A/N: I don't won legend of Zelda nor anything associated with the franchise. Zelda belongs to Nintendo.
Guns and Roses
Link Forester lay on his back staring up at a wooden ceiling from the inside of a jail cell, contemplating the cards life had dealt him. Yes sir, it had definitely been an off year and he was quite astonished, which was the nice way of putting it. He'd been caught red-handed on an easy job. Now, Link wasn't the most honest man one would ever come across, he'd be the first to admit that, but he was no criminal. Being a bounty hunter had its ups and downs he supposed. The pay was fairly good, especially when you worked for the right people. Catching the bad guys also gave one a sense of satisfaction. So what if you had to break a few rules here and there. What did it matter how you brought down the fugitive as long as you brought him down? Unfortunately, you made a few enemies along the way, and some of those enemies happened to work under law enforcement agencies. Or above them.
He supposed, having a rather large price on his head himself, it was only a matter of time. Link just hadn't expected it to be any time soon. He'd contemplated breaking out several times, seeing as how picking the lock was a no brainer, if given a sufficient amount of time. Not to mention the jailhouse was old and had seen better days. But he had his reasons.
Link then heard the front door to the jailhouse open, and in walked the woman who had caught him, rather embarrassingly, on the job and hauled him in for "questioning."
The Sheriff herself.
Zelda took off her hat and glanced rather disgustedly around the small room. Being over twenty miles from the nearest city that held a decent police station was certainly a disadvantage for the small town of Kokiri. Several times she had put in a request for a better jailhouse, rather then the old, rusted down one she currently ran. She glanced at the two cells, one of which was occupied by a wanted man, and sighed in frustration. The bars were rotting and the locks looked to be at least half a century old. She wondered if they could keep anybody in at all.
Zelda reached down and checked her revolver for ammunition. She would no doubt have to use it if anything went wrong and she wanted to be prepared. If a convict were to ever escape, her occupation as the sheriff of Kokiri would undoubtedly be questioned. There were still a few townsfolk who disliked the idea of a woman sheriff and would gladly offer an excuse to replace her. But Zelda had proven herself on a number of occasions, and quickly made a name for herself in the small town of Kokiri. There was also the fact that law enforcement was a bit short on hands and needed most of their men in Hyrule.
She heard a rustling noise and glanced over at the man in the cell closest to her. He was reclining leisurely on the small bench he was given, staring back at her from under his hat with a knowing smile before inclining his head.
Zelda glared at him before walking over to the big desk, only a few feet away from the two cells that lined the wall and sat down exhausted. Normally she didn't have to pull an overnighter, seeing as how she rarely had to arrest anyone, but duty calls.
"So what exactly are my rights again?" he spoke casually. Zelda hadn't dignified him with an answer and instead decided she might as well get some of the paperwork done. Making an arrest was rather annoying in that department.
Link was not put off.
"So don't I get a phone call or something?"
Zelda answered without looking up, "No phones in this town. Too old fashioned. Until I receive a written notice on what exactly you're wanted for and the charges you owe, I'm afraid you're stuck with me."
Link shrugged. "Fine by me. The room's a bit drafty, and it isn't much to brag about comfort-wise." He looked back over at Zelda and smirked. "The view ain't too bad." Zelda's left eye twitched in annoyance. Was it legal to gag a prisoner for disturbing the peace? Particularly hers?
The convict grinned. Annoying the sheriff was fast becoming one of Link's favorite pastimes. After all, it was her fault that he was here. He might as well make her miserable. Link gave a gentle knock on the cell door.
"You see this bar here?" he gestured with his hand. "It's rusted to the core. On a particular spot, with just the right amount of pressure, it'll easily give way." He then gestured to the lock on the left side of the cell door. "Now this lock is old fashioned and can easily be picked but seeing as how it's also got a bit of wear on it, I have no doubt the right amount of force and acceleration will give this sucker a run for its money." Link paused, contemplating. "Assuming I don't dig my way out first."
Zelda slammed her fist on the desk.
"If you're so confident why don't you just try it? It would give me an excuse to shoot you."
Link gave an impish grin that annoyed Zelda to no end. "Now you insult me. I'm not so unreasonable as to risk you planting a bullet in my hide. But I don't deny your jailhouse is in dire need of refurbishing."
Zelda groaned and pressed her fingers to the throb in her left temple. She was definitely having a bad week. Why was she allowing herself to get so riled up? She barely had time to think before he started talking again.
"You probably don't make much as a sheriff. Only what the government can afford to give you."
Zelda shifted. "It's enough."
Link stared at her. Almost anyone was willing to cave under money, so long as it was the right amount. The question was, was sheriff Zelda Harkinian one of them?
"Tell you what. I'm not exactly a wanted murderer so I'll give you an opportunity. You let me out on bail and I don't embarrass you by escaping and ruining that well crafted reputation you've earned over the years."
Zelda held a deadpan expression. "You're trying to bribe me."
Link shrugged. "Think of it as letting me out on bail. Name your price."
Zelda stared at him. He didn't honestly believe she would let him go over something so simple such as money? Did he take her for a fool? She sat back, and crossed her arms seeing no harm in lying to a convict.
"5,000 rupees," she said with a smirk.
"5,000 rupees!" Link growled. "You can't be serious. That's robbery."
Zelda shrugged. "We need a new jailhouse."
The sheriff and the convict sat in silence for a while before the door opened and in walked none other than the mayor of Kokiri himself. And trailing behind him was little Marin Elliot, the daughter of the mayor's best friend, Tarin. Zelda stood, smiling at the man who'd been like a father to her and the young girl whom she'd watched grow from infancy. She assumed the mayor was on babysitting duty today.
