Part Five

Malon opened her eyes to the sun's glare and squinted. She so loved the smell of the morning air, and the sounds of the birds chirping. The sweet dew was still clinging to the grass, as it was still fairly early. Malon felt a comforting warmth next to her and opened her eyes to realize that Solo was lying right next to her, still sound asleep. Solo lay on her stomach with her arm draped across Malon's chest. It had gotten colder than expected overnight, and they had unconsciously moved closer to each other to stay warm. Now they were both up next to each other, and Malon could feel the warmth of Solo's body. Somehow, she felt comfortable and safe next to her. She wished she could stay like this forever. Malon was happy that Solo wasn't awake, fearing that it might cause an awkward situation.

Malon froze when she felt Solo's arm move. Solo rolled over and yawned, finally sitting up and opening her eyes. She looked over to see Malon right next to her, and gave a look of surprise. "I'm sorry," said Solo in a nervous voice. "I guess I must've rolled over in my sleep. I didn't mean to..."

"It's okay," interrupted Malon. "It got a little cold last night, you probably just wanted to stay warm."

"Well, it's still kinda chilly, why don't we go inside?" suggested Solo, rubbing her arms. Malon nodded and stood up. They both gathered up the various blankets that they'd placed on the ground. Malon neatly folded hers and rolled them into a tight bundle. Malon giggled when she saw that Solo had merely bunched up the blankets into some type amorphous blob. "What's so funny?" asked Solo.

"Nothing. It just that you just bunched all that stuff up into a little ball. Didn't anyone ever show you how to fold a blanket?"

"Not really. Link isn't in to tidiness and stuff like that; blame it on him. Besides, it's more fun this way." Malon shrugged her shoulders and began to walk back to the house, with Solo following behind. When they got inside, Malon motioned for Solo to dump the blankets in the corner next to the washtub, which she did happily. Solo then went to the table and sat down. "So, what's for breakfast?" asked Solo hungrily.

Malon walked to the stove and started a fire in it, and began rustling around in a cabinet full of pots and pans. "Well, just the usual. I usually make eggs and bread for breakfast. And there's some bread left from yesterday. It should still be good."

"Eggs sound good," said Solo. "I never really have those at home. Nobody in the forest has any chickens, so we never get any eggs." Solo extracted a pan from the cabinet and placed it on the stove. Solo watched as Malon quickly and effortlessly prepared everything to make the meal. "Do you need any help? 'Cause I feel a little weird just sitting here watching you do all the work. I can't really cook, but there's gotta be something I can do."

"It's okay, I enjoy doing things for you. I like making people happy. Besides, I'm pretty good at cooking and I just want to show off." Malon gave Solo a half-grin. She went over to the counter and fetched a basket and a bottle of milk that sat there. "My dad must've gotten home last night. He always gets the milk and eggs early and then I actually cook it." Malon cracked half a dozen eggs into a bowl and began to mix them up. Solo didn't know why, but she enjoyed watching Malon do her work. It made her seem so real and down to earth.

"Does your dad ever cook?" asked Solo. Malon couldn't help but chuckle. "What? What's so funny?"

"No, he doesn't cook," replied Malon. "He tried making breakfast once, but he ended up filling the house with smoke. The eggs were so burned that I couldn't even scrape them off the pan."

"Sounds like Link," commented Solo. "Saria told me about the time he almost burned the house down making bread. But he's not that bad at cooking in a pan, he usually does pretty good with that."

Malon poured the scrambled eggs into the pan and began to cook them. "Daddy's just real clumsy when it comes to kitchen things. He can raise the best horses in Hyrule, but he can't cook. I hope you don't mind your eggs being scrambled, 'cause I really can't cook them the other way."

"Oh, that's okay. I don't mind, food is food. Is your dad usually up in the morning?"

"Most of the time. But he'll probably sleep late because he got home so late. Sometimes he goes out to deliver a horse and doesn't get back till four in the morning. I don't bother trying to wake him up because it's like trying raise the dead."

"That definitely sounds like Link," said Solo with a chuckle. "I try to wake him up and all he does is groan. Of course, I'm the same way, so I guess I have no room to complain. Will he be up later?"

"Probably after noon. He has some appointments later today, and he never misses those. You know, he really likes you. I guess he's happy that I finally found a real friend, 'cause he's always telling me to go out and meet people. But I never liked meeting people, and I never really opened up to anyone. You're the first person I've ever really told my deepest feelings to, and I appreciate that you listen."

"Thank you," said Solo. "I really appreciate your compliments. It's so flattering and almost embarrassing, because I'm still not really used to it. It's been hard trying to adjust to a normal life with family and friends after I'd been alone for all those years. I've never really told anyone, but I still keep to myself about some things. Part of me is still afraid of rejection; I'm still afraid that everyone I love will just decide one day to push me away and tell me to leave like everyone else has in my past life. I know it's stupid to think that, but I can't help it. You're the first person I've ever really opened up to, even Link doesn't know some of the things I've told you."

Malon finished cooking and portioned the eggs onto two plates as Solo talked. Malon went to the table and presented the plate to a very hungry Solo, who quickly took the fork and began shoveling food into her mouth. Malon giggled to herself, and Solo shot her a confused look. "What?" asked Solo defensively, her mouth half-full. She knew the giggle just had to be at her expense.

"Nothing. It's just that you're so funny when you eat. It's kind of refreshing that you really don't care for manners. I mean, I'm not saying that you have bad manners, you're just different..."

"I understand," said Solo. "Personally, I never saw a point to manners. They don't really accomplish anything. Did you know that I had never even seen a fork before I met Link? I remember the first meal I had there, I wondered what in the world that thing was for, 'cause I always just used my fingers. I felt so embarrassed, but he never made a big deal about it. And then when I went to meet Zelda, I was terrified that I would do the wrong thing and she would kick me out or something. Imagine my relief when it turned out that she hated etiquette more than me." Solo scraped her fork on the plate and realized that she'd eaten everything. "That didn't last very long."

"Do you want some more?" asked Malon, preparing to stand up.

"No, it's okay, I'm fine. I just didn't realize I was such a pig," said Solo, chuckling at her own expense.

"I think it's kinda cute," said Malon, becoming suddenly fascinated with the remaining bit of egg on her plate. Solo blushed slightly at the comment, not quite knowing why. "Wait, that came out wrong," added Malon nervously. "I mean that there's just something about you that I really like. You're not like other people; you're unique and different. You're so interesting; just knowing you seems like an adventure."

"No one has ever called me interesting before," said Solo, wondering if she should feel flattered. "I've been called weird, strange, and crazy, but never interesting. I'm glad you think of me that way. I guess being weird isn't so bad if somebody's there to appreciate it."

