While this is also labeled humor, it's rated M for a reason. Rest assured, however, it's not gratuitous smut, as entertaining as such things can be. Expect Link and Zelda to be spending a lot of time facepalming. Tongue-in-cheek is fun.

Link was not having a good day. The rapid and familiar clicking sound of boots on the marble floor outside the council chamber were testament to that.

"Really, Link, was that necessary?"

The Hero of Twilight sighed and reached up to rub his temples as Hyrule's queen came to a stop a few feet away. He didn't turn from his view out the window into the gardens in the castle courtyard, already knowing what he would see if he did. No doubt Zelda was glaring at him, arms folded across her chest and her beautiful face looking for all the world as if it had been carved from marble. He called that emotionless mask her 'Ice Queen face' and always dreaded its appearance.


Gritting his teeth, Link clasped his hands behind his back and turned to Zelda. Yes, just as he'd thought, her arms were folded and the only sign of her irritation was a slight narrowing of her pale blue eyes. And defying all logic, she looked even more beautiful and enticing that way, especially with those white-gloved arms crossed and pushing up subtly on her bosom to emphasize the swells of alabaster-

"Stop staring at my chest and answer my question," she snapped irritably.

"I was not staring," he protested defensively, giving her eyes his coldest glare.

Zelda rolled her eyes in one of the gestures that had rubbed off on her from her time joined with Midna's spirit. "Once a dog, always a dog," she muttered.

"Wolf," he countered through gritted teeth. "And yes, it was necessary. You didn't hear what Remlaur muttered about you under his breath. But I did, of course, with these 'dog' ears of mine," he added sarcastically.

Zelda resisted the urge to make a loud and undignified remark about a lolling tongue and an unpleasant odor. "What did he say?"

Link arched a brow. "We showed up late after spending the morning riding together. Take a guess."

Zelda felt her cheeks warming but her regal facade didn't crack. Remlaur had always been prone to showing his irritation at being ruled by an unmarried queen half his age but he was usually wise enough to keep his mouth shut. If he finally cracked, no doubt he did it in spectacular fashion. But there were still rules of protocol to be followed. "And that merited you drawing your sword in the middle of a council session and giving him the choice of either a duel or the dungeon?"

Still, she couldn't deny that warmth had risen in her breast when Link sprang to the defense of her honor and put the bastard in his place. Something about an angry hero with steel in his hand and flashing eyes stirred her blood. Damn it all, her anger was already fading. Until he rolled his eyes and turned away from her.

"Yes," he replied, maddeningly flippant.

"Arrogant ass," she muttered under her breath, following him out into the garden. "Thank you for defending my reputation but there are better ways of resolving problems than shoving a sword in their faces."

"What, like ignoring them and letting Ashei sort them out?" he countered, turning his head to flash a sly grin over his shoulder with a swish of thick brown hair.

Zelda's cheeks colored again. "I do not know if I would call that particular problem 'resolved'," she said shortly, fixing him with a glare. "Not if you continue to act like a rolling Goron in the middle of the royal treasury."

He stopped and turned to face her, that damnable grin widening further. "As I recall, you rather enjoyed it when I threw out subtlety and-"

"Oh, get over yourself!" Zelda snapped, once more folding her arms and praying her cheeks were not darkening to scarlet. She had to remind herself that she was mad at him, otherwise, well...

"Are you two arguing again?"

They both turned to see Ashei grinning at them from her spot on a stone bench in the garden, a pen in her hand and a journal open on her lap. "Really, do I have to come up with another brilliant idea to fix whatever's going on between you two?"

It was Link's turn to scowl, crossing his arms beside his queen. "Don't start with us, Ashei. After the last stunt you pulled you're lucky Zelda didn't make you answer Agitha's request for a bug-catching assistant."

"There's still time," Zelda said, a smirk on her pink lips. "As I recall the duties also involve tea parties and balls with the bugs. Pink dresses as well, I imagine."

