Story Title: Consider Yours Truly

Disclaimer: I do not own The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

Author's Notes: Well, it would've been more appropriate to post this fic on Valentine's Day but unfortunately the idea didn't come until months after the holiday, so it was either post now or wait a year. Some attempt was made to keep the saccharine prose at a minimum, but again, it's not to be unexpected. And well, overly sweet or just right, there still needs to be more Shad/Link fics. Thanks for reading.

-o-

Story Title: Consider Yours Truly

-o-

Shad supposed the decoration was supposed to be pretty but the excess use of the traditional colors and imagery in such mass quantity assaulted one's eyes rather than appealed to one's sense of beauty.

Castle Town was decked out in various pinks, reds, and whites. Ribbons were wrapped about pillars or were strung between buildings. Overflowing baskets of brightly-colored flowers hung from every iron hook and a pot of flowers stood on every possible ledge. Every table in every restaurant sported a lacy tablecloth and a thin vase with a single, pretty flower. And there were hearts. Everywhere. Even the fountain in the central square was decorated in flowers and ribbons and intricately folded paper hearts.

It was as if Mister Barnes had developed a bomb that contained every symbol and connotation of love and romance and had detonated it in Castle Town.

Upon noticing what a lovely day it was turning out to be, Shad had decided to take the rest of the day off to enjoy it. Only upon leaving his apartment he discovered that today was more than just a pretty day. It was also Lovers' Day.

Shad's thoughts turned dry and detached as he called the purpose of the holiday. Lovers' Day… a day to commemorate and express romantic feelings, typically with a steady lover or a spouse. Also a popular day to acquire a lover, to reveal ones' romantic intentions, and to marry. All in all, a happy and pleasant day.

…For couples.

Truth was that Shad was single. Always had been. Seven months shy of his twentieth birthday and he had never been on a date. He had never even been asked. Or been the asker.

He had been in love, yes, but when it came to divulging his affections to his objects of adoration, Shad could never muster up the nerve. He was far too afraid. The thought sent Shad into a nervous shake. And then when he had reached his early teens, he had discovered a whole new problem to factor in his search for love.

Along with all the customary establishments making their offers—half-price, discount here, free roses to every…and the like— to couples, the streets and more specifically the central square was busy with the typical festival necessities. The air was packed with the smells of sizzling meats and vegetables, popping popcorn, crackling oil, aromatic spices, and thick sweetness as vendors called out to crowds.

Actors portrayed several tales from the Hero of Time's period. A favorite, especially with the kids, was always the Hero of Time's defeat of Ganondorf but a few Lovers' Day-appropriate pieces, such as the Hero of Time's accidental engagement to the Zora princess, Ruto, and "Anju and Kafei", which may or may not have happened, also made appearances. Shad noticed a few tales performed that were even older, that he thought only a few scholars were familiar with, such as "The Tale of Kina's Many Admirers", "Pipit and Karane", and "Peatrice's Heartbreak".

Couple after couple passed by Shad. Not that any of them noticed him. The few that did were merely aware of his presence and shuffled out of the way and by him without another thought. The rest were far too absorbed in each other, giggling, whispering sweet nothings, and kissing, a few to the intensity of snogging. Shad was quite appalled by the lack of basic civility and awareness of others. Deep affection, after all, was no excuse for discourtesy.

In his haste to avoid colliding with a young fellow and his blushing lady, Shad stumbled and tottered into an open door. He found himself in a flower shop and luckily had caught his balance before he crashed into a display of Gerudo flowering cactus. It was impossible to tell, what with their massive selection of flowers, whether the shop was large or small. Shad could only describe the place as packed, their displays as orderly-chaotic, and their flowers as positively beautiful and well-loved. Shad determined his chance stumble inside had been a fortuitous happenstance and proceeded to look about.

