Naomi groaned, looking at the fic on the console. The beeping had sounded like the console really wanted to get the fic out of itself.
“Great. It’s our first slash fic. Pretty rare to find Sues in that … geez, we’re assassins, not exorcists, why did they send us this?”
“What’s so wrong about slashing? We do it all the time to the Sues,” said her vulpine partner Drake, looking over her shoulder and scratching his tail. “At least, we do when you don’t poison them. I swear, that takes all the fun out of it.”
Naomi let out another sigh. She refrained from harming her partner by telling herself it could be worse. She could have Luxury as a partner. She shuddered.
“No. It means fics about two characters of the same gender … going at it.”
“Cool, a fight! Err, Naomi? Why are you banging your head on the wall?”
Naomi just sighed and went about typing out a message. “For now we wait. I’ve asked for backup. I can’t afford to be alone in there with an insane partner. Or an oblivious one …”
-backpacklady: Hey guys. You there?
A pause while the agent on the other end answered their beeping console.
-greasedlightning: Hi. Who is this?
-backpacklady: It’s Naomi. Remember, you ran over my partner Drake outside the Temple?
-greasedlightning: OH! Oh yes, I remember you and him – hard to forget another furry face. What is it?
-backpacklady: We’ve been sent a Bad Slash fic, and we aren’t sure how to handle it, and Drake doesn’t even seem to know what it is. Can you come and give us a paw?
There was a long pause on the other end.
-greasedlightning: Must we? We do have our own problems, you know. We haven’t been sent any more missions for a day or so, but the new kits are quite a pawful. We’ve been too exhausted even to think of names for them.
-backpacklady: Let me rephrase. Get over here and help or I’ll tie you both up in front of Meet The Feebles.
-greasedlightning: What’s Meet The Feebles?
-backpacklady: JUST GET THE HELL OVER HERE!
Drake looked over Naomi’s shoulder.
“Meet the Feebles? Sounds like people who would be easy to eat.”
Naomi started to open her mouth, then shut it again, realizing that some things were futile. Usually only a backpack got through to Drake.
“Now we wait.” Naomi sat down, and stood up again as a knock on the door sounded. “Excellent timing. Thank goodness for narrative comedy and screwy HQ geography.”
She opened the door to let in the two agents. “Hi. Sorry to bother you, but we do need help.”
“Fine, but you get to explain to Drake what we’re doing, he’s your partner.” Skyfire breezed in and started pulling items from her exorcism kit. “I hope the kits are okay in the nursery, they didn’t want to put them straight in with the human youngsters but I think they’ll be fine for a bit … Which book is it, and can we use your copy?”
“It’s Bellmaker, and here it is,” said Naomi, pulling said book off the shelf.
“O-kay. Bells …” Stormsong raised his bell in reply. “Candles, I have those … chalk?”
“Here,” said Stormsong, taking a stick of chalk from his pocket.
“Then we’re ready. Do you just need help compiling the charge list? The exorcism’s just the same as with general possession.”
Naomi sighed. “I think I might need you to be there while I try to explain to my partner.” She leaned in and whispered, “It has foxes in it, so I might need to restrain my partner from trying to kill them and giving us away.”
Drake was standing at the console, typing away.
“So? What disguises?” Drake was looking forward to the mission. Another chance to kill Sues. At least, he hoped that he would be able to kill Sues. “Are foxes okay with everyone?”
“We’d be noticed, Nagru and Silvamord are the only foxes in Floret and it’s not badly infested enough for the Sue-influence to cover us up,” Skyfire pointed out. “Looks like rats again.”
Drake looked crestfallen, then perked up. “Ah well, we get to kill Sues, right?”
“Possibly,” Stormsong said. “They be rare in our line of work, but one will appear on occasion.”
Drake grinned. “Not rare in my line of work.”
Drake started typing, then nodded, opening the portal. He prepared to bound through it, but was stopped by Naomi.
“I think that the Bad Slashers should go first.”
Stormsong moved towards the portal, then paused and looked back at Naomi. “Aye, if thou art going to explain … certain facts … to thy partner, now would be a good time. We shall go ahead and find our targets.”
Naomi and the mustelids exchanged salutes, and the Bad Slashers stepped through the portal.
Naomi sighed and sat down, motioning to Drake to do the same. He flopped on the couch beside her. “Look, Drake. Slash fiction is the stuff about people … you know, batting for the other side.”
“Cool, what game are they playing? And can I join in?”
Naomi sighed and gave up. The Duty was calling. “Come on, we’ll go through now. We’ll finish later.”
Drake tried to key at the console again, but Naomi pushed the struggling fox through the portal before jumping through as well, into the royal bedchamber of Castle Floret. Stormsong and Skyfire were already there, in rat form, leaning against the wall and pulling out their laptops for the charge list. They looked up as Drake and Naomi stepped through.
“Oh, hi guys. Anything interesting yet?” Naomi greeted them with a wave. “Ah, at least Nagru’s rats can use something approaching correct grammar …”
“Not really, but it’s about to start,” said Skyfire, pointing at the Sue-fox in the bed.
Drake looked at the Sue, or rather at certain attributes the Sue had added to Silvamord’s basic character design, and hissed, “Ugh! Why is she so deformed? I mean, that is ridiculous. How could she hunt?”
Naomi sighed. “You want to answer that?”
“Humans do appear to find very large fat deposits in the chest area attractive on their females, going by the descriptions their Mary Sues almost invariably have,” Stormsong explained to Drake. “Do not ask me why – thou art right, they would get in the way, particularly since Silvamord was supposed to be as much a fighter as her husband was. And is’t just me, or be the vixen moulting in a very specific area? She be a northern fox, her fur should be far too thick to expose … that much.”
“Looks like it. I hope that isn’t meant to mean that she’s pregnant or something.” Skyfire crossed her forelimbs over her chest. “Me, I like my fur. Subtlety, that’s the way to go.”
“Charge for that?” asked Naomi. Skyfire nodded, and they typed out “causing nipples to be visible on a creature who should have very thick fur” and “trying to apply 21st-century human standards of attractive body types to a Mossflower fox”.
Drake was still caught up on it. “Only two? Yuck! And won’t they cause a problem when she tries to pounce or something? And without her fur covering them, won’t she freeze there? Or offer a tempting target for her opponents? That has to be a Sue, right?”
Naomi sighed. “Drake, the author is human.” She leaned in and whispered something.
Drake exploded. “So? She can do research! How dare she suggest that foxes need some human thing to be able to mate succesfully?”
“Well, ‘tis written for humans, so in all likelihood she be trying to appeal to the target audience.”
The agents glanced at the Words as Silvamord examined herself in the mirror. Both vixen and mirror were described in excruciating detail.
Silvamord stepped to the long pane of glass that hung from the wall, encircled by an intricately carved frame of cherrywood, with tiny figures of squirrels, flowers, and swords cut into it. A slender vine of wood wended its way down the side of the mirror. Silvamord studied her reflection quietly. Tall for a vixen, her fur was whitish grey and her muzzle was silver-striped. The markings upon her back were also silver, but not with age, just with the uniqueness of her pelt.
