Why are you at my side?
How can I be any use to you now?
Give me chance and I'll let you see how
Nothing has changed...
Deep in my heart I'm concealing
Things that I'm longing to say
Scared to confess what I'm feeling
Frightened you'll slip away...
Where do we go from here? (You must love me) Evita.
The first time, Link was away on business and he learned of what had happened upon his return; of course, as he heard the bad news, blood drained his face, and he immediately rushed to the tower where he and his wife made their quarters in a beyond-human speed.
However, he froze upon arriving to the door a few seconds, fearing what he might find inside. Better be cautious.
Link entered the bedroom slowly.
As only a quiet, lonely sob greeted him, he was hit by the pain, the void. Normally, Zelda would greet him with a warm, loving smile, the kind that made her eyes look smaller, but brighter. She would walk to him and kiss the corner of his mouth modestly, before he all but smothered her in kisses that landed all over her face, tickling her, and tracing the line of her waist with his fingers. He would touch the small bulge of her stomach and feel an overwhelming and a little frightening wave of love for both his wife and this minuscule, precious child inside of her, almost as if it were an electric current running from the tips of his fingers and through her skin. She would sit with him on the bed, and let him rest his head on her lap as he told her his latest adventures. They would eventually lie, face to face or back to back or back to stomach and their breaths would always, somehow or other, end up synchronizing. They would cuddle together until their clothes became a nuisance for both.
Now, somehow, Link felt like those times where far, far away. He walked to the bed and sat on the corner, watching her with a growing, freezing feeling in his insides, from his stomach to his throat. She was curled up on a ball, the skirts of her dress spread over the covers, her hand on her still swollen stomach, as if she couldn't- wouldn't believe that the baby growing inside was gone. He could see she'd been crying for a long time, as her eyes were puffy and red, and her breath came out in raspy pants that shook her whole body. Gods, he wanted to hold her so much, to tell her it was going to be alright. He reached out to touch her knee gingerly and got a heavy, aching feeling in the pit of his stomach as she didn't even acknowledge the fact that he was there. The minutes went by and she didn't even turn to him, or say anything to show she'd realized his presence. Not being able to take it, he got to his feet and walked for the door. Her voice, broken, hoarse and small, stopped him momentarily.
"Oh, Link, I'm so sorry...!" she whispered before breaking into hysterical sobs once again.
Natural causes, the old doctor said.
"It was just bad luck, lad, you see, the Royal family females have always had weak constitutions" he continued with uneasiness, as if fearing Link would go berserk on him for being the carrier of bad news "They have had difficulty bearing for generations. Late Queen Mia's mother died on delivery, and it is rumored that she herself was severely weakened by Queen Zelda's birth. A little luck is all they need to give birth and this time, luck wasn't by your side"
Link said nothing, staring at him with a frozen face that made the doctor even more uneasy, the words -Natural causes, like there was something natural in the fact that the hopes and dreams he and his wife had so lovingly crafted together over the past 5 months suddenly collapsing into a pile of dust- plagued Link incessantly. There was nothing natural in the pain he, and more importantly, Zelda was feeling. He just couldn't bear hearing how everyone assumed that saying there was no avoiding it would make them feel better about losing their child.
The second time, they were simply taking a stroll around the castle gardens, arm on arm, the air around them quiet and calm. The past months had been intense, with him fretting over her making the slightest effort and her tensing at even the littlest discomfort. However, when the fifth month rolled by them and nothing happened, they laughed at their worries and began hoping and dreaming again. The strolls had become a custom of theirs, under the light of the setting sun when the memories of their first meetings seemed to bloom afresh.
Then Zelda suddenly froze, grasping her huge and round stomach with a pained gesture, biting back a scream as Link let her cling to him with her free hand, lost for words in fright. It didn't take them long to realize she was bleeding, her white skirts stained in crimson, and Link felt everything but that stain becoming gray and surreal. Even her cries for help seemed to come from far away, and it took him a while to realize this was because he was close to fainting. Biting his tongue to bring back reality, he promptly carried her into the castle, his own voice booming across the halls as he calls, demands, begs for someone, anyone to come do something. She broke into sobs the moment she saw the blood, knowing what it meant, and was muttering to herself something like 'Not again, please, dear Din, Farore, Nayru, not again, please let my baby be safe, please-" Link disconnected himself from the prayer, knowing that should he lend ear to it, he would end up panicking, and Zelda really, really needed the cold-blooded, straight-thinker hero for the moment. He kept his voice firm as the servants approached, telling them to fetch the doctor immediately and only allowed his darling, frightened wife to leave his arms as he laid her to their bed, still writhing and clutching her stomach. The doctor arrived soon after and entered the room where Link could hear Zelda screaming and crying and begging and praying for the life of their unborn child.
