Growing Up

As the familiar bell rang throughout the mansion house, signalling the end of the time period; equally familiar sounds of derision from certain quarters and sighs of relief from others were heard. It was bed time for the younger members of the team. And any of the juniors who failed to comply, soon found out that there were plenty of adults prepared to help them find their way to their bedrooms. This ritual was a daily occurrence, accepted and expected by all; and soon the youngsters who'd played hard all day had crashed out in their respective beds and the adults could finally enjoy a bit of peace, to do their own thing.

Tonight however, most unusually, one boy had already fallen fast asleep before the bell and was so quiet, that he was ignored for a while, tucked away as he was in the corner of a squashy sofa that was also occupied by a rather pensive Mewtwo. Eventually the child was noticed by Marth; he'd come over with Roy who'd wanted to talk with Link and Zelda. The Prince gently picked Young Link up to put him to bed.

"I'll take him up, don't worry." Marth said to Link; "I'm going up myself now anyway." He shifted the smaller boy to make him more comfortable and Link and Zelda, who had been snuggling up on one of the sofas opposite, dozing and pleasantly entwined together, disentangled and came over.

"He's very deep" said Zelda. She was puzzled and looked across at Link, who was looking equally bemused at his younger self. Mewtwo now spoke to them both, using telepathy to communicate saying;

"The boy is exhausted and has a lot of pain in his heart." The pair spun around to look at Mewtwo asking what was the matter, what did he mean? But Mewtwo shook his head;"I will not say. I did not intend to invade his privacy, but his thoughts were loud and I was unguarded. Anyway it is your responsibility to communicate with him and find out his sorrow, not mine to tell you." Mewtwo stood up and placed his paw (without touching) over as he lay with his head against Marth's shoulder; still fast asleep.

The psychic Pokémon closed his eyes and concentrated for a moment; "He is deeply asleep, but sad on the edges of his mind." Nexthe ran his paw gently over the top of the boy's eyelashes and said, "Still damp" Then he looked meaningfully at Link, "You must help him. He needs to talk with you." Link gazed steadily into Mewtwo's wise eyes and nodded, and then while Marth took the boy to his room, Zelda indicated a darker damp patch on the arm of the sofa where had rested his head. She looked at the older counterpart sadly, saying;

"We were sitting opposite him and we didn't even realise he was crying; let alone enough to make the chair this wet." She was getting angry with herself thinking she had been negligent, but Mewtwo put his hand on her shoulder and said;

"The boy is just growing up; he didn't want anyone to know." Mewtwothen decided that he had interfered enough and left, just as Link noticed something else on the chair, a small clump of blond hair. He picked it up and looked at it closely, easily identifying the strands as Young Link's hair.

"Sort out time in the morning." Link said grimly, and he followed after Marth, Zelda beside him looking worried. They found the boy lying on his bed snoring gently; it was no real surprise that he still hadn't woken up, even while Marth got rid of his boots and belts to make him comfortable. A common trait for either Link was that if he was feeling safe enough to sleep, he went out completely. It was waking them up that was the difficulty.

"Thanks Marth" said Link, "the little chap is getting heavy to lug around."

"He's not so little any more Link and I can still carry you when you've had a good night out my friend; neither of you are very heavy." Marth laughed and Link blushed and punched him lightly on the arm. "Well, I'll leave him to you to sort out any further, whilst I take my leave of this lovely lady." As Marth spoke; he turned his stunning violet eyes on Zelda, smiling and kissing her hand, saying "Goodnight my fair princess." He showed the complete courtesy due to one Royal from another and she giggled and curtseyed in turn saying;

"I bid 'Goodnight' to you too, Sir." Zelda lowered her eyes briefly and Link tried to suppress a little niggle of indignation by turning to the matter at hand; he looked down at his younger self and sighed. Zelda came up and put her arms round Link from behind before coming to kiss him, and then went to remove the sleeping boy's hat. Her hands flew to her mouth as she gasped in shock and sorrow when she saw the massacre of 's hair. Very few people knew that Link's hair was long and thick and that he kept it in a loose ponytail under his hat. It was true; he kept it much shorter as an adult, although it was still long enough to tie back; purely because Zelda liked it. Recently she had been keeping the Links' hair trimmed herself; as it was one of her pleasures to feel it all silky and running through her fingers.

"Who has done this to you?" She whispered angrily, and furious tears filled her eyes as she gently touched the boy's head, looking at the chopped and uneven hair. Link was silent and thoughtful until Zelda noticed little cuts and nicks on the boy's ears and hands then on his neck. Quickly she started to divest him of his tunic to see if any more of his body showed signs of abuse. Young Link whimpered, but didn't wake up and Zelda held him for a bit, humming her lullaby to soothe him. Not finding any other damage on the boy, she gently healed his cuts. Looking up at Link, after laying down and covering him with a blanket she asked;

"Who has done this to him and why?"

"He has done it to himself Zel, using his sword. It's all cut higher on the left." Link turned away from her abashed.

"Why Link...why?" Zelda was upset and Link took a while to answer, but he was sure of his facts.

"I never actually did it myself Zel; only nearly...a couple of times. People teased me about my girly hair; said how pretty I was. Before I left Kokiri Woods, Saria used to cut it for me, but when I was thinking of doing it, I was younger than Link is now." At his answer, Zelda became sad and thoughtful.

"Oh Link, it was me. Peach said how nice your hair is and I didn't think; I mentioned how pretty it was when you were a boy, especially with the curl at the end. It's all my fault, he must have overheard me."

"It's not your fault, besides, it was about time he had it cut; so don't fret. Anyway that's not why he's upset; but I must find out what is." Link comforted her with a loving kiss.

"Stay with him tonight Link, he shouldn't be all alone. I'll bring you up a drink." Zelda said. She left and Link undressed down to his shirt and leggings before getting into bed beside his younger self, where upon the younger boy instinctively shuffled himself into the curve of Link's body for warmth and comfort. Link put his arm round Young Link protectively and pulled the boy closer and when Zelda came back with three mugs of hot chocolate, she could only smile at the two blond heads, both so alike and both fast asleep. She kissed their foreheads, but couldn't stop her eyes watering again as she gently stroked the shorn locks of the smaller boy, before she left to go to bed herself.

