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No Way Back

[Bip.]

Normally, this would not cause much notice. But when the computer [bipped], it preempted the speakers, so the tiny noise rang in a silence that had only a moment before been filled with loud music.

"Bah."

Rhus looked up at the computer balefully, having been just getting into Rammstein again—after all, she only had the one CD, and Jay had... considerably more—when they obviously had a mission. "It's always the worst ones that the beep is soft for," she muttered, wondering grumpily what horror faced them now.

"Did it have to interrupt 'Seemann'?" Jay snapped. "Stupid bloody... GAH!"

"What?"

"Songfic!"

"Oh, god..." Rhus said, dread flooding her like a tide of ice water. She'd been in Bad Slash. She knew how bad songfics could be. "Tell me it's at least the Grateful Dead... or Queen, I could deal with Queen... even Barenaked Ladies in a pinch... just... don't let it be..."

"Avril."

Rhus sighed, slumping against the console. Of course. It had to be "sk8er punk." Had to be. Rhus was getting heartily sick of the gods of irony, and would at that point gladly have punched their faces in.

"As an artist she's decent," Jay said meditatively as she skimmed the descriptions. "But her angsty teenage lyrics appeal far too much to angsty teenager writers-term-used-loosely." Her eyes narrowed. "... Gimli bashing. Fabulous."

Rhus' eyes widened, then narrowed. "Nobody bashes the dwarf," she muttered low in her throat, clutching the axe she hadn't bothered to take off since last time (proving to Jay that she really wasn't a newbie).

"SHE GETS SENT TO MIDDLE-EARTH WITH A DREAMCATCHER?!" Jay bellowed suddenly. "What in Hell?"

"That's the stupidest thing I've read since 'Lost and alone... but not for long'," Rhus commented. "In fact, it's quite retarded. And she got one hundred twenty-six reviews..."

"They can review the STORY all they like. Just so long as we pry her avatar out of Middle-earth. Her urple-prosed, sk8ter g1rl, angsty avatar."

"Angst..." Rhus declaimed, doing a passable impression of Marvin the Robot. "Don't talk to me about angst."

Jay smirked quietly. "Well, she's got six chapters before she joins the Fellowship—of course they'd let a druggie who attacked Arwen join—so we can kill her beforehand. Ooh, she also thinks Westron is English... another handy charge..."

"They usually do, don't they?" Rhus replied, checking that her axe was securely back under its strap. Gazing at the 126-review figure, she sighed. "You know, I used to write fic."

"Oh?" Jay asked, mildly curious.

"I also had a fifteen-chapter story... about Eldarion and the Entwives..." Rhus said, her eyes getting misty. "But it got less than half that number..." She snapped back to reality and glared at the papers. "Figures."

"Oh, most of the PPCers have. Cripes, for all we know, we're just avatars ourselves, dancing for some sadistic little teenies."

Rhus shuddered. "Don't talk like that, it's disturbing."

"Oh, come on, we have to think about far-fetched crud like that." Jay tapped at the console. "Elves all right?"

Rhus sighed. "Sure we can't be dwarves...?"

"We could... but methinks she's a bit hostile to the height-impaired."

Rhus snorted contemptuously. Despite the lack of beard, Jay's short, stocky, axe-wielding companion did bear a more-than-passing resemblance to the dwarves, if you thought about it... which might explain her affinity to them. "Fine. We'll be elves again."

"Good. Being short makes me feel weird." Jay tapped the portal button—nothing happened. She glared, applied her foot vigorously to the side of the machine, and a portal fizzled to life.

The two agents jumped through, into a vaguely defined alley outside an even more vaguely defined house. There was a lighted window, through which could be seen the only really distinct thing around—the room was a bit blurry even so, but the girl within was sharply outlined and perfectly clear.

"The effects of shabby writing," Rhus remarked, sighing.

Avril Lavigne's "Anything But Ordinary" overlaid the world, much as in a music video. Yet somehow more annoying. Up in her room, their fifteen-year-old target was sulking.

Candie opened her closet and started throwing stuff into her bad. Clothes. CDs. Junk food. Stuff. She needed to get out of here. 'I can't take this anymore!' she thought.

"Lookit that," Jay breathed. She hopped clumsily onto a trashcan and peered through the window. "That thing's WICKED!"

"Hah!" Rhus crowed.

The thing that the author had defined as a "bad" lay on Candie's bed. It appeared to be a black fuzzy thing, with red, glowing eyes. It gave off a definite impression of glowering evil, but... it was kind of cute, actually. Candie shoved her stuff into the satchel-like opening, apparently not seeing the bright, intelligently malevolent eyes glaring at her.

Her life was a mess. Her last report card has been a disaster. And her dad has gone over the line. No, there was no way she was staying. She was going to run away.

She reached for the skateboard bag, and started throwing stuff inside too.

On her bed, the bad glared at her, and stuck a long forked tongue out at the skateboard bag.

