Author's Notes: Yeah… I'm back to Zelda again. It happens.
Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte
She will stop being a princess the second her powers flicker awake. She can acutely feel them coiled, pressing against her ribs and encasing her heart with a lazy fist.
"Your destiny is bigger than Hyrule," Impa whispers on those late, dark nights when she can't sleep because the stars are so bright and the grass so green and she can't bear to think of an eternity locked in the Sacred Realm, unable to lie on that same ground and blink up at that same sky. She has fought, and bled, and cried for this place, and it kills her to think she will have to give it up.
Sometimes before bed, if she closes her eyes, she can feel Hyrule's heartbeat thudding against her own ribs, lethargic and tired from a long day. She fights to stay awake, to breathe in tandem with her people, but always their sleep overpowers her eyes and they drop, her awareness flicking off as she succumbs to gentle slumber.
"The Sacred Realm is also a place of great beauty," her nursemaid adds, longing and love weaving faintly into her tone, singeing the edges and concentrated at the tips.
One cage for another, she thinks.
She calls him Hero because his name makes her smile. She knows how shaky this ethical ground is; she demanded he become a hero and she lies to him about her identity. But she can't expose herself—for his sake and for her own.
There is no room for love in the Goddesses' plans, and she is little more than a pawn. So she calls him Hero and dresses in drag, refusing to entertain the idea of him—of him and her.
And, in his typical fashion, he makes her fall for him anyway. It happens slowly, piece by piece, so that Zelda doesn't even notice until suddenly she finds herself standing before him, no longer Sheik, smiling shyly from underneath her eyelashes.
And he's just grinning back, like he knew all along, and gently rubs his thumb against the thin layer of skin over the Triforce.
"I think I knew," he tells her softly.
She laughs quietly. "You liar," she teases, stepping closer, hardly aware of her own actions despite the warning buzzer in her mind. "You had no idea it was me."
Link looks at her seriously and then takes her face in both his hands so that she has to look at him. Her heart is beating quicker than it ever has, frail little panicked drums against her chest, and she closes her eyes. "I wanted it to be you," he murmurs, mouth inches from her own. "My brave, crazy princess."
She meets his eyes slowly. "Yours?" She asks faintly.
He kisses her and Zelda thinks, Uh oh.
She's suspended in her own Great Hall when it happens. Ganondorf plays the organ below, his massive body sucking up all the space and almost all the air.
The goddess Nayru's voice is sweet, musical, loving. But Zelda's heart sinks anyway; she knows what's coming.
You will have to let him go.
Her lips don't move, but an anguished cry rips from her soul: Why?
His Destiny is greater than Hyrule. Your Destiny is greater than Hyrule. Be brave, Zelda. Be strong. The sacrifice of one young princess can save an entire kingdom for generations to come.
Then Link bursts through the doors, and then the castle is falling, and then it's over.
And then it's over.
"Zelda," he begins, taking an urgent step forward.
She shakes her head, eyes misty as she presses her lips to the opening of the ocarina. "You have to go back."
"Why?" He murmurs, stepping forward. "I finally get it. Who I am. What I'm meant for. I finally understand." He cups her face in his palm, making her look at him. "Zelda," he says again, and what he's really saying is I love you.
But the Goddesses have spoken; she cannot defy them any more than she can deny her own name; their law is ingrained in her very bloodstream, and to ignore it will cause a rot inside her that she can never truly scrub away.
She is young, and she is in love, but there is a kingdom of lives at stake.
Her voice cracks as she whispers miserably, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I love you. I'm sorry."
And then she begins to play.
"He did love you, you know." Saria's twinkling voice filters down from the upper branches of her favorite tree. Zelda squints up at her, hand on her brow to cast a shadow on her face.
She smiles faintly, digging at the dirt with her toes. They are the only ones in this world, this massive world that feels so empty. "I know," she answers. "I loved him, too." She hesitates before giving in to the words on her tongue: "I love him still."
Saria drops down slowly, landing lightly on her feet, and tucks her hand into Zelda's. "Do you think we'll ever see him again?" She asks sadly, tipping her head to the side. "Link, I mean?"
The honest answer is no. But how to do tell that you an eternally eleven-year-old?
"I hope so," Zelda replies diplomatically. "Maybe some day, when the world doesn't need him."
Saria's eyes are wet, but no wetter than Zelda's own. It seems they both were born to love and lose. "What if it always needs him?"
Zelda tips her head. She is trapped here, in this large, echoing, beautiful cage, a slave to her powers just as they are a slave to her. She can do little for Hyrule, even now—the Sages were never meant to be protectors, only Watchmen. And she lives on, forever sewn to the Triforce, while Link's soul is recycled in Hyrule. He belongs to the people, and he always has. But she still can't let him go.
"Then we will always wait," she answers.
Beneath the silk sheets of Hyrule Castle, a little princess has a dream. It's hazy, fuddled; but she remembers searing flames and a castle tumbling around her. Her hand is tucked into that of a young man's, wearing a green cap. He's simply looking at her and she's smiling so hard it hurts.
A little boy falls onto her terrace the next morning. He is smaller, and cleaner, than the one in her dream, but the eyes are just the same.
"Oh," she says, clasping her hands together. "I knew you'd come."