Disclaimer: I don't own Zelda. I'm just borrowing.
Summary: A re-written excerpt from the lives of the Zelda characters.
Author's Note: I tried to make it better. Really I did. But it was stubborn and pointless and plotless and... Suffice it to say, I'm not happy with it, but I'm tired of fighting with it, so it's back.
by Startide Risen
Zelda had always been fond of these summer nights, when she could throw open her windows and let the curtains flutter in a balmy breeze. She would curl into the sheets and stare out at the blue-black sky, letting her eyes trace constellations. It was exquisite, and somehow profound, how many of them there were. The Northern Lantern, traveler's friend and guide. Wystan the Great, conqueror and king. The red phoenix, her own birthstar. Link had taught her the names of most of them. A few more Impa had shown her.
Tonight she had abandoned her silk sheets in favor of a deep armchair and a heavy tome entitled Verain: A History. In two weeks she would be leaving for the small mining nation to settle a trade agreement and she wanted to be well-informed. This, among other preparations, would keep her busy until she left.
She fell into a half-doze, fingers still poised to turn a page, and the candlelight flickered for a moment. A rythmic knock on the door, like a line of music, broke through her reverie. She looked up, smiling faintly in recognition.
"Come in," she called. The heavy door creaked open and a rather battered-looking Hero of Time leaned his head in. "Hey," she said, closing the book in her lap.
"Hey," he breathed, offering her a tired sort of smile in return. "Am I disturbing you?"
"Not at all," she assured him, setting the book on a nearby table. In a very unladylike manuever, she slid right down the front of her chair to kneel on the rug instead. She settled her robes around her and patted the space beside her commandingly. "Sit."
There was no arguing with queens. He sat.
"So," she said, giving him a once-over and prodding an ugly bruise on his arm. "Who beat you up?"
"No one beat me up," he told her, pushing her hand away before she could do anything particularly painful.
"It was Malon, wasn't it?" she said accusingly, swatting his arm and continuing her prodding and examining. She lifted the hem of his shirt to find more bruises on his ribcage.
"No," he said, drawing out the word as long as he could and grabbing her by both wrists. "It was another dear redhead, wielding a practice sword…"
"Ah, I see. You were sparring with Nabooru again." Zelda freed her arms from his grip and folded her legs in front of her.
"Yes," he said, sounding as though he wished he hadn't.
"She beat you."
"You say that as if you were there and I wasn't," he said defensively, tugging his shirt back down. "Maybe she didn't beat me. Maybe I kicked her butt so bad she walked out of the arena crying."
Zelda paused, drew in a breath, and pretended to consider the matter. "No," she concluded. "No, she beat you."
He sighed. "Yeah. She beat me. Both figuratively and literally." He turned, swung his legs out in front of him, and lay back with his head in her lap.
"You could have just said so," Zelda murmured.
"Hmm. No, I couldn't have."
"And you really don't need to sound so sour about it."
He twisted in her lap to send her an indignant look. "She smacked me multiple times with a heavy piece of metal and I'm not supposed to sound sour about it?"
She frowned down at him. "Link, you knew it could lead to pain when you took up her offer. I warned you about this, did I not?"
A pause. "You did."
"I told you I didn't want to hear any whining, did I not?"
Another pause. "You did that, too."
"So why are you whining?"
"Because it's fun," he answered cheerfully.
"Well, don't," she said haughtily, waving an imperious hand. He choked on a laugh; it never failed to amuse him when she played Empress of the Universe.
"Yes, ma'am," he muttered. Rather than acknowledge him, she bit her lip, cocked her head to the side, and examined the top of his head.
"What was it you came in here to talk about?" she asked him softly. He was silent for so long she almost wondered whether he had heard her.
"What do you think is the most important thing in the world?" he finally asked.
She looked at him strangely. "Nabooru must've hit you harder than I thought."
"No, I mean it," he pressed earnestly, and she saw in his face that this was, somehow, very important to him. Her expression grew serious.
"That's a hard thing you're asking me," she told him. "There are a lot of super-important things out there. Lots of causes with hundreds of believers and prayers and lives to their name."
"Pick one," he said, and she felt him shrug. "Whichever one you think is most important."
"I don't know… love, maybe? Or… truth? Justice? Life? You can't ask me to just—just pick one, just like that."
He nodded, seeming to accept that, and they were both quiet for a long time. She reached over for her book on the bedside table and balanced it open atop his head. She bit her lip, waiting. Three… two… one…
"So nice to see I'm useful," he commented dryly. She smiled.
