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Kids Protecting Kids

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The Earth underneath Legend’s feet writhed and groaned. The stone cracked. The ceiling crumbled.

Legend joined Wild in running for their lives.

The very familiar sense of doom crawled along his nerves and he tried to keep his stomach out of his throat as they sprinted - Wild ran a couple paces ahead, boots pounding against the unsteady ground at a commendable speed considering there was blood trickling down his face from a hit to the head that surely brought him a concussion. His heavy footfalls were slightly unsteady but he kept a good pace, a Royal Soldier’s helmet atop his head now that it was raining rocks .

Legend didn’t know what had happened. They’d Shifted, gotten split up- that much he knew. Him and Wild had been dropped in a cave system by the looks of it, and that was all well and dandy, but they’d also been dropped right next to a group of heavily-armed Lizalfos. Scaled heads had turned, swords had clashed, black blood had been splattered on the craggy walls, but then the world had started to gurgle and sputter beneath them, the earth splitting and the ceiling collapsing. Maybe that larger Lizalfos had swung its tail into the walls one too many times. Maybe the cave had already been on the verge of collapsing and all it needed was a little push. It didn’t really matter. Now it was threatening to fall on top of them and they were both sprinting through the quickly crumbling tunnels with no knowledge on the whereabouts of the goddessdamn exit.

Legend ducked his head down and flinched as he heard a rather loud crack above him. He felt a world-shaking boom accompanied by a sickeningly large vibration from behind him. Wild stumbled in his peripherals, feet unsteady, and Legend threw a hand out to anchor him, to keep him from hitting the ground completely. They both lagged along for a moment as Legend tried desperately to pull him to his feet and Wild tried his best to make his unsteady legs cooperate - Legend, slightly crouched down and hovering over the kid’s form in those few seconds, managed a look at his face. His heart sunk at the disoriented, scared look in the kid’s eyes, blood running over an eyelid and obscuring his vision. With a hefty pull from Legend and a great effort on Wild’s frazzled, concussed mind, they managed to get back on their feet and keep running. Legend kept a hand around the kid’s wrist as they sprinted through the torrent of pebbles and rocks, just in case.

They could be going faster. Well, correction - Legend could be going faster, but there was no way in hell that he’d leave Wild behind just to sprint ahead with his pegasus boots. Legend couldn’t possibly carry Wild either, not with the deep laceration along his arm that bled heavily and made moving it a pain.

They both coughed at the clouds of dust billowing from the walls. A pebble thunked against Legend’s shoulder, another one on his cap. Legend’s eyes darted up to the ceiling just in time to see a rather large section of it start to give out, clouds of dust erupting from the cracks as a precursor. Legend yelped and stopped in his tracks as pieces of the ceiling came loose, small pebbles, then jagged stones, then large slabs plummeting down and aiming for their heads. Legend whipped around and tackled Wild back, hands instinctively covering the kid’s head as both of them slammed to the ground away from the falling ceiling. An ear-ending clack sent a sharp pang through both the earth and Legend’s own skull as ceiling met floor - he clamped his eyes shut and tensed up as a torrent of rocks and debris and dust rained down on them a second later. Legend kept his hands on Wild’s head - the helmet wasn’t there anymore, when had that happened? - as he ducked his own head down, feeling Wild’s delayed reaction of wriggling his hands free from Legend’s weight and cupping them over the veteran’s vulnerable skull. The rush of affection for the kid was drowned out by the deafening sounds of crackling rocks and booming impacts.

Legend’s heart raged against his ribcage and he was sure that if the Earth wasn’t rumbling and the breaking of stone wasn’t so loud in his ears, he’d feel Wild’s heart thumping too, as pressed against each other as they were. Legend raised his head as much as he dared and chanced a glance at their surroundings, seeing but a glimpse of ruthless rock showers before a rather large one slammed into the ground right next to them with a boom. Legend jumped and he felt Wild’s arms tighten, forcing the vet’s head down again. Legend couldn’t find it in himself to care that he was shaking.

This can’t be how they die. It can’t. Despite the denial, Legend couldn’t stop himself from spiraling at the realization that both of them could be seconds away doing so at any moment. Would Legend’s body protect Wild enough for him to survive a boulder? Would Wild die anyway, stuck under Legend’s corpse and piles upon piles of rocks, slowly suffocating until he simply couldn’t take in air anymore? How would the others find them? How would the others know? Would Fi tell them? Would Sky be the one to have to pass on the news? Would they look for them, for a proper burial? Would they blame themselves? Would they blame Legend?

