A/N: While this is by no means the perfect image of what I wish to see from my writing, I am significantly happier with this one than I was with my first Link/Shad project. (As sappy as this may be, in places.) Anyway, I swear I had no intention of creating another rainy day situation with these two characters—it just sort of happened. I like rain. Also, pretend there's a bed in Link's loft. Seriously, does the kid sleep on the floor? Guesso, huh.
The end. That was a strange place to be, no doubt about it. Shad was a dreamer, sure, and he'd always imagined he'd reach the conclusion of one of his mysteries, but Link—the world's newest and most dedicated hero—was not the enigma that the scholar thought would end first.
All right, so it wasn't as severe as it seemed. Link wasn't dead or missing, or anything of that rather unpleasant nature, but he was gone, as he'd returned to Ordon the night before after his last visit to Castle Town. And, of course, he was still a mystery, so Shad supposed it wasn't fair to deem his curiosity assuaged, nor was it very fair to claim the blond as "his" mystery.
Shad wasn't in a particularly good spot the following morning, at any rate. Link was his only real friend since he wasn't as closed-off as Ashei, or as absorbed in his work as Auru—or even Shad himself, for that matter. The two teens spoke more words to each other in two weeks than all the knights had amongst themselves in two months, which was a remarkable feat considering Link's usually silent presentation. Granted the redhead may've been the hearth from which most of those words came, the green-clad youth seemed happy to listen, and he did pitch in to tell some interesting stories of his own.
Oh, the time a goat got loose and nearly tore through the whole village! Bo almost had Fado's head. I remember when I taught Talo to use a sword. Figured the kids ought to know how to defend themselves and their families, after all. And Ilia…
Right, Ilia. Shad remembered that story well, for Link's smile had brightened even further at the mere mention of her name, effectively catching the redhead off guard with the sudden burst of reality that struck him square in the chest. He was loath to admit he felt his lungs deflate a bit. Link may very well have been his best friend, but the Ordonian had an entire village waiting for him. A lovely girl named Ilia.
Of course. Shad was happy for him, so he smiled when he waved the other goodbye, in spite of the hero's strangely placid expression. Well, Shad reasoned, the trip back was long and it was only natural to dread it, so that was a plausible reason for anyone to look less than jubilant.
Four days later the scholar showed up in the Faron Woods for research, and he couldn't for a second imagine why Link would dread coming back, no matter how far the journey. Faron was beautiful. Absolutely stunning. Trees with dark, winding branches in a foggy swamp teeming will all sorts of curious insects—not that they were pleasant if bothered, but they were cute in their own right. By the time he'd discovered the hot spring he was so boggled that he had to sit and relax.
"Marvelous place!" he said to the water, gaining a proud glimmer in response.
With a pleased sigh, he laid back on the grass and stared at the sky until he became aware of the suspiciously gray clouds that were beginning to drift in from the west. He furrowed his brows, coupling the motion with the stark dissipation of his smile. What a bother the weather turned out to be. He would have to find shelter eventually, but, at the moment, he was still unwilling to trek into Ordon Village and ask Link (or the mayor, if Link happened to be absent, which was unfortunately likely) for a place to wait out this impending storm. So, against his better judgment, he stayed put.
The transition from curious and alert to hazy and yawning was one so gradual that Shad didn't even notice he'd fallen asleep until he was startled awake by the sound of heavy footfalls near his head. Being drawn back into a rapidly-blinking reality when the figure who'd disturbed his unintentional nap lifted him off the ground did well to send him into full alertness, however—a gasping, straining one, at that. He only had time to kick once at the air in a weak attempt to jerk himself out of the stranger's arms before he realized that it wasn't at all a stranger who had picked him up.
"…Now, I say," the bespectacled Hylian said with an embarrassing tremor in his voice. "Link, old boy, it isn't polite to pick someone up when they're sleeping unless they were in your vicinity to begin with."
The bashful smile he gained in response to his supposed-to-be chastisement turned his expression of mortification into one more merry.
"It's going to rain. Didn't want to leave you outside." Link punctuated his explanation with a chuckle, as if the situation were something particularly amusing.
"Yes, well…" In lieu of a proper conclusion, Shad simply sighed, and the moment he did, he felt weariness pervade his bones once again. Link seemed to pick up on the way the other's body shifted in response to the absence of tension, for he adopted a rather pleased look before he began carrying the scholar out of the spring.
