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The Ears Theory

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It started with Zelda's annual Halloween party. It was a staple event in their friend group, though it had quickly grown from a small, intimate gathering in her dorm room to an affair that left her apartment packed to the rafters with people—both friends and strangers who'd been more or less dragged inside by the other attendees. How she convinced her neighbours to let her host it every year was beyond Link, but he appreciated it all the same, on account of how loud they could get.

(Him especially, but we don't talk about the Halloween Calamity of 2016 on the pain of death, delivered swiftly by the group's youngest resident ninja).

Anyway, the year's party had been a success (like always). Zelda, having the time of her life when planning these things, had thrown the rager of the year, and the sheer amount of food and drink available had probably cost a fortune. Link had lost count of how many people had been stuffed into her two-bedroom apartment at some point, but he was pretty sure the thing had been a fire hazard times ten. Sheik had huddled close the entire time, never the biggest fan of crowds but braving them for the sake of his kind-of-sort-of sister, who always made sure he had a secluded corner to retreat to in case he got overwhelmed.

(An overwhelmed Sheik was a dangerous Sheik; Link had quickly learned at the beginning of their relationship.)

With the amount of people present, it was inevitable that someone would come up with some great idea for a theme. Actually, it was never someone. It was the same person. Every year.

Kafei.

Sheik's cousin, and general busybody who couldn't help but stick his nose everywhere it didn't belong, alternating between playing Cupid and being a general annoyance to those who were already together. Usually, Elenwe was there to keep him in check, but she'd been called into work late this year, leaving her husband with free reins to wreak whatever havoc his diabolical (or just incredibly stupid, it was honestly a bit of a coin toss) mind came up with.

His idiocy this year?

"Cat ears?" Link had asked, looking down at the plastic band, on which a pair of surprisingly well-made cat ears was attached. The fur was a deep shade of gold, with little black tufts at the tops.

"Cat ears!" Kafei had confirmed happily, wearing a pair that blended in perfectly with his purple-dyed hair. "And paws! And tails!"

Link had stared at him for a solid five seconds before asking, "Have you been into Ayla's stash again?"

"I can neither confirm nor deny that accusation!"

(Ayla had later taken Link aside and confirmed quite clearly that Kafei was high off his gourd and had accidentally been let loose inside a costume shop downtown. They were lucky the cat items were all he'd gotten.)

He'd foregone the paws and tail, but Link had accepted the ears since he'd been unable to prepare a costume this year because of a stressful week at his job. He'd gotten several compliments and had to admit that, after looking in a mirror, the ears were quite cute.

And that might have been the end of it, if it weren't for his boyfriend showing up about half an hour later, wearing his usual ninja costume (Sheik was a big fan of tradition, and this was his tenth anniversary of being a ninja for Halloween) and immediately getting accosted by his cousin.

"Come on, everyone else is wearing 'em!" Kafei had begged, unsuccessfully trying to place a pair of cat ears on Sheik's head, which the younger Sheikah dodged easily, giving Kafei a fierce glare all the while.

"Get those things away from me," he'd hissed.

"Aw, come on, cuz!" Kafei had said, trying his best to do a puppy-eyed face. "You don't have to wear the paws or tail, but the ears...the ears! You can be a ninja cat! Even Link is wearing a pair!"

At that, Sheik had found Link's face in the crowd, his eyes creeping up to land on the pair of blonde ears sticking up from his head, and given him a withering look of disappointment.

"Why do you keep indulging his insanity?" the ninja had asked later when they were chilling out in a quiet corner by themselves. "It only makes him worse."

"I thought they looked spiffy," Link had said, flicking one of his ears gently. "Besides, I like cats."

And so did plenty of the others, apparently, judging by the sheer numbers of costumes in the crowd that had quickly been adapted to incorporate the ears, paws, and tails. Even Zelda had grabbed a pair, her silver ears bobbing along among the guests.

