Liaisons Ridiculeuse
Parts 1 to 5

by Alexiares

and Rachel Hahn

DISCLAIMER: RenPics owns theirs, we own ours. This story is only written for fun, we didn't make a penny. There's not too much violence... not too much swearing... not too much sex... but they turn up, this being a X:WP alt fiction piece and all. If you have any problem with two women being together, this story is really not your thing. Feedback can be sent to or

NOTES: Due to the sudden illnesses in Rachel's family, Liaisons will be continued only by myself. Unfortunately, the updates will probably remain a bit slow, because my entire computer system has been stolen. Hope it refuses to work and sits like a lead paper weight in thief headquarters. Assholes... ahem... sorry, I'm still feeling quite bitter. Thanks for your kindness and patience, folks. :) - Alexiares, 00-04-09


"One, two, three, four... mmmm... hundred eighteen... lots."

Thraso blew out a long sigh. She was so BORED. Gabrielle had kindly stopped by with a bundle of scrolls for her to read, and the weaponmaster hadn't had the heart to admit she had already read most of them and would be able to finish the lot well inside four candlemarks. Sometimes being able to read a page or so at a glance really sucked. Never one to give up, and desperate to avoid finding out if you really could get bored to tears, Thraso had carefully extracted her book, quills, and ink from the lumpy bag half stuffed under the bed beneath her head. Cervexa had done her the service of falling over it twice, sending her into fits of helpless laughter. The rather vicious poking her back muscles had received in retaliation had been well worth it.

Eventually Thraso had stuck book and all half under the blankets on one side of the bed, a habit which Eumache had spent a hopeless three month campaign trying to break.

"What are you going to do with them there... look at this, look at this, I've got ink where the sun don't shine!" Eumache had exploded one night shortly after climbing into bed. She had miscalculated slightly, since jumping out of bed stark naked and doing a stylish twirl aren't likely to make anybody feel chastened. Incredibly lucky, maybe, but never chastened.

Writing supplies stowed, Thraso hummed tunelessly for a bit. Unable to stand up without help despite her best efforts, hobbling out of her cushy, impromptu prison wasn't really an option. So she had decided to try to put herself to sleep, by counting the slats on the ceiling. Three candlemarks later, and all Thraso had managed was to ascertain how many planks there were in the ceiling, how many had cracks in them, how many had bits of cobwebs on them, how many of them had warped shapes... it was during this effort of... desperate proportions, that she gave up in disgust.

"Any other time, I'd be sleeping just fine... I'm always wanting to sleep in. Just because my mother is a Sun Goddess doesn't mean I like to get up at revolting hours of the morning." Thraso muttered crossly. Her gaze dropped on a different bag, thumped resoundingly by a frustrated Eumache earlier that day. It was stuffed with parchments, so it hadn't reacted in a satisfying fashion. Too put out for words at the wizened rustle she got in lieu of a thump, Eumache grabbed Thraso's heaviest chobos and left for the practice field. That had given Thraso cause to spend a quarter candlemark praying for the continued well being of Eumache's opponents... if they didn't last long enough, Thraso was certain that between how... amourous... Eumache was feeling, and how fast her blood temperature seemed to go up everytime they were together, she was going to either spontaneously combust or have a heart attack. It was only a rough guess, but she was sure neither of those things was comfortable.

Ah, but the parchments. The parchments, they were a mystery... unidentified, unread... like a glass of water tauntingly out of reach of some poor sod in the middle of the desert. Thraso scowled. She hated being the poor sod in metaphors. Ignore the damned metaphors, she decided. The weaponmaster fidgited. The bed squeaked faintly. That made Thraso think of entirely the wrong type of thing. She froze. Her eyes drifted back to the bag.

A sense of the absurdity of her situation did not escape Thraso. However, since she already felt cross and too bored even for tears to console her, she made like that sense was out of working order and ignored it. Once again her gaze drifted to the bag, and she sighed. Then she relaxed into the pillows and shut her eyes. And just because it was better than doing nothing, imagined that somehow, even though she couldn't touch it, lifting the bag across the distance and depositing it gently within reach.

"Artemis the mighty!"

The exclamation broke Thraso out of her daydream with such a jump that she nearly made it off the bed, and perhaps would have, if the erstwhile bag of parchments hadn't landed with a thump on her belly. Thraso stared at the bag in complete shock.

"Great, just great... if I ain't gotta put up with one freak, I gotta put up with another!" sniped Cervexa, having recovered more quickly from the shock.

Silver eyes gazed intently at her for several long, steadily more disconcerted moments. "I had no idea it was physically possible to walk around with your head in that position." Thraso declared in a devastatingly innocent tone. Cervexa's eyes narrowed.

"Don't give me that 'I'm innocent as a babe in diapers' look, you brat!"

"Cervexa! Cervexa!" a chorus of shouts started behind the healer. She spun around. "What do YOU want? What's with all you people? I got better things to do than patch up the idiots who insist on spending all day on the practice field!" Ensconced in her by now thoroughly uncomfortable pallet, Thraso winced and attempted to make herself as small as possible. If she played her cards right, Cervexa and her painful bedside manner would be diverted onto the bruises and miserable muscles of some other poor sod.

"It's Tolia, she fell out of a tree and we think her arm is busted!" a breathless, very high pitched voice declared. This was followed by a chorus of agreement.

"A tree... dammit..." Cervexa stepped out the door and pulled it shut behind her. Thraso crossed her fingers, sincerely hoping the unfortunate young Amazon's injury was a sprain, and that Cervexa would forget completely about them both as soon as possible. "You didn't leave her alone, did you? I can't believe you lot... what do you do now, get in trouble in packs?"

"Nooooo, course not... we're Amazons!" A soft chuckle escaped Thraso at that. She had been able to identify the leader's voice by now... it belonged to a fierce little kid by the name of Zaphreus, whose name was regularly shortened to Zaph... or Zap, depending on how old her compatriots were. No doubt her chest was puffed out, arms crossed, chin up... the very picture of a stern, proud Amazon warrior, albeit a young, small, faintly pudgy and gap toothed one.

"Right, fine, fine... go on, lead the way." a bit of grumbling emanated from the scruffy healer. And then the kicker. "Don't think for even a moment I've forgotten you, freak!"

A long suffering sigh escaped Thraso. Every once and awhile, she reflected rather sadly, it would be nice to forget she was different, and just be like everyone else for a bit. Even if only in thought. Thankfully, these morose thoughts didn't occupy the weaponmaster for long. She was a cheerful, optimistic sort generally, and when a bit of misery or self pity seemed ready to move in, things tended to take one of two courses. If she was mobile, she went and found Eumache. If she was flat on her back, she did the next best thing. She fell asleep and dreamed about her.


