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Children of the Earth

Something was happening in Headquarters that had not happened in quite some time. Acacia was in a good mood.

It had been hours since the last mission. Probably. Time measurement in Headquarters was not an exact science; it had more in common with modern art.

This unsettled Jay greatly (if you could unsettle her much more then she already was).

She'd found a small wrigglespace between the console and the wall, out of her partner's eyeshot, and was curled up there knitting.

Unfortunately, this wrigglespace was right next to the speaker, so she was nearly deafened when there was a [BEEEEEEP!]

A dazed "Owwwie," filtered out, but it was drowned out by Acacia.

"And that is why I have never sat there. What is it this time?" She started toward Jay's vacant seat.

Jay crawled out. "No, you never sit there because you border on claustrophobic." She pulled herself up, and looked at the console. "Oh, dear." She flung herself back into the space.

"That bad?"

Jay huddled in silence, wanting a little cover when Acacia had read it.

Acacia's good mood was evaporating like morning dew. When she finished reading the brief, she burst out with a string of words Jay had never even heard before.

Jay counted to ten, then crawled out quietly. She edged around Acacia, and towards the gear, which she packed quickly.

Acacia bit her lip. Hard. A bit of red showed up around her teeth. This did not improve her temper, and she whirled around to snatch up a rather impressive array of weaponry.

Jay wasn't happy, either. No Mary Sue had ever gone directly for her Favorite... but that didn't stop them from mucking about with his character. Still, Acacia's obsession bordered on stalking, and she had jealousy issues a mile wide.

While Acacia packed, she hit the necessary triggers, and slid through the portal ahead of her.

When Acacia turned up, she looked around. Jay was already there, but she wasn't the only one.

"Luxury?"

"Nyeeeeeeee-aaeeeys?" Lux said comically.

"Look, Acy, Lux is here!" Jay said, stating the obvious beautifully.

"And Sean," said Acacia, nodding at the blue-haired guy in a slightly bewildered way. "Why are they here?"

Sean looked up from the ant-hill he was twiddling with and said, "Hey! Look! It's the two who live together!" Luxury giggled and said, "WE're here on a mission; what are YOU two here for?"

"... We... were sent here on a mission..." said Acacia weakly. Then, recovering a bit,

"What the hell is going on? You don't get slash in Sue stories!"

"That's not necessarily true," Jay mused.

Luxury shrugged unknowingly. "I don't ask questions."

"Well, I'm getting to the bottom of this," Acacia fumed. "Where are we? Rivendell again? Right."

Sean placed a cup of water on Acacia's head cautiously, hoping the fumes would heat the cup for a nice spot of tea.

"Acacia, you're being silly." Jay smiled brightly. "Equal opportunity Mary Sue authors must exist..."

Sean began innocently micturating on the anthill, oblivious to all of his surroundings.

Acacia snatched the now-very-hot water off her head, threw it at Sean (drenching him), sagged, and looked at the Words. "Oh, gods. It's Marty Sam, this time. And Legolas." She sighed. "What is it about Legolas? I never really got what anyone sees in him."

Sean squealed and ran around, scalded.

"When other, more dignified, and hotter elves exist," Jay commiserated.

"I don't go for guys outside my species," sniffed Acacia.

Luxury cooed at Acacia mockingly. "Yees, but you DO see what people see in... BOROMIR!" She giggled hysterically.

Acacia looked at Jay. "We have to go on the mission with these two?"

Lux and Sean stood amidst the two assassins, looking very perverse.

Jay shrugged. "Either that, or we can tie them to a tree and do it ourselves."

"They'd probably enjoy it."

"Yes, but we wouldn't have to deal with them."

Luxury's perverse brain finally kicked into gear, and she said "Fine! If y'all are going to be like THAT, then we'll leave... Come, Seanish!" She dragged Sean into the woods fumingly. Sean had a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face.

Jay shared a glance with Acacia. They both tried rather hard not to imagine what the two were doing...

"Well, that's got rid of them," said Acacia after a moment. "Shall we go and see what the Sue's up to?"

Giggling and boisterous laughter was heard from the woods.

**

It was a few minutes before the Council of Elrond was to begin. Jay was playing cards with Acacia; Lux and Sean were still in the woods, and both assassins knew better than to wonder what they were doing.

Luxury came strolling out of the woods, riding on Sean's shoulders.

Acacia stared for a moment, and said that Sean would have to come up for air some time.

Sean said muffledly, "Naw, I'm good!"

"Ignore them, Acy." Jay frowned, and laid down a king. Acacia laid down a king, on top of Jay's... the flake's hand came down on the pile of cards with a resounding slap.

"Blast," said Acacia. "I think the Council's about to start, so if these two nymphos from the Slash Department will shut up, we'll get through it without being noticed."

