A/N: Nope, it's not a mirage.
To a couple of new reviewers – please read the author's notes at the bottom of my profile.
To everyone else – after (oh God) five years' procrastination and twiddling, all of the previous chapters have been edited and slightly re-written in order to clear up spelling, punctuation, grammar, a few plot holes, and to give more detail to the story. Or something like that.
Now that that's done, on with the fic, and my apologies for the insane wait!
Hades: Yeah, and watch as she tries to fill two extra pages where the responses would be.
Melora: I point out that after nearly 50 chapters, it was getting a bit daft trying to reply to everyone in print.
Hades: Didn't stop you trying.
Melora: People send me reviews ordering me to annoy you and torture your brother. This is a good thing!
Hades: And I still resent the first part.
Disclaimer: See previous chapters for the complete list. Disney owns everything that I don't!
/…/ denotes thoughts
/italics/ denotes canine communication
-…- denotes baby communication
I Won't Say It: Part 49
Cronus frowned as he leaned over the playpen and stared down at the four occupants, all currently oblivious to their grandfather's stony gaze.
'So when wuz I gonna get told about th' other lil' dudes?'
The assembled pantheon watched in rapidly growing horror as one of the aged Titan's gnarled hands reached into the playpen and carefully extracted one of its occupants for a closer look.
It was exactly what Rhea had feared all along. Even ten centuries worth of mind-altering chemicals couldn't change the essence of a person, not even a god.
Persephone buried her head in Hades's chest, not wanting to see what happened next.
She felt Hades's arms tighten around her and pull her towards the playpen.
The Lord of the Dead nearly collapsed with relief as he managed to get a glance into the playpen, counting two heads of black hair topped with blue flames. So the twins had gotten a reprieve for a few minutes. Doing a few frantic mental calculations, he figured that if his father was busy with one of the other brats, he and Seph would get just long enough to grab a kid each and then run like half of Erebus was on their heels.
The god of time studied the child he had lifted for a second, and then settled her into the crook of his arm. Poseidon elbowed Hades out of the way, earning a patented Glare O' Death for his actions, and lunged forward, trident raised as he caught a glimpse of green and blue scales covered in sand.
His daughter, his little tadpole, was now sitting in the arms of a god who believed that cannibalism was a fun day's activity for all the family.
And she was…smiling?
Waiiiit a second.
Rhode was never that trusting. This was a baby that could scream loud enough to give Scylla tinnitus if she was in the presence of anyone she didn't know and didn't trust as far as she could puke.
So why was she smiling?
The god of the sea edged tentatively around Cronus's wiry frame and stared in complete bewilderment.
His daughter was now giggling hysterically as she stared up at her grandfather, who was wearing a grin of delight as he studied the little goddess.
'Heeeey…you're a cute lil' lady, ain'cha?'
He gently tapped Rhode's nose with a finger, then reached into the playpen once more and placed a well-worn siren dolly into the little goddess's hands. 'And who's this you got with ya? She your friend? She's a pretty lil' thing too. Not as cute as you though, lil' lady.'
He tilted his head as though a thought had occurred to him. Given his current mental state, what that thought might consist of would be debateable.
'Y'know, you kinda look like lil' Fishie Dude, 'cept you're a lady an' all.'
He glanced down at his middle son and carefully held Rhode up, his eyes flickering back and forth as he studied their faces.
'Yeah…so lil' Fishie Dude got himself a lil' dude of his own! Cool.'
Poseidon risked moving a little closer to the oddly endearing tableau and reached up for his daughter. Rhode squealed at the sight of her daddy and reached a hand out to him, the other still clutching her siren dolly.
The god of time registered the newcomer and grinned as he passed the little goddess to her father, watching as the two deities settled into Daddy-Daughter cuddle mode.
'This is Rhode, Popsie. Just coming up on six months.'
Cronus's grin softened as he watched Rhode snuggle into her father's embrace. 'Awww. She's a real sweet lil' thing.'
A tiny frown creased the wrinkled brow a little further.
'Don' remember you lookin' that cute.'
Poseidon rolled his eyes and sighed as his daughter nestled closer to his chest.
The entire pantheon let out a collective sigh of relief. Persephone felt her knees shift rapidly to the consistency and strength of hummus as she leaned against Hades.
There might just be a chance yet…
'An' this lil' guy…?'
Cronus's hand reached into the playpen again. The god of time rapidly withdrew the limb and looked mildly surprised as a very small trident was jabbed towards his fingers.
