Author's note: Part of a self-imposed challenge to write an asexual romance. Please note that asexual does not mean aromantic! To learn more, please go to asexuality dot org.
Link, Sheik had discovered, was a cuddler.
He had made this discovery shortly after the defeat of Ganondorf. With spirits high despite the possible years of reconstruction ahead of them, the two had retreated back to Impa's house, now officially his own. Zelda had winked upon hearing of their plans, slipped Sheik some oil, and told him to have fun, and while the Sheikah had been left scandalised at the suggestion from his princess, he had retreated back to the room with the oil in hand.
He had, softly and full of insinuation, suggested that the two retreated to bed. Link had agreed, and...
...had proceeded to snuggle up against Sheik, wrap an arm around his middle, and drift off to sleep.
Sheik, needless to say, had been perplexed.
It had not ended there. The next morning, having stolen away for some space to think, had come to the realisation that of course Link hadn't known what to expect. Although he had matured greatly over the past few months, although in both mind and body he was an adult, he was still greatly inexperienced, missing out on the education that would normally take place during that period..
Kissing was definitely in his repetoire - he had observed couples in public, and was more than happy to put it in to practice with Sheik. But sex? Of course he was inexperienced. Where would he have learnt?
Now, Sheik had a new mission. It would be long, and fraught with danger, and could possibly introduce entirely new causes for awkwardness in their still-young relationship. But if it paid off... well, the rewards would speak for themselves.
He had a goal, now.
Introduce Link to the wonders of sex education.
He had started slowly. During a lazy sunny day on the island at Lake Hylia, waters lapping up against the shore and one of Link's hand tracing lazy patterns against Sheik's arm, he had ventured a careful question: "Link, what do you think being in an adult relationship means?"
Link had frowned thoughtfully for a moment, not answering immediately as he mulled over the answer. "I guess," he started slowly, "It means a relationship where you trust the other person with your life and your heart. I trust Saria and Princess Zelda and Malon with lots of stuff, but you're the one I gave my heart to."
And he punctuated the statement with a gentle nuzzle against Sheik's bared throat.
A smile had crossed the Sheikah's face unbidden, touched by the description. That was... probably more of a mature answer than he had expected, leaving him happily surprised. He had, perhaps, expected something along the lines of, 'a relationship where you spend time together and kiss a lot' (which they certainly did), or perhaps 'when a lady and a man get married and have babies' (which, really, did not apply to them in any way, shape or form).
This... had been thoughtful. Sheik had been impressed.
But still - there was no mention of sex. Sheik fell silent, taking the opportunity to steal a few more kisses. "Mm, good. But what sort of thing can be expected in these relationships?"
Link thought for a little longer this time. "...Companionship, I guess," he finally shrugged, "I wouldn't want to spend my life with someone I'm not friends with. And they should understand and be honest with each other, like if someone has a problem, they should talk to the other person and not keep too many secrets."
Sheik winced a little - he had definitely hid that he had protected the Princess throughout the war.
But Link took notice, giving his hand a sudden squeeze. "Except if it's something like that. You and Princess Zelda could have got in a lot of trouble if people knew. That's okay."
Nodding, Sheik leaned in for a quick kiss, barely there. "I did not like keeping that from you. There were many times where I nearly confessed," he admitted, not liking how close he had come to betraying Zelda's trust.
(But he had sworn to never tell a soul. And falling in love with the Hero of Time had never been in the plans...)
Link gave him a sunny smile back. "It's okay. I know you wouldn't keep secrets unless it was really important."
Another nod - there would be no secrets between them, aside from the one currently motivating these questions - working out just how much Link knew about... more intimate actions. "Anything else?" he prompted, curious to see what else the Hero would come up with.
"Companionship, honesty..." Link paused thoughtfully for a moment, then almost slapped himself in the forehead. "Oh! Being affectionate, touching each other, kissing, things like that. Like this." And he shifted their positions, wrapping his arms around Sheik, dropping a kiss on his forehead. "I would be sort of sad if I couldn't touch someone I loved."
That was more promising, Sheik decided grudgingly, trying to resist (and failing) practically melting into Link's arms. He could push further later, then - at least he considered touch to be important. "That works for me," he murmured drowsily, and set the questions aside for later.
He didn't see the thoughtful, curious look that crossed Link's face.
The next stage of Link's education came a few days later. In a fit of productivity, the two had volunteered to help out with the clean-up of Castle Town, and any conversation had to be forced between bouts of heavy lifting and general construction.
Alone in one of the residential areas, Sheik took a deep breath, gazing at Link thoughtfully. They had continued to share a bed, and all the while, Link had kept things innocent - perhaps some kissing, a fair bit of cuddling, and drifting off holding each other. It was, he had to admit, extremely pleasant.
"The other day, you mentioned touch," he said suddenly before he could back off - he was beginning to wonder if this was such a good idea. Couldn't they simply keep to a natural progression?
But no, he reasoned, if Sheik didn't teach him, who would?
"What sort of... touch did you mean?" he finished softly, not quite able to meet the Hero's eyes.
