Two Links and a Sheik walk into a bar.

Wait for it....

Wait for it....

Ow.

You think I kid, but I do not. You also probably think that Sheik would have known that the bar was there, and maybe he did and just wanted to watch Link(s) bounce off of it. But then again, maybe he didn't. Nonetheless, there they were.

It was a busy night at Syd's Bath and Billiards Bazaar (or as the gals and I call it, Syd's Bath and Billiards Bunghole, but that's another story involving some very embarrassing details), and all of the regulars were out in force. Paula was ensconced on her stool at the end of the bar, Jack was beating on the jukebox, and Sue the barfly was cracking wise with Monty, who was, as usual, pouring the beer too slowly. As for myself, I was at my table in the back of the joint, watching the people trip the light fantastic. There's no better place for people-watching.

I was halfway through my g and t when it happened. The door opened and with what sounded like a herd of buffalo careening off a cliff to their doom, in stumbled two blond chaps, both clutching their heads and looking none too pleased.

"Fucking bar," muttered one.

"Sorry, I should've warned you," muttered the other.

Ah, the Hero(es) of Time have arrived. I wouldn't call the boys regulars, but they show up often enough to be recognizable. Not that the Hero of Time would be hard to recognize, because, well, let's face it, he's the Hero of Time. Both of them. Hang on, it's not too confusing if you don't think about it too hard.

"'Should've have warned me?' You mean, you knew it was there, and you still walked into it?" the first one--the obnoxious one, as I've come to know him--asked.

"No, no, that's not what I meant at all." The more modest one--not entirely modest, mind you, but with those looks, why should he be?--responded, as he rubbed his forehead. "I thought you saw me walk into it. I thought you'd be okay."

"Yeah, well, you thought wrong."

The modest one straightened and brushed off his long black raincoat--more men should wear raincoats like that, but I digress--and slicked down his hair, ignoring his companion.

With a sigh, the other did likewise, and turned to check his reflection in the mirror by the door. Seemingly satisfied with what he saw, he began to survey the room. "Nice size crowd."

The modest one ignored him again as he scanned the room vigilantly. There was that undertone of paranoia in his gaze that we've all become accustomed to. No one's tried anything with him yet, but still, he's a freak magnet. Don't get me started on that chick five nights ago. That scared me, and I was just observing.

Of course, if those two show up somewhere, you'd better believe that their buddy, the quiet one--the really, really quiet one--can't be far behind. He didn't disappoint me tonight.

"It's raining." I always have to strain to hear his voice, but it's usually worth it. If anyone's going to say something memorable, it'll be him.

The Heroes of Time didn't turn around to greet their friend, but the obnoxious one made an aggrieved face. "Really? That's why my jacket's ruined? And here I thought it was flying Zoras spitting on me from above."

"Zoras don't fly," Sheik--the quiet one, remember?--said with a smirk. "Are your heads all right?"

"I'm fine, thank you."

"Been better. Will live. Maybe. But enough about the heads." He made a sweeping gesture. "Shall we?"

"Drinks or billiards?" the modest one asked.

"Drinks while we billiard. Onward!"

The Sheikah shrugged and followed the two as they crossed the floor. Allow me to take this moment to describe our cast of characters so you and I don't get confused as to who's who. The first time they showed up, we all got confused, and, boy, was that ever embarrassing. There are some men whom you don't want to assume have the gift of prophecy...especially when you're trying to get 'em to go home with you.

On the right, we have Hero of Time Number One, the modest one, the quieter one, the one with the worried gleam in his eye. If you like 'em slightly neurotic, he's right up your alley. He's of the function-over-form school, ladies, so you'll never feel underdressed next to him. Neat, too, so you'll never have to worry about being seen with him. Tonight he's in dark green under that raincoat, complete with what I think are black jeans, but I can't tell for sure from here. He's the tallest of the bunch, though the Sheikah runs a close second, and he's easy to spot in a crowd with that startling shock of white hair. Wish I knew where that came from--he can't be old enough to be going gray. If I were to describe this fellow in one word, it would be..."damaged."

Next, we have the Sheikah. Ahh, the Sheikah...I can never tell if his eyes are red. I tend not to stare long enough find out. You can see too much in those eyes. My eyes, however, aren't complaining. He's very similar to Hero of Time Number One--more so than is Hero of Time Number Two. I bet he's related to Numero Uno--well scratch that, the Sheikah calls the guy "cousin," so I guess that means they're related. Hey, it's late. I've been drinking. What do you want, rocket science? But back to the Sheikah, after you look away from those eyes, you see the scar on the left side of his face. Poor guy, looks like a demon tried to eat him...maybe even suck out his soul. Who can tell?

Our final specimen is Hero of Time Number Two. He's shorter than his compadres and smirks a lot more than they do--perhaps if only to show off his perfect teeth. You can tell that he knows that you know that he knows that he's good looking like the other two, if only because he dresses to his advantage. I wouldn't say it's conceit so much as confidence that is his trademark. He's definitely more upbeat than his companions, but he's probably seen similar shit, considering his job description. He's also a font of extremely bad poetry, all of which he claims he didn't write. I think he's deep though. But his "deep" is deep down. Maybe you have to look for it.

For some reason, it was Sheik who went to the bar to order drinks for the other two. Made no sense to me, since it meant that Monty had to ask him "what?" repeatedly; I mean, you'd think that they'd send over someone who had a functioning voice, right? But he didn't wait for them to ask him and he didn't bother to ask what they wanted. One of those guys who has a way of knowing, I guess. Anyway, he didn't order anything for himself, but brought back two drinks for the Heroes of Time.

"Thank you," said one. "You didn't have to."

"Yeah," replied the other, "but he's a good guy. Oh, hey," he digressed, his interest suddenly somewhere across the room, "cute girl, one o' clock."

"Time is subjective," answered the other Hero. It is not my place to interpret such abstractions, my friend. But he's known for 'em.

Eventually, the charming, less modest Hero nodded in the direction of a girl sitting alone in a bright spot of the joint. She was a regular cutie, too, short dark hair, and sharp dark eyes. She seemed to be watching our boys in return, but then, what girl wasn't? Only, she had a little sketchpad which kept calling her attention away as she occasionally scratched and scribbled on it. Artists, right? They'll do it anywhere.

Hero Number One smiled, then looked away quickly. Hero Number Two, well okay, maybe he didn't preen as much as just brighten and dazzle a little. The Sheikah made eye contact and smiled almost imperceptibly. To her credit, the cute girl didn't fall out of her chair.

"Buy the lady a drink?" Charmer-Link asked.

"Most definitely," answered his less vocal--though still more vocal than the Sheikah--companion.

Sheik didn't comment, but he did head back to the bar and carried out a little replay of his previous non-conversation with Monty. Eventually, bartender and Sheikah came to an understanding, and soon the former was carrying a drink out to the girl while the latter was returning to his friends.

The three watched as the artist accepted the glass, regarded it for a moment, then glanced quickly up at the boys, then back at the glass, and finally just stared at the three.

And again, Hero Number One smiled, Hero Number Two saluted her with his glass, and the Sheikah nodded amiably. This time, however, the girl broke down and blushed. But once again, I must credit her control. Were I in the same situation, I would have melted into a quivering pile of goo, but then again, I'm about as conditioned as Pavlov's dog. I see a cutie, I drool. I have no choice in the matter.

"I wonder," the taller Hero said, "if she likes to play pool."

He and his shorter counterpart gave Sheik expectant looks. The Seer shrugged.

"Well," drawled Hero Number Two, "I guess there's only one way to find out." Setting his drink down on the table they'd gathered at, he dusted off his hands, announced to no one in particular, "Life's too short to waste speculating and spectating," and strolled off in the direction of the artist.

