Please, Don't Send Me Back!

"Goddesses, please help me," Link called mentally; "convince her not to send me back, I don't want to go back." Link was standing in a no man's land of cloud and sunshine with Zelda; the wounds and exhaustion he had suffered, by defeating Ganon had been cured by fairies and a welcome healing embrace from Zelda. There was therefore, nothing at all to distract him (unless that rather nice warm feeling of being in her arms counted) from giving his full attention to exactly what she meant when she told him he was to regain his lost time.

So many thoughts and memories were flashing across his mind, none of which he wished to lose; they were what made him who he was, the Hero; a man who was very much in love with his Princess. He was aware of how warm her hand was, as she rested it on top of his when he offered her the Ocarina of Time. 'Goodness,' he thought, he could even feel her warmth through his gauntlet and the amazing feeling on his naked fingers as her hand moved; well, Link shook his head to get a grip. Thoughts that took only split seconds to form, he knew, would leave an everlasting impression. 'Time truely is relative', he smiled to himself ruefully.

No; Zelda, my lady. I cannot go back, please; I beg of you not to do this to me." 'To us.' he cautiously added in his mind, noting her downcast face and drooping ears. Link could see with empathy, the tears on her cheeks and he now knew that she felt the same way for him; as he did for her. Surely she could see that turning back time would be the wrong decision for them both. 'Please Goddesses, stop her,' Link pleaded once more, 'or it will be too late.'

Link had never learned to dissemble; whatever he was feeling, shone through his eyes. It had been the prelude to the downfall of many of Ganondorf's minions and allies; the anger that had blazed through his eyes and was translated to his sword, had struck paralyzing fear in most. Anger, however was not what Zelda saw when she glanced up at his face and finding that he was looking down at her; but the feeling of 'no escape' was the same. She gasped and nearly fell against him; as she felt herself drowning in the beautiful azure sea of his love for her, reflected in his gaze.

Zelda's heart could not help but respond in like manner to such open devotion and when he smiled, she melted; leaning in towards a kiss. A wonderful first kiss; chaste, yet with a growing passion; for both of them, a kiss full of promise. Then her eyes flew open and she pulled away; her head, rebelling at her heart. Promise, promise of what? She had to send him back, to atone for his lost youth; to erase all the horrors he had been through. 'Possibly to lose him forever', a small but desperate voice called in her heart; causing her knees to buckle and she would have collapsed to the floor, if she'd not been caught in Link's arms.

Link could have stayed like that forever; holding the girl with whom he'd fallen heavily in love, close to his chest. She too, was very well aware of how tightly she was held against Link's body. Just before things could have got awkward however; there was a gentle, but definite blue aura that encompased the two and a woman of indescribable loveliness took Zelda from Link's arms and enclosed the girl in her own embrace. Then, she reached a loving hand out to caress Link's cheek; with a touch, that felt as soft as a kiss.

"Nayru" said Zelda in wonder. Nayru gave them a warm smile saying;

"My dear children, I have come in answer to a prayer." Zelda waited for her to continue in expectation and Link just smiled hopefully. Nayru beckoned them to a pretty glade that she had created; inviting them to sit and take refreshment. When she saw they were comfortable, she turned sympathetically to Link and said "I am sorry Link, but I cannot grant your petition. Zelda is the holder of the Triforce of Wisdom, it is for you to persuade her if you can. Use your own wisdom, she will listen to you."

Link was saddened, he could not think of how he could convince Zelda; he wasn't very wise in comparison to her. Besides, he'd already asked her to rethink and he knew her answer; he had known when she'd pulled away, however gently, from his kiss. He turned his back on the two girls to look in thoughtful reflection in a small pool. Soon the women joined him, and Nayru tapped him sharply on the back causing both Zelda and Link to give her their attention.

"Don't despair yet Link, I am going to help you. I shall take the veil from the memories in your subconscious mind; which will mean you will be able to have access to your genuine memories and dreams and you will be able to distinguish between the two. This means you will remember things that happened during your seven year sleep; do you understand? Use them wisely." Then turning her attention back to Zelda, Nayru said " Remember my child. A wise decision is made only when all the debate is finished, not before." Link and Zelda glanced shyly at one another, neither of them knew what to expect or what was going to happen; both Hero and Princess felt very apprehensive.

