AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks so much for the positive response! I really appreciate all of your comments. As for whether or not there will be Zelda's POV… I'm planning on it all being from Link's perspective, but I am tempted to add in Zelda's. I want the reader to not really know what Zelda's thinking, just like Link, but then I worry that her actions, without understanding their motives, may start to seem OOC. We'll see.
Just as a warning, this chapter is a little bit steamier than anything I've written before. I don't think it goes beyond the T rating (although let me know if you think it does), but it's a little on the sexy side ;)
The next few weeks were a blur of activity. Zelda planned the wedding to be held in only two months' time, and while Link had always thought weddings to be a simple affair, he soon discovered how wrong he was. Marrying someone, that was simple. You spoke some vows in front of witnesses and that was that-you were sworn to each other for the rest of your life. But a wedding, now that was a whole other animal. And if a wedding was a different animal, then a royal wedding was an entirely different kind of being altogether. Announcements had to be made, measurements taken, traditions researched, menus prepared, guest lists assembled, etc. etc. Not to mention they needed to seriously increase the rate of reconstruction on the Castle and the Temple of Time. Oh, there was no way either historic structure would be completely refurbished in time for the wedding, but it was decided that at least one wing of the regal building should be made available for guests and for the celebration, and while the Temple didn't need to be livable, it needed to at least be structurally sound. It was quite the undertaking.
Link had thought, soldier as he was, that he would not be too involved in the wedding planning, but there was so much to do that everyone simply overlooked his lack of expertise and sought his assistance with whatever was needed. Zelda also requested that he have some sort of royal guard assembled, to serve both the practical function of protecting the ceremony and the ceremonial function as well. That meant recruiting and training at least ten more people, and he didn't want to recruit people of lower caliber to the royal guard simply because he was short on time.
All of these hectic preparations meant that Link found himself the night before his wedding realizing that he had hardly even given a thought to the magnitude of his decision until that moment. He sat in his room, the one that Zelda had prepared for him in the Castle months earlier, and tried to find something to distract himself. He stood from where he'd been sitting on his bed and opened his door to go ask Jini about the horses he and Zelda would be taking to the Temple of Time in the morning. He opened the door and started to walk out, only to be stopped by Mina and Mils, the treasurehunting twins who ended up being two of his earliest royal guard recruits.
"Sorry, Sir, but we've been told to make sure you stay in your room," said Mina firmly.
"What? Am I a prisoner?" asked Link, trying to exercise some of the leadership skills he'd been working on lately.
Mina was unimpressed by Link's incredulity, but Mils seemed cowed.
"Of course not, Sir! It's just… Her Highness suggested you both get sleep for tomorrow, so she requested that anything that you need be handled by someone else."
Link sighed, accepting the logic of Mils' declaration.
"Very well. I suppose the Queen is always wisest."
"That she is!" Mil said cheerily, clearly relieved that Link was not upset by his detainment. "You must feel quite lucky to be marrying a such a beautiful, wise lady!"
Link gave the man an odd look, and he immediately flushed.
"...If you don't mind my saying so, Sir," he said, looking at his boots.
Link remained silent a moment longer, not sure how to respond to the awkward moment, then gave them both a sharp nod.
"Thank you for watching my room. Good night."
"Good night, Sir!" they chimed in unison, and Link could hear Mina nagging at her brother for speaking too boldly with the soon-to-be King.
Link returned to his room, shucking off his boots and changing into a long, loose sleeping shirt. He let his body flop onto his bed back-first, staring up at the canopy of his luxurious bed above him. Tomorrow, he would be marrying Zelda.
Mils had said he was lucky to be marrying her, and it struck Link for the first time that he didn't really know if he considered himself lucky or not. He really had no idea what he thought about the whole matter. Link had been so used to not accounting for his own opinions and feelings for so long, that he hadn't even wondered whether or not he wanted to marry Zelda.
Well, in one sense he definitely wanted to marry Zelda because he wanted to serve the kingdom, and wanted to serve her. But did he, independently of his duty, as a man, want to marry her? He truly didn't know.
In light of this realization, the entire past two months of preparations were suddenly cast in a different light. Link realized that with his busyness he had been purposefully distracting himself from this very question. Link liked to see problems and fix them. Dealing with feelings that did not have cut and dry solutions was not something he enjoyed, and so he had hid himself in preparations and avoided all other considerations.
Link squinted up at his canopy, as if the fabric would display his own mind to him like words written on canvas. Was he happy to marry Zelda? Did he love her?
