Full Metal and the Hogwarts Mishap
Summary:In which mangled canon characters are not necessarily an agent's biggest problem.
Source:"Full Metal and the Hogwarts mishap" by ShaneXvga.
Continua:Harry Potter and Fullmetal Alchemist.
Timeline:Early 2016.
Published:January 19, 2017.
Rating:PG-13/T - Only low-grade swearing, but lots of shouting and some blood.
Betas:Phobos and Scapegrace.


For once, Nume was relieved when the console went off. Ilraen had had his head in the clouds ever since he'd met that obnoxious Andalite girl, Farilan, and Nume was sick to death of it. It wasn't like Ilraen, for one thing, and for another, she was all he could talk about, when he talked at all. Even Nume's ranting about how terrible the latest Star Trek trailer looked hadn't distracted him for very long, and he could usually be counted on to provide a good counterpoint. (Not that anything would ever convince Nume that he had to tolerate J. J. Abrams' chrome-plated, lens-flaring bullshit.) Maybe a mission would be just the thing to drag his furry blue butt back to terra firma.

On the console, the green crossover light blinked all by itself.

Nume stared at it. "What's this? No Sues? No M-rating? No numbskulls from other departments to babysit?" He was pleased for a moment, but then he scowled. "What's the catch?"

He clicked open the Intelligence report and scrolled through. At the Problem Passages section, he recoiled and threw an arm across his eyes.

"Ow, sweet baby Christ on a cracker! Ilraen! Are my eyes bleeding? I think my eyes might actually be bleeding." He waved the other arm vaguely in the direction of the Andalite's spot under the bunk.

Ilraen spared him only the smallest glance. His main eyes didn't move from the technical manual he was currently poring over. <I know you are exaggerating, because you were adamant that bleeding from the eyes can only occur in very select circumstances, which do not include simply looking at text on a screen.>

"All right, smartass. You look at it and see how you like it." He went into the bathroom, presumably to check himself for intraocular hemorrhage.

Ilraen sighed, stepped up to the console and, not entirely disregarding caution, peeked at the screen with one stalk-eye. Reflexively, it winked shut and started to water. <Oh. I do not like it. Not at all.>

"See?" Nume leaned against one of the posts of his bunk, apparently free from lasting harm. "That has to be the worst formatting I've encountered in thirteen years on the job. Give it a gold medal for resetting the bar." He shook his head. "This is going to hurt."

<It's Harry Potter again,> Ilraen noted, skimming the rest of the report. <And—> Here he shook himself and became more alert. <Fullmetal Alchemist.> He cast his stalk-eyes nervously toward Nume.

"Yes, it is. So what? Unless you're planning to flip out and kill someone you shouldn't again?"

<No, of course not.>

"Great. Set our disguises, then. I'll pack extra Bleepka."

<After all,> Ilraen went on as though he hadn't heard, <haven't I been practicing proper Andalite discipline all these years precisely so I could face a situation such as this without flinching?>

Nume groaned and rolled his eyes. "You're asking me? Just set the disguises."

Ilraen sighed. <All right.>

Five minutes later, they stepped into the Word World as a pair of sixteen-year-old wizards in street clothes, since Intel had advised that the fic never got to Hogwarts itself. Immediately, they fell to fits of coughing and gasping as they felt the effects of the fic's bad formatting. At first glance it appeared to be double-spaced and simply without paragraph breaks, but the truth was that every single line broke at a certain width, whether a new paragraph was warranted or not. The result was that the agents felt both compressed and stretched at the same time, and the air seemed too thin, as though they were high up on a mountain.

Nume got a grip first and took a few deep, measured breaths. They were unsatisfying, but he felt his heart rate decrease to a more acceptable level. "Slow down," he advised Ilraen, who was still panting. "Don't hyperventilate, or you'll pass out."

Ilraen nodded and followed his partner's example.

By that time, a pair of author's notes to the tune of "no flames plz" had passed, and the fic proper began. The setting seemed to be a library, though only the agents' knowledge of the canon could have led them to this conclusion from the vague rectangular shapes around them. The actual description was no help at all.

"NOT AGAIN!" Yelled Ed as he was once again buried in a pile of book, if he had been of
normal size it would have been no problem but being as shot as he was he was buried from
head to toe.

Nume attempted to make sense of what he was seeing. "Okay, so someone shot Ed, which also destroyed a bunch of books, hence the pile of shredded book, group noun, as opposed to whole books, plural noun. Either that or he's actually the size of a bean sprout right now." He shook his head and took his first drink of Bleepka. "I'm already getting a headache."

Al hurried to help his brother, and then Colonel Roy Mustang showed up and ordered Ed to his office. Why Roy went to the trouble of finding Ed in the library only to have them both relocate was a mystery.

The agents followed Ed, crossing from one scene into the next with a single step through the horribly compressed Word World. Light and color streaked by them as though they were on a carnival ride. They stumbled to a halt in Roy's office, heads spinning. Ilraen couldn't orient himself quickly enough, and he toppled to the floor.

"Ow," he groaned. "You are right. This hurts."

Nume handed him the spare bottle of Bleepka from the bag, and Ilraen drank. They both winced when Ed shouted again.

"WHAT?" Ed exclaimed "you want me ti investigate the wizarding school of Hogwarts that
trains what they call "wizardry?" "Yes, "replied Mustang " I want you to investigate "wizardry"

Nume raised an eyebrow. "Gee. I wonder if this assignment has something to do with wizardry." When this got no reaction, he looked down at his partner.

Ilraen remained seated on the floor, staring at the bottle in his hand. He seemed to realize Nume was looking at him, though, because he spoke. "I wonder if a proper Andalite would need this."


"I mean, should I not have a better sense of balance? Greater physical coordination?"

Aha. Nume fought the urge to roll his eyes. "You do have a more acute sense of balance; that's why this shit gets to you. As for physical coordination, you're on two legs at the moment, so it doesn't count. Happy now?"

Ilraen looked up at him with a thoughtful expression. "I suppose you are right." He handed the bottle back.

"I usually am." Nume put it away and gave his partner a hand up.

Roy was in the midst of explaining that wizardry seemed to be a form of alchemy that didn't follow the law of Equivalent Exchange, allowed human transmutation, and had created a Philosopher's Stone that the wizards had then destroyed.

"As you can see" continued
Mustang "these 'wizards'" he said with obvious disgust "are extremely stupid and ignorant
people who cannot be allowed the power they currently have, do you understand me Fullmetal?"
"Yes" said Ed "so when will my brother and I be leaving" "your brother and you Fullmetal?"
Interjected Mustang "Just you, we can't have a empty suit of armor walking around there, now
can we?"

"They really could," Ilraen said, frowning. "There are enchanted suits of armor at Hogwarts. What a terrible excuse to write Al out of the story."

