“I can't believe I'm wasting a perfectly good Saturday night hanging out with my little brother,”
Balthier Buccaneer, seventh generation heir of A Piratical Legacy, said with exaggerated
“Hey, it's no picnic for me either,” Kennit protested. “I can't stand hanging out with you and your
whiny, pathetic complaints about how life sucks.” He grinned. “So how many of your friends left
for college last night?”
“Well, there's Sterling, of course. Orlando, Anne, Devi, Billie, Arta... everyone. Well, everyone I
used to hang out with after my two best friends stabbed me in the back.”
“And who's left?” Kennit asked. “Surely some of your friends are in your actual grade.”
“Cate and Sarah, and Muffy,” Balthier shrugged. “I hang out with a few other people in class,
but I don't really talk to them outside of school.”
“I think you need to find a few extra friends,” Kennit said. “That, or go to university yourself.”
“I have been saying that exact same thing since the end of last semester,” Balthier said. “But
the stupid admissions office wouldn't let me. No room for any early admissions this term, they
said. Something about too many foreign students as it is.”
“All from here, I bet,” Kennit smirked. “Biggest high school class in Pirate Island history...
“My life is so, so lame,” Balthier groaned. “Why am I sittling and debating demographics with my
“Because you don't have a girlfriend,” Kennit said cheerfully.
“Okay, then,” Balthier said. “Why are you sitting here and debating demographics? You do have
a girlfriend, if I recall correctly. Not too shabby on the eyes, either.”
“Georgia is also a member of the drama club, and they told me I'm not allowed to watch their
rehearsals anymore. Something about making her forget her lines.”
“You dog, you.”
“I can't help it if I'm naturally handsome,” Kennit said airily. “C'mon, my butt's starting to go
numb from the floor. Let's hit the Youth Centre and see if there's anyone interesting there
“Doubt it,” Balthier griped. “Cate and Sarah don't 'do' the Youth Centre anymore, or so they
claim, and Muffy's got a new boyfriend which means even if she is there she'll be plastered all
over him and won't want to hang out.”
“You are such a pessimist.”
“Hey, I turned it into an art form after the Brittany fiasco. Give me a little credit here.”
Sunday morning, Ching Shih tried her very hardest not to wake up her two very tired sons.
She'd heard the garage door open well after midnight, and she made a note to speak to both
Kennit and Balthier about how curfew wasn't just a suggestion, but she didn't have the heart to
wake the two of them up early on the weekend.
Now that she had mastered several lifetime wants and the impossible want of maxxing all
seven skills, Ching Shih spent her free time during the day trying out a variety of hobbies. She
intended, if possible, to get all available gold badges, and she'd chosen to start with robotics.
She found the whole process fascinating.
Then again, she also found it somewhat frustrating. Despite her considerable mechanical
acumen, building robots did not come naturally to the sixth generation heiress. Ching Shih
sighed as the sun rose towards its zenith and decided enough was enough for one day. She
had a couple of boys to wake up, in any case, and she'd just gotten a new water pistol.
It was just after lunch time when Balthier finally felt awake. Being sprayed in the face with cold
water was not his favourite way of waking up, and Ching Shih had a mean aim—she'd
managed to hit both him and Kennit with one shot.
How's life in 'gay Paris' treating you? Classes going okay? Everything here is so boring you
wouldn't believe it. Plus, I got assigned to work on my history project with Chandler, so that was
awkward, and Ken won't stop bugging me about it. He keeps offering to slug Chan in the face
for me. Sometimes I wonder which of us is really the older brother.
I've mostly been hanging out with Ken, Troy, and Karat at lunch since school started. There's
this really cute redhead with these huuuuuge... blue eyes who hangs out with them sometimes,
too, but I'm just looking for now. You know I've always had a thing for exoticlooking chicks, but I
think I'd rather wait before I start dating again. College just sounds better, 'cause of the whole
heir thing and all. I keep telling Ken he shouldn't make Georgia any promises, but he just
Balthier paused for a moment, scratched his head, and then continued.
I really miss having you here to talk to. Email just isn't the same. Ken's great, but he's my
brother and I can't exactly complain about him to his face. Well, actually I probably could and
he'd just make fun of me, but that's Ken for you. Anyway, I'll sneak online tonight, okay? Keep
an eye out for me?
“Wow, it must be nice to be rich,” Yuma Traveller said, looking around the large basement
hobby room with appreciation.
Arabella stared at her friend. “What do you mean? We're not rich... we're just normal and stuff.”
“You are too rich,” the boy insisted. “Your basement is the size of our whole house, and we
have way more people living there than you do here.”
“We got five people living here,” Arabella said. “Six, if you count Grandpa Jack.” She pointed at
“We got Grandma, and Grandpa, and Auntie Elanor, and my mom and dad and me,” Yuma
bragged. “That's six real people, not counting my mom's old teddy bears. She's got lots, and
they're not all dirty and smelly like yours.”
“Grandpa Jack just doesn't like having baths,” Arabella said primly. “That's 'cause he gets all
soggy and he can't tub pirate anymore 'cause his arms don't work on their own. Kids have to
move them for him and he says that's not the same.”
“When I was little, I used to pretend my teddy bears could talk too,” Yuma said with a
condescending smile. “How old are you again?”
“I'll be a teenager at the end of Winter,” Arabella said.
“Oh. Well, you're the same age as me then,” Yuma had the grace to look abashed.
“There's nothing wrong with playing with dolls and teddy bears and stuff anyway,” Arabella told
him. “My mom sometimes still does, but she plays with Captain Jack kinda weird. She likes to
wave stinky old rum bottles at him and then he gets really angry when she hides them and asks
why the rum is gone.”
“Arr, and a very good question it is too, love.”
“Hey, you can do ventriloquism!” Yuma said excitedly. “It sounded just like the bear was talking.
Do it again!”
“Um, Grandpa Jack can talk,” Arabella said.
“Stuffed animals can't talk.”
“We can if we happen t' be possessed by angry ghosts, mate. Savvy?”
As Yuma ran away screaming, Arabella turned to Captain Jack.
“Grandpa Jack, that was mean,” she scolded, shaking her finger at him.
“Arr, but it were fun, love.”
“Oh, well in that case... Vespa Toyonaga's coming home with me tomorrow after school.”
“It be a date, mate. But next time, d'ye think y' could snitch a bottle o' that rum yer mum keeps
hidin' under th' couch, love?”
“Okay, loser of this game has to ... umm,” Ching Shih pondered for a moment as she took in the
chess board. “Oh, I dunno. You think something up. You're much better at coming up with
punishments than I am.”
“It goes with the territory, being a Romance sim and all,” Jim shrugged, picking up a pawn. “We
could always play strip chess again.”
Ching Shih's face lit up, then fell. “Kids are home,” she complained.
“I could bribe the boys to take Arabella to the playground,” Jim said cajolingly as he put the
piece back down on the board.
“That would be a good idea, except Bella has a friend over, Ken's got a date with Georgia, and
Balthier's chatting with Sterling.”
“Okay, so raincheck on the strip chess,” Jim said easily, though he still managed to convey a
“How about, loser takes the winner out to dinner... any restaurant they want,” Ching Shih said.
“Nice, but not exactly the kind of thrill I'm in the mood for.”
“Well, if it's thrills you're after...” his wife winked at him. “We could just pause the game for a
“Why, Mrs. Buccaneer, what kind of man do you think I am?” Jim asked in mock outrage.