In the morning, both the boys went in to breakfast together. Neither of them had said anything to the other yet about the previous evening and soon, was running off to find his friends, eager to train for the coming tournament. Zelda joined Link for a cup of coffee, giving him a kiss and questioning him with a look. Link just shrugged and said,

"He seems different somehow. It's worrying me that I don't remember what the problem is; I mean, I of all people should know what is up and how to help him. Zel, would you mind if I didn't go with you to the centre today? I really need to think. What was happening when I was nearly fourteen?"

"You were becoming really cute." Zelda's cheeky comment earned her a beautiful blush, which flushed instantly across Link's face; she giggled, loving his modesty, and left him. Link wandered over to the training ground, keeping out of the view of his younger self; but on watching the boy in the arena, Link frowned, was definitely off his form and making silly mistakes. Unusually too, the boy wasn't with his smaller friends, but had chosen to fight instead with the Koopa King.

It was obvious to Link that Bowser was going light with the boy as well; in fact as a sparring partner, Bowser didn't have to try very much at all. Suddenly stopped the fight, bowed and saluted Bowser with his sword, thanking him for his time and then walked stiffly off to the showers. Bowser just shrugged and spying the older Link, he came and sat down next to him; a towel round his neck.

"Are you here as a father, brother or rival to your young self? He is much distracted." Bowser asked Link.

"I don't know Bowser; at the moment I am at a total loss, I don't know what is bothering him or what to do to help him."

"Hmm, he has reached awkward age now; you need to put yourself back in his shoes, I think." With that Bowser got up and lumbered away leaving Link alone once again with his thoughts. The Hylian swordsman idly watched others sparring, instinctively noticing openings left by opponents before he cast his mind back to when Young Link first arrived at the Mansion. He remembered that he'd not long had time to get used to the idea himself; the knowledge that his younger form would be joining them took quite a time to absorb.

Flashback Two Years

There had been a legitimate need for more youngsters to perform in the tournaments and the computer scanning all of the available games, found perfect. The child had just been on his way back to Kokiri Forest, having finished the Ocarina of Time; when he'd been offered the chance to be trained for the tournaments. Thinking it was a good and ready solution to him not really fitting in anywhere else and having food and shelter provided, the young Link had agreed and was promptly transported to the Tournament grounds.

When the boy arrived he had bumped almost straight away into his older self, a situation which caused quite a bit of shock for both of them; whereas everyone else was either amused or thought it cute. For some time they had been awkwardly polite with one another and the older boy was more than a little astonished at how young he seemed, aged twelve. The strange shyness hadn't lasted very long however; it was broken on one crisp afternoon in the Autumn, when Link had come across Young Link playing on his own with the fallen leaves around a large old tree.

That particular tree had always reminded Link of the beloved Great Deku tree. Painful memories came flooding back to him; hadn't he had done the exact same thing, playing with the autumn leaves of Kokiri Forest on his way home from his quest? This child was so achingly familiar in his solemn ways and solitary play and then Link had remembered something else, which suddenly made him realise that he was the only one who understood this boy. Link's eyes softened and he'd sat cross legged on the ground near to his young alter ego and spoken to him in a quiet and gentle tone.

"You're feeling lonely, aren't you Link, and you're missing Navi? You think that no one cares about you anymore and that you don't fit in anywhere, don't you?" His voice was pleasant and his younger self had abruptly stopped his play to listen. He then hung his head for a moment before looking across to see the older Link's open and friendly face and his arms outstretched to him. After the briefest pause the smaller boy flew like a little green lightning bolt to Link's embrace and buried his face against Link's chest.

Link had rocked him, soothing him without words, knowing the boy would realise he was understood. Then Link smiled ruefully as he remembered that there had been no one around for him, when he'd cried out all his loneliness with only a tree trunk to comfort him. Link had then stroked the child's hair in a calming way; feeling far older than just the seven or eight by now, years that separated them. He remembered Saria stroking his hair when he'd needed comfort occasionally too, when he had been the Kokiri scapegoat; for all the things Mido could torment him with or throw at him.

It would take a little while for the boy to remember that he did have friends in Hyrule, good people who had cared about and looked after the Small Hero. Malon and her father, Epona, most of the Kokiri children and those in the market place, were all friendly. The Gorons, Gerudos and Zoras were also fond of him, not to mention a couple of young princesses and a Sheikah attendant who had very fond memories of the golden haired boy. One day Young Link would be able to look back without feeling the crushing loneliness that had come with the anti-climax of winning and yet returning as if nothing had been achieved for him.

Once Link felt the child had calmed down sufficiently, he had asked shyly, if he'd like to think of the older Link as his brother; it would make it easier for both of them. He was rewarded with a small kiss on his cheek from the starry eyed boy; who'd promptly hugged him and fallen asleep, he was worn out, but feeling happy and safe in his new brother's arms. Link, too had felt a new sense of completeness and belonging as he sat there allowing the smaller boy to rest; he was content, he now had a little family of his own.

And that's mainly how their relationship had progressed; in a very close and brotherly fashion, each Link now completely relaxed in the other's company. Young Link had settled in very quickly and was a natural prankster, often leading the other youngsters into all sorts of trouble. But he was lovable and forgivable in the main and Link was an indulgent brother, recognising the joy his lonely young self had in finding friends of his own age. Link was still likeable as an adult and good at pacifying indignant Smashers when needed, or rescuing from the quick tempered Roy, who would swat the boy's backside with the flat of his sword when he'd been pestered and annoyed.

But complete indulgence was not good for anyone and the boy was of course no exception; Young Link's tricks and behaviour had got steadily worse, especially for Bowser and Ganondorf. The acknowledged heavyweights and bad guys were forbidden by the vigorously enforced rules, that no one could fight or cause injury outside of the monitored safety of the arenas. Ganondorf particularly would be sent back to the dark void from which he came and it was this very fact that made Young Link delight in provoking him mercilessly.

