A/N: Ireally, really love everyone who has reviewed. In a non-stalkerish way, of course. You make me feel special. Have some chocolate. :-)

Warning… lots of scene breaks this chapter. It'll slow down in the next one. Promise. Also, apoligies in advance for any possible spelling errors. Most of this was written in a hospital storage room at four in the morning. (It's a long story; you'll be happier if you don't know...)

Chapter Two: Strange Encounters of the Nerd Kind

"My doctor says that I have a malformed public-duty gland and a natural deficiency in moral fiber, and that I am therefore excused from saving Universes."
-Douglas Adams

Matsuda wasn't sure exactly what would be needed for an epic journey to free the writers, but he had the faint inclination that he might need a lot of clothes. Some searching around headquarters produced seven shirts, twelve pairs of socks, and no pants or underwear.

Yeah… this was not going to be pretty.

On the other hand, it seemed that Matt was having no trouble assembling exactly what was needed for his own quest. Where exactly he had found a sword was a mystery, but Matsuda dismissed it as a plot device and didn't comment.

"So…" he began upon joining the gamer in a pantry raid, "why is it that we haven't been… you know… affected by this writer?"

"I have just as much information as you do." Pause. "So… you wanna take Beyond with your group?"

"He tried to kill me."

"Well, make sure he takes his medication, you won't even be able to tell he has a problem."

"…Can't we just tie him up and leave him here?"

"No. Because when he breaks out - and it's inevitable, he will - he'll just be pissed off."

"I don't know, he seems pretty mad already…"

"Call him L. I think that calms him down."

"And what if it doesn't?"

"Then you pray."

They returned to the main room, Matsuda tripping over a computer in the process.

"Alright then… you, Romeo-" Matt gestured vaguely to Light, who was still sniffling about how unfair life was, "you're coming with me. Mello, Near you too. Roger you're going with him…" He jerked his head at Matsuda, "and so is B."

"You definitely have more people than I do," Matsuda pointed out.

"You're complaining? Even one of these guys are migraine material."

"Yeah, but you left me with Psychopath and Genre-blind. I'm pretty much screwed if we run into anything dangerous."

"Then take someone from the taskforce with you."

"…Actually, never mind. I'm good."

Matt nodded briefly. "Right. Well, best wake up B, then. Everyone have weapons and armor equipped? Good. Let's head out."

"Our what equipped…?"

"Don't ask."

The dawn was cold and foggy. Luminous veils of mist lay motionless in the deeper hollows where the departing night was discarding them. Buildings a hundred feet away faded to shadows in the white mist.

"Why can't we just take a car?" Light whined from the back of the procession. "It'd be faster… and easier…"

"We're on a magical quest, dumbass. We need the challenge of walking miles upon miles through dangerous terrain everyday. Otherwise there's no plot, and the entire deal gets thrown out in postproduction."

"Matt, we're in a city," Mello pointed out. "I don't think we have that much walking to do…"

After a moment of consulting the map, Matt shook his head. "This clearly indicates that the Magical Tower of Deathly Fire is outside of the city, over the Malicious Mountains, through the Forsaken Forest, over the Bridge of Blood and across the Pit of Pestilence."

"…I bet the other group is taking a car."

"What did you do to the car, Beyon- L?"

B directed his unnerving red gaze at him, head tilted at a curious angle. "You assume it was me."

"You're covered in oil!" Matsuda flared.

"Oh, yes. Nothing a little bleach won't fix."

"So what did you do to the car? Why won't it start?"

"Honestly, I don't feel inclined to answer you. You knocked me unconscious and tied me to a chair; and now you're dragging me along on this… quest?"

"You attacked me!"

"All in good fun."

"With a knife!"

B sighed as if this reminder were somehow immensely annoying. "I knew you'd bring that up."

"Well, it is sort of impor- you know, never mind that, just fix the car!"

"All this talk of quests… I'm beginning to think that you're in no condition to drive, Matsuda-san."

They stared at each other. Matsuda usually wasn't one to be provoked to violence, and attacking B didn't seem to be a good idea considering the guy's previous tendencies, but he was sorely tempted.

It was a loosing battle. He took a deep breath, and got out of the car, slamming the door shut. "Alright. We'll walk. Happy now?"

"Not particularly," B said with a shrug, trailing along after him.

Roger piped up with, "Would you look at that! Hardships on our very first step of the journey! Whoa-ho, it's unpredictable already! Splendid!"

Since Matt had detailed the various locations described on the map, Near had fallen into a sullen silence which went far beyond the "helpless-rape-victim" silence he had maintained until that point. Or maybe it was his usual "brooding-genius-here-leave-me-alone" silence. It was difficult to tell. All the same, Matt made a valiant effort to cheer him up.

"C'mon, Near, it's not that bad," he insisted. "I mean, sure, we have to transverse perilous terrain and a lot of places with really creepy, ominous names… and we have to slay a reputedly evil dragon… but that's pretty much whatever, you know? The important thing is the power of friendship and love, and… all that other stuff. It's not like we'll be gone forever."

