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All Souls Night

Jay glared at the smoldering box currently taking up a corner of the response center.

"This is useful."

"Of course," said Acacia, taking no notice of the sarcasm. "We could make a flamethrower to use on Mary Sues. Or take them on missions and light campfires with them when we have to spend the night in the canon. Or have a barbecue, or..."

"Barbecue? That sounds about my speed." Jay grinned. "And they'll be good for heating, of course, and we can put them in lanterns to save the batteries on our flashlights."

Acacia grinned. "See? There are plenty of uses for flames..."

[bip.]

"... like melting bits of machinery that keep beeping at bad moments."

"At least it's not 'BEEEEEEEEEEP'ing." Jay looked over at the console. "Hey, this doesn't look too bad."

"Oh?"

"Yeah... grammar, decent. I suppose. Stealing lots of parts, but that's not so bad." Jay blinked. "Wait a minute. Just saw the 'mysterious violet and silver eyes.' I rescind that." She paused. "What, exactly, is 'soft as midnight'?"

Acacia groaned. "Really stupid descriptions. Gotcha. And how can anyone have violet and silver eyes? Unless she's odd-eyed, which I doubt. And anyway, no one has silver eyes at all."

"Nope. You know, I'd like to see a dumpy, odd-eyed, freckled girl as the inserted character once in a while." Jay's eyes raised, and she unobtrusively moved her hand to cover a bit of the screen. She was resigned to the "second daughter of Elrond" movement, but Acacia hadn't quite become callous to Boromir grabbers.

"So, let's go," said Acacia, sticking the parcel of flames in her pack.

Jay blanked her console. "Yep. Got batteries for your Walkman? The dialogue gets a bit weird—" If I can just keep her from noticing... Hah.

"I think so."

"Yay. We should be orcs this time." Jay peered at the Words for a moment. "GREAT LADY MOTHER ON A POPSICLE STICK!!"

"... What?"

"Nothing," Jay said, quickly. "She... er... nothing." Don't read the chapter titles, don't read the chapter titles, don't read—

"WHAT??"

"You read the chapter titles, didn't you?"

"YES." Acacia glared at Jay. "You might have TOLD me in the first place. Now open the portal."

"But I don't LIKE you when you're homicidal. I mean, indiscriminately so—" Jay opened it quickly, and hopped through.

Acacia stalked through the portal, it closed behind her, and they were in.

**

Jay did her best to walk quietly, padding with care down the path to Rivendell. She just ADORED it, oh, she did, when Acacia was like this.

Acacia wasn't even making the attempt to be quiet. Uruk-hai weren't built for stealth anyway.

It was a surreal feeling, really. A pair of orcs wandering around Rivendell looked more like a "What's Wrong With This Picture?" game, yet no one noticed them. But suddenly, Jay saw something. Or rather, couldn't see something.

"HEY!" Acacia yelped as she was dragged behind a pillar.

"Hush!"

"What's going on?" Acacia demanded, in a marginally quieter tone.

"Look at that girl." The elf in question was a very pretty young thing with black hair, and—no eyes, apparently.

Acacia looked, blinked, looked again, rubbed her eyes, looked again, and blinked again. "Where are her eyes?"

"'Silver and violet.' Don't try to look, it's already giving me a headache. And of course—that means she can see us."

"Ah," said Acacia. "Oh look! Boromir's arriving." Her mood seemed to be softening a little now.

The strange-eyed elf looked at Boromir, with a sort of suspiciously innocent look on her face. Elrond came up behind her, and spoke softly. If Jay strained, she could just hear the end of the conversation—

"His name is Boromir of Gondor child."

"Boromir of Gondor," she whispered.

"You would have him steal your affection daughter," Elrond question.

Boromir locked eyes with the elf, suddenly, and she replied—

"I would have him steal my heart."

Acacia, who had sharp ears and hadn't even needed to pay much attention to hear that exchange, growled dangerously.

Jay looked sickened. Probably at the complete non-grammar that was coming out of Elrond's mouth.

"I get her," said Acacia darkly. "I don't remember whose turn it is and I really don't care. She's mine."

"Yeah. Kinda guessed." Jay stared at the ground. "But—she keeps Boromir from dying. In fact, that's probably the breach of canon we have to nail her at. And—"

"I know, I know, don't you think I KNOW?" Acacia snapped. "And thank you so very much for reminding me."

"Look, I'm SORRY! Are you sure you don't want to call in another team?"

"Yes."

Jay opened her mouth to say something—and thought better of it. Her shoulders slumped. "I'm going to listen to music, now. I don't want to hear the Council."

"Well, I'm going," Acacia sniffed. "You know Upstairs gets mad if people leave too many charges off the list. We'd miss a lot."

Jay scowled. "And I have to come play damage control. Wonderful."

"Damage?" said Acacia, not even bothering to try and sound innocent.

"You couldn't bother to exercise a MODICUM of restraint during these things?"

"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about," Acacia sniffed. "If you're coming, let's go."

Jay's usually inane expression twisted into a snarl. "What are you going to do if there's no one to restrain you, and you leap right into the council to kill some Sue? You'll look like a pincushion."

"Not if I kill her first."

"You're too mad to move quickly enough. I've seen you. And shall I point to the WHOLE DELEGATION of Wood-elves who have their bows with them?"

"Just shut up!"

