IT IS COMPLETELY CATERING TO EVERY FANGIRLISH FLAW IN MY PERSONALITY. Angst + fluff + romance = all the indulgences. Also did I mention it's ridiculous because I never write dialogue that sounds Zelda-y but I tried so... yeah.

SO YEAH. It's also AU-y and I fuck around with a bunch of things. Cause that's fun.

Warning: Rated T for the fuck I just dropped LOL I'm an asshole. Don't own LoZ.

He dropped to his knees and allowed his body to shake, finally, no longer needing to prolong his strength. The tip of the sword in his hand scraped against the ground, the hilt drooping out of his palm.

This was impossible. This was real. This was...


He'd never believed in fate.

His descendants would be cursed by this being, this monster, this demon, that had just been sealed away by some fusion of magic and metal. The only thought that entered his mind was that he supposed he wouldn't be having children. The idea made him feel empty.

The ruins of the castle spread in collapses around him, the sky impeccably clear beyond. It was beautiful and disastrous and he felt nothing. He knelt there for forty years and felt nothing because it was safe and because it was blank.

But then he heard his name and remembered that because he had not been slaughtered, he'd probably have to live.

He dropped the shimmering blade and it clashed against the stone ground. He rose to his feet, one trembling leg at a time. He wanted to sleep for a century.

He turned to the woman who had called his name.

She was hardly a woman, he realized. She looked younger than Sheik had, somehow, her long hair tangled, her skirts torn and singed, her eyes wide with adrenaline and victory and fear.

"Link?" she repeated.

A very distant part of him wanted her to stop looking at him with those big bright eyes. That part of him knew if he stepped forward and embraced her, comforted her, she might look at him differently. He might help her find solace, and that part - that mite of him that still knew how to feel - surged gently at the thought. But he was not feeling. He was not thinking. He was not there. Not now. Not yet.

"Are you hurt?" she asked, in a low clear voice that sounded displaced coming from her lips rather than Sheik's.

He shook his head and contemplated collapsing on the ground. He imagined that wouldn't look so encouraging.

She approached him slowly, tentative, as if he were a wild dog baring his teeth. "Let me make sure," she commanded, and he heard the faint echoes of a queen in her tone.

Still, he shook his head.

"Link," she said firmly. "Will you kindly look around yourself. My home is in ruins. You have restored my land and for that I am grateful but I have lost more or less everything dear to me over the course of these recently terminated events and I would appreciate it if I could make sure I am not going to lose you too."

He frowned. Why did she have to speak in circles like that? It made his mind buzz.

She clucked her tongue at his silence. "I'll take that as a yes."

Her hands felt foreign and cold against him as she ran them over his body. "Nothing too bad here," she muttered, and circled around to his back.

Nothing happened for brief spell. Then,

"Tell me," said the princess, "exactly how this qualifies as being 'not hurt'."

Link shrugged. He didn't have eyes in the back of his head. How would he know if he was hurt there or not? How could he know when his nerves had turned off?

"I'm fine," said Link through numb lips.

"Oh yes," said the princess. She had adopted that tone again, the one that told Link he was being stupid or something. "You're absolutely fine, other than this gouging wound on your back. Goodness, is that… poisoned? Because a giant raging monster wasn't enough, he had to be poisonous, as well…"

When she said that it made Link imagine he had fought a dragon. He wasn't sure why. The world turned sideways one way and then the other. "I could slay a dragon."

"Mm," said the princess distractedly, "I'm sure you – what are you talking about?"

"It would be easier than… all this," he continued. He felt the princess's hand on his back and wondered when he had fallen to all fours. Maybe she was using her magic to make everything out of focus. That sounded like her. She liked to make things difficult.

"Yes, of course," the princess grumbled, still not paying him much attention. The pressure on his back shifted and then Link realized he could feel after all. It had something to do with a fiery agony that sprouted inside his shoulder. He roared softly in protest.

"Oh my," said the princess suddenly. "I think that's bone."

Link's stomach somersaulted against the image and the waves of incomprehensible pain shooting through his back. "You can… see the bone in my shoulder?" he gasped.

"I think so," said the princess. "Frankly it's rather disgusting."

"Then why are you touching it?" he demanded through gritted teeth.

"Because it's all sinewy and charred, you see, from the poison – it seems sort of acidic, it's burned off parts of your skin, and I think it's got some magical property to it, that's why it's not bleeding…"

Link had a strong stomach. He really did. But he was not strong now. He had thrown away strength with his sword that lay lonely on the ground.

He vomited onto the stone.

"Perhaps," said the princess from behind him, "we might make a journey."

Oh, this was bad alright.

Well, relatively bad. Compared to electric shock burn and singed eyebrows and spider bites and the not infrequent blade wound, it was very bad indeed. He'd struggled enough with many a minor injury.

