As Jay and Acacia started up the stairs, they saw a great multitude of people running in the opposite direction.
Jay grinned. Acacia giggled.
"It's intelligent, so it'll probably steer clear of the SO."
"Yes, but what if it tries to eat it?" Acacia formed a mental picture of this and laughed harder.
"I think if it starts talking, that might dissuade it. And scare the heck out of it..."
"Look! Elevators!" Jay grinned. "You weren't noticing."
Acacia sighed. "Never mind, let's just go."
They stepped into the elevators. They began to shoot up at an alarming rate. "Ooooooh..." Jay swayed and looked unhappy.
"It makes my head hurt."
"Ah. Well, it'll stop soon."
It did. The sudden stop made Jay look ill.
Acacia shrugged, and stepped through the opening door. Jay staggered after her.
Acacia, however, soon got lost... despite the fact that the hallway was perfectly straight. That damn shade of gray made it about impossible to work out where anything was.
Jay was somewhat better off, due to her habit of running her fingers along any available wall. It kept her going in the right direction.
Acacia finally gave up trying to find her way, and just followed Jay.
Jay managed not to walk face-first into the wall at the end of the corridor. She felt around. "No doorknob!" She beat a tattoo on the metal surface, making unsettling echoes. "Let us in, pleeeease."
Acacia kicked the wall where the door should be, and then winced in pain because she was, as she always did in Headquarters, wearing open-toed shoes.
Jay was also a persistent wearer of sandals, so she hadn't tried it. Fortunately, she had a large, plain ring on one hand, which she used to tap at the wall until the door manifested. (The author would like to point out that she actually has such a ring, and uses it for such a purpose.)
Acacia opened the door and stepped through in the same way she always went through doors; i.e., as if she owned the place.
The Sunflower Official leveled a sunny glare at the two of them. At least you knocked... I suppose I should be thankful. Something that looked vaguely like a wry smile took place on its face. With what have you come to brighten my day...?
Acacia looked around, but there were still no chairs. She made do with leaning against the wall. "We have recruits. When do we get a vacation?"
Jay shook her head. "Forget that. We have recruits. We are TAKING a vacation."
The SO turned its blossom heavenward for a moment, and then steepled its fronds in the "sympathetic boss" manner. Do you realize the paperwork required to let you walk as extras through a canon universe...?
"Thankfully, that will not be a problem," Acacia said.
"We want to go to the Official Fanfic University of Middle-earth. That's an Author story, and I," Jay produced a roll of paperwork, "have already gotten permission."
"On a totally unrelated note, how come there are no chairs in here?" said Acacia, fairly randomly.
You think I want you people to STAY? The SO sounded horrified. A tendril snaked out across the distance, grabbed Jay's paperwork, rubberstamped it, and practically hurled it back. Go. Please. Begone.
"Fine by me," said Acacia happily. "Come on, Jay."
There are several words that will strike fear into students at OFUM [Official Fanfiction University of Middle-earth]. "Exam." "Homework." "Miss Cam."
They would now have a new one to cower in terror of...
"All students report to the auditorium for an Assembly."
Assemblies were not exactly a regular feature of student life, and a few of them who liked new and unusual things were looking forward to it. These would soon learn the error of their ways.
As they filed into the auditorium, the first thing that caught their eye was Gandalf, standing imposingly behind the podium. Just behind him, though, were two strangers, young women not much older than themselves. They were both wearing black, with a patch of what looked like a potted cactus on one sleeve.
The first, surveying the auditorium with a confident gaze, had neat brown hair down to the shoulders, and a pair of piercing brown eyes behind little oval glasses. She was fairly tall—but not next to her companion, a rather gangly girl with hazel eyes, an unruly mane of reddish-brown hair, and a vague expression of good will.
The englassesed brunette was also tapping her foot impatiently; clearly she wanted to get the lecture over with.
Gandalf glared at her, then turned his attention back to the crowd. "This semester, we have two visitors who have asked to vacation here. They work for the PPC... that's the Protectors of the Plot Continuum... Mary Sue Department." There were scattered gasps of fright and recognition.
"They write Mary Sues?" asked Lina Holling, astounded.
"No," the shorter girl answered ahead of Gandalf. "We KILL them."
"Acy, you'll frighten them," the taller one admonished quietly.
The auditorium filled with murmurs... outright fear from the fifty percent of the class that would admit they'd written such a thing, and dark grumblings from those who wouldn't admit it.
"Wait a minute. They're fanfic writers as well, I know," Lyle said from amid the Sisterhood of Evil, who had claimed a fair block of the seats. "Why aren't THEY stuck in this academy?"
Gandalf raised his eyebrows. "Let me demonstrate." He turned to the assassins. "How many were there in the Fellowship of the Ring?"
"Nine," they said, more or less in unison.
"Ever," added the one with glasses. "Not even one that joined after Moria to replace Gandalf and return them to nine."
"And none of them were female," said the tall one.
From the back, where the teaching staff was sitting, came the sound of applause. Elrond was practically beaming, remembering the first, disastrous day of Numerology 101. The tall one blushed.
Gandalf turned to the two guests. "Please, introduce yourselves, and then we can all get back to class."
The glassesed one blinked. Introductions weren't really her strong point.
The gangly one patted her on the back. "I'll go first, okay, Acy?"