"Mr. Mayor. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
The mayor nodded in acknowledgment while Marin gave Zelda a shy smile. "Sheriff. Got some background on your charge. Apparently we have in our possession Red himself! He's got quite the list racked up. Never seen a list so long in my 56 years! I'd keep an eye on that one sheriff."
Zelda frowned as she looked over the many-faults of one Link Forester aka Red, the supposedly uncatchable criminal, who's known for his superb skill with a gun. She glanced at the said criminal and Zelda felt a satisfied smirk come over her face. She knew he wasn't just some troublemaker.
Link sat in silence, listening to the conversation. So he'd been found out. He'd hoped to escape before they knew his true identity. Now the Sheriff would finally be informed of the extent of his law-breaking career. He was surprised to find himself frowning at the thought.
"Thank you mayor. I appreciate your help since we're so short on hands. When will the Hyrule officials be here to pick him up?"
Link almost jumped at the news. He was being transferred to the Hyrule prison? He shuddered thinking about it. He'd been in their care once before and, to his horror, their methods of extracting information weren't what one would call ethical. He glanced over and noticed the young girl staring curiously at him while playing with her skirt. He couldn't help the smile that formed.
"They'll be here three days from now. And they're sending quite a few men, or so I heard. Apparently our Link here has escaped their grasp a number of times."
Zelda shot a look over at Link, who stared back at her, an innocent expression plastered on his face. The mayor too glanced over thoughtfully. "You sure you're going to be alright by yourself?"
Zelda stiffened at the question. "I can handle him."
The mayor smiled while shaking his head. "Stubborn as your father. Always were. I remember when he first taught you how to shoot and what a natural you were." Zelda smiled affectionately at the memory. She was only eight years old but she had the eye of a hawk. By the age of 12 she had surpassed her dad in skill and was the best shot in town. Her father was so proud of her abilities and told her she was like a thorned rose. Beautiful but deadly.
Zelda was brought out of her thoughts when the mayor grunted before rubbing the back of his neck. "Zelda, there's something you should know." Zelda heard the worry in his voice and looked up from the charge papers in question. The mayor wore a troubled expression.
"There's been rumor of The Five Brothers gang being spotted a town over."
Zelda stared at the mayor with a blank expression but Link could tell that she was troubled. He knew about The Five Brothers band and had the unfortunate privilege of meeting them firsthand. They were definitely a group one didn't want to get involved with. Rumor was the head brother, Vaati, was under the protection of a powerful politician and did most of his dirty work. Link wondered what they were doing in a town so far from Hyrule.
"Thank you, Mayor. I'll be sure to keep an eye out for them." The Mayor nodded once before tipping his hat. "Well then I'll just leave you to it then. Good day Sheriff. Link." And with that, the mayor left the jailhouse, Marin trailing behind him after waving goodbye. Zelda returned to her desk to review the charges. She new the notorious Red was quite the scoundrel, but she hadn't expected him to be guilty of so many charges. He broke just about every rule in the book, sparing no expense.
"So what's the verdict Sheriff? Don't tell me I haven't made an impression on you."
"Theft, trespassing, vandalism, disorderly conduct… Mr. Forester, or should I say Mr. Red, you've got enough charges to fill several lifetimes of criminal records. We'd be obliged to lock you up for the rest of your life."
"Honey, you can lock me up whenever you want to."
Zelda grounded her teeth in annoyance. She was usually more even-tempered than this and was ashamed to admit that she was sorely tempted to take a bullet to him. Just one.
As she read a sudden thought occurred. Looking over at the outlaw, she debated on whether or not to voice her question. Red was known for his many amazing jailbreaks and his superb skill at gun fighting. Why was he given the name Red? Was it because of the amount of blood he had on his hands? Did the letters stand for something? Were the stories of him true? Curiosity overran pride as she asked hesitantly, "Is…is it true that you can shoot the trigger finger off a man over a hundred yards away?"
Link's passive expression turned to amusement and Zelda wished she could take back such a stupid question.
"Why Sheriff, I'm flattered that you would think me capable of such a talent."
"Just answer the damn question," she said, riled.
"Sorry to disappoint you Sheriff, but the deed's impossible. Even if the wind was calm and you had eyes sharper than a double-edged sword, the odds would be one in a thousand." Zelda frowned and returned to the list somewhat disappointed and a bit relieved before spotting an unusual misdemeanor.
"Impersonation and identity theft of Mido, guard to the Deku Tree?"
Link winced before laughing. "Yeah. Poor Mido. I wonder if he ever forgave me."
Zelda looked up before narrowing her eyes. "It's a wonder nobody's turned you in for the reward money sooner. I would've."
Link almost looked hurt by that. "Why sheriff. After all the fun we've had so far? I guess I understand. The life of a bounty hunter doesn't allow much room for friendship." Link noticed Zelda's shocked look. He enjoyed surprising her.
"You're a bounty hunter?"
Link smirked. "Impressed sheriff?"
Zelda scowled at his pompous attitude. "Disgusted. How can anyone kill for a living?"
Link lied back on his bench, hands behind his head and shrugged. "You get used to it. I'm not usually hired to kill. Mostly just to bring them in." When he noticed Zelda expression unchanged, he smiled. "Don't worry. They were all bad guys."
Zelda shook her head, setting the paper she held on the table. "You don't have the right to decide that. You're a law unto yourself." She noticed Link's form stiffen, and felt a sense of satisfaction. She must've hit a spot.
