I hope you all enjoy this story. This was basically me working through how Zelda and Link might eventually get together considering that Link never talks and that Zelda has issues of her own. I tried to capture Link's personality in Breath of the Wild here, which is a challenge because Link is pretty hard to pin down. Since he doesn't have any spoken dialogue, the author has a lot of freedom to mold him into whoever they want him to be. When you play the games, though, different personalities definitely seem to show through. I also am wondering if other people had the same interpretation of Link's death as I did. I don't intend to write another chapter, but could possibly be convinced based on reactions.
It was raining in Zora's Domain, but Link was told it was a normal amount of rain. The creases of worry he'd seen in the Zoras' strangely elastic features when he'd first visited here had disappeared, and the people seemed happy. That realization alone brought an enormous amount of satisfaction to him. All along, all he and Zelda had wanted was to bring some measure of peace to the people of Hyrule.
They had come to Zora's Domain to examine Vah Ruta and to visit King Dorephan. Zelda wanted to speak with him about Mipha—to provide him with some comfort and to pass along the message Mipha's spirit had entrusted with them. It was not an easy conversation, but the sorrow they felt for their fallen friend was now a purer, more cathartic sorrow, and the festering pain of unresolved tragedy had passed.
They also discussed the Zoras' part in the rebuilding of Hyrule. The windy, wet trail leading to Zora's Domain had been difficult for the guardians to traverse during Calamity Ganon's initial assault, and so their home had been less devastatingly affected than other parts of Hyrule. Zelda explained that because of their fortune during that devastation, the Zoras were well-positioned to provide much-needed support to the rest of the kingdom. King Dorephan readily agreed, and they deliberated the different ways he and his subjects could assist in the rebuilding.
Link remained mostly silent during their discussions. When asked for an opinion, he'd scramble to come up with something sensible to say, but governing, administration, logistics—these things were not his forte. For this reason, he'd almost completely zoned out of the conversation when he noticed a shift in King Dorephan's tone. Link looked up, and observed the rotund king shift uncomfortably in his throne before clearing his throat.
"Ah, my Princess, I fear I may not be the right person to say this, but I feel that Mipha would want to make sure you knew… You see, it is true that my Mipha cared very much for Master Link, but I also don't think she would want you to ever feel guilty… I believe she would have given you and the young Hero her blessing, so please do not feel restrained on her account."
What? What had Link missed when he was spacing out? How had their conversation led to this? He had no idea how to respond, but feeling that he must say something, he opened his mouth and hoped that the right words might fill it. Thankfully, Zelda preempted him.
"Your Highness, I thank you for your kind words, but they are unnecessary. Master Link and I have a purely professional relationship."
"Oh, my mistake," said King Dorephan, and his skin turned a slightly darker shade of blue—perhaps the Zora equivalent of blushing?
Link's face retained its normal stoic expression, but internally he was confused by Zelda's response. He understood her desire to stem any unseemly rumors about himself and the princess, but the phrase "purely professional" seemed too cold, too business-like to truly describe their friendship. Perhaps Zelda was just guarding her privacy, but he couldn't help but feel as though she was diminishing their relationship in front of others. He found himself feeling strangely hurt.
"Well, ah, my chefs have prepared a delicious meal for us. Shall we head to the dining hall?" King Dorephan gracefully transitioned the conversation away from his faux pas, and Link found the idea of food a welcome distraction from his own unpleasant thoughts. After all, he couldn't control how Zelda viewed their relationship. Why let himself get upset over something he couldn't control? Link jumped up eagerly to head to the dining hall, and Zelda hid a giggle behind her hand.
"Once a glutton, always a glutton—right Hero?" She teased, and Link smiled sheepishly. He and Zelda followed King Dorephan to the dining hall, and he felt content that their dynamic had returned to its normal, easy camaraderie.
Link shifted in his saddle uneasily as he and Zelda made their way from Kakariko Village to Hateno Village. They were on their way to see Purah; Zelda was set on continuing their research of the Divine Beasts, and she wanted to enlist Purah's help. Unfortunately, going to Hateno Village meant traveling through the Ash Swamp.
