05. Learning the Knots

I do not own the PPC, which was created by the awe-inspiring Jay and Acacia. Neither do I own the fic "Naruto Meets Harry Potter," which was written by gaaraisMINE123. She is welcome to it. Naruto is the property of Masashi Kishimoto, and Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling.

* * *

With not a little apprehension, Hawthorne stepped into his new response center and closed the door behind him. As he did so, he noted that the door frame was rather wider than was usual and that the material of the surrounding wall was heavily scraped and damaged. Odd.

Turning away from that particular curiosity, he allowed his gaze to drift over the rest of the room. Gray, mostly, although a blue woven rug covered the center of the floor and a large purple armchair graced one of the corners. A bookshelf, filled to overflowing with novels and the occasional DVD case, stood by the oversized door, while two mattresses, one covered in rumpled blankets and one bare, rested against the opposite wall. Various gleaming objects, swords and wands and jewelry of all descriptions, hung from the gray walls, although large blank areas revealed that there had once been many more.

And in front of the large blinking machine that took up the entirety of one of the walls, sitting astride a wooden chair so that her arms folded across the back, was the person he had to assume was his new partner. She was delicately built, almost frail, with pale blonde hair that fell in tangled strands around her face and into narrowed eyes. Although she wore a black uniform similar to what he had seen other agents wearing, hers was stained and tattered, covered in rips and tears without even an attempt at mending.

She also didn't smell very good. Hasn't she ever heard of deodorant? Hawthorne wondered, wrinkling his nose.

As time passed and she seemed content to remain where she was, staring, Hawthorne eventually forced a smile onto his face and spoke. "Uh, hi there. You're Agent Key, right? The daisy dude said something about you being my partner. I'm Maglor."

An eyebrow arched upwards. "Yeah, I'm Key. Oddly enough, though, I'd heard that my new partner was named along the lines of Hawthorne Aga-something Morgan." Her voice had a strangely resonant quality to it, echoing loudly throughout the room.

Hawthorne winced. "Agamemnon. It's Hawthorne Agamemnon Morgan. But my name's really Maglor, the people who recruited me just signed me up under a new name for some reason."

"Hawthorne, then. And it's just my luck that I'd get a fresh-recruited newbie." Key slid off the chair, stretching. "Damn it all, I want Amara back...."

"Amara?" This could definitely be going better, Hawthorne felt.

"My old partner. She just retired and took half the trophies with her." Sighing, Key ran a hand through already disheveled hair. "Who'd you say recruited you?"

"Um, Tirsaer and Ryni." Although now that he thought of it, he hadn't said.

"Never heard of them. Well, what do you know about the PPC?" Key leaned back against the large machine, her eyes still focused on her new partner.

Under her gaze, Hawthorne shifted uneasily. "We're supposed to hunt down these Mary Sue things and kill them, right?"

"Yes and no. The PPC does take care of Sues, but we do not." Another sigh. "Your recruiters were obviously assassins. Listen, we're in the Department of Implausible Crossovers. The Dee-Eye-See. We're disentanglers. And that means that when characters end up in the wrong universe, we have to go in after them and clean up the mess. We don't get involved with assassinations. We find a Mary Sue—which happens more than you'd think—we call in Mirie and Yasuyo from down the way, and they can do the killing while we sort out the rest. Got that?"

"Um, yes?"

"... Dammit." Key shook her head. "We. Are. Not. Assassins. I see you even begin to reach for a knife, you'll be in FicPsych a week before your hand starts to move."

"Okay. Sounds fine to me." Hawthorne offered her a weak smile. "I'm really not into the whole killing thing anyway."

"Good, because you won't be." Now Key relaxed somewhat, and as she looked away Hawthorne couldn't help but sigh in relief. "Right. Welcome to the PPC, Department of Implausible Crossovers, your bed is the one without any junk on it. In a bit we'll probably have to go on a mission, but since you won't know anything about any of the continua involved, I'll end up doing all the work. But that's okay, because as soon as you've actually read a few of the canons you'll be doing enough work for the both of us."

With a hesitant nod, Hawthorne moved over to the bare mattress and sat down. After a moment, he coughed. "So, what do I do about this?" He held up the flash patch given to him by the Marquis de Sod.