Stormsong glanced at his own fur and recalled how few of the humans they’d been through training with had believed him when he said that. Though it did seem to have become a shade or two paler since he joined up …
Silvamord's eyes were dark green and cunning, and she wore a long skirt of animal tails, with pieces of rock crystal sewn into them. The skirt tinkled when she moved, and sat low on her hips, but other than that, the vixen wore no other clothes upon her slender, muscled body.
Stormsong muttered “‘Other than that she wore no other’ … gah,”, then spent some moments fiddling with the CAD and mouthing curses in the Juska language (which has enough swear words to keep someone going for an hour without repeating themselves) until he got it onto the communicator setting. “Hello and greetings, Department of Redundancy Department? Aye, yes, I wish to announce, that is report, a single, yes, one, instance of unnecessary repetition, commonly referred to as redundancy. Farewell and goodbye.” He clicked it off and smiled. “I probably should not find that as entertaining as I do, but one must take one’s amusement where one can. Oh, I realise the description of the Sue be normal, but may we charge for unnecessary overdescription of furniture?”
“Is that a bad thing?” asked Skyfire. “As long as she’s describing the furniture, she isn’t going into detail about the other parts.”
“Still chargeable,” said Naomi, writing it down. “‘Concentrating all description of a room on a single piece of furniture’.”
“When can we get her?” asked Drake, hopping from footpaw to footpaw.
“Not now, Drake. Just check to be absolutely sure she’s a Sue and not just possessed, okay?”
He did so. The CAD immediately shrieked [BEEP!!!!!!!!!!!!WARNING! DANGER DANGER! SUE ALERT!!] FIZZLE CRACKLE sputter …
Naomi sighed, grabbed her partner, and tanked him down behind a chair, swearing under her breath.
A knock sounded at her door, and Silvamord turned from the mirror. "Who is there?" The door was thrust open, and Nagru stepped in, his wolfskin swirling around him. Shutting the door, he bolted it and grabbed Silvamord. She gasped and tried to fight him off, but the Foxwolf was too strong for her. Gathering her in his arms, he nuzzled her neck and growled, "It's been too long, my bare-breasted vixen, too long."
Fortunately the foxes apparently regarded their rat servants as furniture, allowing the disguised group to remain unnoticed by the now non-resisting Sue as Nagru carried her back to the bed.
“It may just be me,” Skyfire quietly pointed out, “but is there something odd about the fact that they’re suddenly getting along well enough to do this? Their relationship wasn’t exactly touchy-feely in canon.”
“Well, presumably there was some reason they were wed in the first place,” said Stormsong with a shrug. “Liking the one thou art copulating with is not strictly obligatory – mayhap they merely stayed together for reasons of accessibility? Thy thoughts, Naomi, Drake?”
“Huh,” said Drake disbelievingly. “Must be a charge, there’s no way that would be a good enough reason for them to stick together. It can’t be that great.”
Stormsong looked at him, half-amused and half-surprised at hearing a young healthy male express this opinion, and said, completely deadpan, “Thou art a virgin, yes?”
Drake looked confused. “What’s a vir-gin? Some kind of drink?”
Naomi shook her head and whispered to him “Drake, it means you haven’t had sex. Er … I’ll regret asking, but have you?” She hoped the answer was no. Going by his usual level of social comprehension, he was probably too naïve to technically be able to consent … though maybe when he was a non-anthro he’d have done something, but did that count? … She attempted to close off her train of thought, and failed, much to her disgust.
Drake looked even more confused. “Yes and no. I have memories of mating during breeding season, and memories of not mating, and memories of only being alive for a short time. Sometimes I hate having three sets of memories, being an ex-Cute Animal Friend can really suck …” He trailed off pensively, then perked up again. “So, is it that great?”
Loud and happy, but extremely disturbing, noises were at this point emitting from the bed.
“Well,” said Skyfire with a nervous laugh, “they certainly seem to think so.”
There was a muffled boom and a nasty sizzling noise.
“What the heck was that?” Skyfire thought out loud, examining the Words. “Can’t see … wait, he ‘exploded like a volcano’? Oh sweet fates, that sounds painful!” She winced and typed up the charge. “Any more charges you’ve spotted?”
Lying down beside Silvamord, he stroked her thigh and gathered her close. They fell asleep, Nagru's arm draped over his mate's slender body.
“Not so sure,” said Naomi, skimming backwards over the Words. “Her breasts must be placed pretty far apart if he can lie down between them, though, I don’t think they squash quite that well …”
“What about improper biology? I mean, they’re foxes, so if they have truly mated, they should not be moving apart anytime soon. How much you want to bet that they messed that up? Uh, Stormy, is something wrong?”
“Please … desist from … reminding me … about that,” the exorcist grated, twitching with every word. “And kindly do not call me ‘Stormy’.”
“What’s Drake talking about?” Skyfire asked, looking confusedly at Stormsong and Naomi.
“Well, I don’t know why it’s upset him, but we foxes have a bulge called a knot on our- OUCH! NAOMI!”
Naomi sighed and drew back her backpack again. “Now is not the time for a biology lesson, Drake. And furry characters are given human physical attributes by human writers quite often, so I don’t know if that counts. But I think the giant breasts count as bad biology because even a human couldn’t stand up if she had things like that on her ribcage, so you can still use it.”
“Changing the subject very quickly,” Skyfire said before Drake could protest or explain further, “why did you call us? That was het, not-”
At this point the scene changed, leaving all the agents clutching the furniture to stay upright. When the world stopped shaking, they were still in the bedroom, but now it was occupied by Silvamord and her rat pawmaiden Sicant.
Silvamord took wine and roasted fish with a young female horderat named Sicant, and they talked about the stupidity of malebeasts. The vixen, bare-breasted and smiling, bit into a cooked trout as Sicant sipped from a beaker of elderberry wine. "Yes. Once malebeasts get the urge to kill, they go at it until they have succeeded or died trying." Sicant nodded, picking up a large piece of pike and nibbling at it. "My mate, Graywort, is the same. Always killing and never having time for me." The young ratmaid put a paw over her mouth, embarrassed at spilling her marital problems to Silvamord.
“They would be why,” Naomi said, pointing to the Sue and the rat. “And there’s a bit with Nagru and some male rat after they’re done.”
“Oh, I see. What a short attention span she seems to have …” said Skyfire drily, watching as Silvamord pulled Sicant over to the mirror and told her to look at herself, while leering creepily at the poor rat, who didn’t seem to notice.
“Stupid Suethor. Since when do foxes have such powers? If we did, it would make things so much easier,” Drake was ranting, staring at the Words. Naomi looked at the Words in question, and groaned.