Passing through the Ash Swamp with Zelda felt strangely intrusive. Neither of them had directly mentioned Link's death there over one hundred years ago, and Link wasn't even sure Zelda knew whether he'd remembered the incident or not. The aged battlefield was an invitation to a conversation neither felt prepared to initiate, and so they continued on in silence. Link could tell their horses needed rest, but he pushed onwards until they passed through the broken wall to Fort Hateno.
"Let's rest here a little," he suggested.
"OK," Zelda agreed. "We should eat the rice balls Paya sent with us."
Link nodded, and he laid a blanket out on the grass in the lone patch of sunlight peeking through the trees. They each sat on the blanket and applied their attention to the food. Still too close to the Ash Swamp for comfort, neither one spoke.
As usual, Link finished his much larger portion of food first, and, not wanting to feel pressure to talk, stood to leave.
"I'm going to take a walk. I'll be back soon."
Zelda nodded her assent and Link turned and walked further down the road, unconsciously trying to put as much distance between himself and the place he had died as possible. As he turned, he thought he saw a look of relief pass over Zelda's face.
As he put more and more distance between himself and the issues he had no desire to face, Link's mood lifted. He enjoyed traveling through Hyrule, enjoyed experiencing the beauty of this wild land. He felt a kinship with the land—the kind of kinship one only earns after travelling, suffering and studying every inch of a place. Now, he finally felt free to truly embrace the joy of that hard-won intimacy.
As he wandered down the path, he saw a narrow pass off to his left and remembered that it led to a small wooded grotto which dozens of statues and an ancient shrine called home. He was struck by the unique pleasure of knowing exactly where one is in the world, and turned from the path into the grotto, chasing that feeling. He felt additional satisfaction upon seeing exactly what he had expected to, and he stood in front of the smiling statues with a matching grin.
As he took in his surroundings, a small flash of white off in a dark corner of the grotto caught his eye. He moved towards it, and soon identified the white color as originating from the petals of the rare Silent Princess. He recalled Zelda telling him about the princess so long ago near the Royal Ancient Lab, and chuckled to himself at the memory of eating that ridiculous frog. Then he winced as he realized he had since eaten much more disgusting concoctions. He looked at the flower for a long moment, then took out his side knife and sliced it cleanly from its roots.
Feeling refreshed and eager to share his discovery with Zelda, Link hurried back to Fort Hateno. Zelda was leaned back on her arms on the blanket, her legs stretched out luxuriously in front of her. Her eyes were closed and she looked positively peaceful. Despite the huge task of rebuilding Hyrule that lay before of them, Zelda looked more relaxed and at ease than he had ever seen her. He smiled, then coughed politely to catch her attention. She opened her eyes and looked up at him, blinking at the sunlight that streamed past him. He held out the flower to her.
"Oh! It's the Silent Princess! How wonderful you found one," she said rising from the ground and gently taking the proffered flower from his hand, "Now where to put it?"
As she examined the flower, Link suddenly felt foolish. He hadn't really thought about what Zelda was going to do with the flower after he gave it to her. He also remembered that she had said the flower was very rare, and that scientists were working hard to ensure its survival.
"I'm sorry, perhaps I should have just let it be…"
"Nonsense! I'm very pleased you found one for me. And I have the perfect place to put it, too!"
She reached into her knapsack and pulled out a familiar leather book, and Link felt a twinge of guilt upon realizing that Zelda had no idea he'd read her diary. At least he could say he hadn't read it since they'd defeated Ganon, small comfort that that was.
"I can press it in my diary, and then I'll remember this day forever," she said brightly, placing the flower between two pages and carefully closing the diary. She looked back up into Link's eyes and smiled, her blue eyes narrowing as the joy on her face threatened to swallow them up, and Link thought that he didn't need the flower to remember this day.
Link sat between Paya and Zelda at a long low table in Impa's home for dinner. Kakariko Village had become their base of operations ever since the fall of Calamity Ganon, and Impa's help had been extremely beneficial to their cause. Zelda wanted desperately to move their headquarters to Hyrule Castle, but the whole area was still more or less abandoned, and it would take time to rebuild. Link, Zelda, and Impa had spent the day planning the resettlement of Castle Town, and Link was absolutely famished.
