He brings her breakfast in the morning. He seems to like being bossed about, an unusual thing in a growing boy. He watches her eat like a worried mamma, dark eyes anxious as he eats his own at the foot of her bed. His hands are too old to belong to his face; they are old and rough like the driftwood on the churning sea, samecoloured, grey in places with callouses where he has handled the sword o' ages and stood bleeding in the forgotten halls and palaces where monsters lurked. Oh, yes, she knows about that. He tells her with his hands; those calloused fingers paint the flickering story, body the tapestry that daubs its own pictures of bats writhing in flame and hulking moblins with drool dripping from their tusks and fat spitting in their lanterns.
Sometimes on very dark nights he will half-whisper, lips papery with remembered grimace, about the undead things he hit and hit and hit and would not die, skeletons and corpses with strangling hands. He is very young, to have laid waste to such armies.
But she is young, too. She tells him stories of fantastic sea-beasts she has seen on oceans he has never travelled, cyclones with teeth, whales with horns affixed on their heads to bore holes in ships, water-dragons and tentacles of seaweed and some things that are even not made up. Their hands look old together, curled around the bar of the railing, each with their own wounds and scars. She has been old all her life; he has gotten old very quickly.
But young he still remains. She watches him, sun glinting off his butter-gold locks as he stares out at the sea and yearns for something she cannot comprehend. He drinks in the bitter salt of the wind, eyes perhaps searching for the lonely teeth of the watchtowers that skulk up out of the sea, filled with pillaging water-rats wrapped in rotting tarps with notched swords. He is terribly young. He still likes climbing up and down the rigging, seeing how fast he can do it, her hardy little pirate.
She'll have to get him a neckerchief. They look so rakish, and wearing a lobster-print-top never did anything for anybody.
He combs out her hair, sometimes, with all the skill and grace born of a brother who has long been fixing Aryll's goldenfloss pigtails. Sometimes she thinks of all the solemn blue-eyed faces of the princesses before her as he does it, the ones who have been raised in castles and not pirate-ships, and wonders what they would think. If they disapproved she would spit on them, the nancies.
Her mother once told her of an ancestor before her, who dressed like a man and fought with the Hero on his quest. She approves of this more than ever. That dress is a true sallybitch to nock an arrow in and not fall flat on her face, and no mistake.
When he finishes combing he always does her hair up, just so; the topknot that reflects in the mirror like lemons not quite brightened, stark against the deep tan of her face. No Princess could have ever had suntouched skin like this, and she is quietly glad that he never tries to put it up queer - no braids, no Aryll-pigtails, no fluff. The worst he does is hold a little lock of it in his hand, rubbing it between combat-hardened thumb and forefinger as if it was the most precious silk. Then she goes quite red, out of embarrassment and deep gratification, and promptly kicks him out of her quarters. He never takes offense; he just gives her a smile, bare feet rustling and pattering on the equally bare boards - ha, that noise, as if he is Makar and not Link - and leaves. She loves the quirk of his eyebrows that mean boyish frustration with her imperious feminine mysteries, the resolve and resignation on his mouth. He has a genius for faces.
And sometimes they just stand at the prow of her ship, buffeted by the wind at their backs that sends them skimming over the waves like a fast-flying waterbird. His eyes fix on the horizon ahead, the sky as fresh and blue as new paint, marrying the deep green sea and tree-flecks of islands. The world is beautiful and they are sailing, a-sailing to their Promised Land on the promise of something glorious and the blood of those who have gone before.