"Nah," Lux stated, matter-of-factly, still on the quite euphoric Sean's shoulders, "We're invisible. Like in that story... wossname... um... the one with Scrooge!"

Jay scooped up the pile. "And we were almost done, too..." She had been winning—she was horrible at poker, but she could take on anyone in Egyptian Rat-Screw."

"Only fellow PPCers can see us or interact with us!"

"Not to non-canons, you aren't invisible."

"All the more fun." Lux smiled with delight.

"So, is now the time when we tie them to a tree?" Acacia wondered.

"If they SEE you, they will SHOOT you," Jay pointed out to Luxury. "And they will say to the canon characters, 'Look, there are two orcs and two humans,' and the canon characters will shoot you!" She slipped a coil of rope behind her back to Acacia.

"And the Marty Sam is an expert archer," Acacia added. "Despite being blind, for some reason." She felt around the coil for the beginning of the rope.

Luxury and Sean stood pondering this for a moment. With total eloquence of speech, and as much intelligence as she could muster, Lux said "Okay!"

"So. What do we not do?"

"Attract non-canon attention," chorused the Bad Slash partners.

"Good boy! Good girl!"

"Now shut up, everyone, it's starting," said Acacia, slipping the rope into her pack, but leaving the end sticking out. She crept up to the very edge of the clearing.

Luxury dismounted the now-very-sad Sean's shoulders, and sat atop the hiding Samwise's head, who was hiding the the bushes, and quite oblivious to the skirt-covered bum atop his head.

The Council began. The instant the Ring was placed on the pedestal-type thingy, an argument started, instead of the awed susurration of the movieverse canon.

"Now, who are the bad guys?" Luxury asked, munching quietly on popcorn.

Jay rolled her eyes, and pointed to the Slasher. "And I'M a flake?" She crept over, and pointed out Kivan and Emma. "See? The ones who WEREN'T in the books? Or the movie? THEM."

Luxury said in awe, "Oooooh." Then tossed a light stone at the both of them.

"What the hell kind of name for a half-elf is Emma, anyway?" Acacia wondered.

Lux stated obliviously, "I like it!"

"Amme spelled backwards?" Jay slid behind the girl in question, and started tying her hair to the chair.

Luxury watched the council intently, munching loudly on popcorn during the very important parts.

Acacia rolled her eyes. "I'm surrounded by flakes," she muttered, and went back to watching Boromir's little speech intently. To her disappointment, it was passed over with a sentence and no direct quotes.

The argument went into full swing. It was just getting to the good part, when:

Kivan stood. "Stop it! All of you!"

His sister tried to stand, but found herself somewhat inconvenienced. "You're acting like children," she said from a half bent position, as she worked at her hair.

Luxury, completely oblivious as to her position in all this, began absentmindedly humming "Toxic Love" by the Insane Clown Posse.

"Who are you to tell us what to do?" Gimli said scornfully.

"He never does like the M-S's, does he?" said Acacia, grinning.

Kivan immediately apologized for being out of turn. And Elrond replied...

"IT'S OKAY??" Jay whispered, in pain.

Sean asked for a bit of the popcorn, and Lux capitulated to his request.

Jay started beating her head quietly against the dais. "That's—" *thud* "not—" *thud* "part of the Elvish dialect..." *thud, thud* "I'm almost sure—" *thud* "of it."

"Now that we are all calmer, who will take the Ring to Mordor?" Gandalf wondered. Acacia stared, vaguely considering sticking herself with an arrow.

Jay frowned, and rather belatedly got out her headphones. "'I can't stand this emotional violence... leave in silence...'"

Lux nicked an arrow from an oblivious Legolas, and handed it to Acacia.

"What's that for?"

"You considered sticking yourself with an arrow, and I read your subtitled-thoughts... here."

"I'm interested as to WHERE you stick yourself," Sean added. Lux giggled. Jay slammed a pair of knitting needles over Sean's head.

"Lux, it's rude to read minds. Sean, just because you've got your mind in the gutter doesn't mean I do," said Acacia.

Sean winced. "Another concussion! Ack!"

Jay turned up Depeche Mode and kicked back, idly trying to lip-read the Council... or at least one of them.

Lux lay down with her semiconscious Sean.

"If it is the will of the council. Then Gondor will see it done"

"Something else for the charge sheet. SCREWING WITH BOROMIR'S LINES," Acacia snarled.

"Hmm. Someone didn't finish Punctuation 101," Jay noted to herself, reading the Words.

Lux, extremely bored, began fiddling with Frodo's clothing.

Sam rushed in, with a fairly canonical line.

