Author's Note: Hello all! This is a little oneshot I whipped up for you all a while ago- I hope you enjoy it! Hopefully I'll have another story or oneshot or something ready for you soon, but in the meantime, here's this. Tell me all what you think- it's my first oneshot! The title for this work comes from a 1903 painting by John William Waterhouse depicting a windswept maiden in a clearing full of flowers- a little like our Zelda. Though there's no real correlation between the painting and this story, it played a part in the inspiration of this particular piece.
Without further ado, here's the oneshot. Enjoy!
To think he could have led such a simple life- he might have stayed in Ordon and married Ilia and herded goats for the rest of his life, produced between the two of them a dozen little brats to chase after the monkeys and brandish sticks for swords, finding their childish adventure in the wild heart of the Faron woods. He might've had Bo for a father in law and, in turn, become Mayor of Ordon himself. He might have remained there to see his children and all of the children of the village grow together, wed, have children of their own. He might have lived in a cozy house at the end of his years with his grizzled wife by his side, together rocking in armchairs by the fire, even in the heat of summertime. He might have passed his life in contentment and ignorant bliss, unknowing of the whirlwind of a world beyond the reaches of Ordon.
But he hadn't. He'd heeded the calling, the singing in his blood, and followed his destiny to take his place among legends. He'd seen more of the world than any other living being, knew the very landscape of Hyrule as well as he knew his own body. There was nowhere that was unfamiliar to him; the land kept no secrets from him, and nor could its people. There were few in Hyrule he had not met, interacted with, fought with, fought against, saved, scorned. He was a man among men- friend to most, known to all.
If he'd stayed in Ordon, he'd never have known his beautiful Princess, so vibrant and full of life. He'd never have seen more than the quiet, composed beauty that was the face of the monarchy, and though he might have marveled from afar at how goodness seemed to shine from her like a beacon, he'd never know the dual edge of that lovely blade- that she could watch a man die without flinching, could kill in a heartbeat, that her magic was a gift from the Goddesses (and that she abused it to get midnight snacks from the kitchen), that she'd gladly give her heart and soul and beautiful body to save a being in direst need.
He'd never have fallen in love with her.
It wasn't just her sweetness and kindness and beauty and starling selflessness that drew Link to her. It was in the way she fidgeted when she was nervous- tapping out invisible tunes on the tips of her fingers with her thumbs. It was how she bit her lip when she was trying to refrain from saying something, the way she (nearly imperceptibly) wrinkled her pretty little nose with distaste when someone's behavior was not to her liking. The way she clasped her hands together in prayer and how she closed her eyes when she was in deep thought, the fact that she couldn't carry a tune to save her life. The way her cheeks turned cherry red when he said something that made her laugh until she cried- the way that it was only he that could bring her such joy. The way her eyes betrayed every emotion in her, from joy to sorrow, anger to exasperation to amusement, from horror and mourning to deepest pleasure. It was in how irresistible she was, and in how unobtainable.
It was in the way she'd appointed him her personal bodyguard, how she took him wherever she went. That one time they'd taken a vacation to Termina, he'd thought he was fit to die for joy, for they'd abandoned their identities and spent their days lounging around in a small hut on the beach, not Princess and Hero but simply Zelda and Link, closest friends, perhaps even lovers. He lover her for how his heart had hammered against his ribcage and his body had heated with desire when (on that particular vacation to Termina) he'd discovered her love for lounging about on furniture just barely decent- and how she'd seemed to enjoy his reaction to her lack of clothing.
It was the way she raised her voice at him and only at him, the way she dared to show him the emotions she let none other perceive. It was how she touched him- gentle caresses, soft, like a butterfly, but more solid than the rocks of Death Mountain. It was how her skin flushed when he trailed his fingers down her cheek, down her neck, lower until she'd turn quite red and say his name in a way that told him he had to stop, even if she didn't want him to. It was the way that she'd run her hands through his fur when he Changed into his Wolf form, loving and even a little erotic, her only way of showing him any physical affection.
He loved her, all of her, from the scantily clad woman on the beach to the Princess draped in yards of heavy fabric, with her head held high despite the weight of her gilt golden crown; every bit of her, from the impatient, raging beauty to the demure temptress. He wanted to be with her, for her, for ever and ever, until the moon fell from the sky and the sun shattered into a hundred million stars. He wanted to protect her, to hold her, to kiss her when she was upset (a key indicator of which was when she laced her fingers together, pulled them apart, and laced them together again). He wanted to laugh with her at the silly courtiers, share in her joys, and give her more to be grateful for in turn. He wanted to kiss her. He wanted to touch that succulent, pale flesh until it was flushed with pleasure all over, make love to her sweetly and passionately beneath the stars, to make her cry out in ecstasy and discover beauty and sensations previously unknown to either of them. He wanted to share in the joy of raising children with her; of taking their offspring on rides around the country, chasing them through the palace, disciplining them when they misbehaved and spoiling them rotten.
It was her side he wanted to grow old by, turn gray by, their children that he wanted taking care of him when he was too frail and toothless to do much more than eat or sleep. He wanted to tell their grandchildren of the wild adventures of his and Zelda's youth, assure them that the legends that had been built around them didn't do the real story justice.
