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The Spring of Unity

Chapter Text

“Perhaps the Spring truly doesn’t exist.”

Link knew that tone, the tone that twisted her face with frustration.  He eyed the back of her head from a few paces behind. She examined the Shiekah slate like her gaze would split it in two and a fairy would pop out. Zelda only grew more frustrated with the snowquill gloves impeding her ability to work the screen efficiently.

Timing’s about right, Link thought, watching colors push their way through the thick haze of Hebra skies. Night was approaching. A cold chill managed to snake its fingers under his thick collar and scratch up the back of his neck. They needed to stop anyway.

Before she could spiral down into dejection, he began busying himself with setting up camp: Firewood, a large tent, roasted pepper skewers re-heated on the fire. The sheer rock beside them should temper the worst of the winds, and trees provided enough cover that distant monsters wouldn’t get too curious.

He made one last sweep of the area to ensure safety, and when he returned, he found Zelda leaned back against a tree, frowning harder at the slate. “The other three are to the East—Akkala, Faron, and Lanayru. They all line up to this exact area…”

She’d taken off her gloves to better work the slate. Her fingers looked stiff and she didn’t seem to realize that she was shivering. Her desperation at this last-ditch attempt to access her powers was clearly getting the better of her.

She startled at his hand on her shoulder then relaxed to see Link offering her a flameblade to hold. His eyes were concerned first and warm second.

Smiling gratefully, Zelda accepted the weapon. It was so warm it hurt until her hand adjusted, then she switched to the other. “Thanks, Link.”

He knew better than to try and pry her off of the subject of her focus. Link just stoked the fire and turned the chilis in hopes of luring her over instead.

Their companionship had become amicable ever since he saved her in the Gerudo Desert. However, that didn’t mean the air was light. Their recent journey to Mount Lanayru had left her with that look in her eye. He knew she felt like a failure. That intense resilience so core to her personality was faltering. And he was powerless to help.

“What is that wonderful smell?” Zelda crunched snow on her way into the clearing. The slate was mercifully locked in its holster. Link beamed in triumph that his lure had worked, and he extended a skewer of chilis and mushrooms with ground rock salt for flavor.

She gratefully sat and accepted the skewer, and seemed to force herself to enjoy the warmth, the food, the rest, the company. Link knew she needed to let out the tension in her shoulders, and he’d allow her in her own time.

“Your official title is the Hero of Hyrule. However, I have half a mind to strip you of that title.” Link looked up, mouth full, eyes startled. Then she finished, “You’d be much better suited to being named the Hero of the Castle Kitchens.”

At his visible relief, she allowed herself to laugh. It left the dredges of a smile lingering on her face.

She watched the fire, listened to a snow owl’s call. It was all on her to protect this. She knew it so, so fully. “I wonder… if I was stripped of my title, who would I be?” Link tipped his head curiously, finishing his second skewer. “As in, without being Princess Zelda, what use could I be?”

He watched her for a moment, unsure of how to answer. He got the sense she wasn’t being rhetorical. When her gaze broke and she seemed to give up on him responding, he broke the silence. “We’re more than just our titles.”

Zelda’s dim smile brightened just a fraction. “That’s true.” She placed her finished skewer beside her and leaned on her crossed arms. “The Spring of Unity is said to be in an area of warmth, but all of my calculations and topographical studies indicate that the only place that may be possible is in the Hebra region. This spring is my last chance to be able to harness my sealing powers. We’ve been circling this area for days… If we don’t fin--- Link.” She cocked her head at him digging through his never-ending, korok-enchanted pack. It’s unlike him not to listen. “What are you doing?”

Cowed, Link grinned back sheepishly. He slowly pulled out a wrapped package and peeled it back. It was a nutcake.

He had a twig in his other hand. He set it to the flame, then stuck the makeshift candle into the cake.

“We didn’t celebrate your birthday.”

She blinked at his bashful expression to the cake then back again. “You’re just trying to distract me from my sad thoughts, aren’t you?” she accused with a spreading grin. He nodded emphatically and she couldn’t help laughing. “Well, it’s not working, but thank you anyway.”

Hebra seemed just the slightest bit warmer that night. 

They finished the cake in comfortable silence. Wolf songs competed with the howls of Hebra wind pulling at the trees in tandem. The heat of the fire and her own body had melted some of the snow around her, soaking the seat of her pants. Even cozied up by the fire, Zelda felt the chill settling in and decided she’d had enough.

“I’m heading off to bed for the night,” she informed him, lighting a torch to keep at her bedside. He didn’t say anything but nodded. The knight, in his own knightly way, began cleaning up their meal and setting up his bedroll next to the fire. Zelda lingered at the entrance to the tent, watching him.

Even blocked by the rocky outcrop, the wind was still tugging something fierce at the fire and Link’s hair. It was making his work more difficult. Flurries of snow stung his eyes and he winced. He fed the starving fire.

A pang of sympathy hit her. He not only had to carry the weight of his own title, but he had to deal with her on top of it. It seems unnecessarily cruel to leave him out here. He turned, catching her staring, and cocked his head back at her.

“Why don’t you come inside for the night?” She has to speak up to be heard over the growing winds.

Link froze. Somehow, his already chill-reddened face flushed a deeper shade. Zelda clearly found the expression endearing and cleared her throat. Sensing he misunderstood, she purposefully spoke with more poise, more clarity, “Bring in your bedroll. It is freezing out here, and you’ll be much happier inside.”

He seemed to sense her offer was perfectly innocent, but still faltered in coming up with an answer. The longer he took, the more devious and cunning her eyes cut back at him. She was amused! That’s certainly not helping. Any answer he’d started got jumbled in his throat. “I—Princess, that’s not…”

Could he be executed for that?

She broke out into a grin, eyes tossing back some of that playful firelight back at him. “Relax, Link.” She held up her hands in a gesture of good-will. “I think given the circumstances, sheltering together is not considered scandalous.”

He still looked suspicious, but she could tell he was considering her offer. The fire careened as a stray gust of wind clawed through the campsite. Zelda visibly shivered.  Link wore a face like he was sizing up an enemy. She wasn’t sure how she felt to be the subject of that stare.

Then, to her surprise, he pulled the flameblade from the ring of bare dirt and approached.

Before she even had the chance to be intimidated, he turned his back to her and assumed the wide stance of a guarding soldier, resting hands atop his sword. “Get some rest, Princess.”

She stared at the back of his head. I vastly underestimated how stubborn he can be.

With a sigh, she acquiesced and went inside.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Zelda awoke earlier than usual, cold in her bed. The torch was barely clinging to life.

When she’d changed into her snowquill clothes (mercifully dry now) and opened the tent flap, she found Link sitting in the snow, face resting heavily on his flameblade. His eyes fluttered at her noise and opened blearily.

“You’re stubborn,” Zelda remarked, dryly.

“You’re awake,” he answered, equally obvious.

They packed up camp and set out once again. Zelda always loved the morning time. Fresh opportunities, singing birds, the bubble of hope she desperately tended to throughout the day to keep from bursting. Link seemed to pick up on her good mood, jovially offering her a spicy elixir. She accepted even though she didn’t feel she needed it at that moment. Warmed, she began prattling on about the rarity of insects native to the Hebra region. She held the camera at the ready in case one showed itself.

Link half-listened, half scanned for dangers, finding none. Snow crunched under their boots.

“It’s strange… I can’t find anything in the Hyrule Compendium regarding the Spring of Unity. You’re sure that—What was her name? The Great Fairy outside Kakariko?”

Link stumbled, realizing she’d asked him a question. “… Cotera?”

“Yes! Cotera. You’re sure that she’d said somewhere with warm water?”

Link nodded, certain. “She said they draw their power from the Springs. But her favorite was the one with the hot water flowing.”

Zelda’s face scrunched up, as if trying to work out a riddle. She thought out loud about the logistics of Great Fairies accessing Spring water when they seem trapped in their own pools. Link shrugged unhelpfully.

“In any case… if there’s hot water-- and there obviously isn’t any out here on the surface—it must be some sort of underground source. Somewhere protected.” She put her chin in her hand. “Perhaps we’ve been searching in all the wrong ways. We should be looking for an opening into the mountain, not a spring on top of it.”

This realization incensed her. Just like that, she was enthralled in the work of analyzing the slate once again for clues. Link didn’t catch much of what she was saying since it was mostly said to herself.

They were approaching the Shada Naw Shrine, making their way across the narrow stretch of traversable mountainside. Steep cliffs flanked their sides; Death Mountain and Hyrule Castle watched their journey, as indifferent as ever.

“That would mean… we probably should be scouting lower on the mountain.” Zelda sounded exhausted all of a sudden. She wiggled her boots like her feet were killing her already.

Link indulged her in a half-smile. “Going down is easier than going up.”

She glared at him childishly, then turned her attention back to the slate. “Wait a minute. My calculations aren’t wrong. It has to be in this area.”

Link realized when she did. It’s under them.

Ecstatic, Zelda zoomed in even further on the slate. She was so excited that even Link forgot himself, sidling up to her shoulder to watch. She was scanning for something… There.


~*~*~*~*~*~

They stared down over the edge. Vertigo played tricks on Zelda’s mind and she desperately clutched onto a nearby treebranch for purchase. Oh, that’s a far fall.

Link at least had the decency to try and hide the fact that he was laughing at her, but he lacked in competency. The Princess glowered at him in a very un-Princess like way. “How in Hylia are we to get down there?”

Link reached into his enchanted pouch, producing his paraglider. “I think I have an idea.”

Zelda crossed her arms. “Great. Well, climb back up here when you’re done praying to the Goddess on my behalf.”

This earned her a pleading look from Link. Come on, Zelda, be rational. Thinking over her options, Zelda saw exactly no traversable way in or out of the gully below. She didn’t have Link’s knack for rock-climbing. But they’d established that this was the only logical entrance point into the mountain. The snow-covered rocks opened in a scar at the bottom that promised cave entrance.

“Will that even support two people?” She sniffed suspiciously at the paraglider.

Link shrugged. “Only one way to find out.”

“That is exceptionally reckless,” Zelda balked, “The King will have you executed for such negligence.”

Link grinned back, knowing an empty threat when he heard one. “Won’t be much of me to execute if I’m wrong.” He watched her, letting the mirth simmer between them until it faded away. Ultimately, it was her call, and he waited for her to make it.

She worried her lip then finally spoke. “Okay. How do we do this?” She was doing a fantastic job covering up how nervous she was.

By way of an answer, he turned his back to her and crouched down, gesturing for her to climb on. Zelda hesitated, eyeing her unlikely steed. “That is a very un-Princess like idea.”

Link rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. “I need my hands free.”

“I’m bigger than you.”

The knight shot her a look over his shoulder. “Doubt it. It’ll be fine, Princess.” His confidence in his abilities was the little push she needed. 

She climbed onto his back, trying to situate herself. Link took her weight as if it were no more than his normal gear. It was definitely different—She hadn’t received so much as a hug since… wow, for a very long time. Now, being completely pressed to someone else, she felt decidedly very un-Princess like. And warm.

Unnaturally warm.

Link swayed to get his balance, aware of the heat growing between them. He suddenly thought that there was something very wrong happening to him. He hadn’t noticed that his palms were sweating until his mitt slipped off. She crossed her legs in front of his hips to catch herself, which certainly didn’t help matters.

She squirmed uncomfortably. Link diligently thought about King Roam Bosphoramus. “Wait,” she breathed in his ear. He nearly chucked her over the ledge in a panic.  

She slid off him to stand. Relief and cold air flooded him.

“The uh—The flameblade,” she began, voice a little higher than she meant.

Right. No wonder he was sweating. Without looking at her, he shed the strap with the blade from his shoulder and collected his fallen glove. “You wear it.”

He heard her comply then place her hands on his shoulders. Big, hairy, salt-and-peppered hands of King Roam. Yep, that’s what they were. He lifted the not-King and made sure she was ready before running forward to the lip of the cliff.

The sails crackled as they caught the wind.

Zelda’s legs nearly squeezed the breath out of him. Maybe he shouldn’t have taught her the basics of horsemanship. Her thighs were strong enough to make black spots at the edge of his vision. Her face was tucked into his hair in terror. Even with the parasail safely deployed, cracking in the wind, Zelda didn’t lift her head until well into the descent.

This was amusing enough to Link that he nearly lost focus. “Hey, you’re good,” he yells over the wind.

She couldn’t help laughing, little bubbles of adrenaline-fueled joy making her jittery at every nerve. She could see the hard-edged canyon separating Greater Hyrule from the other land masses to the North. The world suddenly felt so much bigger than her and her little worries.

He strained to listen to the sound of her laughter over the popping sail. It was something so rarely heard, it seemed wasteful not to be able to hear it fully. She finally relaxed, just enough for him to not be in pain.

He prayed to Hylia he would be able to keep this memory.

He should have been paying more attention.

Out of the snow burst an Ice Lizalfos, alerting multiple others from their disguises. A jet of freeze-dried air shot directly at them, and Link barely managed to swerve the sail. The reptiles squawked at them, bouncing around joyously. Zelda’s shriek in his ear would definitely leave it ringing later.

“Link!” she cried.

Focus overtook him. The world slowed down. They were Ice Lizalfos, and he had his bow in hand, fire arrows at the ready before he’d even had the thought to do so. They were freefalling, and Zelda’s additional weight made him miscalculate the first shot. He adjusted the second, sending a lizard up in a poof of mist and malice.

Another jet was headed their way, and Link skillfully dodged it by opening up the sail. Zelda nearly lost her grip from the change in forces.

A fire arrow was his answer to the jet. The Lizalfos went up in a poof. None of the others mourned it.

They hadn’t had a chance. Link dispatched two more in the same fashion, using the islands of flat rock to corral them.

He scanned shrewdly, looking for more. Everything was white, all white below them. They were known to camouflage themselves. They only had enough space between them and the rocks below for one more shot.

Link wouldn’t get to take it.

They cried out as they were side-blinded by a blast of cold air. Even with their elixirs and their snowquills, the cold shot straight into their veins. Their muscles seized, and Link lost grip on one side of the paraglider. The new wind sent them spiraling and careening out of control.

Zelda hung on for dear life but was thrown from Link’s back. She shrieked, grasping wildly for him, and watched him grow small in the distance.

Then she felt something sting against her back.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was warm. So, so warm. She felt weightless. Her arms floated in front of her chest.

Someone was yelling at her.

Link was yelling at her.

He seemed to stop when she moaned in pain. Zelda’s eyes squeezed shut then blearily coaxed themselves open. The droplets of water on the tips of her eyelashes obscured Link’s concerned face.

She laughed without any force at the silly warped face. He didn’t seem to think it was funny.

“S’warm,” she mumbled, waiting for consciousness to come in whenever it felt like it. When it did, she next realized that he was holding her up in waist-high water. Warm water. Hot water. “Aww… you ran me a bath.”

She sighed deliriously into his chest, and Link finally released the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. She was okay.

Her eyes popped open all at once. “Wait. A bath?” She shook her head, finding it heavy with hair. He released her, letting her get her bearings. “What’re you…” An accusation died on her lips. “Hot springs.”

They were in a partially covered grotto, pillars supporting disks of flat rocks surrounded them. The sky managed to poke light in through the spaces between the islands of rock above.

“Hot springs!” she repeated, more excited. She grabbed his shoulders. “We found it?” Link smiled back at her, relief in his eyes. He nodded.

Memory seemed to catch up to her. “And the Lizalfos?” She followed his eyes to the pile of tails at the edge of the spring. “Oh.” She seemed to realize that they were both knelt in a hot spring, her hands clutching his shoulders and his hovering anywhere but on her.

She let him go and made a point of wringing out her hair. He did the same.

“This is amazing! We need only to find the entrance!” She looked around, eyes peeling every layer of rock around her with gaze alone. She thought she saw something just outside the spring and went to move for it.

But she stopped at his hand on her wrist. He pulled away like he’d been burned. “Sorry, but—Princess, that’s unsafe.” She cast him a look that showed just how little credibility his sense of ‘safe’ carried. “Really, Princess, you will freeze. Your clothes and hair are wet.”

He made a point to pull out his strongest spicy elixir—the kind even he didn’t like, as it was too hot—and thrust it towards her before she could try and fight him.

Humbled, she took the bottle from him. “So are you.” She made a point to drink half and push it back to him. She could already see him putting up a fight over this, so she cut in before he could, “I command you to drink it.”

Link hesitated but decided he should be really careful with what commands he could just ignore. He did as he was bid. The elixir was very high quality, and he could feel some of his health regenerate. If only she’d had the whole thing, he wouldn’t worry so much for her health.

They panted at the spice in their mouths while searching the perimeter of the hot springs. Link ventured out of the springs for a few moments at a time, but the sodden clothing pressed to his body was a skin-tight iceblock within seconds.

“Found something!” Zelda cried. Link hurried over to her to find her crouched under a low-hanging rock ceiling, pointing at a weak point in the wall. It looked like it could be smashed through. Zelda stood back, giving him enough space to swing a claymore at it. It never got any less strange to watch an object bigger than Link disappear into that enchanted pouch.

Before them was a dark cavern.

Something like fear crawled down his arms, despite the hot water.

He glanced at Zelda, but she was already ducking to make her way in. Determined and dauntless, she seemed unafraid of the dark or the unknown. Wordlessly, Link followed in after her.

After a few meters, they could stand upright again. It was punishingly dark in the cave.

Link was just about to equip his flameblade again when Zelda had an idea. She pulled out the slate, turned on the camera, and managed to have better night vision than her eyes could produce. A faint blue glow lit up their faces just enough to see each other.

Able to walk again, Zelda led the way and Link trailed right behind her. He couldn’t scan for threats. He wasn’t even sure how big this space was until Zelda spoke. “Stop.” The echoes indicated the space was a small corridor. “Link, look at this.”

He took the slate, analyzing the faint image it produced as he moved it around. It was… one of those terminals. Like the kind that they saw outside of the shrines. Round, with Shiekah markings, and an eye where the slate would presumably activate it. But there was nothing glowing, no orange light.

Beyond it, a solid wall. No igloo-shaped shrine, just rock. He touched it to make sure.

Confused, he exchanged a glance with Zelda, then pressed the slate to the terminal. Nothing happened.

“Here, let me—Whoa.” Her hand touched the slate, and suddenly the terminal glowed bright orange. Link pulled away in surprise and the light shut off. “Wait, wait, Link. Hold it again.” They found that when they both held the slate to the terminal, it activated. It made a mechanical sound of recognition, took the slate, and turned it, then returned it back to them.

The wall glowed in orange stripes and splayed open before them, allowing them entry.

Link was anxious. Zelda was ecstatic. She squealed with joy as she trotted past the barrier, expecting to see the falls laid out in all of their glory. Instead, she saw… more blackness. A few glowing silent shrooms clung to life in what she assumed was the far side of the room.

“Wha--? Where is the…” She trailed off as Link cleared the barrier. A ghostly voice spoke to them from all directions:


To you who have travelled into this mountain, I offer you these trials:

In your travels, you’ve relied on the equipment that you’ve found along the way…

Believing yourselves to be self-reliant...

For these trials, you must cast aside your equipment and your pride and face this challenge with nothing but one another to rely on.

 

The voice fell silent, and the air was pregnant with tension. The orange threshold behind them suddenly slammed shut and both Zelda and Link felt the hand of unconsciousness over their eyes. When they refocused, Zelda felt suddenly much lighter.

Physically lighter. The sodden, hostile clothing she wore was gone and in its wake was indifferently cold air. “Link! The slate!” she gasped.

“I have it.” He had it on his hip, but his korok pouch was nowhere to be found. His clothes were gone as well. He peered through the camera for some heightened vision, following Zelda’s voice. When the camera focused on her, though, Link suddenly tore his eyes away from it like it had burned an image into his retinas.

That’s not too far off from reality.

“Are we both…?”

Link grimaced, doing everything he could to calm his nerves. “Not completely,” he answered for her. This was like Eventide Island. Just a quick set of tasks, a few bad guys disposed, no problem. Focus on the task at hand, Link. His hearing strained for a Hinox snoring. Merciful silence.

“My pack is gone. No weapons, no changes of clothes.” He was doing inventory, completely in survival mode. “We just had that spicy elixir. It should last us a while.” It was very high quality, so even drinking half should give them some time.

Zelda ran her hands over her goose-fleshed arms. Even with the elixir, it was chilly in the cave. It was survivable in their current state, but when the elixir ran out, they’d be in serious danger.

She was at Link’s side, looking to take the slate from him. Their bare shoulders brushed in the dark and Link let out a yelp in surprise. “Sorry. Just me.” She coaxed the slate from his hands and flicked the camera back on, looking around the space.

It was mostly barren. Some silent shrooms glowed in the corners, and Zelda gleaned that there was some dry brush clinging to the walls. They could find a way to light it, but it would be gone in seconds.

Water dripped from a stalactite. The orange barrier had disappeared and left behind just more of the same rock. “We’re… trapped down here,” Zelda whispered quietly.

Link swallowed a wave of rising panic and spoke steadily, “No, we’re not. We can always teleport out of here together.” He was reminding himself as much as he was reminding her.

“Right,” she murmured. “But we came so far already. We may as well finish the trials and be done with it.” And preferably before the elixir wears off. Link didn’t voice any disapproval.  She continued to scan the space, when she noticed an etching on the wall. “Link, come check this out.”

Zelda read the inscription aloud, Link watching just behind her. “The warmth of one will die out; The warmth of two will glow unending.” Zelda cocked her head, mind finally having an ancient puzzle to chew on. “Let’s see… we are going to the fabled Spring of Unity. Therefore, it would stand to reason that these are trials aimed at testing our teamwork.”

She took Link’s silence as encouragement and continued searching for materials. “Warmth of two… it probably means we make a fire together. Link, search for some loose rock. I see some dry brush.” He thought about telling her just how difficult that would be without being able to see but thought better of it. Hands and knees is fine for now.

This space was small, but not so small that it would retain any of their body heat over time. He heard her pulling at some dry foliage, managing to wring it free. All Link found was a shard of what felt like loose granite that might could work.

In terms of testing their teamwork, they would pass this trial with flying colors.

They produced the kindling and stones that theoretically would spark it to life. They worked diligently, taking turns when one tired, repeatedly striking the stones. Finally, a little spark flew into the dry foliage, and Zelda gently blew air to the base.

Cries of joy and relief echoed throughout the cave, and Zelda didn’t know which belonged to whom. She didn’t care. The fire caught and splayed from leaf to dead leaf, illuminating the small space between them. “We did it, Link!” she bounced, a ten-mile grin on her face. “That should complete the… what’s wrong?”

He was staring at her, looking wan and shocked. She glanced behind her, terrified that there was some unseen monster, but there was nothing. She turned back to find Link’s body turned away from her and he cleared his throat uncomfortably. He looked feverish. Confused, she was about to ask, until she looked down at herself illuminated for the first time in the firelight.

Oh. Her cold skin strained towards the heat of the flames, nipples pushing so insistently at the fabric of her thin brassiere that they might puncture it. Still wet from the hot springs, the white cloth did little in the way of modesty. It had not helped matters that she was on her hands and knees tending the fire.

Zelda cried out, covering herself with her arms. “Sorry! I—I had a lapse in…” She was going to either say judgement or memory, but found neither applied. She just sat there in embarrassment.

This was probably one of those times Link needed to speak. “It’s fine! Really!” He immediately regretted it; His voice cracked like it hadn’t in years.

Perhaps it was a good thing it was so cold in here. Get a hold of yourself, knight!

The fire began to burn in earnest. They could see all points of the cave chamber now and found it just as barren as before. Now, sans two rocks and some foliage. Quick to change the subject, Zelda searched for the new entrance to the next trial to open up.

But she didn’t find anything. “Um… Link. We started the fire. So…” she glanced down to the weakening embers, already starved for fuel. “Shouldn’t we have passed?”

At this Link did chance a glance back towards the fire. It wouldn’t last more than a minute. “We have nothing else left to burn.”

An idea seemed to occur to them both at once. Zelda toyed with the strap of her bra; Link with the elastic of his waistband. Simultaneously, they muttered to themselves, “No.”

“Link… the fire’s going out. What do we do?”

Link remained silent, his mind working all its gears. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed. There’s no way to tell down here. He could only guess at how much time their elixir had left. “Let me see the slate.”

He turned on Magnesis first. Nothing.
Stasis next. Nothing.

Cryonis? Not enough water.

That just left the bombs. “Get behind me,” he said, backing towards one wall, tucking her behind him protectively.

He threw the bomb just far enough away to be safe and pressed detonate. Zelda peeked out behind his shoulder at the darkness as Link pointed the camera at the blast zone.

Nothing had changed.

“Okay, again,” Zelda said, determined.

~*~*~*~*~*~

They’d bombed every inch of the room. They scoured the ceiling, combed the floors, broken stalagmites, and reread the inscription at least ten times. Nothing magnetic. Nothing to freeze in time except, as Zelda had found out by sheer accident, one another. He’d forgive her for that eventually.

Tired and growing desperate, Zelda sat on the cold floor. “There’s nothing in here.” She had that tone. The one Link knew was her dejected tone. Her giving-up voice. It was unsteady, as if she was about to break out into shivers.

Link knew better than to ignore her like this. He came to kneel at her side. They’d gotten so used to the dark that they no longer startled one another when moving around. “We can teleport to the nearest stables. I’ll figure out a way to get the equipment back.”

There was just barely enough light from the slate to see the wry expression on her face. “This seems like something that would be difficult to explain to the townsfolk.” He didn’t see her gesture at them, but knew she’d made it. Honestly, he was having a hard time believing it himself.

He laughed halfheartedly. “That’s the least of our problems at the moment.” He began to reach out, hesitated, watched her eyes. She seemed aware of his hand between them, and he pressed it to her bare shoulder. She flinched a little at the cold but didn’t wheel around to hit him. Before he lost courage, he found her pulse point at her neck, feeling it speed up under his touch.

“Link…?”

“You’re dangerously cold. The elixir’s wearing off, isn’t it?” It wasn’t a question. He could feel it on himself. So with all of the icy cold hair she carried, she must be absolutely freezing. He retracted his hand from her throat and moved towards his own head. He pulled the elastic free from his hair and held it out to her.

She gratefully accepted the hairband and made quick work of getting as much of the freezing hair up off her back as she could. It was literally all that he had to offer her, and he’d given it.

“We can’t leave now… We’re so close.” It sounded strange for her to say that without the same determination in her voice. This is usually the point where he’d begin making camp and diligently working to distract her from the line of thought that he knew was coming.

“Please… Link, I know we should go. Make special elixirs, or something. But I just… I don’t think I can live with myself to leave here a failure.” She sounded so small. Link felt his heart twist in his chest. “Ganon can appear any day. If I left here early j-just because I was c-cold… If I f-fail…”

She wasn’t crying. Worse, she was shivering. Teeth clattering. Full body wracked with tremors.

“L-Link can we p-please stay?”

She left him in an impossible situation. It is his sworn duty to protect her at all costs! Hypothermia is just as much a threat as any monster. He could feel it breathing down his neck. Frigid claws raked his scalp.

However, forcing her to leave prematurely feels cruel. She’s giving everything she has to attain her powers. Selflessly. Purely for the sake of Hyrule.

“Princess Zelda… you’re no good to anyone dead.” He heard his molars clack together despite his best efforts.

Zelda was quiet, and her expression was difficult to make out with the Shiekah slate on the floor. Her tremoring would have made her unreadable even in broad daylight. She mumbled something that even in the silence he couldn’t decipher.

“What?”

“Warmth of one will die out… two will glow forever.” She’d heard it so many times in her mind, it was meaningless. However, something sideways passed her mind. “You’re r-right, Link. I’m n-no good to anyone dead. Neither are y-you.” He couldn’t follow her logic. Maybe it was because he was distracted by being so cold. “The voice s-said… something about casting p-pride and equipment aside. Only e-each other.”

Zelda was staring at him. He could feel the heat of her gaze even through the layers of darkness and cold. His anxiety certainly didn’t settle when she said, “Don’t pull away, okay?”

What?

He felt her frigid palm in the center of his chest as she slid into the crook of his arm. At first, it hardly registered that he was holding anything human. More parts fish than person. Their skin were strangers at first. But once they’d made acquaintance with one another, a warmth bloomed and synergized between them. They both desperately needed it for survival.

Even still, even in this exact situation, Link was determined to be knightly. Zelda felt that his hands hovered in the air, purposefully not touching her. “P-Princess—I don’t think I… We—”

Exasperated, Zelda cut in. “Zelda. Right now, you’re Link, I’m Zelda. We’re freezing. That simple.”

Link didn’t have to interject King Roam into his mind, but the image of his stern face intruded nonetheless. Link let out a high whimper of fear, like a wolf shot with an arrow. “I’d like my execution to be public. I hope the King shoots me with my favorite bow.”

Zelda laughs against his chest, just a change in breathing. “You’re being melodramatic.” When the violent tremors stopped, she reassessed the survivability of the situation as it was. Her torso had enough heat to keep all major functions working, but her fingers and toes were numb, heavy pebbles. She knew she could eventually lose them.

Her body moved independent of her mind, searching for warmth like a reptile seeks the sun. Her hand trailed across his chest and slipped into his free armpit, delighted at the new warmth. Link hissed at the jolt of cold, “Prin-- Zelda!” That did exactly nothing to slow her down as she twisted one of her legs through his, feet seeking what little warmth his calves had left.


She made a happy little noise in relief, and the best of his efforts were getting him exactly nowhere. “You’re my knight. It’s your duty to protect me. I order you to protect me from the cold.” Link rolled his eyes. So much for just Zelda and Link. Still, he felt himself relaxing into the beguiling bubble of warmth they’d built for themselves. “Link, relax. It is so cold in here, it is humanly impossible for anything… untoward to happen.”

Well, you say that.

 His hand slowly, so gingerly, came to rest on her shoulder. That seemed good enough to her for now.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

They say you should never give in to sleep when you’re cold. Why did he only remember it just as he woke up?

It was still complete, vantablack darkness. A wonderful warmth permeated through his chest, left stripes of heat on his back, managed to reach into the outskirts of his toes.

He sighed, contented. That is, until something tickled his nose. He sniffed it away, but it came back.

It was… hair?

Who’s hair? Then it all came rushing back to him at once: The hot springs, the cave, the riddle. Zelda tucking herself under his arm. Her on her hands and knees, beaming a huge smile at him from across the fire…

The mass in his arms murmured and twisted, hips jolting his. Link had to bite his fist to keep from crying out. “Mmph… quit it,” growled Zelda. Her arm across his back twitched fingers ticklishly back and forth. That certainly wasn’t helping!

Link carefully, oh so carefully, extricated himself from her grasp, much to Zelda’s displeasure.

Finding the slate and flipping on the camera, he stared around the room. The inscription was gone. Where it once had been was another expanse of darkness. An opening?

“Princess…” he urged, shaking her shoulder. She breathed deeply, indicating she was awake. His urgency had triggered rising panic.

“Link? What—”

“You were right. We passed the trial.” They found each other in the dark again, and Link demonstrated his discovery by pointing it at the missing inscription. She didn’t seem to get it straight away. Too much dark layered on dark.

He moved into the opening, letting the jolts of adrenaline wake him up. He listened for monster howls, for Hinox snores, for the rumbling of a Talus. Only silence and the occasional drip-drip of water.

Link felt her following just behind him. They felt their way through a winding, narrow passageway. A turquoise light glimmered at the end. Zelda could hear water! They must have done it!

They trotted towards the light and turned the corner hard. Both had to shield their eyes from the bright blue glow stretching their pupils too suddenly. “What is… Whoa!” The threshold slammed to a close just behind Zelda, nearly clipping her heels.

This space was larger than the last, but only just so. The only light-source was the aquamarine pool taking the lynel’s-share of the room. Glittering snakes of lights danced and writhed on the ceilings. Steamy clouds of heat puffed invitingly from the warm waters.

Before Link could warn her not to, Zelda was already slipping into the water, sighing in relief. Sleeping on the hard stone, shivering, had not been kind to the kink in her neck.

Ever the gentleman, Link studiously didn’t watch her. He was more focused on the inscription on the wall opposite him. It was positioned in a place where a door would logically go.

 

Only when the Hero and the Princess demonstrate…

The vulnerability to receive

And the courage to give

Will the path forward be revealed.”

Meaning didn’t jump out at Link. He rubbed his temples, deciding that maybe Zelda had the right idea after all. He had a knot in his shoulder the size of a Keese. He picked a spot as far away from her as possible and dipped his toe, then his whole self into the delightfully hot spring.

He hadn’t been fully warmed in weeks. Link allowed himself a moment of indulgence. A happy little sigh followed him under the water. He came back up for breath a new man.

Zelda, on the far side of the spring, was working the hairband out of her tangled, frost-damaged hair. “What do you think it means?”

He gave the exact minimum amount of eye contact he deemed polite for the situation before staring hard at the inscription. Link couldn’t seem to get anything concrete from it.

“Mm,” Zelda hummed thoughtfully. “It sounds like one of us is supposed to get a present for the other.” Even as she said it, it didn’t sound like she believed herself. She watched him rub the knot from his shoulder, unaware of her gaze.

The band finally came free, with no small number of hair casualties. Thoughtfully, she picked at it. “As it turns out, I actually have a present for you.” She sank a little lower, giving permission for him to look at her. “I will now demonstrate the courage to give.”

He cocked his head at her just in time for her to lock the hair-tie over her thumb and sling-shot it directly between his eyes. Link started, dazed, searching for what hit him.

He found it. Bubbles gave away Zelda’s laughter just below the surface, her shark-eyes staring at him. She lifted just a little to say, “And thank you for demonstrating the vulnerability to receive.”

Mischievous! He considered crossing the pool to get her back somehow and very nearly did just that. However, that would hardly be appropriate in a sparring match, let alone a state of undress. Instead, he tied back his hair methodically, not breaking eye contact with her.

“Thank. You. Princess.”

Satisfied with herself, Zelda leaned back and worried the dirt free from under her nails. “I’m surprised that didn’t work,” she hummed, not surprised at all.

Link decided to let her have a victory and went back to massaging the twisted muscles in his shoulder. The hot water helped, but it was made of stubborn stuff. Working it hurt in a good way.

“Since we obviously don’t have anything to give one another,” Zelda thought out loud, “Maybe it has nothing to do with an object. Like how the last one had nothing to do with a fire.”

Link seemed to indicate that made sense. “What could it be, then?”

Zelda’s mind was working. “It can’t be something easy to give. ‘Courage’ and ‘vulnerability’?” She pondered this, feet kicking just under the surface. “Maybe it’s a secret?” Link’s face expressed how obvious that was. All riddles are secrets. “No, no, maybe we’re supposed to tell each other a secret. Courage to give, vulnerability to receive?”

More comfortable with the exchange, Link rested his arms on the ledge behind him. He couldn’t tell if Zelda was lost in thought or outright staring at him. “It’s worth a try. You go first.”

The princess balked, put on the spot. With some considerable amount of thought, she settled on one not too mortifying. “Alright, then… Sometimes when you’re asleep, I’ll double check that you’re really out, and then sneak off for a walk alone in the woods.” She didn’t seem too proud of this.

In contrast, Link had a very smug look on his face. “I have a secret: I already knew that.” Her scandalized expression only bolstered him further. “I’d wait until you were done inspecting me and thought you were alone, change into my Shiekah outfit, and tail you. Hey!”

He raised his arm to deflect a splash of water to the face.

“You’re telling me I didn’t have a moment of privacy the entire time I’ve been your charge?”

“Wha-No! No, I didn’t invade your privacy!” He searched for the right words, tripping over himself in the process. “You just didn’t have… too much.” That sounded lame even to him. Link winced at her withering stare.

She crossed her arms over her chest in such an intimidating way that he nearly forgot about their whole situation. Her eyebrow cocked at him: A challenge.

He could feel her staring straight into his soul.

Could he shrink himself any smaller?

“Gerudo Town, too?”

Turns out, yes, he could. Link nodded, chagrinned.

Her silence was bludgeoning. She was patient, and just waited for him to start talking. Finally cowed, he gave in, “Yes.”

“How?”

His face flamed in embarrassment. “I… dressed up as a Vai to get access and watch the area outside your quarters. I-I knew you wanted space from me, but I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to you.” He scrubbed his face, knowing just how creepy that sounds. “That was the only reason I knew about the Yiga Clan’s plan to assassinate you.”

As if that exonerates you, her green eyes glowered.

She was still waiting for him to explain. There was more that she knew. What was it? Confusion flickered on his face until a thought hit him sidelong. “Wait… you don’t…” He swallowed, definitely nervous. She remained patient as ever, which is to say, not at all.

“I swear I didn’t understand that… weapons shop. They looked very ineffective. Didn’t think much of it at the time.” Link considered the benefits of hypoxia from drowning himself here. Zelda’s eyes bulged. “But later I heard you cry out from your room…” An accusation was forming on her lips and he waved his hands vigorously, “I thought you were in danger! It’s my duty to protect you!”

Zelda’s face was aflame. Cold was never even a memory to her. “How long did you stand outside that door?”

Link couldn’t meet her eye, casting a hangdog expression at the wall. Guilty. “Just long enough to realize you weren’t in danger.”

Somehow, she managed to have a superior expression, like she knew something he didn’t. “Friendly reminder, Link: The fate of Hyrule rests with your honesty to that question. Are you sure that’s your answer?”

Link rubbed the back of his head nervously. “Long enough to realize you weren’t in danger… then long enough to figure out what was happening.”

Zelda sensed that he was being truthful. Long enough was the gist of it. She gestured to the wall with the inscription and said to it, “We did your trial. Is this not sufficient?”

The wall stared back, uncaring.

~*~*~*~*~*~

They were stumped. They tossed ideas back and forth for what seemed like hours. Maybe they were supposed to give each other advice? Maybe a compliment? Cooking tips? A high-five? 

“None of those worked... What could it be? I feel that we were closer with our first attempt.” Zelda said, reclining against the cool stone wall to watch the inscription do nothing, as always. Her feet splashed thoughtfully in the spring. Link quirked his head to indicate he was listening but wouldn’t look her way without her completely submerged from view.

As endearing as this quality could be in small doses, it definitely made a conversation with him more annoying.

“It’s something that takes courage to give and vulnerability to receive. Secrets take courage to give, but not exactly vulnerability to receive…” She couldn’t tell if he was following her or not. “Maybe it’s constructive criticism.”

That actually got Link to look her way, if only for a split second. It was clear that the idea made him nervous. He’d rather go back to secrets.

“I’m not keen on it either, really. But I can’t think of anything else.” Link sighed, defeated. He made a gesture that vaguely indicated he wanted her to go first. That’s a real stand-up move.

“Okay. Um…” she wasn’t fishing for insults, not that she had any with teeth anyway. Constructive criticism requires crafting hands, not snapping fangs. “I find your knightly demeanor to be an endearing quality.” She could see him straining against his self-imposed bonds not to look at her. “You are ever-professional, protective, competent, and gentlemanly beyond reproach.”

Link’s face warmed considerately at the genuine praise, finding himself reduced back to bashful in seconds. When he thinks ‘constructive criticism’ he thinks royal guard boot camps, not this.

“That said…” Zelda continued, finally bringing down the boot. “It’s an endearing quality in moderation. Nearly freezing to death because you’re too knightly to share a tent? Being within earshot of my room in the most heavily guarded place in Hyrule?” She paused, trying to catch his eye, with moderate success. “Inability to meet my eyes while having a conversation?”

Zelda considered kicking the dog some more, until Link sighed heavily. He got the message. Slowly, so slowly, he made a point of turning himself fully towards her, unwaveringly meeting her eyes. He presented his hands in a gesture of surrender.

The amount of willpower he summoned to look at her face-- just her face-- was evident. Zelda rewarded him wish a charmed smile, “Thank you, Sir Knight.”

Just like that, all the perfectly manicured non-expression disappeared. His face flushed an impossible shade of scarlet and ducked his head under the water with a splash. Zelda laughed to herself and decided not to scold him. It’s impossible to be cross with him when he looked like that. She crossed her arms and folded one knee atop the other if just for a sliver more modesty.

The silence was companionable but not comfortable.

Zelda was about to prompt him to complete the inscription from his end. The look in his eye stopped her.

Nervous.

Not because of anything inane. He was chewing on an idea. Words were evading him.

“Link,” Zelda says gently. Like coaxing a scared animal. “Whatever it is, you can just say it. You may speak freely here.”

Link nodded, then swallowed.

“Okay. I think you… don’t give yourself enough credit.” He was choosing his words very carefully, unable to keep her intense gaze. “You give every ounce of yourself to fulfilling a destiny without regard for your health. Yet you think every… obstacle is just a personal failure.”

Zelda opened her mouth to speak, but Link held up his hand. It was the first time he’d ever silenced her.

“You have such faith in the Goddess Hylia but have no faith in yourself. That… is impossible. As I understand it, you are Hylia, in a new form. Having no faith in Zelda is the same as not having faith in Hylia.”

Zelda’s fists clenched. The hot springs grew hotter with the rising of her ire.

Link just looked earnest.

‘“How dare you suggest I have no faith in the Goddess?” she hissed to the back of her own eyelids.

Link didn’t defend himself. His silence spoke more.

“Everything… I’ve done everything. Sacrificed everything. To be this figure. The Princess. I cannot just summon false confidence in powers I don’t have! That’s reckless. Negligent. Hyrule depends on me. I—” Her outrage gave way to despair before his eyes.

Link allowed her the space of a few thoughts, then spoke again. “What do you think are the chances that you do actually have your powers, but are only able to use them against Ganon? You’d have no way to know until he returns.”

Zelda remained silent. Link watched her knitted eyebrows slowly unravel. You may be eating yourself alive over a failure you anticipate, not the reality of the situation.

Finally, she ventures, “I suppose I wouldn’t.” Her mind was turning over and over behind her eyes. “So… that is to say, that you believe I’ve already accessed my powers. Just because I cannot wield them at will does not mean I will fail against Ganon.” A matter of faith. Faith in not just Hylia, or the Destiny, but also in herself.

This earned her a kind smile from the knight. She smiled at her hand skimming the velvet surface of the water; A shy gesture.

Finally, the silence was companionable and comfortable.

Link eyed the inscription on the wall, making no discernable change even though they had presumably just completed the trial.

Zelda sighed, two steps from discouraged.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~


“I wonder what the purpose of the Unity trials is,” Zelda thought out loud. Link had gotten proficient at giving her enough eye contact when she spoke without letting his more unseemly desires escape his iron cage of self-control.

“That is, why have them at all?” She was completely out of the spring to cool off, hugging her knees thoughtfully. “The other three Springs were open-air. There was no reason I couldn’t access them alone. But here… the terminal only activated when we both held the slate. The first trial involved sharing body heat. Now this? Why is it so explicitly a team effort?”

Link pushed the thought around for a while, finding nothing. Zelda continued, “I wonder… Maybe that’s the final element needed to access my power at will.”

He pushed himself half-out of the springs, feet dangling in the water. “I… don’t know how I could possibly help you with that.”

“I’m not sure either,” she mumbled, staring into him like she might lock him in stasis to study him in detail. “All of the prophecies and stories are Hero-and-the-Princess. Princess-and-the-Hero. I thought our roles worked separate, but in tandem: You defeat, I seal. Perhaps that’s not it.”

She clearly had an idea forming, but Link couldn’t begin to guess at what.

“This is just a theory… The previous trial required us to work together to achieve the same thing.” That’s the most tactful way that she could have put it, Link thought. “Not just the same goal, but actually helping the other achieve it, too. Maybe focusing on fitting our individual roles is the wrong approach.”

Link clearly wanted her to spell it out. “I think it may be something we physically have to do for the other. ‘Courage to give, vulnerability to receive.’ It might be some allegory for helping the other achieve their destinies!”

She seemed proud of herself, and Link wasn’t one to rain on parades. “Do you have any ideas?”

Zelda cocked her head at him appreciatively. “Mm... yes, as a matter of fact, I do.” Anxiety suddenly shot through him as she made a sudden movement and splashed into the hot spring. Link instinctively suctioned his back to the wall. Zelda was standing in the chest-height water. He meticulously kept his eyes on hers, and not on her breasts floating at the surface. Why did he hear the sound of iron bending?

“Prin—Zelda… what’re you…?”

No matter how hard he scrunched closed his eyes, he could still see her, still hear that soft giggle of amusement as she approached. He nearly flung her clear across the room when she placed her hand softly on his wrist. “Easy,” she laughed. “I’m not doing anything.”

His eyes shot open like a spooked horse.

She was gently urging him to rejoin her in the water. Suspiciously, he scoured her for nefarious intent, then did as he was asked. “You’re still in pain from before, right? You had a knot in your shoulder.” Oh. He thinks he understood.

Trained to be ever without complaint, Link denied it on habit alone. She saw right through him. Her hands on his shoulders gently guided him to turn away from her (which was probably for the best) and he diligently thought about King Roam Bosphoramus. No, Bokoblin hands! Ugly, mauve appendages, searching his back, appraising each muscle scrupulously.

All thoughts of Bokoblins and Kings slipped from his mind when she found the knot.

“Ah!” he cried out, wincing at the pain.

“Found it,” she murmured to herself victoriously, focused on her work. She clearly didn’t know what she was doing, but the healing hot spring smoothed over any mistakes she made. Link saw black edges to his vision and turned to a Link-shaped blob under her hands.

Having a task to accomplish helped Zelda adjust to this new, unlikely scenario. She learned that he was so strong, she needed to apply force to get anything done; Too much force, though, he would flinch away.

 She tried something different with her thumbs and was surprised at the low moan of pleasure she elicited from her knight.

Something mischievous in the corner of her mind whispered to do it again.

What was that?!

This situation was growing less and less worthy of Hylia’s blessing by the moment. Nervous, Zelda resorted to thinking aloud. That always seemed to soothe her. “Hopefully this will fulfil the trial. The voice from before informed us we must cast aside pride and rely only on each other. I can’t think of anything more testing of our… pride.”

She faltered. Link cast a sidelong glance at her over his shoulder. It was unreadable. She thought for a moment he was about to shrug her off and demand personal space. Instead, he just crossed his arms on the stone and leaned his head against them.

He’d never looked so relaxed or vulnerable.

There’s no helping the soft smile on her face as she set back to work. The worst of the twisted muscle had unlocked, but a stubborn nub refused to open. For fear of hurting him, she opted to use the heel of her hand and slide it across with the goldilocks amount of force.

