All right. Here’s my (long overdue) first mission. I know it’s not the one I said I’d write when I applied for Permission a year ago, but that fic proved too difficult for me to handle, so I decided to get some experience with a simpler, shorter fic first.
Big thanks to my betas Desdendelle, Irish Samurai and SMF. Also thanks to Hieronymus Graubart who acted as an additional beta.
Anyway, the PPC was created by Jay and Acacia. The Jeeves stories were created by P.G. Wodehouse. Middle-earth (Hild’s home continuum) was created by J.R.R. Tolkien.
The fic “The Very Edge” is by charlotteicewolf77. (At this point it’s traditional to say something like, “and she can keep it because I don’t want it!”)
I own nothing here except my own characters – Hild and Sean – and their actions.
Sean Bellman let out a low whistle, then said, “She cleans up real nice,” in what he always thought was a pretty good impression of an American accent. (So far, no real American had agreed.)
“Very funny.” Hild, who was standing in the bathroom doorway, had even less idea than Sean of what a good American accent should sound like, but even she could tell her partner was teasing her. “Besides, I’m still in my regular uniform.”
“Yes, but you actually showered without being reminded for once. I’d almost forgotten your hair was blonde.” He grinned and leaned back in his chair.
Hild shrugged. “Well, I didn’t think I could turn up at Luxury’s RC without a wash first.”
“I’m sure it wouldn’t put her off. But you and Lux? Since when are you—?”
“No! Nothing like that!” Hild interrupted him, her eyes wide with shock. “How could you even think that? Besides, you know I wouldn’t steal her from you.”
“Yeah, right. You know I’m not that Sean.”
“Your mind’s dirty enough,” joked Hild as she stepped forwards into the room. “Anyway, for your information, a bunch of agents are organising evening classes. They think it’ll help keep us sane, or something. And Lux is teaching one of the courses.”
“Evening classes from Lux?” Sean leant forward, a wild glint in his eye. “Well, I guess you’ll learn some useful techniques for when you finally get Boromir to yourself.”
Hild shook her head. “It’s taxidermy. Swift Araw! Are you sure you’re not Lux’s Sean?”
“Taxidermy?” It was hard to make one word sound relieved and disappointed at the same time, but Sean somehow managed it.
“Yes. Might be fun. I never got a chance to have any hobbies with the Dunlendings.”
“I dunno.” The joking tone began to fade from his voice. “You’re not thinking of doing it in here, are you? All that blood and guts all over the place. And the smell.”
Before Hild could reply, a loud [BEEEEP] filled the air. She turned to the console. “That’s odd.”
“It’s an unfamiliar continuum. Have you ever heard of someone called...” She hesitated over the strange name. “P. G. Wode house?”
A large grin spread across Sean’s face. “Heard of him? I love those stories. This is going to be great. You are in for a treat.” He paused, then added, “Oh, and it’s pronounced Woodhouse.”
Hild said nothing. Although she had been taught to read as part of her basic training, she often wondered if the teachers had done a bad job of it. It seemed that words rarely seemed to match up with the letters in them. Maybe she’d figure it out one day.
“I’ll set the disguises.” Sean moved to join Hild at the console. “How d’you fancy being a flapper?”
Hild had no idea what that was, but she agreed anyway. She got up and moved over to the shelf. “Oh, and we’re going to need a crash dummy.”
“Oh yeah, it’ll be first person.”
“No. Second person.”
“What?” Sean’s manic Cheshire Cat grin started to crumble.
Hild shrugged. “That’s what the report said.”
“Oh well.” Sean gave a deep, long sigh, and then opened up the portal.
Once the agents had gathered their equipment, Hild chucked the dummy through, and they both followed behind.
For some inexplicable reason, you are drawn to the cliff tonight.
“Probably because of bad writing,” says Sean, adjusting the bow-tie on his formal evening wear.
“That’s normally the reason anything happens in these fics,” agrees Hild. She glances down and sees that she’s wearing a sleeveless mini-dress with shoulder-straps and lots of little tassels. She also has a long cigarette holder with a Bleepette, and her backpack seems to have been replaced by a clutch-bag. For some unexplained, but perfectly explicable reason, she keeps twitching her shoulders awkwardly.
Sean pulls his CAD out of a pocket in his dinner jacket, and points it at the Words.
[Present tense detected. Revert agents to permanent past tense Y/N?]
Sean selected “Y” and the past tense returned.
The dummy, meanwhile, had grown into a human, albeit still a generic one. It stood up and started walking across the equally generic countryside towards a cliff.
Sean giggled. “Hey, I’ve just realised. The dummy’s heading to a Cliff, and it’s a Living Doll.”
