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Broken Doll

"... She what?" Agent Jay Thorntree slumped against the wall like a cheap fluorescent toy-store bird puppet with its strings cut—only not a bird, and not fluorescent.

Will be taking an extended leave.

"WHAT? I mean—that's not—I only stayed out a week after the Lindemann/Diesel fiasco!"

Granted. However, Agent Byrd has chosen to accept the offer of indefinite leave. She plans to spend the time in a novelized version of ancient Rome, recuperating.

"But... that means I won't have a PARTNER!" Jay wailed.

I realize this, said the Marquis de Sod with some compassion. A new partner will be provided for you. Make your good-byes, and then return to your response center and wait.

Jay walked out of the personnel office, shoulders drooping.

"Well THIS sucks."

**

Agent R. Radicans, battle-weary, irritable, and hopping mad at her erstwhile partner, paced the floor. "Jay Thorntree, eh?" she muttered. "Fine. Fine. I'm okay. ARGH! How could Shada just leave me like that?!" The disgruntled agent paused, took a few deep breaths, and continued her frantic walk.

Unfortunately, it was during one of her more frenzied pacings that Jay finally caught sight of her new partner.

"Hi," Jay said mournfully. "Who are you and what are you doing in my response center?"

Rudeness. Yet another unfortunate side of depression. Depressed? Grab a lithium.

Rhus looked up. "Jay?" she asked, trying to appear calm. Unfortunately, this had something of the effect of spreading perfume over Limburger cheese: the stink of latent frustration hung heavy in the air. Her new partner's morose visage did nothing to aid her mood.

"Yes," said Jay. "Pardon me." She walked over to the computer, called up an MP3 playlist, and pumped up the volume. "I didn't catch your name," she then said, not varying the volume of her voice despite the fact that Megaherz was playing well above 80 decibels.

"That's because I didn't tell you," Rhus replied, not deigning to raise her voice above the pulsing German heavy metal. Let her new partner strain to hear if she must turn up her music so loud. "Rhus Radicans." Then she paused. "Is that... Rammstein?"

"No," Jay said, looking animated for a second. "It's MEGAHERZ. There are other German bands in the world, you know—Wolfsheim, Kraftwerk, Die Arzte—" She double-took, and turned down the volume. "You like Rammstein?"

Rhus nodded. "I've a copy of Live Aus Berlin..." She rolled her eyes wryly. "Somewhere. They're brilliant. And I've seen pictures of Till." Rhus' eyes got that faraway look commonly connected with Legolas fangirls.

"Yeesss," Jay said dreamily. "The man is just... he's... erm." She snapped back to the present. "Wait, are you my new partner?"

Rhus nodded. "Yep. My... partner..." she refrained from inserting creative adjectives, "needed prolonged leave after a particularly traumatic Legomance."

"Mine too. One Boromir-as-rapist too many, I think." Jay sniffed, and because she was the sort that just couldn't leave a sore spot alone, "Even though I only took a WEEK off after seeing Vin Diesel boff Till."

Rhus' eyes widened hugely for a moment, making her look like an anime character. "Vin... Diesel..." she muttered to herself, looking more than faintly disturbed. "Well. That's bizarre." She looked up. "You know, I only took three days after the Aragorn/Brego slash."

At the PPC, you can see the universal "Who's the Macho-est?" contest in its more bizarre manifestations.

Jay sighed. "Well, hello, Rhus. Do you prefer Rhus, Radicus, or some really, really annoying nickname like Radish?"

Rhus shrugged. "I usually go by Rhus. But I'll answer to R or Radical. People who call me Radish usually end up dead. You answer to Jay?"

"I survived three years calling Acacia 'Acy'... but we won't go into that. Yeah, I answer to Jay. Or 'Hey, You,' should it escape you. Come in—" this in the face of the fact that Rhus already had— "sit down, there's a rug and a place to hide behind the console."

Rhus grinned. All right. A Rammstein-liking new partner... things were looking up.

Of course, due to the Narrative Laws of Comedy, it was then that the console beeped.

"Buggered," Jay said. She glanced down at the panel. "Oh, THIS is special. I just LOVE Legolas/OC..."

Rhus rolled her eyes. "You and every teenybopper on the planet. Virulent muchly?"

"No, come see this. He thinks of or mentions hell twice that I can see just glancing at it."

Rhus facepalmed, continuing the anime comparison because she felt like it. "Oy." She rubbed her head. "Why do I get the feeling that I'm going to need a vacation after this?"

"I've seen worse," Jay said critically, "but I really don't like how purple this is shaping up to be." She shouldered her pack. "You have weapons and supplies?"

"Of course." Swinging her battleaxe expertly over her shoulder, Rhus hefted the sizable backpack containing her supplies. "What d'you think I am, a newbie?"