Zelda didn't think he was going to answer until he sighed. "I've seen too many people get put away or hanged for crimes they didn't commit to care about that anymore, Sheriff." His voice held a sense of regret, and Zelda was slightly taken back. But she could also detect the hopelessness behind his words and the unfairness of it all.
"I'm surprised you know so much about the law, seeing as how you're so good at breaking it," she pointed out.
Link was silent before he finally decided to speak again.
"Let me ask you this. Why do you put so much faith in your law?" When Zelda looked up, he continued, "I'll tell you what your law is. The government is made up of a bunch of power hungry politicians who bend the rules for their own selfish gain. And then new ones come along and overthrow them and change the rules once more. They do with you what they want and anyone who stands in their way disappears or ends up at the bottom of lake Hyrule." Link narrowed his eyes with intensity. "And you would protect that ideal?"
Zelda looked away in thought. "People need something to believe in."
Link snorted. "People are weak."
"People are afraid."
He let out a laugh without humor. "Yeah, they're afraid. And do you know what fear causes? Do you know how low fear can bring a man? I've seen men sell out their own families to save their hide. I've seen people commit murder for less then ten rupees. I'll tell you this Sheriff," He narrowed his eyes with conviction. "Men are wretched beings. We'll do anything for the sake of looking out for number one."
Zelda stared at him. How could a man say such things about his own countrymen? Yes sir, Link Forester was a cynical man, but not by nature. As she stared at the convict across from her, she knew that he had seen and been through horrible, unimaginable things. His eyes told her much, but there were two words she read in particular that seemed to speak loud and clear to her heart: no hope.
"Your wrong," she spoke quietly.
They sat in silence for a while, each wrapped up in their own thoughts. Link could hardly believe Zelda's words were what she truly believed. But she'd said them with such conviction that Link found himself undeniably amazed. She believed in the good in people. That this world was worth saving.
Link frowned at this. He looked over at the woman who was once again sitting at her desk, working diligently. She really was something.
Link felt the unexpected feeling of envy, that someone would give their life to serve a purpose greater than themselves. He knew deep down, that her love for people would get her killed someday. The thought left a bitter taste in his mouth. He turned away, annoyed at the unexpected feeling.
The day passed slowly, and Zelda had given him food from a nearby saloon. It wasn't the best food he'd had the pleasure of tasting, but better than nothing. He just wished the showgirls from the saloon had come with it. Being locked up for two days had made him restless. He'd tried talking to Zelda a few times, but she'd gone back to ignoring him.
His current choices of entertainment were count the number of nails in the wall he could spot, pace back and forth a couple hundred times, or both. He was just about to pick one when a man burst into the jailhouse, eyes as wide as saucers and out of breathe. Zelda immediately stood, placing a hand on the butt of her gun, but remaining calm.
The man was young, no more than 17, with blonde hair and light brown eyes. Once the he was finally able to catch his breathe, he looked up with a troubled expression. "Sheriff. There's a man causing trouble at the saloon just down the street. Says he's been cheated at a game of cards and expects Harry to pay his due. Joe's trying to calm him down–"
Zelda had grabbed her hat and was already out the door, the young blond following her trail. Link thought he could hear yelling as the door to the jailhouse swung shut behind them. Link smiled a bit. He enjoyed a good fight once in a while, though he was never the one to start them. He didn't have to wait long before the door was kicked open and in walked a man with blood dripping from his mouth. He wore black clothing, with only a red bandana hanging around his neck. His hands were cuffed behind his back while his face held a murderous expression. Zelda was the next to enter, one hand on the cuffs that held him, and the other holding her revolver pressed firmly against the man's back. Her expression was also murderous, causing Links lips to curl up in admiration. The man was yelling in slightly slurred voice and Link could smell whisky.
"You'll pay for this Sheriff. I swear! The boss ain't gonna let-"
Zelda shoved him forward in irritation. "Save it, Gringo. I don't give a damn what your boss thinks. You cause trouble in this town, I haul your ass to the slammer. That's how it works. You got a problem with it, you can write a complaint."
"You ain't got no right! I swear your days are numbered sheriff."
She pressed him towards the last empty cell once again, none too gently. He was stumbling and seemed to almost fall before righting himself. She reached down for the keys at her belt to unlock the cell door when her new prisoner pushed backwards and slightly to the side, slamming her into the wall and leaving her breathless. Her hat had fallen a bit, blocking her vision. Swearing, she quickly cocked her gun and righted herself, thinking her prisoner wasn't as drunk as he'd appeared. But to her astonishment, her charge was now slumped on the ground, leaning slightly against Link's cell. Drool fell from his mouth and Zelda could see that he was out cold. She swung her head up only to find Link sitting quietly on his bed, staring at her, the picture of innocence.
"Sheriff. What can I do for you?"
"What the hell happened to my charge?"
Link looked at Gringo, pretending to just notice his unconscious state. "Why Sheriff, it looks like he's currently in a faint."
Zelda glared daggers at him. "How did he get that way?"
Link leaned back, putting his hands behind his head and shrugged one shoulder.
Zelda then gave him a look that told him exactly what she thought about that. Then, grinding her teeth, she bent forward to grab Gringo under the arms, still eyeing Link suspiciously. Dragging the unconscious man to the cell just next to his, Zelda unlocked the door before hauling him the rest of the way. She debated leaving the handcuffs on him, but then decided against it. She would have to take them off later anyways and thought it best to do it while he was still out.
After locking up, she proceeded to walk back to her desk but stopped when she noticed Link's stare.
"I would've handled him," she bit out.
Link's only response was to raise an eyebrow.