It was an unspoken rule within the group (or maybe it was just their collective instincts that agreed) that the older ones are to look after the younger, and while Legend isn’t older than Wild but by a year, the rule still stood, in the vet’s mind. Would they blame him for getting them both killed? Would they regret sending Legend out with Wild to go patrol before the Shift happened? Would they regret bringing Legend along to begin with, after he got one of their members crushed to death?

This was exactly why Legend never wanted to be a leader. He’s never handled having lives in his hands well.

A shout came from below him over the cacophony of too-loud booms and cracks, so quiet that if the source hadn’t been directly below him he certainly wouldn’t have heard it. Legend had to lift his head a little to look down at Wild’s face, the kid’s wide eyes looking back up at him, the lines of blood that had been trickling down over his eye now smeared, dripping back into his hairline and over his scarred ear. His mouth was moving, but Legend couldn’t hear a thing over the world ending.

He stared at the movement of Wild’s lips, at the gestures he was making somewhere to Legend’s right. The veteran followed Wild’s gaze, eyes sweeping to stare at the subtle turn the tunnel took that he’d missed until now, and right there, ten or so yards away from their reluctant spot on the floor, was what looked suspiciously like a minecart sitting on metal tracks.

Legend looked back at Wild. They had a loaded conversation with their eyes before both of them were scrambling to their feet with haste.

Getting there was a struggle; a trip filled with stumbles as the ground rocked beneath them, yelps as they yanked one another away from oncoming boulders, and coughs when the thick clouds of dust invaded their lungs, but eventually, they got there. Legend shoved Wild into the cart before the Champion could protest. The veteran coughed as he pushed at the cart with a grunt, trying to get it going. It moved perhaps a few inches. Legend cursed when a stream of small pebbles and dirt spilled onto his head and shoulders.

A hand belonging to Wild grabbed onto his tunic and pulled with impressive strength - Legend toppled into the minecart with an indignant yelp and he only managed to grab the side of it and straighten into something vaguely resembling a sitting position before he saw blue sparks, and then a bomb in Wild’s hand.

Legend widened his eyes. “Wild- this is no time for-!”

Wild threw the bomb over Legend’s shoulder, behind the minecart. The vet squaked and ducked, hands over his own head. He heard the bomb detonate, and the minecart burst forward so suddenly that Legend’s back slammed against the metal siding.

The sounds of wheels scraping against metal and wind rushing at his face almost overwhelmed the loud crumbling of the rocks around them. Legend gripped the side of the minecart with one hand, his other on his head to keep his cap from flying off, and he looked behind them to see the beginning of the tracks grow smaller and smaller. The rocks still showered down on them, some of them landing at the bottom of the cart at their feet, but they were moving. They were moving, fast, away from the breaking stone and the crumbling earth. The pebbles that rained down on them were getting smaller and smaller - Legend couldn’t wait for the moment when there’s no more to come. The wind whipped at Legend’s hair and tugged at his cap, sweaty skin suddenly cool with the air blowing against it. It roared in his ears - sang a tune of relief.

Legend looked back at Wild, the kid’s hair whipping at his face and half of it ripped free from the ponytail, blond strands sticking to his face thanks to the sweat and the blood. His chest heaved as he looked at Legend, vaguely unfocused eyes blinking at him before a wobbly, relieved smile tugged at the scars along his cheek.

He didn’t hear the, “I think we made it,” leave Wild’s mouth as his lips moved, but he felt it, viscerally. Legend, crackling rock and roaring wind making him near deaf and relief making him near hysterical, barked out an emotionally charged laugh, and grinned back.

Wild, his Slate in hand, threw another bomb behind them. The cart picked up speed, wind tearing at Legend’s clothes. The veteran watched their path ahead, seeing a hole of light, their salvation, getting closer and closer. Legend felt his body practically slump in relief and exhaustion, still catching his breath as he stared at the light ahead of them. Wild seemed to join him, letting his Slate fall into his lap as his whole body drooped, face the definition of pure fatigue as he stared through the center of Legend’s tunic. A moment of pure, blissful silence settled between them, the only interruptions being the distant crumbling of a cave collapsing behind them and the wind rushing at their skin.

Legend numbly watched the track flow endlessly as walls of rock flew past them, the adrenaline slowly leaving his system and taking his energy with it. Distantly, he felt his head rest against the minecart’s siding, exhaustion apparently trumping comfort, as he did nothing to ease the vibrations of the cart moving along the track. He felt his gaze go unfocused, felt his eyelids threaten to slip closed. He fought it for a moment; no, Wild has a concussion. Can’t let him fall asleep, he told himself. Don’t let him fall asleep.