'No gettin' picked up by dumb grown-ups! Me big boy! Me gonna blast grown-ups good!'
Taking the advantage, the god of time managed to pluck the toddler god out of the playpen by the back of his robes and held him up to eye-level. To his credit, Albion didn't flinch or bawl. He simply stared mutinously at the god before him, meeting his eyes glare-for-glare.
'You givin' out bad vibes, man. Go easy on the shoutin', s'not cool ta yell.'
The god of mariners blinked and stared at his grandfather in mild amazement. This was different. A grown-up who didn't yell at him if he said he was a big boy? That had never happened before.
Cronus's face softened and reshaped itself into a grin.
'Cronus, leader o' the Titans and god o' time. You're one tough lil' guy, what'd they call you round here?'
Albion beamed at the compliment, immediately straightened up as much as he could and held his trident proudly by his side, just as he had seen Daddy do.
'Albion. Me expor-er. Me brave god like Daddy.'
Unseen by the piscine portion of his family, Hades rolled his eyes.
Bravery and Po-po.
It sounded pretty much like monogamy and Zeus.
Nope, not seeing it.
Persephone held back a small sniggering fit, most of which she was blaming on relief. 'Awww. That's actually cute in a mildly nauseating sort of way.'
'Hey, beats the hell outta 'agony in an emotionally scarring' kinda way.'
Bremos raised an eyebrow at the scene before him and looked revolted. 'Say what you want Dad, but if family bonding with Grandpa involves getting me picked up and getting forced to make with the nice-nice, I may actually be sick into my own scorn.'
'Again brat, you miss the subtleties of the family unit. You make with the adolescent sniping, the twins make with the bodily fluids. Capiche?'
Persephone glanced up at Cronus as he carefully returned Albion to the playpen and then stared in amazement at the other occupants.
'I'll take it no-one's told him the twins don't respond well to cuddles after lunch?'
Hades shrugged and tightened his grip around his wife's waist.
'Meh. Some people get a baptism by fire. Dad'll just get a baptism by barf. Either one works for me.'
Something wasn't quite right.
Something wasn't quite right at all.
After many bouts with siblings and the Grecian bestiary in general, Cerberus was fully aware of how a fight between a dog and a kitty was meant to go. The dog had to bark and growl while the kitty swiped at the dog with their claws. The dog would start whimpering if the claws hit their nose, or they would try and go for the kitty's back if they missed.
Then it would all get a bit messy, painful, and confusing, but it would end with the kitty running off yowling, and the dog would be all scratched up and sore, but at least the dog would have won!
Unless the dog wasn't feeling well, in which case they'd let the kitty win, and make the kitty think they'd won so that they could get better and then have the real fight!
The three-headed dog tilted his heads in confusion as he watched Anubis and Bast trying to tear each other new belly-buttons.
Or at least what looked like them trying to tear each other new belly-buttons.
Atop the guard dog's middle head, Nefertem clung tightly to his adoptive uncle's ears and watched with equal, if not greater confusion.
'What's Mom doin'? She doesn't do this when she's fighting the jackals outside Alexandria.'
Cerberus crossed his eyes as he tried to focus on the eldest of his kitty-pups.
/What does she do to the jackals?/
'Goes for 'em like Great-Uncle Set. Teeth, claws, limbs, blood, pus. Y'know, the usual.'
The giant guard-dog frowned at the spectacle before him.
/I don't see any blood. Or pus. Or any of those things./
Maa'hes was still watching his mother and uncle spar with the kind of innocent glee typical to someone of his age.
Or as much innocent glee as he could get, being a cat.
Imhotep scratched his ear with a back paw while he kept his front paws on his youngest brother's shoulders.
'It doesn't look like they're even tryin' to hurt each other. It kinda looks like…'
The middle of Bast's sons trailed off as he watched his mother pin his uncle on his front, her claws sheathed, and then went for the scruff of his neck with something considerably less than bloodlust.
Anubis squawked as he felt teeth against his neck and tried to squirm away from his sister's grasp. Not that her lunge had actually hurt him any.
Probably a little more ticklish than anything else…
He kept a snigger in check as he wriggled out of his sister's equivalent of a smack-down and managed to get her into a headlock. Sheathing his own claws, he yanked off her headdress and smirked as she tried to bite his arm. The grin only grew wider as he ground his knuckles into the top of her skull.
