AUTHOR'S NOTE: Welcome to my first AU story! I wanted to write a modern AU where Link and Zelda's roles most closely mirror who they are in the games, and this is what I came up with. Also I should note that this story was very loosely inspired by one of my favorite shows, Parks and Recreation. The main conflict is only hinted at in this chapter, but we'll get to it pretty soon. Let me know if you like this idea and I'll write more :) reviews are always appreciated!
Mayor Zelda Harkinian surreptitiously looked at her watch, hoping no one in the audience noticed. It was already 9 PM, and this City Council meeting was supposed to have ended hours ago.
"-and we will NOT back down until the oppression of the Hyrule School District ends and the teachers of Hyrule High School are finally able to engage with their students without being weighed down by the shackles of unfair wages!" Ruto Zorza said, ending her speech with a dramatic flourish, and the crowd cheered her on. Ruto stood at the podium between the audience and the City Council, wearing a tight blue dress that really flattered her tall, graceful figure. She had been the final speaker of several teachers from the high school, and they had unleashed a stream of frustration and vitriol at the City Council that would surely not leave a good example for their students.
Zelda resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Ruto was the drama teacher at Hyrule High School, and she was currently utilizing all of her drama skills to make her point. Zelda and Ruto had actually both attended Hyrule High School years earlier, and so Zelda was already familiar with Ruto's penchant for melodrama. That was one of the things that Zelda loved about the small city of Hyrule-people tended stay for generations.
To be fair to Ruto, Zelda didn't exactly disagree with her. The teachers at Hyrule High School were definitely not paid enough. Most people in Hyrule agreed on that-what they did not agree on was who was going to fork over the cash to increase salaries.
When the crowd appeared to have finished clapping, Zelda cleared her throat into the microphone.
"Thank you, Ms Zorza. I think we can all agree that Hyrule High School boasts some of the best teachers in the country, and that they all deserve a good salary. Unfortunately, the School Board has more control over teachers' salaries than City Council does, so this may not be the best location to hash this out."
Ruto stood, an indignant look on her haughty features, but Zelda raised a calming hand to stem whatever outburst was forthcoming.
"I know you have already spoken with the School Board. My understanding was that the last meeting to try and resolve this issue did not end well. I have spoken with Superintendent Gaebora, and he agreed that the School Board needs to take the Teachers Union's concerns more seriously, and he has agreed to meet with representatives from the Teachers Union again, hopefully some time next week."
Ruto and her fellow teachers looked somewhat mollified, but they didn't seem happy about it. In Zelda's experience, people sometimes came to these meetings to shout and scream about something, and it could be disconcerting if they suddenly had nothing to shout and scream about any more.
"Now, I know that this is not enough," Zelda continued. "Teachers need support, and they need it now. Not only for their salaries, but to fund sports, after school programs, drama programs," she said, nodding to Ruto, "and more. But as we all know, money has been tight for the city lately. Even the state government is feeling the squeeze, and we don't get as much funding from them any more. So to citizens who care about our schools, first I would suggest that you attend the Nights in Gerudo Dinner and Raffle Fundraiser taking place this Saturday. It promises to be a fun night with authentic Gerudo food and music, and all proceeds will go towards the Hyrule Educational Fund. Second, I will be proposing a property tax in the upcoming elections, and all funds generated by this tax will go towards supporting our teachers and schools. If you are concerned about the school's budget, vote yes on this new tax, and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. I know I will."
Zelda's speech was greeted with scattered applause, and Zelda shrugged internally. That was a better reaction than she usually got. Saria, her good friend and assistant, leaned over from her seat on the semicircular table at which the Council Members sat and nudged Zelda in the arm.
"Great job, Zelda." she whispered, "I think that was about as good of a reaction as you could have hoped for."
Zelda smiled back at her friend, grateful for her consistent support. Whenever Zelda started to get pessimistic about their town and government work in general, Saria was always there to turn things around. Zelda looked down at her agenda, hoping that they were near the end. She leaned back towards the microphone to announce their next guests.
"And now we have the Science Olympiad Team from Ordon Middle School, who won second place in the entire state. Team members Beth, Colin, Malo, and Talo went head-to-head against 40 other teams from around the state, and did us proud. Way to represent Hyrule, guys!" Zelda said, clapping her hands to try and get a round of applause going for the gaggle of awkward middle schoolers now shuffling up to the podium in front of the Council. Internally, she winced. She'd forgotten that they would be here tonight, and it was unfortunate that this group of kids had to hear all of the screaming and shouting about teachers' salaries from earlier in the night. It was also unfortunate that they and their parents were now still at a City Council meeting that was supposed to have ended at 7.