"Well, I'm not exactly normal myself," said Malon, collecting the plates and putting them in the sink. "Ingo thinks I'm nuts because I talk to the animals. But they know what I'm saying, they just can't talk back." She walked over to Solo, took her hand, and led her to the door. "Come on, let's go outside. It's such a nice day and I don't want to waste it. Besides, I've got to feed the chickens." Solo followed Malon outside and into the barn, where she went and got the bucket of chicken feed. They both saw Ingo sweeping out the stables with his usual glum expression. "Hi Ingo, I didn't know you'd gotten back," said Malon cheerily as she was on her way out. Ingo's only reply was an unenthusiastic grunt.

Solo looked back at the barn after they had left. "What's wrong with him?" asked Solo, recalling the almost mean look on Ingo's face.

"Oh, don't mind him. He's always like that. I don't think I've ever seen Ingo in a good mood."

Solo watched with near fascination as Malon went about her business feeding the chickens. She had never seen her do normal ranch work, and it was somehow intriguing. Solo was almost startled when a whole flock of chickens suddenly came out of nowhere. Dozens of clucking birds pecked at the ground where the corn kernels had landed just a fraction of a second before. Malon smiled at Solo's near-horror. "Sorry, I forgot to tell you," said Malon. "They tend to do that when I feed them." She threw out another handful of corn, and then walked over to the tree. She looked up and almost screamed. "Oh quick, Solo! Look in the tree!" Solo hurried over to Malon's side and looked where she was pointing. Solo's eyes widened when she saw three chickens perched on a low branch. "See, I told you they could fly! No one ever believes me, but you saw it with your own eyes so you can't deny it."

Solo simply shook her head, at a loss for words. "I don't know what to say. I didn't know that chickens could fly."

"My chickens can," said Malon proudly. "Well, at least those three. The rest don't."

"Maybe they're magical," joked Solo. "We should show them off, and charge people money to see them. I can see it now: Malon's Freaky Chickens," suggested Solo, visualizing a large, colorful banner. "You could make a lot of money."

"No, I don't think we'll be doing that," replied Malon, trying to get Solo to return to reality. Solo followed Malon back to the barn where she returned the bucket. Solo got an eerie feeling as Ingo watched them leave the barn again. For some reason, the look Ingo gave Solo when Malon wasn't looking made her feel uncomfortable.

"That guy gives me the creeps," shuddered Solo after they were safely outside.

"Who? Ingo? Don't worry about him, he's just a little...strange."

"I think it's more than that," insisted Solo. "He gave me such a strange look when you had your back turned. I know he was directing it at me, and he purposely did it when you weren't looking."

"What kind of look did he give you?" asked Malon, becoming suddenly concerned by the tone of Solo's voice.

"I'm not sure how to describe it. It was almost...predatory. He's watching me and I don't know why."

"Ingo's harmless," insisted Malon. "I don't think he'd ever do anything. He's probably just in a bad mood. He's always in a bad mood. You think a vacation would soften him up, but I guess he's just that way." She shrugged her shoulders. "Just don't think about it. But now that he's back, he can take over some of the work I had to do while he was gone."

"So, what does that mean?"

"That means we have the whole day to ourselves!" said Malon, grabbing Solo's arm and leading her on some kind of wild goose chase through the ranch. After a few minutes of mindless running, Malon finally slowed down and sat on the ground near the outer fence. Solo sat down on the grass, trying to catch her breath; she hated physical activity.

"What was that all about?" asked Solo.

Malon shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. I just wanted to go somewhere where we could be alone. I thought we could just talk for a while."

"That sounds fine. I never say it enough, but I really like talking to you. During all those years alone, I always wished I had someone to talk to. The only person I ever talked to was myself, and those conversations were a little one-sided." Solo smirked and gave a slight chuckle.

"You have a really twisted sense of humor," commented Malon. Solo nodded. "When are you planning on going home? 'Cause you can stay here as long as you want, but I'm sure Link is probably wondering where you are."

"Oh, he'll be fine. Besides, it gets a little boring at home."

"Yeah, I can understand that. But you know you're gonna have to tell Link what happened sooner or later. I don't think you realized it, but your bruise has gotten bigger."

Solo felt the side of her face where Akuyo had hit her. "It has?" asked Solo. It didn't hurt, and it didn't feel any different than before. Solo had almost forgotten what happened, Malon made her feel so happy that she didn't even think of any bad things. Solo's expression became more sullen, and Malon frowned in response.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you again," apologized Malon, hanging her head.

"No, it's okay. You didn't upset me. I figured it would happen. And to tell you the truth...it doesn't bother me that much anymore. What would've hurt me is if I had been in love with him...but I wasn't. He was just a buddy, or an acquaintance. And physical pain doesn't matter, I've been through worse. The only thing that does make me upset is how people I do love are going to react. I know Link will goes nuts when he sees this. He's usually not an angry or violent person, but when somebody he loves is hurt, he doesn't take that lightly."

"He's a rational person," said Malon. "He wouldn't do anything he would regret. And don't worry, we can both talk him down. What did you mean when you were talking about being in love with Akuyo? I can understand that you would feel devastated if someone you loved did that to you. I always thought that you had feelings for him."

"No...I never did," replied Solo.

"But you always talked about how much you liked him."

"I know I did. And for I while I thought I actually did like him. But I think I was just saying that because I didn't want to face reality. I never really loved him; it was just a lie. And after a while, I started to believe it. But when he smacked me, I came back crashing back to reality and realized that I didn't love him. I just used him as an excuse to escape reality. Can I ask you a question? How do you know when you're in love with someone? How do you know when you've found the right person?"

"I'm not really sure," replied Malon, feeling blown away by the question. This was a far cry from normal girl-talk, this was a deep and serious question. Malon had to think of the right way to answer it. "I've never had any previous experience with this before, but I think I can make a guess. Love really isn't something you can categorize or easily define. It's a feeling, and everybody feels it differently. And there are different kinds of love. There's love between parents and children, and love between brothers and sisters. Those are easy, you know them and do them without even thinking. But then there's when two people fall in love, that's something different. You automatically love your parents and siblings, but loving someone is something else. You have to choose to fall in love with someone. And sometimes it's hard to tell when you've found the right person. But you'll know when it happens. The one you fall in love with is the person you feel safe with, someone you feel connected to. The person knows what you're thinking, and how you're feeling. This person will never judge you or make you feel bad, and being with this person makes you happier than anyone else in the world. There's an unspoken bond, you don't ever even need to talk. People who love each understand each other; they understand each other's feelings and emotions. And when you love a person, you're connected to them. It's like you're not even two people. It's like you're both two parts of the same person. The person you love is your soul-mate, and no one else can be that. You have only one soul-mate, and finding that person can be hard." Malon looked at Solo to indicate that she was finished. During her whole soliloquy, Malon had been in some kind of blissful state, actually feeling the things she'd said. Malon almost upset herself explaining these things. She knew what love was, and she had found it. But this thing that was so simple and wonderful was more difficult than she could ever imagine. Love seemed so close, yet so far away.

"That was so...insightful," said Solo, totally mesmerized by Malon's explanation. It was as if Malon had read all of Solo's thoughts and repeated them back to her. "I've always felt the same way about it. There are some things I want to tell you. Will you listen and wait till I'm finished before you say anything?"

