Chapter Eight

It had started out perfectly normally.

A mild headache and a slightly scratchy throat - well, they were officially in to autumn, and the colder weather had had to produce some sort of side effect. The headache, Zelda reasoned, could have been from late nights and working hard, perhaps the sore throat was from gulping down hot cups of coffee while in a rush to get ready in the morning.

A few days later, and the sore throat had turned into coughing and then sneezing (and then more coughing - the sneezing wasn't exactly helping her throat), the headache had turned into a full-bodied ache and a fever, and the apparent flu epidemic going around the university had claimed another victim or three.

Curled up pathetically in the armchair, Zelda lifted her head blearily, wincing a little as the movement sent another throb through her aching head. "I'm cold," she sniffled to no one in particular, and from the sofa, Sheik tossed a spare blanket in her general direction.

All in all, she would have rather been on her bed. But poor Link, the least affected of the three of them, was playing nurse maid, and he had not enjoyed running between two different bedrooms when he could check on them both in the living room. And that was how she had found herself bundled up in the armchair, hugging a pillow to her midsection and a box of tissues within arm's reach, Sheik practically draped over the sofa nearby.

His charges temporarily satisfied, Link dropped himself down on the sofa as well, exhaustion practically radiating off him. Almost immediately, Sheik had pulled him closer, and Link's eyes had drifted shut as he clung to his boyfriend. "Are you okay?" Sheik asked him, voice scratchy.

Link murmured something in the affirmative, but Zelda was honestly of the opinion that he looked far too tired to be answering much coherently. Her suspicions were proved correct when he yawned widely, eyes blinking open in some vague surprise.

"I'll live," he said with a crooked smile, pulling himself away from Sheik. "Ew, you're all sweaty."

"I have a fever," Sheik pointed out, sounding far too tired to argue much. "I suspect you do, too."

"Please stop talking," Zelda told them both as firmly as she could (much to her dismay, her voice had the approximate firmness of tissue paper) and dragged the pillow over her head.

Her head really was hurting. Would it really be that bad if Link had to go between just two rooms?

But the boys had fallen silent, at least, and she peered out from behind the pillow to give them a tentative and grateful smile. Link smiled back, then yawned again, head dropping to Sheik's shoulder (despite the sweatiness, she could only presume). "I'm gonna take a nap," he mumbled, and was asleep almost before he finished talking.

Zelda turned her faint smile on Sheik, and he shrugged with the shoulder that wasn't otherwise occupied. "He's been doing a lot," she whispered. He nodded, raising one hand to card through Link's hair affectionately.

"He needs rest." Zelda bit her lip even as she nodded in agreement - she may have been the one to start things off by hoarsely asking Link to get her a glass of water. But he had agreed, and he hadn't been feeling quite as bad then, and she had assumed that he had continued to be not quite as affected as them...

Okay, they had made a mistake. Zelda sighed softly, glancing at the sleeping Link. "When he wakes up," she whispered back, "We'll move into our own rooms. He needs rest too, not to wear himself out more helping us..."

Sheik nodded blearily, careful not to dislodge the burden currently resting on his shoulder. There was affection in his expression, tempered by a hint of worry, and Zelda found herself smiling a little at the warmth in his eyes when he looked at Link.

Zelda had known Sheik since they had been ten years old. She recalled him at that age - a far too solemn little boy, her father's main advisor resting a hand on his shoulder as she explained the death of her sister and her husband.

Sheik had become family then, part of the Treasurer's (at the time) household. When he had been elected as Prime Minister the following year, they had moved in with them, too - an unconventional but generally accepted arrangement. Impa could serve as a maternal figure for both 'poor motherless Zelda' (Zelda had been just four when her mother had passed away, and the loss didn't particularly sting - indeed, she barely remembered her) and her 'poor orphaned nephew', and Daltus Nohansen gained an image of a family man, someone who was truly charitable.

Having just gained new members of the family, the finer details of politics had flown over Zelda's head. Now, at least, she understood - but far too late, Impa had become a mother and Sheik was her brother, now and forever.

It had been an odd relationship the two had started off with. Sheik had always been so serious - a formal little boy, mouth fixed in a firm line as Impa introduced him. She had assumed, at that first meeting, that he missed his family.

And then time had progressed on, and while she and Sheik spoke more, played more, spent more time in each other's company and got to know each other, he had remained ever serious, his smiles rare.

It had been a rough few years. Sheik had escaped into music and parkour when they were twelve, an escape from bullying. When he was fourteen, he had found himself forced out of the closet (something Zelda still blamed herself for - if only she had realised that Kafei was not to be trusted!), and the bullying had increased exponentially.

And then, when they were fifteen, Link had arrived at the school.

