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Verbal Sparring

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Link really liked being Princess– no wait, she was queen now– Queen Zelda’s plus one to events. She was invited to all sorts of events, including, but not limited to birthdays, weddings, festivals, the list goes on. Before everything, she had a few different escorts to such events, most of whom were now dead.

She insisted it wasn’t just the scarcity of male friends and relatives in her life that was her reason for his invitation. She said she liked his company.

And he enjoyed hers. In the months after the invasion and all it entailed, Link had found himself in somewhat of a limbo in life. He was no longer the goatherd who had dreamed of adventure. He was, for a few months, an adventurer who dreamed of returning to be a goatherd only to find that he was going crazy in his small provincial town.

It wasn’t anyone in his village’s fault he felt that way. They were all moving on in the way they found fit, while he simply couldn’t. He was changed.

On his first visit to Hyrule Castle since leaving, he found Zelda in the same state as him. Simply wondering if it was that easy to just go back to normal. In her case, it was attending some noble’s birthday party.

He had been hesitant to go, he was hesitant to be seen in her presence. As even though very little of Hyrule’s nobility was still around and in power, most of her subjects had bluer blood than his. She had smiled when he said that, and refuted him.

She said it would be hypocritical of her to only spend time with blue bloods, as her own blood was quite red.

Queen Zelda was witty, and had a deceptively sharp tongue. And that was the reason he enjoyed these parties so much.

Being the escort of the queen, paradoxically meant that despite the attention on the both of them, most only wanted to talk to her. Some would make half-hearted attempts to befriend him, but when it became clear they had few to no similar interests and he was fine with being a mostly silent observer, they let him be. But it gave him the perfect spot to watch her verbally eviscerate the company.

She was the queen, so of course she can say whatever she wants. But she’s such a good queen she doesn’t rely on that. No, she is so clever that her words never cross over into a sour light.

“I had lessons in it,” she confided in him on one of their walks around the slowly rehabilitated garden. She never liked being inside for long periods of time. Something Link related to, though he suspected for different reasons.

“Lessons?”

“On how to be witty. It’s a mark of my family. It’s below us to be so crass as to purposely make others laugh, but it also is true that being charming is a good quality for a monarch to possess. My brothers and I used to be given talking points by our mother to practice with.”

At that Link had smiled.

“What is it?” she asked, “Is it a departure from what you thought royal education contained?”

“More so my own education,” he answered, “Or lack there of. I couldn’t think of clever things to say, so I just said nothing. Some people thought I was a mute.”

“Perhaps such lessons would help you then,” she said.

“No, I think you’re clever enough for the both of us.”

“I will take that responsibility most seriously,” she answered, nearly grave. The twitch of the corner of her mouth and sparkle in her eye betrayed the joke.

It was only at the party that he realized her tells were not so obvious to everyone else. And it was hilarious. Many a time did Link have to stifle a laugh behind a fake cough.

So now, well cemented into his role as Queen’s escort to all social functions, Link was feeling alright again.

So alright, he almost forgot he lived in a world where there were certain assumptions that came with a male-female friendship. Assumptions that… well…

They were wrong, but he hadn’t realized how much he wished them to be right until they were spoken into existence.

“So, how long have you been courting the queen?” a dowager duchess asked him, conversationally. Link spat out the tea he’d been drinking. Zelda froze in her spot beside him, just for a second, just enough for him to notice.

But she just laughed like silver bells, and lightly placed her hand on his forearm under the table. “I realize how it looks from the outside, but Sir Link and I are friends as far as I’m aware.”

It was worded strangely, and for once he couldn’t tell exactly why.

“Oh forgive me, I had just heard rumors.”

“Rumors are often just that, why just the other day I heard that Sir Link was actually a werewolf, now, can you imagine?”

Once more, Link wasn’t sure where the queen was going with all of it. While he wasn’t anymore, he was certainly werewolf adjacent for a bit. It wasn’t all that outlandish of a rumor.

“My goodness, I can’t say I’ve heard that one before!” The duchess laughed. “I heard, Sir Link, that you were a goatherd originally, that must be fiction too.”

It wasn’t said with judgment, but Link wondered if she would be okay with both of the “rumors” being true. Or if it was a one or the other situation.

“That one is actually true. He has such a way with animals, it’s quite extraordinary.”

The praise of the queen warmed him, and Link realized, perhaps part of the reason he enjoyed it so much is that she always took the time to compliment him.

The dowager duchess apologized profusely and the conversation carried on and away to lighter topics. But Queen Zelda’s hand lingered on his forearm, and he found it highly distracting.

Once back at the castle, and on a customary decompressing walk where they usually gossip about the people at the social function, Zelda actually brought up the sort of embarrassing rumors.

“I sometimes forget how this looks to the outside,” she admitted, “that we spend so much time together. I hope you don’t mind.”

He shook his head emphatically.

“Good. I would be sad to be without your company. Though I suppose…” she trailed off. “While I’m still young… someday I will have to marry.”

The unspoken implication: her husband would not like their friendship if only because of how it looked.

“But I have been thinking,” she continued, “I enjoy your company more than anyone’s. I… I admire you a great deal as well. I don’t think I’ve told you this. It is true. You helped take back my kingdom, and…”

It was extremely strange to see the ever eloquent Queen Zelda at a loss for words.

“I also admire you,” he said.

“Right,” she said. “So you…”

He quirked a brow. She stopped walking. Deliberately, she released the friendly hold on his arm and grasped his hand, entwining their fingers.

“Is this… alright?” she asked.

Link had held her hand before. Or rather, grasped it to help her down from her horse. Or that one time she’d tried to teach him to dance.

It was alright. It was more than alright. He squeezed her hand back.

“I suppose if I say yes, it would mean you’ll have to invite me as your date to all the foreseeable festivals, weddings, etcetera.”

“Why, yes, it would.”

“And you would be duty bound to defend my honor from all manner of unscrupulous rumors?”

“I would be honored to defend your honor.”

“And well,” he looked at her hand. “It would no longer be improper to think of you in an… biased way?”

“I will admit, not being courted by you has not stopped such thoughts from my mind.”

And once more, it turned out they were on the same page without ever talking about it beforehand.

At their weddings some months later, Link witnessed the most efficient and brutal response to someone taking issue with his low birth.

“While I understand her grace found companionship with him, it seems a waste to marry him over it.”

The complaint was common enough, sometimes even said by the people who also unsubtly wished for a larger royal family. It wasn’t like there were very many noble families left in Hyrule, or there wasn’t a precedent for royals marrying commoners.

But it also stopped on their wedding day.

More specifically towards the end of their reception.

“I would like to thank you all for arriving and celebrating this new chapter of Hyrule’s history. One where I hope the shadows of the past are put well behind us,” the start of her speech was normal enough. What came later surprised nearly everyone. “And despite these great felicities of this time, I would like to address a few of the rumors I’ve heard about my husband. I will not give them credence by restating them and instead will simply refute. I do not find my husband lacking in any sense of the word. And as queen of Hyrule, and his wife, I believe my opinion is the only one that matters.”

The heat in her gaze and the timing in the night made her words take on an innuendo that most were assuming was a slip of the tongue. Link, no longer able to take it, let out a laugh and clapped, sending the audience to follow his example.

It made him fall in love all over again. It also made him wonder if there was anything else her clever tongue could do.