Rating: G. It's Disney, after all.

Disclaimer: All characters mentioned, except for Katya and Kia, belong to Walt Disney, even though he's dead.

Emperor Kuzco stood at the front of his Macedonian summer home, watching with a twinge of regret as it was locked and carefully boarded up by the last of his soldiers. The first leaves had began to fall, and the streams and rivers in the area were becoming chilly, the first signs that summer had ended for good- the first signs that his vacation was ending, and it was time for him to return to the palace.

He moaned inwardly. The very THOUGHT of returning to that gloomy pit was depressing. He was so intent on his thoughts that he didn't even see the large figure of his friend, Pacha, appear beside him.

"Emperor- Ku-"

"Argh!" Kuzco screamed, whirling around. When he saw that it was only Pacha, he sucked in his breath in relief. "Jeez, Pacha! Someone as big as you should make at least a decent amount of noise when they walk!"

Pacha, not in the least offended, merely laughed and gave the younger man a slap on the back that nearly sent him sprawling. "I'm going to miss having you around."

"And I'm going to miss having a spine." Kuzco glared up at his friend in mock anger, rubbing his back, then threw his arms around him in a giant bear hug. "Man, I don't know why your family won't come and live in the palace, like I asked you to," he complained. "There's nothing to do in this dump."

"Which is why you stayed for an entire summer and half the fall, I'm assuming."

Kuzco rolled his eyes, but persisted. "I mean it. Come and I'll make you one of my advisors- you're my only link to a conscience, y' know. Plus, I can't see you botching the job any more than Yzma did." Their eyes followed the form of an elegant white Persian cat, who was sitting on a windowsill, glaring out. When she saw Kuzco looking at her, she arched her back and hissed. He shuddered.

Pacha laughed good-naturedly. "Your highness, I'm flattered, especially by the Yzma reference, but I've got to refuse. Harvest is coming, and I have to help the others gather the crops. Plus- I can't see myself living anywhere else. I know that you, more than anyone, must understand that."

Kuzco looked at him craftily, playing his last-and best card. "But you'll separate me from Ku." He cast his best beseeching look over at Pacha's wife, Chicha, who had their four-month old child, christened Kuzco ("Ku" for short) after the emperor himself, tied to her hip with a colorful swath of fabric. "My first and only godchild! You wouldn't be THAT cruel."

Pacha's broad, kindhearted face took on a worried look for a moment; then he caught the gleam in Kuzco's eye and laughed again. "You're good."

Kuzco rolled his eyes. "There's no persuading you, I see. But at least come back to the palace with me for a couple of weeks. Bring everyone. It'll be nice to have you there when we're not being chased, falling to our deaths on waterfalls, or turning into animals."


"C'mon, man. It'll be a blast. I'll have you home in time for harvest; you have my word."

Pacha considered for a moment before shrugging. "Oh...why not? If its okay with Chicha, that is...."

"BOOM, baby!"

Kuzco was already tearing down the hill that led up to his house, grabbing Ku from his surprised mother in the process, whooping at the top of his lungs. He yelled out orders to all his guards for extra provisions to be made for a family of five, and then leaped into the waterfall, holding Ku over his head, who was screaming with laughter.

Hitting the pool below with a memorable splash, they sent an icy wave of water over the grass and onto Chicha, who had followed them, screaming when she saw him jump, then demanding that he put her child down, scolding profusely. Pacha closed his eyes, then opened them in time to see his wife- (grabbing the emperor's ear! the EMPEROR!!!) pulling him out of the water, rescuing her baby.

"No touchie!" he squalled, trying to wiggle out of her grasp, rubbing his ear. Pacha's two other children joined in the chaos, yanking on their mother's legs till all had taken the plunge, Kuzco laughing like a maniac the entire time. Pacha shook his head and headed up the hill to pack. Kuzco certainly had changed.

Kuzco's troupe began their travel the very next day, Pacha at the head of the group. Since it was the emperor's caravan, they were going with the best of luxuries- rich food delivered by runners from local roadside diners, heavy tents lined with velvet and rich embroidery, llamas and camels for everyone to ride on, even down to an old, tame donkey to carry Ku.

