Disclaimer: The Protectors of the Plot Continuum belong to Jay and Acacia, who have kindly allowed us to play in their grey corridors. Glorfindal and all things OFUM belong to Miss Camilla Sandman, and Maeluiwen belongs to Jen Littlebottom. Lord of the Rings belongs to the Tolkien Estate, X-Files to Chris Carter and Ten Thirteen Inc., Star Trek to Gene Roddenberry and Paramount, X-Men to Marvel Comics and Twentieth Century Fox, Harry Potter to J. K. Rowling, Men in Black to Columbia/Tristar Studios, the song "David Duchovny" to Bree Sharp, Winnie the Pooh to A. A. Milne, Green Eggs and Ham to Dr. Seuss, Discworld to the illustrious Terry Pratchett, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to the late Douglas Adams. (deep breath)
There is, for once, no fanfic story dissected in this tale. (“21 Uses for Tribbles” by majorkami and “Gofi and the Balrog” by Levade [excellent story! read it now!] are real, but the stories our fictional characters are in treatment for are generalized from a variety of sources.)
Summary: Agent Nenya finds herself in the Department of Fictional Psychology after having a breakdown in the last chapter. Guest-starring Agents Nathonea Dewstan and Constance Sims.
“What sort of person sits down and writes a maniacal laugh? And all those exclamation marks, you notice? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head.”
–Terry Pratchett, Maskerade
It was dark when Nenya awoke. Whether it was stormy, and whether it was night, was a matter for conjecture. Nenya’s training and experience as an assassin for the Canon Protection Initiative’s Department of MultipleOffenses had thoroughly accustomed her to awakening in strange circumstances. She was well-used to awakening in the dark, in an unknown location, sprawled flat on her back. She was even used to awakening in places with weird smells and odd, unidentified humming noises in the background. None of this bothered her. What she wasn’t used to was awakening in an actual bed. With sheets. And a pillow and blanket, both of which seemed to have been washed within the last decade–possibly with scented soap. That made her nervous.
Nenya opened her eyes and stared at the (probably grey) ceiling overhead,ears straining for any sound of hostile motion. All she could detect was a low beep from some kind of machine, and the light whoosh of several people or animals breathing. She sat up warily, peering into the darkness, hoping to figure out where she was before being attacked by a warrior princess, a psychokinetic Cute Animal Friend, or a large plot-bunny. There were...unusual...hazards to this job, to be sure.
After some study, she decided that she and the bed seemed to be sharing a large, deeply shadowed room with three other beds, two of which were occupied. A set of thick drapes was drawn at the end of the room, faint light seeping from around its edges. Windows, perhaps. Several strangely shaped machines stood about the room, blinking little lights and emitting the hums and whirrs she’d heard earlier. A sliver of soft yellow light to her left indicated a door, slightly open, leading to some kind of hallway.
A groan from the darkness make her turn her head. The long, dark shape in the next bed was tossing about in its sheets, moaning something in a distinctive male monotone.
“No.... don’t.... no, Sk... Sklu... Shkully....” said the voice. Nenya watched, intrigued, as his body executed an impressive set of full-length twitches and spasms. “Come back...! Shkully.... Scully.... extraterrestrial.... Scully!”
Whoa. Scully? Nenya thought. That must mean–what on earth was she doing in the same room with Fox Mulder? Who else could enunciate “extraterrestrial” so clearly in their sleep?
Wincing slightly at a sudden pain in her head, Nenya swung her legs over the side of the bed. Time to do some investigating.
The night nurse looked up from her game of computer Solitaire and jumped slightly. A wild-eyed apparition loomed over the edge of the nursing station counter, dark gaze glittering dangerously. Frizzy red hair stuck out from all over its head, thick glasses perched on its nose, and wrinkled blue hospital pajamas covered its twitching shoulders. It glared at her.
“Where in Ëa am I?” it rasped.
“That depends on who you are,“ replied the nurse calmly, quite used to dealing with strange apparitions appearing in the middle of the night. Or early in the morning. 5:45 am. The morning shift should becoming on soon.
The creature shook its head. “Don’t try that on me. I may not know where this is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the DiscWorld afterlife. For one thing, there’s an FBI agent in my room, and for another,” it glanced around the hallway, “I don’t think my personal afterlife will be this...grey.”
