Restitution – Part 1

One On The Way

It wasn't the echoing silence of the ancient halls that bothered her. It wasn't the never ending carved white columns of perfectly etched stone, or the roiling of the clouds beyond the walls that bothered her either. All in all, Olympus had fared rather well, considering how many of her relatives had been eliminated. She just hated being alone!

Aphrodite moved slowly down the long white corridor, past several chambers that had once housed her extended family members.

Some of the rooms were still occupied, but mostly with newer or less social deities. And even though she loved a good soirée whenever she could find one, these younger gods didn't have a clue, or made her feel, dare she think it? Old? Even her son, Cupid, had gone out of his way to try and help his mother with her melancholy, but to no avail.

She had her usual bevy of servants, always at her beck and call for anything she might want, but even that seemed empty. Even the newer acolytes were just like the old ones. It was all the same old thing. The adulation and worship still felt the same, the massages and pedicures that used to make her feel so much better, didn't have the same zip to them. Even the physical gratification, when she chose to find it, was less than noteworthy.

As she passed by the Sanctum of Reflections, she spied a familiar shape, crouching over the pool that gazed down upon the world. Even though she knew it would most likely end up in an argument, she stepped inside and strode over toward him.

"Hey Bro," She said in a melancholy voice. "What's on the tube?"

Ares was rubbing his beard thoughtfully as he looked down at his 'top ten' as he called them. There really was nothing of import happening at the moment. It had been a quiet year and that annoyed him.

"Nothing,' he finally sighed. "Absolutely nothing!" He rose and paced away, his hand fidgeting on the hilt of his sword. "What's happening to those humans down there?" he blurted out. "You'd think one of them might show a little flair?"

Aphrodite seated herself at the edge of the pool and sighed. "Dad always said there'd be times like this?" She offered. "When the world sleeps for a time before things really heat up again? Especially in your line of work?" She looked up at him and shrugged. "You done with this?"

Ares waved a dismissive hand at her and turned away. "Yeah. Nothing worth watching anyway."

Aphrodite waved her hand over the mirror surface of the water and watched as some of her favorites popped into view, one at a time. She was also unimpressed by what she saw until the image of a small homestead appeared. She smiled when she recognized the barn, the pavilion and her eyebrows rose when she saw the new house. It was a thick, log structure, simple and sturdy. Small bushes and flowers adorned the front side and the flagstone walk looked polished and well worn. A single figure came from the barn and dunked his head in a large barrel of rainwater. The water sprayed in all directions when he raised it out again, shaking it wildly. Aphrodite laughed out loud and then sighed when she saw David, covered up to the elbows in sawdust and smiling contentedly.

"Hey, honey!" he called toward the house. "It's done! You want to see it before Timitus comes by to pick it up?"

Aphrodite willed the image to move to the side and saw Gabrielle emerge from the house, dressed in a simple cream colored dress of local fashion. She held a towel in her hands as she smiled at him. Instantly, the Goddess noted the slight protrusion of her belly.

She squealed in delight and clapped her hands. "Way to go you two!" she laughed.

"What?" Ares asked, turning back to face her.

Aphrodite frowned up at him as he looked at the image.

"Nothing you'd be interested in," she said. Ares watched the image for a moment, then he waved his hand over the water and the image reversed itself so he wouldn't have to watch it while it was upside down.

"Hey!" The Goddess protested. "You had your turn!"

"Shut up," Ares said absently. "Don't you have a shopping spree to go on with or something?"

Aphrodite's eyes went like ice and she made a mean face, but Ares wasn't paying any attention. He slowly crouched down toward the water and a smile began playing at his lips.

"Well, well, well," he mused, once again stroking his beard. "Looks like my little Gabrielle went and got herself pregnant again?"

"Your little!" Aphrodite hissed angrily. "I'll have you know that it was me that actually got the two of them together in the first place!"

"You helped David get where he needed to go," Ares nodded. "Thanks, by the way. But this was all part of my plan." His eyebrows rose inquiringly. "Still, it didn't take them long, did it? They must have been busy?" He looked down at Gabrielle again, standing with David's arm around her shoulders. Smiling, he zoomed in on the young woman's belly.

"Wonder what the kid will be?" His eyes went wide and his jaw fell towards the marble floor in amazement. Then he began to laugh out loud and he slapped the water in glee. The image vanished as the waters rippled.

"I knew it!" He shouted. "I knew there was a loophole!" He laughed again. He strode quickly out of the room laughing as he went.