The dream in question had become hopelessly silly, and Thraso had begun to giggle in her sleep, when the sound of someone falling into the hut through the window jerked her awake and almost into a sitting position.

"Now, now, none of that. I know your back is injured." an ink stained finger waggled from just above the edge of the bed. "I'm sure sitting up isn't good for you." Thraso could only groan in agreement. Now not only was she sore, she was lightheaded. She disliked that feeling on principle. Only her aunt Aphrodite could feel light headed and enjoy it.

Thaleia finally struggled up off the floor, as tousled and messy as ever. Even her eyebrows looked tousled. "Oh, I see you've got the stuff I sent along!" she beamed, and clapped her hands together cheerfully. "Thought you'd be terribly bored, laid up like this." She pulled over a chair to sit in, and after missing it twice finally managed to place her behind on it. "Just some writing assignments... some puzzles... design some gear for me... oh, and get the summer solstice ceremony Gabrielle has to do ready." Thraso goggled at her. Thaleia laughed delightedly. "She hasn't even the foggiest notion of what she's gotten herself into... mu... er, Artemis does a part of it, so it's not all up to you." Reaching down, she dug a book and pen out of one unlaced boot.

"Best place to keep these, I've found... oh, and in bed, believe or not."

An almost uncomfortable awareness of the book, pen, and ink bottle nestled almost in the crook of her arm made Thraso twitch the blanket a bit self consciously. The Muse scribbling with vigour in her notebook didn't seem to notice.

"Artemis is a bit preoccupied right now... she's got so many joinings on the boil here in Arboria, she's terrified Aphrodite will try to officiate at hers... as a sort of, present..." Thaleia paused and chewed the at the end of her pen. "Aphrodite has excellent comic timing... she's in completely the wrong area." Another pause, then a squint. "Weeeeelll... maybe not... there's absolutely nothing funny about the colour pink, nothing!" Thaleia declared emphatically. "Anyway, ummm... do you have any idea what I meant to talk about, dear?" she asked Thraso gravely.

Luckily for Thraso, she didn't have time for an answer. "Never mind... it hardly matters... I'll remember in oh... a century or so, and let you know." Thaleia chattered on breezily. "Being as Artemis is a bit preoccupied, I've been asked, quite nicely, mind... to help a little with Gabrielle's third task." Stowing the book in her boot carefully, she murmured, "Must remind Ari not to put these in my left boot in the evening... took me hours to find it this morning." Looking back at her assistant, she remembered what she was supposed to be talking about just in time, and started again hurriedly.

"Catching a deer and a bear is rather tricky, what with one of them being inclined to eat the other, and Gabrielle a bit inexperienced at trapping that sort of thing... they're so awfully different from rabbits, you know." This was accompanied by a very grave look and a gentle hand placed on one of Thraso's forearms. It took most of the Emetchi's considerable will power not to burst out laughing.

"I've already got what you'll need to manage it... you keep this part." she handed Thraso a narrow, startlingly heavy bundle. "The rest is for Gabrielle... she'll have to figure out how it works, and no opening yours until you've got the deer and bear in question."

"But how..."

Thaleia waved off the question. "It will make perfect sense when you get there... most things in the future do, you know. The Fates like you to have some idea of what's happening." Standing up, she continued briskly, "Must be off... other arrangements, you know." A wink of one eye, then the Muse made for the window again. A tumble over the chair, a tumble over the end of the bed, and a final tumble out the window, followed by a merry cry of, "No, no, I'm perfectly all right, this sort of thing happens to me all the time!" and she was gone.

"As Eumache would say, 'I may have miscalculated, just a bit.'" Thraso muttered. "Oh well." Shrugging her shoulders a little, she dug one of the parchments from the rumpled chaos of the bag. 'The Psychosocial Ramifications of Hematite Pigment Use by Community Merriment Engineers: A red Nose, or Critical Social Statement?"

"Oh... my... gods!"


Gabrielle's gaze moved swiftly across the horizon, searching for the person who would soon be her helper... although, for assuaging warrior ego purposes, the term would be 'most valued assistant' of course. "Aha!" she exclaimed finally. "I thought you'd be on the practice field!" As she reached the field's perimeter, she grinned broadly as she saw who Xena was sparring with.

Xena's eyes narrowed, and she deftly knocked one chobo out of Eumache's hands. At some point, she wanted to force the other woman to switch to a heavy glaive. Point being, the heavier the weapon, the more they moved around, the more exhausted Eumache would get. Backflipping over her opponent's head and pulling her feet out from under her, Xena dove for her staff, and got ready for another flurry of blows. The way things were going, she was going to collapse before this outrageously horny Amazon did.

"Xena!" Eumache and Xena halted in midswing as the queen's voice rang out across the field. "Can I have a word with you?" she crossed her arms as her partner rolled her eyes. "It won't take long." she added.

"Ohhh..." Xena managed a sulky expression even as she deflected a crosswise blow with the end of her staff. "Just wait a bit, Gabrielle." She flicked her gaze to the bard for a breath, and brought it back to Eumache in time to duck a great swing that was hard enough to nearly throw the smaller woman off of her feet.

Gabrielle, being the wise woman she is, could see that even her Xena was no match for a half-Goddess in heat. Glancing around quickly, she spied a warrior holding a staff. "Can I borrow this for a moment?" she asked as she practically wrenched the piece of wood from the Amazon's hands. "Thanks, I'll bring it right back." With that she strode onto the field just in time to block another of Eumache's swipes that would certainly have knocked her love unconscious.

"Now, now, Eumache," stated Gabrielle as she stepped between Xena and the extremely flushed, dark haired Emetchi in the throes of libido frenzy. "Not fair to take advantage of my partner in your condition."

"My condition! My condition! You're making it sound like I'm pregnant, or something!" Eumache exploded, whirling her choboes in an impressive pattern around her torso. Gabrielle chuckled a bit as she watched the display. "Careful there, we wouldn't want to have to take you to see Cervexa because you clobbered yourself, you know." quipped the bard, twirling her staff in her own impressive manner.

"As if," snorted Eumache. She actually paused for breath. "I wonder if that's why my stomach's sore, though... overextending, NOT clobbering myself." And with that she nearly caught the bard napping with a couple of sharp hits that reverberated along the length of Gabrielle's staff.

"Owww! Heeeey! I wasn't ready!" yelped the bard as she took a reflexive step back.

Meanwhile, Xena had stretched out on the turf, crossing her legs at the ankles. "Keep your staff moving, Gabrielle... then next time Eumache tries that, your hands won't sting as bad." She rolled onto her side and settled her head on one hand. "Just out of curiosity, where is your stomach sore, Eumache?"