He loved her; impossibly, against all reason of rank, for he could never have her. He was a goat herder and she a Princess, and yet, he did not despair. He loved her.
"Of what are you thinking?" came her low, melodious voice from beside him. He turned to gaze at her, his beautiful Princess, sprawled on a linen blanket and perfectly at ease underneath the blue Ordonian sky. She'd been picking the lovely, perfectly round provincial flowers that dotted the fields- pink, blue, and palest white buds surrounded her, and a few petals were nestled in her sleek golden locks.
"Goats," Link replied simply, looking across the great green pasture. Zelda had wanted another of her reprieves from castle life again; no fancy vacation to Termina this time, merely a short while spent as a commoner. Link had brought her here to Ordon, to watch the goats with him for a day. The people of the province were thrilled and more than happy to give the Princess and their finest young swordsman a wide berth in exchange for stories at the tavern that night, which both the young woman and the young man had avidly and eagerly promised before running off to the ranch.
"This was your life before?" Zelda asked him, opening her deep aquamarine eyes to watch him fondly. The whites of the clouds reflected on her tranquil orbs and her ash blonde hair stirred languidly in the gentle breeze that ruffled her pristine, simple white gown. She looked like a Goddess, Link thought, watching her as she twirled a flower about in her cupped palms.
"This was my life before," Link confirmed, picking a few blades of grass and twisting them together. "Every day I'd sit here on this very hill and watch the goats. Come sunset, I'd hop on Epona and round them up, put them back in the barn. I'll be doing that tonight- you can watch. It's usually a riot."
"This is so peaceful," mused the Princess, releasing the flower to float away in the wind, pillowing her head on her hands and gazing up at the clouds.
"Boring, more like," He informed her, still twining the grass together. "It gets old quick. I'd do what I could to entertain myself- sometimes I'd bring pen and paper and draw, or write, and upon occasion I even brought a book and read."
"Sounds charming," she murmured, eyes hooded as she stared at the sky. "Much more relaxing than the life of a Princess."
At this, Link chuckled. "Ah, in that you are mistaken. Here, it's only relaxing when the goats are relaxed. The little scamps can be quite rowdy from time to time, and then they're awful to deal with- they've been known to get loose and wreak havoc down in the village. It was usually my job to wrangle them into submission."
"You're good at wrangling things into submission, it seems," she noted. "Goats, Gorons, Ganondorf..."
"Only things that start with the letter 'g,'" he replied candidly. At this, Zelda chuckled.
"Clever, that's what you are," she told Link lazily, tickling the tip of his ear with a pure white bud. "And this is nice- no worries, no duties, just you and me and the sunshine."
"And the goats," he reminded her.
Link looked down at the twisted blades of grass in his hands to find that he'd twined them in the rough shape of an engagement ring. With a frustrated sigh, he threw it over his shoulder and flopped back on the turf to stare at the sky with his Princess.
"Nothing," he responded automatically, eyes fixated on a cloud that looked rather like a gigantic prawn.
"Link," she said quietly, scolding. "You know you can't lie to me. Are you restless because you haven't Changed?"
He knew what she meant- on the full moon, the power of light and shadow was in balance enough that he could once again assume the shape of the wolf, but only for a single night. Link always did, and ran rampant about the countryside howling his pleasure at four-legged freedom; but the joy was always short lived. In the time preceding the full moon he could be restless, and in the time after, irritable.
"No, that's not it," he replied, plucking another piece of grass up from the dirt and ruthlessly shredding it. "That's not it at all."
"Hm," mused the Princess. For a time, she was silent. Then: "Link, of what does that particular cloud remind you?"
"A woman," he told her simply. "Perhaps a Zora- no, a Hylian woman, for there are her ears, do you see?" Link pointed up at the sky, tracing the form of the lady with his finger. In truth, it looked like Zelda to him, a cloud lady of quiet grace, beautiful but fleeting. Impossible to catch. "What did you see?"
"A sword," replied the Princess. "The Master Sword. Do you miss it?"
"Well enough," the Hero told her simply. "Quite often, even. But the sword was not mine to keep- I had to return it to the Pedestal of Time when my task was through."
"It was noble of you to give it back," the Princess told him, smile shining through her voice. At this, Link grinned, too.
"It belonged to the land. It was never mine to keep- Hyrule loaned it to me, shall we say."
They were quiet again for some time, each lost in their own thoughts. At length, Zelda spoke again.
"I suppose it's time you learn why I needed to take a vacation," she murmured quietly and with resignation. Link stared blandly at the sky- he knew from her tone of voice that this news was probably not good.
"Why?" he asked softly, curious, voice one with the breeze.
Zelda took a deep breath, and Link knew she'd shut her eyes. "The High Council," she told him. "They've... been talking."
"Isn't that all they ever do?" he asked her with a little laugh, and earned a dry chuckle from the Princess for his efforts.
"They think it's time I make a decision."
"You make plenty of decisions," Link stated calmly, trying to lighten her dour mood. "You decide all sorts of things about treaties and laws and criminals, and you even decide what to wear every day! That's more than a lot of them can claim."
