Author's Note: Thank you to BabyKoalaPrincess for your fantastic editing! this story never would have happened without you!
As far as Highmoon gifts went, it wasn't at all what I had been expecting.
"Wake up," Link told me, coming into my room and shaking my shoulder gently. I groaned, slinging my pillow at his head.
"I'd rather sleep," I grunted at him, burrowing deeper under my sheets.
"Please?" Link asked, switching on a lamp and opening my closet. "Get up. I have a surprise for you."
"Leave me alone," I grunted, annoyed.
He'd pulled out a suitcase and began packing my things into it. "No," he replied simply.
I decided to ignore him, hugging my pillow and smothering the light with it. Link was banging around my room, though- the sounds of drawers opening and shutting, cloth flying into the suitcase, and his heavy footsteps resounded around my head like the echoes of a gong. There was a momentary pause, and then the footsteps came towards me. Link yanked my pillow out of my grasp and threw my sheets off me.
"Up," he commanded, grinning down at me as I glared up at him with sleepy hate. I glanced over at my alarm clock- five in the morning.
"Why?" I asked him angrily, tossing my sleep-mussed hair. "Link, I don't understand why this can't wait."
"Because," he said gently, throwing some of my underwear into the suitcase, "it just can't. Now get up. Please."
"You're just going nuts because Sheik isn't here to inflict bodily damage upon you for harassing me," I continued.
"I never harass you," he said, but then his cheeks flushed a little as he admitted, "Well, sometimes I do… I just enjoy seeing you all riled up. I'm not actually serious about it or anything."
Sheik, Link and I had been living together since I'd come to Ordonia University the previous fall- my brother and his best friend had kindly consented to rent the empty room in their apartment out to me. It was an ideal situation, really… the worst of anything was Sheik and Link getting mad at me for clogging the shower drain with my hair. Sometimes Sheik and I argued, but Link, ever tranquil, ever peaceful, was there to soothe us both. In fact, when things came down to it, the man was my best friend… he was sweet, and kind, and caring, and painfully attractive, and I could never have him because he thought of me like a sister. I hated him a little for that, sometimes.
"No," Link continued, zipping up my suitcase. "I'm trying to do something nice for you."
"If you wanted to be nice," I told him vehemently, "you'd let me sleep."
He picked up my suitcase and began to haul it from my room, shooting me a pitiless look, though the corners of his lips had quirked upward. "Up," he commanded. Groaning and grumbling, I finally complied, wincing as my feet touched down on the cold hardwood floors.
I shivered, wrapping my arms around myself as I moved to the closet. I pulled out a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, changing out of my white pajama pants with the rainbow polka dots and the faded, well-worn "ORDONIA FENCING" shirt I'd stolen from Link. I pulled on socks and then slid out of my room into the bathroom, where I brushed my teeth and my hair and washed my face. I grabbed my toiletries and moved into the living room. In the kitchen, Link was pouring coffee into travel mugs, and he'd already made two breakfast sandwiches of eggs and ham on a bagel. I stared at him sleepily and stupidly as he finished eating his own sandwich.
"Ready to go? I made you food."
In that moment, as I took him in, I hated him a little. He looked perfectly crisp and awake, not at all as though it were five in the morning. His shaggy goldenrod hair was semi-damp from his shower, his face clean-shaven, eyes bright and awake. He wore a white, long-sleeved shirt over which he'd layered a green polo. He wore khaki pants and brown boots- he looked easy, casual, absolutely delicious. And to top off how ridiculously attractive he was, the jerk had made me breakfast.
Goddesses damn it.
"Where are we going?"
"It's a surprise," Link told me, walking towards me and pressing the coffee and bagel into my hands. "Ready?"
"I guess," I replied, feeling defensive and grumpy. "Does Sheik know about this?"
"Yes," Link replied, grabbing his own coffee and ushering me towards the door. "I've already loaded your suitcase into the car. Bring your coat and hat and all, please. You don't want to be cold where we're going."
"You'll see when we get there," he told me patiently as I pulled on my shoes. He grinned, all good humor. "Now stop pestering me."
"Well gee, maybe I wouldn't be pestering you if you hadn't so rudely woken me up at five this morning. You know I came back at two thirty in the morning. Three and a half hours of sleep isn't enough."
"Stop complaining," he told me as he slung his coat on, pulling on his gloves and hat as well. "Trust me."
I didn't like the way my stomach did loop-de-loops when he looked at me like that, asking me to trust him. How could I? He'd break my heart in a second! "Well, how long will we be gone?" I asked him to distract myself, pulling my own hat over my hair and buttoning up my cream-colored coat.
"About a week, for Highmoon and the New Year. We'll be back the same day as Sheik. I'm sorry if this has ruined any of your other plans."
"I didn't have any." I grabbed my purse. "Speaking of whom, I wonder how Sheik's doing. I hope Malon's family is treating him well."
"He's having a blast- I talked to him last night. Ready? Got your food? Good. Let's go," he told me, ushering me out of the small apartment into the cold. Snow still hadn't fallen, but it would any day now; the skies were heavy and overcast. I descended the stairs, the cold metal railing biting me even through my thick white gloves. Behind me, Link locked the door of the apartment, then followed me down. The car was waiting by the curb, and I unsteadily climbed into the passenger side, grateful that Link had had the foresight to warm it up a little. He pulled himself into the drivers seat, shut and locked the doors, and peeled off his gloves, coat, and hat. He turned the key in the ignition, hit the headlights, and drove away.
I took a while to eat my sandwich, leaving my coffee in the cup holder by the transmission. After some time had passed and there'd been nothing but silence, my curiosity got the better of me.
"So, why exactly are you kidnapping me?" I asked Link, looking at him sideways through my lashes.
"It's a surprise," he told me simply again, tossing me his coat. "We're going to be in the car awhile- you can sleep for a time, if you'd like."
"Uh," I simply mumbled. I spread his coat out over me and leaned the seat back a little, using his gloves and hat (as well as mine, which I'd just peeled off) as a pillow. "Thanks, I guess."
"I'll wake you up when we get there," he told me simply as I pulled his coat tighter around me. It smelled like him- like aftershave and man and a scent that was distinctly his, a smell rather like sandalwood and earth. It was comforting.
I shifted a little, and was promptly asleep.
I woke up around eleven as we were pulling into Castelle city limits. Soft rock was pouring gently from the stereo- Link looked perfectly at ease.
"Good morning," he greeted me cheerfully as he changed lanes to pass someone.
"Hi," I croaked, sitting up and putting my hand to my forehead as I looked out the windows. "Where are we?"
"Castelle," he told me, changing lanes again. "We're almost to the hotel."
"Castelle?" I asked, suddenly more awake… and excited. "Why Castelle?"
"I've heard that Castelle at Highmoon is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and since you and I are both on our own for the holidays, I thought it might be a better way to spend it than at the apartment, watching late-night sitcoms and eating cold leftovers."
"Link, this is amazing of you!" I told him, excited. "I've always wanted to come to Castelle!"
"Yes, you're of a distant relation to the King, aren't you?"
I looked at him, startled. "Yes- Sheik's and my great-grandmother, the Viscountess of Deeplake, married the King's grandfather's brother, the Greater Duke of Peak, and my cousin Midna is an Archduchess."
"So then how did Sheik get to be a Baron?"
"Well," I said, impressed that Link knew, as it wasn't a commonly spread-about detail, "the Viscountess and the Duke had two children, a young Archduchess and a young Archduke. My grandmother, the Archduchess, married a Baron… it was a love match and the title of Baron passed from my father to Sheik," I added. "My grandmother's brother the Archduke married a Margrave, and their son, the Marquess, married the Archduchess of Twili. My cousin Midna is very close to both royal families."
"So do you think you could get us in to meet the King, Queen, Prince, and Princess?"
"Uh," I said a little blankly. "I might. Is this why you dragged me to Castelle?"
"Actually, your noble lineage has nothing to do with the reason why I dragged you to Castelle," Link replied, looking almost hurt. "I was just curious. You always think the worst of me, Zel."
"Sorry," I stated, chagrined. "I apologize. Um, so." I glanced down at my coffee mug, only to see it was long-empty. "I see you drank my coffee."