Flashback One Year

Link had been astonished one day when Bowser approached him and had asked to speak with him seriously. There was no 'beating about the bush' with Bowser, he'd come straight to the point; forceful, but not rude.

"Your young self Link, do you want him to grow up with no concern for others; to become a spoilt brat, who people will use to their advantage but no one will trust or like? He will soon stop being a cute or naughty child and become a delinquent young man with no self control. He runs riot now and thinks he can get out of trouble by just smiling or looking tearful; he says sorry, but he only goes and does the same things again. He is being unfair to Ganondorf who has no recourse to fight back, but whose temper one day may get the better of him.

"Link, the boy lacks good discipline. I understand, I am a father and my son is precious to me. It is a pity Young Link doesn't have a responsible father figure to take notice." Bowser had then taken his leave of a very thoughtful Link who knew that he too had been reprimanded, for allowing his brother to get out of control. Link tried thinking about who his own father figure had been and apart from his early days under the fatherly Great Deku Tree, he'd had no one; and then he'd remembered. There had been plenty of good hearted knights around the castle; all of whom were more than ready and willing to keep a younger lad toeing the straight and narrow.

But was as bad as Bowser was suggesting? Link stood back and tried to watch the behaviour of his small counterpart objectively, and see how he affected others for the first time, and he had been shocked. The boy was fun and daring, that was true and was nothing to worry about; but less scrupulous team members were using the naive boy to settle old scores. Young Link had become a real pest and what's more, a bad example to the others; Link had been thoroughly ashamed of him.

But he was also afraid for him, because if the bad behaviour continued, Young Link would probably have found himself back in Hyrule; alone, homeless and in disgrace, with no friends at all. Suddenly Link had felt a great responsibility for his child-self and decided action was to be taken; the question though was just what was to be done with him? Link had thought hard and long about what he could do to influence the boy and stop his headlong rush to an ignominious expulsion from the mansion and his friends.

A few days later, Link had been in the crowd watching Ganondorf and Bowser battle in the arenas and he'd caught sight of running around in the background. Nothing seemed amiss and he was watching the next match when a roar of anger from Ganondorf alerted him to the probability that mischief was being done. Apparently Young Link had waited until Ganondorf had been in the showers before grabbing all of the Gerudo King's clothes and throwing them into the drain, quickly followed by the towels.

Ganondorf was left stranded, his clothes and towels soaked and then to add insult to injury, the wretched boy had started to bang on the shower door with his sword, mocking the beleaguered man. Ganondorf of course lost his temper, shouting out dire threats of retribution, which just made laugh and sneer at him.

"You can't do anything to me." The brat laughed as he ran off bumping straight into his older self who he was sure would want to share in the joke; "Big Link would sort you out, you stupid pig face, you can't touch me." The boy stuck his tongue out at Ganondorf before grinning conspiratorially at his older brother and calling once more in a sing-song voice; "You can't touch me, you can't touch me."

"No, he can't." said a sombre, displeased adult Link; "But I can." And with that he'd grabbed a very surprised Young Link, who suddenly found he was looking at the floor, tossed over his older self's knee, with his shorts pulled down and on the receiving end of a very hard spanking. Link hadn't spared him at all or taken him out privately, and thereby justice was seen to be done; Ganondorf had been astounded at the new development. Then when it was over and he'd been freed, the boy just stared at Link in horror, feeling completely betrayed. When he was more recovered the child ran off, shouting;

"I hate you. I hate you" to his stunned older brother who'd was utterly devastated at his words. Link himself knew in his heart that he really loved this younger boy; exactly as if he was his real brother, he only hoped the child would understand why he'd had to be disciplined and soon. Ganondorf had watched him warily as Link brought him over some fresh towels and answered his unasked question;

"He must learn to fight fairly and with honour if he is to grow up decent and true. There was no honour in his behaviour today. I apologise on his behalf." As Link walked slowly to the door wondering if he'd over reacted, he heard a gruff voice speak in his ear saying;

"Well done, dad." He recognised Bowser's voice and felt a tiny spark of warmth; perhaps he'd done the right thing after all. Ganondorf for once was still speechless; he couldn't quite believe that his torment by one Link had been ended by the other. But Link was subdued, his little brother's words had hurt him mentally probably more than he had hurt the boy physically; although he didn't blame , he could understand how the child had felt.

He walked back deep in thought to the room he shared with his young self only to find being consoled by Zelda. She was soothing him and gently rubbing the sore behind and Link braced himself for her anger, but instead her eyes twinkled and looking to her love in the doorway, she'd said in a voice the younger boy was meant to hear;

"It was about time someone took firm care of him." Her voice was kindly though and then there was a muffled;

"I'm sorry Link." which came from the boy; the apology was unforced, making the adult feel a lot better. Later Link had explained to him how was also being used by some, which had distressed the boy at first, but he proved to be a quick learner. Not that he became instantly angelic; he'd tested his boundaries and earned the consequences of extremely bad behaviour a couple of times more, finding out that his older brother's strong left hand showed no sign of weakening. It was not long though before things had settled down, much to everyone's relief and had started to make real friends. He'd even gone on his own accord to apologise to Ganondorf; who could tell to his surprise, that the boy was genuine.

End of Flashbacks

Link stood and stretched out the kinks from sitting too still for too long and went and grabbed a coffee and cake and as he was sipping his coffee he carried on thinking. All of that trouble had been a year ago, perhaps a bit more and the boy had been happy since then. So 's troubles now didn't stem from then or from any of his quarterly visits home. There were special portals that opened to their various lands that allowed the Smashers to go on contracted holidays. Young Link always came back from these visits to his friends full of life and usually full of the mischief, normal in a boy of his age. Link then re-considered; there was a difference; yes, thinking back, the boy had been rather quiet since he came back here two weeks ago.

had needed and received an extended break from the Smash Mansion for a good reason, his next game; he had beaten Majora's Mask during his visit this time and had done so extremely well, there had even been a celebratory party for him when he returned. So what had happened? Link tried to remember his own experience and knew that his own homecoming was a very happy time in his life. Even though he'd not found Navi, and never saw her again; he had realised his growing love for Zelda and found out most enjoyably, that she was in love with him as well.

