By Claire
 The original lyrics to the soundtrack of Grease were written by various people, all of whom I apologise to profusely.   Dedicated to Suzy, because it's all her fault ;-)
"I can't believe this is over so soon," said Joxer, picking a flower off one of the bushes. Strong arms wrapped around him, as his lover pulled him close to his chest.

"It's not over, Joxer," Ares reassured him. "It'll never be over."


The War God smiled softly. "I promise, love. I promise."


The Gods fought the Titans, and they cast them down
Then on Olympus, Zeus took the crown
There is a chance Xena can make it far
Now she's stopped the killin' and she's obeyin' the law - Greece is the place
Zeus thinks their love is just infatuation
He thinks the Gods should be above that situation
But soon he'll find out that their love's for real
Ares and Joxer, they really feel what they feel - Greece is the place
(Greece is the place, is the place where you live)
It's got Gods, it's got mortals
Greece is the time, is the place, is the era
With Hercules, Xena and Hera
They took the Titans and they threw them away
That lost and ancient race belongs to yesterday
There is a chance Joxer can make it far
If he starts believin' in himself as a consort to War - Greece is the place
(Greece is the place, is the place where you live)
It's got Gods, it's got mortals
Greece is the time, is the place, is the era
With Hercules, Xena and Hera
You take the legends of Cyclops, tales of the Amazons
Mix with the story of Cecrops, and roll them all into one.
They took the Titans and they threw them away
That lost and ancient race belongs to yesterday
There is a chance Autolycus can make it far
If he can keep himself one step ahead of the law - Greece is the place
(Greece is the place, is the place where you live)
It's got Gods, it's got mortals
Greece is the time, is the place, is the era
With Hercules, Xena and Hera
(Greece is the place, is the place where you live)
It's got Gods, it's got mortals
Greece is the time, is the place, is the era
With Hercules, Xena and Hera
(Greece is the place, is the place, is the place...)


Joxer couldn't stop from singing to himself as he made his way along the dirt track. He wasn't far away from the village he was due to meet Xena and Gabrielle in. He hadn't seen either woman since before he and Ares had spent all summer together. //Ares.// The name was like a soft caress across Joxer's mind. He'd never have believed how gentle and loving the God of War could be if he hadn't experienced it for himself. He was brought out of his thoughts by the far off sound of laughing children. Realising the village was just around the hill, Joxer began walking slightly faster, eager to see his friends.


Joxer walked into the tavern, spotting Xena and Gabrielle. The two women were sitting in the corner, talking to a couple of others. Joxer recognised them immediately. "Hercules, Iolaus," he said, sitting in the spare chair. "I didn't know you were in the area."

"We weren't," said Iolaus. "We're here because there's a war threatening to break out not far from here in Salia, and we've been asked to help stop it."

"We came by here because we thought Xena and Gabrielle might be able to help," added Hercules. "And you, as well."

Joxer realised the demi-god had tagged his name on the end so he wouldn't offend him, but ignored the implied comment that he was useless.

Xena drained the drink in front of her and stood up. "If we want to make it there in good time we'll need to leave now. We can get some good ground covered before nightfall," she said.

"Agreed," nodded Hercules.


The five of them managed to travel for some distance before night fell and they had to stop to make camp.

"So, what have the two of you been doing since we last saw you?" Gabrielle asked, looking at Hercules and Iolaus while Xena lit the firewood they had gathered.

Iolaus glanced at Hercules with an evil grin on his face. "Well, you see, it was like this..."

"Iolaus," the demi-god said quickly, "if you're going to tell them what I think you're going to tell them, then don't."

"But, Herc, it's such a *good* tale." The whiny tone in the Hunter's voice didn't match the smile on his face.

Gabrielle edged closer to them. "Ooh, this I want to hear."

Throwing another look at Hercules, Iolaus began to tell the others what had happened to them in one of the villages on the way to meet Xena and Gabrielle.


"And if I hadn't seen it for myself, I *swear* it would have been impossible," finished Aphrodite. "You would have to be, like, *so* flexible. I tell you, I haven't been to an orgy like it, since that time in Thrace more than 50 years ago."

"Tell me about it," grinned Hephaestus, looking at his wife. "You pounced me as soon as I walked into your Temple."

Aphrodite couldn't decide whether to blush or laugh, and so she did both. "I didn't hear you complaining at the time," she pointed out.

"Never, love," Hephaestus replied.

Seeing the leer on Strife's face, Aphrodite thought it was time to get the topic of conversation off herself. Looking around, she spotted the only God who hadn't yet said anything. "How about you, Ares? What have you been up to since we last saw you?"

"Why bother asking?" Strife muttered. "It's not like he's going to tell you."

Ares glowered briefly at Strife before turning to face his sister. "You really want to know?"

Aphrodite nodded, and was surprised when a smile blossomed across the War God's face.


"So, eventually, Herc just rips off the trousers, and yells at the woman 'Well just *keep* them, then'," finished Iolaus.

Xena couldn't stop herself from laughing. "And this happened when you were still in the town square?"

"Yep," nodded Iolaus. "You should have seen his face when he remembered that we were in public."

"It wasn't funny, Iolaus," muttered Hercules.

"You're right," agreed the blond, "it wasn't funny, it was *hysterical*. Especially when you grabbed me and hauled me in front of you in order to save your modesty."

Gabrielle banged her hand on the ground and laughed loudly. "Didn't you object?"

"To what?" Iolaus asked. "Being manhandled by a half naked Herc? The only problem I had with it was that it was too public a place to do anything." The Hunter smiled at his lover.

Hercules took Iolaus' hand and kissed each finger in turn. "I sometimes don't know why I put up with you," he said softly.

"It's because I'm great in bed," deadpanned Iolaus.

"I knew there had to be a reason," retorted Hercules.

"How about you, Joxer?" Gabrielle looked the silent man. "We didn't hear any tales of you over the Summer. What did you do? Save any maidens? Stop any wars?"

Joxer ignored the subtle digs the bard was making. "Oh, nothing you'll be interested in," he said.

"Come on," Gabrielle wheedled. "Tell us."

Joxer looked at Gabrielle. He recognised the look on her face. It was the one that said he hadn't done anything, because he wasn't capable of doing it. Suddenly, he needed to tell them that someone out there loved him for what he was. It didn't matter that it was the enemy of the other four sitting around the fire.


Ares looked at each of the Gods in turn before opening his mouth. "Well..."


Smiling, Joxer took in the others before he started. "Well..."

Ares: Olympian lovin' had me a blast.
Joxer: Olympian lovin' happened so fast.
Ares: I met a mortal crazy for me.
Joxer: I met a God cute as can be.
Ares and Joxer: Olympian days, driftin' away to ah - oh those Olympian nights.
Gods: Tell me more, tell me more.
Hades: Like did he worship you?
Mortals: Tell me more, tell me more.
Iolaus: Can you get me a God, too?

Hercules reached over and hit Iolaus on the arm, scowling at his lover.

Ares: He even helped me feed Cerberus, my hound.
Joxer: He showed off, throwing thunder bolts around.
Ares: (leering) After he kissed me, I was hard as a log.
Joxer: And he's got such a cute little dog.
Ares and Joxer: Olympian sun, something's begun, but ah - oh those Olympian nights.
Mortals: Tell me more, tell me more.
Xena: Did it get any cosier?
Gods: Tell me more, tell me more.
Aphrodite: Did you give him ambrosia?

The Goddess of Love smiled to herself, thinking that anyone who could make Ares *this* happy needed to be around for eternity.

Ares: Went to my temple, showed him my shields.
Joxer: (smiling dreamily) We went strollin' in the Elysian Fields.
Ares: We made out in a boat on the Styx.
Joxer: He gave me some flowers he'd picked.
Ares and Joxer: Olympian fling, don't mean a thing, but ah - oh, those Olympian nights.
Gods: Tell me more, tell me more.
Strife: Does he know that you're War?

Strife grimaced. He didn't like his uncle to be happy. It just wasn't natural.

Mortals: Tell me more, tell me more.
Gabrielle: Cause he sounds like a bore.

The bard frowned. She didn't really believe Joxer's tale; after all, what God would fall for someone like *Joxer*? But she had to admit to herself that he hadn't been following her around like a puppy. Part of her was annoyed, Joxer was supposed to love *her*. She didn't want him, but it was handy to have him there if she ever got desperate enough.

Joxer: (looking slightly disappointed) He kissed my cheek, but he didn't go further.
Ares: (grinning widely) Well, he got friendly - on top of the altar!
Joxer: He looked good, covered in leather.
Ares: Well, he could do amazing things with a feather!
Ares and Joxer: Olympian heat, God and mortal meet, but ah - oh those Olympian nights.
Mortals: Tell me more, tell me more.
Hercules: How did he rate out of ten?

'What?' Hercules mouthed at his lover, as Iolaus glared at him.

Gods: Tell me more, tell me more.
Hephaestus: Tell us what happened then?
Joxer: His father came down from Olympus.
Ares: And I got hauled back by Zeus.
Joxer: Before he left, he gave me his vow.
Ares: (smiling softly) Wonder what he's trippin' over now?
Ares and Joxer: Olympian dreams, ripped at the seams, but, oh, those Olympian nights.

Gabrielle still didn't believe what Joxer was saying. Joxer, and a *God*. It just wasn't possible. "That's a good story, Joxer, but you don't expect us to actually believe it, do you?"

Joxer's face fell. He should have known that nobody would ever believe that a God loved him.

"I mean," continued Gabrielle, "if it actually happened, then you'll have no problem with telling us who it was."

Joxer just shook his head. "I... can't." There was no way he could tell these people that the person he'd fallen in love with was Ares. The other four there hated the War God. Xena would probably kill him for even *thinking* about Ares in those terms.

"I thought so," smirked Gabrielle. "You can't tell us, because he doesn't exist."

"He does," insisted Joxer.

"Joxer, there's no need to keep up the pretence any more," the blonde continued.

"It *isn't* a pretence." Joxer could feel himself becoming more and more annoyed.

Gabrielle sighed. "Oh, enough's enough, Joxer. Stop lying. There was no God."

"IT WAS *ARES*!" Joxer yelled, his anger getting the better of him.

"Now I *know* you're lying," the bard commented. "What would the God of War want with a klutz like you?"

"Yeah? Well, *Gabby*, tell me this. If I'm lying, how come I know about the sword shaped birthmark he has on his..." Joxer's voice trailed off as he noticed the horrified look Xena was giving him.

"The birthmark where?" Gabrielle asked.

"Gabrielle, shut up," said Xena quietly, never taking her eyes off Joxer.

Gabrielle stared at Xena in shock. "What do you mean? You're not telling me that you actually *believe* him, are you?"

"Not many people know this," Xena continued, her voice soft, "but Ares *does* have a birthmark in the shape of a sword."

"Where?" Iolaus asked.

"Let's just say that you'd have to be in a pretty intimate position to see it," the female warrior answered.

Hercules' jaw dropped. "Are you telling us that Joxer's telling the truth?"

Xena nodded once. "It certainly looks that way."

The demi-god turned to Joxer. "Joxer, what are you thinking? This is *Ares*. He can't be trusted. He's just using you for something."

"It's not like that, Hercules," argued Joxer, hoping that at least one of his friends would understand. "I love him. And he loves me."

Xena snorted. "Ares is incapable of love. All he knows is hatred and violence."

"That's not true. When you were with him, it wasn't all bad." Joxer tried to appeal to Xena. "If it had been, you wouldn't have stayed for as long as you did."

Xena shifted slightly, obviously uncomfortable with the turn the conversation had taken.

"Please understand," continued Joxer, "you only know one side of him. Yes, he *is* the God of War, but that's not all he is."

There was silence for long moments until Xena spoke. "I think we should all get some sleep. We'll need to get moving early tomorrow if we want to reach Salia before nightfall."

Joxer quietly set up his bed roll, making sure he was on the other side of the fire to the other four. Lying down, he closed his eyes and imagined Ares was with him, holding him. /You're wrong,/ he thought at the rest of those around the fire. /You'll see./


Joxer looked at the backs of the people in front of him. None of them had said a word to him since they had woken that morning and started the last leg of the journey to Salia. A couple of times Iolaus had glanced back, looking as though he wanted to say something, but then turned back, obviously deciding against saying anything.

They were less than a mile away from their destination when the cries and screams were first heard. A few moments later a wagon with a woman and two children on it came hurtling down the road. Stopping, the woman looked at the five of them.

"You don't want to go in that direction. The war has broken out in Salia."

"Already?" Xena said.

"This morning," answered the woman. "All the women and children have left. They only ones there are the men, but they don't stand a chance against that army."

Xena cast a quick glance at the others before she spurred Argo on towards the direction of the cries.

Joxer watched as the other three ran after her. Taking a deep breath, he straightened his helmet and followed them.


Grimacing, Ares pulled his sword out of the dead warrior's stomach and wiped the blade on his trousers. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Discord and Strife watching the battle. Sensing movement behind him Ares thrust his sword backwards, smiling at the gurgled gasp as the metal imbedded itself into flesh. A flight of light told him that another god had joined the battle, and he looked up to see Athena slitting the throat of someone who had dared to attack her.

Athena met Ares' eyes and instantly transported herself to his side. "Hera wants to see you," she said.

"Can't it wait?" Ares muttered, as he swung his sword and decapitated a man sneaking up behind them. "I'm a bit busy, in case you hadn't noticed."

"It's this she wants to see you about." Athena threw her dagger, catching a warrior between the eyes. "She's pissed that you've sent an army to raze Salia to the ground."

"This has nothing to do with my mother." Ares spun and parried as he was charged by two men at once. "I had an agreement with the King of Salia and he backed out of it. *Nobody* does that to the God of War."

"It has something to do with her when the *Queen* of Salia is one of Hera's major worshippers," pointed out Athena. "Salia was one of Hera's main tribute cities. She's not pleased that you've decided to destroy the place."

Ares opened his mouth to respond when a piercing battle cry was heard over the battlefield. Looking up, he saw Xena charging towards him. "Oh great, *this* is all I need."


Xena immediately took in the combatants as she stopped Argo on the edge of the battlefield. A flash of light attracted her attention, and she focused in on two warriors, instantly recognising one of them. "Ares," she cursed. Leaping down from Argo, she pushed the horse out the way and waded into the fray, screaming.

"Xena, *back off!*" Ares shouted as she swung at him with her sword. "This has *nothing* to do with you."

"It has something to do with me when you're killing innocent women and children," the warrior princess retorted.

"Excuse me?" Ares demanded, deflecting a hit from Xena's chakram. "The only woman I see here is you. And you're sure as Tartarus not innocent."

Xena screamed and leapt into the air over Ares head, slashing with her sword.

Anticipating the move, Ares was waiting for the blow even before Xena delivered it.


Panting hard, Ares stood over Xena's prone body. The energy from the battle coursed through him, seeking a release. Without realising it, he raised his sword above his head and started to bring it down.


Ares' body stopped in mid motion as the voice reached him. Raising his head, he saw Joxer staring at him with a look of horror on his face. Realising what he'd been about to do, Ares pulled back, letting Xena spring to her feet.

"Xena!" Gabrielle yelled, running over to her friend. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah," replied Xena, never taking her eyes off the War God.

Time seemed to stop as Joxer took a tentative step towards the god. "Ares? What's going on?"

"Yeah, Ares," sneered Discord, as she and Strife appeared next to Athena in a flash of light. "What's going on?"

Something in the goddess' voice made Ares pause. Glancing over to her, he dismally noted the look of glee on her face as she studied Joxer. He knew that if Discord discovered just how important Joxer was to him, then she wouldn't hesitate to use it against him. Ares swore to himself that he would be damned before he'd let harm come to the man in front of him. "What do you think is going on?" Ares asked, cursing to himself as Hercules and Iolaus joined them.

"Tell me you're not responsible for this war," Joxer pleaded. "Please."

"I'm the God of War. Of course I'm responsible for this," replied Ares.

Joxer looked at Ares for long moments, before finally turning walking away.

Flinching inwardly at the look of betrayal on Joxer's features, Ares had to physically stop himself from going after him.

Xena glared at the War God. "I told him all you knew was hatred and violence. It's just a pity he had to see it for himself." Giving Ares a final look, Xena moved back into the battlefield, with Gabrielle following her.

"Tell me this, Ares," said Hercules, his fists clenched. "Was it just a joke to you?"

Ares refused to answer. The only one he owned an explanation to was the man who wasn't there.

"I thought so," continued Hercules, taking his half-brother's silence for acknowledgement that he was right.

Iolaus laid a hand on Hercules' arm. "Come on, Herc, it looks like Xena and Gabrielle could use some help."

Ares watched as Iolaus led Hercules back into the fighting. He could still see Joxer on the very edge of the woods. He was brought of his reverie by a hand on his chest.

"Who was that?" Discord purred, trailing a hand around his body.

Ares swatted her hand away. "No one," he said, his heart sinking as he watched as Joxer finally disappeared from sight. "No one at all." Without bothering to check how the battle was going, Ares disappeared from the field.


Reappearing in his Olympian temple, Ares slumped down into his throne. Swinging a leg over the arm of the seat, he absentmindedly threw lightning bolts at the wall. He'd never expected it to lead to this when he'd first appeared to Joxer in his temple in Athens. He'd just come from a battle and had some excess energy to waste, and a hard fuck seemed like as good a method as any, but something else had happened. Joxer had managed to get past all of Ares' defences and insinuate himself in the god's life. "Fuck it!" yelled Ares, hurling a massive bolt of lightning at the far wall, smiling in cold satisfaction as the weapons displayed there crumbled to the floor. "Why me?" he sighed to himself. "I never asked to fall in love." He was startled out of his musings by the appearance of a small boy. "What do you want?" he asked the Muse.

"Zeus has called an audience of the Gods," the Muse replied. "You're expected to be there." Without waiting for an answer, the Muse vanished.

Rolling his eyes and wondering what his father wanted now, Ares transported himself to the Assembly Hall on Mount Olympus.


Joxer poked the stick he was holding into the fire, watching as the small sparks jumped into the air before quickly burning themselves out. Sniffing, he quietly wiped the tears out of his eyes as he heard people coming towards the camp.

"Hey," smiled Iolaus as he sat on a log next to the fire.

"How did the battle go?" Joxer asked, ignoring the look Xena gave him as she sat next to Gabrielle.

"It was over pretty quickly," Hercules answered. "Once Ares disappeared his army seemed to just fall apart."

"Ares left?" Joxer said.

Gabrielle nodded. "Almost straight after you did. Gods knows where he vanished to, though," muttered the bard.

"Probably back to his temple on Olympus. He goes there when he wants to be alone," said Joxer absently.

"Well you'd know," commented Gabrielle snidely. "You know, I still don't understand it. I mean, yes, he's an attractive guy, but it's still *Ares*. He's the God of *War*, so why would he put up with *you*? Maybe I should have taken you up on all of those offers," she smirked. "After all, if you can know enough in bed for Ares to keep you around, then you must be good."

Joxer stood up quickly. "I'm going for a walk," he said, trying not to let the others see the tears that were starting to fall.

"Joxer-" Iolaus stood up to follow him.

"I think he needs to be alone," said Xena softly, reaching out a hand and stopping Iolaus.

Iolaus nodded and sat back down. "You didn't need to be cruel," he said to Gabrielle.

"Well, he deserved it," she replied. "If he was stupid enough to think that Ares could have feelings for anyone but himself, then Joxer deserves everything he gets."

"I thought he was your friend," commented Iolaus.

"He is, I just get fed up of him following us around like a puppy. It's not as if he even helps when we end up in a fight." Gabrielle smiled suddenly and jumped up, standing on the log.

Look at me, I'm Jerkster the Mighty
Lousy as a warrior
Can't swing a sword, or I'll end up in a hospital ward
I can't do it, I'm Jerkster the Mighty
Watch out, hey, cause I'm pathetic
Don't try to teach me cause I won't get it
Can't ride a horse, but that's par for the course,
For Jerkster the Mighty
I can't fight, or hunt. I'm a right useless cu-

"GABBY!" Xena yelled, glaring at the bard, who ignored her and carried on.

I walk straight into trouble
Wearing a pasta-strainer, I look like a no-brainer
I may as well walk around in a bubble
Hey everyone, you know what I'm like,
Can't hold my own in the simplest of fights
As everyone knows, I'm a right hopeless cause,
I'm Jerkster the Mighty
Xena! Herc! Come rescue me!
I'm being beaten up by a young girl of three
I can't keep my cool
I'm a completely useless fool
Hey, everyone
I'm Jerkster the Mighty

Laughing uncontrollably, Gabrielle flopped back against the log.

"Is that really what you think of me?"

Gabrielle looked up at the quiet voice, to see Joxer's soft eyes trained on her.

"Joxer!" exclaimed Xena. "We thought you'd gone for a walk."

"Obviously," he replied, keeping his gaze on the blonde woman.

Gabrielle squirmed slightly under Joxer's stare. "I'm sick of this. I'm not the bad guy here. *He's* the one fucking *Ares*," she said, pointing at Joxer.

"Gabrielle?" Xena watched in confusion as Gabrielle picked up her bag and staff. "Where are you going?"

"I don't know!" she yelled, as she disappeared into the woods.


"She didn't mean it," Xena said, looking at Joxer.

"Yes, she did," he replied.

"She's just upset." Iolaus laid a hand on Joxer's shoulder. "It was a shock finding out about you and Ares."

"I know you all think I'm a idiot, but you just don't understand," Joxer tried to explain. "He's different when he's with me."

Hercules snorted. "It's an act, Joxer. An act to get you into his bed, and now he's succeeded he's not interested any more. Just forget about it, it's the best thing to do."

"I... don't know," said Joxer. "I need to think. I'll be back by morning." Turning around, Joxer walked back into the woods.

After a few minutes, Joxer came across a small lake. Sitting by the edge, he trailed his hand into the water, watching as the ripples he made worked their way across the surface. Glancing up at the moon he sighed. "What am I supposed to do?" he said to himself.

Guess mine is not the first sword broken
My armour not the first to crack
I'm not the first to know
There's just no gettin' over War
Hey, I'm just a fool who wants
To kneel down and worship you
Cause Ares can't you see
There's no other God for me but War
I'm hopelessly devoted to War
But now because of your pride
You pushed my sword aside
I'm not in your bed
But still hopelessly devoted to War
Hopelessly devoted to War, hopelessly devoted to War
Hercules is saying "Fool, forget him."
But my heart is saying "Don't let him go."
Hold on to your God
Cause together you can go far
I'm hopelessly devoted to War
But now because of your pride
You pushed my sword aside
I'm not in your bed
But still hopelessly devoted to War
Hopelessly devoted to War, hopelessly devoted to War

"Oh Ares," sighed Joxer, ignoring the tears running down his cheeks.