The entire trip was a long, leisurely affair, the travelers stopping to eat, drink, hunt, and just play. Pacha and Kuzco took turns telling ghost stories to the little ones, consoling them when they screamed at night, burning food over the fire, stomping out the fires, and generally just having a fantastic, idyllic time in the wild.

They camped beneath the spray of the famous waterfall that Kuzco and Pacha had nearly killed themselves on, and Kuzco showed them the panther's den where he'd nearly been eaten. Pacha took the entire group- soldiers and all- to the diner where Kuzco, as a llama, had managed to sneak in without detection- and with the family's help, got him to taste the pillbug special, and then cleaned up the mess he made hurling it up afterwards. It was nearly a week before they reached the palace.

"I'm baaaaccckkkk!" Kuzco threw open the door to his throne room with a flourish, heading for his inner chambers, all the while noticing with satisfaction that that all traces of Yzma's little coup had been completely erased from the rooms. Stripping off his dusty outer robe and wadding it in a ball, he headed for the baths, dreaming of a good wash, shampoo, and massage. Lord knew he needed it.

"Your highness!" Kuzco was startled when a short, round man in stiff white linen robes burst out of an adjacent room, waving his arms, bowing his way over. "Emperor Kuzco! Welcome back! I trust your Excellency had a pleasant vacation..."

"That I did, Kuta, that I did. Thanks for asking." Kuzco tossed the robe to a nearby guard, who caught it by instinct. "Get rid of that for me, would ya, pal?" he quickened his steps, trying to outrun Kuta, but the smaller man still managed to keep up. "Your highness," he said, "There are matters pressing here in the palace and...."

"Can't I take a bath first? I think things are GROWING on my skin. Plus, there is NO WAY I'm gonna break out this week. Not when I'm entertaining."

"I understand that fully, your grace. Still, there are certain matters which really cannot be delayed, though your Excellency's admirable attentions to hygiene is certainly not to be regarded lightly....."

Kuta's voice faded into nothingness as Kuzco focused on getting to the baths quicker, pulling one sandal off after the other, pitching them into a courtyard fountain, and yanking off his inner tunic, leaving only a white loincloth. Boy, this guy talks a lot, Kuzco thought, still vaguely hearing Kuta's droning. A bath's going to feel good, as soon as I can get rid of this sucker. He reached the bathing room and cut him off at the door with a "thanks, man, talk to you later," and a well-timed slam of the door. "Oh yeah," he remembered as soon as he shut the door, looking down. "Kuta!" He yelled out the door again.

"Your Majesty?"

"Get rid of this for me, will ya?" Kuzco held out the handle of a delicate gold leash, a scowling white Persian cat on the end. "Tell the stableman to make her a bed in the barn or something, will you? Oh, and keep an eye on her. She's a dangerous cat. I suggest solitary confinement."

Kuta dumbfoundedly took the leash. "You have a CAT, your highness?"

Yzma could take no more. "I'm no CAT, you fool!" she spit. "I'll get you, Kuzco, if it's the last thing I....."

"Ll-l-l-l-lady Yzma?" The look on Kuta's face made Kuzco sure he'd shocked at least ten years off the man's life.

"The one and only," Kuzco replied. "A living example of what happens to people who try to overthrow MOI. Ta! Oh, and thanks a lot, Kuta." He closed the door again.

Kuzco strolled over to a mirror, admiring his reflection, as he always did. Over the summer, since he'd been in a village where he actually had to walk and climb rocks and stairs and other things of that nature without the constant aid of servants, he'd added quite a bit of muscle to his skinny frame, and was very tan. His HAIR, though-

"Oh, MAN," he groaned. "I look more like a llama than I did when I was a llama! Barber!!"

He threw himself in the pool, headfirst, then surfaced at the top of the scented water, floating on his back. The barber arrived in due time, and soon Kuzco's hair was back in the same neat, shiny coif he'd left the palace with. Yanking on a clean white undertunic, he ordered a guard to summon Kuta. "Might as well hear what he has to say." He threw himself on a plush settee, waiting.