Ashei blanched. "That's just playing dirty, yeah? But point taken." She dipped her pen in the ink and put it to paper but a small smile spread on her face. "I'll just go back to my writing."

Link felt an odd chill running down his spine. Turning, he saw Zelda looking at him, the blood draining out of her face. Was she thinking what he was thinking?

"What is it you are writing?" the queen asked with forced nonchalance.

Ashei shrugged her shoulders and peered up at them with a terrifyingly innocent smile. "Oh, nothing you two would be interested in. Just a story I'm thinking about publishing." Queen and hero once more looked at each other in alarm.

"A story about what?" they asked in unison, stomachs clenching with dread.

Ashei just grinned wider and went back to writing.

Note to self: Don't publish this part. Let your children (if you're ever daft enough to have them) do it in the planned revised edition for you after you're dead. Otherwise you'll end up planted before your time at the hands of a murderous queen and her hero out for your blood.

Second note to self: Ask a priestess if the goddesses allow murder even in the Sacred Realm. If so, make sure Ilia sends you on your way with a plate of Uli's cookies. Your afterlife may depend on it.

One of the favorite pastimes of the people of Hyrule is discussing their monarch and their hero. For reasons I can't explain, many of them are almost obsessed with those two. The women see a brilliant, beautiful queen in expensive gowns and probably think she has a flawless, charmed life with handsome princes and heroes always at her door. The men see a beautiful woman that's the very image of perfection and, well, the rest is rather obvious. The women see a handsome and brave hero and, okay, that's obvious, too. The men see a man with the kind of courage, strength and skill they could only dream of and are in awe and/or envious.

Naturally, there's an entire subset of gossip dedicated to speculation about the two of them together romantically. Half the opinions I've heard are that the two of them are secretly courting, engaging in things like sappy midnight rides to Lake Hylia to stargaze and whisper poetry to each other. I don't really understand why they think the two are so obsessed with secrecy given that the queen has basically told her council they can take their suggestions regarding her unadorned ring finger and shove them some place very uncomfortable, but I suppose it's more romantic that way. The other half seems to believe that there is a tragic, forever unrealized love between the sad, beautiful, noble, elegant, et cetera queen and the brave, handsome, dutiful goat herder turned legendary hero. Yeah, both make me want to vomit even if there's a grain of truth in all of it.

So here's the real truth. Yes, Link is indeed the man who killed everything from giant spiders to dragons to the ancient foe of legend who stole the Triforce of Power, and he had to make his way through all sorts of devious traps and puzzles to do it. He has sliced his way through half a horde of bokoblins before breakfast, herded a bunch of hungry, ornery goats before lunch, translated half a book's worth of Ancient Hylian architecture before dinner, and left a half dozen maidens blushing and staring at him like lovesick puppies after a single dance with each before dessert. And Zelda is indeed the epitome of Hylian beauty with brains, bravery, selflessness, and warmth in equal measure. She has mowed down the other half of that bokoblin horde with her bow before breakfast, broken half her nails and sprained her ankle helping to harvest pumpkins before lunch, designed a new irrigation system for Ordon before dinner, and left a handful of cynical power-hungry politicians gazing at her with smitten looks before dessert. Oh, and that was all in the same day.

Perfect, aren't they?

Guess again.

On that same day, they were bickering like a pair of ornery Ordon goats over whether to charge into the middle of the bokoblin lines or ride around them shooting bomb arrows. Match the correct strategy to the correct person and win, well, nothing, because it's obvious. While you're at it, guess how Link's right side got singed in an explosion.

They stormed off in opposite directions after arriving in Ordon with parting mutters (something about whether his parentage was entirely Hylian or mixed with stubborn goat, and some indiscreetly spoken hope that she didn't trip on her royal buttocks and break a nail). Well, guess what happened when Link rode down from the ranch to see Zelda with dirt on the back of her dress and her scraped hands wrapped around a swollen ankle?