Malon's heart skipped a beat, and she began to feel anxious. "Sure," she replied. "You can tell me anything."

"After Akuyo hit me, I came over here because I knew you were the best person I could go to. But I did it unconsciously. I didn't even decide to come over here, I just did. I remember the first time I started going out with friends. Link thought it would be a good idea for me to go out and meet some people. And I thought it was nice to have some buddies, but they were never real friends. And then Link kept bothering me about Akuyo, he kept saying that I needed a boyfriend. He said that all the girls my age had boyfriends. I started to think that I was weird for not having a boyfriend, so I decided to make Akuyo my boyfriend. But it never felt right to me, it was all so fake and forced. I never wanted to be his girlfriend or anything more than a friend. But I felt like I had to because people would think I'm not normal, I had to because of the way I feel. The only reason I went out with Akuyo was so I could try to deny and bury my feelings, to try and convince myself that I didn't feel the way I did. And it worked for a while, I forgot my feelings. But yesterday, when he hit me, all the feelings came back. I realized that I was wrong for trying to delude myself, I can't deny my own emotions. It's kind of strange, my feelings are now giving me a whole new set of problems. Now I don't need any of those other superficial friends, because I have you as a friend. You mean more to me as a friend than anyone else ever has. I know I can trust you with anything. We have a trust between us that no one else has. But now I think it's more than that. I've never felt like this for anyone else before, no boy or girl. I'm not sure how I should say this..."

Solo began to choke on her words. She tried to talk slowly and articulately, without letting her emotions turn her into a trembling wreck. But her self-control was eroding, she just wanted to run to Malon's side and hug her without ever letting her go. But she couldn't do that, she had to talk, to say this. "This is the hardest and the easiest thing I've ever done. But I know I have to say this. I don't want to ruin our friendship, but I'm worried that I'll go insane if I don't get this off my chest. Please don't hate me for this. I can't help what I feel. I can't fight my emotions anymore." Solo closed her eyes, afraid to see the reaction she was about to get. "Malon...I...I love you."

Time came to a stand-still as those words were spoken. Solo opened her eyes to see a look of total shock on Malon's face. Malon tried to mouth a response, but no words came out. There was nothing she could say to Solo's confession. Malon never in a million years expected those words to come from Solo's mouth, the words she had longed to hear for so long. But now Malon sat totally speechless, utterly unable to say anything. She felt like her heart had stopped, like everything in the universe had suddenly halted so they could experience this one moment for eternity. Solo saw the look of shock on Malon's face, and tears began to run down her cheeks. "I knew it!" scolded Solo to herself. "I knew I shouldn't have said that! Why would you ever feel the same way? You're a girl, and I'm not supposed to feel like this about you. You're right to be disgusted with me, I don't know why I even said anything." Solo cried, hating herself for what she said. "I've ruined everything! I'm sorry I said that." Solo stood up and gave the still shocked Malon a look of sadness and remorse. "I'm sorry I disgusted you. I understand that you don't feel the same way. I had to say it, please forgive me. I'll understand if you don't want to be my friend anymore. I...I have to go." Solo quickly turned around and began to run. She had no idea where she was going, barely able to see with her tear-filled eyes. Solo simply ran, feeling totally ashamed of what she'd just said. She couldn't believe that she had told Malon she loved her. Solo could see the repulsion in Malon's face; girls didn't like other girls. It was wrong. And Solo had ruined her best and only friendship for it. She didn't care if she ever lived to see another person ever again, she wanted to run forever.

As Solo began to sprint away, Malon suddenly snapped back into reality. Those three words that she had dreamed of hearing were finally said, but now Solo thought Malon hated her. Malon didn't want this, she couldn't let Solo run away thinking she hated her. Malon saw Solo making a staggering run towards the entrance to the ranch. She stood up and sprinted towards Solo as fast as she could. Malon could run short distances incredibly fast, and she had to catch up with Solo. She couldn't let Solo destroy herself like this. Malon grabbed onto the back of Solo's shirt as they both were about to round the corner of the barn. Malon brought Solo and herself to a grinding halt, gently pinning Solo against the side of the barn. Malon put a hand on each of Solo's shoulders, pushing her against the barn forcefully enough to keep her from running off again. Solo sobbed quietly and turned her head, trying to avoid eye contact at all costs. Malon still couldn't think of anything to say, instead she let her body take over. Malon let go of Solo's shoulders and touched her chin, gently turning Solo's face to hers. Malon softly brushed back the hair from Solo's tear-streaked face and stared into her deep blue eyes. Tears still welled in Solo's eyes, her expression one of confusion and uncertainty. Malon pushed hair back and brought her hands forward to gently caress Solo's cheek. The feel of Malon's gentle fingers sent shockwaves of emotion through Solo's body. Malon held Solo's face in her hands and brought it to her own. Then in a moment that seemed to last forever, their lips touched ever so slightly. The gentle feeling of Malon's soft kiss seemed to remove all of the bad things Solo had just been feeling. For a split-second, Solo wondered if this was really happening; she was being kissed by the one person she had professed her love to. She had felt so ashamed for loving Malon, but now it felt so right. It didn't feel wrong anymore, and she didn't care what anyone else thought about it. Then, as quickly as it had begun, their lips broke and Malon again found herself looking into deep cerulean pools that were Solo's eyes.

"I love you too," said Malon, finally able to speak. She had waited so long to say those words, to finally let her feelings out. For the first time in her life, Malon felt truly alive.

"You...you do?" asked Solo, feeling like this was some kind of beautiful fantasy.

"Yes, I always have," replied Malon, feeling her own eyes starting to tear up. "I never said anything because I thought you would hate me. I felt so ashamed of loving another girl; I never thought you would feel the same way. But now I don't care what anyone thinks, now that I know how you feel. You were the person I was talking about yesterday. You are the one I have always loved, you are my knight in shining armor. No one else, no boy or girl, could ever compare to you."

"You mean you're not disgusted with me? You don't think I'm gross for liking another...girl?"

"No, of course not," replied Malon, tears flowing freely down her cheeks. "Nothing you could ever do would disgust me, you're so wonderful and beautiful. Everything you do enchants me. I have never felt anything for another girl, but I think I can make an exception for you." Malon gave a warm smile, no longer feeling ashamed of herself. She opened her arms and embraced Solo tightly, resting her head on her shoulder. "I've wanted to tell you this for so long, but I never got the courage. I've been in love with you from the day we met, and I always wished that you would feel the same way. This is the only thing I've ever wanted, and I finally got it."

"Thank you for understanding me. I thought I was the only person in the world who felt this way, thanks for not leaving me alone." Both released their hug and stood silently for a moment. There didn't seem to be any words they could say to augment this moment. For the first time, both of them felt utterly content. "What do we do now?" asked Solo. "I've already said everything I always wanted to. It doesn't seem like there's anything left to say. I really don't have any experience being in love. I really don't know what to do...I see Link and Zelda always being so sweet and mushy with each other, and it almost makes me sick."

