Zelda had been on edge lately. For the first time in her life, she couldn't find the ability to concentrate. Everything irritated her. She had competent subordinates, but it was frustrating to delegate tasks that she preferred to do herself. It was only now, after everyone else had gone home, that she was free to focus on her work.
She scowled at the inert Guardian in front of her. Despite her best efforts, it adamantly refused to respond to her attempts to activate it. It had been like this every night for the past week, and Zelda was running out of ideas.
The Guardian was Zelda's pet project, but she hadn't made much progress beyond opening the chassis. She was grateful that Purah hadn't objected to her attempts to study the Guardian, but she was at a loss regarding how she could restore it to full functionality.
Working in the Hateno Ancient Tech Lab wasn't as Zelda imagined it would be. It didn't take her long to realize that everything was buried under a mountain of bureaucracy, and the state of the lab's workspace was disappointing. There was none of her former lab's corporate sheen, and only a fraction of the money. No outside parties were allowed into the building, so she didn't even have Link's deliveries to look forward to.
Purah didn't hesitate to voice her own complaints as she showed Zelda how to work around the various inconveniences, and her handsome assistant Symin was always ready to lend a strong and capable hand. Symin was sweet and enthusiastic, not to mention extremely skilled at his job, but Zelda had a feeling that Purah hired him for somewhat less than scientific reasons. She wondered if Ganondorf would be jealous that she was working in such close proximity to such an attractive man, but she couldn't imagine him being more than amused. It would probably never occur to him to be jealous. Zelda had never met a person so utterly lacking in self-doubt. She wished some of his confidence would rub off on her.
As far as she could tell, the major challenge faced by the Hateno Ancient Tech Lab was funding. Perhaps the research might have military applications, but Hyrule hadn't maintained a standing military in more than a century. Unless the lab became a publicly traded corporation, which seemed unlikely, its funding would have to come from the private sector – a wealthy donor, perhaps. Zelda was no expert on financial matters, but she didn't believe that it would take an unreasonably large sum of money to update the equipment and hire additional employees. They would need just enough funding to gather the data necessary to understand what they were working with. After that, they might consider declaring nonprofit status so that they could present the results of their research to the public.
But what would these "results" even look like? Not even Purah had made much headway into understanding the devices housed in the lab. Nothing she tried herself had any effect, even when she attempted to use magic. Link could activate the Sheikah Slate, but that seemed to be the limit of his inexplicable influence on ancient technology.
As much as Zelda hated to admit it, Ganondorf was the only person who could figure out how to make any headway into the lab's research. His understanding of ancient technology seemed almost innate, and he could probably make this Guardian get up and walk if he wanted.
Where was he, anyway? Link still texted her at regular intervals throughout the day, as did Riju. It was a hassle to keep up with the two of them, but they both seemed to understand that she couldn't always respond right away. Oddly enough, she was even getting texts from Sidon. Mipha was more than likely putting him up to it. Even if she was, Zelda didn't care; his messages were still kind and thoughtful. Everyone was being so supportive, and she was grateful.
"While Ganondorf is nowhere to be found," she muttered to herself as she stared at the blank and empty eye of the Guardian. She wanted to call him, but she didn't have the slightest clue about what to say. Her mind drew a complete blank when she tried to imagine inviting him out on a date. Did he have any hobbies? What did he even like to do? It would feel strange to ask him to come to her apartment just to have tea with her. She felt ashamed of how she had all but forced herself on him in Lanayru. What was worse, she wanted to do it again.
"Why won't you move, you silly thing." Zelda pounded the Guardian's ceramic casing with her fist. "You just sit there like a lump of stone, don't you? Taking up space and being useless. What do you want me to do? Why can't you just work?"
"You might get better results if you tried being nice," a voice said at her back.
Zelda refused to turn around, but she could smell him, the starch of his suit and the faint trace of his aftershave. It didn't surprise her at all that he would be here, but still she asked. "How did you get in?"
Zelda could hear the grin in his voice. "Don't be facetious."
"Link told me the location of the lab," he explained as he approached. "The rest was easy."