True his life had taken a different turn to his young self's; right from when Link had returned to the Kokiri after defeating Ganon and becoming a child again. It was only after Majora's Mask was defeated and he was too old for the Kokiri anymore, that he'd been taken in and trained in the Palace Guard until he and Zelda came to the Smash Mansion. Whereas was offered and accepted a place here immediately after finishing his part in Ocarina of Time. It was giving Link a headache, thinking about the peculiarity of his and 's situation. His musings were interrupted by the lad himself, clean and damp from his shower, Link smiled fondly at him;

"Hello little bro, come here" and he pulled the boy to his side in a strong hug which responded to, with one of his own. "Do you want to talk to me, or 'dad' kid?" asked Link. "No option for the silent treatment I'm afraid." Link finished firmly, but with a smile; however the boy sighed,

"I don't think you can help me either way Link" was his resigned reply.

"Well I can try, at least I'm in a unique position to understand how your mind works" Link laughed self deprecatingly. Some gentle laughter from before the boys made them both look up at Zelda and Samus who were also carrying coffee.

"Mind if we join you before our practice?" asked Samus.

"Of course not; please sit down." Link said; the boys had stood up and both had pink cheeks, as they looked from Zelda to Samus and then back to Zelda. The older three smashers sat and chatted pleasantly together, whereas just stared at his drink, hardly looking up or speaking at all. Then he got up making some feeble excuse and ran from the area, leaving Link and Zelda totally perplexed. Samus merely gave a small chuckle;

"Boy, he's got it bad; poor kid" she said sympathetically, looking after the young lad. "He looks so like you Link, now that he's a bit older; he has the same face and the same blush for Zelda. Could be trouble, you may have yourself as a rival; best be careful." Samus looked at Link puzzled when Link stared back at her.

"That's it, isn't it? Of course Samus, but you're slightly off track; It's not my Zelda, something has happened between him and his Young Zelda. I must go and find him and see if I can help." Link was buoyant; he now knew where the root of his little brother's problem lay, Zelda was already standing to go with him.

"I'll come too; do you mind Sam, can you find someone else to train with for now?"

"Sure thing, catch you later; I hope everything is all right for the kid." Samus left them, spying Ganondorf, who seemed without a sparring partner for the moment, and she fancied a challenge. That left the other two to decide what to do about the troubled boy, they both considered their responsibility.

"I'll make a fire up in the small lounge where I can talk to him in comfort. He will want to be warm; I remember I was always cold if I got sad." Link suggested and Zelda understood, she was by now used to deciphering Link's meaning when he mixed up himself with his young self.

"I'll go and get him then; I know just where he'll be."

"Oh?" said Link.

"Yes, in the same manner and place you always are when you're brooding. He'll be sitting, with his knees close to his chest, in the roots of the big tree in the garden." And with that Zelda left Link to make the fire and arrange a cosy nook that would be good for problem solving. While he went about the task Link was thoughtful;

'It can't be anything too bad can it? Surely it's just some childish misunderstanding that we can sort out quickly. I don't like the idea that Little Zelda might be going through the same upset as my Little Lad. It should be as great for them as it is for Zel and me.' Link's musings could only take him so far however; he needed the boy there to be able to really help. Young Link was exactly where and how Zelda knew he'd be, and she sat down next to him; but as she went to put her arms round him, he pulled sharply away.

"I'm not a little boy anymore Zel." he said, in a voice that was eerily like his older self; making her look at him. It was almost as if she was seeing him for the first time; so, respecting his personal space, she agreed.

"No, you're not a child anymore; but you aren't grown up either yet, so come on inside, you do need to talk. Hopefully Link and I can help and things may not seem so bleak." Zelda said reasonably; however wasn't budging and he withdrew himself even further away from Zelda. So she tried something else, seeing if she could draw him out.

"I'm sorry you overheard me talking about your hair Link; I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, I've always loved your hair. Actually, I remember the first haircut I gave my Link; I cut it a bit too short. He must have been about your age; oh, he was, exactly in fact, it was just when he'd finished Majora's Mask and he came back to me. I remember we had our first real kiss." Zelda had a wistful smile on her slightly flushed face as she remembered Link's soft lips touching hers for the first time.

She remembered Link's bright blue eyes opening wide in happy amazement and then closing, his long eyelashes sweeping over his blushing cheeks as their exploratory kiss deepened and matured. Young Link watched her face as she smiled sweetly, lost for a moment in her precious memory. A look of absolute pain crossed his face and he looked hopeless. He whispered;

"She wasn't there, she'd gone away." His voice broke and he leapt up and ran. Zelda was right behind him, but he was the faster of the two; easily out running Zelda in her long skirt. However he ran straight into his brother, who grabbed hold of him bodily, and despite the struggle the boy put up; he was held firm. Taking one sympathetic look, at the tear glazed eyes of the younger boy; Link gripped his arm, gently but firmly and steered him to the mansion.

Once inside the more private room; Link guided to a sofa and made him sit. Then pulling up another chair to sit in front of the boy, whilst Zelda sat next to him on the sofa, they effectively trapped him; Link had also locked the door so that no one could intrude...or escape, as he held the key.

"Now give." said Link;"What on earth has happened?" He waited patiently but the youngster was still being a bit sullen and not forthcoming, so Zelda spoke for him; filling Link in with what had transpired out in the garden, although she was ready to stop if the boy wanted to speak. though stayed silent.

"Young Zelda was gone?" queried Link, "gone where?" He started to backtrack to see if they could work out what was different between his time and 's. "Zelda gave you the Ocarina again didn't she, and you'd spent a couple of weeks with her before your new adventure?" Link questioned and he got a small nod in reply, before he carried on; "I'm sorry if this is a personal question, but how did you part? Was Zelda upset at your going or not really bothered?"

