The two figures roaming the aisles didn't attract too much attention. They should have. On the surface one was a plump, curly headed, approaching middle-age woman. She was wearing a T-shirt that said 'I'm Southern. Kiss My Grits'. The other was a younger, taller, rangy man--handsome in an edgy, slightly dangerous way. He was dressed in tight jeans, a T-shirt that said 'Body to Die For', and a leather vest. In actuality they were Scribe, ancient Greek goddess of Erotica and Cats, and Jett, King of the Assassins from the same time and place.
Jett wasn't quite acting like a tourist, but he was definitely showing more interest in his surroundings than most natives. "Can I borrow one of your pet phrases, Scribe?" he said.
The woman had stopped pushing her shopping cart, and was examining a stacked display of glassware. "Feel free."
"This is freakin' amazing. I've been to the biggest cities in Greece, and I've NEVER seen such an abundance of goods at a marketplace."
"We haven't even hit the food section yet, sweety. Wait till we reach the frozen food section--THEN you can be impressed."
"What's this place called again?"
"A Super Wal-Mart."
"_A_ Super Wal-Mart? They have more than one of these things?"
"Smaller or larger, yeah. Honey, if your neighborhood doesn't have a Wal-Mart you're in a wilderness." She pointed. "Check these out, Jett. I think these would be a good present for Dite."
He looked. "Yow. An entire set of dishes and glassware, all in pink! Like it? I'll be surprised if she doesn't jump you and try to have sex with you."
"Yikes! Okay, maybe if I just get her the dishes she'll settle for hugs." She placed a couple of boxes into her cart. "And put that box of knives back, right now."
"No. You have plenty at home. Besides, those are meant for cooking, not what you're thinking about."
"But Scribe, it says here that they're tempered steel, and perfectly balanced."
"They mean for chopping onions, not throwing into someone's back."
"You know I try to avoid that--too much bone to avoid. The throat is a much better bet."
A little old lady, holding a pair of geese-decorated oven mitts, was staring at them. Scribe smiled at her sweetly. "He's up for a part in our community theater production of Sweeney Todd, and I just can't get him to stop rehearsing." The woman smiled uncertainly, but hurried out of the aisle. "What have I told you about scaring the natives?"
"Sorry." Jett put the knives back. "What else do you want to get?"
"Tartarus, kiddo. When I come in here I never know what I'm going to need till I see it. Let's see... That's Dite taken care of. That strainer-pot for Joxer. Now Ares won't have to worry about him every time he goes to drain a pot of spaghetti or potatos..."
"It's a good thing you've gotten to the point where you don't try to bring something back for everyone every time you come here. Toting all that stuff was giving us both a stoop."
"Yeah. I mean, it's not like it was because of expense. I could probably buy a franchise if I wanted to. But it was getting to be a little embarrassing, seeing all those gods and goddesses acting like a six-year-old welcoming their parents back from a trip. 'Whadja bringme? Whadja bringme?' I still can't stand to not bring anything for the kids, though. Let's see... Nerf baseball set for Bliss. Bratz doll for Imp. Set of Dr. Seuss books for Accord. Okay, that's all I NEED." She turned the cart around.
Jett followed her, saying, "I know you. Bet you a dinar you don't make it past the check-out stand without getting something else."
"You're on. I am strong. I am invincible. I am... HALF PRICE HALLOWEEN CANDY!" *zip*
Jett smirked as he followed her. "Do I know my woman, or do I know my woman?"
Olympus, Greece--Time of the Gods
There was dark green and silver sparkles in the front hall of Apollo's temple, accompanied by the sound of wind chimes playing something that sounded suspiciously like the first few bars of 'The Eyes of Texas are Upon You'. Cats of all sizes and colors came running from every direction, chirping, mewing, and purring excitedly.
Scribe appeared in the midst of the sparkles, her feet surrounded by boxes and bags. "Heeeey, my babies! Come polish Mama's shins!" The cats did just that, winding around her legs, tails waving, as she stood perfectly still. She knew better than to try to walk in the first couple of minutes after her return from any journey.
Apollo entered the hall. "There you are! I thought you were only going to be gone over the weekend, and here it is, Tuesday."
"Don't bust my chops, Shiny."