Even more annoyed than before, Zelda decided she was simply going to ignore him the rest of the day. She then walked over to her desk and began searching for Gringo's file, hoping it was here. Luckily it was, and she didn't have to go through the trouble of ordering one. Her relief was short lived as she read over the many heinous crimes committed by the man called Gregory Harlequin, also known as Gringo. Said he was a member of the Five Brothers gang, wanted for theft, burglary, and aggravated assault, and murder.
Link noticed how Zelda's face had blanched and knew something was up.
"Hey. What's wrong?"
Zelda glanced up and was surprised at his concerned look. Forgetting her vow to ignore him, she shook her head and answered, "Our Gringo here is a member of the Five Brothers gang." Link felt his own face go white. Despite Zelda's vibrato in front of the mayor, Link could tell she was more than a little worried of the gang causing trouble. The sound of a click broke through his thoughts and he looked over to find Zelda checking her gun for bullets before placing it back in its holster.
"Be right back." And with that she walked out of the jailhouse. Link had almost leapt up and said not to go where he couldn't see her, but then thought better of it. After all, what could he do in his current state of imprisonment? Not a damn thing.
He heard a murmur from the next cell, and looked over to see Gringo stirring in his sleep. To Link's relief, he didn't wake up. It wasn't long before Zelda walked back in looking a bit more relieved.
"Where'd you go?" Link asked.
Zelda looked up and gave him a look that let him know she certainly didn't have to answer to him, but decided to tell him anyway. "I called in for reinforcements." As much as Zelda hated to admit it, even she couldn't handle the remaining four members of the Five Brothers gang should they decide to have a shoot out. But the question was, why hadn't they yet? Gringo hadn't been with anybody at the saloon. Was he alone? Zelda rubbed her eyes in exasperation. She hadn't gotten any sleep the past two days, and it was starting to take effect.
"When will they get here?" Link asked from his cell. Zelda didn't see the need to hide it from him.
"They're sending two hired hands in the morning."
Link looked away. His eyes were hidden beneath his hat, but his set frown was clearly visible.
"That won't be enough," he said quietly.
Zelda cursed. Of course it wouldn't be enough. But there was no guarantee that they'd attack. Zelda just hoped the town wouldn't suffer should they choose to. She couldn't let that happen. She had to think. Not while there was breath left in her would she let anything happen to this town. She swore to herself. She swore to her dad.
"What?" she snapped.
He looked her dead in the eye. "The Brothers have never been one to leave one of their own behind." Zelda knew he was telling the truth. But that still didn't explain–
There was a grunt from the other cell and they both looked over to see that Gringo was coming to. Zelda walked over to look at him, frowning.
"Damn it Link, how hard did you hit him?"
Link smiled at the way she called him by his first name, and how she had missed him calling her by hers earlier. Gringo gurgled and slurred as his eyes opened. He then let out a few curses.
"What the hell? You son of–"
"Mr. Gringo, I suggest you keep your trap shut or I just might put you and Forester here in the same cell." He abruptly shut his mouth, but gave her a fierce look. Link gave her a look of betrayal.
Zelda then walked near his cell, trying to look her meanest. "Now why don't you tell me why you aren't with your buddies."
Gringo sneered, seeing through to her worry. The bastard could probably smell fear by now. "Easy. Was s'pose to go into the nearest town and bring back some booze. Thought I'd stop by for a game of cards while I'm at it. But seeing as how I's aint returning by today, they probably know somethin's up by now."
Zelda turned away, not wanting to look at his snide face. She felt sick.
"You're gonna burn, whore. Nobody messes with us. When Vaati gets his hands on you, you gonna be-"
Link stood up, and Gringo immediately cut off and stumbled back. Link glowered down at him. He's nothing but a coward.
Before anyone could say anything else, there was the slight patter of footsteps outside. Zelda looked up sternly. It was 9 o'clock at night.
Hearing them too, Link cocked his head to the side, listening. He glanced at the window and was barely able to glimpse the silhouette of a man. He felt the blood drain from his face, and he knew it was already too late.
Before Zelda could react, shots rang out forming holes in the front walls of the jailhouse. She swore and ducked down behind her desk on the floor. Whipping out her gun she quickly checked for bullets. Satisfied, she then let out six shots, hoping to let them know she wasn't defenseless.
"Let me out."
Zelda glanced over and saw Link holding two of the cells bars, staring down at her. All traces of his earlier humor were gone.
"I thought you said you could easily get out?" Zelda spat.
"Lied. You'd need a damn sledgehammer to get through these, even if they are rusty."
More shots blasted through the wood above them, leaving dozens of holes in their wake. Zelda swore and quickly loaded up another round. How many of them were there?
"Zelda, let me out."
Link slammed his palm against the cell door.
"Damn it Zelda, I can help you!"
"You'd best be sayin yer prayers, Sheriff," Gringo said with a sneer from the other cell. "'Cause the boss ain't gonna like the trouble you dun caused him. If he don't kill you, he'll find other ways, for a lady such as yourself, to accommodate his–"
Gringo was cut off when Link reached through his cell, grabbed a hold of Gringo's shirt and pulled forward, slamming his forehead against the bars. He dropped like a ton of bricks, consciousness gone. Zelda sat, a bit stunned at seeing Link's full-fledged anger. She wondered vaguely if that was how Link had handled him the first time.
"Was that really necessary, Forester?"
Before Link could respond, another round of bullets sprayed through the walls, causing them to both hit the ground once more. Would the structure even hold?
She let out a few more shots, although she couldn't tell if she was even close to hitting one of them. She couldn't see a damn thing and she didn't dare go near the windows. Willing herself to remain calm, she checked to make sure her keys were still secure at her belt and realized that the shooting had stopped. Before she could decide the best plan of action, a chilling voice rang out in the night.