"Still, good news for you. If he's not in the story, he can't be abused, and you'll be safe from another psychotic episode." He gave Ilraen an overly hearty slap on the back.

Ilraen gave him an odd look. "Yes. How wonderful."

Roy kept talking, giving Ed information about his cover (a fifth-year from Durmstrang) and salient details about the Wizarding World, such as the fact that Hogwarts' headmaster was a known creator of the "Philosophies Stone." A mini-Aragog popped into existence. It looked around thoughtfully with its eight eyes, hissed "We thinkses, therefore we is, yesss," and scuttled over to the agents. They shoved it through a portal to HFA as quickly as they could.

"I don't envy whoever gets stuck with that one," said Nume, shaking his head. He scanned the Words and added, "I think we're done here. The rest of the chapter is just Ed taking a train to London and finding out how to get to Diagon Alley."

Ilraen nodded, but stopped with a puzzled look. "Wait. He takes a train from Amestris to London? All the way?"

Nume double-checked. "So he does. Hmm. If this is 1995, it almost works: the Channel Tunnel opened in `94, so you could theoretically ride the rails from the Continent to London with a few transfers. That's World One, though. Nobody seems to know about Amestris in the Muggle World or the Wizarding World, so why would they build an express line to somewhere that doesn't exist?"

"Agreed. And if Amestris did connect directly to England, how would they keep it a secret? I don't think wizards can make an entire country Unplottable." Ilraen shook his head doubtfully. "I hope it goes back where it belongs by itself."

Nume, not wishing to tempt the Ironic Overpower, said nothing. He merely opened a portal to the next chapter.

Ed was amazed, Diagon Ally was amazing, which was why he was amazed

"Christ, if this keeps up we'll have to call in the DRD." Another mini appeared, and Nume shunted her back to HFA, where she belonged. "This is definitely going to keep up. You deal with it; I haven't even started the charge list yet." He tossed the RA to Ilraen and turned his attention to his notebook.

Ilraen almost fumbled the device, but managed to hold onto it by dint of a well-timed lunge. It was a good thing, too, because he needed it. "Ed is going to Ollivanders," he noted. "Or perhaps 'Olivanders', which is run by 'Mr.Olivander', no space, or possibly 'Mr. Olivander', with a space." The three minis came running toward the scent of PPC agents, and Ilraen chivvied them along.

That done, they sidled up to the store window and watched Ed attempt to find his match in a wand. Ollivander "kept on trusting pieces of wood into Ed's hand," which he really shouldn't have.

When some of the pieces entered his hand they destroyed objects or other things, one
sent something Mr. Olivander called a spell out into the ally hitting a man whose name
was supposedly "Fudge", Ed had trouble believing this as he always thought fudge was a
sweetment. He supposed that the man must be some sort washout, having wasted his life
doing silly things.

Nume tapped his pen against the open page of his book. "As funny as it was watching that trumped-up bowler hat jump, gratuitous character-bashing is never good. I suppose I have to charge for it, even if he does have a point."

Ilraen didn't answer; he'd zoned out again.

"Jeez. Now what?"

"Am I just a silly person, doing silly things with my life?"

Nume sighed and knuckled the spot between his eyebrows. "Yes. Perpetually. Eternally."

"I mean . . . if I had been raised on Homeworld, I would have been trained as a warrior, ready to defend my people in honorable combat. This job . . . it is not the same. I do not think it is silly, but I wonder if she does."

No need for him to explain who "she" was. Nume waved his hand in frustration. "Why are you letting this Farilan business get to you so much?"

Ilraen looked at him as though he'd just asked why it was so important for his heart to keep beating. "Because she is an Andalite."

"So? Iskillion's an Andalite, and you don't care what he thinks."

He frowned. "That is because he is . . . ." Whatever uncomplimentary thing he'd meant to say, he changed his mind. "Different. A badfic recruit, like me. But Farilan." His whole countenance softened. "She is the real thing."

"She's a snooty, stuck-up bitch, you mean."


"She literally turns up her nose at anything she doesn't like, which is everything." He gave an exaggerated imitation of Farilan's signature sniff, craning his head so far back the cords of his neck stood out.

Ilraen glared at him. "That is not true! She wants to learn more about others. She has just been . . . sheltered."

"You say sheltered, I say willingly and enthusiastically indoctrinated."

Ilraen shook his head. "If you dislike Andalites so much, why did you even want me as a partner?"

Nume lifted his hands in disavowal. "Some days, I wonder. But I happen to value intellect in people I have to spend time with, and I'd have beat the snot out of you if you'd turned out to have an attitude problem. Speaking of which, I will beat seven kinds of snot out of you if you don't dry up and focus on this mission. D'you think you can manage that?"

Ilraen looked as though he might argue back again, but then he shook himself. "Yes, of course. Duty. Did we miss Ed leaving?"

They turned to the window to check and were surprised to find that Ed was still in the shop, causing mayhem with each successive wand he tried. The noise of it had faded to their senses, blending in with the general hustle and bustle of Diagon Alley.

Ilraen looked at the Words. "Nume, he keeps at it for nine hours!"

"Nine?" Nume checked for himself. "I'll be damned. I am not hanging around here for nine bloody . . . hours. Hm." He looked at Ilraen. "Say, did you ever want a wand?"

"A wand?" He tilted his head in confusion at the tonal shift and grew thoughtful as the notion took hold. "I never thought about it, but it would be nice to have one. You do already, though, don't you?"

"Only a Muggle-use wand. I'd like a genuine Ollivander—one that's not coated in some fan-created gunk. Come on."

They stepped into the shop and were immediately greeted by Mr. Ollivander, who seemed relieved to have someone besides Ed to deal with. The alchemist, busy plowing through a stack of boxes, hardly glanced at them.

"Aren't you boys a little old to be getting your first wands, though?" Ollivander asked. "I know I haven't sold you any of mine."

"Actually . . . ." Nume leaned in and murmured in his ear. The words "HFA," "Meir Brin," and "PPC" emerged amid the racket Ed was causing.

A sudden light dawned in the shopkeeper's face. "Ah, of course, of course! I remember now." He clapped his hands together gleefully with a nasty, darting look toward Ed. "So pleased you're here, so pleased. Well, let us take your measurements, shall we?"

After sizing Nume and Ilraen up, Ollivander presented them with a series of wands, first from Ed's mounting pile of discards and then, as he narrowed it down, with selections from the shelves. Almost immediately, Ilraen got a warm response from a red-gold rowan wand: ten and three-quarters inches, unicorn hair, unbending. Nume was trickier to place. He was attracted to a handsome ebony wand, but it responded to him with such a kick that he would have ended up on his ass if Ilraen hadn't been there to catch him. Regretfully, he put it aside and kept searching. Finally, Ollivander handed him a spongy-looking wand of an amber wood with dark grooves dotting its length. This, when he grasped it, filled the air with a golden light and the scent of coffee, leather upholstery, and old books.