"Iss KYOOT," Jay burbled.

"Oooh..." Rhus cooed, sounding oddly maternal. "I wuvzes it." She turned to her partner. "Can we take it home?"

"Yes! And we will feed it and love it and call it..." Jay paused. "Schlecht."

"Schlecht?"

"German. Bad."

"I thought so."

She opened her jewelry box (not like she had much jewelry, anyway) and took out a few bracelets she threw into the skateboard bag. Then she came across a heavy guy's chain, and was about to throw it inside, too, when she realized who's chain it was. Josh's.

Why had she dumped Josh?

"Her arms got tired," Jay guessed, doing a passable Crow T. Robot.

"She was stupid?" Rhus put forward instead, plugging her ears, unable to stand the incredibly loud Avril anymore.

That's just why. He was overprotective. He was treating her like she was a girl. OK, so she WAS a girl. But she was a tough cookie. She was a skater girl. Spending most of her life at the skatepark. She and Josh were from two different worlds. He simply didn't understand her. Didn't understand who she was deep inside.

"Tubes and wobbly bits," Jay snarled. "That's what you are deep inside."

"Oh, my heart bleeds borscht," Rhus muttered, rolling her eyes. "Ladies and Gentlemen, bad!Angst."

While Avril played, Candie continued an inner monologue worthy of a soap opera. Her mother had died at birth, her father hadn't told her her mother's name, she didn't have a photograph....

"Such a miserable life for the little avatar. Such a CLICHÉ little life." But the description had given Jay a happy thought. She pulled out her headphones.

"Headphones?" Rhus said, gazing at her partner. "You are so LUCKY... mine broke on a particularly bad mission." She made her lower lip wobble and opened her dewy elf eyes wide. "Sure I can't share them?"

"Sure," Jay said merrily. "I have a little splitter cable thingummy and an old pair of Acacia's. Mind if we listen to music that's basically whining about not having a mother?"

"Um." Rhus eyed her partner dubiously, then decided it was probably better than Avril. "Sure."

"Good." Jay hit "play."

[Die Tränen greiser Kinderschar
ich zieh sie auf ein weißes Haar
...]

Rhus grinned. "Good music."

Upstairs, Candie finished moping and ran out the door, taking her skateboard bag, her "skate," and her "school bag"... but not the bad. As soon as she was out of earshot, Jay portaled into her room, grabbed the bad, and was back to Rhus.

She wanted to turn around and look at her old house one last time, but she didn't. It would have been too painful.

A lot of things had happened in that house. Mostly bad. Her dad yelling at her. Her dad beating her. Her dad bringing his numerous girlfriends over. Her dad drinking and using drugs.

Her trying to do her homework. Her crying at night. Her trying to understand how come her life was always such a mess.

"Her bad attempts at writing. Her pathetic diction. Her urplish prose," Rhus muttered, rolling her eyes skyward. She also had a dwarvish temper, one of those that didn't have much of a fuse. It was quickly running out.

As Candie skated, she took the time to review her sex life, her father's complete nastiness—and her CLOTHING.

That day she was running away, Candie was wearing a black cotton tank, dark blue jeans that were at least 3 sizes too big for her, black skateshoes, a dark blue denim jacket and black wrist bands. And that black baseball hat that never left her. Her eyes were Kohl-ringed, as usual.

Rhus blinked. "Doesn't she have more important things to think about right now? Oh, like her life-changing decision to run away from home?"

"Naaah." Jay was running out of breath trying to keep up with the skateboarder. "This does it. I am NOT riding on the same train as her. I'm portaling ahead to her friend's house. Hang on—"

There was a slight lurch, and they were about an hour ahead and several miles away, left banding in the stushes of a house. Rhus grabbed her taller partner and dragged her down so that Candie, sitting on the stoop working up the courage to ring the bell, wouldn't see her.

"Careful!" she hissed, and they both rested, watching Candie. "I think she's going into the bank."

"Nope. This is 'Maddie's House'," Jay murmured. "There are two bits inside, so we'll have to hide. Or be really, really careful."

"I'd go for hide," Rhus replied. "Either that or—got an SEP?"

"A what?"

"A Somebody Else's Problem field. I'd guess not, then... they're useful."

"Makes-Things refuses to give me anything more complicated than a Character Analysis Device v. 3.1. And after the Hogwarts Happy Snape incident, not even that. I use the old litmus paper."

"Happy Snape?" Rhus winced. "Well, can't be as bad as Wimpy!Lover Draco. Or Pregnant!Aragorn..."

"Snape, happily in the company of Remus and Sirius, who were also happy," Jay elaborated. "They were fwiends."

"Oh, dear Eru!" Rhus, in her indignant state, forgot to lower her voice. Candie glanced towards them, curious. Rhus eeped and hid.

The interruption meant that she dallied even LONGER before she rang the bell.

"Bzzzz!" went the doorbell. Candie waited anxiously. 'On the count of three, if no one answers, I'm leaving!' Candie decided.