A hearty spoonful of fortified pumpkin soup was halfway to Link's mouth when Paya, who'd been quiet throughout the meal, suddenly blurted out, "So are you and the princess getting married now?"
Link blinked slowly, then made the distinctive sound he always made when socially out of his depth.
Zelda responded much more assertively than Link
"No, no, no, of course not," she said with a certain amount of vehemence she generally reserved for conversations about her research.
Paya let out a small "oh," and Link wordlessly returned to his soup.
Despite his outward lack of reaction, Link was taken aback. This was just like her response to King Dorephan, except this time she seemed a little more… passionate in her denial. Was she really so violently opposed to the idea? Of course, marriage was premature in the extreme, but was he so objectionable to her that even the suggestion of a relationship with him was repulsive? Link knew that he and Zelda hadn't always gotten along, but he'd thought they'd moved past that.
He thought back to the night Calamity Ganon had attacked, and how Zelda had found comfort in his arms. Despite the horrors of that night, that memory would always be precious to him. Suffering tragedy together and supporting each other throughout—that was a very special bonding experience. Link knew that that kind of bonding didn't necessarily translate to romantic love, but he had thought that maybe…
He had felt it since then, too. He had felt it the other day, when he had given her the Silent Princess. The gift of a flower was often considered a romantic gesture. She hadn't rejected the gesture then, so why was she now…?
Link stopped himself. He was being unfair—her platonic companionship was also a rare treasure. He schooled his emotions and scolded himself for assuming and expecting too much from Zelda's friendship. She was certainly making herself very clear now, and he was OK with that. He had no reason to be upset.
"My Princess, when do you plan to head to Hateno Village?" Impa asked, sensing the awkwardness in the room and eager to change the subject. Zelda happily engaged her and the rest of the night passed without incident
The day they were to leave for Hateno Village, Link woke early and headed towards the Dueling Peaks Stable alone. He wanted to get a horse for Zelda before they departed in the early afternoon. So far she had been riding a wild horse they'd found, but Link thought it was time they got her a proper mount—and he had just the horse in mind.
Link enjoyed the quiet walk. He had spent much time alone out in the open spaces of Hyrule, but before he had always carried the heavy weight of his quest on his shoulders. Now, he could relax and take his time. He didn't have to feel guilty any time he stopped to rest, or even any time he felt happy. It was liberating.
He reached the stable before noon, and after retrieving the horse the trip back to the village did not take long. He was back in Kakariko Village, knocking on Impa's front door, just as Impa and her guests were just sitting down to eat.
"Link, you made it just in time for lunch! We were beginning to wonder where you disappeared to."
Link smiled and joined Zelda, Impa, Paya, and Cado for their meal.
"You will be heading out right after lunch, correct?" asked Impa.
"Yes, so we should be able to make it to the village before nightfall," replied Zelda. Zelda and Impa then discussed their plans in Hateno Village, Purah and her strange aging situation, and Robbie and his research and family. Impa was mostly catching Zelda up on things Link already knew, so he soon lost interest in the conversation. He was focusing all of his attention on the sneaky rice balls Impa had provided for lunch when Paya, who was seated next to him, nervously addressed him.
"M-m-master Link, how do you feel now that you've completed your qu-qu-quest?"
"It's nice," he said. It wasn't a great response, but Link wasn't much of a talker. He was doing his best—he liked Paya and didn't want her to feel like he was ignoring her.
"M-maybe, now that you've saved Hyrule, you could v-v-visit Kakariko Village more…" she said, then she buried her face in her hands.
"I probably will be here more often, now that we're trying to rebuild Hyrule."
"Ah, well I… we… We would all be glad to see you more often," she said again, forcing the words out from between her hands.
Zelda, noticing their side conversation for the first time, interjected.
"I am certain Link and I will be here together often," she said, sounding oddly cold. Paya's hands fell from her face, and Link could now see a somewhat confused expression on her pale features. He couldn't help but feel like he was missing something.
The subtle but noticeable tension between Zelda and Paya continued for the rest of the meal, but it soon slipped from Link's mind as he focused on his impending gift to Zelda. He really hoped that she liked it—he felt quite confident she would.
As lunch came to a close, Link and Zelda gathered their things and headed to the stables where they'd kept their horses. Zelda approached her horse, but Link put out a hand to stop her.
