied chirp. "Linkwee, your home may be strange, but it has the same trees as mine. I like it! But I'm not so sure about all of those tall things." He gestured to the row of houses on the far side of the marketplace and then to the red burlap tent of the bazaar.

Link chuckled, relieved Machi wasn't freaking out anymore. He wasn't sure how he would be able to deal with a hyperventilating kikwi on Skyloft. "Those are called 'buildings'," he explained, pointing at the residential district. "Like how you nest in trees, we nest in houses. We grow our uh...young in them."

"Ah! So Linkwee also came from an egg?"

"Uh, I guess you could put it that way, but it's more complicated than that..." Suddenly his face felt a few degrees warmer than before. "L-listen Machi, how about you come down from the tree and I show you around? I'm sure everyone would love to meet you."

"But I like it up here! It feels safe..."

"Machi..." Link shook his head, a hand covering his face. If he had known it would play out this way, he wouldn't have agreed to let the kikwi visit. "Some visit if you're stuck in a tree the whole time," he thought, mentally berating himself for giving up so soon. "Maybe I should give an incentive...hmm, but what?" A smirk appeared on his face as he lazily drifted farther away from the kikwi's position. "Oh, well. If you don't want to taste the yummy pumpkin soup or sleep in a soft, warm bed then by all means, stay up in that tree. Maybe some passerby may spot you and then...who knows what would happen..."

"Eep! No! Don't leave me, Linkwee!" Machi cried, bolting off the branch. Link turned around just in time to catch the falling animal. He felt the kikwi shifting to get comfortable in his arms.

"There, you settled? No worries?" A timid nod was his reply. "Alright, let's get you some food. I'm sure you're hungry by now." Link started walking towards the Knight Academy, glowing with pride in finally being able to coax Machi off of that tree. He hummed contentedly while the kikwi snuggled close to his chest. "I can already taste the freshly made soup!"

Machi looked at him in confusion. "...what's soup?"

-o-o-o-

"Damn Karane for making me do this! It's absolutely unnecessary. Why do I have to...to speak to him? It's not my fault!" Pipit mentally raged, all the while taking long strides towards the bazaar. He was so busy consoling himself that he didn't notice the object of his fury casually making his way to the schoolhouse until said person waved at him in a jerking motion. "Tch...speak of the demon." He stepped forward and cleared his throat, eyes glaring coldly at his classmate. "Link." Even he was slightly surprised at how hostile his greeting sounded.

"O-oh, hey...Pipit," answered the latter courteously, currently finding the stone pavement much more interesting than anything else. After the initial exchange, both boys just stood there in awkward silence for what seemed like hours, looking everywhere but at each other.

Link sighed in exasperation; he did not want his friendship with Pipit to continue like this – especially not after practically growing up together. "Well, if he's not going to say anything, might as well give it a shot..." He coughed lightly to gain the others attention. "Um," the smaller male began shyly. "I understand if you're still angry about...you know, but I honestly don't want that to jeopardize our friendship. I'm sorry...really. Like I said before, if there is any way – any way at all – that I could help you out, tell me. You're my best friend, Pipit. Please don't stay mad at me..." He gained the courage to peek at his friend's face after the apology; Pipit remained indifferent. Link was beginning to lose all hope in patching things up until the older swordsman let out a belated sigh. He drew nearer to Link and leaned over, folding his arms in the process. The hero took a step back in alarm, but didn't budge anymore after that. "Uh, Pipit? You okay?"

Pipit remained quiet, silently contemplating Link's posture with a calculating stare. "He's...shaking. I can barely detect it, but it's there and...it's my fault..." He huffed in defeat, cold eyes softening. Turning his back to Link, he marched a couple feet away before muttering a string of barely audible words. Link had to walk up behind him just to catch a few. "...acting like a jerk...money's not everything...best friend..." He smiled; it was the closest thing to an apology he would get.

"Apology accepted," he said warmly, as the older boy whirled around, a pinkish hue dotting his cheeks. Pipit was never good at admitting his own faults, let alone apologizing. "So, does this mean we can talk normally again? I would really like that."

Nodding, Pipit's mouth curled up in a tiny smile. How he missed having Link around and seeing his smiling face; it was almost contagious. "Yeah, of course, but..." His brows knitted together in intense concentration. "What...is that?" He pointed to the strange animal-like thing Link was holding, previously gone unnoticed by him.

Link couldn't believe his luck. "Did he really just...forgive me that easily? Wait, what am I saying! Of course he would!" He had the sudden urge to laugh out of relief, but decided against it in fear of looking like a maniac. Pipit stared at him curiously. "This?" Link held up the rigid kikwi in his arms. "His name is Machi. He's a kikwi from the surface. I brought him here to tour Skyloft since he was asking to come along." He gently patted the frightened creature. "Machi? Are you okay?"