“The sort of man who's about to stop talking, if he knows what's good for him,” Ching Shih said,
looking up at him through lidded eyes.
The next few days went by in a happy blur, as they so often did in the Buccaneer household
these days. Days were spent either at school (for the children) or at work (for the adults).
Now that her initial trouble with homework had been solved, Arabella rarely spent more than
five minutes a day on her studies. A few quick lines dashed off were good enough to start her
grades raising and she could devote her free time to what was truly important: tub pirating.
Well, they do say that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
The boys, meanwhile, were the social giants of the island despite Balthier's protestations to the
contrary. A parade of teenagers usually followed them home.
“Hey Georgia,” Balthier said, waving at his brother's girlfriend.
“Oh, hi Balthier,” the pretty brunette said absently, her eyes focused on Kennit. “That's a nice,
um, hat you're wearing.”
Balthier just shook his head and stared at the young lovebirds.
“You do know that most teenaged romance is doomed to fail, right?”
“We're determined to be the exception,” Kennit said, waving his brother away. “Don't you have
something else you should be doing? This isn't a party for three, you know.”
“I'm just doing my duty as the annoying older brother,” Balthier grinned, poking Kennit in the
“Ouch!” his brother protested, but he was laughing.
“Fine, fine, I'll leave you two alone. Once you're tired of all that mushy stuff, though, you should
come socialize. Sarah and Cate are over, and there's a few others coming to hang out.”
“Someone say my name?” Cate Pseudo asked, waltzing into the room. She liked to make an
entrance, and if that meant she literally waltzed when she entered the room... well, she was up
“I was just telling the two facesuckers over there to be sociable.”
“Technically they are being sociable,” Cate said.
“Technically they should get a room, except Mom and Dad say we aren't allowed to have girls
who aren't related to us upstairs,” Balthier said.
“Well, there are plenty of rooms down here to choose from,” Cate said. “They could go be
inappropriate in the bathroom, for example. Or the nursery.”
“Ken's a Family sim,” Balthier said, shaking his head. “That might give him ideas.”
“I can hear you!” Kennit said with an accusing glare during a momentary pause for air.
“That's what makes it so much fun,” Balthier grinned.
“C'mon, Georgia,” Kennit said, shooting daggers at his older brother. “Let's go into the study.
Nobody will bug us there.”
“Oh good, they're gone,” Balthier said once the couple had retreated. “Now I can do something
I've been itching to do for a long time, Cate.”
“Oh, what's that?”
As more people showed up to the impromptu party at the legacy house, Kennit and Georgia
reluctantly realized that they weren't going to get any more privacy. While Georgia went to
freshen up, Kennit headed outside for some fresh air to clear his head. He found it became just
a little bit muddled whenever he was kissing Georgia.
“Nice place,” Jocasta Thayer said appreciatively. “Lots of interesting little nooks and crannies
“We like it,” Kennit shrugged. “No real privacy, though, for all its size.”
“Oh, it's plenty private enough for me,” the younger girl shrugged. “Crowds kind of make me
nervous. I've noticed people tend to clump together in smaller groups when in bigger houses.
It's kind of weird, from a psychological perspective, but there you go.”
“You're kind of weird, you know that?”
“It is a goal I aspire to,” the girl shrugged. “But when your grandmother is a deity, your father
used to be a tree, and your mother is the town bicycle, you do what you can to stand out. Even
if your reason is because people tend to avoid the weirdos.”
“So... you're the chick taking up all of Kennit's time these days?” Karat asked, fixing her
cousin's girl with a penetrating stare.
“I hope so,” Georgia said. “Otherwise he's got a lot of explaining to do.”
Karat laughed. “He pretty much talks about nothing else, unless he's harassing one of his
relatives. Has he subjected you to the Black Pearl yet?”
“Ken says he's going to take me sailing in the spring,” Georgia said with an eager smile. “I'm
really looking forward to it. I've never been sailing before.”
“It's not so bad, as long as you don't get seasick. Poor Balthier gets green just taking a bubble
bath—or has ever since we got back from our vacation.”
“I heard about that,” Georgia giggled. “Poor guy. I should be okay, though. My parents took us
all on a cruise once. Before they died, I mean. I was pretty little, but I think I would remember
“That's right,” Karat said sympathetically. “I heard about that. How your oldest brother and sister
practically raised you guys.”
“It was tough, but we managed,” Georgia said. “Now Ginger, Gavin, Gabriella, and Gallagher
are all at university and it's just me and Garrett at home.”
“No adults?” Karat grinned. “Wicked! Party at your place this weekend!”
“Oh, I don't”
“What time should we show up? I can text half the school in ten seconds flat.”
Karat started laughing. “I'm sorry, I shouldn't tease. I'm mean, I know.”
Georga joined in the giggles. “Wow, you really had me going for a minute there!”
“Oh, I was serious.”
“Wait, but you”
“You know, Kennit really should have warned me about you.”
“This party is totally lame,” Senex Marius said, exaggerating a yawn that was nearly the size of
the grand canyon to begin with. “I was expecting better from the legacy family, I have to be
“Um, this isn't a party,” Kennit said defensively. “You followed me home from school.”
“There are more than five guests visiting, and thus this is defined as a party.”
“I thought it was up to the host to definte whether or not a gathering constituted a party.”
“Sorry, it's based on a completely arbitrary set of ratios my grandfather came up with when he
was bored one day. He did things like that on a regular basis. Come up with strange
explanations and theories, I mean.”
“Yeah? Well let me tell you a secret,” Kennit said, leaning in close.
Ears perking up, Senex leaned over conspiratorially.
“You're kind of a doofus.”
Senex straighened up and gave Kennit an accusing look. “I thought you were going to tell me
something I didn't know already. That was the lamest secret ever.”
“Yeah, well, I'm a lame kind of guy,” Kennit shrugged.
While the big kids were inside sharing gossip, swapping spit, and generally getting up to antics,
Ching Shih and Arabella decided to spend some quality time together.
“Have you ever done this before, mom?” Arabella asked as she expertly cast out a line.
“Not really,” Shih said, gingerly baiting her hook with a wriggly, slimy worm. “But if I'm going to
get all of my badges before I die, I'd best start now.”
Hauling back, she cast forward as hard as she could.
Of course, the ground at the edge of the pond was a bit muddy and slippery, and the next thing
she knew Ching Shih was flat on her rear in the worst of it.
“Very nice, Mom,” Arabella said approvingly. “I give that flip four stars out of five. It's just, you
were a little rough on the dismount, and you didn't manage to hook a person—that lilypad looks
a little beat up, though.”
“How can I tell it's nearly your birthday?” Shih chuckled, hauling herself to her feet.
“Sarcasm gene activated?”
“You got it.”
Kennit and Georgia managed to slip away from the crowd and steal a few moments for
“Are you sure you don't want my jacket?” Kennit asked for the third time. “It's a bit chilly out and
the grass is kind of damp.”
“I don't mind,” Georgia said with a shrug. “I'm from a northern climate, so I'm used to it.”
“If you say so,” Kennit said.
“I wouldn't mind an arm around me to keep me warm, though,” his girlfriend responded
“I think I can oblige,” Kennit said, slipping his arm tighter around Georgia's shoulder. “You know,
lying like this is a real strain. You're lucky I'm such a nice guy.”
