A.N. Why do I keep writing stories for Skyward Sword? I've got enough on my plate trying to finish my other projects without getting distracted by silly ideas like this! And this really is silly. So silly that I almost didn't publish it. Honestly, I thought I left this stuff behind in high school.
Lessons In Chivalry
For the most part, Zelda loved her training as a knight, but if there was one thing she could have done without, it was the grueling physical labor required. Even though she tried her hardest and never slacked like Link, she just didn't have the strength or coordination to keep up with her friends in sword practice. Zelda always left the training hall bruised and sweaty and aching all over. And the torture didn't end there because after that came the required flight drills with their Loftwings, which lasted for hours and left her sunburned and windswept on top of everything else.
But she endured it and did her best not to complain in front of her instructors or the other knight students. The last thing Zelda wanted was to be an embarrassment to the academy. Just imagine a knight who didn't want to carry a sword!
Thank the goddess, the weapons practice and flight training was only three days out of the week. It was easy enough to limp back to the academy and sink herself into a hot bath to melt the soreness away. By some miracle, Zelda managed to beat Karane to the bathing room today, and she had no qualms about hogging it for much longer than absolutely necessary. After washing her hair and scrubbing off the layer of sweat and grime, she applied a soothing salve to her sunburns and amused herself by seeing what interesting colors and shapes her bruises had today. She and Karane were usually paired together for sparring, and the older girl never went easy on Zelda just because she was the headmaster's daughter.
Zelda folded her arms on the rim of the bathtub and rested her head on them, humming in contentment. Hot steam filled the bathing room and kept her perfectly comfortable even as the water began to lose its warmth. On days like this, she was so glad Karane was the only other female knight student, unlike the boys who had to share the downstairs bathroom between the six of them. Lately, they had started claiming the toilet in there was haunted. Zelda snorted. As if a ghost would haunt a toilet! No, they were probably just hoping for permission to share the upstairs bathroom, but the instructors weren't quite prepared to trust the boys that much. The separate floors and bathrooms had been made for just that purpose, to keep the boys and girls apart except in classes. After darkness fell, neither gender was allowed to be on the other floors on the threat of expulsion from the academy, although Karane had once wistfully remarked that she wouldn't mind if a certain freckled boy came to visit her late one night...
A tiny bit of heat crept into Zelda's face that wasn't entirely caused by the water. The comment had shocked her when Karane first said it, not only because of her boldness, but because it was a reminder that they weren't children anymore. They were all growing up, and it excited Zelda even as it scared her. She couldn't help but wonder if the boys—any of them—were thinking about her in that way, the way Karane thought of Pipit.
Zelda bit her lip, tasting water and sweat. She supposed the real question was whether she would mind if any of them were. Mentally, she listed off the names and decided right away that Fledge and Stritch and Cawlin weren't even on her radar. Fledge was nice enough, but he was only a friend, and a timid one at that. The same could be said of Pipit, although he was much more gallant and even a little cute. But Karane was so head-over-heels for him that Zelda would never dare to stand in the way.
That left Groose and Link. Zelda wrinkled her nose at the thought of Groose. Both he and Link had been her best friends as children, but as they grew older, Groose had gotten so self-centered and mean. He could be a good person. Zelda had seen him act kindly toward other people, but the way he treated Link on a daily basis made her so angry that she couldn't even be in the same room as him anymore.
So...that left Link.
Her face became even hotter, and Zelda splashed water on her cheeks. Don't be ridiculous, she scolded herself. Of course Link wouldn't think of her like that! The two of them had been friends almost from the time they could crawl. He had told her once a few years ago that he thought of her as his sister. And Zelda felt the same way. Or...she had. Before he grew like a sprout until he stood several inches taller than her, before his voice broke into much smoother and more masculine tones, before he started putting on muscle from the hours of sword practice. Zelda had seen him with his shirt off not long ago and gotten so tongue-tied at the sight of his chest that she had to walk the other way or end up embarrassing herself.
A knock at the door startled her from her thoughts, and Zelda jumped and made the water splash. "Who is it?"
"Just making sure you haven't drowned!" Karane called, laughing. "What are you doing in there that's taking so long?"