He recognized many of the popular flowers but there were far more within the shop that Shad wasn't familiar with and all were undoubtedly perfect specimens. The sight of a few brought back childhood memories. Mostly unpleasant ones. Old shadows of pain, humiliation, and rejection he recalled but pushed aside as quick as they returned. So far, the only good memory stirred was of the Lovers' Day his father presented his mother a glass tulip hairpin, after they had fought that morning over his father's inattentiveness and his mother had even claimed he didn't remember what her favorite flower was anymore.

Shad still liked flowers. Very much so, in fact. However, his history with them was a long series of unfortunate experiences, not like he ever had much luck in love or life.

As he marveled at a spectacular amaryllis, Shad overhead a young lady sigh and call her beau, "My Link…".

Shad immediately covered his hand over his mouth to stifle his laughter. The old boy has become a term of endearment, he snickered to himself. I say, I am certain he will find the news of this as positively delightful as a redead's kiss.

Link was not adjusting well to the celebrity aspect of being the Hero of Twilight. The old boy had developed quite a glare to send off the swarms of flatterers, fanatics, the incessantly inquisitive, and the folks who were just plain oblivious to his personal space and feelings. After all, there were times when it all became too much, even for Link's kind, helpful nature. He could never turn a child away though. They were always welcomed to approach him. And Shad was always welcomed. Link had told him that himself.

"Lookin' for something, mister?" a young girl said, startling Shad out of his thoughts. "I can help you. I know all the flowers."

Shad looked to find a little Hylian girl, most likely about twelve, in a blue dress with white sunflowers patterning the skirt and yellow shorts smiling back at him. Her brown hair was in pigtails and tied with yellow ribbons and her big green eyes shined with enthusiasm. Shad had no doubt she was the florist's daughter.

Shad offered her a smile and polite nod. "I appreciate the offer, however I am afraid I am just admiring," he replied.

He hadn't even turned halfway back to the amaryllis before she said, "You don't have no one, do you?"

Her candidness and perceptiveness surprised Shad but he tried to play it off and remain impassive. "Whatever leads you to believe that?"

"You said you're admiring," she explained. "You don't want to buy 'cause you don't have a reason to."

"Perhaps I already purchased a bouquet. Or my dearest happens to be allergic? Or simply that I wished to offer my love something other than flowers?"

"Well, I haven't seen you here before, so I know you haven't bought anything," she paused for moment and looked up as she considered his other suggestions. "And perhaps, the other two might be right, except they're not."

Shad had to admire her astute reasoning. "Perhaps you can elaborate to me on how you came to that conclusion, miss?"

"'Cause I watched you before I spoke," she said. "…Your eyes were awfully sad for someone just admirin'."

Finding himself without an answer for that, Shad opened then closed his mouth. His eyes fell to the floor. It must be so obvious if a child can see it, he thought.

"I was right, huh?" she innocently asked.

"You have…quite the eye," he smiled awkwardly out of politeness. "I say, rather pin-sharp, it is. It will serve you well."

The florist's daughter thanked him for his compliment and then said, "Sorry if I hurt your feelings…"

Shad was about to wave off the notion and assure her that no harm had been done when she perked up and said, "Oh, I know! Wait right here, mister!"

She ran off and just as hastily returned with a showy vibrant blue flower in her hands.

"It's called bachelor's buttons," she said as Shad crouched down to her level. "The old magic says it'll attract love to anyone who wears it. Maybe it'll bring your love to you, mister."

"Do you suppose?" Shad asked, smiling.

"Uh huh," she said as she pinned the flower to Shad's jacket.

"Now whatever do I owe you, kind miss?" Shad asked as he stood and reached for his rupee pouch.

The florist's daughter shook her head, sending her pigtails flying. "Nothin'," she said. "Just that I hope you find your love soon. And when you do, remember to buy her flowers at Bee and Bloom's."

Shad wished her a good day and told her he was off to find his love.

"Good luck, mister!" she called and then disappeared among the flowers. Off to help someone else or in the least toss a sales pitch, Shad supposed.

