They find him, later, beneath a tree in the field.

He's sprawled out inelegantly, a rough blanket tangled around his legs, and he's breathing deeply with the night. Nestled against one outflung arm, Navi's dimmed glow illuminates his features, his hair casting wispy shadows over his face.

Sheik watches for a moment, and then, silently, scales the tree.

They'll keep a vigil, tonight.

Together, they had watched as he had descended alone, and his childhood had eroded in his hands. Together, they had watched as the Deku Sprout explained his origins, and his identity had disintegrated, whisked away on the winds.

There are shadows smudged beneath his eyes, and the rise and fall of his chest isn't quite peaceful. Worry creases in the corners, his lips are curved in the faintest of frowns. This is a hero of their own making, and they will not leave him forsaken.

"Of my making," a soft, barely audible voice corrects, and Sheik dips his head in acknowledgment. Zelda's voice is quiet but present, subdued. She had been more ecstatic than anyone when Link had first descended from the heavens. She had been more hurt than anyone when Link had faced the horrors of the first temple.

And he knows that she carries guilt in her heart. For seven years, he has been privy to her silent voice as they see the destruction inflicted upon Hyrule, and he knows that she holds herself responsible - judge, jury, and, if he let her, executioner.

Ever so slightly, he shakes his head. "You could not have known. Perhaps he will thrive this way."

He simply wishes he could believe it. The hero beneath them is hardly a man, and in sleep, he looks even more like a boy. Long eyelashes overlook clear skin, pale from seven years without sun, dusted with the faintest of freckles from the day's travels.

The Hero of Time is not carved from marble. His hair is not a wave of golden silk, and his eyes are not sapphires. The fabric that clothes him is not velvet, and his lips are not the petals of the finest roses.

Instead, his lips are chapped, bitten, a little dry. There are tangles in his hair, and there is the faintest hint of grey to his eyes, gazing up at Sheik curiously in the temple. He has been clothed by the goddesses, and yet the fabric and cut is humble, in the form of the rough Kokiri clothing that garbed him as a youth.

This is not a figure of legends, but a young man, small in his sleep. Perhaps they will carve statues of him, yet he is not a statue himself, and he lives and breathes before them.

"I wonder," she murmurs, and stops. Sheik can feel her heart beating in their chest, heavy with affection and fascination, burdened with responsibility and guilt. It settles through their limbs, leaves his hands tightening on the branches, his palms prickling against the bark.

"You wonder...?" he prompts.

She's silent, watching without words. His lips are parted in his slumber, and unconsciously, a hint of pink tongue darts out to dampen them. In their chest, their hearts quicken.

"I wonder what it would be like to kiss him," she confides, and lets out a silent sigh. "That's wrong, isn't it? He's still a child inside, isn't he?"

And Sheik watches, watches those parted lips, the peaceful rise and fall of his chest. There is a blade of grass come loose, caught in his hair, and he imagines tanned fingers carding through those golden bangs to free it from debris.

Beneath his pale cheek, the pulse of the land that cradles him beats, and above him, their hearts beat to match it.

"If he is a child now, he will not be for long. I would not be opposed," he finds himself telling her, and knows even as the words trip from his mind that it's true.

There is hardship in his future, hardship and loss and the crushing weight of responsibility bowing his back, and childhood is a luxury he will never regain. If they can grant him companionship, be a rock for him, then perhaps it will not be so bad.

And then, when it's over...

What then? Zelda will be restored to her own body, and the affection that has grown between them for seven years may finally come to a head. But what of the hero, then?

His old life will be seven years ago and long in the past. Perhaps he can one day regain it, for Zelda to exercise her considerable abilities and to allow him to forge his own path.

But perhaps he will find happiness with them, or, perhaps, horror and fear. Perhaps he will wish to stay with those who love him, or perhaps he will need their support and guidance. It is apathy that will send him back, apathy and a sense of nostalgia for something that can never be regained.

Zelda has longed to be with him, to cure his loneliness, to be a companion, since she first laid eyes on the forest child. Sheik has found himself infected by her stories and her memories and her desires, and finds them shared as he gazes down at tousled golden hair.

Their hearts have been locked for seven years, tightly closed and in control, never letting anyone in through the gaps. It's safer, that way - safer for her, safer for him, safer for all of Hyrule, its destiny still laid out in her hands.

But here beneath them is a sleeping hero, a child and a man, innocence and determination and endless, endless courage within his limbs. With one hand, he helps support Hyrule's destiny, and with the other, he has reached within them and unlocked the door.

Zelda lets out a soft laugh, and Sheik's lips curve in a smile in response.

Destiny awaits him. But for tonight, he can sleep.