Hild creased her brow. “I don’t get it.”
“Never mind. You have to be British and a certain age.”
The two agents set off after the dummy, although Hild found her progress awkward due to the high-heeled shoes that so many World One women wear.
Your master is there, standing on the very edge of the cliff, looking calmer now than you've ever seen him. Unease coils in your gut, something is wrong but you daren't move closer.
“Purple metaphor and comma splicing,” said Sean, as the agents hid behind a piece of generic scenery that could be either a rock or a bush.
“I’m on it.” Hild reached into the unfamiliar clutch-bag and was relieved to find her notebook and pen.
"What-ho, Jeeves," he greets, but it's lacking its usual cheer and your gut coils tighter and you open your mouth but cannot make a sound. He turns back, moonlight reflecting off his golden curls
The agents ignored the way the dummy had finally completed its metamorphosis. Instead, Sean just complained, “What? Since when has Bertie Wooster had golden curls?”
“Is that a charge?” asked Hild, still twitching her shoulders.
“Probably. I don’t remember Bertie’s hair being described in the books, but I’m sure it would’ve been mentioned a lot if it was distinctive Suvian hair like that! And all the adaptations give him short, straight, dark hair.”
Hild handed Sean her Bleepette. He paused, not normally being a smoker, but then he took a long drag on it, and seemed to become calmer. He pointed his CAD at Jeeves, who was listening to the pyjama-clad Bertie confess that he often thought about suicide.
[Jeeves. Human. OOC 43% so far, and increasing. As he’s the second person narrator, I bet he’ll turn out to be a possible Replacement Stu. Did you really need me to tell you that?]
Sean briefly wished his CAD would just explode like so many others.
Bertie Wooster did not contemplate killing himself. He was your enthusiastic, mentally negligible, childlike, happy young master; not a depressed, morose person who looked to be seriously considering jumping off a cliff.
“When even the Words complain about how OOC the characters are, there must be something seriously wrong with the story,” said Hild.
Sean just nodded and pointed the CAD at Bertie for confirmation.
[Bertie Wooster. Human. OOC at least 100%, possibly more, and increasing. Replacement Woobie!Stu-stu-studio, Studio Line! Central line! District line! Northern line descended from Valandil! Valerie Singleton! Valley of Death! Welcome to Death Valley Days! The driver is either dead or missing!]
Sean quickly threw the CAD as far as he could. It sailed over the cliff and then finally exploded.
As Jeeves hugged Bertie and led him away from the cliff, Hild stopped merely twitching her shoulders, and started reaching round to feel them then twisting her head trying to look at her back.
“Hild! What is the matter with you?”
She glanced sheepishly at him. “I was just trying to flap my wings.”
“Wings?” Sean’s brow furrowed, before comprehension spread across his face. “I know you’re a flapper, but it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a name for how you’re dressed.”
“So there’s – there’s nothing to actually flap?”
“Shame. Wings would be useful right now. Instead I’ll have to walk after the Stus in these stupid high heels.”
Luckily for Hild, a passing chapter break threw the agents into the next scene without them having to take a step. Unluckily for Hild, it caused her to lose her balance and fall onto Sean.
You brought him back to the manor, luckily alerting no one that the pair of you were still awake. You had gotten him into thicker, warmer pyjamas and lit a fire in the grate
When the agents finally managed to stand up, they saw that they were in a nondescript corridor. The only way they knew they were not back in HQ was that the walls were a slightly darker colour, possibly to suggest wood panelling.
A nearby door was ajar, and Sean peeped round it to see that Bertie and Jeeves weren’t having too good a time of things either. Both of you are still shaken by the close call, so much so that you even leave off your customary 'sir'.
Sean grimaced and took another long drag on Hild’s Bleepette, while Bertie started telling Jeeves about his secret angst-ridden past. Apparently, at boarding school he had earned a reputation for allowing himself to be sexually abused by the older boys.
“No, no, no! We’ve met Bertie’s old Etonian school chums. They would’ve mentioned it, even if it was just for a bit of light-hearted banter.” Sean glanced at the Bleepette, now nothing more than a butt in the holder. “I hope this didn’t have real nicotine.”
Having dealt with the hurt, the fic now moved on to the comfort stage.
"Bertie," you start, hoping that you will be able to say the right words to make this better, he raises his head- you only call him that in the most intimate of moments, "Bertie, you are the best man I have ever known […] And I shall repeat this as many times as is needed until you believe it as well."
He gives you a small smile before leaning forward and planting a gentle kiss on your lips, chaste but emotional, "Goodnight, Jeeves."
“Should I charge for using hyphens instead of dashes?” asked Hild as Jeeves walked away up the corridor, too distracted to notice the agents.
