Zelda wakes up all at once, blinking up at the boughs of the life tree where sunlight has just started to filter through, small dust motes weaving in and out of thin sunbeams. Part of her waking is habit, her love of early mornings and how the cool night air gradually warms as the sun climbs higher in the sky. As for the other reason...
She's alone. The soft grass beside her still carries an impression of Link's body and she sweeps a hand over it, encouraging the bent blades straight once more. There's no telling how long Link has been up, but that he woke up before her was - interesting.
Getting to her feet she brushes at her skirts, shaking off the pieces of grass and dirt that continue to cling. She's trying to think of where he could be, maybe having returned to clearing away some of the rubble that had fallen with the Goddess Temple, only to stop when she sees him standing in front of the Master Sword.
Something about his stance, feet braced, hands at his sides, head bowed as if in deep thought, sends a frisson of - not fear, never that, but wariness- through her. Rather than look at it too closely, she slowly approaches, her sandals nearly inaudible as she crosses over the ancient stone. "Link? Is everything all right?"
Link turns toward her, a brief movement of his head, and Zelda doesn't stop moving, even when for a few long seconds, it seems as if someone else was staring out of Link's eyes. When he blinks whatever was there vanishes, leaving the familiar warmth that was always hers alone.
He smiles at her and it's almost as if the past few weeks haven't happened. This moment could be like any other time she'd come across him daydreaming in some neglected corner of the village. All that's missing is the warm presence of his red Loftwing. "Zelda, did I wake you?"
She shakes her head, confused and unsettled now. So much has changed and yet some things remain the same. It's as jarring as it is comforting. "No, of course not. I've always been one to rise early." She pauses, lifting her eyebrow in pointed question. "I'm surprised to find you awake."
Link blinks, and she expects the awkward smile, the way he'll reach up to scratch the back of his head as he struggles to explain himself. Sweet and loyal, Link never had a gift with words, his mind often spending as much time in the air as his Loftwing.
Instead of doing any of those things, Link blinks, his smile falling away. He looks at the dormant Master Sword, his gaze seeming to fall inward as he reaches out. "Ah, well, I was thinking." His fingers stop just short of touching the sword's pommel before curling into a fist.
"What were you thinking about?" Zelda asks, then continues quickly, "if you don't mind sharing." It seems that more than their situations have changed, and if she'd been thinking clearly she wouldn't be so surprised. Link was not the same boy she used to chastise for sleeping well past sunrise. He'd fought and bled, followed the path of a warrior, a path that led him to abandon his home for a strange world of untold danger. All for her.
His devotion was is as humbling as it is terrifying.
Rather than answer immediately, Link considers her from the corner of his eye. As if trying to consider how she will react to his words. Whatever he see's in her face it is enough. "There was something Demise said to me, before I killed him." There's no inflection as Link mentions Demise's death, or his own role in it. "He said that he would be back one day. That he would never stop, no matter how many times he fell, and he would always rise again."
Zelda sucks in a breath, because she knows where this is going now, and she wishes desperately that for once in her life she'd given into the impulse to sleep in.
Link turns to look at her. "He said those who share the Blood of the Goddess and the Spirit of the Hero are cursed to meet him, that all of us are bound together for eternity."
Zelda knows she would have had to talk about this eventually, but that doesn't stop her from wishing she had more time. Which she knows is foolish because no amount of time in the world would ever have made this conversation easy for either of them.
"I don't know how to explain it, not really." Link is watching her, dark grey eyes waiting with a deep-seated patience that is its own kind of accusation. It hurts to see how much he's changed, even if it's for the better, and knowing that she's responsible means she has to try. "It was the Goddess's - I mean, it's my - duty to guard the Triforce. Time can never keep them from me." It's frustrating how she knows that, soft echoes of another existence lingering on the edges of her mind, an implacable surety that nothing mortal can truly grasp.
"And you, your spirit isn't like the others, Link." She couldn't see it before, when she was simply Zelda of Skyloft. But now, now she can see it if she tries, and it takes her breath away. Where everyone is faded with bright sparks of light flickering behind their eyes, Link blazes from beneath his skin. "Everything you went through to get to me, to defeat Demise, no one else could have done that. Those quests, they weren't about making you into something else, but rather sharpening what was already there."
Zelda looks away as she continues, chooses instead to look at the Master Sword where it sits dormant. She needs to say this and she doesn't want to see how he will react. Not now that he's Link, the Chosen Hero, rather than Link of Skyloft. Her Link. "You are the only one who will ever be able to wield this sword, Link." She reaches out and lets the tip of her fingers brush against the pommel, where before Link had held back. "It's a part of you, and it always will be."