Acacia was depressed. Jay could tell. When Acacia got depressed she got angry, and while Acacia was angry more or less continually, she was angry in a different way. Having to live with Acacia for any length of time could make you quite adept at distinguishing between types of pissed-off-ness.

Jay's eyes flared, and one hand raised almost involuntarily, curling into a fist. Of course, in her funk, Acacia was missing was the joyful little pit of anger building up inside her partner.

So. One partner sad and angry. One mad, in both senses of the word. Let's talk Pompeii...

**

"You sent for me Father?" the Sue asked ungrammatically, her voice "echoing like wind chimes."

Boromir looked shocked at this revelation. Elrond, to Jay's fury, looked inanely smug.

"Yes child, I wish you to join us within this meeting, your cool head I believe will come in handy."

Jay sat down heavily behind a pillar, jaw clenched.

The Mary Sue, Aria, blushed adorably and seated herself next to her father, who patted her hand and then in some unstated way began the meeting.

The dutiful little child admittedly "spaced out," but was alert quickly enough to chide Boromir for his interest in the Ring.

"You cannot wield it!" Everyone looked at her (except Jay, holding both hands over her ears), and she continued, "This ring was made for Sauron alone, none can wield it but him! It's evil would engulf you and tear you apart, and Middle-Earth would fall into darkness."

Acacia glared maliciously at her, fists clenching repeatedly. She did not, however, seem actually on the point of losing it just yet.

"I want naught but to hold the power to protect my people," Boromir replied, supposedly "in shock."

Aragorn stood, "What Aria says is true! Not one of us could wield it's power without turning to Sauron and betraying those we love."

"And who are you to say such a thing," Boromir inquired, "You are but a Ranger!"

"Mucking with the lines..." growled Acacia.

Legolas' next line was equally cannibalized, coming out as "This is no mere Ranger, He is Aragorn son of Arathorn, heir of Isildur."

The argument broke out on cue, with Aria actually Not Interfering. But then—

"I will take it!" All movement stopped. It was bizarre. No one in the Council so much as blinked until Frodo delivered his next line.

"Though, I do not know the way."

"Then I will guide you," said Gandalf.

The back of Jay's head thudded into the pillar.

Aragorn then stood and said, for some reason which the authoresses would love to hear, "On my life I can protect you - he knelt in front of Frodo - You have my sword."

Then, usurping a Legolas line, Aria said "You have my bow Frodo Baggins, I will protect you."

"And you have my bow also," Legolas said moving over to them.

Acacia groaned, but mentally filed this all under "pathetic and ignorable" until the Sue said:

"Will you ride with us Boromir of Gondor?"

He looked at her hand and then took it, "I will go as well, for if one of each people goes, then one of Gondor should as well."

**

"Untie me!"

"Not on your life." Jay perched gently upon Acacia's prone form, polishing her glasses. They'd hit the dirt at about the same time her nose had.

"Or at least get off me!"

Jay did, and even went so far as to untie her hands. "Here's a tissue. Your nose is bleeding—I think—hard to tell on an orc."

Acacia snatched it. "It's your fault," she snapped, wiping mud and blood off her face.

Snatches of conversation still drifted over to them:

"Of course," Elrond said, "For we cannot not separate you two, even when Frodo is summoned to a secret council meeting."

"Yes then." Jay's lips thinned, but otherwise, she did not noticeably move.

"Now will you untie me?" Acacia demanded. Despite having her hands free, Acacia did not attempt this herself; the problem with trying to untie Jay's knots was not so much the untying as the trying to figure out which knots were functional and which had merely been tied on the basis that there was unknotted rope around.

"Yes. But if you try that again, I'm going to put you on a leash." Jay smiled, but her heart just wasn't in it. A lot of adrenaline was, though.

Acacia just glared. Fortunately, however, this distracted Jay long enough not to hear Elrond speak. "Ten companions, Alright, you will be know and the Fellowship of the Ring."

Jay untied one knot, and the ropes fell away. Acacia glared at her again.

"Council's over," she said shortly. "And I'm tired and want to sleep. I don't think they leave till tomorrow."

"Yes. Do that." Jay had to go observe something painful. Better her then Acacia...

**

"You seem troubled Boromir of Gondor?"

Boromir looked up and, apparently, allowed his eyes to widen. There in front of him stood Aria, second daughter of "elrind," with her softly curling black hair, soft as midnight, that fell below her waist, and mysterious violet and silver eyes. "I—"

"Wish this story would curl up in flames, I do—" Jay interjected, MST-style.

"No, yes," Boromir sighed, "I don't know."

"Tell me."

"I think it's just something on the air, but I stilll fell that we should use the ring against Sauron," He said, meeting her gaze.

She reached up and tucked a strand of his hair behind his ear, allowing her hand to come to a rest on his cheek, "But your heart tell's you that our mission is true?"

"No," Boromir replied, "My heart seems to be preocupied, but my soul screams it."

Jay amused herself thinking of Boromir's soul wandering about screaming "I'M PREOCCUPIED! I'M PREOCCUPIED!"

"Then the ring is trying to get you to take the ring from Frodo. You must listen to your soul, and your heart Boromir, not the ring. It can not physically harm you, but that does not make it any less dangerous."

"Is it as dangerous as the grammatical content of this story?" Jay was really enjoying talking to herself.

"Then how can I fight it," he question, brown eyes staring into hers.

Jay thanked any deities who were bothering to listen that Acacia was curled up safely asleep, far out of earshot.

"With your heart and soul Boromir," Aria was saying, "But you must not take this lightly, I will help you fight it."