"Hmph," Sheik had groused, though his eyes kept creeping up to the ears. Whatever that look was, it wasn't a glare. "So do I. Doesn't mean I want to be one."

That's interesting, Link had wanted to say, since you basically are one in everything but species.

He knew better than to actually voice it out loud, of course, so he merely thought about it, smiling to himself.

Sheik was a cat. That was an undisputable truth.

He was a meticulous groomer, making sure he always looked his best no matter the occasion, and had the temper of one.

He didn't like being approached by others, preferring to keep his distance and slowly get closer until he'd ascertained whether he trusted someone or not. He was graceful (years and years of martial arts training and gymnastics had ensured that), but also had moments of clumsiness that, when they happened, he tried to play off as intentional.

(The time he'd tripped and fallen over his own feet and taken a tumble through a rose bush, loudly claiming he absolutely did it on purpose in order to get a better look at the flowers, was a memory Link would always cherish).

Lastly, he was fiercely independent, and knowing when to leave him alone to his thoughts (decompressing, as Sheik's psychologist had called it during one of their joint sessions) was key to being in a relationship with him.

Gain his trust, however, and you'd never find a more loving companion or reliable ally. Cuddle him just right, and he'd even start purring.

(Or as close to purring as someone without a cat's physiology could get. Link had no idea how Sheik did it, but he was always happy when he managed to trigger the deep-sounding vibrations in Sheik's chest).

(Rubbing his belly was a no-no, though, which only solidified the theory).

All in all, Link and the others considered their assessment of Sheik to be accurate...and it left Link with a burning desire to see his boyfriend wearing cat ears.

Just for the fun of it.

"You look good with them, though," Sheik had admitted later that night, after several rounds of drinks, a deep-red blush on his cheeks.

"Wanna try them on?" Link had asked.

The change in mood was immediate.

"Hell no!"

As Sheik stomped off, Link had watched him with a fond smile, quite certain Sheik's fur would have been all puffed up if he had it.

"So cute," he'd whispered to Zelda, who'd nodded sagely.

"Like a pissed-off kitten," she'd said.

All in all, it had been a good night, an excellent party, and a fantastic show once Elenwe had arrived to find her husband high as a kite, wearing the full cat ensemble (and only that, save for surprisingly skimpy underwear), and dancing animatedly to some horrendous pop song off the internet. There'd even been backup-dancers. Paya would forever hold that footage over Zelda's head.

It had definitely been worth the hangover.


Link kept the ears. He'd stuffed them inside his coat's inner pocket as they'd left, and forgotten them until the following Monday, when he'd accidentally pulled them out at work. There'd been much teasing from his coworkers, but he'd endured it. There were far worse things to be teased for, in his opinion.

He wasn't quite sure what his drunken self had been thinking when sticking the things into his pocket, but now that he did have them...well, he'd decided on a goal.

Sheik had invited him over to his apartment for a movie night that weekend. Link deliberately put the ears in his overnight bag, at the very bottom where Sheik couldn't find it.

(Not that Sheik went through Link's stuff, despite the sometimes overzealous curiosity—yet another piece of evidence—that drove him to do so well in his field).

It still wouldn't do for his boyfriend to accidentally spot the ears in passing, however, so Link made sure to bury them deep beneath his change of clothes.

He'd fought down a please grin when, a few minutes into the first movie, Sheik had burrowed into his side on the couch, chest rumbling as Link's fingers brushed through his hair. He liked moments like these the best. It gave them both a sense of peace unlike any they had ever experienced before.

"Long day?" Link asked.

"The longest," Sheik replied, voice slightly muffled by the high collar of his hoodie. "Some idiot in management pushed an update that took down about half of our mail servers. Took us all day to roll them back and get things up and running again."

"Mmm," Link hummed, rubbing his fingers firmly at the skin just behind Sheik's ears, eliciting even more purring from his boyfriend. "How'd it go?" he asked. "You know...with the..."