The Sheikah leaned over to the remaining Hero. "Is that a word?" he asked.

"Yes, but it's not a very good one."

The two exchanged smirks and then busied themselves collecting pool cues and a set of balls.

Quiet, you.

Anyway, as Hero One and Sheik were preparing the table and you were perverting my words and snickering like a thirteen-year-old brat, Hero Two was making his way from the bar towards the lovely artist, when another chick appeared right in front of him. And when I say, "right in front of," I mean "practically on top of." The poor guy almost tripped over his own feet to keep from walking into her. Once he'd recovered his balance, our charming friend joined me in giving the newcomer a once-over. I think we both shuddered.

Her obvious spunkiness would have been bad enough, but this girl was a Technicolor nightmare straight out of an addict's bad acid trip to the Land of Oz. We're talking green-blue hair. Red-purple eyes. Gold-pink tinged skin. Low-cut orange halter-top, high-cut red leather mini, and patent leather paddock boot wannabes. Add the silver body glitter and the rosy lip-gloss adorning her impossibly perfect cheeks and lips and you had yourself a living monument to extremely bad taste.

I couldn't believe that I had missed this carnival in heels' entrance, but, alas, the record will show I never saw her walk in. Could be because I was too busy watching the boys. Could be because she simply sprang out of nowhere, like Athena from Zeus' skull--though I'm willing to bet that whatever brain she came from was neither divine nor particularly well bred.

Ah, but I grow catty.

Whatever this Link thought of her appearance, he didn't say. He merely asked, "Do I know you?"

The girl tossed her--and may the gods of Good Writing(tm) forgive me, for I am about to sin--malachite ringlets and gave him a coy look. "My name," she breathed, "is Marielliana."

Link flashed her a 500-watt smile I'm sorry to report that it didn't fry her to a crisp. "Mary! I thought I recognized you."

The girl blinked, showing off the glitter she'd brushed onto her eyelids, and said, "But we've never me--"

"No, we haven't, but you look so familiar, it's almost as if...as if...." He waited for her to finish the sentence.

"As if you've known me your entire life?" the girl supplied eagerly.

"Yeah. Yeah, that's about it."

Somebody behind me coughed, and I turned back around to see Sheik and the other Link fighting to hide smiles.

"You wouldn't, by any chance, be related to...." Once again, he waited for her to fill in the blank.

"Impa?" She giggled. "Yes, I'm her niece. She taught me everything she knows about hand-to-hand combat and Sheikah shamanism--though I'm only one quarter Sheikah, the other quarter is Hylian and I'm half Gerudo, even though I don't have red hair, but they took me in anyway and trained me to fight just like--"

"Impa's niece. Yes," Our Hero interrupted, as Our Other Hero and Our Friendly Neighborhood Seer smirked from behind the safety of the pool table. "I figured it had to be something like that. Well Mary," he said, beginning to slide past her, "Glad to meet you. Give Impa my love, would you, sweetheart? I'd appreciate it."

He was a moblin's hairsbreadth from escaping when she seized his arm. "Wait!"

There was another cough from the direction of the quieter Link and the Sheikah as their friend visibly suppressed a sigh and looked back at Mary (-elliana). "Yes?"

The girl's--and again, I sin-- rubricated violet eyes widened to incredible proportions. "Please, you have to understand... I was sent here to help you and your friend and your other friend tonight."

"You're going to help us pick up chicks?"

"What? I--no!" And without any warning, her grip on his arm tightened and she dragged him back towards his friends.

I couldn't look at the poor artist. I felt too bad for her...and the thinly veiled looks of horror on Hero Number One's and the Sheikah's faces were too funny to be missed. But Nayru bless his damaged soul, Hero Number One recovered in a heartbeat, and managed to smile politely as Mary marched up. "Hello," he said.

That, my friends, was where he made a mistake. I didn't recognize it just then, but I can pinpoint it for you now. For you see, my beloved chickadees, this Marielliana was no run-of-the-mill kind of Mary... she was that kind of Mary.

Yeah, you know her. All too well, I'm sure.

As soon as Hero Number One showed an interest in her, she released Hero Number Two and focused all of her attentions on the former. "I'm here to help you!" she repeated.

And then something strange happened. Link One's expression changed. It was subtle, very subtle, but if you were staring at him--and what woman in her right mind wouldn't have been staring at that face?--you could see his eyes cloud a little. I've seen the expression on myself in my car window once before, as I stared through it at the keys sitting on my seat, trying to remember how I'd managed to lock them in there. You know the look, and you know the feeling. Well, that's what this guy looked, and, I assume, felt like.

He opened his mouth, but Mary spoke before he could. "My evil boyfriend is trying to take over Hyrule! I have to use my Gerudo fighting skills and Sheikah shamanism to help you defeat him!"

At the mention of Sheikah shamanism, I looked at the real Sheikah. I expected to see him appear a little disgusted, maybe even a little insulted. But instead, he was giving the girl a wary look, the kind of look you'd give a snake before you knew whether or not it was poisonous.

Curious.

Link One hadn't noticed, though. He was still staring at Mary. "How, exactly?"

"You have to find...." She paused for emphasis, then drew in a deep breath. "You have to find the Golden Amulet of Double Time before he does! And I know where it is!"

"Double time?" the Sheikah asked in a tone that indicated he was thinking the same thing I was. That would be: who is this freak show?

Link Two snickered.

Maryielliyana... no, wait... Marielliala... no... Mari-oh hell with it. Marywhatever then started babbling on and on about the secret rhythmic medallions left by the various offspring of the Goddesses (and can I just ask why the Goddesses would want to deal with offspring? Don't they have better things to do than change diapers and bake cookies?) or some such nonsense.

Just then, she glanced over her shoulder, giving me a good look at her eyes. What I saw there scared me. I mean, it downright scared me. Those red-purple eyes of hers were, well, they were almost glowing and--now this'll sound nuts, but I swear by my brother's favorite baseball cap it's true--they were swirling. Oh, it was subtle, but it was there. It was mesmerizing. It was like... like looking at a lava lamp.

I realized what must have happened just as the Sheikah said it.

"She's got him in thrall."

"So I see." Hero of Time Number Two polished off his drink and began to play with the cocktail straw as he watched Mary cast her spell. "I've run into her kind before. Usually, after the first time, you learn to avoid them--once burned, twice shy, you know?"

"How did you defeat her?"

"Well, see, that's the thing. I'm don't know that I actually did. All I know is that one day I was walking through the Lost Woods when I bumped into this girl who had the weirdest hair. Next thing I know, I'm in Kakariko with no memory of how I'd gotten there and all of my clothes on inside out and backwards." Shaking his head, he stuck the cocktail straw in the corner of his mouth. "Damnedest thing."

The Seer didn't say anything, but it was clear from the sidelong look he gave his companion that he needed more information. Me, I was still stuck on the inside-out thing.

"Turns out I'd been missing for three weeks. Three weeks--no one knew where I was or what I was doing... not even me, apparently. Zelda was enraged. It took me two days of hard--" Here he paused and smirked before drawling, "work to make up for it. But to answer your question: I don't know."

Sheik sighed. "Well, I suppose I have a better idea of what we are dealing with...."

Meanwhile, Marielliraru and her victim were deep in conversation. "I'm not quite sure I'm following," Hero of Time Number One was saying. "You're a Goddess of the north star--"

"The Goddess of the Shadow Galaxy. I was raised by the Sheikah because I'm one quarter Sheikah, one quarter Hylian, and half Gerudo. I was trained--"

"By Impa in the fighting and the shamaning and the shit, we know!" called Link Two.

Mary tossed him a scornful look, then turned her lava lamp eyes back on Link One.

"So you see, I had to come to you."

He frowned. "I'm just a little confused as to why someone so powerful would need my help." I wish I could get a man to take me that seriously, even though it means defying all rules of logic.