Gabrielle shivered as she wrapped her cloak around her to ward off the cold wind. She was beginning to regret leaving the camp, but she refused to go back. Muttering to herself, Gabrielle walked for some time before coming to a clearing in the forest. Looking up, she stared briefly at the light coming from the temple window. Heading up the steps, she pushed at the large wooden door, smiling when it opened. "Hello?" she yelled, as she stepped into the temple. When there was no answer, Gabrielle closed the door behind her and walked further into the room. A fire was blazing in the hearth set into the far wall. Drawn by the heat, Gabrielle headed over. Placing her bag and staff against the wall, the bard sat down and started to warm herself.

"Who are you?"

Gabrielle jumped to her feet and spun to face the sound of the voice behind her. A young man was staring at her. "I'm sorry, I didn't realise there was anyone here. I'll leave."

"No, there's no need," the stranger said, his features softening. "There's more than enough room if you wish to stay the night. After all, it is cold outside, and I wouldn't want to see you thrown out into the darkness."

"Thanks," the blonde smiled, sitting back down.

The young man walked over to the fire and sat beside her. A jug of wine appeared in his hand and he poured out a mug, handing it to her.

Gabrielle suppressed the sigh she felt. "You're a god," she said, taking the mug out of his hand and sipping at the warm wine.

"Yes." He sounded rather surprised by her lack of reaction. "You sound as if I'm not the first one you've met."

"You're not," she answered. "In fact, the Gods have pretty much been a bane in my life for years. No offence," she added quickly.

"None taken," he smiled. "And I know what you mean. I tend not to associate with those from Olympus, they're a little too high and mighty for my liking."

"Oh Gods, I know what you mean," the bard smiled. "I'm Gabrielle, by the way." Gabrielle held her hand out, her smile widening when it was enveloped by the stranger, the heat of his hand working it's way through her.

"Pleased to meet you, Gabrielle. I'm Dahak."


"What?" mumbled Ares, as Aphrodite kicked him awake.

"You were asleep," she informed him.

Ares raised an eyebrow. "Do you blame me?"

"Not really," replied a grinning Goddess of Love.

Looking around the Assembly Hall at the multitude of bored gods, Ares groaned. "If Zeus is going to call an assembly then the least he could do is actually *be* here."

Aphrodite nodded in agreement. She wasn't sure how long they'd been waiting for their father to turn up. She was just about to say something when a flash of light in the centre of the Hall attracted everyone's attention.

"At last," muttered Ares, as Zeus finally appeared.

Heading to his throne, Zeus looked at all of the Gods that had assembled. "We have a problem."


Dahak gently stroked a finger down the cheek of the sleeping blonde figure. Gabrielle had more than he had ever dared hope for. Her anger at her friends had left her vulnerable, and open to his advances. The sweetness of her body as he had taken her was beyond anything he could have imagined. "Oh sweet Gabrielle," he murmured. "You should be honoured. You may be the mother of the heir to the ruler of the world." Pushing himself off the bed, he instantly clothed himself. "Now all I have to deal with is that old fool Zeus. And then Olympus will be mine." Smirking to himself, Dahak vanished in a flash of black light.


"Wait a minute," said Hades, his voice cutting through the murmurs of the Gods around him. "How come I've never heard of this guy?"

Zeus sighed. "It would seem that Dahak has been biding his time until he gathered enough strength to be a threat."

"And is he?" Athena asked

Zeus hesitated in replying.

"Why don't you answer her, Old Man?"

All the Gods in the Hall turned at the sound of the voice.

Zeus cursed softly. He'd been finding it difficult to concentrate lately, but he couldn't believe that he'd completely missed Dahak's arrival on Olympus.

Ares studied the newcomer. Tall and slender, with shoulder-length black hair, Dahak exuded sexuality.

Zeus got to his feet. "What do you want here, Dahak?" he demanded.

Dahak smirked and strolled into the centre of the Assembly Hall. "Well, I would have thought that was obvious. I want your crown, Zeus. And I'm going to get it."

"And just how do you intend to do that?" Hestia asked, from her position near Zeus.

"Simple," replied Dahak. Turning his attention back to Zeus, he smiled. "Zeus, King of the Gods," he called. "I hereby formally challenge you for your position on Olympus."

The ripples of dissent that ran through the Gods were palpable. Dahak had used the precise words laid out in the Book of the Gods, which meant only one thing: he had an ally on Olympus.

Zeus balked at the words. A formal challenge issued from one God to another couldn't be refused.

"Well?" Dahak asked, his voice deceptively mellow. "Do you accept?"

The King of the Gods glowered. He *had* to accept the challenge, to refuse a formal challenge was to risk banishment from Olympus. Zeus nodded sharply. "I accept." The words were ground out through gritted teeth.

Dahak grinned blindingly. "I thought you would."


"Corinth, seven days," came the answer.

Zeus nodded. "I'll be there."

"Of course you will, or I win by default," Dahak pointed out. Slowly, he turned his head and looked around the room. "Just think," he commented, "in seven days this will all be mine." His laugher was cut off in the flash of black light that transported him away from Olympus.


Gabrielle stretched as the morning sun flooded in through the window and caressed her body. The fur beneath her felt soft against her skin, and she rolled over, luxuriating in not sleeping on a rough blanket. Suddenly, she remember where she was and opened her eyes. The temple around her looked empty. /Oh Gods,/ she thought, /I can't believe I acted like that./ After only a couple of mugs of wine, she had wantonly responded to the advances Dahak made. He had made her body thrum in pleasure, and she suppressed the small jolt of arousal that ran through her with the memory. Pushing herself to her feet, she hurriedly gathered her clothes and dressed. She knew that the others would have broken camp by now and been on their way. Salia wasn't that far away from Corinth, and Hercules and Iolaus had decided to drop in and see Iphicles. Knowing that Xena was most likely with them, Gabrielle grabbed her staff and bag and all but ran out of the temple.


Appearing back in his temple, Dahak looked over to the now empty fur in front of the fire. Reaching out with his awareness, he scanned the rest of the temple, but found no trace of Gabrielle. "Oh well," he shrugged, sitting down and conjuring a drink. "She'll be back." Recalling the look of indignation on Zeus' face when he'd interrupted the assembly, Dahak laughed to himself, as he took a drink of the wine he was holding. Zeus was old, arrogant and too reliant on his position and powers; it wouldn't take much to topple him. /Well,/ Dahak thought to himself, /especially not with the extra 'insurance' I've been taking out./


The voices started as soon as Dahak vanished.

"Can he do this?"

"How did he know the words for the formal challenge?"

"Are you actually planning on facing him?"

Zeus held out his hands, waiting for the noise level to drop. "First off," he said, looking at Hephaestus, "I don't know how he knew the words for the formal challenge, but he did. And since he's a god, the rules of a formal challenge apply. So, yes, I *am* going to face him."

"But you can't!" exclaimed Apollo, looking shocked. "What if you lose?"

Artemis rolled her eyes at her twin's tact and elbowed him.

"Your faith in your father is touching," muttered Zeus sarcastically.

"Unfortunately, he has a point" said Hera softly to her husband. "You haven't been feeling all that well recently."

Zeus ignored her, staring out at the sea of faces in the Assembly Hall. The Gods needed some sort of assurance that he was able to take Dahak on, and win. Calling for hush, he stood up and walked into the centre of the Hall.

Zeus: Well, this god has challenged me
Wants to banish me
But he'll never beat me
'Cause I've got bolts of lightning
I've got big thunder claps and flashes of light, oh yeah
Gods: You're the King, yeah, you're the King
Zeus: Using lightnin' as a way to show my might, oh yeah
Gods: Use the lightnin', yeah, use the lightnin'
Zeus: That God's a little upstart
But I'll take him apart
When he tries to take my crown
I'll knock Dahak down, with bolts of lightning
Bolts of lightnin', you're flying from my fingertips
Gods: Bolts of lightnin', oh, bolts of lightnin'
Zeus: Bolts of lightnin', shredding Dahak into strips
Gods: Bolts of lightnin', oh, bolts of lightnin'
Zeus: You'll give a shock, to Dahak, my bolts of lightnin'
It doesn't matter how many of his people I've got to fight
I'll just take them all down with a swift bolt of light
We can parade him through the towns
This God who tried to take my crown
As a message to anyone else
That I will defend myself, with bolts of lightnin'
Bolts of lightnin', you're flying from my fingertips
Gods: Bolts of lightnin', oh, bolts of lightnin'
Zeus: Bolts of lightnin', shredding Dahak into strips
Gods: Bolts of lightnin', oh, bolts of lightnin'
Zeus: You'll give a shock, to Dahak, my bolts of lightnin'

Jumping down from his throne, Zeus began to dance around the Hall with Hera, before finally dipping her and kissing her cheek.

Zeus: Bolts of lightnin', you're flying from my fingertips
Gods: Bolts of lightnin', oh, bolts of lightnin'
Zeus: Bolts of lightnin', shredding Dahak into strips
Gods: Bolts of lightnin', oh, bolts of lightnin'
Zeus: You'll give a shock, to Dahak, my bolts of lightnin'
Gods: Lightnin', lightnin', lightnin', lightnin'
Lightnin', lightnin', lightnin', lightnin'

Standing in the centre of the Hall, a grin spread across Zeus' face, before it was wiped away by the sudden coughing fit that overcame him.

Rushing to her husband's side, Hera motioned Asclepius over, and the three of the vanished.

"I have got, like, such a bad feeling about this," murmured Aphrodite, her eyes glued to the spot where Zeus had been standing.

Ares looked at his sister. "Tell me about it," he agreed. "I can't prove anything, but I've had my suspicions about Zeus being unwell for a while."

Aphrodite sighed. "I know what you mean. She's been trying to hide it, but I know that Hera has been spending a lot of time with Asclepius lately."

There was silence between the two gods for a moment.

"Do you think Zeus will be able to face Dahak?" Aphrodite asked.

Ares thought for a second. "Face him? Yes. It's the winning part that I have serious doubts about."

The conversation was interrupted by twin flashes of light depositing Cupid and Strife next to them.

"What's going on with Zeus?" the winged god asked.

Ares studied the two younger gods before finally answering. "I don't know."

"But he'll be okay to fight Dahak, won't he?" said Strife.

"I don't know that either," replied Ares.

"But he *has* to be," said the God of Mischief. "There's some major vibes coming from Dahak, and I don't like it."

Aphrodite looked at her nephew. "You're not the only one."

The concern over the King of the Gods hung heavily between them.

Cupid looked out at the other gods, before turning back to the other three. "Just one other thought," he said. "But hadn't someone better tell Iphicles that his kingdom is going to be used as a battle ground between two gods?"

"Good idea," commented Aphrodite. "Tell me what he says."

"What?!" exclaimed Cupid. "I wasn't volunteering."

"Well, it was your idea," grinned Strife.

"Gee, thanks," groused Cupid.

"I tell you what," suggested Strife, "if you tell Iphicles about the battle, then I'll have surprise waiting for you when you get back to Olympus."

Cupid's eyes narrowed. "Well, that would all depend on what it was."

Strife eyed the interested looks on Ares and Aphrodite's faces before leaning over to Cupid and whispering something in his ear.

A blinding smile broke out of the Love God's face. "You're on," he said disappearing in a flash.

Aphrodite studied Strife speculatively.

"What?" Strife asked, fidgeting under her gaze, before he too vanished in a flash of light.

"You can be cruel, 'Dite," smirked Ares.

"But that's why you love me so much," she replied, laughing.

Ares shook his head with humour. "I'm going back to my temple, if anything else happens, give me a yell."

Aphrodite nodded. "Will do," she said, as Ares left.


"WHAT?" bellowed Iphicles.

Hearing Iphicles' roar coming from the Throne Room, the small group of people in the corridor burst into a run. They'd arrived in Corinth earlier in the day and were looking forward to relaxing. Pushing open the large wooden door, the four of them ground to a halt when they saw Iphicles ranting at Cupid.

"What's going on?" Hercules asked.

Cupid turned and looked at the demi-god. "Zeus has been challenged," he answered.

"And they're having the battle here in Corinth!" added Iphicles indignantly.

Hercules rushed over to Cupid. "My father's been challenged? Who by?"

"A god named Dahak," replied Cupid.


/Oh gods,/ thought Gabrielle, leaning against the wall and desperately trying not to hyperventilate, /please tell me that's *not* what he just said./ She'd just got into Corinth, having been given a ride by a merchant heading into the city. She'd gone straight to Iphicles' palace and arrived just in time to hear Cupid name the god who had challenged Zeus. Sliding down the wall, she wrapped her arms around her legs and placed her forehead on her knees. /This can't be happening./


"They *can't* have the battle here," said Iphicles.

"We don't have a choice," replied the winged god. "The challenger has the right to decide where the battle is held."

"But the entire city could be destroyed," pointed out the Corinthian king.

"We should evacuate as many people as we can," suggested Xena.

"And reinforce however many buildings we've got time to," added Iolaus.

"How long have we got?" asked Joxer.

Cupid looked at him. "Seven days."

"We should start getting people out of the city immediately. Not everyone will have transport and that'll slow the evacuation process down."

Xena stared at Joxer, impressed that he'd thought of that.

Joxer shrugged, knowing exactly what was going through Xena's mind. "I'm not completely stupid, you know," he said quietly.

The warrior blushed slightly and looked away.

Iphicles walked over to the window and glanced out at the bustling city below. "They'd better not destroy this city," he murmured. "Jason'd kill me." Taking a deep breath he turned back to the others in the room. "I'll send out the city guards to inform everyone of what's going on and tell them that they must leave the city as soon as possible."

Iolaus smiled softly. Iphicles had lived his life in Hercules' shadow, but now his friend was looking every inch the king that he was.

"What can we do to help?"

The people in the room turned at the sound of the voice coming from the door.

"Gabrielle!" exclaimed Xena, walking over to her friend. "I wasn't sure if you'd come," she commented quietly.

The bard smiled at her. "I couldn't leave my friends, could I?" She looked over to the man standing next to Cupid. "Joxer."


The blonde sighed inwardly. /Oh well,/ she thought. /It's a start./

There was silence in the room for a few seconds before Iphicles spoke. "Come on, we'll need to get started if we have any hope of clearing the city within seven days."


Ares paced around his temple, his eyes constantly wandering to the small scrying pool in the corner. "Fuck it!" muttered Ares, finally giving in to temptation and heading over to the scrying pool. Dipping his fingers in it, he swirled the water around. "Show me Joxer," he demanded. Slowly, an image began to appear in the water. Ares frowned as he recognised the Throne Room of the Corinthian Palace. /What's Joxer doing in Corinth?/ he thought. /I don't want him anywhere near when Dahak and my Father go at each other./ The frown deepened when he saw Cupid come into the picture. Placing a hand on Joxer's arm, the Love God led him over to a corner and started talking to him. Because the scrying pool didn't allow sound, Ares couldn't hear what was being said between the god and the mortal, but his jealousy rose when Joxer laughed in response to something Cupid said. Smiling at Joxer, Cupid leant further forward and murmured something. Joxer appeared to think about it, before nodding his head, and placing a quick kiss on Cupid's cheek. Screaming, Ares threw a lightning bolt at the scrying pool, swearing when the water flew everywhere and drenched him. "APHRODITE!" he yelled.

A flash of light deposited the Goddess of Love in Ares' throne. "You called, bro?" she said, before taking another look at him. "What's with the drowned puppy look?"

Ares glanced down at his clothes and dried himself with a thought. Pacing across the floor, he bit at his lower lip before finally standing in front of Aphrodite. "Ineedyourhelp," he said quickly.

"Excuse me? Could you repeat that just a *little* slower. I could have sworn you just asked for my help."

"I did," Ares ground out between gritted teeth.

A smile crossed Aphrodite's face. "War coming to Love for help? This has to be a first," she teased. "Okay, Ares, what do you want?"

"Joxer," came the succinct reply. "I want you to help me win Joxer back."

Aphrodite stared at him in surprise. "And just *how* am I meant to do that?"

"I don't know!" Ares resumed his pacing. "*You're* the Goddess of Love, aren't you supposed to know how?"

The goddess thought for a moment. "Romance," she eventually said.

Ares' face fell. "Romance?" he repeated.

"Romance," nodded Aphrodite. "And lots of it."

"Okay, I can do this," Ares muttered to himself before turning his attention back to the woman sitting in his throne. "What do I have to do?"

Aphrodite considered the question. "Well, I don't know if the flowers and poetry angle will work for you," she commented.

"You don't say."

"I know," she said suddenly, "how did you romance the last person you wanted?"

Ares grinned. "I killed all her enemies and then fucked her while their bodies cooled beside us."

Aphrodite looked at him for a long moments before sighing. "And what about the person *before* Xena."

"I'm the God of War, Aphrodite. I don't do *romance*."

"So, how did you get Joxer the first time, then?" asked Aphrodite, her curiosity rising as something looking very much like a blush spread across the War God's face.

Looking around the temple, Ares leant forward and quickly whispered something in his sister's ear.

The goddess pulled back in shock. "You didn't?!"

Ares nodded.

"You never did that when *we* became lovers," pointed out Aphrodite.

"That was over 400 years ago, 'Dite," commented Ares.

"Even so," she continued, shaking her head in disbelief. "Damn," she muttered to herself, "that mental image is going to stay with me for the rest of the millennia."

Ares grinned smugly.

"Okay," Aphrodite muttered, still shaking the image out of her head. "Flowers and poetry it is."


Aphrodite sighed.

"You said flowers, 'Dite. And they *are* roses. Roses are meant to be romantic, aren't they?" commented Ares.

"Yes, roses are romantic," replied the goddess, plucking the flowers out of Ares' grip and making them vanish. "But they're meant to be *red*. *Black* roses are not romantic."

"I *like* black," pointed out the War God.

"And I'd like for you to listen to me, for once," muttered Aphrodite.

"What was that?"

"Nothing, sweetie. Now, let's try again, shall we?"


"No, no, no," said Aphrodite, getting out of the throne and walking over to Ares. "If you say *that* to him, he'll either hit you or run a mile."

Ares sighed. He had no idea this romance was so difficult; he was beginning to gain a new appreciation for his sister. "It's not my fault. It's not exactly easy trying to compose sonnets to thin air."

"You're right," conceded the goddess. Snapping her figures, she grinned as Joxer appeared in front of her.

"Joxer?!" The word was nearly a squeak.

"Don't panic, he's not real. Call him... Joxer the Fakey," Aphrodite giggled.

"So, now what do I do?" Ares asked.

"Write him a poem."

"A poem?"

"Yep, a poem."

"But, 'Dite, you *know* how bad I was at poetry when we were kids." Ares' voice sounded suspiciously like a whine.

"Just say the first thing that comes into your head," Aphrodite told him.

Ares looked dubious, but walked up to the fake Joxer. "Um, you're Joxer the Mighty... Will you spend the night-y? Er, cause I... cause I," Ares paused, searching for the words. "Cause I want to fuck you... And I know you want it, too." Looking inordinately pleased with himself, Ares turned to Aphrodite. "How was that?"

"Lovely," replied Aphrodite, the word breaking in the middle.

Bolstered by his sister's words, Ares turned back to the image.

Sighing as Ares tried once more to woo the fake Joxer, Aphrodite conjured up a large jug of wine - she had a feeling she was going to need it.


Hephaestus woke up as he felt the other side of the bed dip and his wife get under the covers with him. "You've been gone a while."

"It felt like eternity," commented Aphrodite.

There was silence for a few moments before the goddess spoke again.

"Do me a favour, babe?"

"Name it," replied Hephaestus, ready to move Olympus to please his wife.

"If I ever agree to help Ares again..."


"Kill me."


Transporting himself to Corinth, Ares soon located Joxer in a room in Iphicles' castle. Staying in the shadows, Ares watched as Joxer sat against the window, looking out at the moon. Going over everything Aphrodite had told him to say, the god stepped out into the centre of the room.

Realising there was someone else in the room with him, Joxer cursed as he remembered he'd left his sword over by the bed. Slowly turning around, he saw a dark figure watching him. "Ares! I didn't realise it was you."

Ares opened his mouth, ready to wax poetic about his feelings for Joxer, and how he couldn't be whole without him, but, in the end, he just said the only two words that mattered. "I'm sorry."

Studying him for long moments, Joxer nodded and moved forward on the window.

Realising what was being offered, Ares smiled and gently slid onto the window sill behind Joxer, and placing his legs on either side of the mortal.

Without saying a word, Joxer settled back into Ares' embrace.

Wrapping his arms around Joxer, Ares rested his hands on Joxer's chest, feeling the rhythmic rise and fall.

"Cupid told me about Zeus being ill," Joxer said quietly, laying his head on Ares' shoulder. "Is he well enough to face Dahak?"

"I don't know," admitted Ares, as his voice dropped to barely a whisper. "And that's what worries me."


Leaning on the window sill, Xena looked out at the city below. They'd informed as many people as they could about the battle, and the evacuation had already begun. Wagons of people had already left and were returning in the morning to collect others. Iphicles had told everyone to get a good night's sleep, but Xena's mind was too awake.

"You always did think too much."

Xena spun around, her chakram in her hand ready to be thrown. When she looked at the intruder Xena's jaw fell open and her chakram fell to the floor, the loud *CLANK* echoing through the room. "Lyceus?" she whispered, staring at her brother in disbelief. "But you're..."

"Dead," Lyceus nodded. "Yes, I know."

"Then how?"

"Because my sister needed me."

Tentatively stepping forward, Xena reached out and tried to brush a lock of hair away from her brother's face, crying out quietly when her hand went right through him.

Lyceus glanced at the floor. "I don't know how to make myself solid. Sorry."

"Don't be," said Xena quickly. "Just seeing you is enough. Oh gods, I missed you." She was quiet for a few seconds. "How did you get Hades to agree to let you come?"

Lyceus shifted slightly, clearing his throat. "Ah well, you see, Hades doesn't actually know I'm here."

"He doesn't know you're here?" Xena was disbelieving.

"He's been very distracted ever since he came back from Olympus. I just took advantage of the situation to come and see you," Lyceus explained.