"Why?"

"You have a good heart Boromir of Gondor," Aria spoke, "I can see it radiating from within you."

She stood, "Rest now, and I will see you in the morning." With a gentle kiss on his forehead, she turned and glided softly away.

Jay collapsed in a long-legged heap, shaking her head. Finally, she reached into a pocket and pulled out two socks.

"Why, Boromir just 'question,'" Mr. Socko said, looking as shocked as a sock puppet could.

"I thought he was s'posed to have 'questioned,'" Millie said.

"It makes my head hurt," Mr. Socko said.

"Mine too."

"What about you, Jay?"

"Leave her alone, I think she's upset."

**

It was amazing what a good night's sleep could do for the average homicidal maniac.

Well... that statement was not a total lie. It was surprising, but Acacia was by no means no longer upset.

Jay hadn't slept, at all. She hadn't even knit. She'd just sat staring into the night, looking grim.

"They're leaving at dawn again," Acacia complained, sounding aggrieved. "Are we following them?"

"Yes. And there's a falcon we'll have to deal with." Jay got painfully to her feet. "If it were only a regular falcon, we could let it go. But NO. It's 'Dark.'"

"I hate Cute Animal Friends," said Acacia sourly.

"A regular falcon would even be canonical! Why did she have to be special?! Oh, wait, sorry, stupid question."

Acacia rolled her eyes. "Very. It's like asking why fangirls have to be obsessive, or why Upstairs has to be mean, or why..." she continued in this thread for about five more minutes.

"Oopies, here comes the bird." Jay nocked an arrow. "I don't think I can hit it from this range—"

"So let's get closer."

They sidled into the vicinity of the Fellowship-plus-one. Aria was just descending the stone steps, wearing "a green tunic that was a dark green" but at least didn't contradict itself, to join the canonical Fellowship members. She was greeted by the hobbits with excited waves and shouts of hello; Gandalf just nodded and she "recived" a glare from Gimli. Once again the dwarf was left alone.

"It's coming... right... now." It landed on Aria's wrist. "Its name is Kes. What a horrible name to saddle a bird with..."

"I'd have expected a more dramatic name," said Acacia.

"Just a 'watched Voyager, want to show the world' name," Jay said miserably. She liked birds of prey. They were pretty. And now she had to kill one.

Mary Sue spoke in Elvish—not saying anything in particular, just speaking—and the bird took off again.

Jay gritted her teeth and loosed the arrow. It caught the bird in the wing, and it fell—not that the Sue noticed. She'd turned her attention away from it as soon as it left her wrist.

"I swear. I feel like I'm killing Isabeau."

"Who's that?"

"You've never seen LadyHawke?"

Acacia shrugged. "I dimly remember seeing it once, and thinking it was really soppy."

"Right, then. Broderick movies are always soppy." Jay looked like she was about to cry—a singular expression, on an orc.

Acacia either didn't notice or didn't care. She set off following the Fellowship, and Jay had either to follow or be left behind.

Jay considered this for a moment. And then marched away in a different direction.

**

"Fool of a Took!"

Pippin, who hadn't done anything to warrant this outburst from Gandalf, hid behind Boromir. Acacia, who didn't like loud sudden noises, jumped approximately a foot in the air at the unexpected exclamation.

"Hush- I hear something in the bushes," Aria said, shushing the Fellowship.

Acacia swore inwardly and hid slightly further away from the clearing.

Aria searched in an extremely perfunctory way, merely looking around. Apparently she hadn't had much practice looking for things.

When she found nothing, Gandalf said "We'll stop here" to the entire group and promptly sat "daown" on a large boulder. In fact, "as he promptly sat daown on a large boulder Sam and Aragorn began a fire, Legolas climbed the rock to the top to keep a llok out and Gimli walked off grumbling. Boromir began to teach Merry and Pippin how to use their Hobbit sized swords and Aria sat down next to Frodo oon rock on which he'd collapsed."

The lack of commas was impressive.

"You are troubled Frodo."

It was a staement, not a question or, apparently, a statement. It also caught him "offguard".

"I - well. I feel so weighted."

"I just really don't want to hear this," Acacia muttered to herself.

The situation called for commiseration, and shared pain. Perhaps a few nasty jabs. However, there was no such camaraderie—and for the first time, Acacia noticed something.

Where's Jay? she wondered. Doesn't she know we're not supposed to get separated? The flake had probably wandered off around—wait, when WAS the last time I saw her?

It was entirely possible it had been at any time since leaving Rivendell. This had been an undefined amount of time characterized by nonevents, so Acacia was more than a little disoriented and didn't know what time it was, and could only assume they were in Hollin.

This tentative hypothesis was born out when Legolas started shouting about "spy birds." Aria froze for no apparent reason, and Boromir had to drag her into some bushes.

Aria silently thanked Boromir as they climbed out of the bushes. Having suddenly acquired mind-reading skills, he nodded in reply.

Acacia groaned. But quietly. Then she cringed as Gandalf spoke: "So our path south has been watched. We have no chice but to take the pass of garadas (????)."

"Garadas," she muttered, in pain. "Dammit, do these people even try to get it right?"

"Nope."

Acacia jumped, and turned around quickly. She hadn't heard anyone behind her. "Oh. It's you."

"Yep," Jay said. "I have an idea."

"Oh?"

A annoyed-looking black head popped out of Jay's pack. "This is Kes. Kes, meet Acacia."