A quick glance, and Key stepped over to the bookshelf and began to rummage though the various piles of junk precariously balanced thereon. Within a short time she returned, brandishing a safety pin. "Here we go. Give me that patch and hold still." She snatched the flash patch from Hawthorne's grip and sat down next to him. "Your current outfit is black, which is about the only requirement as far as uniforms go. Let's just pin the patch to your sleeve for now." As Hawthorne held his breath, trying not to inhale his partner's admittedly less-than-pleasant scent, Key set the patch against his shoulder and slid the needle through the cloth.

Two separate things happened at precisely this instant. First, a loud [BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!] split the air of the room, causing Key to start to her feet. Second, Hawthorne caught sight of something hideous peeking at him from behind the armchair in the corner, and before he knew it he'd screamed and fallen over backwards.

The agents stared at each other for a moment, then Key snorted and strode over to the wailing machine and hit something that muted the noise. "For the record, this is called the console, and that lovely sound we just heard means we have a mission."

"Right," Hawthorne agreed weakly, clutching at his torn and bleeding shoulder. The flash patch had somehow made it onto the shirt without ending up attached to his skin, but the safety pin had managed to draw quite an impressive amount of blood. "What in the name of Elbereth is that?" He pointed a shaky finger at the creature in the corner, which looked like a small human figure, flayed and burned almost to the point of being unrecognizable.

Following his gaze, Key suddenly smiled. "That's Inarra Scerra, my mini-Reaver. Cute, isn't she?"

"It's—" He gaped, unable to come up with the proper words. "But what is it?"

"It's what happens when writers can't be bothered to actually look up how to spell the names of characters correctly." Key waved at the mini-Reaver, which returned the gesture with one shredded hand. "They make for good pets, so long as you aren't a fangirl or anything."

"Uh, sure. If you say so." Hawthorne pulled himself to his feet and headed over to the console, desperately attempting not to stare at the mini-Reaver now wandering through the room. "What do we do now?"

"Go on your first mission. Look here." Key tapped the screen. "According to this, a bunch of characters from an anime series—that's a type of cartoon from this place called Japan—have ended up in a British children's book series. That rarely ends well." She grimaced. "Harry Potter and Naruto. Joy."

Hawthorne nodded, trying to seem attentive.

"No Mary Sues, which means we don't need any backup." Key grabbed a backpack from under the chair set up in front of the console and slung it over her shoulder, then reached for a panel of buttons. "Next we set the disguises based on where we'll be starting the mission. Since this one starts in Konoha, we'll go as random ninjas. Later we'll probably have to switch the disguises using the Disguise-Outfitting Ryticular Kostume System."

"The what?" Hawthorne interrupted.

"... The D.O.R.K.S. It's a device to change disguises. Anyway, now that we have our disguises set, we open a portal—" She tapped a button, and a glowing blue doorway opened up next to the main console screen, "—and go on our way." Key stepped forward through the portal after grabbing a battered baseball bat from its spot by the console. "You coming?"

Gulping, Hawthorne glanced back at the mini-Reaver, then followed his partner.

They arrived in the middle of a pale, unreal-seeming street, mostly empty but for a few brightly dressed people speaking in loud, garbled voices. Baffled, Hawthorne looked around, taking in the faded buildings and stretched-out feel to the air. "Where are we?"

"In the fic. The canon, I assure you, is nowhere near this dull." Sighing, Key brushed imaginary dust off her uniform, which had somehow changed into a stylized outfit covered in pockets and zippers. When Hawthorne glanced down, he discovered that his own clothing had undergone a similar transformation, and his long hair had been bound up into a high ponytail. "Okay, try staring at the sky and let your eyes unfocus. Notice anything unusual?"

Dutifully, Hawthorne looked upwards, letting his vision relax. "What am I looking for? Waitaminute—"

It was a nice day in Konoha. All of our favorite shinobis' had a free day to do what they wished. All

was normal. Jiraya peeking into the women's bath, Naruto scolding him, Sakura scolding Naruto for

scolding one of the legendary sannin, and everyone else just staring at them like they're crazy. Yup,

totally normal, until...

"You see the Words, then?" Key gestured, indicating their surroundings with her bat. "The reason everything looks so weird is because the writing's bad. The double-spaced formatting stretches everything out and the lack of description blurs the scenery."

"I don't recognize some of the words." Hawthorne rubbed his eyes. "Shinobis? What's that?"

"Ninjas. Shouldn't technically have an 'es' on the end, but whatever." Key rubbed her forehead. "I am very much not looking forward to this."

