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A New Normal

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I won't forget you.

Life was a cruel trick. Just when it seemed that things would be normal, that they could move on and grow and prosper, something else had to hold them back. Barely two years after Calamity Ganon’s defeat, and Zelda was sick - something Impa feared would come. The realisation that her mother died of the same mysterious illness wasn’t anymore reassuring. Fate was cutthroat, and their souls were only puppets for some higher powers, battling it out among the stars.

But they had learned. They were scientists now, evolved, and intrigued. There had to be a way to avoid a completely unnecessary death. After all, Link had survived a hundred years in stasis using ancient technology, so surely, if they applied that with today’s knowledge, they could improve upon it?

At least, that was the idea. Purah was the one to spearhead the mission, making various changes and adjustments to the shrine of resurrection, still buried atop the Great Plateau, and still very much… alive. At least that’s how it felt. Link hated going back in there, but it was necessary. Zelda was growing weaker with each passing day, and he couldn’t lose her, not again.

According to Purah’s calculations, the process of revitalizing Zelda would take two years. It sounded like hell, but it was certainly an improvement over a century, so they ran the math and began preparations. The princess was transported to the shrine immediately, frail yet strong, impressively confident in her resolve that she could overcome the memory loss. In truth, no one knew whether or not she would be affected in the same way Link was. It was nothing but a necessary risk.

I’ll dream of you.

Maybe her confidence was nothing but a show to reassure herself. After all, Link was already dead by the time he reached the shrine. He didn’t remember succumbing to death anymore than he remembered being placed on the stone tablet, but it was different for Zelda. It took two days of laying in the cool water for her to lose consciousness; two sleepless days and nights in which Link didn’t leave her side. It was like waiting for her to die, but knowing she would be back. He tried to stay cheerful for her. But he was terrified. Alone, again.

Don’t leave me, okay?

You’ll always have me.

I promise.

Chapter Text

Hey guys, welcome to my new fic, A New Normal! It's going to switch occasionally between Zelda and Link's perspective. I think there'll be some benefits at having both, so I hope it's easy to put up with. This will be a longer fic, so I hope you enjoy the ride!


 

 

Zelda, Day 1.

Warm. Cold. Wet. Dry. Pain, no pain. Nothing at all, just darkness and a glowing triangle flickering dimly in the distance. Blood seeping into the dirt. Raindrops. The faraway voice of someone she loved. Nightmares a hundred years long. Wait - was what that last one?

Love?

Blue was the first thing she saw, seeping through her eyelids like a slow building pressure, becoming brighter and brighter as consciousness poured into her. It was refreshing, like passing through a waterfall; when she opened her eyes, blinking in the otherworldly glow above her, she looked down at her body. A white dress, pale skin, surprisingly frail in stature… and water, draining out from around her. Where am I?

A door opened nearby, heavy and echoing in the chamber, and her head fell sideways as she peered into the darkness, following the sound. She was vaguely aware of locks of blonde hair sitting beneath her cheeks, but something else had her attention: a man walked in, blonde hair falling over his features despite it being haphazardly tied into a ponytail. He bit into an apple as he approached, and then as his gaze landed on her, he stopped entirely.

The two stared at each other, and she frowned a little watching bits of apple fall out of his mouth as he stared at her in shock. What's his problem? The rest of his apple hit the floor, and he looked like he wanted to run to her, but instead sort of half-staggered to the stone tablet she was laying upon. He lifted a hand, and reached out, but stopped short of touching her.

"You're awake," he said quickly, swallowing. He looked distinctly nervous. "Zelda?"

Oh. That's me, isn't it?

She nodded slowly, then decided to test out other movements. Her fingers twitched, then stretched out, made fists. She wiggled her toes, lifted one leg, and then - carefully - sat up. She felt… new.

"Are you okay?"

Zelda looked sideways in surprise at the sensation of touch. His hand was on her cheek, and she must have looked offended in response, because he quickly withdrew. She looked up at him, warily - who was he? Why did he feel the need to touch her? Where was she and who was she, besides Zelda? As she watched him and considered her options of escape, he took a step back, his expression hard to read.

"It's okay," he said suddenly, shaking his head and smiling, though even she could tell it wasn't genuine. "I'm sorry if I surprised you. I'm a… friend," he added decidedly, and then offered her hand.

She was still suspicious, but had no other choice at the moment, so she took his hand as he helped her get up from the stone tablet. His skin was surprisingly rough, and she could tell he was strong by the way he helped her get down. The cold stone floor came as a surprise to her, but at the same time, felt nice on her bare feet.

"Where are we?" she asked, the first words to leave her mouth. Surprised at the strength in her voice, she blinked, taken aback. She felt much smaller than she sounded.

"The Shrine of Resurrection," the man answered, letting go of her hand and leaving to rummage in some crates nearby. When he came back, he passed her a set of clothes and a pair of boots, which she accepted gratefully, but still she said nothing. In all honesty, the 'shrine of resurrection' meant nothing to her. The man gave her a lingering look and then turned, heading out the door.

"I'll wait outside while you change, okay?"

When he left, more questions flooded her mind. The clothes fit her perfectly, so were they hers? What did the shrine of resurrection mean? When she looked down at the tablet, the patterns seemed familiar - in fact, everything about where she was gave her a sinking sense of deja vu that was impossible to place. And more importantly, who was the man that had come to see her? He hadn't woken her up, but he obviously knew her… and how well did he know her that he felt it okay to touch her so intimately? Yet… he didn't feel like a threat…

When she left the cavern, the man wasn't there, so she continued up a few stone staircases towards the outdoors, as it was the only way to go. The sunlight outside was blinding, and she covered her eyes as she got closer, until finally grass and dirt was beneath her boots, trees and birds above her, and land stretched out as far as the eye could see.

She walked further until she had a better view, being careful to keep her distance from the edge of the small plateau. A castle sat nestled in the fields below, mountains surrounding it on all sides and untouched wilderness filling every other corner. Zelda couldn't resist her mouth dropping open. It was all so beautiful, but seemed strangely empty. It didn't take long for her to feel quite small and vulnerable, and she turned back, only to see the man leaning against the mountain near the entrance to the cavern, watching her intently.

"Can you tell me- who am I?"

He approached her then, staring out at the fields and scenery as she turned back to look at it. It was hard to resist the view.

"You're Princess Zelda of Hyrule," he explained, "and this - is Hyrule."

"This?" she whispered in repetition, trying to wrap her head around the concept of "this" and "Princess." Of course, she was positive there were more details to follow, none of which would make anything any easier. She considered which question to ask next, and her mind was racing as it tried to sort priorities.

"What happened to me?"

"You got sick," he answered patiently, and began walking down the grassy slope. She cast one last glance out at the landscape and then followed not far behind him. "So, you slept in that shrine for two years, and came out okay… but lost your memories."

She stopped mid-step, feeling like a knife had gone through her heart. Her memories. So she was real. All of this was real. He was real. But she'd forgotten. Even in this state, she could feel the value of what she had lost, and it took the stranger a moment to realise she'd stopped walking. He turned to look at her, and then smiled after a moment.

"If it makes you feel better, I've been through the same thing," he said, and once again he lifted a hand as if to console her by holding her cheek or her hand, but stopped and quickly stuffed his hands in his pockets instead. Zelda watched him carefully, but then thought about what he'd said.

"Did you… get them back?"

"Yeah," he replied, and as he looked at her, the sun came out from behind clouds she didn't realise were there. The light revealed a pair of striking blue eyes on him she hadn't noticed before, and she gasped - there was a lifetime behind those eyes, despite him being… well, maybe 24, 25 years old? They struck her to her soul, and filled her with a feeling that was hard to name. Comfort? Safety? And now that she looked at him, really looked at him, one thing was certain - he was quite handsome. He was quite tan, at least compared to her, and with short stubble on his jawline, and strong eyebrows…

The next question was a must.

"What's your name?"

"Link."

"Link," she repeated, feeling that the word came quite naturally off of her tongue.

"We must have been good friends," she decided, tilting her head at him. "Right? That's why you were in the shrine with me?"

He looked disappointed immediately. Zelda realised why quite suddenly - or so she thought.

"I'm sorry," she said suddenly, catching him off guard, "that we were close, and I forgot you. I'm sorry."

The man named Link took in a quick but deep breath, and when he sighed and looked back up at her, he smiled. It was a sad smile, one that made her feel incredibly guilty. They must have been quite good friends for him to look this sad. She walked towards him and took his hand, clasping it tightly between hers.

"Don't worry - we can be friends again, and you'll help me recover my memories like you did, right?"

"Right."

 


 

 

Link, Day 3

The truth of it was… the truth of it was, he was still scared.

Courageous one. Sure.

He knew he would get hell from Impa and Paya, and whoever else bothered to stick their noses in, that he hadn't told her the truth. But Hyrule needed it's Princess, so all he could do was focus on getting her back up to speed with everything that was going on. Telling her they were in love would only make her feel guilty… and love out of obligation wasn't love. What would she have done? Hugged him? Tried to make herself love him out of nowhere?

It would have been far too awkward. He didn't want that. He wanted her back, but after two years, he had once again gotten quite used to being alone, even though he was basically living back at the shrine. Being back at the house again was strange, and it meant he got to sleep on the couch. Or not. Is it sleeping if your eyes are open all night? He felt like he hadn't gotten a wink of shut-eye since bringing her back home.

Home.

Hateno was a nice quiet place for her to study, at least. And Zelda was still Zelda, still a scientist, still impressed with the world and enamored with everything from bugs to history. Link had found all of her old journals to read over, and she'd spent most of yesterday pouring over them. Now, as he woke up with the sun to make breakfast, she was still fast asleep. It was strange having her back and not being next to her when he woke, not being able to sleep and cuddle and feel her again, not hearing the usual goodnights and good mornings and...

Well, the rest is too painful.

There was no use mulling over it now. He left a glass of orange juice by the bedside table for her, and tried not to stare. At the moment, she didn't love him, and coming to terms with that meant breaking habits he didn't want to lose. No kiss on the cheek. No stroking her hair. No staring.

He turned and headed outside, leaning against the apple tree and staring mindlessly at the flowers. He desperately wanted to begin searching for her memories, but Purah had warned them to take it slow, so as to not overwhelm her. Whether or not she still had Hylia's soul was unknown, anyways. Link had left the master sword with the Deku Tree long ago, and it felt strangely like rebirth… was that what Zelda had undergone in the shrine?

Whether it took months or years, Link knew one of two things would happen - he'd get used to it, or things would go back to normal. Life would continue one way or another, and he had to remind himself that she was alive, and that was the important thing. If he had to hide his feelings away again… if she left for the throne and never looked at him again… that would have to be okay.

But her voice would haunt him.

He was empty.

I'll see you soon, okay?

Later in the day, he brought her into town for the first time. It was more than a little nerve-wracking, but became easier and easier as Zelda was re-introduced to old friends and acquaintances. She seemed relieved that everyone was so nice. As they walked up the winding slope to the Hateno Tech Lab, and Link mentioned that she'd be meeting Purah - a member of the Sheikah Tribe that was responsible for her still being alive - she panicked.

"No, no, no- I need… flowers! I need flowers," she fretted, looking at Link in a bit of a panic. He cocked his head at her, wondering why, but not saying anything of it. She picked a bouquet of wildflowers in a meadow then before they arrived, being careful to take out any stray leaves and roots, and presented it without comment to Purah as they arrived.

The girl looked much different than she did when Link had first met her. She was growing out of her bad science experiment, but still didn't resemble a girl any older than ten or eleven, and wore the same glasses. Her tendency to stand on stools had also not gone away, and Link guessed that it wouldn't until she could see him eye-to-eye.

The Sheikah took the flowers gratefully, handed them immediately to Symin, and then scooped Zelda up into a hug. Or at least she would have, if her arms reached any higher than Zelda's chest. Link smiled as he watched Zelda hug her back - something about the two girls seemed to click immediately.

"Am I the greatest, or what? Seriously though, I'm so glad you're alright," Purah said with a grin, standing back on her stool and folding her arms. The mischievous look in her eyes caused ink's stomach to sink. He knew what was coming.

"So? When's the date? I know you just woke up, but if this guy doesn't get you a ri-"

Link was standing behind Zelda, and began frantically waving his hand in front of his neck. No! No!

"A- river… frog," Purah corrected herself quickly, "for… official… river frog stew day, I'll be disappointed," she stammered, and Link let out a silent sigh of relief behind Zelda. It wasn't the best correction, but it would do for now.

Zelda tilted her head.

"River… frog… stew day? I don't remember seeing that one in my calendar."

"It's new," Link blurted out, nodding frantically. "You- uh. You came up with that one yourself. I nearly forgot to get you a frog."

"Oh," Zelda replied simply, "is it customary to get friends frogs?"

"River frogs specifically," Symin interjected politely, completely straight faced. "Come, I have some books I can let you borrow while you recover."

"I see… that's lovely, thank-you," Zelda said with a smile, following Symin to his study in the corner of the room. Purah hopped off of her stool a moment later, snagging hold of Link's ear as she went, and dragging him promptly out the door by it.

"We'll be right baaaaack," she sang, "just getting Link to check the furnace for me!"

Once they were outside - and a little ways away from the open windows of the tech lab - Purah laid into him. He knew it was coming.

"Link! She loved you! That's not fair to her!"

"It's not fair for her to be obliged to love me," he argued, plopping himself down at the base of a tree in frustration, looking out at the scenery of nearby Akkala. "Come on, Purah, what was I going to do? Have flashcards for her? Here's the way we said goodnight every night, here's how we would kiss, this was our favourite way of having sex-"

"Aaah! I don't want to hear that!" Purah yelled, and Link stared at her incredulously.

"You're like 120 years old."

"Do you think that means I want to hear that sort of stuff?" she snapped back, and it was quiet for a moment until the both of them sighed. Link let his head fall back against the bark of the tree. By her silence, he figured Purah understood, but was still upset at the situation - me too. It wasn't fair. He liked to think that if it was him, he'd want to be told, but… wouldn't it be hard? And would it still be the same type of love?

A punch on his arm distracted him from his thoughts. Purah was looking at him with determination.

"You'll be okay, hero," she teased, "after all, you got your memories back. What could go wrong?"

Chapter Text

Zelda, Day 4

A bird, crimson as blood, haunted her dreams one night. It looked at her like it was looking into her heart and soul, wings spread wide, and when it took off into the sky, Zelda found herself surrounded in a flurry of red feathers. A man with a red scarf and a shining sword turned to look at her over his shoulder, a confident smile etched on his lips. No - it wasn't just any man, it was Link - although he looked different, it was undeniably him. His eyes gave him away, and when he turned away from her to face off against a massive unspeakable monster, Zelda tried to cry out, but everything disappeared, flying up into the clouds and away from her, but she loved him, she loved him, she loved him -

"Link!"

She woke with a start, sitting straight up among the blankets, gasping for breath. Not a second later, and Link had scrambled up the stairs, tripping on his way up, wearing nothing but his briefs. He stopped at the foot of the bed and looked at her in a panic, eyes bright blue in the moonlight coming through the window.

"Zelda-"

He rested his hands on his knees to catch his breath, clearly relieved to see that she was okay.

"You yelled - you yelled my name, and I got worried-"

"I yelled your name?" she repeated, and when she went to scratch her cheek, found it was wet. Blinking, she wiped tears from her face, shaking her head and wondering at what point that had happened. Goddesses, he got up those stairs fast.

"I'm sorry," she added, glancing at Link, who had dipped his head and was just beginning to slow his breathing. "I was dreaming. Or… rather… a nightmare?"

He looked at her curiously, and Zelda shuffled so that she was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking out the window as she recollected what had happened.

"You were there, Link, but it wasn't you. It was a different you… and a different me, maybe. Have you ever worn a red scarf?"

Had it been a different her? She loved the Link in her dream, but that was far too embarrassing to say now. It was something heavier than love, too, it was like… a deeper sense of responsibility, not just to him, but to everyone. Was she scared of being a princess? Or maybe, frightened of becoming attached to someone who was supposed to just be a friend… her eyes landed on him, however momentarily, before looking away quickly. Right, he's half-naked.

"That's a no to the red scarf," he said curiously, "but there's books in Hyrule Castle you'll need to read. Uh, when the time comes. I guess soon. I had to get Impa to translate a lot of it for me, but the gist of it is that we're reincarnations. Our souls, I mean, come back, time and time again… to fight the same evil power."

"You mean Calamity Ganon, right? We defeated him a few years ago?"

"We also took him down ten thousand years ago," he added, nodding. Now Zelda's jaw dropped. What? So they really did reincarnate? Was she seeing flashbacks from a past life, then?

"Seriously? How would you know that?"

"It's part of our legends… part of Hyrule's history," Link explained, though he seemed to be getting sleepier by the minute. "It's about time we go see Impa. Tomorrow, okay?"

He yawned the last words, standing up shakily and leaving to go back downstairs. Zelda laid back down, but sleep did not come easy. The piercing eyes of the crimson bird were still in her mind, the grin the other Link had shot her over his shoulder, the heavy feeling in her heart… like she was tied to the earth, tied to him, tied to everyone. Meeting Impa, or re-meeting Impa, was something she was strangely nervous and excited for. The Sheikah leader was supposed to be an encyclopedia of knowledge, not to mention one of Zelda's primary confidants from when she had been a younger princess, pre-Ganon… it would surely do her well to meet someone else that had been so close to her. Hopefully, she'd have some pointers when it came to recovering her memories.


 

When Link woke her up the next morning with a fresh glass of orange juice - it seemed to be routine, and she was absolutely okay with it - he mentioned to her that she'd be meeting someone extra important before they left for Kakariko.