A whimper escaped the tiny creature. "L-linkwee! That yellow monster wants to eat me!" The kikwi started struggling in the hero's grasp, yelping and shaking in fear. "Let me go! I need to get away, kewww!"

Everything was silent – besides Machi's incoherent shouts – until both boys randomly erupted in fits of laughter. Link tried to keep a hold on the creature while grasping at his stomach in pain from laughing too hard; Pipit wasn't faring any better.

"Pffft, you as a kikwi-eating terror? Hahaha, there's a greater chance of Groose turning into a pumpkin!"

"Pumpkin Groose? He would be the nastiest tasting pumpkin ever! Hahaha, ow!"

Machi stopped cowering in fear and look at the yellow one in wonder. "Y-you don't want to eat me then?"

Wiping the stray tears from his eyes, Link shook his head, chuckling. "This guy would never eat you! You know why? Because he loves birds and you sort of look like one. Besides, I'm sure Pipit would prefer pumpkin soup over roasted kikwi any day."

"Unless it's Groose pumpkin soup. Yeck." He gave a disgusted look, causing Link to double over in laughter again.

The kikwi pulled at the hero's tunic to grab his attention. "Linkwee, what's a Pipit? Is it tasty?"

-o-o-o-

It wasn't until Machi's tummy growled loudly that the duo decided to move on to the school building, energetically swapping stories back and forth along the way. It was almost as if a fight never occurred between them. Fledge waved at them as they ambled near, a shocked look adorning his face as he spotted the weird animal Link was carrying. He scrambled out of the way to let the trio pass, rubbing furiously at his eyes in case it was a mere hallucination. "Maybe I should lay off those stamina potions for a while...phew."

-o-o-o-

"And this is our school. It's where we attend classes and train to become full-fledged knights of Skyloft. We also sleep here." Link pointed to his room as they passed it by. "But right now, let's get some food. I'm starving!" He ran the rest of the way to the cafeteria with Pipit not far behind. "You have to try the pumpkin soup, Machi. Once you do, you'll be hooked!"

"...that doesn't sound very good."

Link swatted playfully at the older boy. "Shut it, you!" He gave Pipit a wide smile as the three of them took seats at a far end table. The place was empty save for a group of girls busily chatting in a corner. "What would you like?" he asked as the waitress handed them the menus. "I owe you big time."

Pipit thought for a moment before shrugging. "Order whatever you want, Link. I'm fine with anything."

"Anything, eh? Miss, we're ready to order. Pipit wants one of everything. And can we get three orders of pumpkin soup with that? Thanks." As the waitress left to fill their order, Pipit stared incredulously at his companion, too bewildered to speak. Machi remained huddled by the hero, quivering lightly at the unfamiliar surroundings. "Well, you didn't make up your mind, so I decided to make it up for you." Link flashed another radiant smile his way. "Hope you don't mind packing an extra five pounds tonight."

Pipit raised an eyebrow at that. "If anyone's gaining weight, it's you."

"Oh? Do I smell a challenge?"

"You bet! First person who can't eat anymore is the loser!"

"You're on, Pipit!"

-o-o-o-

"Ah, that really hit the spot! Don't you agree, Machi?"

The kikwi burped in appreciation, rubbing his now engorged stomach sluggishly. "The soup is really good, kwee! If I had another stomach, I would eat some more." Machi noticed that Pipit was also going through the same motions as himself, but his face looked a little green. He grew concerned. "Pipit, you okay?"

"Urrrrgh," he managed to groan out. "I don't...feel so great." The older swordsman burped loudly, causing the crew of girls in the corner to look at him in revulsion. He flashed them a sloppy grin.

"Serves you right for wanting to win so badly. But, think you can make it back to your house on your own?" Link dropped the remaining rupees in the payment tray before getting up and scooting his chair in. "I'll walk you over there if you need it."

Pipit scoffed, but it sounded more like a burp. "What am I, four?" He waved him off. "I'll be fine. It's getting late so maybe you should allow Machi to stay the night. You know how the loftwings dislike flying after dusk."

Link nodded in agreement, scooping up the bloated, sleepy kikwi in his arms before stumbling out of the cafeteria. The trio made their way to Link's room, which wasn't much of a distance at all. Before turning in however, there was a nagging question Link wanted to ask his friend. "Hey Pipit?" he queried, growing pensive. "You never did tell me if you and Karane are together now. So...are you?"