"Surprisingly well," Sheik said, back arching in pleasure at the scalp rub. "I think I was too busy to really panic about it."

"That's good," Link said, kissing his cheek. "You're getting better at it."

"Only took me the better part of a decade to figure it out," Sheik groused, eyes narrowing into slits as he looked up at him. "And you? How was your day?"

"Same old," Link replied. "Broken system keeps breaking more...but we're slowly fixing it. No new cases today, at least."

"Mmm."

Sheik hummed and purred at the same time (fuck, so cute!), and they focused on the movie. Half an hour later, Sheik was fast asleep, his head resting on Link's shoulder, chest rising and falling with deep, calm breaths.

Link had always found that watching cats sleep was incredibly calming—it had been one of the key parts to figuring out his own way of fighting anxiety—and...well, again, with Sheik being one, this was no exception.

It was so calming that he almost forgot his dastardly plan, in fact. He only remembered it just as his eyes had begun to slide shut, and he nearly jumped out of the couch in an attempt to avert the disaster.

It was a gentle jump, though, with more than enough time and care to make sure Sheik wouldn't just slump over and wake up with a start.

Now, how to go about it...?

Link stood behind the couch, cat ears in hand, and the back of his boyfriend's head almost within reach. He wanted to do it while Sheik was conscious, but that was liable to end in cat-astrophe (he congratulated himself on this pawesome pun), so...well, this was his best chance, really.

Readying his phone's camera, he slowly crept closer, reaching out his hand, ready to carefully slide the plastic band onto his boyfriend's head, and—

Sheik stood up, whirling around, hands held up in a fighting pose, eyes blinking rapidly in confusion.

"What are you doing?" he asked, eyes narrowing as he spotted the offending piece of plastic and synthetic fur.

Damn those martial arts instincts of his!

"Nothing?" Link tried, putting on his most innocent expression, the one he always employed whenever he'd messed up.

It had never worked thus far, but he was bound to strike gold someday soon!

Today was not that day.

"Seriously?" Sheik asked in disbelief. "What is with you and the cat ears?!"

"I can't help it!" Link wailed, the careful flood gates he'd built bursting open. "I mean, you're basically a cat already, and I just think you'd look really good with these, and the fur matches your hair perfectly, and you purr, and hiss, and everything, so I kept them and I just wanted to see what you'd look like and maybe get a picture or somethi—"

"All right, all right!" Sheik exclaimed, holding up his hands to get Link to stop vomiting words at him. "You're rambling." He paused. "...I'm a cat?" he finally asked.

Link shrugged helplessly. "You are kinda? I mean, you share a lot of the...the mannerisms? That's not a bad thing, though!" he quickly added. "I think it's endearing, and so do the others, and—"

"The others?" Sheik asked in an unusually high-pitched tone. "Just how many of you are sharing this delusion?"

Link grimaced. "Everyone?"

Sheik stood absolutely still for a few seconds, so still Link was afraid his boyfriend had stopped breathing, eventually releasing a long-suffering sigh.

"Why am I friends with these people?" he asked.

"Well, many of them are family," Link said, grinning a little. "Kinda hard to get rid of them, you know?"

"I'm starting to wish I'd branched out and made more friends in college," Sheik said, coming around the couch and standing in front of Link, grimacing. "Well?" he asked. "Get on with it, then."

Link's heart gave a little flutter, and he was unable to stop the huge, beaming smile from coming to his face. "Really?" he asked.

"Just this once," Sheik said, nodding. "And we will never speak of this to anyone, understand?"

Link nodded eagerly, already sliding the band through Sheik's hair, adjusting it so the ears were positioned perfectly on top of his head. They blended perfectly in with Sheik's own blonde tresses, and looked—for all intents and purposes—like his real ears.

"So?" Sheik asked, crossing his arms challengingly and grimacing, his cheeks flushed red. "How do I look?"