With great effort, Legend forced his eyes open, and his gaze landed on a very sudden end to the track ahead of them.

Legend bolted upright.

“Wild- slow it down!” Legend shouted over the roaring wind.

Wild, apparently on the verge of unconsciousness, snorted awake with a jolt, confused eyes landing on Legend. To the Champion’s credit, he seemed to register what Legend had said and turned around. His eyes landed on the sudden end to the tunnel and, subsequently, the track, racing towards them at impressive speeds. He promptly panicked.

“SLOW IT DOWN!” Legend shouted over the wind again, voice desperate.

“I CAN’T!”

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T?!”

“I DON’T KNOW H-”

The cart met the track’s end, the metal railing upturned as if something had ripped it in half. The wheels snagged it, or the front collided with the bent metal, because the entire cart pitched forward with an impressive amount of force and Legend’s body was snapped forward and his head was yanked back. He barely had time to process the sudden twist of his equilibrium before they were suddenly sailing through the air, his vision going white as sunlight engulfed him.

Legend saw vague silhouettes of the minecart sailing with them, looming over Wild’s form, before he was promptly swallowed by water.

The ship rocked, sea water spilled over the edge of the starboard and onto his boots.

The roar of water in his ears made his stomach climb into his throat, nothing but bubbles and scattered sunlight in his vision.

The wood underneath him creaked, the boom of lightning clapped across the sky, his hands burned from holding the ropes so tightly.

His body twisted, fingers grabbing at the water uselessly. His mind either went numb or into overdrive. Legend couldn’t tell.

Bags of supplies slid across the deck and thunked against his legs. His world tilted. Light blinked into existence above him.

Water rippled against his skin as he pushed himself up.

A streak of white slammed into the mast.

Legend breached.

His world exploded into too-bright colors and too-loud sounds as he coughed and gasped, dazed eyes darting around for an escape route as soon as his mind snapped back into the present. He vaguely registered the tunnel they’d soared out of above them in the cliffside, the harsh waves in the water from their sudden crash landing, but all of it got tossed in the backseat as Legend’s instincts screamed at him to get out of the water. He caught sight of a rocky incline maybe a few yards away and the veteran took it, making a beeline for land.

Clawing at the rocky incline, he all but crawled out of the water, his desperate gasps filling the rather serene silence of the forest he vaguely registered surrounding them. Sopping wet clothes weighed him down as he inched farther up the bank on shaky arms and legs, gulping in air as he stayed on all fours and simply breathed for a moment. Chest heaving, he dipped his head down and willed his heart to calm its rapid beating, lungs burning, body beginning to ache. He heard a groan and it took him a moment to realize it’d been his.

Legend turned his head, expecting to see Wild’s sopping wet form crawling up the bank right next to him, heaving and gulping for air and maybe even letting out a couple relieved chuckles, but instead, Legend just saw wet rocks and dirt.

His heart dropped into his stomach. He turned around, wide eyes skimming over the small lake they’d been dropped in and searching for a shock of honey hair or a blue tunic. Nothing. Nothing had breached the surface - it was just slowly settling waves and ripples.

“Wild?” Legend called. His voice cracked, sounding pathetic. He couldn’t bring himself to care right now.

Nothing.

Fuck.

Legend, ignoring the unsteadiness in his limbs, climbed to his feet. He hurried as quickly as he could manage to jump back into the water, ignoring the visceral get out of the water get out of the water as he braced himself to dunk his head under. Bubbles were all he could see for a moment. Then, he spotted it.

Past the murky, underwater fog and trails of bubbles left by small rocks sinking to the lakebed was the minecart, upturned and sunk to the bottom. Except there was a squirming figure underneath it, honey hair and blue tunic desperately trying to wriggle free as the rim of the minecart pressed down on Wild’s ribs and pinned him to the soil.

Legend’s heart leapt into his throat. Without a second thought, he dived.

The water pressed on his ears as he swam down, hand outstretched to grab the minecart as soon as the agonizingly long few seconds of descending passed. He reached it and gripped one of the wheels, pulling himself over the edge to loom over Wild’s form. Panicked blue eyes met his, wide and scared and so young that the veteran’s insides twisted painfully just looking at him. Legend made sure to school his expression into something that wouldn’t remind Wild of a child looking after a child - he made sure to give the best I’ve got you look he could convey, and then he gripped the rim of the minecart and pulled .

Nothing happened.