“Is Balthier the only one who didn't get the sarcasm gene?” Georgia asked, swatting him
“Oh, he got it alright,” Kennit said. “It's just been a bit longer in developing is all. See, first he
grew into a teenager, and then he got all sappy and mushy with the first girl he laid eyes on.
Well, she broke his heart—as everybody on the entire island, plus, I suspect, quite a few people
not on the island, knows—and his sarcasm gene mutated into the stupid ass gene. But he's
finally getting better.”
“I thought he was just more like your dad's side of the family than your mom's side.”
“Possibly,” Balthier said, pressing a kiss to Georgia's nose. “But what I really want to know is
why I've got a gorgeous girl in my arms and she's insisting on talking about my brother.”
“Just making conversation, I guess,” Georgia said, snuggling closer. “But if you'd rather
continue plying me with compliments, I'm all ears.”
“And the crowd goes wild as Arabella Buccaneer lays up the shot. She shoots... three pointer!”
As the basketball swished through the hoop, Arabella pranced around victoriously. The sound
of a car pulling up to the house interrupted her victory dance.
“Daddy!” she cried, running to greet him at the mailbox. “You're home! Are you permaplat yet?”
“Not quite,” Jim said, chuckling at her exuberance and pulling her into a squeeze. “How about
“Well, I did get a threepointer, but that's not quite enough to ensure lifetime happiness, you
“Still.. how about you line it up and show me?”
“I guess,” Arabella said, pouting a little.
“What, you don't want me to see?”
“No, it's not that,” Arabella grumbled. “I just wish we had a hockey net instead.”
“So anyway, if you let me go I promise I'll be home by curfew. It's going to be a great party and
only the class losers won't be there.”
“As long as it doesn't conflict with any of the upcoming family birthday parties, I suppose it
should be okay. Find out the actual date, okay?”
“Cool. I want to go to the party, but if it's at the same time as one of the rugrats' party I don't
mind going to that instead. Sterling said she'd be home for all the birthday parties.”
“Zing agreed to shell out for the flight home? I must say, that doesn't sound like him.”
“Mom, Uncle Zing is a Space Pirate now. I think he got a good deal on a used rocketship from
some salesman somewhere and he flies her out himself.”
“Okay, now that sounds like my older brother.”
“So, what's the word?” Kennit asked, wandering into the room. “The party's been moved aboard
Uncle Zing's rocket? Because that would be almost as awesome as if we could have it on the
“I was just telling your brother he could go as long as the dates didn't conflict,” Ching Shih said.
“Family is very important.”
“Usually I'm the one saying that,” Kennit smirked. “I take it if Balthier gets to go, I get to go?”
“If you want.”
“Nah, Ken would rather tell you he's going to the party when he's really going to Georgia's
house,” Balthier said.
“I see,” Ching Shih said. “But that's no big deal because Georgia lives in the same building as
your uncles, and they're under strict orders to invite themselves over if Kennit drops by.”
“Gee, thanks Balthier,” Kennit said with mock indignation. “Just had to go and mention it to
mom, did you?”
“I'm just doing my duty as a protective older brother,” he said innocently.
“Well then, as your annoying younger brother I may just have to tickle you til you cry for mercy!”
The next day, while Balthier was still nursing sore ribs from being tickleattacked by both his
brother and his little sister (she decided to join in while he was still vulnerable), Jim came home
from work with the announcement that he was now a Hall of Famer.
Larch Vetinari, who was coincidentally a coworker of both Jim and Shih, followed him home.
Whether it was to celebrate Jim's achievement with the family or was just because of Larch's
tendency to insert himself into every notable happening on Pirate Island was debatable.
“... and so I'd appreciate it if you could make sure my younger son does not kill himself in his
enthusiasm for your other trade,” Jim finished as they walked into the house.
“I will try to prevent your childrinion from endangering himself via his own stupidity. Can't
promise anything more than that.”
“I just worry about him a little,” Jim said. “The boy is reckless, sometimes, in pursuit of his
“Damned good sailor, though.”
“That's a relief,” Jim said.
“Indeed. Your childrinions, Kennit and Arabella both, are able sailors. They run the rigging better
than any of their cousins, for one.”
“Does 'run the rigging' mean what I think it does?” Jim asked, blanching a little.
While Jim wandered into the living room to distract himself from visions of flattened children,
Larch went off in search of Kennit. He didn't have to search very long, as Kennit happened to
wander past at that exact moment.
“The way I see it,” Larch said, catching the youth's attention, “you have two options. The first
option, which is boring, is that you stop telling your father about your adventures aboard ship.
The second, more appropriately eeeevil option, is that you tell him of every exploit in great
detail, so as to immunize his sensitivites against the possibility of danger.”
“He'll get used to it eventually,” Kennit shrugged. “Dad's just never really gotten over being
away from mom and Balthier for so long. But all that was way back before I was even born.
He's slowly getting better.”
“Ah, yes,” Larch nodded, scowling. “I remember that adventure. I was trapped in the form of a
teddy bear, which is both decidedly eeevil and decidedly not eeevil. I am still unsure how I feel
about that, other than being grateful that I am no longer infested with sand fleas.”
“Actually...” Kennit began.
“Ah, you attempt to distract me with insinuations of uncleanliness,” Larch said, grinning. “How
eeevil. Had I childrinions of my own in this 'verse, I would approve of a match.”
“Only the truly eeevil may learn of the multiverse theory of sim existance.”
“I can be eeevil.”
“Not quite eeevil enough, however.”
* * *
“Are you sure coffee is a good idea in your condition?”
“Caffeine—I has it.”
“I can see that.”
“Iz chocolate. Iz good. Teh doctor says so.”
“Aren't you your own doctor, dear?”
“Medicine... I'm doin it rite.”
“Is there a reason why you're being so uncommunicative?”
“My back hurts, my feets is swollen, and teh littrbox is full,” Shere Khan said grumpily, glaring at
his husband for a moment before returning to contemplation of his hot chocolate. “Dis dumb
idea, havin more kittehs. Ancient cat is ancient.”
“It was your idea,” Zing reminded him.
“After kitteh, we gets fixed,” Shere Khan said decidedly. “No more kittehs. Grandkittehs soon,
“If Sterling wants kids, then relatively soon,” Zing agreed. “Otherwise we'd have to wait for Karat
—she's the family sim so she'll have at least a couple. Troy won't want any until he's sure he
can pay for their college education. He takes after me.”
“No can has mad sighentist,” Shere Khan sighed.
“Well, maybe this one...”
“Okay, are you going to join me in my outrage and indignation at the Dads or what?” Karat
asked, pouting and ignoring her math problem.
“Indignation?” Troy asked, not looking up.
“We've finally gotten the number of people in our room down to a manageable size and they
have to go and move in a crib,” the furryskinned girl complained.
“They're grownups and parents,” Troy shrugged. “Pissing off their teenaged kids is what comes
to them naturally. It's, like, a law or something.”
“I still think they should keep the crib and change table in their room until the rugrat is a child,”
“I thought you liked babies!”
“I do like babies,” his sister replied primly. “I just don't like being woken up by them when they're
screaming at four in the morning.”
“They do that even when you're not in the same room,” Troy pointed out.
“Yes, but when they're in the same room, it just makes sense to change the diaper or get the
bottle. If they were in the parental units' room, they would take care of the kid in the middle of
the night. As it is, I forsee a lot of sleepless nights for you and me.”
“Now that you put it that way, I agree that it stinks,” Troy said. “But there's not much we can do
“We could go on strike and refuse to ever change a single diaper.”
