The moon in New Caledonia was bright tonight. Too bright, perhaps, because it was making it strangely hard for Christianne to sleep.
With a yawn and a grumble, she rose out of bed, careful not to disturb her wife in her deep elvish sleep. Even after all these years, the sight of an elf sleeping with their eyes open still unnerved her enough to ask Eledhwen to wear a sleep mask at night. Naturally, the aforementioned sleep mask had ended up covered in embroidered Cirth after one particularly boring afternoon.
Eledhwen claimed it was the Sindarin onomatopoeia for ‘zzzzzz’. Christianne still didn’t know enough about the language to counter that.
Their apartment in New Caledonia was well lived-in, a careful balance of Eledhwen’s elvish sensibilities and Christianne’s need for homeliness. Their bedroom had a gallery wall of photos: polaroids taken from missions, more recent photos of them with their daughter Muriel, the ‘wedding portrait’ they’d taken in a photo booth after leaving the courthouse. The last set still brought a smile to Christianne’s face, partly because Eledhwen had gotten too enthusiastic with the photo booth’s doodle and sticker tools, and they had ended up sporting matching moustaches in addition to their flower crowns.
Hit with a sudden burst of nostalgia, Christianne slipped out of their bedroom and into the living room instead, making a beeline for the shelves full of photo albums and scrapbooks that the two of them had compiled over the years. On the way, she almost tripped over several of Muriel’s trucks and dolls scattered about the living room floor, so, with a sigh, she grabbed them and put them away in their proper places.
Being a responsible parent was strange.
Finally, Christianne managed to make it to the couch with her scrapbooks. With some intense trepidation, she reached for the first one, and opened to the first page.
Agent Eledhwen Elerossiel, said the Sunflower Official. Meet your new partner, Agent Christianne Shieh.
As far as first meetings went, it was strangely unremarkable. Headquarters was still being cleaned up and rebuilt in the wake of the Macrovirus epidemic and the subsequent invasion, and Christianne herself was too consumed by survivor’s guilt and the overwhelming wrongness of going back to normal amidst the devastation.
A thousand dead. Maybe even more lost and unaccounted for. Her own partner Selma had lost her mind sometime between the invasion and the aftermath, an invisible casualty of the violence and the disease that had so consumed HQ earlier this year.
“Nice to meet you,” said Christianne automatically, extending her hand to the elleth. Eledhwen Elerossiel had long dark hair and keen grey eyes, and her entire countenance spoke of the wisdom of millennia resting heavily on her shoulders.
“A star shines at the hour of our meeting,” replied Eledhwen, looking oddly at her hand before bowing instead. Christianne felt her cheeks flare up as she withdrew her hand, folding her arms behind her back.
“Cool,” she said, for lack of a better response. “I’m at RC 9L0121F4114C3.”
Christianne quickly discovered, through the careful application of bribes and alcohol, that her new partner had quite a history.
“Well, she’s from the Tolkienverse like basically every other elf agent here,” said Agent Luxury thoughtfully over a shot of vodka as the two of them sat in a corner of the Cafeteria. In another corner, cleanup crews of other off-duty agents were scrubbing Glitter from the walls. “But apparently she escaped from a Mary Sue Factory.”
Christianne shuddered. The recent Invasion had been from the League of Mary Sue Factories. “But if she escaped from a Factory —” she began, but Luxury shrugged, downing one shot and pouring herself another.
“I heard, ” said the Bad Slash agent, leaning in conspiratorially as soon as she finished pouring, “that she was originally from a parody fic.”
“So she’s a Parody Sue?” wondered Christianne, frowning. “What is HQ doing, partnering me up with a Parody Sue? ”
Luxury shrugged. “Beats me? I mean, she’s gotta have enough redeemable features if she’s here in HQ, right? And so soon after— you know what. People don’t trust her, that’s for sure.”
“I don’t trust her, and I’m her friggin partner,” Christianne pointed out.
“Maybe that’s why Upstairs paired her with you,” teased Luxury. “I mean, given your track record with partners, it’s only a matter of time before Agent Elfsheen goes off the rails and has to be put down, right?”
Christianne frowned at her. “My track record? ” she echoed.
“Two partners in two years,” replied Luxury smugly. “Granted, at least you haven’t been jumping around departments like some other agents I know of, but there’s already a betting pool in Personnel about how long your new partner lasts. The current favourite is one year, like the Defence Against the Dark Arts post at Hogwarts.”
Christianne snorted. “And how much do you all stand to lose if I keep her alive and sane past that?” she wondered dryly.
Luxury grinned. “I’d stand to gain, actually,” she replied sweetly. “I bet that you two will get married and live happily ever after.”
Christianne scoffed at that. “As if,” she said. “I don’t swing that way.”
Luxury waggled her eyebrows. “Caring about which direction you swing in is only going to ruin the fun, Shay-shay,” she teased.
Christianne shook her head, grabbing the vodka bottle from her. “You’re incorrigible,” she declared, and went to offer the bottle to the rest of the cleanup crew.
Four months into their partnership, Eledhwen was bitten by a vampire Sue.
Christianne had, for lack of a better term, panicked. Even though the bite was not severe and Medical had taken care of it easily enough, she had put the mission on hold and waited for confirmation that Eledhwen would pull through before she went back in.
The elleth, Parody Sue escapee from a Mary Sue Factory or not, had grown on her. Of course, her over-neatness had caused several a flare-up—even leading to duct tape down the centre of their response centre at one point—and her current linguistic obsession with casual modern slang—no thanks to extension courses at OFUM—made for a rather jarring work experience, but Christianne did not dislike her as much as she had anticipated. Despite her initial suspicions, Eledhwen had turned out to be quite an effective assassin, and certainly did not go easy on any of their targets.