Panic spiked through him, but he wouldn’t let it take hold of him just yet as he gave another hefty tug, planting his feet against the lakebed and pulling up with all his might. He ignored the zaps of pain running up and down his wounded arm at the effort. It barely budged a hair. Legend felt hands next to his, gripping the rim of the cart and pushing up to help the process along, but even with their combined efforts, the minecart barely moved. Desperation tugged at Legend’s heartstrings as he tried different methods, tugging, pulling, pushing with different kinds of leverage, but the cart was just too damn heavy to lift.

Water and rapid heartbeats pounded in Legend’s ears as Wild grew more desperate, the kid’s hands shooting up to his throat as he wiggled and writhed. Legend was currently running on pure panic and adrenaline as his mind rapidly scrolled through solutions. Power bracelet. Where’s my power bracelet?

Legend’s head whipped around, eyes hastily scanning the lakebed. His bag must’ve landed in the water with them. Legend searched until he saw it - a brown, leather lump sitting in the soil - and he gave Wild a wide-eyed hold on look before he pushed off against a rock and beelined for it.

Legend’s lungs screamed at him as he dove for his bag, ripping the flap open and digging through the contents. His hands trembled as he shoved his magic mirror aside and dug past his boomerangs, frustration clawing at him when the water slowed his movements. Adrenaline and exhaustion and the pressure to hurry, he’s dying made him uncoordinated and clumsy.

Legend’s eyes darted back to the minecart every few seconds and the vet’s heart almost stopped when he saw a string of bubbles erupt from Wild’s mouth, the kid’s body convulsing, scarred hands gripping his own throat as his lungs finally gave out. No- he’s drowning. He’s drowning- he’s dying- get him out of here- where the fuck is my power bracelet?!

A red gem entered his vision, gold surrounding it and Legend plucked it out of his bag and slipped on his wrist as fast as humanly possible, black dots creeping into his vision as he swam back to the minecart. The image in front of him, of Wild’s body suddenly giving up and going still, skin a sickeningly dull blue and eyes half-lidded and vacant, would probably stay with Legend until the day he died. He ignored the thoughts, the fears, the anger that boiled in his mind, gripped the rim of the minecart, and lifted.

The effort brought forth a sea of murky blackness in his peripherals, lungs screaming for air and overused muscles entirely too spent for one day, but Legend only relented his hold when he knew there was enough room for him to nudge Wild’s body out of the way. Legend let go and didn’t stick around long enough to see the minecart hit the lakebed again with a muffled thud, his hands already grabbing at Wild’s limp form and pulling him up to the sun-scattered surface.

The world exploded into noise again as they both breached, Legend sucking in desperate gulps of air and doing his best to keep Wild’s lolling head above the water. He kicked toward the bank, muscles feeling like lead as he finally pulled them both out and clumsily climbed up the rocky bank with twice the weight as before. Dragging Wild’s body a bit farther up before depositing him in the grass, he immediately collapsed to his knees next to the kid, shaky hands coming up to his neck to check for a pulse. His fingers met concerningly cool, bluish skin.

Faint, but there. Legend swallowed down another gulp of air before he ripped off the power bracelet, pressed both hands to the kid’s chest and pushed.

He didn’t know how many compressions he did. He didn’t know how many times he did mouth-to-mouth. He didn’t count. He probably should’ve - maybe you’re supposed to do that - but he didn’t think his mind could even focus on counting at this point. If it wasn’t the paleness of Wild’s skin or the dirt and blood caked on the kid’s clothes, he didn’t give a shit. He just needed to worry about whether or not Wild’s heart will stop. Whether or not the lack of oxygen will cause brain damage. Whether or not Wild will wake up and be fine but then die in the middle of the night because there’s still water in his lungs. Whether or not Legend will have to return to the others carrying the corpse of someone much, much too young.

Come on, come on. Come on, kid, don’t do this to me. Don’t you dare do this to me. Legend distantly felt liquid falling from his chin and he didn’t know if it was his hair dripping water onto his face or tears. Please. Please, Hylia, don’t take him away too.

He’s so young. He doesn’t deserve this. He’s been through too much- he doesn’t deserve this. Don’t you dare take him away!

What felt like an eternity later, Wild coughed.

Legend nearly let a hysterical sob loose at the sound, at the sight of Wild’s eyes blinking open and his chest finally taking in a gasp of air. Wild coughed and gagged, body weakly shaking as they left him, and Legend managed to gather his wherewithal and turn Wild on his side as the kid hacked his guts up into the grass. The Champion’s desperate intakes of air echoed against the trees behind them for a moment, his shoulders shaking under Legend’s hands from the painful-sounding coughs. Legend leaned over him, eager to get a look at his face.

