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Rules of Prophetic Conduct

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The visions feel little different from memories once she’s had them, so Menalippe learns to seek out the signs that place an image in time. Weathering on the stones of Themyscira. Notches on her comrades’ weapons. Laugh lines on Antiope’s face.

Themyscira is sturdily built, and so the stones give her at best a range of decades. The Amazons take pride in maintaining their arms even after centuries of peace, and so the notches in the weapons are fallible as a measure of the passage of years. The laugh lines on Antiope’s face, however, are almost always accurate. Menalippe herself is responsible for most of them. She spends each morning studying the gentle creases in her wife’s sun-browned skin as their room warms to daylight, guarding the dawn-lit minutes jealously. They are precious, those minutes, and she cannot shake the feeling that they are too short for all that she and Antiope have eternity — and for all that Antiope insists on sleeping as long as she possibly can, until she absolutely must wake up to avoid being late.

When Antiope does wake, it is almost always to find Menalippe looking at her. Some days, what Antiope sees in Menalippe’s face leads to other … awakenings, and then they are late, both of them, much to Hippolyta’s displeasure.

Even with her love’s laugh lines to guide her, however, Menalippe is not immune to the occasional mistake.

“My congratulations,” she tells Hippolyta one afternoon a few years after Diana’s birth, as she and Antiope take their midday meal with the queen. As the Amazons’ general, Antiope does this regularly, but Menalippe usually begs off unless her wife insists she come along. Today, however, Menalippe was happy to join Antiope, since she has Seen that Hippolyta will for once be something less than perfectly dignified. Menalippe plans to enjoy this opportunity to see her sister-in-law cheerful. She plans to enjoy even more the opportunity to see Antiope make ribald jokes at Hippolyta’s expense until Hippolyta shoos them laughing from her courtyard with an amusement that throne and crown have made rare, calling after them that Diana better not hear such filth. Menalippe plans to enjoy most of all what Antiope, infected with her sister’s merriment, will do once their laughter carries them back across the threshold of their own home.

Instead, Hippolyta turns to her with narrowed eyes.

“For what?” The queen’s voice carries a dangerous edge. She takes it personally when her Seers keep things from her, even if what they have Seen is that revealing a vision would do more harm than good.

“For getting Philippus to—,” Menalippe begins. Hippolyta’s and Antiope’s simultaneous indrawn breaths cut her off mid-sentence. Menalippe frowns. Hippolyta and Philippus have been circling each other for years, and Antiope has been complaining about them for nearly as long, so when Menalippe Saw how Themyscira’s most obvious and least publicly talked-about courtship would finally conclude, she was overjoyed. For Hippolyta and Philippus, yes, but mostly for an end to Antiope moaning about it.

There must be some reason now that the queen does not want everyone talking about her night with Philippus, but Menalippe can’t imagine what it might be. It can’t be that Hippolyta is worried about being overheard; the three of them are the only ones in the courtyard, and the Amazons who stand on guard are out of earshot unless they raise their voices. Besides, for all that no one mentions Philippus as anything other than the steadfast warrior she is in Hippolyta’s presence, it is a much different story in the shadowed alcoves and dusty stable niches where gossip finds its spawning grounds. Menalippe knows for a fact that Antiope has compromised at least a quarter of their wine supply in wagers. Menalippe herself has only held back from the betting because, as a Seer, it wouldn’t be fair. Surely Hippolyta has some inkling of her subjects’ avid interest, pretend though she might that the whole business is beneath her dignity.

Nor can it be that Hippolyta is ashamed; for all that she spent decades appearing determinedly oblivious to Philippus’ obvious longing and her own equally obvious reciprocation of it, Hippolyta has no fear proclaiming her chosen course of action, once she has committed to it, for all the world to hear.

“For getting Philippus to what?” The queen speaks with a deadly calm.

Then Menalippe remembers that both Hippolyta and Antiope reacted sharply to her words. Menalippe steals a glance at Antiope, who is wide-eyed, looking almost as surprised as Hippolyta looks suspicious.

Oh. Oh, dear.

Menalippe hopes that doesn’t mean what she thinks it does.

With a growing sense of dread, she scans the courtyard, starting with her wife. Antiope is frowning slightly, but all of her laugh lines match what Menalippe recalls. The shadows fall exactly as she remembers them, the sun high and warm as it was in her vision. Hippolyta wears a white chiton just like Menalippe Saw, but that’s little help; Hippolyta has fifty such garments, each as interchangeably regal as the next. The meal set out before them is as it should be, Menalippe thinks, but her visions have always been more vivid in color and sound than in taste and smell, so she can’t be sure. And the flowering plants that cover the courtyard walls are all in bloom, just as —

No. There.

The bougainvillea twining over the balustrade behind Hippolyta is a riot of purple, as it always is this time of year. But among the mass of blossoms there is one cluster of flowers, easy to miss unless she looks for it — which Menalippe does, meticulously — that was not there in her vision. It must fall between today and, well, sometime very soon after today, perhaps even tomorrow, because nothing else changes much.

