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midnights and mournings

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“What are those scars on your back?”

Legend blinks over his shoulder at Wind’s question, lowering his arms from where they’d been stretched over his head to take his tunic off. He twists, trying to get a look at what Wind is talking about, but Sky has him beat.

“Those are lightning scars,” the chosen hero says. And then, with apprehension, “where’d you get them from?”

Oh. Those scars.

Legend snorts, dropping his undershirt and tunic on the rock he’s standing near and picking up his spares. He tugs those on and picks up his bloodied clothes, holding his hand out towards Sky as he walks past and accepting his laundry too. It wasn’t a particularly gruesome skirmish, but none of them are particularly keen on walking around with monster guts on their clothes.

“From lightning, obviously.” Legend says dryly.

“He’s asking about the story,” Wind huffs. Thank you, captain obvious.

The veteran rolls his eyes. “Well, it’s two scars, not one. First is from Labrynna. I had a dingy little raft, thought I could cross the Sea of Storms with it. Got caught in a storm, struck by lightning, whole deal. Woke up on an island after a bunch of Pokay stole my items.”

Legend fishes through his bag for his bucket. He knows it’s in here somewhere— oh, there it is. He pulls it out along with his fire rod, fills it about halfway with river water, then holds his fire rod beside it to heat the water. Once it’s sufficiently warm, he turns back to his bag to find his soap.

“You said there were two scars, though. Where’s the second from?”

He stills just as his fingers close around the small container he keeps the soap in.

He plasters a wry smile on his face. He knows the drill.

Legend removes the soap from its casing, dumps the clothes in the bucket, and gets to scrubbing.

“Oh, you know,” he says, rubbing at the bloodstains even harder, “just some nowhere ocean on a nowhere adventure on another little raft. Nothing special.”

 


 

Hyrule has to note that Legend has some strange habits. But they all do. It’s not anything particularly scandalous.

For one, he clearly doesn’t like the rain, but he goes out of his way to stay out whenever it does. It’s some sort of bizarre spite, like he thinks someone dared him that he couldn’t do it. If it ever starts to storm, he’s the first to go out and insist they ought to keep moving in it. Even when he’s shaking and Hyrule’s not quite sure it’s just from the cold.

He insists on staying up for first watch during storms and parks himself at the very front of whatever shelter they’ve made themselves, tense and still and eyes fixed outside. Hyrule knows he’s not just lost in thought; whenever he so much as shifts in his bedroll, the veteran’s ear twitches and he checks over his shoulder. Hyrule took last watch once, and out of sheer curiosity, kept an eye on Legend every so often. The man clearly wasn’t sleeping; every time Hyrule turned towards him, his ear twitched again and his fingers would tighten briefly around his blanket. At the crack of dawn, he opened his eyes a little too readily. The next day he’d been exhausted.

He hates castle guards and knights, but never passes up an opportunity to be the one to speak to them when they need information.

Plus, Hyrule might not be the best at reading, but he’s talked to a lot of people. Including the old women who would often offer to refill his magic. They’d tell him stories as they offered to let him get comfortable in their chairs.

Most of them were about the late King.

But he’s heard more than his fair share of stories about the Hero of Legend.

He’d be safe saying that he’s heard every goddessdamned variation of the same seven stories at least a dozen times each. Obviously the first, the one where he’d gathered three pendants and used a fabled sword to defeat the demon king, and there’d been a few where he’d gotten turned into some animal along the way. Nobody could quite tell it to him straight whether it was a rabbit or a mouse or a dragon or another mythical beast entirely.

The second, all the way across the ocean in the ruined nation of Holodrum, where he’d used the mystical power of the goddesses to change the seasons and years and whatever else. The third in Labrynna, whose residents long after disappeared one day without a trace; he’d controlled time itself to destroy an evil sorceress and restore balance to the world. One old woman had told him he destroyed Ganon again here, but there were more than a few that didn’t. But then again, half of them couldn’t agree on whether this one or the one before came first, so he’d held more than a little doubt for their accuracy.

The fourth was, right alongside the first, the most popular. After all, in a land wrought by disasters as his had been, any tale with an imperfect hero would be more than a little appealing to the people.

In which the legendary hero, a skilled seafarer by now, had set out again for the distant shores of a country lost to time even in name, and wandered into a storm, perilous and choppy and impossible to see through.

On the other side was an island of stories. He was rescued by a girl who he grew close to and loved. And then he’d fought beasts of nightmares, and Hyrule had honestly gotten pretty damn bored with all those epic adventures on this nowhere island without so much as a name.

The end was the last thing that intrigued him though, because there wasn’t one.

One old woman told him that the hero left, another said that the island was saved, yet another told him that the island disappeared. Another said this story was probably just one made up by someone who wanted their children to hurry up and go to bed a few generations ago. Hyrule figured as much.