"Well, you MIGHT have come from Bad Slash or something, and they don't often go armed." Jay looked down and sighed. "Since it's all in Mirkwood and the Real World, we might as well be elves. Good?"

Rhus nodded, wishing she could go Dwarven. Naugrim-fics were too rare... "Sure. Nancy-pansy elfses. No problem."

"They aren't ALL pansy," Jay said. "Oy. There's one hell of a tense shift. Be prepared. But for now, we're heading to St. Paul's Hospital, and we'll be in the present tense."

"Elves in a hospital?"

"No-one to notice us but her; we can keep our hair over our ears." Jay keyed the portal and the disguises, and motioned Rhus through.

They were now in a nondescript hospital, in a ward that smelled of morphine and disinfectant. Rhus wrinkled her newly olfactorily-upgraded Elven nose. "Eurgh. Where's the target?"

"Burn ward," Jay says. "And I've never been in a hospital that smelled this bad before. I guess she wanted to add atmosphere, pun intended."

The squeak and groan of wheel chairs and metal food trolleys combined with the noisy banging of the ancient heater. The nurses pass in their quite ways trying desperately to avoid looking at the woman on the starched hospital sheets. Her name is Gemini Stone.

If you have never seen someone performing an action "quitely," then you aren't a PPC agent. It's a common and annoying typo.

Rhus, trying to hold her nose without being completely obvious, eyes the preternaturally gorgeous woman lying prone on one of the beds. Despite the few scars on her face, she is obviously too beautiful to be "just another patient."

"That the target?"

"Yep," Jay says. "Madam Angst. Keep out of her sight, unless you want to explain our clothes."

Each nurse knows Gemini, each nurse knows her from the covers of a billion magazines, each nurse has giggled with her friends cursing the super-models perfection and wondering what kind of facial goop she uses. No longer. Gemini is no longer a "face."

It makes one wonder why she'd WANT to be.

"Why're those nurses avoiding her?" whispers Rhus into Jay's ear, staying out of the Sue's line of vision. "They look like they're... I don't know. Scared of her or something..."

"They don't want to look at her marred beauty, apparently," Jay says, rolling her eyes. "Purple prose, I tellya. Also," Jay looks at the Words, "she's one of those nightmare patients who don't want to get better."

"Argh. Angst-fest, I suppose. And she goes to M-E and her Twue Wuv Legolas heals all her wounds," Rhus replies, her voice tinged with disgust.

"Uhuh."

They watch as the nurse makes a misguided attempt to be nice to Gemini.

"Beautiful morning. Did you want to go outside?" Gemini has not spoken a word since the day Rebecca started looking after her. "What are you reading?" Asked Rebecca as she busied herself with Gemini's breakfast.

"Tolkien." That is the only word Rebecca ever heard Gemini say.

"Isn't SHE charming," mutters Jay.

Time passes quickly around the agents as the story speeds up.

Rhus blinks. "Are we still in present tense?" she tries experimentally, knowing there is a tense shift coming soon. She looks at Jay. "I guess so."

"Yeah. But not for long," Jay murmurs. "I'm not sure; I think six months just passed. If I'm right, she'll be out on the balcony angsting..."

The next day she is gone. The I.V needle that fed her yellow pain killer lays abandoned on the floor still covered with her blood, the sheets are tangled and cold, the window they realize, is open.

"Suicide?" Rhus whispers. "A few little scars, and she throws herself out a fricking window? As burns go, those were mild."

"But all her false friends turned away from her," Jay says, peering out the window past the "solemnly" flapping curtains. "Boy, it's tempting to give her a push."

Gemini stands on the very thresh hold of death, high above the merciless pavement and thinks for one last time. She thinks of everyone, of every false friend that turned away when they saw her maimed and fallen from her fashion throne, of every boyfriend, the kind ones that actually loved her and the false ones that like her friends loved her for what she had to offer by way of fame and cash.

"Ahh, but then where would the Legomance be?" Rhus asks sarcastically.

"Goodbye." She mumbles.

"No!" Screams Terri.

"SCREW!" screams Jay, noticing the other OC for the first time. Fortunately, Terri is too concerned about her friend to notice the two costumed nuts also at the window.

Events eventuate, and Terri falls out the window after her friend.

To be engulfed in a strange fountain of white light.

"That sentence fragment is our ride," Jay says, leaping out the window.

Rhus shrugs and leaps in behind her erstwhile partner, trying to ignore the fact that she is leaping out a window that is very high up.

**

The crown Prince of Mirkwood was bathing when it happened. The big bathouse was muggy as hell—an amusing description, actually, that made the bathhouse completely dry and arid, not to mention the misspelling that made it full of bats—and the hot water was hard to bear in the close quarters. He was actually on his way out when there was a terrific flash of brilliant white light and two huge splashes that bombarded him with little waves. Someone was screaming.