Link rolled over onto his stomach and huffed in frustration. What did it even mean to love somebody? Link cared for many people, to varying degrees. At what point did this care cross over the magical threshold of romance to love? He certainly was attracted to Zelda, and he certainly cared about her. Did that automatically equate to love, or was there some mysterious, ineffable romantic component that was also required?
Link rolled his head over to the side, gazing past his limp hand resting on the covers to the Master Sword, which was displayed proudly on his wall. The Master Sword always helped him focus-reminded him of his purpose. He never heard a voice like Zelda did, but something about the feel of that storied weapon in his hand cleared his head like nothing else.
It didn't matter, he concluded. He respected Zelda. He was loyal to Hyrule. He would serve her people. That was what mattered-not his own wishy-washy feelings. Tomorrow, he would show his devotion to Hyrule in the way that the challenges of his age required.
Decision made, Link finally wriggled under his covers, luxuriating in the soft mattress and preparing to fall into blissful oblivion. His mind began to wander in that strange way it did right before he lost consciousness, but unlike its usual random wanderings, he found his thoughts repeatedly returning to some niggling thought that he couldn't quite get out of his head.
What about Zelda? Did she love him?
The evidence said yes. Link would never admit it to anyone, but he had read Zelda's diary when he came upon her ruined room over a year earlier. He felt bad about, but at the time he had remembered little about her, and wanted to get to know her better. She had not confessed that she cared for him outright, but a girlish crush seemed evident in her musings. And then, beyond that, Kass had as much as told him that Zelda was in love with him.
Link suddenly realized that he had been working on the assumption, for some time now, that Zelda loved him. And perhaps she had, but what about now? When she asked him to marry her, she spoke not a word of her feelings, it was all about the benefit of Hyrule. Since the proposal, Zelda had spoken little to Link beyond the practical necessities of planning and administration, which made sense because they had both been extremely busy since the engagement had been announcement. And yet, if she cared for him wouldn't she have told him at some point during their engagement? Wouldn't she have tried to… confess? Or hold his hand? Or even give him a kiss? She had done none of those things, and Link suddenly wondered why he had not thought it strange. And… they had not spoken much in the past half year. That closeness that he had always felt with her felt diminished… felt somehow… less.
For the first time Link wondered if he could accept being married to Zelda if she did not love him. It only seemed fair, as she was apparently willing to marry him even if he did not love her… But the idea of her tolerating his presence for the sake of the kingdom burrowed into his stomach, making him feel sick.
Link shook his head, telling himself his swirling thoughts were simply the product of a nervous, anxious mind. He had made his decision, and he would stick with it. He owed it to Zelda, and to Hyrule, and he would not back out of his commitment. Link screwed his eyes shut and willed himself to sleep. Although he was a strong-willed man, sleep did not come soon.
The sun broke boldly over the horizon the day of the royal wedding. Zelda, Link, and their entire entourage trekked across Hyrule Field to the Great Plateau in the early morning, and Link basked in the beauty of his kingdom. When he had first heard that the wedding must take place in the Temple of Time, while the coronation would take place at the Castle, Link quietly cursed the old tradition for forcing everyone to travel several hours to the wedding only to head right back for the coronation on the same day. However, as he witnessed the warm sunlight gradually wash over the lush green of Hyrule Field, he thought he understood the purpose of the tradition. It was good to be reminded of their duty and responsibility to their kingdom as the Queen and future King on this solemn occasion.
Link risked a glance over at Zelda, who was mounted sidesaddle on her powerful white horse next to Link. She was wearing that same dress she wore the day Calamity Ganon attacked. It was beautiful, and it reminded the people of her powers as the holder of the power of the goddess, but Link wondered if the dress did not bear some bitter memories with it. Regardless, she was gorgeous, the white of the dress only making her hair appear more golden and her eyes even more green. Link himself wore a blue tunic the same color as his Champion's tunic, but with more ornate, heavy embroidery. He also wore a heavy golden robe that was particularly uncomfortable on such a hot day.
Sweat trickled down his neck under the bright sunlight, and Link shifted in his saddle. The wedding was a solemn affair, and so Zelda and Link had not really spoken to each other all day. Link wondered desperately what she was thinking, but all he could see on her face was serene control. He found himself missing the sometimes-petulant, sometimes-haughty girl who had ordered him around those years ago. She had also been earnest, dedicated, and passionate, and always so easy to read. This new Zelda was older, wiser, and more guarded.
They reached the Temple of Time in the late afternoon, and the entire party grew silent as they entered the hallowed grounds. Link was impressed with the work the construction crews had done on the Temple. It was hardly as opulent as it had been in days past, but the Temple had been elegantly reconstructed for the wedding. Link dismounted from his horse and held out a hand for Zelda to dismount as well. Still holding her hand, they passed through the vaulted entryway to the temple together, the royal procession following after them.