"You in there, sheriff?" When Zelda didn't answer he continued. "Now it's to my understanding that you got something of ours." She could here the venom in his voice, and knew immediately that it was the leader speaking. He would get what he wanted one way or another.
"Since I'm feeling particularly generous tonight, I'll tell you what I'll do. You let our boy Gringo go free, and we promise not to kill you." Zelda didn't believe him one bit, and even if she did, there was no way she was going to willingly let a murderer go free.
"Don't be a hero, Zelda."
She looked up only to meet a pair of bright blue orbs. He was staring intensely at her, willing her to listen to reason. He wanted her to take the deal.
She looked over her shoulder and yelled out, "There's no chance in hell!"
Link then closed his eyes and leaned his head against the bars. She felt a twinge of compassion for the convict and had an unexpected need to reassure him. Before she could say anything, there was a high-pitched scream from outside the jailhouse sending a jolt of fear down her spine. They wouldn't!
The scream was followed by further shouts of protest before a gunshot sounded, demanding silence.
"Alright Sheriff! I have here a miss Marin whose life, I regret to say, is in your hands." Zelda felt her stomach clench in fear. She could hear the girl's father sobbing outside and his desperate pleas to let her go. She then heard the angry order to shut him up. There was a loud thump and Zelda shot to her feet. She didn't have to hear their explanation to know what they would do to the girl if she didn't cooperate.
"Now I'm going to count to ten and if you're not out here and surrendering by then, I'll blow her brains out." Vaati, the leader himself, held no hesitation and Zelda felt herself shaking.
Looking over at the unconscious Gringo, her heart beat painfully. True, she longed for justice but she longed to protect the town more. Vaati's voice began the count down and she thought she was going to be sick. She knew he wouldn't keep his word not to hurt anyone but what else could she do? Seeing no other solution, she let the bullets drop from her gun and slowly began to walk towards the door.
She stopped just before reaching the door and turned around to meet Link's stare.
"It's going to be okay." His voice held a will of sheer determination and she knew he wasn't just trying to reassure her. He was making a vow.
Then with her chin up, she opened the door and walked outside with her hands up in the air, holding a gun with no bullets.
The town was eerily silent. The only people outside were the four men, Marin, and her father Tarin who was now lying on the ground, unconscious. She felt a pang of sympathy for the little girl, clutched in the hands of one of the brothers, paralyzed with fear. Vaati stood in the middle looking smug and somewhat surprised. Zelda kept walking until she was right in front of him. His skin was a sickly pale color, while his unkempt hair hung down in his face and looked as if it hadn't been washed weeks. But what disturbed her the most were his light brown, almost red-looking eyes that stared hungrily down at her making her shiver in revulsion.
"Well, well. This is a surprise." His voice held a mocking tone and Zelda willed herself to stay focused.
"Let her go."
He cocked his head to the side before he walked up to her and laid his finger against her lips. She willed herself to keep still.
He then reached out and took the gun out of her hands before jerking his head towards the jailhouse. "Inside."
Not wanting to risk Marin's life Zelda obeyed. She looked over at Marin, who's arm was still clutched tightly by one of the other four brothers and gave her what she hoped was a reassuring smile. Vaati quickly whispered for one of the brothers to stand guard as Zelda entered the building once again, dreading what was to come. When she looked over to the two cells, she her breath caught in her throat. The first cell, the one that had formerly held one Link Forester, was empty.
She then heard the brothers enter in behind her, their guns still pointed at her back. Hearing the door close, she slowly turned around. Vaati glanced over at the unconscious Gringo. He held a look of minor annoyance before turning his focus back to Zelda.
"I must say, Sheriff, I'm quite thrilled that you decided to follow in your fathers footsteps. Maybe you can finally pay up for his mistakes."
"Let her go," she repeated, hoping they couldn't here the quiver in her voice.
Vaati looked amused by her plea. "Now, now Zelda," She flinched at the way he said her name so familiarly, "we don't want people thinking I've gone soft, now." He stepped toward her and lifted her chin with the barrel of his gun. "And you know I'm not soft."
Zelda felt she was going to be sick.
He nodded, seeming pleased by her answer. "Now. What will you give me in return for letting her go?" Zelda knew he didn't mean just releasing Gringo. He would demand more than that. She lifted her chin, not letting them see her fear.
"You know what you'll get."
Vaati laughed in pure amusement. "Now that's very tempting." He gave her a meaningful look. "But I already took that." Zelda felt her insides clench at the memory. She heard one of the others snicker, and she felt the familiar feeling of shame and humiliation wash over her.
"Hey boss, we haven't had our turn yet," one of them sneered.
However, one look from Vaati silenced them. He returned those dark eyes back to Zelda, "The keys, if you will, Sheriff." Zelda felt her side but was surprised to look over and find them on her desk. Had she left them there? Impatient, Vaati snatched the keys up and tossed them to one of the others.
"Let him out, Jake."
Zelda watched as the brother known as Big Jay unlocked the door to Gringo's cell. He walked over to the slumped Gringo before giving him a sharp kick. "Get up you lazy ass."
Gringo seemed to awaken before struggling to his feet, his red bandana covering the majority of his face. He seemed to stumble a bit as he followed his brother out of the cell.
Zelda, in sudden realization, felt her heart skip a beat.
"We told you to come straight back with the booze and now you've gone and-" Big Jay would've continued but the man supposed to be Gringo had slipped his gun from its holster and slammed the butt against Big Jay's temple. With a grunt, the large man went down fast hitting the floor with a thud. Vaati was so stunned that Link was already upon him. Remembering his training, Link rushed Vaati before he had a chance to recover, pinning him against the wall in a vice grip. Grabbing hold of the head brother's arm he twisted with brute strength, gaining a painful curse from Vaati before dropping the gun. He quickly kicked the weapon aside before shouting, "Zelda!"