"There still is the matter of your mate. Graywort. He must be killed, somehow." Sicant could not tear her eyes from Silvamord's. "Why, Lady?" The vixen ran a paw down the side of the ratmaid's cheek. "So that I can have you for myself." Her paw slipped lower as she exerted the full force of her hypnotic powers until it was at the cords that held the front of Sicant's tunic closed.
“She’s hypnotising her tunic fastenings?” Skyfire muttered. “Sounds difficult.”
“That’s a charge. Canon Silvamord does not have hypnotic powers,” Naomi said, clenching her fist.
“True. The book does call her ‘silver-tongued’, but that’s it. No Ublaz-type powers.” The Bad Slashers noted the charge.
"Undress yourself, maiden."
“Is she going to eat the rat? I hope so,” said Drake excitedly.
“Only in a metaphorical sense, Drake.” Naomi sniggered to herself.
The exorcists turned their backs on the Sue and her victim and kept their eyes on the Words.
“Just watch it, Drake,” Stormsong told him. Drake watched, eyes widening.
“See, when I was talking about slashfic, this is what I meant,” Naomi pointed out. “And excuse me while we charge the Sue for rape, because Sicant didn’t agree to this until Suevamord did her stupid hypnosis thing.”
“It seems like a dominance thing. She is trying to prove that she is more fit then the rat?” Drake asked, confused.
“Sort of, Drake, but the author means it to be more like …” Naomi whispered to Drake, who looked shocked.
“It’s just like that one with Gulo. How could she? Ick, she’s mating with snack food!”
Naomi sighed, then winced as she saw Silvamord get up and produce something shiny from behind the mirror. The Bad Slashers glanced at the Words, and their eyes nearly popped out of their heads.
Pulling a long rod of silver from behind the mirror, Silvamord showed it to Sicant. The shaft resembled a malebeast's rod, rounded at one end and smooth.
“No way. No. Way,” Naomi muttered.
“She’s going to hit her with it? Yeah! Come on, brain the rat!”
Naomi thwapped Drake with her backpack.
“I think that is a charge, or just plain stupid,” she whispered to the Bad Slashers, whom she believed would be familiar with what was about to occur.
“I do apologise, I missed what thou didst just say because I was too distracted by that!” Stormsong hissed, covering his face so he didn’t have to look at the Words or the thing in Silvamord’s paws, or what she was now doing with it. “And of course they both wish to have a metal object which hath apparently been lying around in the shade behind a mirror applied to their delicate mucous membranes, without at least holding it for long enough to bring it to blood temperature? Agh.”
Naomi typed up the charges, muttering “Okay, so more bad biology, or maybe just overenthusiasm … and I realise I’ll regret asking, but she got this thing from where, exactly? I hardly think they’re mass-produced here.”
“Well, she is a warlord’s wife, it’s not like the craftsbeasts would say no if she told them to make it,” Skyfire said. “But it does look pretty silly. And can we charge for annoying overuse of the word ‘rod’? I count five times in four successive sentences! Come on, lady, I know you own a thesaurus, use it at the right times!” she said to the ceiling, hoping the author could hear her.
“Sheesh, if that’s what they want why not just find a male?” Drake asked. “Not like there’s a shortage of them around here.”
“Because it’s femslash, Drake … what are you doing?”
Drake was creeping up to the bed, an odd look in his eyes, which were fixed on the rod. Suddenly he pounced, grabbed the rod from Sicant’s paws, swung it at Suevamord’s head, and then tossed it aside. It landed in Skyfire’s paw as Drake started to attack Suevamord with fangs and claws, shouting “Stupid Sue with slashy things, you don’t insult foxes like that!”
As the silver object made contact with her paw, Skyfire shrieked in disgust and hurled it at Naomi. Naomi yelled “I don’t want it!” and struck it in midair, flicking it at the astonished Stormsong. He swung his bell like a baseball bat, sending the thing flying again, and it bounced off Drake’s head. Drake stopped yelling, winced, and raised a paw to rub his head, which gave Naomi the opportunity to grab him and haul him off the Sue. The exorcists threw her a coil of rope, and they all set to work on the stunned Sue and her victim.
Within seconds, Sicant and Suevamord were tied up and gagged on the bed. Sicant resisted far less than they would have expected, still being under hypnotic control and apparently assuming this was all part of Silvamord’s idea, much to the disgust of the agents when they realised this. Skyfire grabbed an unsoiled part of the blanket and started to scrub her paw on it, talking to herself. “Eugh, why is it glittery? Get it off me! Oh, why don’t I carry soap on these missions? Blood I can cope with perfectly well, why does it have to be-”
“Time aplenty for that after we finish the exorcism!” Stormsong said, hurriedly drawing a chalk circle around the bed and setting candles around it. “Bell … book … candles … here we go!”
“Hey, can I keep the stick?”
“No!” Naomi yelped in disgust at her partner's suggestion.
“Please. It makes a nice bludgeon thingy. Please!”
“Huh. Maybe we can trade it to Lux for a lightsabre or something.”
“Can we? That would be great!” Drake squealed enthusiastically.
Naomi sighed. “I was just kidding. I think we should let the other agents do their jobs now.”
“Oh, do you want to help?” Skyfire asked, handing Drake the copy of The Bellmaker. “Just hold this. You both know the chant, right? Come on, all together …”
Drake waved the book and all four agents cried in unison;
“GET THEE BEHIND ME, SUE! AVAUNT, UNCANON! THE POWER OF JACQUES COMPELS YOU!”
The characters in the circle struggled in pain as thin trickles of black smoke oozed from their nostrils. Drake threw the book into the circle, incidentally concussing Suevamord. A faint smoky Author-Wraith assembled – faint because Silvamord had been replaced rather than possessed and Sicant was, in the circumstances, unable to show much character either way. Before it could speak, Skyfire and Stormsong each threw one of their author-autographed slingstones through it, ringing their bells frantically and screaming “GET THEE GONE!” It sizzled and vanished with a squeak. Suevamord bucked and contorted wildly, screaming through the binding on her jaws. Sicant blinked and sat up. Stormsong moved forward and gently started to untie the shocked rat while Naomi and Skyfire cleared away the candles and wiped up the chalk.
Drake picked up the silver rod and gestured with it, saying “What do I do with this?”
“Gah! Put it down, didn’t you see where it’s been?” Naomi yelped. “Stop pointing that thing at me, it might go off!”
“What? It’s just a stick. Ooh, didn’t know that was glittery too, guess it’s like their blood …” Drake brought the thing up to his snout for a closer examination.
Everyone stopped in their tracks as Drake’s nose suddenly spouted blood.
Stormsong didn’t even have to think about it, his healer instincts kicked in immediately. He glided forward, grabbed Drake’s head, and gently pushed it down, murmuring reassuringly. “Hm, ‘tis heavy bleeding, but pinch thy snout like this, keep thy head forward, ‘twill be fine …”
“No, put his head back!” Sicant snapped, yanking the gag off her own jaws as Skyfire finished untying her paws.
“Madam, I am an experienced healer, I can assure thee it should be forwards-”
“Not on her ladyship’s bedroom floor it’s not,” the rat said firmly. “I have to clean that!”
