Kiss and Make Up
Link's first awareness was the sound of a growling stomach. But he was unsure if it was his or Zelda's. He was certainly hungry, but she had to be as well.
He began to stir. When he opened his eyes, he was blinded by a shaft of light that pierced the dark den. But after a few moments, his eyes came into focus and he could see that Zelda was lying on the other side of the den—which was only a foot or so away—and was looking at him.
"Did I wake you up?" Zelda whispered fearfully.
"I've been trying to be quiet."
Link immediately felt guilty. "I am so sorry, Your Highness; I was very rude to you this morning."
"No, I was for keeping you awake. You've been working so hard to keep me safe. I should have been more considerate and let you sleep."
"Well, we will just have to agree that we have both been under a lot of stress and sometimes we say or do things we don't mean as a result."
He held his hand out to the beam of sunlight which came through the little hole in the dirt above them and he tried to gauge the quality of it.
"I wonder what time it is?" he asked.
"I don't know; I was wondering that myself."
He continued to study the light. "I think it's sometime in the afternoon," he finally decided.
"Do we have to wait until dark to go out?" Zelda asked anxiously. She was almost interrupted by the rumbling of her stomach. It had been a long time and many miles since their lunch the day before.
"I think we might risk it," he said. "We need to find food, and we can't do that in the dark."
She looked relieved.
He crawled out of the tunnel first to make sure the coast was clear. When he finally emerged and was able to stand up straight and take a look around, he saw that it was indeed late afternoon. He estimated that they had an hour or a little better of good daylight left.
He cautiously climbed to the top of the hillock and took a look around, but he didn't see or hear anything, outside the normal movements in the forest.
He went back to the tunnel entrance. "Come out," he called to Zelda in a loud whisper. Even if there wasn't anyone within sight or hearing, he didn't want to make enough noise to attract attention.
When Zelda was close enough, he reached into the tunnel and pulled her the rest of the way out.
"I really hate little holes," she said, looking disgruntled. It didn't help that her hair was disheveled and her clothes covered in dirt.
Link tried to brush off some of the dirt on her. "I'm sorry, but I slept better knowing we wouldn't be found."
"I'm glad you slept well," she said honestly.
She noticed his right arm and she stopped him. "How's your arm?"
"I don't know," he replied. It still hurt—especially after crawling around on it—but he still didn't know the extent of the damage. But gauging by the blood which had soaked through his green tunic sleeve and white undershirt, it had been rather deep.
"Let me see it," Zelda commanded.
Link unbuckled his vambraces, then unfastened his belt and pulled off his tunic and undershirt together in one motion.
He noticed Zelda staring at him, but as soon as she caught his eye, she looked away with a blush. He wasn't sure if he should feel pleased that she had taken notice of him, or guilty that he had made her feel embarrassed.
Well, actually, he knew he ought to feel guilty, but in reality he just felt pleased.
Zelda recovered herself and moved closer to take a look at his arm. "That kind of looks bad," she said with a wince.
He looked at it and gently pulled and prodded on it with his fingers, trying to determine how deep it was.
"Stop, you're making it bleed again," she fussed.
"It will probably keep bleeding," he said, although he did quit touching it. "It needs stitches."
Zelda blanched. "I don't know how to do that."
"We don't have anything for you to do it with anyway. Maybe my mother will be able to take care of it."
They followed the sound of running water until they came to a wide, fairly shallow stream with a little waterfall where fish occasionally leapt, trying to swim upstream.
Zelda insisted that Link sit on a rock while she cleaned his wound. He ripped the sleeve off his undershirt—it was ruined anyways—and she dipped it in the water and washed the blood away from his arm.
Link inhaled sharply. "That's cold!" he said.
She cleaned him up the best she could, then she tore what was left of the sleeve into strips and tied a bandage around his arm.
He redressed, then assessed their situation.
"Let's get across this stream," he said, pointing to the opposite bank, "then we'll find something to eat. If we have to flee, at least we'll have the water between us and the soldiers; it will slow them down a little and give us an advantage."
Zelda nodded her agreement.
Before she could say anything, he bent down and scooped her up in his arms.
"What are you doing!?" she said in shock.
"Keeping you dry," he said with a smile, as he splashed into the shallows.
"It makes more sense for me to carry you across than the other way around," she argued.
"Oh, well. My boots are already wet, so we might as well continue."
With a disapproving frown, she put her arms around him and held on while he forded the stream.
"You're going to make your arm bleed again," she fussed.
"And it will quit again."