Link's breath caught in his throat at the sight of the statue of the Goddess Hylia at the head of the Temple. Actually seeing the goddess, from whom Zelda was supposedly descended, made their impending marriage more real. Link wasn't scared, exactly, and he certainly wasn't unhappy, but it suddenly dawned on him that his life would never be the same after this day.
Link and Zelda walked together to the front of the Temple, and the wedding party followed in after them, filling the seats that had been placed inside of the Temple for this purpose. Link and Zelda turned to each other and waited while their guests found their seats. Zelda had been travelling alongside Link all day, but it wasn't until this moment that the full force of her beauty hit him. Zelda had always been beautiful, but it had been a more sweet, innocent beauty. Today, she was a mature, wise, resplendent woman. Clad all in white with a crown of gold, she looked like a Queen-like a goddess.
The ceremony was all a blur. Impa performed the role of officiant, which wasn't strictly according to tradition, but there were no priests of the Temple of Light around any more, so Impa seemed about as good an option as anyone else. Link tried to pay attention to Impa's words, but he kept focusing on the sounds without really processing the meaning. So many of his own thoughts raced around in his head that he didn't really have space for anything else. Finally, Impa reached the point in the ceremony that required Link and Zelda to speak, and Zelda recited her oath.
"By the goddess Hylia, I take you to be my wedded husband. I swear to honor, serve, and cherish you until the end of my days. Together may we serve in Power, learn in Wisdom, and protect in Courage," Zelda said, and perhaps Link imagined it, but she seemed to linger on the word "cherish."
"By the goddess Hylia, I take you to be my wedded wife. I swear to honor, serve, and cherish you until the end of my days. Together may we serve in Power, learn in Wisdom, and protect in Courage," Link heard himself repeating to her.
Now was the point in the ceremony when, in the countryside where Link had spent his early years, the bride and groom would share their first kiss as a married couple. But this was a royal wedding, and no place for the unsophisticated traditions of the common folk. Instead, Link pulled Zelda's bride gift out of his tunic and fastened the heavy gold necklace around her neck. They turned to the crowd and bowed, symbolizing their oath of service to Hyrule, and the audience cheered. Despite the overall mood of solemnity surrounding the ceremony, the people's enthusiasm would not be restrained. Link had been surprised by that at first-that so many people seemed so genuinely excited that he would be the one to marry Queen Zelda. It was flattering… encouraging… and a little bit intimidating to realize the people thought so highly of him. He himself didn't feel that he was worthy to be with Zelda, so it was hard to imagine why everyone else apparently thought he was such a good choice.
A sudden squeeze to his hand broke him from his reverie, and Link looked to his side where Zelda walked with him back down the aisle. She was smiling and confident, but her eyes still held an unspoken question. Wanting to answer her question as discreetly as he could in front of so many eyes, Link leaned over and kissed his Queen on the cheek. It wasn't entirely appropriate for the occasion, but Link wanted to reassure her, Yes. I am happy.
Hours later the same man who had walked his Queen down the aisle of the Temple of Time mingled with guests in the Great Hall of Hyrule Castle, a crown on his head and the weight of his kingdom on his shoulders.
"Thank you so much for making the long journey, Chief Riju," Link said courteously to the diminutive Gerudo leader as he made the rounds.
"It is my pleasure to attend, Your Highness," Riju said with a wry smile.
Your Highness… That was something he'd have to get used to. Link smiled to the chief again and exchanged several more pleasantries before moving on to his other guests.
He and Zelda had split up to greet as many people as possible and avoid any potential offense that could be taken from the perceived negligence of the newly-minted royal couple. Ever since his disconcerting musings the night before, Link wanted desperately to talk to Zelda-or rather, he wanted Zelda to talk to him. He wanted to know what she was thinking, and he wanted to know if... love would be a part of their marriage. But in an ironic twist they had had very few chances to talk to one another on the day they pledged their lives to each other, and Link had had no opportunity to speak to his bride alone. They had simply ridden back to Hyrule Castle, held the coronation ceremony, and entertained their guests. There had been no time for anything else.
Link's consternation affected him so much that the coronation went by in a blur. In truth, after marrying Zelda the coronation seemed like more a formality than anything else. Somehow pledging to love and serve her felt tantamount to taking on the responsibility of rule, so wholly did she represent her crown and her kingdom. He vaguely recalled the surprising heft of the crown as it came to rest on his brow, as well as the encouraging look Zelda sent his way when he spoke the vow.
Now, that same crown kept slipping on his fine hair, and he tried to retain his dignity as he readjusted it every so often in front of his guests.
