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It was several hours before the cries of anguish stopped echoing throughout the Mirror Chamber. By that time it was past sunset. Night had stained the sky a deep blue, covering everything in darkness, The only source of light was the thin, slender crescent moon as it rose steadily above Arbiter's Grounds. On the altar, thousands of bits of glass glinted in the moonlight, rivaling the stars. In the weak breeze, the tattered flags that had once bared the crest of the royal family waved mournfully.

The desert had cooled significantly. Sitting against the wall, Zelda grabbed and pressed her legs closer to her body as the chill settled into the marrow of her bones. She silently scolded herself for not bringing a coat or pelt to keep her warm. The fire that she had started with her pathetic magic was good as nothing. Even when she was an apprentice, her mentor was never impressed with the princess's magical ability. It was so cold, even the fire seemed to have lost it's vigor. All it did was cast an ocherous light around it. The bored princess watched as the shadows around her jumped and withdrew as if they were dancing; and out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of the crumpled form of Link on the ground not too far away.

A few moments ago, the hero had been crawling around on all fours, deaf to all of the princess's attempts to stop him. He pawed and scraped at the ground until hid fingers bled. Once, while slinking around, he found a particularly large mirror bit. With a cry of triumph, he lifted it in his hands, proclaiming that he would find the remaining pieces, even if it would take him the rest of his life. As if the bit refused to be reunited with its brethren, it dissolved into dust and slipped away between his fingers. An unearthly scream tore through his throat, and soon he was crawling around the altar searching for other pieces. He did, but just like the first piece that shard turned into dust as well.

He didn't give up. His doggedness wouldn't let him. Even when another shard disappeared. And another. . .and another. . .and another. . .

Eventually, he collapsed from exhaustion. Fatigue filled his every limb, spreading throughout his entire body. Unable to move, he laid there for hours, not even stirring when he felt darkness surround him as night approached. Nothing mattered to him anymore. He didn't care about anything anymore. Let him shrivel up in the sun. When afternoon arrived, let the Kagoroks eat his carcass. He didn't care―

A shudder shook his body as the cold sank into his bones. He gave a grunt of irritation and wrapped his arms around his torso; a feeble attempt at trying to keep himself warm. Why was it so damn cold in the desert? It was blistering hot during the day.

Strangely, the cold seemed to revive feelings in him. He was grateful for the cold, in a way. Funny;a few hours ago he had lost the will to live, and now the cold had to come in like some stupid message. "Have hope!" or "Don't lose faith―

"Y-You know," Zelda's voice, soft as a whisper, interrupted his dark thoughts.

"You kn-know," she repeated herself and shuddered violently. Her teeth chattered loudly as she spoke. "Th-The fire here m-might not seem that big, b-b-but it does provide s-some comfort."

Silence. Then, "I'm not cold."

The princess was relived. Those were the first three words Link had said since the hero had fallen silent. She was beginning to fear that he had lost his mind somehow after Midna destroyed the mirror. Zelda couldn't blame him though. The circular frame of the mirror remained as serene and clam as it was before the mirror was destroyed; almost as if it were taunting them. The way it stayed there made one want to believe that the mirror was still accessible; as if one could walk through it and end up in the Twilight Realm just like it allowed before.

It was enough to drive anyone, even her, insane.

"Of c-c-course you're c-cold," Zelda stated. She watched as a shudder ran along the length of the hero's body. "Your sh-sh-sh―" irritably, the princess swallowed and tried to regain her composure. "You're shivering."

A loud sigh rang came from Link as he shakily stood up. With one arm he gripped the other and slowly walked over in front of the fire, He yawned loudly and sat down, crossing his legs under him. His shoulders slumped down as he placed his elbows on his knees and stared into the fire. The flames reflected solemnly in his eyes.

. . .More silence. Zelda shook again as the chill worsened.

Should she start a conversation? Or should she just let this continue on? Link wasn't the kind that liked to talk much. She didn't want to prod too deep into his soft spot and get put onto his "Does not like" list by poking into his uncomfortable side―

"Midna and I used to have staring contests."