“Yeah, that'd fly,” Troy said. “Especially with both dads working, you know we're going to wind
up babysitting sometimes.”
“Oh, I don't mind babysitting,” Karat shrugged. “That part's fun. It's just the middle of the night
stuff I'm complaining about. But maybe we shouldn't go on strike. Maybe we should just hand
the baby to one of the dads if it cries when we're sleeping.”
“That's probably a better plan,” Troy said diplomatically. “Now, are you going to do your
homework or what? We don't want to bankrupt the dads when college rolls around.”
“That's not for two more seasons!”
“It's never to early to start earning scholarships.”
“You are such a dork.”
Upon hearing of Shere Khan's latest pregnancy, his longtime friend Toshiko Buccaneer stopped
by for a visit.
“Aww...” she cooed, waving at the pregnant belly. “Do you think you'll have another fuzzy one?”
“Either way, is kitteh,” Shere Khan said. “Last one! You wants kitteh?”
“Oh, maybe someday,” Toshiko shrugged. “Right now it'd totally cramp my style, though. Living
the life of a secret agentslashdetectiveslashcriminalslashninja isn't exactly conducive to
motherhood. Besides, I've got Plot Immortality. I've got all the time in the world... at least until
my time's up.”
“Immortality—I has it,” Shere Khan agreed. “After teh kitteh, teh vet.”
“There's also this button you can flip on the ACR controller,” Toshiko said. “Easier than going
under the knife. Less recovery time, too.”
Shere Khan blinked.
“Er, at least that's what I've heard,” the ninja said quickly. “I wouldn't know for sure, except
something is working for Sim and me. No kids yet!”
Shere Khan muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like 'plot
“Oh dear, I hope not,” Toshiko squeaked. “Otherwise, that means I'll end up getting knocked up
at the world's most inopportune moment! Do not want!” She rummaged around in her utility belt.
“That's it. Sim and I are having a talk tonight when he gets back from that asylum place he was
investigating for Jack.”
As it turns out, no sooner had Toshiko headed back to her apartment and Shere Khan settled in
for a nap when the baby decided to make an appearance.
Karat happened to be walking past the bedroom, so she got to enjoy the full experience in
...as did Troy and his science partner.
Shere Khan didn't mind, though. All that mattered to him was that he'd had another fuzzy
orange daughter and she was healthy. Also, that he was done having babies, because the
having part kind of sucked.
It took a while to settle on a name, but finally Zing and Shere Khan decided what to call the very
last member of generation seven. They named their daughter 'Drachma', and she won over the
household within the first few hours of being born.
Zing and Shere Khan even agreed to keep the crib in their room, at least until Drachma
transitioned to toddler.
That meant that Zing got most of the latenight feeding duty, as Shere Khan was a much
sounder sleeper than he was. Zing didn't mind, though. He might be a Fortune sim, but he, like
many others, had a soft spot for babies.
“Bottles sure are expensive, though,” he lamented late one night. “Especially if you will insist on
drinking your own body weight six times a day.”
Drachma just flailed her tiny fuzzy arms and cooed at him.
By the middle of winter, Drachma's birthday approached and on the morning of that day, her
crib was moved into the twins' bedroom despite their grumbling.
“I can't believe it's already your birthday,” Zing sighed, nuzzling Drachma's downy head against
his cheek. “It seems like you were born just yesterday.”
“So what's this I hear about you having a party tonight?” Chrys Danaher asked, stopping Karat
on the sidewalk in front of her house as she made her way home from school. “Not going to
Karat blinked at him. “Who told you we were having a party?” she asked.
“I heard Troy and Ken talking about it at school,” Chrys said.
“Well, they were probably talking about it because it's going to be a family birthday party for my
little sister,” Karat said. “You know the sort—aunts and uncles, that sort of thing.”
“And I wasn't invited?” the boy asked, pouting. “I'm hurt, Karat. Hurt, I tell you! And here I
thought you and I were close.”
“I like you just fine, Chrys, but you aren't my brother or my cousin,” Karat said dryly, rolling her
“Well, that's a good thing,” Chrys grinned disarmingly, “because that means I can ask you out.”
“And that means I won't necessarily say no,” Karat grinned. “Call me tomorrow and we can set
“Oh, you're so full of yourself,” Karat giggled. She blew the boy a kiss and dashed off into the
“I do my best!” Chrys called after her, and, tucking his hands in his pockets, strode off whistling
down the sidewalk in the direction of his own house.
“Aww, I bet you're hungry,” Karat cooed at her little sister, bouncing the baby in her arms. “Want
“Nom quickly,” Shere Khan advised. “Caek soon.”
“I've got it covered,” Karat said, opening the fridge and extracting a bottle.
“Saw tomcat sniffing outside,” Shere Khan added once Karat was too busy juggling the baby
and the bottle to avoid him. “Marking territory.”
“Oh, you mean Chrys?” Karat blushed, and was thankful that her fur hid the betrayal.
“Experimental guinea pig.”
“His dad was teh furst. Infected world with babyplague.”
“Hmm. That's interesting,” Karat said. “I didn't know that.”
Further conversation was interrupted by the doorbell ringing, and since she was still holding the
baby, Karat insisted on bringing Drachma to the cake for her transition.
All of the family had managed to make it out for the celebration—there were a lot of them these
days, and not a lot of kid transitions left. Every birthday was an excuse for a party, as far as the
Buccaneers were concerned.
Drachma cooed and grabbed at the candles. “Ooh, she's eager to get going!” Karat laughed. As
the relatives chorused the familiar birthday song, she leaned forward and helped her little sister
blow out the candles.
As you can see, Drachma is even more adorable as a toddler than she was as a baby! Even
Troy, normally the pragmatic one, fussed over her considerably. In fact, he insisted on getting
Drachma gussied up into her expensive new clothes—he'd helped pick them out.
“I see you haven't put on the freshman fifteen yet, anyway,” Karat observed as she put her cake
plate in the dishwasher. “Keep noshing on those chips, though...”
“I'll have you know that the dorm food isn't actually that bad,” Sterling replied huffily. “They just
don't happen to stock dill pickle potato chips in Paris at all. I'm enjoying them while I can.”
“Thanks for the tip,” Karat grinned. “I'll be sure to buy out the entire island's supply before I
head to university.”
“This is so weird,” Sterling sighed. “I've got a kid sister I've barely even met.
“It just means you're going to have to visit all the time,” Karat insisted. “We all miss you. But
you'll have to sleep on the couch because there's no room for an extra bed in our room.”
“I suppose I will,” Sterling nodded. “Can't let the little squirt grow up without knowing who I am.
It'll be just like Dad and Aunt Rakshasi, I guess. Or Daddy and Uncle Borusa and Uncle
“Not quite as big of an age difference, though. By the way, I like what you did with your hair.”
“Oh, this?” Sterling laughed, fingering her ebony locks. “I thought it was time for a change, and
plus now people can actually, you know, see my face.”
“It suits you.”
* * *
“Dad! Dad!” Zeus Buccaneer yelled as he ran through the lobby of their apartment building.
“Guess what? Guess what?”
“Wow, you're really loud,” Marsha Bruenig observed. “Don't people get mad at you when you
yell? I always get in trouble when I talk at home.”
“Your parents must be really mean,” Zeus observed. “My dads will want to know all about me
getting an A plus on my math test today.”