The nurse smiled. “What I meant is that my description of where you are will depend on what sort of person you are, and the last thing you remember before waking up.”
“Oh. Well, I was on a mission, and Aragorn was....” It stopped, shaking its head as if confused or in pain. “...he was behaving very strangely,and then I got hit by a rabid Klingon on a motorcycle, or possibly an especially heavy dangling participle, and–”
“Wait a minute. A mission? You’re that agent, aren’t you? Anya, Enya, something....” The nurse clicked a few buttons on her computer. “Nenya, that’s what it was. A couple of those crazy Sue Department agents wheeled you in here in the middle of the night, going on about how the whole Medical ward was full of casualties from the latest plagiarism offensive in the Fanfic Wars, and couldn’t we bend the rules enough to put an agent in FicPsych for one night, and they were sure you’d be discreet and not interfere with any of the fictional patients, and–” She stopped for breath, shaking her head at the thought of last night’s crazed visitors. “At any rate, if you want to know where you are, you might as well just read the sign up there.” She waved a hand vaguely at a spot on the wall behind and above her head.
Nenya squinted. On the grey-painted wall was a (slightly lighter grey) plaque with (darker grey) lettering on it. Most of the space on the plaque was taken up by a row of large exclamation points. Above them, in tiny letters, were the words “Canon Protection Initiative” and below them–
“Department of Fictional Psychology,” she read out slowly. “I should have known. Even when I get hurt I don’t get out of Headquarters.” She sighed heavily. “You work here, eh?”
The nurse smirked a little and held out her hand to shake Nenya’s. “Apparently so. Nathonea Dewstan, at your service.” She tilted her head to one side. “You know, you field agents are as weird as I’ve always heard.”
Nenya laughed. “Nenya Gabriel at yours. I’d claim the insanity was a result of the job conditions, but that’d be misleading you, and we’re sworn to uphold the truth here in this dungeon, are we not?” She shook the proffered hand, being careful not to use bad grammar, which would have resulted in her shaking her new acquaintance by the hand, a rather more vigorous exercise than she was prepared to engage in at the moment. “You know,” she said after a moment, “I take it back. I think my personal afterlife will be grey. After a few more years spent in this place, that’s the only colour my eyes will be capable of registering.”
Nathonea gave an answering smile that promised evil to whoever the architects and interior designers of this place were, if she ever caught them. “Tell me about it. At least you get some fresh air sometimes. Must be nice.”
“Nice? When you’re being chased by the warrior daughter of Galadriel and Sam Gamgee? Or running at full-tilt up Caradhras to catch her so you can Do The Duty? In full Uruk-hai armour? Without losing the charge list?”
Nathonea leaned back in her chair and folded her arms behind her head. “Guess the grass is, er, less grey on the other side of the fence, huh? Here I am thinking what a pain it is to be stuck in here, especially when we’re as busy as we’ve been lately. I think all the sequel movies that are coming out this year have something to do with it, but in any case we’ve been run off our feet trying to keep up with all the mentally abused characters lately. The MIB neuralyzers just don’t seem to be doing it these days, and three of our nurses’ aides just got transferred to Intelligence, and–”
Suddenly the nurse sat bolt upright in her chair. “Saaaay, you’re off duty right now, aren’t you?”
Nenya quirked an eyebrow, subconsciously imitating Fox Mulder’s partner’s Inquisitive Stare #15. It wasn’t quite Elvish Glare #27 (it was nearer, in fact, to Vulcan That’s-Fascinating #14 ), but it was close. “I suppose I am. If they’ve gotten around to filling out the paperwork, which I doubt.”
“How’d you like to try some of that greener grass? We could use a hand around here for a few days till you have to go back to your response centre. I bet Head Nurse Suzine and Doctor Freedenberg could be convincednot to remind Personnel of your whereabouts for a while, in exchange foryour help. Don’t know if we could pay you, but I bet you could brow-beat–er, frond-beat–the SO into giving you a raise for the ‘initiative’ you showed, next time you have to go see him. How about it? You wouldn’t really have to do anything medical, just general helping-out kind of stuff.”
Nenya considered for all of seventeen seconds. “All right,” she said, “on two conditions. First, I get one of those cool uniforms like you’re wearing, with the exclamation point on the shoulder.”
“No problem. And the other condition?” Nathonea’s eyes glinted greedily at the prospect of a new recruit.