Honestly, these all sounded like childrens’ tales.

Another vague adventure and then one about a mirrored world or something. Link was a bit too old for these sorts of fairy tales by now.

But then…

Hyrule met the Hero of Legend, and suddenly he wanted to ask about all these stories he heard, whether any were true.

Seeing how distant and closed off Legend was at first, Hyrule set those wants aside.

Nobody was quite sure what was going on the day when Legend announced it was going to rain, pointing up at the cloudy sky.

Strange. It didn’t quite look like it was going to, but he supposed the veteran would know best. Something about a Rod of Seasons in his bag, maybe that tells the weather. The group had set out for the day regardless of the warning, agreeing to find somewhere dry to stay whenever (or if ever) the rain did start.

To Legend’s credit, there was a drizzle.

To his discredit, it could hardly even be considered a drizzle.

Even so, Hyrule hadn’t ever seen him get so agitated. He tapped his foot impatiently and huffed and sighed and glared at the clouds and started to get snappy. It was more than a little strange when he only relaxed after the rain began. And even then, could it even be called relaxed when he refused to sleep?

 


 

No matter what Warriors tries to quip, Legend isn’t stupid.

Not in any sense of the word.

He’s done a lot of things. He brought his uncle back from the dead. And yet, he hadn’t foreseen that his time in Labrynna might have ruined his passage of time more than it should’ve.

For one, he was Zelda’s older brother. Older by about a year, to be specific. But after Nayru brought him back through time to the present and he’d been sent on his way back home, he found that she overshot.

By five years.

Suddenly, Zelda was four years his elder, and his uncle had fallen sick, and then the man died again. There was nothing Link could do about it. Thunder boomed outside their window the night it happened.

He isn’t stupid now, and he wasn’t stupid then.

He’d been just fifteen, but he’d known from what Sahasrahla told him that it was fine to have... irrational fears. It was fine if he couldn’t bear to go back to that house again. He knew that. That was just how minds worked sometimes; they latched onto a horrible memory, and wouldn’t let go.

He moved out of his uncle's house. And lasted just six months before his skin began to crawl from staying in one place for that long. He set out again.

He’d ended up on the isle of Koholint, nothing more than an illusion to the finder. Human, monster, sea, sky, a scene on the lid of the Sleeper’s eye.

Cast away, he knew the truth.

When he found himself on the ocean again in the ruined wreckage of his ship, he wondered if he’d ever be happy again.

He knew it was fine to hate the ocean, to never want to sail again.

But then he’d stuttered in combat in a storm and taken a slice right through his shield into his forearm.

What he hadn’t expected was how angry it made him.

He was a hero of courage. What kind of hero of courage, let alone one as experienced as him, let a bad dream mess them up this much? And now that he started paying attention, it was worse than he thought it was. Because he cried. There were days when remembering her hurt so badly that he thought his heart would stop, when he saw flowers that she’d love or spotted a seagull overhead and thought to tell her, when the knowledge that he couldn’t do that anymore made him want to join her in death. But he couldn’t.

Someone years ago told him it was the coward’s way out.

In his darker moments, he wondered if it was true. In his easier ones, he wondered if Marin would forgive him if he did.

Whether it was a screwup of the courage he’d been cursed with or his own broken self, he’d taken it to heart. If someone told him then, in his stubborn, broken-hearted state, that refusing to eat plain rocks was cowardly, he thinks he’d have eaten them until his mouth bled.

Legend knew that it was fine to hate the ocean, to never want to sail again, to hate storms, to hate soldiers. He’d been through everything. If anyone, he was entitled to be angry, right?

But was it fine when he had work to do?

He hates storms. He doesn’t think he’ll ever stop hating them, not when he’s still haunted by the memories of his uncle’s first-last trembling ‘take my sword and shield and listen’ and the feeling of being set on fire a thousand times experienced in an instant and that same agony again before he washed up on the shores of an island that vanished like a bubble on a needle.

He can’t afford mistakes, not when he’s the hero of Legend.

(And what else can he do? He can’t sit here and ruminate in his sorrow forever.)

(What if he never gets up again?)

He hated storms, but the next time it rained, he sat next to his window. He didn’t open it yet; just sitting by was awful enough.

He boiled the fear and panic down to hard agitation and nerves and painted a rosin of suffocating distance over his unimportant feelings. He’s a bearer of the Triforce of Courage. Fear is for people who haven’t had to save the world over and over and over. For people who aren’t him.

He knows what he wants to be. He deserves to be bitter ; he doesn’t deserve to be scared . He has his threshold set. All he has to do is cross it.

As he does, his distaste for making a scene, for the word trauma, twists into contempt.

 


 

It gets bad when he tells that to other people.

Zelda looks hurt when he makes a joke about it, and if that isn’t strange; doesn’t she know it’s just a joke?