“They're not my parents,” Marsha said hurriedly. “Just my caretakers, I guess. They're okay, but
they get scary when we play the dressing up game.”
“Dressing up game?” Zeus asked, pulling his homework out of his inventory and sitting down to
do it. “What do you mean? Playing dress up can be fun, as long as there's a pirate costume.
Pirates get to blow things up and go on the Pearl.”
“My caretakers hate pirates, so there's never a pirate costume,” the little girl said. “Just icky old
black—“ She stopped and looked at the clock. “Uh oh! I have to go! I'll be late!”
“What a weird kid,” Zeus said with a shrug, then forgot all about the strange encounter. His
homework today was about adding and subtracting money—his favourite subject.
That evening the apartment building was abuzz with activity, as Zeus' parents had reserved the
party room for his sister Minerva's teen birthday. All of the aunts, uncles, and cousins were in
attendance—Sterling hadn't left town yet.
“Is everybody paying attention?” Minerva asked once the candles were blazing with light. “I'm
only going to do this once.”
In response, Shere Khan nearly deafened her with a blast from his noisemaker.
A puff of air and a twirl later, and Minerva had turned into one of the more striking examples of
teenage beauty on Pirate Island. Her alien heritage was readily apparent, but she worked it.
“This cheap haircut has to go, though,” she said, checking herself out in the closest mirror.
“And...” she squinted. “I think I might need glasses.”
When she returned from the bathroom a few minutes later, she was a vision in blue.
“This is what I'm talking about,” she said approvingly.
“So how much longer do you think you'll stay in town?” Kennit asked Sterling once cake had
been consumed and everyone had started mingling.
“Oh, I dunno,” Sterling shrugged. “I've got midterms next week, so I should probably get Dad to
take me back before that.”
“College going okay?”
“Not bad,” Sterling said' “The emails I keep getting from home have definitely banished the
homesickness demons.” She stood up. “C'mon, I hear music. Let's go see what everyone else
is up to... I want to catch up with everyone!”
Linking arms with Kennit, she dragged him from the living room back into the apartment
building's common area.
Catching sight of them, Troy decided he'd had enough dancing.
“Catch ya on the flip side, Pops,” he said, fingergunning Shere Khan. “Gonna go chill with
Sterling and the others for a bit.”
While the adults and younger kids continued dancing or eating cake as the fancy struck them,
the teenaged set crowded around Sterling. It was Minerva's first time being included with the
older group and she felt a bit nervous, but the others soon put her at ease.
“No, sit down with us,” Balthier insisted. “Silver's just about to regale us with her stories of
“I am?” Sterling blinked.
“You have to,” Karat agreed. “Your emails have been pretty boring and generic so far, sis.
C'mon, spill everything. Have you been to any toga parties yet?”
“More importantly, have you met the Greek placeholder yet?” Balthier asked. “I hear she's really
“I'm starting to think he's a little obsessed with redheads,” Kennit whispered in an aside to
Minerva. “He had his heart broken by one and I'm starting to think he won't ever get back to
normal until he returns the favour or something.”
“Kinda weird,” Minerva agreed.
“Fine, I promise my emails will be much more informative in the future,” Sterling said with a
laugh. “But it's not realy all that different to Pirate Island, really. At least, not on campus. Half
the students have connections to the Island in some way or form, even the ones who grew up in
Paris. I haven't really had a chance to explore the city itself, yet.”
“That's going to change as soon as I get there,” Balthier insisted.”I'm going to drag you out to
see the town.”
“If you insist.”
“You make it sound like sightseeing is such a chore,” Kennit said. “I thought you were one of
those crazy Popularity types who always want to meet new people.”
“I do,” Sterling said. “It's just ... well, I've met lots of people in the dorms, but Orlando's too busy
with his new girlfriend to want to hang out, Anne and Devi live on the other side of campus, and
Callie would rather check out all the new boys.”
“Geez, you sound almost as pathetic as Balthier,” Kennit said. “You need to stop moping,
Sterling, and make some new friends.”
She thought about that for a moment. “I guess you're right...”
The next day, Hades Deity had a visitor.
“Mother... you're looking a bit... frigid.”
“That would be because my own son gave me the cold shoulder and didn't invite me to my
granddaughter's birthday party.”
“I did so,” Hades said. “Gold engraved and everything. Besides, Dad was there. Don't you guys
“We do,” I nodded sagely. “But I was busy last night, and if you'd been using your Deific powers
like you're supposed to, you would have known I couldn't make it and you'd have changed the
party to a different day.”
“You disowned Athena when she used her Deific powers. Being consistent is an important
“That was because she used them for naughty purposes,” I said. “Entirely different subject.”
“Well, how was I supposed to know that?” he asked, throwing his hands up in frustration. “I
swear, you're the most capricious member of our entire pantheon. Your whims change daily.
Sometimes you're all about the truth and justice aspect of leading a divinity, and sometimes
you'd rather crouch down in the grass and pull the wings off of insects.”
“It's not like they feel any pain,” I protested. “And I fix them afterwards. Sometimes I even make them
better—give them four wings instead of two, or make their wings purple. Useful things like that.”
“That doesn't make it right.”
“I think you've been living among the mortals too long,” I mused. “You've grown soft, Hades.”
“I think it's not so much that I've gone soft as it is you've gone crazy,” he said. “Just... go home, Mom.
I'll let you know about Zeus' birthday, okay? It should be at the end of the season.”
“I'll keep the date open,” I promised. “Sorry if I flew off the handle a bit... I just miss seeing my
grandbabies. You should bring them over to visit more often.”
“The last time I did that, Minerva got into your gaming system and accidentallyonpurpose turned her
brother into a dog.”
“Oh yes. That was very amusing.”
“I'll call you later, Mom. Goodbye.”
And with that, my ungrateful offspring pushed me right out the door.
“Grandma sure is weird,” Zeus commented as he worked on his homework—a family tree.
“She is,” Minerva said, covering over the mouthpiece of the phone for a moment. “No, sorry
about that. My little brother was just commenting on how weird our grandmother is. Yes, the
“Nah, she was just mad because she forgot about my birthday party—again. I swear she does
this every year. Everybody knows it's because Persephone is her favourite. The rest of us are
boring compared to her. Yeah, really. It's okay, though. We're used to it, and besides,
Grandma's kind of crazy. Sometimes I think we're better off with her ignoring us.”
“That side of the family is easy to draw, though,” Zeus muttered. “How do you draw in aliens?
Better go back to the other side, first. I forgot to draw in Persephone...”
* * *
Persephone plunked herself down on Sterling's bed and assumed a carefree pose.
“Um, do I know you?” Sterling asked, shutting down her computer and wandering over to sit on
the other side of the bed.
“Nope, we've never met,” Persephone said cheerfully.
“Well, normally I wouldn't complain about having a hot chick in my bed, but under the
circumstances you have to admit it's kind of weird. At least tell me your name.”
“Oh, right,” the deity nodded. “Persephone Biggs. And you're Sterling Buccaneer.”
“You got some mad mindreading skillz?”
“Nah, read the nametag on your door before I let myself in.”
“Oh, so you're the observant type.”
“Natch. Gotta be. Kinda goes with the whole, um, social coordinator butterfly job.”
“Besides,” she added, “I've decided that you're being too much of a loner and so I'm going to
stick to you like glue.”
“Like glue, huh? That could get a bit uncomfortable when I want to take a shower.”
