Zeus adjusted the folds of his robes before the full-length mirror. Perfection was hard won with an infestation of sprites on Olympus. Those little winged creatures got everywhere: up your clothes, in your hair, into the ambrosia. Nowhere was safe. And the screaming, Zeus hadn't heard so many screaming goddesses (and not been the source of it) for as long as he could remember. A familiar scream of Queenly outrage suddenly shook the marble walls. The King of the Gods covered the threatening undignified chortle with a royal clear of his throat, checked his profile, and then preened his hair and beard once more. He was a damn fine looking god. No wonder they couldn't get enough of him; mortals or gods they all fell helplessly for his obvious charms. Zeus nodded approval at the reflection of the outrageously handsome god, strengthened his field that kept the fairies at bay, and flashed to the meeting room.
*** What was taking that vain old goat so long? Hestia, Goddess of Hearth and Home, was trying desperately not to squirm in her seat as she waited for her 'King'. And it wasn't because of the fairy up her dress either. No - it was the glaring gods and goddess seated at the table around her. Poseidon 'Earth Shaker', Apollo 'Far Darter', and Demeter (well, her sister) were all glowering and muttering curses. It was enough to make the most composed of goddesses twitch (which of course she was). Hestia knew it was all her fault; the other gods knew it was all her fault. She groaned and studied her perfect fingernails. How was she supposed to know the fairies would go on a rampage against the gods? Fairies weren't her business. She didn't know whose business they were, but they weren't hers. Everything within her field of responsibility was kept neat and tidy. Fairies were anything but neat and tidy. It was all Ares' fault, Hestia decided as she glared back at Demeter. Her War God nephew had 'accidentally' blown the foundations out of her temple during one of his ridiculous wars; she had to throw up a quick energy support or the whole thing would have collapsed. She was going to get it fixed, she really was. That's when those stupid sprites (attracted by the energy support columns) decided to make her temple their new home. Hestia shuddered at the disaster that had ensued: no one could sleep due to their constant tinkling, offerings had mysteriously disappeared, and virgin priestesses had fallen pregnant. Who wouldn't lose their temper in the face of such catastrophe?
"I can't believe a sister of mine would be so stupid!" Demeter squawked for the third time. She was still attempting to pry a purple fairy from her exquisitely wound hair, her growling growing with her frustration. "Why would you blast a whole colony?"
"You know fine why." Hestia tried not to squawk back but her nerves were getting to her. "Its all Ares' fault! If he hadn't-"
"Don't start that again."
The Hearth Goddess turned at the sound of Apollo's groaning voice in time to watch him fish a pink sprite from his wine goblet.
"You fry a thousand fairies-" The Sun God casually tossed the sprite across the room, narrowly missing Poseidon's head. "-And somehow it's Ares' fault? ... What?" Apollo finished to his glowering Sea God uncle.
Poseidon's answering snarl was drowned out by the wordless howl of an enraged Hera. The assembled gods held still as the walls rumbled.
Zeus flashed in.
A glance was all it took for the King of the Gods to see his family was arguing again. It wasn't a surprise, it was expected. Whenever life got uncomfortable they bickered until he sent someone to sort it out. It never failed: the god chosen to do the dirty work either succeeded - or else.
"Where is Ares?" Zeus enquired in his best demanding boom, following it up with his patented eyebrow twitch of annoyance.
"I don't know. Where did you send him?" Demeter snarled, before shouting in triumph as she retrieved the sprite from her hair, and crushed it on the table.
"To that elfin 'acquaintance' of his." Zeus took his seat at the head of the table. "Apparently they have spells that can turn the sprites upon themselves-"
"So they'll stop bothering us!" Hestia finished for her brother. "That was very clever, Zeus." The goddess still hoped to get a Solstice gift from someone this year.
"Yes, it was." Zeus preened, forgetting from whom the idea originally came. It must have been his: it was so clever after all. "Ares should have been back by now," he announced in a manner that left no room for debate. He heard nothing but muttered agreement as he carefully checked his wine for sprites.
"So what's taking him so damned long?" Demeter shrieked as the rejuvenated purple sprite suddenly re-materialized in her hair.
Another howl of Queenly anger showered peacock feathers over the seated gods. Zeus pulled a green feather out of his wine before sipping it warily.
"He's doing it deliberately," Demeter snarled, angrily unwinding her braids. "He likes to see us suffer!"
"Everyone likes to watch everyone else suffer," Apollo opined, watching a sprite trying in vain to climb Poseidon's newly slimed exterior. "But Ares has a bad case of Fay-estites, so he isn't enjoying anything at the moment... How did you do that, Poseidon?"
A sprite suddenly materialized in Zeus' ambrosia wine. It was blue. Closer examination proved it to be doing the backstroke. It was grinning.
"ARES!" the King bellowed.
The gods stilled, listening to a few mortal villages being wiped out by an 'inexplicable' earthquake.
Apollo sighed and plucked the seventeenth sprite from his wine.
"Yeah, yeah," the growling tones of the God of War preceded his dishevelled appearance. "I'm here already." He dropped unceremoniously into a spare chair beside Poseidon.
Zeus shifted uncomfortably in his robes; Ares looked far too good rumpled like that. "Well?" he snapped, and was rewarded with a brown-eyed glower.
"He said he'd do it." Ares inspected the wine goblet before him suspiciously, and then took a frowning, hesitant sip.
"That's it?" Zeus queried indignantly, watching his son waggle a finger around in his wine. "Didn't you tell him I commanded it?"
Ares rolled his eyes. "He's busy. He said he'd do it, okay?"
"BUT WHEN???!" Demeter screamed from beneath a mass of half-plucked braids and flashed off.
At trio of indignantly angry flashes soon followed as Zeus, Hestia, and Poseidon departed to be uncomfortable elsewhere.
Apollo sat watching the God of War idly scratching the raised welts on his forearms. The Sun God's gaze drifted up the impressive biceps, over the supple black leather, before resting on the tantalizing triangle of bronzed chest. There were marks along his brother's neck that were not attributable to his allergy.
"What are you staring at?" Ares snarled.
Apollo smirked. "Not at your best, brother? Couldn't you 'convince' your 'acquaintance' to get rid of the sprites sooner?"
Ares' growled reply was drowned out by the twin howls of apoplectic goddesses.