Well, 2016 was a bit draining for me. I've been way too occupied, and I went over budget for the year (which was a supreme disappointment for me). But anyway, I'm going to try and have more of an online presence from here on! I miss my writing and drawing, and I have too many stories that need to be updated. So in apology for my absenteeism, here's a writing warm-up to start off the new year!

It takes place after the events of Twilight Princess, and is not connected to any of my other stories.

I hope you enjoy it!


Absent

It was the middle of the night. Dawn was less than four hours away, and standing outside Telma's bar in the southern district of Castle Town was the last thing Zelda wanted to be doing.

In addition it wasn't even a pleasant night. Storm clouds hovered menacingly overhead, the wind howled, and the waste-filled streets reeked more than usual in the humid weather.

Listening to the drunken revelry from inside the pub only caused her irritation to build.

How in the world could anyone honestly enjoy drinking themselves into a stupor? Inhibitions were thrown away, all self-control flew the coop, and still men and women boasted about what a marvelous time it was, despite their panging hangovers and not even being able to remember more than half of what went on the previous night.

There was a crashing sound from within, followed swiftly by girlish giggles and Telma's raised voice.

No, she was not particularly delighted to be out hunting for her husband.

"Your majesty, you can't seriously be considering entering this – this hovel!"

Imperceptibly her eyebrow gave a little twitch. She didn't bother mentioning that she'd entered said hovel numerous times in the past, albeit for all those instances she had been under disguise and escaping the scrutiny of the court. Hence why she kept her silence and did not defend the establishment. If her personal bodyguards knew she'd been sneaking out at unconventional hours they'd make it their business to remain perpetually glued to her side.

"Need I remind you, sir," she started in a monotonous drawl, "that Madame Telma was one of the leaders of the resistance against the usurper and is honored for her heroic deeds during the invasion. Don't you think that a woman of such prestige deserves greater respect than a slight to her place of business? And quite a reputed business at that."

The knight fell silent and Zelda shot him a sideways glance before moving to enter the pub –

Only to be nearly stumbled into by a towering man walking out. The man startled at the sudden proximity and staggered, his large hand falling on her shoulder as he toppled forward.

As soon as the pressure landed on her it was gone, as Sir Justin, in a split second, snagged the man by the collar and hauled him away to slam up against the wall of the tavern.

The drunken man's eyes went wide with terror as he whimpered unsuitably for a man of his considerable stature. "M-mercy! Goddesses, mercy! I ain't done nothing!"

Sir Justin bared his teeth and shoved the man further against the wood while her second bodyguard, the blessedly silent Sir Thibault, flung himself before her, hand positioned to draw his sword.

"That's the queen you manhandled, you vile blackguard!" roared Justin, looking fit to murder.

The drunken man whimpered and squirmed pitifully.

Zelda regarded the scene with a small measure of annoyance. "Oh, let him be."

"He dared lay a finger on you, your majesty," shot Justin, fists constricting further. "His hands should be cut off-"

And thrown to the hounds…

"And thrown to the hounds!" he finished.

Zelda rolled her eyes. Always so predictable and one to overdramatize at the smallest offenses.

"Sir Justin, put the poor man down and leave him be. He is clearly inebriated and not in control of any of his functions. It was an accident with no concealed ill-intent. There's no need to go through all that trouble and traumatize him."

Then she place a firm hand on Sir Thibault's forearm and bade him step aside, moving to enter the pub once more.

With his eyes narrowed, Sir Justin let his grasp slacken and released the man. The drunken man – now blubbering – wobbled on his legs and looked dazedly around.

Sir Justin seethed savagely. "Be grateful that our queen is so merciful, you wretch. If it were the king-"

Zelda stiffened and flung open the door with unnecessary force, striding inside. Justin immediately cut off his narrative and with a last glare at the drunkard, both knights followed her in.

Despite the lateness of the night, Telma's tavern was packed to the brim with merrymakers and revelers. Zelda had to wonder at this, before it came to her that these were the stragglers of those that had come to Castle Town from the other provinces, still celebrating the echoes of Farore's Feast Day from a few days ago.