"I thought I'd met everyone in Hateno already?" she asked, stretching her arms above her head and following him out the door. They didn't have to go far for her to realise who it was. Deep brown eyes stared at her from across the bridge, boring into her and looking quite…expectant.

When she turned back to Link in confusion, he was holding an apple out for her.

"Take this to him. You named him Alpen. You'll be fine."

Reluctantly, Zelda took the apple from him and crossed over the bridge towards the white stallion - the black one foraging nearby, she assumed, was Link's. Each time she hesitated, the horse seemed to become more impatient, and it made her anxious - something that didn't go beyond Alpen, either. She stopped halfway, and looked back over her shoulder at Link, who merely gave her a thumbs up.

Fine.

She marched towards the horse quite quickly then, maybe a bit too quick, since he took a couple steps backwards and looked as if he was ready to run. Zelda held the apple out in both hands towards him, and her and Alpen had something of a staredown. Finally, she shut her eyes, and a moment later felt the apple being taken out of her hands by, well, a horse mouth.

When she peeked one eye back open, Alpen snorted and snuffled at her and dipped his head. She gave him a hesitant but grateful pat on the nose.

"Good job," Link voiced from behind her as he crossed the bridge. He cast her a smile and then whistled, prompting his own black horse to come trotting over. With ease, he swung himself up over onto the saddle, and then looked at Zelda expectantly. She only frowned.

"What? I lost my memories," she protested, feeling quite useless as she stood next to Alpen. Link only laughed in response, something that didn't make her feel any better.

"You might not be a natural with animals, but you never really forget how to ride a horse. Trust in him, he remembers you."

Something about Link's words were particularly inspiring, and Zelda nodded, carefully but swiftly jumping up and swinging her leg over Alpen's saddle. The sensation was indeed familiar, and it felt intuitive steering the horse and patting him reassuringly now and again. Sure enough, Link had been right.

Strange having someone know me better than I know myself, she thought absently as they broke into a gallop outside of Hateno. The scenery was beautiful, and as they traveled she found herself craning her neck for a glimpse of Hyrule Castle. It didn't come, however, hidden by mountains for now.

It was her castle, apparently, as her father was dead and no other royalty was there to take over. Apparently, the two of them had done some rebuilding before she got sick, and the efforts had been carried on by those invested in seeing Castle Town come to fruition once more… but of course, there was still much to be done. At least restorations in the castle were nearly complete.

"Once the castle is done, I suppose I won't be inconveniencing you in Hateno any longer," she said with a bit of an embarrassed laugh. Still… he must have made several trips just bringing so many of my belongings to his house…

Link didn't look at her from atop their horse as they slowed, coming up to a town gate that must have been Kakariko's.

"I suppose… so," he said, strangely quiet. Zelda hadn't been expecting such a sombre response, but she guessed he must have enjoyed having the company. His house in Hateno was a perfect getaway… I'll make sure to visit often.

"What were your plans, Link?"

"Once you're ready to take the throne, I'm going to be your knight captain" he said, a slightly more positive tone in his voice. As they dismounted their horses ahead of the town gate, Zelda gave Alpen a grateful rub on the neck, and then looked back to Link.

"You mentioned being my appointed knight before, right?"

"Actually, that never really stopped," he noted, heading into town and gesturing for her to follow him. "You still need security. So I'll always watch over you."

He hadn't looked at her as he said that, still walking into Kakariko. Zelda smiled warmly, but before she could say thank-you, was instead distracted by the small but bustling village. It was beautiful, hidden by cliffsides and with lots of water running through it. The wooden and thatch houses were homier than Hateno, and it seemed to also have its own distinct culture. The Sheikah.

Many people stopped to say hello and chat with them as they passed, paying their respects and excitement that Zelda was awake again, but Link was sure to keep them moving at a good pace. Impa's house was hard to miss, framed by waterfalls and at the end of a tall wooden staircase. Zelda paused. Why was this so nerve-wracking?

Link seemed to notice her hesitation, and cast her a reassuring smile as he headed up the steps in front of her. The wooden double doors were a little intimidating, but he opened them without so much as a knock. As Zelda finally followed, her nerves began to sink away - the house was much homier than she had been expecting. For such a dim and old room, Zelda expected it to smell dusty, but it was quite clean instead, and sunlight washed in behind them as they entered.

Impa - it had to be - was sitting at the edge of the room atop a small pile of pillows. Of course she was older, Zelda had been expecting that, but she was also quite small. The wrinkles on her face showed that she smiled much, and she felt distinctly like family.

"Link, Zelda… I have been waiting for you two. So? Are your memories still intact?"

She looked at them expectantly. Link clearly didn't feel it was his place to answer, although at the moment Zelda would have preferred it. She felt incredibly guilty having lost her memories of someone who seemed so sweet, someone who she had been so close to… how many times would she have to re-meet old friends? It was too painful.

"No… I'm sorry," she said quietly, clasping her hands in front of her. Impa was quiet for a moment, but Zelda couldn't look at her, instead focusing her eyes on the wooden floorboards. She could feel Link's eyes on her, a sensation that made her feel oddly nervous and safe at the same time.

"I'm sorry to hear it, but you should not be apologizing, young one. We, and indeed you as well, knew it was but a necessary risk. I take it, then, that you were brought here to learn once more of your history?"

The question was directed at Link, who nodded in response.

"I'm sure that Link will do a good job of filling you in, as well as the various records and tomes in Hyrule Castle. Those still legible, that is. However, the basics of the history of Hyrule and Calamity Ganon go hand-in-hand. The two are one in the same. As evil reincarnates, so do the Princess and her Chosen Hero, destined to seal it away."

Hand-in-hand… calamity ganon and Hyrule… it was destiny? The first thing that to mind was bitterness. That was the fate of her kingdom, to continually have to fight and struggle against a needless and persistent evil? And her and Link were constantly reincarnated, with no memories of their previous lives, to risk their lives in battle… it all seems incredibly unfair.

"Ten thousand years ago, the princess and her knight fought to seal Calamity Ganon away, assisted by the guardians - stone, robot-like creatures - and the four Divine Beasts. According to prophecy, this was to repeat… and so a little over a hundred years ago, Hyrule began to prepare for the return of Calamity Ganon. Your father, Rhoam, organized expeditions that unearthed the divine beasts, a myriad of shrines, and other ancient Sheikah architecture. As you can tell by our village, we gave up technology long ago, worried of being overtaken by progress and ambition… but these tools would be necessary for the battle to come.

"Your duty as Princess was to seal Ganon away using an inherent and ancient power residing in your soul, but you also needed help. Yes, you journeyed across Hyrule in search of four champions to pilot the four Divine Beasts, and that is how you met Mipha, Urbosa, Revali, and Daruk, whom Link will surely tell you more about. And then, chosen by the sword that seals the darkness, Link became the final champion and your appointed knight. Your fates were sealed."

Zelda mulled over the four new names. There was something familiar about them, like faraway shadows and faces in her mind, but it really was no use - she couldn't remember them just as she couldn't remember Link, even after seeing him face-to-face. The more she thought of it, the more she realised she had far too many questions, but she left Impa to finish. The biggest question she had now was simply, how did we fail?

"When Calamity Ganon returned, he overtook the guardians and divine beasts as his own. To fight back against such incredible and still misunderstood powers was useless. Trapped in their legacies, the four champions were defeated, and Hyrule was devastated absolutely. You survived, however…"

Impa's eyes, twinkling in the candlelight that lit the room, met Zelda's gaze, and then flicked sideways to Link.

"... and confronted Ganon alone, within Hyrule Castle itself. There, you trapped him for a century, awaiting Link's resurrection so that he could appease the beasts and fight Ganon… as was his destiny."

The story had skipped somewhat, and Zelda could tell that there were a few details missing, details which she would hopefully be able to squeeze out of Link. It was a lot to take in in the matter of ten minutes, and her mind was swimming. If she had the power to seal Ganon away, how had he managed to wreak so much havoc… and still she would need Link's help to defeat him? What was her purpose but to be a damsel if she could not do what she was born for?

"I am quite confident that we will be able to bring back your memories," Impa said suddenly, clearly changing the topic after seeing the faraway look in the princess's eyes. She didn't know what to think or what to say. There was too much unsaid. She nodded, and then felt Link's hand on her shoulder, giving her a little squeeze.

"May I ask… how?"

She met Impa's eyes once more as the elder looked up under the edge of her wide-brimmed hat. To her relief, the Sheikah smiled.

"Link, you still have those pictures on your Sheikah Slate, don't you?"

His hand slipped off of Zelda's shoulder, and as she looked at him, he nodded.

"Good. He will take you where you need to go," Impa said, looking back to her now. "Trust in yourself. And Zelda… it was good to see you once again. Memories or not, please come back to visit this old woman, will you?"

Zelda couldn't resist the smile then that spread on her lips. There was much to be said for just being wanted.

"I will. Thank-you, Impa."

Chapter Text

Link, Day 5

Hateno in the early light was a good place to be alone with your thoughts, so when Link first heard the roosters calling in the morning, he left the inn and went walking through the little village. Not many people were up at this hour, and the sun hadn't reached over the cliffsides yet, making it decently chilly. He headed around the back to walk up the slope near the shrine - up top gave a good view of the village, but as he reached the end of the slope, he saw that someone was already there.

"Paya?"

The woman was sitting on a small cloth in the grass, arms wrapped around her legs, looking out over the village. She looked over her shoulder in slight panic as Link approached, blush filling her cheeks.

"L-Link! I didn't expect you to be up so early. I'm sorry I missed you two yesterday," she said quickly, dipping her head in apology. He only smiled, taking a seat next to her and looking out over Hateno.

"It's okay. I know you've always got a lot going on. It might be hard on Zelda to meet you, anyways."

"That's right… Impa told me she lost her memories after all," Paya said, looking up to the sky as the morning stars began to fade. "I'm sorry, Link. How is everything between you two? Oh goddesses- I'm so sorry if that's too personal, you don't have to answer!"

She looked absolutely torn, but Link only laughed a little in response, shaking his head.

"It's fine. But… things are… I don't know. They're okay. She doesn't know that we were together."

"What!?"

Paya's voice reached a level that Link wasn't aware she was capable of, and it seemed to surprise her just as well, as she immediately threw her hands over her mouth, hazel eyes wide in surprise.

"What?" she repeated in a whisper, and for the first time, Link saw frustration in her expression. "You love her, and she doesn't know?"

Link bristled with impatience. Purah, Paya - who else? Would Impa quiz him when she found out? He made a mental note to keep it to himself as much as possible, but then again, it made sense for that to be the question on everyone's minds… since defeating Calamity Ganon, their relationship had been talk of the town. Er- land.

"It's just going to inconvenience her," he sighed, resting his chin in one hand. "I don't want her to feel like she needs to develop feelings for me out of nowhere."

When he glanced back at Paya, the look on her face was inexplicably sad, and it struck a sudden feeling of despair into his own heart. Don't look at me like that.

"We're going to get her memories back, anyways," he said quickly, trying to reassure the Sheikah. "She'll remember."

"Don't you think she'll be upset that you didn't tell her?"

This was something Link hadn't considered, and he pondered it for a moment, trying to ignore the increasingly concerned expression that Paya was staring at him with and the way it tugged at his conscience. He had already spent time thinking about it… on and off for two years, that is, and decided that was the best course of action. If he had been told by King Rhoam, for example, that he loved Zelda… well, besides the initial awkwardness, what would it have changed in his journey? He learned about her from the memories and knew there was something about her that was different. Regaining all of his consciousness was simply clarification.

"Maybe," he finally decided, "but I can't do anything about that. If it's her… she'll forgive me."

"...if it's her…" Paya repeated, sighing. "Well, I'd better go, Link."

As she left back down the hill, Link laid down in the grass and shut his eyes. Her.


 

Zelda, Day 5

More nightmares had haunted Zelda overnight, and when she finally broke free of the restlessness, she woke in a cool sweat. A massive, flaming bull in the fields of Hyrule had charged through her mind, horns pressed into the land and ripping it apart at the seams as it ran. The kingdom unraveled as if a thread had been snagged and would not stop pulling, slowly dissipating the scenery into darkness. She wiped moisture off her brow, and shut her eyes, catching her breath. If this was how every night was going to go, she'd have to start drinking some warm milk before bed, or something… or else she wouldn't get a good night's rest anytime soon.

She pulled the curtains away from her bed and peered across the room to where Link had been sleeping, only to see that he wasn't there. No one was really sleeping anymore, in fact, and as she came to, the sounds of Kakariko village's hustle and bustle became clearer. She'd slept in.

Zelda was still distracted as she got ready for the day, brushing her hair in a daze. Impa's story was still fresh in her memory, but making sense of how it all fit together was tough. She was impatient to begin recovering her memories. Without them, the world was much scarier… without them, she felt strangely vulnerable.

When she found Link outside at a cooking pot alongside a little girl, the two of them left quite shortly after. Riding into Hyrule Fields for the first time since losing her memories was still, somehow, nostalgic… or maybe just a sense of deja vu? The fields were bright green with the oncoming spring, full of pretty white and blue flowers and bustling with wildlife. There was no doubt about it. This is home.

Hyrule Castle loomed in the distance, and as they got closer, Zelda could see scaffolding covering parts of it. Castle town itself was still in the process of being built, though it seemed there were already quite a few completed communities. It was just a matter of the castle and other systems getting up and running, work that would no doubt be under Zelda's watch when the time came.

Link slowed ahead as they came upon ruins, sitting in the field with a clear view of the castle. Stone pillars, some broken, surrounded a circular platform with water running around it. As Zelda dismounted, she couldn't help but notice that it had been cleaned up somewhat. Still, it must have been a far cry from its former glory.

"Will this be restored, as well?"

"No," Link replied, patting his horse - Flint, apparently - and then walking up the steps between the pillars. "These are the sacred grounds. Messing with it, even for restorations, isn't something anyone is willing to do. We're going to build new ceremonial grounds, which you get to design."

He was smiling when he looked back at her, and Zelda was relieved. There was certainly a recurring theme of protecting the past here in Hyrule - one she was grateful for. If the princess and her hero from ten thousand years ago were remembered, surely her and Link would be as well. It was a comforting thought.

She followed him up onto the stone, and now that they were no longer moving, the sun felt hot on the top of her head. She absently wished she'd worn lighter clothes, but more than anything, she was curious as to what memory she had of this place. When she looked at Link expectantly, he smiled at her, and then knelt to the ground, dipping his head. It was so formal, and an inescapable heat spread on her cheeks.

"What - what are you-"

"For old time's sake," he said quietly, his striking blue gaze lifting and looking at her from under windblown blond hair. Zelda felt her heart sink quite suddenly then, as if the air had left her lungs. She remembered, quite suddenly, the events of one day long ago.

It was a knighting ceremony for Link now that he was her appointed knight, but Hylia, she wasn't happy about it. She was only doing it because Daruk had asked, and she couldn't say no to him. It was far too much pomp. Link was quiet as usual - not just quiet, really, he was silent - he despised her, surely, for being a failure when it came to her sealing power… all she was good for… meanwhile he carried the master sword on his back like a trophy. It had been hot that day, too, and she was entirely unmotivated in giving her blessings to basically a chaperone barely a year older than herself. Why was he so solemn, anyways? Why did all the champions have to be there to watch? Why did she have to pretend to care about all of those… those… civilities?

Reality came sinking back in quite suddenly, and Link was still kneeling, staring at her in surprise as she began to catch her breath. The contrast between him, then and now, was quite stark, but she felt like she looked basically the same. But still…

"It was like looking at a stranger," she muttered, and to her surprise, Link seemed to know exactly what she meant. He nodded eagerly.

"Isn't it? It always felt like I was looking at some other version of myself."

Zelda nodded, trying to fight the urge to cry. She shook it off quite quickly, taking a deep breath. Hopefully each memory would get easier as they went through them, but still… it wasn't a pleasant sensation at all.

"Zelda… you didn't like me much when I first became your appointed knight," Link said as they began to head back to their horses. She couldn't help but be relieved that she didn't have to bring it up.

"I got that feeling, yes," she replied, looking at Link sympathetically once she was atop Alpen.

"I know you're going to think that I didn't like you for these first few memories, but that was never the case," he reassured her as they broke off into a gallop through the field once more. "Those were just doubts that you had of yourself. I was always impressed with you."

A smile twitched at the corners of Zelda's lips, but it was bittersweet. Those feelings she felt in her memory were so horribly immature. What was he telling her, then - that the Princess, the one who should have been neutral, was so self-conscious of herself, and he hadn't been? Embarrassing.

"How do you know this much? I realise you were there when I woke, but... were we so close for the Princess of Hyrule to tell you so manyl of her personal feelings?"

She stared hard at the back of his head, suspicion seeping through her mind. He was quiet for a moment before glancing back at her over his shoulder, smiling, but with serious eyes.

"Yes."

The word sounded as honest as they come. Zelda couldn't take her eyes off of him for the rest of their trip. Why had she blushed when he knelt down? Had she had some sort of teenage crush on him? Or - was it the other way around? As truthful as he had been so far, and it seemed he had nothing to gain from lying - the entire Kingdom trusted him with looking after her - wasn't there something he was hiding? Or is that just me being doubtful again…

The next memory was not too far away, near a beautiful lake. Link let her take a moment to enjoy the scenery before guiding her to the same spot he had, apparently, regained the same memory years ago. It came to her quicker than she'd expected, and she faltered a little bit in remembering it. Of course - the beginning of their journey. They were heading to Goron City to help Daruk with his divine beast… but Link was still silent, following her with that heavy blue gaze, not taking his eyes off of her. Even as she talked, she could feel him watching her, and it was so distracting and… well, a little intimidating. She wanted to call him out on something, anything - find out more about him. But it was so hard to try and talk to him. What if he said nothing back? What if he simply returned the question and asked her about the sealing power? No... that would be far too rude…

So she asked him about the sword. Whether he could hear the voice or not. It really was just thanks to her own insecurities, and just as she feared, Link was silent in response. The only thing that changed was his eyes dipping to the ground. So he couldn't hear the voice. Perhaps we're both failures.