"Yeah, it was getting cold," he told me. "I'm sorry, I didn't think you'd miss it. I'd have asked but you were… you know, asleep."
My stomach took that moment to grumble loudly. Link grinned. "Hungry?"
"Yeah," I chimed, even as my stomach rumbled again in affirmation.
"We'll stop for lunch before we get to the hotel, then, if you'd like."
"Sure. What hotel?"
I leaned back in my seat, watching Link's profile impassively.
"What's with this, anyway?" I asked him as his eyes flitted to a mile marker.
"With what?" He didn't look at me.
"You know. The whole surprising me thing. You seem to have gone to a lot of trouble."
He shrugged. We were passing by the suburbs of Castelle, neatly trimmed yards bordered with high, tasteful hedges and trees whizzing past my window. At last, he spoke.
"Is it really such a surprise that I might want to go out of my way to do something nice for you every once in a while?"
I blinked. "Well-" and I thought back a bit to living with Link. He did little things for me from time to time to make me feel better; he made me drinks when I had bad days, rented movies for me when I was too busy… even at a party once, he'd rescued me from the clutches of Ordonia U's serial creep, Ganondorf Dragmire, and had kept me close to him for the rest of the night.
"No," I told him finally, looking at him with a smile. "But I haven't done anything to deserve this."
"Sure you have," he said, and grinned charmingly. "You just made it through your first set of University Finals. You deserve a reward, you know."
"Well, when you put it that way," I said thoughtfully, trailing off into playful silence. I looked at him, suddenly serious. "But really, Link. You don't need to do this."
"Maybe I want to," he said simply, not looking at me. "Maybe I think it'll be fun. We haven't gotten to know each other much, you know. Sheik's always around."
"Oh, yes, because Sheik is such an inhibitor. You're just shy," I teased, poking the flesh of his chiseled cheek playfully.
"I'm not shy," Link replied indignantly. I looked at him with a raised brow. He smiled. "Sheik's just… you know. Sheik."
"That, I do know." Sheik was a boisterous troublemaker- loud, lovable, hilarious… he consumed the attention of everyone around him, and that was the way he liked it. He could be serious too, sometimes, and he was so smart it was overwhelming to talk to him at times… yes, Sheik tended to divert all attention to himself. I realized that Link was right- with my brother around, I'd never really gotten to know Link very well. Sure, I knew him, and we were friends- even close friends- but I didn't know much about who he was as a person.
We drove in relative silence for a while more- I watched as the suburbs melted into slightly more urban scenery: strip malls, grocery stores, post offices, restaurants. "Were we going to stop for food?"
"I've got a place in mind," Link replied. This caused me to look up at him in surprise.
"I didn't know you were familiar with Castelle," I replied, eyes tracing the lines of his face.
"My sister and I used to come up over the summers… in the later years, we'd work. We lived with our great uncle, Orca."
"The one you learned fencing from?" I asked eagerly. Link looked up at me in surprise.
"Yes, actually. I worked at his fencing club, and loved what I saw. So I begged him to teach me."
"When did you start fencing competitively?"
"When I was seventeen," Link replied. "But I'd already been training with Uncle Orca for nearly seven years."
"What took you so long to decide to compete?"
"I was a shy kid," Link told me with a shrug- this earned a laugh from me.
"I have difficulty imagining that," I said with a smile. "You're quiet now, but you can talk to anyone. You're more an introvert than shy."
"It's true!" he replied with a grin. "I was shy. And fat."
"Fat?" I looked over at him, gauging his muscles, his well-cut form… it was difficult to envision him as fat.
"Yeah," Link told me. "After my parents died in the accident, I got really depressed and started eating a lot, and I got fat. Once I started eating healthily and exercising regularly, though, it all dropped off."
"When you joined the fencing team."
I was quiet for a few moments. Then, I spoke. "Are you sorry you're not going to see Aryll this Highmoon?"
"Nah, not really," Link told me with a shrug. "We talk often enough, and she's spending Highmoon with her boyfriend and his family… so it's not a big deal. I'm happy for her. Ah," he added, seeing the exit he wanted. "Ready for lunch?"
"Absolutely," I affirmed.
Lunch had been, of course, delicious, and Link had been perfectly charming. Even though I didn't want to, I put up my guard anyway- I could not, repeat, could not fall for this guy worse than I already had.
We arrived at the hotel- a little place called Telma's, located in the urban mess of Castelle South Central.
"It doesn't look like much," Link assured me, parking the car and turning it off, "but it's a good place to stay."
"Alright," I responded. I passed Link his coat, which he pulled on, and then pulled on my own coat, hat, and gloves. Link opened the car door and a gust of cold air hit me- it was far colder here in Castelle than it had been in Ordonia City. I shivered and got out of the car too, and hurried with Link to the door of the inn. We entered and found ourselves in a modest but tastefully decorated lobby- on one side, there was a staircase (and elevator), and on the other, the entrance to "TELMA'S TAVERN."
"Hello," Link said amiably to the desk clerk, a teenage girl with blue hair who was chewing gum. "I'd like to check in, please."
"Name?" she asked, blowing a bubble.
"Link Woolfe," he replied. The girl looked up at him once, looked down, and typed something in on the computer.
"Vacation suite, right?" asked the girl.
"And it says you prepaid online. I need you to verify this information to make sure it's correct," she added, grabbing the paper that the printer spit out and handing it to Link. "Just sign at the bottom when you're done," she told him, handing him a pen. His eyes scanned over the document and I took the moment to look around- white marble floor, warm wood-paneled walls, pots of glimmering winter flowers and tasteful gold and white decorations all about the lobby.
"Here's your room keys," the clerk told Link, handing him two key-cards. "Room 371."
"Thank you," Link said to her. He looked over at me. "Do you want to stay here while I get our things out of the car? It's cold out there."
"No, I'll help," I told him, following him back out into the cold. We hurried to the car and Link opened the trunk; I grabbed my suitcase, he grabbed his, and we were back inside within a minute. We caught the elevator up to the third floor and walked down the hallway until we found our suite; Link swiped the key-card through the door sensor and we were in.
With a grin, Link stood back and let me enter first. "Link delivers," he announced as I stared around.
Link certainly had delivered. The suite had a small sitting area and kitchen, which was decorated in an earthy, contemporary style. The sofa was a forest green and the floor was glossy wood, as was the coffee table and entertainment unit. The walls were sponge-painted in light and dark green tones, and the bed that I could see was draped in lush, soft blankets. There was even a shimmering winter flower sitting on the bedside, silver and gold petals glimmering in the light of the window.
"Do you like it?" Link asked eagerly as I walked through the suite to the other bedroom, which was decorated the same.
"Very much," I replied with a grin. I peered into the bathroom- white and pristine, of course- and then looked at him, beaming. "Link, you shouldn't have!"
"Yes I should have," he insisted with a shrug and a modest smile. "This is for me too, you know."
"Of course." I watched him with a half smile as he checked his watch.
"We've got about five hours until dinner- would you like to see Castelle? There's an excellent museum about the Ancient Hero just a few blocks from here. Or, if you prefer, we can go shopping…" he looked a little uncertain at the notion of shopping, and with good reason- Sheik told him horror stories about shopping with me like small children tell scary stories around campfires.
"The museum sounds great," I replied with a laugh, linking arms with him as we left the room.
The museum was fabulous. We stayed there until it closed and we were kicked out, moving from exhibit to exhibit, and all over the Ancient Hero. Even the Master Sword had been on display, though it had come with a surprise.
"I wonder what's in this room?" I asked, looking up at Link. He smiled down at me- damn and blast, I thought, why couldn't he smile at me as if I weren't his little sister?
"You're going to like it," he replied simply, softly, leading me through the archway into the shimmering, pure light that seemed to fill the room. The light didn't come from outside; in fact, the lighting set into the high, arched ceiling was minimal, and yet the room still shone.
"Look, Link," I'd murmured, moving closer to him and grabbing his arm as I pinpointed the source of the light. "It can't be."
"It is," he responded, pulling me forward. We stepped closer and closer- there, on the floor, was the Pedestal of Time, and rising out of it…
"The Master Sword," I breathed, awed. "How did they get it in here?"
"The Sages," replied Link with a smile and a shrug. "When the time comes for the Master Sword to be moved, the Sages pick up the Pedestal of Time and the Master Sword with their powers and bring it over here. They're the only ones who can touch it, except for direct descendants of the Hero. Surely you remember that from Legends in Early Hylian History?"