It was for naught. For a second time, the doctor diagnoses 'Natural causes'.
"You are still young" he added, still too frightened of Link to not try and humor him "You both are. The queen will give you heirs very soon, I'm sure of it"
Link nodded and curtly thanked him before dismissing him and entering the bedroom.
This time, she wasn't sobbing; instead, she sat on the bed, straight and proud, pale and beautiful as a statue, tears sliding down her face, seemingly unnoticed. He sat beside her on the bed and reached out to catch a tear sliding down her cheek with his thumb.
"...how are you feeling?" he asked, because he couldn't truly think about anything else to say. It had been many years since he'd last found himself shy in front of her, and going back to that phase was sort of frightening, it made him feel as though they were drifting apart.
"...I am so useless" she whispered, her voice hoarse with tears.
"It's not your fault" Link immediately countered "The doctor said-"
"To hell with what the doctor said!" she suddenly half-hissed, half-sobbed "Our baby...our babies died!"
He swallowed, trying to unknot his throat and biting back tears. He had tried not to think of what would have been their first born, even now that their second born too was...
"Zelda, please, calm down-" he tried, his voice most unmanly-like quivery.
"I could not even...my babies...I couldn't even give life to them!" she continues through a set jaw "Queen of this land, bearer of a piece of the Triforce, and I still was unable to protect and keep my babies alive!"
He hushed her, caressing her hair, and her back, and her shaking shoulders and arms. She had goose skin, and felt incredibly cold, and Link couldn't help but wonder exactly how much blood she had lost and what it implied.
"Zelda, please, lie down, you need to rest" he softly said, pushing her down gently. She let him do, and as she finally let her head touch the pillow, exhaustion seemed to wash over her.
"I wish I had...died along with them..." she muttered. Link's heart skipped a beat, his worse fear materialized into words for the first time.
"Don't say that" he simply growled, before kissing her forehead fiercely, as if daring anyone to break them part.
It took her a while to realize he blamed himself too, but when she did, she stopped lamenting and put on a brave face. He thanked her for it, but the hateful voice in the back of his mind telling him things like 'If you had taken better care of her, if you knew what to do, if you weren't so useless...' didn't go away. One day, he overheard a drunk soldier making a comment about how it was likely that the princess couldn't bear a child because of 'That Goat-herder's common seed' and he almost beat him to death with his bare fists before Ashei managed to drag him away, but not before the man could spit some more poison along with the teeth he had knocked out of him.
"Some hero ye' are!" he spluttered as some fellow soldiers tried to convince him to shut up "Ye can't even make a tyke that'll live-!"
This time, Ashei knocked him out with one quick jab, spitting over his unconscious form before helping Link back to the castle.
As Zelda washed and bandaged his scrapped and reddened knuckles and the few wounds the soldier had been able to inflict in the intimacy of their chambers, she asked him what the cause for such commotion could have possibly been and he almost broke down right there and then. Because the soldier hadn't said anything he hadn't told himself thousands of times before. He brought her hands to his forehead and rested it on them, biting back the same words she had told him that time because he knew just how much it would hurt her to hear them the same way it had hurt him when she said them:
'I'm so useless'
The third time, she had only carried their child for three months or so and they were being so careful most people couldn't help but laugh a little, even if the situation had nothing to be laughed at. Zelda was, by the doctor's orders, put on absolute rest, not to be bothered or tensed or anything that could upset her. And yet, the pain assaulted her late at night while they were sleeping on their bed. Yet again she begged; to him, to the gods, to her own body, to no one in particular, before the doctor, guested in the room next to theirs, attended at her anguished wails, asking Link to leave the room, a resigned look in his eyes; Link had to hold himself back from the urge to hit that stupid old man for giving up before even trying, but as Zelda's shrieks began to gradually fade, fear, fear as strong and dark as he had never known and despair crushed him erasing everything else and he had to fight the urge to enter the room right then. Instead, he slid down to the floor and buried his head on his hands and sobbed. He sobbed for his children, who he would never get to meet, or talk to, or teach horseback riding. He sobbed for his wife, who suffered, and hurt at every miscarriage and had no guarantee of being able to survive another one, and he sobbed for himself, who couldn't do anything for them.