Still, she needed to put on a good show of it. Zelda stood from her seat and pulled some heavy, metal medallions out of a cardboard box she'd brought for the occasion, then maneuvered her way around the Council's semicircular table to present the medals to the students. She announced their names one by one at the podium, and placed the medals around each neck personally, relishing these uncomplicated moments when she got to feel like she was making a difference.
Zelda returned to her seat satisfied, and was glad to see the Olympiad Team members' parents ushering them out of the building as soon as they got their medals. This was a school night, after all. Zelda looked back down at her agenda and noted with relief that there was only one more speaker for the night.
"Officer Link Kokiri," she said into the microphone. Why was that name so familiar?
A man in dark jeans and a green t-shirt headed up to the podium, and Zelda remembered where she knew him from. She looked back at Saria, and Saria waggled her eyebrows outrageously.
This was Saria's friend, the police officer that she had been trying to set Zelda up with for ages. Zelda had politely declined, of course. The Police Department was headquartered in City Hall, and Zelda had a personal rule about not dating people who worked for city government. At 30 years old, she was the youngest mayor of Hyrule ever, not to mention one of the first female mayors. She wanted to be taken seriously, and dating a coworker or employee was definitely not the way to go.
Still, Zelda felt a slight twinge of regret upon finally seeing Saria's oft-mentioned friend. He was a pretty good-looking guy, and if Saria vouched for him he must be nice too. He had sharp features, a slim but toned figure, and messy blond hair. To be honest, he wasn't the type Zelda usually went for, but she couldn't deny he had a certain appeal. Zelda was focused on her career and on helping Hyrule, but that didn't mean she wanted to be alone. She hadn't dated anyone in a while, and sometimes she wished she had more romance in her life.
Officer Kokiri, or Link, as Saria always referred to him, finally reached the podium and cleared his throat.
"Hi, I'm Officer Link Kokiri from the Hyrule Police Department. I guess I… maybe I should have worn my uniform but I kind of thought this was a more informal thing…" he trailed off.
Zelda's eyebrows rose. He was a little awkward, wasn't he?
"Well anyway, thanks to the Council for seeing me today. I came because two of Hyrule's four backup generators are on pretty low land, and I think they could flood next time a hurricane comes around. I think there Council should move these generators to higher ground."
Zelda wasn't really sure what she thought he'd come to say, but concerns about emergency preparedness were definitely not high on her list. Still, if what Link said was true it was definitely worth looking into. Hyrule was a coastal city, built on a hill that sloped downwards towards the ocean. Hurricanes were usually not too serious around here, but they came every year and flooding in the lower parts of the city was not uncommon.
"Thank you for bringing that to our attention, Officer Kokiri. Public Works usually handles these kinds of things. Have you already brought your concerns to Public Works?"
"Yes, I did. But Mr. Groose from Public Works just said that the generators were up to code and there was nothing to worry about. Then I tried to meet with you, Mayor Harkinian, but I couldn't get an appointment."
Link paused, looking upset.
"I live near one of the generators-the one near Ordon Middle School-and I know that flooding around there has been pretty bad before. I really think the Council should look into this," Link said, voice speeding up the more he talked. Zelda got the distinct impression he usually didn't say so much at once.
Bill Groose, who also happened to be on the City Council, looked up from his cell phone upon hearing his name mentioned, and his face reddened with embarrassment and anger.
"Madam Mayor, we have looked into those generators and they are perfectly safe. Otherwise, I would have taken care of them. You know that!"
Zelda looked at her watch again. It was already past 10 PM. Bill was a pretty hot-headed guy, and she didn't want the City Council meeting to turn into another near-brawl. She'd have to figure out a way to resolve this quickly.
"Of course, Bill. I know you run a tight ship over at Public Works," she said in a pacifying tone. "However, I do think we should at least consider what Officer Kokiri is saying. It's already 10 PM, and I think we all want to head home for the night. How about I speak with Officer Kokiri personally tomorrow, and we can get this resolved. Will that work for you, Officer Kokiri? Do you have time in the afternoon?"
