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Disclaimer: I don't own The Legend of Zelda. I'm just borrowing.

Author's Note: A re-post. The original was irritating me.

Swordplay, Wordplay, and Her Worshipfulness

by Startide Risen

"Why are you making me do this?" Zelda demanded.

Across the way, Link sighed and lowered his practice sword. "I've explained this. Because you need to learn how to defend yourself."

She lowered her own blunt's point to the ground, resisting the temptation to slouch on it. "Link, listen to me. I will say this one more time, and one more time only," she said slowly. "I know how to defend myself. I spent seven years in another timeline learning the arts of the Sheikah from Impa. I do not need to spend several hours in a practice arena learning the art of being sweaty from you."

"Learning swordplay, Princess," he insisted. "Swordplay. See, I have a sword, you have a sword, and we practice with them, like we're trying to kill each other, except we're not." He shifted his weight uncertainly, looking a bit disturbed by the death glare she gave him. "Or maybe we are. I'm not so sure anymore."

The death glare melted into a raised eyebrow at that. "Here's the concise version:" she told him. "No."

"What's the verbose version?"

"Hell, no."

"Ah. I see," he said, nodding pensively at her. "Well, in that case, here's what we'll do. If you can get past me and out of the arena with your sword still in hand, lesson's over. If not, I get to keep you here for another hour."

She sighed. "Why are you always so difficult?"

"Difficult?" he said, sounding slightly offended. "I must be slacking off. With a little more effort I can be impossible."

"I'm sure you can," she said dryly, but any real venom was lost in her smile.

"So, what do you say?" he said, stepping back and sinking into a ready stance.

She raised an eyebrow. "You realize this is not even remotely fair. You being the acknowledged lord of all things swordly and me a poor beginner."

"Fine, then, I'll fight right-handed," he shrugged, switching his grip indifferently.

"How generous of you," she said sardonically. The ambidextrous moron just laughed at her. "Fine. But there is a condition."

"If it's that you get to snog me if you win, no deal."

"Shut up," she said, eyes narrowed dangerously. She disliked the public's persistent belief that she and Link were romantically involved. The last thing she wanted was to hear more charming insinuations from him. "It's this: you may not complain if I use—how did you phrase it?—my 'cheap little ninja tricks.'"

"Most of those involve throwing stars," he pointed out with a shrug. "All you've got is a big heavy blunt, so I figure I'm safe. The only rules are the ones already stated. Oh, yes, and no killing, maiming, or disfiguring of any kind."

"Right, then," she said, stepping into a comfortable stance and raising her sword. "I'm ready."

"Good," he said shortly, sinking into his own ready stance.

And then he was utterly still.

It was disconcerting, the way he stood staring and supernaturally motionless. She waited half a minute for him to make the first move, but he didn't twitch. He didn't even appear to be breathing as far as she could tell. It was quite creepy. "Link?" No response. Not even a blink. "Link, are you conscious?" Still nothing. "This is not amusing." He didn't move. She knew something was wrong when that sentence got no response. She relaxed her stance with exasperation and stalked over to him. "Would you just—"

His blunt flashed up in one lightning movement, caught her sword, and sent it flying out of her hands. She glared furiously as it hit the ground a few feet away. But Link didn't bother with the customary blade-at-throat-do-you-yield routine. No, he was too busy laughing at her.

"The look on your face!" he crowed, dropping his sword to hold his ribs and point at her. "Oh, that was priceless. Priceless!"

Zelda stared him down, arms crossed imperiously. "You. Little. Rat."

"Patience is a virtue," he chuckled, shooting her a trademark smirk.

He was still laughing when she tackled him.

"Very unladylike, Zelda," he panted, winded on his back in the middle of the sword arena. She leaned over him ominously.

"Just you try pulling something like that again, Hero."

She pushed herself to her feet, dusted off her borrowed tunic and breeches, and stared down her nose at him with great satisfaction. "Well, shall we try this again, since you cheated the first time?" she said, retrieving her sword and flourishing it casually.

He pushed himself to his feet and grinned at her with all the dignity he could manage. "You really want to be disarmed twice in five minutes?"

