Disclaimer: Anything vaguely related to Zelda, including Zelda itself, isn't mine. Nor is the phrase "time cannot erase", which admittedly belongs to Evanescence and the song "My Immortal". but it just fit so nicely i couldn't help myself.
A/N: i'm seriously scared to even consider how many times this scene has been written out. nevertheless, i have always wanted to write it. so...here's my interpretation. hope you read, enjoy, and review!
Time Cannot Erase
Link cautiously slitted one eye open, and upon seeing no more light beyond the shelter of his inner elbow, he lowered his arm and glanced around. The levitating hunk of rock was now completely barren, bereft of debris and, more importantly, Ganondorf. The King of Evil was nowhere to be found, vanished into the too-bright light of another Realm.
Just before he could breathe a sigh of relief, the ground beneath his boots shuddered like a great beast in its death throes. Waving his arms for balance, the Hero of Time sank into a sturdier stance, looking around wildly for the princess.
"Zelda!" he shouted, needing to drop to one knee as the rumbling intensified. "Zelda!"
She had also fallen into a crouch, her long blond tresses blown about in a sudden tearing wind. Upon hearing him, though, she quickly made her way to his side, pausing every so often as a particularly violent shake ripped through the floating earth.
"We have to get out of here!" Link told her, relaying the obvious. "This thing's gonna fall!"
Zelda didn't seem to be paying attention, her azure eyes darting about the treacherous terrain. "The Sages' bridge is gone—there's no way out," she muttered, half to herself, her eyebrows furrowing below her jeweled circlet.
Link fumbled with his longshot, but as he aimed at the closest rim of the volcanic crater, he discovered that even that was out of his range. Cursing under his breath, he rammed the longshot back into its pouch, the tool magically shrinking to fit. "There has to be a way; I didn't risk my life killing Ganon just to die on this stupid floating rock," he told her pointedly.
Again, she seemed to be ignoring him, her expression pensive, and she appeared to be doing a great deal of thinking. Link stared at her, wondering how she could be so calm with the ground on the verge of collapsing beneath them and so beautiful covered in ash and grime. He was pulled from his brief reverie when she snatched his hand, hauling them both to their feet.
"Hold on tight!" she ordered him, and before he understood what was occurring, a shrieking wind blew up, whirling around them in a cocoon. It was only when a flash of emerald green light preceded a great sucking sound that he realized she had just performed Farore's Wind. And just as during all those times he had utilized the spell, he felt slightly stretched before darkness overcame him.
Moments later, Link's feet connected with something solid, and he curiously opened his eyes, only to have his jaw drop with what he found. Whatever he thought he would be standing on, he wasn't: instead of ground beneath him, there was only sky. Confused, he lifted one foot and then lowered it again; it again connected with something solid, but he could neither see nor conceive what it could possibly be. Looking in all directions, all he saw was more sky, stretching to horizons that did not exist, to infinity.
He swallowed, rather disconcerted, and only just realized that Zelda was standing beside him, her fingers still laced with his. He glanced at her sidelong before asking, "Um, where are we?"
She dropped his hand, much to his disappointment, and walked a few paces away from him, though what she was walking on, he didn't know. "We're not in Hyrule," she finally offered, facing him, her eyes downcast. "We couldn't be there, not with what I need to do."
Link waited for a continuation, slowly sliding his feet about, trying to discover what he was standing on. After several silent moments, he prompted, "And what do you need to do?"
She sighed softly, brushing some dirt from her long skirts, and raised her eyes to meet his, blue on blue. "I'm sorry," she said simply.
Link quirked an eyebrow. "For…what, exactly?"
"Everything," she replied vaguely, but before he could ask for a clarification, she obliged. "If I hadn't been so shortsighted, none of this ever would have happened. I would've been able to see that Ganondorf could enter the Sacred Realm once you opened it. I could've stopped this, and I didn't. And I never should have involved you. You didn't deserve all the pain and hardship you experienced." She sighed again. "And for all that, I'm sorry."