Bast's comments in response to her brother and his actions were varied, mostly obscene, and in several instances, biologically impossible.
Nerfertem grinned and quickly started committing them to memory.
Imhotep however was wearing a look of complete bewilderment. '…Like they're havin' fun?'
Cerberus lowered his left-most head and sniffed. /They're not even drawing blood!/
What was Anubis doing?
The jackal-headed god's grin disappeared into the ground as his sister managed to get him into a fairly impressive pile-driver.
Fighting dirty. Rather impressive for a cat.
Not so much for a sibling, but anyway.
He yanked his head out of the remains of the floor tiles and hunkered down, his eyes flickering over Bast's bizarrely spotless form. How women did that, he still had no idea.
Probably some sort of female magic, like the magic used to get socks the right way out before they went in the laundry, or knowing you had to cut hair to make it grow longer.
Even the priests in the Necropolis hadn't worked those ones out.
'C'mon sis, you're losing your touch. That one didn't even break the skin!'
Bast merely flicked the dust off her claws and settled into a posture he immediately recognised as a Sebekkah defensive posture.
Interesting move. They hadn't practised together ever since they were teenagers, after he had gone off to learn the pure military forms and she had been made to learn the feminine forms of Tahtib instead. But both of them had been schooled in the basics, he severely doubted his sister would let a little thing like her sex stand in her way of learning, and neither had ever given any ground in their sparring sessions.
Even if said sessions had mostly degenerated into hissing, swearing, and a great deal of knuckle-scuffing.
Not breaking eye contact, Anubis slid back out of his crouch and shifted into his preferred kick stance. Nothing fancy, but if aimed right it could hit the solar plexus pretty nicely...
Bast's eyes momentarily flicked over to her sons, all still clustered around Cerberus, eyes bright with excitement. The flicker lasted less than a second.
Unfortunately, Anubis knew exactly what that little look meant, and felt his dignity make a swift exit.
/You OWE me big time, big sis./
He came in running and took a swing at the feline goddess's torso, pulled the punch just in time, and then swept his leg under her feet, taking just long enough for her to flip out of the way and graze his face with a clawed foot.
Cerberus cocked his heads thoughtfully, causing Nefertem to slide off the middle head with a surprised squeak.
This looked more like the fighting he was used to, but it looked all fast and tricksey. Fighting where he came from involved a lot less jumping and kicking and a lot more gnashing and drooling, but maybe that was how Egyptian dogs and kitties fought.
Maybe the dogs had to be just as tricksey as the kitties did in order to win.
He wasn't sure he could be that tricksey if he had to fight the Nemean Lion again.
But right now, happily covered in all the kitty-pups, he really couldn't bring himself to think about fighting his big brother at the moment.
Maa'hes and Imhotep were now precariously balanced on the Grecian guard-dog's front paws, roaring in delight every time their mama dodged and their uncle kicked.
Nefertem scrambled back up to his adoptive uncle's shoulder and settled himself in the warm spot between Cerberus's right and middle necks. This was officially a million times cooler than any of the stuff the priests had been trying (and failing) to teach them in their own sparring sessions.
For one, Bast and Anubis were pretty much equal.
Not to mention they looked like they were really going for it.
And there were no grown-ups about to say they had to stop because they were royalty and shouldn't be acting like mortal school children scrapping in the street. But then how were they meant to defend themselves if they didn't practice? That was the whole point of being taught Sebekkah and Tahtib; so they could defend themselves from assassins. Few would-be murderers ever expected a tactical bite to the kneecap or a strategic kick in the head from anyone under ten.
Grown-ups could be really stupid sometimes.
Zeus, Poseidon and the majority of the assembled pantheon had long since retreated to make merry and kill their livers with a few gallons of cheap ouzo, while Rhea, her youngest son, and his immediate family had remained clustered around the playpen, keeping a collective eye on their brain-fried patriarch.
The expression on Cronus's face could best be described as mournful as he ineffectually brushed at a small white patch on the shoulder of his robes.
'I di'n't mean fer the lil' one t' toss his cookies. I jus' wanted t' give 'im a cuddle.'
In Persephone's arms, Lakchos had moved past the surprise of a sudden post-prandial sicky burp and was now well into a crying fit as a result. In the playpen, Chaos had picked up on her twin's distress, her lower lip jutting into a wobbly pout.
'I'm sorry, lil' guy. Tha' was my bad, I di'n't mean to hurt ya or nuthin'.'
