Author's Note: The Foglios own, I don't. All characters and situations depicted are the property of Phil and Kaja Foglio, the creators of Girl Genius (aka the webcomic that has taken over my brain).

This is set in a hypothetical future, where things have calmed down, at least for a bit. The Baron knows Zeetha is his daughter (speculation at this point in the comic, but I think it's plausible) and Zeetha and Maxim are currently in a relationship, albeit a rather informal one, and one that they're not very public with.

And now, the story!

Getting used to being around her father was difficult. She wasn't used to taking orders, and definitely not ones disguised as 'fatherly advice' from someone who'd walked out on her mother before Zeetha had even been born. Admittedly, he'd had his reasons – protecting Gil, for one, and she didn't blame him for that, but it still chafed a bit. 'Overprotective', as Gil had put it, only went halfway. Sometimes she thought that it was code for 'man who will meddle in every aspect of your life'. Times like now, for instance.

It'd started out simple enough, just a friendly chat as they tried to get to know each other better. She imagined it was rather disconcerting for him to realize that she knew far more about him than he about her, which was why she went along with it. Today, however….today had not gone well. They'd been sitting in a small room, one of the ones Agatha was letting the Baron use while he was at Castle Heterodyne, when the trouble started.

"There's a bit of a chill in here. Perhaps you ought to change into something warmer," he'd suggested.

"I'm fine, but thank you," she'd replied. She was wearing her vest and trousers, as usual, and had felt no chill whatsoever. She wondered what he was getting at. "My usual gear is plenty comfortable."

"Perhaps you should put on a blouse, just in case," he countered.

Her eyes narrowed. Ah. "I'm fine," she repeated, stepping out of the room. "It –is- nearly midsummer, after all."

"Zeetha!" He called after her. "Just like her mother," she heard him mutter, before making her way down the hallway. Idly, she wondered what everyone else was up to. Agatha was in one of the labs with Gil, working on something involving the Torchmen, at least from what she'd overheard them discussing at breakfast. She headed out to the courtyard in search of something to do.

The courtyard was mostly empty, save for Oggie, Dimo, and Maxim. They were sparring, in a friendly sort of way; not really fighting, more keeping their skills sharp, interspersed with banter and insults being exchanged between the three.

"Mind if I join in?" she called. Maxim turned to look at her, allowing Oggie to ambush him, launching himself at Maxim with a "rhaa!" Maxim ducked, grabbing Oggie by the collar of his shirt and pinning him in a choke hold before nodding to Zeetha. "Sure, vhy not?" Drawing her blades, Zeetha entered the fray, enjoying the challenge of having to fight off three opponents at once, each with their own style of fighting.

She knew Maxim had been a cavalry officer, and had gotten formal sword training: it showed in the way he maneuvered his blade, raw strength tempered by elegance. It was impressive, to say the least. She parried him with one blade, holding Oggie and Dimo off with the other and the occasional hand-to-hand move. Outnumbered and perhaps even outmatched, she was still having fun. This was what she loved to do.

Soon it was just the two of them fighting, Oggie and Dimo having retreated to the edge of the courtyard, watching. She barely registered their departure; her mind was focused on her opponent as she matched him blow for blow, her two blades against his one. Thrust, parry, dodge, strike: the world seemed to lose focus until it was just him, his presence occupying her mind, the rest shoved to the side as irrelevant.

Clang! She struck his blade with one of hers, the two swords locking at the hilt, pinning them body-to-body. She'd had this happen before, once or twice, with previous opponents: the best way was to twist and duck, freeing yourself before the opponent could react. But in this case, his presence, the way his chest was pressed against hers, his face just inches away, not even breathing hard despite the exertion of the fight, it made her mind go down pathways it didn't usually pursue when she fought.

Leaning in, she kissed him, her lips pressing against his in a gesture just as powerful and fierce as her swordplay. He looked bewildered for a moment, his eyes wide with shock, before returning the kiss just as passionately, his rapier dropping to the ground as he moved to embrace her. Her blades slipped from her hands as he deepened the kiss, thoroughly distracting her from anything else. One of his hands rested at the small of her back, the other winding its way beneath her vest as she tangled her fingers in his hair, pulling him closer. His hand toyed with the ends of her breastband as her other hand moved to his rear, and she dimly realized that she'd need to come up for air sometime, but not now, not with his tongue twining with hers and not wanting this to stop, and then she heard the slam of the castle doors.

"Gah-!" Reality snapped back like a bucket of cold water to the brain. Untangling themselves from each other, slightly sheepish looks on their faces, Zeetha realized that, getting caught up in the moment aside, the courtyard of Castle Heterodyne probably wasn't the best place for such activities. She also realized that any hope of keeping their relationship quiet was sunk, given that anyone could've seen them from one of the many, many windows looking out onto the courtyard.

As it was, Gil (who was the one who had shouted, she realized) was looking surprised, and slightly jealous. Idly she wondered just how far her zumil had gotten with him before shoving that aside to ponder. She could always ask Agatha, who, at the moment, was looking at Gil, a slight smirk on her face. 'Definitely ask Agatha later,' she thought.