"I have no intention of losing my weapon a second time, Hero," she informed him seriously. "Now pick up your sword." She waved her own in the general direction of his weapon for emphasis.

"Yes, Your Worshipfulness," he muttered as he lifted his sword and shook the dust off it. He raised a cocksure eyebrow at her and sank into a ready stance again. "You sure you want to do this again?"

"No, I think I ought to reconsider. I'm frightened out of my wits at the very prospect of fighting you. And with a bated sword, too! These things are dangerous—so sharp and likely to kill me."

"Point taken, Zelda, point taken…"

And then he was moving, his sword flashing in the afternoon sun, and she had to admire her warrior. It was immediately obvious that had he been making a serious effort she would not have lasted five seconds. As it was, it was taking all she had to block his blows, keep her balance, and hang onto her sword.

Rather than fight him on his terms, she spun lithely away from him and tried to loop around to the gate. Just as quickly, he blocked her progress. She tried the other way; that didn't work either. She backpedaled, waited until he followed her up, then sprang sideways and made a dash for the gate. He caught her and engaged her again before she could make it.

The gate was no longer looking like a viable option for escape. He would never let her past him. But wait... why bother with the gate?

She grinned briefly and started to back off again. He raised an eyebrow but maintained his casual attack. The fence inched closer behind her. She was within two feet of it when she gathered herself, tensed, and flipped gracefully up and backwards over the rail. For an instant, she was beautifully airborne.

And then the glory and satisfaction of the moment were slightly dampened by a fantastically graceless landing. Her right foot bent beneath her awkwardly, sending her sprawling on her back, and pain ripped through her ankle. She lay winded for a moment, gasping out something along the lines of: "Oh, sweet Nayru, stupid cursed ow…"

"Cheating!" Link was yelling as he vaulted over the fence. "Cheating, I say!"

"You said to get out of the arena, you never mentioned using the gate," she snapped, pushing herself upright painfully. Fire bloomed through her ankle when she moved it.

Immediately the lighthearted accusation fled his eyes, and he dropped to his knees in front of her. She reached impulsively for her right ankle—to do what, she didn't know—and he held her fast by the wrists. "Slowly," he warned. "Now what did you hurt?"

"My ankle. I think I've sprained it," she said, exasperated with herself. "I shouldn't have tried that. Not when I'm so out of practice…"

"Anything else?"

Zelda paused to think about it, knowing that it would not pay to lie for pride's sake. "No. That's all. Go on and help me up."

"Help you up?" he echoed. "You want to stand on a sprained ankle?"

"I want to go to the infirmary," she corrected. "Standing will be a first step toward that end."

He shook his head and muttered "crazy princess" under his breath (which was not a particularly rare occurrence). But nevertheless he gently helped her to stand on one foot, looking her over and brushing dust and grass off of her. "That wasn't a bad flip, Princess," he said apologetically. "Until that whole gravity thing came into play."

She wasn't entirely sure whether he was making fun of her, so she made no reply. "Do you think you can support my weight on the right side?"

For an answer Link slipped an arm around her shoulders, bent down to slip the other one behind her knees, and swept her up into his arms in one motion. "Yeah, I guess I could."

"Very suave, Hero boy," she said. "But I can walk if you'll only lend a little assistance."

"This is assistance," he said, starting up the incline toward the north entrance.

"It's also rather undignified," she said, squirming in his grip. He just laughed and took a firmer hold.

"That, my dear princess," he replied, "is why it's so good for you."

And so it was that the Hero of Time carried the Princess of Hyrule, kicking and complaining, up to her castle.

"You know what the gossips are going to say if they see," she told him as they entered the labyrinthine gardens surrounding the castle. "Those old biddies are already too fond of their little theories about us. I'm not all that eager to give them more material, are you? And," she added almost as an afterthought, "you know Father won't like it."

He frowned. "You never used to worry too much about what he thought."

She paused, taking a quick breath. "It… it matters more now. With him sick."

"Yeah, I can see how it would. Just…"

"Just what?" she asked quietly.

"I don't know why you care so much what people think of you."

"I have little other choice," she said, her voice frosty enough to stop him in his tracks and command his full attention.

"I don't see why," he replied, and, detecting a definite coolness in his voice, she bristled.

