16. We Cannot Be

"Are you feeling better? Can you walk? Is it numb?"

Acacia glared. "Jay. I am not made of glass. You can quit fussing, I'm fine."

"I'm just concerned because they don't give us off-time for injury."

"They don't give us off-time for anything." She considered. "Unless we get killed, which is a bit extreme to get off work."

"I remember a college professor's rant to that extent."


"No specifics—just that the only excuse for being late to class was a funeral: your own."

"Ah—oh, here we are." While the partners had been distracted, they'd gotten from the Medical Department to their response center.

"Wunderbar." Jay opened the door and yawned. "I've not had enough sleep lately. You?"

"No one does."

"Skewit." Jay flopped into her chair, dropped her head into her arms, and was quickly asleep.

Acacia began counting under her breath.


"Six," said Acacia satisfiedly.

Jay glared. "Computer? You can wait an hour. Or I shall rewire you as a toaster. A programmable toaster."


"I'm supposed to be the bad-tempered one," said Acacia, but without much rancor. By that strange effect of partnership, she was becoming more cheerful as Jay got upset.

Jay was still talking to the computer.

"Are we clear?"

There was an affirmative and cowed [bip].

"Wake me up in an hour."

Acacia was impressed—this approach had never occurred to her before—and sprawled on the rug with The Ringworld Engineers. If they were actually going to have an hour off, she was going to enjoy it, too.



"Damn it. Been an hour already?

"Apparently," said Acacia, sounding vaguely disappointed.

Jay woke herself further. "Uggh. Now, let's see the assignment."

"And it was getting good. What kind of—" She caught her partner's expression. "Oh."

Every muscle in Jay's body was tense. She stared in fury at the screen, eyes blazing.

" ... That bad?"

There was no response but the sickening *crack* of plastic as Jay slammed a fist through the console screen.

Acacia blinked. "Jay... you're scaring me." She looked at the broken screen. "Should we get Makes-Things, or possibly go back to Medical...?" She surreptitiously stood a little further away from her partner.

Jay pulled her bleeding hand free. "I apologize for EVERYTHING I have ever said about you and Boromir fics. I rescind every comment I have ever made about your violent tendencies." Her voice was crystal clear, and unusually sane.

"Um. Thanks," said Acacia nervously.

"Medical? I'm bleeding."


"Weren't you just here?"

"My fist is bleeding."

"She punched through the screen of her console," Acacia added helpfully. Dr. Fitzgerald looked nervous.

"Fix it, please."

It didn't take long. The Medical Department at Headquarters was accustomed to treating everything from blaster shots to the Black Breath to the mutagenic effects of Tree-of-Life. A mere cut on the hand presented no difficulty.

"Thank you!"

Jay smiled pleasantly and walked calmly out the door. "Come on, Acacia."

Acacia followed her quietly out of the Medical Department, debating whether or not to ask Jay what had so upset her.

"We have to make arrangements for this. There is nothing we can do that's bad enough for her."

"Intercontinuum portal to the Disc and feed her to the Luggage?" Acacia suggested helpfully.

"No. If that were enough, I'd portal to Czechoslovakia and feed her to baby Otik."

"Then what do you suggest?"

Jay gave a slight smile. "She wants Elrond out of character? She'll GET Elrond out of character. I know just the place."

Acacia tried for a moment to work out what the hell Jay was talking about, then grinned evilly.

This did not seem to cheer Jay up. "Remember Laurel?"

"Yes..." Acacia said guardedly. "Why?"

"Remember how she had Boromir acting as the villain so she could run to Legolas?"

"I see."

"It's worse."


"At least Laurel was marginally attracted to Boromir."

"I didn't get that impression."

"Forbidden thrills, liking abusive men, so on." Jay's breathing grew rough. "And there wasn't an implied rape scene."

Acacia winced. "I see."

"First major breach of canon."

"Poor you."

"I'm sorry about the joking—the Boromir fics—you know."

"We're here." Acacia opened the door quietly.

There was a hiss of indrawn breath, and something scuttled behind the console.

"Enough of that," Jay snapped. "Get out from behind there. Is the screen fixed?"

"Almost," said Makes-Things, coming out only halfway.

"Can we travel?"

"Only the display was damaged, everything else works fine."

"Perfect." Jay, with a minimum of movement, chose elf disguises, and set the portal on a rare default: "Home in on Sue."

Acacia picked up her gear from the various places around the room she'd let it lie.

"I'll be right back." Jay strode out the door without giving her a moment to respond. It was a somewhat longer time than usual before she strode back in, carrying a bag marked "Supply Depot."

"Do I want to know what's in that?" Acacia wondered.