But she’s always been a bit sensitive, is what he reasons himself.

(When did the bitterness for his experiences spill over into everything else? Is he tired of them anymore, or tired of himself? Of making himself keep such a tight lid on any emotion he thinks he shouldn’t feel?)

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t.

Some fool he was to forget that other people hadn’t reached the point he had, or realized when he was making a joke.

It’s in Warriors’ Hyrule, fresh out of Wind’s. Though he’s loath to admit it, Legend doesn’t sleep well, if at all, around the ocean. He’s tired. His uncle always told him not to say things out of anger when you’re tired.

His uncle is gone. Legend doesn’t even think he could cry about it again if he wanted to.

They’d been through Warriors’ castle, spoken to some of his acquaintances or friends or what-have-he, and the captain had taken a break to meet with some of his men. The rest of their group politely waits for him while he greeted them. Clearly fresh off duty, or something of the like.

A loud noise outside the window; likely a spell gone wrong.

All the soldiers have a visible reaction to it, (and if Legend were paying attention, he’d see the captain tense, too), but one has it even worse.

Warriors motions for the heroes to leave while he helps.

“Sorry,” he’d said after coming back, looking unusually somber. “Sometimes noises like that…”

He doesn’t even need to say anything before he gets hums of agreement and understanding.

Legend opens his fat mouth just then, because of course he does.

“Mm, yeah, there’s stuff like that,” he says quietly, half to himself. But Hyrule, beside him, leans in a little to listen.

“Yeah, it’s nasty,” the traveler offers.

“Pretty damn stupid , too, if you ask me.”

The captain and Wild exchange a look. Legend is tired.

He wants to see what happens.

“Really, it’s just weird,” he continues, and he knows he’s going to go too far but he doesn’t care and he thinks there’s something beyond surface-level observations leaking into his tone, something that’s been simmering for years, since the first night he sat by his stormy window and failed to hold back his tears. “Dunno what mental help you’re supposed to get if that kind of stuff is,” he rolls the words on his tongue and spits them out like they’re bugs, “wrong with you, but there’s usually places to get it, no matter the world.”

Were he paying attention, he’d see Wind and Hyrule falter.

The stopper has come off. He resists the urge to clench and unclench his fists.

“I mean, it’s just embarrassing.” (He’s cried in front of Zelda. What kind of hero cries in front of a princess?) “If it were me,” (a bearer of the Triforce of Courage, reduced to a shaking mess by the sound of a little bit of rain.) “I’d be ashamed of myself—”

A hand comes down on his shoulder.

Hard.

Its owner digs their nails in.

It’s only now that Legend looks around.

He’s several paces in front of their whole group.

It’s Twilight who’s behind him, grasping his shoulder, with more than a warning look on his face. Time’s eyes are hard, a harsh disapproval. Behind the old man are Sky and Wind, their expressions carefully blank, and next in line are Wild, Hyrule, Warriors, and oh. Oh.

They all look uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.

He stops moving and his mouth clicks shut as he realizes too late. Twilight, evidently satisfied now that he’s done, shoots him one last look and moves back by his protege. The group starts moving, none of them speaking. Hyrule gives Legend a glance with layers he can’t begin to unpack and leaves him in the back thinking about why he did that. He knew he was crossing the line. Why? Because he wanted to know what would happen?

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t.

It doesn’t.

Sure, he might have said it mean, but he’s right. He doesn’t have to apologize for being right. Within the next few days, they’re mostly back to normal, if Wild is a little more distant. It’s fine.

Legend’s right.

 


 

It rains again a few weeks later, nearly a whole week straight. Legend calls second watch on the sixth day, something deep-seated and self-punishing rising in his throat like bile with his claim. Prove it, it says. Prove you’re fine. Not like he’s slept much the past few days. What’s another?

They’re sheltering in a cave this time, somewhere another few hours’ travel off from Ordon. Legend has parked himself at the mouth of the cave, eyes fixed outside, arms folded over his knees. His red tunic is in his bag, just the olive undershirt beneath it to keep him warm.

Uneventful watch. Until he hears a strangled gasp from behind him and turns on instinct to the sound, shoulders rising in alarm.

He makes eye contact with Twilight, clutching at the front of his tunic and heaving for breath, jackknifed in his bedroll, eyes technically looking at him but clouded in a haze of some memory being warded off by reality. The rancher looks blankly at him for a brief moment, then turns his head away. Legend stares after him before doing the same, returning to his post.

A fresh torrent of rain assails the ground when Twilight moves. He gets out of his bedroll and sits next to Legend on the hard rock floor.

“You alright?” the veteran asks gruffly, not taking his eyes off the storm.

Twilight scoffs. He’s clearly in an off mood. “Nothing you’d like to hear.”

And then, ice cold, “Seeing as you think these kinds of things are embarrassing.”