She didn't laugh this time, but Link knew her lips had turned up in amusement. After a short pause, she spoke again. "Not that kind of decision, Link. They've given me an ultimatum. The people, they believe, are tired of having a matriarchal ruler. The country, it is agreed upon, should be run by a man. They have told me I must either wed or abdicate."
Link exhaled swiftly. Ah, yes, he'd known it all along: one day, Zelda would wed, and he'd remain in her shadow all her life, watching, guarding, loving from afar. Resignation didn't make the truth any less painful, though, and the coming of it was painful indeed. "Any thoughts?" he asked, valiantly covering up his unhappiness.
"One," admitted the Princess softly. "But, I confess, I fear he'd dislike the life of a Hylian monarch. And I don't think I could marry anyone I didn't like, at the very least, and yet, I'm not sure I could abdicate, either. After all I've gone through with the country, after all I've done..." she paused and took a shuddering breath. Link propped himself up on an elbow and looked down at the woman lying roughly perpendicular to him.
"Zelda," he told her, using her first name (which he only did when they were in private, which wasn't often), "you know that I'll always be behind you, no matter what decisions you make. When you marry I'll still be your guard, and if you abdicate before that, you'll always have me for a friend and companion."
"And what of you, Link?" she asked him quietly, eyes shut. "What will you do? Do you intend to wed?"
"Probably not," he replied, flopping onto his back. "My duties are to Hyrule first and always will be, and to you, as well. I'm not sure another woman could deal with me dogging your steps everywhere you went."
"Well, in this we have come to a quandary," Zelda mused. "For, you see, Link, there's a bit of a problem. You say that you'll be behind me forever, correct?"
"Correct," Link affirmed.
"But what if I don't want you behind me?"
That hit Link like a blow to the stomach- the casual fall of the Princess's painful words caught him off guard and cut him deeper than any blade ever had. "Well, in that, I will have to respect your wishes," he managed lightly, hoping that the heartache that was bleeding through him this moment didn't show itself in his words.
Zelda was quiet for a long, long moment, and Link was contemplating leaving her there in the field and going to tend to his breaking heart instead. She didn't want him! Had he annoyed her? Been too protective? Or had she tired of him and his plainness, his provincial ways? She knew him not only as a hero, but as a man as well- had she found him lacking? At last, she spoke again, timidly, cutting through his anguished thoughts. "Hypothetically, what if I wanted you beside me, instead of behind me?" she asked softly, nervously. "As a partner and, dare I say, husband, as opposed to just a friend?"
Joy overrode sorrow, and Link felt himself swelling with elation. "I will always be your friend, and gladly would I be your partner," Link murmured, propping himself up once more. "But if I wed you, hypothetically, would that suffice for your council? Or would you abdicate?"
"It doesn't matter," the Princess said vehemently, opening her eyes so that they were fixed securely upon Link's, and he could see in the depths of them the love she had for him, a love she'd kept cleverly hidden for so long- he wondered that he'd never been able to see it before; he, who could read her like a book. "As long as I'm with you, I can do anything. I've felt like that for a while now- ever since I was one with Midna, and perhaps for some time before that. I don't want to be parted from you," she added ferociously. "You're the only one I'll wed, and... and if the council forces me to abdicate, which I doubt they will as you're the single most celebrated man in Hyrule, I know I'll still be able to serve the country by doing good by your side." She seemed to catch herself and turned a little pink. "Hypothetically, that is."
"Huh," Link stated blandly, though he was secretly amused. At this, Zelda's beautiful aquamarine eyes narrowed.
"Whaddaya mean, 'huh?'" At this, Link had to grin- his peasant influence had certainly been rubbing off on her. It showed in her uncertain moments, times when she was knocked off balance and left scrambling for a verbal handhold.
"Huh," he repeated, and then, before Zelda knew what had happened, he'd lowered his mouth to hers for a kiss, tender and passionate, tentative and bold at once, taking, giving, claiming, promising. The Princess brought her hands up and buried them in her hero's soft, shaggy hair, which was wild and untamable and shiningly sleek as the coat of a wolf, and he growled deep in his throat with pleasure as he kissed her. After a long, beautiful moment, he pulled away.
"Zelda, will you marry me?" he asked her, gazing deep into her eyes. She grinned, her whole expression lighting up, glowing with happiness, which in turn pleased Link to the very depths of his soul.
"Only if you kiss me like again," she teased, "but we both know you never would have worked up the courage to ask me if I hadn't given you the idea and practically proposed in the f-" Link cut her off effectively with another long, silencing kiss. When he drew back at last, he grinned at her, feral like the wild wolf he was within, tender like the lover he would soon become.
"I love you, you know that?" he asked her, running a gentle hand along the soft, smooth contours of her pale cheek- skin of softest ivory which was faintly tinged red by sun and flushed with pleasure.
"Of course you do," she replied with a smile, tapping his nose with a finger that was pale, softer and more beautiful than any of the sweet summer flowers that were strewn about her. "And I, in turn, love you."
"Prove it," Link taunted her, grinning down, smiling, expectant lips only a hair's breadth away from hers.
And she did.
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