Xena laughed softly. "Yeah, that sounds like you."

Lyceus smiled as he headed over to the window and looked out. "Do you think you'll get the city cleared?"

"I don't know," Xena answered. "We've already had problems with some of the older people not wanting to leave. They say they've been here since they were born and a little thing like a battle of the gods isn't going to drive them out."

"What will you do?"

"We're reinforcing the castle cellars as much as possible. We'll get everyone who won't leave underground and hope they'll be protected."

"You could always knock them out and just take them out of the city anyway," pointed out Lyceus.

"Oh, I considered it," admitted Xena. "But they have a right to stay if they want to."

Lyceus studied her. "The old Xena would never have said that."

Xena shifted uncomfortably. "There's a lot of things the old Xena wouldn't have said," she replied quietly.

"You know, if there's one thing I regret about being dead, it's the fact that the living can't hear your thoughts," commented Lyceus. "Because if you could, then you would know how very proud I am of you."

Xena raised her head and looked at him.

"You turned your life around. I know how difficult that is. I'm proud of you, Xena, and I love you."

Your story's one to tell
A leather-clad girl does well
Most helpful warrior princess in all of Greece
You're no longer a warlord
Helping people with your sword
Getting a good reputation wherever you go
Warlord school dropout
No murder and pillaging for you
Warlord school dropout
No longer havin' an army to follow you
Riding around on Argo travelling through the countryside
Helping people where you go with Gabrielle at your side
Xena, get movin'
(get movin')

Xena blinked as a Borias, and some of the other men who used to be in her army, appeared behind Lyceus and started singing.

You've got a war to stop over there
Xena, you're provin'
(you're provin')
That you have changed and now you care
Swinging your sword and defending those who need it with your chakram
Making sure everywhere that innocents don't come to harm
Warlord school dropout
(Warlord school dropout)
No longer obeyin' the God of War
Warlord school dropout
(Warlord school dropout)
Helpin' to uphold the law
Well, when you were a warlord, you didn't think twice about killin'
But you're hesitant to go that route now, even with a villain
You help to fight evil
(Fight evil)
Along with Hercules and Iolaus
Sending the bad guys
(The bad guys)
Straight on their way to Tartarus
Now your sword is drawn, your whip uncurled, you are a fearsome sight
Showing the evil ones that you are ready to fight
Xena, don't blow it, don't give in to temptation
Xena, you know it, you're on the path to redemption
Now you've changed your ways, and everyone says, you're on the side of good
Standing in that place where other heroes stood
Warlord school dropout
(Warlord school dropout)
One of the heroes
Warlord school dropout
(Warlord school dropout)
One of the heroes
Warlord school dropout
(Warlord school dropout)
One of the heroes

As Lyceus' voice trailed off, he started to shimmer slightly. "Uh-oh, it looks like Hades has realised I'm gone." Shimmering again, Lyceus started to fade from view.

"Don't go!" said Xena, rushing forward.

"I have to," replied Lyceus. "But remember, I'll always be with you." Reaching out a hand, he touched Xena's cheek.

Xena shivered as she felt the warmth against her cheek, as tears gently leaked out of her eyes. "I love you," she whispered.

Rapidly fading from sight, Lyceus smiled. "I love you too, sis."

Xena watched as her brother finally disappeared completely. /I miss you, Lyceus,/ she thought, knowing that he could hear her. Almost hearing his reply, Xena gently brushed her fingers across her cheek, and smiled.


"Five days," commented Iphicles, the disbelief evident in his voice. "We got the city cleared in five days."

"Do you think the reinforcements to the buildings will hold up?" Joxer asked, looking at the man next to him.

Ares shrugged. "I'm not sure, but we can hope."

Hercules eyed the War God suspiciously. Since he'd shown up at the castle, he'd been helping them with the evacuation and reinforcing the buildings. Hercules was sure that he had something planned, and he didn't like it. "I still don't see why you couldn't have used your powers to help us," he said.

Ares sighed. "I told you, Hercules, the rules laid out for formal challenges don't allow another god to use his power in the area of battle. If I *had* used my powers, it might have resulted in Zeus having to forfeit the battle, and I'm sure you wouldn't want that."

"Well, we've done the best we can do," pointed out Iolaus, trying to lower the tension between the brothers. "We've got the city empty, with only a few people refusing to go. What more can we do?"

"Pray that Zeus actually wins this," commented Xena.

"He'll win," said Gabrielle. "He has to." The bard headed over to the window and took a deep breath of fresh air. She'd been feeling ill since she'd woken up and was trying to ignore the nausea. She was just about to go back to her room and lie down when a flash of light signalled the appearance of a god.

"Aphrodite? What are you doing here?" asked Iolaus.

"Hey, sweet-cheeks," smiled the goddess, walking over to Iolaus and kissing him deeply. "Ooh, bro," she said to Hercules, when she broke the kiss, "I can see why you hang around him."

"What's up, 'Dite?" asked Ares, trying not to grin at the look on Hercules' face.

"Nothing's up," she replied. "I just came by to invite you all to a party."

"A party?" said Xena.

"That's what I said," answered the Love Goddess.

"Don't you think it's a bit indulgent to be holding a party at this time?" Hercules asked, his voice full of disapproval.

"Herc, in two days there may not *be* an Olympus, or gods, and if that happens, then I'm going out with a bang."

"Who else have you invited?" Ares asked.

"Gods, goddess, assorted mortals. You know, the usual," came the reply.

Xena looked at Aphrodite. "Where are you holding it?"

"Thrace. The people there have been good to me, and I figured that was as good a place as any." She looked around at the others in the room. "So, are you in?"

Iphicles nodded. "Yeah, it sounds like a good idea."

Aphrodite clapped her hands. "Cool. Ares, you'll make sure they get there, won't you?"

Ares nodded at his sister. "Yeah."

"Okay, in that case, I'm off to invite some other people. I intend for this to be the party to end all parties."

Ares watched as Aphrodite vanished. /'The party to end all parties'?/ he repeated to himself. /That's the problem, 'Dite. If Dahak wins, it just might be./


Joxer looked at himself in the mirror. "Well, do I look okay?"

Ares walked up behind him and wrapped his arms around him. "You look *wonderful*." Leaning down, Ares gently took the lobe of one of Joxer's ears between his teeth and started to suck it.

Joxer moaned softly at the stimulation. He could feel Ares' hard cock pressing against him through their layers of clothing. Pressing back against the god, he smiled as he heard the soft hiss coming from Ares.

The War God was just about to suggest skipping Aphrodite's party and spending the evening in bed, when a knock on the door interrupted them.

"Come in!" called Joxer.

The door opened and Iolaus walked into the room. "Are you ready to go?" he asked.



Iolaus looked at them in confusion.

Joxer laid a hand on Ares' arm. "Yes, we're ready to go. We'll be there in a minute."

Iolaus nodded and walked back out.

"Actually, I was getting ready to *come*," commented Ares huskily.

Joxer laughed softly. "You only have yourself to blame," he said. "You're the one who told Aphrodite we'd be there."

Ares muttered to himself as Joxer headed over to the door.

"Besides, it might be a laugh," continued Joxer, ignoring Ares' cursing.

"You've obviously never been to a party with the gods before," retorted Ares, as he followed Joxer out of the room.


"Oh, you're here!" smiled Aphrodite, as a flash of light deposited the group of people into the corner of the room.

Joxer returned the smile as the Goddess of Love hugged him.

"I'd kiss you, but Ares would kill me," she commented, laughing at the innocent look on her brother's face. Pulling back, she studied the other people in the group. "There's food and drink over at the far end of the hall. Mingle and enjoy yourself." With that decree, Aphrodite moved away and started to dance.


Iphicles glanced around. The entire temple was decorated with white and pink silk, and people everywhere were laughing and dancing. "I can say this for Aphrodite: she sure knows how to throw a party."

"Actually, this is quite restrained for 'Dite," said Ares, noting that no one was actually having sex yet.

Iolaus grinned at the comment. He was just about to reply when he was grabbed and kissed to within an inch of his life. Breaking the kiss, he pulled back and smiled at the woman smirking at him. "Nebula!" he exclaimed, ignoring Hercules' muttered comment about women constantly coming up and kissing him.

The pirate grinned. "In the flesh," she answered. "And speaking of flesh," she murmured, heading over to Iphicles, "*who* are you."

"Iphicles," the King replied, taking Nebula's hand and kissing it gently.

"And are you available?"


"Good," answered Nebula. "Let's dance."

Joxer laughed as Iphicles was dragged into the centre of the room to dance. He was brought out of his mirth by Ares' hand on his shoulder.

"I'll be right back," the god murmured, before walking away.


Cupid raised his head to see Ares heading over to where he and Strife were standing. "Heads up, babe," he said softly, nudging Strife.

Strife looked up just as Ares reached them. "Oh, hey, Unc."

Swiftly checking to make sure that there was no one within hearing distance, Ares turned his full attention to the two younger gods. "Did you find anything?"

Cupid sighed. Before Ares had left for Corinth, he had asked the two of them to see if they could find out who was helping Dahak. "No. I can give you some *suggestions* on who it is, but nothing definite."

"Yeah," added Strife. "Whoever's helping this guy is covering their tracks."

"That's not all. According to mom, Zeus had been getting progressively worse over the past few days. I don't think Hera's left his side in the past couple of days, and if *she's* worried, it's gotta be bad," commented the winged god.

Ares rubbed a hand over his eyes. "So, who do you *think* it might be?"

Strife glanced at Cupid before answering. "Well, we've been keeping an eye on everyone, like you asked. There are a few of the gods who are putting up screens when they leave Olympus, so they can't be tracked. Now, it may just mean that they're boffing someone that they don't want the rest of us to know about, but it could mean..."

"That they're going to see Dahak," finished Ares.

"Right," nodded Strife.

The War God turned his head and looked out over the temple. One of the Olympian gods was helping Dahak, and he *was* going to find out who. "Who are they?"


Ares' eyes scanned the room until he found the young god. Apollo was dancing with a mortal woman Ares had never seen before. "Gods, don't tell me he's fucking *another* one," he muttered.

"Yeah," smirked Strife. "Her *and* her sister."

"I don't know. Apollo may be an arrogant bastard, but I can't see him helping Dahak. Especially if it means losing Zeus' protection."

"That's what we thought," nodded Cupid. "Along with the fact that I don't think Apollo would do that without Artemis going along with it, and I definitely can't see *her* helping Dahak."

"Who else?" asked Ares.

Strife motioned over to where the Muses were standing. "Melpomene."

"The Muse of Tragedy helping to plot the downfall of Olympus," snorted Ares. "Well, it fits in an ironic sort of way."

"The only thing is, she doesn't have access to the Chronicles, so I don't see how she could have helped Dahak with the formal challenge," pointed out Cupid.

Ares thought for a moment. "Melpomene may not have access to the Chronicles, but Clio does," he said, referring to the Muse of History. "In fact, she's the only Muse with access to the older parts of the Great Library."

"But Clio *never* gets involved," pointed out Strife. "Observe, record and never interfere. It's her mantra."

"Besides, she's been spending all her time with that Arcadian. What's his name... Amalotto," added Cupid. "She's never once tried to hide where she was from the rest of us."

"If she was just going into the Great Library, then she wouldn't *need* to hide it from us. No one would think anything of it," commented Ares. "Who else?"


"The Goddess of Dawn helping to bring darkness to the world? I don't think so. Next one?"

"Hermes," said Strife.

Ares turned and looked at him in surprise. "Hermes?"

Strife nodded.

"I don't know. I just can't see Hermes going against Father," murmured Ares.

"*I* can't see Hermes doing anything more dangerous than reaching for the next glass of wine," muttered Cupid.

"Well, there's only one other," said Strife.

"Who is it."

Strife motioned over to the other side of the temple, where a blonde was standing next to...

"Discord," said Ares, a tone of aggravation creeping into his voice.

"Funny, that's exactly how we said it, as well," smirked the Mischief God.

"It's gotta be her," said Cupid. "No one else would be that brazen."

"Or that stupid," added Ares under his breath. "But even so, we can't accuse her just on our suspicions. Keep an eye on all of them, *especially* Discord."

"I've got to admit, though, the blonde she's with is one hot piece," leered Strife, cursing when Cupid elbowed him in the ribs.

Ares looked over, but the mortal had her back to him. "Who is it? I'm sure I recognise her from somewhere."

"Don't know," replied the Love God. "Never seen her before she walked in with Discord."

At that moment, the blonde turned around, and Ares swore. "Oh, this is *all* I need," he cursed.


Joxer scanned the temple, finally finding Ares standing in a corner with Cupid and Strife.

"Hey, Jox! Did my brother leave you?"

Joxer turned and smiled at Aphrodite. "No, he's just talking to Strife and Cupid."

"Well, not now he's not," declared the Love Goddess, dragging him across the room.

Joxer gave up all thought of arguing with the goddess and resigned himself to trying not to step on the people who had decided that it wasn't really a party without having sex on the floor.

Half way across the room, Aphrodite stopped and looked at the two young men writhing on the floor. With a flash, a jar of lubricant appeared in her hand and she gave it to one of them.

"Thanks," he panted.

"Don't worry about it," she replied as she continued on her way to Ares.


Iolaus laughed as he staggered over to where Gabrielle was standing. "Oh Gods, I've got to say, Iphicles was *right* when he said Aphrodite knows how to throw a party. I haven't seen Herc have so much fun in ages," he said, motioning to where Xena and Hercules were twirling around the floor.

"I guess," replied Gabrielle, her voice flat.

Iolaus turned and studied his friend. "Gabrielle, are you okay?"

"Course I am," she replied. "Why?"

"It's just that you've been acting strangely ever since we got into Corinth. I thought that it was just the thought of the battle between Dahak and Zeus, but now I'm not too sure," Iolaus answered.

Gabrielle felt her stomach turn at the sound of Dahak's name.

Iolaus' concern rose as he watched the bard's face pale. "Gab?" The Hunter laid a hand on her arm, feeling the tiny trembles running through her body.

"Leave me alone," she snapped, pushing Iolaus' hand away and running out of the temple.

Without even thinking about it, Iolaus ran after her.



The War God pulled his gaze away from the woman standing next to Discord and turned to face Aphrodite. "Yes, 'Dite?"

Aphrodite pushed Joxer towards her brother. "It's a party," she told him, "You're not meant to stand in a corner. Now go and dance."

Ares raised an eyebrow at her order. "Your wish is my command," he said, bowing. Turning to Joxer, he held out a hand. "Joxer, would you care to dance?"

Joxer fidgeted slightly. "I can't," he said quietly.

"Well, you don't have to actually *dance*," said Aphrodite with exasperation. "Just mould your body to his and... sway."

"Does that fool people?" Joxer asked.

"Not for a second," replied Cupid. "But who cares?"

A smile spread across Joxer's face. "Okay," he said, following Ares out to where others were dancing.

"Gods, I *love* it when people listen to me," grinned Aphrodite. "Oh, and don't step on anyone!" the goddess yelled after them. "And I'm not just talking about feet!"

"Too late," winced Strife as a strangled, high-pitched yelp came from the centre of the room, followed by a 'sorry' from Joxer.

"Do we even want to watch this?" Cupid asked.

"Well, there are *other* things we could do," commented Strife, slipping his hand inside Cupid's trousers.

"I think that's my cue to leave," smiled Aphrodite. "Play nice, boys," she said, as she headed back into the party.

"Aw, do we *have* to?" murmured Strife as he pushed Cupid back against the wall.


Weaving in and out of the people on the dance floor, Gabrielle made it to the door of the temple and ran out into the night. Without pausing, she darted to her right, crying out when a hand wrapped around her arm and held her still. "Let me go," she pleaded.

"Not until you tell me what's wrong," answered Iolaus, his grip tightening. "Gabrielle, I'm worried about you." Eventually, the struggles slowed and finally stopped. The tension went out of the bard's body and she sank to the ground, Iolaus going with her, not releasing his hold. "Gabrielle, *please*."

The blonde raised her head to meet the Hunter's gaze, the tears in her eyes threatening to spill over. "I think I'm pregnant." The voice was barely more than a whisper.

"What?!" Iolaus stared at the woman in his arms in shock. "But how?"

A muffled sob came from Gabrielle. "How the fuck do you think?"

Iolaus felt a blush rise to his face as he realised how his question sounded. "I didn't mean it like that," he said softly, rocking her until the sobs died down. Gently lifting her face up, he wiped away the tears from her cheeks. "What happened?"

"It was that... that night after we came from Salia," explained Gabrielle, the sentence breaking in the middle. "I found a temple, and went in, and, and... Oh Gods, Iolaus, what am I going to do?" she cried.

"It's okay, we'll sort it out," the Hunter soothed.

"You don't understand."

Iolaus' confusion grew. "What don't I understand? Tell me."

"I slept with Dahak!" she yelled. "*He's* the father!"

Iolaus looked at the bard in shock.

"Do you understand now, Iolaus? Do you?" Gabrielle shrugged out the blond's loose embrace and struggled to her feet.

Iolaus was too stunned to even try and stop her when she turned and fled into the centre of Thrace.


Hermes couldn't believe his ears. The blonde that hung around with Xena was *pregnant*? By *Dahak*? He'd been curious when he'd seen the two of them run out of the party, and so he'd follwed them. He'd hoped to catch them fucking, so he could watch them, but he never expected to hear *this*. /Oh fuck,/ he thought, as he disappeared in a flash of light.


Hephaestus laughed as Artemis finished telling him of Apollo's latest exploits. "He's going to get caught out one of these days."

"Yeah," smirked Artemis, "and I want to be there when it happens."

The two gods were distracted by the appearance of Hermes.

"Er, Heph, can I speak to you?" the Messenger God asked, bouncing from one foot to another.

"Of course," replied Hephaestus.

"In private," said Hermes, eyeing Artemis.

Artemis nodded. "I'll catch up with you later, Heph," she said, before walking away.

When the two gods were alone, Hephaestus turned to Hermes. "What's up?"

Quickly looking around, Hermes told Hephaestus what he had heard.

Hephaestus studied the other god. "Are you positive?" he asked.

Hermes nodded.

"This is not good."


Aphrodite looked at her husband in shock. "Is he *sure* that's what he heard?"

The God of Fire nodded. He'd known disbelief would be his wife's reaction when he had taken her aside to tell her what Hermes had overheard. "He's positive."

Aphrodite sighed. "Then I think we have a problem."


Gabrielle ran blindly through the streets of Thrace. Finally, exhausted, she stopped, dropping to her knees. "Oh Gods," she murmured, "what am I going to do?"


Discord muttered with disgust as she watched Ares and Joxer dance. "I never would have thought it," she said to the woman next to her. "Ares dancing with *that* idiot. And even worse, he's enjoying it!"

"Well then," replied Callisto with a feral smile. "We'll just have to change that, won't we."

Discord turned to the warrior and grinned. "You read my mind," she said, as they both headed towards Ares and Joxer.


Joxer laughed as he gyrated to the music. He'd been hesitant about it at first, seeing as they were surrounded by people, but he eventually decided to just enjoy himself. After all, if they weren't watching the several couples that had decided to get naked, they were hardly likely to be interested in watching him make a fool of himself by trying to dance.

Ares smiled as he watched Joxer spin around. He couldn't believe how much satisfaction he got from simply watching Joxer have a good time, with the other man's movements having a subtle effect on the War God. Growling softly, Ares pulled Joxer towards him.

Joxer grinned as he felt the hardness of Ares' cock push against him. Moving with the music, he ground his hips into Ares, smiling at the hiss of desire he heard.

Ares threw his head back and closed his eyes, giving himself over to Joxer's touch.

Trailing his fingers down Ares' chest Joxer started to circle the God, trailing a hand around his body.


Catching Discord's eye, Callisto nodded.

Pushing her way through the crowd, Discord smiled when she saw the Ares' eyes were closed. /Perfect,/ she thought, darting forward.

Callisto just manage to suppress the laugh that welled up at the sight of Ares with his eyes closed. /He won't even know until it's too late./

Moving as one, Discord and Callisto closed on Ares and Joxer.

Grabbing Joxer and using her powers to keep him from crying out, Discord whisked Joxer away from Ares.

As soon as Joxer's hand left Ares' body, Callisto's replaced it, as she continued the journey around Ares' body that Joxer had started.


Ares was lost in a haze of arousal as his mind was consumed by thoughts of pounding into Joxer's willing body. "I want you," he murmured, his voice husky.

"Babe, you have me," came the purring reply.

Ares' head jerked up at the feminine voice, and his eyes snapped open. "Callisto," he snarled.

"What's the matter, Ares?" Callisto asked. "Aren't you pleased to see me?" Her hand dropped to the bulge in his trousers. "You *feel* pleased to see me." She pushed the palm of her hand against his groin.

Ares couldn't stop the moan that escaped at the pressure against his covered cock.


Joxer watched in horror as Callisto's hand deftly made it's way inside Ares' trousers. The purr of pleasure that escaped from Ares' lips was audible even over the cacophony of background noise. Unable to watch a second longer, he turned and fled the party.


Biting back the groan that welled in his throat, and snapping off any further sound, Ares took a firm hold of Callisto's wrist and removed her hand from his trousers. "Don't."

"But why not?" Callisto asked, her voice silky. "You can't tell me you don't like it."

"Not when *you're* the one doing it," Ares replied.

"Then who would you rather have? Joxer?" Callisto laughed. "Get real, Ares. That idiot could never satisfy you, and you know it."

"You're wrong, Callisto," Ares said calmly, as he turned away from the blonde.

"Am I?" she called after him. "You'll see, Ares. A few months and you be so bored of him you'll *beg* me to fuck you."

Ares ignored her as he looked around the temple for Joxer. Unable to find him, Ares cast out his awareness, searching for his errant lover. After a few seconds,  the god found him. With a quick mental call to Aphrodite to tell her he was going, Ares locked in on Joxer, and vanished from the party.


"Xena, calm down."

"Calm down?!" yelled the warrior. "Gabrielle is carrying *Dahak's child* and you want me to *calm down*?!"

Aphrodite rubbed a hand over her face. "Sweet-cheeks is right," she said. "We can't change what's happened, so we have to deal with it."

"Deal with it?" Xena repeated incredulously. "How in Tartarus are we meant to deal with *this*?" The silence stretched out as Xena paced around. "How could she be so stupid? How in Tartarus did this happen!?"

Iphicles reached out, laying a hand on Xena's arm and stopping her movements. "The only person who can answer that is Gabrielle."