His arm was throbbing rather painfully, but he was enjoying himself too much to stop. Sometimes he liked to do things just to make Zelda argue with him. He didn't know why he enjoyed getting her worked up—maybe it was the way her gray eyes flashed or the way she frowned, which looked more like a pout than anything.
"You're stubborn, you know that?" she said.
"Yes, and so are you. I would say that's why we get along, but, really, I'm surprised that we do. You would think our stubbornnesses would cancel each other out."
She was quiet for a while as he concentrated on getting across the stream. In the middle it was rather deeper than he had thought and he was up to his waist in the chilly water.
"Did you mean what you said earlier?" Zelda said, suddenly breaking the silence, just as Link was beginning to climb out of the deepest part of the water.
"I usually mean everything I say, but what part are you specifically talking about?"
"You said earlier that we had both said and done things that we regret."
It took Link a minute to catch on. "Oh, you mean this morning."
"I do regret being rude to you."
She was quiet again for a few minutes. When she spoke, she purposefully avoided looking at him. "Do you regret everything?" she asked in a quiet voice.
She sighed wearily. "Never mind."
He was confused. He tried to think back to what had happened that morning—to what would make her ask such questions. Then it suddenly dawned on him what she was talking about.
"Do you mean when I kissed you? Are you asking me if I regret that?"
"Yes," she mumbled, still not looking at him.
He was thoughtful for a moment as he reached the far shore and put her down on dry ground.
"I regret that I acted like an ass and kissed you just to get you to be quiet; that's not the purpose of a kiss," he explained. "And it was especially egregious that I forced it on you without your consent; that's also not the right way to kiss someone.
"So, on the whole, not one of my finer moments."
"Well…" she said slowly, looking down while she rolled a rock under her boot, "I suppose if I didn't mind, then it wouldn't have been without my consent."
"Did you not mind?"
She toyed with the rock more. "No, I didn't mind."
Link stepped in closer and put his hand under her chin, lifting her face so she had to look at him. He studied her for a moment—trying to burn the image of her face into his mind—then he slowly leaned in and kissed her softly on the lips.
But as soon as he started, he pulled away, feeling guilty. "I need to stop that," he said, as much to himself as to her.
"Why?" she asked.
He moved away, walking upstream; he needed a little distance between them. "Besides the fact that this is neither the time nor the place, I need to remember who I am—and who you are—and why we're here.
"You are my sovereign, not some girl from the marketplace whose kisses can be bought with a flower."
Zelda—who had been trotting in his wake—suddenly stopped. "Have… have you ever kissed such a girl?"
Link stopped, too, and sighed as he looked out over the stream. He purposefully avoided looking at Zelda. "Yes."
"How many times? Once? Twice?"
"Your Highness, why do you ask questions you don't want to know the answer to?"
He dared a glance at her and saw her face fall. "More than twice?" she asked.
"More than twice," was all he would say.
They stood there awkwardly for a long, tense minute. Link knew Zelda's feelings were hurt, but he didn't know what he could do about it; nothing changed the fact that he had gotten rather a lot of kissing experience from Madge, the girl who sold bread in the market. And as the Princess didn't even know his name at the time, it was hardly like he had cheated on her.
"I'm… going to try to catch a fish for us to eat," he said hesitantly.
He reached into the little pouch at the back of his belt and took out a piece of flint and a bar of steel. Thankfully, he had been smart enough to put the fire-making tools in his pouch, not in the bag of supplies which was left behind at the abbot's house.
He offered her the flint and steel. "Can you make a fire?"
She reluctantly stepped forward and held out her hand. It was clear she didn't even want to touch him. "I think so," she said, not looking at him. "I've seen it done, but I've not tried it."
He dropped the firemaking tools into her hands. "Well, try while I go fishing. If you can't, then I'll start one when I get done."
He turned away, then transformed into an eagle. He thought he might be quicker at catching fish as an eagle than if he had to make a pole and a hook and dig up some bait. And although it took him a few tries to get the timing right, he did prove correct; in less than a half hour, he soared upwards, over the falls, with a fat trout clutched in his talons.
He changed back into a human, letting the fish drop to the ground, where it flopped—not surprisingly—like a fish out of water.
"That was a good catch," Zelda said, grudgingly impressed.
"Thank you. That's a nice fire," he said, pointing to the small but steady fire she had managed to build.
"Thank you," she replied. They were cautious with their words, but both seemed to want to make up.
Link bent down and picked up the fish by the tail. Then he quickly—and with force—slapped its head against a rock. It quit wriggling.
Zelda stared at him, horrified. "What are you doing?"
"Can't you do it less… less violently?"