Acacia blinked. "You kept the bird?"

"She's only winged. She might even recover," Jay said, letting the bird chew irately on a finger. "She's only one of a LOT of innocent Cute Animal Friends that really don't deserve to die. We should start a rescue society at Headquarters."

"You're too sentimental for this job, Jay," sighed Acacia.

"Look, they're plot devices that the authors deal with once! They practically sign the death warrants for all of their 'Cute Animal Friends' so they can look impressive!"

"Fine," said Acacia shortly. "I'm not arguing with you." She knew full well that this was possibly the most annoying thing anyone could say.

"Good." Jay looked relieved. "And the first item on the agenda shall be: renaming."

"Do it yourself; I'm not having anything to do with a scheme to rescue Sues' pets. Do you know how long it's been since they left Rivendell? I think I got caught in a Temporal/Spatial Distortion."

"No. And you didn't seem to mind Alice overly much." Jay frowned at her. "They went this way, is it so?"

"Yeah...?"

"Then let us go this way."

**

Acacia, as has been said before, hated the cold. She especially hated having to walk long distances in the cold, especially through snow.

"Here. Take this." Jay handed her a small thermos that was radiating heat. "It'll keep your hands warm. Help your circulation, too."

Acacia blinked. "O...kay..." She clasped the thermos. It did seem to work. Jay didn't seem to need it. Jay, in fact, was sweating, and wearing two layers of jacketry tied around her waist.

Acacia didn't wonder too much how this was possible. Everyone knew Jay was insane. (She might have been interested to know that insanity had nothing to do with it. The same trick of genetics that made Jay short of breath also made her very, VERY, hot by nature. It was not unakin to the reason Acacia wasn't over-hot in the Sammath Naur.)

"So what's in the thermos?"

"A flame. Don't open it, I put the electric purple one in there."

Acacia groaned. "Don't you just hate the many colors of fangirl-flame?"

"Yes. Ah—watch for falling hobbits—"

Acacia did. Suddenly Frodo fell, rolling down the hillside. Aragorn stopped him and put him back on his feet. Boromir picked up the Ring.

"Give the ring to Frodo," Aragorn said.

"It is amazing that such a little thing, could cause such a disturbance..."

Acacia actually whimpered.

Aria moved down the slope fast and plced a hand on Boromir's shoulder. He broke out of the trnce he seemed to be in and looked at her as she spoke, "Give the ring to Frodo, Boromir."

"Maybe the 'a' key on her keyboard is broken," Jay suggested, hiding behind a snowdrift.

Acacia snarled. She didn't snarl anything in particular—just snarled, like an angry cat.

"Very good expression. It matches your face."

"Skrreeet."

"See? Kes agrees." Jay patted her. "Just wait. It gets better."

"Difficult," said Acacia sourly, "to get much worse."

Jay actually laughed. "When Saruman drops the snow on their heads... did you know it was so deep she had to SWIM to the top?"

Acacia half-sat, half-collapsed. "Swim? What, does she melt it first?"

"It is possible to swim through snow, if it's moving. And, to give her credit, she 'practically swam.' However..."

"This is just pathetic. I don't want to wait, I want to kill her," Acacia whined.

"We CAN'T."

"But she's screwed with canon plenty enough! She's joined the Fellowship already, that's enough for plenty of them—"

"I'm sorry. I am. And may I point out that YOU were the one who wanted to walk up 'Garadas.'"

"I wasn't! YOU said 'let us go this way...'"

"I didn't mean follow them all the way up the damn mountain!" They were talking in hushed voices so as not to attract attention: after all, they were awfully close to the Fellowship.

Too close.

"He's going to bring down the mountain," Aragorn yelled and suddenly lightning sturck the mountain, cause snow to fall of and bury the group beneath it.

And the two assassins.

There was a lot of snow. A LOT of snow. It was far above head-height, even for Jay—more than there had EVER been, canonically.

"Cold!" gasped Acacia as she burrowed out of it upwards. "Veryverycold!"

The snow around her seemed to be—melting? Jay appeared in a sudden pocket of air, holding a bright green flame malevolently burning in a thermos cup.

"Very useful, I can see..." said Acacia, shivering and clasping her flame thermos tightly.

"We have to get out of the way, FAST. They're turning around, right now—"

Acacia scrambled through the snow and hid behind a conveniently placed rock. (It was a mountain. There were rocks everywhere, including convenient places.)

Jay popped up next to her, dumping the flame back in its thermos. "I'm cold."

Acacia handed the thermos to Jay, and unpacked the parcel of flames she'd brought. It was just as hot as ever in this cold.

"Let's get moving again. Aria feels the need to beat up the baby a bit—oops, Kes is supposed to be there. Oh, well."

Acacia winced. "We should have checked the Words before we shot it."

"We shouldn't have shot it at all."

"Skrrreee." The falcon sounded quite emphatic.

"At any rate, if she can't see it, she'll hear her. Please?" This last was directed at the falcon.

Acacia sighed. "You are talking to a bird."

"It's the pet of a Sue. They're intelligent. After all, this one can even understand 'Kenltra morich aradai!'"

"Which can't be any kind of Elvish," Acacia said sourly. "They don't stick odd letter combinations like 'nltr' in words and expect them to be pronounced."

"Yes. It understands Sue Elvish! It could be a very valuable translator—"

"Good point..." said Acacia. "Can we get off this mountain now?"