The door creaked open, and instead of Kuta, a young woman walked in, dressed in a simple buttercream-colored robe, several other robes draped over one arm. Her dark hair, bound in a simple braid, was hidden under a striped head scarf, and her round face was stretched into a warm smile. "Emperor," she said, and bowed formally.

"Anya!" Kuzco sat up straight, giving his royal dresser a warm smile. "How are you?"

"Fine. How was your vacation, Kuzco?"

He sat back and relaxed. "Fantastic. I was livin' large the whole summer."

"That's good to hear. Get up, now- I've got a whole new line of robes I've been dying to try on you."

Kuzco obeyed meekly, allowing Anya to measure his arms, legs, and torso. He'd known her since he was born. As the daughter of his late father's chief valet, she had grown up in the palace. Her mother had been Kuzco's nurse, and the two had practically been raised together.

Nine years older than him, she'd been babysitting him since he was a year old and had become his formal dresser when he turned sixteen. Her Egyptian- style clothing (her father was of Egyptian descent) and sense of style appealed to him, as did her penchant for honesty. She wasn't afraid to say what she was thinking at any time, and he kept her around in respect for their late fathers.

"Ouch!" he complained as she hit a snarl in his hair. "Careful, woman!"

"You JUST got it cut. How on earth is it tangled already?"

"Don't ask ME. Just do your job."

She rolled her eyes, and with a stern "hold still!" she continued. Kuzco actually felt bad for a minute, but was distracted when she draped his new robes around him, covering his body with heavily embroidered fabric in blue, gold, and white. He preened in front of the mirror, prancing up and down, adjusting the heavy gold belt at his waist. "I'm beautiful!"

Anya rolled her eyes again, but was inwardly pleased at her handiwork. "You are truly the vainest human being I know," she said.

"AND the best looking! Admit it."

Anya laughed and headed for the door, gathering all the robes, combs and lotions she'd used, gliding gracefully across the floor. "I'll call Kuta for you." She paused at the door. "By the way- you've gained some bulk this summer. Keep it up."

"Thanks, lady."

Kuta came in, looking nervous, wringing his hands. "Your highness," he fawned, bowing his way to Kuzco's side.

Good lord, the man is going to tip over of he bows one more time. "Kuta! My main right-side man! What's up?"

"Well, sire, do you recall that before your....altercation with the Lady Yzma, you were.....in the process of selecting a bride?"

"Yeah, and you had the nerve to bring those frights to my throne room...has the floor been washed, by the way? Cuz, that Cher-hair chick's feet looked a little iffy..............tell me, should I wear a smaller crown with this, or just go with the gold comb?"

Looking all the more nervous, Kuta stammered out a reply. "Well....your grace...I mean, your Excellency....Sire, you are to be married!"

Is this guy an idiot? What is he....? "Yes, Kuta, I AM aware of that. When I FINALLY choose a wife, probably in another couple of years, I'll....." a sudden look of understanding dawned over his face. "Ooooohhhhhh. I get it. Look, if you wanted an early invite to my wedding, all you had to do was ASK. You can come, I guess- I'll find something for you to do- you CAN pour wine, right?" He readjusted his crown.

"Your highness," Kuta stuttered, "Nothing would be more felicitous than for me to attend the wedding of your Excellency, in any capacity- however...."

"Out with it, Kuta! This outfit is too good to waste in HERE talking to you ALL day, much as I'd like to. Just say what you have to say! Can't be worse than me turning into a llama!"

"You're Majesty," Kuta spluttered, "You ARE to be married! Next Saturday! By royal decree, if you have not selected a bride by your eighteenth birthday, one is selected for you by the court for political advantages only. In your absence, the court selected a young woman for you to marry. You will wed next week. She's a young woman from Greece, the Grecian king's youngest daughter. Your marriage will mean great wealth and land added to your kingdom."

Having finished his impressive speech, Kuta wiped his brow. "Your Highness? Emperor Kuzco!"

He had fainted flat on the ground.