Our little Mary ate it up with a fork and spoon, and got right up into Our Hero's face. Oddly, he didn't seem to mind, even though she was all but drooling on his nice clean shirt. "It's not your help I need," she breathed, or tried to breathe. It came out more as a wheeze, but hey, I gave her points for trying. Well, okay, I didn't give her any stinking points, but c'mon, would you? "What I need... is you."

Okay, show of hands: who didn't see that one coming? You? All right, get out of my sight. I have no place in my life for idiots like you.

Give the boy credit, he took it all in stride. Of course, he still had that weird hypnotized look in his eyes, so I'm sure it was pretty easy for him to take it all in stride.

The other hero chuckled and muttered, "Don't they all."

If Mariellioxenfree heard him, she made no sign. She simply stared even harder at Hero Number One. "I know that this may sound queer to you," she said, "but I have had a hard and trying life. My boyfriend is evil and so mean to me. He makes me do horrible things."

I suppose that would explain her wardrobe.

"Horrible things," she went on, "and I can only find comfort in my dreams. My dreams..."

Say it with her, folks....

"...of you."

For the first time since Mary turned her compelling gaze upon him, Our Hero blinked. Even though Our Second Hero and Our Beloved Sheikah were struck dumb, Our Hero managed to being, "Wha--"

"Of your long, sexy ears!" Mary cried, apparently sensing that her victim was about to recover his senses. "Of your tightly muscled body, your swimming-pool blue eyes, your straw gold hair... everything!"

Well, you certainly can't say she's inobservant.

"And so, my Hero, I offer you my skills as a warrior, shaman, and sorceress as well as my beautiful body, my enchanting rubricated--"

Called it.

"--eyes, my brilliant malachite--"

Damn, I'm good.

"--locks, and my feminine grace."

I shall pause here so that you, my friend, can consider and admire my restraint in not stating the obvious.

Why thank you, I also find it most impressive.

"My heart tells me that this is right! Together, you and I will save Hyrule! Together, you and I will conquer the hearts and souls of all Hylians! Because it was destined to be! You are my howling tiger of sweet, sweet love! And I, I am your sexy sleek tigress in constant heat!"

Okey-dokey.

I don't think there's much you can say in response to that. I have to admit, at this point I looked away from the silly girl because I was embarrassed for us both.

Unable to watch this sad little farce any longer--and more than a little worried for poor Hero Number One--I glanced at Sheik and the other Link. I think the Seer knew what was going to come next, because just then he kinda ducked his head so that his view of Mary was blocked by his very lovely, very nice, very touchable...very--what? Oh, right. Sorry. His hair. Yeah, he ducked his head so that he couldn't see Mary. And then he winced.

Hero of Time Number Two noticed the expression and asked, "What?"

Sheik merely shook his hand and gestured in Mary's direction.

"Because...I am...YOUR QUEEN!!!!" she cried and ripped her shirt off.

And we were all struck blind. The End.

...Oh, I wish.

Obviously, this girl had never heard of "No shirts, no shoes, no class, no service."

Link Two inhaled sharply and began to choke on his cocktail straw. And in that moment, the reason for those employer-mandated CPR and Heimlich classes I was forced to take became clear: to get my arms around--not to mention save the life of--a good looking guy. But before I could do so much as set down my drink, the Sheikah gave him two hard thwacks on the back, and he recovered.

All three of the boys stared at Mary.

They didn't ogle, they didn't drool, they didn't even blink.

They just stared.

I can only imagine what was running through their heads at that moment.

Remarkably, considering that he seemed to be the only one buying into any of Marielliwhatever's story, Link the First recovered, well, first. "Uhh...," he began. "I don't know if you're aware--"

That was when we heard the new voice.

"Marielliana!"

I saw him first, and, boy, did I ever think I'd had one too many--even though I was still nursing my first one. It simply couldn't be. Nonetheless, it was nice to have something to look at besides the little Marielliho.

Hero of Time Number One blinked. Behind him, the Sheikah raised a speculative brow and Hero of Time Number Two gaped.

Once again, the first one was the first to respond. "Ganondorf?"

Enter the King of Evil, stage right. "Marielliana!" he roared. "You must return to me!"

Please, take her.

M-ho gasped and hauled Hero of Time Number One in front of her. "No!" she cried, red-violet eyes flaming in defiance. "I shall never again fight with you! You lied to me and tricked me into doing all of those evil things!"

If she was expecting the Hero to protect her, she would have to wait a bit longer.
"Ganondorf is your evil boyfriend?"

"Yes!" the girl wailed, whirling back around to face the Hero. "He told me he loved me, and then he made me do horrible things! Horrible, horrible, horrible things!"

I dated a man like that once. He was a kinky bastard. He had this thing for ropes where--fine, I'll save it for later.

The Hero stared down at the girl, and once again, his face got that confused look.

"Link!" Sheik shouted, or would have shouted, were he capable of shouting. He reached out and shook his friend's arm. "You must not listen to her!"

Link pulled his arm free, his eyes never leaving Mary's. "Horrible things?"

She nodded spunkily. You know, with the malachite locks going every-which-way and the rubricated violet eyes all bright and hopeful and the head bobbing up and down, and you get the picture. "Horrible, horrible, horrible things."

Link One's breath hissed between his teeth as he processed all three "horribles." His face became grim. His eyes became very angry. My heart began to pound. "That scum-sucking bastard son of a succubus!"

Well! So foul. So wonderfully, wonderfully foul.

The Sheikah shook his head in exasperation and glanced back at the unaffected Hero for help. As a result, he didn't get to see the enthralled Hero take two steps forward and let fly a left-hook straight to the smirking Ganondorf-boyfriend's jaw.

Ganondorf-boyfriend hit the ground.

"So much for needing the Master Sword," mused the other Link.

"That--... that cannot be the real King of Evil," the Sheikah intoned.

"Yeah, no kidding," was the response as faux-Gano clambered to his feet, only to be shoved back down by a beautifully angry Hero of Time. "This," commented the not so angry one, "is unreal."

"Unreal." It wasn't so much what he said as the way he said it that made me stare extra hard at the Sheikah. His almost-red eyes had brightened, as if a light bulb had just gone off behind them. "That is exactly what it is. Unreal." Fixing his gaze on the extremely unfair, yet highly entertaining brawl, he said, "I'll grab Link. You will dispose of the false Ganondorf." And with that, he dove for Hero the First.

The two hit the floor with a crash that shook the whole joint, leaving Mary's beau staring in surprise. He was still staring when the remaining Hero walked up behind him and whaled him on the back of the head with a pool cue. The joint shook one last time as faux-Gano toppled.

Sparing a quick glance for the struggle between the more serious Link and Sheik and an even quicker one for the stunned Mary, Hero Number Two bent over the prone boyfriend and began unbuckling his own belt. I was tempted to shout, "Keep going!" but I managed to restrain myself as he used the leather to lash faux-Gano's hands together.

Meanwhile, Hero Number One was struggling to get back onto his feet, but the Sheikah's death grip on his legs kept him from standing.

"Let go, Sheik!"

"No." The Seer's voice was determined. "Not until you come to your senses."

"I can't let--"

"She is not a real person, Link!"

"That's the most ridiculous--"

"She's nothing more than a construct! It is only our belief in her that allows her to manifest in this realm!"

The Hero stopped struggling and stared hard at his friend. "What?"

Sheik nodded slowly. "From the moment she appeared, I could not sense anything from her. It wasn't until just now that I realized why; I cannot sense anything because there's nothing to sense. She is not real."

Dear sweet goddesses. The man was appealing to his intellect. A brawl and then philosophy. What a way to make a gal feel all tingly.

