Legend was looking forwards to going home.
Not because he was tired (he was), not because he wanted a break (he did), but because home was a warm and comforting place, with a kind and caring bunny waiting there with obnoxious laughter and high renting rates. Home was where warm and frothy hot chocolate and soft and stubby fingers that loved to drag through his hair waited. Where Sheerow flitted around his head when he tended the bees or the orchards, the little bird chattering about anything and everything that had happened while he had been gone, and fluttering off to chatter to Ravio minutes later, only to come back again when it struck him to do so.
Home was a warm and happy place again, after years of a stuffy, empty house full of items and painful memories.
Home was where Ravio’s room was just next to his, instead of an empty one full of dust and memories he couldn’t bear to put away. Where a bunny curled up on his uncle’s old bed, tucked amid the quilt they’d sewn over the time it took for his leg to heal after he’d snapped it on his fifth journey. Home was where half the mugs had been stuck back together again after a bird had knocked them off the counter on accident, or Ravio’s long hood, or even his own gangly limbs on a day when he was out of it and had lacked the coordination to prevent knocking things over.
Home smelled of apples and freshly cut grass and warm honey and cinnamon. It thrummed with the life of thousands of small bees, a bird, and two rabbits, all working to care for the house and the garden, the orchard and the hives (even if his bun was scared of bees, the idiot). Home was... home was where he wanted to be at the end of the day, and even if he’d have preferred to have a lilting voice and the crashing of waves join the daily melody, maybe a hint of blue alongside his own green and red and Ravio’s purple, but he was content with the life that he had with his... brother? Cousin? The relationship was weird, but it was something he cherished, even as much as he’d tried not to get connected.
He blamed Ravio for that.
And maybe Sheerow. It was hard not to grow fond of the little bird when his chatter helped fill the silence that let his thoughts eat away at him. Sheerow had a million stories to tell about Ravio, and Legend... well... he’d always been weak to a good story, and if he accidentally got attached to characters easier than real people, that was his business. Except the subject of Sheerow’s stories was a real person, and it made it hard to pretend he didn’t care after making a connection to the merchant, even if it was only in his mind.
Sheerow always welcomed him home too, fluttering about his head with chirps and snippets of stories and general chatter until he’d offer the bird his hand or shoulder as a perch until he reached the house.
Today was no exception; Sheerow was on them before the snow-dusted roof of the house even fully came into view, the bird darting about agitatedly as the others laughed. It wasn’t Sheerow’s usual flight pattern though, and the small creatures voice (one he’d found the others apparently didn’t understand, despite them all also having the Triforce of Courage) was pitched oddly as his cap was tugged by the tiny bird’s claws.
“Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!” Sheerow insisted. “Needs help, needs help, needs help!”
Help. Something was wrong. Something at- Ravio!
Legend was off like a rocket before the others even knew what was happening, surprised and worried shouts fading into the background as he let his pegasus boots carry him through the drifting snow to the front door. It was locked, which only made him worry more; Ravio never left it locked during the day, especially not if there were customers he could bring in and rob of their hard-earned rupees with his over-priced items. But the lock was too frozen to bother with when Sheerow still chirruped and begged for him to hurry, and the vet refused to let the bolted door deter him. The living room window had been left open (likely how Sheerow himself had gotten out) and it was the work of seconds to hop up onto the frosted sill and pull himself through, even if he did have to work a bit to get through the small opening.
What greeted his eyes after he picked himself up off the floor made his heart sink.
Ravio lay flopped over the couch, face red and beaded with sweat as the merchant twitched and whimpered from where he lay. The fire had died in the hearth ages ago leaving the room annoyingly cold, and there was still a cup of half-drunk, partially frozen cocoa set by his friend’s hand on the floor. Ravio wasn’t moving to do anything about it though, and instead lay shivering and sweating all at once on the sofa. The simple act of ghosting his own half frozen fingers over the merchant’s brow had him drawing back with a hiss at the heat radiating from the other.
“Sheerow, how long has he been like this?” He was already moving to adjust his house-mate's position, yanking the merchant’s battered boots off and throwing them to the side along with his rank socks.
“Sunrise and sunset.” The tiny bird tweeted softly. “Didn’t get up, just lays and shivers.”