"I don't know if you've noticed this, but she's not here," snapped Xena.

Hephaestus sighed. "Look, it's late, and no one here is thinking rationally," he said cutting off Iphicles' retort. "I think it's best if you all go back to Corinth. We can deal with this in the morning." Before anyone had a chance to object, Hephaestus waved a hand, sending the group of mortals to Corinth.

Aphrodite looked at the now empty space. "I guess all that's left to do is deal with Gabrielle," she said softly, leaning up to kiss her husband before disappearing.


Stepping into his Thracian temple, Ares immediately saw Joxer sitting next to the altar. "Why'd you leave?" he asked quietly as he stepped out of the shadows.

"Because I had no desire to see you getting felt up by that... woman," came the soft reply.

Ares quickly closed the distance between them and knelt next to Joxer. "Jox, don't you get it? I don't want *her*. I want *you*."

Joxer raised his head and met Ares gaze. "Why?"

Ares was confused. "Why what?"

"Why do you want me?" Joxer elaborated. "You're the God of War. You could have *anyone* you wanted. Warriors who have proved themselves over and over. If you put your mind to it, you could probably get Xena back, so what do you want with me?"

"You shine," said Ares, not even having to think about his words.

With those words it was Joxer's turn to be confused. "I... shine?"

Ares nodded. "Gods see much more than mortals do. When I look at you, I can see your soul. And it shines. Believe me, Joxer, there's no one I want more than you." Tangling his fingers in Joxer's hair, Ares pulled the other man towards him.

Joxer moaned softly as Ares' mouth touched his. The god's tongue teasing at his lips until they opened to let him in. Joxer pulled back slightly and stared at Ares' passion glazed eyes. "You *do* love me, don't you?"

"Of course I do," replied Ares, his hands reaching out to undo Joxer's shirt. It was easier to just make the clothes vanish, but sometimes he appreciated the sensuality of undressing a lover.

"What are you doing?" Joxer asked, stopping Ares' hands.

"Proving that I love you," Ares replied, leaning in for another kiss, and nearly toppling over when Joxer moved. "Jox?"

"Is that all love is to you? Sex?!" Joxer demanded, angrily getting to his feet. "I *love* you, Ares. I don't just want to fuck you." With a final glance at the god, Joxer ran out of the temple.

"I don't get it!" exclaimed Ares, getting to his feet. "What did I do?" Slumping down into his throne, Ares sighed.

Abandoned at my temple, branded a wuss
What will they say, back on Olympus?
Joxer, don't you know
I'm the God of War
But one look at you and I found myself
Falling in love so hard
Cupid came and hit me with an arrow from his bow
Oh how, I let myself fall in love, I don't know
Oh Joxer, baby, someday you'll be a warrior
And everyone who taunted you will be much sorrier
That they ever mocked the consort of War
And I'll be by your side, oh Joxer

Ares conjured up an image of Joxer and softly ran his fingers over it.

Joxer, my darling, let me teach you how to fight, how to defend yourself
Or even better, come to Olympus, and let me keep you for myself
Cupid came and hit me with an arrow from his bow
Oh how, I let myself fall in love, I don't know
Joxer, Joxer, baby-y-y-y-y
Oh Joxer

"Oh Gods, this love business is confusing," Ares murmured to himself, his fingers constantly caressing the image of Joxer.


Gabrielle's back was numb from where the coldness of the stone wall had seeped through her clothes. Hugging her knees to her chest, she hadn't even tried to hold back the tears, the silent sobs wracking her body. She was unsure of how long she had been there when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Raising her head, she looked into Aphrodite's eyes.

The Goddess of Love held out her hand. "Come on, Gabrielle," she said gently.

The bard looked at the goddess in confusion, but saw only sincerity in her face. Slowly, she reached out and grasped the hand, clutching it like a life line, as the two of them shimmered and vanished.


Cupid groaned softly as Strife's fingers grasped his hard cock.

"What do you want?" Strife murmured, his tongue flicking out to lick the winged god's ear.

"You," gasped Cupid. "I want you."

Strife smiled. Cupid had eventually got tired of the teasing Strife had been subjecting him to and moved them outside of the party. It always amused Strife that his lover hated having sex in front of other people. He didn't mind watching other people fucking, he just hated having people watch *him*. For the God of Love, he could be quite shy.

"Oh Gods, please," moaned Cupid.

"All you had to do was ask," commented Strife softly, sliding down his lover's body until he was on his knees. Nuzzling at the leather covered bulge in Cupid's trousers, Strife was just about to remove all of their clothing when someone came bursting out of the shadows.


Joxer ground to a halt when he saw Strife on his knees in front of Cupid. "Oh... erm... I'm sorry... I didn't... didn't mean to interrupt," he stuttered.

Cupid placed a hand on Strife's shoulder and said something to the other god; his words too soft for Joxer to hear.

Strife sighed, but eventually nodded and got to his feet, pulling Cupid in for a brief kiss before he disappeared.

"What's wrong?" Cupid asked, as he closed the distance between Joxer and himself.

"Nothing," mumbled Joxer.

The winged god smiled softly. "You know, I'd believe you more if you didn't look like such a wreck."

Joxer blushed slightly. "I don't want to talk about it," he said quietly.

"Okay," agreed Cupid. "Do you want to go back to Corinth?"

"Yeah," nodded Joxer.

With a final check that Joxer was ready, Cupid sent him back to Corinth. Sighing to himself, Cupid shook his head. Joxer was in love with Ares, that much was plain to see. The problems lay with the God of War. He *did* love Joxer, he just didn't know how to show it. /It's times like this I'm *really* glad the hard jobs fall to mom,/ Cupid thought before he transported himself to his temple on Olympus.


"UNC?" yelled Strife, as he appeared in Ares' temple.

"Go away, Strife," came the voice out of the darkness. "I really can't deal with you right now."

Strife took a deep breath and stepped forward. "I... erm... just came to see if you were okay."

Ares leant forward and peered at Strife, his features becoming visible to the younger god. "I'm the God of War," Ares stated. "Why wouldn't I be okay?"

"I've just seen Joxer," said Strife, by way of an explanation.

Ares' eyes narrowed. "What did he say?"

The godling shrugged. "Don't know. I came here and Cupe stayed with him."

There was a lingering silence until Ares spoke. "Well, you've done your duty. You can go back to Cupid and tell him I'm perfectly all right."

Strife looked dubious. "Are you sure? I mean I can't exactly go back and tell him that I just left-"

Ares sighed and held up a hand to stop Strife's words. "Really, Strife. Thank you for the concern, but I'm fine."

"Oh, okay, if you're sure."

"Positive," nodded Ares. "And you can tell Cupid he shouldn't worry so much."

"Yeah, but that's like telling Aphrodite she should wear more clothes," smirked Strife. "You can tell them, but it doesn't mean they'll listen."

Ares couldn't help the small smile that sprang to his lips. "True," he agreed softly. "Go home, Strife, I don't need a baby-sitter."

Strife studied his uncle, before nodding and disappearing.

Ares relaxed back into the darkness until the silence was shattered by an frantic mental scream that seemed to set his mind on fire.



Eileithyia looked up as she felt another god appear in her temple. "Aphrodite? I thought you would still be at the party."

The Goddess of Love shrugged. "I would, but something came up."

"So I see," Eileithyia noted, studying the young woman by her sister's side, sensing instantly the child within her. "The father's a god," she said, the non-mortal energy signature prickling at her awareness. "And not one of the Olympians."

Aphrodite nodded and ushered the blonde over. "This is Gabrielle."

Eileithyia's eyes widened as she recognised the name. "You're the one whose carrying Dahak's child."

"How do you know?" Gabrielle asked.

Eileithyia laughed. "It's my job to know. I'm Eileithyia," she introduced herself.

"The Goddess of Childbirth," Gabrielle said softly.

Eileithyia nodded.

Gabrielle's eyes lit up with hope. "Then you can help me. Please tell me you can help me."

Eileithyia took Gabrielle's hand and guided her over to the soft couch, urging her to lie down. "We'll try," she said as she gently placed a hand on the mortal's stomach and closed her eyes.


Strife appeared in Cupid's temple, and smiled as two arms encircled his waist. "Hey babe," he said quietly, softly stroking the back of Cupid's hands with his fingers.

"What did Ares say?" Cupid asked.

"Not much," replied Strife. "You know what he's like."

"Yeah. Stubborn, wilful, obstinate-"

"Yep. It's where *you* get it from," interrupted Strife, laughing.

"Hey!" objected the winged god, pulling Strife on to the bed and pinning his hands above his head. "Take that back."

"Make me," replied Strife, his voice husky.

Cupid's eyes dilated. "If you insist," he murmured.


Eileithyia opened her eyes and met the concerned gaze of her sister.

"Well?" Aphrodite asked.

Eileithyia was just about to reply when a searing pain flashed through her mind. She was vaguely aware of Aphrodite at her side.

"What happened?" The Love Goddess asked, leading her to a chair and sitting her down.

"hera," the Goddess of Childbirth whispered. "something's wrong with hera. i need to go."

"I'll come with you," said Aphrodite.

"no," Eileithyia replied, her voice still quiet. "you should stay with gabrielle." She gingerly stood up, crying out as she felt her legs buckle under her.

Aphrodite grabbed her sister as soon as she saw her start to fall. "You're in no condition to go anywhere," she pointed out.

Eileithyia smiled. "I have to," she said, her voice regaining it's strength. "I'll be fine, honestly. Stay here with Gabrielle, and I'll return as soon as I can."

Aphrodite nodded, removing her arms from around Eileithyia's shoulders as the other goddess vanished.


Ares appeared in the temple a split second before a flash of light deposited Hephaestus next to him.

"What happened?" the God of Fire asked.

"I don't know," replied Ares. "One minute it's completely silent, and then the next I can hear Hera screaming in my mind and my head feels like it's about to explode."

"Oh good, I'm glad it wasn't just me, then."

The two gods turned at the sound of the feminine voice.

"You too, Hebe?" Hephaestus asked.

The Goddess of Youth looked at her brothers and nodded. "I came as soon as I felt Mother's cry."

"I too felt Hera's call."

Ares instantly recognised the cool voice. "What do you want here, Hecate?"

"Such a suspicious mind, Ares. What more, than to see if I can be of assistance?"

A snorted laugh drew everyone's attention to the fifth god in the room.

"*You* want to be of *help*? Don't make me laugh," snapped Eileithyia.

"Another suspicious mind?" Hecate said softly. "It must run in the family." She turned to the Fire God. "And what of you, Hephaestus? Do you have an accusation you wish to throw at me, as well?"

Before Hephaestus had a chance to answer, the door to the inner temple opened and a young woman came out.

Ares studied the goddess who had been his mother's handmaid for centuries. Her eyes were red and the tears were still wet on her cheeks. "Iris, what's happened?"

Iris looked around the temple. All of Hera's children were there, waiting for her to answer. "What are you doing here?" she asked softly.

"We all heard Mother's cry," Hebe explained.

"I'm surprised all of Olympus didn't feel it," Iris said, her soft wings ruffling slightly.

Hephaestus limped over to the upset goddess. "Iris, please."

Iris swallowed and looked up to meet the gazes of the other gods. "We nearly lost Zeus. If it wasn't for Hera's quick thinking, he'd be dead."

"Why?" Ares asked. "What did she do?"

"She linked with him," Iris explained. "She's using her power to support him. Right now, Hera's the only thing standing between Zeus and Tartarus."

Eileithyia frowned. "Why don't I like the sound of that?"

"Because you shouldn't," replied Iris.

"Why, what's the problem?" Hebe inquired.

"The problem is Hera is using nearly all of her power to keep him alive. Asclepius can hardly tell where Hera's power ends and Zeus' starts. If Zeus... if Zeus dies while they're this closely linked, then he'll take Hera with him." Iris choked back a sob. "We'll lose both of them." There was silence as Iris' words sank in. "Now, please, I need to go. Asclepius asked me to get some things from his temple." With a final glance at the shocked faces of the other gods, Iris left the temple.

Eileithyia sank down to the floor. "They can't die," she said softly. "They *can't*."

"It makes no difference at this point," said Ares, his voice flat.

"Ares, how can you say that?" Hebe demanded.

"He's right," Hephaestus defended. "Zeus is comatose, and in less than 48 hours Olympus will have a *new* king."

"I don't care if Dahak takes Olympus," yelled Eileithyia. "As long as our parents are all right."

"Think about it, Elly," snapped Ares. "Do you really think Dahak will let Zeus and Hera *live*?" The War God paused. "Do you think he'll let *any* of the gods that pose him a threat survive? Forget about Olympus having a new king, and start thinking about the probability that, by the time the sun sets tomorrow, Olympus may not even *exist*."

"I still don't see what the problem is," commented Hecate. "After all, Zeus *is* old. Maybe it's time for some... fresh blood to take the throne."

"Back off, Witch!" snarled Hebe.

Ares grabbed his sister before she could take another step towards Hecate.

"That's right, Ares. Do control the child," Hecate laughed, as she stroked the snake around her neck.

"Leave, Hecate. You're not wanted here," snarled Ares, tempted to let Hebe attack her.

"But if I leave, you won't hear what I came to tell you."

"We're not interested in your games!" Hephaestus' voice rang out.

The ancient goddess shrugged. "Very well, but I would thought the reason Zeus is so ill would have been of *some* interest."

Ares head snapped up. "What do you know?"

Hecate laughed. "So *now* you're interested in what I have to say."

"Hecate," the God of War growled. "Don't push me."

The goddess sighed. "Very well. Let us just say that maybe you should have put the Hind's blood dagger in a slightly safer place."

Eileithyia's eyes narrowed as she turned to face Ares. "*What* Hind's blood dagger?"

Ares ignored his sister, his full attention on Hecate. "Why should I believe you?"

"All you have to do is check for yourself," she replied.

"How do you know this?"

"Come, come, Hephaestus. You wouldn't want me to give up *all* my secrets now, would you?" Hecate replied, before vanishing.

Ares glanced over at his brother. "She's got to be wrong."

"We can't take that risk," replied Hephaestus.

"I know," Ares answered. He looked over to his sisters. "We'll be back soon," he said, as he and Hephaestus disappeared from the temple.

Hebe looked at her sister. "Do you ever get the feeling you've missed half the conversation?"

"With this family?" Eileithyia replied. "*All* the time."


Twin flashes deposited Ares and Hephaestus outside of one of the War God's temples.

Unbidden, a shiver ran through the Fire God. "Can you feel it?"

Ares nodded. "Yes. I can't explain it, but it feels... wrong. It's as though the entire area is tainted. This is Dahak's doing," he said. "I would have felt it if one of the Olympians had done this."

"And the dagger?" asked Hephaestus.

Almost as one they headed over to where the blood-covered dagger had been driven into the stone.

Ares cursed as his eyes fell on the shattered rock.

"Who knew that dagger was here?" the Fire God asked.

"Me, you, Strife and Hercules," replied Ares.

Hephaestus shook his head. "Someone else had to have known."

"Damn them to Tartarus," muttered Ares. "The dagger should never have been taken. The temple priests had orders to call me if *anything* happened."

"Then why didn't they?" Hephaestus asked.

Ares turned to face his brother. "I..." Without finishing the sentence, Ares stalked up the steps to the temple, pushing open the doors and walking in.

Looking at the steps, Hephaestus sighed and transported himself to Ares side.


Xena paced around the Throne Room. She still couldn't believe that Hephaestus had just sent them back to Corinth without any warning.

"Xena? Why are you still up?"

The warrior stopped pacing and looked at Iolaus. "I couldn't sleep."

"Me neither. I don't know how Herc does it. All he has to do is have his head on a pillow and within seconds he's snoring his head off." Iolaus paused. "Besides, it's pretty difficult to sleep when all you can hear is Iphicles and Nebula going at it."

Xena raised an eyebrow. "That bad, huh?"

Iolaus nodded. "I could just about handle the constant moaning, but the screaming and pleading did me in. I had to get out of that room or I would have exploded or run in to join them."

Xena laughed softly. "Why didn't you just wake up Hercules?"

"Are you kidding? Nothing short of a thunderbolt wakes Herc up," the Hunter commented.

"Yeah, it's the same with Gabrielle..." The words trailed off.

Iolaus watched as Xena walked over to the window and looked out.

"I hope those reinforcements we've given the castle cellars are enough," she said.

"They'll have to be," replied Iolaus.

Xena sighed. "Maybe Iphicles and Nebula have got it right."

"What do you mean?"

"Fuck like wild rabbits tonight and damn tomorrow and whatever it may bring."

"Why, Xena, is that an offer?" smirked Iolaus.

Xena's eyes sparkled. "I'd say yes, but Hercules would probably kill me."

"And I'm not the one you love, anyway."

The warrior princess' eyes narrowed.

Iolaus held up his hands. "I only noticed it because it reminded me of me," he explained. "Being in love with your best friend can be a pain." He closed the distance between the two of them. "Why don't you tell her?"

"Because she's never shown any indication of having any feelings for me past those of friendship," Xena said, not even trying to deny being in love with Gabrielle. "And besides, it doesn't really matter now, does it?"

Iolaus thought about Gabrielle's pregnancy, and the oncoming battle between Zeus and Dahak. "No," he agreed softly "I guess it doesn't."


Ares' cry of rage shook the temple to its very foundations.

Hephaestus looked around the temple in shock. The dismembered bodies of the priests covered the room. The Fire God laid a hand on Ares' arm, feeling his brother tremble with fury. "Ares-"

The War God shrugged off Hephaestus' hand. "Don't," he said, his voice a fierce whisper. Ares walked up to one of the walls, running his fingers through the blood that coated the stone. Closing his eyes, he cursed himself for leaving the priests without any other means of defence.

"It's not your fault," Hephaestus told him, reading the thoughts coming from Ares.

Ares turned to face the other god. "No? These were *my* people. I should have been here. They deserved better then to be slaughtered like cattle."

"They *all* deserve better than that," pointed out Hephaestus.

An image of Joxer appeared in Ares' mind. "Yeah, they do," he agreed.

"So, it's up to us to make sure that they *get* it." Hephaestus smiled a sly grin.

Ares met his brother's gaze. "What did you have in mind?"

"Do you remember when we were kids, and Apollo and Artemis challenged us to that fight?"

Ares slowly nodded.

"Do you remember what we said to each other before we took them up on it?"

A matching grin started to spread across the War God's face. "We agreed to do everything within the rules to make sure that we won," he recalled. "And if that didn't work..."

"We cheat," the two gods finished in unison.

"You realise if we do this we'll get banished from Olympus," said Ares.

Hephaestus nodded seriously. "I know. But I also know that we *can't* let Dahak take Olympus."

"So, it's decided then. No matter how we have to do it, Dahak *doesn't* leave Corinth tomorrow."

Hephaestus clasped his brother's arm. "We should get back. Now that we know what's wrong with Zeus, Asclepius might be able to help him."

"You go," said Ares. "There's someone I want to see, first."

Hephaestus nodded. Tightening his grip for a brief second before he released his brother, the Fire God disappeared from the temple.

Ares cast a final glance around the temple. "I *will* avenge you," he said softly, before a flash of light took him away.


"Asclepius, is there anything we can do?" Hebe asked, as the god came out of the inner room of the temple

The God of Medicine shook his head. "No, without knowing the cause of Zeus' ailment, there's nothing I can do."

"I think I might be able to help with that."

The three gods turned to face Hephaestus, who had just re-appeared in the temple.

"I have reason to believe Zeus has been poisoned with the blood of the Golden Hind."

"The Hind?" Asclepius repeated. "I never thought..." The god's words trailed off as he turned and headed back into the inner temple.

Eileithyia looked at her brother. "What's going on?" she demanded. "What makes you think Father's been poisoned?"

"And where's Ares?" Hebe added, standing next to Eileithyia.

Hephaestus sighed. He knew his sisters wouldn't drop it until they got the answers they wanted. "I'll tell you the entire story," he promised. "But we should wait for Ares to get back."

"Why?" the Goddess of Childbirth asked. "Where is he?"

"I'm not sure," the Fire God admitted. "But he said he'd be here when he was finished."

"Fine," nodded Hebe. "But as soon as he gets here we want the *full* story."


Ares looked around the temple he had just materialised in. The black candles flickering in the corners casting an eerie glow.

"I was wondering when you would get here. Although I had though Hephaestus might accompany you."

The War God turned to face the direction the voice had come from, but saw only shadows dancing on the walls. "Hephaestus has better things to do."

"Like tell Asclepius about the Hind's blood?" guessed Hecate, as she stepped out of the shadows.

"What do you know about the dagger being missing?" Ares demanded to know.

Hecate smiled. Walking past the God of War, she crouched down to pick up one of the two pale dogs sitting at the foot of her throne. "Straight to the point, Ares. I've always liked that about you."

"What do you know?" repeated Ares.

The goddess looked at him, her gaze piercing. "I know a great many things."

Ares reigned in his anger. "The dagger, Hecate. How did you know it was missing?"

Hecate sighed coldly as she sat down, the dog jumping down from her lap and settling at her feet. "Like I told Hephaestus, I'm not willing for you to know *all* my secrets. Be grateful that I told you at all."

"Your arrogance astounds me," Ares told her.

"Why? Because it's on par with your own?" snapped back Hecate. "Don't push me, child," she warned, leaning forward. "Not unless you're prepared for me to push back."

Ares tried changing tactics. "You realise that if Olympus falls, it affects you as well."

Hecate laughed. "Olympus will not fall," she said. "Not yet." The goddess stood up and stepped down from her throne, sweeping past Ares.

Ares closed his eyes briefly as the soft breeze left in Hecate's wake brushed across his face, the faint scent of belladonna and wolfsbane lingering in the air.

"You know," she stated, "contrary to what... 'people' seem to think, I have no problem with Zeus. Merely with his terminal inability to stop leaving bastard children wherever he goes."

"You expect me to believe that the problem you have with my father is that he's unable to keep his cock in his trousers?" Ares asked, his tone disbelieving.

"Believe what you will," she answered. "It is the truth."

"Why? Why do Zeus' affairs annoy you so much? You've made no secret of your dislike of him, so why should what he does have *any* affect on you?" Silence greeted his questions, as Ares thought for a while. "Unless..." He turned to look at the goddess with him. "It's not about Zeus, at all, is it. It's about *Hera*."

Hecate spun to face Ares.