When Zelda came to she found Link steadying her with his arms. Her legs were weak, and she struggled to gain back her strength and stand on her own. Her thoughts were fuzzy. Something about the feeling of his arms - the faraway sound of him saying her name - it was like there was another memory. But she'd already gotten it, why was this one so difficult? She felt at war with her own head, but finally there was no more resisting, and she gave in.

It was another memory. The same lake was in the background, and the two of them were a bit older than the previous memory… it was clearly after they'd defeated Ganon. And she was so happy. The sun was out, the silent princess's were blooming throughout the field, and Link was with her. They were sat under a tree, shade and sunlight dancing around them as they shared bread and cheese and relaxed in shelter from the midday heat. She had nearly dozed off, lying down on the grass and savoring the feeling of a breeze pushing her bangs around her face, but Link woke her up.

"Zelda. Don't fall asleep, sleepyhead."

She opened her eyes to smile at him, and he smiled back, and the look in his eyes was completely new to her. He looked at her like she was the only thing in the world. And she could feel herself looking at him the same way, a warmth spreading in her heart and a voice that said I'm so happy.

Link responded with "me, too," and Zelda abruptly snapped out of the memory. She was half on the ground and half in Link's lap; he must have knelt down in the grass when she went limp. But why had that memory affected her so much harder?

When her eyes flew open, Link's were there. He had a tight grip on her, and let out a sudden sigh of relief and squeezed her briefly. Even as she got up to brush dirt off of the bottom of her hem, the look of concern on his face didn't go away.

"Are you alright? What just happened?"

She was afraid he would ask. She struggled to recall the first memory.

"Um - we were walking to Goron City," she replied, though the lie in her tone was far too evident.

"I know, but… after that. You shouldn't have fainted. Do you need water?"

"You really are a chaperone," she retorted without thinking, and immediately felt awful for it. Link's mouth dropped open in surprise, but he quickly shut it, looking at her with a more serious expression.

"Don't make me go through all of that again."

"All of what? Me feeling completely shitty about myself and taking it out on you? I'm sorry, but I get to relive that and don't know who I am or how I feel or how I should feel about anyone I meet, including old friends," she argued, impatience getting the better of her. "You did this once before. Weren't you upset at any point? Wasn't it hard?"

"Y-yeah, it was frustrating," he stammered back, "but-"

"I'm sure you fainted now and again too, right? And you were all alone and still okay, so don't feel the need to babysit me!"

"I had more important things to worry about," Link snapped, his voice louder and more confident, catching Zelda off guard. "I had saving the entire Kingdom to worry about, plus my memories, plus you." He pointed at her. "I spent years as your appointed knight and then I died, so sorry if I occasionally act on a century's worth of responsibility on my shoulders to look after you."

Zelda opened her mouth to argue, but then a point of what Link said distracted her. Wait. What?

"What do you mean you died?"

Her voice was quieter now, heart beating heavy and fast. Impa told her she had confronted Ganon alone, and then… right, awaited Link's resurrection, but she hadn't assumed he'd literally-

"When Ganon first returned, I died," he muttered, and for once, couldn't look her in the eyes. "I spent a hundred years in the same shrine you spent two in, in order to be resurrected. When I came back, I had to regain my memories and appease the divine beasts, and then fight Ganon to free you. Karma for failing as your 'chaperone'," he added, finally glancing back at her. Those words felt like a knife in her chest. Hylia, I'm horrible.

"I'm sorry."

She tried to meet his eyes as she apologized, as tough as it was. Not to mention she wanted to ask him more questions - how had he died? How did she survive? Was she just… obligation to him? But it was probably too soon for all of that. Finally, his expression softened, but still he looked concerned.

"... I never fainted from a memory, though."

"Oh," Zelda said, suddenly upset at her lack of control during the second memory. "After the first memory, I had another one… I think from after we defeated Ganon. We were here, sitting in the shade, eating bread and cheese."

Colour flushed Link's cheeks, and it didn't go unnoticed by Zelda.

"What, did you take me on a date?" she joked, but Link turned it back on her.

"Something like that," he replied with a small smile, and now it was her turn to blush. Damn it.

"W-well, I suppose it makes sense… that I might regain more than just memories from before Ganon's appearance."

"Mm," was all Link replied with, looking a little distracted as he looked out at the lake as a breeze washed across it. Zelda watched him, watched the wind toying with his hair and the look in his eyes. Gears were turning in his mind, she could tell, but what it all meant was still a mystery. She felt lost in the current. All she could do was go along with where he took her and hope that, eventually, it would all make sense.

 

They traveled a ways further that day, finally stopping in a set of ruins atop a high cliff. There was apparently another memory nearby, but Link told her to wait until morning in case it was too hard on her, so they set up camp for the night. Even as they chatted, Zelda was distracted. Her feelings were mixed up and confused. The way he had looked at her in that memory… the more recent one… reminded her of the look in his eyes when she had first woken up. She felt guilty, like she wasn't his Zelda anymore, like she was a stranger; an intruder. She wanted him to look at her like that again, and she wanted to reciprocate it, to feel as happy as the 'other' Zelda did in that memory. But she could still hear him saying "a century's worth of responsibility" and it was nagging at her, telling her that's all she was to him. Could it really be nothing more than obligation?

She was restless as they went to sleep, across the fading fire from each other. Her thoughts were relentless, nagging and questioning, and she knew she'd be lucky if she got much sleep at all.

Chapter Text

 

Link, Day 6

 

Zelda was clearly tired the next day, still fast asleep by the time breakfast was nearly ready. Link had already been up for a couple hours preparing it, plus some extra food to take on the road. He was still pondering yesterday’s events… anxiously. He was so scared of the same thing happening again, that Zelda might harbor the same resentful feelings towards him as she did a hundred years ago, but… his arguing back, as much as he hadn’t wanted to, seemed to do the trick. Still… she’s bound to have more questions.


When Zelda finally came to, wiping sleep out of her eyes and looking altogether groggy, Link offered her an omelette.

 

“Thank you,” she said with a smile as she sat next to the embers, eating slowly and clearly still a little distracted. Link left her to her thoughts as he cleaned off his own plate and began re-packing the bags Flint was carrying for them. When Zelda finished her breakfast, they left the horses at the ruins, and got up for the first memory of the day.

 

“The next memory isn’t pleasant,” Link admitted as they neared the shrine. A breeze picked up from the valley as they approached, tossing his hair as he turned to give Zelda a small smile. “You’ve already apologized to me for it, so don’t feel bad, alright?”

 

She gave him a curious look then, and all he could do was shrug. His heart was pounding. Something about having her around again gave him butterflies, lit a fire in his stomach that hadn’t been around in… well, years. Not to mention she was two years older - a little slimmer (probably thanks to two years of stasis), and her hair was even longer… if that was even possible. Now and again he expected to see that twenty-year old girl next to him, and was surprised to see… well, something more resembling an adult. He barely even saw himself like a “man,” not yet, even though he fit the bill.

 

As they approached the shrine, Zelda headed a little ways in front of him and he watched carefully, wondering if she’d ever recall another memory from post-Ganon again. If she became really suspicious of their relationship… or if she recalled a memory that was outright obvious about it… he could be in some trouble. It would be better if she remembered herself, first, but Link had no control over any extra recollections she stumbled upon.

 

Zelda was still for some time and Link didn’t take his eyes off of the back of her head. It felt weird being back here at the ruins - they hadn’t returned since defeating Ganon. There’d been no need to. He remembered it mostly as a cavern with Skywatchers… and of course, where Zelda had told him not to follow her, a hundred years prior.

 

She moved suddenly and Link took a quick step forward, but it didn’t seem like she was fainting or faltering like the day prior. Instead she turned to him, looking both embarrassed and upset.

 

“I feel even worse about what I said yesterday,” she muttered, but Link only smiled.

 

“I thought I told you not to apologize again,” he said, tilting his head and resting his hands on his hips. “It’s drama from a century ago.”

 

Zelda was still quiet - surprisingly so - as they left for the desert with the midday sun sitting above them. It was hot and dry, but she refused to stop even for a water break, determined to get the rest of her memories as soon as possible.

 

“I don’t really blame you, honestly,” he said suddenly as they neared the Gerudo Canyon stable. “Your dad forced this guy to be your knight out of nowhere… wanted you to pray all the time. You were sent on this journey to figure out how to unlock your sealing power, right? And I was watching over you and already had my uh - well - the sword.”

 

“Speaking of,” Zelda interjected, “you no longer have it?”

 

“It’s not needed,” Link replied with a shrug, sliding off of Flint once they reached the stable. He gave the horse a couple reassuring pats while he turned to look back at Zelda. “You and I, we took it back to the Deku Tree. Now that’s someone you should re-meet,” he added, but she immediately frowned.

 

“I’m tired of re-meeting people! I feel awful to have forgotten them! I just want my memories back, so I can be myself again, like you,” she urged, and the look she gave him nearly made his knees give out. That sad look in her eyes was hard to handle. She was so assured that everything would be fine, but somehow, there was a pull in Link’s gut - would she really remember everything? Would she really come back? The memories they were reliving were mostly thanks to the Sheikah Slate’s photographs, but the extra memories… that was something he’d never experienced.

 

“Don’t worry,” he said nonetheless, lifting a hand and stopping short of cupping her cheek, instead resting it on her shoulder lightly. “You’ll be you again in no time.”

 

Zelda didn’t smile, but gave him a look like she was inclined to believe him. As Link looked back at her, he saw the light leave her eyes - all at once, she’d fallen weak.

 

 

Zelda, Day 6

 

She knew immediately it was a memory like she’d gotten at the lake. This time it was deeper, and daunting. She was trapped, tied down, but in her mind, Hyrule was endless. She could see through the darkness if she tried hard enough. Deep within it was a blinding light, coursing through the land like it was ripping the earth apart, searching for her, fighting for her, dying for her.

 

Link.

 

It was her voice, but she struggled to comprehend this. It sounded like someone else. Like a Zelda that was… gone. The voice was talking to Link, the light, in a tone that she felt… a stranger to. Like she was listening to a private conversation. In the darkness, he was alone, crouched, sobbing - he loved her. He loved her more than words could say. The feeling of her heart - Zelda’s heart, the stranger’s heart - bursting with bittersweet, woke her.

 

She gasped in hot and dry air, feeling dirt below her hands. Link was above her, looking worried and then relieved all at once. He held her close briefly and then pulled back, looking her over.

 

“Are you okay? You need water. Come on.”

 

He lifted her and guided the two of them towards the stable. She clutched onto his shirt, deciding it was best to play along with this - he didn’t realise she’d had another memory, and she didn’t want him to. How did she tell him what she just saw? He looked so incredibly vulnerable and sad, and there was no doubt in her mind that he loved her - well, Zelda, not her , but the real her. Hylia, I’m an imposter, aren’t I?

 

Outside the stable, he handed her a glass of water, clearly still worried, and Zelda accepted it gratefully. She was dehydrated anyways, so it came as a relief, and she drank it probably faster than she should have. Link shook his head at her, but she could see a smile twitch on his lips, and for the first time since waking up, she felt heat tickling her cheeks.

 

The horses had to be left at the stable, so Zelda followed Link out into the scorching sun of the desert. She found herself sweaty almost immediately, not to mention tired thanks to her feet feeling extra heavy with each step in the sand. Thankfully their destination was not too far away, and as she watched it get closer and closer, she began to smile. A proper oasis.

 

“It’s beautiful,” she commented cheerfully when they finally arrived in the shade of a few palm trees.

 

“You always thought so,” Link replied, wiping moisture off his brow with his sleeve. “But the desert is also home to the Yiga Clan. They-”

 

That one word - yiga - was enough to kick in her memory. It came in a flash, the fear of running from two yiga swordsmen, the blue flash of the master sword and the sound of a sickle spiraling through the air. He had saved her, put his life on the line for her, without a moment’s thought. Not only that, but it worked; one spin of the sword and a tilt of his head told the remaining offender that this was not his battle to win. She could see the look in her eyes - Zelda’s eyes - (was it really her?) after the ordeal. She’d had a revelation that day… about Link. She trusted him. Finally.

 

“Oh,” Zelda exclaimed as she came to, dizzy but still standing near the bazaar. Link steadied her with one arm, and as she looked back up at him and met his striking blue eyes again, she felt the first flickering of warmth in her chest. Goddesses, he’s making me nervous. She wasn’t sure what changed - was it the memory? The realisation that he’d loved her? Or had that really just been a fever dream? Was it his eyes, or his muscles, or his messy blonde hair, or- no. No, no, no.

 

“That- the yiga, um-” she failed to find her words, and then just stopped, shutting her eyes. The answers seemed so close, but still unreachable. Link pulled his arm away.

 

“I’ll fill you in later. It was kind of a tipping point on our journey. We can crash here tonight - dinner’s on me?”

 

“Not Gerudo town?” she asked, glancing sideways to the walled city just west of them.

 

“There’s no memories for us there,” Link replied dismissively, “and it’s hard for me to get in, anyways. No men allowed.”

 

They set up on the far side of the bazaar under a couple trees, and Link made a fire, something that confused Zelda at first until the surprisingly cold desert night began to creep up on them. With a few borrowed blankets from nearby vendors - all of whom seemed to know Link - they had quite a cozy camp. As the sun set, they dug in happily to a pot of stew. She was completely taken aback at how good it was. Link had done some cooking for her already, but nothing quite like this; though maybe she was just hungrier than usual.

 

“This is delicious,” Zelda said through a mouthful, covering her mouth and laughing a little in embarrassment. “Sorry. It’s so good.”

 

“Thank you,” Link replied, and Zelda noticed he’d finished off his meal before she was even halfway through hers. “So, still want me to fill you in?”

 

She nodded enthusiastically, mood greatly improved by a tasty dinner, and listened as he told her about their early relationship.

 

“Obviously, you didn’t like me at first,” he began, as Zelda lowered her bowl and listened intently. “I had the master sword already. I was a pretty good fighter, almost everyone liked me… you get it. But it wasn’t that simple. I gave up my life when I took on that sword. It wasn’t really a choice, and that’s something that you and I could relate to. You didn’t have a choice, either.”

 

“I didn’t?” she replied quietly, a little confused - she knew they had dealings with fate, but surely a princess would have some autonomy to do what she pleased.

 

“No. You and I were Hyrule’s only hope. Well, and the Champions.”

 

“Mipha… Urbosa…”

 

“Revali, and Daruk - yeah,” Link added, and she smiled gratefully back at him, taking a moment to enjoy how the firelight flickered on his jawline and set a spark in his eyes.

 

“You didn’t have your power yet, though. That’s why you and I had to journey to try and unlock it. You had this doubt in yourself… I mean, the whole Princess thing was never really your gig,” Link admitted, giving Zelda a knowing grin. She tilted her head, trying not to let his comment upset her, but he seemed to notice.

 

“What I mean is - you’re passionate, and kind, and a great leader. But more than anything, you’re a scientist. You liked adventuring and learning, getting your hands dirty.” Link was looking at her evenly now as he spoke, and Zelda began to feel heat creeping up to her cheeks again. “Praying every hour of the day in a pretty white dress wasn’t where you really belonged.”

 

“The dress was pretty, or I was pretty?” Zelda replied before she could stop herself, smiling a little, but Link didn’t become flustered like she expected him to. Instead, his deep blue eyes stayed on her evenly, and he grinned.

 

“Mostly you.”

 

Now it was too late, and she felt her entire face and neck must have been bright red, so she immediately began to gulp down the rest of her stew. A piece of potato nearly fell out of the bowl, and she caught it with her hand, quickly stuffing it into her mouth before Link had seen - no. He saw.

 

The knight laughed and stood up, stretching his hands above his head and taking her now-empty bowl from her.

 

“Yeah. You’re still Zelda,” he said decidedly, leaning down to plant a kiss on her forehead before leaving to the Oasis to clean the bowls. She sat alone on her blanket by the fire, chest aflame and mind racing. How could one man make her lose her cool so easily? Why did she suddenly find him so attractive? He was obviously comfortable around her, a reality that made her situation all the more frustrating. The dream she’d had earlier was still bugging her, but she was content to leave it as just a ‘dream’ for now, despite a little voice in the back of her head that knew it was something more.

 

But what could she do with that information? Surely if they’d actually had any sort of a relationship in the past, he would have told her by now. Someone would have.

 

When Link got back to the camp and sat down with a sigh, Zelda was lost in thought. A scientist. A researcher, an adventurer. The way Link talked about her was like hearing about a stranger, a long lost friend. What would it take to feel like herself again?

 

“Anyways, you didn’t trust me really, until that run-in with the Yiga,” Link continued suddenly, jolting Zelda out of her trance. “We got on a lot better after that.”

 

“Good,” she replied. “How close were we, really?”

 

She thought about elaborating on that question. Like, why was he there when she woke up? Why was so much of her stuff in the Hateno house? Why was no one else helping her on this journey - just him? Why was he so comfortable around her? Why him?