"Cypress, phoenix feather, fourteen and a half inches, unyielding," said Ollivander, looking pleased. "A very fine wand, if I do say so myself."

"It knows what I like," Nume remarked. "I'll take it. And by the way, he's buying." He nodded at Ed. "Go ahead and charge it to his 'Greengots' account. He won't mind, and neither will the Gringotts goblins."

Ollivander had a good chuckle, thanked the agents for their patronage, and went back to the sorry business of helping the alchemist.

The agents exited back to the street and took a moment to admire their new wands in the light of day before putting them away.

"Well, now what?" Nume said. "Portal ahead?"

"Perhaps . . . but on the other hand, how often are we in Diagon Alley with a whole day free of new charges to catch? I should like to explore." Ilraen's eyes wandered toward Fortescue's.

Nume raised an eyebrow. "Don't think I don't know what you really want, you glutton. We'll do that last, if you promise to behave."

"I believe the term is 'food tourist'," Ilraen said with dignity. "But very well."

And so they spent the next eight hours touring Diagon Alley and even Knockturn Alley, though they didn't stay there long. They took it slow, pausing often to catch their breath while drinking in all the fantastic sights, sounds, and smells on every hand. They also picked up additional souvenirs courtesy of Ed's bank account. Nume acquired a collection of fancy quills and parchment from Flourish & Blotts, and Ilraen, despite his partner's exhortations against the idea, bought a Monster Book of Monsters as a gift for Farilan. He thought it would be an engaging way to introduce her to the indigenous species of the Potterverse. For the time being, it was bound firmly shut with twine and snug in the bottom of the messenger bag.

After the first several hours, they were properly hungry, so they had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron on Ed's Galleon and took some time to rest their feet and soak in the ambiance. Nume would have forbidden Ilraen from drinking any serious alcohol, but the Andalite was more interested in tasting butterbeer in any case. Nume stuck to gillywater. They played a few games of wizard chess (Nume won them all), and then, as promised, they returned to Diagon Alley to enjoy a pair of Florean Fortescue's famous sundaes. The nine hours were almost up, so they sat outside, where they could keep an eye on Ollivanders.

Eventually, the harried wandmaker reached into a plothole and produced a monstrosity of "12 inches yew with rare refined magic metal laced with magic and 'red water' core."

"Finally," Nume said when Ed left the shop. "Let's see . . . now he's off to bully some booksellers for refusing to sell him books on dark magic without a permit. Oh, but he could get a permit if he bribes the Minister of Magic. Nice. I'm sure that won't come up later." He scratched out the additions to the charge list with one of his new quills.

Ilraen gasped. "Look out!" He winced as a hapless owl crashed into Ed. "Oh, poor owl."

The OOC alchemist, "having responded in his normal way, to what he considered an attempt on his life, had probably put the owl into mental therapy for the rest of its life." But the owl had succeeded in delivering a letter from Colonel Mustang, the contents of which sent Ed into a would-be comical rage.

[He] threw a
tantrum in the middle of Diagon Ally, but what most angered Ed was the PS. That the
State isn't paying for anything, it's all coming out of Ed's savings, that was when he
yelled out, in Diagon ally,
"Damn you, Mustang" as he threw his arms up to god, or whatever, Ed had lost his
faith a long time ago.

For a moment, time stood still as everyone in the vicinity stared at Ed's display. Abruptly, though, Diagon Alley lurched back into motion and carried on as though nothing unusual had happened. Aura of Smooth was a powerful thing.

"Wait just a damn minute," Nume said, scanning through the Words. "Earlier, it said Ed 'had so much money he could spend on this mission, it finally being one of importance', and he gave Ollivander 'the number of the Greengots account that Mustang had given him'. Well, if that's the case, why is Mustang now writing that the State isn't paying? Did they just steal Ed's savings and transfer it to 'Greengots'?"

"That would suggest a charge for making Roy out of character," Ilraen said. "He is determined and a little manipulative in the pursuit of his goals, but not a thief."

Ed finally got over his fit and headed back to the Leaky Cauldron for the night. Because he was an idiot in this fic, he ran straight into the wall on the way and had to ask a passing witch for help, which did not improve his mood; nor did being unable to get Tom's attention without yelling at the top of his lungs.

"I do not blame Tom for refusing to serve him after that," Ilraen muttered, massaging an ear.

Ed tried to have his way by waving his State Alchemist watch in Tom's face, and when that predictably failed, he resorted to more base tactics.

"Fine," said Ed humoring him as he pulled out a bag full of galleons, "How much will a
room for a week and meals cost?" said Ed not bothering to hide a smirk.

Nume shook his head. "Oh, bullshit! Where did he get that? Never mind," he interrupted as Ilraen started to respond; "he pulled it out of his ass, that's where."

"Perhaps the Gringotts treasure-hunters would like to know about such a valuable resource," Ilraen remarked dryly.

Nume stared at him. "No, I'm not taking that bait."

"What bait?"

"You—it—never mind!" He turned away to look at the Words instead. "Tom's apparently not feeding him for a couple hours. Let's go steal some beds for the night."

They sneaked upstairs to an empty room and settled in with relief. They fell asleep easily after the long day of sightseeing at the air-saturation equivalent of twelve thousand feet above sea level.

Unfortunately, it was not to last. No sooner had Ed drifted off himself than, in the next paragraph:

"AGHHHHHH!" screamed Ed as he awoke to find an owl perched on his chest.

The agents jolted awake at the noise.

"It's not morning yet," Ilraen complained. "It can't be." He blinked groggily. "My time sense is completely confused."

Nume fumbled his glasses on and checked the Words. "No transition, no indication of how much time has passed, no indication of what time it is now. He just goes about his business. Which means we have to, as well."

He groaned, but got on with it, and Ilraen followed suit.

The owl had delivered another letter from Roy, this time lecturing Ed about flashing his watch in the Cauldron.

Dear, Idiot!
What is this about waving you State Alchemist watch
around? Someone in that pub your staying at realized it for what it was, we had to have
him taken care of at great risk and cost, another mess up like this and YOU may be the
one getting taking care of.
Best Wishes,
Colonel Mustang.

"Nume," Ilraen asked tentatively, "isn't 'take care of' usually a euphemism for murder?"

"Yup. The State had to have some poor bastard killed for Ed's stupidity, and he's throwing another tantrum because Mustang rightly called him an idiot. Though I note he doesn't object to the 'dear' part. Yeesh." Nume had to use his normal pen for the charge list again, since there was no safe place to put an inkpot on the go.