The God of War watched as Hecate's composure crumbled for a split second. The anguish in her face visible for so short a time that he thought he might have imagined it. Ares continued, pressing his slight advantage. "How did you hear Hera's cry? The only other ones there, the only others ones who *heard*, were her children."

"I will *always* be there when Hera calls," Hecate replied, her voice soft.

Ares studied the ancient goddess. "You love her," he stated.

"There is no such emotion," Hecate replied. "And even if there was, what would War know of it?"

Ares said nothing as an image of Joxer sprang to mind.

Hecate's eyes narrowed. "Ah yes, your little mortal," she sneered, reading the War God's thoughts. "Do you claim to *love* him, Ares? Would it kill you to see him taken from you?" she demanded to know. "Shall we find out?"

Ares moved towards Hecate faster than she expected, wrapping his hand around her throat. "Touch Joxer, and I *swear* you will regret it," he growled.

Regaining her composure, Hecate calmly removed his hand from her throat. "Have no fear, Ares," she said. "Your mortal is safe from me. I have more pressing concerns than him. As, I suspect, do you."

"He *is* my concern," Ares said.

"Love's young dream," Hecate smirked. "You're getting sentimental in your old age."

"I would rather be sentimental than bitter," the God of War commented.

Hecate nodded once, acknowledging Ares' hit.

There was silence for long moments, before Ares turned away. "I should have known better than to expect straight answers from you, Hecate. And, like Hephaestus, I have better things to do than be here."

"Discord," Hecate stated softly, before Ares could leave.

Ares turned at the sound of the goddess' name. "What?"

"Discord," Hecate repeated. "The god who is helping Dahak is Discord."

"Are you sure?" asked Ares.

"Positive," came the succinct reply.

Ares closed his eyes and sent a mental yell to both Strife and Cupid.

The two younger gods appeared in front of him.

"What?" asked Strife.

"It's Discord," Ares said. "Go!"

Strife and Cupid glanced at each other before vanishing with twin flashes.

"How do you know?" Ares asked, when he and Hecate were alone once more.

"Does it really matter?" Hecate replied.

A slight smile crossed Ares' face. "No, I don't suppose it does."

Hecate gently trailed a finger down Ares' cheek, before walking over to the wall. Placing a hand on one of the stone, Hecate closed her eyes. The rock shimmered slightly before vanishing. Reaching into the space left by the stone, Hecate removed a small vial. Returning to Ares, she placed the vial in his hand.

Ares lifted the vial, looking at the red liquid swimming inside.

"Zeus had the right idea when he destroyed the Hinds to stop one of the gods getting their blood," explained Hecate. "The only thing is, he was slightly too late. If you and Hephaestus have any chance of succeeding in what you're planning, then I think you'll need it."

Ares looked at her, unable to hide the surprise in his eyes.

Hecate smiled. "Even *I* have no desire to see Dahak take Olympus." She held up a hand to stop Ares from speaking. "However, be warned, that is the only vial. Use it wisely."

Clutching tightly to the vial of Hind's blood, Ares nodded at Hecate and vanished.


Eileithyia looked up as a flash signalled Ares' re-appearance in the temple.

"Well?" he asked, looking at Hephaestus.

The Fire God nodded. "He *has* been poisoned by the blood of the Hind. Asclepius thinks someone's been giving him tiny amounts each day, and it's been gradually killing him."

"And now?"

"Asclepius has administered the antidote," replied Hebe. "Father should recover fully."

"I can hear a 'but' in there," commented Ares.

Hebe nodded. "But he's going to be comatose for at least another week."

"Which means," added Eileithyia, "that tomorrow Dahak will win by default, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it."

"I wouldn't be so sure about that," murmured Hephaestus.

"Okay," said Eileithyia, "we want to know *what* you're planning. And we want to know *now*."

Hephaestus sighed and told the goddesses what he and Ares had planned.

"You're insane! Both of you!" Hebe exclaimed. "You'll be banished!"

"It's better than the alternative," pointed out Ares.

The argument was interrupted by a double flash of light depositing Strife and Cupid next to them.

"She's gone," said Cupid.

"Gone?" Ares looked at both of them.

"We can't find her anywhere," explained Strife. "And she's masking her trail. The bitch has bolted."

"Which bitch?" Eileithyia asked

Cupid and Strife both looked at Ares.

Turning to her brother, Eileithyia fumed. "Damn it, Ares, when I said we wanted the *full* story, I meant it. Now who are they talking about?"

"Discord," Ares answered.

"But why are you looking for Discord?" asked Hebe. "Unless... *she's* the one whose helping Dahak," the goddess surmised.

Ares nodded.

A look of unadultereated anger crossed Hebe's features. "I'll kill her. I'll blast the bitch's atoms to Tartarus."

"We'll have to find her first," pointed out the God of Love.

"Where do you think she's gone?" Hephaestus asked.

"Probably straight to Dahak," answered Strife.

"Forget Discord," said Ares. "We can deal with her after we've dealt with Dahak."

Cupid looked confused. "But I thought Zeus was still comatose?"

"He is," replied Eileithyia.

"Then just how are you going to deal with Dahak?"

The two goddess pointedly looked at their brothers.

"Count us in," the younger gods said in unison, immediately understanding what Ares and Hephaestus planned to do.

Hephaestus shook his head. "No. I'll sacrifice my godhood for this, but I won't allow you two to do the same."

Ignoring the conversation going on between the gods, Hebe continued to pace the temple. "There has to be a way to get the challenge overturned," she said to herself. "Maybe we can get it postponed until Father is recovered."

Ares reached out and stopped his sister's movements. "Hebe, it's all arranged. Dahak will *never* leave Corinth alive."

"But you can't, the formal challenge-"

"*Fuck* the formal challenge," snarled Ares. "That bastard's mine."

"Ares, do you *know* what will happen to the two of you if you do this?"

Hephaestus nodded. "We're more than aware of the consequences this will have."

Biting her lower lip, Hebe nodded quickly. "Fine," she said, moving away slightly and wrapping her arms around herself.

Ares headed over to his brother. "We'll need to go over this so we know exactly what we're doing," he said. He turned to Strife and Cupid. "And I want you two to take another look around to see if you can find Discord."

The younger gods nodded and vanished.

Ares glanced over to his sisters. "We'll be in Heph's Forge if you need us," he said, before twin blasts of light moved them out of the temple.

There was silence until Hebe turned to her sister. "We can't let them do this!" she stressed.

"Hebe, they're right. The only alternative is to let Dahak *take* Olympus," replied Eileithyia.

"But Elly, they'll be stripped of their godhood and *banished*. Don't you care?!"

Eileithyia glared at her sister. "Of course I care!" she snapped. "And I'm well aware of the fact that by this time tomorrow my brothers will be mortal and banished." Her voice softened. "But I'm also aware that nothing we do will get them to change their minds about this."


"There are no buts, Hebe," the Goddess of Childbirth said softly. Eileithyia rubbed her hand over her eyes and sighed. "I need to get back. I left Aphrodite in my temple with someone. Call me if something happens."

Hebe nodded and watched as her sister vanished, leaving her alone. She sank to the floor, cursing her brothers' determination not to look for another way around the challenge. "Men!" she muttered. "Why are they quite prepared to think with their bollocks, but never their brains?" Getting back to her feet, the goddess started to pace again. "I won't accept this is the only option. There has to be another way..." Hebe's words trailed off. With a spark of an idea forming in her mind, the goddess smiled and vanished from the temple.


Aphrodite looked up as she felt Eileithyia reappear in the room. Gabrielle had finally fallen into a fitful sleep soon after the Goddess of Childbirth had left. Waving at her sister to keep quiet, Aphrodite carefully stood up and walked over to the other side of the room.

Eileithyia fidgeted slightly, not meeting Aphrodite's eyes.


Eileithyia finally looked at her sister. "'Dite, I don't know how to say this, but Hephaestus-"

The Goddess of Love raised a hand to her sister's lips. "I know," she said softly. "I know what they're planning."


"Hep and I are in constant mental contact," Aphrodite explained. "I knew as soon as he had the idea."

"They'll be banished."

"I know that, too," Aphrodite said. "But I also know that if no one does anything then Olympus will be destroyed."

The silence stretched for long minutes.

"I'm going to lose him, Elly, and there's nothing I can do about it." Tears spilled out of Aphrodite's eyes and ran down her face.

Eileithyia wrapped her arms around her sister and pulled her close.

"How will I cope without him?" the Love Goddess sobbed. "How can I live without my heart?"

Eileithyia had no answer for her.


Hebe looked up at the temple doors. Sighing to herself, she started up the steps. Reaching the doors, she pushed them open and walked into the Temple of the Muses. Stepping into the main hall of the temple, Hebe looked around. Pictures and poetry decorated the walls, and soft music floated through the room. Spotting someone in the corner of the hall, she walked over to them. "Melpomene?" she said, when she got close enough.

"The Muse of Tragedy looked up, the tears running down her face.

"Where's Clio?" Hebe asked.

"Does it matter?!" Melpomene wailed. "Olympus is going to be destroyed!"

"Well, that all depends on whether I can find Clio," said Hebe.

Melpomene looked at her for a brief moment, before crying even harder.

"I wouldn't ask her anything," said a voice. "All she's been doing since we got the news about Zeus is crying."

Hebe turned to face the Muse behind her. "Terpsichore, do *you* know where Clio is?"

The Muse of Dance shook her head, not once missing the beat as her body flowed through a set of fluid motions. "Try Urania. She's on the roof."

"Thanks," said Hebe, heading to the roof.


Hebe spotted Urania straight away. The Muse of Astronomy was lying on her back studying the constellations. "Urania?"

"Zeus wants Andromeda to become a constellation, but I think it would clutter up the sky too much," the Muse said, by way of a reply. "What do you think?"

Hebe glanced up into the sky. "Um, I think the sky is a pretty big place. I'm sure you can find somewhere to put her if you look hard enough."

"I guess so," answered Urania, getting to her feet. "What did you want?"

"I'm looking for Clio. Terpsichore said you might know where she is."

"I think she's with Calliope and Erato," Urania said. "They should be at the Fountain of Hippocrene."

"Thanks," the goddess said, a flash of light taking her to the fountain on Mount Helicon.


Gabrielle slowly opened her eyes.

"How are you feeling?" Eileithyia asked.

"Okay," the bard replied softly. Sitting up, Gabrielle hugged her knees to her chest and looked at the Goddess of Childbirth. "Well?" she asked. "Can you help me?"

Eileithyia glanced at Aphrodite and sighed. "About that. There may be a problem."


The soft sound of running water reached Hebe as soon as she materialised on Mount Helicon. Turning around, she saw two young women sitting next to a fountain. Instantly recognising them as Calliope and Erato, she walked over them.

Erato raised her head as she heard the gentle footsteps heading towards them. "Yes?"

"I'm looking for Clio," Hebe explained. "I was told she might be hear with you."

Calliope shook her head. "She was, but she left to see Amalotto a while ago."

Hebe sighed. She may as well be chasing a wild goose. "Are you sure she'll be with him?"

Calliope shrugged. "She should be."

"Fine," said Hebe, preparing to go to Arcadia.

"Wait!" called Calliope. "While you're here, can you tell me how this sounds?"

"What is it?" Hebe asked.

"It's a poem. Homer asked me to write it for him. He says he's all poemed out after doing the Iliad, but his agent wants him to do another one. He asked me, and since he's worshipped me his entire life, I figured it was the least I could do."

"Go on then," replied Hebe. "But be quick, I'm in a hurry."

Calliope smiled and started to read off the parchment in front of her. "Sing to me, Muse-"

"That's us," grinned Erato.

Calliope ignored the interruption. "And through me tell the story of that man skilled in all ways of contending, the wanderer, harried for years on end, after he plundered the stronghold on the proud height of Troy." She looked up. "Well?"

"It doesn't rhyme," Hebe commented.

Erato snorted. "Of course it doesn't rhyme. Whoever heard of a *poem* that *rhymed*?"

Hebe thought for a moment. "Oh, well, in that case, yeah, it's fine."

A blazing grin crossed Calliope's face. "Great! I was panicking about it because Mother always said I was no good at writing."

"Calliope, you're the Muse of Epic Poetry," pointed out Hebe.

"Well, yes," nodded Calliope, "but it was always my followers who wrote things, not me."

Shaking her head, Hebe cast a final glance at Calliope and Erato. "I *hate* Muses," she muttered, as she transported herself to Arcadia.


Amalotto looked at Clio. "What do you think?" he asked, pointing at the design on the parchment in from of them.

Clio studied the circle containing the curved V shape. "I like it," she said. "And it's simple enough to be replicated easily." Lifting her head, she glanced at the man next to her. "Have you thought of a name yet?"

Amalotto shrugged. "I was thinking of maybe 'The Observers', or 'The Recorders', or something like that."


Clio turned at the shout to see Hebe heading over to them.

"I need your help," Hebe said, as she stopped next to the table.

"What for?" Clio asked.

"Trying to stop my bull-headed brothers from getting thrown out of Olympus," the goddess replied. Leaning over Amalotto's shoulder, Hebe studied the design he had drawn on the parchment. "You know," she commented, "that would look much better with dots around it. And an outer circle surrounding it all."

Amalotto picked up his quill and added the modifications Hebe had suggested.

"Told you," the goddess nodded, as she and Clio vanished in a burst of light.


Arriving in the Great Library, Hebe dragged Clio to where the Chronicles of the Gods were kept. "We need to find every reference to Formal Challenges," she said.

Clio glanced at the rows and rows of Chronicles before turning back to Hebe. "You are kidding, aren't you?" she asked.

"No, I'm not," Hebe replied, pulling Clio over to the first row of books. "And we need to be finished by morning, so we'd better get started."

Clio sighed. Placing her hand on the spine of the Chronicle, she closed her eyes and concentrated for a second. "This one doesn't mention Formal Challenges," she said. Moving on to the next book, she repeated the process. "This one does."

Hebe pulled out the Chronicle and placed it on one of the tables, before turning back to the search.


Joxer watched as the sun slowly rose, casting light across Corinth. The argument concerning the child Gabrielle was carrying raged on around him.

"I don't see what the problem is," said Nebula, from her position next to Iphicles. "I mean, just get rid of it."

"I can't."

Everyone on the room turned at the sound of the voice to see Gabrielle, Aphrodite and a third young woman standing there.

Hercules looked his half-sister. "Eileithyia, what are you doing here?"

Xena recognised the name of the Goddess of Childbirth.

"Aphrodite brought Gabrielle to me last night, to see if I could help with the... situation," Eileithyia explained.

"And can you?" Iolaus asked.

The goddess shook her head. "There's nothing I can do."

Gabrielle took a small step forward. "The baby is being sustained by an external energy," she told them.

"Dahak?" Iphicles suggested.

Eileithyia nodded. "From what I've discovered, it seems that the child draws an extraordinary amount of energy from Gabrielle. If Dahak wasn't helping sustain it, then Gabrielle would have been totally drained within days."

Gabrielle glanced at the people in the room. "None of the Olympian Gods can do anything," she explained further. "The only way to... terminate the pregnancy is to kill me."

"We should never have been in this situation in the first place," said Xena, her voice rising. "What the Tartarus did you think you were doing sleeping with Dahak?!"

"I made a *mistake!*" yelled Gabrielle. "Some of us *do* make them, you know. Not everyone can be as perfect as Little Miss Xena! Oh, but I forgot, you're not exactly spotlessly clean yourself!"


Gabrielle lifted a hand to her flaming cheek, staring at Xena in shock. For long seconds the ringing echo of the slap was the only sound that could be heard.

Xena couldn't take her eyes off the reddening patch on the bard's face. "Gabrielle, I-"

Not allowing Xena to finish her words, Gabrielle turned and ran out of the room.

Xena started to go after the bard but was stopped by Aphrodite's hand on her arm. "Leave her," the goddess said. "It's been a difficult night, she could probably use some time alone."

"You don't look so good yourself," Hercules told the Goddess of Love.

Eileithyia snorted at her brother's tact.

Aphrodite ignored Hercules and turned to the other goddess. "I'm going back to Olympus. I... need to see Hep," she said quietly.

Eileithyia nodded in understanding.

Joxer watched the by-play between the two gods. "There's something else going on, isn't there?" he said, after Aphrodite had left.

Eileithyia sighed. "Zeus is comatose," he said, her voice soft. "There's no way he'll be able to fight Dahak."

"What!?" The chorus of voices came from most of the people there.

"He's been poisoned from the blood of the Hind," explained Eileithyia. "Asclepius has given him the antidote, but he'll be comatose for a few more days."

"What happens if Zeus doesn't turn up for the Challenge?" Xena asked.

"Then Dahak wins by default and becomes the King of the Gods."

Iolaus heard the strange tone of Eileithyia's voice. "What else happens?" he asked.

The Childbirth Goddess didn't answer.


"In all probability, he'll first kill Zeus, and then set out and systematically eradicate Olympus, destroying the gods as he goes."

"But, he can't defeat *all* of you," pointed out Xena. "You'll be able to stop him."

Sighing, Eileithyia sat heavily on Iphicles' throne. "It's not something we advertise, but the energies of the Olympian Gods are linked."

"Linked?" Nebula looked confused.

Eileithyia nodded. "Whenever a god, a *full* god, is born, there is a slight drop of powers levels until the equilibrium re-balances itself. The same thing occurs when a god is killed. If that happens with someone as powerful as Zeus, it would throw the power balance off considerably, and each of the other gods would experience a massive drain in their power levels for... I don't know how long."

"You said the *Olympian* gods," Hercules pointed out.

"I know," the goddess replied.

"And since Dahak *isn't* one of the Olympians..."

"Then he wouldn't be affected," finished Eileithyia. "He would remain at full strength."

Iolaus looked at the goddess. "How long would the power drain last for?"

"It's impossible to say. The last time a god was killed was when Xena took out Bacchus. I was powerless for nearly a whole day. Some gods lost their powers for longer, others for shorter amounts of time. But Zeus is a lot more powerful than Bacchus ever was." Eileithyia paused for a moment. "A power drain could last for days, in which time Dahak could do untold damage."

"Like what?" Joxer didn't really want to know, but something was compelling him to hear the goddess' worst case scenario.

"Well, if he has any sense, the first thing he'll do is remove the gods who'll be a threat."

"Like?" Xena encouraged.

"The older gods, for a start. The ones who have an allegiance to Zeus that goes beyond him just being King of the Gods."

"Like Hera?"

Eileithyia snorted derisively. "He wouldn't need to worry about Hera. When Zeus nearly died Hera linked with him. She's supporting him with her power. It'll be another couple of days before Father has recovered enough for her to stop supporting him. And if Dahak kills Zeus while they're linked, then Mother will die, too." Eileithyia's eyes glazed over slightly, as she looked out into the room. "And then he'll go after Hestia, Hades, Demeter and Poseidon. Dahak will view all six of Cronos' children as a threat, not just Zeus." She stood up and walked to the window. "And after he's done that, he'll start on the other gods that would threaten his position. The older and more powerful gods would recover first, so they'd be his first targets."

A kernel of fear knotted itself in Joxer's stomach. "Like Ares?"

Eileithyia turned and met Joxer's worried gaze. "Yes," she nodded. "And Aphrodite."

"Aphrodite?" Nebula sounded unconvinced.

Eileithyia laughed softly. "She may act like a bimbo, but she has the energy of all the lovers behind her. It gives her a Tartarus of a power base."

"So, what you're saying is that we should be prepared for Olympus to fall," said Iolaus.

"It's a distinct possibility," replied the goddess.

Joxer didn't hear the end of the conversation. All that kept playing in his mind was Eileithyia's words that Ares would be one of the first gods Dahak went after. Suddenly, the walls seemed to close in around him. "Um, I'm going to go see how Gabby is," he murmured, before rushing out.


Gabrielle sat on the palace steps, her fingers subconsciously brushing across the cheek that Xena had slapped.


Turning around, the blonde saw Joxer looking at her in concern. "I was just wondering how you were doing," he said.

"I'm fine," Gabrielle replied, her tone flat.

Sitting down on the steps next to her, Joxer took one of Gabrielle's hands in his own. "Listen, I know that things have been difficult between us lately, but I just wanted to say that I'm here if you need to talk to anyone."

Gabrielle smiled shakily. "Thanks," she said softly. "But I'll be fine."

Joxer looked at her, disbelief written on his features.

"Really," she continued.

Joxer finally nodded. "Okay, but if you need anything, just ask." Standing up, he placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed it. "Come in when you're ready."

"I will," the blonde told him. "And Joxer?"


"Thanks." Joxer smiled at Gabrielle before heading back into the palace.

Gabrielle glanced out over the abandoned city. A gentle wind blew through the streets that had once been full of people. In her mind's eye, she replaced the first time she and Xena had come to Corinth. The warrior had spent hours trying a find a stable that was good enough to look after Argo. She could almost see Xena in front of her, trying to persuade the palace guards that Iphicles really *wouldn't* mind if Argo was housed in with his horses. Slowly lifting her hand, the bard felt her cheek, the skin still tingling where Xena had slapped her. "I never meant for this to happen," she whispered.

There are worse things I could do
Then go with a God or two
Even though Xena thinks it's a shock
That I slept with Dahak
And I know it's probably true
But there are worse things I could do
I could join the Bard Academy
Just to drop out when it bores me
I could betray my best friend
Arrange with Ares to send
Me to the land the Chin
To help the Green Dragon win
I could save 'Hope' from Xena's sword
And lie to her with every word
Allowing my child to take the world
And see civilisation hurled
Into an abyss it can't escape
I could see Xena's life torn apart
The death of her son breaking her heart
I could embrace a child of hate
Leading everyone to their fate
In a world I'd helped to shape
But all those things I've said to you
They are things I'd never do

Dropping her head into her hands, Gabrielle started to cry.


Hebe sighed and closed the Chronicle, placing the book on the pile next to her. Looking across the table, she saw Clio rubbing her eyes as she flicked through the open Chronicle in front of her.

The Muse glanced up and met Hebe's gaze. "This is like trying to find a virgin in one of Apollo's temples, you know - bloody impossible!"

"I don't care, keep looking anyway," replied the Goddess of Youth. Reaching out, Hebe grabbed another Chronicle and opened it. "We've got less than an hour before the Formal Challenge is due to start. We *have* to find something."


"So it's sorted then," said Ares.

Hephaestus nodded. "Let's just hope this all goes according to plan."

"I still don't see why you won't let us help," moaned Strife.