This action grazed her breasts against his back. The muscles under her hands all jumped in unison, tensed like a hackled wolf. He made a noise of distress that he quickly tried to swallow.

That sound. Evilly, she wanted to do it again.

Link felt fingernails drag ticklishly down his spine and it took all of his self-restraint not to surge forward into the rock. What was she doing?! Did she even know what she was doing? Or was he really misreading an innocent exchange? It’s exceedingly difficult to suss reality from warped fantasy at this point. Something was chewing the iron bars of his will.

That tension was stolen away from him as that hand locked on his hip, working the sinewy muscle of his lower back.

Innocent, he decided. He really needs to batten down the hatches here. However, it’s impossible to be on defense and relaxed at once. He was acutely aware of his change in breathing, and diligently focused on evening it out.

Not that it would last. Zelda’s hands moved back up the curve of him to his neck, trailing circles into the cords. He couldn’t catch the mortifying sound he made at that.

Maybe the Goddess would grant him mercy now and electrocute him. Better than having to explain this to the King.

To his surprise, he heard a giggle. Like she was suppressing it. Surely, she wasn’t evil, was she?

He had his doubts. Zelda seemed to be learning from his involuntary feedback, repeating and chasing techniques she’d picked up along the way. He hadn’t realized just how much stress his body physically carried for him.

Zelda’s thigh brushed against the back of his.

 Moblin snouts. Hinox snoring. Lynel beards.

She hummed a sound to herself, pleased with her results. Was she doing that on purpose?  Was she pleased that she was actually helping Link with a pain, or was she knowingly causing him a different pain entirely? Link couldn’t tell.

Link choked on a sob.

She gathered his floating hair and smoothed it to the side. Tingles ran down his spine and he visibly shivered.

 Kilton yelling about how much he loves monsters.

Zelda had to change angles to work a particular knot. She shifted to his side, and Link was acutely aware of his bicep between her breasts.

 Yawning Molduga jaws.

It wasn’t working.

The twist of his lower abdomen greedily sapped his mind of precious resources.

 King Roam eating a roasted bird leg.

This is bad.

 Zelda’s slim fingers at the nape of his neck.

Link let out a wounded whimper, grinding his forehead to his arms and his hips forward into the stone. The friction both helped and hurt.

The sounds on the other side of the door.

Link felt a burst of hot air in his ear: Zelda’s voice. “What is it, Link?” So soft.

Kittenish.

Evil.

She knew exactly what she was doing.

Breathing raggedly, Link passed a baleful glower over his shoulder directly into her eyes. It was a warning shot.

 You’re playing with fire.

Zelda met his gaze. Something glittered in her green eyes, but Link wasn’t entirely sure what it was. A challenge? Fear? Delight? A combination of the three?

Without breaking her gaze, she pressed a thumb into a knot and deftly worked it. He could see just a hint of a smirk on her face before his eyes rolled back without his say-so. A low groan rumbled bass through both of their chests.

Was she really trying to break him? Or did she just want to know if the ever self-controlled knight even possessed a breaking point at all?

Link wasn’t sure which was better.

He bit the flesh of his forearm, writhing in agony as the iron bars of his will warped and creaked. He’s strong. Incredibly strong, determined, and controlled. He was the Hero of Hyrule! He had to be. But she was just… trying to get a rise out of him! For her own entertainment!

It was the first time he’d seen Zelda acting purely in her own interest.

Of course he had to be the subject of a scholar’s bottomless curiosity.

She grew brazen, moving with no regard to where her hips were. Fingers experimented with the muscle just behind his ear. She was toying with him! For fun?!

His blood went from howling to screaming. Was he going mad? He shrank his hips away from her and into the stone once more, acquiescing to his body’s incessant demand for something. Anything! He tried to reason with the cursed meat-prison: If you break, you’ll be executed. Hyrule is doomed.

The meat-prison answered: That’s fine.

He felt betrayed by his own body. Zelda’s hand slipped down his spine with just the faintest hint of nails, sending jolts of electricity to every superheated nerve. Then she flattened her palm just above the too-tight elastic of his shorts and did the unthinkable: She pushed forward.

The unexpected pressure on his groin made everything tighten painfully. His breath hissed in through his teeth. The guise of holding him still to get a nearby knot was flimsy at best.

Sweat trailed down his nose and dripped onto the stone floor.

The spring water was too hot. Way, way too hot.

She was winning.

Frustration boiled in his blood. Zelda was just using him to satiate some morbid curiosity! Intentionally testing to see where his line was. Did she have any idea how maddening this was for him? Stuck between desire and duty? It’s cruel!

Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore.

“Zelda,” he growled. The unhesitant use of her name gave her pause. His eyes were on hers, narrowed, heated, hungry. Despite the ragged heaving of his chest he managed to grind out evenly, “You are being exceptionally unkind.”

Taken aback, Zelda retracted her hands, searching his face. She had the audacity to seem surprised at his reaction. Link held steadfast, daring her to try and gaslight him or tell him he was overreacting. He saw through her too well for that to work. His moral highground gave him just enough courage to turn halfway towards her and levy her with the full weight of his gaze.

Tense silence.

You wanted to know if I had a breaking point? Well, you found it. Now what?

Zelda’s eyes darted over every inch of his expression, receiving the message loud and clear. Wordlessly, her eyes answered for her, Great question.

The gears whirred behind her eyes. This was a decision point for her, and she had to make a call. She was thinking. Getting an idea. Somehow, Link’s anxiety ticked up another notch. That cannot be a good sign.

To his everlasting terror, her eyes narrowed salaciously and she replied in her most royal, haughty voice, “I’ll remind you that I am under no special obligation to be kind to you, knight.

Her emphasis on the last word cracked a firewhip straight to his groin.

 Link ground his teeth. She clearly got a perverse pleasure from seeing him suffer. Did she not understand his warning? He couldn’t have been much clearer. This isn’t like tinkering with one of the Guardians, seeing if X action gets you Y result. He’s a person. A man.

There was no hiding his body’s reaction to her. At this point, he was strained to even care. What he could control, however, was the perfect non-action he took. Stoicism has gotten him this far. Maybe he could use it to survive this yet.

She was the Princess. He was her Knight. She had every privilege to treat him how she saw fit, and he had no choice but to accept it. If she insisted on treating him like a science project, that was her prerogative. So long as he didn’t act beyond his bounds, he was okay.

Zelda wore a face like she was trying to solve a riddle.

As it turns out, that’s exactly what she was doing. Her lips murmured something, and he slammed his eyes shut not to watch them move. “I… think I may know how to solve the trial.”

This got him curious enough to peek out at her. She still wore a puzzled expression.  “I think… I’ll be quite embarrassed if I’m wrong.” She worried her lip.

Link clearly didn’t follow. He contemplated exiting the spring and trying to rid himself of the painful ache before they try tackling the inscription again. He eyed the rock wall where the exit had once been. Right. He’s trapped in here. He wouldn’t have any privacy to accomplish just that…

It was definitely a mistake to take his attention off of her, even for a moment.

Link yelped at something grazing his thigh. His immediate instinct kicked in and he grabbed her wrist hard, stilling her. They made eye contact, Zelda sending not-threat messages telepathically. Trust me. Confused, Link slowly unwound his grip on her wrist.

He understood when there was a tug on the holster of the Shiekah slate. She pulled it from him and began tampering with the screen. Then, satisfied, she handed it back to him.

It was the map. The Myahm Agana shrine selected. The one next to his home in Hateno Village.

Confusion littered his expression. She seemed nervous but forced herself to speak regardless. “If you want to leave, we can. At any point, we'll stop. You can just teleport us out of here. No questions asked.”

Something heavy like dread settled in his stomach. “W-What are you going to do?”

Zelda tried to answer his question. She really did. Words evaded her, but the dredges of deviousness still lingered in her eyes. Is she thinking…?

When Zelda isn’t talking, that’s the time Link should be most concerned.

She set the slate on the stone next to him, one hand out reached for his chest. He made no move to stop her; He made no movements at all. He was a Link-shaped statue. The expression on her face was focused, curious, but she wasn’t toying with him.

She encroached further into his personal space, hips just hovering just out of reach of his groin. His heart hammered against his ribcage so hard the bones creaked. “Zelda…?” His hands hovered everywhere but her.

Her eyebrows furrowed at him. “Courage to give, vulnerability to receive,” she murmured. He watched her eyes shift from his, to his lips, then back up.

She couldn’t possibly be thinking…

“Link, kiss me.”

The beating in his chest froze in stasis.

“Wha—"

“Link, I really think that’s the answer to the riddle.” Her face was flushed in a way that unequipped any thoughts that he could counter her with. Her wet hair clung to her shoulders and throat and flared on the surface.

 With the very conspicuous lack of blood-flow to his brain, he couldn’t work out if that made sense or not. Was his body just playing tricks on his mind? Vulnerability to receive, courage to give. The words were exhausted of meaning at that point.

Zelda’s sincere, vulnerable eyes watched him.

“I…” He swallowed, tried again, “I’m your knight… I couldn’t—” It sounded as weak as it felt to say it.

Under the threat of execution and leaving Hyrule to its demise, how could he possibly say yes? The hand on his chest gently slid lower onto his abdomen. A surge of liquid desire shot right through him. Oh, that’s how.

He watched Zelda’s face flash her thoughts across it without a hint of opacity: Devious pleasure at his reaction, then determination, realization, and finally disappointment.

Disappointment?

She let her hand drift off him under the water. “Right. Of course. I’m not sure why I believed that to be the case. Why would a shrine ask that of us, anyway?” She forced a laugh at her own expense. “I’m not sure what came over me.”

Even in the hot spring, her sadness felt like a bucket of ice-water.

She shrugged her arms free of his hands so she could cross one over her chest. Her free hand reached for the Shiekah slate. “Let’s just go. We can go back to Hateno Village and get—”

Before Link could even think, he’d already spoken, “Wait.”

Zelda stopped, confused. Her eyes drifted to where his hand wrapped around her wrist. When did he grab her?

After a heartbeat-long eternity, she tipped her head expectantly at him.

“I…” Don’t know what to say. With what fragmented bits of sanity he could collect, he tried to focus. He took a deep breath, the first full inhale in what felt like hours, and exhaled shakily.

“Your idea makes sense. It could work…” He released her wrist to rake his hand through his scalp. “I-I just…”

Does he stay true to his knight’s honor? Or does he break the rule not to consort with his charge to protect Hyrule? He never thought he’d have to choose.

How does he tactfully explain that he has been pushed well past what he thought was his breaking point? That even the slightest misstep could lead to his willpower crumbling? That the pressure on his shoulders was crippling? That he no longer trusts himself?

He sighed, a tense sound. The Spring could be just on the other side of the wall. He’d be kicking himself for the rest of his life for not having proper perspective. Or maybe, for not saying yes when he had the chance.

They searched each other, both failing to read the other’s mind.

Link’s throat worked. Zelda couldn’t help watching it.

Link finally broke the silence. “Okay.”

Zelda was genuinely surprised. "What?"

He was too, honestly. Maybe her constructive criticism had landed somewhere he hadn’t noticed.

"Okay. We'll try it."

Before he lost courage, Link reached out and thumbed a lock of her hair in the water. Zelda smiled at the endearing, nervous little gesture. It was abundantly clear that she wanted to kiss him just from that alone, but Link had failed to look up. He was waging his own inner battle.

Finally, a side had won. Link pressed into her personal space and thumbed at her collarbone. Bursts of heat emanated from wherever their skin touched, boiling the water around them. Their hearts were beating so hard they rippled the water.

She shivered as he tucked the wet hair behind her ear. He leaned in, their noses touching. Warm breath on warm skin made warm water unbearable. He was giving her one last chance to pull away, to change her mind. Or, maybe, he was giving himself one last chance.

The amount of self-restraint he used was evident on his face.

She couldn’t help smiling into the space between them. It really was endearing. She whispered, “Twenty rupees that it works.”

Link let out a laugh, relieved she broke some of the tension. He shook his head and rumbled, “You’re on.”

Then he closed the space between them.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

So much for a knight’s honor.

Any semblance of control he had wrested back from his body vanished.

Instead, it assaulted him with an overwhelming amount of information: The impossible softness of her lips; The steam burning his lungs; The earthy smell of cave and spring and Zelda’s skin like fresh rain; Her fingernails tightening on his arms; The soft sound of surprise in her throat; His blood roiling in the molten heat of the water; The sweat rivulets trailing down his face; Wet clothes chafing skin; Minerals and salt on his tongue.

Keeping himself in check was like holding two magnets a hair’s width apart.

Magma licked at the burdened iron bars of his will, threatening to melt it.

The barrage on his senses stripped him of every thought, except one: Stay still.

Don’t move.

Not a single muscle.

He only needed to fulfil the trial. That’s his duty as Hero of Hyrule, no more. It’s morally inadmissible to take advantage of this situation. Of her.

You’re not allowed to enjoy this.

Their lips separated just enough for Zelda to speak. “Link…” It was a sound of complaint.

A strangled noise twisted his throat. Her breasts molded to the hard lines of his chest, so beguilingly soft. Maintaining control was like trying to keep two tectonic plates from colliding.

She didn’t pull away, only hovered tantalizingly within his reach, lips brushing his own.

He ground a layer off his molars.

Zelda opened her eyes to look at him, seeing his pained expression. It was like kissing a statue.

Even with the discouraging inaction, his body told no lies to her. She thought that she’s beginning to understand the Hero of Hyrule better.

Maybe he truly didn’t possess a breaking point. If that was the case, she had nothing to lose.

Her hands drifted under the water, one seizing one of his narrow hips and the other tentatively mapping the topography of his abdomen. The flesh beneath her fingers quivered.

Link hissed in his breath.

That evil little voice in Zelda’s mind purred.

“You’re never going to complete the trial like this, Link.”

She slipped one of her legs between his and leaned her weight against him, pinning him to the stone. Link let out a groan of pleasure that surprised them both. That pressure. He desperately wanted more, and his hips jolted back at her involuntarily.

It shocked her just how powerfully that hit her. Roiling heat pooled in her, thrumming to the tune of her heart.

“Zelda…” he whined. “I… I can’t…” He tried to turn his head away to look at the inscription again.

Can’t what, exactly?

She acted like she hadn’t heard him. Her nose trailed along his jaw until she found herself tasting the leaping pulse point on his throat. She moaned at the salt and the very Link taste. The erection trapped between them jumped, and he did something she’d never heard the knight do before:

“Oh, fuck,” he cursed.

She pulled back enough to catch his eye. His hands still hadn’t moved on her.  He looked agonized.

“Kiss me back,” she pleaded.

A finger toyed with the elastic on his waistband. It slipped just under, drawing little hearts on his skin.

For a moment, Link thought this would all end right then and there in a humiliating mess. He’s only a person.

Her lips brushed against his. “Please.”

That was it.

The iron split in two, sending shards flying in all directions.

With a low growl, Link surged forward. He grabbed her waist and pulled her closer. The other fisted in her hair. She grasped onto him desperately for purchase as his sudden force threw them to the other side of the spring. She'd seen him move that fast before, but had never been the subject of such predatory precision. Her gasp of surprise was captured in his mouth.

A wave of displaced water spilled out onto the rock. She was pinned with her back to the rock ledge, legs wrapped around his hips, meeting every heated kiss with the full brunt of her torrid desire.

He ground hard against her core and opened his mouth to deepen the kiss, swallowing Zelda’s loud moan whole. She lunged and parried him, a dizzying battle of tongues with the threat of heat-stroke looming over them. They tasted lingering spice in one another.

It wasn’t enough. The clothes between them chafed in the water. His hands slid up her outer thighs, holding her in place.

Zelda’s hands raked his hair. A shiver of electricity cut him to the quick.

She squeezed her legs around him tighter. The low bass of his groan rippled the water.

All those times she walked in front of him in those tight riding pants.

The way her hips moved to accommodate her steed’s canter.

Crawling forward to catch a frog.

Hands and knees, giving him a huge smile across the fire.

What he imagined her doing with that that "ineffective weapon" in Gerudo Town.

Every moment and repressed memory and shameful fantasy surfaced at once to cudgel him. His eyes rolled back. Desire clawed painfully through his abdomen.

They broke apart for air, but would never be able to catch their breaths. Link trailed kisses down her neck, sucking on the elegant line of her collarbone. One hand supported her by her behind while the other trailed down her stomach, towards where she needed him most.

Finally, Link was prepared to give it to her.

Her breath hitched. “Link,” she whimpered.

A sudden noise startled them both. His fingers stopped at the thin layer of fabric.

Fear froze them in place.

What was that?

The wall opposite roared with the scrape of rock on rock, dousing them both with cold water. Spooked, they listened, then turned to see that the inscription on the wall had become an exit.

The spell broke. In the space of a moment they realized that there was a world that existed outside the surface area of their tiny bubble.

All at once, it seemed to hit Link what had just happened. The scandalous position he held her in. The heaving of her breasts. Zelda’s dilated pupils. The siren song their bodies sang to each other.

He released her and was immediately out of the spring, leaning against the cool wall and breathing heavily. “Holy Hylia…” He raked his hand through his disheveled hair.

What was that?!

Zelda was on the other side of the room, trying to draw as much cold in from the stone as fast as possible.

What in Nayru had just happened?

Their breathing overtook the silence, with neither daring a glance at the other.

The exit in the wall watched them, apathetic.

Zelda let out a shuddering exhale, “I— Uh.”

“Yeah,” he answered, voice a broken thing. He hunched over, forehead pressed into the stone, panting.

Zelda glanced at the cave opening. “I’m gonna—”

“Go ahead.”

Zelda lingered for a moment longer than she had to. “Are you…?”

He gave her a thumbs up without looking at her.

Fine. Dandy. Thanks!

Zelda slipped out into the corridor, leaving Link to fester in his thoughts.

Never before has Link so royally fucked up.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Zelda really needed a moment alone to process what just happened.

She hurried through the stone hallway, heedless of the darkness. The Shiekah slate was forgotten at the lip of the hot springs, so she felt her way along the walls with her hands. The natural rock grew smooth and polished under her fingertips the further she went.

What came over her in there?

The residual heat of Link’s lips lingered on hers; The vibrations of his chest through hers still registered on her richter scale; Silence rang with the sound of his choked whines of pleasure; The memory of his navel quivering under her fingers left them shaking.

Her body still sought him out even though she was alone.

Evidence of her desire sat uncomfortably in the ruined cloth between her legs.

What was she even doing? What was she thinking?! She’s the Princess of Hyrule. She’s destined to seal Calamity Ganon and save her kingdom. The world relies on them, and she’s tempting the Hero into distracting trysts? They have far, far greater concerns than that of hormones. Never before has she acted so selfishly.

Why did that even complete the trial, anyway?

It was all too confusing. Zelda couldn’t catch any of her swirling thoughts to chew on, let alone swallow.

The artificial walls were slick. It felt like… water? Smooth panels of water cascaded down them. It was warm, but not hot. Her feet sloshed through a shallow layer. It was admittedly a pleasant contrast to the tepid air around her. Being submerged for so long left her toes wrinkled and provided a tiny bit more traction.

 Roaring waters grew louder.

Finally, light filtered through a haze of mists. She stepped into it, and the walls opened to a huge chamber. It was taller and perhaps even more grand than the Great Hall of the Castle. Before her was a landing, curtained off by smooth waterfalls on three sides. They seemed to come from the infinite height above. Tiny specs of blue light above tricked Zelda’s mind into thinking she was under the stars.

Is Hebra Mountain hollow?

The fourth side, unimpeded by glass falls, opened to a narrow stairwell curving to the circular wall.

She couldn’t see how far down it went. Curiosity getting the better of her, she waded forward to the fall blocking her view of the center of the chamber. Her hand touched it and it parted easily.

The chamber opened to a yawning abyss. Mighty falls narrowed into slivers in the incalculable distance.

“Ah!” Zelda reeled back, fighting against the nausea of vertigo. The water-curtain mercifully covered her view of the height for her.

Well, it got her mind off of earlier, if just for a moment, until she felt her heart hammering in her chest.

Will I always associate a racing heart with those springs?

Aside from herself and the water and the mist, there was nothing. No inscription, no clues, no voice of a monk.

She remembered the frustration she felt in the Ancient Columns. The Tena Ko’Sah shrine stubbornly refused to activate without the presence of the fabled, far-sought, coveted Hero of Hyrule to bless it with his presence. He didn’t do a damn thing except hold the slate and all things ancient bowed to him.

Why am I not good enough?

She crossed her arms and sat in the shallow water in a huff. Same situation here, again. She could keep trekking forward, just to see how far down the stairwell went, but Zelda knew there wasn’t a point. It’s the Shrine of Unity. It has to involve Link. Because of course it does.

Guess her resentful streak isn't fully cured.

Her bra cut uncomfortably into the flesh of her ribs. She wanted to strip herself of these abrasive swathes of fabric, dry off, and curl up in bed forever.

Zelda sighed, and settled back into her cursed fate.

~*~*~*~*~*~

It’s impossible to tell how much time had passed. She thought that perhaps her roiling stomach could be quelled with food if she could find it, but her anxiety had it in too tight of a grasp for it to sound the slightest bit appetizing.

She’d finally managed to calm her thoughts and while her mind wasn’t fully clear, it was at least uncluttered.

That’s when Link appeared in the threshold. Predictably, the wall closed behind him as the stepped onto the landing.

He was stone-faced, focused, and stoic.

His neutral expression was unreadable.

Blue eyes seemed to blend into the room around them as he regarded her passively. As if he’d seen nothing, he continued to take in his surroundings unfazed. His skin was outlined in blue from the faint glow of the waterfalls. She said nothing as he stepped around her to do exactly what she had earlier: Try and determine where the stairwell went.

Zelda couldn’t pinpoint the exact source of her unease.

She was just about to say something, when words appeared in glowing text across the panel of falling water:

Though the path ahead is perilous,

Without faith, you will not see the end.

Link read it silently in his mind and Zelda spoke it aloud, turning over in their minds. If just for the sound of her own voice, Zelda murmured, “That’s rather ominous.”

Link took a photo of the inscription with the Slate. He nodded, a polite gesture just to show he heard. He was being formal.

That can’t be a good sign.

He extended his hand to help her to her feet, which she hesitated to take. He was so meticulously neutral. She conceded, and he pulled her up in a decidedly knightly way. He’s reverted to how he was when they met.

That hurt more than Zelda anticipated.

“Link, you’re…” different. Closed-off. I can’t read you. Are you mad at me?

The knight turned his knightly gaze on her, as if awaiting an order. “Yes, Princess?”

Zelda made no attempt to hide the wounded look on her face. It grew deadpan in the space of moments. He’s infuriating! “Nevermind. Let’s get these trials done.”

They approached the stairwell, eyeing it suspiciously. It reminded them of how Zora’s Domain always had a shallow pool of water on every walkway. Link stuck his arm out protectively to halt her approach, glowering at the narrow stairs. There was barely enough space for the two of them to walk side-by-side down it.

The curtain of falling water was all they had for a guardrail.

Something about them set off alarms in his mind.

He knelt on the landing, reaching out to touch the first step with his hand. It was slimy.

Link pulled his hand back to examine what he’d found under the water’s surface. He rubbed his fingers together against the foreign surface, then pulled them apart. It was green. Foliage?

Moss.

He presented it to Zelda to inspect.

“It’s… slippery?” She sat on the landing, testing the traction of the first step with her foot. Patches of moss grew irregularly under the surface. They would need to really watch their step. One slip could send either off into an endless abyss.

Link thought hard for a moment, then decided Zelda should go first. He made a faint gesture that indicated so.

She got the sense that he wanted to be able to see her at all times. That way, he could still her at the first indication of instability. It seemed odd that he opted to have her in his view at all. It’s like he was unfazed by her state of undress suddenly. Before they found the Springs, Link would have at least looked like he had embarrassment to hide or made a point not to look. It’s like he didn’t care.

“Cryonis?” Zelda suggested.

Link thought about it, then shook his head. “We don’t have shoes. Our feet will burn.”

She hummed a noise that seemed to indicate she agreed. “Okay.” She searched the first step for purchase, wavering for only a moment before she caught her balance. If she stays low to the ground, it should be generally safe.

It was slow-going at first as they got their sea-legs. Link naturally picked it up a little faster, relying on his bank of muscle-memory on shield-surfing. His balance and coordination are fine-tuned. Zelda held her own, all things considered. 

Soon enough, they began to take each step with moderate confidence. The moss squished uncomfortably between Zelda’s toes, but she eventually learned how to mediate a loss of traction with momentum. They were walking fine, more or less.

They did this in silence.

Deafening silence.

Waterfalls were poor conversation partners. Though not as bad as Link seemed determined to be.

Zelda decided that the tension was something she’d rather cut sooner than later. It was palpable. And, frankly, distracting. This isn’t a good time to be distracted.

“Link…” she said, pausing on the step beneath him. She eyed him over her shoulder nervously. “Are we going to…” The stoic knight didn’t prompt her. “We should talk about what happened earlier.”

The lighting was poor in this space, but there was no missing the way his face cinched despite his best efforts to remain neutral. He said nothing.

“I get the distinct sense that you are upset with me for something.”

Link knew he needed to speak, so he did. “I’m not upset. We were just doing what the trials demanded of us.” He broke eye contact, unable to hold her gaze. “I take full responsibility for everything after that. I shouldn’t have lost control like that. It won’t happen again.”

And these must be the measures taken to ensure it it won't.

She gave him a dry expression. “Link, I was there, too. What are you even talking about?”

Now that she knew him as a person, she knew the tells that gave hints to what he was thinking. The twitch of his eyebrow meant he bit his tongue. He wanted to be expressive again but didn’t trust himself to stay under control. And by that, his definition was probably perfect knightly behavior at all times.

It must be exhausting to be him.

"I have a duty to protect you. I have to uphold a code of honor. I also have a responsibility, as the Hero..." He seemed conflicted, trying to decide what he was thinking. "I didn't think I'd ever have to choose between the three."

She gave him a kind olive-branch expression. “Link,” she chided as if she thought he was being silly, “I played a role in that. You cannot claim full responsibility.”

He squinted at her suspiciously. He looked like he wanted to object.

Zelda wouldn’t let him. “I’m the one that… tested you. You were right: I was being exceptionally unkind.” She crossed one of her arms across her chest self-consciously. “I’m sorry. Please don’t be upset with me.”

Link’s neutral façade cracked. He swallowed, conflict evident in his eyes.

Zelda thought he was going to stay silent, so she turned back to the task of descending the stairs.

She made it a few stairs away before his voice stopped her, “Why?”

Green eyes turned to meet his. Something… self-conscious stared back at her. It was impossible to tell what he was thinking.

“Why… did you do that?” he tried again.

Zelda turned to face him, trying and failing to read his mind. He wanted an answer. Except he wasn’t the only one self-conscious. “We needed to complete the trial to get here. I don’t think you would have agreed otherwise,” she responded royally.

Link failed to hide how displeased he was with that answer. Wounded? Angry? Betrayed? Zelda didn’t like the options she read.

“That's the only reason.” It was a question.

Zelda broke eye contact this time. Guilty. He wanted the full truth. “I…” She swallowed, searching herself. It was a great question. Why did she do that? “I… was curious.”

Link levied her with a weighted gaze and took a step forward. He was processing that. “Curious about what, exactly?”

There was a note of danger to his voice. No matter how calm he sounded, Zelda knew he was upset with her. She wanted to shrink herself smaller. About what makes you tick. Playing you like an instrument. Feeling powerful for the first time in my life. Feeling good at something. “I… enjoy learning?” she tries, weakly.

He remained silent, arms crossed.

Zelda couldn’t help watching the movement of his strong arms. She swallowed again. “I… Guess I wanted to know if you truly are perfect. Maybe I just wanted to know if you are even mortal.” I wanted to win against you, just once.

“Selfishly, I wanted to drag you down to my level.” She huffed a soft laugh, looking disgusted with herself.

His arms fell to his sides, taken aback. He was deeply confused.

Waterfalls tried to hush them. It worked.

They stared at each other, clearly on two completely different pages.

“You… wanted to drag me… down to your level?” Link repeated, as if it were a completely foreign language. Zelda nodded. He looked at her like she’d grown an ear in the middle of her forehead.

He crossed another stair towards her. “You are the Princess of Hyrule, part goddess, and you think you’re somehow below me?” That is the dumbest thing he’s ever heard. He knew she felt like a failure, but he didn’t realize that it warped her entire sense of reality.

Zelda wanted to back up, but there was no safe way to do so.

Link wasn’t quite so versed with verbal expression as his eloquent counterpart. He had to pause and think about what he really wanted to say. Other than just telling her flat-out how wrong she was.

“Pri—Zelda. I was upset because I thought you used me like… a research project. Or just a key for a lock.” Link winced at his poor choice of words and quickly corrected, “Uh—just a way to get to the Spring.” He stared earnestly into her eyes. He felt so far beneath her that her interest in him must be akin to that of an object. Understanding registered on her face. She knew what it felt like to be stripped of her personhood and seen only as her utility.

Zelda looked horrified.  "It wasn't like that!" Yes, she desperately wanted to advance to the Spring, but that drive alone wasn't enough to cause... that. 

Link regarded her thoughtfully. He wanted to believe her.

How was it, then?

Zelda held one of her shoulders self-consciously. "I... never allow myself to not be focused on fulfilling my destiny. I don't allow myself the leniency to have... fun." Her arms fell to her sides. She heard his voice in her head, telling her that she disregarded her own health. "For a short time, I forgot that I was the Princess. I liked that."

And he forgot that he was the Hero. There's no denying the relief to have that off his shoulders, no matter how brief.

"I could be executed for so much as looking at you sideways..."

Confusion cocked her brow. Was he serious? Turns out, yes, he was. The anxiety in his eyes made him look younger.

Her amusement surprised them both. "Link... I'm not exactly in a rush to explain any of this to my father. Or anyone else for that matter." Her eyes glittered up at him, asking him to trust her. This stays between us.

Link released a breath he hadn't realized was stuck in his lungs. He believed her.

"Okay." He smiled back sanguinely. 

The companionable silence was back. They'd missed it.

Feeling lighter, Zelda turned to continue the journey down the perilous staircase. A little thought occurred to her and she laughed to herself, "I guess I got my answer after all. Turns out, you are mortal." She shrugged her narrow shoulder nearly to her ear and shot him a sidelong stare over her shoulder that nearly made him slip to his death.

Link’s face and neck flushed Moblin-red and breaking her gaze was a mistake since his eyes immediately noticed how much her panties struggled to cover her supple backside. He made a noise of complaint and stared at the waterfalls, begging them to interject.

Yep, definitely mortal.

She pretended she didn't see and continued to negotiate the stairs. 

Then a runaway thought t-boned her mind.

“Come to think of it…” Zelda stops suddenly, surprising Link. He has to flail his arms to not collide with her. She appraised him with a shrewd look, and Link suddenly felt even more naked. He made a high, anxious sound. “You were uncharacteristically composed.”

She smirked viciously at him. “Is that why you took so long to catch up?”

The fact that his face immediately darkened said he knew exactly what she meant. “Huah--!” he panicked. Her finger poked his chest. He couldn’t backpedal anywhere.

“You did.”

Guilty. Link rubbed the back of his neck and looked everywhere but at her. Like she said, he's only mortal.

Chapter Text

They’d been descending for an impossibly long amount of time. That entire time was spent balanced, crouched, or otherwise focused on poise. Loathe as she was to admit it, Zelda’s legs had received an exhaustive workout.

Her stomach finally had the courage to complain to her.

The fatigue caused her to misstep, to take just that much longer to correct her balance on the mossy step. “Ah!” she cried and flailed her arms, feet slipping this way and that on the moss.

A strong hand grabbed her bicep, steadying her.

“Thanks, Link,” she sighed gratefully. It probably wouldn’t have been a big deal of a fall. Probably. It was getting too dangerous to continue. “What are the chances that we could stop to rest for a while?”

Link nodded and immediately sat on a step, leaning against the wall. He probably had waned in strength as well but is too proud to say anything. Zelda didn’t have the energy to chastise him.

Instead, she occupied the free step below his feet. “How long have we been descending in this stairwell?” She leaned her back against the wall, letting the smooth waters run over her. Her clothes had dried during their climb, but Zelda didn’t care. It’s inescapable at this point. “I can’t wait to get dry.”

Link produced the Shiekah slate, checking the time. 5:48 PM. -39*F He had no point of reference. Was it the same day they set out from camp? The next? Two days after? “No less than an hour,” Link guessed.

Zelda couldn’t help but think that was odd. An hour’s worth of going down steps? The Spring of Unity better not only grant her sacred powers at will, but also a foot rub. She actually couldn’t see her feet at the moment as the curtain of water fell cleanly in a line across her ankles. An idea occurred to her.

She sat up, reaching her hand out to part the curtain. All she saw was a hollow cylinder of nothing ringed by water curtains and, presumably, more stairs. It looked just as bottomless as it did when they started. “Link… look at this.”

He did. He seemed just as puzzled as her.

“You don’t think… that it is literally bottomless, do you?” Link shrugged. An idea came to his head, and he turned back to the slate then shuffled so they could both look at it.

He pulled up the map. What they saw was disorienting.

Hyrule was distorted. Static flickered across the screen. Deep indigo splotched out entire regions. Distortion shuffled entire chunks of the kingdom erratically.

“How strange…” Zelda said, gently taking the slate from Link. “I’ve never seen it behave like this before.” Fearing a malfunction, she tested the magnesis rune, the stasis, the camera. Everything else appeared to be in proper working order.

“It’s gone out before,” Link said. “Once. Remember the sandstorm? The map went completely blue. The distortion is new.”

Zelda hummed to herself thoughtfully as she recalled. “It must be an effect of the shrine. I don’t know exactly how it works, but I believe that would mean we probably are in an endless loop.” She peeked out past the curtain again, but this time looked up. Just as she suspected, there was no change in the little blue lights glowing on the ceiling. An hour’s descent should have moved them. 

Zelda pulled up the photo album. Link’s picture of the riddle displayed.

Though the path ahead is perilous,

Without faith, you will not see the end.

She frowned at the text. “You will not see the end…?” Link tried and failed to guess what she could be thinking. “I think that line is being literal, not ominous. In an endless loop, we will never see the end.”

Receiving her next thought was like smashing her skull against the stone. 

“Have faith. Why is it that it always comes back to the ‘have faith,’ thing?” She curled up miserably against the stone wall. “Hylia, I have faith.” Well, guess they have to go home.

Link didn’t seem to jump to the same conclusion, though he was slower to voice his thoughts. When Zelda finally prompted him to speak, Link ventured, “It… probably doesn’t have to do with faith in the Goddess.”

Zelda blinked. Guess she hadn’t thought of that. “Faith in what, then?”

“Faith in yourself?”

She looked sour at the idea. “There’s… no way for me to demonstrate that. Besides, these are the Trials of Unity. It has to involve us both.” She batted some ideas around in her mind. Something occurred to her. “Both of the last two trials involved trying to get us closer. Physically.”

Link swallowed and drummed his fingers on his knees.

Zelda eyed his fidgeting. “I feel the same way.” She was restless as well. “It’s so… oddly specific. It feels foreign and… contrived?”

Her words said in any other way or by any other person would have rang harsh but Link knew what she meant. “I… can’t think of anything,” he cleared his throat, “Physical. For this riddle.” Well, he could, but it would be a case of trying to make the riddle match the answer, not the other way around.

She shrugged one shoulder in a way that said she wasn’t even trying with that right now. Zelda’s focus is on big-picture ideas. “It has me thinking why we’re being pu—encouraged, to be intimate.” Link was uneasy, but attentive. “I think it has something to do with my earlier question: Why have the Unity Trials at all?”

Zelda focused on a random point ahead of her, eyes moving as if in REM sleep. Finally, she snapped out of it. “Link. What do you think Mipha was going to say?”

Link looked startled. “At the Lanayru Arch, when I told the Champions… the results of our journey. Mipha tried to give me advice about wielding my powers. She said it’s embarrassing?” Then she had this strange look in her eye while she looked at Link. The Zora seemed to lose courage and told Zelda to disregard her.

“What do you think her advice was going to be? She said ‘It helps when I think about…’” Zelda held out an empty palm, as if expecting him to place the answer in it.

Clearly, Zelda thought she was on to something. Link decided to humor her. “I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “She looked at me when she started her sentence.”

Zelda chewed her lip. “You.”

A sad expression crossed his face. “Me.”

She disliked that look in his eyes. “So… I should be thinking of you while trying to seal Ganon.”

“I don’t think that’s what she was going to say,” Link laughed, taking her dumb joke for the gift it was. It didn’t completely steal the somber from his eyes. “Mipha loves me. She made that very clear.”

Zelda made a soft sound of empathy in her throat. “So you think she was about to say, ‘It helps when I try to think about the one I love’?”

Link nodded.

Zelda processed this information.

“If it’s true that her love for you amplified her powers, then it might stand to reason that my powers could be enhanced as well.” Link looked distinctly uncomfortable. What was she saying? Zelda was sticking to logic; emotions would have to work themselves out later. “This Spring is the hardest to get to. If I didn’t access my powers at the other three, perhaps this one operates as a failsafe.”

Link blinked at her, astonished. “The Trials of Unity are… a backup. Aimed at getting you to fall in love with me. So you can access your powers?” It sounded ridiculous spoken aloud.

They both made a face. Contrived doesn’t begin to cover this feeling. It’s actually kind of creepy.

“Why me?” Link asks.

Zelda manages to both nod and shake her head at once. “Exactly. If love somehow amplifies powers, why would it matter that the connection is with you?” She winced at a thought, clearly disliking some specific train. “The other Champions have powers. Does that therefore mean Revalli, Daruk, and Urbosa are in love with you too? You’re quite the busy man.”

Link balked. Much to Zelda’s amusement, images seemed to flash unbidden behind his eyes. The knight violently shook his head to clear them. “I sure hope not.”

It didn’t answer the question, though. Why him? Zelda wished Impa was here; She usually had esoteric nuggets of information about previous incarnations of themselves. Like, hey, were they ever locked in a cave together and told to kiss or die? Is that in the index of your scrolls?

There’s something that they were missing here. Why did Mipha use a love of Link, but the others didn’t? Why was he so crucial to the task of reaching the Spring?

“Wait,” Zelda says, finally realizing something, “Is that the reason why we passed the last trial?” Answering that question was dangerous in the way that skipping through a minefield is dangerous. Is she asking if he suddenly fell in love with her? That’s a big ticket item. He wisely remained quiet, waiting for her to elaborate. “If it was supposed to be just a kiss it should’ve opened… right away.”

“… What.” Link’s head was whirling. Too much information, too fast. She remained silent, letting him process it. He knew she was on to something here, but there was a firewall in his consciousness.

 “Why did it open at that exact moment?” Link watched color rise to her face as she accessed the memory.

Link swallowed and tried to recall the moment that the wall opened, precisely what was happening.

Zelda’s breath hitched. She said his name. His fingers were bound for where she needed him most. He wanted to. His focus was entirely on her.

Link let out a high whine and crossed his arms over his thighs. Focus, knight! Fate of Hyrule, and all that. He cleared his throat and exhaled. He chose his words very specifically. “It was the moment I was ready to give. I was no longer… focused on myself.”

Meaning evaded her, until it didn’t. Zelda’s ears heated. What exactly was he about to give her? She didn’t let herself entertain that question. “Vulnerability to give, courage to receive.”

He nodded. Zelda swallowed and didn’t answer.

They were acutely aware of how much skin the other was showing. Their unease continued to fester. Zelda couldn’t shake the feeling that they were missing something. Something likely very obvious and simple.

~*~*~*~*~*~

This was getting them nowhere. Pondering the intersections between Destiny and Unity wasn’t going to help get them out of here. Zelda sighed and glanced Link’s way. He seemed lost in thought.

She gently broke him out of it. “Link?” He turned to look at her. “I don’t know what to do here.” She sounded crestfallen in a way that suggested she didn’t literally mean what plan of action to take. Zelda was overwhelmed. Running low on hope and, sadly, faith.

“Should we… should we just teleport to Hateno?”

Link’s heart ached for her. He considered reaching out to comfort her, but instead produced the slate for her. He’d support any decision she made. She gently took it and searched the distorted screen for Hateno.

For any shrine location.

Any place to teleport.

There was nothing.

“Link…” she said, dread knotting her stomach. The cords of his neck jumped in fear. “Link, I can’t select anything.”

Panic rose in her throat. “We… how do we get out?”

The quickening of his breath was his only answer.

“Are we trapped down here?” Zelda glanced around wildly. They’d always had a panic button. A way out of here. She was suddenly aware of her hunger, of her fatigue.

They could die down here.

What time is it? Zelda shifted the screen so it displayed.

When she did, Link’s heart stopped. He read it again, just to make sure.

5:48 PM -39*F

“Link…? What is it?”

Link swallowed. He was shaking. A wave of nausea threatened to burn him with bile.

“The… the time.” He licked his lips nervously. “It hasn’t changed.”

“What?”

He took the slate from her, fiddling with it. Everything was in working order except for the map and, apparently, the time.

They sat in silence, watching the slate together, and counted sixty seconds in their heads.

5:48 PM -39*F.

The chamber. It distorted the reality around them. It was an endless, impossible loop. The Shiekah slate couldn’t map it. Time was stopped.

The Goddesses would keep them trapped down here for as long as it took. Even if it took an eternity. They weren’t allowed to return, to face Ganon, until they had completed... whatever it was they were supposed to do.

Zelda was terrified.

They wouldn’t die down here. They’d be trapped forever in this purgatory. The world wouldn’t even know they were gone. It would pick up right where they left off or not at all.

Her mind kicked into high gear.

Not if I can help it

“It’s an endless loop,” she muttered to herself. “I wonder… Link, stay here.”

Alarm shot through the already anxious knight. He motioned for her to stop, but she held up her hand to him. “Just, please, stay here. I have an idea. I’ll be right back.”

Before he could object, Zelda was back on her feet, fueled by adrenaline, and making her way down the steps without him. Link sat hunched anxiously on the step she’d left him on. He desperately tried not to think about her slipping with him no where near to catch her.

He couldn’t see her. The curtain of water rippled her form into non-existence as she continued around the spiraling path. She’d taken the Slate with her. He couldn’t tell what was sweat and what was water.

Silence screamed in his ears.

The din of flowing water hissed and maliciously obscured any sound that could indicate Zelda was alive.

Though time stood still, he couldn’t track how much of it passed.

Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. “Princess!” he called out. He voice was hoarse, and he tried again. “Princess!” Louder, this time. “Zelda! Answer me!” He put his fingers in his mouth and blew a sharp whistle. Nothing.

He was on his feet, considering the merits of sliding down the stairs like a series of shields to surf. Maybe he could catch up with her. The water laughed at him like evil koroks.

He strained his hearing. His mind played tricks on him, memories of her cries of fear echoing indistinctly.

That’s it. He had to go to her.

Link prepared to build momentum and skid every one of these damn stairs to get to her.

“Link, wait.” Said a voice behind him. Link yelped and jumped clean out of his skin. He wheeled around to face the threat. He saw the impossible: Zelda standing on the steps above him. All before he’d even landed back in the water.

The movement was too fast. His feet found no traction on the step beneath him and he couldn’t transfer his momentum in time. “Link!”

He lost footing. Zelda’s heart stopped as he fell two, three, five steps. He cried out as he was flung off the stairwell, body eaten alive by the waterfall.

Zelda had only a split instant to react. She immediately activated the Stasis rune and locked the highlighted body still. She saw him reaching desperately to grab the ledge, just missing it. She could barely see his fingertips poking through the water curtain.

She launched forward on her belly, heedless of her own safety. Her ribs creaked at each stab of a corner and her fingernails scrabbled for purchase on the moss to come to a stop. Her prone body on the stair gave her just enough surface area to not follow him to his doom.

Her hands reached out to his glowing yellow one, wrapping both around his wrist. She pulled with all of her might against the immovable person frozen in time. She saw Link’s golden face petrified in terror. She used all the traction she had to tug him towards the safety of the stone wall.

The stasis rune expired.

Link’s frozen scream completed, then resurfaced as all of his momentum was suddenly redirected. He flew forward and hit the stone wall with a bodily thud. He wheezed at the wind knocked from his lungs.  

“Link!” She hadn’t realized that she’d used too much force on him while he was in stasis. She clutched his wet biceps to keep him from sliding any further. “I’m sorry! Are you okay?”

Link looked harrowed, but alive.

He looked down at her hands on his upper arms, nails digging crescent moons into the skin. They were shaking.

Surprised, Zelda let him go.

“I…” Link tried. “I’m okay.” He focused on trying to get his breathing back under control. He’s alive. “Thank you.”

Zelda breathed something that sounded like a scoff. Her blood would not stop screaming in her ears.

He shakily sat up on his knees, one step below her. She did the same. They were scared.

Before she’d even realized she’d done it, Zelda wrapped her arms around his neck and crushed her chest to his. Her whole body shook. “Don’t scare me like that.”

His shock receded slowly. Then, despite himself, he wrapped his arms around her back. She’d saved him.

When they had finally caught their breath and pulled away, Link rested his hands on his bare knees. He was knelt on one step lower than her, his eyes level with her torso.

He was staring at her chest.

Seriously? Well that is not a very knightly way to behave right now.

She opened her mouth to scold him, but he spoke first. “You’re hurt.” She blinked in surprise at the concern in his eyes. She followed his eyes to herself: Blood leaked and blended watercolors across the front of her in erratic horizontal lines from hitting the corners of the stairs. Skin marbled where yellow bruises promised revenge. Moss clung to her skin and dyed her bra.

His hand tentatively reached out, eyes asking for permission first. When he received it, he gently palpated each rib, moving tenderly when she hissed in pain. “Can you breathe in all the way?” She tried and flinched when she hit a certain point of intake. “Where?” She indicated which rib had bitten her lungs.

Gently, he examined the rib despite her whimpers. “Sorry.” He couldn’t find any fractures. Nothing sharp, no distortion. It wasn’t life-threatening. “I think it’s just bruised.”

When he looked up at her eyes, he saw her face tinted pink. It was a nice reprieve from pain or terror. He offered her the faintest smile.

“I’ll be fine,” Zelda promised.

Link nodded, relieved.

The waterfalls murmured praise around them.

They needed to get out of here. “Okay. Where’s the slate?”

Zelda’s face immediately turned back to dread. They both looked up to where she had been standing when Link slipped.