Link glanced away from her, not wanting her to apologize. "This is hardly all your fault, Zelda," he told her. "As far as I understand it, it's more the fault of this thing in my hand than yours." He held up his right hand, the Triforce of Courage still glowing dimly. "And I chose to undertake the quest. Don't take this on yourself. That's not fair to you."
Her head bowed, and she stared at the hand that hovered over her heart. "Still, for what it's worth, I'm sorry. I never wanted you to get hurt. I…" she paused, considering her words, "I…I care too much about you."
Link blinked, unprepared for that, and was even more surprised to see the faint blush tainting her cheeks. He never would have suspected that; after all, he and Zelda, in all fairness, barely knew each other. They had met at the tender age of ten, and then only a few times, each visit fairly brief, although he had done his best to extend them as long as he could. And even though she had seen him on a handful of occasions as Sheik, he still didn't think that counted as any sort of quality time together. While this lack of shared time hadn't stopped him from caring deeply about her, he had never imagined she would feel the same. Perhaps it was their shared bond as Triforce bearers that forged their innate understanding of each other. Perhaps it was simply fate itself.
Before he could find any words to reply, though, she was speaking again.
"And that is why I must do this," she said somberly, and he thought he heard sadness etched into her voice. He searched her beautiful face, distressed by the sight of tears in her eyes, and had begun stepping toward her when she spoke again and extended one white-gloved hand. "Give me the Ocarina."
Link hesitated but finally conceded, opening the pouch at his side and removing the sleek blue instrument. He cradled it in his hands, running his fingers over the holes and the Triforce emblem one last time, and then he slowly offered it to her. She covered his hand in both of hers, gazing down at the brief union before she slipped the Ocarina away, pressing it protectively to her chest.
"What are you going to do with it?" Link asked, his voice hardly louder than a whisper. He didn't know where they were or what they were doing, but he didn't want it to end. He saw her so rarely, and every instant he spent with her cried out for more.
"I'm going to rectify my mistakes," she said quietly, her fingers absentmindedly grazing the instrument's surface. "Not just to you but to all of Hyrule. That's why we can't be in Hyrule…I'm turning back time. All seven years, until the day I summoned you to the castle."
"You're sending me back?" he surmised, his expression faltering. Didn't she know that he just wanted to spend time with her and that he didn't care if they were in these skies for eternity?
She nodded, blinking back her tears. "Your quest, even if you chose to undertake it, still unfairly stole seven years of your life, of your childhood. While you may have agreed to be the Hero, you don't need to agree to lose all that time. So…" she trailed off, needing to compose herself. "So I'm giving those years back to you. It's only right," she added in a whisper.
He opened his mouth to protest, the word don't hovering on his lips but never breaking free. At last he managed, "Will I remember everything?"
You, he wanted to add. How I feel about you. Don't let me forget that…
She nodded again. "Yes. It'll be the same as all the other times you've used the Master Sword. You did live this life, Link. It's not going to disappear like it never happened at all. It had to happen, otherwise when I turn back time, Ganondorf will be alive and ready to conquer again." She bit her bottom lip, staring down at the Ocarina. "You'll remember everything," she reiterated.
He stepped closer to her, wanting to catch her gaze, but she kept it averted. His hand rose on its own accord, brushing wayward blond hairs from her face, his fingertips lingering on her smooth skin. She looked up sharply, her eyes wide before they softened, acquiring a saddened expression, as if she knew his next question.
"And…will I ever…see you again?" he asked, his eyes following his thumb as it traced the curve of her cheek.
She blushed at his caresses, but even as her skin heated, her eyes filled anew with tears. "I…I don't know," she said, her voice broken, small, sad. "That I can't answer."
He inhaled deeply, wiping away a tear that chanced across his thumb, and he shifted even closer, his boots nearly treading on the dirtied hem of her dress. When he spoke, his voice was husky and low. "Then you cannot deny me this…" he murmured, his lips finding hers. He sensed her surprise as she tensed, but then her mouth relaxed beneath his as she began kissing him back, and he lost himself in her.