Link's eyebrows rose in surprise. It was rather last minute, but in Zelda's experience if you wanted to get something done in this city you needed to take decisive action. Eventually Link nodded.
"Sure. I get off duty at 2:00, so any time after that would work."
Zelda clapped her hands.
"Excellent. Talk with my assistant Saria after the meeting and we'll get an appointment scheduled. Normally, we'd end these meetings with a summary and discussion of the next Council meetings' agenda, but I think I speak for all of us when I say we should just close the meeting so everyone can get home."
Most of the audience had weakened and left by now, but Zelda saw relieved sighs and nods throughout the remaining attendees. She gathered up her things, nodding, smiling, and shaking hands with the people she needed to, then headed to her car with Saria by her side.
"So, did you set up an appointment with Officer Kokiri?" She asked her friend as they stroked through the fluorescent-lit parking lot.
"Yes, you'll be meeting him at 3 PM tomorrow. Isn't he cute?!"
Zelda grimaced at Saria, who's green eyes sparkled in her pixie-like face. Saria was unfailingly sweet, but she was also generally very calm and collected. She didn't usually get carried away like this.
"If you think he's so great, why don't you date him?"
Saria wrinkled her sharp nose in distaste.
"No way. I love him like a brother-it would just be too weird.
"Well, tomorrow we'll be discussing emergency preparedness and nothing more, so you'll just have to find someone else to set me up with."
Saria laughed, her voice light and tinkly in the cool night air.
"I just might take you up on that," she said.
Zelda was frustrated. She'd been trying to make sense of a city budget spreadsheet for a good hour, and she wasn't having much success. To be honest, the spreadsheet was a mess. Half of the numbers were hardcoded in and the other half were formulas, things appeared to have been copied and pasted haphazardly throughout the workbook, and none of the sheets had been named. Zelda let out a heavy sigh. She considered herself to be something of an Excel master, so these poorly constructed budget spreadsheet were particularly painful. Didn't the budget specialist know how to use Excel? Did she have to do everything herself?
She was deep in the bowels of the school board's budget when a knock at the door to her office broke through her concentration.
"Saria, I'm kind of in the middle of something-" she said before looking up and realizing her visitor was not Saria.
"I uh… Sorry, I thought I had an appointment," Officer Kokiri said from her doorframe, looking uncertain as to whether he should stay or go. Zelda glanced down at her watch. How was it already 3 PM?
"Oh no, you're totally right, my mistake. Come on in."
Link walked into her office, hesitating only a moment before taking a seat in one of the two chairs Zelda always left for visitors on the opposite side of her desk. Link must have been on duty today, because he was wearing his badge and black uniform. His black pants and slacks fit him much better than any piece of clothing deserved to fit, and the whole ensemble had Zelda appreciating the allure of a man in uniform more than she ever had before.
"Thanks for coming in today. I'm sorry you had such a hard time getting an appointment-I try to make myself as accessible as possible."
"That's all right."
"I looked into the generators you mentioned," said Zelda, rifling through a stack of papers in her desk drawer. Eventually, she pulled out an elevation map of the city with major parts of the Public Works system marked on it.
"These are the generators you were talking about, right? And these two are on relatively low elevation, right?"
Link nodded as she pointed to the worrisome generators.
"Yes. Flood waters have been pretty close to them in the past. If we had a serious hurricane, I think they could easily be flooded."
"I agree. I asked for flood level estimates from the state Emergency Management Agency and it's definitely within the realm of possibility that those generators could be flooded," Zelda said.
Link was silent for a beat. It seemed he'd come prepared to argue his case and now, finding that unnecessary, didn't know what to say.
"Thank you for bringing this to my attention," Zelda continued, "I've already spoken with Public Works and we're putting together a plan to move the generators to higher ground. It will take some time and money, but guaranteeing the safety of our citizens is my highest priority."
Link blinked in surprise, then put his hands on his knees.
"Wow, thank you. I guess that's all I really wanted to talk about."
Zelda leaned back in her chair, pleased at having resolved his concerns.
"You seem surprised. What, did you think I was just going to stonewall you?"
Link glanced at the ceiling with an awkward smile, looking abashed.
"No, not exactly… I'd just heard it takes forever to get anything done in city government."
"Well, not to brag but I'm pretty good at my job," said Zelda, smiling in satisfaction. It always felt good to exceed people's' expectations. Link chuckled a little under his breath,
"So when do you think the generators will be moved? Will they be moved by hurricane season? The one by the middle school I'm particular I'm worried about. Everyone knows that the high school is an evacuation center."
