When the dust and Glitter cleared, Lily found herself standing not in the staffroom of the Japanese high school she was teaching at, but rather in a garden, looking up at a very familiar series of buildings.
“You have got to be kidding me,” she said. “It was a joke!”
Still, Rivendell was Rivendell, and she was not going to look a gift trip to Middle-earth in the mouth. So she wandered off through the gardens, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible for someone dressed in a striped blouse and pencil skirt.
The moment she stepped inside, she was — for lack of a better term — accosted by a dark-haired, grey-eyed elleth. “You,” said the elleth, and Lily blinked at her in horror and recognition. “What are you doing here?”
“I tempted the Ironic Overpower?” wondered Lily, making a face. Well, at least it doesn’t seem like a Don’t Panic! situation. No need to worry about dredging up the Westron words for things. “Eledhwen?”
The elleth nodded. “My wife received an incredibly odd call earlier,” she said. “Someone on the Special Response team told her our writer had accidentally dropped herself into Middle-earth.”
“It was on the mind,” Lily conceded. “I’d just done an interesting thought experiment stemming from the consequences of the Durins surviving the Battle of the Five Armies, and in this particular iteration, Thorin and Bilbo would be romantically involved, which would mean the One Ring could be discovered earlier because it would make a more concerted effort to corrupt Bilbo as the Consort Under the Mountain, which then meant he would probably consider it his responsibility to take the Ring to Mordor, which would necessitate a completely different set of Nine Walkers because a majority of the original Nine Walkers would be children at the time —”
“I know,” snapped Eledhwen. “I was there. You had me quizzing Bilbo on Sindarin.”
“Not as bad as missions, right?” wondered Lily with a sheepish grin. “Is… is your wife here?”
There came the sound of a zither, and moments later another elleth stepped out from behind a conveniently placed pillar. “It’s the D.O.R.K.S,” explained Christianne. “I was introduced to Himdor and the other extras as Cellinnel. Not sure how to feel about it.”
“You introduced me to your family as Ailee,” Eledhwen pointed out. “Turnabout is fair play.”
Lily stifled a chuckle — over the years, she’d grown less inclined to humour the assumption that Middle-earth or any other Western-based fantasies should only have white characters, and so even Eledhwen herself had gone from looking more like Evangeline Lilly to looking more like Li Qin. But that’s what happens when characters grow with you — they keep changing and shifting and surprising you at every turn.
“Right.” Christianne coughed, setting down the zither she’d been carrying and rummaging through her Elvish robes. “Better get our author back to Japan before she breaks canon.”
“I already spent a year retracing Bilbo Baggins’s journey; I don’t need any more adventures,” agreed Lily. “It was honestly a joke, okay? I have this new coworker who’s only a couple months younger than me, and she’s supposed to be my supervisor, but I can’t help but think ‘oh my god, she is a baby’ because she’s younger and shorter and looks like a cinnamon roll —”
“She looks like baked goods?” wondered Eledhwen, raising an eyebrow.
“It’s a figure of speech.” Lily waved a hand. “Anyway I thought about how she was very much Pippin, the youngest in the Fellowship, and the short grumpy teacher was Gimli, and the tall grumpy teacher who has big ‘you shall not pass’ energy was Gandalf, and the gossipy teacher was Legolas —”
“Who’s Frodo in this analogy?” asked Christianne, pausing her rummaging.
“I guess the nice teacher with the bob cut?” Lily shrugged. Eledhwen sent her wife a ‘stop indulging her’ look.
Christianne pulled out a portal thingy. “I mean I guess the whole fish-out-of-water feeling would be the same whether you’re a Tenth Walker or the annoying gaijin teacher,” she said as she punched in the relevant codes, “but we’re doing this as a favour and we’d really like to get back to being retired in New Caledonia. So if you don’t mind…”
“Right.” Lily nodded, as the portal flickered into life ahead of her. “One more question, though: are you two happy?”
Christianne and Eledhwen looked at one another. “Considering the stuff you were planning on inflicting on us, I guess we’re lucky to have gotten off relatively scot-free,” said Christianne after a moment. “And we got to get married, which was pretty fun.”
Eledhwen’s ears flushed pink in agreement.
Lily smiled, looking between the two of them. “You know, someone on the Board mentioned that they developed a crush on you, Ellie,” she teased.
Christianne rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, because the awkward steadfast type is so endearing when paired off with a sarcastic and loquacious bastard with a hidden sad backstory. You’re very predictable, you know.”
Lily opened her mouth in mock-offense. It’s not everyday your own characters call you out on your own writing. But of all the folks to do it, it might as well have been her Agents.
Christianne gestured to the portal. “Now you really need to go home so we can go check out the new Inconvenience Store. Scram.”
Lily chuckled. “Congrats on the marriage,” she said as a parting shot, before stepping through the portal back to Japan.
Editing to add some notes: considering that the mission which they basically Have A Lot of Feelings about how they got burned out by missions and the ever-changing tide of badfic and their own traumas getting dredged up by aforementioned badfics is technically unpublished because it's a YOI Suefic and I'm a bit known in YOI fandom and would thus not like to start drama about it, I figured this might be a fun closure-nod that can be more... public? But yes barring whatever hijinks you put them in since I gave you and Zingenmir permission to use them, they're functionally retired and married in New Caledonia haha.
And ahaha about Dr Niamh; that's genius. Happy April Fools to you too!! Maybe I should just check in every April Fool's lol