-o-

For once, his waistcoat's color was not a curiosity or a source of humor or backhanded insult. Today, for once, there was more than one Hylian gentleman sporting a light rose waistcoat. Shad's oddness, for one day, was not so odd.

No, today, the odd element of his attire was the bachelor's buttons pinned to his short purple jacket.

Shad was not sure to feel foolish or not and to what degree about wearing it. He knew he felt somewhat embarrassed, what with his cheeks turning red, his uncomfortable smiles, and his head angling downward to every young lady's giggle and notice. He knew the florist's daughter's talk of the old magic was nothing but superstition. Shad did not believe in superstitions and quite often discredited them to their proponent's faces. However, the sweet girl had such good intentions, he couldn't bring himself to point out the fallacies in her otherwise keen logic.

Making a quick check over his shoulder just in case, Shad then looked down at the bachelor's buttons and supposed he could simply remove it. He held the flower in one hand and grasped the pin with his other. And found himself unable to pull it.

Perhaps it is a bit barmy looking however it is not that garish either, Shad considered. The flower is very pretty. And perhaps it is innocuous to indulge in the girl's superstitions just a tad. After all, who knows? She could be correct. This might just attract my love to me.

I say, if I can believe in the sky beings in the face of mass disbelief and constant academic ridicule, I can humor the florist's daughter and give her theories their opportunity to stand to scrutiny.

So Shad wore the flower. And blushed as he overheard a young woman's comment and her friends tittering afterwards.

-o-

Surrounded by so many people as he wandered about, Shad developed an inkling to visit his friends. He did not actually have many friends though. His best friends since boyhood were all back in his apartment, all neatly shelved and organized accordingly. Books had always been his most trusted companions for most of his life. Shad had always been a timid child. He had not learned any social skills until his secondary education and even then he had forced himself learn to overcompensate for his lack of social skills.

The only people he could really refer as his friends were the Group, and even they were a gray area sometimes. Telma was more of a mother to him. Rusl and Auru supplanted the gap his real father's death created. Ashei…well, they worked well in the Group but outside of it, they shared little in common and while Shad did not mind her company, he felt that he pressed on her nerves.

And then there was Link.

Out of all the Group, Link was undeniably his closest friend. Shad could not count the times and hours they spent at Telma's in the lighted back table, Link with a glass of milk and he with his tea, talking over Link's adventures, Shad's findings, and whatever else they saw fit to chat about until Telma absolutely had to close for the evening. He was his first true friend.

Shad pressed his back against a building and let a fellow wheel a tiered cart packed with stuffed animals and dolls by. He may have been mistaken however he rarely was not, but he swore he had seen a little plush Link and Queen Zelda among the considerable selection.

Shad sighed quietly. If Link was here, they could talk. Shad wished Link was here. But he was home, back in Ordon Village, most likely celebrating Lovers' Day with his childhood sweetheart. Shad pressed his memory to recall her name. It was not a very common name. Oh yes, her name was Ilia. Nice girl.

Still if there was any other time Shad needed one of their long talks at Telma's back table, right now seemed to be perfect. He was secretly hoping, as Shad lightly tapped down the short stone steps to Telma's, that Link would be waiting with a cup of tea.

Much to his disappointment but not wholly unexpected, Link was not there. Who was there was nonetheless a surprise. Telma was there, as one would assume, behind the bar leaning toward her company. Across from her, however, was Renado.

He was not in his customary robes but was dressed in a way that would not have been out of place at all in Castle Town. Or Shad's own closet. Renado wore a suit-like outfit with a yellow waistcoat, a large white overcoat and matching white pants. Shad noticed the splash of dark color from his deep purple tie and he also noticed, mostly through scent rather than sight, a few sprigs of lavender were pinned to his waistcoat.

"Ah, Shad! Honey, come in. Come in," Telma waved him inside and introduced him to Renado.

"We have met," Renado said, seemingly relieved to have somewhere else to look rather than up to avoid Telma's…presentation.