"Now look, dammit! I know you're and independant but you ARE a godling, and I AM a senior member of The Twelve, and your immediate superior, and..." She'd pulled something out of one of the bags and offered them. "What's that?"
"Raybans." She unfolded the sunglasses and quickly mimed. "You put them on like this."
"Why would I want to do that?"
"They make you look cool."
"Hand them over." Apollo put on the shades. "Well?"
"If the Muses wore panties, that would make them damp."
"Really? Let me know if you're going to be late getting back next time." He turned around and headed out of the room calling, "Girls? I need your opinion on something..."
"He's so cute," she muttered. She looked down at the cats. "Go get the priests, kiddos. I need porter service." *crinkle* "Orlando! You get out of that sack, you snot! You don't get the catnip mice till I'm sure you haven't pooped anywhere in my cottage. Where are you--? IT WON'T DO YOU ANY GOOD TO TRY AND BURY IT NOW!" The cat's who'd gone on the errand returned, leading a couple of handsome young men who were dressed in dark green robes.
The elder one put his hands together and bowed to her, smiling with clearly honest pleasure. "Goddess Scribe, good to have you back! How was your visit?"
"Wonderful, as usual, Germanicus." She winked at the younger priest. "How they hangin', Baklavica?" He blushed. "After you're hear another couple of months, maybe you'll get to the point where you can actually speak to me without genuflecting. Oh, Germanicus, I got that thing I told you about." She tossed him a package of Bubble Yum. "Now, remember what I told you. If you get the urge to blow bubbles, like you've seen Strife do? Resist. He's lost a lot of hair that way."
"Thank you, Mistress." He looked around. "I thought that Jett accompanied you?"
"He did, but he promised Ares that he'd teach a clutch of his sneakiest warriors advanced stealth techniques. I dropped him off at the camp. When I left he was announcing himself by surprising the commander with a knife at his throat while the doofus indulged in a bath with a camp follower. Now, y'all help me tote this stuff to the cottage."
"Help? Miss, you go right to your cottage. One of the priestesses will have hot tea and scones ready for you, so you can relax from your trip."
"I love you guys when you spoil me by bullying."
"It's both our job, and our pleasure. Is there anyone you wish to have notified of your return?"
"Mmmm... No, thanks. Joxer and Ares will probably figure it out when Mjau comes over to welcome me back, and it'll be the same with Cupid's household because of Priss. The grapevine will get it over the rest of the mountain quickly enough."
The priests accompanied her to the little cottage she'd been given in the inner garden, and deposited their burdens on the large central table after standing patiently while Scribe quickly cleared off the clutter of parchments, ink pots, quill, scrolls, and a couple of empty Goo-Goo Cluster wrappers (Scribe had brought back several boxes on her last trip). Then they bowed again and went off to attend to their daily duties.
Scribe was still surrounded by loudly demanding cats. "You boogers," she said affectionately. "Yes, yes, I know. I neglect you shamelessly. Hold on." She got two items out of a sack--a cardboard canister and a sealed clear plastic bag. She went to the door and opened it, then took the plastic resealable lid off the canister. "We won't be needing THAT, since there's going to be nothing to seal up once you locusts get done." She showed the canister to them. "Salmon and Tuna Itty-Bitty Kittie Nips." She popped the top on the can and pitched the contents out into the garden, using a sweeping motion for maximum coverage. Most of the cats boiled outside, but a few remained crouched by her feet, staring at her. "All right, you hard-core addicts." She ripped open the plastic bag. "You know, if you'd pace yourself with that catnip Joxer planted in our garden, you wouldn't be going cold turkey." *yowl* "Right. Like I ever listened when anyone told me to go easy on the Diet Coke." She swept the opened bag in the same motion she'd used before. This time tiny, brightly colored pseudo mice, stuffed with fragrant cat nip, sailed through the air. The rest of the cats streaked away. "God bless predictability, or I'd never get ANY privacy." She shut the door and turned back to the table just as there was a dark blue flash. Strife was standing at the table, peering into a bag. "Why do I say it? I know that it's just tempting the Fates."
"Ya say it cause hope springs eternal, Toots, an' yer just a cock-eyed optimist. Whatya got fah me?" said Strife.