“You tell me what Fox Mulder was doing in my room.”
Nenya, freshly showered and uniformed, followed Nurse Constance Sims’ clipboard down the hallway, munching on the large apple fritter she’d been given for her breakfast. Like most Headquarters food, its age was indeterminate, but at least it was sugar. Nurse Nathonea, who had outfitted her and given her a quick tour before turning her over to the day staff, had mysteriously not been notified of the ban on sugar for field agents. Nenya was not about to enlighten her.
She sighed contentedly. Though this was only the second donut she’d had in three months, it was the fifth she’d had today. (Don’t ask how that’s possible. It’s related to the sock-dryer phenomenon, which nobody has been able to explain yet, either. Possibly the Universal Laws of Narrative Comedy had decided to have mercy on Nenya since she had managed not to lose a single sock through her entire four years at OFUM, and were choosing this way to reward her. Probably not, though.) She grinned as the sugar hit her bloodstream, and began to sing (in a sadly off-key voice).
“Any Sue you can shoot, I can shoot faster,” she warbled. “I can shoot anything faster than you. Yes I can, yes I can, yes I can!” Life was good, and if she was irritating her amazingly placid new guide, so much the better.
Suddenly her song was drowned out as a loud, wild, tortured wail shrieked through the corridors. Nenya yelped, jumped several feet in the air, and crouched, back to the wall, fumbling instinctively for weapons that were no longer on her person.
“What,” she panted, “was that?”
Nurse Sims turned around calmly, noting something on her clipboard. “Seven of Nine,” she replied, not a hair out of place.
“Hmm? Oh.” The Spock-faced nurse looked up and cracked a small smile.“Technically, that was Nazgûl Number Seven. But we figured that it would be less traumatizing for the folks who have to give him therapy if we nicknamed him after a hot Borg sex-symbol.”
Nenya straightened, calming her racing heart and taking deep breaths. “I’d say he’s pretty well recovered, what with a shriek like that. Trust me, I should know.” She shuddered.
Nurse Sims nodded. “You’re right. It is a good sign that he’s on his way to full recovery, if he can scare a hardened field agent as badly as he scared you.” Noticing Nenya’s slightly ashamed look, she added, “Actually, it’s a good sign for you, too. If you hadn’t reacted in terror to a Nazgûl shriek, we’d know there was something seriously wrong with you.”
Nenya grinned at that, and started searching the hallway for the last half of her donut, which had gone flying in the excitement. After a short search she found it being chewed on by a large potted fern in the corner. She sighed. No sense fighting over food with what was probably a relative of the Director of Fictional Psychology.
“So what are we doing again?” she asked, for the eighth time since she’d started following Nurse Sims down this corridor. “Something about angst?”
Nurse Sims sighed. If Nenya hadn’t already decided that her companion was at least part Vulcan, she would have interpreted the sigh as aggravation. “Yes. We are going to the room you were in last night, to check on the progress of the others there, and then we will proceed to the rest of the rooms in that section. Incidentally, while we are there, you may retrieve any of your belongings that came in with you, and bring them back to the nursing station after our rounds.”
“And what about angst? You said something about angst earlier, I know you did. And you weren’t just talking about the headache I’m giving you, either.”
“All of the patients in this wing have been diagnosed with an overdose of angst. Fox Mulder, whom you encountered upon awakening, has just come from a sequence of fics in which he was quite angstily slashed with several of his male colleagues, and in the last one he was traumatically separated from his partner, Dana Scully, by means of a tragic car accident. Thus, he’s also suffering from Scully Withdrawal Syndrome, a specialized type of Partner Separation Anxiety. The other patient in your room is Rogue, birth name Marie D'Ancanto, of the X-Men continuum, who has also been heavily involved in angsty romantic relationships recently.”
Nurse Sims turned a corner, and Nenya followed after her, trailing her fingers along the flame-thrower marks on the walls. “Down the hall from them, there’s Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter universe. Along with angst, Malfoy has Delusions of Love for Harry Potter and is running a rather high fever. The other patient in that room is Wesley Crusher from the starship Enterprise, who, due to cross-continuum contamination, now believes that everyone hates him.”
“But don’t they?” Nenya was puzzled.
“Don’t who what?”
“Don’t most Star Trek fans hate Wesley Crusher, for being a Marty Sam?”