Which means Menalippe is a day early, which means she might have diverted the future by bringing it up, which means Hippolyta and Philippus might end up not having the spectacular sex that Menalippe knows they are supposed to have had. Not that she Saw that part directly. Being a Seer needn’t make her a voyeur, and she avoids the visions that would intrude overmuch. Themyscira is, after all, quite a small island, and one she must share with the other Amazons for eons to come. But she did See the look on Hippolyta’s face the morning after. Only very spectacular sex could make the queen unbend quite that much.

Now, though, the queen’s night with Philippus might be delayed, or never come to pass at all.

Which means Antiope could be complaining about this for years to come.

Damn.

Menalippe would search the potential futures for the best way out if she could, but at the moment she lacks the calm such a search demands. Anyway there isn’t time: she has already been silent too long, and Hippolyta has never been famous for patience.

“For getting Philippus to what, exactly?” Hippolyta might as well be drawing each word out with tweezers.

Menalippe looks to Antiope for help, and because this is the two of them, it's a look not of panic but of challenge. Cover me, I’ve already begun the attack. It’s a look they’ve shared a thousand times and a thousand times again in battle, and less often but with just as much success in council. They’ve had millennia to perfect the skill, until the pair of them might be a single warrior in two bodies. Even if it’s usually Antiope charging out ahead, still she never fumbles when it’s Menalippe instead.

She doesn’t fumble now. Menalippe sees Antiope catch on, sees her decide to make this the catalyst Hippolyta needs, and thanks the gods yet again for her wife.

Hippolyta doesn’t stand a chance.

“For getting Philippus to agree to open the dancing at Haloa this year,” Antiope says smoothly.

Hippolyta stares, nonplussed. She is too much a queen to let her jaw actually drop, but it’s a near thing. Philippus, all graceful balance and deadly precision on the battlefield, is mayhem as soon as music is involved. The last time she attempted to do more than sway on the spot at the harvest festival was before Themyscira, and that night ended with eleven trampled toes, a black eye, and two sprained ankles — only one of which belonged to Philippus.

Menalippe smiles. It isn’t what she expected to come out of Antiope’s mouth — not having Seen this conversation, she isn’t sure exactly what she expected anyway — but it’s more than enough to work with. She jumps in as Hippolyta draws breath to say something, speaking before the queen can get a word out. It would be rude, after all, to interrupt once Hippolyta actually began to speak.

“Yes. She is determined to do you credit, you know. I’ve seen her practicing.” Actually, Menalippe has Seen Philippus practicing now that she thinks about it, in this very courtyard in fact, but that won’t happen until many more flowers have fallen off the bougainvillea and the leaves have begun to turn. Not that Hippolyta needs to know that.

Antiope tilts her head and gives Hippolyta a significant look. “This is still Philippus, though.” Her voice carries just the right note of ruefulness. She reaches across the table to twine her fingers through Menalippe’s and squeezes, and even though the gesture carries the familiarity of two thousand years, it sends a shiver of desire straight to the pit of Menalippe’s stomach.

Well. Menalippe is hardly to blame. In her defense, it’s been two thousand years of Antiope figuring out exactly how many ways she can carry her wife over the edge of pleasure. And Antiope is endlessly inventive.

Menalippe squeezes back and is pleased to note Antiope stiffen almost imperceptibly at the unspoken promise in her grip. Antiope is not the only one who can come up with as-yet-unexplored possibilities.

They have a job to finish first, though.

“It would perhaps be best, for all of us, if she had … lessons,” Menalippe tells Hippolyta solemnly.

Hippolyta is too dignified to snort just as she is too dignified to stare slack-jawed, but she nevertheless manages to convey the effect of a snort with the mere quirk of an eyebrow. “And where do you expect to find lessons that would achieve what thousands of years of harvest dances haven’t?”

Menalippe jumps in again and Antiope lets her. They both know that Hippolyta would only become more suspicious if Antiope was the one to deliver the necessary flattery here; Hippolyta has accumulated a number of excellent reasons to regard flattery from her sister with skepticism. Menalippe, however, is not known as a flatterer. She Sees what will be, not what is politic or tactful.

“She has not had a chance to learn where no one else is watching. It’s the only thing she’s self-conscious about.” Well, not quite the only thing. “And she has not had lessons from the most skilled dancer on Themyscira.”

“And,” Antiope can’t resist adding under her breath, “she has not had quite the same incentive.” Menalippe squeezes her hand again, sharply this time, a warning not to give the game away, but Hippolyta seems not to have registered Antiope’s words. She’s looking thoughtfully into the middle distance.

“Yes. Well.” Abruptly, she focuses again on Antiope and Menalippe in front of her. “If it is an honor she truly wants, I suppose we must see that she is adequately prepared.” She favors them with what is almost a smile. “Send her to me.”

They hold back until they have delivered the summons to Philippus, who promptly opens her mouth, then closes it, then nearly breaks into a run as she hurtles for the palace. As soon as they are within sight of their house, however, Menalippe and Antiope dissolve into laughter.

“My love, we mustn’t,” Menalippe gasps helplessly. “It’s uncharitable.”