"Yes, and don't remind me, that final was a catastrophe," I stated, a little chagrined. "I got carried away and wasn't thinking. So… it's not housed in glass because nobody can touch it?"
"Except for the Sages and a descendant of The Blood," Link confirmed with a nod. "Look, it says here on the floor," he added, pointing down at the small golden plaque that had been set into the floor, "that Museum Guests are invited to try to touch the blade."
"But what if someone of the Hero's bloodline tried to steal it?"
"Well, the blade is their right, isn't it? And even if one of the Hero's bloodline were to come, the Master Sword wouldn't move for malicious intent, because-"
"No evil can touch it, right," I finished for him. Carefully, I reached out a hand to grasp the sword. Just before my fingers touched the pommel, though, something strange happened. A dome of light built around the sword and deflected my hand, sparkling as I reached for it. I pushed against it- my hand bounced off. "Amazing. Link, you try!"
"Hmm," he said with a smile, studying the blade without malice. "I don't think I will."
"Oh, please, Link? It's the strangest sensation," I said, tugging at his arm. He glanced around surreptitiously. There was nobody in sight. Quickly, he reached out and grabbed the sword, hand closing in a secure, familiar way about the grip. My jaw dropped. Link released the sword and grabbed my elbow.
"You can't tell," he told me in a whisper. "Even Sheik doesn't know. Promise you'll keep the secret, Zelda. Please."
Dumbly, I nodded.
When we returned to the hotel room, I stood before the mirror, watching Link through it.
"I can't believe you're of The Blood."
"Stranger things have happened," Link replied with a shrug. Then, he was serious, blue eyes on mine. I turned to see him better.
"Nobody can know. I trust you," he told me seriously, setting his hands on my shoulders. "My great-uncle Kibbett went parading that around once, and sorely regretted it."
"What happened to him?" I asked, voice barely a breath.
"Assassinated by one of the Darch Cults," he replied grimly. "So."
"Right," I replied, looking at him with new respect and fear. I hugged him. "No dying for you."
Briefly, his arms wrapped around me, and I marveled at how our bodies fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. Then, he stepped back, all sunshine and grins, his normal, polite, sometimes unpredictable self. "I think I packed your nice blue dress- you know the one. You should go put it on."
"And why should I do that?" I asked him, crossing my arms over my chest and quirking a brow at him.
"Because we're going out to a nice dinner, and then somewhere special?"
I smiled at this. "And this somewhere special that we're going is…"
"You'll see when we get there." His grin was sincere, excited… momentarily, I felt bad for all the effort Link was going to on my part… I hadn't even gotten him anything for Highmoon yet! His brow creased as he looked at me. "What's wrong?"
"I still haven't gotten you a present," I told him, looking down. Link tilted my chin up with a finger… the way his unkempt hair fell into those incredible pale eyes that looked straight into my soul caused a strange churning in my stomach. I didn't look away.
"You don't need to get me anything," he told me simply. "This whole outing is for both of us. I couldn't come up to Castelle all alone, could I? I'd have been lonely."
"I suppose," I acquiesced. "But… isn't there something I can do to make this all up to you?" I bit my lip, watching him. He grinned.
"Go put on that blue dress, and don't talk about how you don't deserve this, and I'll be happy. You know, Zelda," he added, stepping away from me and stretching- my eyes automatically dropped to eye the waistband of his rubber chicken boxers that peeped out above his jeans, yum- but I tore my gaze indignantly upward at his next words, which he said a little too casually: "-I might almost think you were ungrateful."
"I am not," I replied, appalled.
"I know," he said with a grin, poking me in the stomach. "But you should still probably get dressed… unless you'd rather go out naked? I don't think anyone would mind, but you might get cold."
His laughter followed me through the door I noisily shut, wrapping around me like a blanket as I sat down on my bed, staring at the wood panel, thinking that I had gotten myself into something certain to make life eternally miserable.
I'd fallen- completely, irrevocably, eternally, I had fallen in love with Link, and he could never know.
I rose and went for my suitcase, which I'd haphazardly shoved into a corner before I left. Now, I picked it up and tossed it onto the bed, unzipping it and peering inside, certain that the moisture in my eyes was caused by standing up too quickly. Link had packed my things rather carefully- nothing was wrinkled. This caused a spark of annoyance in me- why couldn't he just be a jerk? My pants were all neatly folded, as were my shirts, and the dress he'd asked me to wear was rolled up in such a way that when I pulled it out, it looked as immaculate as if it had been hanging in my closet all day. Even my underwear was stacked neatly- I cringed in embarrassment at the thought of Link having to go through my panty drawer… I wondered what exactly what he'd seen. I cringed, blushing a little at the thought of some of the items I had in there. Link seeing those things was just downright awkward.
"Link," I yelled as I started pulling off my shirt. "I appreciate you packing for me and all, but next time, let me pack my own underwear!"
Again with that laugh- stupid man. He needed to be more arrogant and less attractive, that way I wouldn't like him anymore. Probably.
I grabbed my makeup and walked into the bathroom in my bra and jeans, where I wrapped a towel around myself. I started applying my cosmetics- moisturizer, foundation, blush… as I was dusting my cheekbones with shimmery pink powder, Link walked in, dressed quite nicely in dress pants and a button-up tuxedo shirt that was not really buttoned up- his white undershirt perfectly silhouetted his impeccable abs. Damn him.
"Why aren't you wearing a shirt?" he asked me, echoing my thoughts of him.
"Because," I replied patiently as I set down my blush brush and reached for my eyeshadow, "I don't want to get makeup on my clothes."
"You don't need makeup," he said, leaning against the doorframe and watching me. I glanced at him once, pausing in my task of unscrewing the lid of a pot of incandescent lilac powder. Though he was smiling, there was no insincerity about him- mentally, I cursed him, and went back to my task in an effort to distract myself from the sizzling piece of meat standing not five feet away.
"I'm glad you think so," I replied, dipping a small brush into the pot. I closed one eye and focused the other on my task of lightly dusting the shadow onto my lid. "But in society, it's not a question of whether or not you need makeup, it's a question of whether or not you go through the effort to put it on. In applying makeup and applying it well, I declare that, as a woman, I am hard-working, care about my looks, and am willing to take the time to maintain myself and my relationships with those around me. Were I to go out without makeup on, I would be a slob."
"I don't think you're a slob when you don't wear makeup," Link told me quietly, watching me as I dusted the other eyelid. "I think you're more beautiful without it."
I sighed and smiled, switching to the other eye. "I'm flattered that you think that. Unfortunately, most of the cosmetic things women do are for other women. There's a bunch of undercurrents to female interaction… why am I explaining this to you? Moreover, why are you even in here?"
"I got bored and figured I'd keep you company, if that's alright," Link told me as I finished brushing on the shadow. I grabbed my stick of mascara and got to work on my lashes. "Isn't that hard?"
"Just takes practice, that's all," I replied as I carefully brushed at my lashes. Link was silent as he watched me; slowly, he moved closer. I finished with my lashes, quickly lined my eyes, and turned to face him as he stepped up beside me. "Yes?" I was sure he could see my pulse in my throat.
"Can I use the sink?" he asked, gently pushing me aside. He looked at me with mocking in his eye, though everything else about his bearing was serious. "I need to tame my wild golden locks so that I can make a good impression on other men."
"I knew you were gay," I responded with a grin. At that, Link quirked a brow.
"Are you so sure?" he asked me teasingly as he ran his hands under the water. "You know, theoretically, I might have dragged you up here to Castelle because I'm secretly madly in love with you and am trying to prove it."
I grinned, though my heart ached at that. "Theoretically, of course."
"Or perhaps," he continued, "this is just a whole ploy to… you know."
My mouth went dry as I filled in the blanks with a quirked brow. "Have your dastardly ways with me?" I wished. "That wouldn't be very nice of you."
"And I would never do something mean," Link told me with a grin, running his wet hands through his hair. Goddesses, the man was attractive!
"It's true," I said sincerely... Mostly. Then, without another word, I turned and fled the bathroom.