"We'll just take it one step at a time," replied Malon. "Things will work themselves out. Love is supposed to be simple, not complicated. Will just discover it as we go along."

"There is one problem, though," pointed out Solo. She leaned over and talked quietly into Malon's ear. "What are we going to tell everyone? It'll be kind of hard to hide our feelings, and I don't want people to think we're...weird. Gods know I've been shunned enough in my life, I don't need to be hassled about this too. I most worried about what Link will think. What if he won't want to be my brother anymore? What if he tells me I'm sick and disgusting and he kicks me out? I don't think I can handle that."

"Quit worrying yourself," reassured Malon. "Link is your brother, he would never do anything like that. If anything, he should be supportive of you. He knows what it's like to be in love; he'll be happy for you. Trust me."

"Okay, I believe you. I just don't know what will shock him more: this, or the mark on my face. Knowing him, he'll probably go nuts about both."

"Well, if he give you any guff, I'll take care of him. I can take him." Malon gave a sly grin and pounded a fist into her palm.

"Now that would be interesting."

"No, what would be interesting is if he thought you might start hitting on Zelda," said Malon with a wide smile. Solo gave a very annoyed look and pushed Malon with her palm.

"That's gross. I only like you," said Solo, turning her nose up. "I would never go with any other girl or boy, it's only you. I didn't fall in love with you because you were a girl, it was because of how you are. I fell in love with your charm, with your personality, and with your soul. It's Malon I love, not Malon-the-girl. I would've felt the same way if you were a boy."

"Me too," said Malon. She gently grasped Solo's hand and smiled. "I'm so happy I found you. Why don't we go back inside? I can finish cleaning up and then we can go back to your house."

"That sounds like a good idea," said Solo. They both leisurely walked through the ranch, admiring the beautiful day. The sun shone brightly in the blue, cloudless sky. Everything suddenly seemed brighter and happier. This seemed like the happiest day of their lives, for once their thoughts weren't plagued with problems and doubt. Everything was clear-cut and perfect today.

They passed by the barn, almost at the house, when they came across Ingo who was standing in the middle of the path. "Oh, hi Ingo," greeted Malon cheerily. She was in such a good mood that not even Ingo's sour demeanor could spoil her mood. Ingo gave a cold stare, which caused both girls to stop. "Is something wrong?" asked Malon.

Ingo once again glared at Solo, causing her to shudder. "Yes, something is wrong," replied Ingo coldly. "I saw what you two did." He turned to give a disgusted glare at Solo. "I knew this little tramp was nothing but trouble. I could see it from the first moment I saw her. Now I know why."

"Don't you call her that!" screamed Malon. "How dare you call Solo a tramp!" Solo merely stared, at a loss for words.

"You have no room to speak!" shouted Ingo. "You're not exactly guiltless either. Look at what you let your little hussy of a friend do to you. You had better hope your father doesn't find out about this. You disgust me, Malon. I always knew there was something wrong with you, and this must be it. If I was your father, I would slap you silly. Filthy harlot!" Ingo spat onto the ground at their feet.

Malon's eyes welled with tears; she had never felt so hurt by anyone in her life. "I've treated you with nothing but respect," said Malon, her voice filled with rage. "No matter how mean you've been, I've always had the common courtesy to treat you like a normal person. And you have the audacity to talk to me like this? Who gives you the right to tell me how to live my life? I will do whatever the hell I want!"

Ingo's eyes narrowed and he quickly slapped Malon across the cheek. Malon tumbled backwards and put her hand to her face, completely stunned. "How dare you speak to an adult like that!" shouted Ingo. "Have you no respect for your elders? I'm doing you a favor! Your father would kill you if he knew what you were up to. It is children like you–both of you–who are responsible for the troubles of society. If it was up to me, I would have you locked up until you changed your mind. Look at you, you're repulsive!"

Malon's eyes gave a look of anger and betrayal. She had never known Ingo to be such a bad man, and this was the first time she had ever seen his true nature. Not thinking of anything else to do, Malon turned and ran towards the house, crying. She wailed loudly as she ran into the house and closed the door. Solo, still standing outside, turned and stared at Ingo. Her eyes burned with fury and pure hatred. Solo clenched hers fists and gritted her teeth, trying to keep herself from doing something rash. "You bastard!" screamed Solo. "How dare you hit her like that! I should kill you right now!" Never in her life had Solo been filled with such rage and hate. She had been abused many times in her life, but had never felt hatred like this before. Ingo had struck the person she loved, and that made Solo's blood boil. Seeing the pain on Malon's face was totally unbearable, she could not let Ingo get away with this.

"If I didn't care for Malon so much, I would kill you where you stand!" Solo clenched her fist and drove it into Ingo's gut, causing him to double over in pain. Solo never realized that hurting another person could feel so good. She wanted to make Ingo feel how much he hurt Malon. As Ingo stumbled backwards, Solo delivered a powerful kick to his left shin, causing him to fall over. Solo jumped on top of Ingo's body and began to pummel him with punches, unable to control the raging hatred inside her. "I'll kill you!" screamed Solo, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Nobody hurts Malon! You'll pay for this dearly!" Solo swung her arms wildly, only half the punches actually landing. Ingo was in such shock, all he could do was try to shield his face. Then, as she felt herself being lifted off of Ingo's chest, her tight fist landed squarely on Ingo's nose, causing a torrent of blood to come flowing from it. The sight of Ingo's blood gave Solo an eerie sense of satisfaction. She swung her arms and legs wildly as she realized someone was pulling her off of Ingo. "Let go of me! I'll kill him! Let go of me!" shouted Solo.

"Calm down," said Talon in a soothing voice, as he held Solo tightly. Upon hearing Malon's father's voice, Solo stopped kicking. She suddenly snapped out of her hate-filled trance and looked at what she'd just done. When Solo had calmed down, Talon let go of her and led her into the house, Solo's face covered with an expression of pure shock. When Solo entered the house, she saw Malon in the corner and immediately ran to her side. Malon was trembling and crying in the corner, with her legs drawn up to her chest and her head buried on her knees. Solo could see the large red handprint on her cheek.

"Malon, I'm sorry," said Solo, brushing back Malon's hair from her face.

"What happened?" asked Talon in a voice of half-worry and half-anger.

"He..." mumbled Solo, but could not finish her sentence. Malon released herself from the ball she'd been in to wrap her arms around Solo and hug her. Malon buried her face in Solo's shoulder and let out wailing, muffled sobs. "It's okay," soothed Solo.

It was then when Talon saw the large handprint on Malon's face. He was suddenly filled with a sense of unbridled rage. How come somebody dare hurt his precious daughter? Now he knew why Malon had come in crying, and why Solo had been punching Ingo. "He...hit my daughter," said Talon, the fury ever-present in his voice. Solo nodded in response. His first instinct was to finish what Solo had started, but his rational side told him he would regret it. Talon took a deep breath and walked towards the door. He tried to control his rage, and hoped he wouldn't blow up. He was a calm and forgiving man by nature, but somebody hurting his daughter seemed to break that nature. Talon walked outside and approached Ingo, who was still in shock and trying to recover from the beating he'd sustained.

