Impa gave a droll sigh as she bent down to grab an armful of hay, lunging her body upward to lift the amber-strewn collection of laced, narrow straw that brushed along the skin of her torso as it fell toward her, with a segment of the wheat poking at her face, leaving her head twisting and turning, lips pursed as she spat out the strands finding her face. Zelda giggled with a girlish draw, reaching over to press the flagrant branches of hat against the bale to relieve her old caretaker.
"P-! PEH!" Impa spat, violently shaking her head to relieve her face of the ticklish intrusion, "Thanks."
Zelda smirked, "So rough hewn, yet brought to annoyance by a bale of hay."
"I had eighteen years of raising a little demon to whittle away my nerves," Impa responded roughly, nearly symbolic of her own stoic appearance, leaving any wayward observer confused as her voice brought out a humor to it, "You drove all the patience out of me."
Her life having partially been dedicated to catching every subtle inflection of this woman's changes of mood, alterations that so often failed to make themselves known beyond such minute shifts of tone, Zelda knew to smile at Impa's words, shaking her head, "You make it sound like I constantly had it out for you. I'll have you know, I wasn't always trying to be a brat. If anything, you were harboring a rebellious spirit with all of your restrictions."
"Restrictions like a proper bedtime?" Impa questioned with an undertow of humor, "Child, most of what you considered restrictions were what most of us in this world recognize as life. In any case, you grew up to be a fine woman in your own right; if watching you, now, being proper was paid for by those long nights chasing you around the courtyard, I suppose my patience was a trifling item to be exchanged."
"You even hide your compliments well," Zelda grinned.
Impa's brow curled in sarcastic wonderment, "Why, whatever do you mean? Now, get that pail of water; the cuccoos won't be content simply with a new spread of bedding."
Having come to the well in the middle of the village, Zelda did as instructed, working the thick line of rope around a nearby bucket which had long been used communally, tightening a knot along its handle while Impa looked on with something of a faint smile, her head hidden as it was behind the bale of hay.
"Of all monarchs, it speaks volumes of those who don't mind helping out," Impa observed.
"GAH!" Zelda shrieked, desperately throwing her arm into the well as her body caught its edge, teetering forward as deep as she could go, having lost the bucket without completing the knot, leaving her with a minute plosh when the wooden vessel hit the water below.
Impa chuckled, "Even if that help isn't entirely efficient."
A scowl met the Sheikah as Zelda pulled herself up, though this only led Impa toward further laughter, "I'll retrieve it later. You head back down to the storehouse and get another one while I take this to the cuckoo pen, alright?"
"Alright," Zelda sighed with a grumbling tone, frustrated by her own moment of ineptitude, before taking off with a sauntering gait back toward the entrance of the village.
She heard Impa behind her grunt as she threw her powerful body upward to reorient the massive bale in her arms, turning to watch her caretaker stumble along until disappeared around the corner, leaving Zelda alone to make her way to the storeroom. She groaned, thinking how stupid she must have been to have worked such a pitiful knot along the bucket's handle. For Impa's praises as to her willingness to work amongst her people, Zelda knew her own abilities were abhorrent at best- she'd never been a particularly good worker, though not for lack of trying. There were always odd little quirks, like the chosen knot being one unable to keep hold of a wooden pail; for whatever reason, Zelda simply appeared to always make decisions, off the cuff, that were the worst ones to make given the nature of the chore.
She recalled an equally embarrassing moment when tasked by the proprietor of the marksmanship range to collect the arrows that had been strewn along the target floor. It hadn't even occurred to her to wait until the customers had paused their shooting before she found herself crawling around the floor, a hair's breadth away from taking an arrow herself, before the proprietor noticed her scurrying about, his voice roaring in such a furious cadence that might have nearly popped the roof off of the very building.
It had often been attributed, she thought, simply to her upbringing behind the glossy walls of the castle. She had so very often been a stranger to the simplest of tasks, so now, when the citizenry might be expected to know such things, there were far too many ideas and topics that Zelda was woefully inadequate in her understanding, with her status as princess leaving those whom she was helping with very little incentive to instruct her, even after the princess' insistence. What person of even low intelligence would dare relay to a member of royalty that what they were doing was wrong, after all?
With Link, this attribute was shared. Having spent much of his childhood within a foreign land of mossy backdrops and dew-strewn mornings, Link himself had come into his own with little in the way of knowledge of how the greater part of Hyrule ran and operated. It was one of those ties that bound the two of them together- for so many of their formative years, beginning as children, and leading into their teenage years, the two of them had spent so many days in the library together, night in the study, learning far more about one another than they were afforded the same chance at understanding the world beyond those walls, even as Link were more able to carry about as he wished.