Nurse Sims sighed. “Well, yes, a lot of them do, which is why we don’t let our more... enthusiastic... TNG Trekkie agents near him when he’s here if we can help it. He’s flunked most of the Mary Sue Litmus Tests we’ve run on him, so they do have a point. But he is a canon character, so we’re sworn to protect him no matter how much it grates on our sensibilities.”
“What happened this time?”
“The usual–Picard or Riker or someone going on about how much they couldn’t stand him. However, I think they said it to his face, instead of behind his back as they usually do. In any case, he became quite depressed and was just about to leap out the nearest airlock when a PPC agent found him.”
“No rabid tribbles?”
Nurse Sims flashed a full smile for the first time all morning. “Not this time. You heard about that one, did you? It was called ‘21 Uses for Tribbles’, I believe. It came in through the Parody Department.”
“Yeah, one of the uses for tribbles was ‘substitute ensign’–filling out Wesley’s uniform and reporting to the bridge for duty. After having killed him in a rather bloody fashion, of course. Later they fired the tribbles at an enemy ship, and ended up using the ones who were pretending to be Wesley, too.” She shook her head sadly. “Poor tribbles.”
The nurse regarded her curiously. “Don’t you work the Lord of the Rings continuum?”
Nenya nodded. “I do. But Star Trek is a recent hobby of mine. I don’t know enough about it to work it–and, besides, LOTR is so much busier right now that I don’t think they’d transfer me even if I did know the Trek canon. But it’s a good break from Arda sometimes. It’s the future, Middle-earth is the past, so between the two I’m pretty happy.”
“And it also explains why the author has been dropping references to Vulcans and Klingons in this chapter, doesn’t it?”
“I thought so. Well, we’re here.” Nurse Sims pushed at a grey door, identical to the last dozen or so they’d passed. “Let’s go see how Mr. Mulder is faring this morning.”
Mulder was sitting on his bed, his back to the door and his head in his hands, when the agents pushed open the door. He wasn’t twitching noticeably, thank goodness, but his shoulders were slumped dejectedly. The agents looked at each other and Nurse Sims shrugged. Nenya tapped him on the shoulder. He jumped.
“Where am I?” he asked, causing Nenya to go weak at the knees. She valiantly attempted not to drool.
“Uhm, nowhere you need to, uhm, know about right now,” she stammered, captured (like Bree Sharp) by the alien light of the spaceship of love. “You won’t remember it when you wake up back home, anyway.”
Mulder’s eyebrows shot up and Nurse Sims glared at Nenya. Too late, Nenya realized that evasiveness was precisely the wrong tack to take with someone known for his tenacious investigative tendencies. Damn.
“Having nightmares again, Mr. Mulder?” Nurse Sims said, by way of changing the topic. She continued to glare at Nenya, who looked at her shoes.
“Was it Scully again?”
Mulder looked surprised that she knew his partner’s name, but nodded. “She’s in a car crash, and I can’t save her. Because I wasn’t there. Because...” He trailed off, his eyes going glassy. “Because I was across town spending the night with... Deputy Director Skinner? Or was it Alex Krycek?” Mulder’s forehead crinkled with the effort of remembering. “And she’s in the ICU but they won’t let me in to see her. And it’s all my fault!” A single, over-dramatic tear ran down his cheek. “And the whole time, I hear this voice, chanting in the background.”
Catching Nenya’s eye, Nurse Sims mouthed, “Latest fanfic.” To Mulder, she said, “What was the voice chanting?”
“I think–I think it was saying ‘Legolas, Legolas, Legolas,’ over and over and over and over and ov–”
“There, there, it’s OK, Mr. Mulder. Just have a sip of this and lie down again. It’s going to be all right,” Nurse Sims said quickly, producing a vial of something orange from her pocket and patting Mulder gently on the shoulder. He’d started twitching again at the mention of the L-word.
As she tucked Mulder back under the covers, Nurse Sims said, “Nenya, will you check the soundproofing system for me? The insulation must have fallen out if he’s hearing about Legolas in his sleep.”