"I dunno... below my ribs... all over... I think it's the rotten food here, too. My stomach has been upset almost the entire time I've been here..." Eumache walloped Gabrielle's staff again. "And don't you 'I wasn't ready' me... I don't even let Thraso get away with that!"

"Yes, but I'm the Queen!" replied Gabrielle, executing one of her favourite moves, one designed to take the legs out from under an opponent. She was mildly surprised to find it expertly blocked.

"Gabrielle!" sighed Xena. "Your body language completely gave that move away!" The warrior rolled onto her stomach, starting to seriously enjoy herself. "Sore, stubbornly upset stomach... missed any important events lately, Eumache?"

Gabrielle spared a quick glance towards the warrior sprawled comfortably on the ground as Eumache prepared her next attack. "Xena, are you suggesting..." The bard's face lit up as the clue finally hit her. "Ohh!"

"What?" snapped Eumache, her innate sense of fairness forcing her to hold off, since Gabrielle was too distracted to protect herself properly. "What is she supposed to be sug..." she stopped dead. "No, no, no, nonono..." Both choboes plunked onto the ground, and she put her hands on her hips. "No, no, that's not possible, Thraso is not a Go..." Another abrupt stop as Eumache suddenly started counting furiously on her fingers. "Oh... that night in the STABLE!? ... in a stable, we managed that in a stable?"

"Hera's left tit. Thraso is going to be insufferably smug for moons... oooh, just wait till I tell her!" Grinning from ear to ear, Eumache turned and ran for the guest hut where her lover was struggling with the implications of red clown noses.

"Xena, you are amazing." stated Gabrielle as she returned the borrowed staff to its owner. "How did you know that?" Settling onto her back again, Xena tucked her hands beneath her head and drawled,

"I have many skills."

"Oh, that's it. Hmmm... well, it just so happens I am desperately in need of your many skills at this very moment." grinned the bard. A dark eyebrow travelled upward, as Xena pointedly looked Gabrielle up and down. She licked her lips. "Really?" she replied in a smokey tone... sparring with an incredibly horny Emetchi will wear off on you, after all.

"Oh yes, really." stated the bard. "In fact, I can definitely put those 'many skills' to use right now." Gabrielle grinned seductively. "Just follow me." And she turned and headed back the way she had come. Springing to her feet, Xena chuckled.

"Ah, my bard, don't you know by now, I'll follow you anywhere."

"I'm counting on it." smiled the bard, slipping her arm through Xena's as the warrior caught up.


There were wooden planks, everywhere. Some of them had even been transformed into a large platform, which the upcoming joining ceremony would be performed on. A few more were forming the frame of rows of seats, since Gabrielle had insisted that some non-collapsible butt warmers be provided. Eponin grimaced, and hauled several more planks over to the podium, in order to finish the steps that the priestess, Ephiny, and Callisto would use to get up on it. Funny as having them clamber onto the platform would be, chances were it would earn Eponin a week on the graveyard watch if she left them out.

A sharp thump came from underneath the platform where Solari was engaged in mysterious goings on. "Hey, Soli!" Eponin hollered, bending so she could project her voice into the cavity. "Get your feathers up here and help me out!"

A loud clunk and some muttered curses were heard as Solari poked her head up through the gap that the dais would be fitted onto. "Dammit Pony, why don't you get YOUR butt down here and help me hold this brace in place instead?" Her head disappeared again, attempting to lash the side supports to the main beam again. The other three were tied down, but now she had to tie things down while maintaining tension on the damn ropes. Gabrielle and her crazy plans... she hadn't run into even one that was easy to accomplish yet. This was turning out to be more work than it should have been, and just how was it that she and Pony always managed to draw the junk jobs? She sighed as the leather bindings once again fell loose around the beam. "Pony! I need some help down here!"

Eponin sighed. One shoulder was bracing up the main frame of the steps, because some idiot had pulled up the original post they were meant to be connected to. At the moment, she had a mallet in one hand and a post ready for pounding in the other. Her arms were killing her, her head was killing her, she was starting to think about emigrating to Ankitheas to protest being given so many rotten jobs... and she couldn't do two things at once, dammit!

The young Amazon she had tossed in the horsetrough walked into her line of vision, such as it was. "Hey you!" Eponin bellowed at her. "Get over here and help the captain out underneath the platform here... and if you get too friendly I'll kick your ass!"

The other Amazon hesitated, her gawky arms and legs twitching spasmodically. She was still waiting to fill out, and looked like she was waiting in vain. Another twitch, then she loped to the platform. Ducking, she managed to whack the top of her head on the edge anyway, and finally scrambled underneath, sorely tempting Eponin to kick her in the butt while she was at it.

"Hurry it up there, recruit... I can't hold this all day, you know!" ordered Solari, as she hitched the ropes tight around the post again. 'Gods, I am getting too old to be doing this kind of physical labour!' she thought as she strained to hold the ropes in place.

"Kay... Okay... sheesh it's small down here." the young Amazon complained. 'Slap her, Soli, slap her, do it for me!" Eponin thought to herself crabbily.

"Okay, here, hold this tight while I put this beam back in place," Solari pointed to a post that had begun to lean drunkenly. "then I'm going to tie these." instructed Solari, holding the ropes out for the young woman. 'DON'T let them go!" She walked around the girl and went to lever the pole straight with her back. "You ready?" The girl nodded her head. "All right, on the count of three I want you to pull on the ropes, so there's no slack as I straighten the pole, okay?" The young Amazon nodded, eyes nearly closed with fierce concentration. Then she grabbed hold of the bindings as instructed. And on the word three... let go.

Solari had only a moment to digest what was about to happen. "Oh no." was all she could get out before the pole and half the podium came crashing down around her. The hapless recruit, understanding that the weaponmaster was probably going to spit up her liver in a moment, dove out from under the uncollapsed side of the platform and ran like Cerberus was after her.

Seeing half the platform come down too fast for her to move, Eponin gasped out a horrified, "Hades' balls!" and leapt forward, desperately pulling the wreckage off of where she had last heard Solari's voice.

"What? No way are they that big, I've seen 'em." butted in Aphrodite from right over the weaponmaster's shoulder. "You've seen two, you've seen 'em all... unless you're Athena, in which case that's too many." The Goddess laughed as Eponin jumped nearly a full bodylength into the air in surprise. "Happy to see me, huh? Yeah, I know, mortals love me!" She took a moment to adjust her bustier, and settle everything back in place. Glancing around at the mess that was the joining podium just a moment before. "Yikes! What happened here? Artie pitch a hissy fit, or something?"

Having returned to the ground, Eponin leaned on the solid edge of the platform, wheezing. At the rate things were going, she was either going to keel over or throw up. Goddess, but she hated surprises! Forcing herself to breathe more slowly, she called hoarsely, "Soli, you okay?" A muffled sound came from under the planks and lengths of rope.