If you guessed that he snickered and mocked her clumsiness, you win nothing. Again. The last time I saw him leap off Epona so fast was when his tunic was on fire from a bulblin's near-miss and he was heading for water. (The water, I must add, was in Lake Hylia and he was on the bridge a hundred feet above. And he had spring water in a bottle in that magical bottomless pouch I'm so envious of. Still think he's perfect?) He had Zelda scooped up in his arms and was on his way to the stash of chu jelly at his house before I could blink, ignoring her laughing protests and blushing cheeks with a look of grim determination on his face.

When I climbed up into his house (it was built out of a tree for reason I can't even begin to fathom, and goddesses only know how he got her up there) I found them laughing, their faces both smeared with red liquid. I'm not sure if I was more baffled that it wasn't each other's blood or that they'd apparently been attacking each other with jelly in a childish fit. But there they were on the rug in front of the fireplace, Zelda reclined against every pillow he owned as she sketched designs for the new irrigation system in his journal while he translated relevant passages out of that dusty old tome she'd brought, her swollen ankle on his lap being massaged with chu jelly. I wasn't sure whether to grin or throw up when they began humming in unison with each other with silly little smiles on their faces.

Naturally, they were so absorbed in their work (their words, not mine) that the sun was almost setting by the time they realized they needed to get back to Castle Town. So guess who got left behind to bring the horses back when they vanished arm-in-arm in a flash of golden light after the queen with the mastery over magic said teleportation without a dire emergency was a frivolous use of sacred power? If you guessed me, congratulations, you win. Still no prize, though. Life's full of disappointments, as I discovered when I got to the ball room. Deal with it.

By the time I got to the castle, stabled the horses, bathed and dressed in record time (in a damn gown, no less), I got to the ball room to watch the last chocolate torte of the dessert course get snatched up by a fat count from some backward province. And I was starving, damn it. Trust me, there's only one reason to look forward to those stuffy balls and my disappointment cannot be expressed in words. Anyways, there they were, smoothly escaping their new fan clubs and heading for each other with stars in their eyes like something out of a fairy tale. Yep, there they were, the jewels of the kingdom, dancing arm-in-arm in the center of the ball room floor sharing smiles and laughter with scores of men and women looking on with jealousy. Perfect, right?

Well, this time it was. Politely refusing any requests to cut in, they spent the rest of the gala dancing with each other despite Zelda's faint limp and Link's obvious discomfort at the tight collar that he was wearing only because the queen had once mentioned that he would look good in it. I could accept the loss of my favorite dessert and the sore backside I had from galloping most of the way back to the castle, since it looked like the two of them were finally going to end up sharing a lip lock by the end of the evening.

Now, I will admit this only posthumously, but I'm quite sure I was inching toward the edge of my seat like dozens of others when the final dance of the evening was coming to a close and the two of them were gazing into each other's eyes only inches apart. I mean, all the signs were there. She licked her lips, he swallowed, and they were barely even swaying.

Yeah, like I said. Perfect? Guess again. I couldn't tell who noticed the music coming to a close first but they both backed away and put on smiles more fake than the pictographs of the goddesses frolicking naked in the woods someone once tried to sell in the market. (I heard only days later that the man was found floating naked in the town square fountain with all his clothing burned away from a lightning strike. And some people wonder why Din is my patron goddess. I mean, really.)

Anyways, so there I was with a growling stomach, aching buttocks, a corset laced tight enough to leave me barely able to breathe, men staring at my chest like I was a piece of meat, and they had the damn nerve to drag on the little drama! To make matters worse, as predicted, winter came early and hard, leaving the two of them busy, stressed, and in an even more frustrating limbo than before.

Oh, yeah. You bet your pointy little ears I'm writing this after all the trouble you two put me through, queen and hero be damned. And I'm getting the last laugh because I'm having the revised edition published when you can't get to me. (I hope. Need to remember to talk to that priestess).

All right. Now, it all started with this idea I had...

Six weeks earlier...