Aphrodite watched him depart, secretly wondering if she should try and zap him, just once in the posterior, then she looked back down at the calming water and her expression changed from one of annoyance to wonder.

"Oh, boy!" She gasped. She numbly stood back up and backed away from the pool, as if the image frightened her in some way. Her mind raced at a league a minute as she thought. In spite of the news, that same melancholy resided, just beneath the surface. It was quickly replaced by the turning of the ideas in her head. Maybe she could kill two birds with one stone?

Looking back to make certain Ares was nowhere to be seen, she squinched up her face and then vanished in a small puff of sparks.

Gabrielle walked slowly around the newly built bed and smiled knowingly. "You know," She said. "This is going to give Beltanus a bunch of ideas?"

David chuckled. "Well, He and your sister are getting married, right?" He grabbed a piece of wool, coated in sand and rubbed at a small point on the footboard until it was smooth enough to pass his inspection. "They'll need a place to sleep?"

Gabrielle pushed on the base board and looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. It was rock solid.

"Place to sleep?" she asked.

"Yeah, well," David said, suddenly a bit uneasy. "My stuff is built to last!"

"I'll bet," Gabrielle replied. She slipped under his arm and kissed him on the cheek. Then she spied another project, covered in a large tarp.

"What's that?" she asked. "Something else for Lila and her future husband?"

"Hmm?" David asked, and then he followed her gaze and smiled. "Oh, no. Those are for us, when the time is right."

"Those?" Gabrielle walked quickly over to it and grabbed the corner of the tarp. "What are they?"

"No, wait!" David said quickly, but it was too late.

Gabrielle flipped the tarp over and her breath caught. She looked down at the small bassinet and the even smaller hobby horse, painstakingly built and intricately carved.

"They're not done yet," David finished nervously.

He moved to stand behind her and wrapped his arms about her shoulders.

"They're wonderful," she said, her eyes shimmering.

David smiled. "Yeah, I figure that will look good next to the fireplace." He said, nodding to the small hobby horse. "Especially when junior's rocking back and forth on it?"

Gabrielle's smile widened and she looked up at him. "You don't know it's a boy?"

David chuckled. "Sure I do."

"I think it's a girl," Gabrielle countered.

"Ah, you're biased," David shrugged. "I'll attribute that to hormonal imbalance?"

She jabbed him in the gut playfully.

"Ow, see what I mean? One minute your all mushy, the next you're beating the stuffing out of me? Imbalance, all the way." He grinned. "I don't know how I'm going to survive the next six months like this?"

"Oh, you'll survive," Gabrielle said, leaning back against him. "For the most part?"

"Hello?" a cheerful voice called from outside. "Anybody home?"

David and Gabrielle looked at one another and rolled their eyes.

"In here, Aphrodite!" David called over his shoulder.

The Goddess of love floated into the barn, her arms wide and a huge smile on her face.

"Gabby!" she said, pushing David away and wrapping her arms about the other woman. "I just heard!" She squealed in delight. She stepped back and looked her up and down and her expression changed to something softer, but no less happy. "Oh, you look so beautiful! You're glowing!" she said and she hugged her again.

Gabrielle laughed and returned the enthusiastic hug.

"Hi Aphrodite," David said neutrally.

"Yeah, hi," Aphrodite replied quickly. Then her entire being was focused on the young bard. "There's so much we have to do. You're going to need maternity stuff, and then there are the clothes for the baby!' She trembled with anticipation. "Oh, I love shopping for baby clothes!" She ushered David's wife out of the barn, her mouth going a mile a minute.

David watched them depart and sighed.

"It's good to see you too," he said, speaking aloud to himself. "How've you been? Fine Aphrodite, thanks for asking? You? Oh fine. We were going to have lunch soon? Want to join us? Why, thank you David, I'd be delighted?" He continued his little monologue as he strolled out of the barn after them.

When he stepped into the house, he found Aphrodite looking about the cozy interior and nodded.

"It's not what I'd call home, but it's nice," She complemented. "You've got this cozy, rustic modern thing happening. Nice."

Gabrielle was shaking her head.

"Thanks," David said. He stepped past the Goddess and kissed Gabrielle dutifully. "I'm gonna change clothes. I'll be back in a second."

Gabrielle watched David leave the room and sighed. "He broke his back building this place," she said thoughtfully. "You should have seen him working when he found out?"

Aphrodite laughed. "Really got things moving, huh?"

Gabrielle's smile faded a bit. "If Hercules hadn't stuck around to help, I'm actually a little afraid of what might have happened?"