 

“We- were close,” Link replied, and though she could tell he was lying about something, she couldn’t tell what, and didn’t want to push it. If they were close and he was lying about that, well… why would someone do that? And if they weren’t close and he was saying they were, that would just be gross, but… she didn’t think that could be the case. Not after everything they’d been through. And from what she could see, he wasn’t that type of guy…

 

“There’s some - there’s some information that I think is better you learn along the way,” Link finally added, watching her curiously. “I know you want all the answers right now. But it’s easier that way.”

 

A convenient but good answer. She didn’t have anything to say back to that, so she sighed and smiled, tucking herself in under the blankets. Sleep came easy that night under the desert stars and next to a flickering fire, which Link kept going for another hour or so before going to bed himself.

Chapter Text

Zelda, Day 10

 

After a few days of traveling, Zelda had rediscovered another handful of memories from her past, and one thing was becoming clear - they all had Link in them. Even the extra memories that had nothing to do with pictures on the Sheikah slate. It was almost tiresome, but only in the way that she was curious of her life without Link. Her childhood, her time spent at the castle, her late mother, who she had now completely forgotten. Goddesses, she felt guilty for it, but all she could do was try to hurry Link along to each new memory, even though the traveling was a little exhausting.

At least they had come to a sort of pattern finally. They alternated making breakfast, even though Link’s was leagues better than hers. Then they’d travel to the next memory - maybe two, if they were close by, or if Zelda had another ‘extra’ memory… speaking of which… they seemed to be making Link more and more anxious. She was becoming increasingly aware of their past, and one thing was certain - he hadn’t been lying. They had been close. But despite all of her memories, she still couldn’t bring herself to assume that it was anything more than a close friendship. She didn’t want to. Not now that she was so invested. Infatuated, more like. The last thing she needed was to ruin a perfectly good friendship...

She shoved away the little voice in her head that had been nagging her ever since their time in the desert, and took a look at Link ahead of her on his horse. They were riding through Hebra as a way to get back to Hyrule field, from Akkala - definitely the scenic route - but Zelda had agreed, since Link insisted they take some time off. It was cold, but Link was always prepared with a stock of food, potions, and clothes for any weather.

“So,” she spoke, trying to think of something to distract herself from intrusive thoughts, “how long will we be in Hebra?”

“Mm?” Link’s mind was clearly elsewhere, and he slowed atop Flint, glancing sideways at Zelda expectantly until her words actually registered. “Oh. Overnight, unless you want to stay longer.”

“No, that’s fine,” she said with a smile, shaking her head a little. He looked cuter than usual, bundled up in a traditional Rito outfit. He’d given her a set of the same, as well as his only pair of snow boots. She wasn’t sure exactly how the feather hair clip kept her head warm, but she appreciated not having to wear a hood.

 

“I have to admit… this wouldn’t be my first choice of getaway,” she said, gesturing to the freezing, intimidatingly tall, snow-covered mountain range that was coming closer and closer. Link stifled a laugh.

 

“You had reservations the first time I brought you here, too,” he replied, “but you’ll see.”

 

“Don’t tell me that was another date?” she asked, referring to the many times he joked about taking her out on ‘dates’ whenever she had memories of the two of them post-Ganon. Link cast her what could only be described as a mischievous grin, and then picked up speed, racing into the snowy field ahead. Zelda urged Aspen to keep up, and as they rode into the mountains, sparkling fluffy flakes kicked up behind the two horses.

 

By the time they were fully within Hebra, late afternoon was setting in, and Zelda was realising why Link liked it here. The light on the snow made everything sparkle - the sky was the bluest blue she remembered seeing - besides his eyes! Oh Hylia, stop thinking about his eyes - or his everything else…

 

When the horses began to tire, they slowed down, and Link assured her they were nearly there; they’d been heading uphill for a while now, passing moose and wolves along the way. It seemed like quite the unforgiving area, but being with Link made her feel invincible, somehow.

 

Finally a cottage came into view, perched nearly at the very top of a mountain.

 

“Oh, cute,” Zelda exclaimed, impressed with Link’s choice of vacation spot. He hopped off Flint first, and then helped her down from her steed, before directing the two horses to a makeshift stable nearby.

 

“They’ll be fine,” he reassured her, probably noticing the worried look in her eyes. She sighed, and moved to push open the door of the cabin, but Link jumped in front of her abruptly. “Ah ah - not yet.”

 

“I just want to warm up a little,” she complained, but Link was adamant. “Where we’re going will warm you up more than this cabin will right now. Trust me. I’m just going to sneak in for a second to drop our bags. Trust me,” he repeated, looking at her with a light smile. She stared back at him evenly, but finally gave in.

 

“Alright, then.”

 

He only spent a minute in the cabin - she was sure she’d heard him light a fire - and then, one bag still slung over his shoulder, took her hand and headed a little ways down the other side of the mountain. Even though they were both wearing thick gloves, she savored the feeling of holding his hand and the warmth that emanated through the fabric. How did he stay so warm in such a cold environment?

 

Barely two minutes away from the cabin, Link brought her into a cavern of some sort; it took her a minute to adjust her eyes, but she gasped when she saw the pool of water ahead of them. She nearly told him there was no way she was getting into freezing water - until she saw the steam. A hot spring.

 

“Oh my goodness,” she exclaimed, and was about to lift both hands to her mouth but stopped, wanting to hang onto Link’s for a little longer. “Seriously?”

 

“We’ve been doing nothing but traveling. I figured you could use a soak,” Link replied, and she smiled back at him until a realisation made her stomach sink.

 

“I- uh… did you happen to bring my swim outfit?”

 

It was an embarrassing question to ask, and Link had an embarrassing answer.

 

“I… definitely didn’t think of that,” he replied, scratching the back of his neck nervously and looking down at the hot spring. “I’ll just sit a little bit outside while you soak. Then we can switch, and you can warm up in the cabin?”

 

Zelda couldn’t make eye contact with him. She was too disappointed and was afraid it would read all over her face. She didn’t want to hop in first. She didn’t want to be in there without him, but… how would she tell him that? Just… be casual, Zelda.

 

“We’re both adults,” she replied with a nervous laugh, “just let me get in the water and you can follow. I’ll just look away.”

 

Finally - and she noticed it immediately, with a twinge of pride in her heart - Link blushed.

 

“Y-yeah, alright,” he stammered, clearing his throat and turning around. Zelda began undressing immediately, and it was difficult and cold, since taking off every piece of the incredibly fluffy Rito armor was a long process. The hot spring was almost too hot in comparison to the outside air, and she dipped in slowly, letting her toes get used to it first before finally moving in. Her skin tingled, and still facing away from Link, she reached up to tie her hair into a knot.

 

“Alright, I’m not looking,” she called, sinking neck-deep in the water and letting out a happy sigh. Link must have been incredibly fast at changing clothes, because she was surprised when she heard the sound of him entering the water - so surprised she nearly turned.

 

He let out an audible sigh as he went in, and so Zelda peeked just as his waist sunk below the surface. His chest was scarred, but every bit of him was a little more impressive than it was when it was hidden beneath clothes. He was so… fit. She reached an arm in front of her. She was so small in comparison… but then again, two years in stasis probably didn’t do much for her muscles.

 

“Feel nice?” he asked, and she smiled at him, wondering if the red on his cheeks was from him or the steam.

 

“Very,” she admitted. “I can see why I liked this place after all.”

 

Then it was quiet. Awkward, even, as they exchanged sighs and stared out at the sky, which was rapidly turning orange thanks to the setting sun. Fluffy flakes began to fall. It was incredibly peaceful, but the silence was bugging her, and the two of them kept sneaking looks at each other.

 

“C-can I… see some of your scars?” It had been driving her crazy since he came into the water, and it would continue to bug her if she didn’t ask about some of the more noticeable ones. Link nodded, and moved closer than she expected him to, standing up a little bit in the water and facing away from her. His back was littered with them, mostly big ones that must have come from slashing weapons, but they were all well and faded now.

 

Tentatively, she traced a couple with her fingers, and Link shivered in response.

 

“What are most of these from?”

 

Come to think of it, I don’t know what any monsters look like anymore, she realised. Hyrule was clean of them now that Ganon was gone, and she’d yet to look over her old sketchbooks, which remained at the castle.

 

“Lynels were the worst. A couple smaller ones are from arrows. The tiny lines that branch out, those are from electric arrows,” he added, talking as if he was telling her a fun fact and not the various ways he’d been injured over the years.

 

“Lynels?”

 

“Big centaur forms of Ganon. Twice my height, roughly,” he guessed, and then Zelda slinked around him in the water, tracing a scar that circled up to nearly his collarbone.

 

“Yiga,” he explained, looking a little bitter. “That one got lucky.”

 

She took a moment to survey his chest, though lingering probably a little longer than she should have. If she let herself think about how close he was, she’d surely blush too much, so she tried to stay focused on his scars. A deep, circular scar on his side caught her attention.

 

“That’s the worst one,” he said quietly, “a guardian got me.”

 

“Did it hurt?” she asked, though she figured it was a stupid question.

 

“I didn’t feel it. I wasn’t paying enough attention to myself. It ended up being the one that - that - well, defeated me. I was trying to protect you. I failed.”

 

She looked up at him, meeting his piercing eyes, but a moment later he shut them tight and shook his head, smiling.

 

“Nevermind. I moved past that a while ago. There’s no need to make you re-live my guilt.”

 

“It’s the least I can do for letting you die on me,” Zelda replied, letting out a frustrated breath.

 

“No,” Link sighed, “I chose that.”

 

They looked at each other for a moment, and then he reached down, cupping her cheek with a wet but warm hand.

 

“I would always die for you, Zelda.”

 

But- Ganon is gone - why would he need to? Why is he still devoted to me like this? Why is he looking after me, and not royal guards, or someone- something-

 

She had two voices in her heard at the moment - and the one saying Good goddesses, kiss him already, had won.

 

 

Link, Day 10

 

The first surprise was that she’d stood up. The second surprise was feeling her against him, the light touches of her breasts sending shocks through his body. Lastly, she’d pressed her lips to his, however briefly. She pulled back suddenly, hands still on his shoulders, eyes locked onto his.

 

Somehow, he kept composed, and took both of her hands from his shoulders and held them together between them. But he couldn’t keep eye contact with her. He loved her too much to let her live out his lie. He still couldn’t decide if it was right to have not told her about them or not. Over the last few days, he’d felt things change between them, but this was still not what he wanted. Not now. Is it?

 

“I - you - I’m sorry,” she stammered, squeezing his hands.

 

“Don’t be,” he replied, and then both of them were distracted by the light dimming. The sun had set.

 

“We should go back.”

 

They changed in silence, Link leaving the water first. He took her hand again to help guide her back to the cabin, and the snow was falling more heavily by the time they arrived inside. Thankfully, the fire he’d set earlier was still going, and they huddled in front of it as Link cooked a pot of soup.

 

“Did you remember our nightclothes, at least?” Zelda finally asked. She sounded a little hurt, but Link appreciated her attempt at conversation nonetheless.

 

“Yes,” he laughed, “I remembered those.”

 

“That’s good. Especially since there’s only one bed in here.”

 

Now she sounded more sarcastic - a tone that surprised him, having not heard it in years. At the same time, his stomach sank, and he turned to look at the room. Of course. One bed. It never used to be a problem.

 

“Shit,” he cursed under his breath, pouring out two bowls of soup. As they ate, he tried to think of a solution, but couldn’t think of anything besides curling up himself in front of the fire on an extra blanket. Even then, the floor was quite cold.

 

“I don’t even mind,” she said as she finished her soup, staring into the fire. “I just don’t want it to be awkward, since I made the mistake of kissing you.”

 

Ouch. Forgetting herself clearly didn’t mean forgetting her occasional sharp tongue. Link took a breath and exhaled in frustration, following her gaze into the fire. He put his soup down, and moved closer.

 

“Fine,” he said, prompting her to turn to face him, “then let’s be even.”

 

He kissed her then, with more intent than earlier. She let out a “mm” in surprise, a noise that made him a little weak in the knees. Softly, she responded, kissing him back gently. Link pulled back a little, but Zelda followed, and their lips hovered barely apart. His heart was racing - he was waiting, unable to make up his mind, but Zelda did it for him. Her lips pushed forward again, just slightly, and in that instant Link’s chest lit aflame. He pushed back against her passionately, his hands moving first to her jawline and then up, cupping her face and holding her there, close, safe. Zelda.

 

She was clutching fistfulls of his shirt, clearly impatient, and Link laughed against her lips as she struggled to remove his shirt while simultaneously falling back onto the floor. He broke from her kiss, and kneeling above her, pulled off the several layers of rito shirts. Her fingers were already at his waistband, but Link shook his head, and instead began working on removing her top. She smiled at him as he did so, cheeks flush with colour. When it was finally off, he pressed his chest back against her, planting kisses from her jawline down to her collarbone, prompting her to arch slightly off the floor.

 

“L-link,” she stammered, and he felt his stomach flip at hearing her say his name like that, but she seemed to be trying to move.

 

“Link,” she said again, lifting his head before he could cover her breasts with kisses. “The floor. It’s freezing,” she laughed.

 

Her laugh was golden. Her hair was golden. Her skin was golden. Link helped her get up off the floor, but pulled further and lifted her off the ground - she was nothing to lift, now - and set her down softly on the edge of the bed before continuing to kiss her. He couldn’t help it, and only noticed that she’d succeeded in taking off his pants when he felt himself spring up, free from his waistband.

 

“Fuck,” he breathed, forehead pressed against her chest as her cold hands began to touch him, tentatively at first and then with more purpose. He grit his teeth together, feeling a fiery hunger grow from deep down inside him. One of her hands left to lift his head up, and she kissed him eagerly, still stroking him. Her lips parted, and Link felt drunk on the sensation and taste of her. Finally, he found his way to the waist of the snow pants, and pulled back briefly to get them off of her. Her hands had left him naked in the cold air, but she lifted her legs, pulling him closer, closer -

 

“Z-zel-”

 

He was a mess. He could feel her, warm and welcoming, and felt his chest caving in at just the idea of-

 

Mmmm-”

 

She obviously wasn’t interested in waiting for him, and had wrapped her legs around, pulling him in. Her head fell back against the bed, hair falling out of the knot she’d previously tied it in, and Link had to cover his mouth from making too much noise as they both let out a relieved gasp. Then again, who in Hyrule would be up here to hear them?

 

His breath caught in his throat, and he only let it out when he readjusted within her, moving slowly at first until it was a smoother, more comfortable motion. It had been so long, so long since he’d felt her, been with her, kissed her like this, held her like this… he resigned himself completely to the feeling, gave himself entirely to her, gave everything to her. Her.

 

Right. He reached down, down, until he could feel that little bead, and began to rub like he knew she liked. It was already wet down there, and though his hand slipped from time to time, she seemed to be enjoying it. After all, he knew what she liked - though the concept of giving himself away here was beyond him now. Her hands gripped at the blanket, thighs twitched impatiently, her back arched. When she went strangely quiet, Link went faster, a little more pressure, an extra finger rubbing against her, and suddenly Zelda let out a breath she’d clearly been holding, gasping and tensing around him as she brought him with her in climax. Link thrust harder in the last few moments, spilling within her and shuddering.

 

Oh, fuck.

 

He’d finished inside her. It wasn’t an issue - to him , he knew they wanted kids one day - but -

 

“Don’t,” she breathed suddenly, and he looked at her in slight surprise as she rested a hand on the side of his face. “It’s okay. If I wasn’t okay with it, I wouldn’t have done this,” she added, letting her head fall back as her breathing slowed. Link nodded back absently. Right. What does that mean?

 

“Well, at least our one bed isn’t a problem anymore,” Zelda said, as Link pulled out carefully and then pulled the blanket back so he could get in bed.

 

“Mm,” he agreed, spooning her when she turned, happy to shut his eyes and take in the smell of her hair. She fell asleep faster than he expected, but Link stayed awake a while, mind racing. Wasn’t this what he wanted? For her to fall in love with him, naturally - or regain her memories, and remember? Yes, but… now… how would he tell her the truth? How could he?

Chapter Text

Link, Day 11

 

When he woke in the morning, Link had almost forgotten the events of the night before and nearly panicked seeing Zelda in bed with him. He shuffled a little bit, and she turned slightly to face him, eyes sparkling in the morning light. The fire had gone out last night, so the cottage was cool, but under the blankets it was still warm. I missed this.

“I’m sorry if that was sudden last night,” she mumbled, coming closer to him and planting a kiss on his collarbone.

“No, of course it-” woah there.

“I mean, of course I… don’t mind,” he corrected himself, regretting his choice of words immediately.

“Don’t mind?” she asked with a grin, and Link backpedaled.

“That’s not what I meant. It was nice.”

Seemingly satisfied with that answer, Zelda shut her eyes, resting her cheek against his chest. Link held her gently - she felt fragile, like if he moved wrong, this would all be lost. The feeling was surreal. It would be so easy to just forget that they still had memories to collect at all; to forget that they had work to do. To forget that this wasn’t perfectly normal and expected of them, to be cuddling, happy, comfortable.

“I hope it doesn’t make things weird when I… remember myself,” she said quietly, and Link felt a sinking sensation in his stomach. Yes, hypothetically, if they hadn’t had a relationship and she regained her memories, it might be weird, but… even though that wasn’t the case, he couldn’t tell her.

“I… don’t know. It depends on how you feel now, doesn’t it?”

He knew his answer was bullshit, but somehow, it made sense. Zelda gave him a curious look, like she’d come to the same conclusion, and then sighed.

“I think I like you more than is good for me,” she admitted, a statement that disappointed Link more than he expected. “When I’m looking after the kingdom, I can’t be so easily distracted,” she added with a laugh, and Link let out a sound that could have been interpreted as a laugh, but it felt more like she’d stabbed a dagger into his heart and twisted it. Twice.