Jay watched the script (and Lord Half-elven's lips), and poked the two non-canons sharply with her knitting needles when they screwed things up. When they looked around, she made a hurried "bzzzzzz." Luxury giggled, in hysterics.

Sean awoke, and crept around behind Gandalf, and began making his hat levitate mystically. All the other canons assumed Gandalf was doing it, and Gandalf didn't want to seem senile, so he left the thought alone.

When the Marty Sam and then the Mary Sue invited themselves along, Aragorn and Legolas insisted they not be taken along. But then Elrond insisted that they be taken along. Acacia winced, looking to see Jay's reaction.

Jay shuddered, and turned up the volume as high as it could go. Then, a thought struck her, and she turned it down, and started giggling.

Luxury quietly checked for people watching, and when no one was looking, began tying Gimli's beard in knots. No one ever knew why.

"What?" Acacia wondered.

Jay looked at her with an evil gleam in her yrchish eyes. "Elrond tends to fight it, have you noticed? It's Vilya; I think the Sues never know what to do with it... or know he has it..." She flashed a toothy smile. "And right now, I think he wants those two as far away as possible."

Kivan mentioned something about how "I can see with my heart." Acacia winced at the sheer cheesiness of that statement, and broke a few thick orcish arrows over her head.

Sean went over to Jay comfortingly, hugging her, and secretly trying to cop a feel. Jay absentmindedly stabbed him with her needles, in a rather unpleasant place.

"I think..." *snap, splinter* "that the Council..." *snap, splinter* "is winding down."

Lux hissed at Jay, for this surely was an act of war, stabbing her man in his... er... area.

Jay nodded. Indeed, the canon characters were getting up and leaving... complaining about "a woman in the party." Jay rolled her eyes. "Hmm. The greatest heroes of Middle-earth—closet chauvinists. We must tell the world." She was oblivious to Luxury's hissing.

Lux lunged at Jay, and knocked the wind out of her. Jay responded by fumbling in her pack, pulling out nothing, and proceeding to garrote Luxury with said nothing.

Sean pulled out a Polaroid, similar to Jay's, and snapped some pictures. Acacia sighed.

**

"I don't understand it. Gandalf, you say we don't have much time, yet you want us to take along two children..." Aragorn complained.

"They are not as young as they look" Elrond corrected. "Kivan is twenty-three in human years and his sister is nineteen."

Acacia sniggered. "Oh, yes, very impressive."

Jay stuck her tongue out. "Oh, they're twenty, lalala... never mind that Elrond's about thirty times older than Strom Thurmond..." She grinned, and didn't add the rider that he was much cuter, but Acacia knew she was thinking it.

"A woman in the group" Aragorn muttered to Boromir. "This isn't good"

"Give her a chance" snarled Boromir. "You don't know what she's capable of. Or are you just annoyed because you don't even have a chance with her?" He stomped off not waiting for an answer.

Acacia had to be forcibly restrained... and Jay got a lovely shiner in the process. "Do you know, later they find out she can't use a weapon... and still say, 'Oh, how wonderful that she's along'?"

"MY Boromir! She can't have him!"

Jay sighed. "Don't worry! It's all right, we'll kill them... there, there."

Acacia finally settled down, or at least stopped thrashing quite so much. "All right, Emma... if that's the way you want to play it..." she muttered, with a slightly sinister grin.

Jay's eyes widened. "What are you thinking...?"

"Flaying her alive, strangling her with her own intestines, and—"

"Acacia!"

"What?"

"No."

"She deserves it—"

"No."

"Please?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because Upstairs frowns on it." Jay considered. "When do we get them? We can feed them live to something. Will that make you feel better?"

"We get them as soon as possible." Acacia considered. "What do we feed them to? We've done the Watcher, the Isengard orcs, the crebain, the Balrog, and the Department of Bad Slash. What else is there?"

Jay's eyes glowed. "Mt. Doom."

"Ooh. Burning alive. I like it."

"And we get pictures of Minas Morgul." Jay smiled happily.

"You have the oddest taste in tourist destinations."

**

When they wandered back to the clearing, the Bad Slashers were gone. Jay noticed a look of relief on Acacia's face.

"You know, this really isn't their field," Jay said thoughtfully. "They haven't ever killed in the line of work before... I don't even know if they can do a charge list."

Acacia sighed. "Yes. Being annoying sex-maniacs may be a good thing in the Slash Department, I wouldn't know—come to think of it, given that their job is breaking up relationships, it probably is—but it doesn't work to deal with these original characters without a trace of originality." She sat back against a tree and began humming. "Maybe they'll be eaten by something."

Jay raised an eyebrow and looked thoughtful. "Like WHAT?" Her tone implied that even indiscriminate animals of prey might leave the pair alone.