The slate was gone.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

They searched everywhere, never straying too far from one another’s side. Now that they knew the infinite stairwell was an illusion, Link scraped a chunk of moss from the floor and stuck it to the wall as a marker.

They worked their way down the stairs again and passed it on their second lap. The slate was nowhere to be found.

“It- It must have fallen over the edge when I jumped to grab you,” Zelda rasped, distraught. Her unique accent made her sound even more melancholy. “Link, I’m so sorry.”

Link shook his head. “It’s not your fault. Besides, it wasn’t doing us much good at the moment.” The knight’s penchant for combat wanted to override his nerves, but there was nothing to fight. Instead, he gave his brain something productive to gnaw on. “The voice did say that we need to cast aside all equipment and rely on each other.”

Then why didn’t the unseen hand take the slate along with everything else?

Zelda knew he was just saying that to make her feel better.

“The inscription said, ‘Though the path ahead is perilous, without faith you will not see the end.’” Zelda thought out loud. At least she memorized it. “Link, I might have a guess as to how we get out of here.”

He turned to her as she reached for his hand, intertwining her slender fingers in his. Quite frankly, Link had developed a Pavlovian response to her having ideas. “Uh. What are you doing?” He half expected her to drag him by the hand and—well, he didn’t know what. His nerves were fried.

“That’s it. That was my idea.” Zelda answered.

Link blinked owlishly at her. Then at the hands. Then at the water around him. “Did it work?”

It earned him a deadpan stare. “The Trials of Unity are trying to push us together, right? Do you think we could trick it?”

"Trick it?"

"As in, walk down the stairs hand-in-hand."

Link felt silly but decided to try it. They didn’t have a whole lot of options. Keeping fingers locked together despite the slickness of the water, Link and Zelda negotiated their way down the slimy stairs. Zelda couldn’t help finding it exceptionally endearing how he’d raise her hand to support her when she braved a step down.

Ever the gentleman.

Coming around the bend, Link saw the blob of moss still stuck to the wall. Both Hero and Princess stared at it like it had spat at their feet. They’d completed another lap.

Zelda released his hand in favor of throwing hers up. She cursed under her breath in a way that was decidedly unfit for someone of such nobility. “What do you want?!” she shouted at the waterfalls.

The water flowed, careless of her problems.

Despite the situation, Link knew her well enough to be amused. She must be hungry. That was usually a quick fix. However, his amusement died in his throat and rotted there. She very well could starve to death, right? Or worse, they'd be locked in this state indefinitely. He wanted to start a fire, make camp, cook dinner. Go back to routine.

Instead, they remained wet and uncomfortable and trapped in a shrine.

An existential crisis knocked on the windows of his eyes.

“Link?” Zelda says gently. She looked concerned. He shook his head. Don’t wanna talk about it.

Zelda dropped it. Her mind was full enough already.

She couldn’t find the answers they needed to complete the shrine: Why thrust them together? Why have Unity Trials? Why Link specifically? Does she have to magically fall in love? Is that how they get out of here? But all the other trials have been physical in nature. What? Were they expected to rut like stags on these dangerous stairs? Zelda felt bitterness swirling in her heart.

Curse these Goddesses and their unclear instructions. Curse this strange, contrived situation.

It’s only something pleasurable when you get a choice.

Link was watching her intently.

He looked concerned.

She finally steeled herself, rolled her shoulders, and looked him in the eye. She looked determined, but exhausted. The way she looked when she passed out in the Spring at Mt. Lanayru. “Okay. Let’s do this.” With a deep breath, she placed her hands on the V of his hips and leaned in to kiss his neck.

Alarm shot through Link and he firmly held her at arm’s length by the shoulders.

“Whoa, whoa! Zelda! What are you doing?!”

Zelda’s hand slipped lower on his abdomen, a practiced motion. X action gets Y result. “Isn’t It obvious?” her voice tried and failed to be sultry.

This situation was about as far from sexual as he could imagine. Her hand moving to his thigh did nothing but run his blood cold. She didn’t want it, but she did it anyway. “Stop it.” He pushed her hands away. She looked distraught, as if that was the last idea she had.

Zelda was wounded. “Do we really have any choice? I’d rather not wait around for eternity.” How did she manage to say that so sadly? “It worked last time.”

Link shook his head and ran his hand through his sandy hair. “Look—Zelda, my answer is no. That’s not happening here.” The Goddesses had the wrong Hero and Princess if they thought he was just going to… To use her. To use himself for that matter.

Discouraged, Zelda let out a long-suffering sigh and sat on the step. “I’m not that injured. I think I’ll survive it just fine.”

“You know that isn’t it.”

Zelda hugged her knees, giving up. Guess this is her fate. Stuck in purgatory with the Hero of Hyrule who now looked as disgusted with her as she was with herself. He'd rather die down here than touch her. She didn't blame him.

She looked so small. Battered around by the world. Empathy clenched his chest, and he decided to sit on the same step beside her. There was just enough space for it to be safe.

“I’m sorry,” she said into her arms.

His knee touched hers. “It’s okay. I understand.”

He refused to give in to despair. It was his duty to protect her, to protect Hyrule. When she’s at her weakest, he must be at his strongest.

They sat in silence for a long time, each lost in their own minds. Water flowed mercilessly all around them.

It doesn’t matter how long they’re here. It could be days. It can be centuries. He’d rather die than to violate her like that.

Something got stuck on the lining of his thoughts. Something odd. Faith. Have faith.

Link suddenly stood, surprising Zelda. “Zelda, stand up.” She blinked up at him, startled, but took his hand anyway. “I think you were right. About holding hands.”

The Princess tilted her head at him. They’d already tried that. Link just continued, “’The path ahead is perilous’… I don’t think it means the stairs.”

Zelda was catching second-hand hope.

“This whole… this chamber is an illusion, right? Stopped in time. Not on the map?” She nodded hesitantly. “What if the fall is just as much of an illusion?”

Zelda’s brows furrowed in thought. It was like getting a dying bird to drink water. “What are you getting at?”

“I think we’re supposed to jump together.” Without faith, you’ll never see the end.

Zelda swallowed nervously.

“It sounds risky. If you’re wrong, we’ll be dead.” Does that mean time ceases to exist as they know it? Does Hyrule keep moving forward headlong into its destruction? Which is worse?

“Which idea do you think makes more sense in terms of the riddle? Doing a literal leap of faith, or…?” Or doing something they feel forced into.

Zelda gave it some consideration. If they went forth with the latter only to realize that was the wrong answer, would it be worse than death?

Tough to say.

Link intertwined his fingers through hers. He seemed to have his mind made up. Now he just waited for her to give in. “I refuse to… to do that. So you can either jump now or jump eventually.” He thought for a moment, “I won’t go without you.”

His tone left no room for argument. He stared at her honestly; Zelda stared at their connected hands.

“Okay.”

He smiled encouragingly. She believed him. They moved to the ledge, free hands parting the curtain of water. The impossible fall twisted Zelda’s gut. Her feet were heavy Taluses. It’s either jump now or jump eventually.

She cast one last anxious glance at him. He looked determined and steadfast.

Her toes dangled over the edge of the abyss.

“Ready?”

She nodded. He squeezed her hand.

 Together, they stepped off the ledge.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Link hoped wildly that he was right.

His stomach lifted into his throat as wind and mist burst into their faces. Freefalling in a vertical tunnel of glowing waterfalls, they hit terminal velocity. Neither could hear their own screams over the sound of the wind, let alone the other’s.

The only way he knew she was still there was his hand locked tightly in hers.

Falling at the exact same speed of the water, Link saw their warped reflection. Vantablack nothingness below them; the same uncaring not-stars above them. The same ring of water all the way around them.

If not for the wind blowing in their hair, everything was still. The surreal scene glittered in Zelda’s awestruck eyes. It was like breathing underwater or floating in midair. It was so loud that all was silent.

The Hero and the Princess, lost in time and space.

They had to have faith. Faith they would be okay. Faith they had done everything in their power. Faith in the Goddess. Faith in each other. Faith in themselves.

Link closed his eyes…

…and surrendered.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

It’s that feeling like when you’re falling asleep.

The air is cold and nips your nose. But you’re warm in a blanket. Safe, content.

Just as your eyes close, and rest lures you away from consciousness,

Thousands of black claws reach up from the void and sink into your skin to drag you down into its yawning mouth.

Link jolted awake.

It felt like he had fallen from the sky. His heart flurried in his chest. He sat up, disoriented and panicked.

Where was he? Where’s Zelda? What was that strange, vivid dream he’d just had?

He smelled earth and trees. It’s something you don’t notice until you are away from it for a long time.

He was lying in tall grass. It stung his skin, thousands of harmless little claws poking him. It was completely dark, except for the faint light of a fire somewhere nearby. He couldn’t feel it’s warmth, but he wasn’t cold.

However, he was wet.

His shorts clung to his body. Damp, but not dry. His hair was dark with water that wouldn’t be blown out.

It wasn’t a dream.

Link was awake now, senses trying to take in everything around him at once. “Zelda?” he said to the silence. There was life: crickets and sunset fireflies and the call of a wood owl. He didn’t see her in this field of tall grasses. A campfire crackled, freshly fed, some distance away. It illuminated the trees and clearing around it. The sky above wasn’t precisely that; No stars, no clouds, just more onyx nothing. He couldn’t even see a horizon line.

Maybe he died after all.

“Zelda?” he stands, searching the swaying stalks for her.

An orange glow attracts his attention. He found the Shiekah slate laying undamaged.

“Link,” says a voice. It was definitely Zelda’s. She sat up in the grasses, her face a faint red outline on one side. Tension released in his shoulders. She’s okay.

“Link, where are we?” Her breath was coming in too quick, and she winced at her bruised ribs.

He shook his head and offered her a hand up, which she gratefully accepted. When he confirmed he didn’t hear the sound of any monsters lurking in their immediate area, they cautiously made their way towards the campfire.

With such dismal lighting, this immediate area made him think he was in the forest outside Kakariko Village.

However, that couldn’t be the case. Just past the fire, glinting in the dim light, was a flat wall. It belonged to a house that seemed suspiciously familiar, but he couldn’t make it out. He didn’t remember a house in Kakariko Forest.

“What… is this place? It’s… strangely familiar.” Zelda wondered aloud. So she felt it, too. “Link, you’ve found the Shiekah slate!” He nodded and handed it over at her silent request. Immediately, she checked for functionality.

It didn’t appear damaged. The map continued to distort and shuffle the map of Hyrule Kingdom. There was no way to select any shrines to teleport to.

“What time is it?”

Zelda hesitated, then swiped to that function. 5:48 PM -39*F.

“We’re still not in Hyrule…” Zelda mumbled.

She turned on the album. The last image displayed just fine. But when she pointed the camera feature, it didn’t provide heightened night vision like it had in the cave. That was odd.

Magnesis seemed to be working, except typically it outlined the objects around them, metal or not. Only what was visible by firelight had a magenta outline on the screen.

The case appeared to be the same with Stasis.

Bombs didn’t glow. It’s as if the darkness around them swallowed up any light that wasn’t fire.

They approached the clearing with the campfire. Sunset fireflies hovered around contentedly. It was a clearing as normal as any other. A blanket was laid out beside it. “Was… someone recently here? The fire appears freshly fueled.”

He shook his head, doubting it.

Something about that house. They approached, eyes straining to catch even the slightest bit of light. They found the front door, and the exact sound it made when it creaked open gave him déjà vu. In the absence of sight, his smell overtook him and landed him in a memory.

An early morning, hot milk on in his hands. Dust particles sparkling in the window. The smell of old wooden floors. His horse outside grazing. Home.

He stepped inside. The third slat creaked, just as it always had. “I… know this place,” Link mumbled. Even though he couldn’t see a single thing, he moved through the space fluidly. He opened a drawer by feel alone (it’s the knob with the chip in it) and produced a box.

All Zelda heard was him fiddling with something, then the strike of a match. The tiny flame lit up the room around them.

It was Link’s home in Hateno Village.

He stood on the dining chair and reached up to light the lamps above them, then extinguished the match. Zelda watched as he took in all the familiar details, from the pictures on the walls to the cup he left on the counter.

He wasn’t sure if he should be relieved or terrified by this discovery.

“Link… did you write this?” That snapped him out of it. Zelda was inspecting a book on the table. For a horrifying moment, he thought it was his journal. There were things in there that he preferred the Princess of Hyrule not read. On closer inspection, he realized he’d never seen it before. He shook his head and joined her side to read the page.

The path home will reveal itself,

When one is nurturing,

And a home is found inside another.

He watched Zelda’s hands fidget with the fabric wrapped around her. Color warmed her face and burned her ears.

Link waited, watching her. Finally, he asked, “What are you thinking?”

It seemed to derail her train of thought too suddenly and she started. “I—I’m thinking that I’m too tired to deal with this right now.” He knew it was a partial truth, but kindly didn’t press the issue. He shared the same sentiment. Too many riddles in a day.

“The bed’s upstairs. I’ll get started on dinner.” Or, whatever meal this was supposed to be. Did it matter if time is stopped?

Zelda’s grateful smile was only dampened by the dark circles under her eyes.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

Though eerie at first, Link found that they were safe in their immediate area. The torch he’d left by the stables was still there, and he used it to explore the nearby woods. There wasn’t a single monster to be found, only Hylian shrooms and bird eggs and herbs and things he would otherwise find in any forest.

He followed the sound of a dull roar until the forest gave way to sand and ocean waves pushing and pulling at his feet. A lantern like the ones he’d seen in Hateno Village was secured in the shallow waters. What’s this doing here?

He lit it with the torch, and the area around him opened up with the additional firelight. A… beach? It feels like he’s been here before, but he couldn’t place it. He felt calm. Was this place just a mashup of places in Hyrule that he loved? His curiosity got the better of him, and he’d circled the entire shoreline, lighting lanterns as he went. With each one burning, the area felt a little more like home.

It was a small island in the middle of a sea of darkness.

Link shouldered the small satchel of food he’d gathered and decided to make his way back to camp. The island wasn’t so small as to be cramped, but finding his way back was not challenging. As the knight moved through the woods, he caught just the faintest glimpse of movement. Something glowing turquoise in the night.

A Blupee?

He chased it, but it was long gone.

Deciding it wasn’t a threat, he made his way back to camp, set up the cooking pot, and got started on dinner. It was a simple dish that didn’t take a lot of effort but took some time. He left the medley of shrooms, herbs, and meat to simmer and went to check on Zelda.

Link knocked quietly on the door, then entered when he heard silence.

Everything was in place, including the book on the table and the cup on the counter.

All except for two tiny garments hung over the railing to dry.

An intrusive image sucker punched him. Zelda naked in his bed.

Link stumbled back as if physically struck. Isn’t that one of those debauched fantasies he’d managed to quash in his travels with her?

The sheets rustled and she murmured something.

That’s all the confirmation he needed that she was fine. He should go.

The sound of her laugh her hands on his navel her dilated pupils her breath in his ear her flirtatious grin—

Link clenched his eyes shut, trying to mediate the crossfire between his brain and his body.

Moblin snouts. Hinox snores.

Ever the professional, Link coerces himself into moving to the kitchen and collecting flatware and dishes. It’s a luxury he thinks she’s earned.

Her fingers at the nape of his neck. Lynel breath. The iron cage shattering. King Roam eating a roasted bird leg. ‘Guess you are mortal after all.’ Her leg grinding against him.

The plates and forks trembled in his hands. Why was he so lacking in self-control? The combination of foreign and familiar, fantasy and reality, played tricks on his mind.

He eyed the stairs, tempted.

Zelda’s breath in his ear, making him shiver. ‘What is it, Link?’

“What is it, Link?”

The Knight jolted back to reality. He glanced up to see Zelda staring down at him, wearing his Hylian Tunic. It just barely reached the tops of her thighs. Why is that so much worse?

Link’s face flushed dark red and he immediately turned his back to her. She was just high enough, angle just so, that if he squinted…

He cleared his throat. “Dinner’s almost ready.” Then retreated out the front door.

This isn’t acceptable. He’s the Hero of Hyrule, chosen by the Sword that Seals the Darkness. He’s a Knight, with a Knight’s honor. Allowing such lascivious thoughts to plague him was evidence of a failure in character. He said he’d rather die than violate her, to take advantage of the situation, and he meant it.

You’re not allowed to enjoy this.

Mechanically, he completed the dish and set the pot to the side of the fire to cool.

Zelda’s faint outline appeared from the house. She carried a bundled blanket in her arms. Apparently, she was being led by the nose. “My goodness, what is that wonderful smell?”

Link smiled despite himself. It’s almost like everything was back to normal. He served her a helping portion and handed it to her once she settled on the dirt floor, blanket across her lap. The Princess took it and immediately began ravaging the makeshift meal.

With a laugh, Link cleared his throat and offered her a fork. She had the decency to be embarrassed.

“Thanks…” They ate in amicable silence, enjoying the feeling of being dry and warm for the first time in what felt like days. Zelda thought her fingers would never lose their wrinkles. “I’m glad you were right.”

Link turned a curious gaze her way. “About the illusion. About jumping. I genuinely thought for a time that we were done for.” Her soft voice was sanguine and full of gratitude and something else that Link could not name. At least she looked rested. “That’s assuming this isn’t some sort of morbid afterlife.”

The knight snorted back at her and shook his head. Probably not. There was a riddle to solve, after all.

“I wonder… If time is stopped for us, is it stopped for all of Hyrule? Have we been missing for days?”

Link pulled out the slate to confirm that, yes, it was 5:48 PM -39*F.

“The temperature hasn’t changed either. It’s reading the Hebra region.”

“Mm. So, probably, all of time is in a stasis.” She set her empty plate to the side and folded her hands in her lap. “It’s strange to think that the whole world has stopped just for us. Are we really that important?”

Am I really that important?

Link didn’t answer, because she didn’t sound like she wanted one. “If time is just paused until we complete the trials… Wouldn’t it be kindest just to not return?”

“What do you mean?”

“If we don’t go back, Calamity Ganon will never surface. We wouldn’t give it the option to succeed. There is no possibility of failure.”

Link thought about it for a moment. “No one in Hyrule is living right now. They’re stopped. They’d never get to live their lives.”

Zelda looked sadly at her own hands, as if she wished them to glow with an ancient power. They didn’t. “I’m not sure which fate is worse. Death by Ganon, or ceasing to exist altogether.”

“It doesn’t have to be either. We’re doing everything we can to ensure that.” Link’s voice was low and steady, trying to keep her from floating away. “We very well could succeed. Other incarnations have.”

Zelda forced a smile and nodded. “Right.”

Link considered a way to comfort her, but any words he had formed died on his lips. Movement in the forest, just outside the light of the fire. At his sudden tension, Zelda was alert and nervous. He strained all his senses for even the slightest hint of danger. A bird? Squirrel? Owl? Monster?

None of those things. 

Turquoise light reflected at them from the flames. A small creature with large, lined eyes stared at them. It's tail looked like the yellow horns of a Blupee, but wriggled behind it.

"Link... what is that?" 

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

The little creature had the feline eyes of a Lynel without any of the intimidation. Pupils shaped like blades stared back at them. It crouched lower, skittish. Large ears flattened to its round head. The neon yellow tail behind it expanded its leaves and twitched anxiously.

It made a sound ending with a question mark.

Link’s first instinct was to take out the Shiekah slate and snap a photo of the creature, but it disappeared before he could get it to focus.

Link and Zelda stared after it. The glow of its fur should be apparent in the darkness, but anywhere that had no firelight had no light at all. It was gone.

 Link wasn’t sure what to think. However, he knew better than to overlook even the smallest detail in these shrines. Nothing was there by accident or was placed without purpose.

Zelda spoke, “I didn’t really feel threatened by it. Did you?” Link shook his head. “Odd that we can’t see it when it isn’t lit by the fire. That would likely mean chasing after it will prove fruitless.” She hoped that they weren’t expected to hurt it for some kind of reward like the Blupee.

Link seemed to agree. “Whatever it is, it can’t go far. We’re on an island.”

“An island?” Zelda blinked at him, catching up. He must have explored while she slept.

Link licked his lips, a gesture caught between anxious and thoughtful. “I think… I think it may be an island of all my favorite places.” He seemed to think that wouldn’t make sense. “But… Pieced together.”

Zelda stared at him thoughtfully, her head tilted. “An island of your favorite places?” she echoed. She examined the area around her with brand new eyes. The trees, the smell. If she really trained her hearing for it, she could hear the faintest clinking of wooden windchimes in the distance. “Kakariko Forest,” she realized. Her face split in a smile brighter than the fire.

She leaned towards him, enthusiasm gleaming in her eyes. “Your home in Hateno. I get to have a personal tour of your favorite parts of Hyrule.” She sounded like she thought she was lucky.

“Find home in one another… Maybe the riddle is easier than we thought. I probably just have to visit all of your favorite spots.”

He thought that was rather optimistic, but not unreasonable. So why was he uneasy about it? It all felt so… personal. These are places that held some kind of meaning to him. Link voiced none of these qualms, only made about cleaning up their meal and returning the wares to the kitchen.

When Link returned from his home, he wore an old pair of Hylian trousers and carried something in his hand.

“Here,” he extended it to Zelda, not meeting her eye. “You’ll… probably want these.”

She examined the black fabric and unfolded it to reveal a pair of form-fitting shorts. It was identical to the ones he’d worn in the caves, except clean and dry. He would have given her something more substantial, but he doubted his narrow frame would allow it. It would certainly be easier than carrying a blanket. Zelda smiled a grimace. “… Thanks, but… how did you—”

“Just a guess,” Link answered a little too quickly, a little too forcefully.

He gave her privacy while he lit the torch and packaged the leftovers to snack on while they explored. Something nostalgic about this place sighed in his ears. It reminded him of nights spent alone here (or the real version of here) sparring with the trees or communing with his thoughts.

“Why Kakariko Forest?” says Zelda softly, just behind him. Her voice was soft despite her curiosity.

Link thought about remaining silent, if just because he was more comfortable in it. It would be a waste of time if he had to make her understand why these places are special to satisfy the riddle.

“I would go here to be alone, practicing with the sword. Collecting fireflies. Listening to the wooden chimes. It was peaceful.”

Zelda hummed quietly, trying to siphon off as much peace from his memory as she could.

Link lead them in a direction he hadn’t explored yet. To his pleasant surprise, he watched the trees narrow to golden, glittering birches. Autumn colors and sparse brush opened to a natural clearing. “Akkala?” guessed Zelda.

Link nods. It feels strange standing here. For some reason, he felt like he should be training. Instead, he just lit a lantern.

“When my father was transferred to Akkala Citadel, I was too young to make it on my own. I moved with him. I wanted to be just like him when I got older.” Link’s neutral expression became marginally warmer. “He’d come out here to train me in the woods. I wouldn’t let him sleep otherwise.”

He laughed to himself, just a breath. “I was such an obnoxious kid.”

Zelda watched him relive a memory, aweing at the woods around him. He’d never mentioned his father to her. “It’s hard to imagine you ever being loud or demanding.”

His eyes hardened. He was back in reality. “Responsibility changes you.” Link’s eyes met hers across the torch. Zelda of all people should be able to understand that. “I have a duty to Hyrule. To you.”

Zelda’s heart wilted.

“Your father…”

“He died a couple years ago.” Link had no outward reaction to his own words. “I decided to travel to Hyrule Castle soon after that to take a shot at pulling the sword. You became my charge not long after.”

Zelda looked crestfallen. She’d been so callous and unkind to the Knight at first. It was just assumed that he was perfect and had no real problems of his own. Zelda didn’t know he’d just lost his parent. He was grieving and she had acted like a spoiled child.

 She let the silence settle between them. Cicadas and wind filled it.

After a long moment, she spoke. “Your dad would be proud of who you’ve become.”

His ice-blue eyes defrosted.

~*~*~*~*~*~

They explored the corners of his happy memories together. Despite himself, Link settled into the comfort of their simple ritual: He’d light another lantern, relive another memory, and share the joy of it with Zelda.

This is the Zora River where Mipha taught me to swim when we were children.

This is the field where I befriended Epona.

This is Hateno Beach where my dad would take me to climb for palm fruit.

This is Hyrule field where we found a silent princess flower.

Each repetition left them in better spirits. If they’re going to be trapped anywhere, an island of happy memories is not a bad option.

They explored the mountain behind his house where he used to sunbathe, finally able to see the entire island lit up from scores of lanterns dotted about. Tiny pockets of dark clung to the outskirts of the fires but were negligible. Link’s body complained of fatigue, but his mind was too enraptured to let it consider rest.

Strange to see all of his happy memories miniaturized in a bird’s-eye view.

Something blue flashed in the distance, then disappeared.

Link lit what they believed was the final lantern. Zelda’s voice broke him out of his hunter’s focus. “All of your happy memories seem to involve you being at peace,” she commented lightly. He hadn’t seen her in this good of a mood since before Mount Lanayru.

He nodded. It’s strange how foreign it feels to him. It’s like the memory of peace taunted him, knowing he wouldn’t ever truly have it until after his role as Hero was complete.

“Hey, what’s that in there?” Link turned and followed her eyes to a set of arched wooden double-doors installed in what appeared to be rock. It looked like it didn’t belong. All of the other memories were obvious and open. Why is there a place hidden from them?

He shook his head, not immediately recognizing it. Upon approach, he felt something twisting uneasily in his gut.

Zelda reached out to grasp on the heavy iron ring of the door handle, when she stopped. “Wait… I recognize this.” The Princess cocked her head, studying the door, hand hovering just shy of it.

That’s when Link realized where this door went. His blood went cold.

“Uah! How about we—Let’s just not go in there.”

Zelda stared at him through her lashes suspiciously. Well now I’m definitely going in. She grasped the handles and flung the heavy doors ajar, despite Link pleading with her to wait.

It was… her bedroom.

Zelda strode into the space, familiar with the shape of the castle walls and her study. Her bed was overflowing with comforters and pillows but was unmade. She almost never returned to her room to find it wasn’t already made for her.

She turned back to watch Link watch her.

He looked embarrassed.

“Link… what is this?”

She watched the knight swallow and put on his knight face. “It’s… your bedroom.”

Zelda placed a hand on her hip. “I know that. What’s it doing in your subconscious?”

“It was my post when you became my charge,” he shrugged nonchalantly, “I guess I was proud I’d earned the honor of guarding the Princess?”

Link is talented and proficient in many things but lying is not one of them.

The aforementioned Princess was having none of it. She turned her eyes to swords that sliced clean through him. What are you not telling me?

Link could take some serious damage in a fight but couldn’t stand more than a few seconds of that stare before he broke. Rubbing his neck, he finally admitted, “I…” Would like to leave. “Was in here alone. My watch had ended, and you had business to attend to. No one was around…”

Zelda crossed her arms, looking superior. Say it.

“I slept in your bed.” Zelda looked surprised but not upset. Link wouldn’t look at her. “I was just so tired! And it looked so soft.” He knew the rotations of the other guards. There wasn’t any way he’d be found. Just a power nap.

Zelda laughed, “Link… that’s not that big of a deal.” Zelda had slept in his bed just a while ago.

To him it was. He still seemed nervous, his cheeks burning. “Wait… what are you not telling me?”

His face was a study in color theory.

“I…” He trailed off, “It’s under your bed.”

Zelda’s face contorted in outrage. He didn’t. She prepared to tear him a new one, when she realized he was crouched, eying the underside of the frame. “Hey! What’re you—Oh.”

Two glowing yellow eyes stared back, alarmed and cornered.

Link snapped a photo with the slate.

Both turned to stare at the slate at the same time. An image displayed back of the spooked creature. It was four-legged like a dog but shaped to move differently. Quieter.

The Hyrule Compendium labeled the creature.

“It’s called a… Kittee.”  Zelda’s brows furrowed at the slate. “How strange. There’s no description for the creature. Its entry is just blank.”

The whole room was full of firelight. It didn’t have any other pockets of pitch darkness to disappear into. They glanced at each other and spoke without words. What do we do with it?

Link decided for them. They needed to study it closer. He laid prostrate on the floor, hands extended, grasping for the creature. It shrank away behind a cluttered stack of books; Link pushed it aside. He was determined to capture it and inspect it for clues on how to complete the shrine.

To his surprise, the creature pulled back lips and hissed back at him. Two rows of tiny Lynel-like fangs displayed ferociously at him. It made a sound like no animal he’d ever heard and swiped at his hands.

“Ah!” Link recoiled, skin bursting with the cold heat of pain. “It has swords on its hands!”

“Link, just back out of there!” For the creature’s sake, and for Zelda’s.

 Link rolled away and inspected his hand, which sported four long stripes of hard scratches. His efforts had caused a mess of the things underneath and now his skin. Zelda chanced a look down at the creature. It looked scared. Empathy clutched her heart.

“There must be a kinder approach to this,” Zelda sighs. She took Link’s bag and fished out their leftovers from earlier. She plucked a mushroom and proffered it to the space between her and the creature. Its nose wiggled, but it made no move to accept the gift.  She reached back into the bag, switched the offering. The roasted bird leg definitely captured its attention more.

She left the meat under the bed and moved away from it, giving the animal space to decide what it wanted to do.

“Link… I have a feeling we’re not supposed to harm it. It looks so scared. I feel bad for it.”

He sat up, nursing his wounded hand. Historically, creatures that glow like that have been utterly harmless. So much for that.

“I wasn’t gonna hurt it,” he said, as if that would make his hand un-scratched.

Zelda snorted back at him, then bent to peer under the bed again. Both the Kittee and the meat had vanished.

“It’s gone!”

Link laid on his belly again, pushing debris and clutter out of his way to confirm that the space below the bed was truly vacant. He sat up and sighed, rolled his shoulders. “We’ll get it soon enough. None of us are going anywhere. Besides, I’m not sure how it would have anything to do with the riddle.”

He’d made a mess of the things under the bed, mostly books. That’s nothing out of the usual for Zelda’s room. What was unusual however was how quickly Zelda jumped in to help him shove it back under the bed.

Link didn’t say anything, but he thinks he understood when a crimson book caught his attention. It seemed minted much more recently than any other study materials she owned. Despite his better judgement, he reached for it.

When he stilled, Zelda froze. The book he held in his hands made her want to fling it clear across the room. The title read: A Dissertation on Voe Sexuality by Race. The author’s name sounded Gerudo in origin. His brows furrowed and a series of thoughts flashed unbidden across his face: Curiosity, confusion, realization, perturbation, and curiosity again.

“Link, I would advise you not to—"

Wait no don’t!

Link flipped open the book to a random page. It looked mostly scholarly and laid out in textbook format. He turned a page, and Zelda watched as something caught between shock, horror, and fascination crossed his eyes.

Oh. It has detailed illustrations.

Zelda’s script handwriting filled the margins with notes. That did explain a few things.

Link snapped the spine closed, and finally realized that Zelda was still sitting there. Heat rose from her neck to the tips of her ears.

Because he’s a kind person, he said nothing. Just a grimace of apology.

Link shook the harrowed expression from his face and continued cleaning the mess he’d made like nothing had happened. Knight face.

Zelda wanted to crawl into her own skin and out of existence. She opened her mouth to explain, "I..." He flinched, wanting her to drop it. A thought occurred to her at the exact same moment. Wait a second. "Link, did you... already know about that book?" Inexplicably, her voice wasn't accusatory.

He violently shook his head, waving his hands. "No! I swear."

Zelda's face lacked in anger or even embarrassment as she thought about something.

“Link… this is your memory. How can there be something in here that you didn’t know about?”

Huh. Hadn’t thought about that. He shrugged, falling just short of meeting her eye. With everything put away, he pulled out the slate and sat on the edge of the bed. He’d wisely taken a picture of the riddle.

The path home will reveal itself,

When one is nurturing,

And a home is found inside another.

Link frowned at the image, contemplating something. Zelda joined him at his side. He looked like he had the beginning of an idea, but it was just out of reach. He was tired. The knight scrubbed his face, stubbornly trying to get his brain to work.

“Link…” Zelda interrupted, gently prying the slate away from him. “You’re not going to accomplish anything like this.”

He looked like he was going to object but Zelda’s hard stare silenced him. So stubborn. Who knows how long he’s been going without rest?

“Come on, lay down. I can take it from here,” she urged gently.

What?

Scarlet terror broke out on his face like a rash, much to her amusement. "P-Princess!"

She couldn’t begin to guess what he was thinking, and she wasn’t going to ask. “Get some rest,” she clarified mercifully, “I’ll keep exploring.”

It was as if she’d told him to lay down on a bed of nails. He regarded the fine sheets and plush blankets like they might bite him.

“I bet it’s as soft as you remember,” she cajoled. He stilled, and she watched the hair on his arms rise. Huh, that’s odd.

He cleared his throat and breathed mechanically. “I’m good. Let’s keep moving.”

Ugh. Like putting a toddler to bed. Zelda rolled her eyes and pulled out the big guns. “Link, I order you to lay down.” Pulling rank always seemed to work.

In one fluid motion, she stood and pushed the center of his chest. He cried out and hit the mattress, feeling it swallow him whole. It’s softer than he remembered! He’d slept on straw mattresses and bedrolls his whole life. The previous two nights' rests had been sitting in the snow and laying on freezing rock, respectively.

His face turned into the pillow and he’d disappeared into the down covers before he’d even realized he’d moved. Zelda stifled her laughter as he became a Link-cocoon and immediately passed out.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

Would they age down here, she wondered?

The slate still said 5:48 PM -39*F.

She imagined herself feeble and Link hunched with age hobbling out to defeat Ganon and laughed. Apparently, her sense of humor had gotten dark as of late.

She’d lit a lantern in her study for Link and taken the torch for herself.

Descending the stairs, Zelda perused the familiar space. Same windows, same workdesk littered with papers, same everything. Most of her memories of this place were of wanting to escape. To go explore, to learn more about the Shiekah, to actually do something useful with herself other than praying and hoping. At the time, Link’s presence during his watches only exacerbated her frustrations.

She fingered the title of a text she had never gotten around to reading. Curiosity got the better of her, and she opened it to reveal the pages were blank. For science, she opened a book she knew well; Every word appeared, clear as ever on the page.

“It’s... a mix of both of our memories?” she murmured to herself.

Everything in the room was the exact same in a way he couldn’t possibly have remembered. Except… had she always had that rug?

Zelda kicked the rug aside, revealing a wooden trapdoor panel in the floor. That definitely wasn’t there before. She looked over her shoulder and confirmed that, yes, Link was still deep in sleep. The door stared at her, waiting for her to make a decision.

These are his memories. While walking around on the surface felt easy and peaceful, she couldn’t shake the feeling that going down was something she wasn’t supposed to do.

She’d assured him that she would keep trying to solve the riddle, so that’s what she was going to do.

Her mind made up, Zelda stuck her fingers into the hole and pulled up the trapdoor with a creak. Link didn’t so much as stir.

Gingerly, she descended the ladder with torch in hand. It deposited her in… a tent. Her tent. Her notebook laid on her bedroll. Another torch sat by her bedside. She lit it like she would any lantern, leaving it to burn for eternity.

In her notebook was just more observations on Shiekah technology. It really didn't give any indication of what could be so odd about this memory.

She opened the tent flap and stepped outside into a grass clearing. A shallow pool and waterfall in Faron she thought she recognized trickled into the infinite darkness. She followed a landing of earth behind the fall, and she found herself somewhere else entirely: the Kakariko inn.

The memories continued dizzyingly fast like that. A grass field, a shack with a fireplace, a platform of Shiekah make. Place after place that Zelda distantly remembered but had no real emotional attachment to. Without Link here to provide her context, it all seemed meaningless.

Still, she lit each lantern she came across.

While moving through a narrow cave hallway, she came upon a door. It was Gerudo make. Curious, she went to open it, but found it wouldn’t budge. Trying to set it on fire did nothing; No amount of force would pry it open; Peeking through the space between the slats bore her nothing.

“Hm.” Zelda hummed to herself, “Perhaps it’s not meant to be opened.”

She gave up and continued past it further into the cave hallway. It was the longest transition between the memories, by far.

She smelled something deeply familiar. It was water. Specifically, the earthy smell of water inside of a cave. 

What she saw as she passed the threshold gave her pause.

I should turn back.

Her legs carried her forward without her input. Despite the horns of alarm blaring in her ears, Zelda lit the lantern.

It was a dead end.

She definitely knew this place.

Steam puffed invitingly from the warm pools. Snakes of light danced on the ceiling. A hair band floated on the surface.

An inscription on the wall.

It was the hot spring.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Link had never slept so well in his life.

Clean clothes and a clean bed are things that go so easily unappreciated. He was warm all the way through, and the heavy weight of the plush comforters pressed him further into the ever-kind mattress.

If he’s going to be stuck anywhere, this would be his first choice.

In fact, he very well may be trapped, because he didn’t think he could get out of this bed even if he wanted to.

Link sighed a happy little noise, stretching his toes out against the impossibly high thread-count.

The pillow smelled like her: cool safflina and tall grass.

Sleep and wakefulness waltzed with one another behind his eyes. It was wakefulness that took the lead and he inhaled deeply. Link rumbled and rolled over, finding a new flavor of comfort altogether.

He heard a soft, mechanical sound just in front of him.

Link’s brows twitched in confusion and he blearily pried his eyes apart.

He saw green ones staring back at him.

“Ah!” Alarm shot through Link’s veins like icewater. Link reeled away like she’d hit him.

Zelda sat on her workdesk chair, a playful but otherwise harmless expression on her face. The slate rested on her knees, and she appraised the screen for a moment. That harmless expression turned roguish and she turned the slate around for him to see.

It was a picture of his face, mouth parted in sleep.

“Got you.”

Link blinked at it, nonplussed.

The slate made a sound as she saved the image.

“You… sure did?” Couldn’t she wait until he was more awake to mess with him? What time was it? Wait, dumb question. He scrubbed his face, trying to wake up.

Zelda seemed satisfied with herself. “I’ve been trying to figure out the riddle,” she began, playing with the slate. “Well, turns out I was wrong. I’m relatively certain I visited every memory in this place. All of the lanterns are lit but we’re still stuck here.” Link processed this information and sat up. Something about her was different.

She was trying and failing to not to look nervous.

 “I…” Her voice was hoarse, and she cleared it. “Well, I… think I made a mistake.” She fidgeted with her hair, not meeting his eye.

Link didn’t say anything, but his expression wasn’t hostile either.

“I explored the area while you were asleep and found, well…” He followed her eyes to the trapdoor on the far side of the room. It was open.

Link felt dread kick his stomach into his feet. What is that?

“I lit all of the lanterns. I checked everywhere on this island, and there’s no more to light. Just having me visit them doesn’t seem to satisfy the riddle. Nothing’s changed.”

Why does it sound like she was leaving out something very important?

“The ones in there. What… were they about?”

Zelda looked away, discomfited. “Well, the first one is this memory—” She gestured vaguely to the room at large, “—And the last memory is something we were both there for. None of the others made sense to me.”

It sounded like she was establishing a pattern, but Link was too thunderstruck to think of what. “I know that, for whatever reason, you’re embarrassed of this one. And the last…”

She trailed off. Link combed his mind for any one of the horrifying memories he would prefer not to have anyone access, let alone Zelda. The options were not looking great.

He held his breath.

“I think I may have accidentally explored a part of your mind you might not have wanted me to.” She hooked her hand on the back of her neck.

Link’s face darkened, and he visibly fought against whatever he was thinking about. Refusing to get flustered, Link focused on the riddle. “So, visiting the places and lighting the lanterns alone isn’t enough.”

“I’m afraid not.”

She needs to understand the memory, not just stand near it. Link wasn’t sure what was down there, but he definitely didn’t like where this was going. “It would be unlike you to not have any theories.”

“Well…” She pulled up the picture of the puzzle, “’When one is nurturing… and home is found in another.’ If the trial has me exploring your memories, it’s like I’m inside your head, in a way. Like your mind is the ‘other’ I’m supposed to make myself at home with. Maybe telling me what each place represents is a form of ‘nurturing.’”

Link swallowed, “How can you possibly feel at home in a memory I’m repressing?”

Her shoulders dropped. “I guess that’s what makes this a challenge. The trial must have sampled something that you’re ashamed of to test us.” She tapped her finger against her chin thoughtfully. “Unless… my goal is to make you feel at home in them. Since you clearly aren’t at the moment. That would make me the nurturer.”

For some reason, Link liked that even less.

 “Home is the theme of this trial, I’m guessing. Like how the first trial was sharing, the second was giving, and the third was faith. All of those things were accomplished mutually. Therefore… it could very well be that both cases are true.”

He seemed to be thinking about her line of logic. The Link he had been back in Hebra would have flung himself headlong to the floor to make a break for it, and he considered doing just that. But somehow in this twisted dreamscape she seemed to make sense.

“This is… a lot to ask of me,” Link admits.

The Hero of Hyrule looking so vulnerable is a rare thing. Zelda’s eyes softened at him. Everyone has corners of their mind they themselves preferred to avoid, let alone explain to someone else.

“I know. We don’t have to if you’re not ready. This island is… nice. And I rather like the reprieve from the responsibilities of being the Princess.”

Link knew a kindness when he heard it and nodded gratefully.

They couldn’t stay here forever, and they knew it. Places that are cozy at first become cramped all too quickly. Being surrounded by some of his favorite memories only reminded him that he wouldn’t be able to make more.  A memory of happiness and actually being happy are two different things.

Link squared his shoulders, an impressive feat for someone in a plush bed.

“I’ll do what it takes to complete the trial,” he intones. Zelda didn’t reprimand him for the return to his knightly demeanor.

Zelda watched him do nothing, say nothing, reveal nothing, for a long while.

Finally, she stood from her chair and crossed to the far side of the bed. It sent the knight’s anxiety skyrocketing, but she settled demurely on top of the covers and kept a respectable distance. “Link… perhaps we could just start with this memory?”

His face darkened, and he made a sound like he’d just been dropped off a mountain.

Despite herself, Zelda couldn’t hide the sympathetic mirth in her eyes. Poor guy.

“I’m sure it’s not nearly as bad as you’re making it out to be.”

She was genuinely trying to be comforting, and Link sensed it.

He searched for words, trying to access the memory without getting completely overwhelmed by it.

 “My shift had just ended. I was so, so tired. You had left to go attend to business with the Minister of Trade. The guard who replaced me followed you, and the door was left open…” Zelda nodded patiently. He’d already told her most of this.  “I knew no one else would be coming through for several hours. So I gave in.”

She watched his face twist, and he swiped his hand down it. “It was so soft… I’ve only ever slept on the ground or on straw. When I woke up…” He refused to meet her eye. “You’ve gotta understand: I’ve never felt anything as soft as these sheets. And it smelled like you— I didn’t know you, at the time! We’d exchanged only a few words at that point.”

Zelda thought she was beginning to understand. Her eyes cut back at him, only as sharp as a wooden sparring sword. “You’d just been assigned to the Princess of Hyrule.” And found yourself in her bed.

He nodded, guilty. “In between sleep and wakefulness, your mind plays tricks on you…”

Something about the way he said that. She felt a thrill rush through her.

His molars creaked as he ground them together.

“Are you saying…?” Zelda tries, amusement getting the better of her.

The stoic knight, curled in her bed, acting completely against protocol, tormented by his own poor call of judgement.

The whites of Link’s eyes showed. “Wha—No! No! Horrified, I realized what was happening, jumped out, and went straight to the barracks. I never made the same mistake twice.”

He’s imperfect, but he’s not a degenerate!

Zelda looked entertained, but not scathing. So that’s why he was so hesitant to rest! She shook her head affectionately, “That’s… embarrassing, I’ll give you that.” Link looked wounded. “But not unforgivable, Link.”

Her kind tone gave him the courage to tentatively meet her gaze.

“See? That wasn’t so… bad…?" She trailed off, looking just past him. Her voice was high and sweet all of a sudden, “Hi, there.”

A glowing feline watched them from the doorway, tail low, but face interested. Was it just Zelda’s imagination, or had it gotten a little bigger?

Its ears flattened when it made eye contact with Link, clearly disliking his stare. However, they swiveled intermittently towards Zelda. Careful not to make any sudden movements, she slid from the bed and crouched with her hand extended.

“It’s okay. I mean you no harm.” Her soft, sweet voice had the effect of the Kittee wiggling its nose at her in interest.

Cautiously, it stalked towards her, ready to bolt at any second. Its golden tail was stretched straight out in line with its spine. Link and Zelda both held their breath.

The Kittee sniffed Zelda’s hand, soft little nose brushing her finger. Zelda’s heart was about to melt. “Aww… hello. That’s a good Kittee.”

It seemed to remember Link. Spooked, the skittish creature bolted out the door and out of sight.

Link threw back the sheets to chase after it, but Zelda stopped him. “Wait, let it go. I think it’ll keep returning to us.”

He tamped down on his prey drive and looked back to Zelda. 

“Was it just me, or had it grown slightly larger?” asks Zelda.

Link nodded. They were thinking the same thing.

They both knew what that meant. “It’s… a reflection of us doing well in terms of the trial.”

It was a sign that meant they were right: they had to continue into the trapdoor to complete the challenge.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

Making the leap of faith off of the stairs was easier than this, Link thought. He stared down at the open trapdoor like it was a pair of grizzlemaw jaws.

Link started at a hand resting on his shoulder.

“Link, really, we don’t have to do anything you don’t want to,” she reminded him gently.

He snorted, not really a laugh. Clearly, he didn’t share that sentiment.

It was clear that he was working up courage to descend the ladder, to be done with this, and Zelda made every attempt to help. “There’s no mind that is free of… dark corners.” Link’s manicured neutral expression cracked and he turned to her, anxious. “Whatever it is down there, I promise not to think any less of you.”

 He scoured her for any hint of a lie. It seemed like a promise she couldn’t possibly keep, but her eyes were earnest.

Link nodded, resolved, and climbed down the ladder.

He clearly didn’t like what he saw. He was in her tent. But it wasn’t just her tent; Her bed was right there and he smelled the rich earth of Zora woods, and he knew it as a moment, not as a place.

 Zelda watched him stare at the notebook and the bed. Shamefaced, he knelt and picked up the book.

“What is this, Link?” she asks gently. “I don’t see anything out of the usual.”

Link swallowed. “I… heard you talking from outside. I thought you’d summoned me, but you were sleeping.” He watched the memory projected onto his eyes. “I didn’t catch what you said but I think you were having a nightmare. You said my name.”