"I got you a different horse," he said, then he led the horse he'd ridden that morning out of its stall and presented it to her.
It was a tall, strong white horse, wearing the royal saddle and bridle the man at the stable had given him. Link's memory of being at the Sanedin Horse Park was remarkably clear, and this horse looked exactly like Zelda's old horse.
Zelda gasped. "Oh Link, he's perfect! He's… where did you find him?"
She rushed forward and stroked the horse affectionately, rubbing his nose and patting his neck. Perhaps some of the beast's DNA carried a memory of Zelda, because he responded immediately to her touch.
"I think he's a descendant of your old horse. I found him by the Horse Park."
Zelda turned to Link and smiled that sweet smile of hers, the one the Great Deku Tree said he'd like to see again. Link smiled back, thinking it had definitely been worth it to surprise her.
"Thank you so much, Link! You don't know what this means to me."
She smiled again, and hugged her horse's neck tightly. Maybe… Maybe he had misunderstood her last night. Maybe Zelda didn't find him repulsive. Maybe…
Link didn't allow himself to finish that thought.
It happened again when they ran into Beedle on the road. Link had developed quite a friendship with Beedle over the course of his journeys, and Link was convinced that Beedle was far more fearless than he. Beedle seemed able to travel with confidence and safety through any part of Hyrule with impossible speed, and he did it all with unrelenting cheer. Link eagerly approached the man about his wares while Zelda waited. Link probably didn't really need to buy anything, but he liked Beedle, and wanted to give him some business.
"You're in luck today! I just got back from Gerudo Town, and I found some truly exceptional jewelry. Perhaps the young lady would appreciate a token of your affection," Beedle said enthusiastically, nudging Link with his elbow and wiggling his eyebrows up and down. Link chuckled awkwardly, ready to shrug off the insinuation, but unfortunately Zelda had overheard Beedle's bold conjecture.
"There's no need to use that tactic, Link and I are not involved. If I need jewelry, I will buy it myself," she said, sounding quite a bit haughtier than usual. Link's felt his spirits deflate a little.
"Ah haha, my mistake! Would you be interested in this sapphire circlet then, young lady?" Beedle said, completely unfazed by Zelda's hostile response. Link watched Beedle jealously, wishing that he had the same immunity to awkwardness the merchant seemed to possess.
That night, as they settled into their beds in the stable, Link found himself wishing that he could have bought the circlet for Zelda. It would match her eyes perfectly, and although he knew she didn't need it and could have bought it herself, he liked the idea of giving her something special. He sighed, then rolled over and fell asleep.
Link remembered as they passed through the verdant desolation of the East Post Ruins. He froze in place and let out a small gasp, drawing Zelda's attention to him. They had been on their way back to the small camp of Hylians they had helped organize in the ruins of Castle Town, and Link had been eager to arrive. However, as his memory returned to him he felt that continuing, at least for the moment, was impossible.
"Link? Are you all right?" Zelda asked, noticing his horse slow to a stop.
"Yes. I just… I used to live here. When I was ten years old. My father was stationed here."
"Oh, so your memory is returning?" said Zelda, sounding excited.
"A little," Link said, dismounting and wandering over towards a half-destroyed building standing beneath the fluttering of a tattered flag. He slowly sifted through what remained of the wreckage, eventually seating himself on a broken bed.
Zelda followed cautiously after him, leaving him plenty of space if he wanted it. When he didn't signal a desire to be left alone, she sat on a barrel across from him.
"What do you remember?" she asked, using the same gentle voice she adopted when soothing her horse.
"I think this was where I used to sleep. And father—he would practice out in the yard over there," he said, pointing out a half-intact window. He looked out the window for a long moment, then closed his eyes, as if concentrating hard on a difficult problem.
"I can remember him now," Link said. "Before it was just impressions, but now I remember his face."
"That's… good, isn't it?" said Zelda, sensing that she wasn't quite getting the whole picture.
"I remember more about him, but there's so much I don't know. I don't even know how he died."
Zelda paused for a moment, then reached out to put a comforting hand on his.