Full of delicious food, Link and I walked down the sidewalk- he'd generously offered me his elbow and, because it was cold outside and he was warm, I agreed. I could feel the strong muscles of his arms through the thickness of his coat- I moved closer to him, telling myself that it was the cold that drew me near, nothing else.
"So, what's this surprise that's happening next?" I asked Link, smiling up at him expectantly.
"Wait, what was that word you just said?" he teased, nudging me in the side with a grin. I frowned.
"No, the noun."
"Yes!" he replied. "Now, I know this is a difficult question, but, what does the word surprise mean?"
I swatted him on the head with a laugh. "Link, you're obnoxious sometimes."
"Surprises are all the better if they're allowed to live out their full potential. Meaning, you'll be more thrilled when we get there, which in turn will make me happy. So, stop asking me. Please," he added, more as an afterthought than a command. "Zelda, how do you feel about walking to the Central Square? I hear it's beautiful this time of year." He looked down at me, eyes intense upon me as he spoke.
"Uh." I felt very warm. "Sure. Sounds great. Thank you, Link."
"Don't mention it."
We walked in silence for a few moments. Link saw me looking around at our surroundings curiously, and spoke to me with a smile in his voice. "Do you see that building there?" he pointed at a tall blue painted hotel. "That's the S.T.A.R. Casino. My great-great grandfather won a small fortune off of the man who worked there. We Woolfes haven't been allowed back in since." He smiled ruefully.
"What did your granddad do with the fortune?" I asked him, moving closer to him as a cold breeze whipped around me. Link noticed me shiver and wrapped an arm around me. I instantly felt much better.
"Donated it to charity," Link responded. "He didn't need the money, and there were others who did. He was a good man."
"You sound like you admire him a lot," I noted.
"I try to live my life with honor, the way he did."
"You do it admirably," I assured him. He grinned down at me and squeezed me with the arm he'd wrapped around my shoulders.
"Why, thank you," he replied happily. We entered into Castelle's Central Square- a water fountain with the holy crest expunged glimmering water; curious, I moved towards the fountain- as I stepped away from Link, I felt a little at a loss, but curiosity overtook me as I approached it.
"I've heard the fountain has been enchanted so that the water never gets cold."
"It's holy water," Link affirmed as I drew off one of my gloves and trailed my fingers in the water, which was pleasantly warm, like a bath.
"Incredible," I breathed, pulling my hand out and drying it on my coat. I shoved it quickly back in the glove, then took Link's arm once again. Across the square from where we stood was the Olde Hyliane Royale Operahouse Et Theatre, a masterpiece of architecture that stretched into the sky- angels and demons warred on the battlements, silhouetted against the stars. A poster in the front of the theater announced that tonight the Royal Ballet would be performing Silver Baton, a holiday piece about a little girl who is kidnapped on Highmoon Eve. Her brother saves her with his silver baton and with the help of a crew of pirates, flying mailmen, tree-people and a talking boat. I looked at it a little ruefully- Silver Baton was a holiday classic, and I had many pleasant memories of going to see it as a child with Sheik and our parents.
"Oh," I sighed, looking across the street longingly, forgetting Link by my side for a moment. "I would love to see Silver Baton…"
"Good," replied Link, wrapping an arm around me again. "Because I got us tickets."
"Link!" I squealed, jumping on him in an instant and wrapping my arms tight around him. "You didn't!"
"I wouldn't lie to you," he replied, voice in my ear. I loved the feel of this- me in his arms… no, no I didn't. This was Link I was talking about, for the love of Farore. This was the guy who thought of me like a little sister- who patted my head when I did well in Calculus and helped me to study with endless patience, who told me flatly, 'you look trashy. Cover yourself up' when I tried to go to a Samhain party dressed as a pirate. This was the guy that was best friends with my big brother, brought me soup when I was sick, and told me to stay away from men because they were bad news. This was Link, and I could never, ever have him.
He pulled away from me, jerking me from my thoughts. "We're going to be late," he told me, tilting his head towards the theater. Eagerly, I began to hurry over, catching Link by the wrist and dragging him along with me. His arm slid down until his hand was clasped in mine and he was walking level with me- I was so excited, I didn't notice. Much.
"Link, you really shouldn't have done this," I told him as we neared the opera house. "You're spoiling me!"
"You deserve to be spoiled from time to time. That brother of yours doesn't do a good enough job of it," he added with a frown. As we neared the front door, Link dug the tickets out of his wallet. He handed them to the usher, who looked down.
"Ah, yes, Sir. Up the stairs and to the left- feel free to ask any of the other ushers. Enjoy the show," he added to the two of us, and the doorman pulled the door open for us.
"This place is beautiful," I murmured, looking around in awe as we stepped in. The lobby was made of a lovely golden marble, walls and floors and all- the ceiling, too, was domed golden marble, and from it hung a shimmering crystal chandelier that illuminated the place with glittering and rainbow fey light. Just inside, a young man in uniform stepped forward. "Coat check, Sir and Madam?"
"Yes, please," Link said with a smile.
"I'll need to see an ID please, sir," the young man said. Link dug out his drivers' license and handed it to the boy. He studied it for a moment, wrote down the number on two tags, and handed it back to Link.
"Good to have you with us, Mr. Woolfe. If you'll kindly give me your coats, you'll be able to get them back at any time by asking me or a like-dressed worker here in the lobby. Look for the green jacket," he added, gesturing to his own. Link took off his coat, then helped me out of mine, handing them both to the young man.
"Thank you," Link said.
"Any time, Mr. Woolfe," replied the young man, and Link and I walked away.
"This place is amazing," I said simply, low under my breath.
"Well, it is owned by the Royal Family," he teased. "You know, they're supposed to be in attendance tonight." Link led me up the grand, central stairs that dominated the lobby, and I couldn't help but think that he looked absolutely amazing in his tuxedo with the green vest and tie and mother-of-pearl cufflinks…
Curse the man for his attractiveness.
He stopped to buy two pairs of opera glasses, then led us the rest of the way up the stairs. We were quickly directed to our seats, which were astoundingly good, on the floor level, close enough that we could see the conductor in the orchestra pit. The theater was beautiful- the seats were plush and red, and the building was decorated with golden muses, twining and reaching about in the throes of drama. The ceiling above was painted like the sky, and another great crystal chandelier hung down. I pulled out my opera glasses and began to look around while Link flipped through the program.
"Apparently the Principal Ballerina tonight is from Frost Island in the Great Sea," Link told me under his breath. He nudged me in the side. "I wonder if she's part Yook," he jested.
"Link, you know as well as I do that settlers expanded into the Great Sea from as early as the Fourth Incarnation and that the Phantom Isles had Waker occupants at least three hundred years after that," I murmured quietly. "You were the one who helped me to study for that, remember?"
"But she still could be part Yook, hairy and big mouthed and all," he replied flipping a page.
"I see Midna! The Royal Family's about to enter," I told Link, opera glasses trained on the Royal Box. Midna was standing there, dressed in dramatic black- a daring, low-cut V-neck dress accentuated her pale, almost purple skin, and a long slit ran up the right leg. She wore a violet sash around her middle and her hair, a startling sunset gold, was tied up with black pearls. She looked terrifying, and beautiful. I saw Link was looking at her, too.
"You're related toher?" There was awe in his voice. I waved off the jealousy- who wouldn't be stunned by Midna's beauty?
"Yeah," I replied simply. "She's a handful."
"Are her eyes red?"
"Yes," I replied simply, trying not to grind my teeth. "Her grandfather is the Second Prince of Twili. Her mother is an Archduchess."
"Wow," murmured Link. Just then, the Royal Family was announced, and everyone in the theater stood as the King, Queen, and their children entered.
"You know, I actually met the Prince and Princess once," I told Link quietly. "We were kids- my Great Grandpa was still alive, and he wanted all of us children to know each other. We stayed for a week together at Chateau, up in the Peak Province. The Royal Children are just like regular children- their parents don't spoil them at all," I whispered. "Or, at least, they were normal ten years ago. Ralph broke Sheik's nose."
Link snickered into his program. The Royal Family took their seats, and so, too, did everyone else in the audience sit. I pulled my cell phone out of my clutch.
"What are you doing?" Link asked me as I flipped it open and began to type.
"Texting Midna," I replied. "I haven't seen her in years but we talk all the time."