Acacia rolled her eyes. "One another? Now it's getting dark, I want to get some sleep." She pulled her sleeping bag out of her gear, and took a cursory glance at the Words to see if the non-canons would be coming by the place. "Oh, damn. Damn and blast. There's a third one! A long-lost evil twin!"

Jay rolled her eyes. "More work. Wheee."

Acacia sighed. "Problem. The canons snap back into character once the others are gone, so we need to get these two within a short time of when we get this person calling himself 'Ranger'—cop-out, I say!—or we'll be getting people trying to avenge their deaths. Which means, obviously, that we'll have to wait." She sighed. "Why can't these missions ever be simple?"

"Because they hate us." This was Jay's tried and true response to just about anything, blamable on Saturday Night Live and too much sugar. (No clue was ever given to who "they" were. They probably weren't Upstairs, as Jay was oddly fond of the Sunflower Official and its ilk, nor were they a deity of some sort, because Jay seemed to trust hers. She didn't believe in conspiracies, either.)

Jay made the effort to keep her voice chipper: with any luck, her friend wouldn't figure out something was wrong.

Acacia sighed, having worked out long ago that asking who Jay meant by "they" was pointless. She unpacked a printout of the Very Secret Diary of Ringwraith Number Five and started reading. She seldom fell asleep quickly when incredibly upset.

**

The night passed quickly. It didn't want to hang around. Jay yanked herself out of bed quickly, downed her medications, and stalked away, looking glum.

"Whass wrong?" said Acacia, who was, as has already been mentioned, not a morning person and was therefore not awake yet.

Jay's lip started to tremble. "I... I got mad, Acacia. I did something bad."

"Who's dead?" Acacia considered this. "Sorry, was thinking of myself there. What happened?"

Jay shifted mercurially from tears to gray. "I posted a review, Acacia. I actually told the author what I thought..."

"Oh. Good."

"You don't underSTAND!" Jay spun to face her. "You post a review... and people say, 'look at that stupid reviewer. Keep on writing, SMART people love you...'"

Acacia sighed. "Well, we are certainly not responsible for the ramblings of idiots, commander. I mean Jay. Although seriously, how these things get good reviews is beyond me. I suppose no one ever was starved for reviews by underestimating the taste of the multiverses' public..."

Jay mercurialized again, this time to wide-eyed anger. "I don't like that these stories can make me a common flamer." And with that, she shut up, and yanked her headphones on.

Acacia, who didn't see how bad reviews of bad fics could be considered flames, sighed. "I wonder where the Slashers are? Do you think they were eaten?"

"No." They walked along... the sounds of arguing filled the air. Suddenly, a feminine voice shrieked "POWERBOMB!", and there was a masculine grunt of pain.

Acacia sighed. "Serve them right if the Marty Sam heard all that noise they're making and stuck them full of arrows."

They both knew that Lux didn't fit even the low standards for the recruiting-desperate Department of Personnel, and had only gotten hired because she was Sean's girlfriend. The mystery was how Sean had got hired in the first place.

The two Bad Slashers strolled back out into the path, Sean looking distinctly whipped.

Acacia sighed. "If you two are capable of shutting up, we're going back into Rivendell to watch them set out." She fished out her Canon Analysis Device, despite the fact she was quite sure she didn't want to know what it'd say.

"I don't want to go back to Rivendell," Jay inserted quietly (and pointlessly). That said, she started back toward the elven city, quietly humming "Army of Me."

They arrived just as the Fellowship was getting ready to leave, so they did turn out to have a bit of leisure time. It was a nice break from leaving at the crack of dawn, if not fully canonical.

Jay took out her Polaroid meditatively, and started snapping pictures of—of all possible subjects—their targets.

"What do you want pictures of them for?" wondered Acacia, who had gotten the cards out of Jay's pack and was playing Patience, despite the fact she'd never been able to master the game.

"Therapy." Jay was smiling oddly, now. "Hey..." she pointed at Sean. "Isn't that your CA Device?"

Acacia glared, and snatched the device away from the Slasher, who was trying to take the casing off to see how it worked. He, rather notoriously, tinkered.

Jay shrugged. She didn't much care if he mucked about with hers... she'd become rather adept at telling who was a Mary Sue and who was a bit.

Acacia wasn't really bothered about her own device, if it came to that; she could tell when someone was suffering a Character Rupture, it wasn't all that hard to spot. And she'd taken to leaving it in her pack recently, or at least muting it, because it shrilled so loudly practically all the time. Blatant Character Ruptures were getting audibly irritating. She just didn't want Sean breaking it.

The time slunk by embarrassedly, running as fast as physics would allow it. When the party finally set out, the Protectors eagerly greeted the chance to get moving.