"You'll find out soon enough." Jay dropped it into her bag, where it made a metallic clunk. "Let's get this over with."

"Then open the portal," Acacia suggested.

Jay brought a closed fist down on the button, making Makes-Things cringe in sympathetic pain. "There."

Acacia stepped through the portal rather more quickly than usual.

"Welcome to the unspecified Elven Kingdom Who-knows-where."

"I hate those."

"There. There is our Sue."

"Father, please, listen to me," the young Elven maiden begged in vain, knowing her pleas fell upon deaf ears, "I do not wish for this-"

"My child, none of us wish for the way our paths turn out if they are not to our liking, but we must not make a fuss," he r glanced at his daughter desperately, hoping she would understand.

Acacia blinked confusedly. "None of us wish for... if they are not..." She turned to Jay. "Does that make sense to you?"

"Yes. Perfect sense. You're not missing much by not understanding, though."

"Either it makes no sense, or it's a statement of the blindingly obvious." Acacia shrugged.

"It's blindingly obvious and badly couched."

Andromielle Zinnia, numb from pleading, just stared straight ahead not meeting her Father's gaze. He placed a hand on her shoulder. "Lord Elrond has summoned you to him before the hour turns to dawn," as he said this, he busied himself with saddling the ebony steed which stood proud and tall, ready to carry his mistress to wherever she pleased.

"They never phrase things clearly," Acacia observed.

There was no response. When she turned it was to see Jay staring straight ahead, jaw clenched.

'Tis a marriage of immense honour and a great privilege upon you, my daughter, to know that the King handpicked you from maidens near and far to become his Queen," her Father wove his hand through her silken amaretto hair, as he had done many a time when Andromielle had been a small child.

Acacia quickly took several steps to the side.

"Now, really." Jay smiled—or at least, all of her teeth were showing. Let's call it a smile. She walked briskly forward until she was next to the Sue and her father. She snapped her fingers in front of his face several times.

"Who are you?" the Sue's father (never graced with a name) asked.

"Couriers. Sent from Lord Elrond to escort the Lady."

"But I only see one of you."

"My partner has not made herself known. We are magic. Only your daughter can see us at all times."


It was stupid. It was cliché. It was implausible. It fit perfectly with the story.

"A moment while we confer." Jay stepped back out of his eyeshot.

"So, you propose to kidnap the Sue?" said Acacia skeptically.

"No. I propose to stalk the bitch and make her life miserable. Can you ride a horse?"

"Fairly well, yes."

"I can stay mounted, and she's not in a hurry." Jay caught the father's attention again. "We require horses."

"Of course."

The Sue watched this in sullen and proud silence.

Two more horses were led out into the courtyard, pawing at the ground uncertainly.

"Need help mounting?"

"Nope," said Acacia. She had been unsure about riding bareback like elves, but as an elf it proved weirdly easy.

Jay, less coordinated, managed to get herself seated anyway. The Sue was still ignoring them. She only spoke once, to her father.

"I will keep this vow to undergo marriage with the King I respect so. You speak of such honour and privilege upon me, but did you not stop to think that I would be depriving my King of the one thing I cannot give him?"

"What is that?" came the emotional voice behind her.

"My heart," she barely whispered, as she dugs her heels into Mallith and made sure she did not look back.

"Idiot melodramatic kid," muttered Acacia, urging her own horse forward.

They rode only about an hour before Jay motioned to a passing time distortion. "Let's catch this. I don't want to wait 'many months' in her company..."



Many months had passed as Legolas rode deep into Rivendell. The hour had drawn late. Dismounting his loyal stallion, the fair Prince of Northern Mirkwood wound his way around the curving Elvish pillars leading up to the House of Elrond.

"Lady Living, he took many months riding into Rivendell?" Jay, having spent the past few days making Andromielle as miserable as possible, had some of her good humour back.

"Must have gone the scenic route," said Acacia.

"Time distortion to that charge list. Poor Legolas."

They watched as the elf FINALLY made it into the city.

He knew this place like the back of his hand; the familiar earthy smell, the cascading splendour of buildings and the like, the shimmering waterfalls, the people - friends dear to both himself and his Father, King Thranduil.

"Ah, Legolas," upon his arrival, Lord Elrond greeted him joyously, "I have been awaiting your presence since sunrise. Tell me, how does my old friend, Thranduil, fare?"

"Since sunrise... but it's been many months...?" Acacia made a great show of confusion.

"He's getting senile," Jay said with bitter cynicism. "After all, he is so old and decrepit."