It hurt. He couldn’t deny that. But now he was just as impatient to get her other memories back as she was. Speaking of which… There were only two left - the worst of them.

“Good news,” he said, probably sounding a little short, “we only have a couple memories left.”

“Really?” Zelda exclaimed, her good mood making Link feel even worse about himself. “Just two? We left off when the four champions were with us, and Ganon had returned, right?”

“Yeah,” Link said, confused at hearing those words spoken in such a casual tone. He slid out of bed to get dressed, and began packing their bags. Zelda sat up, clutching the blanket around her chest.

“They’re good memories then, right?”

“No,” he said, “not these two.”

 

He was quieter than he would have liked on their ride out of Hebra. It was downhill all the way to Hyrule field, and the horses were happy to leave the cold, so they made good time. Link still couldn’t make sense of his thoughts. What did she really think of him? Obviously she was attracted to him, but was it actually love? It had been just over a week since she woke up, after all... Sex had been the last thing he’d expected from her, especially without all her memories returned. This is too complicated.

Their horses slowed as they entered central Hyrule, passing fields of wildflowers and the occasional remains of guardians. Link squinted, looking ahead at the treeline where the next memory was hidden. It was strange, thinking about it being over a century ago, but remembering it like it was yesterday. Stranger still was having Zelda relive them, after they’d spent nearly a year learning how to move past the guilt and trauma that Ganon’s return had caused them.

He took a deep breath. Soon it would be done. Soon it would be back to normal.

“We’re here,” he finally said as they slowed down in the trees, and Zelda hopped off Aspen, walking a little ways forward in the wooded path.

“We were trying to get to Hyrule castle, but there were too many guardians,” Link began to explain, “and this is when we realised the Champions… had been killed.”

Zelda was silent, and took a few steps more before faltering. Link slid down off of Flint immediately, and nearly reached out to steady her, but she seemed to be getting better at taking in these old memories, and regained her composure a moment later. When she turned to him with a tear or two rolling down her cheek, he knew it was done.

“Are you okay?”

“It’s just such a waste,” she replied, wiping her face with her sleeves. “They worked so hard. It’s my fault they died, and they died for nothing.”

“No. Their spirits were there when I defeated Ganon in the end,” Link said, shaking his head. Zelda’s eyebrows raised hopefully. “They played a big part in helping me take him down. It’s what they wanted.”

The look she gave him told him it was hard for her to take his word for it - but else could he expect? This was never going to be easy. He looked at her in surprise when she came to take his hand, and then lifted up, kissing him lightly on the cheek.

“Thanks. I’m sorry you have to watch me go through this again. It’s probably not very fun,” she said, turning from him to head back to Aspen. Link watched her hop onto her horse, and then followed suit. No, it isn’t.

“Enough of that,” Zelda said suddenly, smiling at him - “We have time to get the last one today, don’t we?”

He glanced up at the sky through the treetops. Early afternoon. His stomach was rumbling, but there’d be time for dinner after, in Hateno. The idea of being home with a Zelda who knew herself was a comforting thought, and finally Link found it within himself to smile back.

“Yeah.”

 

It took longer than he’d expected to travel into necluda. They ended up eating briefly at the Dueling Peaks stable, and then Link led Zelda into Ash Swamp on foot, being careful to avoid deeper puddles as they went. Guardian remains littered the valley still, but Link could tell that in time, they would give in to nature and be buried, covered by plants and flowers. He squinted, trying to remember exactly where this one took place.

“Where the valley narrows there towards Hateno was sort of a last stand against the Guardians,” Link explained, as Fort Hateno came into view a ways away. “If they’d had gotten past that wall, Hateno probably wouldn’t exist today. We were actually trying to get there, but there were too many guardians, and-”

Her footsteps had stopped. He glanced back at her, and her stillness told him he could stop talking. She was reliving it - the day he died.

 

Zelda, Day 11

 

She knew this place. She hadn’t realised until now, but this had been where she’d seen Link in her desert memory, crouched alone and sobbing. But her timelines were mixed. That must have been him, in the very moment she was having… only a few years back. With the context she had now, the field had a different look to it. It was alive with crawling, creeping guardians. They were everywhere, and even though Link had fought many already, he was gravely injured, but he was still fighting, still hadn’t let even a scratch land on her, and -

There it was. A sensation she thought she’d forgotten. She had loved him, after all. She wanted him to run and save himself, but he wouldn’t, not even as a guardian readied to hit him in the chest, not even as he stood in front of her with no energy to take it down, blood seeping through his shirt. He was dying for her, but she couldn’t let him. Not now. Not when they were so close, not when it was her fault she’d failed at unlocking her power, not when she loved him, and it was that final realisation that brought her in front of him and lit a shining triangle of hope on her hand. Light erupted throughout the field, and the guardians dropped, and she’d been successful, but Link…

Images of him flashed through her mind. The knight ceremony. The ruins. The desert. How he waited for her, prayed with her, fought for her, devoted himself to her, and then died for her.

I forgot him.

When she came to, she was kneeling in a muddy puddle, tears streaming down her face. So she had loved him after all. Hylia, what a cruel trick. But crueler still - where was the rest of it? Where was her mother’s face, her father’s face, where was her childhood, where was her time spent after Ganon had been defeated, where was the rest -

When she opened her eyes, he was standing in front of her, framed by the light of the setting sun. It dipped behind the mountains, and his face became clear, worried, hopeful, expectant. I don’t have what you want, was all she could think. She wanted to slap him and hug him all at once. He had endured so much for her. He had died. He forgot her, too - but he remembered! He was himself!

She opened her mouth to say something, shook her head, and then decided not to. There was nothing she could say now. She stared at him hopelessly, bitter, frustrated, lost.

“Zel-”

“I’m not your Zelda,” she interrupted him, surprised at suddenly finding her words. A rage was building within her and she hated herself even more for it. “I’m still me, or- or half of me, but I saw it. I saw that- that I loved you.”

Loved me?” Link replied, looking shattered. Zelda shut her eyes, shaking her head. She couldn’t make sense of herself. Grief was spreading through her as if it was in her veins. She wanted to wake up from this dream, just have things be normal , just to not be a playtoy for the powers that were. Obviously Link had had his own hopes about what today would bring, but his disappointment wasn’t her biggest worry right now.

“I don’t know what I feel anymore,” she choked, “I don’t even know myself! So you may as well fill me in on whatever sensitive information you’ve been hiding,” she laughed, but it was false laughter. She didn’t mean it. None of this was funny. “I’m a failure. Just like I was back then.”

Link held his head in his hands for a moment, and after a moment wiped tears away that took Zelda’s remaining hope with them. So even he knows it’s futile.

“We were going to get married,” he said quietly, and a smile flashed on his face and disappeared as quickly as it came. Zelda tried to take a minute to process the information. What?

“And then what?” she replied expectantly, trying her best to ignore the way her heart sank at her own words, “I forgot you? I was gone for two years? You - you moved on, Hylia, I’m just like an ex-lover to you,” she stammered, unable now to look at him at all, instead dipping her head and shutting her eyes tight as tears continued to escape her.

“No,” Link replied, his voice stern. “I never stopped loving you. I stayed by your side for those two years. Zel, I-”

“Don’t call me that.”

She could barely get the words out now. Her voice cracked. She was a wreck. She let all the people that cared about her die - all her life - and now she was turning away someone who was supposedly the love of her life. The one person that could possibly help her now. I don’t deserve him.

Her eyes flew open when she heard his knees hit the ground in front of her, and felt him pull her close to him, felt him hold her tight, tighter. Her tears began to soak through his shirt at the shoulder. Why was he bothering to comfort her?

“You’re missing some valuable information,” Link breathed suddenly, interrupting her thoughts, “so let me tell you a story.”

She sniffed, staring at the grass past his shoulder, and lifted her hands to hold his back. Fine.

“When I woke up in the shrine, I was all alone,” he began. “There was nothing there except your voice, and I didn’t know who you were. I didn’t know that it was the voice of Zelda, the person I’d fallen in love with a century earlier, but I trusted it. That voice was all I had to coax me out of that cold cave. I didn’t know myself. I had scars all over my body. And when I came outside, there was this nameless world sitting in front of me, with a castle and a giant demon swirling around it.”

Oh.

“On the plateau, there was only one other person - the ghost of an old man. He let me take his food and taught me some tricks, and I learned how to fight and cook. He told me about a princess within Hyrule Castle. He said she was his daughter - and that I, her appointed knight, had fallen in combat when the demon Ganon returned,” Link continued, his shoulders relaxing as Zelda listened intently. It was the first she’d really learned anything about her father.

“He said that when I’d fallen, you survived, and faced Ganon alone. The memory you just saw?” Link asked, and pulled away from her now to meet her eyes. She couldn’t look away, even though she was sure her face was red and puffy and awful.

“After I literally died in your arms, you got up, took the sword all the way to the Lost Forest, walked alone into Hyrule field amongst guardians and bokoblins and Hylia knows what else, to go get Ganon. Why.”

It was a question, even though Link hadn’t said it like one. He watched her, then, and she suddenly felt like this must be what most of her memories of school felt like.

“I loved you?” Zelda replied, wincing a bit at the past tense. Link sniffed, clearly trying to ignore her choice of words.

“Yeah, well, that’s why you unlocked your sealing power. You were being honest with your own feelings, you were being selfless. But the reason you sealed Ganon away was because that was your destiny. You knew that when I woke up in a hundred years, my destiny would be to help destroy him, with the sword only I can wield,” Link explained, though he looked somewhat pained.

“Your dad gave me a quest I already knew I had to fulfill, because you told me when I woke up. And I trusted you, even though it was the voice of a stranger, even though I’d forgotten my feelings. Whether Rhoam had told me the whole story or not, I would have learned the story from others, I would have fought monsters, I would have ended up at Hyrule Castle with that sword and killed Ganon because that’s why we’re here, ” Link finished, his lips twitching into a bittersweet smile.

“Your mom died of a strange sickness when you were still just a little kid. No one had seen anything like it before, until you got sick two years ago. So it’s like… like we’re only so useful, you know? But I wasn’t having it. No one was ready to say goodbye to you. So we broke the rules. Maybe this is karma… maybe this is just what we had to give in exchange.”

His eyes were still on hers, and Zelda was speechless. What had started as something she assumed was an attempt to make her feel better, had turned into something entirely… demotivating. Even so, the sentiment was strangely comforting all the same. She felt numb, and that was an improvement.

“That’s the most I’ve ever talked in my life,” Link muttered, and finally, she let out a weak laugh.

He stood, lifting her with him, and held her in a hug she wished would last forever. She wished she could lose herself in the warmth and comfort of him and never wake up. But that wasn’t her luck this time around. She was brought back to reality by the sound of him whistling for the horses, but the ride through the valley and to Hateno was blurred. He made them dinner, and though the food brought her a little more to her senses, she couldn’t rid of the nagging guilt that plagued her thoughts.

Unlike the last time they’d been at Link’s house, this time they shared his bed. It seemed to improve Link’s mood at least, but as he curled around her and dozed off, Zelda stayed awake, thinking and staring at the ceiling. Through all the questions, all the choices, and all the pain, there was only one thing she could think of to do.

She’d move to the castle - and start her duties as Hyrule’s leader. Alone.

Chapter Text

Link, Day 12

 

Link woke up with a word lingering at the front of his mind.

 

Sorry.

 

He didn’t know if it had been said aloud or if he dreamt it. It was just enough to jolt him out of his slumber. His first thought was comfort - it was so nice waking up back home, in his own bed. But he had no time to savor the way the sunlight filtered through the trees, or the way the birds sang outside, or how the wind sounded when it whistled through the valley below Hateno village. Zelda wasn’t there.

 

He sat up too fast, and after the initial head rush, squinted down into the living room. Not there either.

 

“Zel?”

 

He staggered down the stairs, still feeling half asleep, and opened the door hurriedly. He could already hear the sound of the village bustling. The sun was high. He’d slept in, but she was nowhere to be found. He ran to the stables only to find Flint, alone. She’d taken Aspen and... left? Already his heart was racing. I just got her back - I just got her back, please -

 

It took him only a few minutes to get properly dressed and then take off for Kakariko. The sun beat down on the back of his neck and Flint seemed surprised to be moving so quickly. They lingered in the Ash swamp, but still there was no sight of her, so he pushed on. When he finally arrived to the little village in the mountains, he saw no sign of Aspen or Zelda, but before he could leave, a familiar voice called to him.

 

“Link.”

 

He looked over his shoulder at the gates to see Impa, walking towards him with her two usual Sheikah guards a little ways away.


“You can’t find her?”

 

“No,” he replied, “and the memories… she didn’t remember herself. Just her feelings for me… which seem to be gone,” he added bitterly.

 

“Mmm. It was never an exact science,” Impa admitted calmly. “For all we know, you were the exception, not the rule.”

 

“I just wish I knew where she was,” he replied, exasperated. “It’s exhausting, worrying about her all the time, but I can’t- I can’t help it-”

 

He choked on his words, angry at himself. Did he get her hopes up about remembering herself? Should he have told her earlier about their relationship? What about the memories - it was hard enough for her to live them a hundred years ago, but reliving them without hardly any context, how could he have expected-

 

“Link. Link! ” Impa’s stern voice knocked him out of his racing thoughts. “It’s Zelda. Where would she go?”

 

He wanted to argue, but she was right. Maybe Zelda’s new plan was the old plan.

 

“Right. Right,” he said distractedly, turning Flint around to leave from the other side of town, “thanks, Impa.”

 

The elder only waved tiredly as Link took off back through Kakariko and out the other side, racing towards Hyrule Castle. There was still a lot of construction to be done, but it looked much better than it had a few years ago, and Castle Town itself was beginning to be fill with inhabitants once again.

 

It took him the better part of an hour to get there, and by the time he did, he was starving, grumpy, and impatient to find her. How could she just leave like that? After what had happened the day before? He wanted to be angry, but the truth was he was hurt beyond belief.

 

Sure enough, when Link arrived to the stables, Aspen was already there. He left Flint to minger with the other horse, and then found his way up through the winding hallways of Hyrule castle. Tours of villagers and royal guards passed by, alongside tailors, cooks, carpenters, painters… it was as busy as it was a century ago. Some paused to wave and smile to him, and he returned the civilities briefly, obviously in a hurry.

 

Passing the library, he heard a familiar voice from inside, and he skidded to a stop in the hallway, backing up to peek his head in the door.

 

Zelda.

 

She was holding a clipboard of some sort, and had about five or six other people around her. Looking at her now felt like looking at her over a century ago, but she also looked so much more grown up; her hair was even longer, her eyes were sparkling with the same passion she always had, and she was holding herself with more confidence than ever. His heart skipped a beat.

 

“I know there wasn’t a window there originally, but I think the light would be really nice. If we’re going to let the public come in, we also need more space around the doorways,” she spoke, and the group she was with muttered a mutual agreement. Link blinked. She was back at work after all.

 

“Link! What a pleasant surprise.”

 

The familiar voice came to him from Symin, who Link hadn’t realised was standing alongside Zelda. The group parted somewhat, all eyes moving to him.

 

“You found me quite fast,” Zelda said, though it wasn’t the greeting he was hoping for. She was smiling, but otherwise wasn’t letting much on, which frustrated Link more than he anticipated.

 

“Old habits die hard,” he said, trying to keep his voice from sounding too snippy. She looked unimpressed with his reply, and the silent tension between the two of them was awkward enough that the others around Zelda now seemed uncomfortable.

 

“I need to take this group to the greenhouses,” she said suddenly, turning to Symin. “Could I leave you with Link, for the time being?”

 

“Certainly, Princess,” Symin responded with a slight bow, and Link, speechless, watched as she walked away, taking the others with her, without a goodbye.

 

“I take it she wasn’t expecting to see you,” Symin said with a polite smile, and Link only looked at him in disbelief. “Lunch?”

 

 

In the dining room, new cooks and chefs were training, and seemed happy to provide lunch to Link and Symin (and others from in town). It was surprisingly busy. Link barely had time to notice, however, and was scarfing down food while ranting to Symin simultaneously.

 

“She remembered that she loved me,” he repeated, feeling like he’d said these words to himself countless times over the last few hours, “but she left. She left anyways. She doesn’t even want to see me,” he rambled, sticking an entire half a sandwich into his mouth.

 

“What did I do wrong?” he asked through the mouthful of food, staring at Symin expectantly from across the table, but before the man could answer, Link continued: “I told her we were going to get married and she thought I’d moved on, but I stayed by her those full two years. I- I waited for her, helped her find all those memories and just wanted things to -”

 

He swallowed abruptly, feeling his chest twist and turn, and a familiar lump beginning to rise in his throat. Symin waited for a moment, then handed him a napkin, which Link took gratefully and held up to his face to cover the few errant tears. The truth was, he could have sobbed. He tried to push away the little voice in his mind that said, I just wanted things to be normal again, because it seemed like such a simple request he and Zelda had been robbed of. There were too many people around, and knowing that kept him from breaking down completely, considering most of them had already noticed his presence and were chatting away excitedly. He had been out of the public eye for so long now; he didn’t miss it.

 

“Link. You need to be patient,” Symin urged, his voice gentle but stern. Link looked up at him from over the edge of the napkin, hoping his eyes didn’t look as red as they felt. “I know it hurts, but she probably needs some time to sort through her feelings. I think you had it easy,” Symin laughed, but quickly backpedaled as Link narrowed his eyes sharply at him.

 

“Wh-what I mean is, you got yourself back. She’s just realised she’s not getting it back - yes?. And I know she’s the center of your life, but Hyrule is the center of hers,” Symin added quickly, and finally something he’d said sunk in. Link took a deep breath, wiped away the last of the wetness on his face, and rubbed his forehead.