"Okay, go get the shinobi on the list. I want them here in five minutes."

"Huh?" Hawthorne blinked as one of the undefined people nearby suddenly turned into a dark-haired woman, shouted a response to the disembodied voice that had previously spoken, and disappeared.

"I think there was supposed to be a scene change there, but that's what happens when writers get lazy." As the agents watched, a pink-haired girl identified by the Words as Sakura hit a blond named Naruto over the head before rattling off a list of names and disappearing. "And that's what happens when speakers don't get defined properly."

The six characters who had been singled out started off, Key and Hawthorne following behind. "This doesn't seem so bad," Hawthorne remarked. "A bit confusing, yeah, but not too crazy."

"Just give it a bit. We haven't gotten far enough in for the mistakes to really stand out." Key idly swung her baseball bat as she walked, nearly hitting her partner once or twice. "It doesn't hurt that you have no idea who any of the characters in this are, either."

Eventually the ninjas (and the agents) arrived at an office, where they were greeted by a busty woman behind a desk. At Key's signal, Hawthorne moved to stand beside the door, trying his best to seem inconspicuous.

"Okay listen, you three shinobi have been chosen to go to a place called, Noo- Eeng-land...Sorry,

it's hard to pronounce. To protect a boy named 'Harrury Potteruy'...Anyways, you'll be going to the

school of witchcraft and wizardry to protect him for anout one to two years. You don't have to stay

under-cover, but it'd be a good idea to keep things on the down-low. Some of the teachers aren't

used to the way we train and work. Now, get your stuff, and-oh! I almost forgot. Naruto, you might

want to bring some Ramen, and-" She was cut off by the swirlling of sand right in front of her. When

the sand had cleared, Kankuro, Temari, and Gaara were standing there.

At this point Key leaned over to whisper into Hawthorne's ear. "Right, newbie, tell me what's wrong with this picture."

"The spacing?" Discreet as possible, Hawthorne lifted a hand to cover his nose. It hadn't been as noticeable outside, but his partner positively reeked. Hopefully that wasn't a standard thing among the PPC. "And why is she telling the Naruto guy to bring noodles?"

"Because it's his favorite food. Some people take that to mean that ramen is the only thing he thinks about. You missed quite a bit, though, so listen up." Key pointed to the newest arrivals. "You won't know this, and I wasn't expecting you to, but those three aren't under the authority of this ninja village. There's no reason for them to be here. Secondly, the mangled names are a bad imitation of how a Japanese speaker with no knowledge of English would pronounce certain words from the Harry Potter continuity. Points off for that. Third, she made a comment about the three ninjas, but otherwise refers to six of them even before the Sand Siblings show up. Major fail right there. Finally, that briefing was way too rushed for what will be a professional mission, and some of those misspellings are appalling."

As the ninjas were dismissed to pack for the mission, Hawthorne gazed at his partner with newfound respect. "How did you know all that?"

Key snorted. "This is my job. I've been doing it for about three-four years, now, so I'd think I'd be able to pick up on mistakes as blatantly obvious as those."

"But I didn't notice any of them!"

"You'll get used to it. This isn't as hard as it looks." Key looked around the faded room with disgruntlement. "Trust me, picking out the mistakes isn't near as hard as tolerating them."

"I guess." Hawthorne blinked. "Wait—this is a job, you said? How much do we get paid for it?"

"We don't." Key grinned. "Payment consists of whatever uncanonical objects we steal from fics, our RCs, the nastier stuff from the cafeteria, and some of the best medical care in the entire multiverse. But we don't actually receive paychecks, as such."

"So why does anyone work here?" Hawthorne asked, confused.

"Dunno. After you make it through a few missions, leaving just seems out of the question. I mean, when Amara retired, it was only because FicPsych said she was 'deemed too mentally fragile to handle the high levels of stress present in the average mission' or some other such nonsense." She grimaced. "Tell the truth, though, the whole thing was just the Flowers overreacting about Sunnydale burning down. It was a one time incident, dammit, how else were we supposed to get the Kagome!Sue out of there?"

"Oh?" Hawthorne managed.

"Anyway, it wasn't like Mirie didn't do any damage herself when she went chasing after the Sue. Sure, Amara did set all those magical fires, and maybe the dynamite was overdoing it a bit, but come on, it wasn't anything a bit of neuralyzation and suggesting that another apocalypse had been adverted couldn't fix!" Angrily, Key swung the baseball bat as if striking infuriating Flowers. "There was no need for forced retirement!"