Shad closed his eyes and allowed a small smile of his own to grace his lips. Had he been less wrapped up in his current state of comfort, he would've remembered to thank the Ordonian before he fell asleep again, but, as it stood, the giddying warmth that blossomed to his stomach and spread throughout his form rendered him thoughtless. The last thing that did register in his mind before dreamless slumber claimed him was that Link smelled very much like hay and pumpkin.
Shad woke up feeling disoriented and hungry. That was strange, considering he almost never got hungry right after awakening, and he rarely slept peacefully enough to feel as disconcerted as he did.
He groaned and, expecting to meet the buttress of the other half of his double bed, rolled over, only to feel his back collide with wooden flooring. That alone was enough to knock the breath out of him, but mere seconds later, Link's face appeared over the top of the ladder to Shad's right and sent his heart jumping into his throat. The squirming, spluttering scholar must have been quite a sight, but Link looked more concerned than amused, bless his soul. Shad was certain anyone else would've laughed. He might've, had he been less startled.
"Need help?" the blond asked softly, completing his ascension up the ladder to grab Shad's hand and pull him out of the tangle of blankets he'd been imprisoned in. The redhead blinked rather owlishly as the other handed his glasses to him. "Thank you, old boy. I'm afraid I woke up a tad bewildered."
"So I see," Link returned, tone as amicable as ever. Shad felt significantly better at the close of the Ordonian's words, believing himself to have drawn from the contagious effervescence Link possessed.
After the sheets were returned to their home on the bed and both teens had descended from the loft, Shad began to thank the other for the temporary sleeping quarters he'd been gifted, only to be cut off by his stomach's insistent growling.
Link didn't miss a beat. "I was just about to cook dinner. It shouldn't take long."
"Oh, goodness, you don't have to give me anything. I can eat once I arrive back home." With a small shake of the head and a gesture toward the window, Link enlightened the other to the unfortunate weather, as well as the likelihood of his returning home. "Ah… So I suppose that trip isn't happening tonight, after all."
"It's all right for you to stay the night."
As much as the scholar loathed the idea of taking advantage of this sweet-hearted farm boy, he saw no other option, considering the rain's ferocity—that, and the fact it was apparently still nighttime and Shad could hardly see through rain-dappled spectacles in the daylight, much less in pitch black twilight. So, with that thought in mind, he brought himself to acquiesce, thanking the other once more for his hospitality and resigning himself to the nearest seat while his host cooked and responded to the stories rattling off the redhead's tongue.
By the time the food was finished cooking and had been served, Shad surprised himself with the epiphany that he was suddenly much more interested in conversing than in eating—not due to the meal's quality, by any means, but simply because Link was such an easy person to talk to. Of course, forgoing the dinner offered to him would be awfully rude, so he made himself shut up. He didn't speak again until Link got up to clear the table, and, despite his previous desire, he really wished he'd stayed silent.
The blond had leaned in front of him to collect the dishes, surrounding Shad with that familiar earthy scent the Hylian had come to enjoy. Without thinking about it, he said, "You know, you smell just like pumpkins."
The ranch-hand grinned. "Hay, huh? Guess I need to bathe."
Shad laughed and hoped he didn't sound too nervous. "I didn't mean to imply that you smelled bad. In fact, it's rather nice."
"Thanks. I don't really notice it anymore. Maybe I'm used to it, so it doesn't really smell like much of anything."
"It just smells like home."
The comment jarred Shad into a bout of silent self-curses, even though he'd been the one to speak it. Link set the dishes on the counter and aimed a half-smile at the other, who quickly recovered with "It smells like home to you, of course. Not to me! Not that I wouldn't be thrilled to live here—in Ordon I mean. It's a lovely village!" His overly wide grin was blatantly fake, but if Link noticed he didn't mention it.
"You could live here, if you wanted."
Shad couldn't think of a single logical reason why his heart should skip a beat at those words, and yet it did. "Pardon?"
"You could live here." Link smiled that ever-comforting smile once again upon reclaiming his seat across from the redhead. "You know, in Ordon." Oh, in Ordon, Shad thought with an unnecessarily loud exhale. "It's not much to look at compared to Castle Town, but it's usually pretty serene. I know you enjoy your peace."
"While that is true, I couldn't very well live here; there are no vacant houses, as you know."
"We have great builders. They could make you one right in this area. Having a neighbor would be nice, I think."