"Wowzers! Is that your little love kitten buried in there, Pony poo?" asked Dite, peering intently at the wreckage. "That must suck." She giggled and cocked her head. "Need a helping hand from a Goddess, babycakes?"

"B... h... yeah!" Eponin turned to Aphrodite. "Rescue her!" she gesticulated frantically to the disheveled podium.

"Okie dokie!" Cracking her knuckles, the blonde Goddess began chanting. "Eenie meenie minie mo, get those planks off Pony's beau!" A flash and suddenly all the boards were neatly in a pile next to what was left of the podium. Solari was sitting cross legged on the ground, arms covering her head, peeking warily from under them.

Aphrodite snapped her fingers. "Easy as pie, sweetcheeks!" she winked at Eponin. And now, now it was time for an exit, after all the love Goddess' greatest tool was surprise. An enticing aroma wafted over from the dining hall. "Ooh... dinner... think I'll ruffle some feathers in the food hut. Hate to save the damsel and run, but no opportunity to spread love can be speared!" Aphrodite declared virtuously, waving one index finger in the air. "Er, shall be spared... can be missed? Shall..." Aphrodite rolled her eyes and blew back a ringlet of hair. "Teach me to try to talk like one of my sisters." She turned back to the duo, who were now standing together, Eponin checking Solari for injuries. "No need to thank me, babes... gotta cruise before Gabrielle gets her hot little hands on my treat!" A poof, yet another stunning wave of perfume, and she disappeared.

Eponin licked her lips, feeling dizzy from the fumes. "Ah, Soli," she aid faintly. "I reeeally think I need to sit down." her knees wobbled dangerously.

"Yeah, me too." Solari swallowed. "Where did you say you left that wineskin, honey?"

"Uh..." Eponin swallowed. "By the steps, the frame, steps, frame thing, there..." she waved vaguely at the abandoned framework sitting forlornly beside the forgotten mallet and post.

Solari crawled over and retrieved the skin. Resuming her seat next to her lover, she uncorked the top and took a long pull. Finishing, she handed it over to Eponin. "Here you go, sweetie, you need this as much as I do."

It was at that most inopportune moment, as Eponin was trying desperately to drain the skin, that the queen happened to stroll casually by, arm in arm with Xena. Solari nudged the weaponmaster in the side as two sets of eyes turned questioningly to them. "Pony," she whispered. "Pony!"

"Shhh... I'm not drunk yet!" Eponin hissed determinedly.

Solari elbowed her partner in the ribs harder this time. "You won't need a drink to feel fuzzy in the head in a minute, if you don't lose the skin! Gabrielle will smack you unconscious with it!" With Solari's words, Eponin spat the rest of her mouthful out into the air, efficiently covering Xena's boots with the stuff. Solari just covered her eyes and shook her head.

"Gee Eponin, thanks. My boots needed a nip." drawled Xena.

Eponin looked at the warrior, completely aghast. "You're welcome." Then she fell over into the grass in a faint which she would vigourously deny later.

"Oh shooot! Pony! This is not a good time to leave me alone!" Solari frantically patted the weaponmaster's face, trying to wake her up. Feeling eyes on her, she glanced up sheepishly at her queen. "I suppose you'd like an explanation, huh?"

"That would be a start." replied Gabrielle, crossing her arms. Xena just smirked.

Solari cleared her throat. "Well, I was just helping finish the podium, minding my own business when..."


"Come on now Reenie, give them back." Artemis was standing on the other side of the bed from Cyrene, dressed in her tunic, vest, and undergarments, but minus her trousers. They were gripped firmly by the dark haired innkeeper, the sunlight from behind her bringing out the auburn in her hair. Of course, Artemis could have just taken them... but she far preferred this game.

"But those underpants are so cute." Cyrene declared, nearly losing the statement in laughter. The underpants in question had little smirking half moons all over them. Artemis flushed a little. "My mother gave them to me... look, you and I both know I can't run around in my underwear without getting arrested!" This was in reference to an experience she had had the first time she had stopped by Amphipolis, nearly forty winters earlier.

At the time, she had been traipsing all over Greece with a band of travelling players. Artemis was an excellent clown and acrobat, with a flair for poetry and stand up comedy that made her a crowd pleaser. Her fellow players were quite fond of her, and impressively patient with the strange things that she got confused over, and her absentmindedness. She tended to have a particularly bad time with 'polite small talk.' This was often demanded by the nobles the group occasionally performed for. Since 'polite small talk' consisted mainly of veiled insults and outright lies, and Artemis seemed constitutionally incapable of lying, her compatriots always rescued her from the scrum. It was an endearing habit which Artemis truly appreciated. After all, she had had enough misery with that stuff the one and only time she had put in an appearance at Mount Olympus.

She, Athena, and Aphrodite had drawn straws to see who would go, and Artemis had lost. So she had trudged over, booting around wisps of cloud and thinking up various forms of revenge, most of them involving locking her two older sisters in a room together. Athena would capitulate in less than a candlemark, she was sure of it.

The whole thing had been a bit of a disaster. Artemis had found herself standing beside Apollo in all his rather overbaked glory. He made kissy noises on each side of some minor Goddess' face when she came to say hello, then muttered as soon as she was out of earshot, "What has she done with her hair?" This had gone on for awhile, following the same basic pattern, until Artemis had asked, "Hey, Apollo, do you always act like a bitchy drag queen, or is today just not good for you?"

It was one of those 'Ooops' moments.

Anyway, Artemis was now in Amphipolis, which was still bustling despite the time. Apparently besides the troupe, there was a trade caravan in town.

She had sauntered into Cyrene's inn, wearing her favourite 'playing' gear. It was brown on one side and green on the other, with bronze buckles. Between that, her height and good looks, Artemis was quite impossible to miss. Or ignore, especially when she beaned someone who tried to touch her without permission with one of the apples she had been juggling. Finally reaching the bar, she waited for the innkeeper to appear.

After a few moments, a harried and surprisingly young woman bustled up to the bar, giving it a brisk polish as she asked, "Can I help you?"

Artemis blinked, feeling her train of thought derail and pile up somewhere. It then turned to trying to describe the beautiful, dark haired, cerrulean eyed woman in front of her. "How jealous Eos must be... your eyes are much more beautiful than the sky."

The innkeeper blinked in her turn, more than a bit stunned by the compliment. "Thank you," she hesitated. The other woman had a dazed look on her face, which made her wonder if she was intoxicated. "Are you all right?"

"Oh, I'm wonderful..." Now Artemis produced a crooked grin. "...have a drink with me, and I'll show you." Cyrene had raised one unimpressed eyebrow.