Nenya nodded and headed towards a tall black-chromed machine in the corner. The Four-S, or Subconscious Suvian-Soundproofing System, was one of Makes-Things’s devices–and one so useful that it was installed in every room in Headquarters. Because the PPC was so closely tied in to the fanfiction Word Worlds, the place positively thrummed with the psychic mental projections of all the obsessed fan-authors. Usually this took the form of a subconsciously-projected repetition of the most-drooled-over lust object of the moment. The Four-S was designed to muffle this grating noise. At the moment, of course, the name being chanted was “Legolas,” though a few years back, before Nenya’s time, it had been “Leo!” (Which may explain the tendency of many older PPC agents to turn homicidal at the mention of boats, icebergs, blue jewels, or the year 1912.)
The Four-S in this room had obviously broken down a lot lately. The cover to the insulation compartment had been removed and kicked halfway across the room. There was a large bucket of cotton batting sitting beside the machine (Do Not Remove Bucket On Pain of Pain! it said), and vitriolic graffiti had been scrawled on the wall behind it. Nenya quickly grabbed a handful of cotton batting from the bucket, pulled the old, singed insulation from the innards of the machine, and stuffed the new batting in. The machine sparked a bit and growled at her, but the low-grade headache she’d had ever since entering the room disappeared. Mulder sighed happily as he drifted off into his orange-medicine-induced sleep.
Nenya pulled herself to her feet, bumped her head on the edge of the machine, fell to the floor, swore at the bloody Universal Laws ofNarrative Comedy, and was loudly shushed by Nurse Sims. The latter was checking over Rogue, who, amazingly enough, had slept through the entire interview with Agent Mulder.
Nurse Sims slipped a pair of earphones on Rogue’s ears. Nenya could hear a tinny voice coming out of the small speakers–I am not a psycho, I am not a psycho, I am not a psycho....
“She is still asleep,” Nurse Sims said, taking a Jay’s Obvious Statement of the Day award. “She does not seem to be in any pain, so if you will get your belongings, we can proceed to see our next patients.”
“My stuff, right.” Nenya staggered over to her bed and retrieved her water bottle, eyeglasses case, slippers, and a large stack of magazines that had not been there when she had left. The scrawled note on top of the stack said they were from Glorfindal, and the crispy edges confirmed this. She shook her head fondly at the thought of her mini. What a sweetie, even if his carrying methods meant half the magazines would be unreadable due to scorch marks. She snapped her fingers to call up a plothole and tucked her stuff into the bookbag it spit out, earning an arched eyebrow from Nurse Sims.
Swinging her bag over her shoulder, she moved over to Mulder’s bed, whispered something in his ear, and then followed the nurse out of the room.
Several yards down the hall, Nurse Sims stopped walking and turned to her. “What did you say to him?” she queried.
“Mulder? Oh, nothing,” Nenya said innocently. “OK, OK, stop looking at me like that. All I said was, ‘This isn’t a conspiracy’.”
Nurse Sims looked at her oddly but continued walking. Three steps later she stopped again. “Why are you walking like that?”
“I’m proceeding. You said we were going to proceed to see our next patients, so–”
Nurse Sims muttered something under her breath that sounded an awful lot like “Why me?”
“Well, that was interesting,” remarked Nurse Sims, rather too casually, an hour or so later.
“I’ll say,” said Nenya, trying to keep up with Nurse Sims’s brisk stride. “It’s not every day I get screamed at and called a ‘bloody red-haired American exchange student AARGHH!!!’”
“Not to mention being turned to stone for several seconds. Which looked quite uncomfortable, by the way.”
“We’re lucky Mr. Crusher had managed to rig up a security forcefield in front of the door using his mattress springs and one of the lightbulbs. Otherwise Draco might have done some real damage.”
“You don’t call being paralysed and having your entire ethnic group slandered ‘real damage’?”
“Ethnic group?” Nurse Sims’s eyebrow was doing it again.
“That is not an ethnic group.”
“So? It’s a, whachacallit, visible minority. Eighty percent of all Sues have red hair, especially in Middle-earth. It’s slander to the species! Not all redheads are imbeciles with improbable heritage and tragic pasts who just want to get into Legolas’s pants! It’s slander, I tell you! Slander!”
“As opposed to being of supposedly sound mind and willingly enlisting in an agency which exists only in a few deranged writers’ heads and which assassinates characters which exist only in other deranged writers’ heads?”
“Exactly!” Nenya had worked herself into enough of a rage to be impervious to Nurse Sims’s sarcasm. She blew out a breath. “I just wish they’d–”
Excuse me? said a voice at knee-level. Nenya plowed to a stop. Pardon me. Down here.