"Really?" The intense gleam remained in the Hero Number One's eyes, but he seemed to direct it inwards.

Sheik and I breathed simultaneous sighs of relief. Hero Number Two shrugged and headed back towards the pool table, leaving faux-Gano trussed up on the floor.

"Really," said the Seer. "We need to stop thinking about her, to stop believing in her."

"A construct feeding off of our imaginations. An unreal creature," the recovered Hero muttered to himself. "Reality is subjective. Fascinating." He stared up at the ceiling, a distant, contemplative look in his eyes. It was really quite fetching. "To think that such a thing could--"

Halfway through his sentence, Marielliho vanished. There was no warning, no sound--one moment she was pouting on the floor, the next...poof! Gone. And her little boyfriend, too.

A sticky, beer-stained floor has never looked so beautiful.

Funny thing was, I seemed to be the only one who noticed. Link the First was still ruminating on the nature of existence--or so I assumed--brow furrowed and expression philosophical. Link the Other had either recovered his cocktail straw from somewhere or found a new one and was gnawing on it mercilessly as he took some practice shots at the pool table. Sheik, well okay, I wasn't the only one--he noticed Mary's abrupt departure, but only after he'd turned his gaze from his cousin--and allow me to digress as I wonder how far removed they are as cousins. I bet it's just once, seeing as how they look so similar. Maybe one day I'll get up the courage to go over there and ask.

And maybe one day I'll grow wings and never have to sit in traffic again.

But back to the story at hand, the Seer, upon seeing his friend safely out of Mary's thrall, turned to see that Mary had winked out of existence. Again, he nodded in a very knowing fashion--and again I digress as I mull over the charms of a man who knows the score.

"Good," Sheik said again.

The sound of his voice seemed to jolt his friend out of his reverie. Link blinked, then looked over to the place Mary had been. "She's gone."

"Yes," Sheik intoned. "She was not real, but as long as someone believed that she was, she was able to move through this realm. As soon as you began thinking about her as an abstract concept and not as a real person, the source of her power vanished, and she ceased to resemble a real person."

"Huh. But why weren't you two affected?"

The Seer shrugged. "I could tell there was something wrong with her from the moment she appeared, and apparently he had run into her kind before."

"You boys taking my name in vain over there?" called Link Two. "Can we play now?"

As the two rose and joined their companion, I heard someone behind me mutter something that sounded a lot like "Bah. Mary Sue."

It was the artist. Though, from the look on her face, I think that whatever she said was a lot less polite. Perhaps even "Bah. Goddamn delusional self-important whore."

Same thing, really.

______________________________________________


"Eight ball in the corner pocket," the Seer intoned.

"Eight ball in the...Goddesses, I hate when you do that," Link Two said.

"Of course, you will miss the shot," he went on, in an even quieter--and sexier, oh yes, indeed--tone of voice.

"The future is conditional," Link One said. And behold, there was that dreamy and glazed look in his eyes that I have often noted in the past. While not his most chick-magneting look, it was still pretty damn attractive. Blue eyes, just tormented enough, well... kind of makes a girl want to dance on the table wearing strings with coins attached.

That aside. You could almost guess that Our Hero wouldn't make the shot, if for no other reason than he was flustered now. You know, maybe that's how prophecy really works: get the subject all screwed up so that they have to do what you saw them doing. But these are all thoughts for a different and much deeper time. The real reason Our Hero didn't make the shot was because he never even got as far as leaning over the cue.

Right before there was a sound, the Sheikah looked up. Then there was a sound. A high, wailing sound. No, not high and wailing. High and strident. Nails on a chalkboard? The rubber of tires burning to nothing as they try to grip the asphalt? Something like that.

"LIIIIIIIIINNNNKKK!"

All three of the boys cringed. Hero Number Two dropped the pool cue and covered his ears. Hero Number One cringed and splintered his pool cue in his hand. The Seer closed his eyes and looked vaguely ill.

"AHHH what the hell was that?" Link One said as he rubbed his ears. "Nayru, Din, and Farore son of a bitch bastard! Now I'm frigging deaf!" As always, refuge in profanity. Nothing wrong with it though, mind.

The "that" in question was coming from--where? Where were all these people coming from? First Mary, and now this? She didn't come in the front door, I can tell you that. True, Syd has never made use of bouncers. (Why would he? Folks are never exactly busting down the doors to get in.) But I think anyone standing even close to the front door would have noticed, and stopped, one would hope, a fourteen year old girl from coming into the Bar.

I mean, really. She could only have been fourteen at the most.

I remember wistfully the tender days of my own youth. Sure, I longed for a Hero. In my wildest dreams--which I'm not going to document here--I might have even longed for two or three Heroes. Whatever. Sure, I had my cuddly cute moments too. But nothing, oh my brothers and only friends, NOTHING prepared me for the travesty that was this child. I'll tell you, it was by force of will that I was even able to sit there and watch this transpire. Well, alright, force of will and morbid curiousity. Car accident and all of that.

"LIIIIINK!"

Scary and threatening, yeah, it was. You bet. But I won't lie to you: the look on Hero Two's face almost made it worth it. Almost. Like someone had hit him on the head with his own pool cue. If he could get his jaw to work just then, I'm sure he would have said "wha happuh?" but instead, he just stood there and watched her approach.

"LINKIECHAN!" the evil kewpie cried, as she ran forward with her arms wide open. And, was that a Backstreet Boys T Shirt that she was wearing?

"Linkiechan?" Link Number One repeated.

"Oh, no," said the Sheikah. "I know of this sort. That is a Chibichan!"

"A 'Chibichan!'" Link One repeated.

Very slick, Sheik. I know of the sort, too. A "Chibichan" is the sort of beast that... well, you know what? I'll just tell you what happened and let you figure it out.

Maybe because Our Hero Two was closer--or maybe because he was smaller, or maybe because he had that look on his face--the Chibichan grabbed him first. Poor thing was too stunned to move.

Once I saw the pink hearts, the sparkles, and the bubbles, I knew. I just knew. I recognized the move, and you can bet I'd've recognized it even if it hadn't knocked her Hello Kitty purse to the floor.

That was a Glomp.

"That was a Glomp!" intoned our First Hero. He looked at the Sheikah. "We have to help him!"

Sheik nodded in that manly way of his, and they both oh so bravely approached the scene.

The Sheikah looked determined. The Hero looked reasonable.

"Excuse me, miss," Link One said. He touched the Chibichan's arm, but that pudgy little arm shot out like a viper and tried to grab him too. But he's quick, that man, and he pulled back as if bitten by said viper.

"Uuuunnnhhhhh...." moaned the poor squozen Hero Two, which, under vastly, vastly different circumstances, might not have sounded half bad. I must guiltily admit it.

Chibichan started to...well, to move. To kind of rock back and forth really fast. And she made a noise like, "EEEEEEEEE!"

"That... I know that move..." whispered the Hero who still possessed his freedom. "That's a Huggle! I have to stop this!" He reached for his broken pool cue.

"U R SO HOTTTTT!!!11111" the Chibichan said.

"Uhhhhhhh......" said her victim.

"Wait, Link!" The Seer put his hand on top of the pool cue ever so gently. "You must not kill a child!"

"Well, what do we do?" he asked, all panicky and frantic-like.

The Chibichan changed her tactic. And this one damn near made my hair stand on end. It was too much even for me to observe calmly. I don't know these Heroes on a personal basis--more's the pity--but I know that they've seen some serious adversity. But at that moment, I doubted. I doubted.

"KAWAIIIIIIII!"

Were it possible for Hero One to get any whiter, or his eyes to get any larger, he did and they did.

"She is..." the Sheikah said breathlessly, and I'm not saying that to be gratutitous. He was breathless.

"No," said Link One. "Not 'Kawaii.'"