"Time stops here, Link; make the most of it." A new voice said, Nayru had been joined by Farore and Din, "We too, want to see the outcome of this dilemma." The Goddesses left the young couple alone; retiring to a discreet distance, but where they could still hear what was spoken. Once they were alone, an awkward silence hung over the pair; the Children of Destiny who were children no more. Link was blushing, a pink tinge colouring his cheeks; neither he nor Zelda knew how to break the awkward silence.

Little memories started to grow for Link and he took time in exploring things he now knew were genuine remembrances and not just the confused dreams and delusions he thought he had been suffering. Memories were becoming clear, out of the mists which had been shrouding them. Zelda now took the initiative; she had been watching Link from under her lashes, watching the colour flush his face and noting his handsome features; not for the first time. But now she sat down and patted the ground next to her, inviting him to sit.

Putting his weapons and shield aside and laying down the Master Sword on top of them in its beautiful scabbard, Link was very careful. His equipment was to be respected; even though the danger was now gone. He felt as if a great weight, had literally been removed from his body and he stretched joyfully and luxuriously. Zelda was still watching him; she was enjoying the sight of his strong, lithe body that was full of natural grace and inborn elegance. However when her mind started to wander, thinking of his body as it moved beneath the clothes; she slapped herself mentally and turned to the problem at hand.

How was she to say this, without hurting Link. That was her problem, she had to use the Ocarina so he could turn the time back; when replacing the sword. Zelda was afraid as well, afraid of losing him; the boy she too, had grown to love. Even if they ended, by having no memory of each other; she felt pained now at that thought. But, she was the Princess and others had to come first; her duty had to come before her personal desires.

Waiting until she had Link's attention and not looking at him while she spoke, she said;

"It's not just we who have suffered Link, during your sleep. Ganondorf has wreaked havoc over Hyrule and my people. So many have died, so much has been destroyed with so much untold suffering." Her voice was choked with tears, indeed they ran down her face; but she continued, "Turning back time would put it all right and with Ganondorf sealed away, he could not bring this about again; it will be as it was meant to be." Zelda finished, sad but determined.

Link had his knees drawn up to his chin with his head down as he listened to Zelda; what could he say? He hadn't thought of that of course, no longer was this just about his lost adolescence being regained; the whole of Hyrule was involved and his wishes couldn't stand in the way of the right thing to do. Link was anything but selfish, the greater good was something he had sacrificed himself for all of his life; but he could surely be forgiven for wishing that just for once, there could be something good for him. But, he would bow to the inevitable as he always did.

Just as he was about to agree to be sent back though, he thought a gentle but firm voice said in his head;

"Stop and think child, who have you met on your travels?" He glanced at the Goddesses who seemed preoccupied when Farore sent him a burning look; it was her voice he was certain. So he thought on her words and her question came to mind again. 'Some of the people he'd met?'

Zelda was waiting for his response, she knew he would see her point and knew he'd agree; she'd seen him nodding his head, as he mulled over her words. She wanted to go to him and touch him; perhaps even hold him, but that would just make things more difficult for both of them. He was taking his time however; almost as if he were having an internal debate with himself. This was unexpected; she knew he had to understand... then he approached her with a thoughtful look in his eyes.

"I understand all you have said Zelda, but can I say something before you send me back?"

"Of course Link, anything." She waited, encouraging him. Link thought once again before speaking,

"You are right of course, too many have died; but even though I was unaware of things going on around me during that time, life did not stand still. Yes, too many have died, but many have also now been born and life has moved on; I have seen so much in my travels, there has always been hope and joy to be found even in the darkest corner." Link paused as if still debating whether or not his arguement was valid and not just a selfish one, he decided to carry on;

"Hyrule can be rebuilt, my love..." this slip made him blush deeply "My lady. Suffering can be a good teacher, helping us not to take our peace and freedom for granted. Your people will be stronger, they will work together more. His voice was gentle, but sad and sent thrills down her spine. She was wise and would take time to consider his arguement. Link watched her as she pondered; pacing slowly back and forth and occasionally looking straight at him, as she did so.