“Who said–oh, it’s you. How was the donut?”
It was the fern who’d eaten Nenya’s apple fritter earlier.
Very delicious, thank you. But I have a message for an Agent Nenya Gabriel. Am I correct in assuming that you are she?
“Yup. C’est moi.” Nenya placed her hand dramatically over her heart.
The fern handed her a sheet of paper. You are not Miss Piggy, Miss Gabriel. And your accent is horrible. You are to report to Section 31, Room B9, for a... debriefing regarding your latest mission. Immediately, I might add.
“What’s an ‘ellipsis debriefing’?”
I suggest you run along and find out.
Nenya shrugged. Talking plants were, as a rule, not very helpful when you wanted information.
“Have fun with the rest of your patients, Nurse Sims. Don’t get killed.”
“I will do my best, I assure you.”
“If you do find any tribbles, let me know. I think they’d get along well with Glorfindal.”
“Certainly. But you had better get along to your... debriefing. They don’t like to be kept waiting.”
Nenya shrugged again, and headed off to find Room B9. With a name like that, it’d probably be anything but benign. Ah, well, anything was better than being screeched at by an upset wizard-in-training who was probably getting all kinds of ideas on the meaning of “sufficiently advanced technology” from his precocious roommate.
Or so she thought until she reached Room B9 and saw the sign on the door.
Multimedia Anti-Salivation Department, it said. Uh-oh. No-Drool Videos! And she’d definitely been appreciating the scenery on her last mission....
A pair of surprisingly strong fronds reached out and grabbed her before she could get away.
The whimpers started three point five minutes later, and went on for quite some time.
“And lift, and stretch, and lift, and stretch....” Nurse Nathonea, standing in the middle of the floor in the nurses’ common room, hefted two thick copies of the Official PPC Handbook over her head in time to the music. “I, comma, square bracket, and stretch, recruit’s name, square bracket, and comma and stretch, do solemnly–”
The exercise music was suddenly interrupted by the sound of someone lurking unobtrusively in the doorway. Nathonea turned, grateful for an excuse to stop her Stoutness Exercises for a minute. “Look, can’t you at least lurk obtrusively or something? All this unobtrusive lurking is really quite–oh, it’s you.”
Nenya, a piece of paper in her hand and a large rubber band around her head, stared glassily back at her from the threshold. Her face was tinged an interesting shade of green. She didn't answer the greeting.
“What’s wrong with you?” Nathonea set down her Handbooks-cum-barbells. “Lunch wasn’t that bad. And I know the Kit-Kats in the vending machine aren’t all that fresh, but I daresay you’ve seen worse on some of your missions.”
Nenya held the piece of paper out towards her new friend. “Nndrrvdsz,” she said through the band holding her jaw shut.
“Take the rubber band off your head so I can understand you.”
Nenya complied. “No-Drool Videos,” she said.
“Oh. Talking sunflower on a crutch! What did you do to earn those?”
“Apparently drool leaves a distinct chemical residue on uniform sleeves.”
“Just read it.” She pushed the piece of paper into Nathonea’s hand.
“‘First infraction:’” read Nathonea, “‘March 14, 2003 AD, Canon Protection Initiative Headquarters. One count of kissing picture of actor portraying Aragorn son of Arathorn.
“‘Second infraction: Stardate 60741.5, Federation Starbase Deep Space Nine. One count of near-Mary Sue glurge-writing, subject Julian S. Bashir, MD.
“‘Third infraction: September 22, First year of the Fourth Age of Middle-earth, Imladris, Eriador. One count of drooling, subject Elladan son of Elrond Peredhil.’
“Oh, my. You really should know better. What did they make you watch?”
“Maeluiwen. The Librarian of U. U.”
Nenya turned a shade greener. “Thank you for that mental image. No. Separate videos. But she had all the mithril lingerie bits on, or off, as the case may be. And they cut out all the bits with the hot male elves shirtless. And the Librarian–” Here she turned an intriguing shade of puce and covered her mouth with her hand.
Nathonea wordlessly handed her a trash can.
“Thanks,” said Nenya, a few minutes later. “Have you got any sporks handy? Or one of those MIB flashy-thingys?”