They followed, Jay and Acacia giggling hysterically at a conversation between Legolas and Aragorn as they started out. Apart from this, the day passed quite uneventfully until the Fellowship stopped off for the night.

"They're arguing. How canonical." Jay dropped to her haunches and watched.

Acacia crept slightly closer. Her Analysis Device was muted again—it would be hard to avoid being heard, since it was reporting no less than four Character Ruptures and five more instances of dangerously-nearly-ruptured OOCness. The numbers displayed were getting depressing, and she headed back to the Slashers and handed it to Lux, which was, with the benefit of hindsight, a bad idea. "Hold this."

Jay raised her eyebrows, but said nothing.

She headed back to the argument, snickering slightly at Legolas' description of the virtues of the longbow. It was all true, but... it made him sound like, as Gimli was quick to point out, a coward.

Jay slithered up beside her. "The completely left out that nifty sword," she whispered. "He diversifies."

Acacia nodded, then tried hard not to burst into fits of hysterics when the Mary Sue said that her brother wasn't much good with a sword, "being blind and all." "And yet he can use a bow perfectly well? Inconsistencies all round. Even with itself, not just with the canon."

Jay sighed. "Maybe he uses heat-seeking arrows?" She took out a notebook, and scribbled down a note.

Acacia peeked over her shoulder, trying to get a look at what was being written.

Jay had handwriting that evoked words like "scrawl," "script," and "spidery," but Acacia could make out "Stupid arguments 12.a.iv: Bow/sword/axe? Poor details, contradictory information. 6/9 = 75" It was in the middle of a thick sheaf of similar papers... Acacia found herself not wanting to know what 12.a.i-iii were.

The argument seemed to be breaking up. Boromir was having a conversation with Aragorn. Quietly, but Acacia had very good hearing.

"But to be honest, I am curious as to why you chose to defend her so fiercely. Is there perhaps a reason behind it?"

"No. I just feel sorry for them, both of them"

Fortunately, Jay did not have to try to restrain Acacia again and be beaten up, because at that moment there was an explosion from the direction of the Slashers. The canon characters didn't hear it, but the others sure did. The assassins picked up Lux and Sean bodily and carried them into the trees near the camp-site.

"What did you do?" hissed Acacia.

"Nothing!" Sean whimpered, clutching the remnants of Acacia's CA Device in one singed hand. Jay stared in horror. "Acy! They're following us!"

"Damn," said Acacia. She held Sean close to her face in one big hand. "Remind me to beat you up later," she snarled. Uruk-hai voices were good at snarling. "Let's go."

Jay eyed a nearby tree—one with nice, low-hanging branches. "Get out of here." She stooped, gathered a few stones, and hoisted herself laboriously into the tree.

Acacia grinned, picked up Lux as well, and forced her way through the forest. There was a convenient ditch not that far away, and she ducked into it.

Jay began pitching stones in random directions, royally confusing the Sue and Sam. Finally, they retired to the fire, lamely excusing themselves with reports of "an animal scuffling," and Jay sighed in relief.

"Now," said Acacia sourly, "what did you do to my Device? I know you blew it up, Sean. I just want to know why."

"Um, um," said Sean. "I thought if it could tell how out of character someone was, it could be changed to make them get back in character. And I think I know what I did wrong, so—"

"Get your own!" Acacia said sourly. "Doesn't the Department of Bad Slash have Analysis Devices? And if that would work, I'm sure Makes-Things would have thought of it by now."

There was a smack in the darkness, and Sean winced. Jay appeared, covered in pine needles. Luxury glared at her, but something managed to tell her that this was Not The Time.

Acacia sighed. "I can get another..." she said, and packed the remains of the Device away—electronics from Headquarters, even burnt-to-a-crisp electronics, suddenly turning up in wherever-the-hell-they-were-now would not be all that canonical.

The two Slashers trailed along behind the marching Sue Assassins, looking pole-axed.

"Are we going to let them kill Kivan or not?" Jay asked quietly.

"They haven't actually got weapons," Acacia pointed out. "He'll just shoot them." She grinned. "Which means, obviously, that we let them."

"Acacia!" Jay managed to suppress a grin long enough to look horrified. "Shilly person."

Acacia smiled thinly. "What, you thought I was joking?"

"There's a shortage as it is. S.O. would have you for fertilizer..."

"No it wouldn't, there's a shortage," Acacia pointed out. "Okay, okay, fine."

They plodded on in silence. Jay fell behind with Luxury and Sean, and they started trying drive Acacia off the cliffs of sanity. Every five minutes, there was a chorus of "are we there yet?"

"Jay. Give me your headphones."

Jay pouted. "Awww..." She walked back up to Acacia. "I've got a splitter cable... I'll share... if we can agree on the music."