Zelda looked confused, clearly not recalling.

“It… hurt. I didn’t know why you’d have a nightmare about me. I just wanted to know why you hated me so much. I saw the notebook and…” He thumbed the leather binding, shame written on his face. “I thought it was your journal.”

Any reprimand Zelda was building died before words formed. He really did feel bad about it.

“You read it.”

He nodded. “It’s just field notes.” Clearly, he knew that didn’t make it right.

“But you were about to violate my trust,” she whispered, no bite to her voice. “That’s why you’re so ashamed of it.”

Link nodded.

Zelda chose not to say anything, just handed him the torch as a sign that it was time to move on. Link sighed and followed her out of the tent flap, rolling his shoulders. This was going to be a long walk down memory lane.

When he opened his eyes, he was in Faron. A shallow pool tinkled like the wings of fairies. Diaphanous steam plumed from the falls feeding into it, reflecting moonlight that wasn’t there. Tropical plants and banana leaves enclosed all the way around and made the area feel secluded.

Zelda approached the pool, brows furrowed in concentration. She could have sworn she’s been here before.

Her bare feet in the cool water, she turned back and waited for Link to explain.

Link worried at the back of his head. Clearly, this whole trial was getting under his skin. Zelda allotted him the patience of a Princess, knowing that this can’t possibly be easy for him.

“You’d asked for some privacy…” he began, and Zelda’s face paled. “—And I’d done as you asked. I was a respectful distance away, listening for danger.” He made eye contact with her, just to prove that he was telling the truth. Zelda had just been firmly reminded not to jump to conclusions.

“There was something red and black in the underbrush. It was heading your direction. I followed it, trying to see what it was.” Link eyed a particular shore of the pool, reliving the memory. “It was a Yiga clansman. He’d apparently been waiting for us to become separated so he could get to you.”

He was stoic, but Zelda knew from the cord jumping in his neck that he was angry.

Link walked a few paces towards the underbrush, just shy of the clearing. He was remembering. “I came up behind him here and disposed of him.” Which is a very tactful way to say slit his throat.

Zelda blinked at him, confused.

“It doesn’t sound like you had done anything wrong. You were fulfilling your duty to protect me. If anything, I would expect you to be proud of that?”

Link stood in exactly the same place that he’d killed the clansman. He turned and looked towards the waterfall. Zelda followed his eyes, concentrating, and then it hit her. She’d once bathed in them.

He had an unobstructed view of me.

Something devious and evil in her applauded.

She thinks she knows why he’s so ashamed of this memory.

“How long?”

“Too long.” He had this angry look on his face, but he definitely wasn’t upset with her. He was railing against himself. “I’m sorry. I tried to suppress this memory. I did. But I guess…”

Something glimmered in Zelda’s eye.

“Guess it didn’t work.” She had a piece of vanity stuck in her teeth.

Link cast her a pleading look. Be nice.

Zelda sighed and shook her head. Right, ‘nurturing,’ like the riddle said.

She tried again, much nicer this time. “Link, remember how you told me that I don’t give myself enough credit?” He nodded, eyes narrowed. “Not every obstacle is a personal failure. Those are your words.” Zelda eyed him meaningfully, waiting for him to pick up on what she was trying to convey.

Just because something went wrong, it doesn’t make you a failure.

You aren’t suddenly a knight without honor because you forgot yourself for a moment.

Her words got under his skin and he rubbed his neck, chagrinned. That really was the kindest thing she could say to him at that moment, wasn’t it? She was fulfilling her end of the riddle.

“I thought… that I’d heard something,” Zelda said, straining her memory. “I thought I saw something in the brush move. I didn’t suspect my stoic knight.”

Link’s ears burned with embarrassment and he shot her a glower. Now you’re just being mean. “Can we please move on?”

Zelda laughed, unable to help herself. It’s endearing how utterly harmless the Hero of Hyrule is. “Sure.”

Zelda followed the same path she’d found that led behind the waterfall. That’s when Zelda realized they weren’t alone. This time, she wasn’t alarmed.

Neon blue glowed as the Kittee perched on a treebranch. It was only the slightest bit bigger than the last appearance. Zelda smiled at the creature that seemed braver now that it was eye-level with her. “Do you wanna come with? We’re mortifying our favorite knight,” she cooed to the creature, much to Link’s dismay.

The Kittee cocked its head and answered her. “Grr-reow?”

Zelda squeaked with affection at the noise, resisting the urge to pick it up and coddle it to death. “Yeah? Is that so?” she extends her hand, and the Kittee sniffs, then bonks its head into her knuckles. “Eee! Link! Link! Look!”

With arms crossed, the knight watched the exchange. His face was neutral, but a smile beamed from his eyes. Zelda’s enormous, genuine grin nearly ripped her in two. This Zelda was far and away from the person strapped with the burden of royalty. She’d managed to cajole the Kittee into letting her scratch it’s chin, which by all appearances it seemed to love.

“I’m going to cry,” complains Zelda.

Link laughed to himself and reached into his pocket to extend a chunk of meat to the glowing feline. If it had the ability to make Zelda that overjoyed, he’d happily reward it. After eyeing him suspiciously, it decided that he wasn’t a threat, accepted the gift, and scampered higher into the tree and out of view.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 “What is this place? I’ve never even been here.”

Link cast her a look. It’s not all about you. “You weren’t involved,” he says instead. “This is the Kakariko Inn.”

She watched him expectantly, wearing her Princess face on the outside as best she could. It looked cozy, all in cool violet tones and soft beds.

Clearing his throat, Link gently touched the unoccupied counter. “The Innkeeper was away, and his son was left to watch the inn during his absence. It was empty.” Link’s cheeks reddened in an away that Zelda couldn’t help finding adorable. “He, uh… offered me a free bed so long as I was willing to share it.”

Zelda smirked sidelong at him. “And?”

“I turned him down!” barks Link, scandalized.

The guile she wielded was sharp. “But you were tempted.”

“Zelda!”

She poked his arm good-naturedly. “You were! Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here.”

Link looked profoundly uncomfortable as he rubbed the back of his neck. He wouldn’t admit it out loud, but Zelda could see plain as day that she’d called it. “Link, it’s a little harsh to be ashamed that you resisted temptation.”

“I’m… ashamed I was tempted at all.” Zelda puzzled that out for a moment. He offered a clue, “To use a person.”

“It sounds like he was more tempted to use you, if anything.”

He didn’t rise to her playful goading. “Doesn’t matter.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

They found themselves in the center of an open field, lit only by their torches and the burning lantern. Much to his dismay, this was the field where he’d taught her the basics of horsemanship. Yet another memory he’d much prefer to just breeze over.

Her riding pants… Her very poor form in handling the bounce of a trot.

Zelda looked like she was a cross between flattered and affronted, which certainly didn’t help him feel any better. She reassured him she wasn’t angry, and he pretended to believe her.

After that was the shack where he recovered from a fight with a Lynel. She’d offered to help bind the wound on his back and when he refused, she’d just ordered him to disrobe. 

That’s hardly my fault.

Something about ordering him to do something got under his skin.

Zelda was trying to be nurturing, she really was. However, watching him try to suppress a memory he presently occupied was endlessly entertaining.

Poor guy.

This hasn't been an utter disaster, all things considered. Link, bless his little heart, has performed stupendously. He managed to collect all of the dignity he had left, just to drop it over and over again. It’s like trying to carry an armful of hot-footed frogs.

Zelda mercifully kept her teasing to a minimum. After all, he’s being forced to express his innermost shameful memories. The least she could do is not be mean about it.

In none of these had he really done anything wrong. Staring a few moments too long or resisting temptations are ignoble at worst, forgivable at best.

Something about the idea that he had to keep these memories suppressed to stay sane made her want to wield them at will.

They were shadowed by the glowing blue Kittee, which happily took Zelda up on her offer to mortify Link. They moved on from the shack, following the path towards the lantern glowing up ahead. “Link, can I be honest with you?”

Link gestured: Might as well.

“If these really are your most shameful memories,” he flinched. A few words could snap the Hero in half. “Then I am of the opinion that you’re being unnecessarily hard on yourself.”

Link swallowed. He knew she was trying to be kind, but he really didn’t believe her.

“I’m serious. You’re imperfect which, quite frankly, is refreshing. But, truly, you haven’t done all that much wrong.”

Link dreaded the approaching lantern. He wished the darkness would swallow him whole. With ruddy cheeks, he failed to return her gaze. The longer she watched him, the more she got the sense that he was withholding something from her.

She insisted, “I had no idea about any of this until, well, the trial thrust it upon us. I suspected you to be of Shiekah make, not Hylian.” That at least got a weak laugh out of him.

“That doesn’t make it right.”

Zelda huffed, exasperated. “Link, not every action or inaction is ascribed a level of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Some of them just ‘are.’” Link was surprised, and Zelda pressed while she had him on his heels, “Yes, these memories might be… unseemly, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re morally reprehensible.”

 It seemed like she’d gotten her point across. He silently processed what she had to say, his jaw flexing under the strain.

“I’m… under so much pressure.” He was so quiet, Zelda nearly didn’t hear him. “I have to be perfect at all times. For Hyrule. For you.”

She knew the feeling. Zelda’s empathy reached out to touch, but he was closed off.

“I have to be the Hero. There’s no room for me to be anyone else.” He cleared his throat and stared at his free hand in the torchlight.

 “You’re the one who told me that we’re more than just our titles,” she reminded him gently. He held his elbow self-consciously at having his words thrown back at him. Link didn’t answer her. “Take it from me: You can’t always be the Hero of Hyrule. You’ll lose your sanity.”

Zelda thought she just figured out something about him. He wasn’t just expecting himself to act knightly at all times, he was expecting his thoughts to be knightly at all times. That seems profoundly unfair.

Nearly freezing to avoid sharing a tent with her.

Refusal to look at her in the caves.

Link remaining stock still as she kissed him.

The molten intensity in his eyes when his control broke.

He's so restrained. He's too scared to be any other way. He watched her with wide eyes, wriggling like a lizard impaled on a blade.

Zelda offered him a genuine smile and set her hand on his arm. “Link… you’re kind to everyone except yourself.”

She watched fear tentatively vacate his eyes, replaced by warmth.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

The lantern protruded from a round platform. It was clearly Shiekah make, but of what model Zelda couldn’t place. “What is this place?”

Link refused to step onto the platform, his feet rooted to the dirt around it. He clearly recognized it.

“Vah Rutah.”

To Zelda’s surprise, she watched grief possess him. He was reliving a memory that he wanted to keep at arm’s length. He wasn’t flustered from anything inane the way he had been for the other memories. He was sad.

Zelda didn’t say anything; She was scared to break him.

Link sat on the ledge and stared off into the endless black distance. Even without looking at the trunk of Vah Rutah, sitting here still triggered the memory without his consent.

He felt a weight on his thigh; Two glowing paws stood on him, a creature sniffing at his face. Even Kittee was worried about him. He unconsciously pet the creature’s soft back without really looking at it.

“I hurt my arm in Eldin. When we realized that the strength and frequency of the monsters in Hyrule was increasing.” Zelda nodded even though he couldn’t see. She remembered. “We went to Zora’s Domain to check in on the status of Vah Ruta. That’s when Mipha healed me here.”

That didn’t sound like anything he could be ashamed of.

“She… We’ve been friends since we were children. She expressed that she wanted more…”

Though she hadn’t said so in any explicit terms, there weren’t any mixed signals. She was clear with her interest.

Zelda came to sit at his side. It felt like there was something much bigger than just Kittee blocking her from him. “I don’t understand. Why is this memory here?”

Link leaned his elbows on his knees. That was a good question. It shouldn’t be down here. It shouldn’t be on this island at all. Morose memories had no place here. So why…?

“It’s not… a bad memory. It felt good to be loved like that.” Zelda waited, letting him process. “She knew me before I became… this. Me. The Hero. Does that mean she loves someone I'm not?”

When he seemed like he wasn’t going to speak again, she ventured, “You say that like you think she couldn’t possibly love you as you are.”

He turned battered eyes up to her.

“The other memories have all been things you’re ashamed of,” she prompted gently. “But you didn’t do anything in this case. It’s not your fault.”

Kittee seemed to sense that Link was no longer interested in them, so they kneaded Zelda’s leg instead and settled into a blue loaf.

“I… I’m ashamed that I couldn’t return her feelings. Ashamed all I can do is hurt her.”

That wasn’t the answer she expected. “Link… you’re under no obligation to feel any certain way towards anyone.” She realized how it sounded after she’d said it. The trials were a strange animal that neither wanted to tackle in this context.

“I wanted to. But I just… didn’t. I can’t tell if it’s because I truly didn’t love her like that, or if this… figure that I am just took up any space I would’ve had for her.”

Zelda made a soft sound. That one hit a little too close to home for her.

It’s less about Mipha than about how he’s lacking in any identity outside that of the Hero.

“Just because you’re under pressure doesn’t mean you’re emotionless.” He was listening but hadn’t looked up from the space between his bare feet.

Why did he get the distinct sense that she was speaking from experience?

 “It might seem that way when you suppress them all. You’ve fooled everyone else so well that you’ve fooled yourself. Be honest with yourself, do you love her?”

Link’s shoulders dropped, his breath hissing as he pushed it out. She thought he wouldn’t answer. In the silence, she could hear the soft purr of the creature on her leg coming in waves.

Zelda was about to stand and continue forward when he spoke.

“Yes." Link offered her a bittersweet smile. "She’ll always be my dear friend.” 

Had he only just realized that?

“She’s lucky to have you, in any capacity.” Link searched her eyes. What she’d really said was anyone is lucky to have you in any capacity.

The knight didn’t say anything, but Zelda could see that he was touched. Companionable silence filtered down over the firelit scene.

They listened to Kittee’s purrs of contentment, curled up in Zelda’s lap. Now would probably be a good time to move on, but Zelda was loath to disturb the sleepy creature. Link gently thumbed between its ears.

Zelda’s soft smile grew a little wolfish as a thought occurred to her. “Wait a minute…”

Link watched in growing horror as she wracked her brain.

“Don’t Zora lay eggs?”

Zelda!

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

This dark corridor seemed to go on forever. This surreal labyrinth of rock and memory and closed and open space was disorienting. He wouldn’t have considered that his mind would be so complicated.

Kittee had long grown bored with the Hylians’ journey and had left Link and Zelda to their own devices.

 “It’s strange how the other memories were compacted so tightly together, but this one is stretched far and away from the rest,” comments Zelda.

Link definitely didn’t like the sound of that.

Zelda could feel his anxiety pulsing off of him. “Hey,” her shoulder bumped him, “It’ll be fine, Link.”

A tense noise came from his chest. “I’ll be calmer when it’s over with.”

That’s fair.

As they moved through the dark corridor, each wielding their own torch, a door on one wall stood out on the otherwise featureless wall. Link was given pause, but Zelda just continued straight ahead.

When she realized he wasn’t at her side, she stopped. “Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ve already tried everything. It won’t open.”

But he paid her no heed. He was worried about that. Very worried.

The door had the same Gerudo shape any other like it would, only crafted of higher quality. It was reinforced for the protection of royal members.

Link’s ears strained against the deafening crackle of the torches. He heard Zelda’s voice: garbled, faint and unrecognizable. His eyes snapped to Zelda, “What did you say?”

Zelda tightened her brows. “I didn’t say anything.”

Was he losing his mind? He heard her voice again, distinctly different than her clear, spoken word. He watched her critically this time, which had her taken aback. “Why are you looking at me like th—”

“Shh! Zelda, wait.” That’s the second time he’d ever silenced her. Every tiny hair in his ears was focused.

There! He heard it again. He watched her mouth and throat do nothing, say nothing, make nothing. But still he heard her voice.

It was coming from behind the door.

“Is… the door some kind of memory?” Why did she have a strange feeling about it?

Link looked like he’d been struck by lightning. He forced himself to nod. Samples of sounds lodged in his subconscious zoomed just past his understanding. Like how he can never examine the shape of an eye floater, he couldn’t pick out what Zelda’s voice was saying. Or even the pitch or tone.

Had he lost his mind?

Zelda staring at him like he had wasn’t doing him any favors.

“You… can’t hear that?” asks Link. Zelda shook her head. Just torches and crackling fire.

Everything in him was screaming run, run far. However, for fear of losing his sanity, he leaned forward towards the door just to make sure it wasn’t just his imagination.

That was a huge mistake.

Pressing his ear to the door, the volume was suddenly turned up on not-Zelda’s voice.  A loud cry deafened Link and he yelped in surprise. The torch clattered to the ground.

 Even seeing her perfectly fine and safe in front of him, his body flooded with adrenaline aimed to protect her.

However, no one was in danger; Neither Zelda, nor the owner of the voice.

Even though he reeled back, the sounds continued to ring in ruthless clarity all around him:

A low, throaty groan, accompanied by the rustle of sheets. He could hear her gasping breath hitch, whistling through her teeth, strained by an unseen force.

Buzzing, low and steady, hidden then revealed.

Her needy whine.

Zelda—the real Zelda—was panic stricken. “Link! What’s happening?” He was sweating, face completely darkened as if struck with a sudden fever. The hairs on his arms stood on end.

Link tried to understand her through the wanton sounds of her other voice. “I—” can’t exactly explain this to you.

He collapsed with his back to the door, focused on calming his frayed breathing. He remembered distantly (very distantly) that Zelda had to understand every memory for this to be done. But with all of the overstimulation, it was impossible to form a thought let alone a sentence.

“Just listen,” he ground out.

Confused, Zelda tried to follow his instructions. Like she had in Kakariko Forest, she tuned her ears and opened her mind to whatever the memory held for her.

She heard… her own thoughts? No, they weren’t thoughts. But they were her voice. She pressed her ear to the door and listened.

The sound of her own voice, enraptured with pleasure of her own making.

Suddenly, she knew this door. It was the one outside her chambers in Gerudo Town. Understanding bludgeoned Zelda over the head. Overhearing her was the memory!

“Is that really what I sound like?”

Link could barely hear her over herself.

A viscous, slapping sound. Her growl of frustration from chasing a feeling and letting it get away.

Hinox snores. Lynel Breath. King Roam eating a roasted bird leg.

None of it worked! In this world, he’s a victim of his perfect memory. A moment in his life to be played on loop until he went mad. He’s condemned to a lewd groundhog-day. Eternity suddenly seemed a lot longer.

 The siren’s song shrieked in his mind, in every cell in his body, and he was helpless against it.

Zelda watched him squirm. Link had the sneaking suspicion that she was stockpiling weapons for a power-trip. He let out a high sound of submission. Be nice!

She sat across from him, leaned against the wall. The soundtrack was a lot more extensive than he’d originally let on. Crossing her arms, she decided to leave him like that for a moment, “Serves you right.”

Link’s eyes panned up to hers, distressed.

Nope, that’s not going to work this time. “You followed me into Gerudo Town. I made it clear that I wanted space, and you denied me that.” There was something about her demeanor; Superior and retaliatory made for terrifying bedfellows.

“The—The Yiga.” He was interrupted by not-Zelda and had to start again.

Zelda heard her too but wasn’t quite as fazed. “You would’ve found out about their plan from the outside. I know you would’ve.” Her tone left no room for argument.

Not that Link was going to put up an argument anyway. “You’re right. Let’s get going.” He swallowed and summoned his courage to stand.

But Zelda didn’t. She cocked her brow up at him haughtily. “No.”

What?

“Zelda… come on.”

But she knew something he didn’t. She knew the contents of the last memory. He could run away if he wanted, but that would not fulfill the requirements of the riddle. Not that she’s in a rush; They had all of eternity.

“I’d like to see just how long you listened to me, Link.”

There it was. The face that Zelda had alluded to all along. Up until this point, he’d been embarrassed, chagrinned, sheepish, cowed, and outright humiliated.

But now, with the sound of Zelda whimpering in his ear, and another Zelda demanding he stay and listen, she’d achieved the final stage: Mortification.

“Zelda… I said I was sorry. Can we please—”

“Actually, no you didn’t.”

Link just realized she was right. He’d been too flustered to get the words out. Guess she wanted the words to—

A scratching sound; Nails on fabric.

Zelda watched him freeze. She didn’t even bother to conceal the wicked pleasure she got from it. Even sitting silently, she had a power over him. Without so much as lifting a finger, she’d found the impenetrable fortress that was her appointed knight crumbling before her eyes.

Link gave her a look that expressed he didn’t appreciate her games. Still, he swallowed his pride and said, “Zelda. I really am sorry. It was just such a shock. I cannot suppress this memory any harder. Please, let’s move on.”

That’s probably what she should do. He really was sorry, and she knew it. This is his deepest, darkest corner of his mind. He’d repressed the hell out of it, after all. It was cruel to make him sit through it again.

Zelda gave him a saccharine smile. “I believe you.”

Link almost looked relieved, until he noticed she had just a little too much teeth to that smile.

Zelda didn’t care.

She reclined back against the wall and crossed her long legs comfortably. Link watched the smooth motion whether he wanted to or not. “Still, I think I’ll stay and find out exactly when you decided to leave.”

A sharp intake of breath, then a soft sigh.

Link looked completely and utterly harrowed by the experience. Was she angry at him? Was she just going out of her way to torment him? He couldn’t tell and his brain was lacking in precious resources to try to puzzle it out.

He could leave, but he had the distinct sense that her patience would outlast him. He’d have to convince her to continue forward.

Zelda patted the stone and smiled treacly at him. “Pull up a seat. You’ve got permission this time.”

That makes it far, far worse. Link felt that he really didn’t get a lot of say in the matter. His eyes finally met hers, narrowed and acerbic. She was intent on punishing him. He refused to give her the satisfaction of getting riled up. She’s being petty.

After all, when she’s at her weakest he must be at his strongest.

Putting on his most stoic expression, the knight sat a few person-widths away from her. His blood howled through his veins and asking him to sit still left him prone to implosion.

He was acutely aware of her watching him. Her eyes could skin a buck from acres away.

She cursed, something going either very wrong or very right. A heavy object was knocked off the bed and onto the floor, probably a book.

Zelda might not have remembered that exact moment, but her body certainly did. Pangs of arousal tightened her breath. She did what she could not to let it show.  

Link’s eyes scalded her: I feel plenty punished, thank you very much. But he couldn’t hold her gaze with that sound in his ears ratcheting his hips closer, tighter together.

“You’re not the only one embarrassed right now,” says Zelda. “I thought I was alone.”

Link wanted to comfort her, to tell her that he was completely at fault, but not-Zelda’s breathing sped up and it was like he could feel it on his neck. Was the memory suffocating him with the Gerudo night air, or was it sweltering here?

He felt like saying sorry again would do nothing.

“I just wanted to learn. To experiment in peace.”

Link made a tight, distressed sound. Zelda wasn’t sure which version of her voice had done it to him. A rivulet of sweat trailed down the side of his face. He rolled his head back to send a prayer to the not-ceiling of darkness.

Would Hylia laugh at him from upon her hallowed seat in the heavens, overjoyed with Her grand display of puppeteering prowess? Or would She smite him with the ferocity of a Goddess for daring to disrespect her seraphic reincarnation?

He wasn’t worthy, and he knew it. Yet he had intruded, nonetheless.

Unsure whether Zelda wanted him to speak or not, his eyes met hers. There was a question in them. Are you really this upset with me?

Zelda’s stare was heated, boring into his mind. She didn’t answer his question. “You weren’t ashamed of those other memories because you had them,” she accused.

Confused, Link remained silent.

“You’re ashamed of how much they affect you. How they crack your Knight persona.”

Link swallowed, feeling attacked. This was an ambush. He rested his arms across his bent knees, hiding himself from her cunning stare. She held no malice in it, but there was a challenge.

She was challenging him to do what, exactly?

Link’s eyes narrowed back at her dangerously. There was no unclear warning in his voice, “What exactly are you expecting from me right now, Princess?

Great question. Thoughts flicked through her eyes, too fast for Link to read. Finally, she settled on an answer. She leveled him with a cloying smile. “The riddle demands that I make you at home. So that’s what I intend to do.” She leaned forward and whispered, “Hope you’re comfortable.”

Desire flooded him and settled behind his navel.

Link’s face contorted in outrage. Brazen! He wanted to contradict her, to tell her that isn’t what the riddle demands of them, but it was just close enough to the truth that he couldn’t. Not-Zelda sighed softly, a little laugh to herself at some unseen sensation.

He could feel the restraints he’d so carefully secured around himself rattling.

The knight ran his hand through his hair so hard he messed up his ponytail. He leveled her with a dangerous stare, a warning. You’re being unkind.

Zelda stared back at him royally, I’m not kind

He watched her chest heave under his Hylian tunic, nipples pointing towards the door on instinct. Her toes curled without her attention. A soft glow reflected firelight off the surface of her skin.

“You’re enjoying this,” accuses the Knight.

She feigned innocence, which only set him off further.

She was just toying with him again! Sure, she’d reassured him that she’d had no ill-will in the hot springs, but Link couldn’t help feeling cagey. They’re in the literal dark corners of his mind, and she’s using it against him! He can’t possibly be any more contrite or punished.

He refuses to let her lord this power over him.

“Wanna know what I think, Princess?” Link says lowly, deadly calm. He watched as her smug expression waned to anxiety. She didn’t answer him. “I think that you know that this place uses both of our memories for each location. I think because you remember that night, it will play out from start to finish. You’re making me stay here for a reason.”

He leaned forward, lupine eyes piercing her with heat.

 “I think you want me to hear you finish,” Link growls.

Not-Zelda mewled salaciously in their ears.

His devastating stare warped into a smile as her face must have revealed that he was right. Got you. Zelda was mortified to feel slickness between her thighs, ruining his shorts. She felt her body thrumming in time to her rapid pulse.

The mechanical buzzing noise grew louder. Her breathing sped up, desperate and fast. Lewd, wet sounds echoed.

“You push me…”

He shifted to his knees, adding menacing height.

“You toy with me…”

He intruded their shared no-man’s land.

“You torment me just to see me react.”

Zelda shivered as he leaned down to speak into her ear. “But you seem to have forgotten something, Princess.” His nose brushed the shell of her ear so softly she could’ve mistaken it for her own hair.

“I have more experience exercising self-control than you do.” And he gently bit her ear.

Both Zeldas whined.

Her hand gravitated to his thigh, wanting more. Wanting him to make good on his threats, whatever that means. She shut her eyes and leaned in to see if his neck tasted as good as it smelled.

She cried out, suddenly, as a wave of pleasure crashed over her.

Cold air was all she found. He pulled away suddenly, making a fast, calculated motion. She heard a mechanical sound in front of her face. What?

When she opened her eyes, Link was already walking down the corridor. He left the slate face-up on the stone. An image displayed on it.

It was a picture of her own face, needy and wanting.

Got you.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

Zelda stared after him, dumbstruck.

The cheeky image on the slate taunted her.

What in Hylia just happened?!

An aching need sat heavy and uncomfortable at the apex of her thighs, and the apparition of his breath in her ear trembling. Not-Zelda had fallen blissfully quiet in the aftermath of her pleasure.

Link’s point was made loud and clear: Have some respect.

He’d disappeared around a corner, but she knew where he had gone. There was only one place left in these memories he could go.

 Dazed and thoroughly put in her place, Zelda shook off the feeling that she’d been chastised, collected the slate, and followed after him.

A comforting blue glow played in her peripheral.

When she found Link, he was bent at the hot spring, examining a duplicate of his hair band floating on the surface. He heard her approach but didn’t indicate so with any more flourish than a tilt of his head. By all appearances, he hadn’t done anything out of the normal at all.

Didn’t have her trembling and wanting, listening to herself achieve climax.

Zelda swallowed, trying to get a grip on herself. He was right: she did have less experience in self-control.

Link was calm and attentive, as if he was foraging for mushrooms and not standing in the memory he was most ashamed of. In fact, he looked just as at home here as he would in Kakariko Forest.

“Link?”

The knight turned to her, arms folded behind his back and at attention. He was formal and awaiting an order. The last time he’d done this, she’d been worried that their friendship was gone. But this time, she found it more endearing than anything else.

Choosing to drop it for the time being, Zelda focused on their mission. “It’s odd that this memory is included in the series. We were both there for it. I thought I already understood it.” She spoke as if she were describing the anatomy of a Talus: scientific.

The knight nodded in the affirmative.

It seemed odd. Neither was totally sure what to do with this task. Zelda didn’t want to submerge herself, but she did indulge in sitting on the edge with her feet in the water. “It seems redundant for you to explain what transpired here,” Zelda says, filling the silence.

Link didn’t say anything. He was looking past her to the corridor they’d just came from. Kittee stood in the threshold, watching them. While still dwarfed by the Hylians, the creature’s legs held more power, paws spreading silent weight over the stone with the purpose of predation.

Had they not noticed how much Kittee had grown while it was shadowing them?

Link extended his hand to the creature, inviting it to come sniff. The feline trotted over and obliged, petting him back with its soft muzzle. The creature stood tall enough to accomplish this without him kneeling.

“We were right,” comments Zelda, smiling despite herself. “But since we’ve reached the end, what more is there for us to do?”

Kittee sniffed Link’s leg, pawing at his thigh. It wanted something in his pocket. Link silently fed more of their leftovers to the creature, partly because he wanted to and partly because its claws were sharp. The memory of pain on his hand burned.

One hand getting licked clean of all bird residue, Link gestured with his free hand to the slate.

Zelda understood and swiped past their two close-up shots to the picture of the riddle. “The path home will be revealed when one is nurturing, and home is found in another.” She chewed on the inside of her cheek thoughtfully. “The other trials opened a path where we first saw the inscription. So maybe the path home is literally at your home, Link.”

This seemed to make sense to him. He opened his mouth to agree, but words were cut off by his yelp. “Ow!” He tore his hand away from the Kittee’s jaws, having mouthed him too hard. It’s face-swords were sharp too! “Hey, quit it,” he growls at the animal.

Its cunning eyes were blown wide with interest, crouched and hunting Link’s hand like a wolf stalks an elk. The Kittee launched forward, both paws curled mercilessly around his wrist and sinking teeth into his bicep. The weight nearly pulled him off balance.

Way, way, too much! Link’s body reacted faster than he could, whirling to force the feline’s jaws harder onto his arm and pry them wider than they’re designed. This shocked the Kittee enough into letting go. “Hey! Back off!” Link’s voice boomed.

The playful wriggling of its tail stopped, and its ears flattened. The creature bolted out into the darkness.

Zelda stared after it, stricken. It had never given them any indication that it was dangerous, but blood still trickled from Link’s wrist and bicep. “Are you okay?” she came over to inspect him.

“They’re not deep,” he reports.

“It… didn’t look like it had intent to harm.” Still, the larger the Kittee got, the greater the swords it wielded.

Feeling uneasy, they headed back.

~*~*~*~*~*~

“Dresser, third drawer,” Link informed. While Zelda went up to the loft, Link inspected the book that held the riddle. All of the other pages were blank, and there was nothing on the spine or either cover.

Zelda returned, sitting at the dining room table beside him. She placed a medical kit on the table and began unpacking. He didn’t really care for it, but Link knew better than to tell her not to bind his wounds. She knew enough about all the gruesome ways that they could get infected. “It’s fine” is a phrase she doesn’t respond to.

“Any change?” Link shook his head. His eye pinched at the sting of the cleaning agent she dabbed on him. “That’s strange. We’ve fulfilled the challenge as far as I can tell. Is there anything about the spring you were supposed to divulge?” She followed the cleaning agent with a specialized mighty elixir. It should make his cells strong enough to fight off infection, so long as the Kittee didn’t have anything he could catch.

Could the Kittee even contract a disease?

Link shook his head. “There’s really nothing you don’t know at this point.”

She sensed he was being truthful, judging from his exhausted tone.

“Mm.” She completed the binding by applying gauze to his bicep and wrist. “Maybe we missed something.”

Link didn’t like the idea of going back and combing for memories they missed, but he didn’t voice it.

Deciding she was finished, Zelda stood and made for the door. They’d already fed all of their leftovers to the creature. “In any case, we should get started on—” She stopped. The Kittee sat right in front of the door. It set a bird at her feet that wasn’t just casually dead; it was mangled to death. “Dinner.”

Link glanced around her, disliking the distance between Zelda and the creature. He wished he had a weapon to pull. He could make for a torch.

Zelda tipped her head at the creature, tail wriggling back and forth at it. The Kittee was… smaller? Only a little, but it definitely had shrunk. It looked quite pleased with itself, and Zelda realized that it was a gift. She collected the remains of the crane hesitantly. “Thank you, Kittee.”

The creature mewed back at her happily.

Zelda exchanged a glance with Link. Then, she decided that dangerous or no, she isn’t one to be ungrateful of a gift. She pet Kittee’s ears and gently brushed past. “I really think it wasn’t trying to hurt you, Link. Maybe that’s how it plays.”

Link followed right behind her. The creature’s ears flattened as he came too close, an anxious gesture.

“It’s smaller,” Link observes.

“Could we have done something wrong? We went through all of your memories.” Link shook his head, stumped. Zelda hummed and surveyed the small island. With all of the lanterns lit, she could see to the beaches all the way around except for those hidden by the hill behind the house. Nothing looked different. “I’m going to check it out.”

Link gave it a moment’s thought. He’d prefer for her to leave the area if the Kittee is in it, just to be safe. So long as he keeps it here with him, he could be relatively at ease. Zelda took her leave to sweep the island, leaving Link and the glowing feline staring at each other.

He collected the crane, no sudden movements, and began the process of cleaning it to prepare it for dinner. The gnarled body of the creature spoke to what the claws and fangs it possessed could do. It seemed to sense his anxiety and wouldn’t come closer.

It was unlike a dog, which would growl or whine whatever it wanted to communicate. However, Link was picking up on subtle cues. Calm meant its pupils were blade shaped. Wide means it wants to attack.

It flopped on its side, licking its paws. Its claws glowed yellow.

Testing a theory, Link pulled a long flight-feather from the bird, holding it by the quill. The tip just barely grazed the ground. He watched the creature snap to attention, pupils dilating in rapt attention.

He could work with that.

~*~*~*~*~*~

This island is smaller than it had first seemed. It couldn’t be much bigger than the castle grounds in diameter. She’d explored all over, reliving each nice anecdote Link had told her about each place. Nothing was different than her first tour.

However, one thing that seemed odd to her was a flat, round rock just at the edge of the firelight. Was that there the first time she saw this beach? It was just at the edge of firelit visibility, thigh-deep into the sea. It is possible she could have missed it the first time. Curious, she approached it.

Not like these shorts weren’t already in need of a wash.

Holding the torch and the hem of the Hylian tunic up to stay dry, Zelda climbed onto the rock. It was the exact height of the ocean. Water barely skimmed the surface with each wave. Aside from its suspicious perfection and exact sealevel height, Zelda couldn’t find anything else useful about it. There wasn’t anything reactive to Stasis or Magnesis.

She supposed she could try Cryonis, but she wouldn’t know where she was going. Besides, she didn’t have shoes.

With a sigh, Zelda gave up. She’d already had a long day of exploring and would appreciate a rest and a good meal.

“Link?” she called, just to let him know she was approaching, “I couldn’t… find…”

Words she was about to say fell limp in the air because no one was listening. No, she found Link perched in a tree. He had rigged a long feather to a tree branch. He teased the Kittee back, forth, got it to jump and swat at the makeshift toy. Link had a smile that made Zelda’s chest full.

The Kittee spun in a tight circle until it wasn’t sure if it was chasing its own tail or the toy.

Zelda took in the scene. Has she ever seen Link just have fun?

No, she realized, this is the first time.

He hadn’t even noticed her, so was he caught up in his games. Smiling to herself, Zelda made her way over to the fire to warm up her still-wet legs and shorts. Dinner was simmering in the pot and she watched the knight jump from the tree, trailing the teaser behind him. Predictably, the Kittee pounced and followed after it.

It was moving too fast to really tell but Zelda could’ve sworn it had grown in the time she’d been gone.

Link seemed to finally realize Zelda was back. He tossed the toy in the air for the Kittee to catch. He left it on it’s back bunny-kicking the weak toy to pieces. “Hey,” he greeted, out of breath.

“Hey yourself,” Zelda answers, amused. “You’re good with animals.”

Link laughed, a little bashful at the compliment. “Did you find anything?”

The mirth drained from Zelda’s eyes and she gave him a dim smile. “No. I thought I saw something out of the ordinary, but it turned out to be nothing. We’re just as stuck as we were when we got here.” Just to confirm, she checked the time.

Still 5:48PM -39*F.

Link made a sound that was supposed to be disappointed, but he didn’t really seem it. He looked too happy to be brought down by bad news. He stirred the mix of shrooms and crane. “Should be ready soon. We’ll deal with it after that.”

Zelda nodded.

He was impossibly unfazed by her. Did he have no recollection of what had happened? No wonder she assumed he wasn’t Hylian. It seems profoundly unfair, since she could barely glance his way, shirtless and all hard lines, glistening with the sweat from playing—

“Zelda.”

She blinked, brought out of her thoughts. “Huh?”

“I said, would you please get the dishes?” He was neutral, unreadable. But Zelda knew she’d been caught. She swallowed and darted off to do as she was asked.

Is this what it’s been like for him this whole time?

How is it that she, a member of the royal family, Princess of Hyrule, anointed with the Blood of the Goddess, can be reduced to such a state as skittish?

She scolded herself for such ignoble behavior, collected the wares, and steeled herself to return.

As soon as she opened the door, she heard the incessant caterwauling the Kittee yowled at Link. “Calm down, you’ll get some,” he yelled out over the noise. That didn’t shut it up.

“Kittee, comport yourself with civility,” Zelda scolded in good humor. That, also, did not shut it up.

Only carving out a generous helping of meat for it got it to hush its demanding meows. Predictable.

“You figured out how to get it to play with you without getting hurt,” Zelda praised. “I was right that it doesn’t have a desire to hurt us.”

Link nodded, serving their portions of tough-shroom roasted meat. “That doesn’t mean that it isn’t dangerous.”

He seemed to view horses with the same reverence and healthy fear. If he can get a Princess to heel, he should have no issues with training any animal.

They shared a comfortable silence as they ate. Well, silence as in no one spoke, not as in quiet. Kittee was overjoyed, making some gnawing noise as it scraped meat from bones. It could have easily eaten it raw, but it wanted Link’s cooking, and even pestered him into making it. It must have some level of sentience to recognize the difference.

It looks like it’s gotten bigger since the last time Zelda’s looked at it, but it’s impossible to tell. She couldn’t tell if there really was a change, or if she just saw a change she wanted to see.

To her surprise, the creature crunched the bones into tiny shards.

Even if it is kind, it still holds a level of danger to it.

“I wonder… what purpose does the Kittee play other than to tell us how we’re doing in the shrine?”

Link turned to her, listening. She took that as a prompt to continue. “That is, the other shrines didn’t give us an indication of success until we achieved it. We just had to guess.” She supposed they’re still just guessing. “But this one, we receive feedback. I wonder why?”

The knight let out a soft sigh. “Probably just to make sure we didn’t back out early,” he mumbled.

Zelda laughed lightly at his petulant tone. “Still… we must have done something wrong at the hot spring. It shrank afterwards, right?”

Link thought about it. He supposed she was right. “If we need to go back there and try again, we will,” said the brave knight, emblem of bravery that he was.

“Perhaps… However, I am not keen on a hike until aft—Kittee, you are insatiable!” Link’s anxiety notched up at the creature nosing under Zelda’s hand. That is, until he realized it was just begging for attention. Zelda happily obliged and scratched behind its ears.

She was about to finish her sentence, when she felt teeth on her.

Link was immediately on his feet, torch in hand.

“Link, wait!”

He paused, stilling his attack before he could even launch it.

Kittee’s mouth was around her hand, gentle as a lioness with her cubs. It pulled Zelda’s hand gently, more a gesture than an attack or play. “It doesn’t hurt.”

Curious, she stood and let the creature lead her by the hand.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

Link and Zelda trailed behind the creature as it stalked through the underbrush. Any time it got too much of a lead on them, it would stop and wait. Prior to this, it had always been following the Hylians, not the other way around.

This didn’t seem to make any sense. They’d succeeded in his series of shameful memories, only to fail somehow at the end, and now a new condition is introduced? Why then? It seemed arbitrary, and a niggling little thought wouldn’t leave Zelda alone. Something that said they had the whole premise wrong.

What exactly that was, she couldn’t begin to guess.

They were led to the suspicious rock that Zelda had investigated earlier. As if on instinct, or like it knew a secret that they didn’t, it honed in on the platform just at the surface. “What’s it… doing?” Kittee crouched low, wiggling as it focused, and launched forward onto the stone.

It just barely cleared the jump, back claws scrabbling on stone. It turned back to stare at them, expecting the Hylians to follow.

“The path forward…” Zelda murmured to herself. With a glance to one another they decided that this was their best bet, and waded into the water, trying to keep their torches aloft.

When they caught up, the Kittee did the same wriggling motion, and launched out further into the sea.

Except there was no splash; it had landed another platform. Neither Hylian could make that jump, and the water was too deep to bring torches with. Kittee watched them expectantly. Zelda dropped her torch with a splash and a sizzle. Then she took a breath and dove into the water.

~*~*~*~*~*~

They followed the creature like that for some time: The feline leaping from stone to stone, Hylians swimming after it. They floated in a surreal saline void. The entire universe only held water, stone, creature, and themselves. An eerie déjà vu hit Zelda. It felt like the trial of faith, where they floated in a dark void surrounded by water.

The Princess and the Hero, lost in time and space.

Frankly, Zelda thought that the novelty of the dreamscapes had worn off.

It seemed there was no end and no beginning to their series of stones. The cool water sapped heat from Zelda’s scalp and eyelids. Kittee was still perfectly dry.

It’s impossible to tell how long they did that.

Zelda’s arms burned from lifting herself out of the water over and over again, only to dive back in. Her equilibrium was thrown askew from never standing on solid ground long enough to get her bearings in a world with no sky, no horizon, and effectively, no up or down. Just water and not-water.

She was about to give up, when the feline landed in soft sand.

Link gave her a hand up from the beach, letting her get her bearings. His additional stores of stamina had come in handy.

“Please tell me we’re back in Hebra,” panted Zelda.

Unlikely.

She checked the slate. 5:48PM -39*F.

They were on a beach lit in soft moonlight, despite there being no sky above. The sand did not concede to any other biome; instead it stretched on endlessly before them. They found themselves in the Gerudo Desert.

Kittee watched them, as if waiting for them to do something.

Zelda squinted in the dim light, confused as to how they could only just see it as they landed on the beach. Perhaps the neon blue glow of the Kittee had obstructed their view. Or maybe it had sapped them of their night vision altogether.

“Is that…?”

Link followed her eyes. An enormous shadow towered in the distance. “Vah Naboris.”

In the expanse of the desert, they could see no other marker for them to aim for. Behind them sat an abyss of reflectionless water. Deciding there was no better option, they began their trek through the sand. On instinct, Link scanned for electric Lizalfos posing as desert rocks. Coarse sand clung to their wet legs.

“Why… the desert of all places?” Zelda wonders aloud.

Link made a face and shook his head. “I don’t have any fond memories of the desert.” Well, he did, but fond isn’t exactly the word either of them would use for it.

“Maybe we’re off Link Island, then.”

He passed her a look. Please don’t call it that.

The nearer they drew to Vah Naboris, the more they could make out something in its shadow: Squat, square, sturdy. He caught the sparkle in Zelda’s eye as she realized what it was.

“Gerudo Town!”

~*~*~*~*~*~

It was exactly as she remembered it.

The air still smelled like seared steak and palm fronds. Jewelry and hydromelons and voltfruits and Gerudo Vai outfits sat on display, as if there were customers to buy. However, there was no one there but Link and herself. Link glanced around, seemingly familiar with the city as well. The eerie feeling of kenopsia in this abandoned place had him on edge.

Zelda tried to break him out of it. She eyed the white Vai outfit. “Wanna try it on for old times’ sake?”

Link passed her a flat, unamused stare. Zelda didn’t miss the tinge of embarrassment on his cheeks. “White isn’t my color.”

Zelda smirked sidelong at him and tsked her tongue, disappointed. Now that she thought about it, he would make a cute girl.

They scoured for any sign of an inscription and naturally gravitated towards the throne room. Zelda half expected Urbosa to be seated upon her throne, belly-laughing at the enormous prank she’d managed to pull over the two of them.

She sighed. The reality was far worse. The throne was predictably empty.

Old Gerudo script that once adorned the back of the throne was absent, replaced with glowing letters:

 

A Major Test of Trust.

Zelda looked sour at the inscription. “They have somehow managed to become even more cryptic.”

Has this whole cursed exercise not been a major test of trust?

“Is it… significant that it’s on the throne?” She really couldn’t see why it would be. She glanced around for the Kittee to see if it provided any clues, but the only blue glow was that from the not-moon streaming in through the open balcony.

“Do you have any happy memories here?” Link asked, breaking his silence.

Come to think of it, this would be the closest thing she had.

“Yes… I believe so. I liked the change in culture. I liked being surrounded by self-reliant women. I was free to research Shiekah technology without the watchful gaze of the royal court.” It was the only time she was encouraged to pursue her passions.

Link felt something sad twist in him. Is this her only happy memory?

The desert somehow felt even more endless.

“I suppose that means that this place is my Zelda Island.” Link indicated that he thought it made sense. Even though the inscription this time was simple, Zelda still snapped a picture of it with the slate. “Well, I suppose we should get on with a tour, then.”

The torches were already lit through the halls, exactly as Zelda remembered them.

 She began her exploration by ascending the stairs to Chief Urbosa’s room. It was strange not to have any guards to nod to while they let her pass.  The room was elegant, with an oversized bed and plush furnishings. Exactly as she’d left it.

“Nothing different…” Zelda mumbled to herself. Perhaps that was the point. “Urbosa would braid my hair on the bed while I was engrossed in a book.” It was a happy memory, sure, but it didn’t exactly scream of trust, let alone a major test of it.

It’s amazing how much you miss the sky until you don’t have it.

Link didn’t have any outward reaction, which meant he was probably keeping it to himself.

“What do you think the Major Test of Trust is?” Zelda asked, following Link back down to the throne room towards the guard barracks. She didn’t comment on how he already knew his way around because she didn’t have to.

“If it’s anything like the last trial, then I just need to see your memories and we can move on.”

