A/N: I thought the way Zelda was portrayed in Twilight Princess was fascinating and I did my best to capture the way I perceived her in this story. Right now this is just a one-shot, but I would be willing to write more if there was interest. This has nothing to do with my other story, Courage. Any feedback you could give me is greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading.
"You know, they call you the Ice Queen."
The princess turned, surprised to see me standing across from her on the edge of the castle. "Then they are wrong."
I raised an eyebrow in question.
"Technically I have not yet had my coronation, which means I am still a princess." The corner of her mouth raised slightly in the barest form of a smile. For her though, that was the equivalent of grinning like a fool.
It was easy to see why the rest of the kingdom thought of her to be so cold. She held herself well, taught from her noble birth, but oftentimes her perfect posture and precise movements came off as stiff. This was especially true given the stoic expression she wore so often in public. She was beautiful, sure, but her type of beauty seemed more fit for a statue than an actual living person.
But even more than any of that was what happened during the takeover from the Twilight Realm. "They don't like that you surrendered to Zant."
She bristled slightly. "It was the best move available. Zant was ready with a full army. Any resistance would have been met with slaughter. Patience proved prudent when you came and defeated Ganondorf."
I laughed. "That might be the most diplomatic way of saying 'I told you so' I've ever heard. Obviously I agree with what you did, but a lot of people see your decision as cold and calculating given how bad those resulting couple of years were."
She sighed. "I know. My council thinks the same way."
"Yes. They know I do not have the full support of the people behind me, and they see the opportunity it presents. Why do you think I haven't had my coronation yet? They are doing their best to delay in the hope that I finally get the hint and recuse myself from the throne."
"They can do that?"
"Well I could force the issue, but this way I have time to gather support so that I can start my reign effectively without having to worry about my every decision being picked apart. Though if I'm being honest, that is not the main reason I'm in no rush to be crowned."
"What is?" I asked, surprised that she was being this open with me.
She shook her head like she was being silly but then proceeded to tell me anyway. "As long as they think there is a chance I will step down, they will spend all their energy and scheming on that issue. But once I am crowned Queen, they will pressure me heavily to marry. I am sure they will have several puppets from which I can choose. That's one challenge I'd like to delay even if my reasons are selfish."
A strange feeling curled up in the pit of my stomach when I thought of her promised to some stranger. I ignored it and said, "And here I thought most girls can't wait for their wedding day."
She scoffed. "If you met any of the men who I'm sure will be in contention, you would understand. But even more than that, it has been hard to readjust. I was nearly completely on my own for two years. Lonely perhaps, but I had complete independence. Now I cannot do anything without someone watching over my shoulder."
"That sounds awful; I'm sorry." I often forgot that she had to stand alone and watch while the rest of the kingdom fell into Twilight. "I don't have to deal with that, but I understand having a hard time transitioning."
She started as if she forgot herself. "Look at me prattling on. I apologize. How are you handling everything? I know you and Midna were close..."
"Yeah, she was great and..." My words caught in my throat as the memory of the mirror to the twilight realm shattering, permanently separating the two of us rushed through my mind. "She was a true friend," I managed.
Zelda looked horrified. "I am so sorry. We do not need to talk about-"
"No," I said, cutting her off, "it's good. There's not really anyone else I can talk to about that kind of stuff."
"What about your friend from your home province? Um, Ilia, I believe."
I was impressed she remembered given the numerous faces she encountered daily. "Ilia's really nice, but the time of Twilight holds a lot of bad memories for her. I mean, first she was kidnapped, then she couldn't remember who she was; really, she'd rather keep those things in the past."
"I can't. I live with it everyday. Night after night, I've woken in a cold sweat because of nightmares." I decided to leave out the part about the times I awoke to find myself literally growling like the wolf I had been. "Even more than that though, I've changed. I started off as an ordinary wrangler on a common ranch and somehow transformed into the Hero Chosen by the Gods. Ilia wants things to be the same as before, but I'm not the same. For better or for worse, I've changed and I can't go back."
"I feel the same way." Zelda smiled hesitantly at me. "If you ever need to talk about what you went through or about anything, you are welcome here."
I shook my head. "Thanks but I'm sure you have more important things to do than listen to my whiny ramblings."
"Link, every person in Hyrule owes you their lives. No matter how busy I become, I will make time for anything you need. Always."
I stared at her in wonder for a full minute before she finally looked down self-consciously. "We don't know each other very well, right?" I asked.
"Um," she started, seeming confused about where I was going. "I suppose not." She seemed almost disappointed in her answer.
"Exactly. I mean, we've only met like five, maybe six times in our entire lives?" Zelda's royal face came back, the guarded yet regal expression she wore around nearly everyone.
"So why is it," I asked, "that I feel such a connection to you?"
My words seemed to shock her out of her normally uncrackable facade.
"You know," I continued, "I've researched as much as I can about the legends of those who bore the Triforce of Courage or Wisdom previous. And over and over again I read about these strong friendships between the two forged in childhood or sometimes even earlier. But here we are, adults and barely more than strangers, and yet I feel like I could talk to you about anything. Like I could trust you with my life. Heck, dumb as it sounds, I'd probably die for you. Why? Why do I feel so strongly bonded to you? You who I know so little. You, the Ice Queen."