"Life is treating him graciously," Legolas informed politely with a smile. "I also hear there have been tidings of joy in my absence," said he, eyes sparkling, "'Tis most wonderful news - my Father was most overjoyed to hear of your marriage to Queen Andromielle."

"We weren't," said Acacia, moving slightly away from Jay.

Lord Elrond's eyes grew misty and distant as Legolas spoke her name. "She is as radiant as the morning. Her kind soul excels even the brightness of that belonging to the Sun," he spoke slowly, trying not to become distracted by the image of her beauty.

"Excels even the brightness of the sun? What?" Acacia really was puzzled, this time. "Stupid Sue." Then she looked at the Words ahead, and winced. Not to mention getting as far away from Jay as she could.

Legolas suppressed a grin of mirth as he noticed the look of lust on the old King's face, and Acacia found herself quoting an essay she'd read before.

"'Seldom is any tale told of deeds of lust among them...'"

"Come, Acacia. Let us harvest poison ivy for the queen."

"Sounds good to me."


Usually, Rivendell was a wonderful place to be in. This was not the case, this mission. In fact, this wasn't Rivendell at all. It was stuffy, suffocating, and filled with shrill whining courtesans.

And Elrond was king. He had never been king before, but now he was, and Rivendell was his kingdom.

Jay had been doubling up on her medication.

One advantage of badly-defined places was that whatever you were looking for was probably there, merely because it was being looked for. (Within reason. Had they gone looking for pizza they'd have been highly unlikely to find it. Or maybe not. You never can tell with some Sues.)

Andromielle was actually becoming quite fond of her "invisible ladies-in-waiting." After all, when you're stuck with a fussy old lady-in-waiting like "Perpetua," and trapped in a "suffocating fortress of luxurious satin and elegant oak panelled walls," anyone who isn't overcritical is nice.

They were overcritical. She just didn't know it. Sarcasm was lost upon her.

"Queen Andromielle," that oh-so-infuriating shrill voice that Andromielle had grown accustomed to, much to her dismay, over the past few months rang out behind her, "Your Majesty should not wander about by herself. It is simply not how things are done."

"Perpetua, I am most acquainted to having the will to move freely of my own accord. Back at my home, I have freedom to do as I please..." she stopped when the stout little woman interrupted her.

"May I remind you, that back at your home you were a simple Elven girl. Now you are a Queen under the roof of gracious Lord Elrond. Things are performed quite differently here," Lady Perpetua sniffed in self-arrogance.

Jay raised an eyebrow, and glared at Andromielle's turned back. "She doesn't get it, does she?"

"What the hell is self-arrogance?" Acacia demanded, but quietly. "I mean... as opposed to what?"

Jay chuckled quietly. They followed the queen as she was led to be "concealed, once again," in aforesaid suffocating palace.

Rivendell had never been suffocating or decadent before. It wasn't a nice change.

It was badly defined, too. This wouldn't have been too bad—undescribed areas default to canon—but what was defined was against canon outright, as Rivendell was normally almost open and airy enough to make Acacia uncomfortable. The end result was a bizarre jumble of two different types of architecture, and it hurt the eyes.

Jay dealt with it by taking pictures. "It's like an Escher painting. If Escher had been on LSD or some similar hallucinogen, that is."

In Andromielle's room, Lady Perpetua fussed her way around the spacious bedchamber, talking quickly in short sentences about the arrival of some Prince and a banquet tonight that was to be held in his honour. However, the bossy little woman's words sounded completely alien to Andromielle's delicately tipped ears.

'A prince,' the young Queen thought to herself, suppressing a yawn of disappointment, 'another night of torturous boredom welcoming nobility into Rivendell.'

Acacia rolled her eyes. "She thinks she's got it bad."

She knew this Prince was not going to be any different; handsome but arrogant. A Prince who took it upon himself to make sure others knew of his high stature in Elvish society. Andromielle sighed. No different from the rest of them.

"Why, poor Andromielle," Jay spoke up. "Poor thing. If only you were in the place I know of—no fussy courtesans, no kings, no princes, and so open and free."

"Where's that?" wondered Acacia.

"I'm talking about Rivendell," Jay said with a slight grin. "She's inflicted this on herself."

"Ah, yes," said Acacia, "I hate when they whine about their own works."

"I am slipping away. Do not tell Perpetua?" the Sue requested.

"Of course not."


They followed her, of course, down to the "shimmering brook nearby," where Legolas was conveniently waiting.

"An array of endless banquets. What good does it do anyone?" The weary mutterings of the Mary Sue broke him from his meditative silence.

"Well, it feeds them well..." Acacia speculated.