Magical fires? Dynamite? "Seems a little extreme," Hawthorne remarked weakly.

"I know, right?"

By now the ninjas had reappeared with their suitcases, and within a short amount of time they were handed a gigantic metal star. "Ah, damn." Key stepped forward, shoving her way through the crowd to grab onto the object. "Get over here, Hawthorne!"

Muttering apologies to the staring canonical characters, Hawthorne moved beside his partner and set one hand onto the star. No sooner had he done so than he felt a horrible jerking sensation in his abdomen, and then he was falling through nothingness. Within moments he touched ground, his knees giving way to drop him onto transparent grass in front of a large house.

His partner fared somewhat better, managing to not only stay upright but to deftly remove the metal star from the grasp of the canons as she moved away. "A 'demonn wind shuriken,' huh? I'm keeping it." She slipped it into her backpack before offering a hand to Hawthorne, ignoring the surrounding ninjas. "Let's give the characters some space, shall we?" He accepted her help, and they stepped some distance away and watched as the fic resumed.

In front of them were five people that wore very weird clothes.

There five were boys. All but one of them had red hair. One with a snobby-looking personality,

Two looked like they could be twins-and troublemakers a that, the fourth one had freckles. But the

last one caught their attention. The scroll said that the boy had a lightning-bolt scar, which he had.

Just then, Shikamaru stepped forward. "Ahem..Hello, we are here to see someone by the name

of...Harrury Potteruy."

"And thus we are introduced to the wonderful world of Harry Potter!" Key swung her bat expansively. "Damn, but this series annoys me."

"Really?" By now the boy identified as Ron had insulted the ninjas, who began to show off just how fast and athletic they were.

"Yeah. Everyone goes on and on about how deep the series is, and how wonderful the characters are, and it gets so old so damn fast. Plus there's all that defamation of—well, never mind." She paused. "Think I'll have you start on it as soon as we get back. You wouldn't believe how many Potterverse missions we get."

"A lot?"

"Exactly." Key squinted at the words. "Okay, the rest of the chapter is nothing but the ninjas showing off. Let's switch disguises and find somewhere to wait it out." True to her words, the wizards were currently gaping as Ron was thoroughly pummeled by the newest arrivals.

"Fine with me."

Key led the way into the faded house, where she threw herself onto a barely defined couch and reached into her backpack. While she rummaged inside the bag, Hawthorne sat down rather more gently beside her. "Aren't we going to get into trouble for not watching the whole thing?"

"Nah. It's fine so long as we catch the major trouble spots. Here it is!" Triumphantly, Key whipped out—

Hawthorne stared. "A bag of pom-poms?"

"No! This is the D.O.R.K.S. The damn thing just can't pick one shape, that's all." She leaned over the device and, after a few moments, seemed to shimmer in the air. When she looked up, her outfit had transformed into a set of flowing black robes. "See? Instead of a random ninja, I look like a random wizard."

In her lap, the D.O.R.K.S. made a burping noise and transformed into an empty soda can.

Shortly after, Hawthorne's own clothing had been adjusted, and the odd device was put away. Around them, the fic continued, the various characters moving with unnatural jerkiness and speaking in poorly punctuated sentences.

"So," Key started after a while, her fingers tapping impatiently on the metal of the bat. "What do you think so far?"

"I'm still confused," Hawthorne confessed. "None of this really makes any sense to me."

"I'd be surprised if it did. Hell, when I first joined, I was convinced that all this was some kind of practical joke. It took my first partner trying to chainsaw my arms off on our second mission to convince me that yeah, it was all real." She suddenly laughed. "Almost quit right then and there, I have to say."

"Chainsaw." Hawthorne licked lips that were suddenly too dry. "Your partner—"

"Yep. Nothing like a nice dose of near-dismemberment to drive home a point. Olly—that is to say Olivia, my first partner—she was taken into custody by the DIA right after that and then passed on to FicPsych. Never did find out what happened to her. Then I was paired with Ashley Soot, who whined her way through three missions before she ran crying back to World One, the coward. Finally I ended up with Amara, and she lasted up till now." Key frowned. "I'm very unhappy about that, by the way. So what about you?"

"Me?" Hawthorne blinked, somewhat dazed by the stream of words.

"Yes, you. How'd you end up with the PPC?"