"One." she said out loud, "Two. Thr - "

The door flew open before she could finish saying "three".

"My, that's courteous of her," Rhus muttered. "Where I come from we wait at least three minutes before ringing the bell again, and certainly don't leave." For a moment she sounded so much like Gimli that Jay did a double-take.

Maddie, the woman who'd opened the door, rushed Candie inside. Maddie was "Angel's older sister," but it wasn't until the next paragraph that the agents could see who the heck Angel was.

The door slammed behind her, and the agents were left outside.

"... Bugger," Jay said. "Oh, well. Do you play cards?"

"I play Egyptian Ratscrew pretty well," Rhus offered.

"Muahah."

**

The agents wiled away the time until Maddie and her friend Bruce left—then the snuck into the house, avoiding the somewhat less than watchful gaze of Candie.

Candie had passed out on the couch and was snoring so loudly she could have put a buzz saw to shame.

At one point, the door rang. Jay panicked. "We're in a blank place between words? WHAT?" She raced to the door. "OH. Stupid clumsy writing."

Candie had ordered a pizza, but never written about it arriving. Jay pressed a twenty into the man's hand, took the pizza, and closed the door. The pizza man blinked, baffled, and wandered away.

"Vague food?"

"Sure." Rhus, who had just realized she was hungry, tore into the shadowy pizza with abandon.

Jay ate more refinedly.

"Sho when'sh she going to Middle-earthsh?" Rhus asked messily, through a mouthful of cheese.

"When Bruce and Maddie come home." On cue, a car pulled up outside. "Okay, into the kitchen. We'll kill them when she's gone."

Rhus nodded and took her axe, glad that her temper would finally be vented on something. "We don't have much to charge them with..." She shrugged, looking at the Words. "So Candie leaves after that whole bit with the candle and the annoying French song, right right, wot wot, chop chop. Especially chop chop."

"They don't deserve chop chop. They're innocent bits. I say we leave ether-soaked tissues over their face... I'm sure I've still got that bottle Acacia left."

"Sounds good."

A song in French began to play. Bruce and Maddie came inside, with Bell, Book, and Candle. Well, that was wrong. It was Dreamcatcher, Book, and Candle. Jay twitched.

Bruce then proceeded to do a ritual that Silver Ravenwolf herself would have laughed at, and Candie disappeared with a flash.

"A time to live, a time to die..." Rhus hummed, and took one of the ether-soaked rags Jay offered. Bruce and Maddie, their parts played, simply stood blank-faced and paralyzed.

Jay tied her rag around Maddie's face, covering her nose and mouth, and the woman collapsed.

Bruce fell next to her, and the partners dusted their hands off. "What should we do with 'em?"

"Leave them. It'll kill them sooner or later, and certainly in time for them to blink out when Candie bites it."

Rhus eyed the Words balefully. "Well, she's in M-e now... should be waking up as we speak."

"With a hey and a ho, through the portal we go," Jay sighed, opening one. "Once more into the breach."

A large green sofa, looking supremely incongruous, was sitting serenely in the midst of a typical Middle-earth forest. Candie had already deserted the area.

"Ooh, sofa," Jay said. "Do you think you can push that back through the portal? PPC is a bit shy of furniture."

Rhus grinned. "Someplace more comfortable to rest after a mission? I'm game." She twiddled with the remote activator for several minutes, until Jay rolled her eyes, took the activator and did it herself.

"There we go. One. Two. SHOVE!" They shoved. The sofa grounded itself firmly in the soft turf and refused to move.

Jay applied her palm vigorously to her forehead. "I'm a moron." She opened a portal under the sofa. There was a THUMP from the other side, and a whimper. "INcoming," she shouted helpfully.

Rhus peered gingerly through the portal. "I think you brained somebody, Jay."

"Nothing they couldn't handle," Jay replied smoothly.

"Can you see who it is?"

Jay peered through the hole. "Why, it's dear old M-T. Hallo, M-T."

The crushed figure managed to get an arm out from under the couch, and gave them both the one-fingered salute.

"Well then," Jay said brightly. "No harm done. Let's go catch up with Candie."

The nondescript woods seemed to blur and blend in front of their eyes. "God, this is giving me a headache," Rhus muttered. "Where's Candie?"

"There. Next to the elves." Jay frowned.

"Do not attempt to move! Or I'll shoot you!" This had been said by an elf—in English, of course, as the author apparently didn't give a damn about little things like language barriers.

Candie was reacting... stupidly.

She raised her hands in the air, as if to surrender.

The next thing she knew, she was seeing two blonde males standing in front of her. They were both pointing sharp arrows at her. The scariest thing was that they were wearing tunics and leggings and funny-looking shoes Candie couldn't find a name for.

"They're pointing arrows, and she's worried about their shoes." Jay shook her head and put on an English accent. "She NEEDS to sort out her priorities..."