"Don't call me that," she snarled softly, but made way.
"Hello, OFUM. I'm Constable Jay—just Jay, obviously, now that I'm off duty. This is my partner, Acacia, with whom I correct continuum errors caused by Mary Sues." The audience grumbled darkly. "Don't be like that," Jay said with a smile. "We'd never hurt YOU."
"Unless we wanted to," Acacia added.
"You're scaring them again..." They moved away from the microphone and started bickering.
"Everyone... you may return to your classes, now." Gandalf gestured, and the doors opened.
The students left rather more quickly than they had arrived. When the noise had died down, it was just possible to hear the two partners still arguing.
"Who cares if they're scared, it's not as if—"
"It's rude. They're here to learn, after all—"
"I'm not stopping them—"
Jay and Acacia were still bickering back and forth when they ran into the teaching staff, who had been waiting for them just outside.
"But like I've said twelve times already—"
"You haven't repeated the same point more than five times yet—"
"Oh, 'ello, Miss Cam," Acacia said.
Miss Cam motioned Galadriel forward.
"I've been getting some disturbing mental images from the students regarding you," the elven lady said. "They seem to have rather bad intentions towards you."
"Am I allowed to shoot them if they try anything?" said Acacia hopefully.
"Only non-fatally," Miss Cam interjected.
"Besides, they seem rather scared of you," Galadriel pointed out.
"But not your partner."
Jay looked downcast.
"At any rate, Miss Cam is prepared to offer you Tranduil and Borimir to safeguard you both for the duration."
Miss Cam had an army of "mini-Balrogs" that guarded the staff section and generally kept the students in line. Each was the product of a misspelled name in LotR fiction.
"Oooh. Fun," said Acacia brightly.
"Can I have Tranduil?" her partner asked hopefully.
"If Acacia doesn't mind getting Borimir, certainly."
"I have a feeling she won't."
"Why would I?" wondered Acacia.
Jay coughed but did not comment.
"Gandalf will show you to your rooms—in the student section, I'm afraid, to prevent complaints of unfairness—and then you have the run of the University. But we ask you not to go into the staff section without one of the staff with you."
Acacia shrugged. "Okay."
"Pillows, Acacia." Jay beamed. "Pillows and real beds... and sheets..."
Acacia smiled happily. "Fun."
There was a shriek of delight from the next room. "SHOWERS!"
It wasn't that the Protectors didn't bathe... but the sanitary facilities at Headquarters were rather sterile, metallic places with no hot water and the faint suggestion of an assembly line.
Acacia grinned. This was going to be more fun than she'd thought.
"And they've got a library... and a sauna... and Minas Tirith is just a day's walk away..." Jay began to unpack, and change into something that wasn't a uniform. "And we get to take Numerology 101, and learn about the dating habits of the species..."
"This'll be good..."
Jay knocked at the door that adjoined their rooms. "You decent?"
Jay strode in. "Acacia, you haven't changed out of uniform yet." She looked puzzled. She'd already forsaken her black gear for loose jeans and a red cotton shirt.
"I was busy looking around."
"Eh. Okay." Jay grinned. "Jeeze, I don't know what to do first."
"What classes are going on today? I'd like to see some of this..."
"It's what, Tuesday? That's Numerology 101." Jay beamed. "Elrond's teaching it."
Acacia ignored the last part. "Let's go see."
"I trust the ten chapters of homework I assigned you last week have left you in NO DOUBT of the true number of the Fellowship?"
There was a chorus of groans.
"How many would that be, class?"
"Nine." Everyone chorused. The two Protectors, seated off towards the side, looked vindicated.
"There's something very wrong with anyone who comes to class voluntarily," Dot complained quietly to Lina.
"I heard that," said Acacia.
Dot glared at her, and turned back to Lina. "Even Arien and Celebrian don't like Elrond's classes. And they like him!"
"Hmm. I think the tall one likes him too—hasn't mobbed him, though," Lina pointed out.
"Perceptive, at least," Acacia said to herself, quietly. "And here's why we're actually enjoying the class: we're vacationing here, as in taking a break, voluntarily, as in we not only don't have to be here but also don't have to do the homework." She leaned back in her chair, smirking.
Jay was busy taking notes, something that was earning her more stares then her partner—as were the rough pen sketches that adorned all other free space. She found a piece of looseleaf paper, and hastily scrawled "Have you looked at t/ txtbk? Think I'm in love."
Acacia snatched up her pencil. "& you got on my case for being in love with a fictional character. Hypocrisy, I say!"
"Wh/ wrong w/ loving txtbk?"
"Still has feelings. Look @ wtch-wall."
"Excuse me, ladies—" Elrond shot them a pointed look. "Your classmates hardly need the distraction."
"We'll shut up," said Acacia.
"Thank you," Elrond said, his expression softening slightly. "Now. Let's talk about the number two..."
"I can't believe that none of the students have checked out the sauna." Jay shrugged in the face of the pure idiocy inherent in such people. "Still. More room for us, if we need it..."
Number three on the Exploring Itinerary was "Find sauna." None of the girls seemed willing to talk about it.
Acacia shrugged. She had worked out that there was probably some reason for this but wanted to find out what the reason was. She was now wondering if this meant she was more sensible than her partner, or less so.