Naomi gawped. “What’s with her?”
“Delayed shock, most likely,” Stormsong replied. “It doth take a short time to sink in sometimes. I hope we can finish and neuralyse her first …”
Drake just kept his head still, not sure what to do, and blood dripped onto the floor. Naomi sighed and said, “Sorry about that. Side effect of working anime and his being born in an anime continuum.”
“What has that got to do with it?” asked Skyfire.
“Nosebleeds in anime are a sign of, um … ‘interest’.” Naomi made the little quote-marks in the air with her claws. “Must have caught a whiff of vixen smell from the thing.”
“What?” asked Stormsong incredulously, firmly pushing Drake’s head forwards. “Pawkerchief, Drake …” Drake handed over a grubby tissue, which Stormsong held over the assassin’s nosetip. “What possible use could that be? Who would mate with a creature who doth spout blood at the slightest hint of … art thou making this up?”
“Heeeey, nod by fault!” Drake protested as Stormsong glided back to Sicant and helped her to stand up and get dressed.
“Not making it up. It’s common in anime continua. Mostly because a lot of them aren’t allowed to show the, er, more usual sign on TV.”
Drake idly swung the rod, getting close to Skyfire with the end.
“Stop that!” she snapped. “I don’t want any more Sue fluids on me than absolutely necessary … though it looks like there will be a lot more around, since we have to kill her.”
Drake perked up. “Oh, we can deal wid dat. You do’d hab to do id if you do’d want to.” His fangs gleamed.
“Please do,” said Skyfire, slightly apprehensive at his enthusiasm. “You figure out what you want to do with her while we look for the real Silvamord. Miss Sicant, can you give us a paw looking?”
The rat nodded and complied, still looking stunned.
“No, that’s disgusting, Drake!” Naomi hissed in response to Drake’s whispered suggestion.
“Id’s perfect, no?”
“It’s absolutely not … oh, fine, you’re going to do it whatever I say, aren’t you?”
Drake nodded enthusiastically. Naomi threw up her paws in defeat. Suevamord’s eyes had been slowly widening as she listened to the assassins debating her demise, and they watered in fear as Drake grinned madly at her.
“By the way, do you really think you have enough charges?” asked Skyfire.
“Oh yeah.” Naomi grinned and knelt beside the bed to look Suevamord in the eye. “Silvamord, also known as Mary Sue or Suevamord, I charge you with being a Mary Sue; with impersonating the canonical character Silvamord; with being too nice to Urgan Nagru against Silvamord’s canonical characterisation; with warping Nagru’s canonical characterisation to make him want to be in the same room as you; with randomly concentrating all the description of a room on a single piece of furniture; with trying to apply twenty-first century human standards of attractive body types to a Mossflower fox; with bad biology including having gravity-defying breasts, having nipples visible through very thick fur when you’re not lactating, and suddenly jamming probably-cold metal objects into sensitive parts of yourself without suffering the expected discomfort; with having non-canonical hypnotic powers; with bad metaphors which caused Nagru’s genitals to explode; with awkward phrasing which caused you to hypnotise someone’s clothing; with being a creepy rapist – mind control is not consent – with having extremely repetitive sex scenes; with annoying overuse of the word ‘rod’; with owning this thing in the first place-” Drake waved the rod accusingly, “- and with being unspeakably weird all round.”
“For that, you are sentenced to death.”
With that Drake bounded forward and brained the Sue with the rod. Naomi winced as the Sue’s skull cracked loudly under repeated blows from a couple of pounds of solid silver. When she stopped twitching, Drake stepped back, panting and wiping sparkly blood from his paws.
“That was disgusting, but I guess it was a suitable way to kill her. Now, where would the real Silvamord be?” Naomi mused.
Meanwhile Sicant the rat shook her head, freeing herself of the last traces of Sue influence, took in the sight of a dead and very deformed Silvamord and four strange rats, remembered what had happened shortly beforehand, and started screaming hysterically. Stormsong carefully helped the crying rat back onto the bed and sat down beside her, humming soothingly to her.
“AHA!” Skyfire pointed behind the ornate mirror. The shimmery blue glow of a plothole was just visible behind it. “Come and help me move this thing!”
Drake nodded, and together he and Naomi helped Skyfire move the large ornate mirror.
“Would you like to do the honors, Skyfire?”
Skyfire nodded and shoved both paws into the plothole. “Ma’am?” she called into it. “If you can hear me, get hold of my paws. Don’t worry, I know it’s weird but we can fix everything!” She braced herself and stepped back, pulling with her the real Silvamord, who tried to step out daintily and make it look as if she hadn’t been heaving with all her strength to get out of the plothole’s tug. The vixen quickly preened her fur with one paw as the plothole closed up behind her, then actually looked around and saw the mess in her room. She drew herself up like a rising tsunami and screeched at the agents.
“What is the meaning of this? Who are you and why are you in my chambers? Why is there a corpse on my floor, what are those things on its chest, and why does it look like me?! Why is my servant lying in tears on my bed? What the hell are those stick-things you’re holding? What are you-”
She was cut off at that moment. While she had been ranting, the agents had snapped down their sunglasses, Stormsong had hauled Sicant off the bed and held her head up, and Skyfire had flashed her neuralyser.
“There. This never happened. Silvamord, you hate your husband, you have no desire to randomly violate your servants, and you are ‘silver-tongued’ but not a hypnotist,” Skyfire told the stunned vixen. “Sicant, you’re unhurt and you have not just been raped by your boss. Wipe your face, tidy up the room and then go back to doing whatever you should be doing. Okay, that’s them done, let’s go fix Nagru.”
“By ‘fix’, d’you mean I can-”
“Don’t even think about it, Drake.” Drake sighed, but Naomi just shook her head. “I mean it.”
Stormsong meanwhile had fiddled with his remote, with slightly less muttered cursing than previously, and opened a portal. “Time to go through.”
Drake wiped up the last of his nosebleed and stuffed the corpse of the Sue behind the mirror, grinning. “I think I might skin her and keep the pelt.”
Naomi raised the backpack to hit him, but then thought for a second. “Actually that’s not a bad idea, it is quite pretty.” She examined the thick silvery fur (at least that was the same as the real Silvamord). “Yeah, okay, we’ll keep it. Just … stick patches over the giant nips or something, okay?”
Drake nodded, and they hopped through the portal together.
When they got through, Stormsong was leaning against the wall, breathing deeply and murmuring “Stay calm, stay calm,” to himself. Skyfire was holding his paw in one of hers and her bell in her other paw. The room stunk of fox – very male and somewhat excited fox. The cause of the smell was sitting in the middle of the room with a frightened-looking male rat in front of him.
Nagru sat facing one of his horde captains; a rat called Riveneye. The Foxwolf sipped wine absently, then spoke. "My.......soldiers tell me that you are a rat to be trusted." Riveneye nodded, watching Nagru for any sign of hostility. "Yes, milord." The large fox smiled. "Then, you will fulfil my request?" The rat Captain nodded again. Nagru grinned wider. "Good. Then strip."