"I've never been so involved in a Sue's life before," Jay said. "You only begin to appreciate how well they're fed, dressed, and quartered when you remember that we usually eat eggrolls and mutton, wear uniforms, and sleep on the ground."

"We do get one thing they don't," said Acacia, grinning. She sat down and opened up her pack. "Chocolate. Unless they're really anachronistic, of course."

"Please pass some over."

The Sue had met Legolas, but was dramatically unaware of his identity. They had a waterfight to establish how much they both hated authority, and then Legolas admired the "beautiful iridescence of her porcelain skin," which created "an ethereal glow around her whole being."

"The iridescence only makes her look like a beetle," Jay commented. "I wonder if she knows that."

"If she knew, would she be doing it?"

"Doubtful. Very doubtful." Jay sighed and flopped back. "This is a tolerable place. Let's stay here until the banquet."

"All right." Acacia removed some more chocolate from her pack. "Do you have the cards?"

"Certainly. Do you play Casino?"

"Never heard of it."



The banquet that night was in "a great hall full with the presence of others." The actual others, however, were conspicuously absent. Elrond, Andromielle, and Legolas were there, but... no one else. And yet the room still seemed full.

"This is worse than Disc ghosts," Jay said. They had taken up positions behind Andromielle, and therefore were in perfect position to hear some truly sickening character mauling.

"My Queen, your beauty surpasses that of the entire race of elves," murmured Lord Elrond into Andromielle's ear. She felt nauseated - Elrond seemed more like a Father than a lover to her and thus, it was becoming more difficult to dodge his amorous intentions.

"How does that logically follow?" Acacia wondered, whilst unobtrusively moving slightly away from her partner. "Number Eight, the Total Logical Disconnect—'I enjoy pasta, because my house is made of bricks.'"

Jay looked nauseated, too, but not for the same reason Andromielle was. "So soon."

"Here. Have some chocolate, maybe it'll make you feel better."

Jay took it with a shaking hand. The Sue went back to looking for Legolas.

Feeling her eyes light up, she finally caught sight of him entering the room quietly, whilst sliding with ease through the masses.

Without thinking, Andromielle rose from the majestic throne to greet the elf she knew not the name of.

"Feeling her eyes light up, eh?" Acacia said. "This is so wrong." She considered a moment. "You know, someday we should do an intercontinuum portal and give some elf-oppressed Sue to Disc elves. Let them know what real nasty elves are like."

"Yes. Most excellent."

The soap-operatic drama in front of them continued.

"Queen Andromielle," smiled Lord Elrond as he too rose, "'Tis time for you to finally meet Prince Legolas of Northern Mirkwood." He motioned to the fair elf in front of her.

Andromielle could hardly believe it. HE was a Prince? He had seemed nothing of the sort upon their meeting just a few moments earlier.

Acacia blinked. "This is... boring."

Legolas swallowed sour disappointment, which had risen in his throat, quickly. SHE was Lord Elrond's new Queen? 'How could she possibly find sufficient satisfaction from him,' he wondered bitterly and immediately felt shame at thinking such thoughts against an old family friend.

"Poor Legolas. All out of character." Jay's voice was practically venomous.

"Everyone is."

Legolas kissed the Sue's hand, giving her shivers. There was a moment when they both met each other's eyes, gazing intently as Elrond practically prattled.

Jay reached forward and knocked a glass of wine onto Andromielle's seat—a feeble gesture of defiance, but the best she could do for now.

"More than occasionally, I wish we could portal back into real life, and hunt down and kill the authors," said Acacia sourly.

"The best we can do is torment them—and after death our ghosts can haunt them," Jay paraphrased. "And damn it, I wish there was a jar of whiskey here."


"Sorry. That verse's from 'Whiskey in the Jar.' And whiskey might stop this pain."

Acacia sighed. "We might try getting a transfer to some other section. With less workload."

"I don't know." Jay sighed. "Do we want to hear Arwen rant about Andromielle? Or stay out of the way?"

"I vote stay out of the way; we've seen enough tonight."

"Yes." The scene was quite nasty, too. Arwen ranted to Aragorn for a while, which was good, but then Elrond snapped at her, telling her not to judge him, because SHE was hanging out with a mortal.

It was sickening.

The time was better spent, really, in making preparations for the imminent capture of the Sue. And in playing cards. Had it been raining, and there been cars in Middle-earth, washing them would have been time better spent. Sitting around eating chocolate was time better spent, and Acacia did quite a lot of that.


Jay looked up at the words. "Time."



"A gift awaits you in your chamber," informed Elrond as they approached the doorway of the bedchamber. Andromielle glanced at him with a watery smile (whatever that was) as she entered the swirling fretwork of her room.