"Hmm. I think this is it." Jay opened the door, and was rewarded by a burst of steam.
"Fun." (This was Acacia's official word.)
Jay stepped inside, disappearing in the steam. "OOOOOOOH!"
Jay did not respond to Acacia. Instead— "Oooozagoodboyden! Aaaaaw, yes you are, yes you are a sweetie..."
"I know you. How slimy is it, and how many tentacles has it got?"
"It's a WATCHER!" Jay's voice was ecstatic. "It must have been scared by all the students. Were you scared of all the silly fan girlzes? Awwww..."
Acacia rolled her eyes. "The Watcher in the Sauna. I've got to see this..." She poked her head inside.
Jay was kneeling on the tile floor, petting several tentacles, and being generally maternal. The Watcher looked a bit wary, but hadn't retreated yet, and was considering enjoying this treatment.
Acacia sat on the wooden bench-type-thing, and just watched. Someone being maternal over a slimy tentacled thing was, she considered, one of the more amusing sights to be seen in the various Word Worlds.
"Doesooowanta biscuit? Mommy can do that. Doesoowanta piece of meat? Mommy can do that too. Doesoowant Gandalf's cooking? Of course you don't..."
"Okay. I like this place."
"Bookses! Towers! Birdies!" Jay said from a pile of scrolls. "Look, I found Isildur's account of the One Ring..."
"Do you know how long we can stay on vacation?" Acacia asked wistfully.
"About two weeks." Jay's hand appeared, clasping a faded piece of parchment. "But this is definitely going on my 'places to retire' list."
Jay extracted herself from the pile, and looked out the window. "Oh, great—it's late afternoon. Can't believe we spent all day in Minas Tirith..." She thought. "Oh, yes I can."
"What's not to believe?"
"Nothing at all." Jay shook out her legs, preparing for the long climb back down. "Even the stairs are pretty. I could live in the stairs."
"I couldn't. You'd get stepped on."
"You could rope off your section... most of them are wide enough." Jay stuck her head out the window for a moment of fresh air. "Oh, that Lina Holling: I hear she wanted to talk to us."
"I was hoping you would know." Jay pulled her head back in, and started down the stairs. "But I think a nap is in order, first. I feel like I've just spent four hours on a StairMaster."
They didn't see Lina when they came back to the University—they weren't looking for her, either. They immediately headed off to their rooms to shower— "Hot water!" —and sleep.
Jay was awakened late that night by a gentle knocking. "Mmf?"
"It's Lina," a soft voice called.
Jay tossed a sandal at the door to her partner's room. "Wakeup, 'cacia, 's Lina."
Jay threw her shirt back on, and staggered to the door to let the student in.
Acacia opened the door between the two rooms, which Jay had neglected to lock from her side, and entered as well.
"Umm..." Lina didn't seem quite sure what to say now that she'd found them, but made a valorous attempt. "It's Tuesday—movie night in the staff section. Would you like to come?"
"Movies?" said Acacia brightly.
"How did you get into the staff section?" Jay mused, causing Lina to turn bright red. And ignore Jay.
"Yes, movies!" she said, turning quickly to Acacia. "Taken from our world and recast with Middle-earthers. Tonight is You've Got Morgoth!"
Acacia, however, had not ignored Jay. "How did you get in?"
"Come on, we'll be late..." Lina's face was flaming by this point, but she produced a pass and led the way. When they got to the staff section, Lina fed the mini-Balrogs, came through, and was met by—
"Gimli?" said Acacia mildly.
"So THAT'S how she got a pass to the staff section," Jay said, surprised, as Gimli wrapped a possessive arm around Lina. "Nice catch, Lina!"
Lina was blushing a rather impressive scarlet color by now.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of," Jay said. "Besides, you hear things about dwarves..."
Acacia was just grinning.
Lina's blush began to subside. "They're all true," she said proudly.
"Even the one about—" Acacia began.
"Movie night?" Gimli suggested quickly.
Jay nodded. "Onward."
Acacia leaned back in her seat. "It's... interesting, I'll give it that."
Across from her, Jay was suffering a barrage of popcorn from Sauron—mostly because Morgoth had chosen her to hide behind. "It's just not the same with different actors."
"That's probably it."
"Look at this." Jay brandished the case for X-Maias. "Manfred the Slightly Ecru replaces Hugh Jackman."
"And it just isn't the same without Ian McKellan. No movie would be."
"Probably the case." Jay and Acacia, as should probably now be obvious, were the sort of moviegoers other moviegoers dread. The kind that have to be reminded that this is not the Satellite of Love and they are not obligated to talk at all times.
However, Morgoth had pricked up his ears. "Who's this McKellan fellow?"
"Incredibly talented," Jay said. "He was Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings movie..."
Acacia grinned. This should be good...
Sauron had stopped throwing popcorn at Morgoth, and instead joined him next to Jay.
"What other actors do you know from our movie...?"
"Well, a lot..."
They pulled her to the side, and talked quietly. Acacia, however, had very good hearing.
"—and there was this Bruce Willis movie—pretty good B-movie, actually—with Ian Holm... that's Bilbo—"
Acacia looked away from the screen long enough to see that both Dark Lords were taking notes. This should be interesting...
They kept her talking until her knowledge of the actors had run out—at which point the movie had, too, and it was time to get back to bed.