Ingo smiled wickedly as he saw the enraged Talon approach. Ingo had always been an expert at manipulating Talon in any situation, so twisting this story would be no problem. "It seems that that pesky little girl attacked me," said Ingo. Talon gave no appreciable response and continued to approach Ingo, the anger visible in his eyes. "Is something wrong, sir?"

Talon extended his arm and thrust Ingo backwards, his back slamming hard into the barn. For the first time, Ingo's eyes showed fear. Talon calmly grasped the front of Ingo's shirt and lifted him completely off the ground. Ingo coughed and hacked as he realized that his breathing was being partly cut off. "How dare you strike my daughter!" shouted Talon in a voice that would make even the most stone-hearted warrior tremble.

"But sir..." choked Ingo, "I..."

"Silence!" Talon struck Ingo across the face with his free hand. "There is no excuse for what you've done! I hired you to work on this ranch, not to raise my daughter. I don't give a damn what she did, you have no right at all to touch her!"

"Let...me...explain..."

"You will explain nothing," said Talon, his voice turning from a loud shout, to eerily calm and deliberate. "What you have done in inexcusable. You're lucky I'm such a nice man and I don't kill you here and now!" Talon lowered Ingo to the ground and placed his hand around Ingo's throat, ready to squeeze at any moment. "You have exactly ten seconds to get your pathetic excuse for a human being off my ranch. If I ever see you again, if you ever come near my daughter, if you ever say my daughter's name, if you ever even think about her again...so help me gods I will give you a punishment worse than death. By the time I'm done, you'll beg me to kill you." Talon released Ingo from his grasp and took a step back. Ingo merely stood there, in complete shock. He had no idea what to do. Talon merely gave a casual look and tapped his foot. "Ten...nine...eight..." Ingo's face turned white as a ghost and he turned around and ran. Talon smiled to himself as he saw Ingo scurry out of the ranch like the coward he was.

After making sure Ingo was gone, Talon returned to the house to see Malon still sobbing on Solo's shoulder. "What happened to Ingo?" asked Solo.

"He's never coming back," replied Talon. He ran up to the two girls and kneeled in front of them. Malon released her hold on Solo and hugged her father tightly. "Daddy..." cried Malon.

Talon gently rubbed Malon's back and tried to calm her. "It's okay, baby. Ingo will never hurt you again. I'm sorry I wasn't there to help you." Malon gave no response, she simply held her father tightly. "What would drive that man to do something like that?"

"It was...my fault," sobbed Malon. "I can't help it...It's how I am."

"Don't apologize," said Solo, wallowing in self-pity. "If I hadn't have said anything, none of this would have happened."

"Why did he do this?" asked Talon.

"It's because of me," said Malon, finally regaining the ability to speak coherently. "It's because I disgusted him. I can't tell you...I would disgust you."

Talon turned Malon's face and looked into her eyes. "Honey, nothing you could do would ever disgust me. Tell me what happened."

Solo turned her head, not wanting to see what Talon's reaction would be to Malon's revelation. Solo slowly walked to the other side of the room and sat down with her back facing Malon and Talon, she didn't want to know what Talon's reaction would be. Malon looked at her father and realized that he was telling the truth; he would never judge her like that. "I...Ingo saw us..." mumbled Malon. "Please promise me you won't hate me, Daddy. Please...?" Talon nodded. "I told Solo that I loved her...and I kissed her. Ingo must've seen it." Solo buried her face in her arms and didn't look up. She felt so exposed and vulnerable.

"That's it?" asked Talon. "That's why he did that? I always knew that man was a poor excuse for a person, I should have never hired him."

"You mean...you're not mad at me?" asked Malon.

"Why would I be mad at you, sweetie?"

"Because...me and Solo...I said that I..."

Talon took Malon's hand and spoke in a soothing voice. "Honey, I would never hate you for something like that. Ingo was wrong for what he did. You have to know that I love your more than anything in the world, and I would never stop loving you for any reason. One of the things you need to learn in your life is to trust your feelings. You should always go with your heart, no matter what anyone else thinks. It took me years to realize that. I'm glad that you have found that out at such a young age. Love is such a beautiful thing, don't let anybody make it less than that. It doesn't matter who it is that you love, as long as that love is true."

"So I don't...disgust you?" asked Malon, still unsure that she heard her father correctly. She never imagined that he could be so understanding, especially after the reaction Ingo gave.

"Of course not. I love you more than anything. It's my job to guide you in life, but it's not my job to tell you what to do. You're almost an adult, and you have to make your own decisions. If this is the decision you've made, then I'm happy for you. I would be disappointed if you ignored your feelings just so you could do what other people wanted. You've always been so independent, and you never let people tell you what you could or couldn't do. I'm proud that you've made the decision that you know is right." Talon looked over to Solo, who still had her head down. "Solo, come here. I don't want you to feel bad." Solo reluctantly lifted her head and walked over to Talon and Malon. Solo came and sat down next to them, Talon putting an arm around each girl. "You two have made a choice that you feel is right, and I respect that. Don't ever let anyone tell you you're wrong. It doesn't matter what others think." Talon looked at Solo. "Even though it may be awkward, Malon couldn't have picked a better person. Thank you for defending her, it makes me happy to know that someone out there is looking out for my little girl." Talon smiled at Solo and they all gave each other one group hug. Solo felt so thankful that Malon had such a loving and understanding father, other people would've probably punished them.

"Thank you, Daddy," said Malon, kissing her father on the cheek. "Thank you for not rejecting me. I was so worried that you would...stop loving me and not want me to be your daughter. I was worried that you would disown me or tell people that I wasn't your daughter. Most of all, I was worried you would never be proud of me...because of how I am; or that Mom would have hated me is she were still alive."

"I've been proud of everything you've ever done," said Talon. "And I know your mother would be, too. You followed your heart, and that's all I care about." He looked at Solo once more. "You take care of my little girl. She needs you. You're more than a friend to her, and you can be there for her at times when I can't. Welcome to the family.


There was a large blanket spread out in a clearing in the woods. The midday sun shone through the small opening in the canopy of trees, and Link and Zelda basked in the warm light. Saria sat on the other end of the blanket in the shade, watching Link and Zelda with fascination and curiosity. The sight in front of her was so sickeningly sweet that she wanted to leave. Link sat with his legs folded, and Zelda was looking up at Link with her head in his lap and her body lying in front of him. Link was holding a small tree of grapes that he took from a picnic basket, and he was feeding them to Zelda one by one. "Does my little shmoopie want another grape?" asked Link in an almost nauseating baby-voice.

"That would be lovely, Linkie-pooh," replied Zelda in an equally-nauseating baby-voice. Link dropped on of the purple grapes into Zelda's mouth and she smiled up at him.

"Can you two do this somewhere else?" asked Saria, sticking out her tongue in mock-disgust.

Link and Zelda both glared at Saria as if she had interrupted a very important moment. "It was your idea to have this picnic," retorted Zelda. "You just have to live with it." Zelda stuck out her tongue and Saria rolled her eyes.