“Fever than.” Another, more firm, press of his hand to the merchant’s brow. Ravio leaned into the touch, almost nuzzling against the cool metal of the veteran hero’s rings. “High one too. Idiot!” A few swears dropped from his mouth as he fumbled with the merchant’s robe, pulling it free and leaving Ravio in his wrinkled undershirt and trousers, just as rank and worn as his socks, and nearly soaked through with sweat. Ravio would need to be moved to a bed, but only after he’d helped to change him into for something more conducive to resting.
First though, he had to see if he could get Ravio to wake up. “Rav, Ravio?” The captain would have called him soft with how gently he pitched his voice when he jostled the merchant’s shoulder. “Bun? Come on, wake up.”
Dark lashes fluttered softly against pale cheeks as the faintest glimmer of glazed green met his own violet, before Ravio was slumping back with a faint whine.
Legend was back on his feet in seconds, darting to Ravio’s bedroom and turning down the bed covers (he’d need to change the sheets later, they were beginning to lose that fresh smell from the washing soap) and then digging through his friend’s wardrobe for a change of clothes. Uncle’s old things still hung up alongside the merchant’s spare robes and pants, but he was able to find a nightshirt among it all after a bit of digging, and then he was flying back to the living room.
By now, the others were already knocking at the door, nearly pounding as worried yells sounded from beyond the sturdy wood, but Legend’s focus at the moment was freeing Ravio of his day old, sweat soaked garments and changing him into something clean and fresh, before dragging his rabbit friend’s ass to the bedroom for a proper rest.
Ravio shivered in his arms, nestling against him and clutching hold of his tunic with a pathetic whine, one that nearly tore out the frozen heart of the salty bunny, and it was all he could do to not cave when Ravio refused to let go of him. The bed offered warmth and the tight hugs of his friend, a chance to rest... but no, Ravio needed help, and Legend would best be giving that to him by releasing himself and getting some cool cloths or ice to help bring down the fever. Ice chips too, Ravio had been out for a whole day if Sheerow was right, and he’d need something in his system that wasn’t too heavy. Hydrating was terribly important to a fever, especially one this high.
It took longer than he would have thought in Ravio’s weak state to detangle himself from his friend’s tightly clenched fingers, and in the end, he’d had to shed his upper layer altogether, as Ravio simply wouldn’t let go. Free of his red tunic, he allowed the merchant to clutch it close as he headed back out and to the kitchen.
The pounds on the door were getting worse, voices rising in shouts as he opened the kitchen window and scooped some fresh snow from the sill and broke a few icicles from the roof. There was a cold damp rag ready in minutes the he placed on Ravio’s sweaty brow, and with a firm word to Sheerow to stay with his master, Legend finally pulled himself away to answer the door.
By the time he’d pulled himself back into the living room, he could hear the telltale sounds of Wind attempting to pick the lock on the front door while Time and Twilight murmured worriedly in the background. In all honestly, he was dying to let them in. To call Hyrule and ask for advice in dealing with Ravio, to just sink into one of Sky’s hugs and let the man assure him that Ravio would be okay; but that wasn’t possible. There was only one reason Ravio would be boiling like a red coal in the middle of winter, and the veteran hero wasn’t about to expose his family (fine, they were his family, he got freaking attached again) to it.
“Wind, stop.” He huffed through the door, grabbing ahold of the knob and letting himself lean against the cool wood. The house was cold, but it’d need to be a lot cooler for Ravio to get better, and he was already resigning himself to having to put on some sort of pants to deal with it all. Joy.
“Legend? Oh, thank goodness! Are you two okay? Why’s the door locked?”
The pink haired hero rested his brow against the wood, breathing deeply as he sorted through his words. “Frozen shut. I had to climb in at a window.”
“I told you!” Wild’s voice huffed from the other side, and he found himself cracking a small smile at the Champion’s tone. “This is why you guys need to trust my judgement sometimes!”
“Legend,” Sky spoke over the sound of Twilight and Wild falling into a rather loud discussion. “Are you okay? You sound...”
“What happened?” The captain cut to the point, clipped and official, like taking a report from a recruit. Legend could hardly stand the man (no, he couldn’t, really, even if he’d helped massage out the captain’s aches and pains and made him a million cups of cider, it was only to keep the man off his back and useful) but it was a relief to have someone simply cut to the chase and say what they were thanking. Bless Sky for trying to be gentle about it though.