"So, what do you think they're going to do, now that they know all that?" Acacia asked her, on the way upstairs to their rooms.
"What do you mean, do about it...?" Jay leaned on her door, falling inwards with it. "'M tired. Gotta get up for breakfast tomorrow..."
Jay crawled in the bed, and was asleep quickly.
"Jay, Lina says the hobbits are going to get all of the breakfast if we don't hurry..."
"Well, if you want to go hungry, you can; I'm going down to eat."
"'M coming!" Jay scrambled out of bed and was in her clothes quickly. She stumbled down to the cafeteria on Acacia's heels.
The cafeteria filled up quickly (mostly with hobbits). When just about the entire student population had squashed in, there was a murmur of surprise.
"Galadriel? What's she doing here...?"
"You don't think she's here to do more Britney Spears—"
"No, she wouldn't be that cruel."
The elf lady steepled her fingers.
"We believe that a student is responsible for—this."
"This" was a woman. Probably. Wearing sequins and feathers and makeup and not much else.
There were stunned whispers. Acacia noticed Jay trying to slide under the table.
"I know who THAT is!" somebody gasped. "It's Mitzi!"
"Mitzi! The drag queen from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert..."
"WRONG," 'Mitzi' boomed in an Australian accent you could cut with a knife. "QUITE wrong. And if this situation is not rectified soon, you are ALL FAILING Numerology 101!"
A thunderstruck silence fell.
"Jay, is that who I think it is?" Acacia asked quietly.
From under the table, Jay just whimpered.
Acacia made a valiant attempt not to burst out laughing hysterically.
"I'm really sorry, Lord Half-elven..." The voice was meek, and somewhat muffled, as if it were covered by a table. "It was Sauron and Morgoth, I swear I didn't know they were going to—"
Galadriel cut off the voice. "I think that explains quite enough, Miss Thorntree." There was a stir as everyone tried to figure out who "Thorntree" was.
"Half-elven," said Celebrian, looking horrified. "That's ELROND!"
The students fell into the Silence again. A horrified silence, staring at... Lord Elrond. In feathers, sequins, makeup, and not much else.
A few giggles started up here and there—mainly from people with little self-control, because no one really wanted Elrond mad at them.
Two more people filed into the room behind him. "Hey, that's Magneto! From X-Men!"
"Look, it's the priest from The Fifth Element!"
The smarter students were beginning to figure things out. Jay and Acacia, with a little more information to work with, already had.
"Actors! Actors from Lord of the Rings!" Lina said, beside them. She turned to look at Acacia and Jay— "Uh, where's Jay?"
"I am never going to movie night again," said the table.
Acacia, judging that enough people had started laughing now for her not to be noticed, began to giggle hysterically.
"I'm afraid until our Dark Lords can be persuaded to undo this," Galadriel yelled above the noise, "it's up the the culprit to mitigate it somewhat. That means you, Miss Thorntree."
There was a slight scuffling as something under the table crawled towards the door. There was a yelp as something under the table grabbed Acacia's ankle, and gave it a tug in that direction.
"What are you doing?" Acacia demanded. Softly.
"Hiding?" Jay poked her head out. "I've got to think of how to, as the lady says, 'mitigate this.'"
"It was you?" Lina asked quietly.
Jay yanked her head back in and shuffled towards the door again.
Acacia shrugged, stood up, and walked out the door.
Jay was waiting outside. "I suggest we visit the library and give me some time to think this over."
"All right," said Acacia mildly.
Jay was already gone.
"I kind of like this place," said Acacia.
"It is a very nice library," Jay said. She was, apparently, looking for inspiration in The Gambler's Guide to Numerology.
Acacia was not helping much. She'd been paging through various books, none of which seemed to have anything at all to do with the subject at hand.
Towards the afternoon, the foul mood was lightened as Saruman ran through the library, his own staff following him like a torpedo.
Gandalf's voice rang after him. "Shouldn't've made the staff out of metal, old buddy! MUAHAHA!"
"Guess who just discovered he has Mad Magnetic Powers," Jay said, actually smiling.
Acacia laughed. "So not all the changes were a bad idea, then." She considered this for a moment. "And if they'd picked Agent Smith instead of Mitzi, I doubt Elrond would be so pissed off."
Jay's head flashed around. "That's how I can mitigate it! Mention more flattering roles these poor saps have been in!" She bit her lip. "But I don't know anything else for Ian Holm... poor Bilbo will have to stay human."
"Good idea," said Acacia. "Do we go tell Galadriel about it, or just do it?"
"Do it. But if we don't cast the roles in a non-flattering light, they won't go for it..." She thought for a minute. "Not hard. Who I've got in mind are both Bad Guys."
"So, where do you think they'll be...?"
"Okay. We're at the..." Jay consulted her hastily scrawled map. "Basketball Court of Hate. They should be here any minute."
"Good. I'm sick of waiting."
There was the sound of Evil Bickering. Jay nodded. "So, I mean, Mitzi is bad... but Elrond's just lucky they didn't know about The Matrix..." She managed to project this rather well. There was the sound of two Dark Lords ceasing to bicker and trying to be sneaky.
"Good point," said Acacia. "Is there anyplace to sit down?"
"Yeah, here's a bench. So you agree with me, Agent Smith would have been worse then Mitzi?"