Why did Zelda feel like that wasn’t it? Yes, technically that had worked before. But it was inconsistent, The Kittee grew from Link’s memory of the door, but shrank after the hot spring. Then grew again inexplicably. It just… little things like that not adding up got under Zelda’s skin.

“I suppose. However, quite frankly, I feel that your trial would be better described as a Major Test of Trust than mine.”

Link raised his eyebrows at her. “You’re very confident that you have nothing to hide.”

Was that a hint of cheekiness? He’s so neutral, it’s hard to tell.

Zelda broke his gaze and stuck her nose up. “You were already there for all of my worst moments.” He thought she meant recently, but then it struck him that she was referring to the Springs of Wisdom, Courage, and Power. Before he could tell her otherwise, she broke in, “Hey, did you pick up that duplicate of your hair band?”

Quick subject change. He didn’t say anything, just produced the band from around his wrist.

“Thank you.” She blocked her view of him with her elbows and tied up her still-damp hair.

They explored Gerudo Town: The shops without vendors, the barracks without soldiers, the pens without sand-seals. The secret door with the password required to enter it. Link very studiously ignored all of the images his cursed mind was supplying him of the ‘wares’ inside that place.

He said nothing, and Zelda said nothing of his saying nothing. Neither said a thing as they moved back in to the central plaza.

“It must be strange to be able to walk around openly as a Voe here. Weren’t you scared of getting caught?” Characteristically, Zelda broke the silence.

Link shrugged. “Gerudo women don’t seem to know much about men. They didn’t find me of suspect.”

Zelda pilfered a voltfruit from a stand, reclining against a fountain wall as she watched him. “I don’t know, Link. Have you considered that maybe you just make for a pretty girl?” She peeled back the leaves, enjoying his shy expression. “Besides, some Gerudo women know more about Voe than most Voe do.”

Link quirked a brow at her.

“I’m serious! They even have classes on the subject.”

The knight crossed his arms and squinted hard. Classes you’ve attended.

She squinted back, reading. “To answer your question, yes, I did attend. Loath as my father is to admit it, I am a scholar. The class was very informative.” She sounded more royal than normal. Which was impressive, given her mouthful of tingling voltfruit.

Link’s wry grin was plenty of an answer. I’m not gonna ask.

~*~*~*~*~*~

They’d explored all of Gerudo town and everything was exactly the same: The jewelry shop with sparkling baubles, the pen for Urbosa’s sand seal pup Patricia, the Hotel Oasis, the storeroom, the barracks, and, yes, the classroom where she attended the Intermediate Voe course. Link was underwhelmed, but at least entertained.

The practice dummies had smiley faces drawn on them.

There were only two locations that Link knew of that they hadn’t visited, and he’d really prefer it if it stayed that way.

Stumped, they returned to the throne room.

Zelda sat on the steps, because even without Urbosa here, it doesn’t seem right to sit on the Chief’s throne. “By all appearances, this is the same as the real Gerudo Town, just without all of the inhabitants.” She seemed discouraged. Link recognized that voice. It was the prelude to her giving-up voice.

“Prin—Zelda,” Link corrected. He had an idea of something but didn’t seem sure how to ask.

“Go ahead,” she prompted.

“Is… Gerudo Town your only happy memory?” He wanted to know for the purposes of the trial, sure, but there’s no mistaking that it hurts to think this is all she has.

Zelda thought about it. “I mean, really happy?” She stared down at her hands in her lap. “I don’t know. I felt… free. Unburdened. When I focus on learning more about Shiekah technology, I forget myself and my so-called destiny.”

If Link’s theme was peacefulness, was Zelda’s theme freedom?

“Don’t take this the wrong way, Link, but I had finally gotten some distance from you. Well, not you. You, the Hero. The partner in a destiny I don’t think I’m meant to have. Just surrounded by Gerudo women who don’t know Hylia’s name, I got to be whoever I wanted. I got to be Zelda, the Divine Beast Technician.”

Link shook his head, not taking any offense. It made sense. Zelda’s apology all that time ago had already laid the foundation for her words.

He peered into the open wall behind the throne. The shadow of Vah Naboris stood out against the highlands in the distance.

“Perhaps your island is on Vah Naboris.”

Zelda sat up straighter to follow his eyeline. It would make sense. The wonder of being on Vah Naboris would set her spirits right, even if it was just a memory.

“It very well could be. However, there is no way to get onto the platform of Naboris while it stands. We’d need to be inside the beast in order to reach the terminal to activate it. And without any way to make it lay down, there’s no way to reach the terminal."

Zelda tried a different approach, “Perhaps the Major Test of Trust involves paragliding from the mountains with me.” She could think of nothing more trying of her trust than that, considering their last attempt.

Link eyed the climb up Vah Naboris's Legs. Even with his stamina and skill, there’s simply no way he could scale it.  Perhaps he could try parasailing off the highlands, but even then it was risky with Zelda on board. They’d descend too quickly. Besides, how would Zelda make the climb up to the top of the highlands, anyway? They didn’t have protective clothing.

Did they even need protective clothing here?

Wait. He doesn't even have his parasail! It's in his korok pouch.

 “I don’t think that’s the answer to the riddle,” says Link honestly.

Zelda made a face, disliking the fact that they were in agreement.

“That leaves the issue of getting there. Perhaps the reward for solving the trial is access to Vah Naboris. Therefore, the answer must be possible to achieve here in Gerudo Town. We just have to find out what the Major Test of Trust entails.”

Zelda thought on it a while, undisturbed by Link’s silence. There wasn’t much to do in this town without the inhabitants, and a trip to Naboris at this point would be fruitless shy of some miracle. In addition, where had the Kittee gone? Had its use expired?

For some reason, that pulled a heartstring for her. She was just beginning to get attached to the creature.

She glanced to Link, who stared off into the distance. The light from an absentee moon cut the cords and highlights of his collarbones and neck in striking contrast. His hair wasn’t totally dry yet. Zelda had an idea of what the Major Test of Trust could be…

Mipha honing her power by thinking of her Love for Link.

The cave rewarding them for huddling.

The hot springs opening as Link’s hand trailed lower.

His eyes searing her while she heard her own voice climax.

Even though it didn’t quite line up one hundred percent with all of the trials, the closest unifying theme seems to be… whatever that is.

Link’s arms flexed and wide shoulders burgeoned as he lifted his hands to redo the hairband loosened from their swim. It seemed like a cruel thing to inflict upon her at a time like this.

“I can’t work like this,” Zelda sighs. “I need to write this all down. I’m losing track of my own thoughts.”

There’s only one workspace here she knows she can be productive at.

Chapter Text

Zelda opened the door to her room and strode in without a second thought. Her room was just as trashed as she had left it. Guardian gears and ancient screws and pieces of giant cores were scattered and dismembered on every available surface. Notes lay in semi-organized in precarious piles. Her journal full of field notes still lay on the floor.

She was busy pulling miscellaneous notes from her makeshift corkboard to create some workspace, when Zelda noticed Link standing outside the room, not looking particularly comfortable.

The princess passed him a wry stare, “Link. At this point, it is stranger to linger than to enter.” Which, to those who speak in fluent Zelda, was code for move, before I make a comment neither of us want to hear.

He snapped himself out of it and entered, leaving the door open. It was a large room, fit for a noble, with fine furnishings and an immodest-sized bed. The chaos of her experiments somehow made this place feel homier than her room in Hyrule Castle.  It was unmistakably Zelda’s.

Zelda largely ignored the knight and left him to his own devices. She was busy making flow charts and notecards with subjects and additional information and simple illustrations; A traditional Hyrule Compendium in her flowing script hand. Except the Compendium was for this strange memory-world, and not Hyrule.

He watched her for some time, trying to follow her logic just based on which note was pinned where, but gave up. Zelda’s mind was something she could barely untangle herself, let alone be skimmed by an outsider.

 

Trial 1:

  • Attempted: Runes. Building fire (why were we given materials to do so?)
  • Result: Unsuccessful.
  • Sharing body heat.
  • Result: Successful.                                                                                                      
  • Physical touch: Required.

Trial 2:

  • Attempted: Giving/Receiving physical gift, Secrets, High-five, Compliment, Cooking Tips, Constructive Criticism.   
  • Result: Unsuccessful.                                                                                                                                                 
  • Physical reciprocity.
  • Result: Successful, required.

Trial 3:

  • Attempted: Descending stairs; Placing Link in stasis/rescuing.
  • Result: Unsuccessful 
  • Leap of faith, holding hands.
  • Result: Successful.
  • Physical touch: Required?? Cannot confirm.

Trial 4:

  •  Attempted: Exploring Link’s memories w/ anecdotes.
  • Result: Mixed??                                                                                                                                  
  • Kittee grew steadily until final memory. Shrank, grew again, then presented path.
  • Final memory needed to be relived? First instance of regression. If not completed, why pass the trial? 
  • Physical Touch: Not required.

 

Zelda continued to agonize over her notes. She wrote down all possible origins and conflicting theories regarding Mipha and her connection to Link. As far as she could tell, the Trials of Unity were set on pushing her and Link together, whether that was what they wanted or not. There’s conflicting evidence that these trials are purely physical, which is both relieving and terrifying.

It’s not that she’s adamantly opposed. It’s just that it seems strange in the context of her receiving powers from the Goddess. Especially given that three Champions wielded powers without love for Link. Zelda still has the feeling that she’s missing something important.

So enraptured was she in solving the puzzle that she completely forgot the other half of the Unity trials.

He was busy rifling around, curious about her various enterprises. Two pieces of cores connected via wiring seemed to transfer sound at a one-to-one ratio. A set of gears rigged together plucked a set of taught strings, creating a simple tune. As far as he could tell, these mechanical units were built by Zelda for the simple pleasure of building them.

Link smiled at her little brain-children scattered over the surface of the fine dresser.

The dresser probably held more of them inside. He pulled open the nearest drawer but found himself disappointed to find it full of clothes. “There’s clean clothing over here if you’d like to change out of my tunic,” he says to the room without looking at her.

Zelda made a meh sound back at him. Leave me alone, I’m busy.

He thought perhaps he might do well with a fresh change himself and sought out something suitable for him. Preferably not silky or cropped.

The top-center drawer might be his best bet. Nothing seemed too flashy-- probably of Hylian make-- and held Zelda’s riding clothes. Their dimensions were different, but perhaps he could make do with—

Something solid paused his rifling.

What is that?

He pushed a pair of trousers aside, and found a smooth, slim object. It was dense and heavy in his hand. A topaz shined brightly in the firelit space, reflecting yellow disco lights onto his face. It seemed both mechanical and beautiful, but he couldn’t possibly begin to imagine what it was for. Or why it was left in this place while all others were scattered about.

“Link, I believe I have reached an impasse. There is conflicting evidence in favor of our—” Zelda stopped dead in her tracks. She turned to see Link standing in front of her dresser, examining an object. “What are you…?”

He cocked his head at the object, brows furrowed in concentration.

Zelda desperately tried to figure out what he was holding. It was just out of sight.

He fiddled with it, examining it for functionality. Realization crept up from the underbrush of her mind.

“Wait, no! Don’t—"

Too late. Link discovered something. He turned the base of it and yelped when it suddenly buzzed in his hand. The object landed heavily on the stone, clattering as it vibrated violently. Startled, Link watched it rotate itself in wide circles on the floor.

He turned questioning eyes to Zelda. What area of her face she didn’t cover with her hands was flushed a deep, ruddy color. She looked absolutely mortified.

“What is…?” Link felt like he’d heard that sound before, but he’d never encountered an object like this.

Zelda squeaked, “Turn it off!”

Link knelt to do as she said. It was such a foreign sensation in his hand, like an entire earthquake in his palm. Almost like being shocked by a Wizrobe. He twisted the base again and found that the thing shook impossibly faster.

“Other way!”

Finally, finally, the thing fell silent. His hand was left with a strange memory of the tremble. He looked for answers in Zelda’s eyes, but she had buried them into her hands.

“Hylia, Goddess who guards the voices of the Spirit Realm, please give me strength to overcome these challenges presented to me…” she prayed under her breath.

Link had never seen her like that. Why was she so embarrassed that he’d found this—

Oh.

Oh!

Link had heard that sound before. Just muffled.

A part of him relished in the revenge of feeding her a taste of her own medicine. Is this why she delights in messing with me? He can see the appeal of it now.

Link, ever the gentleman, set the object on the dresser and tamed his amusement back into neutrality. “Sorry, Princess,” he said, giving no clues other than not being sorry. Mercifully, he turned her attention back to her work. “I hadn’t meant to cut you off. What were you going to say?”

Zelda blinked back at him in a way that could only be described as endearing.

“…About an impasse?” he prompted.

Right.

“I—Uh.” He was giving her an out. She really ought to take it. “Um. Yeah. The—the trials. I…” She cleared her throat and collected her thoughts. She turned back to the corkboard, which helped. Link came up to her side to examine her work, which helped less. His hands were behind his back, ever her appointed knight.

“I’m trying to create a unified theory on what exactly the trials are trying to accomplish by having us complete them. Most shrines just ask you to solve a puzzle or demonstrate strength. This is with the purpose of making you strong and clever enough to defeat Ganon. However, with both of us crucial to this assignment, I’m unsure what that end goal is supposed to represent. The trials are making us do something with the purpose of accomplishing what?”

Link looked over her notes, processing what she had to say.

The incipient dread on his face seemed to indicate that he’d thought of something.

“What is it?”

Zelda watched him grind his teeth, deciding whether to say what he was thinking. He fidgeted with the hairs on the nape of his neck.

When it seemed he had decided not to say anything, Zelda cut him a hard stare. “You obviously have an idea. Just say it, and we’ll decide together if it’s a good one.”

Link licked his lips, looking everywhere but at her. She didn’t miss the way his ears turned red. “Well… I…” he swallowed, then grimaced. “I do but… I don’t think you’re going to like it.”

Chapter Text

Link shouldn’t have said anything.

He should have just kept his huge mouth to himself! This is why he’d become selectively mute in the first place.

His role as the Hero began and ended with his duty to defeat Ganon, nothing more. He was sworn to protect Princess Zelda. That’s it. Those are his two jobs. He should never have stepped outside those bounds.

Zelda stood clear across the room from him, arms akimbo in disbelief.

Link’s expression was sheepish. Told you that you wouldn’t like it.

“That idea hardly seems worthy of Hylia’s blessing,” she snorted. “It’s boorish! It’s…” She tried to conjure more ways to say ridiculous than she’d already used.

Link got the distinct sense that he was supposed to step in and say something. However, that’s a task too big for a mouth he no longer trusted to wield tactfully.

She paced back over to her workdesk, wind whooshing past Link. Her eyes tore over her notes, and she reshuffled them, as if that would produce some sort of epiphany.

It only yielded her frustration.

“It is a mutual memory we have,” she observed scientifically. “As far as a Major Test of Trust is concerned, it seems like overkill.” Perhaps that’s the point. This had better be the final trial. Zelda’s not sure how much of this she can take.

Link nodded, refusing to meet her eye.

“How would we even know if it worked?”

Link made a vague gesture about the height of the Kittee and raised it.

“Right. It would grow, most likely. That is, assuming it is still a functional part of the trial.”

Silence fell, stagnant and heavy.

Zelda let out a loud, long-suffering sigh and sat on the edge of her bed. Her eye shifted to the dresser, then away again as if it had a glare of the sun.

Link considered throwing himself from the tallest waterfall in Gerudo.

She ran her nails through her scalp which messed up her already hastily tied-up hair. Her breathing was heavy, but Link heard her take deliberate measures to calm herself. To think about this rationally.

 “The last two trials arguably did not require— Why would…?” Link made a silent gesture that indicated she didn’t have to elaborate. She swallowed, clearly not unaffected by nervousness. “It’s… a lot to ask of me.”

It’s a lot to ask of either of us.

Link knew he had to speak. “I know. We don’t have to. We can try other things first. We could… visit Vah Naboris to see if there’s any clues there.”

Zelda’s nose curled at that. That would do nothing, and they both knew it. Loath as she was to admit it, Link’s idea is the closest thing in line with what the trials had asked of them so far.

 Besides, if he had an entire trial dedicated to his most shameful memories, wouldn’t it only be fair for her to be asked to overcome similar obstacles?

I have a lot more experience practicing self-control than you do.

Zelda swallowed, her voice a small, scared creature between them. “Do… do you think you have to…?”

Link didn’t know what to say. She looked so vulnerable. Like in the Trial of Faith when he’d rejected her desperate solicitation. He forced his throat to drop the lump lodged in it, then summoned the courage to sit at her side.

“I… don’t know. Probably.” He searched for something both comforting but not eager. “The worst that happens is that we’re wrong and we have to figure something else out.” The look on Zelda’s face indicated that wasn’t the right thing to say, and he winced.

He tried again. “You were patient and understanding while in my memories. It’s the least I can do to be the same way.”

That seemed to hit a little deeper. Her eyes softened back at him, just enough to warrant him giving her an encouraging smile.

“And if we’re wrong, then at least we’ll consider ourselves even.”

Zelda laughed despite the ridiculousness of the situation. It at least managed to soften some of the tension in the room. Link did his best not to eye the subject of their discussion. He’d very unwisely left it on top of the dresser.

It sat there, judging them.

“What do you call it?” he asked before he’d even realized he’d spoken.

Zelda’s face darkened. That’s not strictly necessary for him to know! Still, she considered it. “I… never really thought about a label.” She huffed a laugh that wasn’t really amused, “I’d only ever referred to it as my new best friend.”

Link tried not to laugh. He really did.

It earned him a scathing look. Be nice.

“Sorry!” he held up his hands like two white flags.

Her curled lip indicated his apology was most certainly not accepted. Still, she sighed and stared at her hands curled in her lap. Maybe, if she could just focus on that, it would be like he wasn’t even there. They’d come out of it just the same as when they started.

Just best friends.

Resolved, she finally cut the heavy silence.

“Okay.”

Link blinked at her. He wasn’t expecting a yes to that at all. His skin felt like it would melt off.

“What?”

“Okay. Let’s try.” Her eyes were steely with determination.

Something else seemed to occur to her. Link realized too late that it was playfulness. She cut her voice low and stared at him through her lashes, “I’ll let you back out of our bet if you do it wearing a Vai outfit.”

It took him a second. When he realized what she meant, Link laughed, pressed his palm to his forehead and shook it from the sheer absurdity of the situation.

“No, thanks.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

This might be the most uncomfortable Link has ever been in his life.

He’d found a fresh tunic that just barely fit him, as if wearing more clothing was going to make this any less scandalous. Was he not the same guy concerned with logistics of his own beheading when she was just looking to survive the cold?

He moved around the room, extinguishing the torches for her. It’s about the closest thing to being gentlemanly that this situation calls for.

“Thanks…” murmurs Zelda, curled in the plush bedding.

Link doesn’t say anything, not that he could.

His eyes adjusted quickly to the dim moonlight filtering in through the high window. However, it wasn’t perfect. Not knowing what to do with himself, he crossed towards the sofa where he’d presumably bash his skull against the wall.

He tripped over a haphazardly placed pile of books.

Zelda’s soft giggle cut the strange silence. Apparently, he was as nervous as her.

He collected himself and crawled onto the cushions, wishing that he could push it back a few miles further from the bed. Instead, he sat far enough away that his toes could touch the mattress if he stretched them.

The anxious sound of Link clearing his throat was deafening.

Without the background white noise of fire crackling, or Gerudo natives outside chatting, or wind in palm fronds or anything for that matter, the silence screamed in their ears.

Poor Zelda must be mortified. He knew what that felt like.

If the roles were reversed, what kindness would she give him?

“Y-you can tell me to leave. Any point. I’ll go. No questions asked.”

That came out hastier than he would have liked, but he saw Zelda nod. She wasn’t any less anxious.

It’s just too silent in here. For once, Link found himself unable to stay quiet, “Just… just pretend I’m not here.”

Zelda let out a histrionic growl of annoyance at him. “I would, if you’d just be quiet.” Under literally any under circumstance, Link would have laughed. Instead, he just held his breath.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Her heartbeat fluttered in her chest like a bird spooked in its cage. Zelda feared it beat so hard that it might actually get out.

Even with Link sitting perfectly still, doing nothing, saying nothing, she could feel his presence in the room. She even could feel when he was looking at her or not, based on the way the hairs on her arms would rise or fall. Even covered by his tunic and the thick comforters, she still felt naked.

Focus, Princess.

You want your powers? You’re gonna have to commune. Like he said, just ignore him. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the headboard. Her best friend sat heavily against her thigh under the blankets.

Zelda focused on her breathing, then the way her fingers felt against her bare thigh. Ticklish, light, trembling with nervousness. Her body already remembered this place, this bed, this friend. How it felt to engineer something with the sole purpose of her own pleasure. Building it herself. Fashioning it to a purchase from the password-protected store that she picked out herself, for herself.

The anticipation. The experimentation. She’d read extensively on Hylian biology, and had enjoyed pursuing her hypotheses of what would and would not lend pleasure to it.

Zelda dragged her nails through her curls, enjoying the shivers she gave herself just by being so near. Heat slowly trickled lower and lower like spring-melt. Her breathing sped up as she tested the waters. She was already so slick that she surprised herself.

Had she been tightly wound this whole time and not noticed? Or is it just the situation that had her so amped up?

She’d nearly forgotten.

Her eyes turned towards the sofa, and saw blue ones watching her in the dark between his fingers. He used his hands to cover his mouth and muffle his breathing. A surge of molten heat clamped behind her navel and Zelda whimpered a distressed sound.

He tensed as if he wanted to help her but had to restrain himself. She’s not in danger.

They made eye contact. Link’s face turned an impossible shade darker and he immediately looked away.

Don’t think about it, she chastised herself.

Her fingers moved, practiced, gently gliding over where she wanted it. Something primal in her wanted to grind down on the nub of nerves. Whether for the relief she wanted, or to sink under Link’s skin with the noises she made, Zelda was unsure.

It took effort, but she restrained.

It was so deadly quiet in the room, every minute shift of her fingers over her folds was louder than a round of applause. Embarrassment flooded her; He definitely could hear the viscous movement under the sheets. He’d know how her body already reacted to her own touch.

Would he assume it’s despite his presence, or because of it?

Unable to help herself, Zelda applied just the slightest bit more pressure to her clit, reveling in the mix of relief and need.

She was about to do it again, when she heard the wounded sound come from the dark room.

It snapped her out of her rhythm. Sweat dampened her neck and collarbones. She growled lowly, a sound of frustration in her throat. “Link,” she warned.

She wasn’t even sure what she was warning him against. He was doing his best to stay still and quiet, and she was doing her best to forget that he’s there.

Link’s voice came out much higher than normal, “Right! You’re right. I’m gonna go. Just—” He quickly stood, trying to figure out how to get to the door amidst the hidden mess.

“No, that’s not what I—” Zelda rolled her eyes and sighed, “Sit back down.”

He looked like a fox with his tail caught in a trap. Confused, he forced himself to slink back over to his post.

She shook her hair out, trying to shake off some of these nerves. “Sorry, sorry, I… I’m just not used to an audience.”

Link laughed, a timorous little sound. He’s clearly not used to being an audience. Ironic, considering his experience with the subject.

Zelda sighed and worked her way back down herself. It’s difficult to establish a flow with so many excess thoughts in her head. Still, she was the emblem of determination to her people, so she would do her best.

The slick glide of her own finger helped a lot with clearing out thoughts. A soft sound built in her chest as she gingerly circled it, then moved into herself, so gently. The sound she’d built released as a soft sigh as she reacquainted herself with the spot inside her that’s most effective.

Her toes curled as she worked it, then exited to spread the juices back up to her clit. She indulged herself in more pressure and her heart hammered in her chest, unable to supply it blood fast enough. It felt so good. Different, somehow, than how it normally is for her.

She’d nearly forgotten why.

Her head rolled luxuriously as she built a slow, steady rhythm, unwinding herself one brush at a time. Heavy eyelids blurred the room and hallucinations of stars whirled in front of her vision. Need and urgency continued to build, her hips rising to meet her own hand. Her best friend remained happily at her side.

She nearly gave in to her body’s growing demands, when her eyes opened enough to see Link. He’d slid to sit on the floor with his back against the sofa, one leg stretched out and one curled up. The heel of his hand ground against the front of his trousers, and his face looked absolutely wretched with pain.

Furious, roiling pleasure hit her abdomen-first. The effect this has on him. The way he bites down on his free fist to keep from crying out. The glistening of sweat on his brow.

He used every ounce of his self-restraint and it showed.

Zelda’s fingers moved without her say-so and she let out a throaty groan at the rush of pleasure.

Did he imagine her hand under the covers? Did he hear how slick she was? Did her moans haunt his dreams?

She increased the speed, and she spoke without meaning to, “Oh fuck…”

Zelda’s eyes rolled forward just in time to see Link freeze, staring up at her face in rapt attention. He’d never heard her swear either.

Her hips canted up. She felt sweat dampen the plush pillows behind her back.

They made eye contact again. This time, something in Link’s eyes penetrated her with desire. Silently, he communicated only one thing: Please.

Please what? Please be nice? Please don’t? Please let me leave?

Or please do?

The howling of Zelda’s body decided for her, and she reached for her best friend.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Link was wrong. They were dead. The fall from the stairs had killed them, and Link was serving his infinite sentence of soul-specific torment. This is his afterlife.

He had to watch.

Everything was on fire. Even without a sun to warm the desert, it still felt like midday in the middle of the Gerudo Wastelands. He could hear every tiny change in her breathing, her heartbeat, her pace as she worked herself in front of him.

The ache pressing against the front of his trousers was so great, Link thought he may burst into tears.

Instead, he just swallowed a sob and bit down on his fist again. She’d expressed in no unclear terms that she wanted him silent.

How did he even get himself into this mess? Wasn’t he just supposed to accompany the Princess to another Spring?

His hand trembled, and he fought against the urge to spit into it and relieve himself of this unbearable pressure.

That’s not part of it. You’re not allowed to enjoy this.

Just complete the trials, that’s it. Get her to the Spring, save Hyrule, and get out with your honor still intact.

At least, that was the plan.

She continued to grind into her own hand, to bring more and more crashing waves of pleasure. The dim moonbeams highlighted her jawline, the pulsing cords of her throat, and her collarbones as she built a burning pace. It was haunting and beautiful. Even with her under the covers, he could smell her. A heady rush of desire nearly split his skull in two.

Zelda opened her eyes and stared straight into his

He expected her to remember his immoral voyeurism and send him away.  However, inexplicably, their eye contact seemed to spur her on even more. To Link’s horror, he felt something wet on the front of his trousers. He couldn’t possibly get any harder from this.

Or so he thought.

She made a sudden movement that nearly spooked him right out of his skin. Link thought for a moment she was grabbing a weapon to beat him to death with (which would be fair), but then he heard that mechanical buzzing sound kick on.

Link thought he really was going to cry.

Zelda lowered the device to where she wanted it, and Link felt more than heard the groan it pulled from her: Desperate, needy, throaty. Link was helpless but to watch her face contort in a face equal parts pain and pleasure. The heel of his hand ground harder against the jump of his member, as if trying to hold a stallion on its belly.

Perhaps he should gnash his skull against the wall. It was easier than keeping himself silent.

He must have made a pathetic sound, because Zelda stilled. Yeah, probably best he go. She looked over at him, took in his agony. She visibly shivered.

“You… you can—” she tried, out of breath.

It was a gesture of kindness. You don’t have to just sit there.

His eyes nearly bulged out of his skull. She was offering him the opportunity to give himself release. He could feel every ounce of restraint he had drilled into himself since boyhood crumbling under his feet.

He wanted to so, so bad.

That’s not part of it. You’re not allowed to enjoy this. Don’t take advantage of the situation, knight!

Link ground his palms into his eyes and shook his head. This cursed meat-prison had him by a chokehold, demanding that he take it in a chokehold. No! Not here.

Just watch.

Zelda was blind to his inner turmoil.

Her moans notched up another octave as she adjusted herself. To Link’s horror and fascination, the buzzing sound slowly muffled. Zelda’s breath hissed through her teeth. She was sweating, chest heaving. Would she torment herself like this without him around? Was she still learning the techniques, or was he watching a master at work?

Zelda growled and kicked the covers away. Too hot.

Link couldn’t see her. Not properly, not from his low angle on the floor. Her thigh obscured his view, but he could see the sinewy strained muscle of her arms fight to keep machine and body in sync.

The friend became un-muffled, suddenly, and she pressed it lengthwise along her slit. Zelda cried out a high keening sound and Link couldn’t suppress the sound that was squeezed from his lungs.

Link felt like a man dying of thirst in the desert, chasing a mirage of water only to find more sand.

Can you die in an afterlife?

Both were so hypnotized by the exercise, that they had failed to recognize they weren’t alone.

Zelda adjusted her grip on her best friend, needing more, more! She was about to adjust to the next setting up, when something landed on the bed next to her.

She shrieked, sending the device flying. Link was immediately on his feet, lightheaded from lack of blood. The device clattered on the stone next to him and he briefly considered its utility as a weapon against whatever had scared Zelda.

The thing that had scared Zelda was just as spooked itself.

The Kittee’s ears flattened, golden tail leaves expanding like peacock feathers. It made a sound of surprise, having not expected their reactions.

“Kittee…?” Zelda breathed. At her soft tone, its tail slowly relaxed, curious. Given its crouched position and the specific mindstate she was in, Zelda couldn’t tell if it had grown or not. Still roughly the size of a common Hylian dog.

She glanced to Link to see if he was just as dumbstruck. He was.

Nobody said anything. Tension sat thick in the air and sucked all oxygen out of it. The best friend continued buzzing on the floor by Link’s foot.

“Grrr… reow?”

To Link’s surprise, Zelda burst into laughter. Not just light, polite, or nervous laughter. Full-out belly laughs wracking her entire body. She crossed her arms over her belly, holding it against the force of her mirth.

Link and Kittee exchanged eye contact. What??

No idea!

Zelda’s laughter rang throughout the room, and the longer the other two were silent, the harder her guffaws racked her body. Just when she sounded like she was winding down, she glanced over to Link’s face. “Pffft!” she choked on her laughter and was sent off into another bout of uproarious giggles.

 It was contagious. Link couldn’t suppress his own laughter in turn.

“Sorry! Sorry!” she wheezed, wiping a tear from her eye. “Your face! Sorry.” She turned back to the stunned creature, who was clearly rethinking sleeping on this particular comfy bed with its Hylians. With the hand that had been unused in this bed, Zelda reached over and pet the Kittee lovingly between its ears. “Kittee, darling, I love you so much. But your timing is atrocious.”

The Kittee seemed confused, but was getting loved and petted, so it seemed happy with that.

She scratched its chin and then pointed for the door. “Would you, um, be so kind as to…?” The creature didn’t understand her words but seemed to glean meaning from the gesture.

The Kittee made a face: You know what? Fine. Didn’t wanna sleep here anyway. It lifted itself from the bed and sauntered out the door.

She turned back to find Link kneeling to pick up the still-vibrating device by the base. Zelda’s face flushed nearly violet with embarrassment and she covered her mouth. She watched, horrified, as he twisted the base and shut it off. Juices reflected tiny fragments of moonlight off the smooth device.

Zelda wanted to scream but she had no lungs. She was completely hapless to watch a tiny bead of it run over the device and onto his hand.

Link was perfectly, precisely neutral as he regarded the object and the fluid on his hand.

Finally, he let his hand fall to his side, still holding the object. “I’ll be right back.”

“Wait, wha—”

But Link had already strode out the door and closed it behind himself.

Thunderstruck, Zelda stared at the door. It stared back, apathetic.

 Then she pulled the covers over herself and screamed into a pillow.

Chapter Text

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

The sound of Link opening the door startled her from her thoughts.

He moved with controlled grace as he shut the door behind him and strode to her bedside. He held her friend in his hand.

Zelda was so mortified that she’d looped back around to snarky. “Did you have a good time with that?”

Link gave her a flat stare but didn’t take the bait. “I cleaned it for you.”

Zelda blinked at him, astonished.

He set the cleaned and dried device at her side. His face was flushed, but he kept his expression neutral. “I figured… you know. You probably didn’t want something on the floor…”

Inside you.

“Thanks,” she says, perhaps a little too quickly. Somehow, Zelda thought this may be the most gentlemanly gesture he’s ever done for her. That’s no small feat.

“I…” She cleared her throat, tried to use her mind for more practical things. “Did you see any change?”

Link nodded, “It grew.”

“How much?”

Link’s face tightened. He made a pinch gesture that said not much.

That’s both good news and bad news. “That means we… had the right idea.” She leaned to peer around him towards the door. “It’s not gonna…”

“I locked it.”

Zelda worried her lip.

It’s like he read her mind. “We don’t… There’s no rush. Time still hasn’t changed. You don’t have to.”

Zelda remained silent, watching the blush creep up his neck to his ears. His manicured neutrality creaked under the weight of her gaze.

“You… should probably drink some water,” he suggested. He didn’t like the way she was looking at him.

A wry little grin made its way onto her face. He’d cleaned it, returned it to her, and locked the door. Is that purely with gentlemanly motives behind it? Or was he just facilitating it to go faster?

Even given permission, he hadn’t touched himself. The fact he stood so calm in front of her now was suspicious at best.

You did, didn’t you!

Guess you’re mortal after all.

The longer she stared at him, the more shamefaced he became. Victorious, Zelda had sussed out the truth without saying a single word. It is profoundly unfair in her view that he has been allowed relief not once but twice since they started this adventure, but she’s received nothing.

“You’re right,” she chirps happily, leaning up onto her knees on the bed. The Hylian tunic barely covered the apex of her thighs. Link keened away from her mischievous stare. “We don’t have to do anything.” She gestured between the two of them.

Link didn’t know what she was getting at, but he sure didn’t like her tone.

She snatched away the device from the space between them and burrowed under the covers with it. To Link’s unending embarrassment, she smirked at him. “However, I know what I’m going to do.”

The knight nodded curtly and crossed his arms behind his back. He made to march out the door. He knew a dismissal when he’d heard one. This may be the only one that haunts his dreams, but it is definitely a dismissal.

Except it wasn’t.

“I wasn’t telling you to leave, knight.”

Link stopped in his tracks. That voice. Even with a fast-gained relief, he still felt desire tighten him again. Link turned back to her, meeting her eyes for as long as he dared.

What are you doing?

She just smiled back at him sweetly. “I’m also not telling you to stay.”

He held his hands out. What do you want from me?

“It’s entirely your call, Link. Stay or go.”

That makes it so much worse! It’s one thing when he’s just there to satisfy the riddle; It’s another if it is made to sound that he’s there of his own volition. He knew the look in her eyes was just designed to get a reaction out of him.

She’s challenging him to a round of mind games.

Her implication was clear: Stay, and take responsibility for watching; Or go, and agonize over the knowledge of what she was doing behind the door.

Link gave her a stare that expressed just how unamused he was with her antics. She looked just as sweet and beguiling as she ever did. Even if she made it sound like he was taking full responsibility for his staying, it didn’t negate the fact that it was his duty as Hero of Hyrule.

He had to, or so he told himself.

Not one to let others win a challenge untested, Link purposefully moved to the sofa and set his arms across the back of it.

Zelda tried to clock what was going on in his mind. Just when she thought she had a good read on him, it turned out that she was completely wrong. It’s a brazen move on his part. Frankly, she’d expected him to get flustered and leave.

He fully and completely called her bluff.

It’s impossible to tell what was going on behind that neutral face, but did she sense a bit of triumph? She must look pretty cowed.

It’s one thing to tease, it’s another to deliver.

I think you want me to hear you finish.

No she didn’t! It’s humiliating to even be in this situation! He was wrong!

“Are you sure you don’t want me to leave?” said the knight, knightly. Her blood boiled indignantly at that glimmer in his eye. The one that said got you.

Zelda stuck her nose up. “Not my call.” She knew he raised his eyebrows at her petulant tone, but she wasn’t looking at him. Instead, she took the device and turned it to the first setting.

The topaz stone harnessed electricity and activated the handcrafted mechanics inside it. Zelda knew the anatomy of the device almost as well as she knew her own. She’d turned it on in hopes of jolting a reaction out of him, but that had backfired spectacularly.

Heat slammed her hips down into the mattress and she couldn’t help the whine of anticipation high in her throat. She hadn’t had release in so, so long.

She felt Link’s eyes on her and she turned to find him looking smug. It only redoubled her agitation. “Shut up,” she bit out, and he held up his hands in surrender. He’d literally said nothing.

Zelda sat the vibrating device on her thigh, tingles racing up through her femoral artery. She felt her nipples tent the coarse fabric of the tunic. She swallowed, her breathing suddenly uneven. It would be too much stimulation too fast and she knew it, but damn if she was going to just let him win like that.

She gently nosed the smooth head of it against herself, just feeling the vibrations ripple from her core to the tips of her toes. The sound she made was not manufactured.

All smugness was wiped from Link’s face. Zelda wanted to celebrate at him but found that her voice was gone. Her hands were clammy, and she wiped them on the tunic so she could keep a firm grip on the best friend. Zelda sank lower into the bedding, her spine arching as she closed in closer to her nerve center.

She wanted that stimulation so badly and tried to work up to it. However, without her fingers getting her there first, sharp jolts of overstimulation shot painfully through her hips and she grit her teeth. Too much.

Taking the object into herself was a little easier, and her spine arched to accommodate it. Smoothed with fluids, Zelda resorted to an old fallback:

Her head rolled back as she glided the length of the device gingerly over her clit, then slid it lower to press it firmly to both holes. It wrenched a low groan of pleasure from her chest. Her veins were lava flows of molten magma, coursing round and round in her superheated body.

Try as she might, she was aware of Link’s gaze.

Sweat made the fabric cling to her skin uncomfortably. However the idea of taking it off, somehow, seemed too scandalous. It’s one thing for him to be present; It’s another for him to see.

Zelda growled a low sound of frustration, trying to get her thoughts back onto the task at hand. Her body desperately tried to cajole her to do the same. The vibrations of the friend proved to be too much and she hissed again.

Link’s face was awash in morbid curiosity. He caught her gaze and immediately looked anywhere, everywhere, but at her. Trying to get himself back under control, and frankly exhausted from burning through all of his stores of the stuff, Link laid back on the sofa and stared at the ceiling. He had the knee closest to her bent, as if clinging to his last bits of modesty.

She saw the hand on his belly twitch. He visibly resisted the urge to move it lower. He bit the other one to stay silent.

That’s nice of him.

Her body happily accepted the device back into her, angling to find the spot she looked for. Zelda didn’t seem to register her own voice, but she certainly heard Link’s wounded sound.

Her free hand flattened against her navel, and she caught Link turn to stare wide-eyed at the new movement. What is she doing?!

Something in her wanted to get him while she had him on his heels and far be it for Zelda to deny her desires at the moment. With the aching burn of frustration and overstimulation and need, she’d chase just about anything to finally get some relief.

So she kicked off the covers. The rush of cool air felt amazing, until the fission of her skin made the air around her just as hot.

Link looked like she’d just taken a sledgehammer to his chest. She watched him bite into the flesh of his fist so hard she thought it would bleed. He watched the dual movements of her arms, hidden coyly behind her thigh, and was left with only his imagination to guess at what she was doing.

What if this isn’t what the trial demands of them?

Focus! She nearly yelled at herself.

One hand worked her clit, gingerly, so gently, as if apologizing to it. The other pressed the vibrating friend further and further into herself. Something suddenly registered as yes there keep doing that.

I have more experience exercising self-control than you do.

She wondered what it would take to break him.

Her concentration shattered. The feeling she was chasing slipped through her fingers. Zelda didn’t know if she wanted to sob or scream.

Instead, she just hissed at nothing and flopped back against the pillows. Her hair went everywhere, tangled and matted. She shut off the device and rolled on her side, whimpering in pain.

Link was pulled back into reality. “Princess?” He sat up, and the déjà vu of headrush hit him all at once. “Hey, are you… okay?” His voice was shaky.

No, thought Zelda.

She rolled over and looked at him miserably. Laying on her side, Zelda’s leg over the other just barely hid her from his view. Link swallowed and remembered to look at her face. “Are you… are you hurt?”

Kind of.

“No,” she answers, agitated. Link flinched, not understanding this sudden change. Is she mad at him?

He glanced to the locked door. “Should I—”

“No.”

“Really, we can try again some other time. There’s no pressure.”

Zelda snorted at him. He has no idea the amount of pressure she’s experiencing. He looked nervous, but not for himself. He looked worried about her. It seems mean to not reassure him.

“I can’t focus,” she admits. Her legs tucked a little closer to her chest.

Link knelt at her bedside so they were eye-level. “I’m sorry. I really am trying to be quiet…” He rubs the back of his neck.

Zelda couldn’t help but find that endearing. “No, you’re not… It isn’t--” She shook her head. “I’m just in my own head.”

Link floundered. Suddenly, he wished that there was an Intermediate Vai course that he could’ve taken. He feels woefully unprepared for this. Does he go? Does he stay and comfort her? He decided that she’s the best person to answer that question. “What do you need?”

Zelda’s eyes bored into his at the question. She was so hungry, wound tight with need and crushed under the weight of her thoughts. Like being so tired she can’t sleep, or so cold you feel warm. She knew she should send him away and work through her anxieties alone. Maybe she could quell the needs of the cursed quim as an afterthought.

She really gave thought to it. What does she need?

Sitting up, she held the tunic just low enough to keep his imagination engaged. Poor Link looked like he might have a heart attack.

Zelda noted that she liked that. Maybe that’s it.

She remembered him, biting his fist and grinding the heel of his palm against himself.

You tease me, torment me, mess with me just to get a reaction…

His eyes when she got his self-control to snap in the hot springs.

She thinks she knows what it would take for them to complete this trial. The Major Test of Trust. She felt desire pang in her belly. She wanted to see him fight to stay in control.

“Honestly, Link?” she hesitated.

Link grew more and more flustered the longer she stared at him like that. He flinched when she placed her hand on his wrist.

“I need some help.”

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

All color drained from Link’s face.

Link didn’t understand what she meant. Help? She’d said that she wasn’t hurt. She’d said she was just stuck in her own head. These aren’t exactly problems he could fix.

Zelda’s eyes stared straight ahead into his. They were pleading.

Pleading for what, exactly?

Link opened his mouth to speak but throat was too hoarse. He cleared it and tried again. “Prin—Zelda… I—” He’s not typically articulate, and the situation was certainly not making that any better. “What exactly are you asking of me?”

Zelda didn’t answer, just whimpered in pain.

He glanced down to Zelda’s hand on his wrist. The way her skin clung to his, tacky and wet. She didn’t let go in the same way he didn’t pull away. Link wanted to help, but how?

She rolled onto her back and sat up. The best friend lay next to her thigh, lewdly adhering to the bedding it touched. Link felt his entire body strain to keep him upright. His tongue was a dry, foreign object in his mouth.

All at once, Link remembered to look at her face. Her eyes were held at half mast, and she leaned on one arm in a way that even his deepest-suppressed fantasies fell short of.

“I… I can’t do it on my own,” she admits, voice sounding small.

Link blinked back at her, waiting for realization to set in. When it did, he reeled back as if she’d bit him. Whoa! It is one thing to be a fly on the wall—any man would kill to have his position—but it is another thing completely to be a willing participant.

“That’s… The riddle doesn’t…”

Zelda leveled him with an agitated look. “We’re not going to accomplish anything the riddle calls for while I am stuck in this state.”

His job is to protect Zelda, defeat Ganon. That’s it. Those are his only two requirements. Anything outside of that is not something he was put here for, right?

Except, doesn’t his role as Hero require compliance with the trials?

Zelda released his wrist and he naturally pulled it back towards himself. Given he was kneeling, this was a grave mistake. The scent of her hit him like a tree wielded by a Hinox. Link’s breath whistled through his clenched teeth and his hips canted forward into the bedframe involuntarily.

The scent! Desire clawed through him viciously. He wondered what it tasted like.

Did he even possess the self-control necessary for such an undertaking as what she was asking for?

Zelda watched him through her lashes. She was tense, like a predator crouched in the underbrush. Intelligent eyes undressed him, searching for his exact weakness. When she found it, her cloying voice sent shivers down his spine, “I thought you said that you had more experience exercising self-control?”

Link’s heart stopped.

What?

It sounded like a challenge. Let’s see how tough of stuff you’re really made of, Hero.

She knew he was struggling against the bounds of his own knighthood. It was clear from her expression that she didn’t just know it, she wanted him to struggle.

“I…” he began. Lascivious thoughts streaked across his mind, all the ways that he could help her overcome this obstacle. Help her finally find release. How he’d use his hands, that device…

His blood howled at the idea and he resisted his compulsion to launch onto the bed. It was like trying to keep a Lynel bound with daisy crowns.

Zelda’s smile widened salaciously, and she leaned a little closer. She knew she’d landed a mortal wound and went for the kill while she had him off balance. “Would it be helpful if I just ordered you to?”

The whites of his eyes flashed in shock. She used that against him? That’s hardly fair! Link’s face contorted in sudden, brutal pain and he bit his fist and stared at the ceiling. His breaths came ragged and broken.

Fuck, Zelda!

Her shit-eating, self-congratulatory grin earned her a threatening glower in return. That was a low-blow.

To her credit, she looked almost-sorry. Not sorry, but almost.

Link ran his hands through his hair, desperately trying to get a grip on himself. He considered the implications of her request. Strictly speaking, this wasn’t necessary to complete the trial as far as they could tell. She’s just uncomfortable. He very well could leave her now and complete the trial from a safe distance on the couch at a different time.

But she just looked so… wanting. Trusting.

Despite all of this, he wanted to help her. And what harm could really come from him helping her achieve the requirements of the trials? It’s not taking advantage of her or the situation as long as he’s not enjoying it, right?

It’s purely for her sake.

Not Link; Zelda.

Zelda was right. Link did have incredible self-control. He’d tested the limits of it many times during these trials. What’s one more time? He’s the Hero of Hyrule. He was chosen for a reason.

Resolved, he steeled his expression.

“Okay.”

Zelda’s expression was equal parts guarded and hopeful. “Really?”

Trembling, Link nodded. “Yeah. I’ll help.”

Before he lost courage and backed out, the knight cautiously climbed onto the bed, one hand on the headboard and the other parting the sea of comforters. Zelda’s breathing sped up, still fraught with tension. in the darkness of the room, there was just enough light for Link to see her pupils dilate.

He knelt at her side. Her legs remained pressed together and every muscle coiled with stress under the covers. She was… scared. Wanting, excited, but scared.

