Disclaimer: The Legend of Zelda, associated official characters and locations are copyright Nintendo. This story is in no way associated with or endorsed by Nintendo.

Author's Note: This story, and it's NC-17 sequel exist because a picture is worth a thousand words.
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I made the mistake of looking back.

It was bad enough that Saria had known I was leaving, even though I had tried to be as subtle as possible. The others would have been upset enough if I had allowed them to see me leave openly, but Saria... my oldest friend... I hadn't wanted her to see me leave for a different reason, knowing that if I saw her one last time, I might not have the courage to go.

If I saw her one last time, looking at me the way she was now, with more soul than her elfin-small body and her bright blue eyes could contain...

"Saria..."

Her hand closed over mine where it rested on the bridge support, as though trying to draw strength from the ancient wood. But the wood was dead. Like the Deku tree was dead. Like the whole forest would be, and Saria too, if I did not do as the Great Deku tree had asked.

The bad dreams that had so worried me made sense now. I had seen so much in the last several days - more than I could have ever imagined before, and more than I ever wanted to know about.

"Link," Saria whispered, "I know you have to leave us. I know it's important for you to go. And I knew some day that you would do it, but I can't believe the time is here so soon."

"Neither can I."

"You're my best friend. I don't know what I'll do without you."

My eyes hurt, from the sting of unshed tears, and the strain of trying to memorize ever detail of her face.

I could feel the warmth of Saria's hand still closed in a gentle prison over my own.

Saria leaned closer to me, ever so slowly, until I could feel her moist breath on my lips, and then her lips themselves, soft and warm, brushing lightly and lingeringly over my own.

I closed my eyes against the tears suddenly spilling free, scalding, down my cheek as Saria told me without words of her sadness at our parting. No one had ever kissed me this way before, but something inside me *knew* it was right.

I had never been so alive as I was in that one moment, with the lights of the forest spirits dancing around us in the twilight of the bridge, and a symphony of emotions trembling through me like the water of the stream that flowed through the village.

When she would have pulled away, I tilted my head, following her like a flower follows the sun. Her lips strayed against mine once more, butterfly soft, unspeakably tender.

Time seemed to stand still, in this world-between-worlds, until I became aware of my grip on the support faltering, and of Saria, drawing closer and closer to the edge that separated Kokiri from the outside world.

I pulled away, reluctantly. "Saria, you can't come with me. If a Kokiri leaves the forest, they die."

"Does that mean my heart is going to die, Link?" Saria asked, quietly. "Because when you go, no matter where the rest of me stays, it's coming right along with you."

"Saria, please don't do this..." I pleaded. "Leaving is hard enough."

"Then stay, Link."

"I can't."

"Not forever," she whispered. "Only until tomorrow. Please?"

I looked at Saria, and at the mysterious darkness of the portal out of Kokiri. Who knew when I would return to this place which contained everything, and everyone, I had ever known?

"Only until tomorrow," I agreed, and allowed myself to be dragged back across the bridge despite Navi's protests. We went back to the village again, aware that every moment, from then until I left, was stolen, snuck past the sleeping jaws of Fate.

That stolen day was all the more precious to me, because only Saria knew my secret. As we played with the others I would catch her looking at me, sometimes, and know that she was thinking, just as I was, of the minutes slipping away, through our helpless fingers.

When evening came we were quite a pair of sleepyheads. We had tried to cram who knew how many carefree days into a single day which was not carefree, because we knew that when it ended, there would not be another for a long time.

The evening finished with a game of Deku sticks at Saria's table, after which we both realized we were too tired to move another step.

She tucked me into her own bed, and climbed in beside me. Our heads were side by side on the pillow, and we stared into the darkness. This time my fingers found hers, weaving and unweaving them with mine.

I will never be sure who turned towards whom, but suddenly, as we lay side by side, we were kissing again. "Link," Saria whispered, "Link," turning my name into a kiss as she spoke it against my lips.

It was warm and safe in our nest of blankets. No one in the entire world knew where we were - even our fairies had dimmed for the night. And my heart was *pounding*. I didn't know why, only that Saria's matched mine, beat for beat.

Her hair smelled like fresh grass, and the flowers of the meadow. Her mouth on mine was like a drink from a warm spring, and when she opened herself further to me, I would sooner have drowned then parted my lips from hers.

When our tongues touched perhaps it should have been strange, but it wasn't. It was like she had become a part of me, like her mouth was mine, and mine was hers. Her hand buried itself in my hair and teased the tips of my ears...

We burrowed closer together, as though trying to crawl inside each other. A lock of her hair tickled my nose and I caught it, silken between my fingers. I could hardly make out its distinctive colour, green as this forest which had been my home. A home I would leave in the morning.

"Saria... this feels so... nice."

Her eyes were wide in the darkness. "That's a strange sort of nice," Saria whispered. "You looked like you were going to cry again like you did on the bridge."

It seemed as though the feelings inside my heart were spilling out into every part of my body. "I think I might, Saria..."

"No," she pulled me towards her. "No, don't cry..." Her gentle arms enfolded me, and pulled me closer still, until somehow I ended up covering her, like when we used to wrestle in the Lost Woods. Saria ran her hands down over my back as I shook like a leaf.

"It's alright." She began to brush the hair from my eyes, over and over; it kept falling back into place. "What do you feel now?"

I closed my eyes. "I feel you." My little forest girl was a sliver of nothing against me, her body a soft wisp of lightning, slender and powerful at once. I had a sense that somehow she was stronger than she looked.

Saria's voice wavered. "I feel you, too. I think I always will. I think it will be alright, as I long as I know you are out there, somewhere..."

Like all good things, the night eventually came to an end. Saria was curled against my side when I awoke, and it took some manoeuvring to extract myself without waking her. Navi hovered anxiously over me, quietly for once, as I pulled on my boots and gathered up my things.

Koni, Saria's own guide, drifted over her charge like a firefly, her light strangely dim, as though in reproach for my secretive departure.

"Look after her for me," I told the fairy.

This time there was no one to bid me farewell as I crossed the Kokiri bridge, and left the forest for the first time in my life. Navi chattered instructions to me which I paid no attention to. It was strange. All these years I had wanted a fairy, and now that I had one my reasons for wanting one - acceptance -no longer existed. As I walked, the fields of Hyrule unfolding before me, all I could think of was Saria, knowing that this was something she could never see.

When evening came again, I sat down to play a tune of the forest on my ocarina - her gift - and think of her, small and neatly fitting against me. My heart was so heavy I couldn't sleep that first night; but the weight it bore was love, and I couldn't regret it.