But the head brother wasn't about to be outdone so quickly.
Zelda, in understanding, took advantage of the distraction and charged toward the man holding Marin and threw herself against him with as much force as she could muster. They fell to the floor in a heap and Zelda noticed the man's bewildered look. She heard the gun go off with a bang, causing a momentary jolt of panic. The little girl screamed and for a second, Zelda feared she had been hit. But relief filled her when she noticed the girl was merely stunned. Acting fast, she went for the gun still held tightly in the man's hand. Grabbing the man's wrist in a vice grip, she yelled for Marin to run outside. Unfortunately, Marin was too frightened could do nothing but cry. She was vaguely aware of several gunshots behind her but paid them no head. Zelda then felt the man she was currently on top of regain his senses and use his other hand to grab hold of her shirt. He pulled hard, trying to get her to let go but Zelda held tight to his wrist, willing her strength to hold. But to her horror, the brother's strength was too much and began pushing the barrel in her direction. Summoning up all her strength, Zelda let go of his wrist and, using her now free hand, slammed her palm as hard as she could against the man's throat. The man's eyes widened in surprise and pain before slumping back into an unconscious state.
Feeling her strength finally give way, Zelda slumped forward in exhaustion and relief. But before she could celebrate, she felt an unsettling pressure at her temple. Someone then gripped her arm painfully and before she knew it, she was being hauled to her feet.
"Alright you! Drop it or I'll blow her head off!"
No! In her desperate attempt to save Marin she forgot about the fifth brother standing guard outside. She weakly attempted to jerk her arm away but the brother just held tighter effectively cutting off the circulation in her arm. Why was she so dizzy? Everything was swaying and sweat kept running in her eyes. Zelda tried to bring her vision into focus as she searched around for Link. She was relieved to find that Marin was no longer in the jailhouse and had probably gotten away. She then looked over at Link who was across the room holding Vaati in a death grip and staring back at her with the brother holding a gun to her head.
"Didn't you hear? I said drop the gun or the Sheriff here-"
Link dropped the gun before he could finish while letting go of Vaati. The head brother shoved him away roughly before bending to pick up the weapon. He half-sneered-half-smiled at Link.
"Didn't know you were such a softy Red." He quickly checked the gun and frowned before walking over to the brother holding her.
"You alright boss? I thought you was-"
"Shut up!" he snarled before yanking his head towards the door. "Go get the horses." He then proceeded to point his gun at her as the brother ran outside to do his masters bidding. Link shifted his feet, his eyes glancing around trying to figure out a way out of this for both of them. Vaati's eyes kept darting between Link and Zelda before they finally landed back on her.
"You know you're coming with me, and this time we're going to have a lot more fun." Zelda shook her head but soon regretted it as a wave of nausea came over her. She took a step back, not wanting to once again be subjected to such horrors. Vaati reacted by grabbing hold of the back of her neck and yanking her back towards him. She gasped and tried to reach back and get him to release her of his painful grip.
"Didn't you hear me you filthy whore?"
Zelda bit her lip to keep herself from crying out. This simply couldn't be happening. Zelda could hear the horses just outside and began to dread. She would rather die than subject herself to Vaati ever again. Vaati's gaze traveled back over to Link's. At the sight of the outlaw's face a knowing smirk came over him.
"Well Red, it's been a pleasure making your acquaintance once again, but it's time for me and the Sheriff here to head out. I would shoot you but seeing as how I only have one bullet left, I think I'll save it for the lady."
Link was expressionless as he answered quietly, "You'll regret it if you do."
Vaati broke out into laughter as he began hauling Zelda out the door. "You always loved to play the hero Red, even though you'll never get anything in return. But don't expect there to be much left to save when I'm done with this one."
Zelda thought she was going to be sick. But when she opened her eyes she noticed that Link's face had darkened considerably. She was barely able to catch a glimpse of his eyes and what she saw sent a chill down her spine before she was roughly pushed out the door. She now knew why he was given the terrible name Red.
Vaati still gripped the back of her neck painfully causing waves of dizziness to come over her. Come on Zelda, shake it off and think. She noticed the other brother standing in the middle of the road holding the reins of the two horses with him. Before she knew it she was roughly picked up and practically thrown on the horse. She grabbed the horn to keep from tumbling off embarrassingly, and then sternly reminded herself that there were more dire things to worry about at the moment. She felt Vaati climb up behind and felt disgust swell up in her as the swine swung his right arm tightly around her waist and grabbed the reins. The gun was still pointing at her head.
"What about Jake and Gringo and-"
"Leave them," Vaati spat. "The higher authorities have no doubt been notified of our being here. We don't have time to haul their asses outa here."
He then violently kicked the horse, sending them off in a brisk gallop. They soon left the premises of the small town and Zelda longingly looked back but didn't see Link. Or anyone for that matter. But she was relieved that the brothers' left the towns people alone. No one would stand a chance against the brothers unless they owned a gun and guns were unfortunately rare these days.
She then felt Vaati forcefully turn her back around to fact the front. "No use lookin back sweetheart. It's too late for you." The familiar feeling of panic began to take hold and she tried to think of a way out of this. But what could she do? She still felt the gun against her head and vaguely wondered if there was any way to get it from him. She was determined to fight her way out of this or die trying. The town was still in view but getting smaller, and she didn't know how long they would ride before they would stop and Vaati made good use of his promise.