“How are you holding up?” asked Christianne, as their ever-growing horde of minis flocked around Eledhwen’s sickbed. The elleth startled at the sight of the three mini-Balrogs and two mini-Dragons, before raising an eyebrow at Christianne.
“Where did you get them?” she asked.
Christianne pulled an innocent expression. “The Postal Department,” she replied.
Eledhwen held out a hand, and Mara Labingi settled down on the hospital bed to nuzzle it. Christianne raised an eyebrow at that, which Eledhwen shrugged off with a “I go to OFUM, remember?”
“If you go to OFUM, isn’t that more of a reason to fear mini-Balrogs?”
“Surprisingly, if you don’t wander off looking for trouble, trouble is less likely to find you,” replied Eledhwen cryptically.
Christianne snorted. “So you’re the most boring OFU student ever,” she remarked.
Eledhwen pouted at her. Christianne laughed, though her amusement was still muted somewhat by the gauze on Eledhwen’s neck.
“I’m sorry,” she said. Eledhwen gingerly reached up and touched her wound, wincing as she did. Christianne winced, too, but in guilt.
“It’s not your fault; I should not have let down my guard,” admitted the elleth.
“Well, then.” Christianne managed a smile, reaching out to pat Eledhwen’s hand. “Get better soon, okay? There’s a new anime out— Axis Powers Hetalia —and I think you could learn a lot about World One’s history that way.”
Eledhwen arched an eyebrow at her, her other hand coming over to cover Christianne’s. In spite of her rather insistent internal conviction that she did not swing that way, Christianne’s heart skipped a beat.
The International Academy of Hetalia Fanfiction is looking to liaise with the PPC, said the Sunflower Official a year or so later. Given your knowledge of the Hetalia canon, we believed that you two would be the best fit for the job.
Eledhwen sent Christianne a Look, as if accusing her of dragging them into stranger and stranger assignments each year. Christianne shrugged back. It wasn’t her fault that Upstairs seemed to be tracking her media consumption habits.
“I thought there was a different Flower who handled liaisons with OFUs,” she said, looking at the Sunflower Official with no small amount of suspicion. “And I’m not sure what Captain Dandy is doing here, either.”
The Dandelion in question unfolded himself from the nearby Generic Surface wall, his petals turned towards Eledhwen. As per the information you gave us, we have been keeping an eye on the Mary Sue Factory formerly known as FGenMS08.
Eledhwen stiffened noticeably. “Formerly?” she echoed.
Captain Dandy nodded. After their failed Invasion in 2008, FGenMS08 has, let’s say… rebranded. They are now called Happily Ever After Ltd, and they are led by Lilith Wydenbrooke.
Eledhwen’s expression paled at that. “Lilith,” she breathed.
“Lilith?” echoed Christianne, frowning. “Name doesn’t ring a bell.”
Lilith Wydenbrooke is Agent Elerossiel’s clone, explained the Sunflower Official.
“How—” Christianne broke off, suddenly remembering the conversations she had had about her partner’s origins, about how odd it was that HQ was accepting a Factory refugee so shortly after the Macrovirus Epidemic and Mary Sue Invasion. She felt yet another bolt of guilt stab through her.
“How did you get a clone, Eledhwen?” she asked instead, turning to her partner.
Eledhwen inclined her head. “I was kidnapped,” she replied.
Christianne felt her stomach turn. “By a Mary Sue Factory,” she confirmed. Eledhwen nodded. “And then you escaped to HQ.”
“The Factory’s security was compromised during the power struggle in the wake of the Yarrow’s death during the Invasion of HQ,” confirmed Eledhwen. “That was when I made my escape.”
And she brought us invaluable information on the inner workings of the League, added Captain Dandy. In return, we allowed her to stay here.
Eledhwen lowered her head. “A kindness I have yet to repay,” she agreed.
Captain Dandy hummed. Well, then, this ought to settle that account quite nicely, then, wouldn’t you say?
Eledhwen nodded, still looking at her feet. Christianne felt her hackles rising at the sight of Upstairs clearly manipulating her partner into agreeing to re-expose herself to the League just to try and earn her keep.
“With all due respect, sir,” she snapped, “I fail to see how the League is related to the Hetalia OFU.”
HEA Ltd is manufacturing significant numbers of Suvians targeting the Hetalia continuum, which poses a threat to the security of IAHF, replied Captain Dandy.
Christianne was no stranger to trauma. There were plenty of skeletons in her mind that she had buried a long time ago, squashed down between rounds of Bleepesteem and conversations with Jenni Robinson in FicPsych. She had to get over it all, of course, because in a field like this there was no room for wibbling about one’s own tragic backstory.
And as far as she was concerned, a horrible past relationship wasn’t at the same level as any of the other things that have happened to agents at the PPC. Based on the way Eledhwen’s hands were trembling, her own partner’s history fell under that umbrella.
Captain Dandy was speaking again. If you choose to accept the post of PPC Liaison to IAHF, he said, you will deliver to the Course Coordinator any reports relevant to their security, and you will inform us of any developments there that require our attention. Is that understood?
Eledhwen considered it, before nodding. “Understood,” she agreed, her voice quiet yet unwavering. “I accept the post of liaison.”
Christianne felt a warm surge of respect for her partner. “I’ll accept, too,” she said. “Ellie doesn’t have to do this alone.”
Eledhwen blinked at that, and then relaxed into a smile. Christianne smiled back, and the warm feeling in her chest seemed to bloom even brighter.