She joined him. "I swear, you're as bad as the kids." She slapped his wrist. "Get your hand out of there! Try to pretend that Cupid has had an at least marginally civilizing influence on you."
Strife snickered. "Cupe--civilized? Ya DO know he's bred from tha House of War, right?"
Scribe rummaged in a bag. "I took a trip to a novelty shop. I think you'll be pleased." She started pulling out items. "Plastic vomit. Fake dog poop. A fake coin that you can stick to the floor. I didn't get you a whoopie cushion, since you're doing great with the inflated pig bladders. Ink candy..."
Strife made a face. "I drank a bottle of ink once, mainly ta freak Gabby out. Tasted like crap."
"These don't taste like ink. They taste like regular salt water taffy, and look like it, too." She showed the small bag to him.
He took it and turned it over in his hands curiously. "So what's so special about 'em?"
"Like I said, they look and taste like regular candy BUT..." she held up a finger. "They turn the mouth, tongue, lips, and etcetera blue or black."
Strife cackled, hugging the bag. "Tha first person I'm gonna feed one to is gonna be Greagus. Last time I gave 'im taffy he couldn't bark fah ten minutes, anyway, an' this time Ares or Joxer should freak. Before I do it I'll try ta convince 'em he has Chow blood. No itchin' powdah?"
"After last time? Contrary to rumors, am NOT crazy. You can take the presents for Bliss and Imp with you."
"Sure. Where's tha junk food?"
"What makes you think I brought any?"
"Ah, Scribe--come now."
"Chips in this bag, pastries and cookies in this one."
"Whatabout this one?" Scribe made a grab for the indicated sack, but Strife snatched it first. "A-HA! This must be the primo stuff." He dumped it on the table, and studied the contents, stirring it around.
"Has it occured to you that I might kick your butt out?"
"Has it occured ta ya that I let Gabby think it was me that slipped that diuretic in her watah skin right aftah ya arrived?"
"Yup. I'm gonna assume this is all candy, mostly cause of the small size of tha pieces, an' tha bright wrappins. Hey..." he picked up a bag of orange and black wrapped nuggets. "These are tha same colors Bliss' wings turned durin that wacko family reunion."
"Those are the peanut butter taffy kisses. I got heartily sick of those back when I was still trick-or-treating, because everyone seemed to give those, or bubble gum, or freakin' hard candy." She snorted. "Hard candy is for Christmas, unless it's jawbreakers or rootbeer barrels."
He poked another bag. "What'r these? They look kinda like those straw thingies ya drink with, 'cept their prettier colors."
"Those are pixiestix."
"Yah? Come ta think of it they DO look like somethin tha pixies would use ta pole vault, or somethin. Ya peel 'em, right?"
"Nope. Allow me to demonstrate." Scribe opened the bag and removed a bright orange pixiestick. She unfolded the end, tipped her head back, and poured a stream of powder onto her tongue. She closed her mouth and sucked for a moment, then said, "Like that. Here..."
She held out the open stick, and Strife opened his mouth, putting his head back like she had. She tipped the powder into his mouth. He closed his mouth, cheeks hollowing as he tasted the candy. *zing* His eyes popped wide open. "Uh-oh."
Strife swallowed and smiled at her. "Fruit isn't really my thing, ya know."
Scribe almost wilted in relief, feeling like she'd dodged a bullet. "I've got a couple of sacks of mini candy bars. You can cram a whole one in your mouth at one go--you'll like that." There was a knock at the door, and Scribe went to answer it. "Joxer! Gimme some sugar."
Joxer stepped in, giving her a peck on the cheek. "One of your cats ran into the House of War, meowed at Mjau like crazy, and they both ran out again. I figured you were home."
"He isn't here. Was it a male or a female cat that came for him?"
"Come to think of it, his nose WAS awful close to her butt. I hope Priss won't be upset."
"Joxer--she's a cat. They understand about having sex with anyone you can."
"Scribe, I gotta go," called Strife. "Okay if I take a couple goodies with me?"
"Just two. I'm hoping to make those last at least a few days."
"Right. Thanks." *FLASH*
"What did Strife want with that big stick of peppermint?" asked Joxer.