Frowning, Hawthorne laced his fingers together and tried to piece together the events of the past day. "I'm not sure, really. I was getting ready to marry my girlfriend when these two dudes burst in and killed her. Then they said she was a Mary Sue and brought me back here, and I thought that if I joined up I might be able to find my real girlfriend."

"Your real girlfriend?" Key's forehead wrinkled. "Didn't you just say that she was killed?"

"No, that was her replacement," Hawthorne corrected. "Anduril was too wonderful to be a Mary Sue. She must have been hidden away in one of these universes when the Mary Sue took her place, so maybe I'll be able to find her if I go on enough missions."

"Please tell me you're kidding." Key buried her face in her hands. "Please?"

"Why would I?" Hawthorne asked, puzzled.

"Why would you? What do you mean, why would—" She paused. "Aw, hell. Look, this is a bit of a personal question, and I'm sorry for asking it, but are you an ex-Stu?"

"A Stu? You mean a male Mary Sue?" Horrified, Hawthorne shook his head in frantic denial. "No!"

"But you have all the classic signs. Disgustingly pretty, obsession with love, idealistic, loose grasp of reality. What else could it be?" Key eyed her partner with curiosity. "What you say your original name was, again?"

"Maglor Feanorian," Hawthorne replied.

"Maglor.... Where have I heard that name?" Key frowned, lost in thought. "Maglor, Maglor—hold it. Maglor was second son of Fëanor in The Silmarillion. You're a character replacement, aren't you?"

"That's what they told me," Hawthorne said. "Whatever that's supposed to mean."

"Character replacement. Figures." Key shook her head. "My partner is a clueless newbie character replacement."


"Not your fault, I guess." Now Key stood up, squinting at the words. "Looks like it's about time to get back on the job. Everyone's gone to bed, except for—" She paused, blinked, and slowly turned her head. There, at the end of the couch, sat a short redheaded boy, staring at her with dark-rimmed eyes.

Key jumped to her feet, dropping her bat and pulling Hawthorne upright. "Oh, hi, Gaara! Fancy meeting you here. How long have you been listening? No matter, I suppose. We were just leaving. Come along, Hawthorne." With that, she retrieved the baseball bat and pulled Hawthorne behind a conveniently placed curtain. Eventually Gaara shrugged and seemed to forget about them.

"What was that about?" Hawthorne asked.

"Shh." Key slapped a hand over her partner's mouth, ignoring the gagging noises coming from his direction. The odd, echoing tone to her voice carried the hiss through the room, but fortunately none of the canonicals noticed. "That was Gaara of the Sand, one of the most remorseless killers in the whole series. I don't know what part of the timeline this takes part in, but if he's awake that means he's still possessed by a homicidal demon."

"He doesn't look like it," Hawthorne noted dubiously, taking in the sight of Gaara using his power over sand to scare Harry, Ron, and a very hairy spider. "What's that?"

"Hermionie the mini-Aragog, I think. Nowhere near as cute as my mini-Reaver, obviously." Key ran a hand through her greasy hair. "We'll have to send her to HFA, I guess. Go get her."

"What?" Hawthorne gaped at his partner in dismay.

"You heard me. Just go over there, grab the mini, and bring her over here." She made a shooing motion with the hand holding the baseball bat, nearly knocking Hawthorne over. "You'll be fine."

Gulping, Hawthorne made his way across the room to where Hermionie the mini-Aragog still sat. "Uh, hey," he ventured, leaning over and holding out a hand. "I'm Hawthorne. You probably don't want to be here, huh? My partner can get you to where you belong."

The mini considered him for a moment, then regally climbed onto his outstretched hand.

Trying not to shriek at the feel of hairy legs over his skin, Hawthorne carried the mini back to his waiting partner, who had a portal open and ready. The mini disappeared, and the portal snapped shut.

"See, that wasn't so bad, was it?" Key grinned at Hawthorne's shudder.

Now the various ninjas had begun to talk, and they soon decided to erase the memories of the wizards and pretend to be students instead of bodyguards. This provided much confusion for the watching agents.

"Why would they do that?" Hawthorne asked. "Wouldn't guarding Harry Potter be easier if everyone was in on it?"

"I'd think so. Plus, what was the point of spending all that time convincing everyone that they really are ninjas if they're just going to erase it all?" Key scowled, clutching at her bat in a somewhat worrying way. "That's what we technically call bad writing."