The goddess of rebirth patted her father-in-law on the shoulder, taking care to avoid the puke patch. 'Hey. Babies tend to explode from both ends without warning for the first year. It just takes a bit of practice in spotting when said eruptions are about to occur.'
'And having one hell of a dry cleaner also works wonders.' Spotting his daughter's expression, Hades scooped Chaos into his arms and conjured a black rattle out of the ether to keep her occupied.
'Yeah...but is he OK? He ain't gonna hate me or anythin'?'
Lakchos's whimpers died down as he listened to his grandfather's voice.
How silly could Grandpa be? Sicky burps were a part of life – he was fine with it, Chaos was fine with it, Mummy was fine with it, Bremos and Daddy were disgusted by it but accepted it, so why was Grandpa so worried?
He shuffled in his mother's arm and managed to wave a hand at Cronus, letting out a giggle at the same time.
The Titan's wrinkled face lit up with deceptively simple joy as he noticed the movement and carefully reached out to touch his grandson's hand. Lakchos giggled once again at the contact and settled down. Hopefully that would stop Grandpa getting upset.
Still cuddled into Hades's chest, Chaos peeped out at her grandfather and watched him with a steady, curious gaze.
This was the god Mummy and Daddy and Grandma Rhea were so worried about?
But he was so nice!
He had said how pretty Rhode was (very true), he'd said how brave Albion was (a bit much, but Albion seemed happy), and he'd said a proper sorry to her twin after Lakchos had done a sicky burp all over his shoulder, even though it wasn't really his fault. And Lakchos was happy, so that meant he couldn't be all bad.
Glancing down at his daughter, Hades recognised the look in her eyes, and sighed.
'Yeah, lil' Flamey Dude?'
The god of the dead made a gesture with his head and shoulders indicating that violence probably wouldn't occur should Cronus decide he wanted alternate baby snuggles with Chaos.
'Hey, make it four for four.'
'Dear, let me...' Rhea wisely intervened and helped Hades settle the little goddess into her grandfather's arms.
Newborn goddess and aged Titan regarded each other with a thoughtful gaze. Resting a hand on his puke-free shoulder, Rhea leaned over the pair and gently stroked back an errant blue flame from her granddaughter's forehead.
The goddess of fertility sneaked a look at her husband. 'Is that a good 'wow' or a baffled 'wow'?'
Cronus looked up, and met Persephone's eyes with a soft grin.
'If this lil' lady turns out anythin' like her mom, she's gonna be hot. Lil' Flamey Dude and his lil' Flamey Dude're gonna have a tough time keepin' the guys away.'
Persephone settled with flushing a slightly darker red than normal. 'Compliment noted and appreciated.'
To the side, unseen and unheard by the rest of the group, Hades and Bremos exchanged a Look. Bremos was the first to crack a rather malevolent grin.
'Soooo...do we take this as a suggestion that in fifteen years or so we can literally and metaphorically beat the crap out of any creep that tries it on with Chaos and plan ahead now?'
Hades returned the smirk in kind. 'I like your thinking, o brat of mine.'
Zeus's magically enhanced voice echoed across the Asphodel Fields, distracting gods, demi-gods, nymphs and teenagers alike from the buffet table and the sight of a mass-shifting Bacchus limbo-ing under the branch of a nearby poplar tree.
Hades rolled his eyes. 'Oh joy. He's opened his yap and noise is emerging. This never ends well.'
'If you would all kindly direct your attention to the Styx, you will notice the ferry has arrived to transport us, and our...'
There was a short pause while the king of the gods managed to stop his teeth from involuntarily clenching.
'...and our glorious former king on a victory cavalcade around the borders of the Underworld.'
A hubbub of excited voices erupted from the crowds as they pushed towards the ferry, attended by a deeply miffed Charon.
There was a small moment of silence from the assorted chthonic deities and Titans around the playpen before Persephone finally spoke.
Hades simply wore a look of deep incredulity. 'Has Calliope been freelancing for him again?'
Rhea shook her head and helped Cronus return Chaos to the safety of the playpen. 'I think this is meant to be his idea of a big surprise.'
'Yeah, well, colour me not giving a crap and staying right here.' Bremos pointed to the ground, a slightly panicked smirk pasted across his face.
Hades folded his arms across his chest and glared at his eldest son. 'Brat? Repeat the family motto to me.'
The god of the undead rolled his eyes. 'If I'm suffering, someone else can suffer right along with me.'