"We were both being brave when I left; but I know she was miserable and so was I." was the quietly spoken answer.

"Just like we were; eh Link, do you remember?" Zelda said softly.

"Very well, my love, did you know how unhappy I was to leave you?"

"I have to admit that I thought your tears were just for Navi, Link; not because you were leaving me." Zelda said thoughtfully. There was a horrified gasp from Young Link.

"Doesn't Zelda know how I really feel about her?" He buried his face in one of the sofa cushions and Zelda patted his back. She then said, trying to remember accurately and thinking rapidly;

"I think I know what's happened. You remember Link? I spent that winter in my cousin's country. That was... about a month after you returned from battling Majora's Mask. You went back to Kokiri Forest while I was gone and then you joined the guards."

"I remember being very lonely while you were gone, and Impa sometimes giving me letters and little gifts you'd sent for me. I still have them all." He said wistfully and Zelda laid her hand over Link's own and smiled lovingly at him; she knew him so very well, understanding that her smile lifted his heart like nothing else could. This meant she also knew how the younger one was feeling.

"I think the portal must have opened at a slightly later time than it should; so that by the time our Young Link had completed Majora's Mask, he came back to his Zelda after she'd gone." Zelda said, then she suddenly went pale and her eyes opened wide, but before she could say any more said in a choked voice;

"Impa said I was too late; Zelda had been waiting for me to come back, but her father had said they must go. He is going to arrange a betrothal with a Prince who has asked for her hand in marriage and alliance. She doesn't know I came back or that I love her. She didn't leave me a message or anything." He paused for a shuddering breath, while the older two tried to think about what to say. Before they could do so however, the dam burst and the boy started to speak again;

"I wanted to go after her, but Impa said there was no way I would get into the palace and I wasn't going to be allowed to start a war with their peaceful neighbours and if I went around threatening anyone to get my own way I'd probably just earn myself a well deserved thrashing and sent home with my tail between my legs then I'd end up rushing of somewhere else and get myself killed and then where would Zelda be not knowing anything about me with Impa left to pick up the pieces and then she called the guards and had me thrown in the dungeons, and Impa guarded me herself until the next portal opened, when she literally threw me in it saying ,'see Zelda next time Link.'"

The words and bitterness poured out of without a breath, a gushing river of indignant rage; Link and Zelda just stared at the boy until he started again, his indignation at his imprisonment was great. "She made sure I was comfortable, but I wasn't allowed out for anything, not anything, do you understand what I mean and she's got a heart of stone." Young Link was flushed and angry, biting his lip, determined not to cry. Zelda now spoke softly; trying to soothe his ruffled feathers and hurt pride.

"She'd probably had enough practice looking after your Zelda. Impa learnt all our tricks, didn't she Link? I'm willing to bet your Zelda didn't go quietly either; Poor Impa." glared at Zelda, before he replied angrily;

"She's a dragon." Then his bluster vanished. "I love my Zelda, Zel and I miss her." was completely rigid and the older princess gave the boy a pat on his knee, saying;

"She feels the same way about you Link, believe me. Girls learn to love quicker than boys you know; Zelda knew that she loved you when you started out on your adventure. I know how much it hurt her to let you go."

"I loved her as well. You know I" was getting confused and angrily frustrated, so Zelda once more tried to calm him.

"I know, really I know." And Zelda did know how the boy felt, but she also knew that her younger self didn't as yet; she, poor girl was still waiting and hoping. It wouldn't do to tell him that though, so instead Zelda changed tack. "Go and get my scissors will you please Link and I'll tidy your hair. Go to your room and I'll see you in there."

"Huh, oh, o.k." he replied bemused and drained from the disclosure of his problem, but now feeling relieved and tired. When he'd gone, Zelda turned to Link and said sadly;

"They've missed out on their first kiss." Link reached for her and pulled her to him and rested his head on top of hers. He was such a comfort to Zelda and she was safe in his arms which made her want more than ever to help the younger pair to be able to share the same things. Then Zelda remembered something else; "He has also just been woken up to his 'warm and fuzzy' feelings hasn't he?" she was half teasing now. "You both have a lot to thank Cremia for, don't you?"

"You know that was nothing Zel, Cremia just made me realise how much and why I longed to get back home and see you; I was horribly homesick. Poor kid, I know he is hurting badly." Link's face was aflame as he remembered his immediate reaction to Cremia's not quite innocent, embrace. Zelda smiled at him, she was not bothered about Cremia, although she loved to tease, but she was still sad for their younger ones as she said;

"Yes, Link lad has missed out and so has his Zelda." She recalled her own awakening when her Link had returned to her. There had been a new maturity and strength in his embrace and she'd been very aware of how closely he had held his body to hers; and feeling his rapid heartbeat near to her own. She also recalled the different and steadily fascinating look in his eyes that had captivated her and held her enthralled; he'd been able to just look down in hers, because he had come back an inch or two taller. Zelda suddenly realised that Link was grinning at her, because he could read her thoughts at times; it was her turn to blush hotly, as her hero leaned in and kissed her passionately.

"Dad's not cruel though, is he? As soon as Zelda gets back, those kids will be back together. I can at least reassure him that any betrothal will not be binding yet." Zelda said, pushing the smirking Link away, he though sighed;

"It's just going to be a very long time for him with no contact."

"No one knows that feeling more than me Link; I know what it is to wait, not knowing and just wondering if you were alright and if you were coming back, and if so, was it to me or some other girl perhaps? You had lots of female friends." Zelda's voice cracked slightly under her remembered emotion and Link was silent; he hadn't ever realised what it was like for Zelda, waiting for news of him and not knowing if he even cared. All he could do now, to make up for that was to hold her very close, as both of them got lost in their memories.

Zelda broke the bond, pulling away gently; she needed to get to and cut his hair. The youth was ready and waiting patiently for her, trying to hide the fact he was skittish and Zelda felt her heart go out to him. She wrapped her arms around him from behind, effectively pinning his arms by his side, although he was certainly strong enough to break free, before she kissed his cheek and whispered;

"Zelda loves you Link, never doubt that; she always has and when you kiss her for the first time, it will be wonderful for you both. I promise, trust me." She ignored his searing blush and his damp eyes and smiled with understanding at his reflection in the mirror as she gave him a big squeeze and got to work on his wrecked hair with her scissors.