Her past self, the Goddess, had made sure of that. She remembers the desperation and the fear, the knowledge that what she had to do, she wouldn't be able to do alone. So she'd gone to her chosen warrior, a brave man who had fallen in the final battle and ensured that no matter where she ended up, she would never be alone. The challenges she had crafted long ago, before shedding her immortality for a mortal form, had been in an effort to craft her Champion into the ultimate weapon against Demise and his evil. The sword served as a vessel for the power that Link harbored inside himself, and with every challenge his power had shaped the sword into an echo of himself.
He was the Chosen Hero, the man of unbreakable spirit, bound to the Master Sword and the Triforce alike. And in so being bound to the Triforce, he was also bound to her, the Goddess, now Zelda, similarly bound to her fate by blood.
She stops, seals her lips against the rest of the words trying to follow. It's horrible, what she's thinking, what she had done as the Goddess and as herself. She turned Link into a weapon, a tool to be used in a war of gods, with Link helpless to do anything about it. He hadn't had a choice, a say to the destiny she had crafted for him. Knowing that the fate of the world had made it necessary didn't make it right.
Link nods and Zelda wonders if he's managed to follow the path of her thoughts. "I think I understand."
He reaches out toward the sword again, this time he allows his fingers to rest against the pommel. His fingers twitch as if they mean to slide down and grab, but rather than follow the impulse Link keeps his hand loose. "I couldn't understand why it felt so right to hold it. I had never held a sword like this in my life, but from the moment I pulled the Master Sword from its pedestal, I felt as if I had done this before."
The quiet awe as he looks at the sword makes her ache. No longer the gentle dreamer, Link's hands are strong and callused, a spirit that will continue to fight long past the endurance of blood and bone. He may have relinquished his hold on the blade, but still the connection lingers. Even if he never picks up another blade in his life, unlikely considering how tumultuous this land is, he will never be Link of Skyloft again.
Zelda had changed as well, but at least she'd known what she was doing.
Link let his hand fall away from the sword. "From what you've explained, I suppose Girahim was right."
Zelda starts out of her thoughts. "What?"
"He told me that we were bound by fate to fight, when he wasn't calling me a pathetic weakling." The smile that curls at the corner of Link's mouth is sharp, which is just as well since Link is here, and Girahim is not. It softens when he turns toward her. "He was Demise's sword, you know. I don't know if he was ever really a person or if Demise's power gave him life." Link looks back at the Master Sword, and his shoulders loosen. "It's fitting, in a way. I guess I'm a sword too, in a manner of speaking."
Link appears to find some comfort in the idea, but Zelda does not. "That's not - I don't want -" The words tangle up together and she's left shaking her head, ashamed and revolted, but worst of all, relieved.
Because, yes, that is exactly what she'd turned him into and she'd expected Link to be angry with her, to shout and yell and blame her for what she has wrought within him. She has claimed him not just in this life, but in the next, and the next, far into the distant future should there ever be an end to the cycle. A cruel way to repay the faith she'd had in him, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that he would help her save this world. He should be angry with her.
She is relieved because she can feel the future looming ahead of them like a dark cloud, knows on some level that the peace will only last so long and that one day, in a new life as different people, they will have to do this all over again.
And she won't have to do it alone, because Link will be there. He'll be a different person, a new face to share with her own, but he will rise as the Chosen Hero.
Yet as relieved as she is, she knows it won't be from his choice. As the Goddess she had decided on this life, and that surety lingers yet at her core, but Link...he didn't have a choice. Not like she did.
"It's not right," Zelda whispers, unable to hold the words back, head bowed as her eyes begin to burn with coming tears. "I used you and it was awful, and I tell you I'm still using you, that it's going to continue for how many lives, and you're honestly okay with that?"
"Yes." Link says quietly. "And I wouldn't have it any other way."
There's a touch on her shoulder, gentle encouragement to look up. Link smiles at her when she does, warm and open, and unbelievably happy. "With the two of us together, it doesn't matter how many times Demise manages to come back. We'll never let him win."
Zelda, gripped by grief and sorrow for what she had been forced to do, as herself and as the Goddess, can't help but smile back. She brushes her tears away with the back of her hand, steps sideways so she can lean against Link's solid strength. "You say that like you mean it."
Link hesitates as she touches him, his arm twitching as if to embrace her, but not quite sure if he should. A couple moments pass before he reaches up and curls his arm around her shoulders. "I've never been more sure of anything."