"Pleasure to meet your acquaintance again, Mister Renado. All is well in Kakariko Village, I presume?"

"Quite so," Renado said. "I must add that further excavation of the cellar provided no other curiosities, I am afraid."

"No matter," Shad said. "I had somewhat expected that there would be no more additional leads to unearth, however it had been a potential possibility worth exploring. I do greatly thank you for your assistance."

"When did?" Telma asked aloud, confused as she looked at Renado then Shad. A moment later, she snapped her fingers, "…Oh yes, I forgot. You did spend some time in Kakariko, didn't you, honey?" she said to Shad. "Well, that introduction was pointless then."

"Hardly, Miss Telma," Shad assured her. "You would be surprised of the decline of the proper introduction in our society. Youth today may consider such practices passé, however I for one will uphold and applaud their continuation."

Renado and Telma smiled at him. "Shad, honey, you're an old soul. No wonder your childhood was so rough. You weren't the same age as all the other kids."

"Thank you, Miss Telma," Shad said, tipping his head downward to hide his blush as he ran a hand through his hair. Miss Telma always somehow paints my misfortune in the brightest colors. And then looking about, he asked, "…Pardon me, but the bar appears rather vacant tonight. Is everything all right?"

"Oh, yes, honey. A little surprise for me just made his appearance and I decided not to open. It is Lovers' Day, after all," Telma said, grinning at Renado as she laid her hand on his and spider-walked her fingers up his arm.

Noticeably uncomfortable and with redness showing through his dark cheeks, Renado averted his stare to the side and made an awkward throat-clearing noise.

"Yes, well, that it is," Shad said, quite certain this was probably his place to bow out. "A magnificent Lovers' Day to you both. I will just take my leave. Mister Renado, wonderful to see you again. Miss Telma, we will undoubtedly see one another soon. Farewell."

"Shad," Telma called.

Shad paused mid-opening the door and turned back around.

"That flower matches your eyes," she said. "Whoever you're trying to impress, I hope you win them over. You're too sweet a young man to go without no one."

Shad gave a quick nod and thanks and started to head out the door, except Telma was not quite finished.

"Find yourself someone that makes you happy, honey. I know that sounds obvious, but all too many times, we forget that. Just wanted to make sure you didn't."

"…I appreciate your kind words, Miss Telma. Thank you," Shad said. "And I will."

-o-

His head angled to the cobblestone, Shad wondered if he had just made a promise to Telma as his feet brought him back to the central square where a band was playing music and couples danced in tune. It seemed like a promise to him, yet not, and Shad hated to make promises he could not keep.

Of course, he wanted to find love. However, the search was…just more complicated for him than it would be for most.

Fact of the matter was that Shad did not actually fancy ladies. Yes, he could appreciate a lady for her beauty and wits but a young woman's physical charms did nothing for him. In all truth, he much preferred a gentleman's allure to that of a woman's. Which only served to further complicate his matters in romance.

It was damaging enough that he was painfully shy, feared rejection, and could never bring himself to approach anyone without swiftly deteriorating into a nervous wreck. Now adding his male preference and the major detail that there was a higher likelihood that most gentlemen did not share his preference and that Shad was clueless on how to go about determining whether a fellow would be interested in him anyway—it all just culminated into a horrendous, painful disaster in Shad's mind and he was ready to simply stay single for the rest of his life. It was a lot easier and less hurtful if he just did.

Still, as he looked over at the many dancing couples, even though he prepared to remain single, that did not mean he did not long for love like anyone else.

Shad headed for the eastern road. A few months after Link defeated Ganondorf, a bakery had opened up on the east, busying up the street quite a bit, and the smell of its breads and sweet goods had finally overtook the reek of the doctor's acrid medicines, which had always been the reason most townsfolk avoided the street at all possible.

