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“You don’t have to steal a car, you know,” Zelda said as she handed Ganondorf her extra toothbrush. She’d bought it for him weeks ago, thinking that there might come a time when he’d spend the night. She never imagined that she’d end up bringing it all the way to Lanayru, but Link insisted that she take it with her when he helped her pack. She wanted to travel light, but he’d made her take along all sorts of things she’d probably never use, telling her that it was better to be safe than sorry.

“We can just borrow one of Riju’s cars,” she explained to Ganondorf as she passed him a tube of toothpaste.

He met her eyes in the mirror and raised an eyebrow.

“Riju gave me the keys to the car she used to drive in college. The roof might be a little low for you, but it’s a convertible. If you don’t like it, I’m sure we can take another one.”

Zelda paused, wondering if she should go ahead and say what she wanted to tell him. Most people wouldn’t need to hear something like this, but Ganondorf wasn’t ‘most people.’

“You’re a guest here, not a prisoner.”

“Duly noted.”

The conversation ended as they brushed their teeth. Is this normal? Zelda thought. Is this what normal people do when they’re together like this?

Earlier Ganondorf had held her with an intensity she found almost frightening. She never felt entirely safe with him, but there was something soothing about listening to the rhythm of his heartbeat as his chest rose and fell. Zelda didn’t know what possessed her to do what she did, but she felt better now that she’d done it. So much for creating a sense of distance.

“I need to get away from this place,” Ganondorf told her after his breathing had become calmer and more even. They were so close that she could feel the rumble of his voice through her skin. “I want to go out. I’ll bring you along, if you like.”

“You want to go out,” she repeated. It was probably too late to get a table at a restaurant. Zelda wondered if he wanted to go to a bar, or possibly even a club. Both possibilities seemed unlikely. Ganondorf didn’t strike her as the type to go out drinking; but, then again, she didn’t really know him. She had no idea what he did for fun. To be honest, she couldn’t imagine him having fun at all.

“I want to drive out to the desert.”

Zelda nodded against his chest, relieved. “Then I’d like to go with you,” she said. She felt much less on edge now that she’d eaten, and the drinks Ganondorf made for her had cleared up the headache she’d developed from spending too much time in the sun. She usually went to bed early, but she was more awake now than she’d ever been in her life.

And, if Ganondorf wanted to drive through the desert, she already had a destination in mind.

Zelda had been close to Urbosa when she was younger, and it was good to see her again after so many years. She wasn’t in the mood for small talk, however, and she didn’t want to wait until tomorrow to explain why she’d brought herself and Ganondorf to Lanayru. Earlier that evening she admitted to Urbosa that she was learning magic, and that Ganondorf was teaching her. She had no desire to go into the details of how they’d met, so she simply said that they were both interested in learning about who his family was and whether they could be located.

Urbosa frowned with distaste when she heard the name “Ganondorf” but didn’t say anything. Zelda continued, explaining that Ganondorf didn’t speak modern Gerudo but was able to understand an older form of the language. Riju, who had been drinking steadily through the evening, mentioned something about how it might be interesting to take Ganondorf to the ruins of the Arbiter’s Grounds.

Zelda vaguely remembered having heard that name somewhere before. She took out her phone to type a note to herself, but Urbosa gently put her hand over Zelda’s screen while shaking her head at Riju, who responded by laughing and finishing her drink. Zelda wondered if Riju’s comment about these ruins was some sort of joke. Perhaps the Arbiter’s Grounds weren’t ruins at all but a resort of some kind, and Riju was suggesting that she stop worrying and let herself take a vacation – or something to that effect. Only later was Zelda struck by how skillful Urbosa had been in immediately steering the conversation away from the topic. There must be something there, then.

Once Urbosa excused herself to talk with someone else, Zelda took the opportunity to run a search on her phone. The Arbiter’s Grounds were indeed an actual set of ruins, and they were marked with a specific location on Navi Maps. The site was in the middle of nowhere, and it would probably take an entire day to drive out that far. Riju, who had been watching Zelda’s screen, offered a suggestion. She was well on her way to becoming intoxicated, but her advice was plausible. Why not travel through the Twilight? It would take mere minutes, if even that.

If Ganondorf wanted to drive out into the desert in the dead of night, why not go to the Arbiter’s Grounds?

Zelda rinsed her face and looked at her reflection. She could see Ganondorf standing behind her in the mirror. “Don’t watch,” she said, embarrassed.

“You’re beautiful,” he said in Gerudo. Zelda was caught off guard by the bluntness of the compliment but quickly realized that Ganondorf was mimicking her Hylian accent.