"I saw your father, Link. After Ganon attacked and you… fell asleep. He and some of the other survivors from the initial assault had regrouped in Kakariko Village. When I went to the castle, he was still in Kakariko Village, working very hard to protect Hyrule. We can ask Impa if you want to know the rest."
Link nodded. He stared at the ground of the room he had occupied over a hundred years ago, and his shoulders started to shake. Zelda stood, seating herself next to him, and placed her arms around his shaking shoulders. For several minutes, they simply sat there, not speaking.
Eventually, Link broke the silence.
"It's as though… I got him back only to lose him again."
Zelda squeezed Link's shoulders tightly.
"I know exactly what you mean. There are things we can't get back, but there is so much we can rebuild, Link. I know he would be proud of you."
Link allowed himself to soak in her comforting presence for just a while longer, then he forced himself to pull away, carefully extracting himself from her without giving the impression he was pushing her away. He was her appointed knight—it was his job to take care of her. He didn't want her to think that he wasn't emotionally stable enough for her to rely on.
"Thank you. We should keep moving."
He stood and returned to his horse. Zelda remained in the ruined room a little longer, eyes wandering around his old home with a faraway look in her eyes. Then she also returned to her mount, and they moved on.
Link frowned as he leaned back into the luxurious pillows in Riju's quarters. Zelda sat on the same long stone seat, giggling in a most undignified manner.
"Link, I'm sorry I'm laughing. I'm just… Honestly, I'm just jealous. I think you make a prettier girl than I do."
Riju had wanted to meet with Link and Zelda in the privacy of her home, and she was fine with him entering Gerudo Town, but she knew some of the more conservative women in the town would not be pleased with his presence. The obvious solution had been for Link to once again don his skimpy top and veil and enter the town incognito. Zelda had struggled with keeping a straight face as they walked through the town, and her struggles ultimately failed after they entered Riju's quarters. Link changed behind one of Riju's screens as soon as they were safely out of sight of the public, but Zelda was still laughing when he returned wearing his Champion's Tunic, trying his best to exude an aura of quiet dignity.
"What's so funny?" Riju asked, as she emerged from the staircase into her room. Zelda and Riju had been introduced downstairs, in her throne room, and they were already as thick as thieves. Link knew from the moment he met Riju that Zelda would like her, and it looked as if that prediction was panning out. Riju headed towards a table off to the side in the large room, and Link and Zelda trailed afterwards, following her lead and seating themselves.
"Oh, nothing. Just Link's disguise."
"Ah, yes. I rather enjoyed that too. I think a surprising number of women in Gerudo Town know he's actually a man, but since he's gone to so much effort to get in here, they let it slide."
"Really? But nobody said anything!"
"That's because we Gerudo know how to keep a secret," she said with a wink. "But I suppose it's for the best that Link didn't go into Gerudo Town dressed as a man. I have a feeling some of our younger vai might be overly aggressive in courting a handsome Hylian voe. I wouldn't want any of them to make you jealous."
Zelda's laughter faltered, and her beautiful smile fell into a frown.
"Oh, no, it's not like that at all. Link can do whatever he wants—It wouldn't make me jealous."
At that moment, Link had had enough.
Link stood abruptly, slapping his hands on the table to lift himself out of his chair and inadvertently making quite a bit of noise in the process. Riju and Zelda turned to face him, surprise written plainly on their faces. Link froze for a moment—he hadn't meant to be so dramatic, but he really didn't want to listen to this again. His mouth twisted uncomfortably and he avoided their questioning gazes before turning and heading straight for the balcony.
Link leaned over the balcony, shaking slightly. He hadn't experienced an outburst like this in a very long time, and he didn't really know what to do with himself. He wanted to brush it off and just return to Riju and Zelda and have a normal conversation, but he was embarrassed. He was embarrassed, and he was worried they'd ask him what was wrong. He didn't really know what was wrong, and even if he did, he didn't want to talk about it.
He heard footsteps behind him and sighed. He supposed even if he didn't want to talk about it, Zelda would find a way to drag it out of him. That was how it always went. And to be fair, he was usually glad when she forced him to talk.
"Link… Did I say something wrong? Are you OK?" came Zelda's soft voice from behind him. He turned to face her, expression once again returned to a careful neutral, but arms crossed sullenly across his chest.