She marveled at my words and slowly but surely, a smile crept across her face. That was the most expression I had ever seen from her, at least showing positive emotion. Her smile reached all the way to her dark blue eyes, making them seem as if they were shining. I had never seen anything more beautiful in my life.
"I've felt that same way since the first moment we met."
"Wasn't I a wolf then?"
"Yes, so you can imagine my confusion when I inexplicably held complete trust in a beast. Nevertheless, I chose to follow my instinct, and, well... here we are now, free from the clutches of Twilight. I cannot remember if I have ever said the words, but... thank you, Link. Thank you for saving my kingdom."
I looked down at the ground self-consciously. "It wasn't just me. There was Midna and you and Telma and Rusl and-"
"I am well aware of all their contributions; however, my statement still stands. I am indebted to you, a debt I can never repay. If you ever want for anything, ask and it shall be yours so long as it is within my power to grant."
I nodded, knowing arguing would be useless. I had all the physical possessions I desired. What I wanted was much more valuable: time. More specifically, her time. I wanted to talk to someone else who knew the scope of the Twili war, someone who knew Midna, someone who understood the privilege and burden of bearing the Triforce. She was the only one. But she was also the princess. Her time was the only thing I wanted, but it was also the one thing I couldn't possibly ask her to give.
"I never asked what brought you here tonight," Zelda said. "The ride from Ordona Province to here is not short."
"The captain of your guard asked me if I could show his men some of the techniques I learned during my journey. After we finished I was going to head back to Ordon, but I was overcome with the desire to see if I could still climb the castle. I didn't expect to find you up here. That was a pleasant surprise."
She eyebrows furrowed slightly and she looked down as if troubled. "He should have consulted with me before he contacted you. As if you had not done enough already, he asks that you waste an entire day to do his job."
"If I had minded, I would have said no."
"To the captain of my guard?" she asked skeptically.
I tilted my head in concession. "I suppose not, but then again saying no never even crossed my mind. I learned a lot during those two years, and if sharing what I learned can help protect you, Zelda—er—Princess, a day seems a small price to pay," I wanted to kick myself for slipping on her name. I was already acting far too comfortable with her considering she was Hyrule's monarch.
To her credit, Zelda ignored my error. In my opinion, that was proof enough that she was different than the common perception. If she were truly as cold and impersonal and people believed, she would have called attention to my slip, or at the very least, she would have ended our conversation.
"They asked me back. Only so much I can teach in a day. We discussed a consistent schedule, like I could come here once every couple weeks. Unless you have a problem with it of course."
Zelda studied my face for a full minute before she responded. "You are a great asset to this kingdom. Once again you have my gratitude. Though a trip from Ordon Village and back on top of instructing my guard seems like quite the exhausting day. There are extra rooms at the castle if you ever wanted to stay the night."
I simply nodded my thanks because I could tell she was struggling to say something else. We stood there in silence for over a minute, but I didn't mind. I've always been comfortable with silence, some would say too comfortable.
"If you did stay on those nights and you wanted to talk, I, uh, I come up here sometimes at night to think..."
I tried to contain my smile. I didn't want her to think I was laughing at her when that had been so difficult for her. "That sounds great."
She allowed herself a small smile before reverting back to her guarded expression. "Will you stay tonight then? One of the servants can prepare a room right now if you wish."
"I can't," I said regretfully. "I made promises that I would return tonight. In fact, I should probably get going soon."
Her regal face was in full effect as she said, "I'm sorry to have kept you. I would like to once again extend my thanks and the kingdom's th—"
"Please don't," I interrupted. She seemed surprised. I'm sure she's not used to being interrupted, especially not during a formal goodbye. "You don't have to be diplomatic with me. You said I could ask anything of you; here is my one request: don't play that political game around me, at least when we're alone. You have my unflinching support no matter what, so please be yourself."
Her lips that had parted slightly in surprise came together as she considered my request. She had such small lips, dusted in the slightest shade of purple. They looked so soft, like if I were to reach out and touch—I forced my eyes away as I realized where my thoughts were leading. That was a dangerous and impossible road.
"I am embarrassed to admit I don't have much practice in that area. I have to practice politics nearly every minute of the day. But given all you've done, I'll try."
After breathing an internal sigh of relief that she didn't kick me out for my insolence, I couldn't help the grin that spread over my face. Since we met, I considered Zelda a friend, but I never thought we would have a chance to become very close. I never thought she would ever take down her defenses around me.
"Thank you Princess," I said with a slight bow, "for everything." I turned to leave (it really was getting quite late) when she called me back.
"Link." I stopped walking but didn't turn around "In the interest of not playing politics, when we are alone, you may call me simply Zelda."
It took me a minute to control my facial expression because of the joy that coursed through my body at her gesture. Once I composed myself, I turned my head until I could see her. With a nod of my head I tried it out as a farewell.