“Charge for too many periods in an ellipsis … What’s with him?” Naomi asked, gesturing at the faint-looking exorcist.
“Too much fox smell. It brings on bad memories,” Skyfire said shortly, then turned back to Stormsong and spoke soothingly to him. “C’mon, bucko, self-control, I’m here, everything will be fine …”
“A-aye,” choked Stormsong, clasping one paw over his nose and opening his eyes as he forced back the flashback. “I can manage. But oh, what I would not give for something to distract m- … eh, what the Hellgates …?”
He got his wish. His paw was pushed outwards as his snout suddenly started to change shape, and his ears did the same. His tail, currently hairless because of his rat disguise, suddenly became furry again, but much more so than usual. As he looked around and examined himself in horror, he began to shrink. His yell of fright turned into a bark, and within seconds a small surprised non-anthropomorphic grey fox was sitting on the floor. Mercifully his clothes had apparently morphed with him rather than falling off, but in accordance with the Laws of Comedy, his work sunglasses were still perched on his snout.
Skyfire screamed and Naomi yelled “DRAKE!”
Drake giggled and picked up the little fox which was all that remained of Stormsong. “Hey, I see you found my addition to the Disguise Generator. I missed my old foxy form, so I programmed this in. I meant it to activate when I’m angry, but I guess it gets triggered by general stress too. Nice, isn’t it? Ooh, I think you came out as a Marlfox, how cute!” He attempted to scratch the fox’s ears, but unfortunately encountered its teeth instead. “Ow, stop biting me, what was that for?”
Stormsong spat out Drake’s wrist and yapped at him.
Naomi looked puzzled. “Who’s Timmy and why is he in a well?”
The fox raised its eyes to the ceiling in exasperation. Skyfire hid her laughter as it growled at Drake, whose expression changed to one of shock.
“What did you just say about my mother?!”
“Guys, you’re missing the charges!” Naomi snapped. “Okay, what do we charge for? Apart from the fact that no body part should be described as ‘giant’ in this stuff. Seriously, look at ‘em, it looks like he had a couple of basketballs implanted – ewww, just like his wife’s chest! Though it still beats Gulo’s glow-in-the-dark … well.”
“Well, he apparently needs them.” Skyfire grimaced. “I skimmed ahead, look at that. He’d dehydrate if he produced that much … stuff.”
“Yeah, even for a fox that’s pretty excessive,” Drake said.
“Gah, TMI!” Naomi yelped.
“And I’m pretty sure it’s not that easy for rats to do that,” Skyfire said hurriedly. “Not that I have the anatomical ability to test it myself from either point of view, unless I want to get in trouble for misuse of the Disguise Generator, and I’m sure they've managed to work out a way. But wouldn’t the, you know, giant front teeth get in the way if he’s not just a little bit careful? Can’t he at least tilt his head a bit so it goes in the gap between the front and back teeth, or something?”
“Oh, I can make them get in the way!” said Drake, putting down Stormsong and darting forwards. Naomi grabbed his tail.
“No, you are not going to hit that rat in the back of the head while he’s still doing that!”
“Awwww!” Drake looked disappointed, then looked at Stormsong, and picked him up again. “I know, Stormy can do it.”
With that he tossed the poor fox towards the rat.
At least, that was the plan. What actually happened was that Drake ended up squealing and jumping around the room, waving his arm madly, with a very small and very angry fox hanging off his wrist by its fangs. Even considering the circumstances, the possessed Nagru could not fail to notice when Drake tripped and fell over the arm of the chair, nearly landing in his lap. He glanced around in surprise, saw the other agents, and stood up, kicking Drake and the ill-looking rat captain to the floor.
“Oh geez, at least do your pants back up before you attack us!” Naomi muttered, turning faintly green, before being forced to duck a swipe from the metal claws attached to the Foxwolf’s trademark outfit.
“What in the name of Hellgates are y-” Nagru snarled, before Skyfire dodged around his back and concussed him with a well-thrown bell.
“What’s goi-” Riveneye the rat started to say, before Naomi struck him with her backpack. Evidently his skull wasn’t as thick as Drake’s, as the strike left him unconscious on the floor.
“See? It’s really very easy,” said Skyfire matter-of-factly.
“Glad you think so,” quipped Naomi.
“OWOWOWOW GET OFF I SAID I’M REALLY SORRY AND YOU’RE STILL HURTING ME!” Drake squeaked. The little grey fox stopped, paws braced against Drake’s chest, and growled something into his face. Drake apparently got the message, as he pulled out the Disguise Generator and pressed Delete, leaving him in a heap on the floor under the surprised and dishevelled exorcist, who was now back in weasel form, his claws still caught in Drake’s shirt. Drake looked up at Stormsong with an expression of hurt confusion.
“Why did you do that? You could have proved that rats shouldn’t be doing that.”
Naomi looked at Skyfire and shrugged. “Let’s get going with the exorcism. I think we should leave those two alone for now.”
Stormsong disentangled himself from Drake and grabbed his bell. “I can wait until after the job is done, madam. I know how to hold onto my rage.” He glared at Drake and started making the circle. Drake got up and stuck his tongue out at Stormsong, then watched, scowling, as Stormsong and Skyfire did the circle.
“Any of them Sues?”
“Doesn’t look like it,” said Skyfire. “You get the smell for them after a while, and they seem normal … well, possessed, but they’re otherwise who they’re supposed to be.”
Naomi found her CAD and scanned them. [Urgan Nagru the Foxwolf. Male fox. OOC 31.97%. Riveneye. Male rat. OOC ??.??%.]
“What’s that for?” she asked, pointing to the question marks.
“Riveneye lacked a chance to show any real character in canon or this story,” Stormsong explained. “We still need to exorcise him to make sure the place is cleansed, but it should be simple enough.”
“Oh yeah. Surprisingly low count for Nagru.”
“Well, most warlords are known for being rather abusive towards their followers, so ‘tis not so very far-fetched that …” Stormsong suppressed a shudder. “Well. As for what warping there is, ‘tis probably for the most part due to the fact that under normal circumstances he hath enough intelligence not to put himself in such close proximity to the teeth of somebeast he be threatening. Honestly, one should not scare somebeast and then trust them to do that, the slightest tremble could be disastrous! Trust me, I have patched up enough fools who did try it to know …” Stormsong sighed, finished the circle and lit the last candle. “Here we go. I assume you both know the procedure by now?”
The assassins nodded, positions were assumed, and a brief round of screaming “Get thee gone, Spirit of Bad Slash!” later, another fine wispy Author-Wraith hovered over the unconscious bodies in the circle. Skyfire noted out of the corner of her eye that Nagru’s anatomy seemed to have gone back to a comparatively normal size.