"Yes," Sheik continued. "She's using the Kawaii attack. If she keeps it up, she will... she will ruin him. Look! Already it's happening!"

That poor man's eyes were glazed, and, I kid you not, he almost looked like he was smiling. In a really goofy, cuddly, downright scary way.

"If this keeps up," Link One said in that desperate way that I get off on when it happens in movies, "she'll rob him of all his manliness. She'll turn him into..."

"A Plushie," Sheik finished.

I think my own glass slipped out of my hand when he said that, but no one noticed. I don't know why I hadn't followed the logic to the most obvious end result, but the Sheikah was right.

"ILUVYOULINKIECHANPOOKAWAIIIIIIIIII!!!!"

All Magical Girls have an Ultimate Incantation, and I think Hero One knew that hers wasn't far off. The Sheikah had to know it, too.

Link Two--who at one time had been so suave, charming, bright and lively--just sorta... just sorta hung there. That pretty blond head of his rolled back and I'm not cheap enough to sit here and tell you how pretty that pretty blond hair looked when he did that. Alright, damnit, yes I am.

But our Heroes aren't Heroes for nothing, now are they? And the Hero of Time--the one who wasn't being huggled to death by the Chibichan, did his Hero thing, and just in time.

The Chibichan took a deep breath. Man! I don't know if I had too much to drink, or if I was too emotionally invested in the scene to be reckoning things right, but I'll tell you this: that thing was growing.

"HUGGLESLINKPLUSHIEEEEE!"

I nearly closed my eyes, because I had a yucky pukey feeling that this could be it for that poor man. But I'm glad I kept them open.

"NOOO!" shouted Hero One, and he made a rather exciting dive toward something that I couldn't see--I just knew that it wasn't the Chibichan or Hero Two. What the hell was he doing?

It became a bit more clear to me when the Chibichan opened her eyes.

Allow me to stop for a moment to make an observation. Big, huge, exaggerated eyes in real life: uncool. Damn creepy.

"What are you DOOOOOOING?!" she whined.

Link One cringed again, and something tells me that if a lesser person had been on the receiving end of that whine, his ears would have bled. But he valiantly stood up, holding onto something. Took him a minute to get to his full (impressive) height, but he did. Now, his back was kind of facing me, so at first I didn't see what he had in his hands.

"Let him go, Chibichan," he said in a hoarse voice that, again, would have sounded just scrummy in a different time and place. Ah well. Something to think about in happier times.

"Noooo, he is so hotttttt!!!111 he's mai hugglebunny!" she said.

Sheik fell back a step or two and had to steady himself on the pool table. Must be hard for someone who's ultra-sensitive to vibes, because even I was getting them, and the sugary mush was, well... when you were a kid, did you ever go to the carnival and eat five bags of cotton candy, drink five cups of Hi C, throw it up, and then eat it all again? Well, me neither, because that's just goddamn nasty. But you get the idea. The Sheikah was feeling it. I think it was the "hugglebunny" that did it.

But, Link Two, shockingly, didn't react the way I would've hoped. He giggled. The Chibichan smiled. She cuddled him and tickled him and pet his hair. He mumbled something that sounded something like "aishiteru." Whatever the hell that means. I just know it sounded damn scary.

"Put the Hero down," Link One commanded in a voice that made me squirm--hey, I'm human, okay? "Put the Hero down and back away slowly. Or Kitty gets it."

He held out his hand. Ahh, I finally saw what he had grabbed off the floor. He was brandishing the Chibichan's Hello Kitty purse threateningly.

"I'll rip it to shreds," he said in that grrrrr tone of voice. "I swear it."

"NOOOOOO!" she wailed. "I want my hugglekawaiicuddlyKittychan! WAAAAAAAHHHH!"

"Then you have to make a choice!" Link One said. "Which one is cuter?"

She waffled. She vacillated. She looked from Hello Kitty in Hero One's hands, to Hero Two in her arms, who was grinning like a kid crashing after a sugar rush, and humming the theme to Pokémon.

Hero One upped the stakes. He took Hello Kitty in both of those oh so strong hands. "I'll do it," he said in a low and husky voice. "I swear. Ask yourself this: which one would scream louder if broken in half? Imagine Kitty's cries of anguish."

Chibichan trembled. Then she sniffled. Sheik stepped back cautiously. If I could feel it building up, you can bet your sweet patoot that he felt it twenty times more.

"MMMOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!" she screamed, and a second later she let loose with the floodcrying. No, really. Floodcrying. You think I'm exaggerating? Think again. Monty was mopping that floor all night. "I WANT KITTYYYYYYYY!!!!"

She reached for Hello Kitty, and Link One practically threw it at her. She also released Link Two, who fell so very gracefully into Sheik's arms.

"Go, and don't come back!" Link One shouted.

"YOU GUYZ R SOOO M3333333AN!!!!!1111" she cried. "I"M LEAVING AND I"M NOT CUMMING BACK!"

"Good!" Link One and Sheik said. And, I think, so did a few other patrons. I swear I heard the artist girl say something like "silly ninny." Or maybe it was "babbling idiotic goddamn dumbass." I couldn't quite tell.

The Chibichan didn't leave right away. Did you think she would? No way. She stood there, lip trembling, eyes pleading, waiting for someone. Or maybe a few someones. So of course, it wasn't too long before two or three more Chibichans appeared.

"WE WANT U 2 STAY! *HUGGLES!*"

"DON"T LEAVE CHIBI! U R KEWLIES!"

"WE LUV U, U R THE BEST 1 HERE SO PLS STAY!!!1111"

It wasn't long before someone started to throw food at them. Okay. It was me. Hey, I wasn't going to eat those lemon and pineapple slices. Anyway, it worked, because they left.

But I know something about Chibichans, and I knew they'd be back.

"Oh by Nayru! Link!" Link One said, once the Chibichans were gone. He looked to Sheik, who was still holding Link Two. "What do we do?"

Link Two was still grinning and humming. And, would it make me an evil person if I thought that he looked, well... sort of appealing? I mean, arched back, hair cascading in that cliché kind of way? Come on. I'm weak, okay? What do you want?

"I... I do not know, cousin," the Sheikah answered.

"Any longer in her clutches and he would have lost all his masculinity," Link One said. His eyes were worried and overbright. "He might have started doing... things."

That sweet man was too modest to say it, but I knew of what he spoke. I've seen Chibichans at work before. They have the ability to reduce the strongest, most valiant Heroes into tiny, soft, sniveling leg humpers.

I watched and waited. Tense.

Sheik pulled Link Two into a standing position. Link One shook him.

"Come on!" he said, becoming intense and, well, heroic. Duh. "Come on, Link. Wake up. You're the Hero Of Time. Well, you're one of them, anyway. Wake up! Wake up!"

Slap!

Wow, I didn't see that one coming, but Hero Number One--the modest, controlled one--whacked Hero Two upside the head. Ahhh, the gentle, rational Hylian.

I guess Link Two didn't see it coming either, because not a moment later he was muttering the famous "wha happuh?" phrase.

"It was a Chibichan, my friend," Sheik told him, as he helped Our Fallen Hero to regain his balance. "You were in her clutches."

"Chibichan?" he said dreamily. "Kawaiiiiiii....."

"NO!" Link One barked, and gave Link Two a good firm shake. "Snap out of it. She's gone. Think about real women."

That almost worked. Link Two focused on Link One.

Don't think I wasn't tempted to go over there and help remind him.

"Real women..." he mumbled.

"Right," said Link One. "Think about...think about..."

"Think about breasts!" one of the more burly of Syd's regs called out. And to think, I thought that the artist and I were the only ones paying attention to the scene.

But, regardless. It seemed to have worked. Sure, Link One blushed and Sheik blinked--which, I take to mean that he's been surprised by something. But Link Two shook his head and straightened up.