Pale, but some of the color was thankfully coming back to his cheeks. Dust and dirt and grime was smeared across his forehead and caked along his neck, blond strands of hair clumped and tangled together and sticking to his clammy skin. The trail of blood from his head wound had been mostly washed away, but lines of where it had dried remained, falling over his eyelid and ear and dyeing some of his hair an eye-catching crimson.

Wild’s breaths came in wheezes, shallow little intakes of air and shaky, croaky exhales. The kid’s gaze - previously staring through the grass in front of them, expression vacant and pained - suddenly gained a little spark of life, a little clarity returning as he blinked slowly. The Champion moved an arm and Legend watched him struggle for a moment, the vet confused and totally not still shaking, before he realized that Wild was already trying to sit up.

Before Legend could really push him back down and chastise him for even trying, Wild’s slightly unfocused gaze swivelled around mid-motion to blink at him for a moment, mind obviously struggling. Legend stared back, stared at Wild blinking at him, breathing , moving around. Wild swallowed.

“Leg?” he croaked, voice painfully hoarse and crackly. Legend played the sound over and over in his mind, let himself listen to the raspy wheezes coming from him and let himself accept that Wild was moving , sitting up, speaking with a brain that could still recognize whoever the hell was in front of him. Looking at him with eyes that, despite the unfocused sheen over them, registered what he was looking at instead of just staring blankly.

In one swift, out-of-character motion, Legend tackled him in a hug.

One hand came up to the back of Wild’s head as he pulled him close, the kid croaking out a surprised noise as he was suddenly pressed against Legend’s chest. He only had to wait for a second before Wild returned it, the kid throwing his arms around him and weakly gripping at his wet tunic with shaking hands. Wild’s forehead fell to rest against the crook of the vet’s shoulder, simply wheezing as Legend stared into the trees behind them with wide eyes and willed his heart to finally, finally settle. Their heavy breathing filled the clearing and echoed across the lake, sopping wet clothes sticking to one another but neither of them cared. They simply clung to each other like a lifeline.

Neither of them spoke, but Legend didn’t think they needed to. Wild’s next breath turned into a choked chuckle, breathy and hoarse and a little hysterical, and if Legend tightened his hold on him neither of them said anything about it. If Legend still had tears dripping from his chin and into the grass, he couldn’t find it in himself to be ashamed. If Wild shifted to be as close to the vet as possible, Legend simply accommodated for the movement.

They simply held each other for a while, a silent, overwrought we’re alive seeping from their tired bones.

Legend didn’t exactly know when it happened - it could’ve been a few minutes or an hour - but at some point he found his mind drifting away into some thoughtless void, muscles made of cotton and bones replaced with lead. He had to blink harshly to clear away some of the fog, adrenaline having leeched every last ounce of energy he had. He distantly registered that Wild hadn’t moved in a while and that his arms had fallen to lie limp, breaths deepening to slightly longer, steadier wheezes. Legend tried to shake the weariness off.

He didn’t understand why he was so tired. He’d arguably been through much worse things in the past and he hadn’t almost immediately passed out afterward. But now, it felt like even lifting his head or moving a limb was a monumental task. But there were so many reasons that he shouldn’t give in to the fog clinging to his mind. So Legend, after a few seconds of psyching himself up, lifted his head with a great amount of effort and went to pull away from Wild.

Something red was caught in his peripherals. Legend looked down and his gaze landed on his own arm, at the laceration he’d gotten from those particularly angry Lizalfos. He stared numbly at the dark green of his tunic being dyed a deep red, a concerning amount of blood leaking from the wound and soaking his entire sleeve. Crimson lines poured over his dirty hand and trickled between his fingers, staining the grass and the rocks and Wild’s clothes and-

Huh.

Yeah, that’ll do it.

Legend slumped into the void.

 

+

 

The crack of lightning turned into the crumbling of rocks. The ship swayed- the minecart wobbled.

A streak of white slammed into the mast. Wild’s heart stopped beating.

Legend’s eyes snapped open.

He was upright before he even realized he was awake, the world a blur of colors and hazy shapes as his muddled brain tried to pin a reason to the urgency that immediately enveloped him. His legs were trapped under the material of his bedroll. The light of a campfire close by bathed him in orange. Distantly, somewhere in the murky whirlpool of voices and sensations, he registered the unsettling sound of heavy breathing. Every nerve in his body screamed at him to get up and he tried to obey, tried to untangle his legs from their cage. There were hands on his shoulders before he could move any farther.

A voice came through the fog, through the swirly cloud of silhouettes and sensations. Legend couldn’t grasp at the words, couldn’t put meanings to phrases or a name to the blurry face in front of him. But there were hands on him, holding him still, keeping him from doing- whatever he needed to do, and he didn’t like that. He fought against them, tried to grab at their arms to rip them away, tried to shove at anything his palms connected with, but the hands were determined and they kept a firm yet gentle hold on him.