Then Link surprised his Princess; he came and knelt in front of her and taking her gloved hands in his own roughened ones, he looked deeply into Zelda's eyes.

"Are you considering whether a twelve year old's logic can sway you my lady?" A puzzled look crossed Zelda's face;

"No, what do you mean?" She answered and Link smiled, shaking his head slowly;

"I know how some people view me and sometimes even treat me; as if I was the age of the child I was, as if I am a child in a man's body. But it's not quite true."

"I suppose, maybe because you were not conscious of time passing..."

"Oh, I know why they think it; but I am trying to convince you that my mind is not that of a child. One of the things that Rauru told me when I awoke, apart from my destiny; was that all the time I'd been trapped, my brain was still alive; he thought not to waste the opportunity so he read to me and taught me all sorts of things. I don't know if he knew whether it would work or not; but, I do know that since my mission started I seem to know lots of things that I didn't before." Link chuckled;

"He also said that he'd never had a more docile pupil, nor one that hadn't needed the persuasion of the birch to attend his lessons." Zelda couldn't help but laugh at the vision that Link conjoured; the mighty Sage of Light, instructing an unconscious boy for seven years. "Of course, it was all theory and no practice." Link joined in with Zelda's laughter and the tension that had been surrounding them, lifted.

Suddenly, a great blush spread across Link's face; making him turn his face away from view.

"What is it Link? A new memory? Please tell me." Link didn't answer her straight away; but his blush deepened. Then he said

"I've just remembered that Rauru mentioned that the Sheikah also, were responsible for me; whilst I slept." The normally demure princess grinned wickedly at him;

"That's true Link, The remainder of the Sheikah took turns to look after you."

"Did you... did Rauru...?" Link's voice took on a slight edge of horror.

"Yes and no." Zelda started to enjoy herself; "Yes, I took my turn along with Impa to care for you. We held vigil and guarded you. It wasn't a very hard task, you weren't exactly demanding." she sniggered; loving the freedom to tease her Hero. Who would have known, that the normally quiet and sometimes stoic young man; could change colours so fast? "Rauru did not know who Sheik was, nobody but Impa did; until I told you, it was far too dangerous.

"The Temple was a really good place for me to hide in as well; plus it was a good place for me to train away from prying eyes, so I often hid with you." Once again Zelda started to laugh, "Rauru would have had a heart attack if he thought a girl, let alone the Princess; was looking after you." Link had to ask;

"Why, what did you have to do with me? I thought I had been sealed away?" Zelda answered;

"You were in a way, you had no physical needs as such; no food or drink. But you were still a growing boy; so Impa devised some exercises for us to manipulate your limbs, to help you keep supple." This time, Link could not miss the twinkle in her eyes; and he felt a sudden warmth flush through him. For a while there was a silence; not heavy, just quiet; while Link was dipping into his well of new found memories. Zelda patiently waited with a little smirk on her face; making herself a daisy chain from the little flowers and wondering about his new thoughts. They came soon,

"I'm remembering feelings, dreams; I'm not quite sure," Zelda nodded having memories of her own;

"Perhaps I can help. I'll tell you how things were with you, while you slept." Link wasn't sure, given the mischievous look on Zelda's face, whether he really wanted to know.

"The Master Sword was protecting you, Ganon could not have harmed you in any way; but Rauru trusted Impa and therefore me to look after you. The barrier allowed us in to you, how we do not know. The first time that it happened; I found Impa one day, just stroking your head and singing gently to you as she used to do with me. I was puzzled and I couldn't see the point; you were not 'normal' sleeping. Impa just told me I was showing my ignorance. Your brain was still working, Rauru thought it was worth his time to try to give you some teaching and she felt your physical senses should not be neglected."

This was obviously all new to Link, the idea of Impa singing to him was rather nice and once again caused his face to pink. Zelda continued,

"It was Impa's turn to do your exercises and she found tears on your cheeks, so she picked you up and held you until they stopped and you smiled; but it was obvious you were somewhere deep inside yourself. We then took it in turns to stroke you; or talk to you, sometimes we'd even sing and hope you were not so lonely wherever you were; that you might know and feel you were being cared for."