Legend doesn’t know what to say to that. 

His thoughts are roiling at the statement, justifications and arguments and scathing comments bubbling ferociously under his tongue, but he doesn’t voice them. He stays silent.

They stay silent.

Until he opens his mouth to say something about Wild. And instead of tasting the scent of rain there's an icy, hard guilt and an overwhelming, suffocating, nauseating need to apologize, so what comes out of it is—

“Sorry.”

“What?”

He grits his teeth so hard he thinks they might crack. “Sorry. For saying that stuff.”

“...It’s fine.”

“You want to talk about it, or…”

“Not really.”

Legend opens his mouth, takes a breath to speak, then closes it. The possibility of saying what he’s planning feels taboo and deeply uncomfortable. He doesn't know why.

“I didn’t— I had them too,” he confesses, not looking at the rancher. He can already feel the ugly, horrible shame rising in his gut.

Twilight blinks at him. Legend can’t see in the low light, but he knows it happened. “Had…?”

“The… nightmares. And the thing Captain talked about. The.” The words taste like bile. “Panic attacks. Or whatever.”

“About what?”

It might be the night, or the fact that he’s exhausted or the fact that it’s raining and his nerves are already frazzled from it or the fact that Twilight seems like someone who wouldn’t spill his secrets.

He already feels disgusting. He’s already regretting this. What’s something else to the pile?

“...Storms,” he whispers, so softly that he doubts any regular human would be able to hear it. “My uncle died in one. Right in front of me. I got struck by lightning in the Sea of Storms in Labrynna. And again before… my fourth adventure.”

Twilight is silent for a moment.

He doesn’t ask the question Legend thinks he will.

“What changed?”

The veteran, surprised, jerks up a little and looks at him. Another gust of wind sends a new spate of rain crashing into the earth in front of their shoes. Legend averts his eyes again, even further. “Made myself… sit through them. And all. I didn’t want to have reactions to it like…” like the rest of you.

He’s their veteran. Six adventures, he has to be used to it. He’s the last person who needs to be told that he needs to keep up some dignity.

Which is why when Twilight taps him on the shoulder and Legend turns again on instinct, loosening his grip on his legs, he struggles against the hug Twilight is suddenly pulling him into.

“Hey, I don’t— I’m fucking fine, I don’t need this, Rancher—”

“Do you want it?” 

Twilight’s voice is right by his ear and that’s too close, Legend doesn’t need to be— to be coddled like he’s a child— what kind of fucking pity—

The words catch up to him.

Do you want it?

Do you want it.

What does he want?

Something old, something that’s been straining, cracking at its edges and begging to be let out, breaks.

He stills.

Does the rancher notice when Legend wordlessly adjusts to Twilight moving to be more comfortable? Does he keep track of when the rain comes down particularly hard and Legend’s fingers twitch? Does he think he’s weak for it?

No… surely not.

For the first time, he lets himself wonder if it was worth it.

Wrapped up in Twilight’s arms, he thinks it might be worth it every time he dodges a monster’s stab in a downpour, when Wind needs his help around the ship and he can assist him without shaking too much.

It’s so easy to think the nights spent crying weren’t so bad in retrospect, right? They’re over.

Marin told him once, twice, thrice, that he shouldn’t let himself do things he wouldn’t let others do. Would he tell Twilight to do the same? Would he let Wind?

It’s late.

He hadn’t realized how cold it was without his usual double layers. He ought to think about this in the morning. Uncle said you only think clearly during the day. Besides, Legend’s eyes are getting heavy for the first time since the downpour started a week ago.

Maybe he’ll close them and rest, just for a moment…

 


 

“Vet?” Twilight whispers. The weight in his arms has gotten heavier, and Legend went from stiffly accepting the embrace to leaning on him properly, breathing slower and heart steady.

He can’t see his face from the way they’re sitting, so the only logical assumption is that he fell asleep. Well, Legend probably needs it. The bags under his eyes are about to get bags of their own at this rate.

Twilight gets to shifting around again until Legend’s head is on Twilight’s lap and his legs are loosely unfolded on the ground. The veteran doesn’t stir while he’s moved. He must have been more tired than he let on.

Legend is certainly… a figure in their group. Wild had been pretty put out the day he’d gone on his rant about how embarrassing it would be, hypothetically, he’d clearly been implying, to be affected to any degree by trauma. If anything, Twilight would think that mindset would come from Wind, but the sailor’s unexpectedly mature in that regard.

He’s mature in a lot of ways, really.

You’d have to be blind to not see the layers underneath what Legend said.

Twilight sits, letting his mind wander, at some point idly fiddling with the veteran’s hair, until he starts to hear rustling from the bedrolls behind them. Someone’s going to wake up soon, and the rancher’s pretty sure Legend would kill him if he let them see him asleep like this.

He leads Legend back to his bedroll, and thinks.