Scribe frowned. "Peppermint? I didn't buy any peppermint sticks. The only peppermint I got were those yummy soft sugar peppermint balls."
"Well, it sure LOOKED like peppermint. It was..." he measured with his hands, "about this long, and red-and-white striped."
"NO!" Scribe rushed to the table, pawing through the contents. "Oh, I don't BELIEVE it! When will I learn? WHEN WILL I LEARN?"
"I told him he could have two things. He took the bag of regular size pixiestix, and he took the GIANT pixiestick!"
"Joxer, do you know what pixiedust is made of?"
"Well, a pixie once told me it was moonglow, starshine, wildflower dew, with a dab of kitten's whiskers and just a hint of something called silicon dioxide to prevent caking."
"I mean the candy in the pixiestix. It consists of a little citric acid, less than two per cent flavoring and great, huge honking amounts of SUGAR, and that's IT."
"That's what I said--but louder--because whatever happens, someone is going to find a way to blame me."
"You shouldn't worry so much. Maybe he'll just eat a little of it." She stared at him. "Maybe I'll go make sure that all the breakables are taken down at home." He left.
"I wonder if I could get away with visiting home again this soon? Maybe for a month or two."
Cupid decided to drop in on Aphrodite on his way home. His route took him past the Temple of Intellect. Several of Scribe's cats were lounging on the steps. One of them had a bright yellow smiley face on his side. Another looked like someone had shaved a narrow strip from the tip of his nose to his tail, which was as naked as a rat's. One of the Muse's peeked out. Her hair looked like swallows had been nesting in it, and she was holding her dress up with both hands. When Cupid started toward the temple to inquire about what had happened he heard Apollo inside, swearing at the top of his lungs. Something about the results of a stable cleaning should be deposited in the GARDEN, not the bathing chamber. The Muse hissed, "NOT NOW!" and ducked inside, locking the door.
Cupid shook his head and continued toward his mother's temple. There was scurrilous grafitti about Hercules on the decorative stone wall beside the street. There were burned patches in the grass. Long strips of white, gauzy material dangled from the trees. Cupid examined a swatch and discovered it was that special soft paper Scribe had brought back from the future--toilet tissue. He couldn't believe it when she told him what it was for.
When he came to the Temple of Love there were gummy yellow and white speckled splotches on the front pillars. Examination told him that this was caused by eggs. As he entered he saw Hephastus stamp across the hall, muttering something about, "...man can't even take a nap in the safety of his own home without..." He had pink ribbons braided in his beard.
Impetua bounced out into the hall after Heph, and for a split second Cupid thought that perhaps his daughter had done the decoration. Then he remembered that she hadn't yet learned how to braid, though Accord occassionally let her play with his hair, if she was gentle. Imp ran to him, making a little hop and flapping her wings so that she bounced against his chest instead of his legs. A veteran at catching winged children, Cupid managed with hardly a stagger, catching her in his arms. Imp threw plump arms around his neck, giving him a smacking kiss on the cheek. "H'lo, Daddy!"
"Hi, Peanut. I'd give you a kiss, too, if there was a clean place on your face." She giggled. She looked like someone had gotten into Jayce's theatrical make-up box and given her the sort of treatment the actors had in that future musical Scribe had shown him a poster of--CATS. "I have it on my face now, don't I?" She giggled, nodding. "Where's your brother?"
"Him an' Accord is bein' ol' meanies. They made a club house an' said I couldn't come in 'cause it was no girls 'loud. I tole' 'em I'se not a girl, I'se wunna Nature's wonders. Daddy-Mommy said so."
"And I agree. Don't be sad, sweety. All boys go through that stage."
"I not sad." She giggled. "I got wunna them pretty eggs an' threw it in their club house."
"Pretty eggs? You mean the Spring Festival eggs Scribe made? But honey, that was almost four months ago. Any egg left over from that would be--" She giggled again. He sighed. "Yeah. Where did you find one of those?"
She put a finger in her mouth. "Somebody give it to me."
"Uh-huh. WHO gave it to you?"
"Promised notta tell."
"That's okay." Cupid stroked her green-brown hair. "I think I can guess. What kind of state is Grandma Dite in?"