Rhus nodded thoughtfully. "This is the girl who did a clothing review while making the most important decision of her life. Somehow I'm not surprised."

What's more, they had pointy ears.

Candie had a flashback from her dream of the night before. Could they be.. Elves?!

"Could you be... stupid?!" Rhus mumbled in a fake, breathy voice.

"Could it be... Satan?" Jay chimed in.

"Maybe this is a suburb of Chernobyl, and they're mutants," Rhus continued.

Candie didn't appreciate the witty-term-used-loosely repartee, of course, not hearing it.

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" one of the blonde men asked her.

"The question is who are YOU," Candie shot back, dropping her arms down.

"What're YOU doing in Canada?" Jay mocked.

This complete idiocy continued for a few paragraphs—between that and the sappy Italian backmusic that had been playing steadily, the agents' eyes were starting to cross.

Candie laughed out loud. The best thing in this kind of situation was to keep cool and not show the enemy she was afraid. "Do you think you scare me?" she asked coolly. "One false move and I'll punch your lights out. That goes for the two of you." The men were clearly astonished now. "DID YOU HEAR ME?" Candie screamed. "Put down the arrows before I hurt you!"

"This... is... so... stupid," Rhus grumbled, her teeth clenched. "She should be looking like a pincushion right now."

Legolas rode up on a white horse, and fell into the "who are you"/"no, who are YOU" vortex for a moment. Then he introduced himself. Candie identified him as the "drop-dead gorgeous and damn sexy elf in the Lord of the Rings," and ran over and pulled on one of the other elves' ears.

Jay's jaw dropped, and she started to giggle.

"Why did you crazy girl do that?" he screamed.

"To check out if you're a real elf," Candie replied, still unable to believe it.

"It's still ironic to me that something JRRT never even made a direct reference to in the books has become the single defining and most important trait of elves everywhere," Rhus remarked, offhand.

Jay nodded. "Really."

"OK, now that you know who we are we would like to know who you are," Legolas said, interrupting the argument. That girl was annoying him.

"I'm no one, also known as Candie, but so far you are the only ones to care to know who I am. My ex boi didn't care and Angel didn't care and now it turns out Maddie didn't care either because she played that cruel joke on me that caused me to end up here. And that's all I know," Candie said.

"Using the word 'boi' goes on the charge list," Jay snarled.

"Forcing Legolas to say 'OK' goes on the charge list, too," Rhus replied, scribbling. "Pulling on elves' ears..." The list grew longer, and the agents' tempers grew shorter.

Candie was pulled onto a horse, and they galloped away, until she saw—

"Rivendell!" Candie exclaimed. "Cool place."

"WHAT?" Jay shrieked. Candie blinked and looked around. Jay blinked desperately, and repeated it again, this time making it sound more like a bird's squawk.

The horse hadn't even stopped yet, but she jumped down - and landed hard.

Legolas stopped the horse abruptly. "Are you OK? Are you hurt?" he cried. Candie laughed out loud. She was so used to falling from her skateboard while trying dangerous tricks that this was nothing next to it. "I'm fine, man," she said. She threw down all her stuff, grabbed her skate and ran to the rail that separated the firm land from the river.

"Where were they before?" Rhus wondered for a moment, before shrugging and putting it down to badfic geography. Suddenly there came a rumbling in the background.

[Author's note: I'm not sure it was a river. I just remember there was that water in Rivendell.. You see it in the movie.]

The deafening noise of the words rang in their ears. "AAAAAAARGH!" Jay cried, throwing herself to the ground. Rhus joined her after a moment. For some reason it was better nearer to the river.

"STUPID STUPID STUPID STUPID!" Jay started to beat her head on the ground. Then she remembered what Legolas had said: "you have no business being in my woods." She began to beat her head harder.

"They were in Mirkwood, weren't they?" Rhus groaned, remembering. "Mirkwood, five minutes to Rivendell. Jeesh."

Candie showed off her sk8er skillz by doing a grind along the railing that had appeared between water and land. It was a white boardwalk railing, and looked rather incongruous. She fell; Legolas yelled at her for endangering herself.

"Oh please, it's not like you care," Candie shot back angrily.

Jay rolled her eyes. Then she looked at the Words, and stiffened.

At the same moment Elrond ran out of the Palace of Rivendell screaming: "What is going on here? Who is this mortal who's wrecking the railings?"

"Hey man," Candie said, slapping Elrond a high five.

Rhus looked at Jay, who seemed catatonic with shock. "Jay...?" she ventured, poking her erstwhile partner gently.

"Nnngn," Jay managed. Her eyes were as wide as saucers—although in the interest of accuracy, very small saucers.

"Oh, so it's that way, is it?" Rhus said, wincing a bit at painful memories of similar treatment to Aragorn. "It'll be all right..."

"... gggh..."

Legolas shot Elrond an apologetic look. "We've just found her in the woods. I don't know where she's from. Another world, she says. I'll explain later."