Ashei snickered when she saw her friend's face turn red. Zelda sat upon a bench in her private garden beneath an open window and she was putting on a good show of appearing absorbed in oiling the slender blade of her sword. Unfortunately, the Queen of Hyrule was a poor actress. Her cheeks were flushed and her tongue occasionally flicked out to moisten her lips while the words of the chattering maids tending to her bedroom reached out into the afternoon air in rather lurid and explicit fashion. Ashei couldn't hear it all, but it had something to do with one of the maids, an unnamed guard, a tower window and skirts pulled up waist-high. And if Zelda's pink coloring and swallowing throat were any indication, the story was having quite an effect on the conservative queen.

When the voices faded away to the sound of a closing door, Ashei nearly laughed aloud at the quiet sigh Zelda emitted. The subtle frown creasing her lips was a familiar expression, particularly over the last few months as Hyrule went through a hard winter. It had left its queen physically and mentally exhausted, but calm had come over the land with the spring thaw. The same couldn't be said for its ruler, who appeared to have gone from exhaustion to having too much energy. Frustrated energy, apparently.

Suppressing a smirk, Ashei pushed off the tree she had been leaning against and walked toward the queen, calling out a greeting. "Good afternoon, Zelda."

Her friend started, gazing up at her substitute swordsmanship mentor with a surprised smile, laying her blade across the snug trousers she wore. "Hello, Ashei. I hope you have enjoyed your day, because I will be ruining it and giving you bruises shortly."

It was a distinct possibility. Under the tutelage of Hyrule's hero she had progressed from a novice to an expert with a blade and in the month since his departure she had certainly thrown herself into improving. Still, she lost more than she won. Ashei grinned wolfishly. "I'll let your presumption slide for now. And yes, I've had a good day. I've been walking around listening to the usual gossip." As predicted, Zelda's cheeks colored, something she endeavored to hide by standing and adjusting the laces at the neck of her long-sleeved practice tunic.

"Yes, the maids do enjoy that."

"Stop playing with your clothing and let's get started." Ashei couldn't resist taunting her. Her right side and left thigh still stung from where Zelda had struck her with the dull practice blade the previous evening and she was eager to return the favor, queen or not.

Right on cue Zelda's pale blue eyes lit up and the queen struck at her. Laughing, Ashei dodged and pulled her own blade, stepping back under a rapid string of strikes. It really was amusing how much more aggressive the young monarch had become since Link's departure and the thaw... though not when she was nursing fresh bruises, of course. When Zelda's attack wore itself out Ashei pressed her in return, forcing her deeper into the garden. Her parries came neat and smooth, however, only the tiniest of holes present in her defense. To win, she might have to resort to trickery. Again. This time it seemed she knew just where to press. And actually, it seemed like a good opportunity to work on the queen's obvious dilemma.

Speaking with false nonchalance Ashei blocked a clever counter and pushed the more slender woman back. "Link returns in a day or two. Are you looking forward to showing off what you've learned in his absence?"

Zelda's intended thrust faltered slightly and Ashei slammed her blade wide, following it up with a light swat to the queen's hip. She fell back with a quiet yelp, glaring at her tutor. "I am looking forward to giving him the same bruises I have been giving you."

"Ouch," Ashei taunted. "So aggressive. How long has it been?"

"How long since what? His departure?" Zelda asked through gritted teeth, advancing once more and pressing Ashei back with a string of ringing swipes.

Smirking, Ashei let the queen back her up to a tree before she stood her ground. "No, since you were last bedded."

Zelda's blade jerked awkwardly mid-swing and bounced off the tree trunk above her head as Ashei ducked. Stepping aside, she watched the queen color. "What?" In a most unusual loss of composure, she began to sputter. "That... that is none of your business!"

Ooh. She had really hit home with that one. Of course, she was paying the price, as Zelda was attacking furiously and the clang of steel continued to echo loudly off the castle's stone wall. "Why not?" She kept up the pressure. "You were the one who told me we were nothing but two friends in private and that's what we've been, yeah?"

The queen gritted her teeth at a widely missed thrust. "Yes, but... but..."