Then it was Zelda's turn to pink slightly, Link picked up on it immediately and turned worried eyes on her;

"What awful thing have you remembered now my lady?" He asked her. Pulling herself together, she now had an air of sweet innocence about her that was not fooling him for one second. "This is so strange, small pieces of my memory are coming back to me; as you speak."

"I just missed your eyes and your smile Link; with your eyes closed and your mouth at rest, you did not look like my little friend so much as a doll. You were so limp and boneless as well, but it was fun getting you dressed; it was like playing with one of my rag dolls."

"You had to get me dressed sometimes?" Link was almost speechless; "Why?" Zelda just smiled sweetly at him again;

"Clothes wear out,or get dirty; silly."

"But I wasn't doing anything, I was asleep all the time." Link was getting flustered and now Zelda started to find herself really enjoying the teasing.

"You were being exercised Link, and you were growing. However," and again the wicked little grin, this she couldn't resist; "only Rauru and Impa supervised your bathtimes."

That did it! Link leapt up, spluttering and was as red as a beetroot; as he made a grab for Zelda. But she gave him a playful but strong, push back down and ran off laughing. He gave chase around the little grove and the silver birch trees, enjoying the carefree feel of play; that had the added excitement of chasing a beautiful girl, with whom he knew, he was very much in love. After she'd let him catch her, he placed his arm round her shoulder and they walked back; she, leaning her head against his arm.

"So, when I heard in my dreams, a soft voice talking to me of her hopes and desires; her dissapointments and pains, heartaches..? "

"I talked to you a lot Link, you were an excellent listener and I was often lonely; but I didn't think... you mean you remember? Link was shaking his head;

"I'm not sure, I used to think they were dreams; but, perhaps they are part of my memory. It may be too strong a word yet, but I do have knowledge of you from that time."

Link looked at her deeply in the eyes, it was important to him that she understood what he was going to say; "Zelda, You know that I do truly love you, my lady. I am not just influenced by or responsive to, your beauty; I love the person you are and I always will." Zelda clung to his arm and said;

"I do know Link, thank you", and once again silence fell over the pair as they both recalled their pasts. Zelda became aware of Link laughing ruefully beside her and she turned herself to look in his face. Looking down at her, he said;

"It's surprising that the only time in my life that I haven't felt lonely, was during my lost years." Zelda was puzzled, she thought that living with the Kokiri would be fun; she had never had much chance to play with other children when she was small. Having no obvious security and freedom seemed ideal to her. "No, I was a lonely child, only Saria really loved me; she was like my mother or my sister as she became. I was given into her care by the Deku Tree when my mother died, she took care of me and she knew all my history such as there was. To the others, I was always different; the one who got any blame, especially by a kid called Mido whose chief delight was to reduce me to tears. I was never able to stop them coming; although I got much better at hiding them, but I hated being bullied, you never get used to that."

Zelda squeezed his hand, she hadn't known any of that and she didn't like the slightly bitter tone of Link's voice even though she fully understood. She needn't have worried, Link was too good natured to let things keep him down for long and soon he was cheerfully saying;

"But now I have good friends, on this journey there have been many; villagers in Kakariko, the Gerudo and the refugees from Hyrule. The Sages, Malon, Navi, Epona, Sheik even the Zora and the Gorons; I have had a lot of help and been offered friendship, it means a great deal to me and I cherish them all." These were many more of the reasons why Link was happy in this time, but he did not pressurize Zelda; that was not his nature and he carried on in a wistful manner; "I always wanted Sheik to stay longer than he ever did, there were times when I could have done with a friend to talk to; when there was no one else around, someone who fully understood what I was trying to do. Oh Zelda, I'm sorry; I didn't mean to make you unhappy, I was just rambling." Zelda was now a bit tearful;

"Do you know why he, I mean I; couldn't stay Link? The real reason I couldn't let you get close to me?" Link looked away and said quietly;

"No, I don't; you heard me call to you and you knew I wanted you to stay, so your reason must have been a good one." Once again Zelda was humbled by his overwhelming trust in her, he held no grudges. She responded;

"If I got close to you for too long, our pieces of the triforce would have reacted; getting stronger and could have alerted Ganondorf as to where they were. It was not a risk I could take, especially as I had fallen in love with you; you would have found out who I was."