Zelda smile fell a little. She had been hoping he wouldn't ask that question. She'd managed to get a pretty good deadline set for the generators, but it still wouldn't happen over night.
"One of them will be moved by then, if everything goes according to plan. The other generator will have to wait until next year, though." Zelda shrugged, trying not to show how much the delay bothered her. "I could only scrape enough money together from the Public Works department for one generator relocation a year."
Officer Kokiri's good mood appeared to have been diminished by the news as well.
"Well, that's better than nothing. Thanks so much, I really appreciate you doing this," he said, starting to rise from his seat.
"Wait a moment, I had one other thing I wanted to discuss with you."
The officer froze halfway out of his chair, looking as if he had been identified in a police lineup.
"Uh… sure. What is it?"
"Well," said Zelda, leaning forward with an almost predatory smile, "since you seem so passionate about emergency preparedness, I wanted to nominate you to the Disaster Preparedness Committee. They meet once a month to discuss the city's preparedness plans, and in the case of an emergency, they help administer the plan."
Link looked sideways, as if trying to locate escape routes. Zelda smirked a little to herself. By bringing this up in City Council, he'd practically already volunteered for the position. Zelda was always trying to get people to staff these committees, and the process could feel like pulling teeth. Now here Link was, offering himself up as a sacrificial lamb on the altar of public service.
"But I… I'm already a police officer. In case of an emergency, I'll already have my own responsibilities to fulfill."
"I know that," said Zelda, waving her hand dismissively, "but that's what makes you perfect for the role. We need a liaison between the Disaster Preparedness Committee and the Police Department. You can work out with the Committee and the Department exactly what your role will be during an emergency."
Link, fully standing now, scratched the back of his head uncertainly.
"I… I'm not sure. I'll have to talk with Chief Impa first."
"I already spoke with her, and she thinks it's a wonderful idea," said Zelda. She already had him on the line, now she just had to reel him in.
"Ok," said Link reluctantly, "I guess I can join. Who do I talk to? When are the meetings?"
"You'll want to talk to Ashei Yi about that. She'll email you soon with more information, but the basics are that you meet the first Tuesday of every month in the School Board room at five. I'll drop by the next meeting to make sure you're getting settled in," Zelda said with a sweet smile. He would have no way of getting out of this.
"Ok… I guess I will see you then," said Link, starting to back up a little. he probably wanted to get out of the office before inadvertently getting signed up for any other committees. Zelda didn't blame him.
"Sure!" said Zelda brightly. "Thanks again for coming in. Together we can make Hyrule a safer place to live!"
Link gave her a half smile, then turned to leave, nearly running into Saria. Saria had been hurrying into the office with a stack of forms, and she had to readjust the glasses that had almost been knocked from her face by the collision. Glasses firmly in place, she was finally able to recognize her old friend.
"Oh, hey there Link!"
"It's nice to see you finally got to meet up with Zelda," said Saria with a meaningful smile.
Link blushed and turned so that Zelda could no longer see his face.
"Er… Yeah, it's nice. I gotta head back to the precinct. See you later," he said, then beat a hasty retreat out of the office.
Saria walked up to Zelda's desk and set the forms in front of her with a heavy thud.
"Zelda," said Saria in her sternest voice, "Did you bully him? You were supposed to date him, not enslave him!"
Zelda waved her hand dismissively.
"Same difference. And besides, I already told you. I won't date anyone employed by the city government. It's not kosher."
Saria let out a massive sigh.
"Says you! There's no rule about it anywhere, I've checked. It's just you and your self-imposed misery."
"I'd hardly call my life miserable Saria."
"Ok, sorry. I didn't mean that. I just… He's a really nice guy and I want you to be happy. And I want him to be happy. And I want you two to be happy together!"
"I know, I get it. But I'm not going to change my mind on this. Set me up with someone who doesn't work at city hall, and I'll go out with him at least once. I promise."
"Promise?!" Saria said, an intense hope sparking in her eyes.
"...Sure," Zelda said with some reluctance.
"Great! Well, now that that's settled, let's get back to business."
Zelda nodded as Saria chatted merrily away about today's agenda. As her diminutive friend continued, Zelda had a sneaking suspicion she would come to regret that promise.
First chapter done! Let me know what you think! Interesting? Worth continuing!? Thanks!