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Lexi had spent her share of time in stark white rooms waiting for doctors to arrive to tell her she had sprained or bruised something, fitting her with a plastic boot and handing her a prescription for pain meds. Now, she sat on an exam table waiting for Hera, goddess of marriage and family. Lexi couldn't recall the last time she felt so nervous, and she wasn't even injured. She was pregnant, a perfectly wonderful state to be in for a woman her age. Actually, twenty was pretty young to be staring down the barrel of motherhood, but she wasn't going to let her youth and inexperience get in the way of being a devoted mother. She was a goddess, carrying the child of the god of the underworld. It was a pretty big deal.

Hera entered the room, reminding Lexi why the wife and sister of Zeus was held in such high esteem. She bustled in with a confident flair, shoulders thrown back, chin lifted, a kindly yet no-nonsense smile on her face. Rather than a white lab coat, she wore a simple cotton gown cinched around her ample waist by a gold braided belt. Despite the fact that Lexi was the offspring of one of Zeus' many consorts, Lexi didn't think Hera held animosity toward her, and Lexi always made a point to say hello to Hera whenever she visited Olympus. It never hurt to be extra nice to the people who could take you down and keep you there.

"How are you today, Lexi?" Hera asked as she pulled up a crushed velvet stool. Even the chairs inside the infirmary were suitable for a royal bottom.

"I am well, thank you. How are you, Hera?"

Hera's smile widened, as if she suspected Lexi was being overly polite to impress her. "I am well. The nymphs have placed fresh potpourri throughout the palace, and the scents of cinnamon and rose have lifted my spirits considerably."

"Had your spirits been low before?"

Hera's smile faltered but didn't disappear completely as she offered her reply. "Oh, the mood of the palace has been dark of late. I ordered the potpourri be changed to lighten it. Now, let's talk about you. I must say, I am flattered you chose me to handle the particulars of your pregnancy. It has been some time since a goddess has requested me personally now that I am retired. I usually assist Artemis or Phanes."

"I had not considered anyone else to see me through this, your grace."

In all fairness, Lexi had not realized Hera was retired and merely assumed she was the only option, but learning that Hera had been flattered rendered any other considerations moot. "I was curious as to what methods you will use for the examination," Lexi said. "I assume you don't use ultrasound."

Hera chuckled as she reached into a drawer and pulled out a wooden horn-like instrument. One end had a wide mouth like that of a trumpet and the other end was flat. "This is called a Pinard horn, and it is quite accurate for detecting a fetal heartbeat. On your data sheet, you noted your last menses occurred around the spring equinox. That would put you at your fourth month of pregnancy. We should have no trouble hearing a heartbeat with this. Why don't you lie down and I will have a listen."

Lexi did as she was instructed, reclining on the cushioned table and opening the front of her infirmary frock. Hera placed the wide end of the wooden horn on Lexi's belly and lowered her ear to the flat end. The pressure felt strange but not painful, and Lexi held her breath as she waited for Hera to confirm that Hecate's bubbly brew had been accurate and Lexi wasn't just perpetually bloated. The memory of Pesca's miscarriage forced its way into Lexi's mind, but she diligently pushed it away. Unfortunately, the fact that Hera was offering no feedback as she listened intently made it increasingly difficult to remain upbeat.

Hera changed locations, moving to the other side of the table and digging the horn into Lexi's belly again. As she watched Hera's face contort with concentration, Lexi felt her own face go hot, and when she clenched her hands at her sides, she realized they were clammy. Was Hera not aware that her silence was putting Lexi through agony? Was this some sick form of torture? Did Hera really despise Lexi after all?

"Hmm," Hera said finally, although her noncommittal comment only made Lexi feel worse. Lexi was starting to think Hera's decision to retire was a good one.

"Hmm good, or hmm bad?" Lexi asked as she clenched her fists tighter.

Hera stood up, pocketing the wooden horn. "Well, that depends on whether you think having twins is a blessing or a curse."

Lexi's mouth unhinged, and she stared at Hera in a very unladylike way. "Are you sure?"

A smile found Hera's face again as she nodded. "I have tended to quite a few mothers carrying twins and have not made a single miscalculation, apart from an instance when the goddess was carrying triplets. One babe was lying across another. We did not realize the little god was hiding there until the seventh month."

Lexi forced a lump down her throat while Hera walked to her desk and started jotting notes on a pad. "Based on my calculations, you should deliver around winter solstice, although twins tend to come early. Aren't you and Hades planning to wed on winter solstice?"

"Um, yes, but we have decided to wait until spring."

"That is probably best. You will have enough on your mind with the impending birth. You won't want to add a wedding to that. I have not had an opportunity to wish you congratulations on your upcoming marriage. I am sure Hades is extremely pleased. Even as a youth, he was a kind and fair god. I believe you two will complement each other well."

"Thank you, Hera. Your support means a lot to me. Is there anything else you need to do while I'm here," Lexi said, hoping the answer was no. She desperately needed a private moment to process the news.

"Let me think. I have already given you nutritional advice and spoke of the importance of watching your step as your belly grows. If you do not have any questions for me, I would be happy to send you on your way. We do not worry about our pregnancies as much as mortals tend to. Another advantage of being a god."

"Well, my appetite has definitely increased, so the baby isn't going to starve."

"Babies, dear." Hera touched Lexi's arm as she reminded her of their big discovery. "I would like to see you again in thirty turns. In the meantime, enjoy your pregnancy. Pleasant day, Lexi."

"Pleasant day, Hera."

When the door closed, and Lexi had been left alone, she gave herself permission to curse out loud.

"Holy shit! I'm having twins."

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