There was a clank as Link set down the twisted beam he had just extracted from one of the wrecked houses, crossing across to Sheik to take his hand. "What do you mean?" he asked softly, tracing the tips of his fingers across the back of Sheik's hand, elicting a shiver that he couldn't quite hide. "The same sort of touch we've been doing for months."
Sheik nodded slowly, not quite sure why he felt so disappointed. "I see," he murmured, glancing up at Link's bright blue eyes and suddenly feeling naked. "And no other way?"
Link hesitated briefly, then shook his head. "I - well, I like this a lot. I wouldn't want to do anything less than this."
That, Sheik decided, wasn't the problem here.
His next technique had been to go for the direct route. Sorting through Impa's extensive bookshelves, Sheik had started setting them out in order to sort the collection - dry tomes, practical guides on magic or combat, geography scripts.
But Impa, Sheik knew, had possessed a rather filthy mind, and apparently a desire to read the sort of literature that made the ladies-in-waiting at the castle gasp in shock. Amongst the books he had 'casually' had left lying around to sort, a few had included some rather... less-than-innocent scenes between a pair of attractive young men.
If subtle hints and lessons wouldn't do the trick, perhaps softcore erotica would...
It didn't. Link still remained woefully innocent of any further insinuations.
Sheik was at the end of his tether. What was he supposed to do, other than sit Link down, outline specifically what sex was, and make the suggestion that perhaps he put his lessons into practice (specifically, on Sheik)? It wasn't just his bewilderment at how long Link seemed to be taking in getting it - the physical tension was beginning to drive him insane.
It was a disappointed and rather morose Sheikah that finally abandoned the scraps of his patience over dinner one night. "What do you see in me?" he burst out, startling Link into dropping his fork with a clatter. "I've tried dropping hints, but..." He sighed heavily. "Link, do you know what sex is?"
There was a pregnant pause, interrupted only by Link retrieving his fork to set on his plate. "Yeah," he finally admitted, "Zelda told me ages ago when I told her about us."
Sheik gawked. "You knew all this time?" he aked in dismay, "Why didn't you ever mention it in our - discussions?"
Again, Link didn't answer immediately, taking his plate to the sink to wash up. When he finally finished, he turned back to Sheik, gazing at the wall as if it had done him some injustice. "...We should talk," he muttered, "I promised I'd be honest, right?"
Slowly, Sheik nodded, holding a hand out to Link as a silent question. Much to his relief, Link still took it, leading them up the stairs, seating them on the bed.
"If you knew all along what sex was," Sheik started softly before Link could even open his mouth, "Then my suggestions and questions... why did you never take me up on my offer? Did you... find me unappealing?"
For the love of Three, he couldn't even look Link in the eye. All too clearly, he could hear Impa warning him not to get attached. But he had, and now he felt entirely too vulnerable, pouring his heart out like an insecure youth with their first romance. (And never mind how utterly appropriate that comparison was - despite adolescant experimentation, he had never been with someone like Link. And yet...)
He looked up in time to see Link staring at him in utter confusion. "What?" he asked, voice stunned, "I - Sheik, no, you're the most beautiful person I've ever seen."
"Then why don't you want to be intimate?" he asked plainly.
Perhaps he was afraid - the Hero of Time, Bearer of the Triforce of Courage - perhaps this last step was beyond him.
Sheik immediately banished the trecherous thought.
"Sheik," Link sighed, and reached for one of his hands. "I want to be with you. I want to be able to hug you and to sleep next to you and to talk to you and make you laugh and go travel across Hyrule with you. There's no one else I'd rather be with."
He was fidgeting, now, entwining his fingers with Sheik's. The Guide had never known the Hero to be so uncertain.
"But when Zelda told me that stuff, and told me what it'd be like to feel like... that, I didn't feel it. I still haven't. It's not like I'm scared of it or anything, it's just not there, and I don't know why or what's wrong with me. But..." He sighed. "I know I want to be with you. I really love you a lot, Sheik."
And Sheik finally looked up from their hands, gazing at Link's crooked smile. Then he didn't see him like that, after all. And...
That still didn't matter to him. He still wanted to be with Sheik, even if there would be a lack of sex between the two.
He didn't answer verbally, just leaned in for a lingering, not-quite-chaste kiss. "I can't force you to feel things that you do not," he said softly as he sat back, still holding on to Link's hands. "And perhaps one day you will feel differently. But until you do..." He took a breath, readying his thoughts, but the sight of Link's expression beginning to fall hastened his words. "Until you do, and even if it never comes, then I am more than happy to keep things as they are."
"Even though I'm not really normal?" Link asked in a small voice - this new truth, fragile and still young, set between the two like an offering.
But it was Link. The boy without the fairy, the first amongst the Kokiri to leave the forest, the child who had become a man overnight, the legendary Hero of Time. Link was without comparison, anything but ordinary, and if this was just another thing that made him unique...
Well. Link never did do things the conventional way. By way of answer, Sheik leaned in, stealing the Hero's lips for a long, lingering kiss.
"I don't think," he murmured as he drew back, "I'd want you any other way."
And if it simply meant that he'd be getting a lot of cuddles...
Then he, Sheik decided, could live with that.