"Yeah," agreed Cupid. "Surely the four of us would have a better chance of pulling this off then just the two of you."

Hephaestus turned and pinned the two younger gods with his gaze. "No! No matter what happens, you two are to *stay out of it*. Do you understand? The Fates can't banish you from Olympus unless you get actively involved."

Strife muttered something under his breath, before eventually nodding.


The Love God didn't reply.


"Fine, okay. We *won't* get involved." The winged god looked up defiantly at the two men he thought of as 'father'. "Happy?"

Ares walked up behind Cupid and Strife and laid a hand on each of their shoulders, squeezing slightly. "We'll see you in Corinth," he said.

The younger gods recognised the dismissal and vanished from the Forge.

Ares looked at his brother. "The Challenge is in less then an hour. Go and spend the time with 'Dite."

Hephaestus nodded.

As his brother was getting ready to leave, Ares reached out and grasped his hand. "We're doing the right thing, Heph."

The Fire God met Ares' eyes. "So why does it feel like we're losing everything?" he replied, before he disappeared.

Ares raised a hand and conjured up an image of Joxer. "Because we are," he murmured.


"Does anyone else feel like they're about to watch their own funeral?"

Hercules turned to his lover. "Nice image, Iolaus, thanks." The demi-god looked around at the vast assemblage of gods. It seemed as though most of Olympus had descended on Corinth to witness Dahak be declared winner of the Formal Challenge.

A flash of black light drew everyone's attention to where Dahak and Discord had just arrived. A ripple of anger spread through the gods when they saw the treacherous goddess.

"Why, it would seem the family's out in force," Discord noted, sauntering over to them.

Ares glared at goddess. "Why?" he demanded to know.

The Goddess of Discord smiled. "Why do you think, Ares? Discord, Queen of the Gods," she purred. "It has a certain ring to it, doesn't it."

"You bitch," yelled Strife, preparing to attack Discord.

Ares grabbed his nephew. "Don't," he said softly.

Discord laughed and walked back to Dahak.

Strife's protest was cut off as burst of light deposited the Fates between Dahak and the Olympian gods.

"This is it," murmured Apollo. "They're gonna declare him the winner."

"Don't speak too soon," Hephaestus whispered under his breath.

Glancing between the two groups, the Fates spoke as one. "As Zeus is not here to answer the Challenge, we must declare-"

Nodding at Hephaestus, Ares hurled a fireball at Dahak, flinging him back into the Town Square.

The Fire God and the War God both vanished in a blast of light.

"What the Tartarus are they doing?!" exclaimed Iolaus.

"Making sure Olympus doesn't fall!" Cupid replied.


Seeing that Ares and Dahak were both in the Town Square, Hephaestus raised a fire wall, cutting it off from the rest of Corinth. Channelling his energies into tight focus, he surrounded himself with a barrier, isolating himself, and allowing him to concentrate on keeping the fire wall intact.

The three Fates turned to Hephaestus. "Lower the wall!" they ordered.

The Fire God ignored them.

Turning to face the wall, the Fates extended their arms, attempting to drain the energies from the fire wall.

Ignoring the pounding headache that was starting to develop, Hephaestus continued to channel his powers into maintaining the wall. No matter what happened, he had to keep the Fates away from Ares long enough for the War God to complete his part of the plan.


Dahak screamed in fury when he realised he couldn't breach the fire wall that had surrounded them.

"It's no use, Dahak. It's just you and me," Ares told him.

Dahak snarled and threw a lightning bolt at the War God as he pulled the sword he had covered in Hind's blood out of his belt. "Don't be stupid, Ares," he said. "Or I'll send you straight to Tartarus."

A feral grin crossed Ares' face as he unsheathed his sword.

Dahak paled slightly as he realised the blade was covered in fresh Hind's blood.

"Not if I send *you* there first," Ares commented, charging at the other god.


"What's going on in there?" asked Xena. "Is there any way to see?"

The air shimmered as Aphrodite waved a hand and the two figures battling within the fire wall became visible.

Gabrielle turned to the goddess next to them. "What will happen if they succeed?"

"The Fates will banish them from Olympus, and they'll become mortal," Eileithyia replied.

Hercules snorted. "So their godhood will be taken. Every other time it's happened Ares has had it back within days."

"Not this time," said Eileithyia softly. "The Fates won't just take away the symbols of their godhood, they'll cut their threads of life, and re-spin them as mortals."

"What does that mean?" Xena asked.

The goddess turned to the warrior princess. "The symbol of the God of War is his sword, right?"

Xena nodded.

"Take away the Sword of War and Ares is no longer the War God. The Sword acts as Ares' conduit to the energy which sustains the Olympians. Each god has one. Take away the conduit and you take away that god's ability to access their powers. They still *have* them, they just can't *use* them. Not this time. Their access to the Olympian energy won't be blocked, it'll be severed completely. They will never again be gods."

"Not even if they get hold of ambrosia, or if Ares gets his sword back?" Iolaus asked.

"Once the threads are re-spun, eating Ambrosia won't turn them back into gods," replied Eileithyia. "It'll kill them. If they touch *anything* linked to the energies of the gods, then they will die."

"But, if Ares becomes mortal, and people find out about it..." Xena's words trailed off.

"Then he'll be hunted like a dog by every warlord he's ever gone against," finished Eileithyia. "Ares may be good, but against a constant barrage of assaults?" Her voice dropped to a whisper. "He'll be dead within the week."


Hebe looked up as a flash of light deposited Thaleia next to her.

"You're missing it!" the Muse of Comedy exclaimed, bouncing.

"Missing what?"

"The Challenge. Ares and Hephaestus have just attacked Dahak!"

"Oh fuck!" Hebe screamed, grabbing Thaleia and throwing a Chronicle at her.

Thaleia looked at the book in confusion. "What am I meant to do with *this*?"

"Clio, explain it, will you?" Hebe said, continually flicking through her Chronicle.


Ares and Dahak circled each other warily. The battle had been going on for nearly two hours, with neither one gaining enough leverage to win. Sweat ran down their bodies, mingling with blood before it dripped to the ground. The only sounds heard were laboured breaths and pants of exhaustion.

Dahak ran at Ares, brandishing his sword high above his head. Swinging the sword he lunged at Ares, only to hit thin air as the War God rolled out of his way. Anticipating the move, Dahak hurled a lightning bolt at the other god.

Ares flew back into the fire wall before dropping to the ground.

Dahak laughed headed towards Ares. "Ready to admit defeat?" he goaded.

"Never," Ares hissed as he lunged at Dahak. Knocking him to the ground, the God of War thrust his knee into Dahak's stomach. Wrestling on the ground, Ares managed to grab Dahak's sword, and throw it to the other side of the Town Square.

Twisting under Ares, Dahak scrambled after his sword, cursing when the War God grabbed him and thrust him against the fire wall.

"Yield," demanded the War God, his arm against Dahak's throat.

"Never," Dahak replied.

Ares dropped his sword down to his side and, wrapping a hand in Dahak's hair, pulled the other god's head towards him. Ares' lips pressed urgently against Dahak's, forcing them to open and admit him. His tongue sought out Dahak's and they duelled, a mock remake of the battle they had just fought with their swords. The air around them crackled with static; the adrenaline rush and the heat of the battle making Ares harder then he had ever been. The tableau was abruptly broken when Ares raised his sword and plunged it into Dahak's stomach, never once breaking the kiss. The War God eventually pulled away, his lips leaving Dahak's body the same time as his sword. "You've lost," he murmured.

Dahak looked at him, a trickle of blood running from the corner of his mouth. "So have you, *mortal*," he replied, his voice a guttural whisper.

Ares stared into the eyes of his opponent, their gazes locked as Dahak's eyes slowly dulled. When the life was gone from the other god, Ares stepped back and let the body fall to his feet.


"They won!" said Strife, his tone coloured with shock.

Aphrodite allowed the image in the air to dissipate. "Did they?" she asked, the tears running down her face.


Eileithyia turned as she heard Gabrielle gasp in pain.

Clutching at her stomach, Gabrielle felt darkness about to overtake her.

Grabbing the bard before she fell to the ground, the Goddess of Childbirth transported them both to Olympus.


Hephaestus sighed with relief as he let the fire wall drop. Removing the barrier from around himself, he walked up to where Ares was staggering out of the Town Square.

"Thanks," murmured Ares, as his brother placed an arm around his waist to support him.

Steering Ares to where the other gods were standing, Hephaestus stopped suddenly when the Fates appeared in front of him.

Looking up when Hephaestus stopped, Ares stared at the Fates. "Bugger, I'd forgot about them," he muttered.


The Olympian gods watched in silence as Lachesis raised a hand. "Ares and Hephaestus, you wilfully interfered in a Formal Challenge. For this transgression you will be banished from Olympus. The thread of your godhood will be severed and re-spun as that of mortals."

A slight shimmer and a large tapestry appeared in front of them. Separating out the two lines of wool that represented the War God and the Fire God, Atropos raised her scissors and prepared to cut them.


Discord watched as the Tapestry of Life appeared in front of the Fates. Sensing her opportunity to leave while everyone was occupied with Ares and Hephaestus, the goddess closed her eyes and prepared to transport herself back to one of Dahak's temples. Discord's eyes jerked open when she realised she couldn't move herself from where she was; someone was holding her in Corinth. Looking up, her eyes widened as she saw the figure stalking towards her.

"Didn't think we'd forgot about you, did you?" Athena taunted.

"Let me go, Athena," said Discord. "After all, I did you a favour."

Athena stared at the other goddess. "*What* have you ever done for me?"

"Well, think about it, once Ares gets banished, it leaves the position as War God open. And who better to take it than you?"

Athena snorted in disgust. "Forget it, Discord," she said, grabbing her arm and pulling her over to where the other gods were. "There's no way you're getting away with this."


"ASCLEPIUS!" screamed Eileithyia, as soon as she and Gabrielle materialised in her temple. Manoeuvring the near unconscious blonde to the bed, Eileithyia cursed. "ASCLEPIUS! I NEED YOU HERE, *NOW*!"

A flash of light deposited the God of Medicine in Eileithyia's temple. "What's wrong?"

Eileithyia quickly filled him in about the challenge. "And now Dahak's dead, he's not sustaining the child. It's taking too much energy from Gabrielle. If we don't get it out of her now, she'll die."

Asclepius looked at the sweat-soaked young woman on the bed. "We may be too late," he said softly.

"*No!*" snapped the goddess. "Aphrodite brought this child to me because she believed I could help. Well, I'm not about to fail them."

Asclepius nodded at the determined look on his aunt's face, before opening his bag and pulling something out. "Okay, but we'll need to work fast."


Hecate watched from the shadows a Asclepius' head suddenly jerked up as though he was listening to something. With a final check on Zeus and Hera, the God of Medicine grabbed his bag and vanished from the room. As soon as the flash of light had dissipated Hecate headed towards the two unconscious figures. Kneeling down, she reached out and gently brushed a finger down Hera's cheek. Taking a deep breath, Hecate closed her eyes. Placing her hands on Zeus' stomach, she started to softly chant.


"That's it!" exclaimed Hebe as she stared at the open Chronicle she'd been checking. Jumping to her feet, she pulled Clio to her and kissed the startled Muse. Grinning, she grabbed the Chronicle and vanished from the Great Library.


Ares watched as Atropos' scissors neared the life threads of himself and Hephaestus. He was barely aware of Aphrodite's sobbing in the background, as his ears filled with the rushing sound of his blood. Hephaestus' grip around his waist tightened slightly as Atropos began to close her scissors.


Everyone turned to see Hebe frantically waving a book at the Fates.

"That looks like one of the Chronicles," muttered Hephaestus. "What's she doing with that?"

"I dread to think," replied Ares. "But I sincerely hope it's something to do with getting us off the hook."

Hebe stalked up to the Fates. "I wish to be heard," she stated.

Clothos stared at her for long moments, before finally nodding. "Very well. We will hear you."

Hebe took a deep breath and glanced at her brothers.

"We are waiting, child."

Holding out the Chronicle, she stepped towards the Fates.  "We follow the rules of the Formal Challenge that are set out in the old Chronicles," she said. "And the Chronicles state that no one may interfere in that challenge."

"We know this," pointed out Lachesis.

"But it wasn't only them who interfered. Discord helped Dahak by poisoning Zeus." Hebe held out the Chronicle. "It says in here that if one side of a Formal Challenge elicits help, then the other side may do so as well. Discord actively helped Dahak, and so Ares and Hephaestus are allowed to do the same for Zeus."

Clothos held out a hand, and the Chronicle vanished out of Hebe's grasp to reappear in the Fate's fingers. Turning away from the assembled gods, the Fates spoke softly to one another for a brief moment before turning back to look at Hebe.

The Goddess of Youth looked at the three Fates in expectation.

"You are right in your interpretation of this rule," said Clothos.

"Yes!" exclaimed Hebe, grinning and starting to walk towards the War God and the Fire God, stopping when Clothos carried on talking.

"And if you had brought this to our attention *before* the Challenge commenced, we would have allowed Ares and Hephaestus to take action."

"However," Lachesis continued, "since they had no knowledge of this ruling, the intent remains the same. They wilfully interfered in something they believed they should not."

"Our decision stands," Atropos finished. "And so does the punishment."

"*What?!*" yelled Aphrodite, appearing next to Hebe in a flash of light. "You can't be serious?! If it hadn't been for what they did Dahak would be ruling Olympus."

A fluttering of wings brought Cupid to the group. "Mom's right. You can't do this."

"They're right," agreed Xena, stepping forward. "I never thought I'd say this, but Ares did the right thing."

"Your opinions are of little concern to us, mortal," Lachesis said.

The murmur of disapproval among the gods rose steadily.

"Enough!" roared Clothos, quelling the voices with a raised hand. "I will not have our decision questioned further. The rules of the Formal Challenge stand, and as such *no* interference will be tolerated."

Athena jumped slightly as Clothos snapped her fingers and Discord disappeared out of her hold and materialised in front of the Fates.

Lachesis stepped forward, pinning Discord with her gaze. "Discord, for your transgression against the rules of the Formal Challenge, the thread of your godhood will be cut and re-spun as that of a mortal."

Separating out one of the lines of wool on the Tapestry of Life, Atropos raised her scissors and cut it.

"NO!" screamed Discord, as her body fell to the ground.

Taking hold of the severed thread, Clothos attached a different thread to it, and began to weave it back into the Tapestry.

Ares watched as the breath rushed back into Discord and she jerked up, gasping. All traces of her godhood were gone, and he knew the same fate awaited Hephaestus and himself.


Discord shakily pushed herself to her feet. Her head was pounding and her nausea threatened to overwhelm her, but she refused to show any sign of weakness.

"Discord, you are hereby expelled from Olympus. You are forbidden contact with any Olympian god for the rest of your mortal life."

Discord felt the horror in her rising at Lachesis' words. She was a mortal. *Mortal.* It wasn't meant to happen like this. Dahak was meant to win. She was going to be Queen of the Gods.

"I suggest you leave here," commented Strife coldly.

Closing her eyes, Discord automatically tried to transport herself away, reality coming crashing down when she couldn't. "You can't do this to me!" she cried, falling to her knees.

"My dear child," replied Clothos. "We already have."

Choking back a sob, Discord struggled to her feet and fled towards the gates of the city.


The Fates turned their attention to Ares and Hephaestus.

"And now it is your turn," commented Clothos.

Lachesis looked up and echoed the words she had said to them earlier. "Ares and Hephaestus, you wilfully interfered in a Formal Challenge. For this transgression you will be banished from Olympus, and the thread of your god hood severed and re-spun as that of mortals. You will be forbidden any and all contact with the inhabitants of Olympus."

Ares saw Aphrodite softly weeping at Lachesis' words. "Wait," he said, stepping forward. "Technically, Hephaestus *didn't* interfere in the challenge. He merely stopped *you* from stopping *me* from interfering in it. Take my godhood if you will, but leave Hephaestus' intact."

"The sentiment to save your brother is a noble one, Ares. However, you both planned this course of action, and you will both pay the consequences." Lachesis nodded at Atropos.

Taking Ares and Hephaestus' threads in her fingers, Atropos once more raised her scissors.

Smiling at Hebe for trying to help them, Ares closed his eyes, and waited for the darkness to claim him.


Hercules watched as Aphrodite turned away from the Fates and covered her face with her hands, tears running through her fingers. Glancing over at his two half-brothers, he began to understand that there was more to either of them than he had originally thought. But now he was seeing that, it may be too late. Reaching out, he gently placed a hand on the Love Goddess' shoulder. "We won't let anything happen to them, I promise."

"But what will they do?" she asked between the tears. "Where will they go?"

"They'll have sanctuary in Corinth for as long as they want it," Iphicles assured her. "For as long as they need it."


Joxer watched in horror from his position on the roof of one of the houses. His nails were digging to the soft flesh of his hand as he clutched his fists tightly. He'd be there for Ares, no matter what happened. He was unable to tear his gaze away from the sight of the person he loved about to be stripped of his godhood, when a burst of light flashed next to the Fates.


"Fuck me!" swore Hephaestus, as a ripple of noise ran through the crowd.

Expecting the worst, Ares opened his eyes at his brother's curse. His mouth dropped open in shock when he saw the person who had stopped Atropos from cutting the threads. "Zeus?"


The King of the Gods looked up at his son's strained whisper.

"You have no right to interfere, Zeus. This is a legitimate punishment for their crime."

Zeus' grip on Atropos' scissors tightened at Clothos' words. "I will not let you do this," his voice rusty.

"You cannot stop us," commented Lachesis. "You are still weak from your ordeal. You are no match for us."

A crash of thunder split the air. "But *I* am. You will not take my sons from me." The air crackled as the Queen of the Gods stepped forward.

Clothos met Hera's cool gaze. "You expect us to do nothing against their transgression."

"We expect you to get down on your knees and thank them for saving Olympus!" exclaimed Aphrodite, appearing next to Hera in a flash.

Hera reached out and touched the younger goddess' arm lightly. She had never particularly liked Aphrodite; the other woman being yet another reminder of her husband's infidelity. However, this time they stood together, united by the common bond of their love for Hephaestus and Ares. "Know this," Hera stated, never once taking her eyes off the Fates. "If you take my children from me, I will hunt you to Tartarus and back and see you destroyed."

"But the rules-"

"You aren't understanding me," interrupted Hera. "I *don't care* about the rules."

"You would do this?" Hebe asked, materialising next to her mother and sister. "You would go against all of Olympus? Let it go," she appealed. "Let *them* go."

"And if we agree to this?" Lachesis asked.

"Then you get our unending gratitude and the knowledge that you have escaped the eternal wrath of the Queen of the Gods," smiled Hebe.

The Fates closed their eyes, silently communicating with each other. Eventually, Lachesis opened her eyes and stepped towards Ares and Hephaestus. "We have decided that your actions were permissible under the rules of the Formal Challenge."

Both gods let out the breaths they hadn't realised they were holding as several of the gods cheered.

"But understand this," Clothos added. "Next time, you will not escape our decision. Consider this fair warning."

Atropos looked at Zeus until he released her hand. With a wave of her fingers, she sent the Tapestry of Life back to the Temple of the Fates. Walking over to her sisters, she stopped next to Hera. "You are now indebted to us, Hera. And we *will* collect."

Once Atropos had joined the others, the Fates vanished from Corinth.


A blinding grin broke out on Aphrodite's face as she threw herself into Hephaestus' arms. "I thought I'd lost you," she said, kissing him.

"You will *never* lose me," the Fire God assured her. "*Never.*"

Screaming with delight, Hebe grabbed Ares, as the other gods started to gather around them. "Don't you *ever* do that to me again," she said. "I can't bear the thought of losing either one of you."

"She isn't the only one."

Aphrodite moved away to let Hera embrace Hephaestus.

Looking over at Ares, Hera pulled the War God towards them, and embraced both her sons.

A quiet cough caught their attention, and all three of them turned to face Zeus.

The King of the Gods stepped closer and placed a hand on the face of either son. "What the two of you did was foolhardy and reckless," he said gruffly. "And quite possibly the most courageous thing in the history of Olympus." Zeus paused slightly. "I know I haven't been the greatest father, but I want you to know that I am *proud* to be able to call either of you my son." Zeus' words were cut short by a coughing fit.

Rushing to her husband's side, Hera placed an arm around him. "We should go back to Olympus," she said softly. "You still haven't fully recovered."

Zeus nodded and the two of them disappeared in a burst of light.


After his parents left, Ares' eyes were drawn to the third person that had arrived. Hecate had remained silent since she had appeared with Zeus and Hera.  Weaving his way though the gods around them, Ares headed over to the ancient goddess. "How?" he asked when he reached her, motioning to where Zeus and Hera had been standing.

Hecate smiled briefly. "Let us just say that it would be rather foolish of someone to have a vial of Hind's blood without also having access to an antidote."

"But why?" he asked. "Why help us?"

Hecate closed her eyes for a moment, before opening them and meeting Ares' gaze. "Why not?" she replied.

There was silence betwen them for long moments before Hecate looked away.

"I need to return to Olympus," she said.

Before she could leave, Ares quickly reached out and grasped her hand. "Thank you," he smiled.

Hecate nodded and raised her fingers to his cheek. "It was... my pleasure," she told him, before transporting herself away.


Spotting Hercules, Iolaus, Iphicles and Nebula standing in a group at the edge of the crowd, Xena headed over to them.

"I can't believe they actually got away with it!" exclaimed Nebula.

"You and me both, babe," agreed Iphicles.

"I never would have thought that Ares had it in himself to sacrifice himself," commented Hercules. "It seems there's a lot more the God of War than I ever assumed."

"Joxer tried to tell us that he wasn't all bad," Iolaus reminded them.

"Speaking of Joxer, where is he?" Iphicles asked.

"I don't know," answered Xena. "But I can't find Gabrielle either, so they're probably together somewhere."

The demi-god glanced around. "I don't think so. Gabrielle *was* standing with Eileithyia, but I couldn't keep track of everyone in the crowd. And I haven't seen Joxer at all since this morning."

"He was pretty worried about Ares," said Iolaus.

Nebula looked around. "There he is," she eventually pointed.

Following Nebula's line of sight, Xena saw Joxer sitting on the roof of one of the houses lining the streets. "Maybe he knows where Gabrielle is," she said, heading over to him.