Then again, compared to the past seven years, was anything bad, really?

She was fairly sure he was going to live, but then she couldn't be sure of anything, because what was there to be certain of when everything you had ever known for the majority of your adolescence was a lie and a scheme and hiding and plotting and never feeling the heat of the sun across your face? When your childhood had been ripped away on a horseback chase and you had worn a scarf and bound your breasts and spoken in riddles to hide, to hide, to never be seen, to be shadow and stealth and secrets? When the person you knew how to be was a façade, and the person you were had never learned she existed? Until now?

So Zelda's certainty that Link would survive rested on absolutely nothing.

Epona's hooves thundered away beneath them. She clutched Link's limp body tighter to her chest – her unbound chest, with breasts, and everything, and wasn't it strange how they moved with the galloping of the horse? – and clung to Epona's neck.

He would live, she supposed, because if he didn't – well, it was only that she'd lost everything, her castle, her life, her parents, her people – and if she lost him too…

She felt something akin to a wrench inside her stomach and wondered when her insides had become so liquidy. Why they were aching. She had won. This was her war, Link's war, and they had won. He was poisoned, the castle was ashes, her people were awakening to the reality they had been denied for so long, his descendants would be hunted by this evil spirit for eternity, oh Goddesses, everything was so perfect and so horrible all at once and she couldn't let him die – she didn't know how to fix it without him…How to handle the unbearable loss and the incomprehensible victory of it all if he was not there to patch the seams beside her, one stitch at a time.

Because he seemed to understand how to do that. She had raged to Impa again and again of how unprepared he was, of how foolish and naïve he was, how carelessly he battled and how recklessly he threw himself into situations he couldn't handle.

But then he'd always be alright. He'd always come out the other end, panting and white-faced, but… alright. He had an unrivaled capacity to walk into a storm of impossibilities and still keep moving his feet, when anyone else – when she, if faced with the same challenges – would have panicked and frozen and failed.

Goddesses, just give me his courage – enough to help him survive.

She did not like this fairy character.

First off, she needed to put on some damn was not particularly entranced by the exposure of the fairy's generous bosom. Or by her hairstyle, really, but she supposed these things didn't matter quite as much as the fairy's ability to heal Link. That was why she had contacted the six Great Fairies in the first place, before this whole disaster came to a head, to persuade them to gift Link with magic and healing and power and other fairy sorts of things. She forgot how she'd persuaded them, honestly. She managed to do things like that without thinking about it much. But clothes. Clothes would help. And she could say something, instead of just whining and wailing when she saw Link's pallid face.

"So how does this work?" Zelda asked, puffing as she dragged Link's half conscious body off the horse. Nayru, was he heavy. "How do you fix him?"

The fairy hovered about her, twirling her hair and simpering as she watched Zelda stagger beneath Link's weight. "Just… put him in the water then," she determined finally, and Zelda obeyed, muttering to the boy slung around her shoulders.

"Come on," she said to him, "you're alright. You'll make it. Try to walk."

His head drooped onto his chest and panic flashed white hot against her ribs. He was barely there, wasn't he? Panting, she lowered him as gently as she could into the fairy's pond.

Crouching in the water next to Link, she glowered at the fairy. "Well? Heal him already! He's not exactly improving!"

The fairy swooped down to them and placed her hands (and her bosom) a bit too close to Link for Zelda's liking. Between her palms formed a glowing pinkish sphere, which she swallowed as soon as it began to pulse.

Before Zelda could move a muscle in protest, the fairy pressed her mouth to Link's. Pink sparks flew as their lips touched, and Zelda felt a strong urge to box the fairy in the side of her head or cry. She wasn't sure which was more prevalent, and it was all nonsense, anyway, since this was saving Link and she ought to be grateful.

His throat beamed pink as the sphere made its way down his esophagus and then situated itself inside him, radiating so strongly that the light pierced through his skin. His heart began to shine pink too.

Zelda said, "So… did it work?"

"Wait," the fairy hushed her.

The pink light beat with his heart and faded slowly away.

The fairy sighed and moaned and fluttered away to her little waterfall and began to weep.

"What's all this?" Zelda cried across the pond.

"It's not enough," the fairy said pitifully through her jeweled tears. "The beast was so foul, so powerful… Its fury runs rich through his blood."

A fiery wave washed over Zelda's chest. "You mean – he's going to die?"

The fairy only sobbed.

"He's not going to die!" Zelda yelled. "How could Ganon haunt his descendants if he dies right now! That's not how these things are supposed to work!" Resolute, she stood, her tattered skirts trailing in the water. "Call your sisters."

The fairy looked up at her. "Call – what?"

"Get them over here! You're fairies, for Farore's sake, don't you have magical portals or something? Get them over here and get them to heal him too!"

"But it won't be enough," the fairy whimpered.

"How can you know that?" Zelda practically roared. "CALL THEM."