"I understand Zelda, Please don't get upset." Zelda wanted to tell him how it had been for her;

"I was always near you Link; I couldn't let you know, but I followed you. I knew when you were lonely, triumphant, cold or in despair and I could do nothing but watch and although I tried to send you comfort through our mental link; it wasn't easy not to give myself away." By this time, Zelda was so choked up, she could hardly speak, and Link was stroking her golden hair, whispering soothing words, understanding her pain and grateful for her care. Soon, she continued, "Sometimes while you slept, I would risk coming closer; I would use healing spells if you seemed to be in pain, sometimes I'd wipe away your tears or even kiss you." she added in a whisper, blushing lightly, but also smiling at the memory.

"I saw you once, leaning over me; didn't I?" Link asked.

"Hmm, I wasn't away quick enough and you nearly caught me; part of what I was supposed to do was be a sort of guardian to you. If you ran out of fairies, or potion for instance and if the next thing was death for you; I could use my power to hold you to life, until your strength recovered enough for you to replenish your stocks. Link suddenly gave her a rib cracking hug, nearly overwhelmed by love for the beautiful girl. "I was lonely too." she shyly admitted, "you could chat with Epona or Navi, sometimes the people from the villages; staying the night and sometimes with the Gerudo girls or of course, Malon..." Zelda's voice could hardly be heard.

"I'm not in love with Malon, Zelda. She is a wonderful friend and she's been through a lot. Nor am I, the one she is searching for either; she knows this, we have spent many nights on the ranch just talking. We know each other very well and can talk about anything, but only as friends or siblings; she is not my special girl."

Zelda didn't realise that she was now snuggling up to Link, but he did; he would not try to move her but he spoke strongly to his heart. This may still all be lost, if Zelda used the Ocarina; he knew that her duty would take precedence to her desire. The Princess however was thinking about Malon and her relationship with the Hero. Zelda already knew that Malon was not Link's love; she had one evening, after Link was sleeping; gone down to speak to the ranch girl herself, as her alter ego Sheik.

Malon had seen the Sheikah in the shadows following Link many times and was relieved that Link had someone watching out for him. She had kept her own council; as it was obvious the Sheikah didn't want Link to know he was there. However, there was something that concerned Malon; she knew from Link that Sheik was helping him in some way, but she felt the red eyed boy needed a warning. So she'd beckoned Sheik over to make sure of his intentions. Reluctantly Sheik had gone over and stared at Malon, then looked down on the sleeping boy by the fire.

"You have tender feelings for this lad, my lady Malon?" Malon, her eyes clear and deep seeing, replied;

"I love him dearly as a friend, as a brother even; but I would not be so foolish as to try to engage his heart"

"Why, he is a good man isn't he?" asked Sheik.

"Very good, but he is totally loyal and does nothing but speak of the Princess; he was captivated by her as a child and worries for her safety even now." Malon looked seriously at Sheik, "There is no competition for his heart, so, Sheik; whoever you really are, be warned. I've seen you watching him, I've seen your eyes when you look at him; I know your mission is to give him aid. But I'm sorry, his heart is taken." Malon was very shrewd, and also very kind; but Sheik knew he'd been warned off, however gently. Zelda did not say any of this to Link, she kept it to herself; she knew why she loved Link. He was open, brave, witty and loving; modest to a fault and extremely handsome, everything she could possibly want in a husband.

'So what was to be done?' She pulled away from Link gently, she had to think and being near him was clouding her judgement. No matter which choice she made, people's lives would be permanantly changed. She stole a glance at Link, he had gone over to check his weapons and give her the space she needed; he'd been painfully aware of when she removed herself from him and taken some of the warmth of the day with her.

She watched him as he surreptitiously put his hand to his eyes and wipe away a tear and she felt her heart contract. Link,if anyone; deserved his wish, she thought. He couldn't really go back to the Kokiri, at his age; even if he returned, his body anyway would soon be changing. Then he would grow and have to leave and just get more miserable, having no real home. Zelda made her decision and rejoiced for herself as well; she would remember her Sheikah skills and have her Hero.