This was met with silence on Shad's part as he considered this strangely exciting idea. He could live in Ordon Village. He could be within walking distance of the best friend he'd ever had, have new places to explore as well as the prospect of new acquaintances. He would actually be able to meet the ones that Link always spoke of when he felt compelled to speak at all: Beth, Talo and Malo, Colin…Ilia.
Shad chewed on his lip for a moment, letting the rain drumming on the roof fill the silence in the seconds before his reply. "That's a wonderful proposition, old boy, but I don't think a move like that would be good for me."
The blond looked decidedly crestfallen, but he nodded in understanding. "It would be a big change." Just as Shad nodded to agree, Link had to stifle a yawn, which made the time very apparent to the other.
"Ah! I'm sorry to keep you up! Go on, you must sleep. I'm very thankful for all your kindness."
The Ordonian nodded once, then left for a moment, though Shad wasn't sure where he'd gone until he'd returned with an armful of blankets that soon found their way on the floor in the form of a makeshift cot. The thanks that were issued this time were met with a shake of the head on the blond's part, and Shad realized with a pang of guilt that the cot wasn't for him. "I couldn't take your bed again. That would be overstepping my welcome." But, of course, Link did not relent, and Shad soon found himself tucked into soft woolen blankets beneath a rain-spattered window pane for the second time that night. Still, he smiled. Like everything else pertaining to the blond, Shad found the cozy cot to be irresistibly comforting, from the pleasant tingles it evoked in his chest to the scent of Ordon itself embedded in the fabric.
He vaguely remembers being whispered awake, and Link catches him by the hips after he shuffles off the top rung of the ladder to the cot. There is a hand on his lower back that guides him through the door and, with amazing focus, he manages to climb the ladder to the grass below with the blond close behind him.
It's still dark outside, but it's no longer raining.
Shad is nearly asleep again when Link hoists him into a carriage, then he realizes it's a fanciful dream and laughs softly at the ridiculously nice feeling of the tunic-clad boy's hands on his sides. He doesn't remember closing the gap between their mouths, but he remembers the kiss itself. Strange how one recalls only certain parts of their dreams, he thought. Another instance of this is that there are already blankets packed in the space between the carriage wall and the seat so Shad could lie down and not roll off onto the floor again. Dreams were funny that way—everything was so convenient.
He remembers Link chastely kissing him back better than he remembers the one he initiated, because this time he is semi-conscious of the way the Ordonian smiles sheepishly in response.
Then, like that, Link is gone, and Shad's dream ends in the same pitch black from which it began.
Shad didn't awaken until eleven a.m., which surprised him immensely, as he typically didn't sleep later than seven. He couldn't be too upset with himself for it, however, since the day prior had gone so well.
With an audible yawn, he rolled over onto the other half of his bed. It took his sleep-fogged brain a full ten seconds to realize that he was, indeed, in his own bed this time. He was home. The second it hit him, he shot up to a sitting position and looked around until he spotted a folded piece of paper on his nightstand. He didn't have to think especially hard to figure out who it was from.
"Oh, goddesses," he murmured as he pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm home. That carriage ride…it wasn't a dream. Certainly not a dream. I…"
The redhead prided himself on being a well-spoken Hylian, but, at the moment, words did not lend themselves to him, so all he could think to do was read the ones written for him, obviously penned in haste, arranged on paper that smelled distinctly of the village he'd just come from.
As it tended to do, the familiarity of that smell brought a smile to his face.
Perhaps he would consider Link's suggestion to move to Ordon one day, after all. But for now he would focus on the letter.
Sorry for waking you before sunrise. Wasn't sure if the rain would come back. I put your spare key back where I found it, don't worry. I will be back in town tomorrow, so if you want to, you can find me at Telma's at noon.
I look forward to our next conversation and, if at all possible, a fully-conscious kiss.
Hope you slept well.
The note wasn't signed, and that was all Shad could focus on until the full weight of those written words finally hit him. He was glad no one was around to witness the way his breath hitched in his throat, or how red his face turned in a span of two seconds.
He wondered why he hadn't decided to study the Faron Woods earlier.
The end, Shad discovered the following year, wasn't that strange of a place to be—not really. In fact, it was where the grass grew best. Link told him that flowers grew well there, too, and that both of their houses would be surrounded by them every spring. "Tiny white poppies," he said. "They only grow here, at the very end of Ordon Village. They sort of smell like pumpkin, huh?"
"Indeed they do, old boy. They smell like home."