"What do you mean?" Aphrodite asked.

Gabrielle blinked. "What? Oh, nothing."

Aphrodite saw the unconvinced look on Gabrielle's face.

"Gabby?"

Gabrielle shrugged. "I don't know. It's just, well, he seems to be moving a little slower lately. He covers it up as soon as he knows I'm watching, but I don't know?" She shrugged again. "Maybe it's just me?"

"Gabby," Aphrodite said reassuringly. "You know David would tell you if there was something wrong."

David tossed his pants into the basket in the corner and reached into the dresser for fresh clothes. He tossed the jeans and a shirt on the bed and then went to rise.

The pain knifed up his spine, and he froze in shock, his hand clamping on the top of the dresser as he fought to keep from groaning aloud as he winced.

Slowly, he forced himself to stand erect, and then he pulled a drawer open and tapped four small pills out of the tiny bottle that lay within.

He swallowed them down and let himself sink onto the bed, feeling his back protest some more. He looked down at the remaining contents of the bottle and winced again. He was burning through the Advil too fast.

He forced himself to get dressed and struggled upright. The pain eased once he was standing again and he sighed with relief. Wiping a thin layer of sweat from his face, he stepped back out into the main room.

"Anyone hungry?" he asked cheerfully. "I was going to throw some lunch together?"

"Sure," Gabrielle replied easily. She looked up at their guest. "You hungry?"

The Goddess looked at David closely for a moment and then smiled. "Sure. But you better be doing more than making cold sandwiches?"

"Not my style," David smiled. Then he looked at Gabrielle. "Provided you haven't cleaned us out again?"

Gabrielle frowned. "I haven't been eating that much?"

David laughed. "Dite, you should see her? I've got to head into town at least twice a week now that she's eating for two?"

"You do not?" Gabrielle countered.

Aphrodite smiled as she watched the two of them quibble. It was just so darned cute!

"Come on in the kitchen," Gabrielle offered. "You can see a master at work."

"What," Aphrodite asked. "He can cook too? Girlfriend, you really did luck out!"

They passed into the small, comfortable kitchen, Aphrodite seated herself in one of the sturdy padded chairs that David had made and nodded in approval. "This whole place is cozy," she commented. "It's like this summer retreat I had up in Pinelas? When the snow was falling?" She smiled at the memory. "Just get a nice fire going in the hearth and then –" She stopped when David accidentally dropped one of the knives he was using to carve some ham.

Gabrielle frowned. "What's wrong, David? You never miss when you're cooking?"

David smiled. "Just a little tired, I guess?" he said, trying to ignore the sudden numb sensation in his fingers. He made a fist a couple of times and stooped to retrieve the knife. That was when the numbness shot down his arm, through his spine and into his legs. He dropped like a rock. His spine seemed to lock in place.

"Okay," He grimaced. "This could be bad?"

"David!" Gabrielle jumped up. The two women rushed to his side.

"It's okay, it's okay," David said quickly. "Just a strain in the back is all. Really? Just give me a second?"

The numbing sensation was suddenly replaced by a fire that seemed to spread across his entire back. He groaned in agony.

"Help me get him to the bedroom," Gabrielle said urgently. The two women slowly began to help David rise.

"Easy, easy," David protested as the pain began flowing through his legs. "Just go slow, okay?"

They got him up into the bedroom and slowly lowered him down onto the bed. His breathing was coming fast as they tried to help him get comfortable. His face was a mask of pain.

Once they got him settled, his breathing slowed and his expression relaxed.

"What can I do?" Gabrielle asked him urgently. She looked up at Aphrodite who merely shook her head helplessly.

"Hey, I'm a Love Goddess," She shrugged. "This is a totally different department?"

"Baby," David winced. "I got the stove lit. Get a few rags and soak them in water, then heat them up on the stove top and put them on my back, that'll help loosen things up, okay?"

Gabrielle went to rise, but Aphrodite held up a hand to stop her.

"Hot towels?' she said. "That, I can do." She blinked deliberately and instantly a bowl appeared on the small nightstand, filled with steaming towels.

"Those will stay hot as long as you need them. I use them at the spa," She nodded with a sympathetic smile.

Gently, the two women stripped David's shirt and pants off, turning him onto his stomach.

He grinned in spite of the pain.

"Two women undressing me?" he commented. "One of them, the Goddess of Love? This has possibilities?"

"Snap out of it honey," Aphrodite smiled gently. "Cause you're already dreaming."

Gabrielle smiled in spite of herself. They got him situated, and Gabrielle gently draped the first of the towels across his lower back. The second across his shoulders and a third across the middle.