The voice, saying something along the lines of woah woah, it’s okay, and Legend, you’re safe broke through the odd barrier, distant and garbled, and Legend found himself slowly relenting, shaky hands still grasping their arms as the fog muddling his brain cleared a bit. Muffled noises became crisper; blobs of color sharpened into definite shapes. He lifted his gaze and it landed on Warriors.

The Captain still gripped his shoulders, crouched down next to Legend’s bedroll with his brows furrowed in worry. The reflection of the fire glowed in his pupils, half of him curtained in late night shadows with the rest enveloped in flickering, golden hues. His beloved scarf was tossed to the side, forgotten in the grass a few feet away and stained with blood and dirt. The grip on him tightened a bit, not painfully, as Warriors ducked down a little farther to study his face, worry apparently growing at the lack of a response.

Legend swallowed between gulps of air. The heavy breathing had been him. The bitter taste of red potion lingered on his tongue. “Wars?”

The Captain’s face lit up marginally. A grin played along his lips a second later. “Yeah, yeah, it’s me,” Warriors said, tone quiet and relieved. “How’re you feelin’?”

Legend’s gaze wandered and landed on Sky by the fire, seemingly frozen in the process of hurriedly standing from his seat on the log underneath him, woodcarving and trusty knife forgotten on the ground and worried eyes watching him with a twinge of regret. Four sat next to him, face flickering between too many emotions at once. Time hovered over the cooking pot placed over the flames, his armor shed and lying in a heap by their bags, lips set into a tight line as his good eye stared and studied. Even without the armor and dressed in a modest undershirt, Time had an intimidating presence about him. Legend’s chest tightened at the sight, but he’d worry about that later.

There was something else nagging at him, and now that the last of the brain fog had cleared it suddenly hit him head on. His heart leapt in his throat.

“Where’s Wild?” Legend breathed, and his tone probably sounded a little desperate and just a bid too scared for his liking, he couldn’t find it in himself to care right now. He scrambled to stand, but Warriors’ steely grip on him kept him from leaving the bedroll.

“Woah, hey hey, it’s okay. He’s okay,” Warriors answered, nodding his head to gesture somewhere behind Legend. “He’s right there.”

Legend stilled and whipped around, eyes landing on a bedroll a ways away to see a shock of honey blond and a pale face sticking out from the covers. Wind sat to the kid’s left, hands paused in braiding a few strands together as he stared up at Legend with that squiggly frown. Twilight stayed on Wild’s other side, a hand raking through his protege’s damp hair - strangely, Twilight’s zora armor lie in a heap of wet scales next to him, Legend’s damp bag and Wild’s Slate accompanying it.

The ranch hand wasn’t looking at Legend, but past him at Warriors, seemingly having a telekinetic conversation with him as Legend stared at Wild’s chest in search of a steady rise and fall. Over the crackles and pops of the fire, Legend could faintly hear Wild’s wheezing - it sounded better than before, breaths longer and less pained. A bandage had been applied to Wild’s head; clothes changed to something dry and clean. Despite his ragged appearance even after being patched up, he looked peaceful.

Hyrule seemingly materialized next to Legend, looking a little tired. “He’s okay,” he reiterated quietly, crouching down next to Legend’s bedroll. “His breathing is a little rough and he’s definitely got a concussion, but he’ll be okay. He just needs rest for now.”

Legend’s gaze stayed on him and he couldn’t stop the relieved breath of air that escaped him after a beat. At the slumping of his tired form, Warriors’ grip on him loosened and then released. The Captain didn’t move away and neither did Hyrule, and Legend braced himself for the question that came just a second later.

“What happened out there?” Warriors asked, brows furrowed.

Legend let a slice of silence hang between them as he sifted through the events himself. He looked down at his lap, at the dry and clean shirt he now wore, at the tourniquet around his arm just above his bandaged wound. The image of blood-stained grass flickered in his mind. “We… got dropped in a cave system, next to some Lizalfos.”

“Black-blooded?” Hyrule asked, eyes wide.

Legend nodded. “Wild got hit in the head during the fight. I don’t… really know how it happened, but the cave started collapsing. Too much activity I guess. So we ran.” Legend thought of being pinned to the ground as the world fell apart. Thought of hands feebly protecting heads. “Wild eventually found a minecart and we used it to ride outta there. But then the track suddenly ended, and we were going too fast, and… we got thrown into the lake.”