“I appreciate your wit,” Persephone said. “But what I really meant was that I think we should be
friends. You haven't really picked a clique yet even though we've been here for a few months,
and neither have I. We're next door neighbours, so it's natural we'd be friends.”
“Don't friends usually have to have stuff in common?”
“It can help, but we can figure that out later. I figure the declaration of intended friendship is the
“I guess,” Sterling said doubtfully.
Still, Persephone's words, combined with Kennit's astute observations at Minerva's birthday
party, struck a chord. The Popularity sim knew she'd been avoiding her fellow dormies and she
made a bit more of an effort to get to know them.
It wasn't long before she'd made a few more friends, such as Piper Kimbrell. Piper had grown
up just down the road from Sterling but they hadn't really hung out much in high school. It
turned out that they had a fair bit in common.
Persephone also spent a fair bit of time 'making friends'. She'd met Charlie Avidreader at her
brother Laertes' dorm. But, much as she might enjoy his presence, she still spent far more time
stalking Sterling than she did knocking boots.
“I'm just saying it won't kill me to spend an afternoon hanging out with Poppy or someone while
you catch a movie with Charlie,” Sterling protested. “Go on! Be young! Have fun!”
“You know what? I think I will,” Persephone said, reaching down and patting her pocket. “It
should be safe enough to leave you on your own for a bit.”
“What's that supposed to mean?” Sterling asked, looking at her askance.
“I just mean you're not likely to lock yourself in your room and mope or anything,” Persephone
“Exactly,” Sterling said. “In fact, I think I might make a call. I've been avoiding this for far too
Sterling saw Persephone off and then headed outside to have a bit of privacy to make her call.
Of course, like all wonderful plans, that completely backfired, but she made the call anyway.
“Hey... it's me. ... Good, good. ... Yeah, the one at the end of the street. See you soon.”
When Nigella Traveller arrived, the reunion was exuberant and passionate.
“Well,” Sterling said, some time later. “That was...”
“I'm seeing someone,” Nigella said abruptly.
“... well, I was going to say awkward,” Sterling said wryly, gathering her clothes and getting
dressed, “but I think you just managed to say it better than I ever could have.”
“I didn't mean for it to happen with Reina,” Nigella said with a sigh. “But you know how these
things go... it just happens and then wham! twitterpated.”
“Which is exactly why you jumped into bed with me at the first opportunity,” Sterling said.
“I'm still a Romance sim,” Nigella said unapologetically. “Reina gets that. She's Pleasure, after
all. It works for us right now... we always end up back together, you know?”
“Believe it or not, I do,” Sterling said with a smile. “It's been... interesting, Nigella. And I certainly
don't regret anything.”
“Does that mean we can still be friends?” Nigella asked eagerly.
“Of course it does,” Sterling said, giving her a hug. “I guess... I guess I've been expecting this
ever since you went away to university without me. I've moved on too.”
“I'm glad,” Nigella said. “And hey, if you've ever got an itch...”
“When I said we could stay friends, I meant just that,” Sterling said firmly. “Just friends.”
“Oh, fine,” Nigella pouted. “Well, I should get going, Sterling. I'll call you later, okay?”
To distract herself from any lingering feelings she might have for Nigella, Sterling decided that
evening was the perfect time to pledge into the family Greek house, Arravast. In typical frenzied
fashion, the placeholder arrived in a tornado of activity.
“So you're the first of the generation, huh?” Claire Mellon asked with a bored expression on her
face. “You seem a lot different than the last members of your parents' generation.”
“That was Uncle Borusa and Uncle Spandrell, right?”
“Yep,” Claire nodded. “They were cool, but they were huge party animals. Don't get me wrong, I
love a good toga party or I wouldn't have gone Greek, but they were just a little too crazy for my
“Uncle Spandrell? Crazy?”
“Oh, the stories I could tell!” Claire laughed. “Buuuut... I promised I wouldn't. There's this
nondisclosure agreement they make the placeholder sign when they move in...”
“Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration,” Claire chuckled. “Once you're in the society, you're
exempt from the NDA. Since you joining is really just a formality, what say we get a bite to eat
and I'll fill you in on all the juicy gossip.”
The rest of the term passed quickly after that. Sterling gradually found her social circle
expanding to more acceptable popularity sim levels. Therefore, it wasn't exactly surprising when
she was approached one evening by a woman in uniform.
“Yeah, what of it?” the clueless young adult asked.
“I'm afraid you're going to have to come with me.”
“What? But I haven't done anything!”
“Keep quiet and nobody gets hurt,” the woman responded. “Hands behind your back.”
“This is an outrage!” Sterling hissed. “I demand a lawyer!”
“Bah, legacy kids,” the officer complained. “You skip a few generations inducting any of them
and this is what happens.”
Still grumbling, and now considering the officer's cryptic comment, Sterling plodded out of the
dorm towards the waiting... limo? Now that was odd.
A short while later they pulled up in front of a forbidding stone manor. “This is your stop,” the
woman said, unlocking the handcuffs. “Go on then.”
“Okay, what's going on?” Sterling asked, realizing that she knew most of the people pouring out
of the building. “Hey! Don't drive off! Great... now I'm stranded.”
“Not stranded,” one of the girls said with a laugh. “You've been inducted.”
“Into the ALT Secret Society, silly! We've been checking you out for the past few months and
we've decided that you're worthy. C'mon, let's get you the spiffy jacket.”
Once she had the jacket, Sterling had to admit that it wasn't that bad after all. In fact, it was
“Suits you,” redheaded Bill Chalmers nodded appreciately. “Say, have you ever considered—“
“Well, can't blame a guy for asking.”
A few days later, there was a visitor waiting for Sterling at the dorm when she returned from
“Um, do I know you?”
“We went to school together, but I was in the class ahead of yours,” the blackhaired girl said. “I
wouldn't expect you to remember me. I just wanted to stop by and apologize.”
“Apologize for what?”
The girl took a deep breath. “I'm Reina Kat.”
“And? What do you have to apologize for?”
“Well, I did kind of steal your girlfriend,” Reina said. “It was a bit coldhearted of me, especially
since I'm engaged to Gavin Newson now. I just wanted to let you know that Nigella is free
again, if you want to try dating her.”
“Why would I want to do that?” Sterling asked, blinking.
“Well, you two were together for ages back in high school, and I just thought—“
“You thought wrong,” Sterling said with a shrug. “I'm completely over Nigella. She and I are
friends, but the chemistry's gone.”
“I see,” Reina said. She considered for a moment. “Well, in that case...” she fluttered her
“I can't believe I'm hearing this,” Sterling grumbled. “Why don't you go home, Reina. I don't
have time for this nonsense.”
“I just thought...”
“You thought wrong. Just because I jumped into bed with Nigella doesn't mean I'm some sex
crazed nymphomaniac. Just... go.”
“Fine,” Reina huffed, and flounced out of the room.
“What was that all about?” one of the dormies asked.
“I think the crazies are out in full force tonight,” Sterling complained. “Must be a full moon or
something. Maybe both of them. Or maybe it's the end of term blues or something.”
“It has been known to happen,” the dormie said. “By the way... you know Persephone better
than anyone else here. Do you think she'd make a good candidate for the society? There's
been some interest in approaching her, but since she's your friend, it's your call.”
“Yeah, I'll make sure she doesn't catch wind of it. Great. Send Demi over right away.”