"And now he is going to the Ministry of Magic to bribe Fudge for a Dark Arts permit," Ilraen observed. "Are we quite certain he's not replaced this time?" His tone was light, but tight.

Nume raised an eyebrow. "You really want to go there?"

He averted his eyes. "No. Let's go to the Ministry instead."

They were saved the trouble of walking by another unmarked, unannounced scene shift. One paragraph, Ed was sitting and thinking about getting his permit today; the next, he was walking into the MoM. He promptly got into an altercation with the watch-wizard, which was good, because it gave the agents time to pry themselves off the golden gates between the entrance and the atrium.

Ilraen slid to the floor and sat taking deep, slow breaths to keep from either throwing up or passing out. The carnival-ride effect was in full force, which had made him dizzy, and he'd badly bruised his shoulder to boot.

"Ow, bloody, frelling, ow," Nume complained, massaging his forehead where it had struck a bar. He promptly fell to coughing; the thin air of the fic had gotten to him again. He joined his partner on the floor, and they sat quietly recovering while Ed got his wand registered.

The guard that was supposed to be doing the weighing didn't seem that interested in
actually weighing it, he seemed interested in reading an article about some boy called
Harry Potter who they said was mentally disturbed, from the artist rendering, he agreed.

"I hate this fic," Nume said once he'd caught his breath. He took a deep swig from his flask and extended it to his partner. "Ilraen, you still with me?"

"Yes," came the Andalite's faint reply. "I hate it, too." He accepted the Bleepka, drank, and wiped his mouth on his sleeve.

Nume took it back and tucked it into its holster. "Good. D'you want to skip to the next chapter? This one's almost over. He's just gonna drop a whopping bribe on Fudge's desk and get arrested by Aurors."

Ilraen thought a moment. "No. First we must steal the gold. It would surely not do to leave it lying around?"

Nume chuckled. "Yeah, you're right. Wouldn't want to unnaturally inflate the wizarding economy or anything. Let's be smart about it, though."

He took the RA and opened a small portal to Fudge's office. They watched Ed drop a sack of one thousand Galleons on Fudge's desk and demand a permit to buy Dark Arts books. Since Fudge wasn't a complete moron, he said no, and when Ed drew his wand, a dozen Aurors appeared to protect the Minister.

In the ensuing confusion, nobody noticed the bag of gold float away through a hole in the wall.

One portal winked shut, another one opened.

The next scene barely lasted long enough for the agents to collect the minis Nyphrodora and Ametris; the latter took the form of a chimeric silver dragon with a single horn, a mane, and a forked tail. It began with Ed waking up in an undescribed location and eating a sandwich drugged with truth serum. Tonks came to interrogate him, and he divulged the names of himself, Colonel Mustang, and their country before the serum wore off. It ended after about a minute, with Ed transmuting his mechanical arm into a blade, threatening Tonks with it, and being felled by her knee to his groin.

The agents went on to Grimmauld Place, where the real action was. Upon arrival, though, they immediately regretted it.

Harry was in his first good mood for months, after Sirius' death, he had sunk into a
deep depression, but now that he was with his friends and that he had fond out that he had
gotten good owl grades in everything except History of Magic and whatever it was
exactly that Trelawney used to teach.
"Hey! Harry!" yelled Ron over the little celebration that they were having while the
adults were away in honor of Harry's and Hermione's OWL grades, Ron hadn't done so
well. "Come over here, Fred and George just got back with some more firewisky!" he
said hiccupping.

The events of two years were trying to coexist in the same span. Fudge was minister and the trio were finishing up their summer at Grimmauld Place with the Order of the Phoenix, as in their fifth year, yet they had received their O.W.L. scores and Sirius was dead, conditions that applied to their sixth year. With all that, plus an author's note stating that Ed was now in sixth year instead of fifth, it wasn't so much an alternate universe as a drastically compressed one.

The light was unsteady, wrong. Anytime the agents moved their eyes, red- and blue-shifted shadow images fell to either side of every object. There was a high-pitched whine at the edge of their hearing, seeming to come from everywhere and nowhere. The effect was nauseating, and worse, they still couldn't breathe properly.

Nume usually had a strong stomach, hardened by long years of experience, but this was too much even for him. "Oh, god," he moaned, and turned around to heave against the wall of the Black family living room. The effort made him dizzy. He squeezed his eyes shut and struggled to steady his breaths. After a minute or so, he felt well enough to see what had become of his worrisomely silent partner. He cracked his eyes open and slowly looked around. "Oh, god, it's like 'Through the Looking Glass', only we've got red Moya and blue Moya all at once. Ilraen?"

The Andalite had passed out and lay sprawled on the floor. His time sense had to be going absolutely nuts, and that meant a headache on the order of having been kicked by a mule.

Nume knelt down and carefully rolled him face-up. "Come on, Ilraen. I can't give you Bleep if you're not conscious." He shook his partner by the shoulder, and when that didn't work, he tried a more assertive approach. He had a wand, so he used it. "Rennervate!"

The cypress wand responded beautifully with a single red spark that struck Ilraen square in the chest, and he began to stir. His head rolled from side to side, and he muttered something Nume didn't quite catch.

"Say what?"

"Don't tell Farilan," he begged in a whisper.

Nume recoiled in disgust. Still thinking about her; it was absurd. "Why on earth would I do that? That would mean I had to talk to her." He drank from his flask, first using a small amount to rinse and spit into the puddle he'd already made, and settled himself as best he could, leaning on his right arm with his left curled protectively around his middle.

"Please. I couldn't bear it if she thought I was weak."

"All mortal flesh is weak, or so they taught me. It's not a big deal, and we already had this conversation, anyway. Sit up, drink your Bleepka, and get over it."

Ilraen painstakingly pushed himself upright against the wall. "You don't understand. I cannot just get over it. She agreed to study with me to learn about humans, and she might change her mind if she knew this happens to me, and I could not stand that. She is an Andalite, one of my people. When I am with her, I feel . . . " he paused, struggling to put it into words. "Home. She is the closest I have ever come to knowing my home. I cannot lose that." Exhausted by this long speech, he slumped back, panting, eyes shut against the awful light.

Nume shook his head. "It's overrated. All of it. I left home at the drop of a hat and never looked back, and I'm better off. The PPC is my home now, and it's yours, too. That's not going to change. The only change I can see is that you're turning into a crappy agent who can't keep his mind on the job."

Ilraen's eyes snapped open, blazing with hurt and anger, but the Narrative Laws decided he'd had plenty of time for angst. An ear-splitting shriek from the entrance hall diverted him from saying anything further.