Link took a piece of an apple from the basket and dangled it above Zelda. "Does shmoopie want a piece of apple?" asked Link in that voice again. Zelda nodded and he baby-fed it to her. "I love you, shmoopie."

"You're shmoopie," teased Zelda, giggling.

"No, you're shmoopie," said Link.

"No, you're shmoopie, shmoopie, shmoopie..." repeated both of them in unison, giggling madly.

"You're both nuts," commented Saria. "You do know that, right?" Link and Zelda nodded their heads briskly, grinning widely. "Where on earth did you come up with 'shmoopie'?" asked Saria, amazed that Link could even think of such a sappy pet-name.

"I heard it somewhere," replied Link, shrugging his shoulders.

"And you're my little Linkie-pooh, aren't you?" said Zelda, poking Link's chest with her finger. Now they were deliberately trying to annoy Saria. Luckily, she took it all with good humor.

"Maybe I'll think twice before I fall in love. Especially if this is what it turns people into: a bunch of cheesy saps," commented Saria.

"Well, we like being saps," protested Zelda, finally sitting up. "Don't we, Linkie-pooh?"

"Of course we do," replied Link, tickling Zelda's chin.

Their conversation was interrupted by some rustling coming from the trees behind them. All three looked to see Malon and Solo walking towards them hand-in-hand. Saria breathed a sigh of relief. "Finally, some normal people," she muttered to herself.

"Hi guys!" greeted Zelda cheerily as Malon and Solo sat down on the blanket.

"Praise the gods! Thank you for saving me from these two," said Saria, pointing to Link and Zelda. "They were starting to make me sick will all their fluffy, sappy baby-talk."

Link's smile lessened somewhat when he saw that Solo had a bandage on the side of her face. "What happened to you?" asked Link with great concern. "Did you get hurt?"

"That's what we needed to talk about," said Solo. "Basically, we have some good news and bad news."

"Gee, way to go putting a damper on things," said Link in a sarcastic tone.

"Do you want to hear the good news first or the bad news first?" asked Solo.

Link thought for a moment. "I'll go with the good news."

Solo took a deep breath and tried to think of how she was going to say this. Would her brother be as understanding as Malon's father? Malon squeezed Solo's hand to give her reassurance. "There's some things I need to tell you about myself, and about Malon. Do you remember Akuyo and the things I told you about him?" Link nodded, he remembered all the times Solo had spoken about him. "Well, you need to know that I never saw him as more than a friend. I know you probably thought I had a crush on him, or I loved him, but that wasn't true. I just lied to myself, I never really loved him or had feelings for him."

"That doesn't sound like good news," said Link.

"Let me finish. The reason I went out with Akuyo in the first place was because I didn't want to face reality. I thought maybe if I spent enough time with him, my feelings would change. But my feelings only got stronger. There is somebody I'm in love with, but it's not Akuyo."

"Well, who is it?" asked Zelda excitedly, eager to know the juicy details.

"Yeah, tell us," insisted Saria. Link merely looked and patiently awaited Solo's answer. He knew what she was going through, used to being prodded for information by Zelda and Saria.

"I...we..." stuttered Solo. She took a deep breath and tried to relax, the fear of rejection once again coming over her. "Malon and I are in love. With each other." Solo awaited everyone's response. Saria and Zelda's jaws dropped in utter disbelief, while Link merely sat there scratching his head. He shrugged his shoulders, while Zelda and Saria continued to stare. Malon and Solo both felt there faces flush, and knew they must've looked like complete idiots.

"Well, I guess there's nothing wrong with that," said Link casually. Everyone turned to look at him with looks of shock, including Solo and Malon. Link hated being stared at, now he could feel his own face flushing. "Well, there isn't," he insisted. "It's not that unusual. I mean, look at the Gerudos. They're a closed society composed totally of women. And how many of them do you think have husbands?" That point made each of them ponder for a few moments. "I doubt that many of them go out with guys. I bet you Gerudos with husbands are considered weird."

Zelda and Saria sat silently, not sure how to address this situation. "So you're...in love...with Malon?" asked Zelda in near-disbelief. Solo nodded. "That's a little strange. But...I suppose if that's how you feel..." Zelda wasn't sure if she felt happy, or just unsure. She had never met two people like this before, and didn't quite know what to make of them.

"I think it's cute," commented Saria, garnering astonished looks from the group. "Well, what did you want me to say? Love is a precious thing, and I'm happy they found it. If you love someone, you must pursue it before it's too late. I found that out the hard way. I feel happy for you both." Solo and Malon smiled at Saria's understanding.

"I guess I have no problem with it," said Zelda finally. She realized what it felt like to be in love with Link. It was such a wonderful feeling. She didn't want Malon and Solo to be deprived of that, even if they were of the same gender.

"I'm perfectly okay with this as long as you promise me one thing," said Link. "Please don't hit on Zelda." Link gave a large sarcastic grin and Solo playfully punched him in the shoulder, using a little more force than she had meant to. Link winced, but his grin didn't fade.

"You have a sick sense of humor," commented Zelda, shaking her head.

"Well, now that this is out of the way, what was the bad news?" asked Link.

Solo sighed, wishing the happy moment didn't have to be spoiled. "I'll tell you, but you're not going to like it. Link, promise me you won't overreact, just sit down and let me tell you before you go and do anything stupid. Okay?" Link nodded. Solo gently removed the bandage from her face, and Link gasped in horror at the large purple bruise on her face.

"What happened to you?" exclaimed Link.

Solo wiped away a tear and tried to calm herself. "He did it," said Solo. "Akuyo did it."

His face filled with rage, Link shot up, but Malon grabbed hold of him before he could move. "That son of a bitch!" shouted Link. "I'll kill him! Let go of me! That punk is going to pay! I knew I shouldn't have let you see him."

Link kicked and struggled like a caged animal, however Malon was much stronger than Link anticipated and she easily restrained him. Malon forcefully pushed Link down to the ground and stared into his eyes. "Calm down," said Malon in a soothing, but forceful voice. "You promised Solo you would listen. We already have a plan. Just listen." Link agreed, albeit disdainfully. He looked at Solo and awaited her explanation. However, the only thing he could think of was beating the life out of the boy that did this to his sister. He didn't care what Solo said, this boy would pay dearly. Link could feel the anger surging within him, but he tried desperately not to let it show. The only expression on his face was a hateful grimace.

"Link, I know you're furious," said Solo matter-of-factly. "Believe me, I know exactly how you feel. Ingo slapped Malon and I almost killed him." Solo looked at the spot where Malon had been struck, the red mark had nearly disappeared. "And I regretted losing control like that; I don't want you to lose control, it'll only make things worse. I don't want revenge on Akuyo, he just had problems and I can forgive him. Vengeance never accomplishes anything."

"Of course it does!" retorted Link. "If I don't get revenge, he'll never pay for what he did. You need justice for what he did."