Shad was a regular and not just for its fresh bread selection. The bakery also produced the most amazing cream puffs. Large, light, crispy pastries generously filled with a dense, sweet cream drizzled with ribbons of chocolate glaze…they were to die for. For any reason, good or bad, Shad would make one up just to have an excuse to purchase a box. Of lately he had not had much to celebrate over, so most of the time he bought himself some as a perk up, a treat to break up the blandness and loneliness when his work made it impossible to step off to Telma's.

Today seemed as good as any other to have a cream puff. No, it was better because it was Lovers' Day. It was a fine excuse and no one would necessarily believe the puffs were all for himself, even though they were, over for a lover. No one had to know and it was not anyone's business to know anyway. Besides, being surrounded by all these displays of love and romance did press on Shad's lonely heart and if Telma's was closed, his best friend was out of town, and Shad had no one else and no place to go, why not comfort himself a bit?

The bakery was a lot busier than Shad expected it to be. There was a waiting line, in fact. There never had been much of one before but, given the holiday and the likelihood that the bakery had been swamped by orders, Shad supposed it was not that unexpected. So he waited in line and watched the sky go from bright blue with white puffy clouds to gray, monochromatic gray. A wet, cool breeze blew by and suddenly Shad was thankful he had slipped on his jacket after all. If his knowledge was sound, and it was, it did not bode well for the rest of the festivities.

At last, it was Shad's turn. He placed his order.

"Sorry, Shad," the baker said. "Would if I could but I can't. Ran out about ten minutes go."

Shad's chin sunk into his chest at the awful news.

"If you're willing to wait a while, I'll get your order," the baker offered helpfully.

Knowing there were many, many other people waiting behind him and seeing the bakery staff already working frantically through the rush, Shad declined. "It is not that pressing and besides, I would not want to be a bother. I say, you have plenty on your sleeves as is. Perhaps another time."

"All right. Take care, boy," the baker said before immediately taking the order of the next customer.

-o-

Shad did not want to simply return to his apartment. There was nothing for him to do there. However, there was not anything for him to do here but wander the streets of Castle Town looking for something to do. And people-watch all the happy couples in love that passed by him. As if he did not even exist.

Not that Shad was not used to being ignored, being overlooked, being passed over for someone better. It was all he ever knew. He had always been so shy, most kids never knew he was around. In primary school, he had never been strong or coordinated enough to play sports and no one had ever picked him in a lineup, even if it meant playing with uneven teams.

And, well, besides the fact he was not attracted to them anyway, girls had never considered him as a possible love interest. Even when he was little and presented a girl he liked a flower—because children do not possess sexual attractions yet and merely like or dislike one another, the girl just laughed at him. Then told a boy she liked about the flower and he beat Shad up.

Hands in his pockets, Shad leaned against a building and inattentively proceeded on with his people-watching until he could come up with a better solution to his nothing to do and nowhere to go predicament. He had heard that supposedly the fortune-teller could foresee all in the matters of love. Briefly, Shad entertained the thought of visiting her and discovering if she could divine him his true love but he dashed that idea as quickly as he had considered it. After all, along with believing it was a dirty scam that preyed on the desperately hopeful and the naïve, Shad considered fortune-telling as barmy and illogical as superstitions.

Which brought to mind the florist's daughter. Shad uttered a somber sigh and frowned up at the gray clouded sky.

Sorry, sweet miss, but I am afraid to state that your flower has failed to effect its magic. What little attention it did garner me was merely ridicule and, as one can plainly observe, it is not attracting anyone toward me. It is a pretty flower and that is all it is.

He felt bad for her. She had meant well and had tried her best to help him but it was just not working. It never was going to work from the beginning. And Shad had hoped it would, not just for his own benefit but for her belief as well. For once, he wished he had not been right.

"The sweet little fool…" he whispered to himself.

Two sharp barks startled Shad and snapped his attention down to his feet. There, one of the few puppies that wandered the streets all the time stood on his boots. Seeing it had Shad's awareness, the pup barked again and then picked up a bone into its mouth.