"AGHHHH!" screamed Ed as a painting of a rather ugly looking lady started yelling at him.
"MUDBLOODS! Defilers of the ancient house of Black!" yelled them painting.
"SHUT UP!" yelled Tonks yanking the curtains around Mrs. Black's portrait closed.
"Sorry 'bout that," said Tonks looking rather embarrassed about knocking over Ed, an
umbrella stand, and a cabinet.

"Ooh, I did not need that," Nume groaned, one hand pressed against his head. "Jesus Christ." It was bad enough that he had to laugh—it was that or cry, which was not happening. He drank some more Bleepka, then shook Ilraen out of a fetal curl and waved the flask under his nose.

Ilraen glared at him, half in pain, half in sullen fury.

"Come on, I know you're pissed at me, but don't be stupid."

His eyes flicked to the puddle of vomit and back. "I'll use my own. Mouths do have some very serious disadvantages."

"Fine." Nume attempted to resume the charge list, starting with making Tonks clumsier than she really was, but looking at the cramped angles of his handwriting, doubled on either side, was too horrible. He stuffed the notebook and pen back into his pocket.

There was more shouting from the canon characters as Ron, Hermione, and Harry each appeared to ask who the "little first year" was and Ed responded with characteristic over-the-top tantrums at perceived insults to his height. Tonks put a stop to it by "stupefying all of them except Harry and Ed who dodged the spell." And then she complimented Harry's reflexes, as though her actions had been perfectly reasonable.

"What the fuck. Since when . . . ?"

A scene change cut him off, but this one at least was introduced by a transitional phrase. It was later that night, and the characters sat near the fireplace in the drawing room, asking Ed who he was, where he came from, did he have family, etc. Harry attempted to bond with Ed over their mutual orphanhood, but Fred picked that moment to give Ed a Puking Pastille. Ed immediately threw up, and the smell nearly set Nume off again.

punched Fred who was laughing enthusiastically.
"HEY!" yelled Fred indignantly "What'cha do that for!" he said as he drew his wand, but
he wasn't fast enough, Harry and Tonks had sent stunner's racing at him seeing the
impending fight. George began laughing, then passed out from his extreme alcohol
"HAHAHAHAH!" laughed Ginny pointing at Fred and George, she promptly fell off the
chair she was precariously perched on.

The agents shared a terrified look, their quarrel set aside. The canons were all completely out of their minds, and however they might feel about each other, Nume and Ilraen were each all the other had at the moment.

Harry, the only one of the kids who hadn't been drinking, assured Ed that they weren't normally like this, but Ginny chose that moment to crawl into his lap and attempt to seduce him.

"GIN," yelled Harry "Get off!"
"oh, come on Harry," said Ginny enticingly, "Show me how much of a man you really
are." and as she said this Mrs. Weasly walked in.

"Oh, thank god," said Nume. "I mean, I'd be happier to see Mrs. Weasley, but I'll take it."

The mini-Aragog gave everyone in the room a good chewing out and packed them all off to bed, though she assured Harry that she'd seen what had happened and didn't blame him. Poor Tonks got the brunt of the blame for not being there to watch them, and she left the room almost in tears.

"She was not there because she was doing her job as an Auror." Once everyone else had gone, Ilraen turned to berate the mini. "That was not very kind of you, Mrs. Weasly."

"Don't shoot the messenger, dearsss," hissed Mrs. Weasly. With that, she scuttled away through a portal to HFA.

The agents stood still, waiting for the next scene shift, but nothing happened.

"It would appear there is a tolerable scene transition for once, so the night may pass normally," Ilraen said. "Perhaps we should attempt to sleep."

"Yeah. Maybe." Nume looked around cautiously, shading his eyes, and slowly lowered his hand. "Is it just me, or is the world less frelled than it was when we got here?"

Ilraen, too, found he could open his eyes all the way without complete disorientation, though sudden movements still caused everything to shift. "It is better. I suppose the timeline has settled into its current state, however illogical it may be."

"Okay. Good. You take that couch, I'll take this one."

They got as comfortable as they could on the worn, dusty old furniture. In spite of the hot embers in the fireplace, the room was drafty, and sleep came hard for both of them, even as exhausted as they were.

Just before he sank beneath the waves of unconsciousness, Nume thought he heard Ilraen's voice: "I am not a crappy agent," it said. But Nume was too far gone to reply.

The next morning, they were awakened by more shouting and the sound of spells going off on the floor above. Ed and Harry went thundering down the stairs on their way to breakfast. The agents held very still until they had passed, then followed them. The effects of the time distortion weren't completely gone, but they were more bearable after even a bad night's rest, and moving slowly helped. While the boys scarfed down Molly Weasley's cooking, the agents tucked themselves under the table, and Nume levitated bits of Generic Food from their plates when they weren't looking.

"They hexed Fred and George for no reason," Ilraen grumbled, having looked at the Words to see what all the noise had been about. "And Harry jinxed Ron for accusing him of trying to seduce Ginny. Even at his lowest times, Harry never fired a spell at his friends in anger."

Nume nodded. "And he owns Dark Arts books now? He must, since Ed is borrowing one to read at the table."

"Is this supposed to be a Dark!Harry fic? I do not remember seeing that anywhere."

Nume didn't reply. Mrs. Weasley was trying to make Ed drink milk, which he hated, and he was having none of it.

"If you don't you'll never grow." she said naggingly.
"No." said Ed.
"Yes, or I'll have Harry hex you." She said.
"No, I am not drinking that poison." said Ed
"Harry please hex him," she said smugly.
Harry shot a random spell at Ed, which Ed dodged.

The misfire hit the dish cupboard against the wall and shattered a plate, but none of the characters appeared to notice.

"Harry would not do that, and worse, Mrs. Weasley would never ask him to!" Ilraen scowled fiercely. "Are you getting this?"

"Of course I am," Nume snapped.

The icing on the OOC cake was Dumbledore walking in just at that moment and complimenting Harry's spellwork.

"Very good," said Dumbledore as he walked into the Hall, "But I don't think that's a very
good impression to make on an exchange student."

Far from appreciating his intervention, Ed demanded to know who Dumbledore was. Dumbledore responded with an astonishing lack of subtlety, "Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, or, should I say, you new superior Officer."

"Charge," Ilraen said before Nume could so much as open his mouth. "Dumbledore often knows a great deal about things, but he has no reason to know of Amestris or Ed's identity."

"I read the books, too, you know," Nume said, scribbling charges. "Anyway, the fic's trying to prove you wrong."

Dumbledore's piercing gaze and seeming knowledge had convinced Ed to tell the truth about who he was, but Dumbledore seemed determined to doubt him.

"I have some trouble believing that," said Dumbledore, "The last Alchemist in this area
of the world was a good friend of mine, but he came here a long time ago…" he said
trailing off.

"So Nicholas Flamel is supposed to be from Amestris now?" Ilraen frowned. "That . . . that would make sense, if the two universes did coexist . . . ."