"He's my father, he has expectations of me," she snapped.

"So he controls every aspect of your life?" hesaid tightly.Zelda hadforgotten how easily his temper was kindled. At the moment, though, she did not really care.

"Link, it's not that simple," she said harshly, pushing away from him to stand on one foot, grasping a thin tree trunkfor support. "He's—he's my father and he's the king and it's—it's complicated!"

"Maybe your relationship with your father shouldn't be that complicated!"

"What would you know about it?"

The moment she said it, she wished she hadn't.

He moved back a step, his face darkened in anger, and then turned around and stalked away from her, leaving her standing holding on to a bush.

"No—" she stammered, going after him and wincing with every step. "No, Link, you are taking this all wrong—I didn't mean that the way it came out." She had meant that he could not understand what it was to be a king's child, but it sounded as though she was referring to the fact that he'd never known his parents.

But he wasn't stopping to let her explain.

"Holy Farore, Link, will you listen to me?"

He stopped, let out an irritated breath, and turned around slowly. "What else could you possibly have to say, Princess?"

She straightened, balancing carefully on one leg and gripping a willow's hanging branches. "I meant," she said slowly, "that you don't know what it's like to have a king for a father." The next bit cost her something. "I'm sorry."

For a moment, he just glared at her, but then his eyes softened and he nodded. "It's…it's okay," he said. "I shouldn't have said what I said, either. 'M sorry."

"No, you didn't—"

"Yeah, I did. About not caring what he thinks. He's your father. He's sick. Of course you care."

"Well, I shouldn't have yelled. That wasdiscourteous of me."

"That's quite all right, my lady," he said, and some of his usual flippancy returned to him. "Your Grace. Majesty. Whatever."

"Highness?" she supplied with a tentative smile.

"That's the one."

"Highness. High-ness. Say it with me now."

"Whatever you say, Your Worshipfulness."

She just shook her head. Some things never changed.

He offered her his arm when she refused to be carried, letting her lean heavily on him every other step. He held her steady while she struggled down the garden's flower-lined walkways on one foot.

"You know, we can't keep indulging that little habit of ours," she told him, snatching at a nearby hedge to keep her balance.

"Do what? Fight?" he said, carefully pulling her upright again.

"No. Argue like children, make up in as few words as possible, and then go right back to teasing each other."

"You'd rather we fell into a pit of repentant despair?"

She raised an eyebrow at his word choice. "'Pit of repentant despair?' Am I rubbing off on you?"

He mock-shivered. "Din forbid."

Her mouth was halfway open and the customary comeback was on her lips, but she stopped herself. "You know, jokes won't always make everything better," she said instead.

Link stopped, giving her an odd look. Then a smile tugged at just one side of his mouth, and he leaned down and squeezed the air out of her lungs in a rib-breaking hug so tight that she let out a surprised squeak. He kissed her forehead quickly before he let her go. "Does partially crushing you make everything better?"

She smiled in spite of herself, catching her breath and reaching up to rub at the place where he'd kissed her. "You know, I think it does."

"Hey, are you wiping that off?" he demanded.

"No, just… spreading it around a little bit," she said with a light shrug, turning up the path again.

"You can walk all right now?" he said, raising a doubtful eyebrow as she nearly tripped over her own feet.

She glanced over her shoulder at him. "Whether I can or not, I refuse to let you carry me past my father's soldiers."

"Hey, those poor guards are awfully underpaid," he said, ambling along a few steps behind her. "The least we can do is amuse them."

"Do you like breathing, Link?"

"It's a pastime."

"Then don't even think about it." But as soon as she looked back at him to say this, she promptly leaned on her bad foot, yelped loudly, and fell into the nearest camellia bush.

Link let out a long-suffering sigh. "Come here, you stubborn, spoilsport, prissy princess," he said, extricating her from the plant and ducking under her arm to hold her up. "Before you take a swan dive into the moat and I have to jump in and save you."

She gave him a wry little smile as he picked a leaf out of her hair. "My hero," she said sardonically, rolling her eyes.

He shrugged, starting off for the north gate again with one hand at her waist and the other securing her arm over his shoulders. "My princess."

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