Chapter 31: Bail (Off)
Zelda sat at her desk, warm and cosy in her office as the wind and rain howled outside. She was humming a tune, one Link had often whistled to pass the time when they'd been travelling, as her fountain pen glid over another document – a new order of equipment for the guards. Hopefully they'd be ready for the Captain's return. She stopped humming and rhythmically slid the paper onto her messy stack of 'complete' documents, almost as large as her pile of scrunched up abandoned drafts, absently grabbing a replacement.
Link whistled, filling in the tune from where she'd stopped. He was sat on the stone floor, several large sheets almost as tall as him spread around the room, having shifted her carpet as he expanded his work space. Various carefully measured sketches of trains, stations and tracks filled the sheets – he'd even doodled some tiny people for scale. Link stopped whistling, squinting at his page before grabbing a block of rubber and removing his last drawing.
Zelda picked up the melody absently as she watched Link carefully re-measure his drawing, pouting cutely. It put a smile on her face to see him like this. It was true that she'd enjoyed seeing his commanding side with the guard trainees, it carried a certain thrilling charm with it, but it also wasn't really him. Leaning over some designs though? Chewing on his pencil in thought? That was a Link she was more than happy to watch.
…She was getting distracted again.
Glancing down revealed her new document; a letter, emblazoned with a triangular foot shaped emblem, from Gongoron – the Goron elder. She dropped her song, which Link promptly picked up.
It wasn't a long letter – Gorons typically didn't care for longwinded explanations, Gongoron in particular – in fact it merely bullet pointed the essentials:
- Mountain goddess is happy, lots of iron.
- More monsters spotted at mountainbase, nearSnowRealm, no problem.
- Tell Link Kogoron says hello.
"Kogoron sends his greetings," Zelda said, and Link thanked her with a chuckle. "Apparently there's an increase in monsters near the mountain though – does that seem abnormal to you?"
Link looked up at her, pondering for a moment. "I think it's a little early actually, they don't usually come out to hunt till mid spring-ish, right?"
He made a good point, it was meaningless for monsters to hunt if there was no food. "The Gorons don't seem worried," she said, scanning the letter again, "it just gives me a bad feeling."
"Alfozno and Russel are near there though, right?" Link asked as he stood and stretched, showing off some surprisingly toned muscles; not an adult's amount but more than she'd anticipated. When had that happened? And should seeing it really send a shock of delight down her spine? "They'll be back soonish, next couple of days, that'll let us know."
"Hopefully, I must admit, I'm getting more anxious to hear their report," Zelda replied, passing the letter over for Link to read. "I've been thinking we should try and get the trains back out there soon. We really need to start getting food as quickly as possible."
"You're over worrying," Link said as he scanned the letter, "remember your plan worked well – we're nearly in Spring, and no one's starved from what I've heard."
Was it odd that she enjoyed that bluntness? In many ways it was a detriment, if she acted like Link did she didn't doubt court dealings would become nearly insurmountable. Regardless, it remained true that it drew her to him.
"We'll see. I'll be happier once your proposal gets accepted," Zelda said, gesturing to his blue-prints.
"If," Link said bluntly, straightening her 'complete' pile. He then leant – though it was more like sitting – next to her against the desk, so he was looking down at her. "Even if the Royal Engineers agree to the idea, I have to actually present my ideas before anything happens."
"Who's anxious now?" Zelda asked, propping her elbow on the desk, with her chin in her palm. "We both agree your turbine makes sense, we just need to ensure they do too."
Link gave a tiny smile, eyes trained on hers, "we?"
"I want to help. I'm always available if you want to practice." She could definitely make out a faint flush in his cheeks.
"Except when you're in a meeting," Link began counting on his fingers, "or need to entertain guests, or if there's an event to speak at, or-"
"Fine, you've made your point," Zelda cut him off. Really, it wasn't like she wouldn't forsake those if he needed. "But I mean it, I have free time – we could do it now for example."
Link smiled an un-hidable smile, and focused on the rubber in his hand, twisting and flipping it like some sort of distraction. It did little to conceal the giddiness on his face.