Acacia sighed. Getting two human beings to agree on music was notoriously hard. It was even more difficult when the two had been partnered at Headquarters; Upstairs gave all the employees personality tests to make sure they were deliberately assigned a partner who was their total opposite. This supposedly reduced the insanity problem—something to do with banter—but Acacia personally thought it more likely to make matters worse. "Okay... Nine Days?"

"If I have to listen to 'Absolutely' again, I'll go into seizures. Bjork?"

"Only just heard of them two seconds ago. Vertical Horizon?"

"Her. She's a Her. ... Third Eye Blind?"

"Agreed."

"Do you have some of them with you? I don't doubt it."

"Absolutely." Acacia dug into her gear and produced a CD.

Jay promptly went into seizures. (See, children? Fun with semantics.)

Acacia rolled her eyes. "Stop it, Jay."

"You do it," Jay pointed out. Acacia exercised her gift of selective hearing. Jay set up the splitter, handed Acacia a pair of earphones, and said "And after this, you get to find out who Bjork is..."

"If we get to listen to Vertical Horizon after that. Incidentally, where are we going? It's nighttime."

"Away from their camp, and towards the break. Mr. Matt Murdoch back there hears a little too much for my comfort."

"Who's Matt Murdoch?"

Jay looked pained. "I forgot. You don't care for comics. Daredevil—the blind one?"

"Aaaah."

"We're about where the break will happen... I suggest we drop and sleep. We can run reco—reco—re—scouting, damnit, tomorrow." Jay had an extensive vocabulary, it was true, but the words sometimes got scared of her and ran away.

"Fine by me," said Acacia. "Hey! Slashers! We're stopping here to sleep. And not with one another, you nymphos, so see if you can keep your hands off each other for one night. I'm tired."

Luxury smiled sweetly, and produced a double sleeping bag. Jay and Acacia shared an eye-roll.

"Bah." Jay slung her bag down, and was asleep rather quickly—and thus was spared the interesting sounds issuing from certain other quarters.

Acacia, the frequent insomniac, was not so lucky. She finally resorted to using the headphones. The batteries would be rather worn down in the morning, but they could always get more from Makes-Things, who would give them practically anything if it would get them out of there any faster.

**

Dawn rose on Jay, knitting serenely. She'd been woken up early, and couldn't get back to sleep... she was still lethargic enough not to hit her partner and make her wake up.

Acacia, however, eventually woke up on her own. After the sun had been up for a good hour or so, but hey, it still counts.

"You're awake," Jay noted, snatching the gold cup for "stating the obvious."

"You think?" said Acacia sleepily.

"I'm fairly sure."

"Very funny." She looked around. "Where'd the Slashers go?"

"Not a clue. And you know? I'd rather not know. So, when do our jolly travelers arrive?"

"I don't know. You can check the Words just as easily as ask me, yanno."

"..." Jay held her hand in the air, one finger extended, mouth open. "Yippee. They'll be here tonight. Carrying the hobbits... not canon, but at least decent of them."

"Of course decent of them, they're Mary Sues," said Acacia sourly. "Well, one of them is, and the other one's a Marty Sam, so..."

Jay nodded. "These two aren't so horribly bad, that's the thing. You have to look before you see things thrown a-kilter... maybe we can be merciful?"

"No."

"Why not? What's so wrong?"

"She messed with Boromir, what did you think?" said Acacia sourly.

Jay just sighed. Little details... But this actually felt like the author was at least trying to write a decent story. Still. No mercy in the work.

When Acacia wasn't looking, she took out a piece of paper and started writing.

[To the author. You're a decent writer, but you really can't do Tolkien's style—I'm very sorry for what I'm going to do. You might try for an independent career, with your own characters, instead of someone else's.] She folded it carefully into an origami crane, and tucked it into the folds of her jacket.

At this point they both heard the Slashers on their way back, making a very small amount of noise surplus to that required to wake the dead.

"We must teach them to sneak."

"You can," said Acacia, "I'm not spending any more time around them than I need to."

"They aren't bad sorts."

"They annoy me," said Acacia unfeelingly.

"Many things annoy you," Jay pointed out. "I'm often one of them."

"Yes, but, see, you're my partner. I can't get away from you. But I'm not spending any more time around these idiots than I have to. They're always one—er, two—of them."

"Huh?" Jay asked brightly.

"Oh, never mind," said Acacia.

Then the Slashers arrived.

"Hiii!" Lux grabbed Acacia around the neck. "Wubbu! How are you! Are they here yet?"

"Ack... air..."

Luxury released her choke hug slightly. Then, she pounced on Jay.

"Oof..."

Acacia muttered something unintelligible, but in which something which sounded suspiciously like "idiots" could be made out.