"Breasts!" he said triumphantly.

The male patrons cheered. I think a few of them cried. My own heart was warmed by the defeat of villiany in its cutest, deadliest form.

"Wow," Link Two said as he smiled. Ahhh, but this was the real smile, the charming, dazzling, damn-aren't-I-a-fine-specimen-of-manliness smile. Not the flaked out, dreamy, vacant smile that the Chibichan had induced in him. I shudder to remember it. "That was really something else."

Link One and Sheik breathed a sigh of relief and glanced at each other.

"Rack 'em up," Charmer-Link said. Then he swayed and fell flat on his back.

___________________________________________________________


I don't know. Maybe it was just their night for trouble. I guess we all have them sometimes. I remember one time I was at the supermarket--minding my own business, you know--when out comes the produce guy with a can of.... Well, maybe that's a story for another time and place. Probably better if I focus on what happened at Syd's. You didn't think it was over, did you?

I thought it was over. Now that I think of it, I guess the boys knew better. Prophecy and all that. Even though the gift of it belonged to the Sheikah, I think they all have it to some degree.

Link One tried to act casual. He tried valiantly. He smiled at girls and joked with Monty, and I think I even heard him threaten to dance on the pool table once. Maybe he was trying too hard. But he was paranoid--moreso than usual--and it was making me jumpy.

The Sheikah had to know. He just got quiet. No. I mean really quiet. Quieter than ever. He stopped predicting the game of billiards. Once in a while he would zone out, then shake his head, then go back to zoning out again. I wonder if I could live with someone who did that all the time. But anyway.

The second Hero Of Time (and, would it be totally shameless of me to just call them H.O.T. One and H.O.T. Two?) well, I think he really was casual. He didn't waste any time bouncing back from his altercation with the Chibichan. He even shot pool with the cue behind his back once. Then he winked at the artist, even though he hadn't made the shot. But come on. Does it matter?

Would you be surprised if I told you that this one didn't come in the front door either? I mean, where were they coming from? Were they just materializing out of nowhere, out of the Dark Realm? Were they minions of evil? Or maybe a test sent by the Goddesses to try our Heroes' strength?

I doubt that one very much, personally.

This was was bigger than the Chibichan, and no less threatening, only in quite a different manner. At first, I thought she was trying to be Goth. But do Goths wear pink kimonos? Well, I guess it depends on the Goth.

She spotted our Heroes right away, and she didn't waste time with smokey glances. Though I thought I saw her mouth the word "mine." Looking back, I realize that I knew what was coming next. She cut through the crowd and made her way to the pool table.

I saw Link One whisper the words "oh no," then he tried to look and act casual again.

First one she grabbed was Link One. He looked somewhat perturbed when she grabbed his hand. I don't know what he expected--or what I expected, for that matter. But I didn't expect her to turn his palms up, roll back his sleeve and look interestedly at his wrist. Link One frowned, and it looked like he might get annoyed in a second or so. She did the same with the other hand. Then, she rolled her eyes, shrugged, and moved on.

Next she grabbed Link Two. Poor thing had only just recovered from the Chibichan, but, oddly, he didn't seem threatened. She went through the same little ritual. He arched an eyebrow at her and smirked. Like he knew what was going on. Like she was looking for something, and he knew what it was. "Sorry, sister," he said in a tone that implied he wasn't sorry at all. "You've got the wrong guy."

She shrugged, and moved on to the Sheikah, who was watching her warily. Too polite to sneer at her or pull away or throw her ass across the room like he should have, he just blinked when she looked at him. But, it seemed to me that something about her changed when she looked into those eyes. Well, duh. But, there was something else. Like she knew she was going to find what she wanted to find. That thing looked downright hopeful.

Since when does a girl walk up to three perfectly hot men, and think she has the right to go touchy-feely on them? I mean, really now. What if they were with someone? What if they were with each other? Ahh, but as it turns out... Oh hell, I'll just finish the story and let you learn it in good time.

She went through the same disturbing little ritual with the Sheikah: grabbed his hand, turned up his sleeve. Only this time, she stopped there. She stared. Sheik glanced sideways at Link One, then at Link Two. Link Two rolled his eyes. Sheik glanced back down at the travesty in pink.

She was staring up at him. Hotly. Rapturous. Triumphant. Moist and tearful. Like those girls who all decided they were Nirvana fans only after Kurt had been... well anyway...

"Do I know you?" he finally asked her.

"No, but I know you. I know you heart and soul."

Ahh, humm. Care for some wine with your cheese? A big part of me wanted to shout "whatEVER" from my own little corner, but I opted instead for quietly observing. I was sure the boys could take care of themselves. H.O.T. Two snickered. Or, maybe he snorted. He made a pretense of covering his mouth and disguising the snicker or snort as an "ahem," but no one believed him and I think that was the idea. The girl didn't so much as glance at him.

I didn't have to guess the identity of this one. She introduced herself.

"I'm AngstYaoiTraumaGoddess," she said in a breathy voice. When Link One had been breathy before, that was hot. This wasn't hot. It made me want to spew. "Tell me where you got the scar on your wrist," she said. And damned if she wasn't smiling. Well, her eyes were smiling. Hell, her eyes were grinning like a certain well known cat. Her lips, however, were trembling in mock sympathy.

Sheik pulled his hand away from her, maybe a tad too defensively. "An accident involving the queen's birthday party, my horse, a stable door, and a vision of OniLink," he said. "It will fade, I'm sure."

She grabbed his hand again. "You can't lie to me, Sheik of the Shadow People," she said.

"Ah... all right," he said.

I swear I heard Link Two mutter the word "freakshow" out of the corner of his mouth, but that boy was snickering like a little kid. Link One looked at him and silently asked "what?" Link Two shook his head and negligently went about his billiards. Okay, so he didn't do it negligently. He did it in pretend negligence. He was watching AngstYaoiTraumaGoddess. He leaned to Link One and said "next she's going to ask..."

"Which one of them saved you?" she said to Sheik, but I was a little gratified to see that Link Two had said it along with her. She made a big show of ignoring him.

The Sheikah blinked. I think that meant that he was momentarily confused. "Saved me?" he asked. "Oh! He did." He glanced at Link One. Ahh. So there is a story between those two. But I mean, they're heroes, right? They probably save each other all the time. It comes with the line of work and all of that. "My cousin," Sheik went on. "Why do you ask?"

Her eyes lit up like shops during the Winter Festival. "Cousin?! As in, real cousin; you're related? How daring!" She almost jumped on top of him with glee. She jumped up and down, and yanked on his arm. He pulled away from her again.

"Right," he said slowly. "Goodnight, now."

Wow. That's the rudest I've ever heard him talk to someone. It was kinda hot. But, you knew that I was going to say that, didn't you? Ah well, I grow predictable. But I like when the quiet ones get snarky.

Link Two continued to snicker like a little kid. Damn that was cute.

"Tell me your story," she said, and I could just tell that she was trying for a voice so husky it could pull a sled. Instead she sounded like she had a real momma of a phlegm globber. But perhaps I am too judgmental of her aspect. Already though, I saw her working her magic. I mean, even I saw it. So I guess she's not entirely without skill. She pulled him by the hand, and that Sheikah--all six or so feet of him--almost followed her. Maybe because he's all kinds of sensitive to vibes. Who knows.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Link Two said as he put his arm out in front of Sheik. "Now there'll be none of that. Hey." He glared at AngstYaoiTraumaGoddess. "No fair doing mind magic on the susceptible. That's just plain low."

That was when Link One got into the act. I thought for a second that another pool cue was going to bite the big one, but instead he just slammed it down to the table. Until just then, I'd never have guessed that the phrase "what's that supposed to mean?" could sound so manly. Maybe because he said it while he was stalking over to AngstTraumaYaoiGoddess.