 

“Support her and wait. Help things get back to normal. A new normal, that is,” the man added, smiling a little. Link nodded quietly.

 

“I thought you were a researcher, not a therapist,” Link joked weakly, but Symin shook his head.

 

“I just want to help. Everyone wants to see you two back together, Link. But you can’t rush these things.”

 

He paused, and Link, feeling full and regretting how he’d stuffed his face a moment later, pushed his plate away and let out a sigh, holding his head in his hands. He had to try and work through what to do next. Symin was right - with everything, of course - but to Link, playing a waiting game after already waiting a hundred years and more was not going to be easy.

 

“Here’s an idea,” Symin began, “I’ll remind Zelda about getting you to head the Royal Guard. It gives you something to do, and you’ll be close. You can still protect her. Wasn’t that the plan, all along?”

 

Link blinked through his fingers at Symin. The man knew more about him than he did. Protecting Zelda was still high on his list, regardless of Calamity Ganon being defeated for years now. He knew better than anyone that there were still dangers out there. He nodded, relaxing his shoulders finally and letting the tension go.

 

“Thanks, Symin.”

 

“You’re welcome. I’m staying in Castle Town for the time being, if you ever need a place to stay. I don’t know if they’ve renovated the guards quarters yet… I know the head gets a nicer place, but it might not be as comfortable as home,” Symin wondered aloud, scratching his head as he seemed to try to remember the details. Link smiled. Anything is fine if I’m close to her.

 

Symin left to regroup with Zelda then, and Link lingered around the castle for a little bit, taking in what was new and catching up with a few locals, before taking Flint back to Hateno to pack.

 

 

Zelda, Day 13

 

Sunlight awoke Zelda in the morning, a little more forcefully than she might have liked. She squinted, feeling like it must have been much too early, and took a moment to get her bearings. They’d been moving around so much lately, she forgot where she was - but only briefly. Years ago, this room would have been comforting to her, but once again she felt like an imposter in her own home. And for the first time since waking up, she was alone. Link wasn’t there.

 

She sank further beneath her heavy duvet, curling up in the warmth. Link. Symin convinced her to make him head of the Royal Guard, and although she was hesitant, it made sense. She swore she remembered him mentioning something about it before, but part of her had wanted to forget. For once.

 

She felt her cheeks warm as she thought of him, and pulled the covers up to her eyes, as if to hide her blushing from some unknown entity watching her. Goddesses, seeing him yesterday made my heart jump. Of course he’d found her. She wanted to be bitter about it, but she couldn’t be. Part of her had hoped all along that he’d be upset, that he’d chase her down. She just had no idea how to come to terms with her own feelings. Everything over the last two weeks had been such a rush - all she wanted was to do her duty as a princess now. Maybe then, everything else would fall into place...

 

Brisk morning air swept in through her window along with the early sun, and Zelda looked apprehensively around the room, eyeing the bookshelves and stacked boxes that lined the walls. Beneath the window was her desk, and on top of it still sat two journals; one was hers, and one was her father’s. She’d found them waiting for her yesterday, but hadn’t bothered to read them yet, preferring to hop straight into work. Even now, she considered ignoring them and beginning her day early. But every time she tried to look away or think of something else, her mind wandered back to them.

 

She glanced up at the robe that hung on her four poster bed, and pulled it down to wrap around herself before getting slowly out from under the warmth of the blankets. She shivered a little, and sat down at the desk, pulling over the first journal. Her father’s. She opened the pages carefully, and was surprised to see how short each entry was.

 

Zelda pulled her hair away from her face, tucked a few stray strands behind her ears, and began to read. Although the way Rhoam wrote was so formal, it brought her to tears quickly anyways. Somehow, until now, she wasn’t even sure that she was real. Link had told her so much already, spoke of her so highly, that she wondered how much of it had really just been embellishment. But Rhoam’s diary was full of not just praise - but affirmation that she had never been without her flaws.

 

Eventually, the journal caught up with what she remembered in her memory-hunting with Link; him scolding her for studying the relics and the Guardians, her leaving to Lanayru, and -

 

She turned the page; looked back; checked to see if there were two pages stuck together; no. That’s the end? She reread the last line over and over again.

 

“I sit and await my daughter’s return.”

 

She held her hands at her eyes, breathing heavily and trying to fight back the tears that came. It felt wrong to cry about a father she had forgotten, a relationship and memories erased.

 

“I’m sorry,” she breathed, “I’m sorry, I-”

 

How many times do I have to relive this guilt?

 

It hurt. She was so tired of hurting. Hadn’t she done her time, by now? Her and her past self, her past selves before that, fighting and praying and using others around them to do what needed to be done… It was tough to accept that this guilt would be something she would eventually have to learn to accept and live with, but knowing that there was nothing she could do about the pain helped to numb it.

 

It took a few minutes for her to pull herself back together. Zelda put the journal to the side and wiped her face, then eyed her own journal, and wondered whether it would even be worth it to read it now. She stood a little, checking out the window to see how high the sun had gotten; Rhoam’s diary had been brief, so she still had plenty of time to read more before it would be time for breakfast.

 

She steeled herself a little, and then picked up the other journal, flipping through the pages briefly. A quiet laugh escaped her. She’d nearly written a novel. Rather than sit at the desk with it, she took it back into bed with her, and got cozy once more beneath the covers before opening the pages.

 

It began much earlier than she’d expected.

 

I’m Princess Zelda. I’m 12 years old. My mother died six years ago. My father is helping me train to unlock my sealing power. It’s quite hard work. Today, I decided to start a journal. One of my other friends is doing it and I thought it sounded like a good idea, though I don’t know what to write. I studied some relics today despite father’s disapproval. He’s the one that told me about them first, anyways! I think there’s a lot I could do to help by learning of them. Everyone says I have a very scientific mind.

 

Page 2. Today a boy named Link convinced me to sneak out of the castle and go on an adventure with him. I know father would be furious, so I almost didn’t go, but he told me he knows all the secret “ins and outs,” and he was right. I couldn’t believe how many secret passages there are in and around Castle Town. I have to make sure father never knows. Link took me to the stables and got us two horses to ride out in the field. I’ve never been able to go that fast on my own before! It was fun. I hope I see him again.

 

Page 3. I’ve been away for a little bit. Father took me on a trip to the desert. It’s awfully hot there. I don’t know how they do it. I met some of the Gerudo and they’re really lovely. Father couldn’t come in to the city with me so I got to go alone with Urbosa. She calls me Little Bird and I like her a lot. When I came back today, Link was waiting by the castle gates and winked at me when we rode past. I had to hide my smile from father. I think we’ll go out again tomorrow. I want to tell him all about the desert.

 

Page 4. Link came to get me again today. He found his way all the way up to my window sill! It’s so high up! I don’t know how he can climb all that way. His mother would have a heart attack. He took me out to a bog and we caught frogs. My clothes got such a mess that I had to beg Mrs. Muriel to not tell father about the state of them. I’m so lucky she agreed, but she said only this once. Link seemed really interested in the desert. He’s enrolling in the knight academy soon. I didn’t realise his dad is one of the captains there.

 

Page 6. It’s been a year since I wrote here. Sorry. Life has been busy. I don’t see Link that much anymore, but when I do it’s still a lot of fun. He’s the only way I can have a life outside of the castle sometimes. Father insists I pray all the time. I’ve been doing more research on the Guardians though anyways. I’m a little scared of what’s to come, but only because Father seems so on edge. I worry that my being so nervous about Calamity Ganon’s return is exactly what’s blocking me from unlocking my sealing power. I wish I could talk to mother.

 

Page 7. Funny that I just wrote about this. Link took me out yesterday. We went all the way to Kakariko, just the two of us, on a picnic. He knows so many spots I’ve never even heard of. I asked him how he gets so much time to adventure and he says when he’s not training, he’s out all the time. He really loves Hyrule. I think as much as I do, and that’s saying something. He gives me a lot of hope. When I’m with him, it feels like everything will be alright.

 

Zelda paused. Link had never told her about the times they’d spent together when they were younger. Was it possible he hadn’t remembered, either? Nonetheless, her eyes were glued to the pages now, and she continued reading.

 

Page 8. I’ve been so busy. It’s been a while since I wrote. I need to be better with it but I’m training almost all the time now. There’s more and more signs coming up of Calamity Ganon’s return. The whole kingdom is tense. I wish there was more I could do - I wish I could finally unlock my sealing power. I wish and pray for it harder than anything. More than I even prayed that mother could come back.

 

Page 9. Someone else’s prayers have been answered. The sword that seals the darkness has been found, and claimed, by none other than Link. I was so happy for him at first. I wanted to congratulate him on it, but when I saw him, he barely spoke a word to me. He seems to have become a completely different person. Some say it’s gone to his head. He didn’t seem arrogant to me, just quite quiet, but it was off-putting nonetheless. Something tells me things have changed. I miss how simple it used to be.

 

Page 10. It’s been nearly a year. I’m almost sixteen. I haven’t seen Link in forever. Apparently he’s been doing nothing but training. I’m sad that I lost someone I considered to be a best friend. Part of me is actually quite upset at him. He’s chosen, like me. We should be able to relate. But he’s already got his sword. I’m still a failed Princess. I wish I could simply pick something up out of the ground and have it all be okay.

 

I know it’s not quite like that. I just know I’m running out of time. I’m so exhausted and tired of praying constantly. It feels like Hylia is mocking me when I stand beneath her. It feels like I’m the wrong Zelda.

 

She stopped, breath caught in her throat, at the last line she’d read. The wrong Zelda. It hit so close to home, and something about that was a relief. She’d felt like this before.

 

The following entries were about the four Champions, and she read eagerly, happy to learn more about the four heroes she’d helped select. Her heart still hurt with guilt reading about them, but in all of the entries, the champions had been more than willing - enthused, really - to fight Calamity Ganon.

 

Suddenly, then-

 

Tomorrow father is assigning HIM as my appointed knight…

 

She laughed, noticing the way her cursive had sharpened at this point. The rest of the entries lined up with the memories she had recalled while travelling with Link. She’d never put her love for him in words, but then she supposed she had taken her time to realise it... In fact, looking back on the last memory, she’d almost been too late in realising how much she really loved him. She was willing to die for him. She was willing to die for him now. So what’s changed?

Chapter Text

Zelda, Day 16

 

Slowly but surely, Zelda’s life began to settle into something of a groove in Hyrule castle. The number of unpacked boxes in her room was gradually decreasing. It had only been a few days, but she was beginning to finally feel at home. But something was missing. She hadn’t seen Link in days. Symin had let her know that Link’s work with the royal guards was going well enough, but still, Zelda wondered why he hadn’t bothered to come and say hello. She noticed that there were guards posted in more places now; two outside of the royal quarters, two at each of the gates, and there were more patrols around the city. They had even found and tailored all of the old knights uniforms. But still, no Link.

 

Oh Hylia, fine. She’d spent long enough pacing back and forth in her room, had enough sleepless nights thinking of him and what he was up to, and finally he’d won over her patience. She couldn’t stand it any longer. As soon as she was dressed, she headed to the training grounds, ignoring her hunger and the fact that she’d missed breakfast already.

 

The training grounds were connected to a labyrinth of tunnels within the castle, namely the guards quarters and the headquarters for whoever the captain was at the time, but also some storage, showers, and dining areas. Where they actually trained was in a large courtyard that could be looked down at from two stories above. When Zelda finally arrived, she rested her hands on the stone wall - already warm from the sun - and peered down. Her eyes found Link immediately.

 

He was shirtless, and this alone caused heat to rise in her chest. In his hand was just a wooden training sword, and around him, several guards. The training seemed a little more intense than she’d expected; the guards were holding very real weapons compared to the wooden sword in Link’s hand, but he dodged all of their attacks with ease, save for the occasional close scrape here and there. One by one, he gently dispatched the trainees, but Zelda watched worriedly as one he seemed to have forgotten about readied herself for a surprise attack. The sword swiped upwards, and Zelda gasped as she saw blood on the tip of it, but Link seemed to have only taken a very shallow scrape. He disarmed his opponent quickly, sword falling to the ground as the trainee staggered backwards and then fell onto her back.

 

Her hand was still at her mouth when Link suddenly looked over his shoulder, straight at her. His blue eyes were always so piercing, so knowing - like they were asking questions that Zelda had no choice but to give all the answers to.

 

Her heart may as well have stopped. She’d been found out. Even from such a distance, she could see the sweat glistening on his brow, his messy blonde hair sticking to his face, his shoulders lifting with each heavy breath. Colour filled her cheeks. Shit.

 

He turned fully to face her then, threw the training sword over his shoulder, and grinned at her. He looked happy to see her, and she couldn’t help but admit to herself that the feeling was mutual. She’d missed him.

 

“It’s been a while since we talked,” Zelda called back down, smiling. “Can you come up to see me?”

 

Link dropped the training sword to the ground, gave a pat on the shoulder to a couple of the trainees, and then waved briefly at her before disappearing into the shade below. Zelda turned, focusing her gaze on Hyrule field stretched out ahead of her (hoping the colour on her cheeks would fade in time), and didn’t have to wait long for him to show up at the top of the nearby stairs. She tried to hide her disappointment considering he had since put on a shirt.

 

“Long time no see, Zel- da,” he greeted her, correcting himself quite quickly. “...Princess?” he asked carefully, looking at her curiously. She frowned a little and shook her head.

 

“Zelda is fine. Z- Zel is fine,” she stammered, her nerves briefly getting the better of her, but seeing Link’s eyes light up a little was worth it.

 

“I never apologized for leaving so abruptly the other day. I-”

 

“You don’t need to say sorry for that,” Link interrupted her, but Zelda was adamant.

 

“No, I do. I’m really, really sorry, Link. You’ve done nothing but be helpful and caring to me since I woke up. I just didn’t know what else to do in the moment! I should have talked to you first, really.”

 

She could tell he wanted to argue, but he said nothing instead, and instead walked towards her until the distance between them was closed. Her heart jumped as he cupped the side of her face gently - for a second, she thought he was going to kiss her, but instead he simply leaned down to press his forehead against hers.

 

“I missed you.”

 

Those words gave her such relief and comfort that she let her eyes fall shut, content to be in the moment with him, and then wondered how she’d managed any days without him. Her stomach was doing flips.

 

“I missed you too,” she admitted, finally flicking her eyes open and meeting his only inches away. The way he looked at her still gave her butterflies, and she swallowed in some attempt to calm herself, but it didn’t seem to be working very well.

 

Link leaned forwards a little bit - like he wanted to kiss her - but Zelda backed up just a bit, and so he stood back as well, sighing.


“I’m sorry-”

 

“It’s okay. I’m trying to be patient. It’s hard,” Link admitted, and he smiled at her, but his eyes looked quite sad.

 

Zelda stared up at him, almost in disbelief, but she could see in his eyes it was the truth. After all this time - over a century and then some - he was content to wait for her.

 

“Wait for me a little bit longer,” she requested, voice soft. “I’m still getting in the hang of things. But I- I still want you near me.”

 

He gave her a knowing smile then, one that caught her by surprise.

 

“I’m always near.”

 

 

Link, Day 16

 

Zelda had left not long after their rendezvous to go and continue her work at rebuilding the castle, and as Link watched her go, his smile gradually disappeared. Five, ten minutes, an hour with her, wouldn’t be enough. But at least he had a little more hope now. And she didn’t seem to notice the fact that he’d basically been spying on her since arriving to the castle.

 

“Oi, Link!”

 

He’d spent some time staring at the scenery before a voice caught him by surprise. When he looked up, one of the trainee guards was poking his head up from the top of the stairs.

 

“I guess there’s some new trainees here or something? Sam let ‘em in to the training grounds already.”

 

“What?” Link replied, a little confused, and took a peek over the walls of the training ground courtyard. Sure enough, a new group of guards were there - a lot of them. He smiled a little. It was great that so many people were so enthusiastic about signing up as guards, especially since the job was surprisingly boring.

 

When he got downstairs to meet them, he stopped dead in his tracks at the door, eyes slowly widening as he got a better look at the new trainees. No- this can’t be right-

 

They were unmistakably yiga clan. He knew too well what they looked like in their disguises. Any normal citizen might not be able to tell the difference, but Link had had too many run-ins with them to not realise that the clothes, the hair, the faces, even, were all lies. His other guards didn’t notice. If it wasn’t for the fact that they were drastically outnumbered, Link would have considered this a pop quiz, but trying to fight them here would cause too many deaths. He couldn’t risk it. And the yiga seemed to know it, by the way they smirked at him.

 

“Oh wow! You’re Link, right? The one that defeated Calamity Ganon?”

 

“Of course that’s him. He’s training all the new guards now to help keep the castle safe,” one of the others snapped back, but Link remained silent. The act wouldn’t last long. Some of them were bigger than others; these weren’t just the small lanky ones. They’d brought in some of their bigger hitters. Shit.  His mind was racing. The other guards had to get out of there, fast.

 

“Guards! I’m going to spend some time briefing the newcomers. Get to your posts for now and meet back with me here before dinner. Drinks on me tonight,” he called, surprising the group of yiga, who watched restlessly as all of the other guards in the area slowly filtered out. It was quiet at first, with Link and the group squaring off against each other, but then one of their voices broke the silence.

 

“Do you really want to be alone here with us?”

 

“Do you really want to be alone here with me?” Link was calm, but bluffing. Sure, he could take down probably more than half of them by himself, but it would be a close one, and their sheer numbers - not to mention the close quarters of the courtyard - would go in their favor. The yiga shuffled impatiently until one of them stepped forward, pulling a sickle out from his waistband and pointing it at Link’s neck.