"So she won't think you're being weird?"
"She always thinks I'm weird," I replied, sending the text.
I see you!
I pulled out my spyglasses and watched Midna with a grin- she looked about, then discreetly pulled out her cell phone, flipping it open. Ralph leaned over to ask her a question; she replied, frowning, showing him the text. He looked around and shrugged. Zelda couldn't see her hands moving, but a moment later her phone buzzed. Zelda flipped her own phone open and showed it to Link.
Creep. Am I on TV?
Link grinned. "She seems like a character."
"Oh, she is," I replied with a smile. "Would you like to meet her?"
"If it's not too weird," Link replied uncomfortably.
"It's fine," I replied, sending off the next text.
No. I'm in the audience, down below you. Surprise!
I watched Midna again- it was a longer delay, as she was listening avidly to something Queen Ambi was saying, smiling. She made a comment and the Queen laughed, then turned to her husband, King Gustaf. Midna took the moment to pull out her phone again- this time, she smiled, and turned to Ralph and said something. He grinned, too, and poked the Princess Tetra in the side, who was looking very tan and blonde. She snapped something at Ralph, and he glared at her, then said something- suddenly, she grinned, and pulled out her spyglasses and began scanning the audience.
"Looks like Midna has the Prince and Princess in on this," I commented, even as Midna pulled out her own opera glasses and began to look around.
"Hey, apparently the Composer Brothers were inspired to write this ballet based on a series of Cave Paintings they found on Windfall Island when they were traveling the Waker Keyes…" Link, apparently, was trying to act natural. My phone buzzed. I pulled it out and flipped it open, eager.
"Midna says we need to go up to the Royal Box during the Intermission," I stated plainly, waiting for Link's reaction with bated breath. "Hm. No pressure, I suppose."
"Say what?" Link yelped, dropping his program and turning to stare at me. "Now?"
"No, during intermission."
"I can't meet the Royal Family," he told me, voice low. "I'll make a fool out of myself!"
"I'm sure the King and Queen are fine," I assured him. "My father was great friends with the Queen before she went off to boarding school," I added, then set about to typing the reply to Midna's text, which had also asked where we were sitting.
We'll be there. We're sitting in row D, center. I'm wearing blue and my friend is wearing a tuxedo with a green vest.
I sent off the text message, and then pulled out my opera binoculars in time to see Midna pull out her own cell phone. She glanced at it, and then her gaze swept the line of our row until she found me. She began to wave, grinning- I waved back.
"They've spotted us," I said to Link. He looked up, grinned in the direction of the Royal Box, and went back to the program. I realized with a start that he was nervous- how cute! Quiet, composed, self-assured Link, genuinely scared by the prospect of meeting the Royal Family… who I also happened to be related to. How cute.
Who's that guy you're with? He's CUTE! Bring him up at Intermession, PLEASE.
Sure thing. He's dense, though. Women's affections fly straight over his head. I felt Link's eyes on the side of my face as I typed- I was careful to tilt my phone away from him. I'm pretty sure he's not gay, though. Also, he's a good guy- he brought me up here as a Highmoon Surprise.
From the way he's looking at you, I'd say he's definitely not gay, and that I don't have much of a chance. Are you two together?
No, this is that Link guy I've sent you emails about- you know, Sheik's friend. I live with them.
Woah, really? And he brought you up here for Highmoon? That's so cute I might throw up.
You don't know the half of it. I'll tell you the story during Intermission, I typed, and sent the text as the lights began to dim and the orchestra stopped tuning. The audience began to clap and the curtains rose as the orchestra began to play.
In the first scene, it showed the young Hero, who accepted his green clothing from an old woman- the coming of age in the Waker Isles. He went to find his sister, and as he did, a man dressed as a great bird entered, carrying a girl. A group of pirates followed on their ship, and the bird was struck, dropping the girl as it flew unsteadily away. The Hero, who had donned his green clothing, hurried to save the girl- as she woke, the bird swooped in once more and picked up the Hero's sister, soaring away with the girl. The hero joined up with the pirates, but was lost in a terrible storm at sea, and saved by the talking boat- he received his Silver Baton, and began to fight his way to his sister's rescue, encountering many strange creatures along the way. When the pirate girl was transformed into a beautiful princess and kidnapped by an evil king, the orchestra struck a last, ominous note and the curtains fell. The lights came back on- Intermission.
"You ready?" I asked Link, shaking myself from the dreamlike-trance the ballet had put me into.
"Of course I am," he blustered. I shook my head and grinned at him as I stood. "Come on"
We walked through the halls, weaving our way through the theater until we reached the section that was blocked off by guards- the entrance to the Royal Wing.
"I'm sorry, Miss, but you can't go past here," stated the guard plainly. I smiled sweetly.
"I have come to see my cousins," I replied. "My name is Zelda Harkinia, and I am sister to the Baron of Sou'Field. My father Daphnes and his father Romio before him were also the Baron of Sou'Field, and my Grandmother was the Archduchess Julietta. My grandmother's mother was the Viscountess Laruto of Deeplake, married to the Greater Duke Igos of Peak, brother to King Daphnes XIII."
"Oh, let her by," Midna stated, appearing behind the guard, stepping through the door. "She has my permission, as does the man, to enter."
"Yes, Milady," said the guard with a click of his heels. "Apologies, Mistresses Knyte and Harkinia and Company."
"Took you long enough," Midna said, pulling Link and I through into the Royal Wing which was, if possible, even more ornate than the rest of the theater. "So apparently, some man has to drag you up to Castelle to get you to come visit me, Zelda?"
"Apparently," I replied with a grin. Midna glared at me for a moment, then sighed.
"I suppose I'll allow you to hug me," she sighed. "Just don't muss my dress, you."
"I missed you too, Mid," I stated plainly, hugging her briefly. "Midna, this is Link Woolfe," I told her, gesturing to Link. "Link, my cousin, Midna Knyte."
"Pleasure to meet you," Link said, taking Midna's proffered hand and bowing over it. She looked to Link, then back to myself. I could practically see the calculations going on behind her eyes- no, no, no.
"Well, come on then. Tetra and Ralph have been itching to see you all performance. I swear, Tetra didn't sit still for two minutes."
Midna led us through the hall- she and I spoke the whole time and Link listened, quiet as usual, though I could feel the nervousness radiating off him the way sex appeal normally did.
"- And you would notbelieve the way some of these Dukes and Counts strut around, Zelda, it's absolutely outrageous. The Royal Family has more humility than any one of their nobles, and provides the country with much more service… really, it's sickening."
"I can imagine," I stated plainly.
"Why don't you or Sheik ever come into town, to court?" Midna asked me, pausing outside the door to the Royal Box.
"We're busy at school, for one," I said simply. "And our father never came to court- he preferred to do his work out in the countryside, and once Sheik graduates, I think he'll follow in Dad's footsteps."
"Uncle Daph was always spoken of very highly in court… still is, for that matter," Midna added, knocking on the door. "He was a good man."
The door opened and on the other side stood the Royal Family of Hyrule. For a moment, I was nervous, but whatever I was, it could have been nothing compared to Link. I grabbed his hand, gave it a reassuring squeeze, and followed Midna into the box.
"Aunt Ambi, Uncle Gustaf, Ralph, Tetra," said Midna casually, "this is Zelda Harkinia and her friend, Link Woolfe. Zelda's father was Daphnes Harkinia."
"And your brother is the Baron Sheik Harkinia of Sou'Field, is he not?" asked Ambi genially, standing to meet me. She wore a long gown of pink silk with a fitted blue velvet top with long drape sleeves and a high, modest neckline. Her chestnut hair had one streak of white in it- it was elegant- and the locks had been pulled into a high bun. She was crowned with a simple tiara made of white gold and pink diamonds. She was regal, but kindly looking as well.
"Yes, Majesty," I replied with a curtsey.
"Where is your brother? Did he go back to his holdings for the Highmoon?" asked the King, stepping up to me. He wore a red military uniform and his wrought white-gold crown, which was not too much or too large. A golden sash stretched across his wide chest- as the King got older in years, his belly grew larger as well.
"No, Highness," I responded. "Sheik has gone to spend Highmoon with his girlfriend- soon to be fiancee- at her Father's ranch in Southwest Hyrule."