Link heard himself make a very unmanly, high-pitched noise at the sheer adorableness of the sight. It was all there, the beautiful ears, the adorable almost-pout, the standoffish attitude, the innate need for attention but absolutely refusal to acknowledge it... It was a wonder Link hadn't passed out yet, frankly.

"You're...perfect," he managed to force out. "So...so...so cute!"

Sheik's blush grew, nearly covering his whole face now. "I-Is that so?" he asked. "W-Well...th-that's good. I mean bad! This is ridiculous, and undignified, and...and..." he spotted Link slowly raising his camera, trying to remain unnoticed. "Link," he said warningly.

"Please?" Link pleaded. "Just one photo?"

Sheik growled and ripped the ears off his head, tossing them aside. "We're done here!" he snapped, stomping off to his bedroom and slamming the door so hard the kitchenware rattled.

Link needed a moment to calm his racing heart, not sure if he'd ever survive such a sight again. He was tempted to hide the ears away somewhere, to be brought out again on an occasion Sheik might be a little more...receptive to the idea of wearing them, but...no, he'd had his fun. He now had a ruffled boyfriend to appease.

He opened the door to Sheik's bedroom after knocking twice and receiving no answer. It wasn't locked. No yells to stay away or locked doors were Sheik's way of being welcoming when he was upset.

A quick scan of the small room revealed a lump of blankets amid a nest of pillows on the bed, which moved steadily with quick breaths. Within, Link could hear muffled grumbling. He smiled at the sight, slowly taking a seat on the edge of the bed.

"Hey," he said gently.

"Hmph," Sheik said from within his blankets.

"I'm sorry," he continued. "I couldn't help it. It was...you were just too cute, you know? But I got carried away. Even if I'd taken a photo, I wouldn't have shared it with anyone. I know how you feel about it."

"You should be," Sheik hissed.

Actually hissed.

"I know," Link said, nodding. "Can you forgive me?"

There was a long moment of silence, and then the edge of the blanket nest was lifted, and Link took it as his cue, crawling into it. He found Sheik's form in the warm darkness, felt his boyfriend burrow his face into his chest.

"You're lucky you're cute," Sheik said grumpily, poking Link's hip. "Anyone else would've been out on their ass."

"I'm the luckiest guy in the world," Link said, once again carding his fingers through Sheik's hair.

"Damn right you are," Sheik said...and then he mumbled something else.

"What was that?"

"So am I," Sheik repeated himself a little louder, this time pinching Link's hip.

Grumpy kitty, Link thought, knowing better than to invite his doom by saying it.

"So, everyone thinks I'm a cat, huh?" Sheik asked after a while of cuddling.

"Er, yeah."

"Hmph...well, there are worse animals to be compared to, I suppose," the Sheikah conceded. "But if I'm a cat...then you're a dog."

Link choked on his own spit. "Excuse me?!"

"Think about it," Sheik said, and Link could hear that pleased grin on his face. "You're so...bright and happy all the time, and so damn excitable, always in a hurry to do this and that with endless amounts of energy. Loyal, too, to a fault sometimes. Eager to try new and fun things, risking your life for the sake of your friends...you're a dog. A golden retriever, maybe. Or a husky. You can be goddamn dramatic like one, that's for sure. Remember that time I had to drag you to the dentist, and you refused to leave your bed, claiming I was taking you to a torture chamber? Or how about the time..."

Link let Sheik continue listing off the reasons he was a dog. He'd certainly earned the right to after learning his friends were convinced he was a cat.

And, to be quite honest, Link had to admit that many of his traits did fit quite well with certain dog breeds (though he resented the dramatic husky comparison—he was the right amount of dramatic, thank you very much!), so he found it hard to refute Sheik's hypothesis anyway.

They spent the rest of the night in the blanket nest, refining and arguing about their respective theories...and it was one of the best damn nights Link had ever had with Sheik.

(He still keeps the cat ears in his closet. Just in case.)

End