They were bound by time itself, by fate. They had already lived many years, catching a faint glimpse of themselves as adults while working to defeat that king of evil. That was seven years afforded to them in preparation, and by the time they had returned to their youth, while their bodies had reverted, their minds remained much as they had been, as had their relationship. Seven years of life wherein they had defeated its very purpose. All they had from those years was one another.
Zelda caught a glimpse of Link as she passed by one of the village's larger homes, waving to him to catch his attention while he dropped a pair of cinderblocks from his sides, taking a moment to gasp for breath before turning toward the princess, nodding in reply. She couldn't help but smirk at the product of his strenuous work, sweat-covered hair that stuck to his forehead, his powerful chest churning breath through his body like a bellows, in and out, much as it did while the two of them indulged within one another.
Zelda jumped in place, jolting awake from her meandering thoughts, not having expected Link to have approached her. She sighed, wiping her brow as her nerves left their residual imprint upon her skin in the form of goosebumps, shaking her head.
"Don't frighten me like that," she warned quietly.
Only able to chuckle in reply, Link shoved his fists against his hips as he bit down whatever moisture he could in his mouth to whet his parched throat, "I wasn't the one entranced by me."
"Oh, hush," Zelda countered, slapping Link's arm playfully enough to elicit a boyish laugh from the man, "What does Uram have you doing?"
Shrugging, Link's eyes carried off, "Well, they're just laying the groundwork for a silo to store some grain. I suppose they were quite taken by your suggestion."
"I suppose I should be happy," Zelda sighed, crossing her arms, "At least there's something I do here that's worth their trouble in dealing with me."
"Now you hush," Link reprimanded, "They're happy to have your help here. Impa enjoys just seeing you."
"That's just Impa; she'd be fine seeing me if I had a keese caught in my hair. She'd shake her head, frown, and say something like, "This child's gone off her rocker" or whatever," Zelda groaned.
Unable to hide a grin at her imitation of the Sheikan guardian of Kakariko, Link crossed his arms, head leaning back in critique, "They may not say it to your face, but they do keep giving you assignments when you ask, so I doubt we're doing bad for ourselves. It hasn't gotten to the point where anybody's hiding when they see you coming."
"Not yet," frowned the princess, her eyes rolling in exasperated movement.
Link loosed another chuckle before reaching down to grab a hammer that had been given to him by Uram, waving it in front of Zelda, "Look, just to prove that you possess enough ability when it comes to helping out- Uram hates his materials sitting out alone, so why-"
He paused, noticing Zelda's narrowing eyes, her skepticism boiling over as he continued, "Why don't you stay here and watch over all this stuff? I've got to take this back to the storeroom, anyway."
"Watch over this stuff?" Zelda replied incredulously.
Simply enough, Link offered a shrug, "It's just how Uram likes it, I guess. You need anything to drink?"
"That's actually part of why I was heading this way; could you grab a bucket while you're in there?"
Link turned to watch her, "For the well? Isn't there-"
"Just-" Zelda pouted immediately, crossing her arms with a huff, "You have me standing here looking after brick and mortar; don't make me admit how much more stupid I've been today…"
Unable to resist a tarrying grin, holding him back for a brief moment, Link spun away to direct his movement toward the storeroom, leaving Zelda to that activity in placidity that threatened the very word's ability to be used. Uram, indeed, hated his equipment to be left alone, though that was merely due to the threat of pilfering hands; he figured Zelda's assertion that it was somewhat more than that was too humorous to not stoke.
Their playful exchanges had gone on for years now, all in good fun, so far as Link was aware. They hadn't ever sat and discussed the phenomenon; their games had started as children, and as much as Link could recall, Zelda had been the initial aggressor. Such things hadn't ever been malicious, being left to trifling things such as Link's books having been left in precarious locations, or his boots placed upon the edge of a carpet that wasn't meant to get dirty- things sprung from the mind of a mischievous child who knows little of pranks in general.
Link finally retaliated when he 'accidentally' led Zelda into the main chamber of the castle during a visit from the Zora ambassador- a rather grievous faux pas, if anything so negligibly noticeable. Instead of frustration or a swift punch, Zelda merely retorted with more pranks, leaving Link to believe that, were she continuing, she must be okay with such things.
The game was more in its simplicity, while working rather complexly within their social pairing. As they grew older, the teasing ventures left their pranking nature and became far more subtle, becoming much the same as Link's most recent action of leaving Zelda to believe Uram to be some madman while the man's reasons were more than understandable. Surely, upon his return, Zelda would be knocked off kilter by Link's insinuations.
And what a wonderfully fun result, indeed.
Link finally wiped away the smugness from his face as he approached the storeroom, taking a deep breath of the fresh outdoor air before swinging open the door, knowing its interior to be weighted by the suffocating air, swallowed as it was by dust. The sunlight cascading past him left the inside painfully dark, forcing Link a moment of hesitation before stepping inside, pulling the door to a close behind him to allow his eyes to adjust to the darkness.