"N-Nothing!" Zelda said quickly and reached for her towel. "Sorry, I'll be right out..."
"Nah, take your time," Karane assured her. "I've got to go see Instructor Owlan about something. See you in a little bit."
"Okay," Zelda replied as Karane walked away. She settled back down in the bathtub, trying to pull her scattered thoughts back together. What had she been thinking about? Oh yes, how she couldn't talk when Link wasn't wearing a shirt. Well, that confirmed where her feelings lay, but what about Link? Did he ever think about her? Zelda had noticed Link staring at her sometimes as they talked and then quickly looking away, but she had put it down to him being odd. Could there be more to it? Or was she reading too much into it?
"Oh, stop being so silly," Zelda muttered and sank down in the water until her ears were submerged, arms wrapped around her knees. Even if Link did return her feelings, it wasn't like he was bold enough to do as Karane obviously hoped Pipit might do and sneak into her room some night. In fact, Pipit and Link might be the first to condemn such a dishonorable act. Pipit, at least, took the Skyloftian Knight's code of chivalry even more seriously than her father did. And Link was just naturally respectful and wary of stepping on too many toes.
Still...what would happen if Link did pluck up the nerve to come to her room one night? Or what if he came into the bathing room right now, right this minute? Zelda shivered a little at the direction her thoughts were taking. It would certainly be a shock for them both. But if they overcame the shock...what then? What would Link do? What would she do?
The bathroom door opened. Zelda was so startled that she gasped and inhaled a mouthful of water. Over her coughing, she heard the intruder whistling jauntily as he walked around the screened partition and came into sight.
It was Groose.
Zelda screamed. Groose screamed. If Zelda hadn't been so mortified, she would have laughed at the comical way he flung up his arms and sent his towel and toiletries flying. As it was, she was too busy trying to keep her breasts shielded protectively. "What are you DOING in here? This is the girl's bathroom!"
Groose staggered back like her words had a physical force and clapped his hands over his eyes. "I'm sorry, I'm really sorry, Zelda!" he blabbered. "T-T-The other bathroom has got a line, and I thought you were with Karane, and the d-door wasn't locked so I thought I could just—"
"Just barge in here while I was bathing?" Zelda shrieked, and Groose cringed from her wrath, his knees quaking. "I can't believe you! You didn't even knock! Get out, now!"
"I'm going, I'm going!" Groose wailed and attempted to collect his things with one hand while the other remained firmly clamped over his eyes. "Which way's the door?"
"You're right next to it!"
"T-This way?" Groose said, taking a tentative step, and he yelped when his knee banged against the toilet.
Zelda slapped a hand to her forehead and started to climb out of the bathtub, reaching for her towel. "You just walked through it! How could you have forgotten where it is already?"
"I've never been in this bathroom before!" Groose said defensively. "It's completely different! And you know the one downstairs is haunted, Zelda?"
"I don't care if there's a moblin living in it, that's the one the boys are supposed to use! Now get out already!"
"I will! But can I just open my eyes for a second so I can find...?"
"Don't you DARE open your eyes!"
The door burst open with such force that it smacked against the wall, and to Zelda's horror, Link came rushing inside with his practice sword drawn and ready in his hand. Goddess only knew what he thought must be going on in here, but he looked ready to murder something. His rage petered into confusion when he saw Groose cowering against the wall. Then he turned, saw Zelda...and the sword dropped to the tiled floor. Zelda froze, caught standing outside the bathtub with the towel clenched uselessly in her hands, and she flushed a brilliant crimson when Link's eyes swept over every inch of her naked body in the space of a heartbeat. She barely even noticed that he was also turning red and seemed just as paralyzed as she was.
At least until Groose socked him in the eye with one massive fist. "Animal!" he roared. "If I can't look, then you can't either!"
"Link!" Zelda cried when Link went sprawling to the floor and smacked his face on the tiles. She noticed Groose now staring at her and immediately covered herself with the towel. "Stop looking!"
"What in Hylia's name is going on up here?" Pipit shouted from somewhere down the hall.
Oh goddess, not him too! Zelda thought in dismay. "OUT! EVERYONE, OUT!"