It appeared to be a fairly simple routine exorcism – surprisingly easy, in fact – until Drake suddenly drew one of his beloved combat sporks and leapt at the Author-Wraith, growling “If I can’t kill a Sue, I’ll kill you!”
“DRAKE, NOOOO!” Naomi screamed, reaching out to grab him, but she was too late. Drake had stepped into the circle, and the Author-Wraith swooped down on him.
“DRAKE!” shrieked Skyfire as the smoky spirit flowed into the assassin, leaving him convulsing on the floor. Stormsong dropped his bell and would have darted forwards to help had his exorcist training and common sense not overrided his healer instincts.
“Drake! Drake, boy, canst thou hear me?” he cried.
What the …?
Ha! I’ve got you now, you flame-sending jerk!
What? You’re the Author-Wraith? I’m … I’m possessed?!
You keep ruining my fun! The canon characters are supposed to be free for us to use, it’s FANFICTION so I can do WHATEVER I WANT! But you keep stopping me! Fine, if that’s how you want it, then I get to play with you instead!
What? HELP! GUYS! NAOMI! … MOOOMMY!
You’re calling for your author? Oh, don’t be silly. She doesn’t care about you anymore, she probably forgot she ever wrote you in the first place. You’re mine now. Don’t fuss, I’ll take good care of you …and your friends. Come on, I’ll take care of everything, you can just relax and go with the flow, stop panicking and have fun …
Drake stirred, sat up, and made eye contact with the weasel. His face contorted into what would have been a chilling grin of utter evil on Urgan Nagru, but which merely made the rat-disguised Drake look slightly ill. The effect wasn’t particularly helped by the fact that his nose promptly started gushing blood again, the Wraith’s high from Nagru still going and now transferring to Drake. Stormsong realised what was going on, and contrary to Skyfire and Naomi’s expectations he did not collapse and start hyperventilating, but coolly backed away from the circle, picking his bell back up and raising it defensively.
Aha! Cute, isn’t he? said the Author-Wraith inside Drake’s head. It forced Drake’s head to move so it could see Naomi and Skyfire as well. Oooh, a redhead – well, red-fur – they’re always popular … and the other one, such adorable glasses. How perfect! Everyone on Yiffstar will LOVE you all! Now just step over the circle and grab one of them so I can possess them as well. Easy, isn’t it?
No! I won’t let you do that to my friends! I don’t WANT to be mind-controlled by you and neither do they!
Well, I’m in charge now and I’m telling you to do it. So there. Stop fussing, Nagru wasn’t complaining! The Wraith cackled through Drake’s vocal cords, and forced him to stand up and move towards Stormsong, struggling to move as he was resisting with all his mental strength.
“Hey, don’t be scared, I won’t hurt you,” it crooned. “We’re just gonna help you find a use for that cute fuzzy little-”
“LET HIM GO, THOU MISCHARACTERISING FILTH!”
“AVAUNT! BLOODY WELL AVAUNT! THE POWER OF THE PPC COMPELS YOU!”
“NOT MY PARTNER, YOU BITCH!”
Skyfire and Naomi raised their respective bell and backpack as they screamed, but they were too late; Stormsong’s bell had already connected solidly with Drake’s jaw. The possessed assassin dropped like a stone back into the circle, and the Author-Wraith rose from his concussed body, whining even as it faded.
“No fair! You ruin my fun, then you won’t let me use your furries in return? It’s not fair! Well, let me tell you I can write more-”
“Certainly you can write more! Use your own characters to do it next time rather than mangling our home!” Skyfire shouted, ringing her bell.
The Wraith crossed her arms in disgust, then shrieked as Stormsong whipped a signature-stone through her smoky form, banishing her. Drake sat upright in the circle, trembling and looking sick.
Naomi helped to haul her partner upright, then looked at Skyfire. “‘Not my partner, you bitch’? Been reading Deathly Hallows?”
Skyfire smiled and mock-bowed. “Of course. They made us read Harry Potter during training – Harry Potter always needs more agents.”
“Uh, Skyfire, we do have a minor emergency here. Couldst thou please pass me a bottle of Bleepka before my flashbacks return at full strength? I did delay it but now …” Stormsong said with a fixed smile, his breathing rate starting to increase. Skyfire tossed a bottle over. The weasel drank and relaxed.
“Hey, how come you didn’t flip when Drake was actually possessed?” Naomi asked, handing another bottle of Bleepka to Drake, who gulped it down in two mouthfuls and held out his paw for another one.
“For once the Laws of Comedy did work in my favour,” Stormsong explained between mouthfuls of Bleepka. “Doctor Fitzgerald claims such things usually only happen when ‘twould be amusing for an observer, and not if the situation could actually be dangerous for any concerned.”
“Oh yeah! Like Malletspace!” Drake interrupted, still rather shaky.
“Anime again,” Naomi explained. “If a woman is being attacked she’ll either squeak a lot and wait to be saved or fight back in whatever way is normal for the show, but if a guy just says something rude she can pull a mallet out of thin air and beat him with it. That only works when the situation is meant to be funny, too.”
Skyfire made a mental note to start watching anime and learn how to do that.
Naomi turned to Drake, who had by this point stopped trembling, though he still looked somewhat faint. “Speaking of beating males with things …” She grabbed him by the collar with one paw, drew back her backpack with the other, and hissed into his face, “If you ever, ever, ever do that again, you will be the one with something being jammed into your orifices, and said something will be an exorcism bell. Wide. End. First. Into a smaller orifice than your mouth or your-”
“Naomi, please, be not so cruel! ‘Tis not entirely his fault,” Stormsong said to her. “It was the Wraith, not he, who spoke and tried to attack. Drake had no control over it.”
Naomi stared at him. “The thing nearly possessed you, and you’re still calm enough to defend Drake?”
“Calm nothing,” muttered the weasel, finishing the Bleepka. “But of course I defend Drake! He did try to fight the Wraith out of himself, didst thou not see how it struggled to control him?”
Naomi stared back at Stormsong’s face. “You must be an infinitely nicer person than I am.”
Stating the obvious is a poor substitute for flattery, Skyfire thought, but decided now was not the time to say so. The assassins weren’t in condition to appreciate the joke.
Drake just looked at Stormsong, then hugged him, sobbing quietly and babbling “You are a true friend!” The scent of fox was still on Drake, partly from his real form under the rat disguise and partly a side effect of being possessed by the Wraith which had just left Nagru, and Stormsong had to concentrate to avoid breathing through his nose.
“Please … stop … hugging … me,” Stormsong choked out, pushing at Drake’s paws. He managed to struggle free, brushed himself down, and resumed his glare. “Just because the actions of the Wraith were not thy fault does not change the fact that it was thy fault that thou wert possessed in the first place! Wert thou never told how to defeat the Wraiths? One must use a book, or an object signed by the creator, not merely whatever weaponry thou hast at paw! ‘Tis only the purity of correct canon that can harm them!”