Where… what does he do? His inexperience was apparent. He gingerly placed his hand on her bare thigh, as if asking for permission first. The skin leaped beneath his hand.

Virile voices in his mind berated him for not prying her knees apart. Link swallowed and silenced them. That kind of tactic won’t work here. He’s going to help her complete this trial, nothing more.

“Zelda…” he breathed, thick with desire and nerves. His fingers brushed where her legs sealed together. “Do you still want me to help? Let me…?”

The princess visibly shivered. With a shaky breath, she nodded and forced herself to relax.

Link explored the long expanse of her smooth skin, the dip of her hip bone, the space between her navel and her curls. Zelda sounded tormented, and something in the back of his mind said welcome to my world.

He was so focused on his goal, he’d missed that Zelda leaned forward, her breath on his neck. The soft press of her lips to the space below his ear zapped a lightning rod to his groin and he hissed. She seemed wounded that he pulled away, pulse pounding in his ears.

Kiss her take her touch her spread her grind her—

King Rhoam eating a roasted bird leg. Stalnox eyes. Lizal squawks.

Link’s eyes clenched tight. He shook his head and set a firm hand on her shoulder, pressing her back into the pillows. “Lay back,” he husked.

He forced himself to breathe and focus on his task. Really, he wasn’t sure what he was doing. She squirmed as his hand trailed lower and her legs shifted just the slightest bit. The best friend rolled to where his knee dented the mattress. Curious, tentative fingers moved down her lips and Zelda whimpered again.

Bolstered, the knight curled his fingers and was body-slammed by the feeling of hot soft slick all at once. Both of them whined at once. Zelda’s hips canted forward into his hand, desperate for more friction, more anything!

“Link,” she complained.

He searched, fingers trailing up, until she gasped. Found it. Now that he’s focused, it does feel different than the rest of her. Experimentally, he brushed his fingers against it in a soft circle. Zelda’s spine arched in a way that made him feel powerful; Her soft moan vibrating through him. X action equals Y result. He’s starting to get it.

His body may be screaming but having a task at hand gave his mind the upper hand. All he had to do was focus completely on her, and he would be golden. They’d complete the trial, and he can berate himself in the peace and comfort of Hyrule and linear time.

It was a solid plan until Zelda’s hand shakily trailed up his thigh. Liquid desire wrested all control away and his fingers faltered. The groan he swallowed was pitiful at her light touch. “Zelda—I…”

Not fast enough. Her hand smoothed over the front of his trousers, pressing even and firm pressure along the length of his erection. He heard the sound of iron bending, will snapping under the gargantuan heat. The whine he let out was more pathetic than he’d ever admit to.

His hand stilled hers and he shook his head. “No this—This is about you,” he ground out, agonized. Zelda was about to complain when he shifted out of her reach until she realized he was pushing back more of the blankets out of their way. He indulged in the sight of her long legs, but Zelda felt them close self-consciously under his stare.

Right. She’s nervous, too.

He shifted down towards her ankles. Link’s hand glided along her thigh, her calf, no sudden movements, the way he would be careful not to spook a horse when tending their hooves.  He knelt between her feet and tenderly placed his hands on her closed knees.

The message was clear: Open when you’re ready.

He met her eyes; They were wanting and nervous. She read him, scouring for ill-intent, for any indication that he would be scathing in his review of her. When she found none she swallowed, nodded, and relaxed.

Now this is a vulnerable position. If it didn’t satisfy the Major Test of Trust, nothing would.

That is, if Link isn’t struck down by Hylia’s wrath here and now.

Link leaned forward. One of his hands on her hip held her in place and the other returned to her folds. Curiously, he pressed at her entrance. It was impossibly tight; he thought that she wouldn’t possibly accommodate his finger. He was wrong.

She gasped, wanting it, so he acquiesced and gently (too gently) pushed in. Hot, tensing walls, with textures he was too overwhelmed to identify surrounded it. There was no quieting his vivid imagination providing the heady feeling of himself buried to the hilt in it.

Link ground his teeth together so hard his jaw creaked. That’s not the purpose of this! It’s about Zelda.

“Curl your finger,” she begged.

 Perhaps he was enrolled in the Intermediate Vai course after all. He did as he was told and found something distinctly different. Zelda gasped and arched her back, hand gripping the one holding her hip. There.

He rocked his hand back and forth, aiming for that same spot and was rewarded with Zelda gripping her own hair in anguish. The potent knowledge that he was driving her crazy made him want to endlessly chase that feeling.

He added another finger and Zelda choked on a sob. 

Feeling no resistance, Link curled them both and worked a steady rhythm back and forth that had Zelda’s spine twitching. “Link,” she said again, a needy sound that tried and failed to be a complaint. He couldn’t help smiling back down at her.

He wondered…

Could he angle his hand just right so as to…? It’s awkward, and his hand isn’t made to stretch like that. Maybe if he turned-- No, it didn’t hit that spot just right. He’d need two.

“What’re you—Oh.”

His free hand moved to lend a thumb to gently circle her clit while the other continued rocking back and forth into her. Zelda moaned deeply, grinding forward into his thumb and fingers. Link wasn’t sure why, but he pulled away, denying her the pressure she greedily tried to steal from him.

“You ask for my help, I get to do this my way.”

Zelda growled in frustration and glowered at him. Usually, that look would bring him to heel in short order. Now, however, Link narrowed his eyes right back at her. He knew she wouldn’t ask him to stop. He was proven right as her head fell back, a sign of submission.

He rewarded her good behavior by increasing the pace on her pearl and pushing his fingers hard into her, one, three, five times.

He felt her clench and shiver around him, something very different and distinct. When he stopped, she snarled in agitation. She’d already been pushed to the edge! Why did he need to edge her further?

Honestly, fair question.

For the purpose of the trial, it should plenty suffice to bring her up once as quickly as he could, then go back to bleak professionalism. Who knows? Maybe her constructive criticism had landed. Maybe he has the inquisitive nature of a scholar after all. Maybe he wanted to administer a dose of turnabout.

 Maybe he’s just a completionist.

He built her back up again, consistent and unyielding. Zelda’s nails scratched the fabric of the sheets. Link felt his own desperation coiling behind his navel, tightening everything painfully close into himself. However, with his mind engaged, so rapt with attention on her, it could scream all it wanted.

Link was in control.

When he saw her toes curl, the clenching around his fingers becoming erratic, he slowed down. Zelda hissed and passed him an unhappy expression. He looked perfectly neutral back at her, which only seemed to incense her indignant frustration all the more. 

He’s not enjoying this. He’s not taking advantage of this situation.

He doesn’t enjoy the way she reacts to the most minute change in his pace. Doesn’t relish in the way she stubbornly refuses to beg for it, testing his patience and finding it as vast as the Gerudo Desert. Definitely isn’t etching the obscene beauty of moonlit curves glistening with sweat into his retinas.

His body would receive no release, so it’s okay, right?

Are there moral implications for simply having fun?

His movements faltered at that last thought. Link’s anxiety notched up and he was just about to spiral into a train of thoughts that were decidedly less fun when Zelda’s voice snapped him out of it.

Link!” she cried, exasperated. He met her eyes staring dangerously at him. It was clear she couldn’t take much more. “You are being exceptionally unkind.”

Desire pulsed painfully through his groin at having his words thrown back at him.

He supposed he was being unkind. Quit thinking of yourself. Focus on her.

Decision time. Zelda might have chosen to answer with I’m not kind, but Link isn’t her. He searched her eyes, considering something. Her face flushed when he nodded resolutely.

Link reached for the best friend leaning against Zelda’s thigh.

He tried to turn it to the first setting; His hands were too slippery. He used a blanket for traction while Zelda’s breathing grew impossibly shallow. Finally, he’d succeeded, and erupted into vibrations in his hand. The shocks went up his arm, like hitting his funny bone, and he had to flex to counteract it and maintain grip.

Zelda sounded like he’d shot her with an arrow.

This is… foreign. New. He could approximate what things would feel like to her based on what he knew, but the strength of this particular weapon was an unknown to him. Testing the waters, he set it against the inside of her thigh just to see.

It shivered under the contact. She licked her lips and said his name, heady with anticipation.

He didn’t want to hurt her. He saw the way that she flinched even from her own touch with the device. Still, he summoned courage and grazed it over the length of her slit, so gentle. Zelda hissed, pressing her hips forward into it until the pitch of the buzzing changed.

Holy Hylia.

Link moved before he’d even realized he’d had an idea. He slipped a hand under one of her cheeks to angle her differently, his shoulder nudging her other leg further out of the way. He lay prostrate before her, determined to stay focused on his work despite the bed providing pressure and friction where he so desperately wanted it.

The device pressed into her agonizingly slow and Zelda sobbed.

He was so close to her. The sweet, pithy scent of her made his head swim. If he thought that the viscous sounds of her touching herself were loud before, then this is outright deafening. The device slid in so easily, despite being larger than his fingers. Both of them moaned, and Link’s body ground into the softness of the mattress involuntarily.

Sweat dampened his hair and he ground his forehead into her thigh in anguish.

He’s in control. He is.

The tightness of her pushed the friend back into his hand without him having to withdraw it. On instinct, he pushed it back into her, and the thigh he rested on quivered. Zelda moaned into the flesh of her arm.

Completely in control.

He pushed it back into her again, a little harder, a little deeper. A burst of something wetted the front of his trousers, ratcheting his incessant need higher and higher. He knew Zelda was absolutely losing her mind, but did she have any idea of how much effort it took for him to keep his?

He licked his lips and the sweat of her tanged salty on his tongue.

What would she taste like?

Completely in control.

He pressed a kiss to her inner thigh, growing bold enough to levy the soft skin with open-mouthed attention. The buzzing sound roared and quieted at a steady pace, free then muffled, over and over again. Link’s wrist and arm burned, and he desperately focused on that tiny bit of pain to try and forget how his hips ground into the mattress.

It’s completely, all for Zelda. Not for him.

The hand underneath her pulled her a little closer, his nose pressed into the crook of her hip. The little brush of her curls tickled his nose.

Zelda suddenly sat up, alarmed. “Whoa! Wha—”

On instinct, Link stilled all movements, the device continuing to hum inside of her. She shivered, but her wide eyes didn’t move off of his. “What’re you…?”

Link watched her, his heated gaze searing her as he fought to keep his desires in check. Silence sat between them as they each tried and failed to read each other’s thoughts.

“I…” He glanced down to her mound, then back up. “Should I not…?”

He was looking for permission. Zelda made a face that he would’ve expected her to make if he just proposed out of nowhere.

In this exact moment, he just might.

Tense silence.

Finally, Zelda overcame her shock and bit her lip. She wants me to, Link realized with a jolt.

It lit an inferno inside him. His grip on the best friend tightened and he worked it into her with renewed passion. Her mouth fell open and she laid back, helpless to do anything but hang on as he angled and worked and searched.

Nothing could have prepared her for the feeling of his mouth on her. His tongue gently explored the spot she needed him, tantalizingly soft despite the hard thrusts of the device into her. Such self-control!

He moaned at the taste of her, sending a completely separate source of vibrations through her. Sweet and sapid with a kick, like spicy simmered fruit. Zelda’s slim fingers threaded through his hair, encouraging, and he whimpered into her.

His free hand slipped out from under her and took on the new task of holding her lips out of his way as he hungrily devoured her alive.

The taste the sound the feel the slick the vibration her hands in his hair—  

He’s losing control.

Zelda writhed, unbidden as his tongue slowly increased in pressure, flattening and turning and circling in ways that made the bottoms of her feet burn. “Holy fuck, Link!” Her hands fisted in his hair, desperately holding him to her, needing—wanting—so close!

She clenched hard against the device and Link provided the needed force to thrust it back into her, all the way, the circle of his fist flattened against her core. He ground his chin harder against her, feeling it drip lewdly down his neck. He couldn’t get enough. His lips pressed all the way around her clit and he sucked.

All at once her hips spasmed, pleasure wringing a loud moan from her as it crashed unbidden over her. Zelda saw stars as her body clenched so hard the device was pushed out.

Liquid splashed against Link’s neck in irregular spurts.

He groaned and continued licking her, grinding his tongue against her until painful sparks of overstimulation had her pushing him away. He whined in protest, as if she’d taken away his favorite thing in all of Hyrule.

Link’s clenched eyes slowly opened.

They were both out of breath, completely soaked in sweat with clothes and sheets sticking to them. The best friend continued to buzz against the inside of Zelda’s thigh. Link’s hairband was gone, somewhere. Zelda was delirious with the aftermath of her pleasure.

Link was completely soaked from chin to chest. His hair clung irregularly to his wet skin. The entire area of bedding between them was darkened with the results of her pleasure. He couldn’t see it hidden in his trousers, but he suspected it had gone purple from all the pressure built inside of him.

Holy… Link. Wow, I…” she panted, dragging her hand over her eye. It didn’t look like she could see anything through the post-coital haze.

What in Din was that?!

He definitely didn’t enjoy the burst of pride in his chest at reducing her to that state.

Shakily, Link wiped his mouth on the back of his arm and tried unsuccessfully to turn off the best friend with slippery fingers. What in Hyrule could possibly be the purpose of the second setting? Overkill doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Finally, he managed to silence the device. His hand continued to vibrate long after he turned it off.

Zelda’s astral projection floated back down into her body and she stirred. She’d never experienced such satiation. Blurry green eyes rolled forward to look at him knelt between her ankles.

Despite the situation, Zelda couldn’t help but smile lazily at his disheveled state and breathe a soft laugh. “You look wretched.”

Link felt embarrassment flood him. He does look wretched. What had he just done?! He heard the screaming of his blood in his ears. Now what?

Zelda didn’t pick up on any of his anxieties, drunk on his act of kindness. She sat up and touched his chest glistening with her fluids and dragged her nail through it. She eyed him from chin to chest, a ghost of her scholarly expression on her face. “It’s… never done that before.”

Link’s face couldn’t flush a deeper shade of scarlet.

“Do you… feel better?” he ventured, concern in his eyes.

So endearing.

She made a happy little noise and nodded. “I do… thank you.” She stared at him under heavy lids. She could see the agony and need on his face, the way he strained against the confines of his trousers. Poor thing.

His throat worked. Don’t look at me like that.

“Happy I can help,” he squeaks, hating the way his voice cracked.

She leaned forward a little further, her hand bound for his thigh. Alarm shot through the knight. If she touched him now, he’d be completely and utterly done for! Link yelped jumped back, rolling backwards off of the bed, and held the post for balance. “I—Uh…”

Zelda looked so inviting. Warm. She tastes so good…

His self-control hung on by a thread. If he stayed one more moment, he might do something drastic.

“I-I’ve gotta go.”

Link had already stumbled over various obstacles in the room and closed the door behind him before Zelda could say anything.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

When Zelda deemed herself presentable, freshly cleaned and dressed in her Hylian travel clothes, she steeled herself and found Link in the central plaza. He was busy making use of the communal cooking pots, busying himself with preparing hydromelons and voltfruits and hearty durians. White stew-like liquid simmered in the pot.

He wore wide-hipped Gerudo pants and nothing else. That’s probably a good move, considering what he had before is likely ruined now. His hair kept getting in his face as he worked, and he continually brushed it out of his eyes.

“Good morning,” she says just to announce her presence, even though there’s no such thing and morning here. Link tensed, not having noticed her approach, then offered her a professional nod. A piece of his hair got in his eye and he swiped it away.

“You probably want this.” Zelda pulled the hairtie she wasn’t using off of her wrist and extended it to him. The knight stared at it, then her, a confused look on his face. “I found it in—Uh, you left this behind.”

Link tamped down on a memory that clearly wanted to overtake him, and gratefully accepted. So that’s where it went. He made quick work of tying his sandy hair out of his way and continued preparing their meal in silence. She watched as he took the pot off of the fire to cool, and slowly added pieces of hydomelon to the concoction. To her fascination, the milky substance thickened as the melon quickly chilled it. Having a cooled yogurt to work with, Link added the rest of the ingredients to complete the parfait. He handed her a soup ladle and a bowl.

“Thanks…” she says, serving herself. He hasn’t said a single word to her yet and honestly, she doesn’t blame him. What is there to say?

Sorry I asked you to do something you weren’t comfortable with?

Sorry I ate you out, I promise it was just for the trial?

Sorry I ruined the only shirt that fit you?

They ate in dreaded, heavy silence.

She supposed that they ought to at least celebrate in their completion of the trial. That feline should be showing up any time now to whisk them away to the Spring of Unity, and she can let him forget it ever happened.

As if on cue, the blue glow of the Kittee appeared around a corner as it stepped into the plaza. Curious eyes watched them, tail twitching low behind it. Saucer-shaped ears swiveled this way and that and eventually focused straight ahead on them.

Link followed Zelda’s tense gaze.

His stomach dropped so hard he nearly lost breakfast.

“Grr… mreow?”

Had it even grown?! Zelda’s mouth hung open in disbelief. Maybe a little since it jumped on the bed, but it was hard to tell. She was expecting it to be the size of a horse after the stunt they pulled the night before.

Zelda exchanged a glance with Link. It seems he was thinking the same thing.

The Kittee had no idea what to make of this strange energy coming from them.

Link leaned his face into his palm, and Zelda rolled her head back with a groan. What is it going to take to pass this cursed trial?!

Zelda scooped some of the sweet yogurt onto her finger and offered it to the Kittee, who happily trotted over and licked it clean. “As far as I can tell, it grew but… definitely not in proportion to the effort we put in.”

Link nodded, his perfect mask of neutrality cracking. She couldn’t have said that any more tactfully, and yet memories still assaulted him.

The Kittee expressed its thanks by marking her hand with its chin. Zelda nearly forgot all her problems when it flopped on its side, continuing to rub and nuzzle the side of her leg. “This creature is the vehicle that got us here when it grew to a size capable of jumping from platform to platform,” Zelda thought aloud. Her finger toyed with the soft toes of the Kittee’s paw, drawing and retracting its claws happily. “That means that because it is still growing, it is a part of the trial.”

She heard Link swallow.

“In order for the Kittee to become a functional vehicle for us to get to Vah Naboris, it would have to be…”

Link eyed the creature, as if he could will it to the size they need. “A lot bigger.”

What is it going to take to get it there? Had they not done enough? Judging by the hangdog expression on Link’s face, they’d already done too much as it is.

Zelda massaged her temple with one hand while the other let Kittee lick it to its heart’s content. Even in her frustration, she found it impossible to be angry at the sweet creature. She patted her crossed leg, motioning for it to come nearer. The Kittee snapped to its belly, eyed the proffered spot, then got up and examined for a way to make itself fit.

“I… genuinely thought we’d surpassed the requirements of the trial.” She hated how embarrassment burned in her ears when she was trying to think scientifically about this. However, it’s very hard to be clinical and scholarly when by all appearances, they’d just been given the feedback that it hadn’t been hardly enough.

Neither expressed their ideas of what exactly would comprise “enough” for this trial.

If only the elephant in the room could jump high enough to take them to Vah Naboris.

Kittee curled up in the space between Zelda’s legs, but was too heavy. She adjusted, which Kittee took deep offense to, until it realized she was just better accommodating it. It seems like years ago since it was small enough to curl up on one of her legs. Settled, it purred happily into the warmth of her thigh.

“I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter,” Zelda said suddenly, making Link’s spine stiffen. What? She smiled as she threaded her fingers through the soft blue fur of the creature. “I don’t ever want to leave here anyway. Kittee is my friend now and I love them.”

Link’s bristling hackles went down. Oh.

Bad time for a joke.

Zelda could sense his anxiety and opened her mouth to ask him something. Link passed her a stare that said, don’t.

Oh, okay. Apparently, the answer is no, we aren’t going to talk about it.

Even without saying anything, they seemed to have drawn the same conclusions. Zelda sighed heavily and gave him a soft olive-branch of an expression. Can we please work together on this?

She was right and he knew it. Link pinched the bridge of his nose to relieve some pressure. He had too many thoughts swimming around in his head, mainly about honor and duty and Hero and last night and some nebulous worry that went with all of it.

There’s no way for him to pass the trials and remain the stoic knight he’s regressed back into.

Zelda threw him a lifeline. “I like your pants?” she tries, giving him a lopsided grin. It at least got him to look at her with a flat expression.

“That makes one of us,” he deadpanned. However, that ghost of a smile on one side of his mouth told her that he’s not completely gone.

~*~*~*~*~*~

“I knew there was something missing from Gerudo Town,” Zelda says, tinkering with the machine in front of her. It was a large contraption stationed near the stairs outside the Noble Canteen. She’d opened the access panel, assessing something in the intricate wiring. Kittee was interested in a particular gear, and Zelda gently brushed its paw away.

“What is it?” Link said behind her. He’d tried having some time alone to sort himself out but found that not watching over her produced more anxiety than it fixed. Now, he watched her fiddle with some unseen flaw in the machine.

Zelda didn’t answer. She worked a tool she procured from her room into a bolt. When she deemed it satisfactory, she pulled back some and pressed the topaz stone into its slot. Electricity coursed through the machine, and it played the tune of the Gerudo theme. Wind instruments made the high notes and steady drumbeats provided the rhythm. Link instantly recognized the song.

“You… made this?”

Zelda looked delighted. She wiped the sweat from her brow and grinned widely at her success. “Yes, I did,” she brimmed with pride. “I figured out how to make a simple tune first, then adjusted it to the timing I wanted. Adding other instruments was easy from there. Topaz is able to harness electricity, and when you run it through metal it  can perform a variety of tasks.”

Link purposefully didn’t think about topaz or its many uses. 

“Just for fun?”

“Yes and no,” Zelda flicked her hair, “It was fun, but the owner of the Noble Canteen said that the bar’s location was just out of sight that many tourists miss it. So, I built her a music box to help attract business for her.”

Zelda’s smile was infectious. She genuinely had a blast making this device. It sang sweetly to them, an ode to the Gerudo culture. No wonder this is her Zelda Island. “Free of charge? That’s nice of you.”

Her eyes cut a mischievous little smile at him. “Well… not completely. I didn’t charge any rupees, if that’s what you mean.”

Link furrowed his brows at her, curious. “In return, she taught me how to make a Noble Pursuit.”

She seemed happy with this trade. “What is… Isn’t that just a drink at the bar?”

Zelda stared at him wryly. “Link, I am a noblewoman born into the royal family. I’m not allowed anything outside my daily prayers. Do you think I’ve ever been granted free access to ‘just’ a drink?”

Link couldn’t help but laugh at that. Hey, he’s not the only one suppressed under the weight of his title, after all. “Fair enough.”

She’d broken though his professional barrier to the nugget of friendship they’d built together. That was good enough for her. Zelda worried her lip as she thought of something to say to him, and he did his best to stay neutral. Her first instinct was to discuss the trials, to pick and pull it apart with logic and reason. Analyze why their success was so minimal.

But honestly? Zelda just wanted a break.

So, she allowed an exuberant smile at him and persuaded, “I know you’re always looking for new recipes.”

How could he say no to that? He made a little gesture of after you and followed her up the stairs. Zelda didn’t hide her delight as she bounded up. The last time she’d given herself a break from her responsibilities was when she was last in Gerudo Town with a sky above her. She slid behind the bar, enjoying the feeling like she was intruding as she pilfered through the items stocked in it.

“Wait, how did you already know what a Noble Pursuit is? I wouldn’t have ever expected you of all people to come to Gerudo Town to relax. Or anywhere for that matter.”

Link gave her a look that indicated he didn’t like that comment but answered her question anyway. “I was tailing you. It’s not suspicious to sit in a bar and people-watch.” Link shrugged noncommittally at the look she gave him. He had already apologized. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter. The owner looked at me and thought I was underage. I couldn’t exactly prove her otherwise.”

Zelda seemed to think that was strange. “Wait, cover your face from the nose down and look up at me.” Confused, Link slowly did as he was told, eyes panned up at Zelda. She appraised him, then shrugged, “Yeah, I wouldn’t have served you either.”

She laughed to herself at his affronted stare while she busied herself collecting ingredients. “Sorry, but a cute Hylian girl with giant doe eyes comes in here—voice probably high and soft because that’s the best you can do—” Link chewed his cheek in a pout, and Zelda giggled. Got him. “I’d kick her out, too.”

Link’s offense wore off quickly at the good-natured ribbing. He watched her, curious as to what she was doing. “Okay, I think I remember. It’s two parts voltfruit juice (so four, for two servings) … wait, no, rim the glasses with courser bee honey first.” She mumbled to herself as she tried to recall all the steps. Hyrdomelon soda, three parts, so six. Ice, annnndddd…”

She looked around for something, then found it hidden under the bar.

“Fermented and distilled hearty durian.” The smell coming from the bottle was acetic, which was better than the natural stench of the sweet fruit. She added the concoction to a metal mixing cup, swished it, then poured out two for each of them.

She got the measurements wrong and a little too much poured over the lip of the glass. “Oops. Sorry, Link.” She gently nudged the overflowed glass Link’s way, making a mess on the countertop. It was a pink-green color. She looked so proud of her creation that Link couldn’t help but be amused at her mirth.

He leaned forward to get some off the top, but Zelda stopped him. “Wait!” she found a little bottle of flowers, then placed a stem in his glass. “Garnish with cool safflina. There! A Noble Pursuit.”

Link looked back up at her, eyebrow cocked. “I got about half of that.”

 “You pronounced ‘thank you,’ wrong,” she corrected royally.

He snorted back at her, then took a sip. Sweet from the honey, then sour-strong from the voltfruit and durian, and then sweet again. He coughed and the knight’s face twisted into a very unintimidating expression. “Wow… that’s…”

“Strong?” she grinned, relishing in his misery.

He nodded, trying to adjust to the overwhelming taste. Things that have intoxicating effects were never something he partook in or had any interest in, really. Link is just indulging Zelda, and it was working. She laughed lightly and teased, “I would have thought you of all people would be able to handle a strong taste.”

Link’s entire face went radish-red at her comment. “Zelda!” he gaped.

Zelda blinked at him, confused. When she realized what he must have assumed, she suppressed a laugh and corrected, “…Because you enjoy spicy food, Link.”

Having assumed wrong only embarrassed him further. 

Zelda suppressed the urge to tease him some more over it, but mercifully left it alone. She sipped her own drink and watched the Kittee lounge on the couches to her right. It looked so happy to stretch out across the whole couch, claws opening the fabric to reveal stuffing without meaning to.

The music box clanged, and the Gerudo theme started over again.

“I can’t help feeling a little attached to it,” Zelda says with a soft smile, “It seems cruel for the trials to get me attached to something only to take it away when I’ve succeeded. Is it silly if I’m not in a rush to leave because I enjoy its company?”

Link shook his head. He understands the sentiment.

“The closer we get to reaching the shrines, the more dangerous it becomes,” he reminds her levelly. “It may not be our friend anymore by that time.”

Zelda clearly didn’t like that but made no move to correct him. “It is strange that any sort of enmity would be fostered in the Trials of Unity. I think I will hold out hope that Kittee will continue to be kindhearted.” She eyed the band of skin where the gauzes had once been. The cuts had scabbed over just fine.

Link seemed to disagree. That’s not exactly how animals operate. There is no morality to them. He wasn’t one to be a buzzkill, so he remained quiet. Not that she would have been listening anyway. Zelda carried her creation over to the lounge area, sitting near Kittee’s head. The creature flopped back down, face on her lap as she petted it. It no longer seemed able to make that soft purring sound, instead a raspy happy-growl took its place.

Zelda seemed contented, if just for the moment, and Link would happily take that.

They listened to the music box clang again and start over. “Mmm. I’m gonna have to fix that,” she mumbled to herself. Even while calm, her mind continued to pulse in activity. Link saw her try and shut them down, push them away, and live in the moment. “Wait. No, I won’t. This is a memory. Wouldn’t I have to fix it in the real Gerudo Town?”

She’s so transparent.

Link nursed another swallow from his glass. He knew what was coming, so he braced himself.

“Link, I… I don’t know how to express this without coming across as, um, crass.” He tamed his face into neutrality. “I… want to express gratitude.” She didn’t meet his eye as she specifically chose her words. “You did something… kind, for me, that you didn’t have to do.” Her cheek clenched, embarrassed. “At least, we think you didn’t have to do. I’m honestly not sure anymore. I—”

It’s a rare thing to see the eloquent Princess Zelda flounder.

Kindly, Link stepped in. “You’re welcome.”

Zelda’s miffed expression indicated that was not a sufficient answer. That’s it? It was your idea to go down on me, but all you’re gonna say is ‘You’re welcome’?

Link had to try and search for a question to answer. She was asking him why he'd done it. Why he went above and beyond the trail. That’s a fair question, when he’d pointedly avoided her to the best of his abilities up until that point. Link sighed. He felt that knot coming back into his shoulder.

“I wanted to help.” He grimaced at the simplicity. Link took another sip as if he was trying to cover the memory of a different taste. “You’re… very persuasive.”

That’s fair, Zelda thought. “I take pride in that, thank you.” He snorted back at her but didn’t answer. It seemed like Zelda was chewing on a thought or had a point to bringing this up. He wisely waited her out. “Even… in that situation. You were—” She searched for words, struggling to find them. “It would have been perfectly acceptable for you to… It seems cruel that you didn’t—"

“I… think I get what you’re trying to ask me,” Link says, holding up a hand. Zelda sighed in relief. She suddenly seemed very preoccupied with petting Kittee in her lap. He tried to think of a succinct answer to that question. Why did he refuse himself and indulge her?  “There’s… a lot of answers to that.”

Zelda’s eyes panned up to him, watching him patiently.

“It’s…” he cleared his throat, tried again, “I’m the Hero of Hyrule and your knight. I have two tasks: defeat Ganon, protect you. That’s it. To… do anything outside of what is strictly required of me is just opportunistic. It’s taking advantage of the situation. I refuse to use you like that.”

Zelda was immediately reminded of his anecdote at the Kakariko Inn. Ashamed I was tempted at all to use someone.

She tried to process that. The way he didn’t look at her indicated he is just as ashamed in this moment as he was at the Inn. He was genuinely tempted.

Sounds like he was more tempted to use you.

Doesn’t matter.

“Link… I think you misunderstood. I, uh, meant by yourself."

“Me too.”

Zelda blinked at him in confusion. She didn’t follow his logic. “What?” How is relieving tension in a horribly uncomfortable state, by oneself, using someone else? “By your logic, I used you. Is that really what you think?”

He shook his head. “No, no… It’s just. The trial. It was my call to stay and help.” He felt like he wasn’t making sense. “I figured it was fine as long as we completed the trial and I didn’t step out of my bounds. If I didn’t, you know, think of myself.”

Zelda’s head hurt and she massaged her temple. “Wait. So, just so I understand, you think that if you don’t hate every moment of an encounter, you’re just using a person? Yet I’m allowed to indulge to my heart’s content?”  Her drink spilled a little at the wide gesture she made. “Link, that’s absurd. You hear how absurd that is, right?”

If Link had Kittee’s ears, they’d be flat against his skull.

“This whole situation is absurd.”

Zelda squinted hard at him, disliking that he pulled a logical fallacy into her intelligent discourse. “That may be true, Link, but that doesn’t mean we have to be.”

Link was tensed, as if she’d berated him. Something was under his skin, and Zelda wanted to know what. “Zelda, I’m not going to take advantage of this situation. That’s not even a knight thing, that’s just being a good person.”

“I enjoyed myself. Does that make me not a good person?”

“No! It’s not like that.”

Zelda knew a double standard when she saw one. Her hostile tone softened, and she sighed. “Link, remember how I told you that you’re kind to everyone except yourself?” He stared openly at her. “This is a prime example.”

Link was quiet, having been disarmed by her soft tone.

Silence settled between them, pregnant and static. Even Kittee was silent, watching the verbal sparring with second-hand discomfort. 

Zelda's shrewd stare tore him down to all the little bits and pieces that comprised of Link. She was considering something. Really, really considering something. 

Why are you looking at me like that?

He seems to have this pervasive idea that he's not allowed to enjoy anything if it's part of the trials. As if being in a situation like this makes consent a non-starter. That divine intervention completely negates the point of free will, something Zelda's not sold on.

But it's more than that. He thinks he's not allowed to enjoy anything, trials or no. That his identity begins and ends with Hero. Every second not spent being the Hero is just time spent shirking responsibility. Link the person is denied everything that doesn't fit with Link the Hero's very, very narrow utility. He doesn't think he's worthy.

It's why he refused the man in Kakariko and why he bit his fist in her room.

It wouldn't stand to reason that she would be the have, and he would be the have-not. These are the Unity Trials, after all.

Zelda may have just realized the source of the problem: She has to break him of the aversion to self-interest.

“Link, I think I may have figured out what we’re supposed to do.” 

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

Link stared at her open-mouthed.

“Zelda… you can’t possibly expect me to agree to that.”

She saw him try to snap himself out of his stupefied state, fail, and then run his hands through his hair. His furious blush ran from forehead to toes, like all of his blood wanted to get as far away from him as it could. Honestly, he wanted to get as far away from him as he could.

“Honestly? I don’t,” answers Zelda, looking anywhere but at him. “If you’ve got anything to counter my logic, I am definitely open to it.”

Link looked distinctly squeamish. “I…” He swallowed, but the lump in his throat wouldn’t move. Even though there was no one here, even though Link knew this was Zelda’s memory, it still felt like they shouldn’t be speaking like that in public.

Or anywhere, for that matter!

Link dragged his hand down his face. It was clammy, and only made things worse.

“I’m… only proposing an idea. There is no time limit, so you don’t have to make an immediate decision.” Zelda offered kindly. “I wasn’t being facetious when I said I am not anxious to leave. This is my favorite memory, my favorite place, and I have my own pet.”

Link glared at her.

She stared back blankly. “I meant Kittee.”

Link cinched shut his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. Right. Calm down, knight, she’s not doing this maliciously.

“Well… it certainly sounds like a ‘Major Test of Trust,’” Link sighed. He finally stopped his pacing and collapsed on the canteen sofa. There was absolutely no getting him to make eye contact with her, and Zelda’s fine by that.

“Think of it: Everything done so far has been completed mutually. I completed the second trial before you did, but it only opened when we both fulfilled the riddle.” All the other trials were completed at the same time. “The fact that Kittee grew means we had the right idea, but…”

Link swallowed. But they forgot the other half.

“Zelda, I couldn’t possibly ask you to—”

“You aren’t asking me to do anything,” Zelda interrupted him. Her tone said I am asking you, but that strictly speaking wasn’t true.

Link eyed the space where the Kittee had occupied. It had left, finding their energies unpleasant. “And you think that… all of the progress we’ve made will show up at once. That it will grow enough to get us to Vah Naboris.”

Zelda worried her lip. “I’m as sure as I can be.”

He saw Link waging a war within himself. Link vs Hero vs Destiny vs Honor. Zelda couldn’t count the number of casualties. His face twisted at a thought occurring to him. “That sounds like it’s going to hurt.”

Huh?

“Hurt?” Zelda echoed, confusion evident on her face. “What are you—wait. Are we… even talking about the same thing?” Link’s eyes widened as they both realized that no, they weren’t. When she explained her theory on reciprocity, she’d been ambiguous on exactly what that entails.

Realization hit her. Oh. He took it to be very, very literal.

An exact one-for-one of getting what he gave. Having a best friend.

“I hadn’t considered that…” Zelda ventures into the stunning silence. “But now that you mention it, that would be an exact equal exchange.”

Horror drained all the color from Link’s face. Way to dig your own grave, knight! This is why he should have just stayed mute. The more he talks, the more trouble he finds himself in. He put his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. Idiot!

Empathy clutched Zelda’s heart for him.

She tentatively sat at his side and ignored the way his shoulder flinched under her hand.  “Link… I—I won’t ask that of you.” Only at her very weakest did she ever request something he wasn’t fully comfortable with; And even then, he completely had the choice to back out. He’d have to make the call.

It felt like it wasn’t either of their calls.

Link dropped one of his arms, eying Zelda from his hunched position. He looked deeply conflicted. Trying to put words to complex emotions wasn’t his strong suit, so she extended ample amounts of patience to him. “Zelda. It… feels wrong to be coerced by this situation. I feel like I’m taking advantage of you.”

Just because it isn’t strictly true, doesn’t negate the fact he feels that way.

She stared at him with her kindest gaze. “You aren’t.”

There were so many things she could have cited to support her claim, but it didn’t matter. The truth is, if anyone is being taken advantage of, it’s both of them by whatever scheme implemented by the Goddesses this is.

That doesn’t completely disqualify their free will. Eternity may be a long time, but it would be shorter than how long it would take for Zelda to ever force Link to do anything. After all, so long as they’re here, Ganon can’t return.

Link cleared his throat. He stared at the plush Gerudo rug in the center of the canteen. The music box clanged and started over. She could see the forming of a decision in Link’s blue eyes.

Finally, he let his shoulders slump. “You never answered my question.”

What? He turned to level her with a stare that was equal parts vulnerable, resigned, and determined. It took Zelda a second to realize what he meant. She half-laughed, a nervous sound. “Well… that depends. Do you want it to hurt?”

All the color that had drained from his face returned at once. “No!” he squeaks, scandalized.

Zelda hid her amusement behind her drink, her expression apologetic. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Link glowered back at her. “Then it won’t, I promise,” she adds, trying to be nice.

Link looked like a kicked dog. Poor guy. The tension was heavy in his shoulders, and Zelda tried her best to derail whatever self-berating train of thought she could see him spiraling down into. “You know…” she hedges, a little more playful, “The offer for you to back out of our bet if you wear a full Vai outfit is still on the table.”

Link huffs, only a little amused at her dumb joke, and ran his hand through his hair. An obscene idea passed in front of his eyes and he visibly shivered, reached for his drink, and threw back the rest of it with a grimace.

“Hard pass.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

Well, this is terrifying.

When they get out of here, Link will have to return to being a mute, stoic knight who keeps his charge ten paces ahead. That is, if suppressing these memories works at all. He may very well be reduced to insanity at the horrible torment wrought upon his psyche. Maybe his mind will be warped so much, he’ll lose focus against Ganon. That seems a fitting punishment.

Link clamped down on his nerves and demanded he get ahold of himself.

“Why do I feel like Urbosa is about to come out and laugh at me? Or kill me?” Link muttered, eyeing the stairwell suspiciously. Somehow, this does all feel like one big, elaborate prank. “I’d prefer she kill me.”

Zelda snorted. “Same.” She extinguished the torches in the room, returning the same kindness he’d given her. The hiss of each flame getting put out sounded like another nail in a coffin. The reality that this is happening at all has been hidden under Link’s soft blanket of denial.

He shifted uncomfortably in Urbosa’s sheets. The heavy weight of the best friend rolled to his thigh and Link jerked away like it had shocked him. There’s no way…

“Do we… does it have to be here?”

Zelda grimaced and extinguished the last torch. “No, no it doesn’t. It’s just, uh, my room is… indisposed at the moment.” She wrinkled her nose. There’s a reason she chose to sleep here in Urbosa’s room the night before. “We could—”

“Here’s fine,” he cut in hastily.

Though she heard him say it, she got the distinct sense that he didn’t really believe it. It didn’t seem like anywhere would be fine. He’d affirmed in some indistinct fashion a few times, but Zelda had not once received a direct yes.

“Is it, though?” she asks, approaching the bedside. She was undeniably nervous, but much worse than that was the feeling she was doing something he didn’t want. “Link, you’re the Hero of Hyrule but… this is not in your job description. I will dig my heels in against doing anything purely because you feel its compulsory.”

Key word: Purely.

Link swallowed at her sincerity. He has every opportunity to say no, to ask her to stop, to demand space. Why does that somehow make it worse? It’s forcing him to make a choice in the affirmative. It’s a choice that inherently goes against his knight’s code, but by all appearances is demanded by his role as Hero.

His eyes panned up to hers, searching. “I…”

Zelda watched him intently like she was trying to fix a music box. All the parts and gears, all the nuts and bolts, every piece she catalogued and appraised in her mind. She’s trying to figure him out. He’s under incredible pressure, both from within and without. Hero vs. Situation vs. Knight.

What he’s failing to consider is, what does Link the person want?

Zelda lifted her knee onto the bed and watched Link’s anxiety skyrocket. He was fighting the urge to flee, to run from an enemy he wasn’t ready to face. Gently, no sudden movements, she approached his side. His bare chest quivered. It’s like he expected her to manhandle him.

Is he nervous or afraid? It’s hard to tell.

“I can’t read your mind, Link.”

Link sighed and leaned his forehead into the Gerudo silk covering his knee. Honestly? He can’t read his mind either. He laughed at that and said, “Me neither.” She hummed, not really a laugh because it wasn’t really a joke. Link mustered all of his thoughts, if just to try and get them in a row. “I… can’t get past this sense that we’re being forced to do… whatever this is.” He gestured widely but stopped at the hurt expression on Zelda’s face. “No, not you forcing. I mean, this whole… contrived situation. It feels like we’ve been robbed of the choice.”

Zelda was about to remind him that he could leave, but then his point began to resonate. Yes, he could leave this exact spot, but he couldn’t leave this dreamworld, this memory, this place.

“We’ve got all of eternity, Link,” she says gently. The look on his face indicated that was the wrong answer and she winced. Zelda sighed, and gave more thought to it, “You’re right. It does feel… somewhat forced,” she admits. So many thoughts, so much happening in her mind. It was too heavy, and Zelda collapsed onto the pillows, staring at the ceiling. She wasn’t touching Link but laid at his side.

Slowly, he relaxed when he realized she wasn’t going to do anything. He tucked his arm behind his head and analyzed the same piece of stucco on the ceiling that she did, as if it had all of their answers.

The best friend sat between them menacingly.

Thoughtful silence weighted the blankets.

Finally, Zelda spoke. “Divine intervention doesn’t negate freewill. At least, I don’t think it does.” Link turned to her, but she stared forward, still tearing apart her own thoughts. “It doesn’t control my thoughts or fears or desires. It doesn’t shape what I want.”

Link watched her closely. “What do you want?”

A pained expression passed in front of her eyes. Conflict. “I don’t know. Freedom? Reprieve? Success?” Too nebulous; not specific enough. She swept her hair out from under her neck, a frustrated gesture. A little piece of it tickled his nose. Zelda worried her lip between her teeth. “I want the trial done with. I want it all done with.”

Link swallowed a lump. He wanted to provide that, he did, but…

He floundered until she spoke. “But it’s not just that. I liked… forgetting that I was the Princess. I can’t help wishing that, if just for a brief moment, you could forget that you’re the Hero of Hyrule.”

Link huffed. “Me, too.”

Zelda finally turned to look at him, eyes soft and empathetic. She may be the only other person in the world who could even approach knowing what that feels like. “I know that these trials may be demanding but… I think you’re failing to consider what you want. Not Link the Hero. Link the person.” She poked his shoulder with her blunt nail.

It was as if he hadn’t considered it. “It doesn’t matter what I—”

“It does,” she interrupted, warm but concise. “We didn’t think the trials required you to... assist me like that. You chose that. I think that may be the only time I’ve ever met Link the person.”

Link’s face flamed at the memory. She’s right. It was entirely his call, and they didn’t think it was strictly necessary. His tight-fisted control had slipped through his fingers without him even noticing. Zelda watched shame wrap him before he even recognized he felt it. She made to interrupt it. “And I expressed gratitude. If the Princess of Hyrule thanks you for something, you probably should be humble and accept her thanks.”

Pulling rank seemed to work because he flinched like she’d hit a soft spot. Got him. She couldn’t help finding his bashful expression endearing.

Zelda shifted to her side and rested her head against her palm. The best friend rolled to where her weight dented the bedding, and she pretended not to notice. Her voice dropped, just the tiniest hint of a change, “Want to know what I want, Link?”

Good old predictable Link. His nervous expression was adorable.

She was quiet, smiling at him like that. Not rhetorical. Link found he had lost his voice, but something urged him to use it. “What?”

“I want to return the favor.”

Link’s heart fell out of rhythm.

She liked watching him strain against his own self-control. Loved the way she agonized him just by suggestion. He made a tense sound like he’d just been thrown against a mountain. Perhaps the devious voice in her head could be used for good instead of evil.

“What?” he said again.

A little glimmer of mischief in her eye reflected the scant moonlight. Her arm intruded into their neutral space, fingers lightly touching his bicep. The skin shivered under her touch.

“Not because of the trial. I can’t help… wanting to return your kindness.” She could not have phrased that any more delicately, and yet she felt heat burning the tops of her ears.

Link was rendered actually, fully mute.

Conflict was apparent in his eyes, but it had to move to accommodate desire as well. Thoughts flashed behind his eyes, too quick for Zelda to guess at. Judging by the way he bent the knee closest to her, they weren’t all innocent.

“Zelda…” he said, voice strained. Link’s hand threaded his hair.

She watched him patiently. Zelda had seen him dispose of monsters with the full brunt of his fighting prowess, but to watch Link fight Link was a sight to behold. She’d never seen two Lynels cross swords, but perhaps it would be something like this.

Poor guy.

Sure, the trial may demand that he gets what he gave. That’s her theory on reciprocity in this place. However, she knew he was just trying to convince himself that he could withstand the treatment and not break whatever pointlessly strict code he’s imposed on himself. Just survive the trial.

That’s not what she’s talking about.

Zelda giggled quietly and moved just a little closer. The best friend rolled heavily onto Link’s thigh and he recoiled like it hurt. Zelda’s hand on his chest stilled him. “I’ll make you a bet,” she whispered. He quivered under her palm in a way that made her feel powerful. Trying to figure out what she was doing, he shifted on his side, their elbows and knees touching. Link searched her eyes: Sincere, kind, mischievous, determined.

She leaned in closer, her nose just hair's width from his. “Twenty rupees I can make you forget that you’re the Hero.”

Arousal slammed into him at the promise in her eyes. The challenge. Her hand slid just a little lower, and she didn't hide the joyful superiority she felt at his reaction. She's not just doing this for the trial. She wants to.

Her lips the hot springs her moans her taste her shivers her smile her slim fingers-- 

There's no way she can make him forget his burden. But who is he to stop her from trying?

He shuddered and shook his head. "You're on."

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

Just survive the trial. Get out of here alive. That’s a simple goal, right? Surely, the Hero of Hyrule should be plenty strong enough to succeed at that, right?

Somehow, he’d never faced an enemy as fearsome as Zelda’s curious gaze.

She stared into his eyes, then his lips, and then closed the space between them. It was a light kiss; chaste, sweet. Doesn’t matter. Her breath seared his skin and redirected his blood-flow in an instant. So soft.