“What the hell? Do you honestly think you can wake me, Persephone Biggs, out of a sound
sleep and not be punished? Why, if I had my PSP right now—“
“But you don't, so come along quietly or I'll have to get... shirty.”
“This is so freaking ridiculous. There are certain things you just don't do to a divine person!”
Apparently, Persephone was able to channel some spark of divinity, at least, as she'd managed
to convert her pajamas into her usual outfit before the limo arrived at the manor.
“Please don't smite us!” a terrifiedlooking dormie squeaked. “It was Sterling's idea to bring you
“Bring me in... where, exactly?”
Persephone considered. “Oh. Well, that's okay, I guess. When do I get my jacket?”
“See, the difference between you and me is, I make this look good.”
* * *
“You know, you two should really get a room,” Borusa observed.
“We have one,” his twin brother managed. “You're in it.”
“I guess that would be my cue to leave,” Borusa huffed, giving Spandrell and Hades a glare. “I
came in to ask if you wanted to go out for dinner tonight or if you wanted me to order in, but I
can see when I'm not wanted. Fine, I'll just go.”
It was probably a good idea he went when he did.
“Aw, man, gelatin for supper again?” Zeus complained. He dutifully took a bite, then did a
double take as his sister's attire registered. “Why are you wearing your pajamas?”
“I was having a nap,” Minerva said. “Only the thumping noises woke me up.”
“You're telling me. And then Uncle Borusa told me that we were having jello for supper because
it was his turn to cook again, so here we are.”
“It's better when Dad cooks,” Zeus agreed. “Maybe when he and Papa are old and grey they'll
stop being gross. I also wish I had my own room. Or even that I shared yours. I always get
kicked out. Next time I'm going to flush the tv remote down the toilet.”
“Well, you couldn't share mine unless we got bunk beds, and I got no idea how we would ever
fit something like that in my closet. That's what my room is, you know. A literal closet.”
“We need a new apartment,” Zeus sighed.
“We need a house.”
“I'm not going to disagree with that. Do you think if I ask real nice they'll get me one for my
“I can't see that it would hurt to try.”
After dinner, Zeus had a moment alone with one of his fathers and decided to go for it.
“Dad?” he asked during a lull in their game of Red Hands.
“Can I have my own room?”
“Why do you want your own room?” Hades asked, sounding genuinely puzzled.
“Because I'm tired of getting kicked out of my room whenever you and Papa want some alone
time,” Zeus complained. “It seems like that's all you ever do anymore and I'm tired of it!”
“Whoa, calm down Zeus,” Hades said quickly. “It's obvious that you're approaching your teen
years and could use a little more privacy. Look, I can't make any promises but I'll talk to your
father and uncle and we'll see what we can do, okay?”
“It would make a really great birthday present,” Zeus said cajolingly.
“Well, I don't know if I can promise anything that soon,” Hades said quickly. “But I do promise I'll
look into it, at least.”
While Hades and Zeus were having their little talk, Borusa decided he was bored. Taking a
quick look around to make sure his stalker landlady wasn't on the premises, he dialed a number
“Ah, right on time,” he said a little while later, greeting the matchmaker in the apartment lobby.
“I'm a bit lonely for companionship, if you know what I mean.”
“Of course you are,” the old woman said sourly. “Everyone always is. Otherwise, why would you
pay me for anything? At least you use real money now.”
“Just...” Balthier stopped what he was about to say and handed the gypsy a wad of bills.
“Now that's more like it,” the old woman said. She gazed into her crystal ball and muttered a
few arcanesounding phrases. There was a strange popping sound, and a woman fell from the
“That looks uncomfortable,” Minerva observed as she walked past. “Don't mind me. I'm just
heading inside to babysit Zeus like you asked me to.”
Despite the awkward start, though, the date went fairly well and by the time the evening ended,
Borusa had added yet another notch to his bedpost. As for his date, she was from Paris and
when the gypsy's spell wore off, she vanished into thin air—presumably back to Paris—which
Borusa found very convenient. After all, the landlord could stop by at any time, and he didn't
want things to get... messy.
“So if you let me get a job, I can earn this huge scholarship that will pay for, like, half my
education right there!” Minerva finished excitedly.
“Well, I suppose you can give it a try,” Spandrell said dubiously. “Just as long as your grades
“They won't,” Minerva continued. “Trust me, dad, I'm so able to handle this.”
“In fact, if you say it's okay I can probably start this afternoon,” she continued eagerly, her voice
Behind her, Zeus sat up in bed.
“Could you guys keep it down,” he complained. “Some people were trying to sleep. I can't wait
until I have my own room. Even if that means you moving away for college.”
“Sorry,” Minerva said guiltily.
“Anyway, you can't start today,” Spandrell said. “It's your brother's party after school.”
“Yeah, and everyone's coming, even Sterling,” the little boy said happily, his grumpiness
somewhat forgotten. “And then she's staying until Arabella's birthday.”
“That's 'cause after Arabella's birthday, it'll be time for Spring semester and Balthier will be gone
too,” Minerva said importantly. She looked at her watch. “Hurry up and get dressed, and I'll
drive you to school today instead of taking the bus, since it's your birthday and all.”
Although the party wasn't due to start until after six, the cousins all came by a little early to
spend some time together. Ever since their family vacation with Grandpa Lee, they'd been
This time, Sterling was a lot more eager to talk about her life at college and happily filled them
all in on what she'd been doing.
“You mean you never met our cousin Persephone before?” Zeus blinked. “I thought everybody
knew Persephone. She's the kind of person who... meets people.”
“I've never met her either,” Balthier shrugged. “Heard of her, yeah. Met her? Nope.”
“Her brother went out with Callie a few times, which is gross because they're almost related,”
Karat said. “Muffy told me. She said that she even caught Laertes and Callie kissing a few
“Kissing is gross,” Arabella said.
“Give it a few more days,” Karat smirked. “You're almost a teenager yourself, girlie.”
“Can we please not talk about my little sister kissing people?” Balthier asked plaintively. “My
knuckles are already hurting in anticipation of all the guys I'm going to have to punch when I
come home on semester break.”
“If Troy ever tried that with Chrys, I'd probably have to punch him,” Karat smirked.
“Ah, I've missed you all so much,” Sterling said happily, soaking in the atmosphere. “The
teasing, the bickering, the kicking each other under the table.”
“It's too bad Drachma isn't a little bit bigger,” Arabella said. “Then she could hang out with us all
too. Poor kid is going to be way behind all the rest of us. I'll be graduating college probably by
the time she starts.”
“When's her birthday, anyway?” Zeus asked.
“Not til Spring,” Minerva replied, ticking off the days on her fingers.
“Poor kid,” Arabella said again.
“Oh, I bet it's not so bad being the youngest,” Minerva chuckled. “You or Zeus could attest to
that, I bet. The youngest kid always gets totally spoiled.”
“I called dibs on spoiling Drachma ages ago,” Sterling chimed in. “She already expects presents
every time she sees me. It'll probably get even worse the more of us go away to college and
come back with toys for her. She'll start to expect them.”
“Well then, maybe we shouldn't spoil her,” Minerva suggested.
“Are you kidding?” Sterling laughed. “It's awesome! After all, we don't have to live with her!”
The party of cousins broke up as more guests started to arrive. As she lived in the same
building as Minerva and Zeus, and as she and Kennit had been going steady for almost two
seasons already, Georgia was naturally invited.