"So," Jay managed, extricating herself, "how do we kill time until tonight?"

Lux and Sean exchanged knowing glances. Acacia shrugged.

Jay thought for a minute. "Do either of you know Egyptian Rat—er... Ballistic Slapjack?"

"Nope!" Luxury said cheerfully.

"I know Tripoli," Sean volunteered. Jay winced.

"You can try and teach them card games," said Acacia, "I'll sit over here and... um... draw."

"Acy, I lo—" Jay looked at Lux— "like you, but you can't draw."

"So?"

Jay's fingers twitched. "I'll help you..."

Luxury pouted. Then she smiled. "We'll all draw!"

"Oh, my..."

"Just don't show us your pictures," said Acacia. "Okay?"

"I'll look at them," Sean volunteered happily.

Acacia groaned.

**

The night was dark, and the wind tossing in great trees. Standing in the road, a gray man with the horns of a demon stared out at—

—a bunny-girl in a bikini. Jay blinked. "LUXURY!" She salvaged her sketch, and put it in her pack. "I told you I didn't want to see your pictures..."

"This one's wearing clothes!"

"Oh, gods," said Acacia, for what was probably the fifty-third time that day.

"I wasn't done with the tossing trees, either," Jay said sulkily. "Still. It's almost time..."

"Oh, good."

The Fellowship appeared in the gathering dusk (pardon the cliché), walking quietly. Emma and Boromir were in back, each carrying a hobbit.

"There they be..."

"Good. I was getting sick of waiting."

Jay looked like she was having reservations. She took a last look at the Words to steel herself, and cracked her knuckles.

The Fellowship decided to give Legolas first watch.

"Oh, good. They're asleep," said Acacia. "We can just waltz right in and take them off, Legolas can't see us..."

"What about us?" Lux asked.

"You make lots of noise. You'll wake everyone up. You get to stay behind. Gods know why you were sent here in the first place."

"It's... our job?" Sean ventured.

"It's your job," Acacia said sourly, "when it's canon characters who can't be just killed. Marty Sams are our jurisdiction, slashy or not. Do you even actually have any weapons?"

The Slashers looked at each other.

"I doubt it. Lessgo?" said Jay.

"Absolutely."

They crept into the Undefined Spot where the Fellowship slept. Acacia lifted Emma off the ground without too much trouble, and Jay picked up Kivan.

Unfortunately, even if Legolas couldn't see the assassins, and therefore how the non-canons had gone missing, he was certainly capable of seeing that the two were no longer there.

Behind them, Jay heard the sound of the alarm being raised. "Where do we charge them?"

"If we're still chucking them into Mount Doom, then we can portal and charge them there."

"I think we should save Doom for someone who deserves it."

"They do."

"Don't."

"Do so."

"Do not." Jay put down Kivan long enough to fiddle with the remote activator. She motioned the two Slashers through, then jumped through herself.

Acacia stepped through, dragging Emma. She looked around, to see where Jay had portalled them to.

"Midgewater?!"

"Why not?"

Acacia sighed. "Fine," she said sulkily. She whacked Emma much harder than was strictly necessary. "HELLO, Emma! This is your nine A.M. wake-up call!"

Jay shook Kivan a little more gently. "Wakey, wakey!"

He immediately reached for the bow that wasn't there.

"Bows aren't good at this range, anyway," Jay said.

"Okay." Acacia took a deep breath. "Emma... what's your last name? Silverblade, I'm charging you with messing up the canon by joining the Fellowship... screwing with Boromir—he's mine, just so you know—" (Emma looked extremely confused at a statement like that coming from an orc)— "sending everyone else out of character... being a Mary Sue... and pissing me off royally." She wasn't far enough away to use a bow properly, and simply held the Sue's face in the swamp 'til she drowned.

Jay winced. "Yours? He really isn't, you know..."

She looked at Kivan, and took a breath. "Kivan Silverblade—I charge you mostly with the stuff your sister was charged with. May your afterlife be in the canon, that you may now learn the truth." Her hands flashed out, grasped the top and side of his head, and twisted. There was a snap.

Jay looked dispirited. "Let's go home."

"There's still the evil twin," said Acacia.

"Yes, Acacia," Jay said.

Acacia peered at the words. "He'll be just outside Moria, I think."

"Whee?" Jay hit the activator.

They arrived at the Moria gate, but there was no one there. Acacia scanned the Words for a moment, and then muttered something under her breath. "Technically there should be a day between when we got the other two and when this 'Ranger' person turns up at Moria. Taking plot holes into account... I think he may get here in a few hours."

Jay shrugged. "Cards? Sing-along?"

"No sing-along," said Acacia. "I've heard Sean sing."

"Come on. 'There's a liiiiiiight, over at the Frankenstein plammmph...'"