"Would this perhaps be the Lonlo ranch? I've heard they produce quite excellent horses," stated the King. I smiled and bowed my head.
"Yes, your Majesty. He intends to propose to its heiress, Malon Lonlo, this Highmoon."
"How romantic," sighed Tetra from behind her father. "Too bad there aren't any nobles that romantic, otherwise I might actually secure a fortunate alliance for the throne," she added, looking up at her father mischievously. The King rolled his eyes, and Tetra moved forward, dragging Ralph along with her. "Hello, Zelda! It's been so long, I hardly recognize you. You don't look half bad anymore- you were an awkward child, though."
"Tetra," admonished the Queen, even as I laughed.
"It's alright, Your Majesty, it's true. Hello, Highness," I added, looking between the Princess, who was dressed head-to-toe in cream and periwinkle, her pale blonde hair knotted fashionably at the crown of her head. She wore a simple golden tiara that blended in with her pale locks. The Prince wore a tuxedo and a crown similar to his father's, small and simple. I had, of course, seen pictures of Ralph, and had rolled her eyes at all the girls in school who obsessed over him, but the fact of the matter was that he was attractive- tall, with chestnut hair and well-formed features and bright blue eyes.
"Really, Zelda, call us by our names," Ralph said with a grin. "We're family. Ralph Nohansen," he added, stepping forward and shaking hands with Link.
"Link Woolfe," replied Link, shaking Ralph's hand.
"Pleasure to meet you, Link," Ralph said with a smile. "Where're you from?"
"Outset. I attend school with Zelda and Sheik in Ordonia City now, though.
"And what are you studying, Link?" Ralph and Tetra drew Link away and I found myself in a conversation with the King, Queen, and Midna.
"So, Zelda, do you know what you're going to do once you're out of school?" the King of Hyrule asked me.
"I don't know," I replied honestly. "I'd like to do something to help Hyrule- right now, I'm majoring in Economics and minoring in History, but that might change."
"Hm," replied the King. The lights flashed once, twice- as I turned to look at the door, Queen Ambi stepped forward, laying a hand on my arm.
"You and Link are both more than welcome to spend the rest of the show in our box. The view is unparalleled," she said in her musical voice. She'd been the Greater Duchess of Labrynna, sister to the King- it was only fitting that, as a member of the royal family of a country whose culture was based almost entirely upon music, she should be musical and possessed with grace.
"Thank you, Majesty," I said.
"Please, call me Aunt," the Queen replied with a smile. I smiled, too- Midna dragged me away to a seat. Link and Ralph seemed to be rather chummy by this point and were avidly discussing something.
"So, you promised to tell me the story. Spill the beans," Midna demanded, pushing me down into the chair and taking a seat beside me.
"He woke me up this morning at five and packed my suitcase and loaded me into the car and drove me up here," I whispered to her. "Said it was a surprise. He got a suite for us at a hotel-"
"How many beds?" Midna asked urgently.
"Two, and mine's in a separate room," I hissed in reply, rolling my eyes. "After we checked in, we went to the Hall of the Heroes, and it was amazing, he knows so much about them!" I conveniently left out that Link was of The Blood- it was, I figured, his secret to tell. "And after the museum we went back to the hotel and he took a nap, and then we went out for dinner and he told me to dress up because we were going somewhere afterwards, only it was a surprise, and this turned out to be it!"
"Where did you dig this guy up?" Tetra asked admiringly as she plopped into the seat on my other side, eyes on Link.
"Ask Sheik," I replied as the lights fully dimmed and the curtains on the stage rose.
"So what's with this guy?" she asked me under her breath as the orchestra began to play. "Are you two together?"
"He's Sheik's best friend and I live with them," I replied simply. "He thinks of me like a little sister."
"He likes you," stated Midna.
"Does so," chimed Tetra. "He likes you but is afraid to show it around Sheik."
"How do you know?"
"It's obvious enough from the way he's talking about you to Ralph."
"You're lying," I replied simply. "I don't believe you."
"Well just you wait, I bet he has something really awesome planned for you in the upcoming future…" onstage, the Hero began in his quest to find the Princess and his sister. "By the way, you should come up to the castle tomorrow and dine with us-"
"I couldn't impose like that," I whispered.
"What's to impose upon? They're the Royal Family," Midna replied in a hiss.
"But that's like bringing Link to meet my family…"
"Damage is already done," Tetra replied. "Mom and Dad would love to have you, I'm sure…"
"Shut up over there," hissed Ralph at us. Obediently we silenced up. I fixed my eyes on the ballet. Tetra and Midna did not.
"He's looking at you- he's watching your face. Man, you should see his expression, he's got it bad," Midna murmured in my ear.
I spent the rest of the ballet attempting to block out the whispers of my cousins and not imagine and hope that their words were true.
The show ended on a triumphant note- the Hero saved his sister and rescued the Princess, who he sailed away with into the sunset. As it ended, the audience stood and clapped… out came the girl who had played the pirate, holding hands with the prima ballerina who had played the princess. I noted with a grin that Link was wrong. The prima did not display the least fraction of Yook blood.
"Shall we find you an escort back to your hotel?" The King asked me.
"No thank you, Uncle," I replied with a smile. "It's very close- we can walk."
"Feel free to drop by the Castle tomorrow. I'll be sure to leave word with the guards to expect you… say, around lunch?"
"That would be wonderful, Aunt," I replied with a smile. She wrote something down on the back of her program and handed it to me.
"If they give you any trouble, just present them with this. Oh, look, it's the Duchess of Ember- Gustaf, we must go say hello," the Queen added, taking her husband by the arm. "It has been lovely to see you, Zelda. Until tomorrow?"
"Until tomorrow," I replied, curtseying as the royal couple went out. Ralph and Link were arguing about something now- I sighed and rolled my eyes.
"What are they talking about?" I asked Tetra.
"Resource conservation," Midna answered with a roll of her eyes.
"Ugh," agreed Tetra. I stared over at Link, surprised.
"Here, we'll have someone fetch your coats," Tetra told me in my moment of silence. "Do you know what number they're checked under?"
"Link's Driver's License," I replied blankly.
"Right. Link," she said, bouncing over to him, familiar and normal as any other seventeen-year-old girl, "May I have your driver's license number so I may have your coats brought up here?"
"Of course," he replied, pulling out his driver's license and pressing it into Tetra's hands. He went back to his conversation with Ralph- "No, you're not listening to what I'm saying. If we rely more heavily upon the springs, they'll dry up, but if we look solely to the lakes and rivers then the ecosystems will be taxed."
"But what choice do we have? It's one sin or the other," Ralph argued back.
"Men," Midna said, rolling her eyes. "At least you've found yourself a good looking one."
"He's not mine," I said, turning away.
"Liar," Tetra said, bouncing over to us. "He'd fall over himself to do anything for you. Why else would he go to all the trouble of bringing you up here anyway?"
"He's doing it for himself, too," I responded automatically.
"Yeah, but it'syou he wants. Come on, he has to have given you at least ONE unmistakable sign."
"Well, he did say, that he might hypothetically be madly in love with me, but that's taking it out of context a little," I added quietly, face aflame.
"Aha!" declared Midna loudly. "See, that proves it!"
"Proves what?" asked a deep voice from behind me. I turned and bumped into Link's chest- face flaming even worse, I spun quickly about.
"That Zelda needs a boyfriend, of course," Tetra said guilelessly, batting her lashes. "She just said she doesn't need men for anything- someone needs to prove her wrong."
"Is that so?" Link asked, and I could feel his eyes studying me.
"Alas, though, I'm afraid our Zelda has frightened so many people with her ferocity and cruelty back in Ordonia that we might not be able to find anyone for the job," Midna chimed in. "She's told me stories, you know."
"I'm sure I could find some poor, desperate sap," Link replied with a grin. Malon and Tetra tittered. Ralph stepped up, eyes on me, and I was sure he could read me like a book.
"I'd be happy to be some poor, desperate sap in Ordonia, you know. It's a shame we're related," he added with a grin.
"Sorry, Ralph, you're too arrogant," Tetra said blandly. "She'd bite your head right off. Zelda needs someone caring and considerate who'll put up with her even when she's feeling vicious." She looked at Link significantly. I wanted to curl up in a corner and die.