"OK, could someone please accompany her to the Palace?" Elrond asked. "And get her some appropriate clothing." As Elrond spoke, his jaw clenched; he was practically pushing the words through gritted teeth.

"No, No, No, No, No, NO, NO..."

Rhus, in the interest of science, pointed her Character Analysis Device at Elrond. It immediately began smoking, and, under her bemused gaze, grew horns and started writhing. [ELROND HALF-ELVEN OUT OF CHARACTER BLUE AND A HALF PERCENTISH ELLYSTRINGBEAN *fizz* *beep*], displayed the screen, and then went dead.

Candie followed him into Rivendell, and immediately settled in. For once, a Sue registered the aura Rivendell projected—that of warmth and caring—though she was corrupting it, and immediately settled in.

The agents didn't manage such comfort.

"It doesn't say anything until tomorrow morning," Rhus mused, riffling through the Words.

"... She gave him a high five..." Jay mumbled, staring into the distance. Her eyes were glassy.

Rhus rolled her eyes.

"Come on, Jay..." she said gently, leading her partner to a deserted-looking spot beneath a tree. "Now, Rhus is getting very tired. Rhus is going to sleep now. Try not to get yourself into trouble." Her well-honed survival instincts kicking in immediately, Rhus was soon snoring away beneath the tree.

**

Candie was awoken by the knocking on her door. "Dammit," she muttered. "Elves sure wake up early."

The two elves hiding outside of her room rolled their eyes.

"Open the door please," a lovely female voice said. Candie, grumbling, got out of bed and flung the door open. Before her stood.. Arwen!!!

"Oh shyt," Candie said under her breath. This was Arwen. Arwen the Elvish princess. (OK, who cares that her father is Elrond? Even Arwen can't be perfect. Besides, it's not her fault. We can't help genetics.)

Jay had failed to brace for the author's note, and was therefore too dizzy to fling herself at Candie's throat then and there.

"We have to kill her in a new and SPECIAL way," the agent hissed.

Rhus, busily keeping Jay from leaping at Candie, concurred heartily.

"How do you fair today?" Arwen asked her.

Candie starred at her with a blank face. "Huh? Fair? What do you mean?" she asked, rubbing her eyes sleepily.

"As in, what you did to Elrond wasn't?" Jay suggested helpfully. She seemed to have gotten over her catatonic state and moved straight into homicidal rage. This was, considering her job description, not an entirely bad thing. Her eyes narrowed. "And it's 'fare'. You maroon."

There was a small tiffle over Candie's clothing—Arwen said she had to wear a dress, and Candie thought she looked fine. Finally, Candie blew Arwen—who she called "princess" for the second time—off, and skated away through Rivendell.

Behind her, Arwen blinked, frowned, and put a hand to her fair forehead. "If she didn't want to wear a dress..." the lady murmured, "why did she keep making me tell her to?"

She stepped into her hot bath. The water was relaxing. After that, she got dressed. She threw on the white tube top and baggy black pants. Then she pulled her hair into a tight ponytail. And of course she did her usual makeup: black kohl and heavy mascara. 'Looks good,' Candie thought as she studied her own reflection in the mirror. 'I don't know what Arwen's problem is.' Then she grabbed her skateboard and headed outside.

Once she was outside, she immediately jumped on her skate. A lot of elves shot her dark stares. Candie didn't care. Over the years she had learned not to care about what others thought about her.

"Even when you're skateboarding through their HOUSES?" Rhus hissed. "No wonder no one likes her...."

Shortly thereafter, she slammed into a wall.

Immediately, elves burst from everywhere to see what was going on. "You again!" Elrond screamed.

Jay's eyes crossed. "I'm going to make her scream for every time she makes him scream..."

"Now, now, dear, you know Headquarters frowns on torture," Rhus replied in a motherly tone. "On the other hand, I could turn a blind eye and let you handle it."

They watched as Candie behaved like the antisocial bint that she was; Elrond was moved to want to get rid of her.

"Why, oh why did he agree to let that girl stay in Rivendell with them? Wasn't there a way to get rid of her? Surely there must be one. Then, in a flash of lightning, an idea came to him. He actually smiled.

"What are you smiling about?" Candie inquired.

"Oh, nothing," Elrond replied absent-mindly, still very proud of himself for getting that idea. "Breakfast will be served soon. Please be on time," he said briskly. Then he walked off.

"I know what he is thinking," Jay said. "Or what she's making him think. And I am Not Amused."

"Are you ever?" Rhus asked rhetorically. "Kidding. Um. What's he thinking?"

"He's going to send her with the fellowship that nobody knows exists yet to get her out of Rivendell," Jay predicted.

"Oy. Vey." Rhus replied. "Let's kill her before then, mmm?"

"Yes. Yes, I think that's a good idea."

Candie showed off on her skateboard for a while, until Arwen was sent to bring her to breakfast.