Zelda felt the gun at her head shift.
"Just wait sugar, 'cause the things I did back then were nothing compared to what I'll do to you tonight." Zelda was relieved when she felt the barrel of the gun leave her temple. No sooner had she decided her plan of action than a shot rang out in the distance. Zelda then felt Vaati lurch behind her and the spray of something against her neck. This was followed by a terrible scream causing the horses to slow and rear back in a panic. Zelda didn't quite know what was going on but used the distraction. Mustering up as much strength as she could, Zelda pushed her back against Vaati as hard as she could and kicked the horse violently in the gut. The animal lurched forward and Zelda was able to use the sudden action to grab hold of Vaati and send them both tumbling to the ground. She almost regretted her action when she felt her head painfully hit the ground along with the rest her body. She rolled for a bit before the momentum gave out, and she lay on the ground disoriented. She tried to sit up but a sharp pain shot through her head and she groaned before slumping back down. She heard a rustling sound followed by several curses. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Vaati stand throwing out every curse in the book and clutching at his right hand. Blood dripped off of his sleeve.
Zelda once again tried to stand up so that she might escape but a combination of pain and nausea consumed her. She couldn't escape. She couldn't get away. She was going to die.
But to Zelda's completely shock, Vaait ran to his frantic horse, still clutching his hand. He threw himself on the back of the animal and took off in the opposite direction of Kokiri. The brother, who was still trying to figure out what was going on, quickly followed suit, and Zelda was left alone.
She had never felt such a beautiful feeling of relief and joy at the sight. She began to cry tears of unfathomable bliss. She honestly didn't care what happened to her now, as long as she was out of that monster's hands.
She felt a gentle hand on her shoulder and was surprised to find that she was half asleep. Somewhat dizzy she felt her body being gently turned over. She found herself staring at a pair of lovely sky-blue eyes but then began to frown over her peculiar thoughts. Lovely?
Link pulled down the red bandana still wrapped around his neck and smiled down at her. Things were becoming clearer, and she decided to glare back at him. Just because.
"I thought you said it was impossible to shoot the finger off a man that far away," she said trying to hide the relief from her voice and sound angry.
"It is impossible," he reaffirmed.
Zelda scoffed. "Yeah right. Why didn't you just kill him? I know you wanted to."
Link shrugged a shoulder.
"Would you believe me if I told you that I've never killed a man before?"
Link laughed. She would be right.
Normally, Red wouldn't have hesitated to kill and he knew the guilt would've eaten him alive if he failed to save the Sheriff. As soon as Vaati had taken the gun off of her, he didn't hesitate to shoot. Not killing him hadn't been an act of weakness, but an act of mercy.
Zelda closed her eyes in exhaustion and winced when she felt a sharp pain in her head. She touched the side her temple and when she pulled her hand away, found it covered in blood.
"Easy," he said, concern touching his voice. "You hit your head pretty hard."
"Shit." It hurt like hell.
"Stay still. And stay awake," Link then stood and let out a shrill whistle that echoed across the canyon. Before long, a horse came galloping out of nowhere to greet Link. She noticed the unspoken affection between horse and his master, before Link returned his attention to her.
She then tried to stand only to once again lie back, feeling light headed.
Zelda slapped Link's hands away when he reached down to pick her up. "I hate being carried." Link grinned at her ferocity. "A feminist to the end." Zelda scowled and tried once again to push herself to her feet. As the pain bloomed with new intensity she reminded herself that her head hurt and not her legs so she should damn well be able to walk. With a grunt she found the strength to stand and felt a sense of satisfaction come over her. It was short-lived when Link took her right arm and threw it over his shoulder and placed his own around her waist for support. Zelda was about to protest but decided not to when Link gave her a fierce look and told her to "shut up."
Deeply offended but too weary to shout at him, she decided to do it his way and let him half carry her towards his faithful horse standing near bye.
"Where are we going?" She asked curiously. Link tightened his hold on her waist and she decided that she didn't mind the action.
"I'm taking you to the nearest doctor, which unfortunately happens to be a few miles west towards Hyrule."
"Don't need a doctor," she mumbled.
Zelda sighed, realizing she was in no position to argue and had a killer headache. She placed her foot in the stirrup, but felt Link's hands lift her most of the way into the saddle. He then climbed up behind her and took the reins into his hands before giving the horse a gentle kick. The animal took off in a slow trot.
"You said… you couldn't escape."
"What?" Link asked confused.
"Your cell, how did you get out?"
"Oh," Link chuckled. "I may have snagged the keys off your belt when you were distracted by the shooting."
Link laughed. "Don't be mad Sheriff. The only reason I decided to stay in there at all was because of your bewitching charms."
Zelda absolutely refused to believe it. She faced forward, determined not to speak to him. If she weren't half out of her mind, she would've shown him exactly what she thought about that.
Link slammed a palm to his forehead. "Damn. Forgot about poor Gringo. I sorta shoved him under your desk after I decided to impersonate him." Link grinned at Zelda's exasperated look. "Guess that's one more crime to add to the list. He may or may not still be there."
Zelda turned away, completely fed up with his recklessness. How she had lasted this long without ringing his neck, she would never know. They then proceeded to sit in silence for a while. It was either extremely late or extremely early, depending on how one looked at it. But it was a beautiful night nonetheless.
She was surprised at the way he said her name. It was like a soft caress, and Zelda felt her stomach flutter.
"What did he do," Link asked quietly. Zelda knew what he was talking about but didn't want to answer. Not to him.
"I don't know what you mean."
"Zelda, what did he do." His voice was still gentle.