Well… I suppose this flower has drawn something toward me. Pity we are not the same species but I wager this will have to suffice. Better than nothing, I say.

Shad tossed the bone, which admittedly was not that far, but the pup did not mind and happily chased after it. Their play continued on for a while with plentiful intermittent breaks for petting, ear scratching and belly rubs.

"I say, I would take you home with me," he told the pup, wagging its tail vigorously as he patted its back, "however, my landlord does not permit pets. Except fish. And it is most unfortunate that you are not a fish."

Something wet plunked against Shad's head. Looking up to investigate, Shad's spectacles were quickly splattered with rain. With the light sprinkle developing rapidly into a downpour, Shad hastened to the shelter of an awning, the pup following in tow and laying down at his feet.

Shad had seen the rain coming. It was not fortune-telling or any sort of magic or trick. It was simple meteorology. It did not take the divination of the Goddesses' will to look up at the sky and figure out the coming weather. How unfortunate a turn it was for the Lovers' Day festivities however, with any luck, the shower would pass soon and all the activities of love and romance could resume. And if not and the remainder of the festival was washed out and all the couples rushed home soaked, at least they had one another. Shad had no one. And he in all likelihood never would.

For some reason, the cruel irony of the Goddesses, Shad supposed, Shad tended to fall for boys that would never be interested in him. He had had many crushes but he had wound up being bullied and beaten by many of his heart's desires—for every other reason but his attraction to them since Shad never could tell them—that Shad gave up. Hope still burned within him that he would find love, but there was not much fuel left to keep the fire going forever. And Shad quite expected that fire to snuff out.

Shad stood and waited for the rain to lighten or drizzle out but the rain poured on and cascaded down the sides of the awning in miniature waterfalls. Shad pressed his back against the wall, pulled his short jacket as far as it would go around him, crossed his arms over his chest and braced against the wind and rain. Early spring rains were cold, yes, however they were usually not as violent as this downpour. If he thought he had a chance of making it inside somewhere, Shad would have tried but the visibility was so poor and the rain pounded against the cobblestone. All Shad could do was wait it out and hope the shower lessened enough soon so he could make a run for it.

He was a fool, of course. No one would ever truly consider him as a love. There was always someone better, someone more fitting than him in the world to be someone's love. Shad was never destined for love. He was only doomed to heartbreak.

If he wasn't, why did he only fall in love with boys who would never love him back? Why then did he fall in love with Link?

It was true. Shad had been harboring feelings for his best and only true friend for quite some time now. He had feared the worst when he first realized his feelings—after all, his secret loves had a history of beating him up. Of course, after his fleeting moment of irrationality, because Link would never hurt him, passed by, the true fear set in—Shad did not want to lose his best friend.

He could not bear to lose both a love and friend in the same instant. So Shad never told him. Yet. Not that he was going to. Ever. It was rather pointless anyway, he had realized one day. After all, it was not like he had a chance with Link. If Shad was ever more certain on anyone, it was that he was certain Link did not share his preference. He had Ilia. And he loved her. Sweet girl.

Shad watched the rain patter on and breathed on his cold hands for a bit of heat. The awning protected his head all right but the open sides and the heavy winds carried the diagonal downpour inside his so-called shelter. He was cold and damp and wishing the rain would let up just long enough for him to go home.

Oh was he ever so relieved when it at last did. The pup had been his first indication. After sitting so patiently beside him, the pup suddenly rose and ran off. It was then that Shad noticed the rain tapering off to a steady sprinkle. Believing this to be his opportunity as well, Shad took off.

The cobblestones were bright with a wet sheen all along Shad's path. He hurried. He felt that he had to, that the rainstorm would pour on him if he did not. Shad knew the street was slick with rain. He just underestimated just how slick the road actually was. The road let him know. His front step slid back and Shad met the street. Hard.

The impact had actually punched the air out of him. Shad lay on the street regaining his breath, aching from his head to his knees, and chastising himself deeply for his foolishness. His head was a little woozy but he swore he heard wet footsteps racing toward him.