It was like something in Sheik had been switched on. Around Link, he had started to smile, to lose the cool exterior he pulled around himself like a shroud. On occasion, he would become animated and almost cheerful, talking and laughing more readily. Oh, he was still more serious than many others around them, he certainly hadn't become an extrovert, Link still managed to be the bold, outspoken one.

But around Link, Sheik had found happiness, and even more so when their relationship had become official. By the time they would have reached the end of semester, it would have been three years, and the changes in Sheik in that time brought joy to Zelda as well.

By now, Sheik had finally given up on consciousness as well, his head tilted against Link's own, their hands and shoulders and legs brushing up against each other's.

A sad smile crossed Zelda's face - suddenly, she had felt terribly lonely. Drawing in a breath, she carefully got to her feet, blanket wrapped around her shoulders, collected her phone, and stepped out the back door on to the shared deck, in to the crisp early autumn air.

And then she dialled an international number she knew by heart.

It felt like a very long time before someone picked up. Switching to her best Twili, Zelda softly requested to be put on to someone - and then it was Midna's smooth cadence on the other end of the line. "Hello, this is Midna Kakarauri speaking, how can I help you?"

"Hey," Zelda said with a soft smile, sinking down against the sliding door and wrapping the blanket more tightly around herself, "You can help me with a chat, how about that?"

"Zelda!" There was a distinct grin in Midna's voice, even on the other end of a phone and so many miles away. "Sure, I've got time. Well, I have a briefing in an hour, but I'll tell them it's a matter of state importance." Her voice was airy, and all too easily, Zelda could picture her tossing back her main of bright red hair and settling in her seat.

Zelda let out a soft laugh at the exuberance, already feeling lighter for it. "That sounds good. I've missed you..."

Her phone bill was going to be so high, Zelda thought absently as she headed back inside nearly two hours later. But she had needed to hear Midna's voice, had needed someone to be close to... Sheik was her brother and Link was one of her best friends, but they had each other and she was left with no one.

Midna, for the year she had been in Hyrule, had become one of the most important people of her life. Now it had been less than a year since her departure, and she had missed her as if she had known her for her entire life.

Maybe they could go to Twila for Solstice, Zelda thought blearily, then immediately shook her head. It had only been a year since Midna had returned to a land where she was to begin training immediately to learn to rule the small country, and her duties could not be halted for visits from friends. Not when the stability of the entire country was resting on her hands, at any rate.

Maybe in a few years...

With a sigh, she returned to her spot in the armchair, thinking vague thoughts of going back to bed properly. Link and Sheik seemed to be sound asleep and it was doubtful that either of them would be stirring in the near future, and so with a soft, determined sound, she gathered up one of the boxes of tissues, her bottle of water, and her book, and slowly shuffled back to her own room.

There - fresh air. She had left the window open, and now her room felt pleasantly cool against her warm face, far less stifling than the living room where the boys were sleeping.

Strange, given that she had felt freezing cold just a few hours ago, and she had just spent several hours outside to boot...

With a sigh, she burrowed herself in blankets, then decided that was still a bit too warm and kicked them all off. Stripping down to her underwear and a t-shirt, she drew just the sheet over herself again, the tissues beside her and the bottle of water within arm's reach. On the bedside table were cold tablets and throat lozenges, her book was... where was her book? Oh, on the floor, where it had been knocked when she had rearranged the blankets...

There. Even if reaching down had made her head spin, she had everything she needed now. Maybe now she could sleep...

After pulling up another blanket. Fevers truly were frustrating things, leaving her feeling both chilled and feverish, sometimes in the span of just five minutes. For now, she felt somewhat in between, comfortable in just her underwear and a t-shirt and wrapped in a single blanket. A few minutes from now... well, who knew?

Yet sleep was not totally forthcoming. With a sigh, Zelda flipped open her book. Her reading of fiction had... not exactly been stellar in the past few weeks with university eating all her free time, and a part of her mind was urging her to at least stay up to date with her lecture material.

But she was sick, she told that part of her brain stubbornly, and besides, she wasn't sure she currently had the mental capacity to focus on complicated laws. A novel it was, then.

Naturally, if anyone was to ask her if she read trashy historical romances full of swooning women in corsets (the corsets, at least, explained the swooning), she would be forced to deny it most vigorously. Such undignified reading simply wasn't suitable for the daughter of the leader of Hyrule and an aspiring lawyer, and she most certainly wasn't tucking herself in to read up on the trials and tribulations of a young princess and her romantic woes.

(And at any rate, the young princess had found herself in the arms of another princess. The types with dashing princes and brave heroes tended to rely a little too much on the damsel in distress trope, and besides, it was simply too awkward after finding herself playing out a princess with one of her best friends as the hero.)

As she settled down for the afternoon, Zelda let herself relax. She could study later - for now, just this once, she was going to relax.