In the meantime Marth had stumbled across Link who had wandered back into the Mansion Gardens and was now walking and thinking. The early evening was pleasant and the autumn leaves were either glowing in the setting sun or crunching underfoot. The two young men were good friends who could confide easily with each other and at the moment, Marth was concerned over his friend's younger self. Link spoke of the problem the boy faced and how because of how the timeline now differed for them both, he was starting to think it made them more like twins, than an identical person.

Marth was pleased; he couldn't imagine what it had felt like for Link to be daily faced with his true young doppelganger. He also admired his friend greatly in the way that he had dealt with the various situations that had arisen without going even slightly insane; but this was good news, if Link was starting to separate their identities it would make things easier. Marth of course knew that the Links called themselves brothers and even joked about a father son relationship at times; but the truth was Link was too young to be the other boy's father and was always conscious of their duality.

But now something else was edging into Marth's thoughts, the name of the country Young Zelda was in was familiar and he had a brilliant idea;

"Listen Link, I go back home in a week, if writes his princess a letter, I could take it with me and send it by courier; I mean the country the girl is in, is only about a couple of week's journey from my home. I'm sure I could arrange something for the boy; perhaps it would be appropriate for him to send a little gift too?" Marth queried. Link was ecstatic, and thanking Marth, he practically dragged him to where Zelda had just finished tidying Young Link's hair. They burst noisily into the room, out of breath and surprising the occupants half to death; but it was worth it to see the look of hope transform the youngster's face, when Marth told him of his plan.

"Thank -you." the boy whispered and promptly fainted, crumpling to the floor.

"The silly child hasn't eaten or drunk much all day." said Link.

"I'll get him something" replied Zelda, as Link put the boy on his bed; removing his boots and loosening his belts, so he could take off the tunic before putting him to bed. Marth went to assist Zelda in raiding the larders. Link meanwhile was looking at 's expression which had softened in his sleep;

"You need your rest kid." he said, gently stroking the boy's fringe off his face and noticing with empathy , the all too pale face on the pillow and thinking how the quests had been a lot for such a young child to take on, even though he didn't apply the thought to himself.

Marth and Zelda soon came back from the kitchens with some sandwiches, cakes and drinks, enough for them all. They also brought along Dr. Mario, who insisted on checking over; giving his verdict for the boy's collapse as due to hormones and emotional stress, which didn't surprise anyone. He'd then told them, 'just to keep the child in bed until the morning and he will recover his strength'. Once the boy had eaten enough of the impromptu feast, he asked his brother to tell him all about his own adventure in Termina; so they could compare notes.

Link was obliging as always and they were soon chatting away; meantime, Marth caught Zelda's eye and beckoned her over away from the two Links. A short while later, the strangely serious look on the face of as he looked across at them, alerted Link to glance over also. Marth was holding both of Zelda's hands in his own and was whispering to her in a very animated way; the pair were oblivious to the solemn gaze of the brothers, until the silence reached them. Marth and Zelda returned the gaze for a few seconds and then the Prince pulled the Princess over to the door; informing the boys that they, were going to go down and watch a film or something with everyone else.

"I mean, it's got to be better than listening to you two reminiscing." Marth laughed; but playfully, so that they could not be offended.

"You can go too, if you like." The younger Link said to his older brother. "I'll stay in bed, I'll be o.k. promise."

"No, I'll keep you company; you'll only be bored in bed with nothing to do otherwise. Go ahead you two, enjoy yourselves. We'll be fine." Link said, secretly hoping that Zelda would rather stay with her 'little family'; but instead she left, laughing with Marth and without a backwards glance. The two boys played music and chatted some more; but could tell that his older self was slightly distracted and being of the same mind a lot of the time, he didn't have to think very hard as to the reason why.

"Go down and find her Link" he said again, but Link just shook himself and said;

"No. It's O.K, Zelda's entitled to do what she wants without me hovering all of the time; now what were you saying about Ruto, and they both grinned. Once again, when Zelda and Marth both popped in to say 'Goodnight' some time later, they found the two Links were asleep; the older boy propped against the wall fully dressed, except for his boots this time. All Zelda could do to make him comfortable was loosen his belts, remove his hat and kiss them both goodnight.

Over the next couple of weeks the Link boys were inseparable. The unique bond that they shared helped Link not to be in the way when needed to be alone; but to be there when he was needed. It was becoming easier for them to see each other as brothers too and not the same person as they talked together. Zelda understood and didn't complain at the lack of Link's company, she knew that it was important for her own young self that was not allowed to brood. She wanted nothing to spoil their eventual meeting.

One evening, after the boys had been sparring hard together, they walked in companionable silence to the lounge areas; they were tired and just wanted to flop and relax. However they paused in the doorway, hearing a familiar giggle from one of the sofas by the fire; but it was a deeper voice that had made them stop. Marth was sitting next to Zelda talking; their heads were very close together in comfortable intimacy.

"But will your father even see me, let alone accept me; Zel?" asked Marth earnestly.

"Of course he will silly, you are a Prince; you positively ooze royalty which he can't fail to recognise." she replied.

"Even disinherited royalty like me?" He didn't sound very certain.

"Yes, even like you; Father's not a snob and in fact, he'll be able to understand your situation. After all, it happened to him for a while, so you have that in common."

"What about Link, Zel? What is he going to say about all of this? He's not going to like it, will he cause any problems?" Marth sounded concerned, but Zelda said;

"He'll have to know fairly soon; probably the sooner the better, I'll go and find him to explain right now. Oh Marth, thank-you; I do so love you." And with that she threw her arms round him and kissed him heartily. Neither of them noticed the two pairs of identical, shining sapphire eyes watching the pretty scene; one pair just closed in agony; the other, stared wide eyed in shock, before both boys turned away and ran from the room. Roy, whose attention had been drawn to the conversation of the seated couple by the stillness of the other pair, went over to Marth and Zelda saying;

"You need not worry yourselves on that score; Link already knows. They were both at the door during your little display. How can you call yourself his friend Marth?" He turned away in absolute disgust. But Zelda approached him, holding her hands against her chest, she seemed nervous.