“Ravio’s sick.” The words taste wrong as he forces them out of his mouth, bitter and blocky and foreign as he tries to not imagine the horror and worry streaking across his brothers’ faces. “Pretty sure its Din’s Fire.”
“A highly contagious and dangerous fever that tends to rip through country villages during the fall and early winter.” Hyrule explains, cutting Time off. “It’s a recurring issue in our Hyrule.”
“But it’s probably a different version than anything y’all’ve seen, for those who know it. I don’t know how time travel affects getting sick, but anyone before my time ain’t safe to come in, the illness is stronger’n what y’all’d’ve faced, and I’m not takin’ that sort of risk.”
“What about the rest of us?” Wind sounds cowed, worry flooding over in the young sailor’s voice.
“The same. Like I said, time travel shit. I don’t know how this’ll hurt y’all. I should be fine, caught it once or twice when I was a young’un. As for the rest of you, there’s the shed out back at the worst. Don’t go to the village, that’s likely where Ravio caught it.”
“Are you sure you don’t want help?”
Gnarled hands run their way over an already drawn face. “Positive. Sorry y’all can’t rest here, but I’m sure something can be figured out. At worst you can cross down the road a way to the ranch, Gran’ll take you in in an instant if she hears what happened, with or without the knowledge that y’all know me.”
“Can you handle this alone though?” Time presses, horridly fatherly like he always is when he gets worried. “Is there anything that we can do, anything at all?”
“Nothing, Old Man. It’s got to run its course. At worst it takes a week, at best, a day or so.” Never mind that was with a Hylian, someone who’d probably grown up trying to avoid the illness. But Ravio was a Lorulian, and they wouldn’t have Din’s Fire over there, likely a dozen other deadly illnesses, but never the same as their sister world. The vet is already preparing himself for a long night.
Ravio’s soft whimpers are the only sound in the house other than the rustling of blankets and the occasional chirp from Sheerow. A light breeze is blowing snowflakes in through the window, and, unfortunately, Legend had had to cave to his own physical needs.
Pants are as horribly uncomfortable and restrictive of movement as he remembered.
Perhaps someone would have teased him about wearing Ravio’s clothes, but it wasn’t as though he had time to dig through the cellar and find the one pair of comfortable pants he owned, and the two of them had borrowed from each other on a few occasions so it wasn’t as if Ravio would mind.
As was, the poor merchant wasn’t in any condition to have thoughts about his house-mates clothing choices.
Din’s Fever was, to put it kindly, like what he imagined roasting in hell would be like. And while he’d heard that some fevers were intended to be sweated out until the patient was better again, doing so with Din’s fever was assuring the poor victim a new home six feet under. Thus, the best course of action was to create a steady flow of practically freezing air through the house, Sheerow helping him to tug open the frosted shut windows and flitting away when the sudden flow of cold air would make him sneeze.
If he also stole one of Ravio’s scarves as he turned his house into a freaking icicle, well, that was his business, and Sheerow seemed to appreciate having some place to cozy down anyway.
The merchant himself however...
Din’s Fever hit hard and fast, and when Legend had been a child, it had swept through Kakariko like a forest fire, leaving the entire village nearly still as parents worried over their children and the elderly. Uncle had done everything in his power to keep them from getting exposed, but it was inevitable that they’d have been hit eventually. Because Hylia was just like that with them. There was very little he remembered of that time save for the feeling of heat rippling across his body in an eternal cycle as fever dreams of the worst sort had struck throughout the day and night both. Uncle’s hands had been more a curse than a cure and being touched was agony.
Thank heavens Ravio wasn’t reacting the same. The merchant seemed to cling to him, latching hold of Legend’s sleeve anytime he came over to tend to him. It worked out alright, as he was nearly always using some of the melted snow Sheerow helped him collect to bathe away the eternal streams of sweat pouring down his friend’s face and chest. Ravio seemed to welcome the sensation, but getting any water into his mouth was a fight and a half.