"Elrond would have been just flattened to be a," Jay snickered, "bad guy."
"Speaking of Baddies, at least Magneto has style. Even the comics respected him. Now, Chauvelin... from The Scarlet Pimpernel? Heh. Ian McKellan as the 'rat.'"
Evil sneakiness radiated from around the corner. "Ooops, gotta get to class, or we'll miss the lecture on Dating." Jay beamed, and hopped up from her seat.
The approving look Galadriel gave the assassins as they entered the classroom puzzled Acacia for a moment. Oh... yeah... mind-reader... forgot...
"Just hope they remember it long enough to put it into motion," Jay mused, before sliding into her seat.
"Probably will, they remembered about Mitzi and such well enough," Acacia murmured.
Jay looked shamefaced. "It's a pity we couldn't think of anything Sir Ian Holm's been in."
"Yeah, yeah, too bad, but the class is starting."
They shut up. Jay smiled as she perused the textbook: really intricate courtship rituals. She giggled as a thought struck her. Acacia glanced over at her.
Jay wrote something on a piece of paper, quietly. "Gold, gold, gold, gold."
Acacia scrawled a question mark on the paper, and slipped it back to Jay.
"Pratchett. 'Dwarves don't love gold, they just say that to get it into bed.'"
"'Dwarfs' on Disc."
"Memory's not like yours. Sue me."
"Could not get any $, why bother?"
"Could get my half of souvenirs, but where get lawyer?" Jay glanced up. Galadriel didn't seem to have noticed, but she really ought to be taking notes...
"Things keep getting worse at this rate, next Sue will have graduated law school. At age 5."
Jay shuddered at this thought, and started taking notes in the margins of her paper.
Acacia shrugged and turned her attention back to the lesson.
Galadriel smiled. "You may have wondered if we're going to be announcing partners for the exam today." The class looked hopeful, the Protectors just looked confused. "We aren't."
There was a sad sigh.
"Know what's going on?" Acacia scribbled.
"N/ clue." Jay scribbled a quick note, and slid it across the aisle to someone who didn't look hostile.
The note came back with "G. said we'd have test on dating, with partners of diff. species."
Jay showed the note to Acacia, and nodded knowingly.
"Hope Legolas is not on list of possible partners. Bet Legolas does too."
"Is, or they'd not be so xcited."
Up at the podium, Galadriel was reviewing last week's homework. And Celeborn. They left the class with an assignment, and hurriedly scuttled out the door.
"Does this happen every week?" Jay asked aloud.
"Yes," said everyone in earshot.
It was that afternoon. No actual classes were going on, so Jay was exploring. Acacia was exploring too, but not in the same place or the same way that Jay was. "Wandering around the place to try and find Boromir" was about accurate.
Jay had seen the library, the cafeteria, and the sauna. Now she was hunting for the laundry. Not only do odd things happen in a laundry, but it's also a good place to know about 'round about week two.
A few students, mostly of the Sisterhood of Evil, were sneaking (rather badly) a few paces behind her.
Jay blinked. She turned. She looked at the Sisterhood. Nah. People can't "sneak" that overtly. Must be imagining things. There was another group waiting in the hall ahead. Jay didn't think much of this, and walked on.
The group ahead wasn't moving. Belatedly, Jay's sense of impending doom kicked in. On either side of her, the groups fanned out to block the hall.
"We want to talk to you," purred a rather Gothic-looking girl in a cloak—Lyle, was her name?
Things could have gone fruitshaped, but Gothic Lyle and her Sisterhood were suddenly flattened by a nasty little ball of malevolent flame that appeared to pop out of the woodwork.
Miss Cam had said that Tranduil was good at camouflage...
Someone had taken advantage of the chaos to grab Jay's arm. She thrust her elbow backwards, hit something soft, and ran.
Sah Bom Nim was right. I do regret dropping out at yellow belt... She opened a door and ducked in. There was a splash. Her pursuers stopped.
She'd gone into the sauna. They gave each other worried looks and dispersed quickly.
Acacia peered up a staircase. Not there either, dammit... She sighed.
She turned, and almost ran into two students. She recognized them as belonging to the Cult of Legolas.
One eeeped and ran away when she saw Acacia. The other, an elf, backed up a step or two, and was accosted.
"—do you know where I could find Boromir?"
"Um. He might be in the staff section. Or he could be in the What's in a Name classroom..."
"Fun." Acacia let go and headed off towards the classroom.
He wasn't there either. And she wasn't allowed in the staff section without permission, but no one had said she couldn't wait outside to waylay people the moment they came out...
She hadn't been waiting long when the door creaked open. Legolas looked around, was reassured by the lack of fangirl, and snuck out.
Acacia stepped out of the shadows. Legolas hadn't seen her; working for the Department of Mary Sues could make you really good at hiding.
"Aaaah!" Not quite on the level of "Oh, it's a Balrog. I think I'll soil my trousers." But close.
"It's okay! I'm not a fangirl. I'm one of the Protectors that're vacationing here, remember?"
Legolas stopped shaking, and moved away from the wall. "Can I help you, miss—ahh—Miss?"
"I was just wanting to know if you'd seen Boromir anywhere..."
"He's in the staff section."