'Translation: suck it up, you're coming with us.'
'Daaaaaaad! I don't do floating vessels, as you damn well know. Can't I just stay here with the twins?'
Persephone quickly chimed in. 'Despair will be looking after things here.'
'But Mooooooom! You know what happens when I go on a boat!'
The goddess of rebirth grabbed her son by the shoulders, span him around and shoved a hand between his shoulder blades, propelling him towards the jetty. 'If you have to, just throw up in the boat and Charon will sort it out the next time the boat gets detailed.'
'But what if Nike sees me puke?'
'From my understanding brat, she already has. Deal with it.'
Bremos aimed his filthiest glower at his father's back. 'Let it be known that I hate everyone, and you're next.'
'Duly noted, and ignored.'
High above the action, the benu made a few lazy turns in the warm air, its beady eyes squinting down at his beloved mistress, her anarchic jackal-headed demon of a so-called sibling, the three feline princes, and the horrible three-headed canine brute who had damaged his flame-burnished plumage so disgracefully.
Mistress Bast was currently demonstrating her talents in the martial arts with great aplomb. Unfortunately her brother (Ma'at curse him) was not only keeping up with her movements, he wasn't even breaking a sweat.
Or at least, no sweat that could be made out from this distance.
The benu descended a few meters and continued to watch as Bast made a swipe at Anubis's head, only to miss his pointed ears by the width of a claw and have her moved blocked and reversed by the jackal-headed god. It was an oddly masculine throw for such a dignified goddess such as Mistress Bast, almost as if...
Black eyes widened in shock.
Those were the military forms of Sebekkah! No female had ever learned that style of fighting, especially a royal female!
Surely such a breach of royal protocol could not possibly be tolerated, even for his beloved mistress.
Wheeling sharply, the benu launched itself towards the palace of the City of the Dead, screeching at the top of its lungs.
'Mathter Othirith! Mithtresth Ithith! Make hathte! There ith an unacctheptable breach of royal protocolth in progreth!'
Cerberus's left head took a brief precautionary sniff of air while his other two heads watched Bast launch a flying kick at Anubis's head. The smell of a jackal and lioness, both in their fighting prime met his nostrils, along with a slight smoky smell that he couldn't quite place.
Maa'hes squealed in glee, nearly falling off of his adoptive uncle's paw. Nefertem was hanging from the giant dog's middle neck, roaring his encouragement at the two combatants, and Imhotep...
Imhotep had turned from watching the spar and was staring at the Palace of the City of the Dead, eyes narrowed and sniffing tentatively at the air.
Cerberus's remaining heads looked around at the sound of the kitty-pup's voice.
/...Do you smell something too?/
'Thought I'd heard something, but yeah. Now I can smell something too.'
/Is it a smoky smell?/
The lion cub's ears flattened. 'Yeah. And that means one of two things. Either Mom's summoned Sekhmet by accident, or we got feathered company incoming.'
Cerberus frowned. /Feathered company?/
Imhotep sighed. Much as he adored the giant guard dog, sometimes he really did seem to be so slow as to actually be running backwards. 'The benu. No-one saw it leave, right?'
Cerberus thought. The kitty-pup was right.
Nobody had seen the rude flaming birdie fly away.
And that birdie looked like it would be a tell-tale.
But who would it tell-tale to?
If one of his brothers or sisters got into trouble, one of them would nearly always tell Mummy Echidna on the other since Daddy Typhon wasn't about.
So if the benu went to tell on Anubis and Bast's daddy...
Cerberus's ears flattened to the point of invisibility against his skulls and his tail crept between his legs as a protective measure.
He knew looking behind him wouldn't end well, so he decided to watch as Imhotep suddenly straightened up, blinked, gulped, closed his eyes and turned around, cracking one eye open in a terrified peek.
Maa'hes and Nefertem followed their brother's gaze and quickly slid off of Cerberus, curling themselves into as tiny balls of fluff and sand as they could manage.
Anubis was the next one to catch a glimpse of the god standing behind his nephew, tapping his foot on the floor and glaring daggers at him and his sister. Bast managed to divert a swipe just in time as she stared at the Lord of the Underworld.
'Ah...Father. This...isn't what it looks like.'
Osiris, god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead, stood before them bedecked in immaculate white robes and his ostrich-feathered crown, his crook and flail clenched in one hand as he glared at the assembled cats and dogs. His normally clear green skin was flushed an unpleasant purple as he tapped his fingers against a crumbling sandstone pillar.