"Yes, well, I had to do something with you, didn't I?" she said serenely.
"What, the grand, torrid love affair isn't enough?"
The unbelievable suggestion froze her tongue. Her mouth worked, but her mind was drawing a huge blank. Link watched, vastly amused, as she turned a rather interesting shade of red and the heat rose in her face.
"Where the hell did that come from?" she finally managed.
He laughed. "Come now, Queenie, it's a widely held belief that you and I sleep together regularly."
"But--but--what gave anyone that idea?"
"Well, that's apparently what your guards assume when I come in here at night," he said matter-of-factly.
"And exactly how much have you done to correct this impression?" she demanded, rather horrified.
"Run naked through the market screaming, 'I don't sleep with Zelda!'" he said glibly. She glared. He rolled his eyes. "I tell them the truth when they ask me for it, but people generally believe what they want to believe. You know that."
"Oh, well, that's just lovely…" she muttered, closing her eyes and letting her head fall back against the chair leg. Then something occurred to her, and she sat up straight again, frowning at the top of his head. "Off," she commanded.
"What?" he said, craning his neck to look at her.
"Off!" she repeated, swiping at him as if to brush him off of her lap. He sat up and grudgingly rearranged himself on the rug.
"Zelda…" he groaned. "I was comfy."
"Well, it's stuff like that that makes them think that we—that we—"
"So am I forbidden to come in your room from now on, too?"
"Well, maybe you should be, if it's going to start people thinking--"
"Why do you care so much what they think?" He threw the question at her, meeting her gaze squarely.
"Because—because they're supposed to respect me!"
"They do. That idea doesn't change anything for them. In fact," he said, pulling a face as though the concept were rather distasteful, "they think it's sweet."
"But it's not true!" she protested shrilly.
"I know it's not!"
She paused and shook her head, disgust all over her face. "It makes me feel… like they think I'm… like they think I'm cheap." For the first time he looked sympathetic.
"You're nothing of the sort, Zelda," he said. "You know that. They know it, too."
"Then why do they--"
"Zelda. You can't change it. You can't make it stop. Why worry about it?"
"No. No buts. Stop it with the buts."
She shot him an accusatory glare. "You just want my lap back."
"How did you know?" he said lightly, twisting around and settling his head back into said lap.
"I see all, I know all," she replied dully. "You know, omniscience and everything."
"Is that the thing where you're all-powerful?"
Zelda let out a slow sigh. She knew, really, that all the protests in the world could never stem the mighty flow of gossip. She gave the top of Link's head a rueful glance. Damn him. She hated it when he was right.
She opened her book on top of his head again, but this time he failed to produce a smart-ass comment. She shrugged mentally and settled in to read.
Maybe five minutes had gone by when he leaned his head back and said, "You sure you can't pick one?"
"Hmm?" she murmured, saving the book before it fell.
"You sure you can't pick a Most Important Thing?"
She sighed and closed the book, letting it balance on his forehead and nose. He muttered something that sounded vaguely like "I can't see."
"You really, really want me to choose one thing more worthy than everything else?" she said. The book wobbled. Apparently he had nodded. "Well, then… Love, I guess. I don't know. Isn't there something in the Mudora--'and the greatest of these is love'?"
"Never glanced in the Mudora," he said dismissively. "But... love?"
"Yeah. Sure. Love."
"'S funny…" he murmured.
She frowned. "How is it funny?"
"Somebody asked me that today. What the most important thing in the world is. And I laughed and asked if they really wanted to hear it from me. But… that was the first thing I thought of, too. Love. And then Nabooru said something, during the spar. She said, 'I used to think my pride was worth fighting for. Then I lost my freedom.'"
"Nabooru said that?"
"Yeah. I was kind of surprised, myself."
"It is a bit..."
"I was going to say 'uncharacteristic.'"
"So… freedom," Zelda whispered, looking rather troubled. "I wonder why I hadn't thought of it."
Link bit his lip, knowing exactly why neither of them had thought of it but hesitant to lay it out for her.
She did it for him when she murmured, a little mischeivously, "Are we free?"
He smiled to himself beneath the book. "Chained to destiny, Queenie."
When she spoke, he was pleasantly surprised to hear nothing like cynicism in her voice. "Yes... I suppose we are," she said thoughtfully. "Oh, well."
"'Oh, well?'" he demanded with a laugh. "That is the sum of your feeling on the subject?"
"You can't change it. You can't make it stop. Why worry about it?"
He gaped for less than two seconds--any longer and the book would have fallen off his face. And then he started laughing.
Queenie just smiled to herself.