"Please, please don't…"
"I need to know."
Zelda felt herself whip around to face him. They were practically nose-to-nose.
"You want to know? You want to know about a fifteen-year-old girl coming home to find her father dying on the ground? You want to know how his killers were still in the house? Do you want to know how they molested and defiled her till she was too weak to move?" She felt herself practically shouting and hated herself when she felt her eyes go wet. Link hadn't moved throughout her speech, only sat and listened. Zelda turned back around, furious at her lack of control. She didn't want to think about that night. Her father also detained one of the five brothers and had paid dearly for it. They both had.
To her surprise she felt Link's grip on her tighten and felt his chin tentatively touch the side of her head. Tears pricked her eyes, and she once again found herself wanting to tell him.
"When I found the strength to stand and try to get help, he begged me not to go. So I sat with him, his chest bleeding something fierce, and I didn't know what to do." Zelda found it hard to swallow and reached up to wipe her eyes.
"He told me it was okay. That he would gladly die protecting this town. His only regret was that I had to suffer. So I pulled myself together in his last moments and I told him that we were one and the same and that I would gladly give anything to protect this town as well. I swore it." Zelda remembered the memory like it was yesterday. She'd dreamed about it enough.
Link closed his eyes, listening to her words. Regret poured through him. He felt so ashamed at the way he'd lived his life. Here was a girl who had everything taken from her. She had more right than him to curse this world and what it had done to her. But still, she never gave up hope. She never lost faith that there was something in this life worth protecting. Worth dying for.
And for that, he vowed to someday share his own story with her.
He felt her shift and knew she was falling into the deep traces of sleep.
Zelda awoke to sun shining through her window in the early morning. She was in small room that looked to be made for a patient. Blinking against the brightness she tried to push herself up to sit but stopped when a wave of dizziness hit her. She felt a light pressure on her shoulder.
"Easy there, Zelda."
She glanced over to find none other than the mayor himself sitting beside her, looking quite relieved. She leaned back down, confusion clouding her brain.
"Mayor! What's going on?" She reached up and felt the bandages on her head. "How did I…"
The mayor chuckled at her confusion, causing Zelda to scowl at him. "Well, let me tell you, 'cause you're not going to believe it. But you know that convict you were watching? Link Forester? He came right to my door, after the whole incident and told me exactly what happened. Said how those men just plum taken over the jailhouse and used poor Marin as a hostage. She's fine, by the way. Her dad's fine, too, and they're so thankful to be alive. Anyways, Forester then told me how you were injured and how he had to save the day and take you to this here doctor. He seemed mighty worried about ya, so I plum decided to come check on you Sheriff."
"He took me…" things were slowly starting come back, when a sudden thought occurred.
"Did you let him go?"
The mayor rubbed his whiskery chin nervously, "Now don't get angry Sheriff but didn't see why we should hold him, seeing as how he saved the town and all…"
"Oh is that what he did?" Zelda spat, annoyed.
She then leaned back and rubbed her eyes, deciding she was too tired to get into it.
"Never mind. Where is he now?"
"Well, he took off, of course, after the doc said you were going to be okay and just needed rest. I thought is was my duty to give him a formal thank you and all before he left."
Zelda listened, trying to mask her disappointment. Then, realizing she was actually disappointed that he left, she scoffed. It wasn't as if he was obligated to stay around. They hardly knew each other! And she certainly wasn't going to waste another minute thinking about it.
"Well, I gotta get back to Kokiri. The town still needs me and all, but I'm glad you're okay Sheriff." He stood to leave, and Zelda nodded in understanding.
"Oh, he did tell me to give you this when you woke up." She saw the mayor take out a small, folded piece of paper and hold it out to her. She stared at it for a moment before reaching out and taking it from his hand. The mayor then winked at her in amusement before promptly leaving the room. Feeling somewhat restless, Zelda proceeded to stand again and felt lightheaded but knew it wasn't because of her injury. She then started to pace the room in anticipation. What should she do? Should she throw it away or read it?
Zelda stopped pacing the room. Just who was she fooling anyway? Taking a deep breath, she opened the small piece of paper and began to read.
The mayor has decided to pardon my criminal record, seeing as how I saved the town and all. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if that applies to any other town, but what can you do? He also offered me a job as part of the law enforcement for the town of Kokiri seeing as how y'all are a bit short on hands. I told him I would gladly accept that offer, but that there were a few things I needed to do first. Don't worry, it doesn't involve breaking the law. I'm not much good at writing letters or saying what it is I need to say, so I guess I'll just go ahead and get it out. You truly are one of a kind, Sheriff, and you've made me feel things I haven't felt in a long time. Don't you dare laugh. That being said, I've left town and won't be back for a while. Need to right a few wrongs in my life. But rest assured Sheriff, I'm coming back, and I'm coming back for you.
At the bottom of the letter, was a beautiful picture of a red rose with thorns. Zelda could've sworn her heart had leapt out of her chest. She could feel her hands shaking but for what she didn't know. She then proceeded to pace back and forth. He was pardoned. He was coming back. Why the hell doesn't her heart stop acting so damn spastic?
She stopped where she was, closed her eyes and took one long, deep breathe, trying to calm her nerves. It was amazing how the two feelings of relief and panic could war so violently inside her. She discovered, to her complete and utter astonishment that she wanted him to come back. How could that be?
She shook her head. Oh yes. She wanted him to come back. She wanted him back so she could plant a bullet in his hide herself. She walked over to the window and looked out over the beautiful sunset that lit up the sky with the colors of pink and orange. She smiled to herself as she felt her heart beat with anticipation and… something else.
Oh yes. He would be back.