Jay sighed. "There ought," she said, "to be a support group for the loved ones of all the characters who are always villainized..." She perked up. "Yes, just imagine. 'Hello, my name is Celebrían'... and everyone says 'Hi, Celebrían'... 'And my husband is a kind man with a very good fashion sense'."

"'Hi, my name is Legolas. And my father is a kind and noble man who isn't an alcoholic'," Rhus added. Then she paused. "Actually, I think Legolas needs a support group all his own."

"How about one for all the poor twins? 'Hi, we're Gred and Forge, and we do NOT boff each other'... 'Hi, we're Elladan and Elrohir, what they said'..."

"People write Fred/George fics?" Rhus asked curiously, not being a frequent HP fic reader. Then she shuddered. "Never mind, don't tell me. I don't want to know."

Jay nodded. "Fraid so. Apparently, the whole Weasley family does it like on the Discovery Channel." She shook her head. "Damn. Let's go to breakfast, I'm starving."

The two agents grabbed some leftover food from the breakfast table that had been forgotten about by the elves. It started raining, and they watched as Candie went out on her skateboard and, predictably, got herself into an accident.

Everyone was worried about her. Arwen managed to mention Eru, but Elrond "didn't care much."

Jay glared.

Candie interacted with the hobbits, managing not to send them too far out of character.

Jay glared.

The backsong was a t.A.T.u. cover of The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now," better known as "why the hell did they put a song about clubbing in The Craft?"

Jay glared.

Candie acted sensibly and was scared to death by the Ring.

Jay STILL glared.

Elrond, still horridly out of character, invited Candie to the feast.

Jay stopped glaring long enough to bang her head against a wall, getting an odd look from Rhus.

And then...

Arwen told Candie she had to wear a dress. Candie, predictably, said no.

And then Elladan and Elrohir leaped out of the bushes, forced one onto her, and bustled her off to the Council.

Jay stopped glaring out of shock.

"What the HELL?"

Rhus, lounging against the wall, looked unconcerned. "You stopped glaring," she remarked, with a catlike yawn.

"The... they... that..."

Rhus stretched. "Chill. We've only got the Council, and then," she grinned, "Candie's toast." Rhus paused. "Talk about mixing your food groups."

"My head hurts," Jay said sourly.

The songs continued throughout the chapters, so all-invasive that CD players were of no avail to damp them.

The agents managed to grab some food at the feast that night, but Jay didn't have much by way of appetite.

When Elrond offered Candie a dance, she shouted at him and ran. Jay sulked.

And then... was the Council.

Candie ran to her room, slammed the door shut behind her and took of the dress. She stomped it with her feet she was so angry. Then she threw on her dark blue tank and the dark blue jeans that were torn in various parts. She was so mad at Elrond for making fun of her. Already she was thinking of revenge.

"For what, asking her to dance?" Rhus asked, rhetorically again. "She must have something sharp and pointy shoved very far up her arse."

"If Elrond asked ME to dance..." Jay sighed. "Well... let's just say I wouldn't run screaming."

The two agents were hanging around just outside her door; Elrond brushed past them on his way in.

"I refuse to watch," Jay said, clamping her headphones on in a vain attempt to drown out the backmusic—this chapter, it was Shania Twain.

Candie was busy destroying the dress in a skewed attempt at revenge on Elrond. Eventually she finished, just as Elrond walked in.

Elrond came in. He just looked at the dress (or former dress, if you prefer) on the floor, then up at Candie and said: "Tomorrow at noon we'll be holding a council. Please be there."

Candie gaped at him. "Why would you want me to come?" she asked suspiciously. "You're not going to make fun of me in front of people twice, Lord Elrond."

Elrond was ready to scream but he didn't. He simply said: "Your presence at the council is required."

Candie sat back, leaning against the wall, crossed her arms across her chest and said: "I'm not going."

"Oh yes you are," Elrond replied. "If you're not willing to come, I'll make you."

Jay, despite the former declaration that she wouldn't watch, had given in to temptation. Now she began methodically beating her head against the wall. Rhus watched, bemused, and wondered if this was the cause of her partner's strange behavior; something told her, however, that Jay's innate strangeness had nothing to do with brain damage (though that certainly may have played a part in it).

"Let's make a bet, Elrond," she said through gritted teeth. "Remember how I told you I know everything about your world when I first came here? Well, let me tell you some things: there'll be a lot of blah blah, Boromir will want to use the Ring against Sauron, Gimli the dwarf will try to break it with his axe but the axe will shatter to pieces, and finally Frodo Baggins will take the Ring and volunteer to bring it to Mordor. He'll be joined by the blonde elf, your daughter's boyfriend, Boromir, the dumb dwarf, Gandalf the Grey and Sam, Merry and Pip, who will be hiding in the bushes. That's how it'll go. Wanna bet?"

Elrond gasped.

Jay snarled.

Rhus gagged.

Would it really happen? Did she really know? "We'll see about that," he said as he left the room. Candie smirked and plopped back on the bed.