Someone was also swearing, but he didn't hear it.

"Where, by the grave of the Spieluhr kid, did Mirkwood get a bathhouse?" Jay snapped, bobbing to the surface of one of the baths. "And WHY does it smell like brimstone?"

"Verdammt! Lechi l'gehennom! Merde! Shiessenhausen!" Rhus cursed, rubbing her stubbed toe.

Jay ducked down in the warm water to avoid the gaze of the Suvians and watched as Legolas helped Gemini and Terri up. "We should have worn bathing suits. At least my aspirin bottle is watertight—tense shifts give me a HEADACHE."

Rhus only groaned, leaning over. She'd been spoiled: it had been AGES since she'd had to deal with a tense shift this large.

"Ah. My lady?" Across the bathouse, Legolas helped the screaming one to her feet. "My lady calm down." Legolas said yelling over her own screams. She calmed slowly breathing hard she looked him up and down and Legolas, his face flaming, shielded himself awkwardly. "Gemini." She turned to the dark haired one. "Do you know where we are?" She sounded terrified.

"Yes, because I'm a Mary Sue," Jay mimicked nastily.

"Yes." Gemini replied. Her voice was calm and collected but her flesh was still pale. So pale it made the scars laced over her flesh appear to be red as fire and dance almost like flame in the dim light. "We're in. Middle Earth." She turned her baleful blue eyes to him. "Aren't we."

It's not a question.

The story snaps back to present tense for a moment, and then went as quickly back.

"What the HECK was that?" Rhus gasped, sweating. Without warning, she leaned over and threw up. "Oooh... sorry...."

"Bad editing," Jay sighed. By now, Gemini had correctly identified both Legolas' species (not hard) and name; when pressed as to how, she said:

"I don't know how I know." She answered. "I just do."

"Profound," Rhus muttered. "They always 'just do', right? They 'just' fall into Middle-earth, and are 'just' spectacularly beautiful/Chosen/mystical/uber-gifted."

The scene shifted abruptly; the assassins, prepared, managed not to fall over. When coherence returned, they were in a garden, watching Gandalf and Thranduil.

"She's what is called a telepath. A Mind Flayer, she can literally read minds," Gandalf was saying.

For a few moments, Gemini's face flickered. Jay stared in bemusement as she started to turn into a tentacled horror, and wobbled between the two states for a moment.

"Baaad choice of words," Jay observed.

"Did she just," Rhus choked out, laughing, "change into an illithid and back?" Then she collapsed.

"Yep," Jay said.

"It's a dangerous weapon Thranduil, she can reach into heads and turn off a mind or tell exactly what someone is thinking with minimal effort, sometimes Mind Flayers can even master the skill to move things with their thoughts." Gandalf the White watched the girl in the garden thoughtfully, she was sitting on a bench in the shade watching her friend play with a fuzzy kitten.

Rhus, sobering, looked at Gandalf closely. "His eyes..." she began, and trailed off. "They're... empty." She shuddered.

"Yeah. Now grit your teeth as he berates Thranduil for being shallow."

"She's not human is she?" Asked Thranduil shrewdly. "She's to. aware. She reminds me of an elf almost, but she isn't one of us." The old—

"Elves don't show age!" Rhus and Jay snapped together as Thranduil sprouted wrinkles.

—king looked at the scarred girl and sighed. "She could have been so beautiful." He said looking at the fierce red marks.

"She was beautiful Thranduil and still is. Have you become so shallow my friend that you cannot look beyond her scars?"

Suddenly, Gemini became "beautiful Thranduil," which made her look no little bit like David Bowie. Be CAREFUL of your commas.

Rhus searched for something, anything, against which to bang her head. She settled for the nondescript wall, repeatedly bashing her noggin against it. Jay watched bemusedly, wondering if this was how Acacia had felt the countless times she had done the same.

"She. she is suffering. I feel it in my bones, oh Gandalf ask nothing of her lest it destroy what little piece of her soul she has left." Thranduil was sinking into the angst of the fic, too, and Jay was growing irritated.

"Be that as it may Thranduil it is imperative that she learn control. I must ask it of her, I must. Were there any other way I would use it but there simply is none! I must ask her to face the Trials. And if she lives she must go to training." Gandalfs wise face sagged in age and grief.

"If she lives..?" Thranduil asked feeling a weight fall heavy on her heart. If this young girl could brave a night alone in Loideran Grove, pigs could fly on silver-laced wings through clouds of rubies and sapphires.

"Yugh," Jay said. "That's just BAD."

"It's like Robert E. Howard at his very worst with Tolkien characters," commented Rhus.

"I don't want to know the backstory about Loideran Grove, either," Jay said. "I'm just glad that this story is so condensed, that's all I'm saying."