"Yes, ma'am!" Groose said at once and bolted for the door. On the way, he seized Link by his pointed ear and dragged him away as well, ignoring his yelps of pain. As soon as the door was shut, Zelda ran over to lock it and then collapsed on the nearest bench, trembling all over from anger and humiliation. She could hear muffled voices just beyond the door, Pipit speaking with authority while Groose tried to make excuses, and Link simply sounded shaken and not quite sure of what had just happened. Zelda could sympathize...but only a little.
She wrapped her arms around herself, feeling suddenly exposed, vulnerable. The last time someone had seen her completely undressed had been when she was a toddler, and then it had only been her parents. But now she had been seen by two of her classmates. Two boy classmates! Zelda choked back a sob as the threatened tears began to fall, burying her flaming face in the towel. Sure, she had fantasized about showing herself to Link, but not like that! Now he and Groose would probably talk about it to all the other boys, describing what they had seen...
But as the minutes passed, Zelda gradually mastered her tears and her doubts. No, Link wasn't like that. If she asked him, Zelda was sure he would keep quiet. And Groose was easy to intimidate. Zelda would just threaten to mix Loftwing feces in with his hair gel if he talked. The thought made her smile and laugh a little as she rose and dressed in the change of clothes she had brought, toweling her hair dry in a few quick motions. Zelda yanked out the plug in the bathtub so the water would drain and started to head for the door when she noticed Link's practice sword still lying on the tiles. She picked it up. He would want it back, and he would probably be grateful not to have to return here for it.
When she unlocked the door to leave, Zelda was surprised to see a yellow-clad back blocking her way. The senior knight student stood right in front of the door with his arms crossed and feet braced apart like a guard. "Pipit? What are you doing?"
"Oh, hello Zelda," Pipit said and stepped aside so she could leave the bathroom. "I'm just keeping a watch on the door for you. And don't worry, I sent those two peeping toms to the headmaster. He'll sort them out. I can't believe Link would pull something like this! Groose is one thing, but..."
"Pull something like what?" Karane asked, walking up to them with a towel and change of clothes in her arms.
"They were spying on Zelda while she was bathing," Pipit told her, lip curled in disgust.
"T-They weren't spying!" Zelda corrected him. "It was an accident, they didn't mean to walk in on me."
"They know the rules just like all the knight students!" Pipit said righteously. "No boys may use this bathroom, or if they do, they had better knock first and make sure it's empty! As a senior, I see it as my duty to protect the honor of our female students!"
"Well, I'm glad there's at least one man on this island with a shred of decency," Karane said, nodding her approval. "Pipit, if Zelda is finished with her bath, would you watch the door for me?"
Pipit swelled under her praise. "Of course, Karane. I will watch for as long as you would like...uh, I mean the door! I'll watch the door! I didn't mean I'd..."
Karane winked. "Of course you didn't," she said loftily and swept past him into the bathroom.
While Pipit was still trying to decide if he should be flustered or not, Zelda jogged down the hallway and around the corner to the larger double doors of the headmaster's study at the top of the stairs. The doors were cracked open, and when she heard her father speaking, Zelda paused and put her face to the crack to peek inside. Both Link and Groose stood before the desk, heads bowed in disgrace as Headmaster Gaepora considered them both sternly. Her father was normally a kind and forgiving man, rarely prone to flares of temper, but even Zelda felt some apprehension at the hard edge to his words.
"...might have expected this from you, Groose, but I am extremely disappointed in you as well, Link. You two are fully aware of the rules regarding the separation of the boys and girls living quarters, and so I cannot fathom what you two were doing on this floor in that bathroom with my Zelda. Would either of you care to explain? Hm?"
Groose blanched and recoiled like a whipped dog, shaking from head to toe, a little noise of distress caught in his throat. In contrast, Link stood utterly still with his lips pressed together tightly and fists clenched at his sides, an innocent man condemned to execution, although he still had a stain of incriminating color on his cheeks.
"No answer?" Gaepora inquired. When the boys said nothing, he breathed out heavily through his nose. "Though it pains me to say it, I'm afraid I cannot sweep the rules of our academy under the rug. You both know the consequences of your actions. If you will not explain yourselves in a satisfactory manner, I will have no choice but to expel you from the academy..."