When she pulled away, he followed after her on instinct, only to find air. Zelda wore a shit-eating, self-congratulatory grin. This is going to be so easy.

Link’s nostrils flared at the challenge and he stared back, steely-eyed. He’d proven before that he can hold his own against her mind-games. Zelda didn’t seem to react to him, as she withdrew her hand and stared at him appraisingly, hand on her chin.

Zelda was nervous. When Zelda’s nervous, she defaults to thinking out loud. “Let’s see… if my theory is correct, we need to duplicate your kindness for me, except switching roles.” Link felt distinctly underdressed beneath her gaze. He wasn’t sure if it was his own mind supplied the lewd images he saw, or if Zelda was transmitted them telepathically. She smiled that smile at him, then decided something. “Alright, go ahead.”

Dumbfounded, Link just stared at her and her evil face. Zelda raised her brows, both impatient and amused. She grinned salaciously. “Whenever you’re ready.”

It’s like he heard boss battle music but saw no boss.

 “…What?”

Zelda reclined comfortably into the mass of pillows, her hair going everywhere. “Just pretend I’m not here.” Horror colored his eyes, and Zelda giggled back at him, a little sound both nervous and entertained. She made a little hurry up, get to it gesture with her hand.

He glared at her. You cannot be serious.

Judging by the look in her eye, yes, she absolutely can be serious.

Link swallowed and rolled onto his back, if just to get away from her knowing gaze. He’d been her appointed knight for quite some time now.  After particularly long stretches of time, when he found his own corporeal needs to be a liability in battle, Link had given in. These moments stolen for himself to relieve some pressure were executed with the utmost stealth and discretion. He’d checked in triplicate that Zelda hadn’t even realized that he was gone. They wouldn’t exactly be described as self-care sessions; Too fast, too efficient.

He’d also never had an audience. Link made a tense noise from all of the pressure in his diaphragm. Zelda looked like she was having the time of her life.

Her eyes narrowed and her cocky grin cut him to the core. “Yeah. Now you know how that feels.”

Way to put him in his place. Link didn’t answer her with anything other than a whine (not that he could) and shakily trailed his hand lower on his abdomen. It was dark in this room, but he knew she could see what he was doing, could see the way his hand trembled. The thin silk of the Gerudo pants was obviously not designed to accommodate Voe anatomy and were essentially useless in the way of modesty.

Link takes it back. This is the most uncomfortable he’s ever been in his life.

Zelda’s breathing changed just the slightest bit as his hand dipped under the waistline. Even with her curious gaze, his body reacted to his own touch. The back-and-forth between arousal and anxiety, over and over again, had left him jumpy and overwrought.

He tentatively wrapped his hand around himself and heat pooled just under his palm. Link tried to focus on that, just that, but the weight of Zelda’s analytical gaze was distracting. She was fascinated, as if she’d just taught a Guardian the common tongue. It’s like she was trying to figure out what makes him tick.

Knowing Zelda, that’s exactly what she’s doing.

Focus! He ventured a gentle pull, if just to coax some of the lost hardness back. Even under the stress, he couldn’t help how it still felt good. Somehow both a relief and a building need at once. Link felt sweat on the back of his knees cling the silk to him uncomfortably.

He gently passed his thumb over the head, feeling his hips cant forward into his fist. Zelda made a soft sound next to him as if he’d hurt her, and it snapped him out of his rhythm.

Oh, that’s why she hissed at him. That’s fair.

Link swallowed, shook it off, and tried to gather his focus again. He forced his arm to resume, twisting at the top and working himself in the way he’d found to be the most effective in those stolen moments alone. Link’s heartbeat drummed in his ears, and the deafening silence did nothing to dampen the lewd noises of friction and rustling sheets. Embarrassment gripped him. There’s no way she’s not hearing these sounds…

The best friend still leaned against his leg.

Maybe he could somehow redirect focus off himself. Maybe he could get another opportunity to use it on her. To watch her writhe at the end of it, to taste her as she comes, like spicy simmered fruit.

He groaned at the memory, then tamped it down. No, that’s not what the trial demands of them! Even if Zelda wants to reciprocate him, he refuses to step outside the bounds of what’s required for the trial. He’d slipped up before, but that only means that he has to redouble his efforts to keep himself in check.

 “Link,” she says, interrupting his pep talk. “I… want to see.”

It’s like he magically acquired more blood, because somehow his face managed to flush while he also hardened in his hand. She bit her lip, watching him with rapt attention. Zelda looked like she wanted to take notes. Instead, she just removed the blue overshirt she wore, leaving a simple tank top behind. Her skin glistened with the beginnings of sweat.

He froze, as if she were a predator that relied solely on movement to see. If I just sit still, she’ll forget I’m here. It turns out that was definitely not the case as she moved closer, slotting the arm he’d unwisely left unguarded between her breasts. She was hugging his arm in such a way to almost be innocent. If Link just turned his hand at the correct angle, he might be able to reach her…

No! Just complete the trial.

“Please?” she says into his ear.

Link shuddered and nodded. It’s hard to say no to that. He lifted his hips enough to push the Gerudo pants to his knees. The weight of her gaze increased, and Link felt himself shriveling self-consciously under her wide-eyed stare. She looked like she had just discovered a new Divine Beast. Something to tear apart and put back together.

Zelda nosed his shoulder and made a soft sound, her hand trailing down his chest while the other held his arm in place. Held in place for a reason, Link found, as her hips ground needy little circles onto the back of his wrist. Desire slammed into him. She didn’t even seem to realize she was doing it!

Any length he’d lost from his bout of self-consciousness came roiling back with a vengeance. He chanced a glance at Zelda’s face, who was utterly focused, and ran his hand back up his thigh and onto his erection. A firewhip of arousal cracked him and he groaned. Zelda ground a little harder onto him.

Focus, knight! He closed his eyes and tried to perform X action for Y result. That’s all. Maybe this is all the trial demands of them. Just for him to find his own release, and then fully mortified, they can go home and not say a single word about it. That would be fine, right?

Maybe if he works fast enough, they’ll have to just skip over the rest of the things that constitute “reciprocation.” He could escape with at least a little bit of dignity and honor left.

That very well may have worked, but Zelda’s hand on his chest trailed lower, ticklishly, over his abdomen. It shivered under the faint brush of her fingernails and the rhythm of his hand stuttered. Link’s breathing sped up the lower she got. Is she about to…?

She was. Zelda touched him so tentatively he wondered if this was some sick fantasy. Her hand gently curled around the base, testing the girth of him, feeling it pulsate in her hand. As she raised further up him, Link’s hand was pushed out of the way and he opted to bite it instead of release the embarrassing moan that tried to escape him. Curiously, Zelda did as she saw him do: run her hand down the length, back up, gently thumb the slit at the top. Her grip wasn’t quite right and her technique was unpracticed, but still Link’s hips jolted forward as if she’d shocked him.

He gripped his own hair as Zelda released his arm and moved to kneel at his side, fully focused on her work. His hand seemed forgotten about, and she was so close he could reach out and touch her and have her looking just as much a mess as him.

“Hm…” she hummed, “Give me feedback if this hurts.”

Terror swept him but before he could say anything, his breath was stolen away as she tightened her grip and increased the speed for a few strokes. She curiously ran her finger down the vein, back up, then brushed gently over the head again. Holy Hylia! Link’s high, wounded whimper whistled through his teeth.

He’s so turned on, it hurts.

Zelda beamed victoriously, watching him writhe like a cricket without wings. He sucked in the breath that he’d failed to take, panting heavily like he’d never catch it. “Zelda…” he hissed out, a pained sound.

She wasn’t listening. The scholar was so enriched by the experience, exploring his body and testing a multitude of techniques. There’s no way she’d thought of all of those just now! His hand gripped her knee where she knelt over it, if just for something to anchor his soul to his body.  She seems to be having a grand old time pulling pleasure out of him, noting it, then trying something else.

Zelda’s purposefully drawing this out!

Desperation breathed down his neck. If she would just stick with something, remain consistent—He wanted—No, screw this. She decidedly has too much control right now. Link’s hand adjusted underneath her, searching, and he knew he’d located his target when Zelda’s hands stuttered and stilled.

She gasped as he circled her clit with his fingers through her riding pants.

Zelda’s eyes narrowed dangerously at him and she moved to sit just out of his reach, much to Link’s displeasure. “This is about you,” she managed to remind him despite the raspiness of her voice. Throwing his words back in his face wasn’t nearly as effective as resuming her slow torment on the knight. She watched the way his sculpted thighs quivered when she did something right.

Her hand was warm from the friction. Doesn’t that hurt him? He is a proud type. Not telling her he’s in pain would be pretty classic Link. Zelda accessed her bank of knowledge about Voe anatomy, and thought perhaps, if she…

She found the bead of fluid on top, and gently slid it across the skin. Had this not been a memory with no one around,  the noise he made would have guards rushing in to break up whatever violence was going on here. Zelda grinned victoriously. “Have I won the bet yet?” Zelda gloated.

Link managed to peer at her through hazy squinted eyes. “No.”

 That didn’t seem to discourage her. She just shrugged confidently, as if victory was a matter of when, not a matter of if. Her hand resumed a slow, tortuous pace, pausing to collect the pearl of fluid at the top when she felt the friction growing too warm. He was so hard, pulsing in her hand, and yet the skin was incredibly soft. Zelda had never imagined that Link had any soft spots anywhere.

A burst of pleasure spasmed through him, and Link’s legs tried to move, but he was bound by the pants around his knees. Taking mercy on the poor soul, Zelda let go and tenderly helped him out of them one foot at a time. He seemed grateful until she used her new position to settle between his ankles.

Alarm rang in his ears and he sat up to look at her. What are you doing? He fought the urge to reach for the blankets. He couldn’t help feeling self-conscious with her staring at him, almost completely dressed, while he was bare to her. Is this what she felt like when he’d done the same thing to her? This definitely screams of Major Test of Trust.

She set her hands tenderly on his closed knees, and he understood the message: Whenever you’re ready.

He searched her eyes and was surprised at the eagerness in them but found no hint of displeasure or disgust. Steeling his nerves, he nodded and lowered one leg out straight. He allowed her to push his knee aside as she move in closer, her hands trailing up his thighs in a way that reminded him that he will never suppress this memory.

Any concept of a moment that isn’t right now evaporated as her hand returned to him, gently rebuilding their rhythm until Link felt sweat sticking the sheets to his back. He was so distracted by the white-hot pleasure behind his eyes that he failed to remember that she has two hands. He tensed as she gingerly explored him, rolling each sack curiously in her palms and Link thought he might just die right then.

When it was just him, by himself, none of the care and attention she gave him was involved.

He should never have closed his eyes. Taking his eyes off of her for even a moment is a dangerous gamble. He felt warm air on his head, and Link’s eyes shot open to capture a snapshot of what may very well his unknighting: Zelda’s lips hovering just above him, wrapped in her soft hand, staring him in the eye.

She was watching him. Looking to see if he would pull away or tell her to stop. Desire swept through his vivid imagination and provided him with all the fantasies he’d forgotten or suppressed of warm soft slick— and was his control slipping?

It seems she got her answer because she smiled coquettishly up at him, then licked a stripe up the underside. Link’s toes curled and he clutched the sheets like he was scared he'd float away. Maybe she had been right. Maybe this was going to be too easy. This is probably going to end in a very embarrassing mess. This is going to be the hardest twenty rupees to ever pay.

Focus, knight. You can keep it together.

Zelda seemed happy with the reaction, and decided to do it again, this time pulling his head into her mouth and swirling her tongue experimentally, so, so gently that Link saw stars. He didn’t hear so much as feel the moan she made at the taste of him. How did he even get here? Wasn’t he on some holy pilgrimage with the Princess of Hyrule, bound on saving the world?

How did he wind up flat on his back with the Princess sucking his soul clean out of his body?

She took a little more in, her hand working the rest of him, and Link thought he might burst into tears. “Holy fuck, Zelda!” he hissed, grinding his molars into powder.

Her little smug hum rippled through his length and made the soft sacks in her hand tighten. His hips spasmed, seeking more heat more pressure more more! But Zelda just pulled away, leaving cold wet air behind. He growled in frustration and swiped his disheveled hair from his forehead. She flicked her hair out of her way and leaned back down, pressing a chaste kiss to the tip.

He might actually start crying. She was intent on driving him absolutely crazy!

Without warning, Zelda dove forward and took as much as she could. Link cried out in surprise, vicious pleasure ratcheting pressure tighter and tighter behind his navel. She only stopped when he hit the back of her throat. She was inexperienced in maintaining her breathing, and her jaw wasn’t designed to accommodate anything of this size, and Link nearly ripped his hair out from the feeling of her gag reflex.

None of his deepest, darkest fantasies even compared. Zelda seemed daunted, but determined, and readjusted herself, perhaps a little clumsy, and tried again. He felt her envelope just that much more of him, but pain quickly overtook pleasure. “Ah! Teeth! Careful with—Your teeth!” he flinched, and Zelda immediately released.

“Sorry.” Zelda swallowed, then directed all of her perseverant personality back onto her task of pulling him back in, no teeth this time.

I forgive you! Link’s silent scream was stuck in his throat, making a choked sob sound. She was a little more careful, a little more tentative, but was nothing if not a fast learner. A familiar tightness built, flitting over his eyelids just long enough to make him want it, but not long enough for him to ever get it. He knew what release felt like, but in this moment, it was only ever a memory that taunted him.

Link was so distracted that he hadn’t noticed that her hand slipped lower.

She was searching for something, pressing indistinctly along an expanse of skin that he had never paid a second thought to. It felt strange and foreign, and honestly was a workable distraction tool to get himself back under control. That is, until she increased the pressure and found what she was looking for.

Link’s spine arched and he cried out. What was that?! It’s like the curl-your-fingers trick, but on his very not-female body! At his reaction, Zelda swirled her tongue and pressed into the nub again, circling it.

His control slipped. A rush of heat made a sudden move, like an army rushing a fortress, and panic shot through him. “Zelda,” he says urgently, “Zelda—I…”

Link didn’t get a chance to finish that sentence as she pulled away and let it fall to rest on top of his belly. The air felt so cold, he thought for a moment he was back in Hebra. All urgency was replaced with frustration as his untended need regrouped back inside him. That was close! Link tried to catch his breath, but it was stolen again as her finger pressed into that spot again. How did she even know that was there?

Zelda stared down at him, looking proud of herself. Link just glared back at her.

Suddenly, Zelda’s hand was in front of his mouth. Confused and frustrated, he cocked a brow at her. “Suck,” she commanded, leaving no room for argument. Link wasn’t sure why she’d want him to do that, but he was loath to deny her anything at this point. You want me to cut off my hand? No problem. Please, just give me something!

He pulled the digit into his mouth, the musk and sweat of him on his tongue. The bed shook as Zelda quivered while he worked the finger and allowed her to add another. He tasted her skin, and with nothing else touching him, he was starved for anything Zelda, anywhere! Her soft moan at the feel of his fingers is what kept him from entering the astral plane.

The fingers swiftly withdrew, and Link realized too late that she’d returned to lavish licks onto his member again. He was wound so tight, just bordering on the precipice of overstimulation that had driven Zelda into despair the previous night. That’s when he understood: She’s recreating her own feeling of desperation, just in him.

He can’t tell if that’s fair or cruel because he can’t think anything while she sucked lightly, dipping her tongue into the slit and Link is probably going to die right now.

That’s when he feels her slicked fingers exploring lower, spreading wetness around a place he himself hadn’t ever touched, let alone anyone else!  "Whoa! Zelda-- what." He stuttered, rendered simple by the alien feeling. They'd danced around the topic before, and some distant part of him knew that's what the trial demanded, but he still lagged behind real-time when it came to the fact that any of this was happening at all. Let alone that particular milestone!

At his tension, she stilled, mouth full, and stared into his eyes. Link’s brain was overloaded with information to the point he didn’t know what to make of this. He’d almost forgotten about that part of the “reciprocity” theory.

Gently, she pulled off of him, but her fingers remained still. Zelda didn't break eye-contact as she watched Link's eyes' broadcast: Terror, curiosity, perturbation, and curiosity again. She was watching him, looking to see if he would balk or demand she stop. Waiting for a green light. She offered him a nonthreatening smile, "Major Test of Trust, Link."

That's an understatement.

Link was doing his best to make a decision, which is no small feat when his entire body is shrieking in his ears for release. His pulse was deafening. Her index finger was a telephone wire transmitting her thoughts directly into him. Zelda trailed a circle, so so gently around his rim.

Embarrassment colored his face at the involuntary shiver she wrought from him.

When he didn’t ask her not to, she circled him again and rewarded good behavior with a long stroke up his length. Her fingers increased pressure, soft, insistent, then backed out and repeated. He never could focus on the strange, foreign feeling for long, because Zelda’s lips lowered back onto him, moving just a little quicker. She parried his moan with her own.

Her thumb arched to that spot behind his balls again and pressed. That pressure building in him was back, grilling him alive from the inside out. Link felt completely powerless and despite that, he diligently clung to any foothold of control he could get. It’s like slipping down moss-covered stairs.

Zelda had entered him to the first knuckle before he’d even recognized it. She was playing him like an instrument, which probably makes her a natural virtuoso. She was suspiciously talented, in fact. So much, that a question burned in his mind. “Have you… done this before?” he panted.

She pulled off of him with a lewd pop. A thin web of saliva connected her lips to him like a thread of fate. “Mm?” She had to clear her throat to speak. “No, I haven’t.” She seemed flattered by the sideways compliment. “You saw my notes, remember?”

Link had forgotten the language for a moment and meaning caught up with him later. Right! That book under her bed. That explains some things.

 She stroked him lazily, her finger pressing gently into him in a way that, much to his surprise, wasn’t unpleasant. Even though he had literally masqueraded as the opposite sex, Link felt that this moment was a far greater test of his masculinity. She lightly trailed her finger free fingers around the rim, almost ticklish, while her thumb continued to apply steady pressure to some unseen spot inside him.

Zelda had really done her research.

Her second knuckle worked back and forth at a steady, easy pace. With this advantage, she could tell exactly when he was approaching the edge, and then would leave his dick completely untouched on his belly. When she deemed him recollected, she’d start up again. Sweat stuck the sheets to every inch of his skin; his hair was matted; frustration clanged angrily in his belly like a wrench in a music box. Is this really what Zelda was experiencing? This is the sort of pain she tried to work herself out of?

He’s strong, but he’s only mortal.

“Zelda…” he whines a keening, wounded sound. Be nice.

The princess pulls her head away, stroking him slowly. Her hand slowly rocked back and forth into him, drawing long shivers all the way down his spine. Grinding, teasing, not nearly fast enough.

“Turnabout is fair play, knight.”

Link tried to narrow his eyes menacingly at her, but she pushed her finger back into him with just that much force, her hand worked just that much faster on his length. Zelda’s academic lust sought after something inside him, searching, turning her finger until—

“Ah!” he cried, pleasure seizing his muscles and lights flashed unseen in the dark room. She seemed to sense that he was close and stilled her motions while he caught his breath. What had she just found?! And why does everything taste like voltfruits? Curious, Zelda gently pushed back into him, finger hitting that spot again. It was like she’d stabbed him with a lighting-blade.

“…Pain?” she asks.

Link’s eyes rolled forward again. In the tiny space between full-body shudders, he managed to grind out, “No.”

So, good, then?  Zelda did it again, this time applying a little more pressure, and felt him tighten in spasms around her finger. She knew that she was driving him all the way to the edge then reeling him back again, over and over. When the knight clenched his teeth and evened out his breathing, she gently took him back into her mouth, just holding him, and tentatively added a second finger. Link shivered, hips wriggling under her like he wanted more of something but couldn’t name what. The slim, elegant fingers withdrew from him all the way, then pressed all the way back in, angled to hit that same spot inside him again. The pitiful sound he made went straight to her ego.

He held steadfast to his control.

The durability of the saliva was not unending. Zelda knew she’d have to do something else to make sure not to hurt him. Gently, so gently, she withdrew and left him feeling empty in her wake. Dizzily, he tried to watch her as she lay prone across the bed to rummage through the dresser drawer. “Wha… Hng!” She returned and gently lent him a few strokes, just to keep him where he was, and snapped the cap of an elixir she’d acquired.

Link barely opened his eyes long enough to see Zelda pouring something onto her fingers. He was about to ask, when those fingers returned to him, working him with the slick fluid gliding her skin against his in a way that had him trembling. “Whoa…” he breathed. Not much longer of this, and maybe he could commune with the Goddesses himself and ask them just exactly what kind of nonsense they were trying to pull with these trials.

He's completely in control.

Zelda had never seen him off-guard. Ever-ready for a fight, always intimidating in his shrewd stare, attentive to the slightest sound, intuitive to even the faintest hint of danger. Right now, Ganon himself could come busting down the door, and Link would sparsely notice. Zelda couldn’t help the pride she felt at reducing him to his helpless state.

She left his oversensitive, throbbing length alone and took the moment of rest to roll her shoulders and stretch her neck. It was like she was settling in for a long night of studying which, strictly speaking, wasn’t not what’s happening here. While she stretched her jaw muscles, her fingers never remained perfectly still, always gliding this way and that, never letting him come all the way back down.

There’s no way this is a fair exchange!

Frustration burned a hole in his stomach. Everything was over-stimulated, and the pain fought for space with the pleasure in his brain. He glowered at her as she knelt before him, watching him writhe in agony at the end of her arm. Zelda just smiled back and curled her fingers, stealing the breath he was going to use to tell her in no unclear terms how unhappy he was with this.

Evil! She wore this superior little grin and watched in victory as yet another bead of liquid pulsed from his head and onto his abdomen.

Link’s hands fisted the sheets.

Zelda’s chipping away at his self-control, piece by piece. She knows what she’s doing to him, and is wielding her power to break him down to the sum of his parts.

She literally has him wrapped around her finger.

Link could take no more.

He sat up on his elbows, stared straight into her eyes, and baked her under his gaze. Far gone was any hint of wanting, now replaced by need and hunger. “Zelda…” he warned, teeth glinting lupine in the darkness, “You’re being exceptionally unkind.”

For a split moment, she thought that he may wheel around to attack her, so intimidating was his unblinking stare. Her surprise wore off the longer she met his gaze.

Their beating hearts synchronized.

This is the point where Link had shown her kindness. Where he nodded and surged forward with an unexpected passion and finesse with all intents of pleasing her. Zelda felt heat roiling inside her at the idea of returning the favor, of giving him what he’d given her. To watch all hint of stoicism fall away.

Would he become more talkative, or would he be reduced to a mess of whimpers? Would he say her name, or curse so nastily that Hylia would revoke her blessing?

His eyes pleaded, just pick one.

Unfortunately for Link, Zelda’s not him. She’s not kind. Her smile cut Cheshire lines around her eyes and she pressed back into him, all the way to her knuckles, and reveled at how the tendons in his neck flared and his head rolled back.

So easy.

It was all too much! He’d told her in no unclear terms that he was at his limit. Wasn’t she supposed to be paying back his kindness? This is anything but kindness. She was so smug in her complete and utter control over him; She lazily trailed her free hand up his ribs and tweaked his nipple. Link felt like he was locked in stasis, getting pummeled over and over again and as soon as time resumed, his bones would fly in all different directions.

Huh. That’s an idea.

“Zelda…” he rumbled.

This is your last warning.

The princess stared down at him, expression cocksure and arrogant. She seemed to believe that she had complete, uninterrupted control over him. To the extent that he had control over himself, she did.

But Link was losing control of himself.

And Zelda’s about to find that out.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

Zelda called his raise. Her eyes narrowed, a challenge: What are you going to do about it?

The fingers inside him pressed against that spot again, firm, insistent, drawing cute little hearts. You’re not gonna do a damn thing about it, Hero. She watched sweat roll off his brow and his chest heave as he fought some unseen force to stay in control.

The pleasure hit him, and something snapped.

That’s it.

With the precision of a hunter, Link flashed forward and stole the Shiekah slate from its holster on her hip. The sudden movement surprised her, stilling her movements just long enough for him to activate the Stasis rune and stop her before she decided to bring him to heel again. Chains of time wrapped around her as she stared back with her surprised, golden face. Link removed himself from her grasp and pushed her so that when time resumed, she would fall hard onto the mattress on her back. Unlike Zelda, he actually had some practice when it comes to how much force it takes to make the Stasis rune work without causing too much damage. He only had a few seconds left, and he used them to grip her tank top and pull it apart down the center.

Time resumed all at once, and the chains disappeared.

Shocked, Zelda was suddenly thrown on her back, and the sound of fabric ripping cut through the sounds of their breathing. Her top was split down the middle, leaving her uninjured and exposed. She hadn’t even had the chance to realize what just happened before Link grabbed her by the wrists and used his full strength to hold them above her head.

Any trace of smug superiority was gone as she stared up into his eyes.

His eyes in the hot spring.

He leaned down to press a heated kiss to her lips, free hand trailblazing up her ribs and towards her breast. Link’s knee pressed between hers, grinding his thigh against her core. He greedily swallowed her moan whole as the violent tremors shook her and she involuntarily writhed against him.

Got you.

Unknown eons passed by in their furious clash of lips and tongue. It was rough, unrefined, teeth clacking and warring tongues battling for dominance in each other’s throats. A very, very far cry from Link’s stoic chivalry or Zelda’s dignified tact. His free hand fisted her hair, pulling her impossibly closer, and the other finally released her arms in favor of cupping her breast. The extension of trust was rewarded with her nails scratching brutal lines down his back.

 “That was a dirty trick,” she scolded, then bit his lip.

He growled in pain, which somehow only made him want her more. Link roughly ground his hips down onto hers, promising retribution.

Her taste her hands her hair her moans her smile her wetness her—

 Link’s leg pressed forward against her a little harder where she most needed the pressure and she moaned. Even through her clothes, he could feel her slick his skin. Without warning, he released her, threw the slate far out of her reach, and began work on unbuttoning her riding pants. Zelda was just as hurried, lifting her hips and kicking her feet free when he pulled the cursed leg-traps off of her.

Zelda had been next to bare in front of him before, but something about her laid out for him in this exact moment, panting, eyes dilated with want, paled all others in comparison.

Virulent voices of virility roared in his ears, provided him with caveman-level blueprints of what he wanted to do to her. How much he wanted to take her. There must have been some unseen ambassador coordinating correspondence between the animalistic and the passionate, because Link did none of those things.

He grabbed the best friend at her side and switched it on.

Link’s hand enclosed her, slammed with the feeling of warm and slick so hard that it was a mystery why he wasn’t inside her at this very instant! Instead, his fingers pushed into her, feeling no hint of resistance, and immediately let muscle-memory do the work of unravelling her. Zelda’s neck arched as if possessed. They both had the idea to sear the other with a savage kiss at the same time.

 The result was that they’d be bruised and battered and kiss-swollen and neither of them minded in the slightest because Link’s fingers curled and Zelda’s legs trembled and wait what was he doing with that device?

He rested it heavily on top of her hip; Equal parts threat and promise. He continued unfolding her at an unyielding pace, but suddenly pulled back from their kiss as he hugged the device to the curve of her mound. Zelda’s face contorted at the vibration as he gently slid it down her slit, wetting it, humming so close to where she needed it most.

Finally, he pressed it against her lips, pushing until she spasmed and the buzzing sound altered in pitch. Zelda thought she was ascending into the spirit realm. “Ah- fuck! Link!”

Her hips levitated off the mattress and into his hand, thighs quivered with the feeling of yes there keep doing that so close—

Link felt her clench around his fingers, then violently push them out with a throaty cry. Fluid rushed forward, heady and far more intoxicating than any noble pursuit. It darkened the sheets, but neither of them cared. They were a lewd, dark tangle of persons, mercifully stripped of any destiny or duty or status. Even though he’d wrought release from her, she still wanted more, more! Her nails dug crescent moons into his shoulders, into his hips, anywhere she could sink her claws in, as if she were scared that he’d slip away.

Instinct or intuition or the look in her eye managed to get the message through his thick skull. Swiftly, he removed his fingers from her, and traded them out for the best friend pushing into her insistently. Her body yielded, accommodating, as he angled it right and thrust one, five, seven times until she felt another building wave of pleasure. His other hand circled her clit, having to remind himself not to be nearly as rough as he wanted to be.

The device had gotten her there; his fingers had done the job. Yet still she wanted something (something) and she couldn’t name exactly what (what) without the proper use of her braincells. With a leonine snarl, Zelda planted both heels into his hips and kicked him away.

 Stunned, he fell back against the plush headboard and pillows, staring up at her as she loomed menacingly over him.

Zelda held the best friend in her hand.

Your turn.

Link’s nostrils flared, staring down an enemy he wanted to be defeated by. Zelda hooked her arm under his knee and put it over her shoulder. She wanted to keep him on his back, struggling against the onslaught of pleasure. She stroked him gently, thumbed the head, distracted him in so many ways, but his eyes still shot open at the best friend pressing against him.

Vibrations coursed through him, millions of little bees without stingers in his veins. Is this what she experienced, but in female form? She gently pulled him into her mouth, pressing the device firmly, patiently. With his leg over her shoulder, she needn’t use any force whatsoever. Link shivered, and whatever blind animalism in his mind found that it had met its match in Zelda.

She didn’t shy from his stare. Didn’t balk at his intensity. She doubled it.

Zelda bit his inner thigh, then lavished apology kisses to the mark. Everything was so, so slick, gliding in a strange dreamworld without friction holding anything in place. Zelda pressed the vibrating friend in smoothly and pulled back to watch the fireworks on Link’s face.

“Holy—Zelda, I…” he swallowed, completely overwhelmed. He couldn’t see an inch in front of his face.

Zelda dropped his thigh and he groaned at the sudden shift. “Sit up.”

Jetlagged just behind reality, it took Link a moment to realize that she’d said words from where he’s supposed to be kissing. “Huh?’ The consistent hum of the device was deafening; It resonated all the way up to his throat. Zelda helped by pulling him up by the arm, which was enough gesture for him to get her meaning.

When he understood her purpose, desire coiled even tighter inside him.

She had that devious, impatient, haughty, royal look in her eye. Sitting up required moving, and the added pressure pressed the friend deeper inside to the point it hurt a little, but he couldn’t even pause to consider that because Zelda’s straddling him and when did he put his hands on her hips?

Zelda gyrated in wide, tortuous circles, spreading slickness and heat and wow that is a lot for Link to take at once! She swallowed his heady, needy moan with a kiss that wrapped her arms around his neck. His hips jolted up to meet hers, which triggered a domino reaction that she couldn’t see, but she could definitely feel and hear.

All this from the guy too knightly to share a tent with her.

A tense sound got caught in his chest from all of the tantric inputs and Link’s head rolled back. He couldn’t withstand all of this; He was bound to break, to give in to release. Zelda’s hot breath fanned into his ear, making him shiver, “Don’t you dare.”

She gripped the base of him, hard, stopping the oncoming release before it could make its way through him. Link let out a strangled cry at the burgeoning ache and the pain. He didn’t even know it was possible to do that! “Ah! Fuck!” he hissed.

“Not yet,” she commanded. “I know you can do it.” Without releasing the base of him, she lifted her hips and angled him just right. Link clawed at the sheets, given a full view of her moonlit body slowly sinking down on him, her head thrown back and breasts heaving. They both moaned at the sensation of her stretching around him.

Zelda could feel the vibrations of their best friend through Link.

Both were too desperate to savor this moment. It felt so good. Link was rendered still, simply because making any movement would jostle him and he is not one to disobey direct orders like that. However, Zelda adjusted quickly, lifting with her knees and using hands on his chest for leverage.  Sweat glued them together, and their lips locked again, and Zelda couldn’t tell who stole whose breath away or where one of them ended and the other began.

Link’s hands tightened on her hips, and they moved in a frenzied synchronicity; Her downs meeting his ups. Zelda couldn’t take much more, and when his hand moved to the juncture of their hips to give her one last bit of help, it was like he javelined her from a cliff.

Pleasure crashed through her, tearing her orgasm from her in the way a tree would be uprooted by the wind. The fluttering of her pleasure pulled him down off the cliff right after and he came with a long groan.

Panting and sweat-slick, Zelda fell forward onto Link’s heaving chest, and he leaned back onto the plush headboard, hand holding his damp bangs off his forehead. As it turns out, the answer is yes, you can in fact die in an afterlife. Link’s certain he just saw the faces of the Goddesses.

He’d never experienced this feeling of… afterglow.

It’s a distinctly different feeling than that of just relief.

“Wow…” said one of them, neither knew whom.

Some very distant part of his brain complained that their friend was still pulsing, that they were completely caked in fluids, but he distinctly didn’t care about it. He didn’t possess a single care or concern at all. He felt himself slip out of her with a shiver, and Zelda collapsed at his side, arm flung lazily across his abdomen.

Link winced as he shut off the device and left it sticking to his thigh. It could very well have been an eternity that they basked in bliss, catching their breaths, minds swimming in warm oceans with no sky or horizon. It’s like he hadn’t been able to see an entire part of the color spectrum, and now his world was completely new and fresh.

Zelda nuzzled into the crook of her arm with a lazy little hum of pleasure and toyed deliriously with the hairs on his chest. Her leg stole one of his to use as a body pillow.

When was the last time he’d even received a hug?

Even overheated and sweat-stuck, Link felt a warmth in a place he hadn’t in a very, very long time. Like slipping into a hot spring after weeks of sleeping in the snow. It was so foreign, he thought he may be imagining it, or perhaps it’s a side-effect of this experience. Link didn’t know, and he was far too tired to care. However, rest evaded him as something creeped up in his mind.

He’d just bedded the Princess of Hyrule.

The realization hit him over the head at once. In his clouded post-coital mind thoughts rumbled indistinctly like thunder. What had he just done? What happened to his control? Has he just disqualified their blessings from the Goddesses? What does any of this mean?

“Leave it alone, Link,” says the sleepy voice on his chest. She could hear his heartbeat in her ear transmitting morse code SOS signals. “We’ll deal with it tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

The smell of the pillow lured him out of sleep. It smelled like Zelda’s hair, and the deep breath he pulled in shrugged off the last vestiges of his dream. The bed was warm, but he still felt cold as his hand searched for skin and found none.

Link sat up and blearily took in the room. He was alone. The knight stretched out to wake his limbs, and his leg touched a wet spot. Glad I didn’t sleep in that. It all felt like he’d awoken from a vivid erotic dream.

The fact that he was sore reminded him in no unclear terms that it wasn’t.

All of the events of the previous night assaulted him.

Her moans, the stasis rune, her top ripping, ‘Major Test of Trust, Link,’ her leonine snarl, Zelda staring at him with lips on his head, millions of bees without stingers, ‘That was a dirty trick,’ her stretching around him--

Pangs of dread and arousal stabbed his stomach at the same time.

Link’s heart galloped so hard he felt the hooves kicking his chest. What had he done? How could he have bedded the Princess of Hyrule? Just for some trial? He didn’t think he was intoxicated by the Noble Pursuit. What could possibly have stolen the knight’s self-control from him?

You’re not gonna do a damn thing about it, Hero.

Cute little hearts.

Oh, that’s what. Link dug his fingers into his disheveled hair and leaned back against the headboard. His mouth tasted funny. The bed smelled like stale lovemaking and he didn’t know if he was repulsed or attracted to it. He’s sticky. What is that?

Link realized all at once what his sleep-addled brain was shrieking about.

Don’t you dare. Not yet. I know you can do it.

Oh no. Oh, no, no. Link has royally fucked up in the most literal sense. Why didn’t he even think to object? Why didn’t he push her off? Why didn’t—What an idiot! That isn’t what the trial called for! It’s supposed to be a test of trust, not a test of tryst!

Link was about knee-deep in this panic attack when the door opened.

Zelda paused, sensing the anxiety in the room the way she would sense walking face-first into a door. Link stared at her like she was a bear. She was dressed in a simple Hylian tank top and floral Gerudo pants. She was clean. Her hands were full: A torch, and her best friend.

Their best friend.

Link winced at the topaz glinting back at him and looked everywhere but at Zelda. Maybe the memories and the dread will go away if he just doesn’t see her.

“Um… good morning?” Zelda realized what was in her hand, and demurely held it behind her thigh. She lit the nearest torch with the one she carried, much to Link’s developing displeasure. He’d prefer not to see his wretched state in perfect clarity, thank you. Zelda tentatively set the device on the nightstand.

Zelda didn’t say anything, and Link didn’t say anything about her not saying anything.

Against his better judgement, his eye followed to the refracted firelights on the dresser. The device was pristine.

“You… cleaned it.”

Zelda fidgeted with the soft blankets. “I was just returning the favor.”

“Thanks.” Which translates roughly to, Well, that’s mortifying.

Link cleared his throat and pulled the covers higher. Zelda lingered at the bedside, not sure whether to make herself scarce or… or something that isn’t that.

The silence was suffocating.

Zelda wanted this to be over with, so she sighed and sat on the edge of the bed so she wouldn’t have to see his bare chest and all the muscles attached to it. “You didn’t tell me you liked my new pants,” Zelda scolded.

Link snorted and didn’t stare at the back of her head. Even the knight attendant knew it was a plea for him to say something, anything. “I like your pants.” 

She passed him a treaty smile. It was a start.

“So, um—”

“I—” They’d both spoken at the same time. Link offered, “Go ahead.”

Zelda shook her hair everywhere. “No, you first.”

Link ground his molars and rubbed the back of his neck. What was he supposed to say?

I bedded the Princess of Hyrule and I’m pretty sure the Goddess is going to smite me?

Do you feel used? Do you hate me?

Did we pass the trial?

Someone should wash these sheets?

Finally, he decided on saying none of those things. Instead, he clenched his fist and forced himself to admit, “I… lost control. I take full responsibility, and I’ll do what it takes to make this right.”

She wanted to break the tension, so she smiled at him ironically, “I was there, too, Link.” Her dry humor fell on stern ears and he cut a glare at her. Zelda softened her approach, “Link… I’m not too proud to admit I had fun. It’s disheartening to see you berate yourself over a good thing.”

Link squinted, confused. Looks like they were talking about two different things.

“What?” He shook his head, as if catching up. “No, no, not that.” Well, also that, but that’s not what he meant. “I, um. At the end…” If there’s a tactful way to put this, he’s grasping at it. “We did something reckless.”

Zelda watched his eyes flick down to her belly, then back up. The way he grit his teeth signaled he was ready to flee or fight— whether from himself or an external threat, she wasn’t sure. Understanding resonated in her eyes.

Don’t you dare. The fireworks on his face. His needy cries.

Zelda cleared her throat and shook off the intrusive images. “Oh. I see.” So, this discussion was going to start there, then. The tension was heavy, but not for the reason Link thought. “I don’t… think that’s something we should worry about.”

Link looked like she’d just killed his horse. What do you mean don’t worry about it?!

The way Link’s face drained of all color indicated he’d grossly misunderstood her implication. Zelda stared back at him dryly, “Link, do you know that the electric current in voltfruit juice stuns virility in Hylian males?” It can also render Zora Voe impotent, but she decided not to include that little fun fact.

Link stared at her dumbly. “What?”

 “I suppose I should have led with that.”

“Maybe.” Yeah, no shit.

They broke eye contact when Link finally released the breath that he held. He mouthed a silent prayer of thanks at the stucco ceiling. Okay, so, at least they’d overcome that obstacle. Link snorted and willed his hands to stop shaking, which worked until an off-course thought hit him. It all seems a little too convenient…

Voltfruit juice. The Noble Pursuit.

“Wait… did you plan all of that?”

Zelda stared back, confused, until meaning began to settle in. “Plan? As in…” She was suddenly preoccupied with the ends of her hair. Guilty. She stuttered, “Well, no, not necessarily. I, uhm, well, I was concerned that the trials—It seemed that we were being pushed in that direction. Especially since my theory was correct. And…” you’re staring at me really hard, “And, well, I didn’t know what would happen. I thought it may be a good call, you know, just in case…”

Link’s suspicious face twitched in a way Zelda couldn’t read.

Zelda tentatively met his eye contact. “I… can’t tell what answer you were hoping for.”

Neither does he. Should she really have informed him of the side effects of what he consumed? Or had she really expected him to already know that bit of information? If he'd known, he might have taken the gesture of making the Noble Pursuit to be more suggestive than she'd intended. It seemed that she was just having fun following a recipe. Zelda couldn't fake that, right? Maybe the side effects were just an added bonus.

Link shook his head and placed it in the palm of his hand. She’s right: It doesn’t really matter now. He’s grateful that someone had at least taken a precaution. Link’s never going to hear the end of how stupid he is from himself, but at least the worst of the consequences were abated.

They sat in silence, just processing this moment.

The Hero and Princess had gone above what they thought the trial demanded of them. It was an act of passion committed purely of their own corporeal desires. Zelda had anticipated it getting out of hand was a possibility before Link did. Link had violated his knight’s code. He’d forgotten that he was the Hero of Hyrule, even if this was all supposedly done in the name of fulfilling that destiny.

Zelda broke the silence, “Do you think we passed the trial?”

Only one way to find out.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The throne room was trashed.

No longer were the fine tapestries hung from the ceilings but were torn down and knotted into a nest in the center of the floor. Deep claw marks left scars on the walls in sets of four. Potted cacti lay next to their shattered containers, dirt spread in a wide circle all around them. The intricate woven runner that led to the throne was askew and had fallen partway into the fountains. Stuffing from the throne cushions was littered like confetti.

But neither of them paid attention to any of it.

A massive creature stood on its hind legs and pawed at the shiny bauble of a statue’s necklace. Its ears swiveled upon their approach and it stopped its games in favor of staring at them with wide-blown pupils.

It was huge! The creature made a sound, but far gone was that curious pigeon-meow. It made a low chuffing noise and Link’s mind immediately set off raid sirens: Lynel! The Kittee returned to four paws and turned towards them, long golden tail twitching low behind it. Under the weight of its focused, tigrine stare, both Hylians were made profoundly aware of the fact that they are made of meat and sustenance and prey items. Its giant paws flexed.

Link pushed Zelda behind him and assumed a battle stance.

“Kittee?” says Zelda’s voice. The creature cocked its head. “Link… There’s no evidence that indicates we’re supposed to fight it.” She knew that he’d heard her by the way his ear shifted the slightest bit, but he did not respond. Hylian and creature stared each other down. Even with its head held naturally at its shoulder-height, it still stood as tall as Link. Its golden whiskers twitched.

The words glowed on the throne: A Major Test of Trust.

After a moment of no one moving, Zelda gently set her hand on Link’s shoulder so as not to startle him. Wordlessly, she moved around him and communicated with her eyes: Trust me. Link visibly resisted the urge to push her back behind him while she took a tentative step towards the anxious bulk of muscle and claws.

“I see you’ve kept yourself busy while we were away,” she spoke affectionately. “Are you still as kind-hearted as when I last saw you?”

The Kittee’s chest rumbled a sound neither of them had ever heard, and Zelda wasn’t sure if it was an answer or a threat or both.

“I bet we are making you nervous with our nervousness,” Zelda offered, braving another step towards the creature. She stretched her hand out just as she had in the memory of her castle bedroom. Its eyes narrowed, and Link nearly flung himself into the space between them when it stalked forward. He was glad he restrained himself because the creature sniffed Zelda’s hand, then rubbed its cheek against it.

It wanted chin scratches, and Zelda happily obliged.

Both exhaled a sigh of relief. It’s dangerous, but it isn’t hostile.

“That’s a sweet creature,” Zelda cooed. Its face pressed into her chest affectionately, that chuffing noise rumbling every exhale. It’s too big to purr now, Zelda realized. She scratched behind the creature’s ears as it marked her collarbones; The creature’s face was easily the size of her torso. Link tried not to think about whether it could get its jaws all the way around her head. Zelda looked over her shoulder at him, her stance wide so as to not be knocked over the way she would brace against Epona scratching her nose on her belt. “Link, I think my theory was correct.”

Link nodded.

It certainly appears that way.

Cautiously, Link approached the creature, which seemed to increase its anxiety, until he offered the same hand gesture and allowed it to sniff him. “It isn’t quite as big as a horse, but it may be strong enough to carry us to Vah Naboris.”

Zelda appraised the creature while it groomed the side of Link’s head with its tongue (much to Link’s visible discomfort). Its muscles were bunched and compacted, and every movement it made was silent. It seemed far more predatory than a horse, and its ability to leap from platform to platform insinuated more agility than any creature they’ve seen before.

“It may be able to carry one of us up at a time,” Zelda inferred. “However, all of the previous trials have been completed at the same time.” Well, with the exception of one.

Link pressed his open palm to the Kittee’s face, giving it something to lick that wasn’t his now-disheveled hair. Its rough tongue was bigger than his hand. “We completed the last trial when it led us to where we were supposed to go. Maybe we just need to wait for it to ask us to follow.”

“Uh-huh,” hummed Zelda, her face behind the slate. It made a mechanical snapping sound as it captured a picture of the Kittee mid-lick in his palm and Link’s deadpan stare at the camera.

“Princess.”

“Sorry,” she giggled. She couldn’t help it. There’s no avoiding that it’s kinda cute. He heard her save the image and then answer him more fully. “There’s not much more that we could… accomplish here,” she said tactfully. “Even still, I can’t figure out why we were able to move on from the last trial when by all appearances, we hadn’t gone through your memories completely. The Kittee shrank, then grew, then led us here. It doesn’t make sense."

Does that mean they have to backtrack somehow? That’s not exactly possible. There’s no un-doing what they’ve done.

Kittee deemed Link thoroughly groomed and flopped on its side to lick its paws. It completely blocked the path to the destroyed throne.

Link wiped his hand on his (fresh) Gerudo pants, unhappy with the non-absorbent silk. They exchanged a glance, then watched the creature happily groom itself, then roll around on the makeshift bed of expensive tapestries. If it could take them to Vah Naboris, it definitely didn’t seem in a rush to do so.

Zelda sighed and sat on a step. “I suppose all we can do at this point is wait.”

Link rubbed the back of his neck and didn’t look at her. Why does that idea sound so deeply unappealing?

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

“This isn’t working,” Zelda finally said.

Sure, time didn’t technically move here, but they sure had waited for a long time. Zelda checked the slate if just for the habit of looking at it. Still 5:48 PM -39*F. The Kittee was curled into a ball on its makeshift nest, happily dozing while the two Hylians sat in agonized silence.