"Thank you," Link said, tapping the letter on her head, "but I mean it, you've been stupidly helpful already. I'll manage by myself from here."
"Ow," Zelda feigned, pouting up at him, "that hurt!"
Link smirked at her, "I'm sure you'll survi-ah!"
Zelda poked his ribs, and he nearly fell from her desk with laughter.
"Aha, Zeld-ah! Stop, please!" Link sputtered, barely pulling out of her reach and stumbling towards her bookcase, before turning to face her.
Their eyes met for a moment, both trying to read the other, both equally on guard. Link wouldn't leave that alone, his want for revenge was painted across his face like a hungry puppy staring at someone's lunch; the only question was, what exactly would he do? Try and tickle her back? Attempt to steal something from her desk? Mayb– the rubber bouncing off her forehead answered.
"Ow!" Zelda exclaimed, reeling in surprise more than pain, as Link laughed from beyond her reach. Fighting off her daze, Zelda grabbed and threw one of her scrunched up first drafts back before realising she'd even moved.
Link ducked from her assault, but was too slow to dodge, and the projectile smacked the side of his head. Recovering quickly, he nimbly grabbed a book off the nearby shelf, presumably an attempt for some cover, having clearly realised her advantage; while Zelda had a stack of the discarded drafts – Link, unfortunately, had none.
Zelda threw another ball of paper at him, then another, and some more; a couple were deflected by his book-shield, but the rest still ended up bouncing off the helpless Link. It was as she reached for the sixth, that one flew right past her face. Zelda glanced to Link, who stood proud, her discarded shots gathered in his arms. His second attack pinged off Zelda's head.
Zelda threw an arm up, deflecting Link's third shot, before retaliating in kind. Within moments balls had begun pelting back and forth, their play fight getting more frantic with each throw. Quickly Zelda's carefully cultivated supply was depleted, and she was forced to abandon her seat, both to take cover and to haphazardly resupply her ammunition.
Zelda leant against the cool wood of her desk, plans tumbling through her mind. She'd need to retaliate soon; Link would undoubtedly be scheming too. That was part of the problem though; as handy as the position was, it was near impossible for Link to hit her, unfortunately it carried the caveat of completely hiding Link from sight. He was still active, his attacks were bouncing alongside her, but they'd stop every now and then – so he could collect more shots? That could be a chance! Zelda waited, counting the paper balls as they flew past. Three…two…one…now! She risked peeking round her defence, arm at the ready.
Her eyes met green ones, ones that went wide as she whipped her attack towards them. Link dove behind the other side of her desk, barely dodging the ball, but quickly returned fire. Zelda, too, ducked back to safety, Link's attack skimming where her head just was. How was he still attacking? There had only been a couple of balls scattered around, and she'd been conserving her own dwindling pile, but it was as if he somehow had infinite shots. Zelda scanned her own stash. Four shots total, not even half what they'd been throwing. In fact, barely any of Link's attacks were around her side either. Link must've been hoarding them!
Zelda tutted to herself. He was as clever as always, if she ran out of shots he'd effectively win…
No chance she was letting that happen!
Grabbing a single ball, Zelda snuck along her desk – down the opposite side to the one they'd been fighting on. She stepped slowly, with a silence practiced from years of sneaking around the castle. As she approached his end of the desk, she caught glimpse of Link's leg, stuck out as he'd propped himself against the desk's side, facing the other way. Perfect! She readied her shot.
Zelda leapt around the corner with a laugh, a little too eagerly, and coming face to face with a surprised Link. She whipped her arm to fire the shot. But Link reacted quickly, lashing out and catching her arm mid swing, holding it with a firm grip. Zelda attempted to pull her arm free, but caught sight of Link's raised off hand, and the paper ball grasped within it, the one now lashing towards her. Zelda's free hand shot out, grabbing Link's wrist in return.
Link grinned up at her from his seat on the floor. Zelda returned the gesture. Both locked in place as they held the other still, arms either side of their opponent, equally unable to act or risk the other attacking.