The older boy nodded, a large grin widening with every breath. "Yeah! We managed to hit it off great! All thanks to you apparently. Haha." A dreamy look plastered itself on his face. "We share a lot of the same interests you know...Karane and I...Karane...oh no." Suddenly, Pipit jerked out of his reverie, panic settling in all too soon. "Shoot! Link, I forgot! I was supposed to go back to her after we talked! Aw, geez!" He ran towards the main entrance all the while shouting, "I'll catch you later! Wish me luck!"

Link watched as Pipit flew out the building in search of his newly acquainted girlfriend, smile fading into melancholy.

-o-o-o-

His room was surrounded in complete darkness; only the glow of stray moonbeams illuminated bits and pieces of furniture and wall. After so many sleepless nights dreaming about surface monsters and death, it became a reoccurring theme for him to have a source of light where he slept. Thinking back, he hardly slept down on the surface, only dozing here and there after fighting through a temple if light was still out. He disliked catching sleep once the sun let down – too guarded and tense for any meaningful rest even with a roaring fire. Although Fi was by his side, he only felt safe when he could see daylight. "Nightmares will do that to anyone," he thought absentmindedly. He settled the kikwi on his bed and watched the animal snore contentedly as he climbed in beside him. A faint rustling noise sounded from Machi.

"...Linkwee?" He let out a yawn, rubbing his tiny eyes drowsily. "You're still awake?"

"Yeah, sorry for waking you. Go back to sleep, okay? I'll bring you back to Faron Woods first thing tomorrow. I'm sure kikwi elder is worried about you." He wrapped an arm around the animal. "Do you mind if I do this?"

Machi bristled, but then relaxed and curled up beside Link. He watched as his friend shut his eyes, trying to fall into slumber, but his breath was still erratic. "...Linkwee? Are you okay now?"

Link cracked open one eye. "Huh, what do you mean?"

"You seemed bothered back in my home about something, but after coming back here and meeting Pipit, you seemed better. Was it because you missed your friend?" Machi gazed at Link anxiously, expecting an answer.

"Guess you could say that."

"But then why do you seem sad again?"

"W-what? No, I'm fine. Haha, you're thinking into it too much. Let's catch some sleep now, hm?" He ruffled the kikwi's tendril affectionately, causing Machi to chirp happily. Figuring this was enough chatter for the night, Link closed his eyes again before attempting to doze off. "...gnight, Machi."

"Good night, Linkwee."

-o-o-o-

It was a quiet, peaceful morning the next day. Machi – ever the early riser – hopped out of bed and roamed around Link's room as he patiently waited for his friend to wake up. Never before had he seen things like a 'cabinet' or 'paper' as Link explained it to him the day prior. He waddled up to the door and screeched horribly as a lively Pipit barged in, frantically waving a slip of paper in the air.

"Link! You won't believe this! Instructor Owlan's hosting a dance at the Lumpy Pumpkin tonight and Karane asked me to be her date!"

Groggily sitting up, the hero yawned, still not in tune with his surroundings just yet. "Jeez, Pipit. It's too early in the morning for this..." He tried to slip back underneath the covers, but Pipit dragged them away. Machi merely sat in a corner, trying to look small as possible.

"Aw, c'mon! You should at least congratulate me!"

"Congratulations. Now, will you please let me sleep in peace?" He growled in annoyance as the older boy started poking him in the ribs. "Pipit!"

Relinquishing his actions, Pipit sat down beside Link, eyes twinkling in delight. "And I haven't told you the best part! Tomorrow, Karane and I are exploring this new island out in the far west. Apparently, she discovered it by accident one day on a scouting trip. Crazy, huh? And then I promised her we would visit Fun Fun Island the next day. It's a good dating place, right?"

Link nodded to his friend's rant, not really paying attention to the details. Machi noticed the lack of enthusiasm and dutifully spoke up on behalf of his observation. "Linkwee...you seem sad again."

Pipit halted in his rant and stared at Link, confusion written all over his face. "What's to be sad about?"

Shaking his head, the hero gave his companion a smile. "It's nothing to worry about, Pipit. You go ahead and enjoy your time with Karane, you hear? She's one lucky girl."

"Heheh! You got that right! Well, I'll talk to you later. I need to get ready for tonight!" Without another word, Pipit dashed out of Link's room, almost losing his hat in the process. Machi remained where he last sat, his beady little eyes fixating on Link's face.

"Don't. I know, Machi. I know," the hero muttered softly, smile completely gone as soon as Pipit left his room. He buried his head in both hands.

"...I'm sad."

-o-o-o-

A/N: ...here's a preview for the next chapter! Well, sort of. Okay, okay. Maybe it was an excuse just to draw Ghirapit because, you know, that totally makes sense. Someone seems to be a fan of it. ;)

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