Antiope straightens her face with an effort. “Most uncharitable,” she agrees, but then her mouth twitches. “Can you imagine Philippus’ face? When Hippolyta tells her she’s leading the—,” and Menalippe is off again, which sets Antiope off too. It is some time before either of them has breath to speak.

Finally, Antiope collects herself enough to say, quietly, “That was well done. I almost didn’t figure out where you were going until it was too late.”

“You do me too much credit,” Menalippe answers lightly. Antiope insists on believing that her mistakes are not mistakes. “That was your doing as much as mine." She looks down at Antiope, solemn now. "The Sight is a capricious gift, love. You have no idea how many times it has brought us close to disaster.”

Antiope slides a hand around her waist. “Not too capricious for my Menalippe. And I would endure any disaster if I had you by my side.”

They don’t speak much after that, but it’s not laughter that stops their words.

* * *

The summons comes the following day, for both of them. It arrives in the late morning, but because it is one of their rest days from the training yards, Antiope is still abed. It is Menalippe, therefore, who comes to the door, hastily tying on the same tunic Antiope snatched off her the night before.

In the doorway stands Artemis, bearing a message from the palace. “You should go soon, I think,” Artemis adds after delivering her message. “The queen was in an … unusual mood.”

Menalippe waits. She is almost certain that she and Antiope set the future back on its course the day before, but almost certain is not certain, and unusual might mean many things. She would prefer to know what she is about to walk into, and although she could tug the threads of the future to find out, having the Sight is only half the battle. The other half is learning when to See and when to watch. She watches Artemis.

“Antiope should dress,” Artemis says after a long moment. “I know she has little regard for palace formalities, but … I think Hippolyta will not be alone.”

Menalippe smiles then. “I would not be surprised.”

Artemis looks at her shrewdly. “No, you wouldn’t, would you.” Her look hardens. “Swear that you did not tell Antiope in advance.”

Menalippe meets her gaze. “I did not tell Antiope.”

“And you wouldn’t lie,” Artemis says. “Not about the Sight. You might not come right out with all of it, but you wouldn’t lie.” She sighs. “Damn. I owe her a whole cask of wine.”

“She will be pleased,” Menalippe says brightly, and, leaving Artemis rolling her eyes in the doorway, goes to wake her wife.

By the time they arrive, Hippolyta is seated in the courtyard, perfectly coiffed and resplendent in a white chiton very like the one she wore the day before.

“Sister,” Antiope says, instead of My queen, and Hippolyta turns to them with an expression that is trying very hard to be a glare. It mostly fails.

“You knew,” she says accusingly. “You — set this up.”

“I didn’t know, I hoped,” Antiope corrects her, at the same time as Menalippe says, “It was time.” Antiope’s hope had mostly manifested as endless whining.

Hippolyta gestures impatiently, no longer fighting the smile that pushes at the corners of her mouth, and they take their seats.

“My congratulations,” Menalippe says, and this time the look Hippolyta turns on her is exactly as she remembers it.

Philippus emerges from a doorway at the other end of the courtyard. She looks equal parts stunned, embarrassed, and triumphant. Uncharacteristically, she wears a stem of bougainvillea blossoms tucked into her hair. The accent of color on her usually monochromatic garb bespeaks Hippolyta’s hand and eye for detail.

Menalippe thinks she wears it well.

Antiope clearly thinks so too, for she is waggling her eyebrows suggestively and already opening her mouth to say something crude. Menalippe nudges her into silence.

She nudges Antiope three times more in the next two minutes before giving up. Antiope is nothing if not determined, and Menalippe has Seen how this ends.

For the second time in two days, laughter sweeps them from palace to house. This time, at least, they don’t have to hold it in.

“Hippolyta will be pleased,” Antiope says. “She hasn’t had a wedding to plan since—”

“Ours,” Menalippe finishes, and then Antiope’s mouth is on hers, drawing her head down insistently so that Antiope can catch Menalippe’s bottom lip with her teeth.

Menalippe presses her hand into the space between Antiope’s shoulder blades, tilts her wife backwards, and sweeps her up bodily to carry her across the threshold.

* * *

Philippus does begin the dancing at Haloa that year, radiant and graceful in a way she never managed on the dancing field until she had Hippolyta in her arms, whirling with her through the steps with the confidence of a queen.

Menalippe barely notices.

She has eyes only for Antiope, whose smile is wild with delight and wicked with intent, and they are both drunk on wine and on dancing when they stagger back to their house.

They stumble inside — it’s lucky they know the floors of this little house so well, Menalippe thinks vaguely — and then thoughts give way to touch. Two thousand years, and they still find things to teach each other.

They have made it to the bed when Menalippe draws back for breath. Antiope’s face is caught in moonlight, hair no longer even making an attempt to maintain its customary braid. Tenderly, Menalippe brushes a finger against the corner of Antiope’s mouth. There is a new laugh line there.

Menalippe’s heart is full with the gratitude of centuries, and she looks long upon Antiope’s face.

“What?” Antiope whispers. “Have you Seen something?”

“Yes,” Menalippe tells her. “I have Seen that my wife is beautiful.”