Hawthorne nodded glumly. "I thought so." Then he brightened. "But the spacing is back to normal now!" Indeed, the bizarre doubling spacing of the first chapter had given way to a more conventional format.

In time all the various characters were up and getting dressed, and shortly after they were preparing to leave the house. Suddenly the world lurched and dissolved into formless gray, and Key swore.

"Get down, newbie! And cover your ears!"

"What? Why?" Hawthorne tried to ask, but Key interrupted.

"Just do it!" She herself had curled up on the ground with her head between her knees, and with a shrug Hawthorne followed suit.

Within moments a rain of punctuation and a whirlwind of whining swept around them, nearly deafening Hawthorne before he managed to cover his ears. Even so, the force of the flying punctuation was quite painful, and Hawthorne was fairly certain that he would later find himself covered in bruises.

Eventually the noise and typos faded away, but Hawthorne refused to look up until he felt Key tapping on his shoulder. He uncurled himself with a groan, wincing. "What was that?"

"Author's note. Horrible things."

The world twisted, and once more they were inside the house. The characters scurried by, dragging suitcases and trunks behind them, and the agents scrambled to avoid being crushed underfoot.

"Hey, Key?" Hawthorne spoke up after a moment of reading through the Words.


"What does 'sweat-dropped' mean?" He pointed out one particular portion of the text that had been bothering him.

Kankuro almost sweat-dropped, but didn't because 1) It's waaaaay to out of character and 2) It'd blow their cover-only japanese can sweat drop.

"Don't worry about it," Key advised. "Thinking about it too hard will only damage your brain."

They followed the characters of the house, where somehow all of the luggage and all of the characters were able to fit into the Weasley's flying car. With a shrug, Key climbed onto the back of the car and gestured for Hawthorne to do the same.

"Are you sure this is safe?" Hawthorne asked, gripping the metal tightly.

"Probably. The ride is never described, so with any luck we should just arrive when the canons do."

Hawthorne had to ask. "What if we don't have any luck?"

"We'll fall from a great height and end up decorating the landscape with our intestines." At Hawthorne's terrified look, Key rolled her eyes. "That was a joke, newbie. Relax."

"Alright, kids. There might be some turbulance, and you're going to want to chew a piece of gum. It'll keep your ears from popping." All the passengers of the car snagged a piece of gum. Little did they know that it was "Berry Bolts Every Flavored Gum"(sp?).

Key, however, grabbed the whole bag. "Not canon. Mine by default."

"You weren't planning on eating that, were you?" Hawthorne asked as everyone who had taken a piece immediately began expressing their disgust.

"Of course not. I was going to sell it to the people in the Cafeteria." Key eyed the bag of gum speculatively. "They should appreciate it."

Suddenly a scene change swept over them, knocking the agents to the ground several hours into the future. Now they were in front of a different house, but the lack of description did little to distinguish it from the first one.

"See, newbie? What did I tell you?" Key stood up, grabbed her baseball bat, and hurried after the characters walking into the building.

Groaning, Hawthorne staggered upright, clutching his head as he did so. "I hurt everywhere," he moaned, following his partner inside.

Within moments, however, he was tackled to the ground by his partner. "Author's note incoming!"

In time the whining faded away, and the agents cautiously sat upright. "You know," Key said after a moment, "this is starting to get annoying."

"Starting?" Hawthorne climbed to his feet, looked around, and blinked. "Is it just me, or did the ninjas multiply?"

"Yeah, they did. Throwaway line last chapter about needing more support or something." Key adjusted her grip on the baseball bat and reached into her backpack. Out came a black rod covered in buttons and two pairs of sunglasses, one of which she tossed at Hawthorne and the other which she slid over her eyes. Then, bat in one hand and rod in the other, she stood up. "There's not much more we can do here, seeing as you're too new to be helpful and the major breech of canon was having these universes interact without explanation or logic. Let's wrap this up."

Following his partner's lead, Hawthorne put on the sunglasses. "What are these for?"

"Coolness. Well, also to keep you from losing your own memories when we neuralyze the characters, but mostly coolness." Key pointed the bat towards the characters. "Right, newbie, get their attention."

"Me?" Much to Hawthorne's dismay, the word came out as a squeak.

"Yes, you. You're an agent, now, might as well begin work as soon as possible."