"Unique as having a woman like yourself make a pass at me is, that is not the sort of help available here." she said, rather severely.

The tall Goddess was nonplussed, not least because one of her favourite lines for flirting had just gone over like a stunned goose. The stunned goose thing was upsetting, because Artemis would have preferred to impress this person. Instead, all she had was a stunned goose, and not only are those things memorable, they just sort of lay there.

"Oh, well... how much for a room for the night and, ummm..." she glanced around the room. What was everyone else doing? Sometimes remembering all the details of being mortal was a bit tricky, especially around business-like, beautiful women, Artemis reflected. "...dinner."

"Three dinars." Cyrene replied promptly, finding this woman, who was doing a marvelously convincing impression of a fish completely out of water, all the more intriguing.

"Right, three dinars..." Artemis reached into a pouch at her belt, only to discover a slight problem. She had only a few coppers, contributed by a few people that evening when they had stopped and watched her practice a bit of her tumbling. She had tried just producing some money once, but the results had been without tarnish or scratches... and to top it off, the wrong name had been on the damned things. Add to that the fact that a few had had two sides the same, and she had given up on it... although the merchant she had tried to use the coins with had been so fascinated with the things that he had begged her to let him buy the lot. Sometimes mortals were just plain weird.

"A few coppers is all I've got." Artemis scowled, her very unGreek accent thickening with irritation. The innkeeper sighed softly. The other woman looked tired and in need of a decent meal. "All right... here's what I can do. You can sleep in the stableloft. It'll be warm and dry... and I'll send around some dinner." She paused. "Don't worry about it for now... pay me after you've had some time to work the crowds."

Three days had passed, with the troupe doing well. Artemis found herself almost constantly shadowed by children who were fascinated by her acrobatics and silliness, and her penchant for passing out wooden toys whenever she figure parents weren't looking.

The third night, the troupe performed in the inn. The act they put on required Artemis to be in drag, and had gone very well. A raucous, well endowed woman laughed merrily at all the jokes, and was polite enough to wait for the players to finish speaking or juggling or whatever before bellowing in stentorian tones for more ale. One such call occured while Artemis was standing fasirly close to her table, at which the Goddess had mock fallen to the floor, knocked down by the awesome power of the woman's voice.

A candlemark or so later, Cyrene had caught Artemis' arm as she walked by the bar. "Admetus," which was the name Artemis was using then, "I have an absolutely miserable headache, and the idea of going near those peels of thunder masquerading as a woman is giving me the horrors... please take this tray to her?" Artemis had grinned rakishly, and twirled her false moustache.

"Why certainly, wonderful lady with the sky in her eyes and the night in her hair." Cyrene laughed.

"Thank you... now go on, before you miss a cue, or something."

And so Artemis had picked up the tray, which held a pitcher of ale and a plate of stew, and threaded her way to the thunderwoman's table. "Here you are, ma'am." she drawled, smiling politely.

"Oh thank you, you handsome fellow." Thunderwoman batted her eyelashed provocatively. Eyes widening ever so slightly, Artemis bowed with a little flourish and turned to catch up with her compatriots.

"Maybe this drag thing is a little too convincing."

Thunderwoman reached over and gave Artemis a resounding pinch on the behind. Jumping in astonishment and clapping a hand to the offended region, Artemis spun around and hurriedly put a bit of distance between herself and the thunderwoman. Way too convincing.

"Oh, come on now... you're such a handsome fellow... I have plenty of money." Thunderwoman wiggled some of her assets, making it very clear what she had in mind. The entire inn was watching, most people apparently believing that this was all part of the show.

"Uh..." Artemis looked over at Armand, who was the troupe leader. He waved his hands a bit desperately, indicating he had no contingency plans for fending off the advances of thunderwomen who were convinced that a wooman in drag was a handsome, available male. But gods, he wished he had that problem.

Artemis' gaze flicked back to the thunderwoman. There was only one thing left to do. Blowing her hair out of her eyes, she turned to Armand, an expression of complete outrage on her face. "Did you see that? Did you?" Armand looked even more alarmed. "Unless you have forgotten, I am an arteest, not a, not a... boy toy!" Artemis clapped a shocked hand to her chest. "And you promised, you promised something like this would NOT happen again!"

"Uh..." Armand said in his turn. He hated it when Admetus improvised. He never really knew what she was going to do. "Admetus... I'm sorry..." he hurried over and hissed in a stage whisper, "She's a paying customer, what am I supposed to do?"

"Paying customer? Paying customer?"

"Please Admetus, be reasonable..."

"Oh no, no, no... not this time. I refuse! I refuse to let my Muse given gifts be treated this way... oh..." Artemis proceeded to weep on Arnmand's shoulder. "How can you expect me to work like this? Oh the shame..." and flinging an arm across her eyes, Artemis diappeared into the kitchen.

The entire inn was in sticthes, and even thunderwoman was finding it hugely amusing... well, okay, so such a huge woman could hardly find it smally anything... so Armand skillfully got matters on track again.

In the kitchen, Cyrene was laughing so hard the tars were running down her cheeks. Artemis was rubbing her injured posterior and struggling to get her false moustache straight again. "Here, here, let me do that, you're only making it worse since there's no mirror here." Cyrene straightened the thing only to have it fall off as the resin that held it in place gave up, leaving a glob on Artemis' upper lip. "Oh for..." Cyrene laughed agin, and without thinking, used her thumb to brush it off.

That moment stayed in her memory the way few did. Right then, she realized that she would never really leave Amphipolis again... even though if Cyrene ever knew the truth about her, she'd never let her stay.

That she was wrong about how Cyrene would react to knowing she was a Goddess would be understood at a much later moment.

Later that night, Artemis had begun struggling out of the rest of her costume and imagining how marvelous the bath she was about to step into would feel, when the door to her room flew open. It was the thunderwoman.

"You didn't really think I'd let you get away so easily, did you?"

The determined blonde had chased Artemis around the room, through the inn, and into the street. Artemis was at a complete loss. She was in her underclothes and the bindings beneath her loose tunic, which she had been about to take off. No one had ever acted toward her quite like this before, and she wasn't at all sure how best to deal with the situation. The matter had been taken out of her hands by the reeve, who had her arrested for running around in her underwear, and arrested thunder woman for causing a disturbance. Luckily they had been locked up in separate buildings. really, running around in her underwear was not a great idea.

"True, but then who says you'll be running around outside?" Cyrene replied, tucking the trousers under her arm.

"So, running around is part of the plan?"

"Well," Cyrene answered, grinning mischieviously. "I'd rather you didn't." She dumped the pants and walked around the bed, slipping her arms around her lover's waist. "Tell you what... meet me for lunch by the river... now that you've finally finished the furniture, I think you deserve..." she licked Artemis' chin. "...a reward." Then she left the room, ready to start breakfast for the guests.