Like a huntress, Zelda swiftly cut her sharp gaze across the room, idling over Telma at the counter and sweeping past the numerous inebriated men and women at the tables and barstools. She recognized a few of her knights at a card table, gambling on their day off. A flock of women were around them watching the game, and much flirting went on between the two groups. She saw as one of her knights snatched a giggling barmaid around the waist and pulled her onto his lap.

Justin glowed red with mortification at his fellow knight, while Zelda simply raised an eyebrow before continuing her search. Mentally she catalogued every name and face that sat around that table. She'd have to find some unpleasant task for those knights when they were back on shift tomorrow. Something nasty and tedious to make up for their fun time gallivanting.

It wasn't that difficult to spot her husband. Link's was the only corner from where emanated a dark cloud and brooding aura. In a literal sense. He was seated at the farthest end of the tavern, opposite from the roaring fire and as far away from brainless revelers as possible, secluding himself behind a stack of empty mugs.

Zelda felt her brow twitch at that.

Knowing her husband's limited tolerance for alcohol, she was surprised to see that he wasn't yet knocked out cold and drooling on the table.

Instead he stared blankly ahead of him, one hand loosely grasping a half-filled mug and the other arm draped over the tabletop. He sat hunched forward and head drooping. He didn't notice her approach as she came to stand before him.

"Link," she stated calmly, only mildly concerned when his eyes blearily drifted up too slowly, and looked at her with unfocussed vision.

She almost pitied him then before she recalled he was the reason she was out here past decent hours, fetching him like a wayward husband she had to drag home.

She frowned and folded her arms. "Are you quite done sulking?"

His eyes squinted and his mouth thinned as he shook his head, raising his mug to take another swig. Zelda firmly intercepted it before it could reach his lips.

"Too bad. We're going home." She yanked the mug from his limp grasp and slammed it down on the table. She gripped his arm, hauling him to his feet.

Link swayed and it took the intervention of both Justin and Thibault to keep him from collapsing on her.

He stumbled and Zelda almost groaned when his head fell forward and clocked her on the forehead.

Justin growled and Thibault's hold on Link tightened. Zelda hissed and took a step back, rubbing the sore spot.

The minute Link was sober again she was sending him to Snowpeak to have a long chill in the ice!

"Poor sweetie. He's been here since late afternoon and wouldn't budge ever since," said Telma, sauntering by with a platter of drinks balanced expertly in one hand, a scrubbing rag in the other.

Zelda sighed, still massaging her brow. "We shouldn't move him too much in his condition. Is there a room we can rent for the night?"

Justin's head snapped up. "Your majesty! Remaining in this hovel-"

His words died out as the landlady leveled a glare at him.

Telma turned back to Zelda and smiled in apology. "The only space left is the garret. It's private, but drafty. And the bed is nothing to cherish. Unless I can have someone switch rooms…"

Zelda nodded understandably. She wasn't heartless enough to deprive any of the other guests of their accommodations, so the garret it was.

"The garret will do." It's what Link deserves for landing himself in this mess. Sir Justin gave a cry of protest that she distinctly ignored. "We'll need clean towels and some water, if you please. You men, help carry my darling husband to his royal suite."

She felt her extreme tiredness. She hadn't been this sarcastic in ages.

Grumbling under his breath, Justin, along with Thibault, lugged their deadweight cargo through the crowd to the hall at the end of the common room. From there they heaved Link up the two flights of stairs, uncaring when his feet caught on each step and clunked as they went.

Zelda followed quietly, kneading her temples in strain. Today was not a day she wanted to put up with Link's antics. She had just returned from a trip out of the country for a diplomatic meeting only to be whisked away the moment her carriage arrived at the castle to yet another conference with her counsel, which had taken up too many hours to tolerate.

She had missed dinner to stay up late working, and, upon returning to her room at quarter past two, had been beyond irate to find Link missing from his side of the bed. She had glared for a full minute at the empty space before stalking off to seek him out.