Joxer hugged his knees to his chest as he watched various gods congratulate Ares and Hephaestus on beating Dahak. He'd been terrified when the fire wall Hephaestus had raised had cut off his view of the Town Square. He could see that Aphrodite had opened up a scrying pool, but had been too far away to actually see what the image was showing. He could hear the sounds of the battle, but had no idea who was winning. He'd thanked the gods when it had been Ares who walked out of the Town Square, only to curse them when the Fates passed their judgement, and then thank them *again* when Zeus and Hera interfered. He ignored the small voice in the back of his mind that kept saying he *wanted* Ares' godhood to be taken away, because then it would place the god on a more equal level with him. He was happy for Ares that he was still a god, and wanted nothing more than to grab the War God and never let go. But he knew that Ares deserved someone better. Deep in his soul, Joxer wished *he* were that person.

Look at me, there has to be
Something more than the fool they see
Stupid and clumsy
A joke, that's me
Jerkster the Mighty

"Joxer, are you okay?"

Joxer raised his head up to see Xena looking at him in concern. "I'm fine," he answered, as an idea ran through his head.

Xena looked unconvinced. "Are you sure?"

Glancing away briefly, Joxer took a deep breath before turning and looking into the warrior princess' eyes. "Xena, can I ask you a favour?"

Xena looked at him quizzically. "Anything, Joxer, you know that."

"I need your help. Can we go back to the castle?"

"Okay," agreed Xena, wondering what Joxer wanted to ask her. "I just want to find Gabrielle first. Do you know where she is?"

Joxer shook his head. "I saw her with Eileithyia before. Why don't you ask Artemis? I think she was standing near them."

"Thanks, Joxer. I'll do that."

Joxer watched as Xena headed back over to where the others were still shouting in triumph.

Joxer, you must change your ways
Haven't you heard what people say
Take your armour off
It won't be such a loss
Goodbye Jerkster the Mighty

Glancing down at his clothes, he resolutely nodded his head. Looking up, he saw most of the gods disappear back to Olympus, including Ares. Steeling himself for what he was about to ask Xena, Joxer started to walk over to the others.


"Gabrielle, you *have* to drink this," Eileithyia told her, holding the cup up to the blonde's lips.

Only a trickle of the liquid managed to go into Gabrielle's mouth before she started coughing. "want xena," she whispered.

Asclepius looked over from where he was mixing another batch of liquid. "She has to drink the entire cup," he said.

Eileithyia nodded. Sitting Gabrielle up, she slid in behind the bard, allowing the mortal to rest against her body. "Gabrielle, listen to me," she murmured, taking one of Gabrielle's hands in her own. "You need to drink this." Lifting the cup back to the bard's lips, Eileithyia tried once again to get her to drink. As Gabrielle slowly sipped at the liquid, she glanced up at the God of Medicine. "Damn Dahak, if he wasn't dead I'd kill him myself."

Asclepius nodded, bringing the cup he was holding over to the bed. "She needs to drink this one next."

"And then?"

"And then we wait and see."


Cupid raised his head as he heard someone approaching them. "Xena," he nodded. "What can we do for you?"

"I was looking for Gabrielle. Joxer said that he thought he saw her near Artemis, but she's gone back to Olympus. I was just wondering if you saw them?"

Strife shook his head. "No, but it *was* totally hectic."

"One of us can go to Olympus to get her, if you want?" Cupid offered.

Xena smiled. "Yeah, thanks."

"Um, I'll go," said Strife, vanishing in a flash.

Cupid smiled, figuring that his lover would rather go and look for their aunt than be left alone to make small talk with Xena.

"So," Xena said, with a sly smile. "You and Strife, eh?"


"Olympus still stands; we'll have to have a party!" said Apollo.

Artemis rolled her eyes. "It's any excuse for you, isn't it."

Apollo's retort was cut off by the appearance of Strife.

"I'm looking for the annoying blonde friend of Xena's," the God of Mischief told them. "Someone said she was standing near you, 'Mis."

Artemis frowned at Strife's use of her nickname. "She was with Eileithyia," she said. "I think they left at some point, but I didn't see it."

"Hey, Strife, what do you think of a party?" Apollo asked. "We're going to throw one when Zeus is fully recovered."

"A party? I'm up for that," grinned Strife.

"Yeah, I figured it'll lift the depression that's settled around here lately," explained Apollo.

"Cool!" replied Strife. "It'll be a blast. Let me know when it's gonna be," he said, before disappearing.


The first thing Strife noticed when he appeared in Eileithyia's temple was how quiet it was. "Um, Eileithyia?" he called.

"Shh!" Eileithyia waved at him, as she walked out from behind a curtain. "Strife? What are you doing here?" she asked softly.

"I'm looking for Gabrielle," he told her. "Xena wants to know where she is."

Eileithyia's eyes widened. "Xena! I completely forgot!"

"Forgot what?" Strife asked, as Eileithyia grabbed his hand and transported them both out of the temple.


Joxer reached the others just as Eileithyia and Strife appeared next to them.

Eileithyia reached out a hand and placed it on the warrior princess' arm. "Xena, I need you to come with me," she said softly.

"Why?" Xena asked, her face suddenly etched with worry.

"It's Gabrielle."

"What's wrong?" Iolaus' voice overlapped with Hercules'.

Eileithyia bit her lower lip. "Something happened to the baby when Dahak died."

Horror flooded Xena's features. "Oh Gods, I never thought."

"What exactly happened?" Iphicles asked.

"I'm not sure," Eileithyia admitted. "For some reason, when Dahak died, the amount of energy the baby was emitting jumped. It... consumed itself."

"Consumed itself?" Iolaus repeated.

"That's the only way to describe it," explained the goddess. "I've never seen anything like it. We almost lost Gabrielle as well."

"Almost? Then she's still alive?" The hope in Xena's voice was palpable.

Eileithyia nodded. "She's weak, but she's going to be fine."

"Can I see her?"

"Of course," replied the goddess.

"Can we all come?" Joxer asked.

Eileithyia nodded, and the group vanished in a flash.


As soon as they re-appeared in her temple, Eileithyia led Xena through to the inner room.

Xena's breath faltered slightly when she saw Gabrielle's pale figure lying in the bed.

Eileithyia gently pushed her closer and then left.

Xena slowly walked over to the bed and knelt down. Taking Gabrielle's hand in her own, she brought it up to her cheek. "Oh Gods, Gab, I'm so sorry," she whispered, not even aware of the tears running down her face.

"why? not your fault."

The soft whisper made Xena jump slightly. Looking up, Xena met Gabrielle's gaze. "I'm sorry," she repeated. "I should have been with you." Xena reached out and brushed a stray lock of hair off the bard's face.

Gabrielle glanced away. "you were angry," she said. "i don't blame you."

Xena gently captured Gabrielle's chin and turned the other woman to face her. "I wasn't angry," she admitted. "I was jealous."


"Yeah," Xena laughed self-consciously. "And then, today, when Eileithyia told us what had happened..." Xena's voice trailed off. "I thought I'd lost you." Her words were barely audible.

Gabrielle reached out and gently wiped away the tears on Xena's face.

"I couldn't live if I lost you," the warrior continued. "I wouldn't want to." Looking straight into Gabrielle's eyes, Xena took a deep breath. "I love you more than I've ever loved anyone."

The bard's eyes shone brightly. "you don't know how long i've waited to hear you say that," she replied. Capturing Xena's hand, she brought it up to her lips and placed a soft kiss on the palm.

Leaning forward, Xena gently pressed her lips against Gabrielle's.

The blonde moaned slightly as she felt Xena's tongue tease at her mouth. Opening her lips, she let Xena inside; her own tongue meeting and caressing the warrior's.

The sound of someone clearing their throat broke into their reverie and they reluctantly parted.

"You know," commented Eileithyia as she walked up to the bed and placed the cup she was holding on the table next to her. "This wasn't exactly what I meant when I said 'rest'."

Gabrielle's soft laugh was interrupted by a yawn.

Eileithyia gently placed the back of her hand against the bard's forehead. "Gabrielle, I want you to drink this," she said, picking the cup back up and handing it to the young woman. "It'll speed the recovery process up."

Gabrielle nodded and raised the cup to her lips, drinking the liquid.

After taking the cup out of the blonde's hands, Eileithyia tucked the blanket around her.

Gabrielle's eyes slowly drifted shut, and her breathing evened out into the easy pattern of sleep.

Smiling, Eileithyia ushered Xena out of the room.


Iolaus looked up as Xena and Eileithyia came out from the inner room. "How is she?" he asked.

"She's going to be fine," the goddess replied, just as a flash of light deposited Aphrodite and Hephaestus in the room.

The Goddess of Love looked at her sister. "Cupid told me about Gabrielle. How is she?"

"She'll make a full recovery," Eileithyia told her, noting with amusement that the Love Goddess was keeping a tight grip on Hephaestus' hand.

"Can I go back in?" Xena asked. "I want to be there when she wakes up."

Eileithyia smiled indulgently. "You'd be waiting quite a while."

Xena spun to face the goddess. "What do you mean?" she demanded.

"The herb I gave Gabrielle *does* promote rapid recovery, but to ensure it works effectively she must have *complete* rest."

Hephaestus immediately understood what his sister was saying. "You knocked her out."

Eileithyia nodded. "It was the only way I could be sure that she'd get the full benefit of the herb. She'll regain consciousness in a few days. Until then I want her left alone."

"Can't I even sit with her?" Xena asked.

Eileithyia looked at her in sympathy. "I wish I could say yes, Xena, but I can't. Gabrielle will be able to sense that you're there and try to wake up. The only ones who will be able to shield their presence from her will be gods." She placed a hand on the warrior princess' arm. "Asclepius and I will take good care of her."

"Well, I can't just sit around and do nothing," said Xena, starting to pace around the room. "If I don't keep busy I'll go insane." She suddenly stopped in front of where Joxer was sitting. "What is it you wanted to ask me?"

Joxer looked up at her. "What?"

"Down in Corinth," elaborated Xena. "You said you had something to ask me. What was it?"

Joxer blushed slightly. Standing up, he led Xena over to a corner of the temple, out of earshot of the others.

Xena looked at him expectantly.

"I want you to teach me how to fight," Joxer said.

Xena raised an eyebrow. "Why?"

Joxer sighed. "Xena, I love Ares."

Xena nodded. "I know. It's obvious to anyone who looks at you how you feel about him."

"Well, I want him to be proud of me."

"I'm sure he is-"

Joxer cut off Xena's words with a snort. "How could the God of War be proud of a lover who can't even swing a sword without tripping over his own feet?" he asked. "Please, all you have to do is teach me the basics. Just enough so I can get by."

Xena studied Joxer's face. Knowing what it felt like to need someone be proud of you, Xena nodded. "Okay, but we'll need to find somewhere quiet. I can't teach you if there are distractions all around."

"I'll send you somewhere secluded for a few days," suggested Aphrodite, appearing next to them. "That way you won't be disturbed."

Xena glared at the goddess, who just shrugged.

"So, I listened," she grinned. "I was curious."

"I don't know," said Joxer. "I doubt if a few days will be long enough."

"Oh, I'm *sure* it will be," replied Aphrodite.

"Okay, but I want you to send someone for me as soon as Gabrielle wakes up," said Xena.

"Cross my heart," promised Aphrodite, as the three of them headed back towards the others.

"What's going on?" Hercules asked.

"Joxer and I need to leave for a few days," said Xena. "I'll explain it all when we get back."

Eileithyia smiled at Xena. "By the time you return, Gabrielle will be fully recovered."

Aphrodite looked at Xena and Joxer. "Ready, guys?" she asked.

Xena nodded.

"Okay, see you in a few days." With those words, the Love Goddess transported them out of the temple.


Xena looked around the small grove clearing they had appeared in. There was a small hut for them to sleep in that was fully stocked with food and water.

"Okay," said Joxer, when Xena glanced at him. "Where do we start?"


Xena held her hand out to Joxer. Feeling his hand close around hers, she pulled him to his feet. "You need to block at the same time you're attacking. Otherwise, you leave yourself wide open," she said. "You're following through too sharply," the warrior continued. "Try it again."

Joxer adjusted his grip on the sword, checking with Xena that he was holding it correctly.

Xena nodded at him. He was still leaving his side vulnerable to attack, but at least he'd stopped dropping the sword every time he parried.


Apollo grinned as he looked at Artemis. "Okay, sis, start putting up posters. In a couple of days Athens is going to see the biggest party in the history of Greece."

Artemis sighed at her twin's enthusiasm. "The city will never recover," she muttered, as the two of them set out to spread word and invite people to the party.


The Priest looked up into the furious face of the woman standing next to him. She had been like that since he handed her the poster.

Discord read the words advertising the celebration in Athens that was to commemorate the downfall of Dahak. "Is the army ready to ride?" she asked.

The Priest nodded.

"Good, then instead of helping the mortals... accept Dahak's position as King of the Gods, they'll be used to avenge him." She turned to a second man standing near the wall. "Tell the men to be ready. We ride tonight."

He nodded and left the room.

Crumbling the poster in her hand, Discord smirked coldly. "I will make every last one of them pay for what they've done to me," she swore.


Gabrielle slowly opened her eyes.

"How are you feeling?"

Turning towards the direction of the soft voice, Gabrielle saw Eileithyia looking at her. "I feel great," the bard replied, as the door opened and Aphrodite walked in.

"Hey," smiled the Goddess of Love, "you're awake. How are you?"

Gabrielle returned the smile. "Like I just told Eileithyia, I feel great. Whatever you guys gave me worked wonders. I feel like I've slept for days."

The Goddess of Childbirth laughed softly. "You have."

"Huh?" Confusion passed across Gabrielle's face.

"In order to make sure the herb worked correctly, we had to keep you unconscious," explained Eileithyia.

"So, how long have I been asleep for?" the bard asked.

"Four days," replied Eileithyia. "Long enough to give your body time to heal."

"But short enough to make sure you don't miss the party in Athens tomorrow night," grinned Aphrodite.

Eileithyia threw her sister a long-suffering glance.

"What party?" inquired Gabrielle.

"Apollo decided that Dahak's demise needed celebrating, and so Athens is hosting a massive blow-out tomorrow night," replied the Love Goddess.

"Oh." Gabrielle looked around. "Where's Xena? I thought she might be here?"

Aphrodite slapped her forehead. "Xena!" she exclaimed, before vanishing in a burst of light.

Gabrielle looked at Eileithyia in uncertainty.

"Oh, don't worry," the goddess assured her. "I wouldn't let her sit in with you, so Xena agreed to help Joxer with something. She said that sitting and waiting would drive her insane."

Gabrielle laughed softly. "Yeah, she's always been like that. She has to be doing something or she goes crazy."

"Ares is exactly the same," commented Eileithyia. "He always has been. He has to be busy, or he just sits and fidgets. It drives Mother crazy."

Gabrielle grinned at the mental image of a fidgeting God of War. "Um, Eileithyia? Where are my clothes?" she asked, swinging her legs out of the bed. "I'd like to get dressed before Xena gets here."

Eileithyia simply smiled and waved her fingers, instantly clothing the young woman. "Being a god *does* have it's advantages," she pointed out.

Gabrielle's answering smile turned into a full-blossomed grin as a flash of light deposited Xena in the room.

"Xena!" Gabrielle ran towards the warrior and embraced her.

Xena tightly held the woman in her arms. "Oh Gods, I was so worried."

"I was in good hands," Gabrielle replied. "The same way I am now."

Aphrodite laughed as Xena blushed slightly. "Do you two want me to send you to Corinth? Joxer will have told the others that Gabrielle's awake by now. I'm sure they can't wait to see you."

Xena nodded. "Thanks, Aphrodite. And thank *you*, Eileithyia. For everything."

Eileithyia smiled and waved a hand. "Nonsense," she said. "I was glad I could help."

Xena nodded at Aphrodite, indicating that they were ready to go. Turning to Gabrielle, she gently ran a finger down the bard's face. "When we get back to Corinth I'm going to lay you on the bed and make love to you all night long."

Gabrielle's answer was a blinding smile as Aphrodite sent them to Corinth.


Ares looked at the poster that had appeared in his temple. Carefully aiming with his finger, the War God shot a lightning bolt at it, watching in satisfaction as it burnt to ashes. Ares was in no mood for a party, especially since he knew Hephaestus and Aphrodite would be there. Ever since they'd returned to Olympus, Aphrodite hadn't left Hephaestus' side. The love the two gods held for each other shone brightly, and it made Ares think of Joxer. The God of War's thoughts were interrupted when a flash of light broke into his reverie.

"Hey, bro!" smiled Hebe, as she appeared in the temple. "Looking forward to the party?"

Ares snorted. "Hebe, I swore over 200 years ago that I would never again attend a party held by Apollo. I see no reason to break that promise now."

Hebe's eyes narrowed as she studied the War God. "But everyone on Olympus is going to be there."

"Which is even more reason to avoid it," commented Ares.

Hebe sighed. "You're in a funk. I can tell."

"I am *not* 'in a funk'," replied Ares. "I just have no desire to stand in a room and watch as various gods get drunk and make complete idiots out of themselves."

Hebe grinned. "Really? That's the only reason I'm going. I'm hoping Poseidon'll do that thing with the two dead fish again. Eileithyia missed it the last time and she wants to see it."

Ares' lips twitched slightly as the image of his uncle and the fish at Apollo's last party sprang to mind. "I don't care if he does do it again, I'm still not going."

"Fine, but it's your loss," said Hebe. Walking up to the throne, she quickly kissed her brother's cheek. "Yell if you get bored, I'll come and keep you company," she smiled, before she disappeared in a burst of light.


Gabrielle lay on the bed, a soft smile drifting across her lips.

"What are you thinking about?" asked Xena, lowering her head to gently lick at the valley between Gabrielle's breasts.

"Just how happy I am," the bard answered. "Everyone had a good right to turn away from me this afternoon, but they all welcomed me back with open arms."

"They were glad to see that you were okay. They were all woried about you."

Gabrielle pushed herself up and leant on her elbows. "Even Joxer?"

Xena smiled. "Yes, even Joxer."

"I was a bitch to him, wasn't I?"

"Yeah," replied Xena truthfully. "But it's forgotten. I mean, we were all pretty surprised when we found out he was sleeping with Ares, but so much has happened in the past few days. I've had to re-evaluate a lot of things."

"Including how you feel about Ares?"


"Yeah," admitted Hercules. "Including how I feel about Ares. It's like I said in Corinth, I *never* would have thought Ares would have it in him to sacrifice himself for others."

Iolaus lazily traced a finger around Hercules' nipples. "You know, someone who has the patience to put up with Joxer can't be all bad."

"And that's another thing," said the demi-god. "Joxer and Ares, I'm actually finding myself hoping they'll work things out."

Iolaus looked at his lover in shock. "Really?"

Hercules nodded. "I think they could be good for each other." Hercules sighed. "Sometime in the next few days, I'm going to find Ares and have a *long* talk with him."

"Get all the feelings out?"

"Something like that," replied Hercules.

"You know, if you can get past the wanting to kill each other thing, you'll probably find that you can get on quite well. You're actually both quite similar," pointed out Iolaus.

Hercules raised an eyebrow. "You think I'm like Ares?"

"Well, think about it," grinned Iolaus, straddling Hercules' legs. "You're both big." The Hunter placed a kiss on the demi-god's collar bone. "You're both strong." A kiss to his stomach. "You're both buff." A kiss to a thigh. Iolaus raised his head. "And you're both cute."


"You think Ares is *cute*?" Iphicles exclaimed.

Nebula nodded. "Yeah, he's got a Tartarus of an 'I'm a god, you *know* you want me' thing going on." Straddling the king's body, Nebula pinned his hands above his head. "Don't tell me you've never checked him out." Leaning down, she licked Iphicles' ear. "Just imagine it: that hard cock pounding into your body as you scream with pleasure."

Iphicles arched off the bed as Nebula started to kiss and nip her way down his body. Reaching down, he grabbed her arms and pulled her back up, pressing his lips to hers, moving his hands over her body.

Writhing under his touch, Nebula brought her hand down to grasp at his hot flesh. Iphicles gasped at the light, tantalising touch, and Nebula laughed softly. Pulling away from the king slightly, Nebula pushed herself to her knees and smiled at the man next to her. Pushing Iphicles onto his back, Nebula threw a leg over his body. Bringing herself down, she impaled herself on his hardness.


Xena smiled as she heard the moans coming through the wall from Iphicles' bed chamber.

"Sounds like they're having a good time," commented Gabrielle.

"They're not the only ones," smirked Xena, as she licked her way down her lover's body.


Hercules winced. "There's something slightly disturbing about hearing your brother have sex," he commented.

Iolaus grinned. "Well then, we'll just have to drown them out, won't we," he said, before swallowing Hercules' hard cock.


Joxer ignored the sound of sex that rose up through the stones. Standing on the palace roof, he continued to practise the moves Xena had taught him, the moon lighting his way.


Apollo bounced around the temple in Athens. "We need more dip!" he yelled at one of the temple priests.

"'Pollo, chill," commented Artemis.

"But the people are due to arrive soon, and we don't have enough dip!"

Artemis sighed and snapped her fingers. Four tables of dip instantly appeared. "There, happy now?"

Apollo glared at his twin and waved his fingers, making three of the tables disappear. "Better."

"Yeah," Artemis smirked. "Now all you've got to worry about is whether Ares is going to be here."

The god spun to face his sister. "What do you mean?"

"Well, according to Hebe, Ares has holed himself up in his temple, and it doesn't look like he's coming out. Not even the promise of Poseidon and the fish thing is tempting him."

"What do you mean 'doesn't look like he's coming out'? He's *got* to be here! He's one of the bloody guests of honour!" With that, Apollo vanished in a flash of light, before reappearing less than a second later. "And if Poseidon even *tries* to do that fish thing again, I'll kill him!" exclaimed the god, before leaving once more.


"Go away, Apollo," growled Ares. "I'm not in the mood for a party."

Apollo sighed. "But you *have* to be there. You and Hep are the guests of honour. It kinda makes your presence necessary, you know."

"I've said no, Apollo, now drop it."

"You're not still sulking over that mortal, are you? What's his name - Joker?"

"*Joxer*," snarled Ares. "And no, I'm not sulking. I'm the God of War, I don't sulk."

"Coulda fooled me," muttered Apollo.

Ares pushed himself out of his throne. He was just about to hurl a lightning bolt at Apollo when Hephaestus appeared in the temple.

"Heph!" grinned Apollo. "Get him to the party, will ya?" With a final glance at Ares, Apollo vanished.