 

“We’re willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes to avenge Kohga,” he sneered. Link narrowed his eyes, unperturbed by the cold blade that pressed softly against his skin.

 

“That’s not why you’re here,” he replied; it couldn’t be.

 

“I’ll admit, we didn’t expect you nor the Princess to actually be here. Bonus,” the man smirked.

 

“What do you want with the princess?” Link asked, trying to look genuinely curious, but his stomach was sinking as he anticipated their answer.

 

“What’s the word I’m looking for?” the yiga asked, turning to look back at the group. One of the girls piped up.

 

“We’re going to dethrone her.”

 

“That’s a nice way of putting it,” the yiga said decidedly, grinning as he turned his attention back to Link. “We heard you two might be wanting to make babies at some point. Unfortunately, the royal bloodline is stopping here.”

 

The blade pressed tighter against Link’s neck, and he winced, taking a hesitant step backwards. He didn’t have much time to think about how much he hated the term ‘making babies’ or what on earth the rumor mill was spreading about him and Zelda at this point. All he had to do was stall for time.

 

“You might find that easier said than done,” he said, choosing his words carefully. The yiga in front of him tilted his head. “I know the citizens can’t tell you apart. But don’t think I’ve left the princess defenseless. You’ll never get your hands on her.”

 

Now the yiga looked upset. He clenched his teeth, sliced a thin cut along Link’s neck, and then barked a sinister order at the others: “Find her. Bring her here. Don’t let anyone else in.”

 

Blood dripped from Link’s neck, but the cut was shallow, and a moment later the yiga jumped him. He tried to dodge, tried to take any of them out of he could, but they weren’t fighting him; they were trapping him. Although he stole a sickle from one, and managed to push several others away, the fight was short-lived. They tripped him, kicked him, and finally, held a sword above his chest as he lay on his back, hands and legs pinned down.

 

“Hard to believe a weakling like you bested Master Kohga,” one of the yiga spat.

 

“Easy to believe it needed twenty of you to take me down,” Link replied, keeping his eyes on the blade that hovered only inches above his chest.

 

“There won’t be any shrine of resurrection for you this time around, Hero.”

 

Wait, resurrection? Link almost started laughing; the corner of his mouth twitched, but he stopped himself short.

 

“Question for you,” he said suddenly, as the large yiga above him began to lift the sword in preparation to draw it down; he paused, the tip inches from Link’s heart. “Have you ever killed me before?”

 

The yiga exchanged glances before the larger yiga scoffed.

 

“What sort of a question is that? You’re already pinned down. We’ve got you this time.”

 

Link’s mind was still racing. He was desperately thinking of every interaction he’d had with any yiga members. He couldn’t think of one where things went really bad. The fights had always been quick and simple. They’d never killed him before. Good. He let his eyes fall shut, preparing for the pain.

 

Link !”

 

Zelda’s voice caught him by surprise; his eyes flew open. No, no, no, she couldn’t have been there, the guards were supposed to take her to safety - desperately he searched for her, only to finally spot her at the top of the courtyard. Three of his guards were fighting with her to pull her back, but still she resisted.

 

“Zel - no - run! Go!” He yelled at her until his voice strained, but the yiga had had enough waiting.

 

“There she is! Quick - get up there and get her! Just get him out of my sight,” one of them yelled, and all around him the yiga were running, and the sword came down, plunging through his chest as smooth as he would have expected considering the yiga were meticulous about having incredibly sharp blades. At least the pain wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was still more than unpleasant, and Link coughed up blood as the sword withdrew from his chest. Zelda screamed - god it was a horrible sound, one that would haunt him if he wasn’t in the process of dying. She wasn’t supposed to be there. She wasn’t supposed to see this.

 

He rolled as his vision began to blur, blood draining from his front and his brain beginning to shut down. In his last few conscious seconds, he lamented how familiar of a feeling this was, how many times he’d felt it or come close to feeling it during his time fighting through Hyrule. Everything hurt, his heart hurt, his head was burning, and all he could think of was her. When will this be over?

 

 

Zelda, Day 16

 

“No - no he can’t be, they can’t have - Link!”

 

She was fighting against their grasp. Some sort of blue light had surrounded Link after he finally fell still, but the yiga seemed to have not noticed in the chaos as they all ran from the courtyard or began to scale the wall. She realised just in time. She was next.

 

“They’re coming up here! We have to go now, ” one of the guards urged, and though he clearly looked upset as well, Zelda finally turned, running back towards the door with them. The guards were surprisingly well organized; they’d come to her to tell her that Link had given them some sort of code to know that it was an emergency, but she hadn’t listened to them and wanted to make sure he was okay.

 

But now, her mind was blank. She was too shocked for tears. She felt angry. Angry at him, angry at the guards, angry at everyone.

 

“Who were they?” were the first words out of her mouth, when finally two of the guards brought her into a secluded tower. She hadn’t even turned to look back at them.

 

“I think - yiga clan,” one of the guards suggested, and as Zelda finally turned to look at them, brow furrowed, heart broken and chest on fire, they took a small step back: a male guard with blonde hair like Link, and a brunette girl who seemed young but capable.

 

“Yiga clan. They didn’t look like yiga clan,” Zelda continued, voice dripping with a quiet fury.

 

“They can disguise themselves,” the girl said, “which is why we couldn’t tell at first, but that must be it.”

 

“And what are we planning to do here? Who’s going to fight them?”

 

Her words were biting, her eyes narrowed, and the guards looked nervous simply being in her presence.

 

“The other patrols will be notified, but we’re here to keep you safe. Link’s orders,” said the man, though his voice cracked on the name.

 

“Link is dead,” Zelda replied bitterly, “so whose orders will you take now?”

 

The guards exchanged awkward glances.

 

“Our primary goal is to keep you safe, Princess,” the girl tried to explain, but it was clear Zelda was having none of it. She tilted her head quizzically.

 

“Safe from what? From my own castle as it’s infiltrated? From being there for my people? Let me out.”

 

“Princess, we can’t do that, you’re sure to be found-”

 

“I think we’re about the same size. Switch clothes with me,” Zelda interrupted, staring hard at the other girl.

 

“Seriously?” the guard asked in disbelief, but Zelda was already stripping off her dress, leaving just her undergarments on. The male guard turned promptly, standing at attention and staring hard at the wall.

 

“I’ve hid away and failed this kingdom before - too many times before,” she said sternly to the guard, who reluctantly began to take off her hat and uniform. “ I can’t just sit idly by. I refuse to be some damsel up here in the tower! Just please, put this on and stay here as if it’s me. Keep your sword, so you can fight. I’ll figure something out.”

 

The guard shook her head, and pulled out a small dagger from within her waistcoat.

 

“I can give you this, at least,” she said, putting it on top of the guard’s uniform and handing both to Zelda. “But I hope you don’t have to use it. If something happens to you, I’ll never forgive myself for doing this,” the guard added, beginning to awkwardly put the royal dress on as Zelda hopped into the guard’s uniform. It was surprisingly comfy, and easier to move in.

 

“Link - he really loved you,” the guard said suddenly, as Zelda had already begun to leave. She paused at the door, her hand resting hesitantly on the handle.

 

“He said everything we do, we do for you, because that way it was for the kingdom as well. He talked so highly of you. It gave us all a lot of hope for the future. He said as long as you’re safe, Hyrule will be safe.”

 

Zelda bit her lip, breathing in heavily and trying to suck back the emotions that were boiling and festering within her. She turned to look at the guard, who was blushing and staring at the ground.

 

“Thank you,” Zelda said softly, and the girl looked up in surprise. “I’ll be careful.”

 

“Oh- Princess!” the guard suddenly said, as Zelda began to leave, “you should put your hair up.”

 

Zelda smiled at her gratefully and tucked most of her hair into a bun beneath the guard’s hat, though some of her bangs fell to frame her face. She slipped the dagger up into her right sleeve, nodded to the male guard outside the room, and left down the winding stairs of the tower.

Chapter Text

Zelda, Day 16

 

The guards she passed didn’t seem to notice that she wasn’t one of them, and she took that as a good sign, although now she also wasn’t sure which of them were Yiga or not. She assumed that most of the ones standing post and not patrolling would belong to the castle, but it was really impossible to tell. She realised quickly that she had no idea who to talk to. If she could at least lead some civilians out of the castle, though, that would be worth it. And - she wanted to go back to the training courtyard, to find Link, and get him out. It would be incredibly hard to face, but she didn’t want anyone else to have to see that. Part of her wondered faintly if the shrine of resurrection would still work, but she had a feeling it wouldn’t. Not now.

 

When she did get to the area above the training grounds, she passed what must have been a group of yiga chatting, or at least she assumed so by the way they talked in hushed whispers and didn’t seem to be doing anything else. She hurried past on one side, and peered over the edge into the courtyard. There was still a blood stain there, and seeing it made her sick to her stomach, but… no Link. Her heart sank. What were they going to do with him? There’d be no use searching the whole castle him. She looked up, her eyes landing on the doorway past where the group of yiga guards were. That was the only way out of there without taking a much longer, and potentially more dangerous, route.

 

She steeled herself before walking towards them, but just when she thought she’d safely past them, one of them addressed her.

 

“Hey, you. How’s the princess doing? Safe?”

 

Crap. She had no idea how to respond. If she responded like a Hyrule guard would, she’d be completely caught out.


“Um - maybe. Beats me,” she replied with a nervous laugh, trying to disguise her voice, and the yiga watched her suspiciously. Their little standoff lasted long enough to raise suspicion, and now various guards from around the training guards were looking at each other apprehensively. It was a strange feeling, being in a standoff where no one really knew which side the other was on.

 

One of the yiga whispered something to the other, and within moments, guards were running at her from all angles. No - she couldn’t have been caught this soon. No way. If she at least kept her hat on, or tried to fight, perhaps they’d still think she was another guard.

 

She pulled out her dagger, and held it defensively against one of the guards who was trying to apprehend her, but she wasn’t exactly good with weapons, and he seemed to be able to tell. She swiped it up towards his face, but he responded with a sickle that fished the dagger clean out of her grip, slicing a clean semi-circle cut on the inside of her palm as it did so.

 

Another grabbed her from behind, forcing her down and holding her wrists tight together.

 

“Take her where the others are,” one of the yiga said, and the one holding her down paused for a second.

 

“The lockup, dimwit!” the yiga snapped finally, and she felt herself hoisted up and being forced back the other way. She wanted to talk, but couldn’t risk her identity being found out, and so she only tried to memorize the paths and hallways that lead to the basement of the castle as they went. At least if she was left with other captured guards, there was a chance they could escape together.

 

It took a few minutes to get down there, and she was surprised to see about ten to twenty other guards already behind bars. The yiga who had brought her down opened a cell that was already quite crowded; she wondered why everyone was being put into the same one.

 

“I’ll ask again,” another yiga said, one who had already been downstairs and patrolling them, “where’s the princess?”

 

The guards were silent. Zelda admired their resolve, but a moment later, her heart dropped. The first yiga motioned to her captor to wait, and pulled out one of the guards at random.

 

“We’re going to make an example for all of you and the newcomer here. If you don’t tell me where she is,” the guard said, pointing his sickle at all of them and then bringing it to the guard’s neck, “he’s dead.”

 

The guards were shocked into silence, but the one with the sickle at his neck was resilient.


“Don’t. Don’t tell him,” the guard begged to the others, and the yiga holding him grunted and pushed him to his knees, tightening his grip.


“You’re all going to go one by one if you don’t fess up already!” the yiga yelled, but Zelda had had enough. She was shaking.

 

“I’m right here,” she declared. Immediately she wondered if it had been a mistake. She was already being held down. She didn’t even have her dagger. The guards had no way to defend her. The grip on her wrists by the yiga holding onto her tightened. The man with the sickle at the other guard’s thoat narrowed his eyes.

 

“You’re not her.”

 

“Yes I am. Take off my hat.”

 

Her voice was quivering. The yiga ahead of her nodded, and the one holding on to her removed one hand to slowly lift her hat. Her blonde hair fell out from around her, and she stared defiantly at the yiga as his lips spread into a grin.

 

“Looks like there’s a promotion in my future.”

 

“Let him go,” she demanded, gesturing to the guard the yiga was holding. He looked reluctant at first, but after some shuffling, tossed him back into the cell and let the gate fall back shut. The guards were obviously upset, and Zelda tried not to think too hard about what the girl in the tower had told her, about Link’s telling them to look after her. They all believed that if she was safe, Hyrule was safe. But they couldn’t rely on her. Just like she… couldn’t rely on Link. But it wasn’t his fault.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said to the guards, trying to stay calm and confident. “This isn’t the end. Today isn’t the end. Thank you for fighting so hard. Hyrule has been through much worse than this,” she reminded them, but it was doing little to console them. “This is all I can do.”

 

“Enough!” the yiga yelled, and gestured to the one holding her to bring her downwards. He pushed her down to her knees, and Zelda stared hard at the stone floor below her as her hair was pulled up and out of the way. Hylia, this isn’t how it was supposed to go.  She’d been such a failure already since re-awakening. She’d cried so much lately that even now, before her execution, she couldn’t find it in her to let even one tear fall. She was strangely calm - maybe because there was nothing more for her to do. She was done.

 

A sickle cupped around her neck. Some of the guards were crying, some were yelling, but the sound was numbed. She felt like she couldn’t hear anything, and so she waited.

 

There was a grunt and a clang. In a quiet panic, she wondered if she was still alive after her head had been taken off, but when she opened her eyes, all she saw was the body of the yiga falling, crumpled, to the ground in front of her. The one who had been holding onto her had let go.

 

She didn’t have time to run; she thought about it, but she’d already been grabbed again, and jerked backwards into the chest of the fake guard who had brought her down. He was holding her - tight. She didn’t even have time to make sense of what was happening. Was he trying to squeeze her to death? Did he kill the other yiga so he could take the credit instead?

 

“You’re insane.”

 

Her chest twisted in knots. No- no, that sounded like Link-

 

She pushed against him to try to look up, and sure enough, under the royal guard’s hat was messy blonde hair and striking blue eyes and-

 

“Link-” she cut herself short. She was breathless. How was he here? She pressed all over his body, lifted the shirt of his guard’s uniform, only to find his chest intact; though there was a new scar this time. He was laughing. Was she dreaming? Had this all been some ridiculous nightmare? No, it was too real -

 

“When did you get yourself into a guard uniform? You completely fooled me,” he asked, smiling as he looked her over. “It’s cute on you.”

 

Zelda’s jaw was hanging open in shock. She shook her head, exasperated, trying not to be upset at the ridiculously casual tone he was taking, considering the circumstances.

 

“That- that- how did you-”

 

“I guess I forgot to tell you about the powers the Champions gave me,” he said, looking sheepish. “Mipha’s grace allows me to come back from the dead, like… a few times a day. It’s ridiculous,” he admitted, but Zelda was still in shock.

 

Link lifted a hand to cup her face, and his thumb swept over her cheekbone, pushing away tears she didn’t know were there.

 

“I thought - I had thought you-” she tripped over her own words, trying not to relive the feelings she’d had earlier that day, trying to tell herself she didn’t need to cry because he was here, but when she saw that even Link had tears in his eyes, she broke down.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Zel. You weren’t supposed to be there. I was terrified when I saw you up there.”

 

She dipped her head and gripped his arms tightly, holding him there as if he might disappear again. Despite his best efforts to wipe away her tears, many more were falling down to the stone below.

 

“I was scared that you’d be gone, and I never could really tell you, I-”

 

She was so embarrassed. She averted her gaze from him, but in her peripheral vision saw the feet of the other guards, still standing, waiting, witness to her breakdown. Great.

 

Link’s hand slid down from her cheek to her chin, and lifted her head slowly, encouraging her to finally meet his eyes once more. In the firelight of the dungeons, his gaze was sparkling, and shining from salty tears that fought past his long lashes.

 

“It’s okay.”

 

Those words were surprisingly rejuvenating, like it was all she needed to hear for the time being. Knowing the guards were waiting for them was also a sobering thought.

 

“I’m - I’m sorry,” she said suddenly, turning to face the guards. Some of them were still crying. Some were just shocked. A few were beaming. Link stood, and helped bring Zelda to her feet. She wiped away at her face, and then put her guard’s hat back on, tucking her hair away underneath it once more.

 

“This was a lucky coincidence,” she said, smiling a little as the guards laughed. “Since we’re all here together, I think we can make something of this.”

 

 

Link, Day 16

 

Zelda was comfortable taking charge already, and as she spoke to the guards and suggested that they use one of Hyrule castle’s secret passages to get out of the castle, Link smiled - and then found himself surprised. How did she know about the passages? He didn’t have time to ask, though, as Zelda whisked around to him, smiling, hands behind her back.

 

“Sound like a plan?”

 

Her enthusiasm was contagious as always, and he smiled softly back at her, nodding. It hadn’t been pleasant earlier, dying and then coming back to life. He hadn’t had to use Mipha’s grace in… well, well over two or three years. Not since before Calamity Ganon. The sensation hadn’t gotten any more pleasant in that time, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. In a way, it was lucky that Zelda had arrived when she did, since all of the yiga were so quick to leave him for dead in the courtyard to try and capture her.

 

“That reminds me,” he said, speaking of his own thoughts, “thank you for doing so well, guards. I can’t be more proud. Drinks will really be on me this time around, when we get out of here,” he laughed, and although Zelda looked a little confused, the guards were quick to cheer - with slightly hushed voices, of course.