"Flamel was French, though," Nume pointed out. "Isn't Amestris basically early Germany?"

"Not exactly. Arakawa disavows any direct allegory between the world of FMA and any real-world nations."

The discussion was cut short when Ed, goaded by Dumbledore to demonstrate his abilities "if [he] had any," caused a statue of Dumbledore to erupt out of the floor.

Nume blinked. "So much for keeping a low profile."

Ron, Hermione, and the twins spontaneously appeared in the scene so they could be suitably impressed and bombard Ed with questions about this "wandless magic." Ed agreed to an exchange of information, alchemy for magic, and not just the basics.

"And after all those letters from Mustang instructing him to play it cool," Nume tisked, shaking his head. "He really is an idiot. Still, I suppose his primary objective is to collect information, and a fair trade is a good way to do it."

Ilraen looked at him as though he'd sprouted tentacles. "But the State paid five hundred thousand Galleons to get Ed out of questioning by the Ministry. They had a random bystander killed in the name of secrecy!"

"Jeez, calm down. I know it contradicts what we've seen before, but it's no worse than anything else about this. Why are you so bent out of shape today?"

"I am not bent out of shape. I am focusing on the job. Is that not what you wanted?"

"Yes, but . . . ." He stopped himself. Anything he could say next would probably just make everything weirder. "Never mind. Focusing is great. Let's do more of that."

Dumbledore had sent everyone but Harry out of the dining room so they could have a quiet word. When the others had gone, he asked Harry if he was enjoying his summer so far. Perfectly benign . . . until it wasn't.

"How could I?" asked Harry immediately reverting into his depressed self, "Serious died
because of my idiocy?" he said raising his voice to a hoarse yell.
"HARRY!" Dumbledore said sternly, "It's not your fault, and furthermore, Serious went
the way he would have wanted to go if he had to go, and he wouldn't want you to mope
on his account!" and for the first time in his life, Dumbledore struck someone, he hit
Harry across the face, his good will and patience had finely snapped after a summer of
Harry being depressed. Harry looked stunned, his face already had a bruise forming where
Dumbledore had hit him.

Nume lunged sideways, pinning his partner's arms to his sides and clapping a hand over his mouth to prevent an outburst, but he needn't have.

"Now good night Harry," said Dumbledore walking out of the hall.

The time went directly from morning to night. The keen of speeding tachyons, which the agents had finally tuned out, rang piercingly in their ears again, and every object once more threw out red and blue distortion clones to either side. Nume's momentum bore Ilraen and himself to the floor, where they lay with eyes squeezed shut against pain and nausea.

They were prodded back to alertness by the scratchy talons of Serious the mini-Aragog. "Nasssty agentses sleeps on the jobses, Preciousss?"

"Lay off," Nume groaned, shoving it away. He extracted his other arm from underneath Ilraen and sat up. A moment later, he was on his hands and knees, coughing up breakfast. The Generic Food had been a bad idea, he reflected. Even Generic Vomit was still vomit. "God damn this fic to hell." Once reasonably sure he was done, he found the remote activator and got rid of the mini as quickly as possible without being able to see the device clearly.

Meanwhile, Ilraen stirred and sat up, swaying slightly in place. He took another mouthful of Bleepka for his head, then turned to Nume. "Was I hallucinating, or did Dumbledore just hit Harry?"

"Why would you be hallucinating?"

"I do not know, but it would be more plausible than Albus Dumbledore hitting Harry Potter!"

"Shh! Don't make me tackle you again; I might puke on you. Keep it together."

"I have everything perfectly together. However, I am angry, because Dumbledore should not even be here. If it is year five, he should be avoiding Harry as much as possible. If it is year six, he should be hunting Horcruxes or trying to recruit Slughorn. For that matter, how did Sirius die? Has the Battle of the Department of Mysteries taken place yet, or not?"

Nume just drank from his flask and let him rant. As much as he was weirded out by Ilraen taking point all of a sudden, he couldn't actually complain about it. "No clue," he said when it sounded like the tirade was over. "Well, now what, hotshot?"

Harry had gone upstairs to his bedroom, and Nume could tell when he caught Ilraen's eye that neither of them particularly wanted to risk looking at the Words at the moment. Since Ilraen was apparently going for Agent of the Month, though, he did it anyway.

"We are not missing much," he declared. "Harry tells his friends what happened, Ed tells him to 'suck it up', and they have a squabble about who has suffered more 'lose' in his life. And Harry . . . apologizes?" He read on a little further, then stopped, blinking hard, and took more Bleepka. When he looked up again, he had a hard, determined look in his eyes. "I think we should go on to the next chapter. This one is almost over."

Ilraen held out his hand for the RA, and Nume gave it to him, despite an uncanny presentiment that he wasn't going to like whatever was coming next.

"All right . . . . Anything else I should know about first?" he asked as they crawled out from under the table and clambered to their feet.

"Do not worry. I have a plan."

Nume broke out in a cold sweat, which might just have been due to the fact that his stomach was still doing flips every time he looked around and the pure blue light from the portal stabbed at his eyeballs like icy needles. On the other hand, Ilraen had just uttered the words "I have a plan."

"Ilraen, wait a sec—" he started, but it was too late; Ilraen was gone. "Oh, god dammit." Nume had no choice but to shade his eyes and leap after him.

It was unclear what room they were supposed to be in, although it was definitely still 12 Grimmauld Place. There was no time to figure it out.

"That's it!" yelled Ed punching Harry with his left hand not wishing to hurt him, too
much at least, he was fed up with Harry and his depression, "Stop being so depressed!"

Harry charged at Ed, intending to tackle him, but someone else got there first.


Through a wave of dizziness, Nume saw a figure with a head of bright red hair barrel into Ed, knocking him sideways onto the ground.

Harry skidded to a halt. "Ron?! Get out of the way, or I swear I'll—!"

"Harry?" said Ron. "I'm over here, mate."

"What?" Harry's head whipped back and forth. Ron was on one side of the room, with Fred and George and Hermione, too. But nonetheless, a skinny redheaded boy was wrestling with Ed on the other side. "Then who the hell is that?"

"It is not acceptable to treat people like that!" the stranger shouted. He'd come to rest kneeling over Ed, pointing a wand at his face. "However out of sorts Harry might be, you cannot—ah!"

"GET OFF ME!" Ed yelled. Being the vastly more experienced fighter, he easily knocked the wand aside, threw his assailant off, and got to his feet. "What's your problem? Who the hell are you?" He grabbed the boy by the front of his shirt and hauled him upright, transmuted his automail arm into a blade, and held it to the boy's throat. "Talk!"

"That's enough!" Harry wasn't sure what was going on, but he did know that he was boiling mad at Ed and that the other guy had come in on his side. It was only fair to return the favor. He fired off a curse.