"Okay?' Gabrielle asked. "Now what?"

David groaned. "Now, we wait." He sighed, feeling the warmth soaking into his skin. "I was thinking, drinks on the porch, maybe a game of shuffleboard?"

Gabrielle's smile faded, but only a little. "You're not shuffling any boards for the time being." She said.

"Look,' Aphrodite added. "I'll get some food delivered, okay? You guys just take it easy for a little while?" She stood up and vanished in a shower of gentle sparks.

Gabrielle looked down at him and smiled.

"Why didn't you tell me you were hurt?" She asked.

"Because I wasn't hurting until just a few minutes ago," David replied. "Not that much."

"What happened?"

"I don't know?" David replied. "I think it's from when Hercules and I had the problem with one of the roof trusses?"

Gabrielle frowned at him. "That was over a month ago," she said. "You said it was nothing to worry about?"

"I didn't think it was?" David replied. "I popped a couple of Advil and that seemed to do the trick, then I just took it easy for the rest of the week?"

Gabrielle frowned at him more. "Which week was that?" she asked. "If it wasn't the last of the repairs on the barn, it was the house, or Lila and Beltanus's wedding present, or the other stuff for the baby? When have you taken it easy?"

"Alright," David confessed. "Guilty as charged."

Gabrielle's frown melted into a smile. "I'm not even counting all the things you've been running around and doing for me?"

She stroked his hair. "You've been going like a Valkyrie in a windstorm since we got back. It was only a matter of time before it all caught up with you?"

She sighed. "You've talking about how you want me to relax, so everything stays right for the baby. Well, you need to relax too, sometime?"

"I'm pretty relaxed right now," David smiled.

"And if you had a choice?" Gabrielle shot back.

David said nothing and closed his eyes. "I'm too weak to argue with you, honey. You're right, as usual. I have been pushing myself."

He tried to adjust himself slightly when a searing current of pain rocketed up both his legs.

"Whoa!" He cried out. "That's new?"

Aphrodite made the 'arrangements', as she called them. Once that relatively simple task was complete, she sought after the first person that she suspected.

She found him in the Sanctum of Reflections again, staring down at the still water with his usual self pleased grin on his face.

"Ares, you jerkoid!" Aphrodite shouted as she entered. "What did you do? I know you did something!"

Ares laughed and stood up. "Relax, sis," he said.

Aphrodite exploded. It was a display that Ares couldn't remember ever seeing before and it caught him off guard.

"What did you do!" She screamed at him.

Ares' gaze darkened and he fixed her with his black eyes. "Watch it, toots," he growled. "You're going to end up in over your head. Mom and Dad aren't around to bail you out anymore?"

Aphrodite folded her arms across her chest and matched his gaze with an icy one of her own. "Oh yeah?" she replied. "Who says I ever needed them to begin with?"

Ares held his gaze for a moment and then it vanished in a short burst of good natured laughter. "That's good, sis," he nodded to her. "Almost had me believing you, then I realized – Love doesn't know how to fight?"

"What did you do?" Aphrodite demanded.

"As far as The Boy and his Bard?" Ares shrugged. "Nothing. I haven't done anything to him since," he mused and smiled. "For about two thousand years?" He grinned again. "Maybe he's getting old?" His smile faded when he realized two very important things. First, that his sister wasn't buying a single word that he was saying. Secondly, that she wasn't bluffing either. It was anew experience for him regarding their relationship. He had gotten so used to being able to bully her into submission that he had taken it for granted. All of a sudden, that approach wasn't working anymore.

After a few moments consideration, (A part of him was actually curious to see how far she was willing to push this), he shrugged and gestured to the pool.

"Fine," he said. "Let's take a little stroll down memory lane, shall we?" He waved his hand over the pool, and the image of David lying on the bed was replaced by another, far more alien one.

Aphrodite's eyes went wide when she beheld the scene. A wide, smoothly paved stone road sectioned off by dashes at regular intervals and illuminated by countless glowing lamps. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes moved rapidly down it, each ablaze with lights of their own. In the background she beheld the silhouette of a city, also blazing with millions of glowing lights. It was bigger than any city she had ever seen before.

It was as if she were looking at the scene from the point of view of a small animal, lying on the road. The massive vehicles passed over her in rapid succession, and then there was a break in the traffic. In the distance, she could make out two more sets of lights. These were traveling a little differently, weaving across all the lanes as if trying to avoid something.

"What is this?" she asked, looking up at him with a mixture of impatience and angst.