Despite the shadows left by the late afternoon sun through the trees, Ashei could see the deep blush on her friend's face. Content to simply stay on defense, she circled around to keep Zelda from trapping her against a row of shrubs. "But what? You've never...?"

The poor thing was flushing hotly as she worked her blade in furious strikes that left her sweating. "Of course not! I was Hyrule's crown princess and I am now queen! I have a reputation to protect!"

Grinning, Ashei deftly countered a thrust and pushed her blade up high, twisting around and giving her a stinging backhand on her derriere that left the queen yelping again. "Is your reputation all that's stopping you?"

Zelda spun around and shot her a hard look. "I know what you are trying to do, Ashei. I will not be distracted."

"Like that time Link ripped his tunic and spent the rest of the fight without it?" Zelda stiffened noticeably. "Or is it his absence that's stopping you?" The queen's blade dipped, leaving Ashei mentally wincing. Perhaps she had gone a bit too far.

"What... what in Hyrule gives you that impression?" Zelda was glaring, but her throat worked in a swallow.

Lowering her blade, Ashei shrugged. This had been going on for many months now, and it was time to do something about it before her queen drove herself mad. "The way you tend to watch him practice from the library window. The way you try to get in close when you're practicing together."

"I... that is to negate his longer reach! And it is fascinating to watch him! He surpassed the skill of the ancient hero long ago and continues to improve."

"True," Ashei conceded despite the obvious lies. Link was indeed breathtaking to watch when he fought, moving with incredible grace and speed, and when he needed it, remarkable strength. More than once she had been sorely tempted to walk toward his damp body with a towel and... she shook the thought off. There was no way she was getting in the middle of whatever it was Link and Zelda pretended did not exist. Smiling up at her friend, she lowered her sword point to the ground and draped her wrists on the hilt. "So why have you been so twitchy lately? And why were you listening to the maids with such rapt attention if you're immune to even the most sought-after man in the kingdom?"

Zelda looked away from her, walking to the tree she had struck and rubbing the mark on its trunk. "I have grown accustomed to being kept busy with my duties. I feel as if I am forgetting or neglecting something when I have more than half an hour of free time a day." She turned her gaze back to Ashei with a glare. "And I never said I was immune, Ashei, but neither am I ruled by my libido."

"If you're not immune, why aren't you courting him?"

She prepared herself for another round of excuses, but there was a flash of pain in those blue eyes before they dipped toward the ground. "It would never work, Ashei," she said, softly and with surprising honesty. "He is a free spirit. I would never trap my dearest friend in the royal life. It would slowly crush him."

Ashei rolled her eyes and moved to a bench, taking a seat. She had debated that very thing with Rusl and Telma once, when the kingdom had first been rife with gossip that their princess and hero seemed to be very close. None of them had left agreeing with Zelda's stance. "In the past year he supervised the reconstruction of the castle's upper levels, practically retrained the entire guard personally, took on ambassadorship to the Gorons and Zoras, and he sniffed out that situation with your traitorous councilors like he was born to subterfuge. There's obviously more to him than the whole wandering, lonely hero thing, yeah?"

Zelda sighed. "There is, but temporary roles are not a throne. Even being simply a consort would still mire him in politics. Either would mean months or a year of tutoring in what he would need to learn."


"Drop it, Ashei," Zelda interrupted coldly. "I do not even know why we are talking about this. Even if I will admit I find him attractive, we are friends and that is the end of it."

She stifled another sigh. Link, the noble idiot, had too much self-discipline, always saving his lingering gazes for when Zelda was looking or walking away. Trying never to breathe too deeply of her perfume when they were near or dancing. Always making a concerted effort to keep his distance from her body when they sparred. Of course it was she who paid the price for his discipline, taking her share of bruises when it was their turn to spar after Zelda retired, as he let his frustrations out on his friend instead of the woman he wanted. Much like the ones Zelda had been taking out on her over the past month.

One of Ashei's brows twitched upward as something occurred to her. Something a bit risky, something she should probably not entertain. But she entertained it anyway.