Unfortunately, Ed dodged. The curse struck the other boy in the chest. He cried out and fell to his side.


Everyone's head turned at the sound of a new voice. A black-haired boy none of them had noticed before flew across the room. He dropped to his knees at the red-head's side and rolled him onto his back so he could examine the spell damage.

"Oh, god." Nume's hands trembled as he parted the gash in Ilraen's shirt. Beneath was a matching gash in his flesh. A white gleam of bone was visible, and the wound was bleeding freely, already soaking a wide circle of fabric around it. There was no time to think about how or why Harry had used this spell. Ilraen stared up at him with eyes wide and tears streaming down his face, already gone pale from fear and pain.


"Shut up, Ilraen. Don't move." Nume whipped off his own shirt and folded it quickly into a thick pad. He laid it on Ilraen's chest and pressed his partner's hands against it. "Hold this. Hold it tight, you hear me? Don't let up."

Ilraen nodded.

Nume pressed his lips together, nodded back, and got to his feet. He felt naked wearing only an undershirt, but there was work to be done, and fast.

The kids hadn't just stood still watching the spectacle. The Words had attempted to reassert themselves as best they could, and the characters had acted accordingly. Harry was lying on the ground with Fred standing over him, massaging his fist; apparently the Weasley twin had knocked him out. Hermione was holding Ed at wandpoint, keeping him from further mischief, too, but just barely.

"Will somebody tell me what the hell is going on right now?!" Ed shouted, frantically windmilling his arms.

Nume put on his sunglasses and took out his neuralyzer. "Attention, everyone! The answers you seek are here. Look at me right now!" He looked around to make sure everyone conscious was looking and that Ilraen had shut his eyes, then depressed the Year button. "Right. Hermione, Ron, it's the beginning of your fifth year; Fred and George, your sixth. Sirius Black is alive, Dumbledore is aloof, Harry is angry, and you never met anyone claiming to be an alchemist from Amestris. Ed, you are fifteen, and you never received a mission to the Wizarding World. In fact, you've never even heard of such a thing. When you come to, you won't remember any of this."

He put the neuralyzer away and pulled his Whatsit from the messenger bag. Ed had to be purified of any remnants of Puking Pastilles and all other uncanonical foods he had ingested. Nume also frisked him for his wand and took it off him before opening a portal to Central City in Amestris. By this time, the first neuralyzation was wearing off, so Nume flashed him again to be safe. "You never saw me, this place, or any of these people. You are not, in fact, a raging moron. You're on your way to the library to study for your alchemy exam. Go."

Ed nodded vaguely and wandered off.

With Ed gone, the world rippled and shuddered. The tachyons screamed, and then were silent. Grimmauld Place settled into its proper timeline with a relieved groan. The Potterverse characters, also coming to their senses, looked around at each other for some clue as to what they were supposed to be doing just then.

Nume helped. "Gosh, it must be lunchtime by now. All of you go down to the dining room. Now! And forget you ever saw me."

They shrugged and went on their way. Nume figured that was good enough. There weren't any other uncanonical artifacts to collect, and with the majority of the characters neuralyzed or unconscious, everything was returning to normal. He decided to take Harry to FicPsych just in case, but first things first. He opened a portal to Medical, leaned through, and shouted.

"HEY! A little help here! Medical emergency!"

He was answered by the cool, cultured tones of the Bashir hologram, who looked up from the front desk and briskly crossed the room. "Please state the nature of the emergency."

"My partner's been hit with Sectumsempra. We need someone who can do the counter-curse, stat!"

The hologram nodded. "I shall summon Nurse Sandra. Please remain calm."

Nume's temper flared. "My partner is bleeding out! You remain calm!"

Bashir, already returning to the desk to use the intercom, didn't respond.

In a huff, Nume turned and went to check on Ilraen. He looked even paler than before, and his breath was coming in rapid, shallow pants. It didn't take a genius to recognize the onset of shock after a traumatic injury. Nume propped his feet up on the messenger bag to keep as much blood as possible in the vicinity of his vital organs and took over keeping up the pressure on the wound. The folded-up shirt was already soaking through.

Ilraen blinked at him, unfocused.

"Hang on," Nume said. "You are not allowed to die before I can kick your ass for trying to be a damn hero."

"Oh," Ilraen said softly. "All right." His gaze wandered, and his eyelids slid shut.

It was only a few minutes, but far too many heartbeats for Nume's liking, before someone came flying, literally, through the portal.

"I'm here, sorry, I'm here!" cried the nurse, dismounting neatly from her broomstick. She wore black robes with green bands sewn into the upper sleeves, identifying her department without hampering the garment. Her face was round, and her light brown hair was in a short, sporty cut.

"It's about time!" Nume snapped. "I think he's unconscious."

"I know, I know." Nurse Sandra hurried to join Nume, kneeling at Ilraen's side and swiftly evaluating his condition. "I came as quick as I could, only I was on call, and the match was on, so—" She looked up, saw the death glare Nume was giving her, and swallowed whatever she had been about to say. "Right, well, let's have a clear field." She shooed Nume away from her patient.

He subsided with the utmost resentment and watched like a hawk as she removed the shirt-pad. The horrible gash—it had to be five inches long—still bled.

Sandra pulled out her wand and began chanting, almost singing. "Vulnus Sanetur . . . " She waved the wand over the wound once . . . "Vulnus Sanetur . . ." twice . . . "Vulnus Sanetur." Three times total. She carefully probed the margins of the laceration and finally sat back, satisfied. "That's done it. He has lost quite a lot of blood, but that's no trouble once we get him back to Headquarters."

Nume nodded. He found himself suddenly spent, as though he could have laid down and gone to sleep right there if his head weren't pounding, and only roused himself when Nurse Sandra stood up and began to conjure a stretcher.

"Wait, that won't work," Nume said. He struggled to his own feet. "He's an Andalite. Once the disguise drops—"

"What? Oh. Just fix the settings on your RA, then, and we'll turn him back when we're good and ready." She smiled winsomely and resumed her work.

Nume shook his head; he should have thought of that. He retrieved the RA, and by the time he stuffed the device back into the messenger bag, Ilraen was ready for transport.

"Can you whip up one of those for him, too?" Nume asked, gesturing at Harry, still laid out off to one side. "I'm taking him to FicPsych."


Whatever else Sandra might have been, she was a competent witch, and she floated the two unconscious boys back to Medical without breaking a sweat. Other nurses turned up to help, and Nume found himself chivvied off to a room, too, despite his protests. They got him a clean hospital gown—his own clothes were smeared with his partner's blood, gone blue-black once the disguise was no longer needed—and settled him down in a bed with a shot of IV fluid to hydrate him while he slept.