Her heart dropped to her stomach, and Zelda looked at Link just in time to see him flinch, stricken at the thought of losing his chance at knighthood. It was all he had ever wanted, the only dream he had. Link swallowed hard, opened his mouth to speak, but changed his mind and kept staring at the floor. He wasn't even going to try to defend himself, even though he didn't deserve such a harsh punishment.
"B-But it wasn't my fault!" Groose insisted, and he shrank back when Gaepora focused on him. "I didn't even know Zelda was in there, Headmaster, I swear! I just wanted to take a bath..."
"Then why did you not use the bathing room downstairs?" Gaepora asked him. He held up a hand when Groose started to say something. "And none of that nonsense about the toilet being haunted!"
Groose snapped his mouth shut. "But it is haunted," he said feebly. "I've heard it moaning, and so has Link! Haven't you, Link?"
Link grimaced and shrugged a little, meaning he had but was reluctant to admit it. Gaepora hummed in thought. "Even so, the fact remains that you two broke the rules and intruded on the privacy of your fellow student..."
"Not on purpose!" Groose squeaked out. He leveled a condemning finger at Link. "At least I shut my eyes! You should've seen him, Headmaster! Staring like a jackal, drooling and everything! Why do you think I punched him? I'll bet he was just waiting for an excuse to go running in there!"
Link gave a cry of protest, glaring at Groose in shock and outrage. Then he noticed Gaepora eyeing him and dropped his gaze, blushing all the way to the tips of his ears. Deciding enough was enough, Zelda pushed the door open. "Groose, don't blame it all on Link! You know that's not how it happened!"
Both the boys turned, and now it was Groose who blushed deeply while Link went utterly white at the sight of her. That only made the black and purple bruise forming over his left eye stand out even more starkly. His lip had also been split open by the collision with the floor, and there was some blood on his sleeve, which he must have used to try and stop the bleeding.
"Zelda!" Gaepora exclaimed and came around the desk so he could rest his hands on her shoulders. "Are you alright, my dear?"
"Yes, I'm fine," Zelda assured him. "Just a little shaken, that's all. Link, this is yours."
Link, who had been looking everywhere else except at her, clumsily took the sword that Zelda pressed into his hands. He met her gaze with a mixture of remorse and dread, but it seemed he didn't dare say anything while her father was standing right there.
Gaepora cleared his throat. "Well, my dear, since you seem composed despite this...occurrence, perhaps you could enlighten me on what exactly happened? These two have been rather tight-lipped about the whole affair."
Zelda nodded and couldn't help a tiny blush as she recalled the whole thing. "It really was an accident, I think," she explained. "I was bathing, and I forgot to lock the door. When Groose, uh...walked in, I think he was just as surprised as I was because we both completely panicked. And he did cover his eyes just like he said."
"Did he?" Gaepora said as Groose puffed out his chest in pride. "Hm, I supposed that counts for something. And what happened next? Why did Link go into the bathing room?"
Zelda faltered a little, the heat in her face becoming even more pronounced. "I kind of...um, overreacted to Groose walking in. I think Link heard me yelling and thought something was wrong, and that's why he..."
"Ah, then that explains his sword!" Gaepora said in understanding. "In that case, I suppose I should commend him for his quick reaction. It's exactly how a knight of our academy ought to react when he hears a cry for help."
Groose croaked indignantly. "But...but he looked. I had to drag him out of that bathroom to stop him from looking! Doesn't that count for something too?"
"That depends," Gaepora said and turned a severe look on Link. "Well Link, did you look away when you should have?"
Link hesitated, his eyes sliding from Gaepora to Zelda, and he hung his head wretchedly. "N-No," he whispered. "I should have, but...I didn't. I'm sorry."
Zelda put a hand on his arm. "It's okay, I forgive you, Link," she said gently. "And you too, Groose. It was all an accident so there's no need to punish them, right Father?"
Gaepora thought it over for a full minute, frowning at the boys while all three students awaited his judgment. Zelda could feel the slightest quiver in Link's arm and knew he was still anticipating the ultimate sentence of expulsion from the academy. She gave her father an imploring look, not wanting to be the reason her best friend lost his chance at knighthood.