"Blast," sighed Acacia. She considered for a moment. "Wait... I seem to recall we're allowed in if we have a staff member with us...?" She looked hopefully at Legolas. (Something she'd never thought she'd do, but there you go.)
Legolas looked wary. "You're not going to tackle him, are you?"
"Would I do something like that?" said Acacia sweetly.
Legolas looked outright frightened. Acacia tended to have that effect on people.
"If you promise, I can take you in."
Legolas stepped aside, and let her in. He still looked worried. "Look, if you do tackle him, I didn't let you in." Legolas didn't know Acacia very well. She did not fangirl-tackle.
Acacia looked around with vague interest; new places were always interesting, but in this case she was looking for someone.
Boromir was sitting quietly in the lounge where Acacia had been on movie night. Apparently, he was looking over the What's in a Name homework. He looked different—but not at all bad—in his new 006 getup.
Acacia spotted him and hurried up to sit in the chair directly opposite him, grinning broadly. Most Headquarters staff would have been surprised. "'Ello!"
Boromir looked up, flinched, and then relaxed. "Hello, Miss Acacia."
It was a mark of how horrible a conversationalist Acacia was that she couldn't think of a reply to this fairly simple comment.
Boromir would have gone back to his papers, but something was nagging at him. "Have I seen you before?"
"It's possible," said Acacia. "I mean, I visit the continuum a lot. To get rid of Mary Sues, I mean. I mean, there's a lot of them, and we're understaffed, so..."
Boromir looked at her. "I almost distinctly remember talking to you." He thought for a minute. "Or, that could just be the University doing odd things to my head."
"Could have happened," said Acacia guardedly, guiltily remembering the conversation a mission or so ago as "Vananovien."
Boromir wasn't all that busy, and was actually willing to talk after discovering she had no intention to pounce him.
Acacia managed to stumble through the conversation without turning beet red. It was with mixed emotions that she excused herself.
A few students passed her in the hall, once she left the staff section. They were muttering worriedly, and she thought she caught her partner's name. She followed them.
Much worry was alleviated when she saw a rather sodden Jay fuming in the laundry room. The girls she was following, on the other hand, screamed and fainted.
Acacia blinked. "What... just happened here?"
Jay looked at the prone bodies, and gave one a vengeful kick. "I don't know. These little brats ganged me in the hall and chased me into the sauna."
"Ah." Acacia grinned. "I've been having a much more pleasant time. I found Boromir in the staff section—"
"We're not supposed to be there..."
"Legolas let me in, I think just because he was so relieved I wasn't a Legolustbunny."
Jay sulked, and hid behind a dryer. "Acacia, one of them is wearing a cloak, I think. Toss here, please?"
Acacia complied. "You didn't see Elrond in there, did you?"
"I was hardly watching for him," Acacia said.
Jay sighed, and dumped her sodden things into the dryer. "Tranduil was very helpful. I must remember to thank Miss Cam."
Acacia grinned, and patted Borimir on the head.
Jay emerged from behind the dryer, wearing the cloak. She pilfered a belt from one of them, and cinched it securely—and voila, was dressed more modestly then most of the OFUM students. "I need to get a change of clothes."
"Back to our rooms?"
"Quite." Outside, the girls were starting to return to consciousness.
"So... what do we do now?" Acacia wondered. "Go find Gandalf and Elrond and see if they've been switched yet?"
Jay's eyes bugged. "I think... they have." She pointed. At one end of the hall was a rather attractive man in archaic clothing—black coat, black cravat, and a rather silly hat.
"Fun!" said Acacia.
"Wow." Jay was looking awestruck. "Paul Chauvelin, ladies and gentlemen. Ian McKellen at his finest. And youngest."
Acacia smiled faintly. "And, no doubt, you'll want to see if they fell for the Agent Smith thing as well."
"In a minute." Jay dashed back into her room, returning with the one piece of equipment she was never without...
"Do you really think he'll appreciate you taking pictures?"
"Bugger you." Jay cupped her hands around her mouth. "Mithrandir!! Smile!"
Acacia sat down against the wall, content just to watch.
Gandalf actually seemed quite willing to show off his current appearance. (The fact that he looked about thirty years younger had NOTHING to do with that. Oh, no.)
Jay bounced back. "Now we can see about 'Agent Smith.'"
"He was in the Shrine of Villainy, you know," said Acacia, getting up.
"No, I didn't. Is it a good thing? Or a bad thing?"
"That," said Acacia, "really, really depends on your point of view."
"Did it say he was a good villain? I've never seen The Matrix. I wouldn't know—" A few passersby fainted dead away.
"You ought to. Great movie. And everyone in the Shrine is officially a 'Great Villain.' He's with the likes of Darth Vader and Jareth."
"Jareth!" Jay beamed. "Good, good company. And I don't LIKE Keanu Reeves, thank you." Another set of students fainted.
"Why are these people falling over the whole time?" Acacia wondered. "Unless this is really, really shocking news to them..."
"Keanu Reeves fangirls? Jeez, if they're this bad, I shouldn't mention that I've never seen Titanic..."
"Nor have I, actually. Not my idea of a fun time. I mean, we know the damn ship's going to sink... have you seen the list of Reasons Star Wars Is Better Than Titanic?"
"Haven't. Is one of them 'No Leonardo DiCaprio'?"
"Not in so many words. But there was 'Sure, Leo can dance, but can he fly an X-wing?'"