“You can charge for that whole passage existing, as far as I care!” Sean slumped down against the corridor wall. “No matter how they might secretly feel about each other deep down, the most intimate Jeeves and Bertie’s relationship gets is ‘Friendly gossip between employer and employed, and everything as sweet as a nut.’” He made the air quotes with his fingers. “A good Jooster slash should build the romance on that.”
Before he could say any more, Hild suddenly pulled him out of the way of an Author’s Note flying down the corridor.
A/N: this story is set after the bicycle ride.
“Bicycle ride?” asked Hild, watching the note fly into the distance.
“I guess it probably means the long and unnecessary ride Jeeves tricks Bertie into making in Right Ho, Jeeves. Although that doesn’t make sense. That ride left Bertie with increased appreciation for Jeeves’s problem solving skills, but not quite trusting him for a while afterwards. Their relationship should be even colder than the usual friendly gossip.”
“Yes, but what is a bicycle ride?”
Before Sean could explain, there was another chapter break. Luckily, Hild had removed her shoes, so she didn’t fall over this time.
You had hoped that it would get better the further away you got from Brinkley Manor.
“No!” groaned Sean. “Just as I thought it couldn’t get any worse.”
“What’s wrong?” asked Hild.
“Remember that cliff at the start?”
“Well, there aren’t any cliffs near Brinkley Court. It’s in Worcestershire.” Sean threw his arms wide, as if to indicate Worcestershire surrounding them.
“Look at the Words.” Hild pointed to the appropriate sentence. “This is Brinkley Manor, not Brinkley Court.”
“What?” Sean thumped one of the walls as if it was the punching bag in the corner of their RC. The wall wobbled. “You’re right. It’s cardboard. This is a fake, not the real Brinkley Court at all. Guess that explains why there’s no-one else about.”
“So that means...” Hild began.
“...we take a leaf out of DOGA’s book...” continued Sean,
“...and burn it down!” they said in unison, and gave each other a high five.
They ran into Bertie’s now-empty bedroom. The fire that Jeeves had lit in the grate was still burning.
“Makes sense,” said Hild. “The fic never mentioned it going out.”
They grabbed blankets off the bed, and held them carefully over the fire until one corner was alight. Then they dropped the blankets onto the cardboard floor, and watched it burn. Soon the whole place was full of flames and smoke.
“Maybe we should’ve thought this through first,” said Sean, choking on the fumes.
“You think?” coughed Hild as she frantically searched her clutch-bag for the RA.
Just then, a flapping noise was heard above the roaring of the flames. The agents looked up to see a large zero flying around their heads, with tildes for wings.
“Now that’s what I call a flapper!”
“It’s a scene divider. Grab it!” said Sean. He and Hild managed to catch hold of the bottom of the flying zero, and were lifted up.
Hild, who had closed her eyes, felt herself being pulled through the cardboard ceiling. She opened one eye, and peeped down. The burning manor was falling to pieces far below her. She quickly shut her eyes again, hoping the divider would carry them to safety. Just as Hild felt her fingers couldn’t hold on anymore, the scene break deposited them on solid ground. Opening her eyes once more, she found that Sean and she were in the living room of Bertie’s London flat.
“I’m not even going to ask how we got in here,” Hild said as the zero flapped its tilde wings and flew off again.
The sound of Bertie’s bedroom door opening caused them to duck down behind the sofa. Jeeves emerged and made his way into the kitchen, closing the door behind him. The agents got up again and looked at the Words.
“You know, despite everything, this author isn’t actually a bad writer,” said Hild, “Her prose for describing Bertie’s long angst fest is technically quite good.”
Sean turned to face her and took a long, deep breath before replying. “Yes, but it’s still wrong for Bertie. He just wouldn’t be having four days of non-stop woobified wangst in the first place. Now if she was writing Spotkyn, it’d be different.”
“Spode/Sir Watkyn. They’re recurring antagonists, and their personalities are already twisted and bitter enough to justify snapping like this. I should know.” That last remark was muttered under his breath, with a bitter tone in his voice. He shook his head to clear the still-painful memories. “Anyway, there’s also some powerful sexual tension between them. The trouble is, most fangirls just think ‘Eeeww! They’re both like over 40! That’s like ancient! Gross!’”
Hild giggled. “OK. Now, since you’re in the mood for explanations, what is a bicycle ride?”
Sean attempted to explain. It was a difficult business, not helped by having to duck down behind the sofa again as Jeeves carried a plate of toast to Bertie’s bedroom.
“Thanks,” Hild said when the explanation was over. “Now what do we do about this fic?”
Sean looked at the Words again. “I think we should act quickly, before the sex starts next chapter.”