She'd had half a mind to just leave him to his own devices and go to sleep anyways. But what would that say about her as a wife? She couldn't let her husband remain missing. If not for reputations sake, then for the sake of his wellbeing. She had to at least make sure he was alright.

The garret was indeed as small and as drafty as Telma had said it would be. The hot and humid atmosphere mixed with the already musty smell of the room made it almost unbearable to breathe.

The first thing Zelda did was yank the shutters of the small window open to allow for a breeze. Justin and Thibault carefully laid Link down on the single cot. Link was naturally shorter than the average man, but even so, the bed was just barely longer than he was.

A moment later a serving girl came in with up a bucket of water and some towels. She placed them by the bed then left to fetch some extra sheets and a pail.

"For when the alcohol really hits him," she explained, setting the pail down, staring with some awe at Link and casting her open glances as if still in disbelief that she was attending to the king and queen of Hyrule.

Zelda blinked tiredly. She foresaw an extremely long night ahead of her.

"Thank you. I can take over from here," she said in clear dismissal.

The girl bowed uncertainly and scurried away. After a thorough inspection of the room, ascertaining that it was quite impossible for anyone to climb in through the single window and no that hidden dangers were present, both her bodyguards bowed and took their leave, taking up posts outside on either side of the door.

Now alone with her husband, Zelda took a long disconsolate look at him and sighed, situating herself on the bed next to him. He wasn't quite unconscious yet, but he seemed very much incoherent to the world around him.

She'd never had to deal with a drunken husband before. She wasn't qualified for this. She didn't know the first place to start.

It baffled her how Link had become like this. What could have happened to have reduced him to drinking like a Gerudo on Brawl Night? Link's wandering had never been a problem before. He'd always made sure to tell her, or someone who could relay to her, where he was going and approximately how long he'd be gone for.

This time she had learned of his whereabouts from a castle guard who had noticed him slip out in the dead of the night and took note of the direction he was headed. Somehow she had known he'd come here.

When she thought about it, she was mystified more than angry. This was too uncharacteristic for Link to overlook. Come to think about it, he had been extra quiet lately. She'd been too preoccupied to ask him about it, but she wasn't so uncaring a wife that she hadn't noticed.

Zelda once again looked him over and decided that he must be way too overheated to be comfortable.

She started by pulling off his boots, eyes rolling at his unintelligible mutterings. It took some struggling to remove his cloak, but she managed. When she reached his belt and started unbuckling it he suddenly grabbed her wrists.

"Don't…"

Zelda sighed audibly and shrugged his hands off and went back to work. Link thrashed and tried to shove her away, tossing around and flailing his arms.

"Geroff me!"

She swatted his hands easily away. Link probably lacked the strength to hold a spoon at this point. She continued disrobing him. The belt was off and she moved on to his shirt.

Link thrashed harder and almost bucked her off. His sudden determination took her by surprise.

"Geroff me woman, 'm married. Dam–dammit, 'm a married man!"

Zelda swept back a few strands of hair from her face and said flatly, "my sincerest condolences to your wife."

Her causticness was lost on him as he increased his thrashing. Zelda fought to work the last of the buttons free from his wriggling form.

It was difficult to avoid his flailing limbs, and Zelda snapped after having to focus on the same button for a full five minutes. "Cease with this childishness and hold still, Link."

Link didn't relent though. He kept on pulling away, seemingly resolute to avoid her every touch. If she wasn't as exhausted and annoyed as she was, she would have been flattered by his fidelity. Not to mention thoroughly amused by his inability to recognize her.

Finished, she spread his shirt open, fingers gliding unintentionally – but appreciatively – over his tight torso.

Link at last lay still, limp and panting as his energy waned.

Zelda took this as a chance for a reprieve as well. She hadn't realized how difficult he could be.

"You remind me of her. My wife."

She snapped her head toward him and blinked in astonishment.

Link went on. "You're both horribly bossy."