He perked a brow. "Killing something implies a certain amount of violence, Your Highness."
He sat down and, using a flat rock as a cutting board, he began to gut the fish with the abbot's knife that he had stashed in his boot—yet another thing he was glad he had kept on his person.
"I'm afraid, Your Highness, that you're going to have to get used to a certain amount of violence." he warned her. "We need to eat, and there will come a time when we will have to defend ourselves. Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury to be squeamish."
"I'm not squeamish," Zelda said irritably.
"Well, maybe not squeamish," Link allowed. "More like tender-hearted."
He cut the fish along the spine, filleting it into two pieces. Then, with a few strokes of his knife, he whittled sharp points onto a couple of sticks. He gave both a good soaking in the stream, then he slid the fish fillets onto them.
"Why did you wet the sticks?" Zelda asked, as she watched Link stick the skewers into the ground so that the fish fillets angled close to the fire.
"To keep them from catch on fire," he said.
He stood up, looking around. The sun was setting; they had about an hour's worth of light left. He thought they would have time enough to cook their supper before it grew so dark that their fire became a beacon.
"I'm going to see if I can find something else to go with this," Link said, still looking around at the forest. It was early in the spring, but there were a few plants already budding and blooming; there might be something green available.
"Don't go too far," Zelda said, betraying her worry.
"I won't be out of sight," he promised, before heading up the slope next to the waterfall.
He had been taught to forage while he was in the East. While the plants there were sometimes different, there were enough that were the same—or that were clearly related—that Link was able to find a few edible things: some rather bland leaves that were typically used in salads, a spicy herb that had a peppery-taste, and a handful of small, sweet-tasting flowers.
Link gathered everything up in his tunic, then headed back to the campfire.
"The fish was starting to look cooked on one side, so I turned them," Zelda said, sounding anxious and unsure.
"Good," he reassured her. "They need to be turned."
Zelda looked relieved. "I've never cooked anything before."
"You're doing fine."
He sat down next to her and she looked at the plants in his lap. "What did you get?"
"Not much, but it'll go a little ways towards filling our bellies. He carefully divvied up the salad leaves and the blossoms.
"Are you supposed to eat the flowers?" Zelda asked, looking at one curiously.
"Yes, they're sweet."
She looked unsure, but tried one, biting it off the stem. "It is a little sweet," she said, sounding mildly surprised. "Not like sugar, but still pretty good."
"Eat them with the greens," he said, pointing to the larger leaves. "They really don't have any taste, so that will help flavor them."
They sat in silence while they ate and waited for the fish to cook. The sun had set completely and the light was fading when Link declared that the fish was done.
"Sprinkle some of this on it," Link said, as he handed Zelda both a skewer full of fish and some of the thin, spiky plant he had picked. "It's peppery."
"This is pretty good," Zelda declared as she bit into the spiced fish.
"Hunger is the best ingredient," Link said wisely.
They were silent again as they hurriedly ate—driven more by hunger than an urgency to leave.
"I didn't know fish were so boney," Zelda complained, as she removed another bone from her mouth. She and Link both had a little pile of bones stacking up between them.
"Some are worse than others," Link replied. "I can debone most fish pretty well—although I'm not as good as my mother—but I didn't take the time to do a good job. I was too hungry to wait."
"I'm glad you didn't take any longer," Zelda agreed, even as she had to remove another bone.
"There are some fish with soft, thin bones; those you're actually supposed to eat. They say they're good for you."
"I suppose that would make them easier to eat but, just the same, I think I prefer to remove the bones."
All too quickly, their dinner was done. Neither was satisfied—not after being without food for more than a day—but it held the hunger pains at bay.
Link kicked dirt on the fire, putting it out. "I don't think we're more than a few hours from my mother's house," he said.
"Good," Zelda said. "I would like to sleep in a proper bed tonight. And maybe get a bath and a clean change of clothes."
Zelda's clothes were certainly looking worse for wear. While her pants and shirt were at the extreme far-end of casual wear for a princess, they were merely everyday clothes for a normal person in Castle Town. Link's tunic and pants were holding up much better because they were made from a canvas material that was specially made for rough use on the sea. Only his lightweight undershirt—which was made for comfort rather than durability—was showing signs of ill-use.
"We'll see what my mother can find for you," Link promised.
He found a leaf on the ground that was tough and still mostly intact, and he folded in into a primitive cup so that he and Zelda could drink their fill before they left the stream.
Once they were as satiated as they could hope for, given the circumstance, they started through the woods, bound for the little house that overlooked the ocean.