"And 'Han Solo would have steered clear of that damn iceberg...'"
"I think," said Acacia, pointing out someone in sunglasses and a black suit, "that we've found him. And it's definitely an improvement."
Jay smiled, and flashed a picture. The black-suited man whirled.
He relaxed when he saw that they were neither Celebrian or Arien, but still headed purposefully in their direction.
"This is—mitigation, I assume." He gave a somewhat disturbing grin.
"Basically," Acacia volunteered.
"It is, I suppose, better then the last time." This was directed to Jay, who was hiding behind Acacia, blushing furiously. "I think I may have found a way to make the Dark Lords change us back, however."
"Oh good. I was getting sick of Gimli's new accent," said Acacia.
It was true. It is not something that everybody knows, but John Rhys-Davies played Sallah in Indiana Jones BEFORE he ever took on the role of a dwarf.
"Gandalf won't want to go back, I think," Jay ventured from behind her partner. Her face was an impressive color just below brick.
"Too bad for him," said Acacia unfeelingly.
"Oh, I think we can let him revel in his newfound immaturity..." Elrond smiled, "Miss Thorntree. And I'd appreciate that NOT happening again. Now, please excuse me—" He stalked away.
"Well, that was painless," Acacia commented.
"He's really something, isn't he?" Jay was looking infatuated again.
Acacia sighed. "I'm going to agree, simply because all hell will be let loose if I don't."
"At least I can manage a declarative sentence in front of him."
Jay did. And then, she started to mime something: it might have been eating, or it might have been shoveling dirt off a windmill.
Acacia blinked. "Are you feeling okay?"
Jay nodded. And grinned.
And only then did Acacia remember Jay's stubborn literalness. She sighed, and tried to come up with a wording that could not be—deliberately, she was sure—misunderstood. "I meant, drop the subject."
Jay bit her lip, and thought hard for a moment. Finally, her shoulders drooped. "You win. I can't think of anything else that could mean."
"Yummy food! Oh, it is!"
Acacia gave her a sour look. "It's food. Yes, it tastes good, but must you squeal so?"
"Oh. I suppose you prefer the stuff we're usually stuck eating?" The fare of the PPC Agent may occasionally rise to the edibility of mutton, but more often consists of Twinkies, eggrolls, and granola bars.
"I said I liked this stuff. I just said, there's no reason to be so excited about food. Unless you're a hobbit, but still. That's to do with species identity."
"Whatever. Pass a roll."
"Here you go."
Jay sliced and buttered it, and then nicked some honey from a nearby hobbit to add.
"Hey!" protested the hobbit. "That was mine!"
"Yes," Jay said, dribbling it liberally. "And now it is mine. And now it is yours again!" She handed the honey pot back to the girl.
Acacia snorted, muttered something about childishness, and turned her attention back to her own food.
"Acacia, don't eat that roll."
"Because it has legs on."
Acacia blinked, and looked at it again, paying more attention this time. It did, indeed, possess legs.
"Must be Gandalf's cooking." Jay poked it. It licked her finger.
"This place is insane," said Acacia. "Not that I'm complaining, but still."
Jay had sliced a pat of butter and was feeding it to the odd creature. "Acacia, ask if this belongs to anyone..."
"Anyone. I'm sure this thing hasn't gone unnoticed."
Acacia turned to the elf sitting next to her on the side not occupied by Jay. "Does anyone here own a roll with legs?"
"Yes. Lina." The elf realized for the first time who she was sitting next to, and edged away.
"Why," said Acacia sweetly, "are you moving away?"
"No reason. At all." The elf was crushed up against the human beside her. When the other student objected, the elf tried to unobtrusively point to the Protector.
"It's rude to point," said Acacia mildly, examining a roll to make sure this one was unlegged.
"Did she say if it had an owner?" Jay leaned backwards, trying to look past her partner.
"Okay. You see her anywhere?"
"Haven't just now, but I wasn't looking."
Jay stood up and looked around the cafeteria. The young woman was nowhere in evidence.
Acacia just shrugged and continued eating.
Jay put the roll on the floor, and it wandered away. "There. Even if it doesn't find her, it'll be safer than it was in the cafeteria."
They went back to eating quietly, a little pool of silence in a sea of chatter. The noise level increased, however, as the door burst open and Sauron came running through.
Everyone turned toward the door, and they were just in time to see Elrond enter. Holding Agent Smith's gun.
"Ah," said Acacia wisely. "I think now we're seeing what this plan of his was."
"It's Agent Smith!" someone screamed.
"Ten points off your final Numerology grade," said Elrond, the gun still pointing at the Dark Lord's head. But he didn't seem quite as annoyed as at the Mitzi Incident.
Acacia grinned and leaned back in her seat to enjoy the show. It looked like being a very good one.
"Do you really expect that thing to frighten me?" Sauron bluffed. "It won't kill me."
"Oh, no. Guns don't kill people. I kill people..."
Acacia laughed. "I've always liked that line... quote... thingy, although for the life of me I can't remember where it came from," she said as an aside to Jay.
"Bastardized NRA slogan?"
Sauron had reached the far wall, and had run out of places to go. "I can't undo it by myself," he wailed.
"Then find Morgoth?" Acacia volunteered from her spot on one side of the room. Sauron glared at her.