"The portal awaits." Jay carefully placed the rather ruffled Kes on a shoulder, and fumbled through her pack for the activator. "All right, NOW it awaits."

Acacia stepped through, and it was dark, except for a faint multicolored incandescence from the flame parcel.

Jay found a mostly intact spear on the floor, out of the way, and empaled a flame on it. "Oops, I know which flame this is..."

"Which one?"

"Actually, I lie. I don't remember the name. But empaled—I remember that." Jay concentrated harder, and managed to impale the flame. "There. Torch."

Acacia took the spear, and looked around. "Just inside the gates, then?"

"Yep. They'll be in in a minute."

Outside, Pippin tossed a rock into the water. A soft splash filled the air and ripples ran over the water like a giant shock wave.

"Mucking with acoustics. Charge sheet. And how would an elf know about shock waves...?"

"She wouldn't," said Acacia simply.

"Lovely." Jay glanced at the Words. "Argue... argue... argue, five, four, three, two—" She grabbed the torch, shoved it point first into a corner, and pulled Acacia well out of sight.

The doors opened wide and the group entered as Gimli ranted about the "fabled hospitality of the Dwarves." Aria entered last, bow trained on the water, back to the group.

"This is not mine," Boromir said, "It's a tomb."

Acacia just groaned resignedly.

"Nope, not yours," Jay said with vague sarcasm.

"Orcs!" Legolas said. The fellowship backed out warily.

Jay held up five fingers. Then she put one down. Then another. Two—now.

"Frodo!"

"Aragorn!!!"

"Multiple exclamation marks are the sign of a diseased mind," announced Acacia.

"And that's Frodo, too."

Aria aimed, but could not get a clear shot from inside, she sped out of the door and onto a large rock as Aragorn and Boromir splashed into the water, chopping at the tentacles. She aimed and fired. Her aim proved true and the monster screamed in pain, retracting the tentacle even as it reached for Aragorn. Inside, Jay winced in sympathy.

Acacia, while not normally a comforting kind of person, patted Jay's hand vaguely.

The trio retreated from the water into the caves. Aria went to follow but grabbed another arrow as the creature went after them again, Legolas was faster though and loosed an arrow that had already been aimed at the creature. Aria leap from the rock she knelt on and ran into the caves.

Jay tapped gently at her pack. "Come on, it's your cue—"

Kes responded with a rather bored shriek. The Sue didn't notice that it was coming from inside the cave, and called out, "Kenltra morich aradai!" (This, in some language that was NOT Elvish, was supposed to mean "wait on the other side.") The bird screamed again. It sounded forced, to Acacia's ears, but at least the Sue wouldn't notice anything wrong.

Aria put her bow away as Gandalf fit a crystal into his staff and lit up their path, speaking, "We have no chice now but to face the deep dark of Moria."

"Oi vey." Jay stuck out her tongue, pretending to gag.

"Careful, it is a four day journey to the other side, let us hope that our presence goes unnoticed."

"What, in this world?" Acacia laughed under her breath. She glanced at the words. "Awwwwww, ish Mary Sue afwaid of the daaaaark...?"

"'If there was anything she hated more than anything, it was the dark,'" Jay read with a straight face. "Uh-oh, sappy moment coming up."

Acacia groaned. That could really only mean one thing.

**

Gandalf led them through the mines and they made camp for the first night in a safe nook, they dared not chance a fire as the Hobbits huddled together.

"Do not step in run-on sentences..."

"Thank you, I'll try not to."

"She's been dropping them like... droppable things. Bah."

The fellowship was resting, and Aria had sat down (of course) next to Boromir. He spoke, "It is getting harder for me to ingnore, to fight."

"I'm not watching this," said Acacia shortly. "I'm going for a walk. I'll be on the Bridge, come tell me when it's over."

"Great." Jay was too far away to really hear, but she could watch the Words.

He looked to worn, and older somehow that Aria could not bear it, she removed a silver chain from around her neck and the light from Gandalf's staff showed a crystal amethyst glimmering in the light. Boromir looked at her as she spoke, "This was a gift to me from my mother, it will bring you strength when you need it, and hope when all seems lost."

She fashioned it around his neck and he smiled at her, tucking the gem under his tunic. He sighed again and Aria placed her hand in his. Giving him silent comfort.

"From run-ons to fragments. How versatile." She crept away to the Bridge, calling softly, "Acy! It's over!"

Acacia was already slightly too far away to hear. (She didn't generally move that fast, but she'd learned how to travel by plot hole. If they could get the Fellowship from Rivendell to Hollin in a day's walk, they could get Acacia to the Bridge of Khazad-dum within moments.) Jay spotted the bright blue flame she was using to light up the area so as not to trip over things or, worse, fall off the Bridge, only because there was no other light.

"Acy..." Jay brought out another flame, and carefully maneuvered her way down. "Acy, come on."

"Huh?" Acacia turned around, holding up the jar containing the flame. (That was one major advantage of flames over ordinary fire. They kept going without air.) "Oh. Is it over, then, or did you just want to leave because it was getting worse?"

"Over. Gifts dispensed. You know, I wrote a Sue in my younger days that carried around a hunk of rock crystal on a necklace. She got sent to the big recycling bin in the sky."

"She gave him jewelry?"

"Amethyst pendant."

Acacia sighed.

"Come along, we'll miss Aria being threatening at Gollum."

"And we wouldn't want to miss that, would we?" said Acacia, voice dripping with sarcasm.