The doctor emerged from the room some minutes later, making him get to his feet anxiously, and this time, he merely shook his head.
"I gave her a sleeping potion, lad, she should sleep till morning" the doctor made a pause, evaluating him, before continuing "However, she lost so much blood this time...she was left very weakened and..." he trailed off, as if searching for what to say next, but Link understood and felt his legs as if they were about to give in.
"...I'm so sorry, lad" the doctor finally whispered, allowing himself to place a bony hand on Link's broad shoulder. Link, despite his state, appreciated this gesture, because it showed a man who understands and wants to ease the pain of another man rather than a peasant trying to not get killed by royalty. He nodded as a dismissal and entered the room to sit on the bedside, watching over Zelda until morning came.
The first lights showed him the traces of suffering and exhaustion in her beloved face with such crudity that he felt the tears sliding down his face again and he covered his eyes with one hand, setting his jaw. He would have given anything and everything so that the one suffering like that were he and not her. He would have given anything and everything to keep her by his side, happy and safe and sound. Wasn't that the whole reason why he had married her? Because he thought no one would love her or care for her better than he did?
The sun was already climbing into the sky when Zelda woke up with great effort, Link noticed, uneasy. This time, she merely reached out for him, her fingers tracing the moist lines of his tear-streaked face.
"Link..." she croaked her eyes droopy "The baby..."
His mouth tightened as he fought back tears, and that was the only confirmation she needed; she let out a tired breath and closed her eyes, her brows knitting and a weak whimper leaving her lips, with such anguish that Link couldn't hold back anymore. He buried his head on the covers, a husky sob leaving his lips.
"Forgive me!" he said his fists balling over the bed "Forgive me, Zelda! Please forgive me!"
He apologized until the words began to blur together. For not being able to help her and for not being able to take her place, for not being able to protect their children. For everything.
If he hadn't returned from Ordon that day, so many years ago, and offered himself as a knight...
If he hadn't given in to his wish to be close to her...
If they hadn't fallen in love...
She wouldn't have to go through so much pain. It was his fault.
She had laid a hand on his shaggy hair, she didn't have the strength to do anything else. They fell asleep after exhausting themselves with tears when the sun reached its summit and woke up, their eyelids swollen and mouths dry, when twilight fell over the land. No one had bothered them, respecting their pain, but someone had been kind enough to provide a jar of water, two cups and some medicine for blood loss while they were sleeping. Link poured some water and helped Zelda drink in small sips that seemed to exhaust her greatly before drinking some himself.
"This was the last time" Zelda suddenly whispered, much to his alarm.
"The last time?" he repeated urgently, pouring her some medicine.
"I don't think I can take another miscarriage" she said, the reality of their situation returning to her like a slap on the face. So much for their hopes. Tears swelled in her eyes as she continued, her voice weak with grief "This was the last time we tried, Link. I think we simply were not meant to have children"
He stared at the liquid he had just poured, thinking of the reason why Zelda even needed it on the first place, What had the doctor said the first time, some years or centuries ago? The women of the Royal family had weak constitutions. Zelda's grandmother had died of childbirth; her mother had been greatly weakened by her own birth. He realized his hand was shaking when he handed the medicine over to her. He didn't want to give up, he felt like a loser doing it, but the possibility that if they DID have any children, it'd be at the cost of her life was actually very big. His stomach lurched with fear at the thought. Knowing that they would never have children was unspeakably sad, but things the way they were, was having them worth the risk?
"Link?" she called to him, her brow knit in worry.
"Yeah?" he called back, trying to fake calm.
"What I just said.,."
"I agree" he burst out, nodding "This is it"
There was something very sad about the way both of them seemed relieved.
Zelda got better. It only took some rest, rich foods, and Link's loving care. Two weeks or so after the incident, the Doctor gave his approval to let her return to her usual lifestyle and she was allowed to be the busy-bee she usually was. The circles under her eyes gradually disappeared, but the nightmares didn't quite so for a while. However, whenever she woke up, tears in her eyes, sorrow in her chest, there, next to her was her hero, ready to provide the comfort he daren't ask for himself. Sometimes, she'd just sit on the bed and look at his sleeping form, letting her eyes follow the scars on his body, each one a testimony of his courage. She would remember every fight he'd had for her sake and feel at the same time a little guilty and very happy.