Acacia glared, considered swiping the headphones, remembered she'd worn down the batteries, rummaged in her pack for some earplugs, and started singing something else to herself. "'Got your tape and it changed my mind... heard your voice in between the lines...'"

Thwarted in her efforts to annoy Acacia, Jay pulled out her own headphones, banged the player until the batteries relinquished a little more power, and fished for a Depeche Mode disk.

The Slashers looked only slightly annoyed at being left out. Luxury smiled at Sean, and they started their own sing-along. Luxury knew all the words... to all the songs in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

When Marty Sam Deville arrived, he was taken rather aback by the sound of four different songs being sung at once. Technically it was three, but the musical skill of Sean was such that it was impossible to tell he was trying to sing the same song as Lux.

"'Promises me I'm as safe as houses,'" Jay sang, "'as long as I remember who's wearing the trou—' Ooops." She poked Acacia in the shoulder.

Acacia remained oblivious. "ACACIA," Jay hissed. "GOOD morning..."

"'New Year's Eve, and it's hard to believe another zodiac's gone arou—'" she took one earplug out. "Yes, what do you want?" She looked around. "Oh." She removed the other earplug.

"We really don't have much of a charge list against this fellow," Jay pointed out worriedly.

Acacia shrugged. Before she could answer Jay, the non-canon had found his voice.

"Who are you?"

Jay looked at Acacia: her first impulse was honesty, but that might not be a good idea. She'd consult the sane one first.

Acacia, only sane by comparison, just said "Are you Ranger Silverblade?"

"He can SEE us, IDIOT!"

"So?"

Jay rolled her eyes. "So do you think he's the Avon Lady? What other character in here can pick us out?"

Ranger was looking more confused by the minute.

"Anyway," said Acacia, "You're charged with disrupting the canon by... well, really, you haven't done much to the canon, we could let you live if your idiot siblings hadn't screwed with it... anyway, sorry, but we have to shoot you now."

Ranger drew a sword. "I think not. I really do."

"You could come work with us," Jay offered. "We're understaffed."

Ranger lowered the sword slightly, though he didn't sheath it. "What would this involve?" he asked warily.

"Know what a Mary Sue is?" Jay asked.

"No."

"Your kid sister's one," Acacia commented. "Which is why—" she grinned— "we've just killed her."

"But she wasn't a really bad one," Jay added.

"There've been worse," Acacia conceded grudgingly. "Simpering, mewling wimps."

"There are people more simpering and mewling than my sister?" Ranger looked shocked.

Acacia grinned, unstrung her bow, and stepped forward. "First, put that sword away. Someone might get hurt. Thank you. Now, if you'll come back to Headquarters with us, we can show you..."

**

Can I believe what I see? The prodigals have actually physically recruited someone?

Acacia nodded happily, completely ignoring the Sunflower Official's sarcastic tone of pseudovoice.

Ranger had been quite astonished at their use of the remote activator, at Headquarters, at the way Jay and Acacia had suddenly dropped the appearance of Uruk-hai in favor of their real looks, and in fact at just about everything that had happened since being confronted with the assassins at the Moria gates.

"He followed us home! Can we keep him?" Jay bounced excitedly.

It is not precedented. The Official glared... probably.

"It's a flower!" Ranger hissed behind them, narrowly squeaking ahead of Jay in the "stating the obvious" race.

"Of course it's a flower," said Acacia. "You'll have a lot to get used to here..." She considered this for a moment. "Oh, and when you get sent out on a mission, no trying to take over Middle-earth. You don't do it in canon—you don't exist in canon—and Upstairs will yell at you."

Ranger looked dubious.

Now, constable. We don't... yell... The Sunflower contrived to look threatening, though its voice remained pleasant. Ranger Got the Hint.

"So," said Acacia. "Can we keep him?"

Yes. But if he causes trouble, you have to have him neutered.

"What does that mean?" Ranger wondered. Acacia told him. He looked sick.

"Muaha." Jay bounced away. Acacia followed, Ranger in tow.

END


[Acacia's A/N: Well, Jay was right... this one wasn't quite as bad as some others. But they messed with my Boromir. So they had to go. Any spinoff-writers wanting Ranger for a partner... well, the first to ask gets him, that sounds fair. And thanks to Architeuthis, KazraGirl, Black Katana, and anyone else I'm forgetting who's written one! Read theirs!]

[Jay's A/N: Why couldn't I have saved the flame for a fic that more richly deserved it? WHY? Why did I waste it in a moment of pique? Huh? Ah, well, such is humanity. We've actually started to get spinoff fics...*warm, fuzzy* We Wuv You if you write spinoffs... they've been great so far. Keep it up! Thanks for the happy reviews...]

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