The fairy squeaked at her wrath and a moment later five of her sisters flanked her behind the waterfall. They saw Link and began to wring their hands and wail just like the pink one had. Zelda rolled her eyes. How useful.

Yet before she had to order them forward they floated over the water to Link's slumped body. Each produced and swallowed a little orb of light – yellow, green, blue, violet, and white – and then kissed it into him. The light traveled to his heart where it slowly faded.

Zelda watched the last white light die out. The fairies stared at Link. Zelda stared at the fairies.

One by one, they began to cry.

"What," Zelda demanded. "What do you – why are you – NO." She turned to Link and began to shake him furiously. "You stupid fuck! You're healed! You've had plenty of magic so open your eyes and stop being dead already!" Behind her the fairies continued to lament. She whirled her head towards them and screamed, "WOULD YOU ALL STOP THAT ALREADY!"

Silence roared through the cavern very suddenly, and satisfied, Zelda turned her attention back to Link.

"They all kissed you," she muttered feverishly into his ear, as if that made it all better. "They kissed magic into you, Nayru help me why are you not alright!" Fat hot tears welled in her eyes, drooped down her cheeks sluggishly. "You're supposed to be alright!" she gasped, sobs wracking up in her chest. "You're the Hero of… you just saved, you've… you can't…" The sobs stilled within her as if silenced by the presence of his death, lingering so close above their heads. "It's not fair," she said very plainly, her voice no longer strained by emotion. "I took this from you. I took everything from you. I took your time. I took your happiness. And now I've taken your life." She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. I did this to you, she repeated in her head. To my parents. To my people. To myself. I robbed you of everything and now you are dead and oh I am the most selfish creature to ever have walked this earth for needing you back, for me

I cannot rebuild the world without the man who saved it.

The fairies were quiet behind their waterfall, watching the girl as she sat, her eyes glazed over, her arms wrapped around a young man clad in green.

It was almost scenic, the way they reclined in the sparkling pool, the girl's skirts floating around her and billowing over the boy's lap. She clung to him gently, one arm draped across his middle, the other bending upward to caress his neck and face, absently, unaware of the movement. The tenderness with which she rested her cheek on his head might have been romantic, had not the boy's face been so stricken with an expressionless pallor. He hung from her arms, half floating in the shallow water, his green tunic bubbling out around his thin frame.

The girl seemed oblivious to the passage of time, as if the day and a half that had crept by since her arrival were only hours. There was nothing outside this cavern for her, nothing in the cities that were awakening, the people rejoicing, He is dead, he is dead, we are free – Thank the Goddesses we are free – Praise the princess, praise the Hero, he is dead, we are free. She had banked her whole life on their welfare, but when that welfare had rested for so long in the hands of another, how could she let him go? Her love had belonged to her country until she handed its future to Link. He had taken the duty, taken the sword, taken the savior's mantle, and he had taken her heart along with it.

It wasn't as if the fairies didn't know. They were creatures of sensation, after all, and though the girl might have been disguised too long to comprehend her own desires, they understood quite well. He was a striking fellow, when alive and kicking, and they had seen her in the darkness, behind her scarf, seen that look in her eyes, that inferno of jealousy as the boy had received their gifts.

They wondered if she would grow to realize. They wondered if her ignorance would kill him. They wondered and watched and waited.

And, at length –

She began to shine.

Not brightly, by any means. It was a muted glow of despair and desperation, such a dark indigo color it might have been black. It pushed out of her skin with an agonizing effort, struggling to be seen, struggling to be light as light was meant to be.

And that was when the fairies knew this boy might live, after all.

Every muscle in her body was completely numb, her skin pruned and peeling from being in the water for so long. Her mind, too, had fogged over, images lazily passing by as she stroked his face.

Link – haggard, ghosted, mute as he passed from the Shadow Temple.

Link – awed, dazed as he examined the Master Sword.

Link – young, baffled, afraid as he dove after the ocarina.

Link – broiled, burned, victorious as he drew his sword from Volvagia's remains.

Link – scared senseless every time she appeared without warning (which was, of course, every time).

Link – sleeping in the fields as Epona grazed peacefully.

Link – Link – Link –

Link calling out to her, wanting more answers. Link shirtless as he changed to his Zora tunic. Link chuckling, that stupid little smirk of his crinkling his eyes. Link day after day doing more for this country – for her country – than she could ever dream of doing herself.

She wondered, quite abruptly, when she had confused herself with Hyrule – and then cringed away from the thought. It was never for you. It was never for you.

Even when it felt like it.

Even when you wanted it to be –

That was when she noticed she was glowing.

She gazed blankly at her arm for a good long moment. A dark bluish purple, the color of a bruise, seemed to be bleeding from her pores. She sighed and leaned her head back against the bank of the pool.