He would do the same on nights when the voice, echoing the drunk soldier, rung in his ears too loud. But he rarely contented himself with gazing. He had spent too much time just looking at her without daring to touch her, for his liking, so he trailed the silky ribbons of her hair with the tips of his fingers, or ran his thumb over the crook of her neck and the curve of her shoulder, or held her hand, marveling on the calluses left on them by the sword and the bow. She would inevitably wake up at this and allow him to lay his head on her lap, singing in mutters like she would have sung to the ones that never were.
One day Ilia invited them over to Ordon; since her father was now very old and all but deaf, she was now semi-officially the mayoress of the province, and her birthday was nearing, nothing more natural than inviting her childhood friend and his wife to the celebration. They accepted delightedly and spent an entire week with the Ordonians, who sure had a way of making them feel at home. Zelda got herself positively drunk on pumpkin liquor and Link tended to her splitting headache the morning after. They left Ordon looking well-fed (Uli wouldn't have it anyway else) and rested, and with the agreement to have similar outings every now and then.
Three months or so later, Prince Ralis sent invitations to his wedding, and of course they had to attend and give their blessings to the newlyweds, which prompted a small vacation at Zora's Domain, in which Link tried to teach her how to fish, failed epically, and Zelda discovered she didn't like fishing at all. The returned to the Castle with a good luck charm from Ralis, the blessings of his bride and a huge fish Link had caught in tow.
Sometime later, the Gorons offered an invitation to the 'Dragon Festival' that was going to be held at Kakariko. It apparently was the celebration in which the remembered how the Hero of Gorons had defeated a huge dragon using a hammer, and the main attraction of the festival was precisely a dance that represented their fight. The dragon was performed by a group of Gorons disguised as the huge monster and the Hero of Gorons was performed by Cor Goron. They danced to a melody perfumed by both Luda's flute and Renado's drums among the special effects manufactured by Barnes.
They went here and there ever now and then, visiting old friends. Renado and Thelma finally got married after years of her stalking him, Colin forged his first sword and Rusl threw a huge party about it, Yeto and Yeta had an anniversary party during which, thankfully, only Link got the massive pats in the back and bear hugs.
Finally, around the end of a year of old friends meetings, Ashei and Shad commented on the idea of spending a few days at Hena's fishing hole. Zelda made a face at the thought of fishing, but accepted to go, nonetheless, because the scenery was beautiful. During the day, they were together almost most of the time, rowing on their rented boat. Shad and Zelda reading while Ashei and Link fished; Link taught them how to steal the bee larva without getting mauled by the bees, they sparred, they talked and, by dinnertime, Hena told them that story on how she was probably descended form Hyrule's most famous fisherman (Who, curiously enough, didn't seem to have a name along with the title)
However, when they decided to retire for the night, each couple retired to their tent.
Soon after their little escapade, Zelda went looking for Link at the training grounds where he spent the days shaping soldiers. He saw her approach at full speed, raising her skirts to avoid tripping, and at her pale face and terrified look in her eyes, Link feared the worst. Had the Kingdom been attacked? Had something happened to one of their friends? Had she had one of her visions? However, as she reached him and told him the news with a quivering voice, he all but dropped the training sword he still held, his eyes wide.
She was pregnant again.
This time, when the pain started, she almost gave out a cry of frustration and pure rage and he noticed immediately that something was off, setting his jaw to avoid a growl. They had been careful! So careful that Zelda was all but wrapped in bubble wrapping! His mind returned to the time when they had yet again made the announcement, in the tone one has when telling a tale they're not quite convinced of. Everyone had congratulated them, but their words had an aftertaste of pity. Was everyone so convinced they weren't going to make it? Link didn't dare hope anymore, but Zelda gave him the impression she did. During the nights, she'd murmur her song to both herself and him, like a lullaby, and when her stomach began to swell, she'd place her hand over it while singing. She had once or twice let him know that she felt kicks and he'd politely nodded, but never dared to touch the belly, never dared to make a bond with the child he didn't know if he'd get to keep.