“Uh, guys? Guys? Can you argue later?” Naomi interrupted. “Those two in the circle are waking up and I really don’t want to have to explai-”
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!” thundered Nagru, hauling himself upright and stepping over the knocked-over candle circle.
“… crap.” Naomi sagged.
“Oh, um … Look at the pretty light!” Drake said, pushing his sunglasses back on and plucking a long silver object from his belt. He held it up and pushed the knob on the end. Nothing happened. He blinked and tried again, still producing no effect. Nagru and Riveneye stared at him, completely bemused.
“Drake, that is NOT a neuralyser!” Skyfire yelped in revulsion. Naomi sniggered uncontrollably.
“Oh! Right, I thought it was a bit big for … Look, it’s long, thin, silver, and has a knob on the end, what was I supposed to think it was?! Sorry, sire, captain, I mean this pretty light.”
This time it worked, neuralyzing the angry Foxwolf and the frightened rat.
“Okay. We’re done. Nothing odd is happening. Both of you, get your clothes back on and go back to whatever you should be doing, and you won’t remember seeing us here. Riveneye, you weren’t sexually abused just now. Nagru, you hate your wife, you have no desire to touch any of your rats in any inappropriate manner, and since you freaked the hell out of me when we first came in I want you to spend the next few minutes thinking about the most un-arousing thing you possibly can, just to make sure it’s gone,” Naomi ordered, shuddering.
“Ooh, ooh! Can we go fetch the pelt now?” Drake asked enthusiastically.
Non-possessed canon characters cannot see the Protectors, so there was no problem retrieving the corpse from Silvamord’s room. The group portalled out to a sunny spot on the edge of the moat, where Drake lay the Sue’s corpse out and prepared to skin it.
“So you really have to do it now?”
“Why not? It’s handy.”
“Drake, put the corpse down. We must have A Quiet Word now.” Drake could actually hear the capital letters.
“What?” he asked, looking up from the corpse as the other three agents sat down beside him on the grass.
“Drake, aren’t you just a little concerned that you just got possessed by an Author-Wraith and nearly attacked a fellow agent?”
“Oh hell yes!” Drake replied, claws sinking into the dead Sue’s pelt. “I am gonna track that writer down and-”
“I mean about your mental wellbeing and the fact that it was trying to …” Naomi sighed. “Don’t you feel … weird about it?”
“Well, a bit, but everything turned out okay in the end, right? I’m still angry and it was pretty creepy, but I’m not hurt and it’s gone. No point worrying about it now.” Drake ripped into the pelt, skinning it with his teeth and claws, spitting the glittery Sue meat onto the grass.
“Do you have to do that while we’re talking to you?” Skyfire asked, looking disgusted.
“Oh, sorry – d’you want some? It’s okay, it’s not cannibalism if it’s a Sue.”
“No, thank you.” Skyfire backed away slightly.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Naomi demanded.
“Yes! It happens to the canon characters every day, and they’re fine!”
“Only because we neuralyse them!” Stormsong pointed out.
“Maybe you’d better come to see Doctor Freedenberg with us, just to check,” Skyfire suggested. “We made the girls make a group therapy appointment after the, er, Trees incident.” She noticed that Naomi was looking at her quizzically and mouthed Don’t ask.
Naomi and Drake looked at each other. “Sounds workable. Drake probably needs some form of therapy anyway, he needs to know how to direct his violence. And I need to go so I can get to sleep again after seeing certain parts of Gulo I’d rather have pretended didn’t exist.”
“Sounds good,” Drake agreed. “Although, what exactly is this therapy thing again? I’ve heard of it, but I don’t remember much about it – isn’t it where you get to kill Sues to get rid of your anger?”
“No, Drake, the thing where you kill Sues is called ‘work’,” Skyfire pointed out. “Or ‘fun’, depending on who you ask.”
“Doctor Freedenberg just makes everyone sit in a circle and talk about their problems. He helped us a lot when we first moved in.”
“Sounds fun,” said Drake, digging into the Sue corpse again.
“You’re not allowed to gossip about what they say there,” Naomi warned him.
“Awww! Oh, fine, I’ll come along.”
“Very well. And not that I wish to disregard the trauma of a Wraith attack, but since thou seemest unharmed … While we are on the topic of thine actions, why didst thou feel the need to transform me into that hideous mockery of a pet fox?” Stormsong said coldly.
“But foxes are cool! Why wouldn’t you want to be one? And besides, you got my disguise before I had a chance! I was meant to have it. Not you.”
“Drake, you can be foxy on your own time!” Naomi said sternly, swinging the backpack at him. “Missions-”
“-playtime! And traditionally, you ask people before trying to enact your transformation fixations on them!”
“Owowow I’m really sorry! I didn’t think he’d mind and I didn’t know he’d do anything to trigger it in the first place! Stop!”
“Ah, so that’s where your screen-name comes from,” Skyfire mused.
Naomi put down the bag and sat down beside Stormsong. “Wait, while we’re all checking up on everyone, are you okay? That Wraith nearly got you too, and you said yourself you don’t flashback if you’re in real danger at the time-”
“Oh, thinkst thou I was the one in real danger?” Stormsong smiled. “‘Twas Drake who was really in trouble there. Possessed and then made to go up against three trained exorcists? He never would have been able to do it, I can take down one confused beast alone with ease! The training of a healer and exorcist combined would never allow me to not help a comrade in danger, so I could hardly give in at that time.”
“That’s good, I guess, even if ‘helping’ me did involve nearly breaking my jaw,” said Drake, going back to the dead Sue. “Dammit, dammit, why won’t the skin come off this thing neatly? Stupid Sue can’t even be dead correctly!”
Naomi sighed. “Drake. I think we should get someone else to help clean up the skin. Like …” She shuddered and whispered, “Luxury.”
“You mean that agent who you said is always in heat? Coolness. We can pay her with this!” Drake tapped the silver thing in his belt.
Naomi shook her head, wishing she hadn’t suggested it. “Word of advice, Sky, don’t meet Luxury without a heavy object handy. Or you, Stormsong. I think she swore off men a while back, but I don’t think she’s the type to keep that vow, and even if she is I don’t know if she counts furries as ‘men’.”
Drake managed to peel the last messy bit of the skin off the Sue corpse and shoved the rest into the castle’s moat. He watched it sink, sighing and looking pensive for once.
“Drake, are you sure you’re alright now?” Skyfire asked.
“Yeah, I was just thinking about …” Drake sighed. “The Wraith told me the author who made me doesn’t care for me anymore. I don’t know whether to be relieved or depressed, even if she was an awful Suethor it kind of sucks to think you’ve been forgotten … What about yours, do you think she does?”
Stormsong and Skyfire looked at each other.
“To be honest, I don’t think she knows we were ever anything other than words on a page,” Skyfire said slowly. “Probably yours is the same. It’s not their fault, but it does rather hurt to find out that that’s how they think of us … but I guess it’s a lot better than having them deliberately do what they do, isn’t it?”