It was no use. This was what she'd feared forever, what she'd lusted after since she'd discovered the romantic novel on Impa's bookshelf, what she'd known would never be hers and therefore sworn to never let poison her. But it had been lingering, since she'd first seen him bathing in the river – perhaps before that, perhaps when she'd first seen victory in his eyes – perhaps even when he'd emerged from the Temple of Time with his sword at his side and some skip in his step that reeked of arrogance and the masculinity Sheik had always lacked. It was inevitable, a slowly strengthening tide that she could no longer fight.

So she drowned in it, and the light burst from her skin like darkened stardust. She ached and shone and wept because she knew now that she loved him, and she knew he was dying, and she knew there was nothing she could do.

She ignored the light at first, but there became a point at which it pressed so furiously against her eyelids that she couldn't resist opening them. She gasped when she saw that the glow had surrounded Link as well, feeding into him, feeding upon him, devouring itself in him and rebounding tenfold.

She was crying openly now, clinging to his sodden clothes with her own sodden arms, dripping snot and salt and water, and all the while all she could think was please please I love you I love you please.

Then there were waves beginning to ripple in the pond and slapping up against her chest and washing over Link's face in a solid rhythm until somehow one minute he was in her arms and the next he was swirling out of them in a whirlwind current of water. His body drooped and arched against the frothing water that bore him up in a liquid tornado, a small monsoon, and then everything was spilling everywhere, water and light and Link and she couldn't stop crying and shuddering. His body plunged back into the lake so gently, riding the waterfall and the lightfall and she wiped off her face despite the tears that continued to fall and staggered to her feet.

Her sobs echoed around the now still cavern. The fairies were nowhere to be seen. She sloshed through the water to where Link's body was sinking deeper and deeper and seized him by the foot and pulled and pulled and there was no more mantra in her head, only hysteria rattling around her chest as she dragged him to shore and lifted him beneath the arms and tugged and struggled and finally he was mostly on land, water streaming from his nose and mouth and eyes and Zelda had not realized how cold it was and how uncontrollable her hands had become.

She realized she was shrieking in whispers, incomprehensibly, "Goddesses, goddesses, Nayru oh goddesses please Link, Link, Link," and he looked just as dead as ever and she couldn't, she refused, she took his face between her shaking hands and shook him and screamed softly and begged and Link, Link, Link, please Link, please… Her open sobbing mouth poured water and saliva and tears onto his face as she pressed her words to his forehead, pressed her prayers to his skin.


She hiccupped and shivered and she kissed his lips once, quickly, as if perhaps she could forget about it later if it was fleeting enough. Then she folded his hands on top of his stomach and pressed a final kiss against his cheek, her eyes still streaming hotly. And she laid the savior of Hyrule, the Hero of Time, the first to ever take her heart, to rest.

It was morning. She staggered out of the cavern still flailing, barely able to stand, blinded by the sunlight and her tears. Epona was there, wide-eyed, as if she knew everything. Zelda flung her arms around the horse's neck and her knees gave way as the sobs once more ripped from her throat and she bawled relentlessly against Epona's mane. It didn't take long for her arms to weaken and slip and she collapsed to her knees, doubled over, seizing her stomach or pulling out handfuls of grass, rocking back and forth, wishing desperately for a knife or a stick or something that she could dig into her stomach to remove that horrible aching inside her.

She didn't know how long she huddled there on the ground, or how long after her body had run itself dry of water she stayed. It seemed to be midday, a fearsome sun beating down on her, when she finally stood on brittle legs and tried about seven times to mount Epona. Eventually she succeeded and pressed her face into Epona's neck and smelled that horsey smell that Link always carried on the hems of his clothes.

"Don't leave me," she mumbled to Epona's skin. "Please. Don't leave." Somehow it made sense.

Epona seemed to understand. She whinnied and whimpered and stamped but eventually plodded away from the cavern, her head hung low in grief, Zelda clinging to her as they left behind the boy who was dearest to them both.

A bruising slap of pain jolted her half awake. The sun was sinking against her eyelids and Epona's nose was in her face, sniffing and prodding, and of course she had fallen off and she really should try to get back on and to do that she had to stand because she was the princess and she couldn't lie here forever and hurt and cry she had to get up she had to get up she had

She knew before consciousness fully assembled that she had been asleep a long, long time. Stinging whiteness scorched her eyes before she opened them, but she was able to crack them a bit and observe a tiny room, a white blanket, a wood floor before she vomited the meager amount of food in her stomach onto the wood.

She must have passed out again with vomit in her mouth because when she awoke the taste was appalling. A hand was pressed to the back of her head and a cup to her lips. "You'll want to drink," said a sweet voice. "It'll help, trust me."

Zelda gulped down the water at her lips, her head drooping against the hand that held it. She blinked and saw a pretty redhead who seemed all too familiar.