"Are you all right?" said a voice that sounded awfully just like Link's.

"Yes," Shad said, though he was not certain about it. After all, he was hearing Link's voice out of this good samaritan. Maybe if he looked up, put a face against the voice and perhaps even recognized the person, he could restore the truth and not continue this trick his mind was playing on him.

Shad saw Link kneeled beside him.

He was then assured the hit to his head must have left him with a mild concussion, though he was not sure a concussion would leave hallucinations this intense and clear. He knew he had to be seeing things though. It could not really be Link. Could it?

It could. As far as Shad's knowledge went, and granted his mind was a great deal fuzzy, hallucinations of the mind could not take his hand, so strong and warm, in his, help him up, and then brace his arm supportively around his back. This felt too real to be all imagined. It could not be fake and if it could not be fake, then it had to be real.

Then Link was really here.

"Let's get you home," Link said softly and Shad did not object.

-o-

Of course, Link did not know the way to Shad's apartment so he had to give him directions and not long after the rain started pouring again so by the time they reached his apartment, they were soaked. Once home, the first thing Shad did was quickly put on the teakettle. If he needed anything right now, it was a good hot cup of tea.

That accomplished, Shad turned to face Link and offer him a change of clothes, when he noticed that Link was miraculously dry. Somehow from their first steps into the apartment building, up the stairwell, and down the hall to Shad's place, Link's green tunic had dripped dry. It boggled Shad's mind, but he was far too wet, cold, and shivering to make an inquiry. While Link looked about his place, mostly at the walls and walls of books, Shad hurried off to his bedroom for some much desired dry clothes.

Peeling off his soggy clothes and tossing them into an empty laundry basket, Shad dried himself off, put on some undershorts, and then proceeded to stand in front of his open closet. Light brown pants on, Shad contemplated which colored waistcoat would match best as he buttoned up his pink dress shirt. He thought nothing of his floor creaking while he remained stationary.

"It's a shame you crushed your flower," Link said. "It brought out your eyes."

A startled Shad turned to find Link holding up the flattened bachelor's buttons he had set aside on his nightstand. Link was also smiling at him.

"What are you—" Shad shouted, red spreading across his cheeks, covering his hands over his chest for modesty. "Please excuse yourself at once!"

Link laughed. "You look fine," he assured and pulled Shad by the hand out of his room and down the short hallway back to his living room.

This could not be. Shad sat on his plush sofa with a cup of tea warming his hands wearing only a pair of pants and a dress shirt. He did not have on a waistcoat or a bowtie. The top two buttons of his dress shirt were not fastened. For Nayru's love, he wasn't even wearing socks! He felt…he felt practically naked.

Oh no, Shad had to backtrack from that thought. He sipped his tea as swiftly as possible without appearing to gulp it and allowed its warming sensation distract him from his current thoughts. He could not think of being naked. Not with Link sitting right next to him.

"I've been looking for you all day," Link said. "You're hard to find when you don't want to be."

Why would he search intently to be with me? Shad wondered. Would he not prefer his sweetheart's company of all days? "Pardon me, however I did not realize I was being sought out."

"Well, of course," Link lightly laughed. "Wouldn't have been a surprise if you did."

As Shad set his teacup down on its saucer, his eyes flitted over to the pink box that had suddenly came to be sitting on his coffee table. He had noticed it already but had said nothing about it. Had no reason. Shad was quite familiar with the pink box, knowing well the store it came from, and what it possibly contained. It was Link's, had to be, and since it was Link's, Shad had no doubt it was for Ilia. Still Shad wished to break the abrupt awkward tension in the air and mentioned it for the sake of small talk.

"Perfit's. Fine bakery. Wonderful baked goods," Shad offered an uncomfortable smile. "I say, I am certain Ilia will find immense delight partaking in any of their lovely pastries."

"Those aren't for Ilia. They're for you," Link said.

