Prince Lincoln, Heir to the throne of Hyrule and bearer of the Triforce of Courage, unbelted his sword and fell into a chair across from Zelda, whom he had found flung in his most comfortable chair. "Why am I always finding you in my chair?"
"Why do you have such comfortable chairs?" Zelda bounced lightly in the chair. "And because this way I test security and can avoid Talon. Win-win!"
Link shifted forwards uncomfortably. "What's wrong with Talon? Is he..."
"What? Oh, no, he's a good man." Zelda waved dismissively. "He's just gotten me and his daughter a little confused, and I'm not too fond of being coddled and protected and asked if I've found a nice boy for him to threaten, you know, the parental works."
Boys to threaten? "Is that why he's been giving me those strange looks lately?"
She pulled off her – ridiculous – hat with a snigger. "I'm sorry, I looked your way after the last time he asked me for boys to threaten. I told him no, but I think he just took that as me protesting too much."
Link pursed his lips thoughtfully. "He hasn't threatened me, though, and he doesn't strike me as someone who'd keep his tongue just because I'm the prince."
"Hmm, maybe he just thinks it's one-sided, then. Or," Zelda added as an after-thought, inspecting the inside of her hat, "maybe he thinks we'd make a cute couple."
Link coughed up a blushing chuckle. "There's an image." Zelda raised her eyebrows at him. "Of Talon as a gossiping old woman, sighing over young love and wondering when we will realize it ourselves."
Zelda laughed at that. "Ah, young love," she sighed. "So oblivious and sweet and blushes like roses in bloom."
"I haven't noticed a lot of roses on your cheeks, and you didn't share that you're a warrior-poet."
Zelda giggled into her hat. "You obviously haven't seen me at the local poetry slam. I wipe the tables." She tossed her hat across the room with a wry grin. "Literally until last year. Those bulblins have no sense of verse or rhyme, and they smash tables when they get mad."
Link frowned. "Literally?"
"Everyone's gotta have a job to do, especially in a town like Kakariko. Waitresses were more in demand than heroes back then." She spread her hands in a shrug. "I prefer my new job, though."
Link exhaled a short laugh, before his smile slowly crumbled off his face. He hadn't thought that she might have had a life before this, with friends, a family, a sweetheart... any which of whom might now be dead. He knew she risked her life almost as readily as she smiled and laughed, what if that was because... He looked at her, as she pulled a necklace hung with a pendant of some softly glowing blue stone out from under her shirt, murmuring to it below her breath, and thought that she looked so very strong and so very lonely.
Zelda grimaced sharply. "Get your mind out of the gutter!" she growled and stuffed her pendant down her shirt.
"I- what?" Link blinked at the sudden change of pace and the scowl directed at some point between them. "I'm sorry?" he offered on the off chance he had done or said something she had misunderstood.
"Hmm? Oh, no! I'm sorry." She blushed – faintly, but a blush nevertheless – over an embarrassed grin. "The pendant is a Gossip Stone fragment and, well, the person on the other end is a bit..." she grimaced. "Well, they're an invaluable resource when it comes to monsters and a good second head when it comes to puzzles. But they have a lousy sense of humour."
Link thought hard about asking about the "mind out of the gutter" comment, but decided to let it slide.
"Anyway!" Zelda clapped her hands and hopped to her feet, stretching as soon as she was up. "This was a really nice detour, but it's about time I get back to work."
Link blinked and glanced at the dark glass panes of the window. "At this hour? Don't you ever sleep?"
Zelda grinned brightly. "Nope, that's when the Nightmares strike! Those things have vicious teeth." She looked for a moment like she recalled something far away and horrible, then she shook it off. "And besides, I'm going into the Temple of the Dead, and its gate is only open at night to let the Poes out, so I've gotta go now."
Link stood to walk her out, frowning at her back as she sauntered along in front of him, humming something that sounded distinctly like a lullaby. It felt all wrong to send her out by herself, and into something called the Temple of the Dead at that! Not that she wasn't capable, but...
"I've been fine so far, haven't I?" Zelda threw the question over her shoulder casually, as if she hadn't just read his mind. "Besides, you're needed here, you're the only person with military training and knowledge of the Palace on our side."
"Surprisingly, that doesn't help." Link growled. "I don't like not being able to face the problems head on, and I don't like sending someone else out to face a danger I'm not going to face with them."
They'd reached the gate of Lon Lon Ranch, closed for the night, and Zelda turned to look at him, only barely visible in the wan moonlight and the light from the lanterns further in, all traces of a smile gone. She cocked her head. "Life is dangerous, Lincoln, you can't face all the dangers that your people do on a daily basis, nor can they face all the dangers you do. And you're not sending me into danger, I'm doing that on my own, thank you very much." A hint of a smile crept into her voice. "You're doing what you can, and so am I." She took a step closer and wrapped her arms around his waist in a tight hug. A really, really tight hug.
Link returned the hug and patted her on the back. "Zelda, I can't breathe."
"I know," she murmured into his chest. "Just trying to show you that I'm stronger than I look." Then she heaved him off his feet and swung them in a circle. He'd barely been put down before she placed a swift peck on his cheek and started climbing the gate as if her hands and feet were magnetic, quickly vaulting over the top and disappearing into the night on the other side.
Link couldn't help the thought, but he must have been blushing like a rose in bloom. He walked back to his room with a glowing face, a grin, and light steps.
You like him, the voice from the stone drawled as Zelda jogged across Hyrule Field. Her horse could move much faster than her but its night-vision was so much worse it might just trip and fall even at this pace, so she jogged herself.
"Of course I do, he's a good person," she muttered back. It still felt strange to talk to a rock, but she'd seen stranger by now.
Not what I meant. You have a crush, Zellie-girl. The voice sounded positively ecstatic at the prospect.
One day, Zelda vowed, she'd find out who the owner of that utterly nondescript voice was, and then she'd punch them for that stupid nickname. And the teasing. And that one time they had laughed hysterically while she'd been running in circles screaming around a boss monster. For tactical reasons!
Hruuummm... Perhaps a bit much squeezed into a bit little, but for now it is what it is. And, hey, it's an update!
As always, please review and tell me what you liked/disliked, and have a nice time either way.