"Malon," she mouthed.

"Don't you worry, princess," Malon replied with a smile. "We'll take good care of you here. We do owe you everything."

"That wasn't me," Zelda said in a harsh dry voice that could not have been her own. "I did nothing. It was Link."

She realized she was lying here in Malon's bed while the country tried to rule itself. That wasn't going to happen. She had to get up and do something about that.

She had to get up.

She looked at Malon with death in her eyes and said, "Do something for me. Please."

"Anything, princess," said Malon politely.

"Tell them," she whispered. She did not know how Malon would go about delivering her messages, but she had to say them anyway. "Tell them he's dead. Tell… Impa. Tell her to… reappoint everyone. Who worked under my father. And tell her he's dead. But only Impa. No one else can know."

"Princess, everyone knows that the Dark King is dead," Malon laughed. "The change was rather apparent."

"Link," said Zelda. "Link is dead."

She rolled over so she couldn't see Malon's face. She wished she could plug her ears to block out Malon's grief as well.

"Ah," said Malon gently. "Yes, we suspected… when we found you with the horse…"

"Is Epona alright?" Zelda mumbled to the pillow.

"She… jumped the fence," Malon admitted, and Zelda could almost hear her wincing. "I didn't think she could do that… I'm sorry, princess, my father's been out searching for her for a day and a half but…"

"No," said Zelda bitterly. "It's fine. Forget it. She's gone."

She curled up in a ball beneath the clean white blanket in her filthy feet and tattered dress and tangled hair and stared at the wall.

Sometime later Malon came and forced her to eat some vegetable soup. She sat up like a good little princess and sipped at the spoon as Malon fed her. Then, with the ranch girl's help, Zelda stood and hobbled to the outdoor bath, where Malon had prepared hot water in a small tub. She stripped off her dress with Malon's assistance and sunk into the bath.

The warm water prickled something like life under her skin but mostly she stared defenseless at the tub. Malon handed her a sponge and some soap, and dutifully Zelda scrubbed away the filth and washed her long tawny hair.

Sometime later she stood, took the towel from Malon's hand, and dried herself. Malon helped brush out her hair.

"What are you going to do?" was all Malon said.

"I'd better get back to Castle Town," Zelda replied. "As soon as I can. Tomorrow. Tonight."

"Tomorrow will suffice," said Malon. "Impa knows you're here."

Zelda didn't ask how. "Thank you."

The redhead escorted her back to the small wooden room but Zelda did not sleep for a long time. She sat on the bed, her legs crossed, her arms folded in her lap, and dreaded the morning. She dreaded smiling at her people as she waved on their celebrations. But she would, because she had been trained to. She dreaded her counseling with the men her father had appointed years ago. But she would go, because it was her duty. She dreaded the cold fresh stone of the castle and its wide open walls and her yawning deep chambers because she would be alone in them, and all the lonelier because she now knew what it was to lose everything and be entirely victorious all at once. But she would go because it was her home and her birthright and he was dead and she was not.

She dreamed briefly of a handsome smile in the shadows of sunset, a lone tree, a horse, a silhouette turning from her, that haunting lingering smile…

She awoke bruised and deadened before sunrise. Silently she slipped on an old dress of Malon's that was rather baggy on Zelda's thin, haggard frame. A pair of Malon's boots was wearable when stuffed with two extra pairs of socks. She tied her hair back in its usual fashion with a bit of thread she found in the drawer and packed a small sack with some bread and cheese. With an internal thank you, she slipped out of the ranch and began her trek across Hyrule Field.

When the sun was nearing its peak in the sky, she was sincerely regretting not having packed a skin of water. She sat cross-legged on the crest of a hill and munched on her bread and cheese.

Around six in the evening, she rounded a bend in the road and the swell of the crumbled castle came into view. Panic burst into her like a frenzy of moths. She hated Epona very suddenly for leaving her. This could all be over with much more quickly if she'd been able to ride to town. But the damn horse was probably frolicking about eating grass and being happy. Zelda sighed.

The sky was almost dark as she walked up to the town gate. She passed over the moat, inconspicuous among the few stragglers heading in and out of town for the night. The marketplace, however, was buzzing with nightlife and celebrations; still she found she lost herself easily in the crowd, and slipped away towards the castle without much notice.

Until a grip seized her arm and she yelped. She'd been completely drained of magic since the battle against Ganon, but reflexively a bit of fire sparked the intruder's hand and they squawked, releasing her.

"Well, at least you haven't forgotten your lessons," said a familiar voice, and she wheeled around and flung herself into Impa's arms. "Welcome back, princess," she murmured with as much warmth as a Sheikah could ever have. "I'm glad you've returned."

Her coronation, she learned, would be in a week's time. There would be immediate reparations made to the throne room to allow the ceremony to take place. Carpenters and stonemasons were shipped in in droves and Zelda could barely sleep at night from all the ruckus out in the town, from the hammering and lifting and building, which seemed to perpetuate through the night.