Shad sat frozen with his mouth open, gawking in disbelief at the news. Link slid the box across the table, stopped it in front of Shad, and removed the lid. Shad leaned slightly forward and peered inside. It was filled with cream puffs.

"They're your favorite, right?" Link asked, his voice and demeanor bright and excited. "I didn't actually know what to buy but I described you to the baker and he said you often buy these so that's what I bought."

Shad's stare darted back and forth between the puffs and Link in uncertainty, "W-Why would you buy anything for me?"

He felt the warmth and strength of Link's hand as he took his and held it in a tender but secure clasp.

"Because I love you," Link said as if it was the most universally accepted fact in all the land.

Shad had heard him right, right? If he had heard him, then it had to be true. And if it was true, then all of Shad's hopes, dreams, desires, and fervently longing were made true as well. Link loved him.

All Shad could ask was, "Why?"

Link was suddenly very close. As if Link had glided across the sofa, it seemed to Shad, so lost and overwhelmed in a daze of awe. Link sat on Shad's lap, legs straddling his sides and pressing into the sofa cushion.

"Stick with me and you'll find out why I love you," Link murmured.

In a rare moment, Shad was left speechless. He sat staring back at Link wondering why he would love him, what were his reasons. He was still so stuck in disbelief that this was even happening. It seemed so surreal. But it was real. So very wonderfully real.

"You like mysteries, don't you?" Link asked as he ran his fingers through the fine hairs on the back of Shad's neck up through his damp hair.

"I say, yes, I do," Shad said, his breath uneven, shutting his eyes and shuddering with Link's touch. "However, I do not quite see how you can apply—"

"I'll tell you what then," Link said, laying his hands on Shad's shoulders, leaning into his face, and meeting his gaze. "If you'll be mine, every year on this day, I'll tell you a reason why I love you. Deal?"

If you'll be mine… Shad let his smile be his answer, "Then do you suppose I am obliged a reason for this year?"

Link made a playful show of consideration. "All right," he said, finally deciding. "This." He cupped Shad's face in his hands. "Your smile," he said, rubbing a thumb across his lips.

Link held Shad for a while, his eyes taking in only Shad's, and then bending down, he tipped Shad's chin upward and kissed him. The rain had left him so cold earlier Shad had estimated it would have taken him hours to properly warm, but with a few light touches and a single deep press of his lips, Link had warmed him thoroughly. He felt feverish, in fact, when he was not feeling giddy, and the heat spread from his face to his neck and to the rest of his body. Shad wrapped his arms about Link's waist. He felt his weight sitting on his lap and the curve of his lower body lying against his own.

As their kiss came to its undesired but necessary end, Shad reopened his eyes and smiled, matching Link's grin. Link reached over and grabbed a cream puff from the box and proceeded to feed Shad.

After giving several bites, Link took one of his own. "These are good," he said, beaming.

Shad would have wholly and passionately agreed but his mind was quite focused elsewhere. "I say, it really cannot be something so insignificant as my smile," he said.

"I wouldn't say it's insignificant at all. Has a powerful effect on me, at least," Link said, licking the squeezed out cream off his fingers. "And it's a reason but it's not the only."

"Then I will have to stay by you and wait for next year's Lovers' Day for your next reason, I suppose," Shad said, smiling.

"Lovers' Day?" Link asked curiously

"Yes, old boy," Shad said and then realized, "…You have never heard of it?"

"No. We don't have that in Ordon," Link said. "I had no idea."

He had no idea? He had been completely unaware this entire time? Shad thought as he playfully fought with Link to keep him away from licking the cream off his hands as well. All this had nothing to do with the holiday. The detail of it being Lovers' Day was irrelevant to him. He did this, not because it is what he believes how one is supposed to act on Lovers' Day…he did it because this is how he truly feels.

"Is that bad or good?" he heard Link innocently ask.

"It's wonderful, love," Shad said, leaning in to give Link's cream-smeared lips a kiss of his own. "Perfectly wonderful."