"Justice is what I plan on getting," said Solo. "I've already made a plan. You see, his parents are strict pacifists, they hate violence in all its forms. And they would not approve of what Akuyo did. I know the parents might not like it if we confronted them, but it's the only logical way to solve things. They're probably the only ones who can set him straight."

Link nodded, the plan did seem fairly sound. "I guess that's an okay idea," moped Link. "Can't I punch him just once?" begged Link. "I can't stand it that he hurt you. It makes me so...angry and hurt. I feel like I've let you down." Link's lip began to quiver, and he rushed to Solo's side and hugged her; something no one expected him to do. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you. I should have been there to protect you and I wasn't. Please forgive me for not being there." Solo hugged Link back, never realizing that he might blame this on himself.

"Link, it wasn't your fault at all," insisted Solo. "It was Akuyo's fault for being mean, and we'll take care of that. Don't blame yourself for this, there was nothing you could've done." Link gave his agreement and sat back down. "In a way, that might've actually been good. If Akuyo hadn't have hit me, I might never have come to realize how I really felt. I would have just continued lying to myself. Besides, I've been through worse in my life, this is just a little scratch. We can go over there later and then we'll make everything okay. Is that all right with you?"

Link thought for a moment and finally agreed, "Okay. Whatever you want is fine with me." Link knew how emotionally fragile Solo must have been, so he did not want to do anything that would upset her further. Link still desperately wanted to beat up Akuyo, but he kept his self-control. "We'll do this whenever you want to. When do you want to go?"

"It depends..." replied Solo, eyeing the open picnic basket. "What's in the basket? I'm kinda hungry." Link rolled his eyes and handed the basket to Solo, who quickly began digging through it, looking for something good to eat. She extracted two apples, giving one to Malon and devouring one herself.

"Is food all you care about?" asked Link, trying to lighten the mood. Solo nodded, her mouth too full to give an adequate response.

"She's worse than Link," remarked Saria.

"I wouldn't go that far," said Malon.

"It's about time you said something," said Zelda. "I was beginning to wonder if you forgot how to talk." Zelda smirked and Malon blushed.

"Oh...we'll, I guess I just didn't have much to say. I just feel a little uncomfortable, that's all."

"Don't feel uncomfortable," said Zelda. "We're all friends here."

"I know," said Malon, still feeling embarrassed. "Are you sure you're not...disgusted with us? Because I'm just worried that you guys think I'm bad and you're just humoring me."

"Why would we do something like that?" asked Zelda.

"Yes, we like you two," said Saria. "We would never shun you because of something like that."

"Yeah, it's a little unusual, but I guess we can live with it," added Zelda.

"I was most worried about Link," continued Malon. She looked at Link with her big, blue eyes, and it melted his heart. She had a look of such worry, but also of love. "What if he didn't want me to be with Solo because...of who I am? I love her more than anything and I would die if we were driven apart."

"Don't ever think anything like that," soothed Link. "I would never judge anyone like that. You obviously make Solo very happy, and that's all I want. I know you were her best friend in the whole world, Solo talked about you nonstop." Solo blushed when he said that. "I just didn't know that you two felt more than that. And if that's what you want, then I won't get in the way. If you two love each other, than maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. I'm happy to have you as part of my family."

"Thanks for your support," said Malon, brightening up significantly. She was so afraid of ridicule, but the support from her friends made her feel untouchable. She didn't feel so strange anymore. No longer afraid of being scorned, Malon leaned over and hugged Solo tightly.

"Aww, that's so cute," commented Link, getting a slap on the shoulder from Zelda. "Come on! I finally have a chance to tease Solo about a boy...I mean, girlfriend, and I don't want to miss out on that. Do you know what I've been through with these two?" asked Link, pointing accusingly at Saria and Solo. "They always make fun of me when you call me 'Linkie-pooh,'" he pouted.

"You know you like it," said Zelda, poking Link's cheek. He wasn't denying that, there was something strangely calming about how Zelda called him that. But he also knew that Zelda got a kick out of seeing him be embarrassed slightly. "Are we all happy now?"

Everyone looked at Zelda and nodded their agreement. "Solo, I need to ask you something," said Link. He didn't want to upset her further, but there was something he needed to know. Solo nodded for him to continue. "How come you didn't come to me after Akuyo hit you? I'm not mad at you or anything, but I would've thought you'd come to me if you had any problems. You know I'm always here to help you."

Solo sighed. "I know. But the reason I didn't go straight home was because you would've done the exact same thing you did earlier. I didn't want you to go crazy an try to kill him. I know you're calm now, but I was worried that you might do something you'd regret while you were still angry."

Link thought about what Solo said. It was just then that he realized he almost lost control when he found out what happened to her. Link usually wasn't the type to get angry or do rash things, but there were a few things that could drive him over the edge. Abusing his sister was one of them. "I know," said Link. "But it's kind of hard not to get angry when somebody's done something to you. It hurts me so much to see what he did to you...it makes me feel like I've let you down. And it makes me so mad that he was such a coward and so dishonorable to hit a girl. I just think that's...unconscionable. It infuriates me that anyone could even think of hurting you. You never did a thing to hurt anyone."

"That's how I felt," said Malon, no one expecting her to make any comment. "I felt like it was somehow my fault, but I realized that it was only Akuyo's fault. He was the one who did wrong. You shouldn't beat yourself up for that. What counts is that you're here for her now."

"I couldn't have said it better myself," said Solo. She dug around in the basket again, extracting a small roll. She began to eat it and tried to talk at the same time. "You shouldn't be so hard on yourself," said Solo in a muffled voice. "It really doesn't bother me. In fact, I'm almost glad it happened because Malon and I would've never found out about each other's feelings. So it was kind of a blessing in disguise."

"I never thought of it that way," said Link, deep in thought. "I guess sometimes, bad things can end up being good. It's kind of like what happened between me and Zelda..."

"Ooh, what happened between you?" asked Solo nosily. Zelda hung her head sadly, but Link indicated that she shouldn't be upset.

"We got in a little...argument," replied Link. "There were some kids in the market, and they called her things–bad things. After some arguing, one of them took a swing at me and I defended myself."

"Did you beat the crap out of them?" asked Solo, swinging her fists and punching air.

Link's face flushed slightly and a half-smirk appeared on his face. "Well, yes. But it's not something I'm proud of. I only did it because I thought they might try to do something to Zelda, especially after the things they said about her. But then Zelda yelled at me, and said..." Link paused for a moment. Although he knew Zelda hadn't meant him, recalling her words was still painful. "She said she hated me. I was so depressed, and I thought I had lost her forever. Then, after a while, I thought it was my fault. It turns out that she felt the same way; she thought it was her fault. But it was really just a misunderstanding. Impa told me she was just having a...mood swing. I always thought women were complicated, but I never thought it was that bad."

"Mood swings? What kind of mood swings?" asked Solo.

"She's says it's part of growing up," elaborated Link in a disbelieving tone, "but I think it's just an excuse. Nothing could ever be so bad as to make someone act like that. Maybe Zelda's just crazy." That comment resulted in a jab in the ribs from Zelda's elbow.