Ravio fought against the attempts to spoon chipped ice into his mouth, and after spilling the frozen water across the bed thrice with all the thrashing, he’d eventually climbed up onto the bed and pulled Ravio into his lap instead. The merchant stilled at the contact almost immediately, nestling close and only squirming slightly when he’d tried to push small bits of ice through burning lips. It worked anyways, but it also left him trapped in Ravio’s iron grip.
He had to shed his tunic again to escape and get more ice.
The sun set eventually, leaving behind the miserable chill that Uncle always called ‘Yeti’s claws’. He’d used the term once around the others, and earned some rather curious looks from Twilight, but laughter from the others.
“My grand-dad says stuff like that.” Four had teased, eyes swirling icy blue and warm reddish brown all at once. “I mean, I know we call you a vet, but-”
“Who's the Old Man here really?” Time had chuckled.
The thought brought a smile to his lips as he rested at Ravio’s side.
Nightfall made everything worse, especially sickness, and Ravio hadn’t stopped tossing and turning weakly, whimpers and tears escaping as the merchant had clawed at his clothes and hair and the sheets around him. It had been all Legend could do to catch his hands, but now he was again latched in the merchant's grip, and both too tired to try prying himself free and unable to remove his hand like he had his tunics; both of which were clutched tightly to the merchant’s chest.
“I have to wash those now, you idiot.” He huffed, knowing full well Ravio couldn’t hear him as he ran his fingers through Ravio’s sweaty curls. “You know how I hate washing, and yet here you are making things more difficult.”
Only another soft whimper met his words, the sound stabbing through his heart and prompting him to scoot closer in his chair, clutching back gently as stubby fingers curled around his own. “You’d best pull through this, bun. If you don’t, I’m hunting you down and dragging you back, you hear me?”
The vet sighed, leaning forwards to rest his weight against the mattress while he played with tangled black hair. “You pull through this, you hear? Wars is gonna kill me if I fail you.”
Ravio was burning up again come morning.
He’d had to fight the fingers off of his hand, wincing at their heat as he’d finally broken free, forcing himself to ignore the broken sounds that rasped from parched lips and Ravio had curled into himself, cradling his empty hand as if it had been broken. He’d hoped the whimpers would die off when he came back with more cold cloths and some ice chips, but the merchant had hardly stirred as he’d run the icy fabric over the other teen’s sweat soaked shoulders and neck, and even when he’d pulled himself up to hold the merchant in order to get him to eat something, not willing to repeat the previous day, Ravio had only lain limp and still in his grasp, only twitching slightly in protest as he’d carefully spoon-fed his friend a light and chilly broth.
The lack of fight throughout the day should have been relieving, as it made Ravio’s care ten times easier, but it only served to make Legend’s heart pound in his chest, worry spilling over in nervous humming as he’d mixed up what few recipes he knew for sick people and did what he could to lower the raging fever that had struck his best friend so suddenly.
He’s not gonna make it!
Of course he is! He’s strong!
But he’s never gotten sick with a Hylian illness before...
This is Ravio! He fought in the War of Ages and stuck with us the whole time we worked through our fifth adventure! He can do this!
Sheerow’s chirps did nothing to calm him as he’d worried the edges of Ravio’s scarf between his chilled fingers, carefully stirring the broth he’d set to simmer over the fire and doing his best not to press to close to the flames. The house was freezing, but it was the only thing keeping Ravio from completely burning up, and if that meant he needed to wear mittens and freaking pants than that’s what he was going to do! Except you can’t wear mittens while you cook, or when you feed someone, or when you're wiping away sweat, because they get annoyingly wet and cold. He’d managed to find an old set and chop the fingers off though, and while they weren’t ideal, he wasn’t entirely frozen.
Sheerow chirped again, nestling against his cheek with a sad sounding chirr.
“I’m fine, ‘Row. It’s Ravio we need to worry about.”
“Oh, you’d better believe he’s going to be okay, he’s-” Words and thoughts wouldn’t come. How could he know that Ravio would be okay? There was literally nothing in his friend’s favor except the endless supply of snow and cold air that came with the heavy winters of this Hyrule. “He’s Ravio.” He finished at last, too hushed to really be confident, and Sheerow could hear it too. “He’s Ravio. He’s gonna be okay. Oh God, please let him be okay!” It was very nearly a whimper, but who was there to hear him? God? Good! Let Him hear! That’s what he wanted!