Nathonea rummaged through a cabinet. “Got something better. Here.” She held up a large white bottle. “Bleeprin.”
“Never heard of it. What’s it do?”
“Combination of bleach and aspirin. Very effective in eliminating bad mental images. Made by Meir Brin from HFA and Miss Laurel from OFUM.”
Nenya looked at the bottle as if it were a container of Mary Sue glitter. “Miz Laurel? Have you actually tried this stuff, or are you using me as a guinea pig?”
Nathonea smirked. “Run into Miz Laurel before, have you? No, I’ve tried it. It works quite well, though personally I prefer the liquid version, Bleepto-Dismal. But we’re all out of that.”
Nenya still looked skeptical, but poured out two small white tablets into her hand. She dug around in the backpack she still carried over her shoulder, retrieved her water bottle, and swallowed the pills.
Nathonea just grinned, and swiped the bottle back before it could disappear into Nenya’s backpack.
“Now, now, don’t try to steal these. You can get your own from Leto up at the cafeteria. Good, though, aren’t they?”
“Does Upstairs know about this stuff?”
Nathonea shrugged. “Probably. They know most everything. But they haven’t outlawed them yet. Probably figure that un-mentally-scarred agents work better or something.”
“Or that if we have a means of healing the mental scarring, they can send us into danger more often ’cause we’ll survive the aftereffects.”
“Probably.” Nathonea rolled her eyes at the Flowers That Be.
“Bleeding pragmatists.” The happy grin still hadn’t faded off Nenya’s face. “Wow. Bloody wow. I have got to tell Rosie about these.”
“Make her buy her own.” Nathonea placed the bottle back in the cupboard, let Nenya have just a glimpse of all the wonders therein, shut the cupboard door and locked several large padlocks. “Incidentally, why were you wearing an elastic band around your head?”
“Splitting headache. Had one. Don't now, though.” Nenya flicked said elastic band at Nathonea, who ducked. The elastic band zinged off a piece of valuable equipment and landed on one of the ever-present computer consoles, hanging off the monitor like a stretchy bit of Christmas tinsel.
“Look, it didn't hit you. And, Nathonea... what's ‘Pink Stuff’?”Nenya had seen rather a lot of the contents of the cupboard before it had been locked.
“You don’t want to know.” She made a face.
“Yes, I do. Does it go with Purple Stuff?”
“And what’s Ye Olde Poisonous Poison? Can I have some?”
Nathonea looked at her watch in a suspiciously inconspicuous manner. “Don’t you have an appointment with Dr. Freedenberg to be heading off to?”
Nenya glared at her. “As a matter of fact, I do. How did you...”
“I'm a FicPsych employee. I have my ways.” The nurse made a face that was obviously supposed to be mysterious. “Now shoo. I have another patient due in five minutes.”
“If you insist.” Nenya shrugged once more, retrieved the elastic band, and headed out the door.
That is, she was planning to head out the door. Her progress was unexpectedly impeded by something large, black, chest-shaped, and embroidered with a white tree. She followed the chest up to the head and was confronted with Lord Faramir, Steward of Gondor, Lord of Ithilien, and all-round impressive royal Númenorean.
“Er... um... that is... uh... Hi, Lord Faramir,” she stammered, giving a little wave. She felt like a midget; the man towered over her by a good fifteen inches. She heard Nathonea hyperventilating behind her. Ah. A fellow Faramir fan.
“Forgive me for intruding, but could either of you direct me to the offices of Doctor Freedenberg?” said Faramir. “I am a Ranger, but the corridors are very confusing.”
“Glurgh!” said Nathonea, and promptly fell over backwards.
Nenya rubbed her nose—ouch, Faramir's chest was rather solid—and backed up a few steps. “Don't mind her,” she said, waving at the prostrate form behind her. “Too much Bleeprin, not enough ellipsis debriefings.”
“Pardon?” said Lord Faramir.
“Never mind. Did you say you were looking for Dr. Freedenberg?”
“Yes. Do you know where I might find him? I have been summoned to speak with him, and, to my shame, seem to have become quite lost.”
“You're a Ranger. How could you get lost?”
“I am accustomed to tracking things in the wild, not to finding my way about infinite corridors all of a single disturbing hue.”
The proverbial incandescent lamp went on in Nenya's brain. “Wait a minute. Were you watching where you were going?”