Zelda breathed out heavily through her nose. She dipped one of the towels in the bucket of water, wrung it out and slapped it on his forehead.

Link groaned in response.

More gently, Zelda smoothed his hair away then took the towel and started dabbing at his face.

Sighing, Link blinked clouded eyes at her. "I miss her… I haven' seen her in forever."

"Of course you have," Zelda responded. "You see her practically every day."

Link shook his head adamantly. "No… No I don't. I see her, but I don' get to see her. Just her and me. And not just when we go to bed." Offhandedly he continued, "She's been frisky lately. Mus' be all tha' stress…"

Zelda fought back a furious blush and made the prompt decision to change the subject. "What –what do you miss about her?"

Link sighed. "Everything."

She would have scoffed at that, if she hadn't seen the earnestness in his eyes. There was no sarcasm, no jest, nor ridicule. He was being utterly sincere.

"She rarely smiles," he said softly and a bit whimsical. "I wish she would smile at me more. I don't want to ask her to though, she's not a doll. I want to earn each smile. I want her to smile at me because she wants to. It would mean that I might deserve her."

Her hand froze and something within her clenched.

Did her husband desire her affection so much that he regarded each of her smiles as a reward?

He shouldn't have to.

"I miss her," Link repeated, and his eyes were so sad and so forlorn that she forgot that this wasn't a sober Link speaking, but a drunken, depressed Link, who didn't have the mental means to lie.

She hadn't realized her negligence had struck him so deeply.

He'd stood by her from the moment they had married and he'd become king. Supported her in decisions concerning the state, even when her choices may have been perceived as heartless. He had also not been afraid to speak his mind if he disagreed with her. Her ideals were mainly based on the benefit of society at large and with the future in mind. Link's ideals were devoted to the happiness of the people, and in that they balanced each other out and could discuss a method that saw to both standpoints.

But with the latest issues she'd been handling she had discerned it too advanced for him to help her out and had left him in the dark. The result was that she'd interacted with him very little as of late.

She hadn't thought much about it, and now that she did she realized that she missed their long discussions in the evening. Missed seeing him ride off on his horse as the sun broke, and missed joining him on those rides. Their time spent together were few and far between, but it was never something she disliked.

But had Link really been that affected by her absence?

It surprised her, because she hadn't though anyone could miss her that much.

She had friends, but there was always someone else they preferred to be with over her. Her council viewed her only as an asset to her kingdom, and her people loved her as the figurehead of Hyrule.

She was aloof and reclusive. She didn't partake in conversations as animatedly as her female cohorts, nor did she share many of their silly interests. To all she seemed just a calm, devoted ruler. Too serious to have any fun, and too immersed in stately matters to socialize more often.

Link, who always had people around him, people who wanted him there with them, to spend time with him, had too many friends to regret the absence of her company. Right?

She might have considered that he missed her for things one only does with one's wife, if it weren't for the fact that their nightly activities had always been just the same as before. Frequent and pleasurable to them both.

So could it be that he simply desired her?

Zelda was snapped out of her inner musings when Link spoke.

"She's a queen, y'know. She's very powerful. Lives in a castle and does magic an' all."

Zelda's shoulders drooped. Her heart fragmenting in her chest. "Your wife is a fool who doesn't fully realize what she has."

Quick as lighting, a spark ignited past the dazedness in his eyes and he forced himself to sit up. "Don- don't speak of her that way. Never speak of her like that! She's more – more than I deserve."

Zelda's breath hitched in shock. "Link…"

"All those rumors that she's cold and heartless… They're all wrong! It's 'cause she cares so much that she has to push aside her emotions to make the best possible decisions for her country. She puts her people above herself, even above me. People say she's inhuman, well they're right. She's not some-some ordinary hylian. She had to rise above humanity to make the decisions she does. No one can bear that burden as well as she. And she does it alone…" Link's voice dwindled as solemnity took over.

Zelda was moved. So moved that tears had formed at the corners of her eyes. She let them roll down her cheeks as she whispered his name.