“Oh huzzah, more issues to discuss with the good doctor,” Stormsong said in ironic tones. “‘Twould seem we all three are in the same boat with regards to that topic.” He sighed, smiled ruefully, and extended a paw to Drake. “‘Tis hard to stay angry with thee for long. We shall help in any way we can if thou art in need of support after thine experience, and I shall try to put the other business behind us, but please, next time we borrow items from thee, wilt thou warn us if thou hast adjusted them in any manner?”
The mustelids landed in the corridor outside the Bleeding Hearts Nursery. Stormsong leaned against the wall and rubbed his temples.
“Well, that was an unnecessarily complicated mess!” he declared. “Foolish boy … Laburnum may have acted like a fool during the recruiting incident, but at least she tried to justify endangering herself by claiming that if she slipped up only she would be at risk, and she was attempting to save lives rather than take out some selfish battle fixation. Reckless over-confident idiots. At least the Nighthunt had some sense of self-preservation!”
“Don’t protest too much,” Skyfire warned him. “The Flowers might hear you and reassign us to work with the assassins permanently, you know what this place is like.”
Stormsong grimaced. “Knowst thou what I find aggravating? Were we still fictional characters, Drake and I would probably have already had to be exorcised from a similar problem to the one our own patients have.”
Skyfire chuckled. “Well, I can see your point. Every time we run into him you do seem to end up landing on him, remember we tripped over him outside the old Temple?”
“Oh please, do not make me imagine it. I wish not for him to get ideas, I am not that desperate! Thank goodness he was so confused about it, mayhap that will mean I am safe …”
At that point the door opened and a small furry blur wrapped itself around Skyfire’s knees.
“Oh, hello, dear,” she said, reaching down to scratch the ferretkit’s ear. “Did you have fun?”
A harassed-looking woman appeared at the door, clutching a small fluffy bundle.
“KEEP YOUR HAIRY LITTLE DEMONS AWAY FROM ME!” she snarled at the astonished Skyfire, handed over the bewhiskered bundle which proved to be a baby otter wrapped in a towel, and slammed the door.
The ferretkit looked up and grinned, bearing her neat little milk-fangs. “C’n I come back ‘ere soon?”
“Of course, dear,” said Skyfire absentmindedly, adjusting her grip on the sleepy baby otter. “Now let go of me please, Mama has to walk now.”
“Why’re yer smilin’, New Mama?”
“Oh, just thinking about something your Uncle Stormy said.”
“I wish thou wouldst not encourage the child to call me that in public.”
Skyfire shrugged apologetically. “Hey, you said it was better than ‘New Daddy’! And at least … great seasons, I think that was one of the last ones! We’re practically done! Once the girls get back from the second Mariel one, we’re free of this lot!” A huge grin spread across Skyfire’s snout. Stormsong thought for a second, then returned her smile.
“Well, a rough week indeed … my, be that all, one week?”
“Huh. It felt like a couple of years to me!”
Naomi sighed and finished her long, complicated explanation, which had started with a detailed discussion of where babies come from and why you cannot usually get them through the actions she was actually trying to explain, just in case he didn’t know that either, and progressed quickly through the early days of Kirk/Spock fandom to the present day, with mentions of various Legendary Badfics and why they got it wrong, complete with several hastily-drawn diagrams, to the stunned Drake. “And that’s what it involves, and why I was uncomfortable explaining what it was when I didn’t know how you’d react. Do you get this concept now?”
“What, that? Yeah, I know about that, doesn’t everyone – Naomi, what’s wrong? Why are banging your head again?”
“All along you knew? You KNEW?! And I spent all this time worrying in case you were squicked or clueless or whatever and trying to find a tactful way to explain?!”
“Naomi, please, put down the ba- OW!!!!”
Whack, thud, wham!
“No fair! Ow! I just got attacked by an Author-Wraith, you’re supposed to feel sorry for me! Ow! It’s not my fault you wouldn’t say what you meant and then wouldn’t let me speak when you were saying what you meant! Ow!”
Naomi sighed and dropped the backpack, shaking her head at the obliviousness of her partner. Drake sat up, rubbing his head.
“I just thought it was strange that they were mating with prey species. I didn’t know humans thought there was anything different about ... you mean most humans are only interested in one gender? So some people don’t do it like that? Ever?”
“Yeah.” Guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, Naomi thought. He’s a fox after all, the whole furry fandom knows what they’re supposed to be like … well, not usually in Mossflower, but those are kids’ books, so only in the realm of fanfic there …
“Huh, and I thought it was weird enough that humans didn’t have a breeding season …” Drake trailed off, muttering confusedly. “Ah well, guess some people are just picky.” He shrugged and stroked the freshly-cleaned Sue-pelt. “Y’know, Lux isn’t really so bad. She does nice work with pelts, and she asked me if I wanted to come visit her some time.”
“Don’t. Trust me on that.” Naomi started typing out a message to Doctor Freedenberg of the Department of Fictional Psychology, asking to make an appointment. “Well, at least she took the silver, er, thing away as payment, the Rook Takes Pawnshop wouldn’t touch it and it’s good to get rid of the stupid thing. I just really hope she washes it!”
“Well, you know, the Author-Wraith was right on one thing,” Drake mused, not listening to her. “If Stormy wasn’t a prey species, he would kind of have a cute-”
“Say that in front of him and I’ll beat you with this backpack until all that’s left of you is a reddish smear,” Naomi said, threateningly raising the backpack.
“Hey, I’m not that stupid.” Drake sighed wistfully. “Even if I am getting used to not thinking of weasels as prey, it’s not worth the trouble. His girlfriend would kill me before you got to me!”
[Laburnum’s notes: I was worried about this one, I thought the Wraith attack was too dark, but I think we’ve managed to tone it down a little. Hope we made it clear enough that it was only Drake and not the others who were in trouble, they’re all easily competent enough to handle him, though that experience still wasn’t fun for them either.
Drake is probably smarter than he seems to be here, but he is confused and naïve about a lot of things. His author tells me after the Multiverse Monitor article (hence the “girlfriend” comment) that Drake actually isn’t so much the “befuddled and oblivious straight guy” I implied as the “befuddled and oblivious pansexual but mostly-uninterested-and-completely-uncom
I will point out that Drake isn’t the type to try anything, um, dubious, despite his lack of concern about Suevamord and Nagru doing it here – he doesn’t really grasp how bad it is, but then his entire knowledge of any sex-related issue comes from really bad fanfic and the behaviour of wild foxes, neither of which give a useful impression. He will become much less naïve with time and Doc Freedenberg’s help.
Since S&S will be going to the OFUR soon, and their original author has created a student there, notice heavy foreshadowing. Oh dear.]
[Kit’s notes: Yeah, as mentioned above, Drake is very clueless. He definitely does not understand what’s going on here. Given that he’s still very young, relatively speaking, this comes as no surprise. Technically, thanks to being an ex-Cute Animal Friend, he’s only one year old.
And as stated, there will be jokes about Drake and Stormsong. The Laws of Comedy practically require it.]