She met with her advisors all morning, all of whom were far more experienced than she could dream to be, as they counseled her on foreign relations and economics and public image. In the afternoon, she spent copious amounts of time with a pretty black mare named Brinna, scaling the hills of the countryside and getting as lost as possible before nightfall when she had to turn resentfully back to the castle. She started bringing her lunch with her, and was picnicking one day when a rider on horseback approached her from the distance.

"Malon," said Zelda warmly as the redheaded rider drew nearer. "What a pleasure."

The ranch girl dismounted from her horse, whose coat matched Malon's hair rather uncannily. "Princess," she said sunnily, "how fare the preparations? I trust you have recovered somewhat?"

"I have, thank you." Zelda smiled and gestured to her picnic. "Join me?"

The girls ate in quiet, occasionally exchanging a word or two. Somehow Zelda felt at ease with her, as if Malon had known all along that Zelda, as Sheik, was always watching in Link's shadow. Zelda remembered almost fondly the rage of jealousy she'd felt as Malon had spoken to Link with such a sweet smile, such a gentle tone, such abject femininity that Zelda knew she could never achieve.

"I know it's insensitive," said Malon after a long, comfortable pause in the conversation, "but I did wonder… how he died."

"Poison," Zelda said, almost carelessly, as if it had happened ages ago. "From the beast."

Malon nodded. "Too potent for your own magic, I suppose."

"Yes," Zelda sighed. "Far too much. Perhaps," she found herself saying, "it's for the best. I mean, Ganondorf did… he did say… he'd haunt his descendents…. forever, and now… Well, we don't need to worry about that, do we?"

"I'm sorry," Malon whispered, her eyes searching Zelda's. "I shouldn't have asked."

"No, no," Zelda insisted. "Really. It's no bother. It's fine. It's all fine…" She cut herself off as Malon hugged her abruptly around the shoulders.

"It's alright," said Malon, as Zelda sighed a few last tears into her neck. "I miss him too."

"You loved him," Zelda realized against Malon's throat.

"Loved?" Malon laughed. "Like a brother, princess. Not like you."

Zelda found her face burning and was glad Malon couldn't see. "No, I only meant – the way you spoke – forgive me…"

"Princess," Malon said, chuckling darkly, "you're not so hard to read." She stroked Zelda's hair and idly Zelda wondered if this was what having a sister felt like. "I know it's not much," Malon said, "but it does pass. I had a sort of… childhood romance. I was so young, barely a woman, and he had to go…" She sighed. "It does pass. Slowly. But there are others, and you don't forget, but you move on."

Zelda pressed her lips together.

"In the meantime," said Malon, "I've enjoyed your company."

Zelda lifted her head and met the redhead's smile. "And I yours."

"And yet the hour is late," Malon said, taking a deep breath and stretching, "and I must go home. You too, princess."

"Call me Zelda," she responded. "If it's alright."

Malon stood and hoisted herself onto her horse. "Till next time, Zelda."

As she rode away, Zelda called after her, "Will you be at my coronation?"

"Of course!" Malon cried, turning in the saddle and waving. "I wouldn't miss it for the world!"

She felt hot lips against her throat, solid hands around her waist, a familiar voice in her ear, saying words she knew she knew, but somehow could not understand. There was a syrupy warmth in her gut and a tightness in her chest and she grew drunk on the sound of that tongue, faintly accented, speaking in love songs but never making sense…

She woke slogged in the nostalgia of memories she'd never made.

When she rode out that afternoon, Malon was nowhere to be found. She shrugged off her disappointment and practiced her magic against a few unlucky trees, but found burning things to be a bit anticlimactic after a while. Instead she transported herself into the branches of an old oak and whistled her lullaby absentmindedly as she whittled a stick.

The stick turned out to look suspiciously like an arrow. She supposed most sticks did, when regarded in a certain light, but threw it away regardless and took to carving little symbols into the trunk of the tree. A flower. A sun. A cloud. Stupid girly things she'd always doodled in her academic notes, much to Impa's irritation.

She heard a sweet little song in the distance and smiled – a mockingbird singing her lullaby back to her, she supposed. She whistled again, to egg it on, and it reiterated, after a moment, her every note. She leaned her head against the tree and hummed gently to herself as the mockingbird kept singing.

Below Zelda's branch, Brinna suddenly muttered under her breath, her ears perked up uncertainly.

"What's wrong, lovey?" Zelda asked the horse.

"Dunno," said a voice from below. "Seems spooked, doesn't she?"

She squawked and clung to the trunk of the tree, her heart hammering against her ribs. "Who's there!" she squeaked. "I'm – I'm armed! So don't you dare make any moves. And leave my horse alone!" Her eyes wildly scanned the forest floor around her, but she saw no one, nothing –

Until… out of the shadows…

"No," said Zelda, quite firmly. "No, no. This is ridiculous. This is absolutely absurd."