"Princess Tetra, the coats you sent for have arrived," said the guard, returning with our coats slung over his arm. I had never been so glad for an interruption in my life.
"Ah, thank you," Tetra said, taking it from him. She handed Link his coat; Ralph took mine from her and began to help me into it.
"I'll be very distraught if I don't see you again for another ten years, you know," he told me simply. "Be sure to stop by before you leave town."
"Of course, Cousin," I replied, turning around and smiling at him. I kissed him once on each cheek, then turned to Midna.
"Tomorrow," she said simply. "And keep me posted, or else."
"Sure thing." I hugged her briefly, then found myself tackled by Tetra.
"Do him or you're gay," she whispered in my ear, then backed up and grinned. "Just kidding," she added at my outraged expression. "But not really."
"Link, it was wonderful to meet you," Ralph said to him. "I hope to see you soon."
"Of course," Link replied, shaking Ralph's hand. He bowed once to Midna, then to Tetra, and then turned to me with a smile, offering his elbow. "Shall we?"
"Goodbye," I said to everyone, and then we'd exited the Royal Box. We walked down the hall to the nearest exit, and then found ourselves outside. A light snow had begun to fall moments before, little flakes spiraling down to land in my hair and on Link's nose.
"That was fun," he said to me, pulling me through the cold.
"Yes," I replied with a smile. "I'd forgotten how kind Tetra and Ralph are."
"The King and Queen are amazing. I'd never thought I'd get a chance to meet them. I was only joking in the car this morning, you know," he added seriously, and I smiled and laughed.
"I know, Link. Can you believe we've been invited to lunch tomorrow?"
"It's insane," he agreed, shaking his hair so that snow went flying. We plodded through the square and took the road to South Central; the inn was almost literally directly around the corner. We hurried in, laughing and shaking snow from us, and made our way up to the suite.
"I can't believe you argued resource management with Ralph," I told Link with a grin as we were entering. "That's just outlandish of you!"
"I can't believe we sat in the Royal Box! Aryll's never going to believe me," he added, unlocking our door. We entered the suite and he switched on the lights, then shed his coat. "I mean, it's almost absurd."
"Sheik's going to be mad that we came without him," I said simply. "He's always been fond of the family."
"They're wonderful people," Link agreed, helping me out of my coat. He looked down at me with a smile. "You looked beautiful tonight."
My throat caught- I smiled. "Thank you, Link. You looked wonderful yourself."
He took a step towards me, and time seemed to pause. He reached for me, then stopped- he checked himself and turned.
"I'm going to shower," he said simply, and fled into the bathroom. I remained where I'd been standing- what had just nearly happened? Had Link just…
No… he'd never. I must have been imagining things.
Shaking my head, I moved into my half of the suite, shedding my dress and hanging it up in the closet. I pulled on pajama pants and another shirt I'd stolen from Link- a blue shirt with 'OUTSET ORACLES' written in yellow, accompanied by a cartoon of a seer. In the bathroom, the shower began to run- in an effort to distract myself from inevitably imagining what Link would look like, naked, with all that hot water streaming over his skin and those perfectly formed muscles of his, I sat cross-legged on my bed and pulled out the book of lore I'd purchased at the museum shop, and began to read.
The story drew me in- tales of the Hero, his origins, his various deeds and various incarnations in history down the line of The Blood. Often, Legendary Heroes had become devoted vassals of the princesses they saved- one or two had even become consorts.
'The most recent incarnation of the Ancient Hero, Link XII-' I stopped and smiled, new meaning dawning on me as I read Link's name- 'died at a young age of a strange brain fever,' the book read. 'But it is told that before he died he swore to the princess, his love, that he would return and find her in another life. This is the basis for much speculation, for it is well known that the oaths made by Heroes of The Blood made were nigh unbreakable. However, there were no more incarnations of the Hero, and as there has been no occasion nor need for any hero to rise over the past five hundred years, it is thought that the final death of the last Blood Hero also signaled the final death of his strength, as well as the line of The Blood…'
Well, I mused to myself, the book had gotten that wrong. Links were still alive and kicking and incessantly making women of the Royal Blood fall madly in love with them against their will, dammit.
The shower water had stopped several minutes before. Link walked out of the bathroom in plaid pajama pants and a tank- as I looked up, I prayed that I wouldn't jump on him that very second… but what was it Tetra had said? 'Do him or you're gay?'
"Reading that book you bought?"
"Yes," I replied, shutting the book suddenly, feeling guilty somehow, though I wasn't certain why. "How was your shower?"
"Just fine. I wanted to tell you that the bathroom's empty, if you'd like a turn."
"Thanks," I replied, smiling up at him. He stood in front of me for a few moments, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, clearing his throat uncomfortably. Finally, he smiled.
"Well, I've had a long day. I think I'm going to go to bed," he said.
"Sleep well," I told him, watching regretfully as he left the room. I flopped back on my bed for a moment, wishing I had more guts, then shook my head. This was Link I was thinking of, for Nayru's sake. So what if he was ridiculously attractive? I could never have him anyway.
Frustrated, I went to the bathroom to shower.
The next few days passed in a whirl of time spent with the Royal Family, running around Castelle, and trying not to fall head-over-heels for Link worse than I already had, at which I failed. We spent Highmoon with the Royal Family- we attended the Highmoon Service in the Temple of Time, then had a wonderful feast and opened gifts. (Link had, apparently, stowed our gifts away in the trunk of his car, which I hadn't noticed when we left Ordonia). After the night at the ballet snow had fallen, blanketing Castelle in shimmering white, and the city was unspeakably beautiful. Sadly enough, the final night of our trip came- New Year Night. I put on makeup in the bathroom that night, thinking ruefully on how the trip had been the greatest week of my entire life, and how I'd never wanted it to end.
We went to a club with Tetra, Midna, and Ralph- the King and Queen decided to throw a stately celebration for the older gentry, leaving us young folk to our own devices. I'd dressed in clothes I'd bought on a shopping expedition with Midna and Tetra- a denim miniskirt, strappy silver heels, and a blue and green button-up shirt left unbuttoned enough to hint at the lacy pink bra I wore beneath. Link, too, looked good, in all black.
"Want a drink?" he offered me, speaking directly into my ear above the noise of the club.
"I would love one," I replied with a grateful smile. He moved off to the bar, and Tetra and Midna jumped me.
"Why haven't you made your move yet? Make your move already!" Tetra criticized me, waggling a finger at me. "The sexual tension between you two is so thick you can practically cut it with a knife!"
"I know, I know," I whined at her, rolling my eyes. "It's just… well… I don't want to ruin things! And we live together-"
"And he's bloody beautiful, so you'd better jump his bones," Midna finished for me. "You like him, he likes you, just do him already."
"I don't know…" I mumbled, biting my lip. "If things develop between us, I want it to be about more than just sex." I quieted as Link returned with my drink and I took it gratefully from him, sipping at it. Tetra and Midna fled as Link and I sat at a table. The drink Link had purchased me was delicious- some bubbling cherry flavored mixer.
"What is this?"
"It's called a Princess Zelda," he responded with a grin, resting his arm across the back of my seat. "I thought it only fitting."
"So clever," I responded, rolling my eyes even as I took another sip. We sat on the outskirts of the club, watching the crazy dancing on the floor for a while. At last, I'd finished my drink, and he'd finished his beer.
"Dance with me," he said, standing up.
"Dance with me," he said again, stretching out his hand. I stared at it for a moment and then, wondering why on earth I was hesitating, I took it. We walked together out to the dance floor and began to dance- Link, I was thrilled to discover, was an excellent dancer. Midna looked over at me with a wink and Tetra flashed me the thumbs up- though I felt a little awkward, dancing with Link was just so… nice. I couldn't help it. I moved closer and closer…
My feet started to get the better of me a little before midnight.
"Can we sit down?" I asked him. We'd been dancing for about an hour to the fast-paced techno.
"Sure." He helped me away from the dance floor- classlessly, I held onto his arm for support. My feet really hurt. At last, I sat down in a booth- bless the Goddesses- and Link looked at me with a smile.
"Let me go get you another drink- it's almost midnight," he responded. "Plus, it'll help to numb the pain."
"Alright." I watched that well-formed backside of his saunter away- moments later, Midna, Tetra, and Ralph threw themselves into the seats of the booth on the other side.