“What lovely ears you have,” he continued, smirking as he removed the pins from her hair. “They’re so slender and shapely, and your nose is so tiny and adorable. You must come from a good family. Your skin is such a lovely color. You should wear more silver to bring out the blush in your cheeks, and you should let your hair down. I would love to braid it for you.”

“Sweet Farore, will you shut up.”

Ganondorf raked his fingers through her hair to comb it before twisting it up into an elegant plait, which he secured with the pins he’d just removed. Zelda struggled to coax her hair into doing anything besides falling straight down with a part in the middle, but it only took Ganondorf a few seconds to make her look as if she were a movie star. She envied how effortless he made it seem.

“Where did you learn to do that?”

“I didn’t trust myself to cut my own hair, so I figured it out.”

“Weren’t you staying with Link? When you first, you know. Came to Hyrule?”

“Yes. You can blame him, since I didn’t trust him to cut my hair either.” Ganondorf squeezed her shoulders and touched his lips to the top her head before stepping away. “I assume you didn’t bring anything that would be appropriate to wear in the desert.”

“It can’t get that cold, can it?”

“Put on what you have. We’ll see what we can do.”

Zelda walked back into the bedroom and rummaged through her duffel bag. She took out a light jacket, which was the only suitable thing she’d brought with her. She hadn’t planned to go out at night, and she didn’t have that many clothes to begin with. The cheap jacket clashed with the new outfit she’d worn to dinner, but it would have to do. Instead of putting it on, she draped it over her shoulders and prepared herself to retaliate against whatever snide remark Ganondorf threw at her. He could be kind when it suited his mood, but he’d never once spared her feelings when it came to sartorial matters.

Zelda turned to see Ganondorf walk out of the bathroom dressed as though he had just stepped out of another century. She’d been half-expecting him to magic himself into a coat and scarf, but he was wearing some sort of cloak, of all things, and tall fleece-lined boots with flat soles.

“You can’t go out looking like that,” Zelda said before she could stop herself.

“I believe you’re mistaken,” Ganondorf replied. He didn’t comment on her jacket, but the disdain was clear in his eyes. “It’s you who can’t go out dressed like that. You’ll catch your death from the cold, and I’m the one who’ll be blamed.”

It may have been an effect of the period-drama costume he wore, but Zelda could almost feel the magical energy welling up around Ganondorf as he approached her. “Allow me,” he said. Zelda considered telling him to let her be, but she decided that she didn’t care how ridiculous she looked. If Ganondorf wanted to dress like a medieval warlord, then they might as well match. She nodded her assent, thinking that she would have to get a picture for Link.

Ganondorf placed the tips of his fingers onto her jacket. It shimmered with an iridescent glow like the shine on a soap bubble before transforming into a short mantle. Ganondorf then changed her shirt into a thick and tightly fitted sweater. He ran his hands down her arms to her waist and gave her long pants made of a soft Rito fabric. He knelt in front of her and studied her feet with an intensity she found embarrassing. After a moment, he placed his palms against ankle boots and reconstructed them into a pair of high boots like the ones he wore, fashioned from leather and lined with soft wool. The flat soles were oddly balanced, and Zelda realized that these must be sand boots. Ganondorf took an extra moment to adjust the cords securing the boots so that they fit comfortably on her calves.

The way he touched her, not with his hands but with his magic, was infinitely more intimate than what they’d done before. Zelda had forced herself on him solely out of frustration, both with him and with herself. While they ate, she watched him as he watched her. She knew he wouldn’t resist her advances, but the act was over almost as quickly as it had begun, more of a transaction than an expression of desire. Now, as he reshaped her clothing directly against her skin, even her loose pants felt far too tight between her legs.

Ganondorf rose to his feet and kissed her. He maintained the space between them and touched only her face, but his mouth was insistent. Zelda opened herself to him, tasting his tongue and sharing his breath.

She understood the invitation he was extending to her, and she wanted to press herself against him in response, but she refrained. There would be other opportunities later. For the time being, Zelda was more interested in the implications of his offer to take her with him as he drove into the night. In the desert, there would be no one to watch them and no need to disguise their magic. If she was ‘the’ Zelda, and if she truly had the power of the Triforce at her command, she wanted to see just what she could do.

She still didn’t trust Ganondorf, and she knew it was dangerous to go alone with him into a wasteland far from civilization without telling anyone. Regardless, she could handle herself, especially if she was free to act on her own without any fear of the consequences. Thankfully, Ganondorf didn’t seem to have read what she wrote about him in her diary: If I have to kill him, I will.