"Zelda, what exactly did you tell him?" asked Solo.

Zelda looked at Link and both their faces turned crimson. Zelda didn't want to tell him, and Link didn't want to know. "Nothing much..." replied Zelda. "Just that he should expect the occasional mood swing. At least that's what Impa told me would happen, and she wouldn't lie to me."

"What exactly did Impa tell you?" Solo asked. Zelda leaned closer to Malon and Solo , who waited for Zelda's response. Zelda flashed a glare at Link and he pretended that he wasn't listening. Zelda whispered the gist of Impa's talk, causing Solo and Malon to both giggle madly.

"I could've told you that," said Solo.

"A lot of good that does me now," responded Zelda in an unamused voice. "Do you know how terrified I was? I thought I was dying! You could've given me a little hint, you know. That's what friends are for."

Solo shrugged her shoulders. "Sorry, I thought everybody knew. It's not really a secret. I figured it out for myself." Solo showed an almost wicked grin, "But I guess a sheltered child such as yourself would know nothing about real-world matters."

"I am not sheltered!" protested Zelda.

Link and Saria both watched the exchange in fascination, neither of them quite understanding what the three were talking about. Saria really didn't care, but Link couldn't take the agony of not knowing. "What are you girls talking about?" asked Link in frustration.

Zelda, Solo, and Malon merely looked at Link and smiled. "Nothing," replied Zelda teasingly. She leaned over to him and pinched his cheek, treating him like a little child. "It's not anything my little Linkie-pooh needs to know about. It's a girl thing, and you don't want to know. Besides," said Zelda in a baby-voice, "I like when my little Linkie-pooh is all cute and innocent. You have just the most precious look on your face when you're confused." The three older girls giggled madly, only embarrassing Link further. He always hated it when he was outnumbered by females, and four-to-one was almost too much to handle. Sometimes he regretted the fact that all his friends were girls, what he wouldn't give for a normal friend that was a guy. No matter how hard he tried, he could never understand the opposite sex; they were so strange. Why couldn't they be normal like him?

Saria watched the exchange and couldn't take the suspense anymore. "I'd kinda like to know what you're talking about. I'm a girl, I can understand." The three looked at each other, silently wondering if they should tell her. Finally, Zelda whispered the "secret" to Saria. Her eyes grew wide and she almost couldn't believe what she heard. "Are you serious?" asked Saria in disbelief. Zelda nodded, enjoying the fact that not knowing was near-torture for Link. "No way, that doesn't happen." She knew they had to be lying to her.

"I'm totally serious," insisted Zelda. "You're almost as cute an innocent as Link." Saria's face turned red, and Link flashed her a look that seemed to say, Now you know how I feel.

"Well, I'm glad I'm a Kokiri," said Saria in a voice of relief. "After hearing that, I don't want to grow up." She shuddered, and put down the pear she had been munching on. "I don't think I'm hungry anymore."

"What did she say?" whined Link.

"Geez, will you just drop it?" scolded Zelda. Link shook his head, he wasn't going to give up.

"I just want to understand you," said Link in a surprisingly sincere voice.

"Fine...you want to know? I'll tell you." Zelda whispered the whole story to Link and his face turned pale, looking like he was going to be sick. "See, I told you that you didn't want to know," said Zelda haughtily.

Link clenched his stomach and tried not to be sick. "I had no idea that happened." Now Link regretted being so nosy. Maybe next time he would believe Zelda when she said he didn't want to know. "That's horrible. How can you deal with something like that?" Zelda shrugged her shoulders. "I am so glad I'm not a girl. That would suck so much."

"That's a really nice thing to say," said Zelda sarcastically, folding her arms over her chest.

"Well, it's true. I guess I'll have more respect for women now. I guess that explains why Solo's been so pissy lately." That remark caused him to receive a death-glare from Solo.

"No, she's just like that by nature," commented Saria, surprising everyone with her sarcastic remark. No one ever thought of her as the type to be making wisecracks. Link made an attempt at laughing, but he didn't feel quite up to it. The thought of what Zelda told him was still nauseating.

"Zelda, next time I want to know one of your 'secrets', please don't tell me," said Link.

Zelda rolled her eyes, amazed at how thick-headed Link was sometimes. "That's what tried to tell you, but you wouldn't listen. Maybe next time you'll believe me."

"I guess so," said Link.

They all sat there silently for a few moments, none of them thinking of anything in particular. Solo tried to keep silent, but she couldn't take the suspense anymore. Being silent wasn't doing her any good. She had to speak. "Is there anything other than apples and pears in that basket?" asked Solo, instantly creating a light-hearted mood. "'Cause I'm kinda sick of fruit. That's all we ever eat. Don't you have any cookies or something?"

Saria looked around in the basket, which now contained only an apple and a few loose grapes. "No, there's nothing left," said Saria. "We ate all the cookies before you got here. And they were really good, yummm," she teased, rubbing her belly.

"That is so cruel," said Solo. "You could've saved some cookies for us."

"It's not like we knew you were coming," responded Saria. "I would've made extra if I'd have known."

"Well, why don't we go inside?" suggested Malon. "I can make cookies. If you have the right ingredients, I can bake up a whole batch in no time."

"Now that's what I'm talking about," said Solo cheerily, standing up and rushing everyone to pack up everything. "See, Malon knows what I like. Let's go home and she can make us some cookies. But I get dibs on the good ones. If Malon doesn't mind."

"Nothing's too good for my little angel," said Malon, giving Solo an adoring look.

"That's so sweet," teased Link as he stood up and collected some of the remnants of the picnic. He grinned at Solo, who gave him a look that only a brother could understand.

"Can you two go for one minute without tormenting each other?" asked Zelda. Link and Solo shook their heads, sibling rivalry was so much fun. Saria packed up the basket, while each of them carried something in their arms. The group then proceeded to make the short distance back towards Saria's house. "Let's try to enjoy this day as much as possible," suggested Zelda. "After we finish with the cookies, then we can go and finish this business with Akuyo. I want to put all this behind us."

"Me too," said Solo, holding Malon's hand.

"Don't worry, I'll be there every step of the way," said Malon reassuringly. Solo simply smiled, happy that she had such a wonderful friend. Hand-in-hand, they followed Link and Zelda back through the forest. Saria purposely walked slower, falling slightly behind the rest of the group. She smiled at the way they interacted with each other. Link so obviously adored Zelda, and she loved him dearly. It made Saria feel so happy to see everything work out well. And she saw Malon and Solo chatting with each other. Their coupling didn't seem strange to Saria, they were so obviously made for each other. She felt so happy for all of them. And for once, Saria didn't feel jealous that she didn't have a person to love. She felt genuinely happy, happy that her friends were happy. It was then that Saria realized that it was not merely Link that she loved, it was all of them. She loved all of the people she saw before her, each one made her happy in their own special way. She knew that everything had finally worked out to the way it should be. Saria smiled warmly. For the first time in so long, love did not leave her crying.

The End