A Matter of Perception
A/N: I recently became obsessed with Legend of Zelda again, specifically Twilight Princess. As much as I love Link/Ilia and Link/Midna, this pairing was calling my name from the first time I saw Shad's character in-game. (Fun fact: I first described him to my sister as "Ginger Harry Potter.") They're such adorable nerds, Link and Shad! I can see their characters bonding very well.
More to come, certainly. Those will (most likely) be less desultory and vague than this one.
The name Link called to mind a legendary journey: a woeful tale of battle and bloodshed. The hero in the green tunic, the handsome blond farm boy with cobalt eyes sharp as a wolf's. The world remembered the name Link, and they knew his face without even having seen it through their own eyes.
He reminded Shad of daylight. Shad, the quiet scholar with the hair of a hikikomori and the disposition to match, was a man whom no one remembered by name or by reputation. He fought no magnificent battle, waged no war against darkness—he simply resigned himself to the research of a dream that never even mattered in the end. Whether there was a sky village or not, the news couldn't possibly jar Hyrule's fixation on the young legend. After all, why should it? Link had saved the lives of thousands, while Shad's only hope was to sate a ridiculous desire for knowledge of a place that may never have existed.
The only thing that could be considered even ground between these two souls was the fact they were resigned to their fates, wholly and reluctantly. Shad wanted, more than anything, to prove his dream to be reality; Link simply wished for his old life back—one without a hero's welcome in every town or a doting fan around every corner. When it all boiled down, what both men really wanted was peace, whether with himself, as in Shad's case, or with the world, as in Link's.
The bookish Hylian felt somewhat guilty for even comparing his troubles to Link's discomfort, but he managed not to appear that way when the Ordonian himself materialized in Telma's bar one evening, drenched in rain and looking for the life of him like he'd rather be alone. Shad wondered why he wasn't at home, in that case, but he asked no questions.
Telma, however, did. "Why, Link! You look mighty down, honey. What's got you so upset?"
Being the silent type that he was, Link merely offered a soft smile to assure the woman he was all right, then took a seat at the bar. Naturally, Telma still pressed for the truth that Link was blatantly evading, but the attempts only garnered a few "I don't know"s and one "Nothing," spoken in a small voice.
Outside, the rain grew heavier, prompting the air inside to grow the slightest bit stuffier. The bar's owner eventually ascribed the hero's uncharacteristically dolorous behavior to the weather and hesitated for a moment before she left to tidy up the kitchen; the moment she vanished behind the thick wooden door, Shad mumbled his understandings over the lip of his glass, an action that caught Link's attention faster than the redhead thought it would.
"Really?" was the herder's way of voicing his relief. "I've never actually heard anyone say they know the feeling."
Shad regarded the other from the round, otherwise empty table at which he sat, but the instant he caught sight of the morose expression Link sported, he averted his gaze back down to his drink. "No one's ever felt sad before? I say, that's a tad peculiar, don't you think?
"Well, I mean, they've felt sad. They've just never felt sad without a reason."
"So you meant it, then? That you don't know why you're upset?"
Link's answering nod triggered the same reaction on Shad's part. "I see," the latter said after a few seconds of heavy silence. "I meant what I said, as well. I do understand."
Here, the blond smiled, which the scholar caught from the corner of his vision, slightly blurred due to the position at which his slipping spectacles sat. Even when Link felt down, he could still smile—Shad remembered why this boy was always the embodiment of daylight to him, now. It may have been the alcohol talking, but Shad voiced this very unscholarly opinion, earning a particularly fetching wide-eyed expression, followed by another, slightly more sheepish smile from the other.
Link's thanks were issued barely above a whisper, but he seemed to brighten a little more. Was that really all it took to cheer him up? "No one's ever said anything like that to me before, either."
"I'm sure you've heard better, but I'm afraid I've consumed a bit too much alcohol to form the compliments I'd rather give." This was a lie, of course; Shad had hardly finished his first glass. It was just easier to place the blame on something other than his rampant affections running amuck.
Link seemed to sense this. "You sound sober."
A frightful tick of silence, then Shad's response followed. "I sound like a fellow right out of his mind is what I sound like, calling you daylight, of all the preposterous things."