"All right, sorry. I guess I let myself listen too much of the usual town gossip about their queen and hero." She smiled wryly. "No more about that, then." She lifted her blade and took up a guard position as Zelda cautiously did the same thing. "You've got to admit, though, that what the maids were talking about didn't sound half bad, yeah?"

Zelda's cheeks colored lightly but she threw out a perfect parry against Ashei's quick thrust. "It sounded rather base, actually. And somewhat degrading." Still, her lips darted out between her lips for a split second.

Ashei shrugged, letting her go on offense. "For a queen, maybe. For a woman indulging her passions with her lover?" The thought took a more defined form. A dangerous one. She parried a clever cut and sighed wistfully. "It's been too long for me." Well, that was a bit misleading, as 'too long' consisted of her entire life, but Zelda didn't need to know that. She and Telma had both agreed the woman needed some serious stress relief before the council decided to start another plot against their temperamental queen, though they had been thinking of a vacation or alcohol or a few days in Zora's Domain and some skilled masseuses. And really, Link could use something similar. They had both been going nonstop since Ganondorf died and the hero had practically been pacing and praying for some Lizalfos to dismember before quickly agreeing to a diplomatic trip to Termina. No doubt to march and ride off his frustration away from its source. And so? Dangerous thoughts.

"Really?" Zelda paused her attack, looking up at her with some surprise. "You have...?"

No. "Yeah." She gazed at the bushes in what she hoped was a convincing imitation of a reliving a fond memory. She wasn't really the best actress. "Off and on for a couple of years when he travels to Hyrule."

"Who is he?" It seemed she had her friend's attention.

"A former soldier from Labrynna who escorts valuable caravans." She chuckled quietly and hid a grin at how easily the lie came to her lips. "We met one cold rainy night in a tavern and just sort of ended up in my room under the sheets. I don't even know how it happened."

"You weren't drugged, were you?" She could have laughed. That would no doubt have been the same question that Link would have asked, even spoken with the same concern.

"Oh, no. We hadn't even been drinking. It was just a wild impulse."

"Queens cannot be impulsive," Zelda said, but though her tone was wry Ashei didn't miss the subtle frown.

"Yeah, well, that's what I thought, too. I woke up and was shocked... for about twenty seconds. Then I rolled over and gave into my next impulse and soon felt much better." Really, she should be mortified to be lying to her friend and queen, but the dangerous thought had firmly taken a hold, and Zelda's arching brows and false nonchalance left her wanting to cackle villainously.

"How much better?"

Ashei thought for a moment before coming up with what she hoped was an appropriate event. "Do you remember the wine the Terminian ambassador brought last year? The first sip?"

Zelda blushed but uttered a quiet laugh. Magic pervaded Termina, including their extraordinarily delicious wine. "I remember uttering an undignified moan at the first taste along with everyone else." Yes, that had left half of the people in the dining hall embarrassed, but no one left their wine glasses unfinished. Or their second.

"Yes, well, imagine taking a sip of that while soaking in a Kakariko hot spring and receiving a massage after an entire day spent sparring." Zelda's brows rose. "Then, oh... triple it." Blue eyes went wide.


"Very," Ashei practically purred, congratulating herself on cracking through the marble facade of the normally unflappable queen. "Imagine being on the road all day. Cold, wet, and shivering, then having a warm meal and wrapping up in warm blankets. Then add a firm, warm man entangled with you with strong hands, soft lips, and deep groans teasing your ears while you're quivering in pleasure." Perhaps she could earn some coin for a new blade on the side by writing those stories so many women loved to read. Judging by the flush of Zelda's skin and the way she was swallowing and licking her lips, she'd provided quite the mental image. In fact, she was beginning to feel jealous of her own imagination. Bah.

"That does sound rather... pleasant." There was a faint hitch in Zelda's voice.