Epona stepped forward and nuzzled against Brinna, who murmured happily in reply. Her green-clad rider looked up towards Zelda's tree, his face obscured by the afternoon shade.

Zelda clung, quaking, to the tree, her throat dry and palms slippery. "No," she repeated. "This is – not acceptable. I refuse."

The rider chuckled in a voice Zelda was still uncertain she'd ever heard before – too deep, too raw, too passionate. "You refuse, princess? What is it you refuse, exactly?"

"You," she said. "You are not… you are not here. You are dead. So leave me the hell alone and stop… just…"

The rider tilted his head and smiled at her, his face falling partially into the light. Zelda's pounding heart stopped altogether. That smile. That chin, so stubborn, so defiant. That nose, delicate yet resolute.

"Oh Nayru," she whispered, her whole body wracking with tremors. "Why are you doing this to me, why. I did everything I could, it wasn't enough."

"Princess," he interrupted.

"I did everything," she continued, "and it wasn't enough. I failed."

"If it wasn't enough," he said, "then what am I doing here?"

She stared at his shadowed face.

"What am I doing here, princess," he repeated, "if you failed?"

"I don't know," she mouthed.

"Maybe you didn't fail after all," he suggested. "Is that possible, do you think?"

"No," she murmured.

He grinned. "Then what alternatives do you suggest?"

"Madness," she offered numbly. "Necromancy."

"Come down from that tree," he said, "and test that theory."

She wasn't sure why she obeyed. She wasn't even sure how she got down from the tree. She didn't notice him dismount, either. She just knew that one moment she was dropping down and the next he was standing a few feet away, looking very tall and very strong and very alive.

He took a few steps toward her and she froze. His eyes were large and bright and they seemed so honest and she knew he was real, in the back of her mind, and she hated him for it.

Which was why, as he stepped closer, she whipped back her fist and punched him smartly in the jaw.

"AGH!" he roared, doubling back. "What the hell was that for?"

"For being dead, you dunce!" she screeched. "And pulling this whole… stunt on me, how dare you treat me like this, I am your princess, in two days I will be your Queen so how dare you..."

A gloved hand clapped over her mouth. Her eyes bugged out. He recovered quickly, didn't he?

His eyes were smarting now with something akin to anger but not quite close enough. And he was very close. So close she could smell him, the horsey musk, the smell of pine needles, the clean scent of man that had grown on her so alarmingly quickly. "If you have any idea how much I wanted to take that back," he began, and then stopped, dropped his hand, and sighed, his shoulders hunching over. "I'm sorry," he said. "If I hadn't been so careless, if I hadn't been wounded in the first place… I didn't want you to think I was…"

He really hadn't died, had he? All that time in the water… he'd been hanging on?

"How in Nayru's name did you survive?" she whispered, searching his body all over with her eyes as if collecting evidence of his reality.

"You," he said faintly.

"No," she said. "No," she said. "No, no, no. You're wrong. I did everything – everything wrong. I didn't – and then I did – and I failed… you were… you were dead, it wasn't enough, not their magic, not mine, nothing, you died… you died…" She was shaking so hard she placed a hand against the tree to support her.

"It was you, princess," he repeated firmly. "What the fairies did kept me alive, but you… you restored me completely. I just took a while to… to reboot." He grinned halfheartedly, a stunning smile nonetheless that scrambled her thoughts just a bit. "I did find them, though?"

"What?" she said loudly. "What did you find?"

"My boots," he said, holding out his foot for her to see. "Reboot? My boots?"

She considered punching him again but settled for a fierce glare. "You complete imbecile. You utter ridiculous fool."

"It was a joke," he explained, narrowing his eyes.

"It was asinine," she replied, glowering right back.

They lingered in stalemate for a moment, both of them irked and tired and staggering with disbelief.

Link softened first. "I'm sorry," he said for the second time. "After everything you did to help me… I'm sorry I left you so scared."

"To help you?" She shrieked laughter. Madness indeed. "Oh yes, I helped you plenty, stealing your childhood, shoving you into battle, getting you killed about twice per day, all for a mistake that I made, yes, you're right, I'm quite the benefactor, aren't I?"


"It's not like you should be cursing my name and my ancestors and my descendants – oh wait! Ganondorf took care of all that! Only that was you! One more thing that I – I…" She fell silent, backed against the tree, buried in regret.

"Just how much do you think you should be able to control?" said Link doubtfully.

"I'm to be coronated in two days," said Zelda. "So, just about everything."

"Queens are people too," Link said. He scratched his head and looked at her. "I owe you my life, princess."

"Not as much as I owe you mine," she said dully. "And my country. And my people. And everything in between."