"Link! You wear that crown well, brother!" Bludo boomed, a solid clap of his hand on Link's shoulder nearly knocking him from his feet.
"Chief Bludo, you can't say things like that to the king!" Yunobo said nervously from Bludo's side.
"It's fine, Yunobo. It feels a little weird for everyone to be calling me Your Highness all of a sudden," Link said.
"Oh, well, if you say…" Yunobo started, but Impa appeared and Link's shoulder, and the sight of her somber form caused the nervous young Goron to trail off.
"My King," she said with a slight bow, "the night grows late. We can take care of your guests, it is time for you and your Queen to retire."
As relieved as he was to hear that he could finally give his tired feet a rest, Link blanched at the news. He and Zelda would be retiring to their room, and as much as he'd wanted to speak with her alone today, he had no idea how he should behave.
Link simply nodded and excused himself from the two Gorons. Impa accompanied him as they walked to the back entrance to the Grand Hall, where his escape would be less noticeable.
"See that you take good care of her, young man," Impa said with a pat to his arm.
"I certainly plan to," Link replied.
He wondered if Impa was just reciting the words people always say to their friends' spouses, or if she really worried that Link would not be an adequate husband.
"You two… you are a team now. No matter what, no matter how you, or even she feels, or how angry or hurt or confused you are, never forget that you are a team. Her success is your success, her happiness is your happiness."
Link nodded soberly. He thought he understood what the experienced Sheikah woman was trying to say: be loyal, no matter what.
He met Zelda at the door, and, leaving Impa behind, they fled together up the long staircase to Zelda's chambers. When they were a safe distance up the staircase, Zelda slipped her arm from Link's elbow and let out a breath of relief.
"Whew, we made it," she said, smiling up at Link and looking more relaxed than she had all day.
"Yes," Link said, searching for something safe to say. "That was… a lot of ceremonies."
"Yes, well, welcome to the life of royalty," Zelda said with a laugh.
As they ascended the stairs, Link felt some of their old camaraderie returning, and they fell into easy, teasing conversation. Perhaps he didn't need to talk with her about… their relationship. Perhaps they could just continue on with their friendship, and see where things went naturally? It certainly seemed like the easier path.
"You know, I am glad you are wearing my grandfather's crown instead of my father's. My father's crown was altogether too large and bulky. This one suits you much better," she said, playfully tipping said crown askance on Link's head.
Link smiled and righted the crown, nodding his head in agreement.
"And this one is much lighter. It's a lot easier on my neck" he said, bending his neck over as if the weight of the crown presented a great strain.
Zelda laughed lightly, and Link almost stumbled when they abruptly ran out of stairs. He doing his footing and looked up, seeing that they were at the door of Zelda's chambers.
"Well, here we are," Zelda said, and suddenly their easy companionship melted away to palpable tension.
Link opened the door and held it for her, feeling vaguely transgressive as he followed her in afterwards. The room had not changed much since the last time Link had been in here, when Zelda had proposed they marry. The large canopy bed was the same, and the rich red rug under his feet felt just as soft and luxurious as he remembered. He noticed the servants had already moved his chest of drawers into the room, but there was little else from him. He never had had many personal possessions, after all. A fire was already blazing in the fireplace, but despite this homey touch Link wondered if this room would ever feel like home.
Still, the room was warm and comfortable, and Link was utterly exhausted. He placed the crown on the dresser and began pulling off his boots. The stiff new boots each fell to the floor with a heavy thunk, and the sound startled Zelda. Zelda jumped a little, letting out an undignified sound from where she stood in front of her own dresser, crown also already removed.
"Sorry," Link muttered, and Zelda crossed the room towards him, shaking her head.
"It's no problem. I think I'm just… tired."
Link flushed as she drew nearer, remembering why he had been nervous to head up to the room in the first place. It was their first night, and… heirs had been one of the reasons she'd wanted to get married. Surely it was expected…
The warm room suddenly turned stifling, and Link couldn't seem to look at anything but Zelda. She still looked just as beautiful as earlier, but a little more tired, and real, and… touchable. Zelda stood only a few feet away from him, but he dared another step closer, and she took in a sharp breath. He guessed that was a good sign.
A different kind of tension grew between them now, and based on the way Zelda's wonderfully expressive eyes gazed at him, Link was confident that he knew the answer to his question. She did love him. And he… he loved her, too. What else could explain his willingness to devote his life to her? The way the rhythm of his heartbeat sped up the closer their proximity? The way the vague memory of her had carried him through an entire year of suffering? He loved her, and all was right with the universe.
