When Zelda was twelve, she found out that she could like girls, if she wanted to. This was a revelation to her, because despite the fact that she had been disguising herself as a boy for three years at that point, the idea of any kind of romance had barely crossed her mind. Training took up most of her time and left her sore and aching, and when she fell into bed, it was a dreamless sleep that she fell into. And even when she wasn’t tired, even when she spent days simply messing around with the other village kids, the thought simply… didn’t occur to her.
But then she saw two girls, only a few years older than her, holding hands as they walked through the streets, and her first impulse was to ask Impa if she could do that, too. Impa had told her that, yes, of course she could, did she not know?
She didn’t. Having grown up a princess had its disadvantages, and being horribly sheltered was only one. That night, before she went to bed, Impa had sat her down and explained to her that of course she could hold hands with whomever she liked, girl or boy or neither, and that fascinated her, too, because you don’t have to be a boy, or a girl, or anything?
The next few days were divided between training and reading and reflecting on her own feelings, because what she had learned changed everything for her. Because she is sure that she had liked Link, even though she wasn’t sure that those feelings had lasted. But she is also sure, now, that her admiration for a girl who she trained with- tall, slim, all sharp edges and sharper wit- wasn’t just admiration, and that the way her heart fluttered and her face heated up whenever her quicksilver smile was beamed in Zelda’s direction wasn’t just her wanting the girl’s approval.
And if she liked girls- and she did, she was sure she did- what else is there that she could be, that she had never realized, never had a reason to think about?
So the question of who do I like evolved quickly to what am I? because she knew that she liked girls and boys and for now, that was enough to start with, and to her, the question of who she was felt much more interesting. Because before she was a girl pretending to be a boy, Zelda pretending to be Sheik. And then she learned she didn’t have to be, and that was something even more exciting.
She found, eventually, that she didn’t quite want to be Zelda. But she didn’t quite want to be Sheik, either. She- but was she quite right?- didn’t want to be a girl, but being a boy didn’t seem right either.
But both- she could be both, or somewhere in between, a bit of Sheik and a bit of Zelda, two identities mixing together to create her- no, not her. Them.
Five years later, they stand in front of Link once more, this time as Sheik, and give their speech, memorized in a little home in Kakariko years ago. And a few months later, they stand once again in the Temple of Time, but this time they are Zelda, long skirts and long hair and they don’t hate it, but it is uncomfortable, and they miss the more practical clothing they wore as Sheik almost immediately.
But there is no time to think about discomfort, because they are suddenly encased in crystal as Ganondorf raises his sword to battle Link, Link who carries the Master Sword shining with a holy light. And they cannot do a thing, until Ganondorf falls and the barrier around her falls and she runs, hand in hand with Link as the castle collapses around them. And from the rubble, Ganondorf rises again, but transformed- the Demon King Ganon emerges from the ruins of Ganondorf’s attempt to conquer Hyrule, and Link and Zelda strike him down again. Seal him away.
And the war is over, all so suddenly, and it feels surreal. Dreamlike. They open their eyes to find the Sacred Realm stretching out, a blue sky going on forever, and then them. Zelda and Link stand face to face as they did as children, and Zelda can’t help but wonder, as they take the Ocarina of Time into their hands, raise it to their lips and play a soft, sweet melody. As Link disappears into blue light, back to the past, back to seven years ago, they wonder. They wonder who will tell little Zelda that they can love whomever they would like, as Impa did for them. They wonder who will tell little Zelda of the past that they do not have to be a girl, or a boy, or anything that they do not want to be.
And for a moment, they wonder if anyone told Link.
But they do not let their thoughts linger, their regrets and their worries, because their kingdom is in ruin, and they cannot go back to the past, and they cannot fix their mistakes in this timeline and they cannot know what happens in any other.
The future is bright, they think. The past is shining bright but the future is the first glimpse of the sun after a long storm. And if they were meant to figure themself out, then their past self will manage it as well, whether they are told of who they can be or figure it out themself. In the end, they can only look towards the future and know that destiny will be their guide, whether now or years in the past.
The future is bright, and they welcome it with open arms.