"Blissful, addictive, utterly satisfying." She grinned up at the clouds, feeling an odd amused satisfaction in leaving the stoic queen intrigued. "Imagine feeling for an entire day like you just got out of a hot spring and knowing you're going back to Kakariko again that night." Ashei glanced over to see Zelda nibbling her lip and running a fingertip over budding cherry blossoms.

"Some days it feels like a warm soak is all I have to look forward to," Zelda murmured. "Perhaps I will break into our stock of Terminian wine and take a glass into the bath tonight."

Well, that hadn't been quite what she had been going for. The very dangerous thought took a very firm shape, leaving Ashei contemplating it for a moment... very carefully. Either it wouldn't work to begin with, it would end wild success, or it would result in utter disaster. The odds seemed about even. Good enough for her. Playing it safe bored her to tears, after all. Sheathing her sword, Ashei leaned against the tree and spoke casually. "You know, my friend sent me a letter a couple of weeks ago. He'll be here in a few days."

"Lucky you." Zelda's response was distant and wistful, followed by a quiet sigh. Ashei couldn't suppress her grin that time, watching the queen wander over to a row of blossoming orchids.

"Yeah. Plus his fellows are a lot of fun, too. Good men, real sweethearts. Kind of the strong, quiet type, too: disciplined, loyal, experienced. Handsome, too." The words just sort of poured out, but Ashei noticed they made a Hylian ear perk. She would have grinned wider but for the danger of what came next. "They served the Labrynnan royal family before the new king released them. If you wanted to meet one of them, I could arrange it. They know how to be discreet."

Zelda's ears not only twitched; they practically jerked as her eyes went wide. "Excuse me?"

Perhaps dangerous was too mild an adjective, for she suddenly felt as if she had an irritated Link advancing on her, practice blade in hand. But it was a challenge, one very different from her usual slicing and stabbing. And she did love a challenge. Ashei softened her tone. "They're very respectful. You wouldn't have to worry about a scandal if one of them interested you."

Zelda was blushing furiously and her mouth fell open as she turned toward her. "Are you... are you seriously suggesting...?"

Well, too late to back down. Ashei shrugged. "If you wanted to. You could just be Zelda meeting an intriguing man who wouldn't demand anything of you, yeah?"

Zelda's eyes unfocused and shifted away, her lower lip pinched between her teeth. Ooh. Apparently she was interested. "I..." She shook her head. "No. I'm a queen, Ashei, not a..."

Straightening, she folded her arms indignantly and glared at her friend. "Not a what?" Wait, was she offended over an insinuation regarding her moral character over having a fake lover? She shook it off. Zelda blanched and didn't finish the thought, leaving Ashei an opening. "Not a woman who's gone to bed with muscle aches every night for the past year because of the never ending stresses of running a kingdom? Aching and cold, no one to keep you warm and collapsed in bliss after an evening of pleasure?" She shrugged. "I know what you're trying to say but it's not like you'd be taking someone's money or finding a different man every night."

"No, of course not," Zelda admitted quietly. "And... it is tempting. But I'm the sole ruler of Hyrule and there are no successors. A scandal would be terrible, Ashei."

Well, that was a good point. Besides, there had been a rather gaping flaw in the dangerous idea she hadn't really thought about... until the solution suddenly presented itself. Ashei didn't have to feign sudden inspiration. "Hmm... perhaps a quiet meeting in the dark of night, one where he wouldn't even see your face." A wicked grin curled her lips. "A mysterious lover, no worries about your station or scandals. Just you and someone to introduce you to the pleasures of intimacy with the security of anonymity." Idly, she wondered what in Din's name was going on inside her own head. Leading Link into a den of Wolfos was one thing, but this was something else entirely. More fun, too.

Zelda's brows rose slightly and she suckled her lip just a little deeper between her teeth, turning and taking a slow step to run her palm over the tree. "That is rather romantic in a way. Mysterious. And exciting." Her eyes glazed over, her voice falling to a murmur. "Wondering just who it is that's touching your skin in the dark, or kissing your lips..." Ashei stood silently, watching a subtle shiver work its way down her friend's body. She could practically feel the temptation and working gears of Zelda's mind, but there was no pushing her. After a very long moment the queen turned toward her slightly, her words coming soft and hesitant. "Good men, you said?"