"Whoa," Artemis chuckled softly and retrieved her trousers. "Could be a working lunch."


Cyrene smiled to herself, and patiently massaged the scented oil into her lover's back and shoulders. Artemis was sprawled on her stomach, mostly asleep. She purred happily as Cyrene finally stretched out beside her, clasping one of her hands and looking into her face.

"It's all your fault, you know."

"Is it?"

"Yes, before you came along, I never used to put the inn into Lisana's hands and take off... I never used to take off anything."

"Damn, no wonder you're so randy." That earned Artemis a mock slap.

"That's not what I meant!"

They laid together, watching the clouds and the birds drift in the sky. The wind pushed through the grass, bringing the sound of bending stalks and chattering leaves.



"Did you remember to let Xena know that she and Gabrielle would be able to have children together if they wanted?"

"Yes, I did." Artemis slowly ran one foot along Cyrene's calf.

"Hmmmmmm." Cyrene sighed happily. "And they're getting joined when?" A pair of dark eyebrows shot upward, and Artemis coughed a little.


"Dammit Artie, they had better be married before any pregnancies happen, or you'll be sleeping in the barn... for a candlemark, at least." Cyrene found herself engaged in a very long kiss. "Well... maybe half a candlemark..."


Eponin's eyes finally rolled open, revealing the cobwebby ceiling of the healer's hut. She tried to lift a hand to her face, only to find that her left was pinned down by a heavy weight. Looking over, she saw that the heavy weight was Solari. The captain was half on the bed and half on a rickety chair beside it, Eponin's left arm clasped to her like a teddy bear. A bit of finger twiddling resulted in Solari tightening her grip and nuzzling the weaponmaster's shoulder.

"Ahh, ain't that cute." snorted Cervexa as she stomped into the room, waving a birch twig broom in the general direction of the ceiling. A few more swings, and she had a sizable clump of cobweb, which she then stuffed in a pouch. After checking for any accidentally collected spiders, she snapped it shut. "'Bout damned time you woke up... I was almost ready for the salts."

Eponin shuddered. "Artemis, no... I know where those things came from." Lifting her right hand, she swiped at her face, which was damp with sweat. "I feel like I got run over by Jenna's cart." Cervexa snorted in disgust, and started mixing up a series of herbs at her worktable.

"That fool captain has been stuck to you like a burr... she must have work to do, and instead she's sittin' around here, gettin' in my way, and mooning over you like a lovestruck teenager." she growled crossly. Herbs finished, she brought over a concoction coloured like something Eponin absolutely did not want to think about. "I want you to drink this... it ain't like you to faint."

"I did NOT faint!" Eponin said vigourously.

"Yeah, and Xena likes to watch my ass when I walk, now hold your nose, shut your eyes, and drink this!" Somehow the order to close her eyes as well did nothing for Eponin's comfort level, but she did as she was told.

"Now," Cervexa growled, snatching away the cup. "Get outta here... I told you, I ain't got time for sick people!" This was said loud enough to wake Solari, who had begun to snore.

"W... what... Pony, you all right?" Eponin smiled, and couldn't resist tangling her fingers in the other Amazon's hair, and gazing into her eyes.

"I'm fine... shouldn't have been brought in here to begin with." she griped, pulling up her legs and gathering herself to leave the cot.

"Ah, I'm not so sure... it's not like you to faint." Solari replied.

"I did NOT faint!" exploded Eponin, wincing as her head throbbed.

"Do you hafta stand there taking up room? Or is it time to break out the mash..." Cervexa grinned evilly. "the salts before they crystallize." She waved a grungy coloured flask, and leered. A swishy, grating sound came from it.

Solari's eyes widened in alarm. "Pony, Pony... what the Tartarus is that?"

"Can't tell you that... weaponmaster initiation thing... let's get the furk out of here." and with that, Eponin was on her feet, the rough blanket hurled aside. Solari found herself with two eyes full of naked lover who threw on her skirt... backwards... her shirt, forwards... by luck only, and one boot. Then Eponin grabbed one of Solari's hands and dove for the door of the dimly lit hut.

"Hey, Pony, I didn't realize you had a tattoo there... didn't that hurt... aaack!!" The length of her arm ran out and she flew bodily out the door.

Eumache hurried toward the guest hut, struggling to figure out how to give Thraso the news. Somehow, 'Guess what, you knocked me up!' didn't seem quite right. Neither did, 'The most amazing thing happened while we had sex in that stable!' That thought drew a snort, and Eumache shook herself. Thraso was truly a bard at heart, because she tended to lean towards more euphemistic terms... that or she was a touch prudish. Eumache considered that, and some edible body paint Thraso had come home with from her diplomatic endeavors. No, not prudish... not at all... Thraso was just a bit reserved.

Abruptly, she found herself face to face with a bewildered guard captain and a half naked weaponmaster. Thunderstruck, she rubbed her eyes vigourously. Then watching as the two Amazons disappeared into Eponin's hut. A moment later, Cervexa's fierce profile popped out of one of the healing hut windows. "Hey!" she bawled at Eumache.

"For horses!" Eumache sang gaily back.

The healer scowled. "Everybody's a comic. You're goin' by the weapomaster's hut... if they're doin' what you wish you were, pound on the door!"

The Emetchi straightened up and replied gravely, "I most certainly will not knock!" A beat. "That is far too innocuous." She strolled on to the guest hut. "Maybe, maybe..." Her gaze fell on a barrel sitting by the foodhut. "Condiments." Laughing, she finally hauled open the guest hut door.

"Thr..." she stopped. Thraso was sprawled flat on her back, arms hanging off the sides of the cot, one bare foot stuck out of the blankets. A scroll covered in small, dense handwriting tangled itself in awkward folds on her chest. Her hair stuck out in all directions, and uncharacteristically, she was snoring loudly. Eumache raised her brows. "Something will have to be done about that."

Reaching out, she carefully removed the scroll. After a moment it was crunching and rattling to such an extent that she simply chucked it on the floor. The parchment was so thick, she could only pray it would rip. She disliked the really thick, over serious scrolls Thraso sometimes read intensely. She always seemed to read them before bed, which led to a level of bemusement that made foreplay a little tricky.

"Mache, do you have any idea what an overturned reclining, s-type fold is?" Thraso had popped out with one night, as Eumache nibbled her ear. Her reply had been,

"A physically impossible sexual position." and Thraso had taken the hint.

At last, settling down on the edge of the bed, she ran a gentle hand across her lover's chest. "Come on, Bunny, wake up."

A sharp snort, and one pale eye rolled open. "What did you just call me?"

"Bunny, because when you're happy you bounce like one."