Their Hylian clothes were hung to dry. Empty dishware from their meal was left haphazardly around them. Even the ever-dutiful Link decided he just didn’t care about that right now. He sat with his back against a statue of a fearsome Gerudo warrior and stared straight up into her hollow eyes. She stared back, uncaring and unhelpful.

They could hear the Gerudo theme playing from the music box in the distance. It started over, this time without the clanging sound. Zelda had fixed it.

“Maybe we should approach Vah Naboris and see if the Kittee will behave different.”

Zelda’s nose curled at the idea. In the corner of his eye Link saw her writhe uncomfortably. She was reclined back on the Kittee, staring at the ceiling. “The idea of a long walk at this point sounds like a miserable affair,” she muttered quietly under her breath. Zelda probably didn’t intend for Link to hear it, but still he turned to look at her.

She seemed even more uncomfortable under his stare. He waited for her to explain, and she grimaced at the heat in her ears. “I’m sore,” she admitted. Zelda didn’t miss the way Link snorted and held his arms a little closer to himself. “I… get the sense that I’m not the only one.”

Link’s face darkened and instead of answering her not-question, he said, “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

So endearing.

Zelda smiled back at him and shook her head. “No. Did I hurt you?”

Well, he was in pain, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she hurt him. It was probably equal to what she was experiencing, if he had to guess. Link purposefully walled off his consciousness from the memories trying to assail him. “No.”

Silence settled between them, thick but hospitable.

They could travel to Vah Naboris, but the trek would be long, and Zelda just has an intuitive sense that it isn’t the correct answer. The Kittee had grabbed her by the hand and led them to the next trial when (for whatever reason) it had deemed their efforts sufficient. There are too many parallels for the entire premise to be different.

The thought that had nagged her all along finally resurfaced to the front of her mind.

“What if… last night wasn’t enough?”

Confusion twisted Link’s face. Even for someone as stoic as the knight, it was fairly plain what he was thinking.

“I know. There isn’t a whole lot of room for upward progression.” Link swallowed. Under any other circumstance, he would be impressed at her dignified way of expressing that. He suppressed another wave of lewd and unwanted images coursing through his mind. “I’m not sure why that wouldn’t qualify as a Major Test of Trust. But seeing as how Kittee has grown so much… It must mean we’re on the right path.”

Link had just barely begun to wrap his mind around what happened, and now she’s insinuating that it may need to happen again?

He rubbed the back of his head bashfully and looked anywhere but at her. What could he possibly say to that? Zelda watched his reaction the way she’d watch a set of gears. A little glimmer of something appeared in her eye. “That’s the face of a man who’s having creative ideas,” she smirked, openly amused at the horror on his face.

“Zelda…” he complained.

She was clearly just trying to get a reaction out of him, and it worked. Like a Kittee knocking over a potted plant just to watch it fall. Zelda laughed quietly to herself and Link facepalmed. “Still though…” she murmured, a little more serious now, “Not knowing what the trials are bent on accomplishing by having us complete them is deeply frustrating. If we knew what the goal was, we could accomplish it much faster.”

Why did Link get a bad feeling about that?

After a long moment of her considering her own words, Link finally hedged. “What are you getting at?”

Zelda pursed her lips. Clearly, she had an idea, but she didn’t seem to like it. In fact, she disliked it so much that she shook her head and decided not to say it. Link gave her a look that she withered under. “Zelda. You clearly have an idea. Just tell me and we’ll decide together if it’s a good one.”

Those were Zelda’s words said back at her.

With a sigh, Zelda steeled herself. “Well, I can’t help thinking about what you said about Mipha, and what Mipha was trying to tell me at Lanayru Gate. Assuming that it’s true that she enhances her powers by loving you, I can’t help thinking…”

Understanding settled in Link’s throat. Can’t help thinking that they’re trapped here until they fall in love? That’s definitely a tall order.

Zelda winced at the look on his face. They’d brought up the idea before, but it hadn’t seemed as credible at the time. “That said, why do Urbosa, Revali, and Daruk wield powers without love for you?” She put her chin in her hand, staring at Link like a collection of parts. “Wait, are any of them in love with anyone?”

Link shook his head and shrugged. Not that he knew of.

Visibly frustrated, Zelda leaned her head back onto the soft fur of the sleeping Kittee. It seemed to find that just the slightest bit uncomfortable and softly bunny-kicked her in its sleep. “It just doesn’t make sense…” An idea occurred to her and she stretched her hand out at him placatingly. “It’s not that I’m repulsed by the idea, Link. I hope you don’t think that. It’s just…”

Link swallowed again, even if it didn’t move the lump. He thinks he understands what she’s going through: Not adamantly opposed but feeling pressured. “It isn’t something you can consciously make happen.” What he really said was it’s not something anyone can make happen, myself included.

A soft sound escaped her. That's an understatement. Zelda doesn't even love herself, let alone anyone else. What would that even look like?

The princess squished her cheek as she rested it on her hand, a miserable gesture. "If last night didn't make us magically infatuated with each other, I suspect that nothing will." She's only half-kidding.

Link could taste his own squeamishness with the subject. He felt something, but the L-word wasn't something he could capitalize with confidence. Pressure from being her knight and pressure as the Hero and pressure from the trials all coalesced into a nebulous bog. The feeling of forgetting  about all of that for a brief time can easily be disguised as love. Passion and pleasure were their own animals, neither of which he was equipped to take on.

At his confliction, Zelda eyed him curiously. Her quirked eyebrow indicated playfulness, even if she was serious. "Unless... I read you wrong?" Link didn't answer her; he couldn't answer himself. Zelda could feel the waves of stress coming off of him, ringing in her ears. Her hands went nowhere near him, but her voice poked his ribs teasingly, "Not that I can say I blame you; I completed my end of the trial with competence and aplomb. You may now confess how deeply in love you've fallen with the Princess." She examined her nails, voice royal and overdramatic. 

Link knew she was just trying to inject some levity and he smiled wryly at her, unimpressed. “Madly.” You’re being a shit right now.

Zelda’s soft giggle showed that’s exactly the reaction she wanted. I know! The tension had abated, if just for a moment, and they let it settle back over them as they considered their situation.

“Why do I get the sense that I’m wrong?” Zelda’s instinct thus far has been instrumental in guiding them, so she isn’t one to just disregard it. Link was quiet, listening. “I mean, I feel like I may be wrong about the trial demanding we fall in love.” They both flinched at her bluntness, “I’m not sure why. It seems logical, but… not logical enough.”

Link came up empty. “It… doesn’t exactly sound like it fits the definition of a Major Test of Trust.”

“Right. Like trying to make the riddle match the answer, not the other way around.”

The knight made a sound that indicated he agreed but didn’t say anything for a long while. Zelda was surprised when he spoke, “The other trials all required some sort of action to complete them,” he observed neutrally. A little too neutrally. “Maybe we should focus on things we can control.”

Zelda cocked her head over at him and while he pretended not to see her, she saw the flush creeping up his neck. Actions, huh? The Kittee grew when they performed a task, suggesting that was the correct path. Is Link insinuating…?

“Like what?” she asked sweetly. Too sweetly.

“Uh…” He cleared his throat and shifted his weight uncomfortably. Why was she looking at him like that?

Zelda's grin grew more wolfish the longer he took to answer. “Are you asking for round two, Hero?” 

"What?" he balked. "That wasn't my point!"

Zelda knew it wasn't, but that didn't make her any less amused. "That wasn't a no."

Link pursed his lips and glared at her. She was intentionally toying with him, and it's no help that he's not as well versed in verbal swordplay as the Princess of Hyrule. Zelda's knight was still trying to think of a comeback when she, unsurprisingly, beat him to it. "Link, you're already going to be executed. At this point, you might as well just ask for what you want."

She watched as Link’s face drained of all color, then flushed again with a deeper vengeance. There’s no way he’d look at her. “Eh…” he strained, rubbing his hair bashfully. “’Asking’ isn’t the word I would use…”

Biting her lip, Zelda restrained herself from laughing. It really is adorable to see the fearsome Hero of Hyrule reduced to this vulnerable state with suggestion alone. However she wanted to cut it, the idea of her stoic, chivalrous knight trying to hide his lust for her is endearing. It’s a pleasant surprise that it's his idea this time. Sure, the trial may (or may not) demand this of them, but Zelda wasn’t adamantly opposed.

"Zelda... come on." Be nice. The poor guy was already flustered enough. "It's not like that. It's just that the trials-- 

“Right,” Zelda grins, interrupting him. “Of course not. Just for the trial. Your dedication to your esteemed role as Hero of Hyrule is astounding.” Link definitely didn’t notice her breasts between her arms as she leaned towards him. “Your legendary sacrifice will be sung throughout the ages.”

Green eyes watched the way the muscles on his chest and arms rippled with stress.  Zelda sat up, head tilted in a way that had her hair falling over her shoulder. Link suctioned his back against the pedestal of the Gerudo warrior, as if she would protect him. She didn’t. 

"Hated every moment of it." She stared at him through her lashes. There was a challenge in her eyes. She's not just toying with him now; she's trying to get him to admit to something. When it came to what exactly that was, Link was a little slow on the uptake. "Gritted your teeth and took one for the sake of Hyrule."

There might have been a little truth to that second one.

Link's pupils colonized more blue the longer the tense silence screamed in his ears. Zelda didn’t miss the way his breathing changed, like it couldn't decide between shallow and laboured. His eyes couldn’t seem to stay on hers, no matter how much danger she held in them. Finally, she sat still, staring him down in the tigrine way the Kittee had before.

Link finally met her gaze and held it. His nostrils flared, and his stern expression didn’t cover the desire in his eyes. “Zelda…” It was a warning. You're pushing it.

Her brow twitched, cunning and predacious. "Let me guess: you're eating yourself alive over this. Maybe you've rationalized bedding your charge for the sake of the trial, but you can't rationalize away the fact you liked it. " Her implication was clear: Or the fact that you want more.

Link was made acutely aware that he was composed of meat and sustenance and prey items. That, however, doesn't mean he's defenseless.  Echoes of her voice on the other side of the door howled in his mind, but Link remained steadfast and stern. "Zelda. What are you doing?"

"Admit it," she commanded, finger poking his chest. "It wasn't just for the trial." Link's eyes narrowed down at her finger. He was still, silent, like a coiled snake. "I saw your memories. Your knightly stoicism is transparent. You've desired something to that degree for a long time."

The accusation got under Link's skin. 

"You sound like you really want to hear that." Link's nostrils flared as he leaned menacingly close to her face. Raid sirens went off in Zelda's head at the intimidating glint in his eye. Zelda felt heat coil in her as she tried to figure out exactly what he was threatening to do to her. "Why does my answer matter so much to you?"

Zelda knew better than to answer that trap dressed as a question.

They glowered and breathed each other's air.

It's not like she didn't understand his implication. Zelda knew full well he'd painted her into a corner. If she's to break him of his reservations, she'd have to get him back on his heels. "This isn't about me, Link. Answer my question."

"Oh, I think it is." Zelda's lip curled and she visibly resisted the urge to bite him. "I wonder how long you've wanted me to admit something like that. Did any part of you think that maybe, just maybe, you could break your knight if you moved just right? Liked the way I tried not to look at you? Wished I'd gone into your tent in Hebra?"

"That was perfectly innocent," Zelda objected.

Link pretended not to hear her. He was focused, intense, considering something. Zelda realized he had the master sword of an idea, and was thinking about weaponizing it against her. Zelda's unblinking stare spoke in the silence: Do it. I dare you.

His voice dropped, rumbling bass in the space between them. "I bet I know what you were thinking about in Gerudo Town."

Zelda's heart stopped. To her growing horror, the barest hint of a smile appeared on his lips. Got you. 

His tongue lavishing her, his fingers, his chin glistening, the feeling of him stretching her, his disheveled hair, his narrow hips--

Link wore a superior expression, like he'd just put Zelda in her place. He'd claimed victory too early, because Zelda's heart restarted at a breakneck speed, fueling her flitting mind. She won't be bested that easily. Link looked concerned when her expression changed and she tilted her head to eye the thin fabric of his Gerudo pants. When Zelda's eyes lifted, mischief and challenge glowed with the power of the Goddess in them.

"I'm so sorry... That question must have burned you up," she whispers, voice cloying and unapologetic. Link visibly resisted the urge to move as her nose lightly touched his, an almost sweet gesture. "Wanna know what I was thinking about?"

Link made a tense sound in the back of his throat. It's like Zelda could hear his blood rushing south.

Zelda smiled, her lips so impossibly close without actually touching his. "I was thinking..."

Her hand rested on his knee. “... That you look a little dehydrated.”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

Zelda let out a surprised yelp as she was pushed back onto the pillows. Link was on her in an instant, hand sliding up her inner thigh as he placed a heated kiss to her mouth.

Their hearts pounded against their pressed chests as if trying to swap places.

Her hair was pinned under her back and it hurt a little, but Zelda couldn’t think of that as Link’s calloused fingers skinny-dipped into her, just testing the waters. Link swallowed her moan greedily and gently circled her clit. The way she shivered would boost anyone’s self-esteem.

Nails dug harder into the flesh of his shoulder as she writhed against his hand, wanting more. The sound of Zelda's needy whines drowned out anything the voice in his head had to say. He broke the kiss so he could better angle his wrist and though Zelda lamented the loss, she was rewarded with him slipping into her and curling his fingers.

Link watched her eyes roll back in her head.

They’d been in such a rush they’d forgotten to extinguish the torches in the room. Link certainly didn’t mind, since he could see every detail of her, sweat and fluids glowing orange on her skin. His free hand lent a thumb to help her along and she writhed at the end of his arm.

“Link…” she shivered.

Because no good deed goes unpunished, Link rewarded her with more pressure on her clit. He could feel her clench tight around him, so hard it took strength for each reentry. Zelda’s crown of braids was nearly ripped from her head as she threaded her fingers through it. She cursed in a way definitely not suited for a lady of nobility.

The best friend rested weightily against Link’s knee.

Her moans her smile the firelight on her skin the way she says his name—

Link hunched a little lower so that he had a better angle to piston his arm back and forth into her. Knowing her body with some degree of proficiency emboldened him to leverage his silos of strength. Zelda arched in surprise at the force and the sound of his knuckles hitting her each time nearly rivaled her moans.

Gone was the timid person who Zelda had pleaded to help her release. Link had every intention to please her over and over.

Zelda suddenly sat up, throwing him off of his rhythm. Her slim fingers fisted his hair and they made heated eye-contact. The full breadth of her need didn’t fit in her expression, but Link understood it all the same. So, when Zelda’s hand pressed down on his skull just the slightest bit, Link knew what she wanted.

Desire pounded between his hips as he lay prostrate between her knees on his elbows. Pheromones played evil little tricks on his mind.  Heady déjà vu hit him at the overwhelming scent, now only augmented by the fact he could see her clearly.

Link didn’t come here to sightsee. His fingers returned to her while he pushed his shoulder under her leg. The feeling of her heel digging into his back was clearly meant to urge him on. Who was he to deny her anything? As long as he’s not thinking of himself, he could rationalize away all of this untoward behavior as just being part of his duty as the Hero.

Link kissed the junction of her hip just to see if she’d complain, which she did, and then lowered to taste her. Spicy simmered fruit.

Is this what Zelda meant by ‘dehydrated’? Or was she just referring to the voltfruit juice? Link decided he liked both answers.

Zelda cried out at the soft, firm attention of his tongue. His fingers pressed incessantly at the spot inside her, but from this angle he couldn’t quite match the blistering pace he’d set before. It left Zelda simmering in frustration on his tongue.

It’s like he could taste her thoughts because he growled and reached for the best friend. Zelda nearly sobbed at the lack of contact when he pulled away. It took him longer than either of them would have liked, since his fingers were slippery and he couldn’t see with her thigh blocking his view. However, her patience was rewarded by the vibrations kicking on and Link gently pressing it against her.

All was forgiven as Link’s mouth returned to her and he groaned at the taste. Zelda’s body yielded to the friend, and Link worked diligently to get her back to that precipice. He pressed the device all the way in over and over, building steadily in force, hearing the buzz muffle and roar with each back and forth. He could feel the vibrations on his tongue.

Zelda’s hands gripped his hair in a way that left him shivering. She pulled him impossibly closer to her, and he felt her hips gyrate against his face in a way that couldn’t possibly be voluntary. “Holy fuck, Link!”

What force he offered, she met. What passion he gave, she redoubled.

Her ankles dug into his back and his scalp hurt from the harsh treatment but he couldn’t stop because he knew she was right there and he’s not one to back down from a challenge, any challenge. Zelda cursed so nastily that each word pulsed a bead of fluid into the sheets below him.

The burst of pleasure that soaked his shirt.

Link wanted that. He flattened his tongue and ground onto her hard. The circle of his fist made a slapping sound with each thrust. The device was slick, and his fingers had no traction, and the force of his motions nearly made him lose his grip, but he was so determined!

Zelda keened, and Link felt the device push out of her with her rush of pleasure. There was not enough darkness to hide the sight of warm, lewd spurts from worming into his subconscious. His chin and chest were completely soaked, along with a circle of the sheets around them. Knowing better now, Link reduced the pressure of his mouth, as if writing her clit an apology note one letter at a time. So, so, so gentle.

The hands in his hair softened, but she didn’t push him away. With the knowledge that she can go more than once, Link was perfectly happy to do this all day. The ache in his groin would have to settle for friction against the sheets.

“What do I taste like?” he more felt than heard Zelda’s voice.

Link paused his ministrations and looked up. Zelda was completely hypnotized to the point she didn’t even seem to realize she’d asked him a question. The pride in his chest made it to his eyes and he smiled back, “Want a taste?”

Zelda leaned forward, already wanting the kiss before he’d offered it. She groaned at the taste of herself in his mouth. Somehow, despite all of the things they’d done together, it was kissing him that felt the most forbidden. The way he cupped her cheek, heedless to the wetness on his hand. How had he managed to be both tender and rough at once?

They pulled away to catch their breath. Zelda’s head rolled back and she laughed dizzily. “I’m jealous of you.”

Link didn’t blame her. It’s an acquired taste that, while he liked it at first, only grew better each time. Sweet, sapid, spicy.

Zelda felt Link lift her leg to put it back over his shoulder. Whoa, he’s got a lot of stamina. Her heart hadn’t yet evened out when his fingers returned to lavish her again. Déjà vu hit her out of nowhere.

Her on her back, leg over his shoulder.

Him on his knees, leaning down to please her.

Is this what Link had experienced? Zelda played the in-their-shoes game in her mind. Something was going on in her bliss-fogged brain. Something important. Focus, Princess! You had something there. It’s very hard to think with him doing that right now!

No, she realized all at once. It wasn’t what he’d experienced. Not exactly.

The sudden change in her energy gave him pause. Link stared at her with concerned blue eyes, “What is it? Do you need to stop?”

Zelda blinked back into reality. What? She shook her head no, absolutely not! “No! I—” she was jetlagged and slow, but she knew she had something. “I think I just realized something.”

Link remained silent and still, his hands resting on her thighs. Hunger and concern made for strange bedfellows on his face.

Zelda swallowed and sat up a little. The buzzing friend complained that it wasn’t presently in use. “Reciprocity…” Zelda mumbled. “The Kittee grew when we reciprocated. Gave what we received.” She seemed frustrated that she hadn’t found her point. Link was beyond impressed she’d managed a single coherent thought.

The least he could do is try to form one himself. “Give what we receive…” he echoed. The friend writhed in his hand. This is a lot to ask of a brain robbed of blood. Their pause in passion left him aware of fluid drying on his chest. No, focus. What was Zelda getting at? She’d already reciprocated everything he’d done for her, and then some.

Wait. Maybe that’s it. And then some.

Understanding filtered through Link’s irises. His face flushed at the idea and there was no hiding his body’s response. To make Zelda feel what he felt. Whether to exact revenge or for the sheer pleasure of sharing, Link wasn’t sure.

“I… don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t want to hurt you.”

Zelda’s face flushed so prettily; he would do anything to see it again. Yes, even that. She seemed nervous, which was fair. “You didn’t ask me if I want it to hurt.”

What? Confused, Link squinted and hedged, “Do you… want it to hurt?”

“No.” It got him to laugh softly, just from the unexpectedness. Zelda was trying to break him of his nerves, and Link wasn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth. He was good at following directions, anyway.

"Do you... are you sure you want that?" Link stuttered. He obviously wasn't as well-versed in Hylian anatomy, but it seemed like something that she may not enjoy. Link wasn't sure if Zelda had whatever equivalent of what she had discovered in him. And at this point, he's too embarrassed to ask. "I mean, how do I even--"

Zelda deadpanned at him. Her arousal grew impatient, panging behind her navel. "Link, how do you think I knew how to not hurt you?" She raised her eyebrows meaningfully. I've got one too, you know.

Understanding bubbled up. Oh. The molten desire in her eyes answered his question in no unclear terms. He felt his aching length straining to get closer to her, to satisfy those desires.

"Okay," Link said after a moment of decision. He cracked his neck and stretched his shoulders like he was in for a long night. The hard set of his angular features was so determined, Zelda may have climaxed in that moment untouched. "Major Test of Trust, right?"

His smile was devastating.

Link gently pushed her shoulder. “Lay back.” 

Any arousal Zelda may have lost during negotiations returned tenfold.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~*~*~

Just focus.

Complete the trial.

If he just follows the example she set all should be fine, right?

Link settled back between her legs and chastely kissed her thigh. Their previous urgency hadn’t magically disappeared, but Link’s anxiety was unfortunately siphoning off some of that energy. Zelda was kind enough to pretend she didn’t notice the slight tremble to his hands.

Muscle memory guided him back into familiar territory, trailing little kisses closer and closer towards the apex of her hips. Link’s still-slick fingers gently returned to her, teasing everywhere except for where she needed him.

A frustrated sound whistled through Zelda’s teeth. Even though she’d been given release, it didn’t feel like even close to enough; The blistering pace he had set earlier left her with an ache that Link’s tender touches did next to nothing to abate. Somehow, the gentle pressure only made it worse. Link pushed a finger into her which Zelda made clear was not nearly enough.

But this is as fast as he can go.

Link took his time and when he finally lowered his mouth back onto her, Zelda nearly sobbed with joy. Still, he was so, so gentle. Like he was trying to uproot a Silent Princess and replant it: Like Zelda was a rare and delicate thing.

She’s not.

Zelda was about to say so in no unclear terms, until she felt Link’s slick fingers withdraw and move lower. Tentative, unsure. The word he was spelling with his tongue trailed off like he lost his focus while he explored with trembling pads of his fingers. He heard her exhale and pulled away, as if he thought that had hurt her.

No, you’re fine. This is fine.

Link remembered to breathe through his nose. The heady scent of her made it hard to focus. Still, his finger traced the outside rim, unfamiliar, impossibly unyielding. There’s no way—

Is this really what some ancient Shiekah monk contrived for them? The level of hedonism here would warrant stripping Zelda of her powers, not granting her them!

“Link,” Zelda complained. “I’m okay, really.”

Link better felt her voice than he heard it. Zelda squirmed, uncomfortable. Right, yeah, quit thinking about yourself, knight. Just focus on her. He redoubled his efforts, drawing hearts on her pearl in a way that had her both relieved and needy. Pride welled in his chest while the sheets stuck to it. His fingers cautiously applied more pressure and Zelda shivered.

Link knew the feeling.

Encouraged, Link built a rhythm with his tongue that drew sounds out of Zelda that made him forget where he was and what he was doing. A quiver tightened her thighs around his head; If she just squeezed until his skull cracked, he’d be perfectly fine with that.

This is the Princess of Hyrule, and he is her appointed knight. She has every privilege to treat him however she sees fit, and it is his duty to attend to her needs. This is him just excelling at his job, just as he always does.

Link’s first joint made it past the barrier.

Zelda’s breathing hitched and Link felt her shiver. No amount of Link’s imagination had ever suggested that she could be even tighter or hotter than what he’d seen from her before. Not to be outdone, however, Link’s imagination ran amok of what it would feel like to be inside her here.

Link hadn’t considered the possibility that she could hurt him.

The throaty groan he exhaled rippled through her. Something went right with the flat of his tongue, and Link’s finger was pushed out unexpectedly. He tried to return, but had no proficiency, and Zelda hissed. “Nails! Nails, watch your—”

“Sorry! Should I--” he yelped, retracting like he’d been burned. Zelda’s frustrated sound cut him off. His hand wasn’t on her and his tongue was busy making dumb words and not pleasing her!

When Zelda had accidentally let too much teeth into the equation, she readjusted and tried again. Link suppressed his immediate instinct to flee and made to follow the precedent she set. After all, he quickly forgave her. Maybe she’d do the same for him.

Turns out, she did.

Link readjusted, set back to work, and reveled in the way Zelda’s back arched. It pushed his neck back uncomfortably, but victory is better with injury. His finger hedged back and forth, gaining more ground. Do they make fireproof gloves for this? It felt like he was testing the waters of Death Mountain with his middle finger.

Link’s knuckles pressed into her flesh and Zelda said his name in a way that made his hips cant into the mattress.

I wonder if she…

He twisted his finger, searching the velvet-soft surface for something.

Where?

“Unfortunately, not,” Zelda half-sighs. “You’ve already found mine.”

Aw, that’s too bad. Guess he’ll just have to redouble his efforts on what he’s got to work with. Link licked a stripe up her slit and came up for air. He has incredible stamina, but he decided it may be best to watch her face.

The show was spectacular.

Eyebrows knitted, focused, lips parted in such a way that it physically hurt not to kiss them in that moment. As tempting as that was, Link certainly didn’t want to risk breaking the smooth glide he’d cultivated. Zelda’s breathing would forever be on loop in his psyche.

Will he ever hear it again once they return to Hyrule?

If they return to Hyrule?

Will he be able to compose himself? Will he lose focus against the impending Calamity? Will Daruk slap his shoulder heartily, or launch him into the lava? Will Revali make snippy remarks or openly scathe him? Will Urbosa laugh aloud or call down a bolt of lightning onto him?

Will Mipha know?

“Link… We can stop.”

The Hero blinked back to reality: Urbosa’s bed. Gerudo Town. No sky. Firelight. Two fingers inside the Princess. Green eyes staring with concern at odds with her flushed face.

Wait, two fingers?

“I…”

“Are you okay?”

The Hero didn’t feel all that heroic. Link was perfectly still except for the bead of sweat trailing down his throat. It took him a moment to realize that if anything, he should be the one asking her that, not the other way around.

Link licked his lips. In a very literal sense, he could feel how stressed she was.

His length ached. The heart in his chest convulsed violently. Everything in his body cried out for him to continue, no matter the cost. It was a hostage situation of the conscience.

The best friend continued to bemoan its lack of use.

What am I doing?

A shrug and a, ‘the Goddess made me do it’ attitude? As long as he doesn’t focus on himself, he’s still Hylia’s golden boy? Just complete the trial?

Admit it! This isn’t just for the trial.

Zelda was right. There is no rationalizing this sort of behavior. The level of cognitive dissonance it takes for him to stoop so low as to subject the Princess to this… It goes against everything Link thought he knew. It certainly couldn’t be a prerequisite for completing the trials. They must just be acting on some unaddressed lust. A surfacing of intemperance.

So tight! So slick. Zelda’s hair made a halo around her head. Her breasts heaved with every breath she took. Even remaining still, her abdomen quivered from the feeling of him stretching her.

Link wanted her so, so bad.

There’s no hiding that fact from her; His body told no lies. Still, she slowly sat up on her elbows, wincing at the strange angle of his fingers at her own movement. Zelda stared at him deeply, trying to gauge his thoughts.

What could he possibly say to her?

I’m fine? Lie.

I’m having second thoughts? Truth.

My fingers are stuck? Half-truth.

I don’t want to do this? Half-lie.

Zelda’s hand gently resting on his arm startled him. She pushed his forearm and, despite her worry, she couldn’t help the way her breath hitched at how his fingers slid out of her. Sitting on her knees on either side of Link’s, Zelda placed her hands on his thighs and stared at him earnestly.

It clearly took self-control on her part not to touch him where he so desperately wanted her to. At this point, it would only make matters worse. “Link… I’m concerned. Please say something.”

Link swallowed and shuddered. After acclimating to her, his fingers felt frostbitten in the tepid air. Sensory overload shouted for him to both do and do not simultaneously. The Hero was barreling towards a crisis of the self.

“What… what are we doing?” Link finally forced out. It was such a stupid question.

Zelda contemplated for a moment. “Our best?” Judging by the frustration on his face, that answer didn’t help. Well, there’s the literal answer, which would do even less good. What? Solving the riddle? Getting her powers from Hylia? Saving Hyrule? All feel equally silly.

Her voice: It seems cruel to get me attached to something only to take it away when I’ve succeeded.

Link sighed and ran his hand through his hair. A habit, which he realized too late, was unfortunate as he remembered which hand he used. Grimacing at himself, Link clarified, “This. Any of this. I can’t… Not when we’re forced. Neither of us want this.” You can’t possibly want this.

Dread twisted their stomachs at his words. Silence sucked the oxygen from the room.

Zelda stared open-mouthed and harrowed. All the logic and careful cajoling and gentle reassurances she’d said to him suddenly all rang malicious in her ears. She was so careful not to force him! Surely, that wasn’t the issue here?

She glanced down, searching for evidence. He wanted to shrivel, but even the slightest glance her way or the most minute shift of her fingers had him achingly hard again. Did he really not want her?

It’s not like anyone would blame him. Somehow, even when it comes to her having to fulfil her end of the destiny, he still had to come in and pick up her slack for her. Link has to be the Hero, to grit and bear her. Zelda can’t even use her own cursed powers without some knight in shining armor riding in to save her.

No one wants the damsel in distress; They want the idea of her.

Meanwhile, Mr. Perfect somehow manages to rise above all corporeal desires and remains knightly without fault. Even thoroughly wiled by her temptations and her reassurances, there’s just no getting him off the impossibly straight and cruelly narrow. Amazing swordsman, amazing knight, amazing every goddess-damned thing. Holier-than-thou even with his fingers drying on the sheets.

Funny how it’s just as much his prudishness as it is her incompetence that will destroy Hyrule.

Zelda crossed her arms. “Speak for yourself,” she snorted bitterly.

Her change in tone snapped Link out of his spiraling.

What?

After remembering how to speak the language, Link realized she was answering him. Neither of us want this. Speak for yourself; Only you don’t want it.

“Huh?”

“I said, speak for yourself,” she snapped. “You don’t know what I want. And apparently, I haven’t the foggiest clue what you want either. I said I’d dig in my heels and I meant it. I feel awful enough as it is.”

Déjà vu slammed Link over the head.

I wish I could make you forget you’re the Hero.

I can’t help wanting to return your kindness.

Want to know what I want? I want to return the favor.

Zelda said too much for him to unpack, let alone to process his knee-jerk associations to it. They stared at each other, trying and failing to read each other’s mind.

What he understood was she was upset with him. Angry? Because he stopped? No, that can’t be it. ‘Dig my heels in’? Does she think that he feels forced by her? There’s no way Zelda could possibly believe that.

Judging by her sulk, that was exactly her concern.

She’s right. He doesn’t know what she wants. The last time he’d asked, she answered that she wanted freedom, success, to complete the trials. None of those answers are ‘you’. Was she just indulging in a little fun, like she’d said in the Trial of Faith? He assumed that’s what she meant when she said, ‘not just for the trials.’

What was she thinking about on the other side of the door?

“You’re right.” Her eyes watched him from their corners. Link didn’t specify which part she was right about, so Zelda assumed all of it was correct. Her intense stare bore into him.

“Do you not want me?”

Link flinched at the direct hit. There’s no simple answer. After several beats, he finally forced out, “No. I do.”

Even as her heart stuttered from the admission, Zelda’s eyes unpacked him, taking him in. She saw his memories. She saw his shames, his thought process, his self-imposed chains. If he’s not lying to her, and it doesn’t seem like he is… Then why?

Zelda thinks she might have an idea as to the source of his hangup.

No sudden movements, her hands slid up his arms. Zelda ducked to catch his eye contact, which he tentatively met. A little glimmer in them meant she had an idea.  Is he really still clinging on to the idea that this is solely for the trials? How is she to convince him otherwise, when it is only partly true?

Link’s blood surged at her smile. “I never told you what I was thinking about in Gerudo Town. Do you still want to know?”

The knight balked. The skin under her trailing fingertips shivered as she toyed with the hair on the back of his neck. Link’s tongue was suddenly dry, which certainly didn’t help when he realized she’d asked him a question. He nodded dumbly.

Zelda’s demure smile grew into a smirk, and she dipped a chaste kiss to his collarbone. “Well, at first, I was thinking that I was quite uncomfortable.” Her lips spoke against the flesh between his neck and shoulder. Link’s body greedily stole all the blood that was supposed to help him process her words. “It actually got to a point where I was in pain.”

She punctuated that last part with a little bit of teeth.

Link’s high-pitched sound was drowned out by her whisper. “So, I investigated rumors of a… secret type of store. You know, the kind full of ineffective weapons.” Link’s face flushed, embarrassed at his own words on her lips. She used them wickedly up the column of his throat—and when did Link’s hands move to her hips? They never quite got close enough to his to assuage the building ache in his groin.

“That worked, for a little while. But my wrist got tired. I wished I’d had some help, but there was no one around for whom I desired such things. My prudish appointed knight certainly was going to be of no help.”

Even through his shiver, Link managed to pull back and give her a sour expression. Zelda’s eyelids hovered at half-mast.

“Or so I thought.”

Link’s heart stopped. She grazed her teeth along his earlobe, hot breath leaving him weak. “Turns out,” she whispers, “Even without you there, you were a big help.”

Desire coursed through him as her meaning got across and he groaned. Her breasts pressed against his chest, nipples mapping star-charts along his skin wherever they moved. “The prudish knight you hated,” he growled, implication clear. I don’t believe you.

Zelda’s soft giggle meant that she enjoyed the challenge.

“Sure did. So much.” His taut muscles rippled under her, much to her delight. “Hated how good he was at everything he did. Hated the way everyone around him swoons. Hated how he never gave me the privacy I needed.” Zelda felt his throat work. His hands gripped his own thighs until the skin whitened. “Hated knowing that even if I asked him, he’d never give me what I wanted.”

Link leaned back and Zelda let him. The shock was evident on his face.

“There are only two orders I know you won’t follow: ‘Leave me alone’… and ‘share my tent.’”

The knight narrowed his eyes. Her beguiling words wouldn’t weave a narrative like this without plotholes. She just wants his fingers back inside her. Is she not taking his reservations seriously? It’s unfair that Zelda would just say what she thought Link wants to hear to get something from him.

Unaffected by his suspicions, Zelda released him and reclined against the pillows. She shrugged noncommittally, “I had come to terms with that. However, what happens within the four walls of my imagination is my own business. I wondered what it would be like…”

Link’s eyes bulged.

“Would you be bigger?” She picked up the still-humming friend and eyed it. Then she passed him a playful pout. “Smaller?” Link would have been self-conscious if there were truth to her teasing. “Would you direct that intense stare at me? Would you be tender, anxious and slow? Or bruising, rough and fast?”

Link’s breath hitched as she set the device against her inner thigh. Her bent knee blocked his view, but his picture-perfect imagination filled in everything his eyes missed. “I wondered what it would take to break you. Or if you even—ah! Had a breaking point at all.” She was interrupted by her own gasp as the best friend rumbled vicious vibrations through her folds. Link nearly fainted from the headrush.

“I could have pushed you harder. I thought about it, tending your wounds in the cabin. You’re stoic, but your face still changes color.” Her abdomen shivered as she pressed the friend a little closer to herself, letting it ripple up into her throat. “And I wondered… How does one walk behind me for all that time, and not see the way that I move?”

Tight riding pants.

Fire roiled behind Link’s navel. He watched, hypnotized, as she gently teased herself. Zelda wasn’t even looking at him; she was just talking aloud to herself as she always does, as if he wasn’t even there. She was pleasing herself to the memory of pleasing herself.

To the memory of him.

 “Zelda…” he panted. She couldn’t be serious… She must be making this up.

“The most I’d ever received was, quite sadly, from the saddle. It only made the trips all the more unbearable.” Link resisted the savage urge to stroke himself. If she’s making this up, she sure has put a lot of thought into it…

“I wondered what it would be like…” she moaned lightly as she pushed the friend into herself, “To mount you instead.”

Arousal shot him so hard that a wounded sound escaped him, and Link realized too late that his hand was already wrapped around the base. Holy… Wow, that’s hot.

“This was the closest I could get. But it wasn’t enough… So, I engineered some upgrades. That helped. But still… it wasn’t enough.”

Her frustrated sounds on the other side of the door.

Link watched, mesmerized, as she gently worked the best friend in and out of herself. The buzzing roared and hummed in time with each dip out of sight. Zelda shivered, then moved her leg aside as Link’s hand slid up her inner thigh (when did he put that there?) towards the apex of her core. “I wanted more. I tried putting my best friend in all sorts of places, but even that only worked for a little while.”

The knight groaned deeply at the feeling of his own fist pulling roughly along his length. For someone so left-brained, his imagination was vivid and colorful, and so were the images her words conjured.

Zelda keened as his finger gently circled her clit and she increased the force behind each thrust into herself. Sweat gathered between her breasts and in the dip of her neck.

“I desired that deadly precision you use. The balance you employ in battle. I wanted to be handled, roughed, pushed, touched—not as one would a Princess. I wanted you to pound me until I split in two or you depleted your stamina, whichever came first.” Link increased the pressure on her clit and her hips bucked. Their heavy breaths mingled.

Zelda opened her eyes, and Link met them.

“I wanted you.” Long before the trials. “I wanted to save Hyrule, but I also wanted to be worthy. I wanted to be your equal.”

His galloping heart tripped. What?

Selfishly, I wanted to drag you down to my level.

Did she really, truly believe she wasn’t worthy of him? As if not having Hylia’s power somehow made her below him? He remembered Urbosa’s words: She gets frustrated every time she looks up and sees you carrying that sword on your back… It makes her feel like a failure.

Urbosa was right.

Link floundered, having so many things to cite to prove her wrong that he couldn’t get any out. So profoundly, incredibly, off base! He’s not exactly a man of many words. How does he express this to her?

I wanted you to pound me until I split in two.

Link’s blown pupils dragged up and down her perfect firelit form. How can Zelda possibly think she’s not worthy of that? He’ll just have to show her that she is.

Zelda gasped as he swatted her hand away and took control of the best friend. With rough, bruising strokes, he worked her higher than she could work herself. Her pitching cries reflected off the stucco and clung to the walls of his psyche.

Desires and images of what he wanted to do to her flooded his vision. He couldn’t see an inch in front of his face.

Link growled and Zelda suddenly felt cold. He released the best friend and left it humming inside her.

She blinked in confusion as he got out of the bed.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

The cresting wave of her orgasm suddenly lost all force. Bleary, confused, and now in pain, Zelda looked around the blurry room for where Link had disappeared to. “Link…? Wha—”

She hadn’t even found him yet when a hand roughly gripped her hip and rolled her over. Her gasp of surprise was dampened by the pillow as Link roughly gripped her hips and placed her on her knees. Under any other circumstance, the Princess would be embarrassed by such a scandalous, vulnerable position. Link’s hands gripped her supple cheeks, positioning and manhandling her into exactly where he wanted her.

“Link?” Zelda gaped after she turned her head to breathe.

He didn’t answer, just pressed the friend against her clit while he grabbed his base and positioned himself. Zelda choked on a sob as something both firm and velvet-soft pressed against her. Everything in her body shrieked yes, yes! He fisted her hair and pulled it, arching her back to get a better angle and she moaned.

They both groaned at the feeling of Link slowly stretching her. There was no resistance, being so worked up already, but still he held back the last vestiges of animalism for the sake of not hurting her. He slid all the way into her as if they were specifically tailor-made for one another.

Link bent forward to whisper in her ear, “You’re worthy.”

Then he pulled back and thrust his hips into her hard. Electricity sparked down their spins and Zelda arched in lordosis at the overwhelming pleasure. This position allowed him deeper entry and Link felt that he hit an end point inside her. Zelda’s legs gave out, but Link’s hand gripped her hard and supported her weight.

No longer was he gentle. No longer was he nervous. This isn’t for the trials. This is because she wants it. Because he wants to give it to her. And he fully intends to.

The amount of strength it takes to thrust and support and pull her hair and balance on his knees had sweat pouring down his back. Zelda’s moans all strung together into one long sound interrupted by each pounding thrust. “You wanted this?” he growls, and Zelda nodded, tugging her own hair in his fist. “I have a lot of stamina. Guess you’re going to be. Split. In. Two.” He punctuated each word with a filthy, brutal push forward. The friction and heat and the grind was so intense, but the amount of strength he used actually helped keep his pleasure at bay.

Zelda, meanwhile, had no such levee. Her walls tightened and fluttered around him, and a wave of pleasure crashed through her with a wail. The force of it pushed him out and made him lose rhythm. Spurts of her orgasm soaked his legs, her calves, and the already ruined bedsheets.

When the river began to trickle, Link reentered with equal ferocity and didn’t let up. Zelda moaned into the pillow.

Oh he was serious about that stamina!

Each driving of his hips pushed her face harder into the pillow, but the white-hot pleasure blotted out any discomfort from her hair being pulled or her neck bending too far. Link was somehow both wild and precise, overflowing with passion and brutality, and Zelda wasn’t sure if they were fucking or fighting. Either way, she was fine letting him win.

“Holy fuck Zelda!” he snarled and his pace picked up. Zelda felt another wave cresting.

Link felt the same. No! Not yet. He doesn’t want this to be over yet.

Then Link suddenly pulled away and Zelda whined like he’d kicked her. In fact, that may have hurt less. “No! Link, don’t stop. Please, please, please don’t stop.”

Even though the Princess begging for him made his heart warm with pride, he resisted her. Instead, she felt something cold against her cheeks, then Link’s fingers exploring, prodding. Zelda sobbed and bit the pillow, nails scraping the sheets as she clawed them, while Link’s fingers slid the special slick elixir around her.

Then he pushed them into her.

“Fuck!” she cried, Link paused, just to make sure it wasn’t pain. By the way she squirmed against his hand, that wasn’t the case. Zelda desperately needed more! Naturally, the kind knight so chivalrously obliged by pushing his hand into her until his knuckles settled in the valley of her supple flesh. Zelda’s entire body shivered on the end of his arm. It was a sight Link would see right before his death.

Zelda cried out as he worked in and out of her, then nearly started crying for real when he pulled away. “Link…!” she complained. Her hips writhed tantalizingly at him.

Link picked up the best friend, ever the perfect companion, and settled it against her. Zelda fisted the sheets and ground her hips back into the firm pressure he applied. Link watched in fascination as her body yielded, and the buzzing sound muffled. Zelda’s mouth produced a nasty string of curse words that licked fire up his hips.

Link rewarded her by rocking the friend into her. Gently, at first. Then, not gentle at all.

If there were a single soul out in the desert, they would have heard the sounds coming from Urbosa’s bedroom. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Link pulled the friend all the way out, then pushed all the way in and Zelda felt yet another orgasm crash over her. It stuck Link’s leg hairs to his skin, but he didn’t care one bit because wow the sight the smell the pride of giving it to her the way her legs are jelly beneath her!

The best friend was the only source of stimulation she’s receiving. Link wonders…

“Ah!” Zelda cried as she was lifted to press her breasts against the headboard.

Link adjusted his grip and pressed the device all the way in. He grabbed the base and positioned himself at her free entrance, and Zelda’s teeth chattered. “I bet you twenty rupees,” he breathed into her ear.

Zelda cut a side-eyed glower at him and hissed, “I don’t take sucker bets.” Then she pushed back onto him, and Link’s eyes rolled back. The angle was more difficult, less forgiving, and he had to spread his knees to adjust.

But the vibrations! The further into her that he worked, the more parallel surface along his length stimulated him in a way that even his phenomenal imagination hadn’t anticipated. Link hissed and bit the flesh of her shoulder to keep himself in check.

She was so, so full. Full in a way that she hadn’t even fantasized about. This was Link’s idea! Even multiple orgasms in, Zelda felt another building in the pit of her belly. One hand steadying the device and the other on her hip, Link found his courage and resumed grinding into her.

The angle was different, so he couldn’t quite get the force he wanted. However, Zelda had more leverage on her knees like this, and he was able to pull her back into him by the hip. Each push forward jostled the device and hit both of them with varying intensities of sensation.

Soon, Zelda pressed her hands against the headboard and met his thrusts with force of her own.

“Zelda!” Link snarled, his head falling into her hair as they pushed and wrestled one another. If they kept up like this, Link wouldn’t last much longer. He shifted his hips forward so there was space between her rear and his front. Zelda was confused as to what would possibly require use of both of his hands, and frankly was too blissed to decode it.

She wouldn’t need to.

Link turned the dial and activated the second setting. Zelda cried out and the redoubling of sensation, and Link was back to her, thrusting roughly into her. He was not immune to the change either and his hips stuttered, trying to keep control just long enough—

“Link! Yes! Oh, keep doing that!

She came with tempestuous force, her scream swallowed by the desert. Link didn’t allow the wild force of her orgasm to push him out but instead held on for dear life. It was as if her body was pulling his lifeforce straight out of him, absorbing it into her own. Link’s head rolled back, and he let out one long, throaty groan as his own pleasure ripped through him.

Zelda felt his weight collapse against her. Her damp hair clung to her neck, and the whole world felt like midday Wastelands. However, the relief and pleasure settling into her was so great, she was unaware of any discomfort and probably would be for the remainder of her life. Her noodle legs gave out and she collapsed onto the bed with Link at her side.

They both panted and stared at the undulating ceiling.

Whoa…

They were both a sticky, sweaty mess. Link and Zelda’s hair was disheveled in a way that had no horizon between the two. The device continued to hum inside Zelda and she shut it off with a wince. Even so blissed out, Zelda still felt distinctly empty with both of her friends absent. Link felt like he’d never catch his breath.

They lay like that for an eternity. In this place, that may very well be the case.

Both felt the sated silence and did nothing to disturb it. Link made a soft sound and rolled to tuck his face into Zelda's side. Warmth bloomed between them as his heavy arm draped across her belly and he sighed into her slick skin. Their astral projections slowly settled back into their own bodies, and Link murmured something against her skin that she didn't catch.

"Hm?" hummed Zelda.

Link repeated himself. "You're worthy."