“This should be a fun gettogether,” the brunette said cheerfully. “Your family's always a lot of
fun. Karat and I hang out a lot at school.”
“She and Troy are both pretty great,” Kennit agreed. “Minerva, too. She's a bit younger than us,
but a lot older than Zeus and Arabella, so she hangs out more with us than with them.”
“I don't know her very well yet,” Georgia said shyly. “Even though we live in the same building.
Isn't that kind of sad? Your Uncle Borusa is pretty great, though. He's always looked out for me
and my brothers and sisters.”
“Kinda weird for a chronic Romancer like him,” Kennit said, “but we've always suspected Uncle
Borusa is a closet Family guy. Not enough to actually want to settle down, see, but certainly
he's enjoyed helping to raise Minerva and Zeus.”
“They seem like really nice kids,” Georgia agreed. “I know my brother Garrett thinks so. He's
always talking about Minerva ever since she grew up to a teenager.”
“Do I have to punch his face in?” Kennit asked in mock seriousness.
“Probably not,” Georgia said. “At least, not until Minerva's a bit older. Garrett and I are off to
university in a few days.”
“I know,” Kennit said, pouting. “And you'll probably be dating someone else by the time I get
there, just like Nigella did to Sterling. Can we not talk about your impending departure, please?”
“Fine,” Georgia said, sighing. “We can put it off for a few more days. But we have to talk about it
“Okay,” he grumbled. “After Arabella's party? You don't leave for another couple of days after
The youngest two kids, meanwhile, were engaged in a ferocious game of Pirates and Ninjas. Of
course, there was much debate about the rules of said game.
“Don't be silly, Zeus,” Arabella said in exasperation. “Ninjas don't use guns!”
“They don't?” Zeus asked, stopping and scratching his head. “Well, then, what do they use?
And how come pirates get guns?”
“Pirates don't get guns either!” Arabella said. “It's the evil commienazis who use guns, Zeus.
Everybody knows that. My mom had to fight them way back before I was born.”
“She was so brave,” Zeus said. “Fine, I don't want to be a commienazi so what kind of weapon
do I get to use if I'm a ninja?”
“Well, you can chicken fight,” Arabella said. “Some ninjas worship chickens.”
“I thought those were zombies.”
She considered for a moment. “I think you're right. How about we play pirates and zombies
“Fine, but I get to be Grandpa Jack!”
“Okay, but then I'm going to be Auntie Toshiko!”
“Auntie Toshiko isn't a pirate or a zombie,” Minerva pointed out as the kids assumed their battle
poses once again.
“I know,” Zeus said, turning to his sister, “but it's already taken too long to figure out the game
rules. I don't want to waste any more time—it's almost time for cake and then I'll be a teenager
and won't want to play pirates and zombies anymore.” He formed his fingers into the classic
gun shape. “Bang!”
“Zeus!” Arabella whined. “I already told you! No guns!”
Fortunately, their argument was interrupted before it could turn into a more serious squabble.
Spandrell strode into the room, carefully balancing a cake on one hand. He placed it on the
table and bent down to give Zeus a kiss. “Ready to blow out the candles and grow up?” he
“As I'll ever be,” Zeus said, though he couldn't help but throw a wistful glance at Arabella, who
was doing a very good job of looking slightly forlorn.
“It's okay, Zeus,” she said in a small voice as she moved over to where she had a good vantage
point of the candles. “It's my birthday in a couple of days and then we'll be the same age again.”
Zeus tried very hard not to feel guilty. “Okay, is everybody watching? I'm making my wish!”
“We're right behind you, kid,” Troy said encouragingly.
Arabella giggled at the serious expression on her cousin's face. “You look like you're
constipated or something,” she called out, waving her noisemaker enthusiastically.
“I'm trying to concentrate on wishing here!” Zeus insisted, but he dissolved into giggles as well.
As a result, he only managed to blow out about half of his candles on the first try.
“Four girlfriends!” Arabella announced gleefully. “I am so going to make fun of you when you
start pining around for them.”
“Pay no attention to her,” Karat called over the whoops and catcalls that greeted Arabella's
pronouncement. “You can have as many girlfriends as you want.”
“I think I'd rather have a sports car or something,” Zeus said with a shrug, but then the transition
caught hold of him.
“It's your fault, for distracting me,” he said accusingly a moment later. He glared at Arabella. “I
transitioned into a dork!”
“You did not, you big dummy,” Arabella said scornfully. “You were a dork already. Now go and
get changed into something that doesn't hurt my eyes.”
After he was dressed in something a little more stylish, everybody was astonished at just how
much Zeus now resembled his deific grandfather, Chris. In fact, he was practically a
I was certainly impressed. Yes, I did remember the party this time. No, I'm not about to tell you
where I was during Minerva's party.
Ahem. Moving on.
* * *
“Hey dad, is it okay if Sterling and I go to the mall?” Karat asked the next day after school.
“Not in your school clothes,” Coxinga said absently.
“Okay, after I change?”
“And do your homework.”
“I hate homework,” Karat grumbled. “Can't I just copy yours, Troy?”
“Yeah, and if we get caught there goes my academic scholarship,” Troy said sourly. “I don't
think so, Karat. It won't take you that long, and Sterling said she'd wait.”
“Homework is still dumb,” Karat insisted.
“It builds character, and if a student successfully balances school and work he or she can earn
the Young Entrepreneur's scholarship,” Troy said loftily.
“I think we're too young to be worrying about stuff like scholarships,” Karat said. “We've still got
another whole season before we head to college.”
“That isn't that much time, sis,” Troy said.
“It's time enough,” his sister said airily. She dashed off a few more lines with a flourish and
stood up. Now, if you'll excuse me—“
“Can somebody get Drachma up and dressed?” Zing called down the hall. “I'm already late for
“Karat can do it,” Troy said. “I'm still doing my homework.”
“Fine,” Karat grumbled. “But you're babysitting when I go out with Sterling later.”
“It's a good thing you're so cute,” she added as she got Karat cleaned up and dressed. “And
that you're usually in a good mood when you get up from your nap.”
“Play wif me, Karat?” the little tiger kitten asked beguilingly.
Karat thought longingly of the mall, and discounted purses, but relented.
“Okay,” she said, twirling Drachma into her jumper. “We can play for a bit, but then Sterling and
I are going out shopping.”
“Where Sterling?” Drachma asked, looking around with wide eyes. She was enamoured of her
oldest sister and toddled about after her incessantly.
“From the sound of things, in the shower,” Karat said.
“Do you want to try walking again?” Karat added, setting Drachma down on the floor.
“Otay,” the little girl replied after a moment of thought. “An' then play wif my dollhouse?”
“And then you can play with your dollhouse with Troy,” Karat promised.
“Troy don't play wif dolls,” Drachma complained. “Jus' the furn'shure. He alays wants the
“Well, he is a Fortune sim.”
* * *
“Mornings suck,” Arabella complained, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes as she headed
“Do I really have to have juice for breakfast?” Arabella complained. “On my birthday? I should
get pancakes or something.”
Sourly, she gulped her juice down. “Hey, this is pretty good.”
“That's 'cause mom stocked your favourite stuff for your birthday,” Kennit yawned, stumbling
into the kitchen. He'd apparently taken a minute or two to get dressed, at least. “Now, sit tight
and I'll whip up some birthday pancakes for you, squirt.”
“Yay! Thanks, Kennit. You're the bestest brother ever.”
“Even better than Balthier?”
“Well, different than Balthier.”