"No, everything is fine. Let's just go back inside."
"Link, really, you can tell me. What did I do?"
Link looked away from her and started to walk back into the room when Zelda grabbed his shoulder and whirled him back around. She had apparently given up on the gentle approach.
"No, Link," she said forcefully, volume increasing, "Something is obviously wrong, and we're not leaving here until you tell me."
As if her rising temper gave him permission to lose his, Link also raised his voice.
"Why do you keep telling everyone there's nothing between us? I mean, there isn't, but you don't have to sound so disgusted by the idea!"
Zelda, who had moved quite close to Link in the heat of her anger, stepped back a pace, looking completely shocked.
"You… You're upset when I tell people we're… not together? Why?"
Link looked away, wishing the desert heat could melt him into the floor.
"I just… It's not…" he struggled to find the words, not even certain he was prepared for the right words to come out. "Am I really so terrible?"
"Link, there's nothing wrong with you. I'm not disgusted by you."
"Then… why? I don't understand these kinds of things, but, there were times… I guess I was just wrong," Link finished, dejected.
"Link," Zelda said, moving towards him again and putting a calming hand on his arm. "You weren't wrong… Let me explain."
Zelda sat down on the seat that extended from the balcony rail and pulled Link down next to her.
"Link, I care for you a great deal. There was a time when I felt that… that I probably loved you. But I couldn't possibly allow myself to love you after what happened. After you died… I just didn't let myself think it anymore."
"Because I was too weak?" Link choked out, understanding for the first time why people used the word "heartbreak."
"No, of course not," Zelda said, eyes widening as she took in the anguish of his features. "No, it was because… Link, I don't know how much you remember about that night, but I remember it perfectly. I relive it all the time. I killed you."
Link was speechless for a long moment, then he found his voice.
"No, you didn't! I remember that night. There were guardians, and they'd surrounded us, and…"
"No, Link, I definitely killed you. You were injured, but you were doing OK. And then I tried to protect you with that power, and when I turned around, you'd collapsed. I was trying to protect you from the guardians, and instead I ended up killing you."
Link just sat there, thinking over what Zelda had said. He remembered the same incident, but had never thought about exactly what it was that had led to his death. He supposed, upon further reflection, he had felt a sharp twisting in his gut the moment Zelda's power erupted from her hand. She was right—she probably had killed him.
"After that, I just couldn't… I never let myself think of you like that again. How could I ever expect… how could I ever hope for anything in return from a man I had killed? All you had ever done was protect me, and I… I…" Zelda looked away from him, but he caught the look of intense shame on her face. He reached for her cheek, and turned her face back towards his. She didn't resist, but she looked off to the side, not meeting his gaze.
"Zelda, maybe that burst of energy did kill me, but you are also the person who saved me. You took me to the Resurrection Chamber."
"Yes, but you wouldn't have needed resurrection if I hadn't caused your death first."
"Perhaps, but you kept me alive, and then faced Ganon alone for one hundred years. I don't think we can or should think about who owes who in this situation. We failed together, and then we succeeded together."
Zelda looked up, focusing her gaze on Link's, and hope suddenly appeared in her blue eyes.
"Is it possible? To move past something like that?"
"I have. I never blamed you. I hope you don't blame yourself."
Zelda smiled weakly, then looked down at the two hands she had fisted tightly in her lap. She scooted closer to Link, and then spoke up in a small voice.
"Link, how do you feel about me?"
Link looked away, face flushing. He was glad that Zelda didn't find him repulsive, but he wasn't sure he was ready to open up to her like this. At least, he wasn't sure he could do it in words. He grew frustrated with himself, wishing he could be bolder, more open, when he felt Zelda's arms wrap around his neck, pulling him back towards her. His eyes widened in surprise, and his arms instinctively found their way around her waist, fitting around her curves like they had found the place they were always meant to be.
"Link," she whispered, bringing her forehead to his, "I don't know if I can just snap my fingers and get over this. It might take some time for me to feel… worthy of you. But I want to. Can you help me?"
Link breathed in her heady scent, brain incapable of forming complete sentences. It was probably for the best anyway. It had been a long night, and he was sick of talking. He pulled her even closer to him and kissed her.