"I'm not going, Heph," Ares said, not even giving his brother a chance to open his mouth.

"Oh, yes you are," the Fire God contradicted. "If I've got to be there, then so have you. Besides, it could be... amusing."

"Amusing? Heph, I don't call standing around while various gods who hate our guts come up to us and tell us how proud they are that we beat Dahak amusing!"

"But, Ares, that's the beauty of it," pointed out Hephaestus. "People who have hated us for centuries now have to accept that *we* are the reason they're still around. Think of what that would do to gods like Helios, or Selene."

"It'll annoy the Tartarus out of them."

"Exactly. Tonight they'll have to swallow their pride and thank us for saving their miserable lives."

A grin slowly spread across Ares' face. "You know, Heph, I think you're right. This could be amusing, after all."


Joxer stared at his reflection. "I don't know," he murmured, before turning to Xena. "Are you sure this looks okay?"

"Trust me, Joxer," she replied, taking his hand and pulling him to the door. "Now come on, we don't want to be late."

Joxer nodded, and let Xena lead him into the throne room, where the others were waiting for them.


Strife leant against Cupid impatiently tapping his foot.

"Babe, calm down," murmured the Love God.

Strife turned to face his lover. "It doesn't take *us* this long to get ready."

"Yeah, but we can do it by just thinking about it," pointed out Cupid.

"That's no excuse for keeping people waiting," muttered the God of Mischief. "If those two aren't here in the next 5 seconds, we're going without them."

"We *can't* go without them. We promised my mother that we would take them all to Athens for the party," replied Cupid.

"But I *hate* waiting," said Strife, unable to keep a whine from creeping into his tone.

"Well you don't have to do it any more."

Everyone in the room turned in the direction of the voice to see Xena and Joxer standing at the door.

Strife's jaw dropped when he saw how different Joxer looked.


Unable to pull his eyes away from the two people who had just walked into the room, Hercules grabbed Iolaus and pulled him to him. "Kill me."


"Because I'm thinking immoral thoughts about Joxer and isn't natural."

"Herc, you know I love you too much to kill you," commented Iolaus. "I'll just tell Ares to read your thoughts, and let him do it."


"Is everyone ready to go?" asked Xena, smiling at the utter silence in the room, knowing that it wasn't *her* appearance that had shocked everyone speechless.

"Er, yeah," nodded Cupid, his eyes still fixed on Joxer.

"Okay, then, what are we waiting for?"

"Nothing," answered the winged god, as he prepared to transport them all to Athens. "Absolutely nothing."


Discord looked up as a warrior approached. "Yes?"

"A group comprising Cupid, Strife, Xena, Hercules and some others has just arrived," he told her.

/Some others? That means that Ares little toy is probably with them./ A smile spread across the ex-goddess' face. "Has Ares arrived yet?"

"No, ma'am, not yet."

"Good, because the first thing I want Ares to see when he appears is me slitting the throat of his mortal." Discord's grin was cold. "Tell the men we're riding on Athens."


Xena was just about to step into the temple when a distant rumbling reached her ears. Stopping, she cocked her head slightly and listened, noticing that Hercules did the same.

Closing his eyes, the demi-god concentrated. The noise sounded like far-off thunder, like...

"Horses!" the exclamation came from both Xena and Hercules.

Cupid's eyes widened, and he vanished, only to reappear a second later.

"How many?" asked Xena, knowing that the winged god had just been to check that her theory was right.

"About thirty. And Discord's with them," Cupid replied with disgust.

"We can't let them get into the city," said Iphicles. "There are too many innocent people here."

"We'll have to cut them off before they get here," said Gabrielle.

Nebula looked at the two gods. "Can't you just send them somewhere else?"

Strife nodded. "Where do you want them?"

"Nowhere," answered Xena. "It's better to finish this now. Then at least we know it's over."

"Agreed," nodded Hercules. "Let's do this."

As the rest of the group ran towards the city gates, Xena turned to Strife and Cupid. "Make sure none of them get into the city," she said, before she turned to follow the others, her battle cry on her lips.


The sound of fighting reached Ares as soon as he, Hephaestus and Aphrodite appeared in Athens. Without saying a word, they immediately transported themselves to the city gates.

"What's going on?" Hephaestus asked, when he saw Cupid and Strife maintaining an energy wall around the city.

"Discord," muttered Strife by way of an explanation.

"Damn," cursed Ares. "I should have known she wouldn't let this go."

"Why didn't you just send them away?" Aphrodite asked, looking at the two younger gods.

"Xena said it was better to finish this here and now," replied Strife. "She told us to make sure none of them get into the town and then ran at them, screaming."

"She's right," nodded Ares. "Send them away and they'll just come back. This ends here, and it ends now." He was just about to move himself outside of Cupid and Strife's energy wall, so he could help with the fighting, when his eyes were drawn to a man next to Xena. The lithe figure was gracefully swinging his sword at his opponent's arm, easily disarming him. Ares' eyes slowly worked their way up his body. The tight black leather trousers gave way to a loose white shirt that rippled with the fighter's movements. When he finally reached the face Ares' jaw dropped. "Joxer?!" he squeaked. "But... *how*?" The War God watched as Joxer turned to face someone else, unable to see the second man creeping up behind him. As the man raised his sword Ares instantly moved himself to Joxer's side.


Joxer gasped as he was pushed to the ground. Rolling over, he saw Ares thrust his sword into the man that had been about to behead him.

As the body dropped, the God of War held out a hand to Joxer.

Taking the offered hand, Joxer smiled as Ares pulled him to his feet. "Thanks," he murmured as his gaze locked with the God of War's. Joxer felt Ares' grip on his hand tighten, as the god pulled him closer. His breath quickened as Ares' lips descended on his own, the heat from the War God seeping through the clothing and permeating Joxer's being.

Sweeping inside with a carnal possessiveness, Ares' tongue explored every part of Joxer's mouth.

Breaking the kiss, Joxer looked into Ares' dark eyes, before grinning.

Matching Joxer's grin, the War God wiped his sword on his trousers and turned to face the men running towards them.


Discord fumed as she watched Ares and the group of mortals slowly beat the men Dahak had trained. Jumping off her horse, she pulled out her dagger and quietly made her way to the pile of unconscious bodies.


Motioning to Strife and Cupid that they could lower the energy wall, Ares turned and watched as Joxer smacked the last of Dahak's men on the back of the head with his sword, knocking him to the ground.

Grabbing the unconscious man's arms, Joxer started to drag him over to where the others had been left.

Waiting for Joxer to move away from the pile of bodies, Ares prepared to send them to the Athenian palace dungeons, when the nagging feeling at the back of his mind suddenly blossomed. "Discord! Where's Discord?" he yelled, reaching out with his powers and trying to find the ex-god.

"It's nice to know you're so concerned about me, Ares."

Ignoring the muted curses of the people around him, the War God slowly turned in the direction of the voice to see Discord holding a dagger at Joxer's throat. "Let him go, Discord," he said.

"Why? So you can have a clean aim and blast me to Tartarus? I don't think so," retorted Discord, pressing the blade closer to Joxer.

Joxer met Ares' eyes as the dagger slowly bit into his neck, wincing slightly as the sharp edge broke the skin.

With a cold smirk, Discord moved the dagger away from Joxer's neck and lifted it up to her lips, her tongue darting out to lap at the blood along the edge. "He *does* taste delicious, Ares. Is this why you keep him around?"

Before Ares had a chance to reply, Joxer drove his elbow into Discord's stomach. Spinning around to break her grip on him, he dropped to the ground to avoid the dagger that was coming towards him and quickly rolled away from Discord.

"Bastard!" Discord yelled.

Seeing that Joxer was safe, Ares grinned and raised his sword until it was pointing at Discord. "You're history."

"A god can't kill another god, Ares!" Discord cried frantically.

The War God smirked. "You're forgetting one thing, Discord. *You're* not a god anymore." Ares sword began to glow as he channelled all his energy into the blade. With a bright burst, an arc of energy shot out of the sword and straight into Discord.

Discord screamed as the light enveloped her.

Ares watched as, with a blinding flash, the energy consumed the ex-goddess.


Uncovering his eyes, Joxer looked over to where Discord had been. Nothing remained but a scorch mark burnt into the ground. "Where is she?" she asked, turning to Ares.

"Where she belongs," the god answered. Reaching out, he gently touched the wound on Joxer's neck, healing it with a thought. "Are you okay?"

"I am now," smiled Joxer.

Ares eyes raked up and down Joxer's body. "You don't know how glad I am to hear that."

With a soft grin, Joxer reached out and trailed a finger down Ares' cheek. "Tell me about it, Ares," he whispered.

Ares raised an eybrow as a smile spread across his face.

Ares: As a warrior, you're suprisin'
Cause Xena's taught you how to fight
And my arousal, it is risin'
Cause you're a beautiful sight

Ares dropped to his knees, a lazy grin on his face as he looked up at Joxer.

Crouching next to the god, Joxer placed a finger under Ares' chin, before standing back up, forcing the War God to stand with him.

Joxer: Ares, I'm yours, cause I need a God
And my sword is set on War
Ares, I'm yours, and please understand
That together we can go far
Ares: I'm your God, I'm your God, the God of War
Joxer and Ares: You're the God (mortal) that I want
(You are the one I want)
Ooh, ooh, ooh Ares (Joxer)
The God (mortal) that I want
(You are the one I want)
Ooh, ooh, ooh Ares (Joxer)
The God (mortal) that I want
(You are the one I want)
Ooh, ooh, ooh
The God (mortal) I need
(The one I need)
Oh, Ares (Joxer) please
(Baby, please)

Placing a hand on Ares' chest, Joxer trailed his fingers down the God of war's body.

Joxer: Ares, I want you to know
I'll be all you want me to be
Now point your sword in my direction
And come love me

Taking Joxer's hand in his own, Ares brought it up to his mouth and gently sucked one of the fingers.

Ares: Joxer, I'm yours
Cause you need a God
Joxer: I need a God
Who can keep me satisfied
Ares: Joxer, I'm yours
And I'm gonna prove

Grabbing Ares' belt, Joxer pulled to god to him.

Joxer: You'd better prove
That my worshippin's justified
Ares: Are you sure?
Joxer and Ares: Yes, I'm sure down deep inside
You're the God (mortal) that I want
(You are the one I want)

Grinding his hips into the War God's, Joxer grinned.

Joxer and Ares: Ooh, ooh, ooh Ares (Joxer)
The God (mortal) that I want
(You are the one I want)

Pulling Iolaus towards him, Hercules smiled. "Tomorrow, we're going to head out into the woods and fuck for a week."

The Hunter grinned. "Well, if you insist."

Joxer and Ares: Ooh, ooh, ooh Ares (Joxer)
The God (mortal) that I want
(You are the one I want)

Hephaestus looked over at his wife. "How do you fancy going away for a while?" he asked. "Finding a deserted island and taking some time to ourselves?"

"How long?" Aphrodite replied.

"Oh, I was thinking maybe two or three centuries."

The Love Goddess grinned. "Yeah. After all, Cupid *is* old enough to look after the love side by himself."

Joxer and Ares: Ooh, ooh, ooh
The God (mortal) I need
(The one I need)
Oh, Ares (Joxer) please
(Baby, please)

Wrapping an arm around Joxer's waist, Ares pulled him closer, hissing when their covered cocks brushed against each other.

Joxer and Ares: You're the God (mortal) that I want
(You are the one I want)

Gently taking Gabrielle's hand in her own, Xena placed a soft kiss on the bard's wrist.

Smiling, Gabrielle covered Xena's hand with her own and leant into the warrior.

Joxer and Ares: Ooh, ooh, ooh Ares (Joxer)
The God (mortal) that I want
(You are the one I want)

Wrapping his wings around them, Cupid lowered his mouth to Strife's. "I love you," he murmured.

Strife smiled shyly. "That's the first time you've said that."

Cupid looked into his lover's eyes. "It won't be the last."

Joxer and Ares: Ooh, ooh, ooh Ares (Joxer)
The God (mortal) that I want
(You are the one I want)

Brushing a lock of hair out of Nebula's face, Iphicles smiled. "Have you ever thought of being a queen?" he asked.

"I'm a pirate," Nebula pointed out.

Iphicles shrugged. "Who cares, marry me anyway."

A smile slowly crossed Nebula's face. "Yes."

Joxer and Ares: Ooh, ooh, ooh
The God (mortal) I need
(The one I need)
Oh, Ares (Joxer) please
(Baby, please)

Gently brushing his thumb across Joxer's lips, Ares slowly lowered his head and captured the other man's mouth with his own. "I love you," he whispered.

Joxer's smile widened. "I love you, too."


Aphrodite smiled as she watched her brother finally admit his love for Joxer.

"I can't believe how well Joxer fought," commented Hephaestus. "I can't believe Xena taught him all that in just four days."

Aphrodite grinned guiltily. "She didn't. I stuck them in a time bubble and kinda made the days slightly longer than they should be."

"A time bubble!? 'Dite!"

The Goddess of Love grinned at her husband. "Oh come on, Hep!" she cajoled. "We *know* he's capable; he's proven that."

"Yes," admitted the Fire God. "But he was under a spell at the time!"

"Look, all he needed was someone to take the time to teach him. I just gave them that."

Hephaestus' eyes narrowed as he looked at his wife. "Just *how* long were they in that time bubble for?"

Aphrodite mumbled something.


The goddess sighed. "Twelve years. But it took him the first four to stop tripping over his feet."

There was silence between the two gods for a brief moment before the Love Goddess grinned.

"Now," she said. "About that holiday you were talking about..."


Stepping outside the temple, Apollo's eyes fell on the people he'd been looking for. "What are you doing out here?" he asked. "You're missing the party."

"Well, we can't have that, can we?" grinned Ares. Taking Joxer's hand he started to walked towards the temple.

Reaching out, Apollo grabbed Ares' arm. "Hold on, why is there a pile of unconscious guys over there?"

"Oh, thanks, 'Pollo, I'd forgotten about those." Ares snapped his fingers and the pile of men disappeared.

Apollo watched in bewilderment as the God of War grinned at him before heading into the temple.


"Ares!" yelled Hebe, as she headed over to her brother. "I thought you weren't coming!"

"Yeah, well, I changed my mind," smiled Ares, throwing a quick glance at Joxer.

Hebe looked down and noticed Ares and Joxer's linked hands. "Well, it's about bloody time," she grinned. "I was beginning to think you'd *never* get your act together."

Ares' retort was cut off by the appearance of Clio next to them.

The Muse of History fidgeted slightly as she looked at Hebe. "Erm, I was wondering if you fancied dancing?"

Hebe turned and swept her eyes over the dance floor, where some couples were swaying in time with the music. Fixing her attention back on Clio, she smiled. "Yeah, why not," she answered.

As the Youth Goddess turned to follow Clio, Ares reached out and placed a hand on her arm. "I thought you didn't like Muses."

Hebe shrugged. "Hey, a girl's allowed to change her mind," she grinned, as she headed onto the dance floor.


Joxer was just about to ask Ares if he wanted to dance when he noticed the God of War tilt his head slightly, as though listening for something.

"My Father wants Heph and I over there," Ares said, motioning to where Zeus and Hera were standing. Squeezing Joxer's hand, he started to lead him through the crowd.


"I dread to think," the god replied, suddenly detouring when he spotted Hades.

"Hades! Just the god I wanted to see." Ares smirked as he placed a hand on Hades' shoulder. "There's a present waiting for you when you get home."

Hades' eyes narrowed as he studied his nephew.

Keeping hold Joxer's hand, Ares continued to head over to Zeus as Hades closed his eyes.

"What's he doing?" Joxer asked.

"Contacting the Underworld," replied Ares. Stopping, Ares tilted his head and listened. "Three, two, one-"

"Oh, brilliant! Just what the Tartarus am I mean to do with *her!?*"

Ares' grin widened at Hades' outburst.


Zeus watched as both his sons made their way over to him.

"You called?" grinned Aphrodite, her hand on Hephaestus' shoulder.

"Yes, I did," replied Zeus, as he transported himself over to the raised platform along the wall. Standing on the dais Zeus called for silence in the temple. When the noise had quieten, he raised a hand. "We are here to celebrate the downfall of Dahak, and the perpetuity of Olympus. Both of these we owe to two gods. I give you Hephaestus, God of Fire, and Ares, God of War. The saviours of Olympus."

The gods in the temple started to cheer.

"Do either of you wish to say anything?" Zeus asked.

Barely managing from rolling his eyes at his father's dramatics, Hephaestus shook his head, declining to say anything.

"Yeah, I have something to say," said Ares.

Hephaestus turned to his brother in surprise, almost groaning when he recognised the glint in Ares' eye. /Oh Tartarus, what's he gonna do?/


Zeus stepped down from the dais, allowing Ares to stand there alone.

The War God looked out over the assembled gods. Taking a deep breath, he grinned. "In accordance with the Book of the Gods, I wish to name my Formal Consort," he declared.

The murmurs began as soon as Ares closed his mouth.


Zeus was flustered. Ares wanted to name a *mortal* as his consort. The King of the Gods had always assumed that his son would eventually settled down with a nice goddess; Athena had always been a possibility.

Seeing her husband's indecisiveness, Hera sighed and transported herself to Ares' side. "Who do you wish to name?" she asked.

"Joxer," replied Ares.

Hera nodded, and Joxer materialised beside Ares. "My son wishes to name you as his consort," she said to the mortal. "Do you accept?"

Joxer looked at Ares and smiled. "Yes," he answered.

Studying Joxer intently, Hera reached out with her powers and looked into his mind. Finding what she needed she reigned herself back in. Looking at the two men standing in front of her, she nodded. "As it is written in the Book of the Gods, so shall it be done." Smiling, she turned to Joxer. "Welcome to the family."


"What does this mean?" Xena asked, surprised by the reaction to Ares' words.

"According to the Laws of the Gods, the only marriages officially recognised by Olympus are those between full gods," explained Cupid. "Affairs between a god and a mortal aren't recognised, unless the mortal is officially named as Consort to the god. Ares is forcing the gods to recognise Joxer as his consort. As such, Joxer will have the full protection of Olympus; the same that's afforded to every god."

"This will totally piss Athena off," commented Strife.

"Why?" asked Iphicles.

"Athena's been trying to get Ares to agree to a marriage for the past 3 centuries. She thought it would consolidate her position as a warrior god," the Mischief God replied.

"She's never given up hope that she'll wear him down one day, and he'll eventually say yes," the winged god expanded. He turned to Strife. "You're right, she'll be *totally* pissed."

Strife nodded, and joined his lover in laughter.


Kissing Hera on the cheek, Ares turned to Joxer. "Let get out of here," he said.

Joxer nodded.

Taking Joxer's hand, Ares moved them from Athens to his temple on Olympus.


Opening his eyes, Joxer grinned as he realised they were in Ares bedroom on Olympus. "You must have known," he murmured, pushing Ares back on to the bed.

Reaching out from his position on the bed, Ares grabbed Joxer's belt and pulled him between his legs. With a sly smile, Ares removed both of their clothes.

"That has to be one of the advantages of being a god," murmured Joxer. "Instant nakedness."

"I can think of other advantages," commented Ares.

"Like?" asked Joxer, as the god snapped his fingers, and Joxer found himself lying on the bed with Ares looming over him.

"Like this," replied the War God as he lowered his head and started to suck on Joxer's neck.

Joxer arched up, his hard cock brushing Ares' stomach. "Want you," Joxer panted.

Ares grinned. Sitting back, he draped Joxer's legs over his thighs. Conjuring a jar of lubricant next to him, Ares dipped his fingers into the slick substance.

Joxer moaned as he felt a finger enter him. "More," he begged.

Unable to deny Joxer anything, Ares added a second finger into his body.

The warrior sobbed with desire, pushing himself on to Ares' hand. "No!" he wailed, as Ares removed his fingers from his body.

"I'm here," murmrued Ares, positioning himself at the entrance to Joxer's body and thrusting in to the hilt.

Joxer yelled in pleasure as he felt Ares' cock cleave into him.

Pulling his cock out, Ares pushed back into Joxer, angling his stroke to hit the other man's prostate.

Joxer screamed as white heat jolted through his body with each of the god's thrusts. Unable to keep silent, he whimpered with desire as Ares leant down and lightly bit both his nipples in turn.

Reaching down, Ares grasped Joxer's hard cock and wrapped his fingers around the burning flesh. Gliding his hand up and down, Ares matched the movements on Joxer's cock with the thrusts into his body.

Dropping his head back onto the pillow, Joxer shouted as his orgasm hit and exploded into the air.

Ares added his voice to Joxer's as he felt the body around him clamp down on his cock with tight grabs. With one last thrust, Ares emptied himself into the man beneath him, the internal rippling of Joxer's muscles sending small shocks through the god's body. Collapsing next to his lover, Ares felt his now soft cock slip from Joxer.

With a small moan of loss, Joxer rolled over and threw an arm over the God of War. "Ares?" he mumbled.


"Love you."

"I love you too, Joxer," smiled Ares. "I love you too."


Ares fought Dahak, and he cast him down
And on Olympus, Zeus kept his crown
Joxer has the chance to make it far
Now Ares has named him as the consort to War - Greece is the place
No one understood how they could love each other
Now even Hercules is accepting his brother
No one is saying that their love's not real
Now the world can see what Ares and Joxer feel - Greece is the place
(Greece is the place, is the place where you live)
It's got Gods, it's got mortals
Greece is the time, is the place, is the era
With Hercules, Xena and Hera
Ares took Dahak and he threw him away
Making sure Olympus doesn't belong to yesterday
Gabrielle has the chance to make it far
Now she's told Xena how she feels about her - Greece is the place
(Greece is the place, is the place where you live)
It's got Gods, it's got mortals
Greece is the time, is the place, is the era
With Hercules, Xena and Hera
This is a story of peace, a story of war
A story of love, and how it goes far
Ares took Dahak and he threw him away
Making sure Olympus doesn't belong to yesterday
Ares has the chance to make it far
Now he's realised that he's more than just War - Greece is the place
(Greece is the place, is the place where you live)
It's got Gods, it's got mortals
Greece is the time, is the place, is the era
With Hercules, Xena and Hera
(Greece is the place, is the place where you live)
It's got Gods, it's got mortals
Greece is the time, is the place, is the era
With Hercules, Xena and Hera
(Greece is the place, is the place, is the place...)

Fade to black...