He kneels before her in the cavernous Great Hall, clothes ill-befitting him. There is no doubt that they are clothes suitable to be worn before the sovereign of Hyrule. Even with the distance between them, as mandated by proper etiquette, she can see the fine golden threads woven into the tunic, the proud heraldry of Ordon impressively stitched on his chest and back. No doubt they were not his own clothes, perhaps gifted to him for this lone occasion. A half-cape is clasped about his throat, and he wears white leggings with the slippers of nobility instead of his riding pants and leather boots.
It looks altogether wrong.
Zelda proceeds with the ceremony, mouthing the words of gratitude and pledging an unpayable debt to him in the name of Hyrule, but her heart is so empty, so cold, so broken. He rises, approaches, and kneels again, never raising his head to meet her eye, not even flinching as her inexperienced hands lay the flat of the silvery-white sword that almost killed him on his shoulders. She had considered omitting this, exchanging the blade, so many other things, but tradition was tradition and could not be changed. In turn, he draws his sword--not the Sword of Evil's Bane as she has seen him wield, but another blade, one she is told was meant to be a gift to herself and Hyrule, but was stained with blood and tears and fury and agony before it met her gaze--and lays it flat on his palms, offering her his sword and heart and body should she or Hyrule ever need them, despite being a son of Ordon. It is a strong political move that will tie Ordon and Hyrule together, but she is certain he has been instructed to do this. She knows, has heard that he was but a mere ranch hand before swooping from anonymity and saving her land.
Accepting his fealty and returning his sword to him, Zelda extends her gloved hand. Gently, he takes it, holding it delicately, gently, holding this part of her as Zelda wishes he would hold the rest of her, and lays a chaste kiss on its back. She bids him rise, her heart climbing in her throat as he climbs to his feet, but he comes only to his feet and remains bent at the waist. Slowly he takes one, two, three steps backwards and bows again, turning to face the crowd before raising his head and smiling to thunderous applause. He walks smartly out the main doors, taking the audience and joy and ceremony with him.
Behind him, still at the throne, Zelda stands alone, her hands clasped behind her back. She stares longingly at the Hero's retreating back thinking, if only, if only. If only she had not been born a princess. If only he were not born a peasant. If only they could ignore propriety, if only, if only.
But she knows the way the world works. He is what he is and she is what she is. They have both been given a station in life, and nothing can change that.
He is but a man, and all men fear the crown.
AN: I don't write happy endings through personal choice. I write Zelda fics using the oft-forgotten device that Zelda is a medieval setting, and in medieval times classes didn't mix.
By the way, if the last line didn't make sense leave a review and I'll get back to you.