"You make it sound horrific," Link laughed, "being grateful."

"It is! It is precisely horrific!" Zelda spat. "I am indebted to you for eternity and all I can do – all I want – I mean… Not that wanting – it has nothing to do with – oh Nayru," she groaned, wiping hair out of her face. "Let me put it this way, Hero. Anything you desire, anything I can give is yours for the taking." Except for my heart. That's already yours.

Link smiled wryly. "How generous, princess. I'll… reflect upon that."

"Good. Then I trust I will see you at the coronation." Zelda what are you doing. Zelda why are you getting on the horse. Zelda why are you riding away.

Why are you letting him let you go?

She breathed deeply the crisp air of the gardens at twilight, so relieved to finally be alone after her first day as Queen. The image of all those people, looking at her, their eyes probing and prying, overwhelmed her for a moment and she sank onto a stone bench.

She had a country to run and all she could think of was –

"You know," said Link, "the fairies told me an interesting story."

She jumped from her seat and whirled around. He stood there in his finest tunic and freshly cleaned boots, leaning against the archway.

"You shouldn't walk up behind people," she chastised him. "You gave me a start."

"My apologies, my Queen." He walked towards her bench, fingers idly catching on the blooms along the path. "They told me something funny when I woke up in the cavern. They giggled quite a bit," he added, snorting. "Seemed to find it hilarious that they had all kissed me when you ordered them to save my life."

"Yes, how amusing," said Zelda, rolling her eyes and resuming her seat on the stone bench.

"That's not all," said Link, growing ever closer behind her. "They told me you cast quite a strong spell, a whirlwind of water, quite similar to your defensive spell but with tremendous healing properties." He took a seat beside her and leaned in cheekily. "They said you kissed me, too."

"It seemed to be the trend," said Zelda, all calm and composed. Inside she was melting.

"My lady Queen," said Link thoughtfully, "there's a reason it's called Nayru's Love."

She smiled faintly as she surveyed the garden. "Ah, well," she said. "Caught in the act, I suppose." She felt strangely calm about it, oddly peaceful. She could live a quiet life now, without the secrecy of it burning up her chest.

He refused to jest in return. She felt his eyes boring into the side of her face. "How long have you…?"

"Oh, always," she replied vaguely. "Always, I think."

"You betrayed nothing."

"I was a boy," she laughed, "and a Sheikah boy at that. What would you have had me do?"

He was still looking at her so intently that she felt naked, boneless. "Nothing, in the past," he admitted. "The moment was never opportune."

"There you are, then." She brushed out her fine skirts. "Your presence has been a pleasure, Hero. Again, make any request known to me and it shall be fulfilled to the best of my ability. I wish you a pleasant evening." She made to stand.

A hand seized her wrist. "Zelda."

She froze, her eyes locked on the ground.

He stood beside her, lingering over her shoulder, his breath warm on her neck. "I would have you do something now," he said.

"As I have told you, Hero," she replied, struggling to keep her voice steady, "my debt to you remains to be fulfilled."

"This isn't debt and payment, Zelda," said Link. She shivered. "This is something a little more complex."

"I don't see how," she insisted, her chin stubbornly facing away from him.

"My lady Queen," Link whispered. "Look at me."

She refused.

"Zelda." A finger turned her chin gently and reluctantly she followed it, her eyes flickering up to meet his. They were narrowed and brilliant and bursting with something she would not let herself understand. He was too close.

"What am I to do," said Link a bit sadly, "now that my duty has been fulfilled? I have no family. I cannot marry – if I did the beast would hunt down my descendants. I have nowhere to go, no home, no purpose…"

"What of your desires?" she found herself asking him. "Can you not pursue those in duty's stead?"

"I fear," he muttered, "I fear that I cannot. My only desire is entirely unattainable. To pursue it would be… beyond foolish."

"Perhaps…" she admitted. She looked at him for a heartbeat too long. "Then let us be fools," she begged him, and he burst into sunbeams, all white teeth and blue eyes, his arm flying around her waist, ensnaring her against him. And Zelda had never been kissed but suddenly it felt as though she'd known how her whole life, had only suppressed the memories she had yet to make, that she had always been here in this moment and that she would always remain here, her wrists wrapped around Link's neck, her lips moving in soft subtle whispers against his.

The kiss ended but the moment did not, and his mouth was at her ear, murmuring words she knew she knew, and had always known, but had never understood until now –

"Tell me to stay."

Her heart soared, the heart that beat in the palm of his hand. "Stay with me," she replied to his cheek.

And she almost felt his pulse beating against her own as he said, "Always," and kissed her again as the sun sank deep into the horizon.


Hahaha seriously spent way too much time writing this and it ended up not having a point but what I really want is for these two to get it on all the time how are they so sexual in my brain.

Ha... haha...

K bye. 3