“Yes, of course. Quite carefully.”
“That would be your problem, then. Here, take this.” She dug about in her pack and produced one of Glorfindal's ancient dog-eared and singed magazines.
Faramir turned it over several times in his hands. “This is in a strange tongue, or at least a strange script.”
“Never mind that, just look at the pretty pictures. Try not to wonder where Catherine Zeta-Jones got all the money for that wedding dress, or what on earth she sees in Michael Douglas anyway. As for me, my salivary glands may not be working after that marathon video session, but walking next to a Númenorean should be quite distracting enough to get me from here to there.”
“I do not understand.”
“You don't have to. Just look at the pictures, follow me, and we'll be at Dr. Freedenberg's before you can say Cormacolindor.”
Possibly because he recognized the voice of experience when he heard it,or possibly because he was just coming from a story in which he was the poor submissive younger child, Faramir followed her without another word.
Yellow. Dr. Freedenberg’s office was yellow. Cheerful, sunny-side-up-eggs yellow, and the change from the grey corridors outside was quite a shock to the eyes. Nenya had a sudden urge to introduce the interior decorators to green eggs and ham. Didn’t they know green was supposed to be more soothing?
She sat gingerly in a rickety plastic chair across from the good doctor, answering questions and listening vaguely to his diagnosis and treatment plan. Basically, it seemed that Upstairs thought she’d cracked because she was lusting too much after Aragorn and assorted Elves; thus the No-Drool Videos. If she wasn’t developing any new tics, wasn’t howling at the moon (not that one ever saw the moon from inside Headquarters, which Nenya pointed out to Dr. Freedenberg), and wasn’t stealing hand-grenades from the supply office, they saw no reason why she should not go back to work yesterday.
Dr. Freedenberg, on the other hand, thought that complete incoherent gibbering from a person normally capable of filling out intelligible reports meant something. He thought she should take a few days off, go talk to a few people who weren’t either fictional or insane (Nenya pointed out that she didn’t know any), and maybe find out where the swimming pool was in Headquarters. Nenya said she didn’t know there was a swimming pool in Headquarters, and that she thought Dr. Freedenberg looked like Alec Guinness.
At the moment he was delineating the amount of Bleeprin he felt was healthy for the human body to ingest per day, and Nenya was mentally multiplying his figures by at least three and a half. She made a mental note to go by the cafeteria as soon as possible after she was done here, and stock up on a month’s supply of the stuff. Which, given the way things had been going lately, would last about three days.
“Well, that should be all, then,” said Dr. Freedenberg, bringing Nenya out of her reverie. “There’s just one more thing I’d like to have you do for your treatment. I have a video here–”
“AAAARRGHHHH!!!” said Nenya, leaping up from her seat and running out of the room. “I would like to eat your foot! Hello, thinks Mr. Purple Cat! AAAAAARGHHHH!!!111!!”
She didn’t stop running when she passed the doctor’s outer office (where Faramir sat, absorbed in People); in fact, she didn’t stop running when she reached the nursing station (where Nathonea was still out cold). She didn’t stop running till she reached her own response centre, where she dived into the bean-bag chair and under several large blankets. She whimpered.
After a moment, she stuck her head out, grabbed her Lórien cloak from its hook, and pulled it over her head.
“Odd,” said Dr. Freedenberg, back in his office. “I thought she liked ‘Gofi and the Balrog’. Ah, well. Mine is not to reason why; mine is just to try to keep them from killing anyone. When they’re off duty, at least.
“Nurse Sims? Next patient, please.”
Nenya's A/N: Wow, this took longer to write than I thought it would! I had fun with it, though, and I hope I didn't overload on the references to other people's writings. (I thought the disclaimer section was going to be longer than the story, for a minute there....) I hope it's not all in-jokes that no one gets. Let me know what you think of my report on the Department of Fictional Psychology. I'm afraid that after Mulder and Faramir in the same story, I'm going to have to watch the No-Drool Videos again. (Paaaaaiiiiinnn!!) On a faintly more serious note, go on over to the Henneth-Annun Story Archive and read “Gofi and the Balrog”! It's a great story about Glorfindel and the young twin sons of Elrond. I wrote most of this chapter, but part of the Faramir scene belongs to Rosie. Rosie, take a bow! *hides behind Rosie, hoping no rotten tomatoes are thrown*