Rhus waited for the next bit of text. "Is that it?" she asked after a pause.

"She's stronger that you think Thranduil." Gandalf leaned back and watched the girl with a knowing expression in his wise gray eyes.

"No, THAT'S it. Let's go."

"Kill..." Rhus got a nasty light in her eye, the kind that every PPC agent came to know and love. "Yes. Let's go."

Jay circled quickly around the garden—not hard, given how fast the fic had been moving—and tapped the two on the shoulder. "Gemini Stone! Terri Baltimore! Come with me, please."

Gemini stared sullenly at them, her flawless eyes lidded. "I don't want to."

"You're an amazing bitch, you know that?" Jay asked conversationally. She laid a hand on Gemini's shoulder and pinched. "Come QUIETLY. You too, Terri."

Rhus, her hand on Terri's shoulder in the same spot, caught her new partner's eye. They both grinned, rather evilly, herding the two Sues away.

Once out of sight of Legolas, Gandalf, and Thranduil, Jay dropped Gemini.

"Okay, I'll make this QUICK. Gemini Stone? You are charged with being a Mary Sue, of muddling and meddling with burn scars—they burn in patches, not lines, dear—of making Legolas act out of character, of being a super-telepath, of creating a MASSIVELY ANNOYING tense shift, of ignoring capitalization rules—"

"Of mischaracterizing illithids," Rhus put in quickly.

"—and of inserting places like a bathhouse and 'Loideran Grove' in Mirkwood. I also notice that Gimli is nowhere in sight, and he really ought to be with Legolas after the war of the Ring." Jay blinked. "Did I miss anything?"

Rhus shrugged. "Not as far as I know." She looked at Terri. "I charge you with... most of the stuff Gemini was charged with. Oh, and actually WANTING to save her."

Jay patted Terri companionably. "Poor dear. The bit characters always have it hard, don't they? Any last words, you two?"

"My life is a dark room. A large, dark, room."

"How trite," Rhus sighed.

"Also stolen from Beetlejuice. Too much Movie Channel, eh?" Jay smiled. "Terri? Last words?"

"NOOO!"

"Last anguished scream, more like," Rhus muttered, hefting her battleaxe.

"Darnit, I knew I was forgetting something." Jay sighed. "Go ahead and kill them bo—hey, COME BACK HERE!"

Terri, having some motivation to live, was sprinting away. Jay caught her in a flying tackle.

"Ergh..." grunted Terri, struggling beneath the larger assassin.

"Note to self: too much dieting can be fatal, as is weakening," Rhus grinned to herself, watching Terri fail to wrest Jay off her and collapsing.

"What, you can't bench-press 220? Wimp," Jay said. "Here. Because you're a hapless bit character, I'll go easy on you." She reached into her pack, contorting slightly, and pulled out a phial. "Cheers from my last partner."

Rhus turned on Gemini, grinning. The last thing the poor, scarred, angsty supermodel ever saw was the homicidal grin on her axe-wielding murderer's face.

Terri died quietly and without much pain. "I'll take Terri," Jay said. "She's heavier, I think." Then, she chuckled. "You know, I've had a song stuck in my head this whole assignment?"

Rhus looked at her curiously. "Eh? What?"

Jay smiled and sang quietly: "'She is a model, and she looks good. I'd like to take her home with me!'... eh, it sounds better in German." She thought for a minute, and managed "Sie ist ein Modell und sie sieht gut aus; ich nehm sie heut gerne mit zu mir nach Haus," without mangling the pronunciation TOO badly.

Rhus blinked. "Erm. Guten?"

"You've never heard 'Das Modell'? Either version?" Jay blinked. "Seems like some remedial German pop is in order."

Rhus grinned. "Yes. Yes, I think so."

Quarry in hand, the two agents walked away.

END


[Rhus's A/N: Yay! I'm so honored, I got to work with Jay! Mercifully short fic that seemed to get progressively worse as it went along. Ah well. Rhus wields a battleaxe because axes are DAMN spiffy. And yes there ARE too few dwarf fics. Anyway. This was muchly, muchly fun.]

[Jay's A/N: I get to work with THALIA! Whee! She's shortlisted for the Mithril Awards, didja know that? Huh, huh, huh? *cough*

Acacia won't be back for a while: Renn's just tired of PPCing. So that's why Acacia is on unspecified leave.

I promise (and will try to keep said promise) that this is the LAST time that I will refer to that scarring real-person-slashfic. That particular one, anyway. The one with Till, Flake, and the gasoline is still fair game.

We'll try to keep the Rammstein in-jokes to a minimum. Really.

This was one of the more condensed fics I've seen in a while, and too purple to be really humorous with. And it was annoying, too.

Later, gentle readers!]

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