"Yeah, I figure, there's a theme... bunny pajamas, bunny slippers, bunny ears... hey, there's a costume for the next Hekalene Festival!"

Thraso opened and shut her mouth a few times in outrage. "I will NOT tolerate being called Bunny!"





"Furry?" A loud choking noise.

"Had a moment of thought below the belt, did you, dear?" drawled Eumache.

"Kcchhh..." Thraso managed, to no avail, since of course the sound isn't at all like a real word.

"But you simply must have a nickname... I bet Xena has one." Eumache dipped both hands under the covers and under her lover's tunic, causing Thraso's eyes to roll up in her head.

Thraso sighed, and promptly began to settle into a semi somnolent state. Then, "Oooooh!" as Eumache suddenly changed tactics.

Eumache laughed helplessly. "How can someone with such a deep voice make a noise like that?"

Thraso rolled her eyes, which widened as Eumache produced a huge leer. "How about, Alues?"

"A long silence. "Grinder?"

"Mmmmhmmmm... you know why." Thraso blushed to the tips of her ears, and coughed. "No one will understand it but us." Eumache coaxed.

"Oh yeah?" Thraso couldn't repress a sultry, toothy grin. She wouldn't admit it outright, but she liked it, connotations and all.


"Does that mean I can call you Poly?" Two finely shaped eyebrows curved.

"Is that an implication?"

"Nuh uh... just the absolute truth. You're insatiable." Thraso chuckled indulgently. "And I am sooooooo glad."

Eumache smiled, and ran her fingers through her lover's hair, then watched in amusement as it stuck up again.

"I have some news for you."


"Closer, just a little closer, closer... NOT THAT CLOSE!" Artemis bellowed as her two helpers pushed a top heavy wagon, loaded with supplies for the inn until it rolled, pinning her against the front door. "Damn it, for this kind of help I could get a bunch of Ares' goons... they WANT to kill me, and they couldn't do me this much damage." She muttered crossly in her own language. Her helpers, having no idea what she was actually saying, took it as a cue to take a rest, and walked away.

"Hey!" she shouted in outrage, but was cut off from further comment by the inn door popping open and depositing her on the floor. An alarmed man stared at her, looking like he had just encountered a two headed purple snake with wings.

"It wasn't my fault!" he blurted.

"Yeah, yeah, get outta here, gimboid." growled Artemis, picking herself up and doing nothing for the hapless man, who, unable to climb over the wagon, flopped on his belly and squirmed underneath it.

"Okay, on to this junk." Artemis pulled open a crate, peering inside. "Doilies? Doilies?" her voice scaled upward, and she pulled out one of the dainties, holding it with the very tips of her fingers as if it had germs.

"Eeeeeyeech." The thing was dumped unceremoniously into the receptacle.

"What's this," Artemis pulled out a tightly sealed container, and examined its label. "Pig snouts in brine." Plunk, and Artemis scrubbed her hand on her trousers. "Yech. That's almost as bad as the doilies."

Cyrene slipped into the doorway with her, running her fingers along Artemis' side. "Ah, there's Penelope's doilies. She's been waiting quite impatiently for these." Peering into the crate herself, she pulled out the jar Artemis had tossed. "Oh, I've been waiting for these." She popped open the container and stuck her hand in it, drawing an expression of some consternation from her partner.

"What?" Cyrene asked. "I always have these things labeled like this. Otherwise they get stolen." The innkeeper popped a sweetmeat from the container into her lover's mouth. Artemis chewed it a little sheepishly.

"For all I know, mortals eat... pig snouts in brine."

"No, no... but I have heard of people eating cow's tongue."

Artemis shuddered. "And I didn't want to cheat, it hardly seemed worth it."

"No, you just cheat when you're feeling amourous." Cyrene teased, and laughed as Artemis blushed. "Don't... I like being such a powerful object of desire... but speaking of cheating," Cyrene set the jar down and pulled Artemis to sit with her on the back of the wagon. "Is there any particular reason you felt that Diodorus' footwear required hot porridge for breakfast?"

"Why, didn't you know, oatmeal is wondrous for foot cleaning," Artemis grinned winningly. "And it cures athlete's foot within seven days, or your money back guaranteed."

"Uh huh, and you never participate in the Rioting in spring, either." The innkeeper commented wryly. At first she had been absolutely furious with her lover over the porridge-in-boots incident. But, her lover was more than a bit mercurial, and couldn't be bothered to suffer fools at all, let alone gladly. So she had let it go, and allowed Lisana, who had laughed until she cried at how funny the man's reaction had been, not to be too unhappy about it.

Artemis grinned again. "Of course I do... that is when I... frolic." She punctuated the statement by hopping on one foot and waggling her arms like chicken wings.

"Clown!" snorted Cyrene. "And just what do you plan to do this season? After all, I certainly am not inclined to have you frolic with anyone but me."

"Well," Artemis drawled. "I was thinking, we could certainly frolic exclusively with each other... just not exclusively in the same place."

An eyebrow rose slowly. "And where, pray tell, haven't we done it yet?" Cyrene asked archly.

"If we build it, we will come." Artemis intoned somberly. Cyrene's face went from astonished to shocked to a huge grin accompanied by a belly laugh in an instant.

"You terrible thing... I think we just scandalized your priestess, who just ran away from the front of the inn holding her ears."

"Really? Sheesh, she needs a..."

"Don't say it!" Cyrene blurted, hurriedly covering her lover's mouth. "Somehow, some way, we have got to get something constructive done."

"Well, we could..."

"Not that!"


"That was certainly some story," Gabrielle commented, as she added another decoration to the precarious pile in Xena's arms. "And can you believe Eponin fainted? I wouldn't believe a word, except for the panic and mass exodus from the foodhut when Aphrodite popped in."

"Sure," Xena replied flatly, sulking vigourously.

"So, your mom is going to arrange for a nice priestess to perform our joining... someone uninclined to beat on us with the sacred scrolls."


A pause. "Hey, who performs your parents' joining, Xena?"

"I don't know." Xena sighed. "I don't even know what their ceremony consists of. For all I know, it starts with coating the Amazon queen in honey and feathers and culminates in an orgy."

Incredulous green eyes stared at her. "What?! Are you still mad at me?" Gabrielle asked a bit plaintively.

"No, not mad... just, put out." Xena sighed again. Maybe she was overreacting. Probably nerves, she decided ruefully. She had been trying to get away in order to get a ring for Gabrielle for the past two days, and there seemed to be no way to escape.

"What about this one?" Gabrielle held up a large model moth, complete with big feathers for antennae.

"For what?" asked Xena.

"The centrepiece on the head table." Gabrielle replied mischievously. "It's that or flowers."