No one had ever interpreted her that way. Not even herself. She hadn't realized that was how he thought of her.

"Link, I…"

Suddenly Link grabbed the empty pail and lurched violently forward, vomiting into it.

Zelda wiped her face with her sleeves and rubbed his back, cringing as Link continued to heave.

When Link finished he leaned back against the headboard and groaned, closing his eyes and clutching the pail with a tense grip. Zelda replaced the damp towel over his forehead.

Link groaned. "I want my wife…"

"You have her," she replied.

"Where is she?"

Zelda simply patted his shoulder and placed her hand on his arm.

Link peered at her through heavy eyelids and leaned in her direction. "You smell like her. My queen…"

He sighed softly, eyes closing again. After a few silent minutes, during which he seemed to have fallen asleep, he spoke again, voice uncertain.

"…You are her, aren't you."

"Unfortunately," she replied, although she couldn't help feeling proud of the fact.

She brushed his hair back tenderly. She sympathized with the sick he was feeling, but hoped he'd learn from this not to overindulge too often. Especially when emotionally compromised.

Zelda gazed out the small window where white moonlight was shining through. The garret may be drafty and decrepit, but it had a peaceful view.

She couldn't help going over what Link had told her. Never before had she felt this much warmth for a person. Never before had her heart beat this erratically. Often she'd thought her heart to be dead and emotionless. A frigid rock of ice. The way she was able to distance herself from the world was frightening even to her at times.

How could she be made to feel so much with just a few words from him?

He was invaluable to her. Perhaps she had not cherished him as much as she should have. No. She definitely hadn't.

"You have a beautiful smile."

Zelda hadn't realized he was still awake. Secretly it astonished her how long he could hold out.

She also hadn't realized that she'd been unconsciously smiling.

Zelda breathed lightly, "So do you."

Link leaned closer, his deep pools of sapphire staring at her. "Zelda…"

Zelda felt flushed. Her pulse raced and her breath caught.

Then the moment fell to pieces as Link threw up all over her lap.

Zelda sighed in weary frustration. She supposed she could forgive him for that, just this once. He was suffering horribly already.

Calmly, she got up, skirts heavy from the weight of the mess, and walked toward the door.

She opened it swiftly and her two bodyguards turned and saluted her, fists thumping over their hearts.

It took a second for the sight of her to sink in, and once it did, Sir Justin looked over her horrified, skin white as a sheet as though he might faint. Thibault merely responded with widened eyes at her appearance.

It wasn't often they saw their queen covered in vomit.

She eyed them both and chose to address the less traumatized one. "Sir Thibault, can you please ask one of Telma's girl's to fetch some clean women's garments and a tub and bathing supplies? It appears there's been an accident."

Nodding in affirmation, Sir Thibault went to do as ordered.

Zelda glanced once more over Justin, whose jaw was still dropped wide open, then retreated back into the room and closed the door to wait.

She was uncomfortable at the moment, but despite that, she found herself rather content.

In the next half hour a pewter tub was brought in and filled, and Zelda hastily discarded her dress and underthings to immerse herself in the hot water. While she bathed a server came in to clean up after Link and take her soiled clothing to be washed. Telma also dropped by to check on them briefly, but left soon after to clear out the guests from the common room. It was then well past three and she wanted the tavern officially closed for the night. Each time the door was opened Zelda could see the rigid stances of her bodyguards as they resolutely faced away from the door.

Once she was washed and dressed, and everything was cleaned up, she approached the bed where Link lay finally asleep.

Zelda bent down to kiss his brow, and feeling tired herself, scooted under the covers next to him. After a brief second of consideration she sidled up right against him. The small cot hardly offered them any room for space anyhow. She had never really cuddled with Link before, not even after intercourse. His reserved nature and hesitance when it came to touching her led her to believe that he didn't like that sort of thing.

Zelda thought maybe that could be something they could explore later.

Yawning and rubbing her eyes, she rested her cheek against his warm shoulder, and feeling bold enough to hold onto his arm, drifted off in mere moments.

~Fin~