"What an excellent idea, Miss Byrd. Come along, Sauron, let's go find Morgoth..."
That night, Jay, insomniac, slipped out of her room and sneaked down to the sauna.
The Watcher was quite used to her by now, and was happy to see her.
She petted its tentacles maternally, and tossed it bits of meat that she'd filched from the kitchen. Suddenly, she noticed a lesion on its skin—looking into the pool, she saw a minor assortment of stones.
"Has someone been throwing stones at you, sweetie?"
The Watcher, of course, was mute, but its tentacles drooped sadly.
"Have they?" Jay frowned. "I'll have to find out about that." She leaned back and patted it absentmindedly. She did recall something... a student, trying to get someone's attention, winding up in the infirmary bruised and soaking wet.
Suddenly she heard what sounded like Legolas yelling, though muffled by walls. "SHUT UP!"
Whoever he'd been yelling at wasn't talking the hint. "... and long immortal life thy has it too / with one small arrow on bow shall sweep / has enemy on thou knees—"
"I said to shut up!" Apparently even ageless elven archers can lose their tempers.
The Watcher twitched, and retreated back into a corner.
"Is that her?"
Its tentacles waved around in a vaguely affirmative fashion.
Jay raised an eyebrow, and quietly crept out into the hallway. She crept up just behind the serenading student, and tapped her on the shoulder.
"No evil dare touch thee before thy wakes / or scuffer the fate of good he—" she turned to Jay. "Who're you, and why'd you interrupt me?"
"I've a bone to pick with you. You the one who's been chucking things at the Watcher in the Sauna?"
"It was trying to grab me!" the elf-girl protested.
"Did it try to grab you before, or after you threw rocks at it?"
"Both," she said sulkily. "Now go away, I want to finish my poem."
"Bugger that. You hurt it!"
"But it was trying to grab me!" she repeated, and turned back to Legolas' window. "Or scuffer the fate of good he makes," she said pointedly. "Dangerous is he to—"
"Now, why would it try to grab you? And why did you conveniently have rocks on hand?" Jay's hand snaked up to grab the girl's hair, thus ensuring her full attention.
"Ow! Let go my hair! And I don't know why it wanted to grab me, maybe it was hungry! Let GO!"
"Why the rocks?"
"Legolas threw them at me the last time I tried to recite poetry to him, so of course I kept them..."
"I think you incited it. Did you incite it?"
"What does 'incite' even mean?"
"Unless you mean just by being there." She sniffed, and returned to her poetry. "Dangerous is he to ene—"
Jay clamped a hand over the poet's (term used loosely) mouth. "LEGOLAS... DO YOU MIND IF I OFF THIS YOUNG LADY?"
"No! Go ahead!" came the reply.
Jay normally wouldn't do something like this. However, she knew that the Watcher was normally too frightened of fangirls to attack them. Somehow this girl had instigated things.
She dragged the poet (see previous disclaimer) into the sauna and shut the door. "What do you think of that?"
There was no answer. Apparently the Watcher had been really pissed off.
"Good night, Legolas..." Jay dusted her hands and whistled merrily as she shuffled back to bed.
In the weeks that followed, significantly fewer people seemed inclined to try to serenade Legolas, because of Rumors.
There had been a halfhearted search for a young elf-woman named Angare, who had apparently gone missing: this was of little consequence to Jay. However, she did look a bit guilty when it came out that Angare was an unrelenting poet.
Those professors that had been changed were back to normal—except Gandalf, who was enjoying freaking out the students. Jay and Acacia were left mostly to their own devices, and despite Jay's protests, they attended the next movie night (How to Irritate People, starring Tom Bombadil).
Jay, this time, had the good sense to keep her mouth shut during the movie, though Acacia still seemed unable to keep quiet whenever the opportunity arose to make a snide comment.
For the rest of the week, the two rested. It is traditional to spend a few days resting after a vacation—not a chance, not at Headquarters. They visited Minas Tirith a few more times, attended class sporadically, and took pictures (at least, Jay did).
There was not, technically, an actual teary goodbye when they left (Acacia's wistful glance at Boromir notwithstanding). Most of the students were glad to see them go, and even a few of the staff seemed slightly relieved.
Only Lina, Gandalf, and "BreadLegs" accompanied them out to the little clearing they'd popped into in the first place. Jay opened a portal back to Headquarters, they stepped through, and that was all.
"Well, we're back," Jay said simply.
"You're an idiot, Jay..."
[Acacia's A/N: Well, we got our vacation. And it was fun. Angare's poem is real; she actually wrote it, it was that bad, and the spelling mistakes (within the poem) are hers. The last names are a bit of irony—there is a type of thorny tree called acacia, and a jay is, of course, a bird. Thanks go to Camilla Sandman, for writing the OFUM in the first place and for letting us vacation there. Thanks go to everyone who has reviewed so far, I don't feel like listing them. Thanks go to everyone who has recommended Suefics, regardless of whether we ever eventually use them or not. And that's about all.]
[Jay's A/N: Darn, darn, darn. I was going to play "spot the irony," and there she goes and spoils it. We tried to keep it short, we did—but there was just too much to do. Now, we have a backlog. *wince* Ditto on Acacia's "Thanks"—Cammy, we owe you. Regular PPC will be back next chapter.]