"How did you get through the security doors?"
"I told you – magic."
He was almost certainly telling the truth. Still, he could have asked for her permission before showing up in the dead of night. "I thought we talked about stalking."
"How bold of you to assume that you're the only thing here I'm interested in."
It occurred to Zelda that this wasn't the first time Ganondorf had been inside the lab. She knew this must be the case as soon as the thought entered her mind. She felt a flash of annoyance followed immediately by relief. It would save her the trouble of an explanation if he was already familiar with her work.
"As long as you're here, you might as well make yourself useful."
"It would be my pleasure."
Ganondorf's voice was low and silky, and the relish with which he said "pleasure" gave her goosebumps. He must be teasing her. She decided to ignore him.
"The way you unlocked the Sheikah Slate – can you explain how you did it? I assume you used magic. What you did, does it work with all ancient technology?"
"The tech needs to have a lockable interface in order to be unlocked."
"I appreciate the tautology, but I asked you to be useful. The Guardians don't have an interface."
"Then you must make one yourself."
"But how – "
"Magic. You've already emulated the interface of the Sheikah Slate on the tablet you connected to the Guidance Stone. All you need is a magical signature to initiate contact between the two devices. You could develop hardware to transmit an appropriate signal through trial and error, but that would be inefficient."
How did he know about the Guidance Stone? "Did you read my notes?" she asked sharply. "How many times have you been here?"
Ganondorf pressed his phone into her palm and wrapped his fingers around hers. "I've only come once before," he said. "I needed to test an interface of my own. It was successful. I have no further need to consult your research notes. I came here tonight because I wanted to find you."
Zelda could feel herself blushing, but there was nothing she could do to stop the color rising to her cheeks, not with Ganondorf standing so close. "How did you know I would be here?" she asked.
"I called. You didn't pick up. You clearly weren't at home, so I came here. It was a lucky guess."
It was no such thing. Ganondorf had somehow known she would be here, but Zelda let it slide. "What am I supposed to do with your phone?"
"I'm sure you can figure it out for yourself."
Zelda bit back a retort concerning what Ganondorf could do for himself as she swiped the screen on. If she wasn't mistaken, the display contained a set of controls, with red buttons marked "scan" and "activate" in the upper corners. Touching her finger to the "activate" button didn't do anything, so Zelda pressed "scan." The phone's camera opened. She raised the lens so that the Guardian was in the viewfinder and then clicked "activate." She felt an intense jolt of – magic? Yes, it was probably magic – flow across her skin.
The Guardian shuddered once, and then again more violently. Its head swiveled with a rough and grainy sound like falling sand, and its singular eye began to glow with a vibrant cyan light. As the Guardian turned to "look" at her, the light flickered, making it seem as if the machine were blinking. She waved her hand from side to side in front of her body, and the Guardian's eye followed the motion.
"Dear Hylia," Zelda muttered. "Do its legs move?"
"If you want them to," Ganondorf replied. He reached around her to indicate the four-pronged directional pad on the screen.
Zelda was tempted, but she decided that it might not be the best idea to have the Guardian careening across the lab while she learned how to control it. She would need to find a way to get it outside. She hit the "deactivate" button and watched as the machine's movement halted. She took a deep breath to calm herself as the lights on its casing faded, but her mind was racing.
"This is amazing," she said, unable to contain her excitement. "With those segmented legs, it can move across all sorts of terrain, and it tracked my motion perfectly. It seems to be programmed with a user recognition function. These devices were intended to be war machines, but think of their practical uses. If they can be controlled remotely, they can work alongside people. Can you imagine?" Zelda knew she was rambling, but she didn't care. "No one has been able to do anything with ancient technology since the Calamity, almost certainly. But this Guardian is something tangible, something we can show people. Or, no, I'm getting ahead of myself. It should be kept secret, but…"
But what? There must be a reason why the Sheikah were keeping their research on ancient technology out of the public eye. Was it really as her father had said, that suspicion of an impending calamity would create civil unrest? But what if there was no calamity? What if the perceived need for secrecy truly was nothing more than superstition?