Before he wanted her to—he never wanted her to—she pulled away, her hands tightening on the Ocarina. He saw new tears streaking her face, but when he moved to dry them, she moved away.
"Don't," she breathed, and hurt lanced through him before she continued. "Don't make this harder than it already is, Link. Please…I need to do this…"
He bowed his head, trying to burn the memory of her kiss into his mind, and took a step back. He managed to nod. "If you must, then…then I guess I'll let you," he said with half a smile.
She drew a deep, calming breath, and her fingers found the holes on the little, powerful instrument. Her eyelids slid closed as she began to play her own lullaby, the notes echoing hauntingly in the endless skies.
Link became aware of a blue light streaming down from above, and as the rays flickered around him, he began to ascend. Fighting the magic with everything he had, he forced his neck to bend, trying to keep his eyes on Princess Zelda. But it was too strong, and right before it snapped his head up, he caught sight of her eyes opening and moving up to meet his one last time before everything vanished in a white wash.
Slowly the blue light dissipated, and Link blinked, completely disorientated. He found himself staring at the Master Sword, which was embedded once more in the Pedestal of Time. He reached out a hand to touch its cold surface one last time when he noticed that the sword was quite big compared to his hand. Glancing down at himself, he realized he was a child of ten again, and so would remain until nature matured him. Understanding flooded through him in a torrent, and he let his fingers slide down the blade he would never wield again, the moment somehow bittersweet.
I'm giving those years back to you.
Those years, Link thought as Zelda's words echoed in his head. My childhood.
Navi floated and bobbed around his head, coming to a serious stop level with his eyes. He stared at her for a second before she spoke. "Goodbye, Link. It's been fun."
Link felt his jaw drop in shock, unable to believe his ears. "Good—what? You're not leaving, too, are you? You can't, Navi, you just can't!"
"I have to, Link," Navi explained, patient for once. "You aren't a Kokiri; you're a Hylian. Hylians do not have fairies. Another Kokiri child will need me."
"But you've been through everything with me!" he protested, wanting to fight this with everything he had.
"The Great Deku Tree would be proud of you," Navi called down as she flew towards the open window high above, and although nobody could see it, the fairy smiled. "You truly are the Hero of Time."
"Navi!" he yelled, but it was already too late. His fairy and constant companion was gone, vanished into the light of the sun. He kicked the stone childishly with his foot, feeling completely deserted.
He took one last look at the Master Sword, in all its power and majesty, and then he turned his back on it forever and sadly walked out of the Temple of Time, hearing the Door grind slowly to a close behind him.
The sound echoed in his ears.
Link stood uncertainly in the shadow of the corridor, lingering on the threshold to the courtyard. He had wanted to do this since he had returned to this time, but he had visited Saria instead, almost frightened of what would happen should he come too soon. Maybe things would be different. Maybe, despite all she had said, she wouldn't remember him. Maybe she would remember but no longer feel…
But now that he was here, he couldn't back out.
Taking a deep, steadying breath, Link stepped into the courtyard, feeling the grass flatten beneath his boots, hearing the small stream that encircled the yard like a moat gurgle happily. He could smell the light, sweet scent of the flowers, a scent that hadn't changed since he'd been here last.
He made his way to the bottom of the white stone steps, and he stopped, suddenly frozen. He could see her, just as she had been when he had visited her the very first time, back before everything began. She was ten again as well, and she was leaning on that window sill, staring off into space with her back to him.
The only thought that ran through his mind was that he loved her.
"So…did you miss me?" he asked, suddenly utterly nervous, despite his light-hearted question. Please, he prayed to the goddesses. Please…
Princess Zelda spun around, the curiosity and fear on her face changing abruptly to recognition and shyness as she caught sight of him. Her cheeks flushed and her azure eyes filled with joyful tears, and she had to lean back onto the sill for support.
"Link…" she breathed, her lips beginning to curl upwards. "I…I hoped you would come, but…but I never really believed that you would…"
All Link could do was smile.
After all, he had all the time in the world.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time