“Not healing sex?” asked Hild following his glance.
“That’s what the narration seems to think it is, but...” His voice trailed off.
“You’re right. It feels like he’s taking advantage of Bertie’s wangst, just like those boys at school did.” Hild shuddered.
It’s at this point that Jeeves came back out of the bedroom, taking the uneaten toast back to the kitchen.
He turned at the sound of the man’s voice, and saw a couple of slightly dishevelled, smoke-stained young persons standing there. The real Jeeves would have simply taken this in his stride, with nothing more than a quizzically raised eyebrow to suggest surprise. This Jeeves, however, did a massive double take, and started stuttering, “Wha... Who...?”
The woman handed a notebook to the man. He stepped forward and read, “We are from the PPC. And you, Jeeves, alias Gary Stu, are charged with being a replacement Stu, doing things for ‘some inexplicable reason’, narrating in second-person present tense, having a coil of unease in your gut, splicing sentences with commas, briefly switching to past tense to denote the passage of time, not having a disclaimer crediting P.G. Wodehouse, creating the cliffside Brinkley Manor, using hyphens instead of em dashes, and planning to sexually take advantage of your employer’s confusion.” He paused briefly. “We’d also like to charge you with using a very silly scene divider, but it saved our lives, so we’ll let you off that one. Do you have any last words?”
The replacement got his act together enough to say, “I... I beg your pardon, sir?”
“I thought so. Hild, he’s all yours.”
The replacement noticed that the woman had pulled a dagger from her bag. Before he could react, she leapt forward and drove it into his heart. As she stepped back, his body began to collapse and fold in on itself, turning back into the small, plastic cube that was the crash dummy’s default form. The toast that he’d been carrying fell down to the ground beside him.
Sean leant over to look at it. “Hmmm... Butter side up.” He picked the toast up. “This universe is more messed up than we realised.”
“Will killing Bertie fix it?” asked Hild, pulling her dagger free from the dummy.
“Yeah. But first let’s raid the kitchen.”
“Why?” Hild asked. “Don’t tell me you’re so hungry you can’t wait till we’ve finished.”
“No. Even somewhere as generic as this is still based on Bertie’s canonical flat. It’s probably got some really good tea. There are plenty of agents we can trade that with.”
One quick raid, and some packets of loose-leaf oolong, Assam, and Earl Grey later, the agents turned their attention to the bedroom.
Bertie was lying quietly in his bed as his door was thrown open and two strangers entered.
“There once was a young man called Bertie,” chanted the woman. “When feeling emotionally hurt, he stood on a high cliff and would only leave if rescued by Jeeves who got flirty.”
The man glared at her briefly, before turning his attention back to Bertie. “In other words,” he said, “Bertie Wooster, alias Gary Stu, you are charged with being a replacement Stu, feeling suicidal, being woobified, being so heavily woobified that even the Words notice you’re out of character, having curly golden hair, having an improbable past, and for wangsting about that improbable past for over four days. Do you have any last words?”
The woobie just cried.
The man grabbed him, and pulled him out of bed.
Meanwhile, the woman was fiddling with a strange device, and a glowing blue rectangle opened in the air.
The man pulled Bertie through, and they emerged on the generic cliff top where the fic had begun.
“Recognise this place?” asked the man. “You wanted to die here, well now you’re getting your wish.” He pushed the woobie off the cliff, and watched as he fell to his death on the rocks below.
“Should we climb down and get the body?” asked Hild, who had followed them through the portal.
“No need. This is how he should’ve been meant to die in the first place. It’s where he really belongs.”
“Oh, good. Well, that just leaves finding the real Bertie and Jeeves.”
“Again, no need.” Sean smiled. “Think about it. They’re still at the real Brinkley Court, unaware that anything has happened.”
“What? Isn’t that a bit anticlimactic?”
“Hey, it’s not our fault if the fic’s mistakes cancelled each other out.” He dropped the toast to prove his point. It did indeed land butter side down. “See, everything’s fixed. Besides, you’ve gotta be the first agent who’s ever complained about not getting enough work to do!”
“Good point.” And with that, she opened the portal back to RC 4.
The Response Centre didn’t have a clock of its own. Time does strange things in PPC HQ, and clocks tended to speed up, slow down, or run backwards. On one occasion, a clock had even attempted to run sideways, and ended up turning itself inside out. So, as soon as the agents had removed their backpacks, Hild checked the time on the console.
“Thank Araw! I’m still going to be on time for the taxidermy class.”
“Hang on,” said Sean. “You aren’t gonna go like that, are you?”
Hild looked down, and saw that she was covered in smoke stains and mud. “All right,” she sighed, and made her way to the bathroom.
Sean just chuckled quietly to himself.