"When did they arrive Roy, and what did they hear?" Zelda asked quietly.

"They heard enough to know, that you have chosen a Prince over a poor Hero; Milady." said Roy coldly. "Now if you will excuse me, there's a nasty smell around here." And he started to leave, but was stopped by Marth.

"Roy you must listen." and Marth tried to explain his actions to his friend.

"It's not me that needs your explanation of that little scene; Marth, we'd better find them." Both boys took off to search. By this time, Zelda had gone over the conversation in her head and knew exactly what Link was thinking; and she was already looking, albeit unsuccessfully for either Link. After what seemed like hours, she ended up in the restaurant, hoping that one or other of them would eventually come for food or a drink at sometime and give her the chance to explain. She was joined not much later by Marth and Roy, who had also drawn a blank. But Zelda's hunch paid off eventually, as came in to get a tray of food. On seeing the others however, the boy halted, then gathered his dignity and stood in front of Marth, bowing his head to royalty and said;

"Link and I unintentionally overheard your conversation with The Princess Zelda earlier and under the circumstances, I no longer wish to send a letter to the other Princess. But I have to thank-you for your kind offer." Then he spun on his heel to leave. Roy though grabbed a hold of him and after one wrench to try at hopelessly loosening the grip, Young Link stood passively, but whispered;

"Let me go Roy, I can't leave my brother for long; he needs me." Understanding the plea, Roy released him as Zelda pleaded;

"It's not what you're thinking Link." But the boy merely nodded at her without looking and left; not trusting his voice as he ran off. Zelda's heart was thumping painfully in her chest because of the look of anguish on 's face and she followed him at a discreet distance; not wanting him bolting off somewhere else because he knew that she was there. 'So that's where he's hiding, in the arena area somewhere.' She thought, and then she saw come to a speedy halt; looking in fear and anger at, of all people; Ganondorf who was coming out from under the stands. The Lord of Power was smirking and he came over, stopping to talk to Zelda, whilst openly sneering at Marth.

"If only I'd realised how easily I could have broken Courage without having to fight; I would have been sitting on your throne by now Wisdom." The heavily scornful tone to his voice made Zelda wince.

"What have you done to him Ganondorf?" yelled, although not stopping for a reply and running under the stands to a small room that was used as a store.

"Me? I've done nothing to him brat; nothing else was needed. Well not a lot anyway." The malicious smirk hadn't left his face.

"What are you doing here, why were you looking for Link and how did you know where he was?" Zelda asked the Gerudo King.

"You do not use the Triforce to its full potential my dear." Was the somewhat, unnerving reply. "I can tell when the pieces are disturbed and not operating properly, without even thinking about it. You too could enhance your telepathic abilities if you really tried; as it was, I felt a great disturbance in the piece of courage and merely followed the mental link to Link."

"You have a telepathic link with him?" asked Zelda in shock, and greatly worried at what this could mean. Ganondorf chuckled loudly, fully understanding her concern.

"I do, and I also do with you...while I am not a threat; but you needn't worry, I can fully control it. I'm really not interested in your 'private' lives, besides which you would know if I was listening in, in any case; although, it was just as well for him that I did when I felt his anguish." Ganondorf added, curling his lip.

"What do you mean?" she whispered.

"Link has just had a little... 'Accident', whilst he was sharpening his sword; he was obviously pre occupied and not very careful. Fortunately for him, I was in time to prevent it becoming nasty."

"Thank-you, Ganondorf." Zelda said, placing her hand on the surprised man's arm. She had understood the hint that Ganondorf was giving her. "Link has jumped to the wrong conclusion about something he overheard."

"Has he really misunderstood Princess?"

"Yes." Zelda said firmly; then in a strange moment, she saw his humanity in those burning orange eyes as he looked deeply in her own. She blushed when he replied;

"Your eyes are not lying, that is good; Link is a worthy adversary and deserves better treatment than that, not that I care." Ganondorf was very serious and his words not sarcastic and Zelda was sure that she had felt his mind sweep across hers, as he bent to kiss her hand. Once again he startled her when she heard him say "You did." Then he left them all, smiling ironically as their attention was suddenly drawn by a young voice, rising in pitch to a screech. Marth rushed over following the noise and pushed Zelda behind him, in case Link was in trouble. They found Young Link, shaking with anger and screaming at a huddled Link; who was trying to protect his head from the fists of the younger one.

Angry tears were streaming down the child's face, as he let forth a tirade of verbal abuse; liberally sprinkled with the foul language that no one had ever heard the older boy use. The gist of it being, how could Link be so selfish; to even think of leaving him alone and taking away his only family. He also said how much he loved his big brother, all the while hammering Link's back, with as much strength as he could muster, which was considerable. Marth had to physically lift and carry him away from doing any more damage which unfortunately drew the boy's attention to him, causing him to try and draw his sword. However was disarmed by Roy, allowing Marth to restrain him tightly; Marth then said;

"Come boy, I need to explain." and he took away trying to avoid the youngster's still kicking feet; Roy left with them, still carrying 's sword. That left Zelda alone with a silent Link. She crouched down before him, but he didn't move until he felt her gentle hands take hold of his bandaged wrists and the warmth of a healing spell. He tried to pull away then, but her grip was firm.

"Ganondorf did a good job with these bandages," she said conversationally and surprisingly calmly; as she freed his wrists from them. There was no reply from Link so she carried on; "If it wasn't for the fact that you must be sore after the pummelling your young self has given you Link; you'd be sore from me slapping your face hard." Zelda waited, but there was still no response from the man in front of her. Suddenly she was desperately angry.