Near looked at him miserably, as if he were quite certain they would be gone forever.

"B… I mean… L… whatever your name is… Did you by any chance eat everything I had packed, aside from the chicken soup and beef jerky?"

"I really don't want to answer that question."


"Because no matter how I answer, I'm a bad person."

"…Just one way, really."

"Okay, let's say yes, I did eat everything other than the chicken soup and beef jerky… then, in your eyes I'm a bad person."

Matsuda raised an eyebrow. "…And the other way?"

"If I say no, I didn't eat everything aside from the chicken soup and beef jerky… then I'm the guy who ate everything aside from the chicken soup and beef jerky and then lied about it."

Matsuda refrained from heaving a sigh with great difficulty. "Why would you do that?"

"I was hungry. Ran out of jam."

"Well, you ate about enough to feed a family of ten, or three very stoned teenagers."

"That seems about right. I feel kind of sick now."

Roger interrupted with a broad grin. "It's okay; we're only going to be out here a couple of days, right? We've got enough food for that long… and if worst comes to worst, we can always live off the country!"

Matsuda looked around. A tumbleweed rolled by in a chilly wind. The country didn't seem very edible.

Meanwhile, B was gazing up at the darkening sky. "Hey, look, storm clouds… well, I think they're going in the opposite direction… which is pretty much good news, right?"

The opposite direction, as it happened, was right about where Matt's small group had ended up for the night.

"Well," he muttered, shielding the map from the downpour, "I think we're in the Malicious Mountains right about now."

"That's fitting," Mello said through chattering teeth. "Please tell me that map of yours shows a hotel somewhere around here."

"Doesn't look like it. There is a Cave of Catastrophe a little farther up this path, though… not that that's the best ide-"

"Great," Light interrupted. "This rain is killing my hair and I'm almost out of peach-scented shampoo."

Matt trailed along after him. "Well, I know, but… Cave of Catastrophe? Doesn't that sound a little…"

"Clichéd?" Mello supplied.

"Well, that too, but-"

"Hey, looks like we found it. A totally inconspicuous cave. I bet no one dwells in the depths of this! And certainly no one who would be very unpleased if we stayed the night here…"

"Ah… maybe we should stay the night somewhere else," Matt began, but as usual, he was ignored, and the rest of the group went charging in.

"-and that's my plan!" B announced, eyes glinting excitedly in the firelight.

Matsuda raised an eyebrow. "But you didn't tell me anything. You just walked up and said 'and that's my plan'."

"Or we could just submerge the writer in a vat of flesh eating acid and hope for the best. Now, which method sounds easier to you?"

"…I'm going to have to ask you to stop talking now."

"Well, I, for one, agree with B," said Roger.

"What a shock. Roger, you don't even know what the hell he's talking about!"

"Yes - and that's exactly why I'm a qualified decision maker."

Matt wasn't fully aware that he had in fact, slept, but he was brought sharply back to consciousness when there was a sudden grating noise to indicate that a secret passageway was drawing open at the back of the cave. The iridescent eyes of goblins emerged from the shadows, drawing nearer. There was a hideous snarling and growling, along with guttural laugher.

"Well, this is gonna suck," he sighed, and promptly resigned to do nothing. After all, the heroes never rotted to death in goblin caves when there was a princess to be saved.

And pretty much the same thing have happened in The Hobbit. And that had turned out alright in the end. At least, once they got past the goblins… Gollum… goblins again… magical elves… spiders… dragon… and then they still had that all-corrupting ring to deal with…

On second thought, this might turn out very poorly indeed.

It was no surprise that Mello was the second to awaken, and thus awaken everyone else. "The fuck are those things?"

Near shrieked. "Rape face! Now they're going kidnap us and rape us and demand ransom, and since we're in the Malicious Mountains, no one will pay it, and we'll eventually starve to death in the dungeon amongst the rats, and our bodies will be tossed off a cliff, and in a hundred years some poor little kid will find our skeletons, and look and say, 'Oh, the poor guys, they never stood a chance!' And I don't want to be put in a museum, put in a glass case for children to gock at me, 'Oh, look at how stupid they were, they couldn't escape from rapist goblins!' And then they'll put our pictures on postage stamps, coffee mugs, and mouse pads, and T-shirts, and oh, I guess that would be kind of cool but still-"

Personally, Matt found all of this highly doubtful. The goblins didn't seem were currently in the process of attempting to drag them below ground. Light began panicking over the way goblin skin was, Mello spewed forth a stream of obscenities which made Matt's ears actually burn, and Near continued his running commentary on the scene. For his part, Matt was fully content to let this play out in it's own good time, and didn't resist.

A/N: Anyone else inspired to go hiking?

And bonus cookies to anyone who can identify to origins of the long monologue at the end.