Suddenly, Zelda breathed out, saying the pain had receded for a few moments, and they realized something was not quite like other times. For one, this time the pregnancy got so far as nine months without giving more than a couple of frights. And there was also the fact that this time there was no bleeding, and something akin to joy lighted her face. Link wanted to tell her not to, that it'd only make things worse later. The doctor arrived some minutes after the first wave of pain, and he seemed rather surprised when, after a short examination and a few questions, he told Link to leave the room for the delivery. He obeyed, but just barely, all sorts of paranoid ideas running through his mind despite the fact that Zelda was putting on a brave face and telling him everything was going to be alright. He studied the thoughts, turned them over and over, pushed them and pulled them, like a cat with a yarn ball: Zelda had a weak constitution. All women in her family did. Her grandmother couldn't live through a delivery and her mother barely made it. She had had three miscarriages, each worse than the latter, and the last one almost killed her. What if the ordeal of giving birth was too much for her body to handle? He landed a kick on a nearby piece of furniture, breaking it, and pushed the idea away before it made him do something stupid, like breaking into the room while the doctor was still working. The fact that Zelda's pain didn't seem to be decreasing (If anything, it seemed to increase) didn't help either, so he did the only thing he could do to avoid becoming crazy: Hum the melody Zelda sang to him late at nights, when he was haunted by his guilt, and keep walking.
If someone were to ask him, years from then, how much time he'd spent humming and waiting and pacing up and down the corridor, Link would probably shrug. Things had come to a point where he wasn't aware of anything but the melody in his memory and in his lips. Not even the time, not even his surroundings, not even the fact that his hands where so tight into fists he'd have a hard time unwrapping his fingers later, or that his mouth was dry, or that he hadn't slept.
As he passed the door again, he faintly noticed something different. Was something missing? The door. It was open. And the doctor was standing there, looking positively exhausted. So, then, was everything over? He had probably cleaned up and sedated Zelda by now, it sure had taken more than usual. Or had his worst fears come true? Surely not, or else the doctor would have run for his life instead of waiting for him on the door. But why was he making faces at him? It took him a while and two laps up and down the corridor to realize the doctor had a different from usual look in his face.
He forced his feet to stop, barely allowing himself to start hoping.
"Well" the doctor began, a little mockingly "It was a hard one, but, lad, I'm perfectly glad to say you now have two lovely ladies to take care of"
It took Link approximately one minute to process what he'd heard and run through the door, almost tripping in his hurry. Zelda greeted him with a tired but triumphant smile and a bundle in his arms. He advanced to her, his legs shaking so badly that he felt like a newborn colt. But when the bundle softly whimpered he all but fell to his knees next to the bed and remained there, hardly knowing whether he should cry or laugh, so he did both, causing the bundle to start crying at the loud noise and Zelda to look at him with and odd sort of exhausted comprehension. He cried in long peals of laughter until he collapsed on the ground, exhausted.
He woke up with her sleeping face close to his and the bundle safe and warm between their two bodies, the newborn's creased face facing the ceiling. He didn't even remember it, but he'd already placed a hand over the bundle's stomach, covering it completely, and felt the soft but sure rise and fall of the -girl, the doctor had said it was a girl- baby's calm breathing. The sun was already setting on the west, and under the reddish hue of twilight, he gazed at Zelda's sleeping face and remembered the first time he'd seen her, under a similar light, in what seemed to be thousands of years ago. He remembered every fight, every gash on his skin, ever drop of blood shed for her. And then every kiss, and every caress, and every word they'd said and every promise they'd made to each other. And he remembered another twilight, in which they had given up hope and he had told himself over and over again it would have been so much better for her if he hadn't set his eyes on her, if she hadn't looked his way and seen something to love.
But something changed as he saw her exhausted, pain-worn, pale but infinitely happy face. He finally understood why Zelda had had the courage to hope and dream again while he kept himself tucked away in fear. He finally understood that, should he ever tell her what he had thought that day, and during the nights when she'd comfort him with her song, she would pout and slap him in the nape (An habit she'd copied from Ashei and Shad) and tell him to 'Do stop saying nonsense or so help me...!' .
He finally understood that moments like the one he was living made anything worth it. And that Zelda had known it from the beginning. Of course, out of the two, she was the smart one.
The child -his little girl- stirred in her sleep with a weak murmur.
He decided he'd go through it all again without a second thought.
C.C. (AKA The Author) here.
First of all, sorry the un-updated version was so lamely edited. I keep forgetting that the site doesn't support text files the same as other sites and I keep forgetting how you sub new stories properly.
Secondly, I really don't know where this one came from. I mean, I have had the headcanon that Zelda's family, specially the females, have always had poor health basically since I first played OoT when I was six (It would explain why Zelda's mom is dead in every game) but I had never thought how it'd affect childbirth before. So...yeah.
Curious fact: I actually toyed with the idea of keeping them childless to prove a point on how they could be happy even without kids, butttt I kinda made my point on it during the while they thought they wouldn't. Also, they're royalty, they kinda needed a heir.
Anyway, reviews are always appreciated.