Jay turned up the volume on her CD as high as it'd go. "Through wicked windows framed in silver," she muttered along, "and hung in toughened glass..."

Rhus, listening at the splitter cable, was blissfully unaware of the background music for a few precious moments.

Candie woke up. Birds were singing outside her window. "Can't a girl who was tortured into wearing a dress get some freakin' sleep in peace?" she muttered as she got up. First she took a good long hot bath. Then she put on a pale blue tank, black skate pants and the black baseball cap to shadow her eyes. She put lots of black kohl and mascara to make her eyes look very dark. She was in a crabby mood right from the start, and that was not a good sight. (Not a good sight for anyone who might come near her, that is.)

"Why is it that they mention her makeup every single freaking time she dresses? And it's always the same!" Rhus crabbed, not having slept well at all.

"I'm getting tired of those author's notes, too," Jay surled.

Candie made a dramatic entrance at the council—i.e., hid in the bushes until it was time to start.

"Go ahead Elrond, start your little meeting," Candie shot back. She was glad no one could see her eyes, because they would have given her away, since they were screaming with laughter.

"I haven't seen someone's eyes laugh since the last time I ran into the Corinthian," Jay murmured, looking a little sick.

For her part, Rhus had been in enough bad slashes to have seen "laughing eyes" over and over again. She patted Jay on the shoulder. "We'll kill her soon."

The Council progressed in fairly standard movieverse.

And then...

"I think it would take one more person to make the Fellowship complete. Candace," he said.

"WHAT?" Candie yelled back as her head jerked up, revealing her eyes for the first time since the Council started. They were full of hatred. "What do I have to do with anything? And anyway, aren't there supposed to be nine people, since there are nine, ugh... ring-wraiths?"

"We're making an exception so that you could enjoy and benefit from this experience," Elrond told her.

There would have been a deafening shriek from the bushes if Rhus hadn't clamped a hand over Jay's mouth.

"I'm not going, Elrond. You can't make me."

"Well, in that case you won't be staying here anymore. Nothing makes me keep you here," Elrond replied.

Candie was mad. What was she going to do? "I can pay rent!" she cried desperately.

Elrond just laughed. "I don't need your money. This is the end of the discussion. You'll be joining the Fellowship. Period."

Candie felt like crying. Everybody else, except for Merry and Pippin, looked quite shocked. Candie didn't know what to say or do so she grabbed her skateboard and ran off, not wanting anyone to see her tears.

As soon as she was out of earshot, Jay ripped Rhus's hand away. "SHE'S READ THE BOOKS! SHE KNOWS THE NUMBER! WHY, WHY, WHY, WHY—"

"Because it's a lovely little angst-excuse, that's why—calm down, calm down, she'll hear you—that hurt! OW!" Rhus shrieked, forgetting to keep her voice down. She looked at the bite mark on her hand and glared at Jay. "Uncalled-for."

"Uncalled-for?! This whole bloody story is uncalled-for—"

"Indeed." The voice was gentle, but it managed to make both of them stop. "As uncalled-for as sending an unarmed child on an errand of danger."

Canon characters aren't supposed to see assassins. But if an assassin has been screaming quite loudly—and the canon character already knows that something's wrong—and said canon character is wearing a ring of power—

"Woops," Jay managed weakly.

"L-lord... Elrond?" Rhus gulped, standing in front of Jay. For a brief moment she worried that her partner would go catatonic again, which would render her useless to anyone.

"Yes." He looked at them. "You see that this is wrong; I... cannot say what needs to be said to her. You two can tell her that she is free to remain—"

"The hell we will," Jay snapped. "We're going to kill her!"

"She is a guest in this house, and our hospitality has been poor."

"She's making you act wrong!" Jay said. "I—ohhhh—screw." She ducked out of sight.

"He wanted us to save her..." Rhus whispered, looking misty-eyed. For a moment she considered converting into Lord Elrond fangirlishness.

"Kind as summer," Jay said. "That is a gentleman. A misguided gentleman, but all the same..." Jay looked ahead at the Words, trying to plan, for once. "Criminy. She's going to try to kill Arwen!"

"Oh, Lord. Does she actually do it?"

"No, Gandalf stops her..." Jay blinked. "We'd better hurry. And figure out what we're going to do with her! I'm out of ideas!"

"Uhmm... we... could..." Rhus paused. "Throw her into Mount Doom?"

"Done that. With the tie-dyed chainmail girl."

"Darn. Uh... erm..." Rhus paused. "Tie-dyed chainmail?" She blinked. "Forget it. Ooh! Give her to the mûmakil!"

"Rhus, you're brilliant." Jay set off at a sprint toward Candie's room.

The twins and Arwen were ahead of them; by the time the agents made it to the room, Candie had Arwen in a death grip, the razor at her throat. Locks of randomly-snipped purple hair, little split-end symptoms of Candie's unbalanced mental state, lay on the floor around them.

"Do not attempt to move!" Candie warned. "None of you!" She held Arwen tighter. 'I'll kill her! I want to kill her!' Candie thought.