He woke slowly to the realization that the odd sensation on his scalp was that of someone gently running a hand over his hair. Not much of a stretch to figure out who that had to be.

"Jenni. Knock it off," he said hoarsely, without even bothering to look around.

"Sorry." She stopped, and even sounded properly abashed. "I was worried about you. How are you?"

He took a moment to assess himself. "Well," he said, "I need a shower. And a toothbrush. I really need a toothbrush. Otherwise, I've had worse." His only other complaint was a dull ache above his left eyebrow, where he'd struck the Ministry gate. It wasn't worth mentioning. He pushed himself upright and found his glasses, waiting for him on a bedside table. Once he could see properly, he turned to face Jenni, who was sitting in a low chair to his left. "How long was I out?"

"About fourteen hours."


"Yeah. And poor Ilraen! What happened to you guys? They took Harry to FicPsych once they'd patched up his face, and I heard you were here, but no one seems to know much."

Nume shook his head. For a moment, he was back in Grimmauld Place, reeling with dizziness and nausea, watching his partner fall. "Dammit," he muttered. Nearly of their own accord, his fingers began tapping out the digits of Pi, and by focusing on that, he was able to focus on the present. "Where's my—?"

Jenni reached into a satchel at her feet and pulled out his hip flask. "I thought you might want this. I gave it a wash and topped it off for you."

"Ah. You know me too well." He uncapped the flask and knocked back two mouthfuls. "Let's just say," he answered to Jenni's original question, "that someone needs to talk to Ilraen about girls. Not the 'birds and bees' talk, the 'girls are bad news and will only lead to trouble' talk."

Jenni regarded him wryly. "That's on you, buddy." She hesitated, but added, "You sound like you're speaking from experience."

He raised an eyebrow. "With bad news that ended in trouble, yes. Granted, not quite as much as nearly getting myself killed by a curse-happy Harry Potter, but that only proves my point."

"I'm pretty sure it doesn't."

"Jenni, he has a completely asinine, juvenile infatuation with this bitch who doesn't even like him, as far as I can tell. After that stupid macho stunt, I won't have it, and you can't tell me I'm wrong. You've seen him, right?"

She folded her arms. "I have. He's fine, by the way, if that's how you're going to ask."

He snorted in derision. She had misread him: he'd meant that Ilraen had paid for his idiocy in blood, which she ought to know if she'd been to visit him. Anyway, of course he was fine now; he'd been healed, hadn't he? And Jenni would never sit there calmly prying into Nume's love life if the kid were dead or dying.

"He'll have a scar, of course," Jenni went on, "since nobody had any dittany essence on them, and it's not like they have a stockpile of Andalite blood on hand, so there was a bit of a scramble to work out exactly how best to replenish what he'd lost."

"You can quit busting my chops any time now."

"My point is, I think he's been sufficiently chastened without you coming down on him, too." In a reversal so abrupt Nume didn't have time to avoid it, she reached out and took his hand. "Nume, I get where you're coming from. I do. But if you've ever been in love, or known anyone in love, you ought to know that trying to get in the way is the quickest way to make him dig in his heels against you. For better or worse, it's going to have to play out. All you can do is keep watching out for him—because I know you did, and you are, in your own screwed-up way." She smiled at him to take the edge off her words and rose from her chair. "Now, come on. Since you're awake, I have it on good authority that I can spring you from this joint. I brought you fresh clothes and everything, and I'm gonna take you home and feed you a properly cooked, restorative meal. That's doctor's orders, so no arguing."

Nume thought about arguing anyway, on principle, but at the mention of food he'd realized he was hungry. After, what, twenty-four hours? of not being able to keep anything down, that wasn't particularly surprising, he supposed. He sighed in resignation. "Well, get out, then. I'll meet you in the lobby in fifteen minutes."

The shower stall in the bathroom attached to the hospital room was even more cramped than the one in his RC, but he stood there longer than he meant to, letting the events of the mission wash over his mind as the warm water washed over his body. Bleepka worked fast, but it was going to take more than one dose to suppress this.

As horrible missions went, it had been one of the most physically uncomfortable he'd ever heard of. There was something miraculous in being able to move and see and breathe while feeling stable and well, especially with the memory of that skewed reality still tugging at his mind, trying to pull him back. But even that wouldn't have been so bad if not for Ilraen.

His partner had nearly died.

Nume wasn't sure what he would have done if Nurse Sandra hadn't saved him. Spend another ten years training up some dumb rookie? Try to adjust to some smug veteran who thought they knew better than him despite having half his experience? He hated both prospects, and everything in between. The truth was, he couldn't imagine himself working with anyone but Ilraen anymore, and he couldn't quit, either. He'd long since realized he could never settle down to a normal life anywhere else. The PPC was his home, and Ilraen . . . .

He'd nearly died.

And for what? Love? Jenni had broken the taboo and used the dreaded L-word, and Nume was forced to admit it was true. Ilraen was head-over-heels, twitterpated, in love.

Well, so what? Why did a stupid four-letter word have to make people lose their frelling minds? He'd never understood it, not even when he'd still been young and naïve enough to want to. It wasn't worth the drama everyone else seemed to revel in, and it definitely wasn't worth getting killed over, especially not if the other person barely acknowledged you as a fellow sapient.

The worst part was, if Jenni was right—and she probably was—there was nothing he could do about it. He'd have to endure Farilan, and Ilraen's distraction, and everything that went with it, until it ended in tears of one kind or another.

Still, he thought . . . still, if it kept him from finding out what Nume was planning, maybe it wasn't so bad after all.

Neshomeh's Notes

Agents, let this be a lesson to you all. Sues may be scary, wraiths may be wretched, and replacements may be revolting, but never forget that bad writing itself can be your worst enemy.

Unless you're your own worst enemy, of course.

This fic has been on my to-spork list for so long I don't even remember exactly when I picked it up. I just couldn't think of how to approach it for a long time, or come up with a good hook and line. Fortunately, the latter was provided by Farilan, and the rest took care of itself with a little inspiration from real life and my favorite show. In Farscape's first season episode 17, "Through the Looking Glass," the living ship Moya gets split into three dimensions of light (red), sound (blue), and emotion (yellow). I grabbed the red and blue effects and stuck them together with a nod to Doppler shift. The episode is available here (but Please Support The Official Release if you can, of course). The red effect starts at 8:25, and the blue at 11:35. (BTW, I've put a Farscape reference in almost every mission I've written. If you can spot them all, you are officially super cool and you win an Internet. ^_~ )

Don't worry, we'll catch up with Ilraen next time. He'll be fine. He was due to start collecting scars, as we see Ten Years Hence, and insane canon characters flinging dark magic around was a great opportunity to get the ball rolling. And hey, chicks dig scars, right? Maybe it'll help his suit. {= )