Link's voice jerked her away from her musings. "Oh?"

"I would start a fire." His eyes widened as he realized what he had just said. "I-I mean, I promise your highness, I never started any fires in Hyrule! I mean, I did, but that was only to keep warm. You know, little campfires and such―"

Zelda smiled in pity. "Yes, yes. I understand."

"Dammit!"

She was surprised by his sudden outburst. So much so, she jerked away from him like the shadows around her. Noticing her reaction, Link's eyes softened. He looked away from the fire too, as if he had somehow insulted it. "I-I'm sorry. It's just that, well. . .I-I. . .every time I open my mouth to say something, it always ends up sounding really garbled or stupid. And then I get really frustrated. This-this never happened when. . .well, you know. When she was around."

"I understand."

He doubted it. Everyone always said that they understood, but they didn't. Words were just words. But when he looked at her, her deep sapphire eyes were full of real, true sympathy. She did understand. She really knew how he felt. Somehow, that made him feel ten times as better. Finally, someone who understood.

"D-do you mind i-if I come closer to you?" Zelda asked. Her teeth started chattering again. "It's very cold over here and if we're close together, we can preserve body heat. Like ladybugs do in the winter."

Link couldn't help but smile. He gave another grunt, this time in movement as he scooted closer to her and wrapped an arm around the princess's shoulders. "Here you go, my ladybug."

He had an infectious smile, she realized. When he smiled, it made you want to smile as well. Which was what she was doing. (Authors Note: Okay, before you get all crazy fangirl/fanboy on me, I am well aware that this fic is filed under the LinkXMidna category. This is just a brief moment of tenderness between Link and Zelda. If it bothers you that much, you can skip though it. Besides, I like ladybugs. Save the penguins!)

"Well anyway, back to what I was saying earlier. You see, when me and Midna set up camp, I would start a fire. As always, she wanted to pick a fight with me, so she would challenge me to a staring contest―into the fire."

Zelda looked at him in surprise.

"Yep. I'm really surprised that I didn't lose my sight from doing that. We never figured out who won in the end, mostly because we both would cheat," He laughed. "Sometimes, I would pretend to sneeze so I could close my eyes and re-water them. Other times, Midna would point behind me and shriek that there was a moblin or something ready to attack us." His smile grew wider. "I always fell for it. She was a good actor.

"But those times are gone." His happy demeanor faded away as soon as it had come. Once again his face fell, this time into sadness. The fire dancing in his eyes was snuffed out. "She's gone. There's nothing I can do about it. I keep expecting her to come out of my shadow again and tell me how stupid I am. I keep waiting, but it never happens." His eyes teared up as he buried his head in his other hand. "And it never will. You see, that's the worst part. The waiting. The expecting. That feeling of futility you get in your heart every time." He started whimpering as tears spilled down his cheeks.

The princess worriedly wrapped her arm around him. Pity flooded her heart when she realized that Link was shaking not because of the cold, but because of the sobs that shook his body.

"Oh great. Look at me," Link sniffled. "Gods! I'm helpless."

Zelda's grip on him tightened and she snuggled him closer. At the moment, it was all she could do to comfort him.

And for the rest of the night, Link's sobs of anguish were all she could hear. And all she could do was hold him close, trying to comfort him. That was she could do, like some helpless damsel in distress. She hated this feeling. But the damsel in distress was who she was supposed to be. She wanted to be who she wanted to be; not a princess who cowardly hid behind this stoic mask. There was a time, she could faintly recall, when she actually had feelings. Then she decided such things, these "feelings" were unacceptable. She was the princess; a member of the Royal Family who was blessed by the goddesses. One by one, she stored them away until she had none left. There, after many laborious years, she lost track of them. That was why she was the serene, calm princess she was now. Serene and calm, just like the mirror frame. And that was all she would be. An empty frame, promising nothing.

With nothing to entertain the princess but her thoughts, weariness tugged at Zelda's nerves. As her eyelids drooped, she gently laid Link down beside her. The crying young man didn't notice. If he did, he didn't say anything.

Lulled to sleep by his sobs, Zelda eventually fell asleep.

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