Elladan and Elrohir looked at each other. They knew they had to save their sister - but how? If they were not careful that crazy girl could hurt her... or even worse!

Elladan and Elrohir grappled with Candie, and Arwen got cut in the process. Elrond and Gandalf rushed up, Elrond went to tend to Arwen, and Gandalf broke up the "festivities."

And Jay, taking a deep breath, pulled out a pocket watch. "Rhus?"

"Huh?"

"Pray..."

Jay hit the pushbutton on the side. And things... slowed... down.

Jay slumped, looking exhausted. "Yay, it worked. Grab Candie—you've got about... a minute."

Rhus, obediently following orders, grabbed the purple-haired OC and jumped into the portal Jay had opened.

"... Weapon, like I said. The Mad Hatter made it. In the video game, it drains yer... whatchacallit, life—'will'. In other continua, it just takes the energy straight from you." Jay sighed and massaged her nose. "Wake up Candie: gotta charge her."

Rhus knocked Candie on the head, none too gently. "Wake up, my angsty sweetcakes," she cooed, using the slightly creepy aura that hung around her to full effect. "Momma's come to give you what you deserve."

"What?" Candie asked muzzily.

"Candace Van Allen," Jay said with as much force as she could muster, "you have been charged with crimes against canon, first and foremost the pushing-out-of-character of Elrond Peredhil and his children, followed closely by putting Mirkwood next to Rivendell, putting a RAIL in Rivendell, making Legolas say 'OK', making ELROND say 'OK', putting a rail where no rail ought to be just so you can skateboard, in-text author's notes, shockingly annoying songs..." Jay sighed and sagged. "Rhus? You got anything?"

Rhus nodded. "Umm... pulling on the ears of elves, making pointy ears more important than they deserve to be, being stupid, having purple hair, annoying the living shit out of me by having irritating background music, and being far too angsty to remain living."

"Also misuse of a dreamcatcher," Jay said firmly.

Candie looked angry. "You can't kill me," she declared resolutely. "I have to go along with the Fellowship. Even though... I don't want to... it's all that Elrond's fault, I hate him..."

This was, undoubtedly, the wrong thing to say.

Jay shut her eyes for a moment, and took a deep breath. "... Quiet." She glanced at Rhus. "It was your idea; you get the honor."

Rhus took a deep breath, and did the most convincing elephant impression she could muster. This was a talent she'd spent years acquiring, and it had been honed to perfection. Jay could have sworn that it wasn't a human sound, but there Rhus was trumpeting away...

Before long, a huge grey shape appeared in the distance, making its way quickly across the Haradri desert. "Perfect," Rhus muttered, grinning.

"Do we need to restrain her?"

Rhus nodded. "I think so."

Jay stirred herself, took off her pack, and produced some rope. "Handy stuff, this. I'm getting out of the way." She fumbled in the bag again, pulling out her camera. "And getting to where there's a good view."

They tied the struggling Candie down, and relocated to a suitably distanced spot. Rhus took out some popcorn from her backpack, and they settled back to watch.

"Cute little crushing machine," Jay cooed, snapping a picture. "Such darlings. I never get to see them, either."

"And they're quite efficient!" Rhus enthused. "Oooh, I love Harad."

"Bit hot for my taste," Jay said. "Have you been to Beorn's?"

Rhus shook her head. "We didn't have much time for vacations in Bad Slash. Honestly, you've no idea how busy it was in that department after the movies came out..." She paused, considering. "Or, well, perhaps you do."

"Yeah. Hurrah, pop sensations. Real-people-fic took a heavy hit, too, what with all the 'smoke crack, Elijah, so I can comfort you' fics..." Jay yawned. "Show's over. Let's go home and find a nice home for the bad."

"Let's." Rhus opened the portal and the two stepped through.

END


[Jay's A/N: And Candie the Sk8er girl dies a heavy and painful death.

What bothers me is that it got better towards the end—writing a little less purple, and definite knowledge of the book—but she just ran right along, mucking up the characters so she could go on the Fellowship. If you can't have your OFC join plausibly... *sigh* Bah. Humbug.

Banding in the stushes is not a typo, it's a spoonerism.

I'm trying to be perky, I'm trying to be perky...]

[Thalia/Rhus' A/N: Well, this was a particularly turgid piece of fiction. The soundtrack was decidedly irritating... x_X And, never fear, the bad has found a place of honor in the response center. ^^;; Iss kyoot. Great working with Jay as usual (am honored )...*blink* So... erm... is that a [bip] I hear?]

[Editor's note: "Schlecht" was misspelled as "Schlect" originally. A native German-speaker pointed this out to me and, for what it's worth, Google Translate and Wiktionary agree that the original spelling is not correct German. After a lengthy internal debate over historical accuracy vs. linguistic accuracy, I chose the latter. I feel certain our Germanophile original authors would have wanted it that way.]

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