"You are so silly Link, you have made me so cross; how dare you do all this to yourself and your brother and me before you check your so called facts. Are you listening Link? Look at me. Look at me." She shouted stamping her foot, barely managing to keep her clenched fists from hitting him just as had done.

"I'm listening" was a very rough whisper she only just heard.

"Good" Zelda took some deep breaths and calmed down with great effort. "I know what you've been thinking and you are wrong. Marth thought it would be a good idea to call personally on my father and instead of taking a letter, he's arranged with Master Hand to take Young Link with him as a page. That way, our two younger selves could meet and spend the time they've been denied so far, together. Marth was just a bit worried that as he is dispossessed, he might not have enough status to reach my father and he was worried that you might think he'd gone behind your back to make the arrangements.

"He knows how parental you've been over Young Link; that you wish he could be spared anymore fighting to grow up as normal as possible and that you might not like him taking the boy away. But Marth is prepared to give up his own time for this, knowing how important it could be for Young Link.; I was so grateful to Marth; he is your friend Link, friend to both of you." Zelda was in great earnest, it was imperative that Link understand and she didn't think he could hang his head any lower, but he still hadn't looked at her.

"Oh, Link, when will you realise how much you mean to me; you are so sure of yourself when you're in battle, but don't seem confident in our love. Don't you trust me?" Zelda's voice now betrayed her emotion and her adrenaline was now spent, leaving her totally drained. Unsure now of what to do, she made to leave; to give him time to think about her words, but she was stopped by Link who gripped her skirt tightly.

"I'm so sorry, I'm such a fool; please, forgive Me." he stuttered; "I love you so much...I couldn't bear it."

"I love you too, you idiot." Zelda replied, her fear for him very evident in the absolute anger she still couldn't hide. "I could have lost you, and what about Young Link; what would he have done?" Her love finally overcame the last vestiges of her anger, and she held him tightly to her waist, after hearing his voice choke in a deep sob. She rubbed his back soothingly and stroked his hair, saying nothing and eventually his strong emotion calmed down; leaving scalding but gentle tears, which were a relief to his pained heart.

Then she noticed the slightly smaller figure just standing in the doorway, also in obvious distress; Zelda reached out her arms to him and he ran to her embrace as well. Finally everything was back in its rightful place after such a horrid and shocking fright; and soon, all three were huddled together finding comfort in one another.

Later that evening; Roy and Marth had seen to it that all three Hylians were settled comfortably in the Links' room and had brought food and drink for them all. Plans were resolved and their friendships strengthened; leaving them all subdued but content, although it was still too early for any good natured jokes about the misunderstanding. While they were talking softly together the door was suddenly flung open and Ganondorf was standing in the space. His gaze swept over them all, taking full note of reddened eyes and still pale faces; a sneer, clearly on his own. They in turn, watched the dangerous man carefully; Roy and Marth's hands went straight to the hilts of their swords.

"I am not here to fight you...gentlemen." he said with a smirk, before his attention was drawn to the group of Link and Zelda, who were holding hands, whilst each of their other hands were protectively on the shoulders of Young Link. Ganondorf strode imposingly towards them, standing taller than Link, who stepped forward, halting the man's progress. The Hero was not intimidated by the Gerudo's massive presence, but he did honour the man with a slight bow for the first time.

"I wish to thank you Ganondorf, for your attentions to me earlier."

"Hmph" was the non committal reply, as Ganondorf swiftly grabbed both of Link's wrists and studied them. "Zelda has healed you again Link; in more ways than one, I see." He said as he then looked at Link's face; becoming irritated by the steady, calm gaze he got back. Wishing to disturb that gaze, he mocked him saying; "Your tears are a sign of your weakness Link; they are understandable in Zelda, but a man shouldn't weep over any female. There are many others who would be willing to satisfy you...or so I've heard."

Ganondorf started to laugh, enjoying the fact he had succeeded in making both Links turn crimson and absolutely furious; although neither rose to take the bait of a fight. However before Link could make a reply to the taunt, Ganondorf had turned his attention to Young Link and was fingering the rough chopped hair and being unusually gentle with him. Then, when he spoke, he didn't sneer at the child, although his words were scathing and he sounded bitter;

"You would do better in not following the footsteps of your older version boy; see where it leads you, whimpering after a woman like a love sick puppy. Young Link didn't pull away and allowed Ganondorf's touch, but he had his own answer for the older man, surprising them all with his maturity and making him sound exactly like his older self.

"I have felt alone and unloved, just like you do Ganondorf; and it made me selfish and uncaring, you probably remember. The boy then gestured at his brother and said; "It is not weak to love someone; it's the opposite, you draw strength from that love and it makes you happy and content. It's more satisfying than any conquest in battle, even over you." By now was blushing furiously but he hadn't finished, "Love for a friend or a lady is always worth fighting for and can make you invincible." Then he asked seriously; "Who cheers for you Ganondorf? Who is there to care when you get hurt? You must be so lonely; I'm sorry for you."

Ganondorf could only stare in dumbfounded amazement at the boy's audacity; watching as then turned towards Link, saying in a now tearful whisper;

"I've always hated being alone." He felt safe though, as Link's arms came round to hold him and Zelda patted his back; they were his family and they loved him.

"You may never understand it Ganondorf, but I hope you do one day; it would help you, if you found someone special." Zelda said gently.

"Whatever" was the disdainful reply as Ganondorf took his leave, he'd seen all he had come to see but he was followed out by Marth and Roy. Roy spoke to Ganondorf with a twinkle in his eye.

"I'm sure that we can find someone you could start sending flowers to; I expect Sam would appreciate a thank you for all the time she puts up with you." And they took a thoughtful Ganondorf away to buy him a drink.

Needless to say, Marth's visit home went very well and Young Link came back with a totally different attitude; very much in love with his Zelda and becoming more like his older self, all over again. Although, as an amused Mewtwo, who had casually seen into the Links' minds remarked; "He is not as naive as you apparently were though, the boy has obviously been learning from you two." He left smirking, leaving a worried Link saying to Zelda;

"Time for another father/son chat, and I'll probably get another headache."