“The minecart fell with us and Wild got stuck under it,” Legend recounted numbly, keeping his eyes in his lap as he fiddled with the rings on his fingers. He sensed the air change. Legend didn’t look up. “I had to swim to my bag and get my power bracelet to lift it off of him. He almost drowned.”

Warriors shifted his weight a bit closer and Legend would never admit it out loud, but the pressure against his leg was infinitely comforting. “I had to give him CPR once I got him out.”

The camp settled into a heavy, horrified silence and Legend resisted the urge to curl into himself. He clung to what little pride he had left as a choir of crickets and pops from the fire filled in the pause.

Time was the one to break the trance. He gave a heavy sigh - a weathered, tired old thing - and ran a scarred hand through his hair, wedding band gleaming in the firelight. “Hylia. I’m sorry you boys had to go through that.”

Legend looked up, studied him, and he was apparently unsuccessful in hiding the surprise in his gaze because Time looked back at him and minutely furrowed his brows, good eye mildly concerned before Hyrule butted in.

“You still look pale,” he worried his lip, hands coming to hover near his shoulders. “You should lie down.”

“I’m fine.”

“Maybe you should have another potion…” Hyrule mumbled mostly to himself, digging through his bag unprompted.

“I said I’m fine.”

Legend ,” Hyrule said simply, somehow mixing authoritative and pleading tones into one word. The familiar clinking of a bottle filled his ears and Legend waved him away before he even laid eyes on the red potion in Hyrule’s hand.

“Don’t waste that shit on me, Wild’s the one that almost died,” Legend growled. “I still hear him wheezing- use it on him.”

“You almost died too, ya’know,” Warriors spoke up. Legend looked over at him to see his eyes sharpened into that scrutinizing Captain Look; unwilling to back down from the fight, whatever it may be. Legend tried to hold his gaze - after months of annoying the guy in good-natured rounds of teasing, he’s gotten pretty good at being immune to it. Despite that, sometimes it’s too potent for even Legend to stand against it.

“You lost a lot of blood, Legend,” the Captain Look softened by a margin, replaced with something equally powerful that he couldn’t quite put a name to. It was similar to the look he reserved for Wind or Hyrule or Wild - fond and brotherly - but there was something else there that didn’t look like it belonged on such a brave, battle-hardened warrior. “You gave us quite the scare.”

Legend kept his gaze for a moment, his first instinct to be obstinate in the face of care. But something about the rawness in Warriors’ eyes weakened him, dwindled down his walls much faster than Legend liked, and he had to look away and drop his gaze back to his lap. He fiddled with the rings on his fingers, thumbed the jewels and golden bands. After a moment of quiet stubbornness, he sighed and held out a hand toward Hyrule, a silent surrender. The bottle was gladly pressed against his palm.

Legend tipped his head back, gulped it down, and as the bottle left his lips he could practically feel the air around the camp loosen a little, stiff shoulders slumping just a hair and tiny breaths being let out. He blindly corked it and handed it back to Hyrule, muttering a tiny thanks and pointedly not focusing too much on Hyrule’s face lighting up at his reluctant forfeit.

Warriors was grinning, posture very minutely slumping in relief. The look he was giving him was definitely something Legend would tease him for later. As the tingling sensation of healing magic curled around his upper half, Warriors wordlessly shifted onto his knees. “Glad to have you back,” he grinned, and Legend would never say it because that would mean giving the guy an honest compliment out loud, but that victorious grin was infectious. “Both of you.”

Time cleared his throat from where he hovered over the cooking pot, ladle pouring some surprisingly edible looking soup into a wooden bowl. The Old Man silently stood up, one knee cracking, grass shifting under his boots as he ventured toward Legend’s bedroll. His posture was unassuming, face settled into that usual, vaguely disinterested expression, but the air seemed to stagnate around him, seemed to recoil from the very energy he gave off. Legend felt a pit open up in his stomach. Even when Time said nothing, even when he didn’t even glance at Wars or ‘Rule, they both got the jist and stood up to join the others by the fire. The Traveller gave Time’s back a look Legend couldn’t quite read over his shoulder as Warriors’ guiding hand led him along.

Legend couldn’t stop the mini tsunami of anxiety from rushing at his chest.

Time settled down in the grass next to his bedroll, facing the fire. He handed the bowl of soup to him, spoon scraping against the rim, and Legend took it with a little nod of thanks. The others’ voices drowned out the crackling of the campfire, the crickets eager to sing from the trees. Wind giggled at something Twilight said. Someone dropped something, made a mock noise of disdain; someone else laughed. The wooden bowl in Legend’s hands warmed his fingers.