At the redhead's response, Link chuckled. "Preposterous is good."
"Not when you're me."
That brought the hero's serious expression back in a flash, and Shad felt the need to speak before the question burning in those sharp eyes could be voiced. "Let's say you are light, right, old boy? Well, then, I would be darkness."
Link shook his head and vehemently replied, "You aren't. I've seen darkness, and you are not like that."
"Then I'm night."
Link grunted what seemed to be an affirmation, appeared to consider a thought for a minute, then stood up and moved so that he was standing at Shad's side. "Stand up, please."
Shad looked up and blinked owlishly at the teen. "Pardon?"
Instead of repeating what he knew the redhead already heard, Link simply smiled and extended one glove-covered hand toward him. There was no proper thought behind the movement, but Shad did eventually take Link's hand, and the two of them walked out into the middle of a rain shower together at one in the morning as if it were the most mundane thing in the world to be doing.
"Daytime looks nice to a lot of people because it's universally recognized as something pretty, right?"
Slowly, Shad nodded. He wasn't sure where his companion was going with this, why he was making them stand in the downpour, or why he'd yet to let go of Shad's hand—still, he asked no questions. Oddly enough, he felt as though he had none. This was something not entirely blissful, but comforting, in a way.
"That's me, then, I guess," Link continued with a slight bob of his head. "Everyone knows me through that universal recognition."
This line was met with another nod on the scholar's part, and he peered at the other through the rain droplets on his spectacles, which he couldn't find the will to wipe off.
"You are night. Night is peaceful, see? Quiet, sure, so many people don't know what to think about it—a lot of them don't like it because it leaves them alone with their mind. It makes 'em think, and it's just…" There was a pause here, during which Shad realized he'd been holding his breath, then, finally, the blond's conclusion came forth. "It's something few treasure, but the ones that really understand it love it more than daylight."
Shad managed to keep his exhale from shaking too terribly. "Your way with words is ineffably delightful, I must admit."
Link chuckled. "I get told a lot that I should talk more."
The redhead looked over at him, smiled, then redirected his gaze to the stars. "I don't think you have to, unless you want to. It's a natural trait, and it sort of ascribes you to nighttime, too, doesn't it?"
The smile on the hero's face went unnoticed by the other. "Thanks."
"That reminds me. May I trouble you with a quick question?"
"Why so many words tonight?"
"Because they needed to be said."
Shad surprised the both of them by laughing, quietly at first, then gaining a sort of ringing delight to it—something he hadn't experienced in quite a while. Though he wasn't sure of the reason behind why he did so, it happened nonetheless, and Link's initial confusion soon gave way to his joining in. When the sounds died down some time later, Shad used his free hand to wipe a tear from the corner of his eye, only to smear his face with more cold rainwater. "You know," he said, "it's very strange how similar we are, yet we really are very different. I understand that statement is antithetical, but it's true, somehow. And that, too, sounds preposterous."
Link hummed; Shad swore he felt the other squeeze his hand, though it was difficult to tell past the numbing cold that was beginning to seep into his skin.
"Just because it's crazy doesn't mean it's not true." The blond was staring up at the sky as well, now.
Immediately, Shad pictured the land of lore he'd dedicated many a year searching for—the land that floated somewhere in the heavens. An eternity ticked by before he finally looked down again to survey the other man, who was still engaged in his stargazing. "I guess you're right," he found himself whispering. "Crazy can be true. Magnificent, even."
The corner of Link's mouth quirked upward almost imperceptibly, and this time Shad was sure he felt the gentle pressure of an ephemeral squeeze on his hand.
"Perhaps we should go inside," the scholar suggested, hiding a flustered smile behind his raised shirt collar.
"Unless you want to stay out in the rain, of course." Shad chuckled, but in actuality he didn't mind the weather so much anymore; in fact, he felt pleasant and warm, and despite his slight concern shelved in the back of his brain about the likelihood of catching a cold, he couldn't bring himself to truly care, for the time being.
"I like the rain," Link answered with a shrug. "It's another thing that looks pretty at night, you know?"
This time it was Shad who opted for silence, but it fell between them comfortably and suddenly they both felt at peace, both with themselves and with the world.