"This is fun!" declared Tetra with a grin.
"Way fun," agreed Ralph.
"Have you made your move yet?" asked Midna.
"No," I responded. She glowered at me.
"Do it," Ralph told me with a grin. "He likes you."
"Why are you all against me?" I asked, frustrated.
"It's for your own good," Tetra told me simply. She then looked over at Ralph expectantly. "You know, you should go get us our drinks so we can toast in the New Year."
"I can take a hint," he grunted, sliding out of the booth and heading over to the bar. Midna and Tetra eyed me with smiles.
"He's into you."
"He's so into you."
"You two dancing together were way hot."
"Shut up, both of you," I snapped, resting my head in my hands. "I really don't think he likes me like that. He would've made his move before now, right?"
"He's shy, Zellie," Tetra stated, exasperated. "You've said as much yourself. You just need to give him one sign- a push in the right direction."
"Take matters into your own hands," Midna agreed. "Men are too stupid to understand us women unless we're blatantly, painfully clear."
Link appeared then, holding two flutes of champagne. Ralph was right behind him. "I'm glad nobody's given us any trouble."
"This is a VIP club," Midna stated simply.
"Well, yes, but it's also New Year Night," Ralph replied, handing Midna and Tetra their drinks. The song came to an end and the voice of the DJ cut in, beats of the next song resounding in the background.
"Everybody having a good time tonight?"
The club cheered.
"Better get your champagne, folks, because after this next song, we're having the countdown to midnight."
"My favorite time of night," Midna cackled. "Zel, Link, will you watch my drink? I think I'd like to dance to this one, too."
"Me as well," agreed Ralph.
"And me!" Tetra chimed. "Thanks, you guys are awesome." The three ran away.
I glanced over at Link, smiling. He'd put his arm back across the seat- timidly, I leaned against its warmth.
"Have you had fun?" he asked me, leaning in low to talk to me.
"Of course. This whole trip has been wonderful. And you?"
"The same," he agreed. "I have really enjoyed getting to know you… just the two of us."
"I hope Sheik is having a good break, too," I mused, grinning.
"I'm sure he is."
"Do you think she'll say yes?"
"I'm certain of it."
We sat there in exhausted silence- though the night was still young, we'd been up for a large portion of the day, and were tired, and had a long way to drive the next morning. We watched the dancers on the floor- I remembered my thoughts of earlier.
"You're an awesome dancer," I told Link, nudging him in the side with my elbow.
"Thanks," he replied with a grin that shone like diamonds in the darkness of the club. "So are you."
We were quiet for a while longer, and at last, the song ended. I debated my pride for a moment, then reached down and took off my shoes. The floor of the club, I was fairly certain, was very sanitary; it was an upper-class establishment, after all.
"You folks ready for the countdown?" it was the DJ again, and the club cheered. Midna, Tetra, and Ralph appeared for their drinks, swaying and grinning. I suspected that the three of them were a little drunk already. Link and I passed them their drinks- they moved to stand near the dance floor as the DJ started the countdown from sixty. On the wall, a projector showed the Sphere of Time taking its plunge from the top of the Temple of Time towards the ground- this was happening just outside, but I certainly didn't feel like braving the crowds.
"Sixty! Fifty-nine! Fifty-eight!"
Link turned to face me.
"This has been the best week of my life," he told me, with a smile.
"Me too," I replied, smiling up into his eyes. I moved closer to him, wrapping my arm around his middle.
"I'm sorry if I annoy you sometimes. You're a wonderful woman- I'm sorry that I haven't tried as hard to get to know you as I should have so far."
"I forgive you, Link," I responded. "I haven't tried hard enough either, and sometimes I'm a little too defensive. Thank you for being patient with me… especially this week," I added with a smile.
"Anything for you," he said simply, looking deeply into my eyes.
I held my breath, then sighed. We stood in silence for a moment.
"Any new resolutions?" I asked him, turning to face him with a smile. He thought about it for a moment.
"Do better in school and spend more one-on-one time with you," he told me. "What about you?"
"The same," I replied, then grinned. "And not clog the shower drain with my hair, since you and Sheik seem to have a problem with that."
"Cheers to that," Link said, raising his champagne flute. I toasted, and we drank.
"Five! Four! Three!" I put down my champagne flute and looked at Link. He was watching me, seriously.
"Din take it," I cursed, grabbing his face with my hands and pulling him down to me.
"Two! One! Happy New Year!"
Our lips met, and it was like nothing I'd ever before experienced. It was sweet, yes, sweetened more perhaps by pent up longings and yearnings… and it was ferocious, his lips on mine, taking away and giving back shamelessly. He caught me up and pulled me closer to him and I wrapped my arms around him, lost in the kiss, in the sweet embrace. His tongue delved into my mouth- I responded eagerly. I'd had boyfriends before, kisses before, but never had it ever felt like this… so good, so absolutely right.
Somewhere close by, people were cheering- I could hear Ralph caterwauling, but paid him no mind. I gripped Link as close to me as I could, never wanting to let go- he kissed me, and kissed me, and kissed me, until at last we had to part for air. I looked at him, staring directly into his eyes without shame.
"I love you," he told me solemnly, quietly. And as I looked into those crystalline blue orbs of his, I knew it was true, knew he wasn't lying to me- I saw everything I'd ever wanted, everything I'd ever needed, everything I'd ever dreamt of swimming about behind those eyes, and I knew what I'd known since before Link had turned on the lights in my bedroom at five in the morning.
"I love you too," I responded, grasping his cheek with my shaking hand. "So very much."
Link took my lips in his own again for several long moments. I tasted salt- he pulled back, frowning, licking his lips. "Are you crying?" he asked me, even as he rubbed away the salty streaks with his thumb
"Of course I am," I said with a laugh, punching him in the arm. "I'm happy!"
Link caught me up in his arms and I was oblivious to everything around us- the club, my family, the pain in my feet- everything was gone, except for his embrace.
"Do you want to stay?" he asked into my ear. "We have a long way to drive tomorrow. I was thinking, perhaps you and I should turn in early."
I felt an odd fluttering in my gut that had nothing to do with going to bed early and everything to do with Link and a bed.
"One more dance, and then let's go back to the hotel," I told him. "But we have to say goodbye to everyone first."
"Of course." He released me and I quickly donned my shoes. A slow dance was going- I wrapped my arms around Link, and he pulled me close, and we began to sway. Close by, Ralph and Tetra were dancing together in a crude imitation of middle-school dances: both their arms were extended and they were as far away from each other as they could be, even as they warbled along with the music in very off-key tones; Midna, on the other hand, had snared some good-looking celebrity. I didn't want that moment to end, the sweetness of being held by Link, of his nearness… when the music ended at last, hand in hand, Link and I went to say goodbye.
"We're leaving," I told Tetra, Ralph, and Malon. "We have to get up early."
The three of them smiled at us- they each came forward to tell us goodbye.
"It was wonderful to see you again, cuz," Ralph told me, hugging me gently. "Come by again- perhaps over spring break?"
"Perhaps," I agreed. "Tell your parents goodbye and thank you from me."
Tetra leapt on me, hugging me. "I'm going to miss you!"
"I'm going to miss you too," I told her, squeezing her tight. "But don't worry- I'm sure you'll see me again soon."
"I'd better! And Zelda?"
I looked at her, agape, and she winked- after a moment, I grinned too.
"I want to hear every last detail," Midna told me as I hugged her goodbye.
"I'll send you an email," I promised her.
"And an invitation to the wedding?" she asked me with a grin. I looked at her for a moment, then smiled.
"You ready?" Link asked me, holding his hand out to me- his goodbyes hadn't taken as long to say as mine.
"Absolutely," I replied with a smile, slipping my hand into his own. We grabbed our coats and left the club and made our way back to the inn, pausing frequently in abandoned corners to kiss, and then, laughing, we would take off again together for the inn…
Where we proceeded to not go to bed early as we should have, though in the end, I fell asleep in Link's arms, feeling loved, cherished, and more happy than I ever had in my entire life. So what if I'd agonized over Link and being with him? Everything had fallen into place- Sheik presumably had Malon, and I had Link, and even if there were hard times in the future, the good would outweigh the bad.
Life, in that moment, was perfect.
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