The benu swooped down and perched on the god's shoulder, looking far too smug for its own good.
'Asth you can thee, thire, the Lord Anubith hasth clearly led histh good thisthter athray and permitted thith...flea-ridden monthrosthity to enter the Thity of the Dead.'
'That will do, Ascending One.'
The benu immediately shut up, its face losing some of its previous malicious glee.
Osiris cast a speculative eye at the shamefaced jackal and the almost arrogantly calm lioness before him and pointed at his firstborn.
'Bastet, what do you have to say for yourself?'
Bast simply pointed at her brother and pouted. 'He started it!'
Anubis's lips curled back in a snarl as he glared at his sister. 'How did I start it?'
'By inviting that three-headed freak dog over to stalk me and my sons for some insane canine game!'
Cerberus whimpered and tried to pretend he was somewhere else. Maa'hes gently rubbed one of his ears in a gesture of comfort.
'Whoa! Hey! When did the kids come in precisely? On your orders, Miss 'Look-at-me-Perfect-Mother'!'
'They were a distraction!'
'Oh, what, sending your kids in as friendly fire? What's next, sending Ptah in as an undercover agent?'
The lord of the underworld gestured to Anubis. 'And you, Yinepu. What do you say to this?'
Anubis growled under his breath. 'Just wanted to have some fun. I already said congrats to Hades and Seph on the kids, Cerberus was there, what else did you expect me to do?'
'To return with the dignity as befits the lord of the City of the Dead.'
'Pfft. Dignity shmignity.'
Osiris's gaze hardened. 'Congratulations, my son. You're grounded.'
Anubis's eyes widened in disbelief. 'Grounded? Dad, I'm four thousand years old! I don't even live at home anymore!'
'And yet, you're still grounded. Ma'at will oversee your punishment.'
The whine went ignored as Osiris turned his gaze to his daughter. 'And the same punishment applies to you, Bastet. You not only failed to act with dignity, but what I have seen of your fighting style is enough for me to know that you have seriously transgressed the boundaries of the martial form.'
Bast just closed her eyes and muttered a curse under her breath.
Suitably satisfied, the green-skinned god turned his gaze to Cerberus, two of his heads staring mournfully at the ground while the third watched his friend's father with a frightened look.
Cerberus whined pathetically. /I didn't mean to get Anubis into trouble!/
'I believe it would be best for you to depart now. You have done very little damage, and it can be remedied easily. Yinepu will show you to the borders of the underworld.'
The Grecian guard-dog nodded. Even he knew there were times when it was best to just be quiet and leave.
And at least he'd gotten to play with the kitty-pups, even if he hadn't been able to chase Bast.
Maybe next time...
Nike's face was scrunched up in disgust at the noises emerging from her boyfriend. Bremos had long since abandoned his seat in the royal box on the ferry, and was currently at the aft end, on his knees, reacquainting himself with his dinner.
'Did you ever hope he'd grow out of this?'
Persephone, unwilling to abandon the younger goddess to the unstable digestive tract of her eldest son, had joined Nike shortly after the ferry had passed into Tartarus. She passed a goblet of water to Bremos and sent a shrug in the other goddess's direction.
'To be fair, he was worse when he was younger. You only had to show him the Styx and you needed a change of clothes.'
Bremos's voice wavered out of the depths of his basin. 'Stop maligning my stomach.'
'And he speaks.'
The goddess of rebirth rubbed her son's back as he finally raised his head, his grey face tinged with green.
'How you feeling hun?'
The god of the undead managed a shaky grin. 'I'm ok.'
He burped, gulped and shoved his head back in his basin with a loud retch.
'Ohhhhhh gods...less ok.'
Nike winced in sympathy. 'Mint's meant to be good for stomach problems. You think you could eat some?'
'Uuuuugh...no chance, I know who it's made from and who made it.'
The younger goddess frowned and glanced up at Persephone, doing a double-take at the self-satisfied expression on her face. 'That was your work?'
Persephone merely studied her nails and let a very poisonous smile play across her face.
'She tried to take what was mine. He made his rejection clear and I simply retaliated. Result: one less husband-stealing harlot mincing around Greece and one more tasty new spice for the kitchen. It goes rather nicely with couscous.'
Nike's disgusted expression quickly returned. 'And that's me off North African cuisine for life.'
'Hey, I was off it when it hit the eyeballs.'