"There are Guardians all around Hyrule," Ganondorf said. "It would cause no harm if one of them were to start moving. A secret can only be kept for so long. There's no sense in delaying the inevitable."
"Appropriating classified state property isn't ideal," Zelda objected. "And making a public demonstration of magic isn't a crime, exactly, but…"
Ganondorf stepped toward her. She returned his phone, and he took the opportunity to place his hand on the small of her back, pulling her closer. "Behind every great fortune is a crime," he murmured. He kissed her once, gently, his lips barely lingering on hers. It was a question, and she was glad to answer.
"Well then," she replied, her lips a mere moment away from his. Whatever doubts she had concerning the validity of her research had evaporated in the brilliant glow of the Guardian's light. A discovery like this could change history, and she was right at the center of it. Zelda smiled. "I say we make our fortune."
Ganondorf kissed her again, slowly and deliberately. There was no awkwardness, and nothing to explore. He knew her, and he wanted her.
He drew her to him with a sweet, careful slowness. Zelda relaxed against him, allowing herself to be held. "Why do you keep coming after me?" she asked.
"I don't understand it, but you fascinate me," he breathed into her ear, taking her hand and guiding it onto his cock, stiff and pulsing with his heartbeat beneath the fabric of his suit pants. She looked up to face him, and he kissed her again, as softly as a sigh.
She trailed her fingers along the length of his shaft. He tensed before embracing her with a renewed fierceness, pushing her back against the Guardian. His eyes seemed to shine as he bent over her, possessively surrounding her with his body.
He knew exactly what to do with his hands, touching her where she needed to feel him. Her entire body felt flushed. Warm tendrils of pleasure snaked across her skin and made her throb between her legs. Ganondorf's breath was hot against her skin as he placed kisses along her jaw. "I want to take you home," he whispered into her ear in a low voice that made her so hot she could hardly stand it. "I want to take my time with you."
Zelda shivered as she wondered how his hands would feel against her bare skin. It was difficult to hold still as her desire swelled. She rocked against his hardness. He groaned low in his throat. "Let me take you home, Zelda."
"Will you become a monster?"
"If that's what you want."
What she wanted was for him to take her then and there, but she forced herself to push him back. "No, I'm serious."
He grasped her hand and placed her palm against his chest before using the tip of his finger to draw a triangle on her skin. It might have been her imagination, but the shape seemed to glimmer with a golden sheen.
"There's only one way to find out."
She knew how dangerous this was. "Are you using me?" she asked, feeling his heartbeat thick and steady through the hot length pressed against her. "Are you seducing me just to see what will happen?"
"I would never harm you." He kissed her, his tongue sweet on her lips. "I would be lying if I said I didn't want to know what will happen, but I'm not using you. Not for this. I want you to use me. Let yourself use me, Zelda."
She rolled her hips against him once more. He grit his teeth, and his grip tightened. His struggle to hold himself back was unbelievably erotic.
Zelda wanted him as much as he wanted her, but she wouldn't be satisfied by his body alone. She wanted his beautiful apartment, the fine clothing he wore, the confidence he exuded as he moved through the world, the sureness of his speech. She wanted his magic, and she wanted his power. She wanted everything, and she was willing to take it. If he turned into a monster, she was prepared for that as well. This was what her dreams and visions had been preparing her for, but the man who held her was not a hallucination, not when his hands and lips were so hot on hers. He may have been born from her nightmares, but she had no interest in running, not when she held the most vulnerable part of him in her hand.
"Take me home, then. Do it quickly." She bit his bottom lip. "Do it now."
He kissed her again and did as she asked, embracing her as he took her into the Twilight.
After a few minutes, the motion-sensitive lights in the empty room clicked off.
The deserted lab was still and silent save for the soft hum of cooling fans. The gentle darkness lingered until, almost imperceptibly, the Guardian began to glow. The illuminated lines swirling across its ceramic casing gradually grew brighter as a poisonous magenta crept into the cyan streams. A faint humming echoed across the concrete floor, and the machine's single eye blinked open as its spidery legs twitched in anticipation.