He made do with what he could, knowing the hammer went nearby. Led by uncertain hands, Link felt his way along the way, finally reaching the hanging rack where the hammers were to be store, allowing him an easy sigh before turning deeper into the storeroom.
"Let's see… Bucket. Bucket. Buck-"
He froze. The hot sweat of labor covering his skin suddenly went chilled as a fierce shock slithered down his spine, curling into his fingertips like serpents. His toes constricted in time with his fingers, clenching tight before releasing his fingers into outstretched digits. A weak breath escaped him as his eyes widened, slowly bringing into focus even more of the room.
As his eyes adjusted further, like a curtain being pulled away with seductive intent, the dark receded, leaving more, more, more vats of pottery appearing as if conjured out of the nether.
All for him…
Link's breath trembled. He swallowed what air he had in his mouth, leaving his ears to quiver in turn- not due to his body, but to that ephemeral sound, cast across the very breaths that made up the air, finding its way in the back of Link's mind where it nestled, so soft and pleasant, like an old friend's voice returning after years. That sound of clay, shattering, being sent like moths to the flame- That sound of magnificence amplified by this small, echoing room with not a being to bring him pause.
Link's hands pressed against his britches, forcefully, trying to steal away his attention with pain itself, and yet, his mind hadn't a care. He knew he could have been threatened with a sword and refused.
He knew what he needed to do…
"Link?!" Zelda shouted, anger clearly lining her voice, yet remained hidden behind her normal candor, lest she give away her true feelings.
She stepped toward the storeroom with clenched fists, her lips swirling like waves across an ocean, her droll eyes cast determinately upon her destination, "I have some words for you, Link."
"And some other things…" she muttered, only to herself, "Make me look like a- I'm not looking stupid twice in a day!"
Footsteps pattering along with a quaking cadence, she made her way to the storeroom, taking the handle and rather vigorously yanking it open, eyes constricted in suspicion as she stepped inside, door ajar.
"Link..?" she inquired, still with her voice dripping with irony.
At that, her brow fell with meandering confusion. Even if she hadn't hidden her anger well, Link had no reason to outright deny her presence; the deal with Uram was hardly a think compared to previous stunts among the two of them. That he failed to even feign a reply forced a shallow wave of worry to cover her chest as she stepped inside the storeroom.
"..Link?" she asked, now more sincerely.
Her eyes followed the square of sun that cast beyond the doorway, hidden much as it was against Zelda's silhouette. Still no answer, she thought. Again, a pang of concern crossed her as she took another step. She remained vigilant, her anger having fully shed itself; even if this were merely a ploy to trick her into sympathy, Zelda hadn't a preclusion toward ignoring such feelings.
Then, a breathless whisper.
"Link?!" Zelda cried out, whipping her head to the side, throwing her momentum in the direction of the broken voice, her eyes opening like saucers upon reaching the source of that sound, covering her mouth with her hands, "Link!"
She fell to her knees, reaching over to check on Link. He was lying there against the wall, shoulders trembling, teeth chattering, as his eyes remained wired open. He looked like a man positively possessed, Zelda thought instantly, leaving her with a quick motion. She knew how to handle such occurrences.
The sudden, weltering pain upon his cheek forced Link back into coherence, his attention rolling back and forth across the dark room before latching onto Zelda's face. Sweat sped down his neck as his breaths remained a quick and empty as a marathon runner. He felt his heart rushing desperately too keep up with whatever had forced him into such a state, nearly too fast, forcing a certain worry to cross his mind at the thought of his chest bursting at any moment.
Such a tumultuous sensation was made better as Zelda brought the palms of her hands against his cheeks, their chilling contrast to his own blazing skin offering a slight respite from the energetic mass that threatened to outrun his heart.
"Link," Zelda spoke, more to calm her partner than to get his attention, "Are you okay..?"
He choked back words, his throat nearly scalding from how dry it was, finally managing, "I- I think so…"
Looking into his wired eyes, a particular pallor fell upon Zelda's face. He looked like a cat on catnip; pupils ferociously dilated to the ends of his retinas.
"Wh- What happened?!" she inquired suddenly.
Link failed to reply. Instead, his head slowly began to fall toward his chest, forcing a look of curiosity to find its way onto Zelda's face. She followed his gaze, right into his torso where his arm had laid sprawled across him, his hand desperately holding a collection of broken pottery against his shirt, fingers ferociously clenched around it like a child clawing at candy.
Zelda slowly began putting two-and-two together. Her head turned to the side, deeper into the storeroom, where Kakariko's assemblage of pots were kept, only to find empty walls. Instead, where the floor had once been neat and tidy, an absolute flood of terra cotta now covered the wooden planks below.
"Goddess help us…" Zelda muttered in a whisper.