Bremos gagged and spat. 'Mom, don't mention eyeballs for the love of sanity.'
The ferry passed under an arch of fire and emerged into a brightly lit cave, filled with birdsong, voices and the unmistakable scent of wine. At the head, Zeus rose and clapped his hands, distracting his father quite nicely from his outrageous flirting with Rhea.
He raised his voice just enough to get his point across. 'Father.'
Cronus looked, slightly miffed about the interruption.
Zeus exhaled slowly and managed to count to ten.
'Under the conditions of your release, you have been granted permanent residence on the Isles of the Blessed, alongside the Golden Age of Man, to rule over the Elysian Fields.'
The god of time nodded in appreciation. 'Sweet. So, are we, like, there yet?'
Zeus gestured to the green and golden shores before them. 'Look ahead. The residents of Elysium bid you welcome.'
Said residents of Elysium whooped and raised their amphorae in a toast. A number of the great heroes of Troy were cheering and rolling out extra barrels of ouzo, while more than a few nymphs dressed in somewhat insubstantial robes were giggling and making beckoning gestures to the aged Titan.
Cronus made to wave back, but was quickly stopped by Rhea holding his wrist down.
He turned his most adorable gaze on his estranged wife and looked up through his eyelashes at her. 'Awww, Rhea babe. They's just bein' friendly. You're the only one who gets t' stay. Y'know, if you wanna.'
Rhea was feeling her steel-like resolve beginning to rust slightly.
'Or, y'know, we don't havta do nuthin', we can jus' talk?'
The rust spread.
The goddess of fertility stood up, dragging her husband with her. They both disappeared in a flash of light, reappearing on the shores of Elysium and waving back at the ferry as they walked off towards the newly-built Palace of Cronus.
Hades, sitting on the port side and sulking quietly, was the only one who noticed that his parents had been holding hands as they vanished.
/Eh. Go Dad./
/I really didn't mean to get you into trouble Anubis; I really, really didn't!/
Sadly mooching back towards the Grecian/Egyptian underworld boundaries, Cerberus whimpered and gently butted Anubis's arm with his left head.
The jackal-headed god shook his head and scratched his friend behind the ear. /Relax, bud. It's the same amount of trouble I'd've gotten into even if you weren't there. And it's less than what I'd've gotten into if the kids weren't there and we were actually going for it./
Cerberus frowned. Actually going for it?
/You mean you weren't trying to properly fight Bast?/
Anubis grinned. /Nah, that was just sparring. I have few limits, but Bast and I are hardly gonna tear the proverbial outta each other when her kids are there. She's all-powerful to those three, and I'm not gonna be the one to shake that faith./
/But she's a kitty, and you're a dog!/
The scent of vines and rich soil reached the noses of the guard dog and the jackal. They had safely reached the boundary of the Egyptian underworld. Anubis settled himself on a rock while he watched his larger companion cross over.
The god of the dead looked oddly thoughtful as he studied his friend.
/She's still my sister. Still family. You ever have a pup of your own, you're gonna understand how her kids look up to her, and how much it means only too well./
Cerberus's eyes narrowed in thought. With a nod at his best friend, he turned and started to make his way home, thinking about how a pup could make everything different, even around kitties.
But if he could only understand it by having a pup of his own...then maybe he needed to have a pup of his own!
This would take some more thought.
And maybe a snack.
But mostly some thought.
A gleam of white drew Anubis's attention away from Cerberus's retreating form. Leaning over the side of his rock, he spotted the unmistakable shape of an ostrich egg, lying in a heap of dust.
Considering it was breeding season upstairs, that meant it was probably one of the eggs from a weaker female. No idea how it had gotten down here, but he wasn't about to question it.
And at least if he was about to spend the next week sulking in the Palace, at least he could start it with a nice meal.
Scooping it up with one hand, Anubis slid off his rock and started trotting back to the City of the Dead.
He didn't bother to think about why the egg was still warm.
(1) Osiris doesn't exactly strike me as one of the 'fun' gods, so here, he's using the more formal/correct forms of Anubis, Bast and Cerberus's names. It's kind of the equivalent of your parents using your full name when you got into trouble as a kid.
Hades: So by this definition, I'm considered to be one of the 'fun' gods?
Melora: Not so much 'fun', more 'slightly less likely to make me want to tear my own head off and eat it' gods.
Hades: You do know someone in my family probably did eat their own head at some point?
Melora: Frankly, nothing about your family surprises me anymore.