 

“Before we leave, we should probably take these,” he added, and opened the storage cupboard where the swords had been stashed. One by one, he handed them out, took one for himself, and then gave Zelda the sickle from the yiga guard, who was still lying unresponsive on the floor.

 

“Is he- going to wake up?” Zelda asked, looking a little concerned, but Link turned her away.

 

“Let’s go,” he said to the guards instead, and flashed an apologetic look at Zelda, who took the sickle with shaky hands and moved to the front alongside him.

 

“There’s a crawl space at the end here that will let us outside. We might have to do some swimming or climbing to get back to the front of the castle. Just stick together; the yiga will have spread out, so we should be able to take down any we see. I’m going to be in front with Zel - the Princess, so don’t fight anyone until I tell you they’re for sure yiga. Got it?”

 

“Yes, sir!” the guards replied in unison, and Link nodded sternly before leading the way through a small tunnel, making sure Zelda was right behind him as he went.

 

It was late in the afternoon by the time they got out; he hadn’t realised how much time had passed. One by one, the guards filtered outside of the castle, and Link re-barricaded the tunnel with stones and rocks.

 

They ended up climbing along a pathway leading back up to the castle, and Link was reminded of when he had to sneak into Hyrule castle to take down Calamity Ganon, though the lack of skywatchers and guardians this time around was a relief. Now it was just yiga, but they weren’t nearly as scary; and this time around, Link wasn’t alone.

 

He glanced over his shoulder at Zelda as they lead the group of guards up and back towards the courtyard.

 

“How did you know about those secret pathways, by the way?”

 

“I read my journal the other day, and there was a lot written in there from when I was really young,” she explained. “Speaking of, why didn’t you tell me we’d been friends before you became my appointed knight?”

 

Link blushed. Zelda had journaled back when they were little, even? He turned away from her, focusing on the climb ahead, and tried to think of something to say that would justify it. It wasn’t fair to have kept that from her, but he hated coming to terms with it himself.

 

“I was embarrassed,” he finally admitted, still not looking at her as he gestured for the group to stay hidden behind a cliffside for the time being. “I still feel bad about how I treated you after I got the sword. It made things awkward, you know… later. I liked you from the start,” he added, looking at her sincerely, hoping the message got through. Zelda searched his eyes briefly, and then her expression softened.

 

“By the way my journal’s written, it was mutual,” she replied, and Link felt his heart do a flip, but had no time to think about it. One of the guards scouting ahead was waving them past. But at the same time, he drew his sword, and Link knew immediately there was a fight.

 

“Wait here,” he told Zelda, but before he could turn away, she’d grabbed his shoulder.

 

“No.”

 

Her voice was even, and the determination and stubbornness in her voice told him there’d be no changing her mind. He stared at her for a moment, frustrated, and then gave in.

 

“Fine, but stay right next to me,” he said, and with his free hand, took hers before running out from the shade alongside the other guards. On the cliff, yiga were waiting for them; there had to be at least a dozen of them.

 

“Don’t be nervous,” Link assured the guards, as they stood and waited for the fight to begin, “I know you can do it.”

 

One of the bigger yiga men burst out of his guard uniforms, and the guards around Link and Zelda gasped as the red-uniformed Yiga member squared up with them, holding a katana aggressively.

 

“Stick right with me,” Link said again to Zelda, trying to hide his nerves. He wished he’d left her by the cliff, but even then, who knew what would happen; there was nowhere perfectly safe for her right now. Better at least that she was there with him.

 

The yiga attacked all at once, but the guards responded in kind, yelling and drawing their swords to deflect attacks and throw them back. Zelda held her sickle close as Link waited for the large Yiga to attack. When he finally did, the sword swiped downwards and Link moved, pulling Zelda out of the way incredibly quickly before retaliating with a flurry of strikes with his own sword.

 

He took another glance at the battlefield. Already he could tell his guards would be okay, even if there were a couple injuries. The yiga, meanwhile, shook himself up and readied for another attack. When he did so, wind erupted from the blade of his sword, spiraling throughout the field in the form of a tornado that everyone had to avoid, including the other yiga. Link grabbed Zelda’s hand and began to run as the dust-devil nipped at their ankles before finally fading.

 

The yiga was miles away now, but Link waited and listened amongst the sounds of battle, and after a moment the man had appeared behind him, aiming his sword down at Zelda.

 

Link pushed her aside; they’d swapped places in half a second, and he hit the katana away, causing the yiga to stagger before Link hit him again. A final stab seemed to do the trick, and Zelda couldn’t look as the larger man fell, deadweight, to the ground.

 

He assisted with a couple battles after that, and most of the guards were fine, though some stayed behind with injuries to wait out the fight. The further they moved within Hyrule castle, the smaller their group became, until it was just five guards, Zelda, and Link heading into the Sanctum. Deja vu hit him like a ton of bricks, but he squeezed Zelda’s hand as they went in, lost himself briefly in her green eyes, and knew: things were different this time around.

Chapter Text

Zelda, Day 16

 

When she followed Link into the sanctum alongside the few guards that remained, and when they looked upon the remaining yiga that clustered around her throne, Zelda felt a fire rise in her chest. She wanted to fight. She wanted them gone. The intruders looked at the group quizzically, and she removed her hat, realising that Link had done the same at exactly the same time. It must have looked ridiculously dramatic, but she didn’t have time to think about the humor in it at that moment.

 

“What!?” one of the men exclaimed, and jumped up, having been lounging across the royal throne a moment before. “How are you- you- ” he hissed, pointing at Link, “alive?”

 

“I did ask you if you’d killed me before,” Link replied, and Zelda could hear the smile in his voice. “I don’t go down that easily.”

 

“I put a sword through your fucking heart,” the yiga snapped back, and Zelda’s eyes widened, looking at the way the man’s black hair was parted, his squinting green eyes, the blood-tipped sword hanging loosely from his waistband.

 

“How dare you,” she spoke, walking forward and ignoring the hand that Link put out in attempt to stop her. “This is our castle. Calamity Ganon is defeated. There’s no purpose in worshipping him any longer.”

 

We are preserving real Sheikah culture,” the yiga spat back, turning his attention to her, and as he walked towards her, she saw Link move closer in her peripheral vision. “Kakariko Village has lost all touch with what the Sheikah were supposed to be. We had technology that could change the world - and the only one who put it to any purpose was Calamity Ganon, while the rest of you shunned us!”

 

Link was getting restless beside her now, but Zelda stood her ground, even as the yiga came barely five feet away, hand resting on the hilt of a sword at his waistband.

 

“I would kill your chosen hero a hundred times over as revenge for what he did, not just to Master Kohga, but Calamity Ganon as well,” the yiga snapped, and spat at Zelda’s feet before tilting his head. “Maybe… we could keep you alive… I’d make a great King,” the yiga sneered then, and finally something he’d said had gotten to her. She felt her stomach twist, and Link moved ahead of her then, sword drawn, pointing at the yiga’s throat within a second.

 

The few other yiga in the room drew their weapons, and as they did, so did the guards that Link and Zelda had brought with them.

 

“You say anything more and I’ll kill you the way you tried to kill me,” Link said, his voice quiet and low. The yiga swallowed, looking clearly uncomfortable, but spoke anyways, his gaze passing Link to look back at Zelda.

 

“How do we kill your invincible boyfriend, then? Over and over? What if we just take him apart, piece by piece?”

 

She was so angry she was shaking, and wondered how Link had managed to stay so calm, but even he seemed to be running low on patience. He struck forward, but the yiga disappeared in a flash of fire and smoke, along with all the others in the room. When they reappeared, hovering inexplicably midair, each fired two arrows.

 

Zelda fell backwards as Link pulled her, though one struck his leg as a result. His guards had responded quickly, and were already fighting the yiga behind them.

 

“Something we say strike a chord? Didn’t you forget all about him anyways? Some couple,” the voice jeered, and when the yiga reappeared again, he had a blade at Zelda’s throat, and pulled her away from Link, who wheeled around in shock but staggered slightly due to the arrow.

 

“Let’s play a game. If you don’t stand down, we’ll see whether the Princess can come back from the dead just like you did,” the yiga snapped.

 

Everything stopped. Eyes wide, Zelda looked at Link, shaking her head in a panic. No, no, no- her thoughts were muddled. She desperately wanted to go back to a few seconds ago when she was safe by his side. Why was it that she could have made a mistake, not covered her six, at a time like this?

 

Frustrated, Link threw his sword down, and the guards at the other side of the room dropped theirs in turn. One of the yiga pushed Link down to his knees, and another came to help pull Zelda to the ground.

 

“I don’t think it’s a problem with the sword, but there’s no harm in testing it,” the yiga said thoughtfully, pulling out the blade still stained with Link’s blood from earlier. He held it down at Zelda’s chest as the other yiga pinned her knees down. She grasped the blade with her hands; one of them was already cut from earlier, and although pain seared through her arm and blood dripped down the sword onto her dress, she didn’t let go. Her strength was nothing compared to the man standing above her. But she couldn’t die. Not after all of this.

 

She looked sideways, panicked, to find Link. If she was going to die, she at least wanted his face to be the last thing she saw.

 

“No silly powers to get you out of this one, hero?” the yiga chuckled, and as Zelda watched him, his eyes widened.

 

“What do you want?” Link asked, head still dipped. Zelda glanced up towards the yiga.

 

“I don’t want to kill her. Really don’t. Not now that we have her. I mean, look at that face,” the yiga replied, smirking down at Zelda, who winced and looked away. “But we’ll take you and figure out exactly what makes you tick. You know. Torture and all that. Maybe - what did you call her before?- Zel and I can come and see you now and again.”

 

“Fine,” Link said, standing up slowly. “Don’t touch her, and you can have me.”

 

The yiga pretended to think it over, and then laughed.

 

”Hmm… no. I’ll just have both of you - right now.”

 

He lifted the sword. Began to strike it downwards. Zelda wanted to close her eyes tight, to not look, to disappear somewhere else, but she looked at Link instead. He was grinning at her. She didn’t have time to make sense of what that meant; didn’t even have time to finish her thoughts. What-

 

Link spun. At a ridiculous speed, he’d spun, and snapped his fingers in the process. An image of Urbosa flashed in Zelda’s mind as a thunder filled the room. Lightning struck from all directions, and she shut her eyes tight, lifting her arms above her face. When the onslaught of sound and electricity finally stopped, the room crackled a little before settling. The blade that had been above her fell sideways with a loud clatter.

 

Swords and sickles hit the ground, followed by the yiga’s bodies, as if there’d been a sort of comical delay of them waiting in the air. Zelda lifted her head warily, and as her eyes met Link’s, she scrambled to her feet to meet him in an embrace. The two of them fell to their knees, holding each other tight and breathing heavily. One of Link’s hands rested on the back of her head, and she shut her eyes, still trying to convince herself that this was real.

 

It was quiet for a little bit then, and as Zelda finally lifted her head from out of the crook of Link’s shoulder, all she could ask was:

 

“Is it over?”

 

He laughed weakly and pulled back, nodding once.

 

“It’s over.”

 

 

 

Link, Day 19

 

It took a few days before life settled back into a comfortable groove. Waiting was hell, but Zelda had asked Link to give her some time while she brought the castle back up to speed, and he’d needed time to help the guards as well. Many had been injured, and others wanted to train harder for the future. He had a lot of explaining to do when it came to the rumors of him coming back from the dead, and summoning lightning within the sanctum. There was some skepticism regarding his ‘powers,’ but the kingdom could do nothing but accept it when their own Princess vouched for him. One way or another, the yiga had been defeated, and that was enough.

 

A day finally came when she felt she had some time off, and though she desperately wanted to see Link, she figured he still had work to be done. She left for her room, thinking that a nap would be perfect. Part of her wanted to simply go to bed, but it was only three in the afternoon, and that seemed improper for the ruler of a kingdom.

 

When she finally got to her room, she shut the door behind her and leaned against it, letting out a long sigh. If she skipped dinner, would anyone from the kitchen really notice? Maybe she could send a message saying she was tired and going to bed early, but then they’d surely ask to make sure she wasn’t sick, or find out if she wanted something sent up, or-

 

Amidst her thoughts, Zelda had begun taking off her dress when something caught her eye, and quickly she turned to look at her bed. On top of the duvet, cross-legged and perfectly still, was Link.

 

She gasped, startled at the sight of someone else in what she assumed had been an empty room, and then tripped over the hem of her skirt, falling back against her bookcase. A few tomes tumbled out above her, and Link rushed over from the bed to help her get her footing.

 

Hylia, Link, you completely scared me, I didn’t know you’d be in here - what are you…?”

 

She trailed off as she looked up at him, noticing the way he was looking down at her. Her heart jumped to her throat seeing him so close, seeing the freckles on his nose and his blue eyes watching her evenly. The air between them was tense, as if he was restless, and immediately she felt an energy in the room that hadn’t been there before. Thankfully, he spoke before she’d gone flush with colour.

 

“I miss you.”

 

Miss. Not missed. He was currently missing her, like he knew this moment of privacy was short-lived, like he had no idea how long the two of them would have to continue sneaking glances at each other from afar as the citizens of Hyrule continued to drag them away for more and more tasks to do. But she knew something he didn’t, and when the corners of her lips twitched into a small smile, he noticed. Link tilted his head at her, asking her a wordless question.

 

“I actually… don’t have anything left to do today,” Zelda answered him, keeping eye contact as she spoke, hard as it was. She was sure her cheeks were bright red by now. Having him so close was intoxicating, and now the look in his eyes had changed. He seemed almost… hungry.

 

“You don’t?” he asked, voice soft, and finally he broke his gaze from hers, trailing his fingers along the side of her face and moving closer.

 

“No,” she replied, her eyes falling shut as Link bent down. She could feel his breath hot on her neck, his hand moving further down to her waist and finally cupping her hip. His other hand left her arm, clearly distracted, but it had been holding her up. She tried to catch herself from the fall, but tripped over the hem of her skirt, and grabbed at Link as she went. The two of them tumbled onto the floor and hit the bookcase again, which dropped more tomes and scrolls atop them.

 

“S-sorry!” Zelda stammered, feeling one of his arms beneath her; he must have wrapped it around her last minute to help break the fall. She looked up at him in a panic, but he only laughed and shook his head.

 

“No, I’m sorry. You tend to distract me.”

 

“Sorry then,” she said again, and Link gave her a skeptical look.

 

“Why sorry? That I’m in love with y-”

 

He was smiling, but it disappeared quite fast; it was clear he hadn’t meant to speak so brazenly. His eyes, bright and wide, looked down at her with an emotion that took her a moment to place. Was it fear?

 

“Link-”

 

She reached for him as he went to get up, and he paused, but didn’t look back at her. She shuffled to try to get a look at him, and he seemed embarrassed and frustrated, cheeks red as he tried to hide his face.

 

“Link, I- it’s just hard, because-”

 

“It’s fine. I shouldn’t have said anything,” he replied, voice shaking, as he tried to get up once again.

 

“For Hylia’s sake Link, listen to me!”

 

She’d spoken a little sterner than she’d wanted, but it worked, and Link stopped and looked back at her in surprise.

 

“I just want to make sure you love me , not just… her.”

 

She prayed to the goddesses in that moment that he wouldn’t ask her to explain any further, because she knew that doing so would make her cry, and she was sick of crying. Still above her, he swallowed, no doubt partially wondering why this incredibly emotional exchange had to happen while they were on the floor of her bedroom, surrounded by books and spilled scrolls.

 

“Don’t make me say it again if you don’t feel the same.”

 

His voice was low, and a little bit pleading. He’d answered her question - and happy as she was to hear it, it hurt. Even now, part of her wanted to hold back - part of her was saying it wasn’t enough yet, that it had only been a few weeks, that there was no way she could know for sure. Doubt was nagging and pulling at her, but her heart was full and there was a stronger voice within her that was telling her: jump.

 

He’ll catch you.

 

She could have told him all the ways he confused her, told him all the ways she confused herself and how hard it all had been. She could have said how difficult it was to separate herself from her past self and how impossible it was - for now - to accept any of it. To accept that she would never be the Zelda from before, but also to accept that that Zelda... was gone. To accept that it was just her, to be happy with herself. To accept that there was nothing else to be done, and to accept that her heart flipped when she thought of him, that her stomach twisted in knots at the sight of him, that his simple presence made her feel happy and safe and comfortable, and that she just wanted to be with him all the time; she could have worked through every little thought and doubt she had, given him a disclaimer to her feelings, but she’d had enough of that. Enough, now.

 

“I love you.”

 

The words left her lips more as a decision than a statement, but were honest nonetheless. She knew Link was happy despite his trembling as he used his arm behind her to scoop her up towards him.

 

“I’m sorry it’s been so hard,” he whispered, “Zel. I’m so so-”

 

“I’m sorry I took advantage of you before I’d figured out my feelings,” she interrupted him, and pulled back slightly, hoping that the way she looked at him would tell him exactly what she was thinking about. She hadn’t wanted to bring it up at all, but it had been bugging her. He looked confused, but only for a moment.

 

“Hebra?” he asked, and she nodded ashamedly, but he only laughed.

 

“You have to be joking. I was confused, sure, but -” he cut himself short. “Maybe we should just… not talk about all of this now. Maybe we should get off the floor.”

 

“Ah- right,” Zelda laughed, smiling up at him. He stood slowly, but as she went to follow him he tucked another arm under her legs and lifted her princess-style upwards. She gasped, grasping at his shoulders in surprise.

 

“What were we doing before all of this?” Link asked, but in a tone that told her he already knew the answer. She, however, had to take a moment to remember; he set her down on the edge of the bed, and looked at her again with an expression that spread heat through her chest and face.

 

At the same time she remembered, he kissed her.