"Oh, then let's use the moth." Xena said promptly.

"No, you maniac! How about... a quill and chakram... for ours, I mean. I think Ephiny and Callisto have their own ideas for the head table." The bard winked. Xena grinned, finally getting into the spirit a little.

"I could live with that."

"Cool! So what sort of dress do you want? I was thinking one with a train, and a bunch of Amazons can carry it... no?" Gabrielle teased, seeing the expression on Xena's face.

"No, no... with our luck we'd be attacked by rebels, and I'd have to strangle someone with it." Gabrielle winced.

"If it's not a bad war analogy, it's something morbid!" she threw up her hands in disgust.

"I'm inclined to consider it a reasonable possibility given the way you attract trouble." Xena replied, blowing at a bit of streamer that was tickling her under the chin.

"Oh no, I am not taking the blame for that, and we are not starting that debate again." and for good measure Gabrielle thumped a big box on top of the pile in her lover's arms.

"If bees were trouble, you'd be a patch of clover flowers." Xena growled, her voice somewhat muffled by the box now hiding her head and shoulders.

Gabrielle spun around and glared at her. This would have worked more effectively if Xena had been able to see it. The box looked suitably chastened, however.

"Where's this stuff supposed to go? Some other low ceilinged, dusty room in the very back?" A reasonable question which Gabriele, who was feeling unreasonable, had no wish to answer.

"This way!" she ordered and marched off.

"Ho boy," sighed Xena. "Good thing I have good ears." she wandered after the bard.


"So we're having a baby." Eumache finally made it to the end of her little speech. All told, she was quite proud of herself, having hit all the required explanation spots. A brief silence.

"B... b... baby... as in, little tiny person, needs diapers and lots of cuddling, not much hair?"

"The last part can be debated, but yeah."

"Oh, okay." Thraso took a couple of breaths, feeling a bit of bounciness coming on. "This is a you and me happening, I know, as opposed to a somebody else happening... or an alternate happening..." she stopped short, realizing that she was just rambling while her brain tried valiantly to catch up. "Umm, I think my brain is hiding under the bed... kind of a lot to take in."

Eumache grinned. "That explains a number of things, including your propensity for sliding under the table during council meetings." The words went right over Thraso's head, which was in danger of spinning.

Finally, "Hey, you mean, now we can look forward to tormenting hapless instructors at evaluation times? And Queen Prothoe will stop nagging us about..." another stop. Thraso leaned towards Eumache's hand and grabbed it. "But seriously, I think this is just completely cool for itself... err, ummm... you know what I mean."

"Yes, I do?"

"Cool... we'll have to find a morning sickness remedy pretty soon though, because green isn't your colour." Thraso's tone gentled, and she gave her lover's hand a tug. "I need to sit up."

"Are you sure?"


"Oh, alright."

Thraso found herself sitting up at a snail's pace, and almost laughed. Her partner's grave expression convinced her not to. At last upright, she gave Eumache another tug and caught her up in a bear hug.

"You are incredible. Thank you for all those incredible things you do... and the one you're doing now." Catching Eumache's eye she added, "I love you."

Dark eyes blinked a couple of times. "Thraso," Eumache said slowly. "That is the most wonderful, and the most mushy thing you've ever said to me. Say it again!"

"Say what?" Thraso asked, feigning innocence.

"The last three words especially, say it again."

"Oh, I dunno, Mache, that might be my quota for today."


"Okay, okay... I love you." Thraso smiled happily as Eumache squeezed her tight and settled her head back on her shoulder.

"And again."


"Yeah, if you've got a quota, your behind for moonsworth."

"Ohhhh... I get it... okay..." It was a rather daft little game, but Thraso had never claimed not to be at least a little daft. 'One of the most important things ever... and I said everything right!' She thought delightedly between sentences. She even imagined a cheering crowd, and a celebratory mug of ale for good measure. Then Thraso returned her complete attention to the task at hand, which was beginning to get more... involved.


The boardwalk outside Cyrene's inn rattled. Thump, thump, slow, measured footfalls. They stopped, clomp, in front of the main doors. A moment of silence during which one of the current two patrons of the tavern hiccuped, while the other settled slowly into the corner. The doors swung open, and at first no one was visible. Then, Aphrodite swept in, pausing just inside the door to give her bust a jiggle and her hair a pat.

"Hello... like, is anybody home?" A hiccup answered her from some distance away. "Ewww... not you, liquor breath is so bogus." She had barely finished the words when Cyrene bustled out of the kitchen carrying a bucket of water.

"Right, Caius, out!" she dumped half the bucket over his head. "Go on, go home!" A few deft smacks with the broom she picked up from behind the bar, and the little man listed out the door, majestic as a water logged trireme.

"You too, Leo, off with you." Leo scrambled to his feet at the sight of the gently sloshing bucket. It took him a moment to get his behind unwedged from the corner, then he left hurriedly, leaving his hat in a squashed state in the middle of the table.

"Excellent." Cyrene said briskly, doing a few moves with the broom, then depositing it and the bucket behind the bar. "May I..." she blinked. "Oh, hello, Aphrodite." She motioned Aphrodite to a seat and sat down across from her. "I wonder," the innkeeper said hesitantly. "What you'd like."

"Just to talk to my baby sister, sweetcheeks." the Goddess leaned back. "I could live with some of that bodacious ale, too."

Cyrene rolled her eyes. "Both you and Artie are alarmingly fond of it." A pause as she obligingly poured a mugful of the stuff. "I must admit, I was a little worried to see you."' Since Artie and I plan to get joined soon.' she added silently.

"Nah, my work here is done like dinner..." A long drink, followed by a rather shocking belch. "Tubular... anybody else just really getting together, I'd, you know help along, but nah... Artie's got her hands all over you."

A loud bang followed by an exclamation of, "Ouooooch!" came from the kitchen, where Artemis was ostensibly boiling water. Unfortunately, pressing one ear against the kitchen door had led her to wash the floor instead.

"Only if I don't catch her first." Cyrene replied without turning a hair.

The kitchen door flew open, and Lisana pushed Artemis out of it, both women's boots making slapping noises on the floor.

"Shoo! Shoo! You're supposed to be boiling water, not floating the inn!" Shaking her head in some disgust, she lifted the hem of her skirt, tutting as it dripped water collected from the newly sodden floor.

For her part, Artemis carefully shook off each foot, then sat down beside Cyrene. "I think there should be one big handle, instead of two small ones. Those little ones like to migrate."

"Migrate." Cyrene replied flatly.

"Uh huh, each spring they return to their original positions from the opposite side, occasionally switching with the crock pot handles."

Slow finger tapping was the only reply for several moments. "The crock pots?"

"Yeah, the frying pans are snobs."

On to Part 5
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