Disclaimer: I don't own Legend of Zelda. I don't own the TV series 'Lost' either, the latter of which has exactly nothing to do with this story. Just a useful bit of trivia for you.
It is said that the Lost Woods are filled with the spectres of the unknown dead. It is said that one who knows the forest can hear the story of his life in their whispering, the shades of the past and the secrets of the future. Link is not a Kokiri, not of the forest, and so he does not know why the shadows trace his footsteps and gather close when he tries to sleep, broken and dishearted, hands stained red with the blood of a nation. Surely there are others, he thinks—others who would appreciate some otherworldly counsel. There was Mido, half mad with brittle pride and the burden of his leadership. There was the entire Kokiri village, his not-kinsmen, the companions of his childhood. There was Saria, who he had not been able to save.
"Go away," he whispers, turning from their empty gazes, "Go away."
The leaves are thick above him, and only the faintest sliver of moonlight sifts through to pool beneath the branches. Link's bow-and-arrows lie discarded to one side with his sword, sheathed, because blades are little use against those already dead. The air smells of rain and rich, damp earth, the scents of his childhood and of the friend who he will never see again. And grouped around him, faint, spectral figures against the night, the shades of the lost spirits crowd too close for comfort, and will not go away.
The moonlight shines straight through them, and their presence sends an almost imperceptible chill through the air, and when Navi cowers back under his clothing, pressing against his skin, he knows they must be dead, because nothing living ever frightened his fairy. Link closes his eyes and tries to wish them gone.
"Go away," he tells them again, when this fails, "I need to sleep."
-You need to rest- a spectral figure says, and it's his own voice he hears, speaking back to him in the same half-angry, half-pleading tone.
"Right. So go away. Stop watching me."
The figures murmur and shift, whisper-silent, and when chances another look they're still there, still staring.
Link can remember a sword and a flash of blue light that lasted an instant and seven years all at once, tearing him apart and smashing him back together, stronger, but somehow less complete. He can remember Ganondorf, eyes blazing and black with triumph, holding aloft something that pulsed with a shimmering golden light. He can remember Saria, crying. He can't remember Zelda, though he knows he ought to; can't remember warm sun and soft words and the scent of flowers on the air. It dawns on him now that he can't remember Sheik, either, or why he's saving a world that he never really belonged to, never really loved.
He reaches for his sword, suddenly and on impulse because he doesn't know what else to do now, and he sees himself reflected in the bright blade, a shadow backlit by the moon. He looks tired and irritable and somehow endearingly young, as if the moonlight has given back what Zelda and her music stole away. A thought strikes, and he angles the blade subtly; reflected silver splinters the darkness. He cannot see the shades in the mirror-bright steel. In the world of war and weapons, they do not exist. This is the world he belongs to now. He does not know why they think otherwise.
"I should go," he says, though he makes no move, "I don't belong here. I'll leave the forest, and…"
"…You can go back to haunting badgers, or whatever it is you do, but your place is not with me."
The shades stand about him, shadows given life.
"And I don't care why you're following me, either," Link continues, aware suddenly of how childish he sounds, "But I must, must sleep, so if you won't leave me alone…"
-Your friend- The voice this time is Saria's and it freezes his blood. In that moment he is back in the Chamber, bloodies and battered, trying to understand why she is leaving him. He was supposed to save her, to bring her back. She was supposed to come home, to help him, to tell him that it was all a mistake and he didn't really have to save the world, that Ganondorf and Zelda and the Triforce were all a nightmare, to be banished by the morning and the music in her laugh.
"Don't talk to me about my friend," he snaps, and his voice trembles a little at the end. He turns over, pushing his face into the packed dirt. Navi presses close, the warmth of her comfort for once too little. He feels an icy touch on the back of his neck and realises with a jolt that the shades are crowding even closer, brushing at his arms, drawing some strength, some life from him that leaves him weak and shaking from its lack. He tries to brush them away, but his fingers pass through and through, and for a moment he's wearing gloves of ice and frozen water runs through his veins, catching at his heart.
He does not know the story of these shades, does not know how they came to be here or why they are forced to linger rather than pass on to the great mystery that is the end of life. He has heard stories that spending a night in the Lost Woods can cost you your soul, and wonders if any of these spectres were wanderers like him, who tarried too long and lost their minds and their hearts to whispered secrets, dry and dead like autumn leaves. He glances up again, and a ghostly face is only inches from his own, as close as a lover who whispers endearments to the beloved. He swears and sits up, knocking Navi from his side.
"That's it," he snaps, "Get away from me!"
The closest shade touches him again, between the eyes, and Link recoils from the spreading chill. For a heartbeat he can see it clearly, this invader of his darkness. It is a man—was a man—and it smiles at him, a little sadly. -You played the Ocarina- it says, soft and wistful.
-The Ocarina- the shade insists. Its voice is like Mido's apology, desperate and needy and laced with self-loathing. –They told you to save the world, and the first thing you did was play the Ocarina to see if she was safe-
After Saria became the Sage of the Forest, Link spent two days alone in the Sacred Meadow with no one but Navi to share his grief. He had raged and cursed and burst into tears and finally collapsed next to the Temple's broke steps, thinking to sleep and keep sleeping until the world resolved itself and the horrible, aching emptiness went away. He fell into blackness and stayed there despite Navi's anxiety, withdrawing from her pleadings and losing himself in the comfort of oblivion. It was Sheik in the end who brought him back, Sheik—who he still can't remember clearly, save for fair hair and soft hands and a faint scent of spices—who dragged him into the world of the living and was hated all the more for it. It seems there is little escape for a Hero of Time, even in death.
"Or sleep," he mutters now, under his breath.
-Rest- the voices chime, and sink down beside him, stealing his warmth.
"Go back to Hyrule," he says finally, urgently, and points, "Go back to your people. Haunt them, if you must."
-The Kokiri were your people, once- No voice from his childhood; wistful words bourn on the wind of a ghost's breath.
The silence stretches, unbroken.
-You did everything for your people-
Sleep…he needed sleep…
-You wanted to make them proud-
Link has faced countless monsters since he obeyed a summons and the lure of a fairy not his own. He has battled monsters that would snare his spirit and grow strong on his lifeblood. He has watched the corpses of long-dead devils rise up out of the earth and tear their victims' hearts, still beating, from their breasts. Never has he wanted to flee as he does now, never has he been brought face-to-face with his own soul and seen the madness that lurks within it. The blackness is suffocating and he knows he is going to drown in it. The shades move closer once more, and he has no strength to drive them back. They settle around him, hands outstretched, these spectres of the night that are the mirrors of his own heart.
"Go home," he whispers, "You're lost."
The shades laugh, and their arms reach out to claim him, making the leaves rustle with the spectre of their passing.
-Not as lost as you-
A/N: I'm in danger of joining the hoards of needless-angst writers clogging up the web. This is probably darker than it needs to be, lol. It actually stems from a comment one of my friends made, that Link must have been pretty cheesed off after he risked his life to save Saria (because let's face it; how much must the anonymous 'Forest Sage' have meant to him really?) only to find out that he was never going to see her again. So there's the whole 'I've lost my only friend' thing coupled with my musings on what must have happened to the Head Carpenter's Son who went missing in the forest.
By the way, just to be clear, this is not a Link/Saria romance fic. No offence, but that pairing kind of makes me laugh. I just don't think the Kokiri are capable of that kind of love. They're children and will never grow up. Link and Saria are friends, nothing more. This fic entertains the hitherto unthinkable idea that Link was so caught up in slaying demons and saving the world that he didn't have much time for romance. Ah, well. So; no Link/Saria. How you interpret the rest of the fic is up to you.