It took quite a bit of effort to suppress a victorious grin.

The Hero's Shade shook his head as the images faded from the water, dropping his skeletal face into a gauntlet-covered hand. "I cannot believe this. Could you not simply have sent them a dream of themselves old, lonely, and full of regrets?"

His companion laughed, looking up at him from where she lie prone on the grass dipping a fingertip into the water of the small silver pond they had been watching. "You were the one that came to me grumbling that your descendant was following in your footsteps. Don't blame me for taking action."

He glared at the red-haired woman with his remaining eye. "Actually, I came to you for advice, hoping you had words of wisdom."

She arched a slender brow. "You have noticed that my hair is not blue but red, yes? You do realize I am the impulsive one?"

"I hoped that stereotype did not apply. Perhaps that was foolish of me."

"Says the man who married a blond and a redhead," she retorted.

"I told you!" They turned at the sound of a musical voice to see two other women approaching. The one who had spoken possessed vibrant green wavy hair and eyes and tanned skin. The eyes of the other were a rich azure, her deep blue tresses tied in a chignon at the back of her ivory neck. The former stopped and put her hands on her hips, smirking at them both. "You see? They're scheming behind our backs."

The Shade sighed and returned his face to his palm. "I apologize, but as I was explaining to your sister, I came for advice."

The blue-haired sister scoffed, folding her arms across her chest. "From her? Have you lost your senses?"

"Hey!" the redhead protested, sitting up. "Just because you-"

The sister in green interrupted them. "Oh, enough." Turning to the Shade, she gave him a crooked smile. "You cannot fool us, Hero. You knew full well she would come up with something wild and impulsive."

He sighed, a sound that seemed to echo off his steel breastplate and rattle in his bony throat. "Oh, very well. I had hoped my successor would show a little backbone without steel in his hand, but I felt serious action was required." He glared at the redhead. "However, I did not expect anything that drastic."

"You really need to liven up a bit," she said, grinning. "After all, you were the champion of the goddess of life, you know."

"Liven up?" He glanced pointedly down at his skeletal frame. "How very amusing."

She snickered. "No wonder you don't like my plan. Perhaps we should give you your body back so you can understand."

The blue-eyed sister stepped between them. "Oh, stop taunting him. And you, Hero: she has a point." She sighed when her sister uttered a whoop. "As much as I hate to admit it. They are both as blind and stubborn as you and your second wife were at their age. Perhaps more so. I believe they need something other than a few dreams to get them off this path they are on."

"Wow," the green-eyed woman said, "I never thought I'd see the day that you would agree with our sister, let alone support this kind of plan."

"You disapprove?"

"Well... actually, no." She smiled widely. "They need to liven up, too. Besides, this is going to be a lot of fun to watch."

Blue eyes narrowed and pink lips curled into a frown. "Please tell me you do not plan to watch everything."

"Make that four people who need to liven up," the redhead muttered.

The Hero's Shade sighed deeply. "I shudder to think of what images colored this water on my wedding nights."

Din grinned wickedly at him but said nothing while Farore giggled and Nayru blushed scarlet.

After having nothing completed or published in over a year and a half a friend of mine, tired of my waffling, challenged me to come up with a short story with a ridiculous premise and just slap it up on the site. Naturally, what I came up with was so much fun to write that I had 17,000 words written in one day, 50,000 in a few days, and no end in sight.

Well, that was over a month ago. This thing has practically turned into a tree with dozens of possible branches and endings and it started driving me nuts after I wrote about six of them. So I finally decided to say screw it and just start posting, as the first 30,000 or so words are pretty firmly established. I'll figure it out. Feel free to shoot ideas at me.

I have no idea what kind of reception this will get, given what it is, but I enjoyed writing it too much to just let it sit there unread and incomplete.