He couldn’t lose Ravio. Not now, not ever! The others might be his brothers and family, but Ravio was... Ravio was...
Legend stopped midway through the door to the merchant’s room, chilled soup held tightly in his mittened hands and scarf tucked up to his shivering nose as he stared at Ravio’s pathetically pale and still form.
For all the words of all the numerous languages he’d learned through his travels, there wasn't one right for what the dark-haired merchant was to him. Ravio was his friend, his closest brother, the person waiting for him at the end of the day and someone he’d willingly give his life for. Did Ravio know that? He knew that right? He knew Legend loved him, right? That he’d always look out for him and have his back and protect him and listen when he chattered and message his feet after a hard day and brew cider and cover him with a quilt when the merchant dozed off on the couch. He knew he’d keep the bees out of the house to accommodate him, right? He’d seen that? He knew? He knew that everything, the organizing of the basement and the clearing out of most of his uncle’s things, the number of times he’d argued with his sister and demanded she prevent any guards from taking the merchant away; Ravio knew all that was because he cared, right?
Oh heavens! He was always so cold with his bunny! Had he ever told Ravio he cared? Had he ever said or done anything to show his friend that he appreciated all that Ravio did for him? Did Ravio just think he didn’t care?
“Tears.” Sheerow’s sad warble cut through his thoughts as warm feathers brushed across cheeks that were, indeed, wet with tears.
“’m fine, ‘Row.”
“Worried.” He corrected, running his hands through Ravio’s dark hair.
There really wasn’t any shortage of icy water to bath the merchant’s face that night, the veteran hero’s tears nearly turned to ice the minute they fell from his cheeks.
Tired eyes, ringed with a purple that nearly rivaled their natural color rested on the still form of the merchant. Legend let his head flop against the edge of the bathtub Ravio lay in, fingers once more trapped in the merchant’s hands, this time only held loosely by the warm fingers that he clung to as if they were life itself.
His throat was raw with how often the Song of Souls had rung through the air, a prayer that he’d wake from the nightmare to see Ravio standing over him with a disapproving look for falling asleep on the floor again. He’s ears were half frozen and he’d given up trying to find a balance between warmth and being able to properly articulate his limbs.
Ravio hadn’t moved in hours, and Legend’s head was pounding, face icy from tears that had finally run dry when he’d slumped beside the tub, clutching the warm fingers like a lifeline as his mind faded between worry and emptiness. His mind drifted, lost in the sea of worries and thoughts as he clutched Ravio’s pale hand in his own, unaware of the world around him save Ravio and the deep, heart-rending ache in his chest that made his breaths wheeze as Sheerow attempted to chirp softly and lighten the mood.
It was no good.
Ravio’s breathing was shallow and the dark-haired boy hadn't moved in hours.
He’d given up on trying to use cloths and ice chips, and had finally pulled out the washtub and filled it with snow and ice and laid Ravio’s still form, wrapped tightly in a spare blanket, in amidst it all. The merchant’s temperature had at last dropped enough that there wasn’t any need to refill the tub or fetch anything else from around the house.
He settled by his friend’s side with a couple of bowls of soup, a warm one for himself and a cool one for his bunny, a thick blanket wrapped around his shoulders as he’d left his hand buried amidst the ice, clinging to Ravio’s
The weak thump, thump of Ravio’s pulse was his sole comfort as another harsh and scratchy melody winded it’s way around the small house.
God, please. Was the only thought that gave itself words.
Ravio’s hand twitched.
Bleary violet eyes flitted up to stare, disbelievingly as pale fingers wrapped tightly around gnarled ones, both sets chilly and cold but delightfully free of the blistering heat that had been there for three days now.
Legend’s heart leapt so high in his chest that it lodged itself in his throat and prevented him from speaking.
“Mr. Hero, are you wearing my scarf?” Green eyes blinked slowly, a slight furrow forming between dark brows as Ravio sifted in his ice bath.
Legend blinked. He had to be dreaming.
Sheerow chirruped happily, darting forwards and nestling against Ravio’s cheek as a faint and scratchy giggle sounded form the merchant, the hand not trapped in Legend’s grasp weakly moving to stroke the white feathers. “Hey, ‘Row.”