"It means that he's vulnerable and needs to be saved!" she gushed.

"It means that she's going to make him spout all sorts of angsty bullshit," Link Two corrected. "Remember how the Chibichan was trying to make me cute and cuddly?"

"Now look here..." Link One said, but she tried to grab him too. He pulled his arm back just in time, like he'd done with the Chibichan.

"You have to come with me, too!" she squealed. "You're his savior! You don't want him to try to kill himself again, do you?"

I must be the world's biggest hussy, because even at such a, shall we say, tense time, I found myself admiring the very cute look of astounded confusion on that hero's face. "Kill himself?" he asked, very obviously shocked by the retardedness of the suggestion.

She turned her attention back to the Sheikah, who was staring and swaying, and swaying and staring. "You had a terrible childhood, didn't you? Did you lose everyone you ever loved and watch your parents be murdered and have your village burnt to the ground and weren't you turned out by all the women that you considered to be your friends? Weren't you? Isn't that sad! Doesn't it HURT?!"

Was it me, or was her voice getting really, really loud? Like supernatural kind of loud?

"Aren't you VULNERABLE?" she said, and I'd swear on my favorite support bra that lightning flashed out of her eyes when she said it.

"All right," the Sheikah answered, only he was whispering so low that I could hardly hear him.

"But that's ridicu..." Link One began.

"And you saved his soul!" she hissed, and she turned on that poor guy so quickly that he reached for a sword that wasn't there. Damn. You just don't startle the warrior like that. I pretty much wished that he had been carrying a sword just then.

Sheik turned and looked at Link One, and if I had been Link One, then--aside from admiring myself all day and never leaving the house in the first place--I would have shaken that prophet and asked "anyone at home?"

"As a matter of fact, he did," the Seer said slowly, in answer to ATYGoddess's question. "Now that I think of it... he did."

Link Two started to look worried. He seemed to decide that it was serious, and maybe he ought to stop playing around. Always struck me as the type of guy who finds that one of life's difficulties is to stop playing around. "Alright TraumaYaoiAngstQueen or whatever," he said, allowing us to observe and admire the sterner side of his personality, "let the Sheikah go. He's not your type."

"And who are you?" she snapped at him. "Are you Dark Link? Did you traumatize this beautiful Sheikah? Did you rape him and your Good Half?"

Link One narrowed his eyes and--oh mercy--did he almost raise his hand as if he wanted to hit her? I thought so for a second, and I won't lie to you. It set my heart aflutter.

Link Two kept his considerable cool. Yes, true, at first he looked a bit peeved. Then, to my utter surprise and confusion, he grinned. A kind of confident, winning half smile that would have made her wobble and fall down, were she the kind of girl who understood or enjoyed manliness in any of its forms. Instead, she seemed to shrink under that smile.

"Matter of fact," he said smoothly, "I am, and I did."

"What?!" Link One yelped. It was a real yelp, too which, upon later reflection, I would find sort of sweet.

Link Two glanced at him quickly, still smiling. He waved his hand and made a quick "shh," sort of noise, which I took to mean, "chill out, let me handle this, I know what I'm doing."

"I knew it!" she answered, and man, I'll be damned if she didn't sound downright gleeful. "You probably made them like it, too!"

"Well yeah," he said, "of course they did! I mean, no means yes, right?"

Ahh, that one seemed to throw her for a second. "Well...as long as you're gay it does! It's just a sign of repressed feelings!"

It threw me too, actually. I expected that kind of crapola from her, but... And I know it threw Link One, who finally grabbed Link Two by the arm and looked at him as if he were out of his mind. "Don't say things like that!" he scolded. "That's the most unreasonable..."

"Exactly," Link Two said, though he kept on looking at the woman, "but reason is a weak weapon against the YaoiAngstTraumaGoddesses. They just shoot it down with one of two basic defenses. Just you watch. The only weapon that works against them is to not take them seriously. Let me handle this one. If she keeps it up on him, he's going to start crying and hugging you. You know her victims sometimes even shrink, or get younger--regress fifteen or more years. Once that happens, it's only a matter of time before they curl up into a fetal position, or start holding their knees to their chest and rocking slowly. Trust me. This one's mine. Observe," he said suavely.

He pushed Link One behind him and took his jacket off. If I hadn't been so interested in the outcome, I might have fainted when he did that.

She let the Seer go and stepped up to H.O.T. the Second.

They circled each other slowly.

"So tell me," Hero Two said casually-like, "tell me where Zelda, Malon and so on fit into this situation."

"Those bitches!" she hissed like a fractious cat.

"That's IT!" Link two said, and then he took off his jacket. (This is the part where I drop my drink again.) "How DARE you..."

"Shut up already! Damn!" Link Two said through his teeth, with a glance back at the angrier Hero. "I told you, just watch, okay?"

Link One fumed. I mean, almost literally. You could almost see the steam coming off the top of his head. He flexed his hand and his knuckles cracked.

"Save it for later, Tiger," Link Two said with a nasty little grin.

Link One frowned. "Don't call me 'tiger'," he said, then he went back to fuming. The Sheikah was still swaying, and looking at the YaoiAngstTrauma thingie thing.

"Zelda's a bitch, and Malon's a whiney brat! That's why you all need to be GAY! And if you can't accept that, you're closed minded!"

"Ooooh, you're so daring and hip," Link Two said. "But tell me something, my dear. Do you know any gay men?"

She faltered for a second. You could barely notice it, but she really did falter. "Of course I do," she said. "Some of my best friends are gay."

The best part was that Link Two said it along with her, and he even said it in a high, whiney voice. "Oh, I didn't see that coming," he added.

"SHADDUP!" she yipped, you know, like one of those nasty little white dogs that bites everyone who goes near it. A fluffy yipping thing, kind of. Which, basically, she was. "You're a homophobe!"

"Oh?" the Second Hero answered coolly, "I thought I was evil, sexy Dark Link?"

Her face turned red because, I guess, she knew that he got her with that one. "You're closed minded! You're afraid of homosexuality!"

She was starting to repeat herself. Link Two was starting to laugh.

"Don't laugh at me!" she barked. Woof, woof! Yip, yip! "I have an original way of thinking. So what! You can't handle it!"

"Oh, what?" he asked her, "You're the only one out there who likes to twist homosexuality to fit your little girly fantasy? Trust me, sweetheart. Somewhere out there, Sephiroth is crying into Cloud Strife's softly spiked hair. Seifer is giving tender caresses to Squall's silken gunblade. Saito Hajime as tripping over his own feet to woo Sano. Marron is playing dom to Gateau's sub. Duo Maxwell is a sniveling virgin, giving it up to sweet, adoring Heero."

"That's right, I'm not alone!" she yipped back. "I belong to a WEBRING!"

"Really?" he asked, and crossed his arms over his chest in a really self satisfied way. He leaned back against the pool table and crossed his legs. Ummmmmm. That looked niiiice. "I thought you were maverick. Original. One of a kind. Avante Guarde and all of that."

"You're a bigot!" she shot back.

"Me?" he asked innocently. "Dark Link? Oh, baby, you wound me. I thought I was part of the fantasy." He picked up his longneck and took a swig nonchalantly, as he waited for her reaction.

What followed was a very loud, very involved string of oaths, ranging in subject from the Second Hero's psychological state, his manner of dress--which, as I mentioned, was nothing to complain about--his various presumed habits, lifestyle choices, his heritage, the questionable relationship of his parents, his taste or lack thereof, and his assumed repression of certain feelings.

All while Link Two watched her quietly. Once or twice he raised an eyebrow, particularly when she mentioned his fashion sense.

Finally, she came back to her standard, just like the man had said she would. "YOU'RE BIGOTED!"