Link reached forward and snaked an arm smoothly around her waist, pulling her closer to him. At least, he hoped it was a smooth motion, because he felt like his arms were shaking. Zelda responded by sliding her own hands up and around his neck. Despite his relative inexperience, Link was quite confident that he was supposed to kiss her now, so he leaned forward and gently pressed his lips to hers. Once he felt her warm skin on his, all thoughts of what he was or was not supposed to do next fled his mind.
Their kiss started slow and gentle, each touch a tender, hesitant caress. Link kept expecting Zelda to back away at some point and either flee in embarrassment or scold him in anger, but she did neither. Gradually, the kiss intensified, but Zelda did not back down. Her receptiveness to his touch emboldened Link, and he felt more and more caught up in the moment. Faster than he would have thought possible, the heat built between them, and the sensation of Zelda's fingers digging into Link's hair brought out a fierce, passionate side to the normally reserved young man.
Soon he had her backed up against her dresser, and he did not shy away from pressing his body into her, eliciting a moan of pleasure from his Queen. Almost of its own accord, Link's hand ran up the length of Zelda's thigh, and he shocked himself with the thought that, as beautiful as her dress was, he'd much rather it were on the floor.
He broke away from their kiss with a gasp, and Zelda looked up at him with flushed cheeks and wide eyes, her breathing labored. He felt like he should say something, but he didn't really know how to say it right. Somehow he needed to express how much he cared about her, and how glad he was they were now husband and wife, but words had never been his favorite form of communication. He scooped her up into his arms and deposited her onto her - their - bed.
Link followed after his bride, pressing her further into their luxurious blankets with his weight and tangling their legs together as he showered her with kisses. Thinking that it was altogether too warm in here, Link sat up, legs straddling Zelda's waist, and pulled off his tunic. He was fumbling with the belt at his waist, fingers slipping a little in his haste, when a choked gasp from Zelda caught his attention. This sound was unlike the sounds of satisfaction she had made earlier, the ones that had driven Link wild. He looked back to his bride's face and saw that distress and tears were both plain on her features. The heavy makeup that had been painstakingly applied for their wedding now ran down her face in dramatic streaks, and Zelda fought for control of her breath, which was still coming out in sobs.
Instantly, Link removed himself from her, pulling away from the bed in horror. Why… why would she be crying? He'd thought that this was what she wanted, and she'd seemed like she was enjoying it. But now, the tears still running freely down her face, Zelda appeared distressed, sorrowful, and even… scared.
Shame flooded through him, and Link staggered away, very nearly falling onto one of the plush red armchairs by the fireplace. He had been wrong-he'd thought he knew the answer, he'd thought she loved him. But she must… she must have married him out of duty. After all, she had never said otherwise. Link had known this was a possibility, and he had been ready to accept it, but the pain of that realization struck him harder than he'd thought it would.
Risking a glance back, Link saw that while her weeping had ceased, Zelda still lay exactly where he'd left her on the bed, completely motionless. He turned back quickly towards the fireplace, wondering what this meant for their marriage. He briefly entertained the idea that he should leave Zelda, but quickly dismissed the notion. As painful as it might be to be her husband when she did not care for him, he had committed to this arrangement without any kinds of conditions based on their feelings. He and Zelda had both married willingly, and he would fulfill his duties.
As for what he should do right now… she obviously was not ready to be with him physically. And there was no way Link's sense of honor and pride would allow him to lie with a woman as she sobbed. Eventually, when they were more comfortable with each other, maybe… But not now. Now, she needed space, and he would give that to her. He was good at leaving space.
Eventually Link rose from the chair, changed into clothes for sleeping, and laid down on the bed, leaving a generous distance between himself and Zelda. He turned his head to face Zelda, wanting to see if she was alright. Zelda was wrapped up tightly in the blankets, although Link knew she still wore her wedding gown, and only the top half of her face was visible above the covers.
"Link?" she asked, her voice uncharacteristically shy and feeble.
"Yes?" Link said. He dared not guess as to what she would say.
Various emotions warred within Link at her simple statement. Sorry? Sorry for what? Sorry that she had broken down crying? Sorry that she couldn't love him? Sorry that they had gotten married in the first place? Despite the confusions and disappointments of the day, Link refused to be sorry that they were married.
Still, he should respond to Zelda's apology. He wasn't really sure how to respond, since he didn't know exactly what she'd meant, but he wanted to convey to her that, regardless of what happened tonight or how she felt about him, he would honor and respect her and the oaths they'd taken.
"It's fine, Zelda. I will always be loyal to you," he said, and neither of them said any more.
He didn't really come to any other conclusions that night. As he slowly drifted off, all he knew was that Zelda was sorry, and he was not.