Zelda walked up to Link, but unheard by him; he was so lost in thought. She knew that he would support her and not make it harder for her; however much it may hurt him to do so. As she reached out to touch his shoulder; he spun round and looking deep into his damp eyes, she asked him if he was certain that he wanted to stay. Link couldn't quite believe what she was saying and he got up and kissed her; before she could change her mind.

"I want to stay with you, I am not lost with you, My life is now and the past is gone as far as I'm concerned."

"But still your life..." Zelda wasn't sure what to say.

"My life was always my choice, my love; I could have walked away anytime after I put the sword back to become a child again and I have to confess there were times when I nearly did. But whatever decisions we made, Ganondorf had to be stopped or else nobody; ourselves included would have the chance for a normal life. He was the one to blame, but he is now past; leave it all in the past. A great weight fell from Zelda's heart as she finally believed him.

The three Goddesses now came over to the couple and Nayru said to Zelda;

"Have you realised that sometimes, there is no right or wrong choice child. You have decided to go forward? Yet, I sense you still have reservations." Link tried not to eavesdrop, but it was his future as well; his happiness, and he could tell it might still hang in the balance. Zelda said;

"Yes, I am still concerned. Link has been through and seen terrible things, more than a boy his age should. I wanted to give him back his innocence." Hearing that, Din laughed to herself but received a slight glare from Farore. Din just laughed a bit louder, but Nayru continued as if she hadn't heard;

"Many children lose their innocence every day Zelda; through war, cruelty and many other things. It is never right; but you cannot change it. If it is any consolation, I gave Link a gift when he was accepted by the Great Deku Tree; knowing that he was a Child of Destiny, I placed my Love around his heart. It has protected him from Bloodlust, or killing anything if he can avoid it." Nayru looked lovingly at Link and spoke explaining to him;

"This protection has helped keep your purity of soul and is the reason your heart never hardened to become complacent about torment or death." Link nodded and understood; "It is also why you suffered at the hands of Mido and the rest, you always understood what it was to be different; this taught you not to jump to conclusions about things or beings different to yourself, that you would meet."

Din now spoke saying;

"The Deku Tree allowed you to suffer in preparation for your quest, but he was not happy about it; I got my ears burn't with his complaints every time you cried and he couldn't stop it or comfort you, he always seemed to think it was my fault," she laughed, "still it's over now isn't it, you haven't got to go back to the little wretches in the woods. The two of us now have gifts for you as well Link."

Farore was first, she took Link's face in her hands and kissed him; Link immediately felt rejuvinated and strong.

"This treasure has only been lent to you before, but now it is given. When you are tired, rest will always benefit you quickly and your 'vigour' will stay with you; no matter what you are doing."

"Thank you my Lady Farore." Link was just able to say before he was drawn into a hug by the Goddess.

"You have proved yourself more than worthy Link, you are welcome."

Din approached Link next, and like Farore she kissed him but this was different. She allowed herself to linger, enjoying his taste; Link couldn't help but melt into her embrace. Then she pulled away; laughing at his flushed cheeks and Zelda's flashing, angry eyes.

"Similar to my sister, Link; you have only been able to borrow power and strength for your quest, but now it is given. You will not tire out quickly and sleep will always restore your 'passion' for life." She winked at him. Link's eyes sparkled and he caught a similar expression in Din's own, as he leant over and raised her hand to his lips in gentle salute. They next went to Navi, granting her desire to stay with Link, and then spoke with Zelda.

"Our gift to you our daughter is Link. You will have a husband exactly suited to you as a companion; he will always see your beauty and will never take you for granted, or be disloyal. Now go and enjoy your lives." The Goddesses began to fade, but before she disappeared, Din had a final whisper to Zelda.

"There is one particular area of his innocence that Link is very eager to lose my dear; so don't keep him waiting too long." The whisper; "He has always been a quick learner." lingered on the edges of the wind along with Din's laughter at a blushing, but very happy Zelda.

The couple now found themselves back at the Temple of Time, Zelda in Link's arms where he kissed her with the passion that Din had spoken off and a delighted smile on his face. Then the two lovers walked away to their future together.

THE END