He smiled at her. Her face turned dark red.

"YOU'RE CLOSED MINDED!"

He took a sip of his beer. Veins stood out on her forehead and throbbed.

"YOU'RE A HOMOPHOBE!"

"You said that already," he told her.

She trembled. I took a cue from both Links, and I ducked. She screamed like the twelve o' clock alarm.

When her head finally did explode, it wasn't actually too messy. I thought it would all be juicy and gushy and splattery, but it seems that there wasn't much in there, so it was really just a dry, dusty sort of "popfff" noise. When I looked up, little bits of paper and fuzz were settling around her shoulders.

It was cool.

"Pish posh," said the cute artist chick, "what a weirdo." I think that's what she said. Maybe it was more like "I'm glad that scum sucking gutter freak is gone." One of the two.

"Nayru, Din and Farore," Link One said. "How...how messy."

Link Two shrugged, set his bottle down, and turned to Link One. "I told you," he said. "You can't reason with them. They don't actually like real gay men though--what they like are crying women who just happen to have dicks. Ahh, but don't think that she's gone, though. She'll actually grow another head and continue to exist."

Link One considered this with the look of a man who has just found something fascinating and distasteful at the same time. Which, if you think about it... "Did she really think you were Dark Link?" he asked.

Link Two snorted, and almost spit out his beer. He waved his hand as he choked and tried to swallow. "Wait," he said. After a little bit of sputtering, he settled down and took a deep breath. "Who knows? Maybe. But wasn't that classic? Wasn't that the funniest thing you've ever seen in your whole damn life?"

Link One smiled, and finally laughed. "Yeah, I suppose it was," he said. "I mean, imagine it. You, as Dark Link."

Charmer Link picked up his bottle again, and quirked an eyebrow subtley. His eyes flashed the tiniest bit. "Yes," he said, just a little bit softly, "imagine."

Because, of course, he's the joker of the bunch.

Yes.

Link the Paranoid was so busy looking warily at his Heroic Cohort, that he missed what I then witnessed, and I still wonder why in the Dark Realm that was. In fact, he seemed to have forgotten about Sheik. Not just Sheik, but the entire dark corner of the room where Sheik was standing. But, I'm a hussy, so I was thinking "Oh no! What's to become of the third hot guy?" and so, I happened to be looking.

There was another man. Tall, I think. Thin, I guess. Or maybe he was broad, or strong, or wiry, or... It was hard to tell, under his sweeping black coat. There was a hood, but he wasn't wearing it. I saw his face, but I wonder why I can't quite remember it. I know it must have been fair to gaze upon, because I remember choking on a lemon pit when I looked at him. Long hair--it was black, I think. Or brown maybe. I remember that his hair curtained his face for a second, before he pushed it behind his ears with both hands, and it was then that I noticed the Sheikah, because the other guy leaned over to him and whispered something.

DAMN I wish I knew what it was.

But Sheik blinked a few times, and looked around. He just missed the LongBlackCoat guy slipping out the door behind him. All these months at Syd's, and I never even knew there was a door there. I'll be damned.

So anyway. Sheik. Right. He was blinking, I think. So, he blinked a few times, and shook his head. Then, he walked back to the other two, edgily skirting the still-standing, headless body of the YaoiAngstTraumaGoddess thing. Because, yuck.

You could tell that the other two just remembered that he was there, because of Link Two's look of confused surprise, and Link One's look of confused guilt.

"He lives," Link Two said--do I have to add that he said it casually?

"Are you all right?" Link one asked--and do I have to add that he asked it earnestly and seriously?

"Yes, I'm...I'm fine," he answered. (He seems to have a cute stutter when he stops to think about something. Oh, whatever, he could have no tongue at all and I'd probably still think he was cute. I'm a hussy, what are you going to do, shoot me for it?) "It was certainly not the first time I've been under someone's mind magic, but I hope it will be the last."

Link Two laughed. "Yeah, that's it, hope for the best. Keep believing. Keep reaching for that star."

Link One and Sheik shot him aggrieved looks. He snorted. "C'mon, let's play."

The Sheikah arched an eyebrow. "Are you so eager to be beaten again?"

"Hey now, you've lost as many games as me, or maybe not as many but really, who's keeping track, and besides," he grinned, "I lose with such grace and dignity."

Hero Number One chuckled. "I think we should play."

______________________________________________


It's two o' clock in the morning, do you know where your Heroes are?

Why, yes I do; they're playing pool not fifteen feet from where I'm sitting.

Actually, by then they weren't playing pool pool anymore. That ended a while back. They had moved onto trying to make trick shots. Four off the corner, into the seven, off the second dot from the right of the west side of the table if you're standing in the northern half of the bar, and into the pocket--that sort of thing. If they'd had scoring system set up, I'd lost track of it half an hour and three quarters of a drink ago.

Normally, the Bunghole would have been slowing down by now, but not this night. No, tonight the place just kept getting more crowded by the hour. There was a suspiciously high number of women in attendance, too. Usually, it's just Paula, Sue, me, and a few courageous others. But this night, the ladies were out in force.

Wonder why?

Yeah, the place was getting pretty festive. At one point, Jack's lifelong quest was fulfilled--he finally hit the jukebox enough times, and the thing blared to life. There was a moment of stunned silence, then all the regulars cheered, and Monty declared the next round on the house in honor of the intrepid Jackster.

So I had the Boss serenading me, I had the best damn g and t in town in my hand, and I had my boys playing pool.

And no fangirls in sight.

What could be better?

To my right, I could see the artist was still at her table with her sketchpad and glass. If I'd known the boys were going to be here, I'd be scribbling--albeit in prose-- too, but alas I am not so gifted as the Sheikah, and all I had that could pass as writing material was my cocktail napkin. And so I was forced to commit the entire evening to memory, not that that was too terribly hard.

But all good things must end all too soon, and at some point after Springsteen had given way to Skynyrd, the Sheikah looked up at his cousin. "We should go soon."

What he probably meant was, "We will go soon, but I'm going to let to you think it was your idea, and maybe it was because I gave you the idea by saying this, but does that really matter? Either way, we're going."

"Do you think so?" asked Link One.

Sheik shrugged. "It is quite late, and I would hate for anyone to worry too much."

"WhupPAH!" said H.O.T. Two, flicking his wrist to crack an imaginary whip. "So who wears the pants in your Hyrule?"

H.O.T. One frowned, but the Sheikah just shrugged and hung up his cue. "It's only polite."

"And they just got the jukebox working, too," the second hero said. But despite his mournful tone, he picked up his jacket.

Looking back, I'm rather surprised I didn't hear the whole place sigh as the boys headed towards the door. But, then again, by then everyone was too busy enjoying themselves to be let down by anything.

Actually, I wasn't all that let down, either. I mean, okay, at that point I had to start thinking about how I'd get home and whether or not there would be any friendly yellow cabs lurking out there in the stygian dark. I also had to start thinking about how I'd manage to make it into the office tomorrow morning in time for that briefing. And yet, despite those concerns, I couldn't help but feel satisfied as I watched the boys file out. After all, I'd just been privy to not one, not two, but three--count 'em, three--epic battles against the most evil of evils, most unholy of unholies in the universe: fangirls.

Oh sure, they came in different guises, but deep down, they're all the same: teenieboppers that can't get Our Hero(es) off their minds. They want the Hero, they want him now, and they want him bad. And yet... somehow, the boys always manage to beat 'em back.

Why?

Because they're heroes, halle-freakin'-lujah. And the next time, oh my friend, next time you can be sure I'll be right here, watching my boys. And until then, well... I'll still be here, with the rest of the folks, because, as I've told you before, if you want to watch the people play, you can't beat Syd's.

Wham, bam, thank you ma'am, and now I'm going home.