The vet waited for him to speak. He didn’t. Legend looked down at the soup in his lap, blew on it, took a bite. Took another. The anxiety crawled. Legend wanted to tell him to just get it over with, scold him, tell him to do better next time, reprimand him for being too slow, for almost letting Wild drown. He’s been on more adventures than anyone here- he’s supposed to be the reliable one, the one that knows how to get out of tight spots, the one that’s got a tool for that , the one that’s always got a solution to something, whatever it may be. He should’ve been able to handle that situation in stride - he’s handled much more dangerous ones with a lot less shaking in his hands. This time he’d been sloppy, stupid, scared, and deep down Legend knew that he couldn’t possibly fault himself for being scared , but that didn’t stop the anger from broiling in his chest.

Any other time Legend would cut himself some slack. Any other time, he’d remind himself that he’s not immune to fear, to the effects of adrenaline making his aim shaky and his footwork flighty. But Wild’s very life had been riding on Legend’s shaky, fumbling decisions, and he’d simply been too clumsy. Too slow. There were so many mistakes he’d made. He hadn’t paid enough attention to see the railway suddenly end, he’d worried about getting himself out of the water before he had even thought of Wild’s wellbeing , his bag had been so unorganized that Legend had spent precious extra seconds searching for his power bracelet while the kid had been fucking drowning three yards away from him. Legend could’ve easily lost Wild during any moment of that chaos. He could’ve easily been at fault for the kid’s death.

He was the Hero of Legend. He was supposed to be the reliable one.

“You did good.”

Legend’s spoon paused midair.

Time’s face was hidden by hair and shadows, and at first Legend thought it was a rare sarcastic remark, but there was no malice in the Old Man’s tone. No bite to his words. The fire gave a pop, as if to remind Legend that this was real. He stared.

A beat of silence thickened the air. Time spoke again, his voice quiet and oddly mournful. “... Kids protecting kids is never a solution I wanna fall back on,” he murmured, tilting his head a little so that Legend could see a sliver of his face, shadows slithering across his features and flickering in his hair. His expression twisted into something akin to bitterness, but it was quickly overwhelmed by a simple and yet incredibly heavy sadness. “Unfortunately, it tends to happen a lot in this group.”

Legend thought he’d be told you almost got him killed. He thought he’d get scolded for being slow, for not protecting the young. Apparently, to Time, Legend was the young. He supposed it made sense, in the Old Man’s perspective. Legend often forgot just how young he was - he often forgot that his childhood experiences didn’t quite match up with a typical teenager’s.

“I’m sorry,” Time murmured, almost whispered, turning to look at him with an eye that held more emotion that Legend was equipped to handle right now. “... that his life was placed in your hands. Someone as young as you should never have to carry such weight.”

Somewhere behind his walls crumbling, Legend thought I’ve carried heavier but that really wasn’t true. He’s felt the weight of entire countries on his shoulders, but that didn’t compare to the feeling of having Wild’s life in his hands. Not even close.

Legend wondered how Time did it.

“And thank you. For bringing him back,” Time smiled, a tiny, minute little thing, but it reached his eye and it was genuine, fond. “For coming back in one piece yourself. You did good.”

Legend didn’t trust his voice not to waver, so he simply swallowed down the tightness in his throat and nodded. Time gave his leg a pat before he stood up with a grunt and an elbow popping. The air instantly morphed to something more breathable as the Old Man rolled an ankle and stretched.

“Finish that soup, and then I expect you to rest,” Time stressed. “We’ll stay here for a day or two while you boys recover and once that concussion of Wild’s is gone, we’ll search for a settlement nearby. Until then, take it easy.”

Time walked off and was replaced with Warriors, Hyrule, and Wind almost immediately, all of them settling in the grass by his bedroll simply to keep him company. Legend didn’t really have the heart to gripe at Wind for wrapping him up in a hug (and if he hugged back, Warriors didn’t say anything for once). The youngest eventually pulled away and delved into endless chatter with the others as Legend simply listened.

The pops and clicks of the fire sang with the crickets around them, harmonious and peaceful, and as his friends laughed and joked and teased each other as they told ridiculous stories, Legend found his eyelids drooping. He eventually settled down into his bedroll and if he noticed the others carefully lower their volume at his movement, he didn’t say anything. He simply listened to their giggles, to Sky showing Four some whittling techniques, to Time and Twilight’s quiet murmurs, to the lull in the noise as Legend faded in and out of awareness. Someone fixed his covers (probably Hyrule- of course it’d be Hyrule). For once, he didn’t mind.

Legend let himself float into the void, and he dreamt of laughter and healthy heartbeats.