"I suppose," Gaepora said slowly, "in light of Zelda's explanation and forgiveness, I can make some allowance for the circumstances. But don't think this means you won't be punished for your blatant disregard for the rules of the academy and the code of chivalry. Link, Groose, you are hereby suspended for one week. Every day starting tomorrow, you will report to Henya in the kitchen and perform whatever chores she sees fit to assign you. And you can be assured that myself and the other instructors will have our eyes on you! Put one toe out of line in the next week, and you will forfeit your knighthood. Am I understood?"
"Y-Yes, Headmaster," Groose sniffed in misery.
"Yes, Headmaster," Link murmured, accepting the punishment stoically.
"You're dismissed," Gaepora said, and the two boys trudged out of the study in utter dejection. Once they were gone, he sighed. "I'm truly sorry, Zelda. I know Link is your friend, but this is not the kind of offense I can simply let slide."
"I know, Father," Zelda said and hugged him affectionately. "Thank you for not expelling them. I don't think Link would have forgiven me."
Gaepora chuckled and patted her head. "On the contrary, I think he was more worried about being denied your forgiveness. Those poor boys...you must have scolded them something fierce. They were thoroughly chastised long before they walked in my door!"
Zelda laughed as well and bade her father goodnight. As she left the study and shut the doors behind her, she heard a noise on the darkened stairwell to her left and paused. Link was waiting for her a few steps down, the practice sword returned to the sheath on his back. He approached her uncertainly. "Zelda..."
Zelda stood on the second highest step, her hands resting on the banister. "What's wrong?"
Link took a deep breath. "I'm so sorry about what happened," he said hoarsely. "I didn't mean to...s-see you like that..."
"Link...I already told you it's alright," Zelda said, touched by his boyish hesitancy.
"I heard you crying just before Pipit sent us to the headmaster," Link admitted, and the source of his dismay finally became clear to her.
"But I'm fine now," Zelda assured him. "That was just...I overreacted, just like I said back there. And you already apologized to me, remember?"
"I know, but it doesn't feel like enough," Link said, and he sounded more upset than the situation warranted. "I should have looked away. I knew I should have, but for some reason I just..."
"Well, Groose should have knocked too, but he obviously failed to do that," Zelda said, letting the jest cover the awkward feelings that still lingered. She reached out to tough the edge of his blackened eye. "And it looks like you've already been punished enough."
"Yeah," Link said with a wince. He snorted. "I can't believe I'm taking lessons in chivalry from Groose, of all people."
"Well, maybe if you paid more attention in Instructor Owlan's classes," Zelda suggested with a snicker.
"And maybe if you tried a little harder in sword practice," Link retorted, grinning at the old joke. As they stood there together, Zelda caught her breath when his eyes strayed the tiniest bit, flicking down and then back up almost too quickly to follow. Realizing she had noticed, Link started to pull back, abashed. "I-I'm sorry..."
"Link," Zelda cut him off. Heart pounding, she took another step so they were on the same level, smiling up at him shyly. "Didn't I tell you it was alright?"
His eyes narrowed with a flicker of suspicion like he expected a trap, but that misgiving slowly left his eyes to be replaced by something hotter like watching a fire being kindled. His fingers brushed against hers, setting her nerves alight, and Zelda licked her lips nervously as the distance between their faces began to dwindle. She could feel his breath on her cheek, could almost taste him, and the stormy sapphire of his eyes filled her entire vision, mesmerizing, intoxicating...
The door to her father's study opened. Link jerked back, and Zelda turned to see Gaepora standing there and watching them both shrewdly. "I seem to recall saying something about toeing the line," he said in reproach. "Shouldn't you be getting back to your dormitory?"
"Y-Yes, Headmaster," Link said at once. With one last glance at Zelda, he scurried down the stairs to the first floor. Once Zelda heard his door close, she turned to Gaepora, torn between exasperation and contrition.
Gaepora smiled at her warmly, a twinkle of mischief in his eyes. "There will be time enough for that when you're older, my dear. Until then, remember that my door is right here on the stairs. And my hearing is very sharp."