Jay heaved a sigh. "Yes, we would. But we can't. Oh, this is getting on my nerves."

"Your nerves?!"

"Yes, MY nerves. And you aren't helping, my friend!"

Acacia glared. "We haven't had any Sues so far for Elrond, so you hardly have room to complain."

"Like they don't screw with his character? Like you don't act like a flaming bitch whenever one of them's after Boromir?"

"And they're never after Elrond, so don't complain."

"It'd be a nice damn change, you know. Maybe then you wouldn't throw yourself face first into a circle of armed elves," Jay said, her tone getting quite hostile.

"Yes, it would be a nice change! You're complaining about me, let's see how you deal with it!"

"Better than YOU. You're obsessed, don't think the entire rest of Headquarters doesn't know."

"So what? Half of Headquarters have their own obsessions, you know!"

"You think I wasn't taking that into account? You're worse than the lot!" Jay shook her head angrily. "It doesn't matter. There's no point."

Acacia growled, low in her throat. She began to say something, seemed to think better of it, and simply turned on her heel and stalked away over the bridge.

"Acacia, where are you going?"

Acacia didn't answer.

"Dammit, Acacia! She's about to blow a dozen more lines! ACACIA!"

Acacia spun. "Then you can deal with it!"

"Oh, YES! Have a bloody TEMPER TANTRUM because she's feeling up Boromir!" Jay was too angry to chase after her partner. She just stood, fists clenched, as Acacia disappeared into the gloom.

**

"She bloody wants to be an infant? She can. And she can have LOVELY fun wandering around this DAMNED world, with the endless supply of the damn, damn, DAMN Mary Sues..."

Jay kicked at a pebble angrily. It skittered along the passage. "The fight's about to begin," she said to no one in particular, there being no one to hear it.

The fight passed almost in a blink, although she was startled when "Gimli breather her shock, 'Mithril...'" She wasn't sure what the author had been meaning to say, but what HAPPENED was that Gimli spoke in a breathy-shocked-Aria voice.

Jay didn't have much time to muse over this, or resent Aria's arrow through the troll's throat, overshadowing Legolas something awful. The fic was moving at its schizophrenic pace, and she had to keep up.

There was a wrenching shift as the author went blithely into Movieverse, quoting blow by blow the events on the stairs, though usurping Aragorn's "Lean Forward." It wasn't a major line, but the Protector still resented it.

Another short paragraph, and Gandalf was gone, and everyone was running.

And Jay was on the wrong side of the bridge.

**

Acacia sighed. It was impossible to tell time accurately down here, particularly with a Mary Sue around, but it was probably nighttime, judging by the fact that she was more than a little tired. She crossed over to a niche in the wall and curled up there, using the flame parcel as a pillow. This was not the brightest move she could have made, but she didn't have anything else to use.

She didn't sleep well. At all. When she woke up the next morning, she looked around—and realized that she was quite lost.

She swore virulently under her breath—sleeping on stone does not do much for one's attitude upon waking—and stretched out catlike, trying to get rid of the various aches caused by a bad indeterminate-time's sleep. It didn't work very well.

Grumbling, she took stock of her situation. She'd left her pack with Jay's, having fully expected to return there once the sap scene was over. So. Lost in the Mines of Moria, assets: one really big bow and a bunch of arrows, a parcel of flames, some paper clips and pencil stubs and similarly useless odds and ends in my pockets, and a half-finished bag of M&Ms. Obstacle: she was lost. In Moria. Without a map.

It wasn't fear, exactly, but a sort of niggling worry. Jay had the portal device, and all the food. She might be stuck in Moria for quite a while.

Her musings were interrupted by a voice.

"Acacia? Acaciaaaaaaaaa..."

"Jay? Where did you come from?" It was a stupid thing to say, but it was the first thing to pop into her mind.

"I portaled back to Headquarters, and came back on the right side of the bridge. Then I just sort of... wandered about until I found you."

Acacia gave her a sideways look. "And how long ago was this?"

"Less than an hour, more than five minutes?" Jay looked helpless. She had no more time sense than Acacia.

"So, random wandering for under an hour, and you managed to find me?" Acacia snorted derisively. "Right."

"Oh, I should have gotten incredibly lost, it's true. But I had help." The bird formerly known as Kes poked her head out of Jay's pack, holding a former target's deus ex machina necklace.

"That's cheating, Jay."

"I could have just portaled out of the Mines without you. I could even leave right now, if you'd like."

"Give me a map and I'll be just fine with that," snapped Acacia.

"I don't have one," Jay said cheerfully. "We're leaving now. Want to come?"

Acacia sighed. "I don't see much choice, unless I want to be stuck down here forever, which I don't."

Jay patted her on the arm, then opened a portal. "Don't go through. Upstairs will be mad enough as is that I went back in the first place." She took the necklace, and tossed it through the portal. She hit another button, and the portal flickered. "Now we can go through."

Acacia picked up the flame parcel and stepped through the portal. "Damn, I hurt... memo to me, never sleep on rock again..."

"Sorry." Jay looked more chipper. She'd had the sleeping bags. Both of them. And probably used them both.

Acacia sighed and looked around.

"Oh, my. You're going to want to hear this—" The Fellowship had had a head start, and were already deep in Lothlorien.

"Hear what?"

"Nine companions yet ten there were, tell me, where is Gandalf, for I would very much like to speak with him?"

None of them answered Celeborn because Galadriel did it for them, "He has fallen in the shadow..."