"Hers layin down inna dark room wif a cloth on her head." Imp frowned. "Her gave a potion to a man who was s'posed to fall in love wif his neighbor lady an' instead he fell in love wif her cousin--her BOY cousin. Her boy cousin who's old, old, old, an' don't like boys at ALL. That man was singin outside the cousin's window." She sang lustily. "Ahhhh swee' miss-tree o' life alass I foun' youuu..." She smiled, saying, "He sings nice. Don't know why that dumb ol' cousin din' like it."
"You'll understand some day." Cupid set her down. "Sweetie, I want you and Bliss to spend the night here with Grandma Dite and Grandad Heph, okay?"
"I need to see Daddy Strife alone."
"The only explination for all the chaos I've seen is that somehow he got his hands on a massive amount of sugar." *FLASH* He disappeared.
Imp stood in the middle of the hall, eyes wide. "Uh-oh." Then she grinned.
*Lessee,* thought Strife. *How does that security ink pack Scribe told me about work when they stick it in with a bank robber's loot?* He cocked his head, studying the pot of purple ink before him. *I wanna get it to REALLY shoot all over when the box is opened. How'm I gonna do that without resorting to explosives? I can make a sprayer, but how can I be sure it'll have the pressure it needs? There's no point in doing this unless I do it right.* He giggled. *At least I won't have to worry about Zeus not opening the box himself--not when I put a note on the outside saying it's from a mortal woman who's hopelessly in love with him. Oo. But if Hera finds it first, she's BOUND to open it to see what it is.* He cackled. *Even better.*
He had to celebrate. There were a few slightly battered Pixistix lying on his work table. He opened a green one, held it up as if he was making a toast, and said, "Here's ta dextrose--tha sober man's drug of choice." He started to upend it into his mouth.
Cupid caught his wrist with one hand, and removed the Pixiestick with the other. "I do believe you've had enough of that."
"Awwww, Cupe!" Strife whined. "I've hardly had any."
"Really? Your tongue is about six different colors. Then there's this." He kicked, andthe pile of empty colored paper straws rattled about their feet. "And last, but not least..." He grabbed the empty tube of the giant pixiestick off the table and bonked Strife on the head with it.
It made significantly less impact than a plastic Nerf bat would. Still, Strife instinctively rubbed his noggin. "Don't lose that. I KNOW I can find some sorta use fah it."
"Strife, what have I told you about eating too much of the stuff Scribe brings back from the future? Your system isn't designed for it."
"Designed, shmesigned. Maybe I'm that first appearance of tha junk food addict. It's possible. Ya know that dude Darwin she told us about? Well maybe I'm whatchacallit--a mutation that starts a whole 'nother direction for mankind."
"Strife, for that to be true you'd have to be sowing your wild oats among the mortals even more enthusiastically than Zeus. The excuse just doesn't work."
He shrugged. "Works fah me."
"You sure you're not God of Unreasonable Rationalization? I saw what could only be a fraction of the havok you wreaked. I think you'd better stay inside for the next couple of days."
Strife bounced, whining, "But I got all this ENERGY! I gotta do somethin with it or I'll be BORED, an' ya KNOW how dangerous I am when I'm bored."
"I think I can take care of the extra energy."
Cupid glanced down Strife's body, and Strife felt a breeze. "I'm nekkid, aren't I?"
"As the day you were born." Cupid grabbed his hair and tugged--gently, but firmly. Strife came up, following the pull. He found himself turned around, then pushed back onto the bed.
*Okay, this is good. Sex with Cupe is ALWAYS good. Maybe we can... What's he doing at the table?* Cupid had scraped up the remaining pixiestix. His own clothing disappeared, and he turned back to Strife with a gleam in his eyes. "Um... Cupe? Whatcha plannin on doin with those?"
"One of the advantage of having access to Scribe's wildly varying interests is that I hear about things I never would otherwise." Cupid crouched next to Strife and opened one of the straws--red. "She told me about this unique art form practised by the Native Americans. It's called 'sand painting'. Hold very, very still..." he grinned as he tipped the straw and trickled a careful, swooping line of bright red candy-dust over Strife's pale chest, putting circles around his nipples. "And if you're a good boy," his grin widened, "when I'm done I'll lick my canvas clean."