"What…now…hero?" Zelda asked, heart thumping oddly loudly and a little short of breath. Huh, when had that happened?
"I'm…thinking…" Link gasped back. And he was, she could see it in his eyes, scanning her face as he plotted. Though, as she stood over him, his options were limited; she knew he'd find a way to distract her, or may have another hidden trick, he could kick something still, or maybe – did he just glance at her lips?
She could've imagined it. She probably imagined it. Right? It wouldn't be the first time…or the second. Then again she was one to talk, seeing as she was now doing the very same to his. Not that it was her fault, after all they looked soft, and sweet, and like they'd feel nice to kiss…ok, so maybe just wishful thinking then? The problem, though, was she'd now noticed a pattern and between that, the times she'd caught him glancing over her, and the chillingly warm felling that'd developed between them, recently she'd begun to suspect that she wasn't the only one who'd developed feelings for the other.
Zelda glanced back to Link's eyes, and was snapped from her thoughts. They were close, she'd caught herself leaning towards him, to the point she could see the odd speckle of blue in green eyes, how they shuddered slightly, how his pupils grew just a little larger when he met her gaze. Lips so close to her own she could kiss him…she should kiss him…she was going to kiss him!
Except…how? She'd imagined it before, admittedly even dreamt it once, except now she thought of it, her imagination had always kind of…skipped the part where they'd actually started kissing. Was she just supposed to…push her lips into…his? That didn't seem right, in fact the idea just seemed asinine. Said like that it sounded like a head-butt, or rather a lip-butt? And she was basically pinning him down, that didn't seem romantic, or sweet, it was almost like she was attacking him! She couldn't kiss him now, she needed to plan this better, needed to actually figure out what to do first!
Zelda let go of Link's wrist, practically throwing his arm away, and swiftly back stepped from him. She tossed the paper ball between her hands, letting out a shuddered breath as she did. Spirits, she could see the heat coming off herself.
After she'd calmed, Link stood, slowly pulling himself up by her desk, and said, "I…guess we'll call that a tie then."
"That…would seem reasonable," Zelda replied, unable to look at Link for more than a glance. She gently placed her ball onto the desk, jumping a little as Link slid something to her. The Goron's letter. Right, she should work, distract herself. Except her legs didn't want her to sit, adrenaline keeping her moving.
A knock rapped on the large, oak door, and the wave of relief hit her all too hard as she approached it.
"Hello? You may enter, please," Zelda said, possibly a little too eagerly. She just needed something, anything, else on her mind.
The door swung open, revealing a pair of guard trainees – Pipit and Karane.
"Hello Princess," Pipit said with a salute. It seemed oddly formal considering how the pair were just one year her elders, not to mention how she'd seen Pipit in particular fallen on his backside in training not two days prior. Or perhaps that was why. "We've come to report Captain Russel's return."
"Oh? Excellent! Thank you."
"Also," Karane spoke up, glancing to Pipit, "to inform Link that Alfonzo called for him."
"They're back? Got it, thanks! I'll be down soon," Link cried from the far side of her office, followed by sounds of scrambling and something clattering against the floor.
Zelda rolled her eyes, "I'll bring him down to the sanctum in a minute. Please inform them both that I'd like speak to them as well, if they could meet us there."
"Of course, Princess. Thank you," the pair said in unison, before turning to take their leave. Zelda left the door open, so heard Karane continue to speak.
"See, I told you they'd be together – you owe me a drink!"
"Uh, fine," Pipit replied, though didn't really sound too upset, "I just didn't think…" She lost their conversation as they rounded a corner.
So Alfonzo and Russel were back then? Excellent, maybe hearing their report would help her restless feeling.
"Right, thanks for waiting, shall we?" Link asked, having collected a small stack of designs, that were slung under one arm, and joining her. He wore a stupidly simple smile, that still managed to have her heart pounding in her ears. Zelda decided then and there, the second she got some free time, she was going to find a book that'd teach her how to kiss him. She was not missing the next opportunity.