Upon her vanity dresser, wrapped protectively in a brocade of silk, lay a beautiful golden circlet. It shone with the shimmer of hidden jewels.

Hidden jewels are pointless. The Sue, however, was delighted.

"It is a heirloom passed down through the many generations of my ancestors. Now it shall be passed to you," Lord Elrond was pleased at Andromielle's reaction.

"I cannot accept this," she handed it back to him.

He merely took it in his hands and placed it upon her forehead to assure Andromielle that she certainly could.

"This is just disgusting," Acacia observed.

"Your radiance astounds me," he whispered huskily, as he began kissing her neck.

Grimacing at the strange contact, Andromielle felt him push her down onto the satin covered bed.

"My Lord," she whispered, a slight tremor in her voice.

There was a startling crash as the door burst open. "WHAT'S ALL THIS, THEN?"

"I'm assuming you want to charge her, right?" said the quieter of the elves who had just walked in.

Andromielle's eyes widened with recognition. "What are you—" She got no further.

The first elf strode over to Andromielle, grabbed the neck of her ridiculous gown, and slammed her against the wall.

"You want to? Or should I?" The hostile elf had a look of malicious satisfaction on her face.

"Knock yourself out. Or, better yet, her."

"Andromielle Zinnia, you are hereby charged with—"

"What are you doing?" Elrond looked at her indignantly, radiating authority. And the elf paused. There was a moment of silence, and then she turned, slamming a close-fisted hand across Andromielle's face.

Canon snapped back into place with a lurch.

"That was impressive," said the quiet elf appreciatively.

"She's not even dead. Canon was just that far stretched out of shape." The hostile elf produced a pair of glittering rings, linked together with a thick chain. Most denizens of modern Earth would have known them as handcuffs.

"Where'd you get those?"

"Supply depot. Along with this." The hostile one produced a bag that went clink, and dumped out about five feet of iron chain.

The quiet elf blinked. "Overkill, possibly?"


Elrond was beginning to recover his senses: he watched in bemusement as the hostile elf looped the chain around the handcuffs, creating a rather ponderous leash.

"On your feet, Sue!" The elf kicked Andromielle to make her wake.

"Would I be imposing if I were to ask for an explanation?" Elrond asked, drawing their attention back to him.

"It'd take too long," said the quiet one, "and you probably wouldn't believe us anyway."

"Do you remember what you were doing when we came in?" the hostile one asked cautiously.

Elrond seemed puzzled, but his expression quickly turned to disgust. He glared at the recovering Andromielle.

"Unfortunately, I do. Is... she responsible for this?"

"That's about the size of it," said the quiet one. "Now, Jay, where are we going from here?"

"Arrangements, remember. Pick up point is just outside Rivendell." She strode out, half-leading, half-dragging the Sue behind her.

The quiet one followed, closing the door behind her.

"NOW we can charge you," Jay hissed. Andromielle drew back as far as her leash would let her.

"Andromielle Zinnia, I hereby charge you with character defamation, time distortion, altering the society of the Elves of Middle-earth, altering the construct of Rivendell, and playing fast and loose with the characters of Legolas, Elrond, Arwen, and Aragorn. You are sentenced to torture and public exhibition. Any last words?"

"What are you talking about—this isn't my fault, I didn't want this!" She glared at Jay. "Who ARE you?"

Jay grinned. "Just transport, dear." She handed the iron leash to Acacia. "They should be coming through about—"

There was a subtle ripple in the air as Miss Cam appeared, dressed (for some reason) in black leather.


Elrond appeared next to her, making Andromielle jump. He was also clad in rather tight-fitting black leather.

Jay folded to the ground in a dead faint.

Acacia put a hand to her head. "Oh, gods. Wake UP." She prodded Jay with her foot.

"Meep." Jay hauled herself to her feet.

"WHAT'S GOING ON?" Andromielle wailed.

"You wanted Out of Character Elrond? Well, by Grapthar's hammer, you got'm."

"What do you mean—"

"Shut up, Annie," said Acacia, smirking. "Here you go," she added, and handed the chain to Miss Cam.

Miss Cam gave it a jerk, making the Sue stumble. She waved merrily as she disappeared through the portal whence she had come.

"That was surreal," Acacia said. "Let's go home."

"Mr. Jelly!" For the first time in quite a while, Jay was really smiling again.

All was well.


[Jay's A/N: I really, really hated her. What else is there to say?]

[Acacia's A/N: One of *those* Sues—misrepresenting the entire race of Elves again. When will they get it through their heads?

Sue in a really bad situation, me vindicated—everyone is happy. Except Andromielle, and who cares what she thinks?]