There were a million words dancing on his tongue, a million thoughts and feelings and things he wanted to shout, to scold, to scream and cry and cheer. He wanted to hug Ravio tight and never let go, to slap him and scream at him for being an idiot and falling ill in the first place, to laugh madly that it was finally over and that Ravio was back, to check over his friend and make sure it was real. It had to be real! All these mixing feelings whirled about in his head and his heart, but the veteran hero only gently rested his head against pale fingers, a deep sigh rattling through him.
“I missed you.”
Ravio was only awake, not fully better, but the fever had broken and he could lift his cold and shivering friend back out of the ice bath and help him to change into something warm after Ravio had been given some time to dry off. It was different, helping him dress when he was awake and theoretically able to do it himself, but Ravio’s hands still fumbled the buttons and ties, and while the merchant had helped a good deal with the process, he was worn out by the time he was dressed, leaning against Legend’s side with a tired slump to his shoulders as the veteran had toweled wet hair dry and combed it straight again.
Ravio’s bed stank of sickness, and neither was keen on returning to the room until they had to clean it, something that would have to wait for later considering the state of the two. So instead, he’d hoisted the merchant’s shivering form into his own bed, huffing when Ravio had begged for him to light even a small fire on the hearth, and heat up the room slightly.
It was agonizing to pull himself to his feet and trudge outside for more firewood, and lighting the damp wood was an absolute nightmare, but it was worth it for the thankful look Ravio shot him when it was done, and once he’d heated more soup for the two of them, although not too warm, Ravio wasn’t in the clear yet, it had helped ease the shivers that wracked them both.
“You’re cold.” Ravio observed, voice still rough from long nights of crying and calling out in delirium.
Legend didn’t answer, instead pulling back from checking Ravio’s temperature and moving to go and add some more kindling to the fire. The merchant’s hands stopped him though, closing firmly on his sleeve as a stubborn look had entered his friend’s eye.
“You’re shivering, Mr. Hero.”
“I’m going to stoke the fire.”
“You’re wearing pants.” Ravio pressed, cocking a brow in perhaps the most unimpressed expression he’d ever seen on the bunny-merchant's face. “You never wear pants.”
“You should have seen Hytopia.” Came the murmured reply.
Ravio huffed, tugging at his sleeve insistently. “Can’t you look at me, Mr. Hero? Please? I’m worried.”
The pleading tone froze any response stone-cold in his throat, heart clenching at the words as he fought against his instinct to look away, to avoid the soft gazes that others sent him. Ravio’s green eyes caught his regardless, firm and bright as rupees as the merchant frowned at him.
“Mr. Hero, tell me true. Have you been running ragged? Please say you didn’t do this to yourself on my account!” The genuine pain in Ravio’s voice broke the dam, and Legend had to tear his gaze away to avoid letting the other see when tears pricked at his eyes. “There’s dozens of things more important, Mr. Hero! I would have been fine!”
“You almost died.” The words are so soft that he thinks Ravio might not have heard him, but the merchant’s face falls, ears drooping as green eyes widen in shock. “You almost died and I-” His voice shattered into a million pieces.
Ravio had almost been gone for good! He’d nearly lost any chance to say he cared and now he had the chance and his voice just wouldn’t come, wouldn’t make any noise to try and explain, to apologize, to plead or sob or anything.
Pale fingers gripped his shoulders, tugging him close as Ravio pulled the both of them back down onto the bed. “There, there, Mr. Hero. I’m alright, see?”
A broken sob shook thin shoulders as gnarled fingers clutched ahold of Ravio’s tunic. “I can’t lose you, bun. I know I’m terrible with words, and I don’t say what I should and ’m rude and I hurt you and bother you and never say anything kind but-”
A soft kiss to the crown of his head cut of the words as Ravio’s thin arms wrapped weakly around him, warm and close, but not too warm, and loose enough he could break free if he wanted.
He didn’t want to.
“I love you too, Mr. Hero. You’re my very favorite not-sister in the whole world.”
Hysteric sobs were the only response as Legend clutched hold of the awake, alive, and no longer burning merchant.
Never mind the fire, two bodies resting beneath the blankets would be enough warmth, especially since neither was keen on releasing his brother any time soon.