Acacia almost laughed at that. She did when she looked a little while back into the Words and noticed "Hadlir".

"Poor Miss Cam. More mini-Balrogs than she knows what to do with."

"Why 'poor'?" Acacia wondered. "She wants to make an army of mini-Balrogs; I don't think she'll have any staffing problems anytime soon."

"She'll have some surplus when everyone graduates and takes them along."

"So?"

Jay shrugged. "Maybe some of the worse ones could take two."

**

Aria stood watching the leaves fall and brushed a hand over the pale silver gown that she wore, her hair had been let down and it framed her face. A soft footfall made her look up and watch as Galadriel walked foreward.

"You are troubled Aria, why?"

"I," Aria sighed, "Grandmother, I feel so confused."

"Why," Galadriel questioned, "You love him do you not?"

"I'm confused, too. Mostly by the grammar," Jay said.

"Yes, it's just-"

"That I'm an idiotic shallow fluffy wench with an IQ of four?" Acacia suggested.

Jay's eyes widened. "Anyone else having Mystery Science Theater flashbacks?"

"Not exactly flashbacks, but I know what you mean."

Galadriel hugged her granddaughter close and spoke, "Ariuella Shadowfox, you are named for your mother...."

"Bet Celebrían would be surprised to learn that," muttered Jay.

"I really hope her mother was not a fox. That would be rather disturbing."

"Oy. One more incredibly compressed chapter, and she dies..." Jay repeated this comforting mantra to herself quietly.

Aria sighed and returned Galadriel's hug, "I don't know what I'd do without you Grandmother."

"Go, find him and tell him your heart. I will see you at dinner."

Acacia scowled. "How exactly does one tell—I'm trying to apply sense again, aren't I?"

"—incredibly compressed chapter, and she dies. One more—oh. Sorry. Yes, trying to apply sense is silly..."

The Protectors slipped away, too pained to listen to Galadriel's grandmotherly speech.

The next shock came that evening, just before dinner.

**

Even looking at Aria was difficult and hurt their eyes; she was "staning" in "shining gerys," whatever that meant.

Jay had both hands pressed tightly over her eyes. "We've got enough charges already to justify killing a Maia. Let's leeeeave..."

Acacia was only too happy to agree; it looked like another sap scene was beginning.

"All they do is kiss for a while. And Boromir talks about her 'stealing his heart and not giving it back.'"

Acacia snarled.

"Repeat after me. One more incredibly condensed chapter—"

"I KNOW!"

"It will make you feel better."

Acacia sighed. "Okay, okay, fine. 'One more incredibly condensed chapter...'"

**

"Why is she whining about the boats? I wouldn't whine about being in those cool boats."

"And she's separated Merry and Pippin," said Acacia sourly, "just so she can be in the same boat with Boromir. Does that work? I thought they were inseparable..."

"How should I know? They eat out of her hand, anyway, there's not a thing they wouldn't do for her."

"And she's misspelled her own name. Aira?"

"A mini-Sue-Balrog?"

"Dear gods, I hope not."

"Hey!" Jay's mood brightened in all of an instant. Merry and Pippin were pretending to be Boromir and Aria. It was pretty funny—Merry, doing Aria's voice, was amazingly accurate.

Finally they seemed to get to the Sue. "That's it," Aria screamed, "If you two don't sit down and shut up I'm sorry to say that I will kill you and then swim the rest of the way to our destination!"

It startled everyone. She apologized immediately.

"She's got a character flaw. How nice," Jay commented. "Look, I have a bad temper, I am NOT a Mary Sue."

"Half the Sues we've had so far have had bad tempers. Remember Alexis?"

"Yes. Although, it is quite valiant of them to try and tone down their perfect characters."

Acacia snorted derisively. "No, they just don't want to seem like pushovers."

"Remember warrior-Sue?"

"Which one?"

"Wonder woman."

"Akasha?"

"Dat's der bunny."

"No I think we're sorry Aria," Merry said, "Maybe we got a little carried away."

"A little," Boromir snorted, "I think you went over the edge and fell to your doom a long time ago."

Acacia flinched, but just said, "You know, my dad sometimes says 'don't get carried away or you will be...'"

"Metted mixaphors! Whee!"

They were on the right side of the river, fortunately, and waited quietly as everyone disembarked, and made camp. It didn't take long.

Aria walked away aimlessly—only slightly stupid, really. There was the odd slowed-down/sped-up sensation of time that was being skipped over as camp was made.

Aria was still walking in a random direction. Time made a final, desperate wrench, and the Horn of Gondor sounded.

Acacia sighed resignedly, and headed in the direction the sound came from. The Sue would be going there as well. In fact, despite the fact that she'd been walking in the opposite direction for the best part of a half an hour, she was already there.

"Crunch time," Jay said, lungs heaving as she jogged towards the fight.

Acacia moved at a more leisurely pace, making use of the many and varied plot holes Aria had left lying around.

**

Boromir had been shot once by the time they arrived, and Aria was dramatically drawing back her bow to shoot the orc commander.

She hit it in the arm, and it dropped its bow. She shot it again, in the side, then drew a sword and went to rescue Merry and Pippin. Then Aragorn arrived to have a "batte" with the orc.

"Now?" Jay panted.

Acacia, in answer, simply hissed like a cat and strung her bow.