"Okay." Hawthorne gulped, cleared his throat, and faced the canon characters, who were preparing to head off to their rooms. "Excuse me?" Not surprisingly, his words went ignored, and he tried again. "Hey, guys? Excuse me?"

"Oh, for—" Key pushed him aside and inhaled deeply. "This is how you do it." And then she screamed.

It was quite an impressive scream, Hawthorne had to admit. Starting in the lower registers, it quickly climbed its way up into a high-pitched wail that shivered just on the edges of hearing. Hawthorne clapped his hands over his ears, noting that a few of the other characters did the same, but the shriek seemed to cut through that barrier as if it were nothing. Abruptly it cut off, leaving the windows rattling and the characters staring.

"See? Not hard at all." Key smirked at her partner, then turned back to the canonicals. "Hello, everyone! I am Agent Key, my partner here is Agent Hawthorne, and as representatives of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum we have declared this particular situation a Bad Thing in need of Correcting. Could everyone just look at the pretty light?" She held up the rod, and a flash lit the room, leaving the characters blank-eyed.

"What was that?" Hawthorne asked.

"The neuralyzer. I've just erased their memories of this whole situation." Key pulled off her glasses and tossed them back into her backpack along with the neuralyzer. "Give me your sunglasses, will you? Thanks. Okay, listen up! People wearing weaponry stand over here, people carrying wands stand over there."

True to her instructions, the characters separated into two different groups. Key nodded in satisfaction. "Right. You—" she pointed to the characters native to the Harry Potter continuum—"are wizards, and you are plotting against an evil Dark Lord who calls himself Voldemort. And you—" she pointed to the characters from the Naruto continuum—"are ninjas who shoot plasma blasts from your hands and kill people. Neither of you have heard of each other. Got that?" As they nodded, Key pulled out the remote activator and opened a portal. "All ninjas step through this, please. Wait, not you three." She closed the portal behind the Konoha ninjas, then opened another, which she gestured the Sand Siblings through. "Don't want to start a war by accident."

"Plasma blasts?" Hawthorne was puzzling over Key's description of the ninjas.

"Yeah. Plasma blasts, more or less. It's weird." Key opened one more portal. "So that's that, and we can go home." With a wave at the still-staring canons, she disappeared, and Hawthorne was not long to follow.

The disguises faded away as they stepped through the portal, leaving Key in her none-too-clean uniform and Hawthorne with his hair unbound once more. Maybe I should think about getting some hair ties, Hawthorne thought, trying to work out a tangle from his hair. The scene changes and punctuation showers had not done his appearance any good.

Dropping her backpack and baseball bat by the console, Key moved over to the bookshelf and began to look through its contents. "Let's see... Good Omens, The Riddle-Master of Hed, Eragon—where'd I get that?Foundation.... Here we go, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone." She pulled a colorful hardback from the shelf and tossed it at Hawthorne. "Catch!"

Startled, Hawthorne lunged forward and caught the book before it hit the ground. "What's this for?"

"Reading. Obviously." Key pulled another book from the shelf and collapsed into the chair in the corner. As she thumbed the novel open, Inarra Scerra emerged from behind the chair and crawled into her lap, reaching up to pull the book down to its eye level. "And make sure you understand it. There will be quizzes later."

"Okay." Hawthorne sat down on his mattress and flipped the book open. Then he paused. "Hey, Key?"


"I've been wondering." He hesitated, then shrugged and continued. "Your voice...."

"What about it?" Key looked up from her book, eyes narrowed.

"It echoes," Hawthorne elaborated. "And you scream, like, really loudly. What's with that?"

Key looked thoughtful for a moment, then smirked down at her book. "Heh. Well, if you really must know, I'm a bean sídhe."

"... A banshee?" Hawthorne stared at his partner.

"If you want to be crude, yes, a banshee." Key turned a page in her book, absently stroking the head of the mini-Reaver in her lap. "And you're an Elf. Things are weird around here."

"But don't banshees kill people when they scream?" Hawthorne asked.

"And that is what we call slander." Key shook her head in disgust. "We scream to warn people of death, not to bring it. So remember, if you ever think about pulling out the weapons, I will know."

"Got it." Hawthorne nodded and returned to his book.

"Good." Key settled down into a more comfortable position in her chair. "Just keep that in mind, and we should get along perfectly well."

* * *

A/N – My first foray into the wonderful world of crossover-killing. Yey. I won't be giving up my other agents, though; I'm just branching out a bit.