Disclaimer: I don't own Zelda. I'm just borrowing.

Author's Note: Wrote this quite a while ago, but I always thought it didn't bear posting. Now I've... well, suffered temporary insansity and decided to stick it up here. So, erm, enjoy?

This is such a cliché, Zelda told herself. This is so incredibly trite and… and hackneyed and.... I mean, I'm watching him sleep, for Din's sake…

But he does look so sweet when he sleeps.

Stop it! To go into all that would be a
complete cliché, and then I would have to commit some serious suicide to cure my bad case of sentimentality. Maybe I should go hug a Redead and get it over with...

Zelda sat in the same spot she had occupied while waiting for Link, though this time she was cool and comfortable, sprawled against the wall in an image of relaxation. Goron City was much cooler by night, it seemed. But the evening cool had not made her comfortable enough to doze off. It had been hours since she had extinguished the torches and settled here, but sleep still hadn't come for her.

It had been no shock to see that Link had fallen asleep almost immediately. He had been in a hellish temple for three days, constantly at risk of life and limb, and any nap he might have managed would have undoubtedly been an uneasy one what with all the monsters running around after his blood. Zelda wouldn't be at all surprised if he slept past noon the next day. She wouldn't begrudge him the rest, either. He deserved whatever leisure he pleased after what he had been through.

After what you put him through, a spiteful little voice in her head said.

Oh, Nayru, she thought frantically. I'm hearing voices! Didn't Impa tell me I would drive myself insane with all these secrets and lies and disguises…

But no matter how her mind tried to ramble on about Impa's advice or her mental health, she couldn't long distract herself from the one thing she least wanted to think about.

It was her fault that Link had to do what he was doing.

Every bruise, every scratch, every burn… each one hurt her, too, because she knew that whatever blood he shed was on her hands. She had come up with the brilliant plan of opening the Sacred Realm and getting to the Triforce before Ganondorf did. She had asked him to run off on an impossible quest. She had thrown him the ocarina so long ago, setting the stage for the greatest tragedy in Hyrule's history.

It was something she had never confided to anyone, not even Impa. That sort of thing just didn't bear shouting from the rooftops.

Stop it. Right now. Before you fall into some sort of bottomless pit of despair. She had tried to train herself long ago never to think about the heavy weight of blame too long. Impa once said that to dwell on our shortcomings would only serve to distract us from our purpose. Of course, she was referring to shortcomings on a much smaller scale at the time…

Zelda pulled in a shaky breath and got to her feet. She needed contact with a world outside her own mind, needed a distraction from what was in her head. With a wraithlike grace that only Sheikah training could produce, she moved to the doorway that led out to the main cavern of Goron City. She glanced over her shoulder at Link once to ensure that he was still sleeping, then stepped out into the torchlit hall.

"Sheik" had long since befriended most of the Goron population. An accumulation of allies was an advantageous thing under the iron fist of Ganondorf, and with Link's return it became necessity. So Zelda was greeted by a number of the mountain people as she ambled along the walkways of the great cavern. She stopped to talk with a few of them, especially those Link had recently freed from the Fire Temple. It was rather endearing the way they went on about "that heroic young man who saved us from Volvagia."

Eventually her feet took her outside to a lonely plateau, though she had no real purpose there. Idly she looked to the stars, absentmindedly searching out familiar constellations. There was Sambra, the huntress, and to the east was Faron… But dawn was coming and they would soon fade…

"Why did you come here?" a commanding voice demanded from behind her.

Zelda whirled in the blink of an eye to face whoever addressed her. She sighed in irritation when she saw who it was.

"Because it's hot in that city and I wanted some fresh air, Impa," she said, making a point of using her Sheik voice. Zelda's Sheikah guardian stood half-shadowed a few feet away, arms crossed, intense red eyes peering at her young charge disapprovingly.

"You know what I mean, Zelda," Impa said. "And I would appreciate it if you would not play these games with me."

"Impa," Zelda sighed, reverting to her own voice. "I know you didn't want me to come meet him. I know you didn't want me to go meet him at the Forest Temple, either. And I know it's because you don't want me to be discovered and caught. But I think I am mature enough now to decide such things for myself. I can't stay hidden in the Sheikah caverns forever, you know."

"That's not it at all," Impa told her fiercely, letting her arms fall and stepping forward. "You are doing this for the wrong reasons."

"Really? Wanting to help the man I've asked to save the world is the wrong reason?" Zelda bristled.

"No. Guilt and latent attraction are the wrong reasons," Impa said bluntly.

"Latent attraction?" Zelda cried, spreading her arms wide. "I'm doing this because it's right!" She was beginning to remember why arguing with Impa was not like arguing with anyone else; it made her edgy, almost as if she feared punishment. Aftereffects of being reared and regimented by the woman, she supposed. Not to mention Impa knew her well enough to hit nerves.

"You could have sent me. You could have sent one of the other Sheikah," Impa insisted.

"Impa, I am tired of asking other people to fight my battles for me!" she fumed, turning her back on her guardian. "First it was Link, whose life has been a living hell ever since, then it was the men of the Hylian army, who were massacred by the thousand, and now you want me to add to the list!"

"Don't make it sound like they had no choice in the matter," Impa warned. "Give them credit for the ability to make their own decisions, Zelda."

"Impa, please. This is something I can do, and I have to do something!"

"You have done more than—"

"Impa, all of this is my fault!" she nearly screamed, whirling around to face her. The Sheikah woman stared for a moment, then slowly raised her eyebrows, crossed her arms, and took a step back to examine Zelda as though seeing her for the first time. Zelda stopped dead. I shouldn't have said that. I really shouldn't have said that. Redead-hugging plan to be executed at first opportunity. She waited nervously for a response, but Impa was silent in her study. "Say something," Zelda whispered finally. "Please say something."

"It is not your fault that all of this has happened," Impa said slowly, shaking her head as though unable to believe what she had just heard. "It is Ganondorf's. All that you have done is tried to defend your people."

"I let Ganondorf into the Sacred Realm," Zelda breathed. "I let him get his hands on the Triforce of Power."

"Zelda, he would have found a way no matter what," Impa maintained. "In sending Link to gather the Spiritual Stones and wield the Master Sword, you entered this war with the power of the Hero of Time behind you. Had you done anything else, we wouldn't have the chance we have now. It's a small one--it's one in a million--but it is a chance. Listen to me, Zelda," Impa said earnestly, catching and holding her eyes. "It wasn't your fault."

Zelda shook her head, stepping back. "Impa, I have to go."

"Just listen! Don't—" Impa started, reaching out to the girl she loved like a daughter. But Zelda was gone.