"Oh, hang a minute." Aria was rescuing the hobbits, and couldn't see her—Jay ducked through the melee, swiping weapons first from the orcs, and then from the Fellowship. They blinked as their weapons were ripped from their grasp, but Jay was gone by the time they looked around.

Acacia was about to stomp out, but then something seemed to occur to her. She opened the flame parcel and selected a particularly vitriolic and badly-spelled one in vivid fuchsia. She put it in a jar, careful not to touch it directly because flames were very hot. Then she stomped out.

"Ariuella Shadowfox," she began, taking a deep breath, "you have been charged with disrupting the canon by joining the Fellowship, messing around with the characters of just about everyone but especially Boromir purely to appease your hormones, altering the plot completely just to suit yourself, preventing... preventing several important canonical events... such as the death of Boromir and the capture of Merry and Pippin, distributing jewelry, being the other daughter of Elrond, having contradictory eyes, using horrid metaphors to describe your hair and voice, stealing canonicals' lines, cannibalizing the lines you did let them say, having to invite Boromir into the Fellowship, upstaging canonical characters, having horrible grammar and spelling, changing Celebrían's name, separating Merry and Pippin, having a Cute Animal Friend and giving it a dumb name and neglecting it, massacring the Elvish language, massacring the English language, omitting punctuation where it's really needed, causing more snow than in both canons combined, creating mini-Balrogs, mucking with acoustics, knowing about shock waves, doing horrible sap scenes, and conspiracy to confer immortality on a mortal." She took another deep breath. "Sorry, you don't get last words. Jay, hold her still..."

"She gets last words. Do you have last words?" Jay gripped her tightly by the wrists.

"If I don't help Boromir, he'll die!" Aria shrieked. Acacia flinched.

Jay squeezed Aria's wrists tighter. "We know."

"I don't... want to hear about it," said Acacia, in strained tones. Then she smashed the flame jar over Aria's head.

Jay leaped back, alarmed. "OW!"

"Sorry," said Acacia, not sounding very sorry at all.

"Jeez. That's not pretty. I've had better mental images from reading Medea."

"She deserves it."

(Due to the graphic nature of this scene, description will not be given. Instead, we suggest you look up the words "immolate," "char," and "cremate.")

Pretty soon the Mary Sue was... gone. The scene began to flicker in and out of canon; while the main perpetrator was quite definitely dead—nothing resembling her remains ought to be alive—connected uncanonicals were still around. Acacia went and knelt next to Boromir and took away the amethyst pendant.

"Now can we get out of here with the bird?" she demanded harshly.

Boromir, still conscious, stared at Jay dazedly. Acacia had practically hurled herself through the portal.

"She's really sorry," Jay said sadly as she kicked apart the ashes of Aria who was. Aragorn came crashing (again) through the thicket to take on the orc commander, and Jay leaped through the portal.

**

Acacia was slouched in her chair, staring at the wall.

"Acacia? Are you alright?"

"I'm fine."

"You don't look fine." Jay dropped onto the floor next to her, leaning against the console. "Is there anything I can do?"

"You can shut up and leave me alone."

Jay did that, leaning her head against the console. The silence, as it stretched, began to bother her. She brought out her earphones, quite underused this trip, and put on some mood music. With their complete and utter discomfort, it was possible that they might never get an alarm.

END


[Jay's A/N: Welcome, gentle and not so gentle readers! You are about to be subjected to the second longest author's note I have ever seen. The first may be found at http://mstings.tripod.com/LQ1.htm ...or at least the MSTing of it. 3 page author's notes need MSTed.

The sheer egotistical decadence of this fic was what made it so VERY, VERY, bad. Don't worry, the next one is worse. *shudders* Much, much, worse. OOOh, the worseness...

Now, I've FINALLY compiled a list of PPC spinoffs. Go me!

The Last Word is Always Goodbye: by AnyAmy -- http://fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=733570

LotR: The Mary-Sue Menace: by Queen of the Damned (well, inspired by us, at any rate.) -- http://fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=715336

Freedom's Just Another Word . . . by Black Katana -- http://fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=627968

The Floater: by NytBloomer -- http://fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=699353

PPC - The enterprise expands: by KazraGirl -- http://fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=653198

Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: by Architeuthis -- http://fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=642406 (featuring a wonderful description of Mary Sues.)

Agents R and... Another R: by Robyn -- http://fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=696601

Protectors of the Plot Continuum- New Recruits: by SilentStep -- http://fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=736896 (Millie the sockpuppet would like it to be known that she would NEVER behave in such a fashion.)

Taken far too literally: by Grey Lady Bast -- http://www.fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=602168

PPC: The long, painful day of Anna Maria: by kezya -- http://fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=697658

Protectors of the Plot Continuum: The New Kids: by Sakira Kage -- http://fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=701665

---Winterfox would also like it to be known that she has created an unofficial FF.net board (http://pub37.ezboard.com/bffnetunofficialforum). It has a MST forum! Go there!

--Also visit the new MST site created to house some of the MSTs tossed off of FF.net, at http://mstings.tripod.com

--While we're at it, why not go see the Marquis de Sod, the original inspiration for the planty directors? http://www.deviantart.com/deviation.php?id=202685

Thus ends the second longest author's note I know of.]

[Acacia's A/N: I hate Aria. I hate her. I hate her. ~sigh~ I don't have much else to say, really.]

[Jay's Other A/N: Poor Acacia. PLEASE, somebody send us a Sue that goes after Elrond? Just so she can feel vindicated and I can be tortured?]

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