"Oh, this?' Ares shrugged. "Just something that happened right after our two lovebirds met, that's all?"

"This is the world that David came from?" Aphrodite said in awe. "He told me about it, but I never imagined?"

"Obviously, you don't get out much," Ares replied smugly. "Just hop the vortex about two thousand years that way – " He gestured with one hand. "And, bongo! There you are?"

Aphrodite heard a high pitched whine mixing with a loud rumble, then the two vehicles shot past their point of view, one of them a shimmering silver, the other a darker blue mixed with white. After them came two more vehicles, obviously in pursuit. Both were identical, big and black. The point of view followed them after they passed, giving Aphrodite a sudden churning in her belly, like vertigo. She hadn't been expecting that.

A she watched the ensuing chase, she recognized Gabrielle, on the back of the blue and white bike. Her eyes widened.

"That's-" she started.

"Yup," Ares nodded. "And the big helmeted lug in front of her is our friend, David Forester. They clown on the silver one is a friend of his. Darrin or Derek, something like that?""

Aphrodite waved her hand across the water, invoking the sounds. Her eyes were locked on the chain of events.

"Junction 355, coming up!" Derek announced. "Bear right!" His bike shot across four lanes of traffic towards the ramp. David followed, zipping just in front of a massive eighteen wheel tanker truck. The air horn blasted at them in anger as the rear trailer tires momentarily locked.

Aphrodite gasped in horror at the suicidal maneuver. She might not understand the mechanics of what was happening, but she knew the results of speed and mass in collision. A single error in judgment by either person would most assuredly have killed them. The fact that this was actually a remembered image and not current reality was lost on the Goddess as she watched.

Derek and David took the ramp at a wild speed. As David leaned his bike over, he felt the pavement rip into the steel of the floor board beneath his feet. Sparks erupted from the contact of metal with pavement moving at eighty miles an hour.

A quick check behind showed the two black sedans in hot pursuit, and they were gaining!

"Those got to be Interceptors," David said angrily. "But I know they aren't cops! Derek, get back here!"

Instantly, the Hyabusa was riding formation next to David.

"What you got in mind?" Derek asked.

In the background, Aphrodite heard another sound, almost like a loud rushing howl of wind, then a third two wheeled vehicle slid easily ext to David and his friend.

The vehicle that pulled up next to the two of them was long, low, and so brightly painted that it seemed to glow like a yellow sunburst in the flashing of the street lights.

Suddenly another voice, low and monotonous added to the connection.

"Hey guys," it said. "What's up?"

"Johnny?" David smiled. "What the hell is that thing?"

"Long story," John's voice came back. Then David saw the helmeted head turn over his shoulder. "Piss someone off?"

David smiled. "Another long story."

John, or Crazy Johnny as he was better known, sat in a bike that seemed molded to his own body. It was a modified four cylinder Suzuki cruiser with two large air intake scoops blended into the fuel tank, and massive three inch wide exhaust pipes stretched out past the rear tire. The bike had been designed for one thing; straight roads.

"Well," John's voice came back. "Since we both have long stories to tell, I say we ditch the party crashers so we can talk?"

"Johnny," David grinned. "Work your magic. Derek get up next to me!"

"Oh, man," Derek said nervously. "Are you thinking what I think you're thinking?"

David looked down at his gauge, the red light glowing brightly and flashing.

"Fraid so," he admitted. "Time for my passenger to get off."

"Ah, shit!" Derek moaned, and he sidled his bike up as close as he could to David's without hitting him.

David flipped open his visor.

"Gabrielle!" he shouted over the wind. "You're going to finish this little trip with Bullit, there!"

Gabrielle looked down at the rear wheel spinning next to her left leg, and her eyes went wide.

"I'm going to what?" she cried in panic.

"She's gonna do what?" Aphrodite exclaimed in horror, now completely enraptured by the chain of events.

Johnny's bike fell in behind them and held relative to the others as the two sedans closed on them with bloodthirsty speed.

Johnny glanced over his shoulder and then flipped two small toggle switches on his tank. Immediately, two amber lights began flashing on either side of his red taillight. He waited until the first Chevy was almost upon him, and then he depressed a small red button on his hand grip as he twisted the throttle.

A blast of brilliant orange flame, twenty feet long engulfed the front of the encroaching Chevy. The driver swerved away from the threat and dropped back, fire still licking the front grille. It careened wildly off the road and plowed into a ditch.

The Goddess jumped in fright when the flames blasted from the trailing vehicle.

One of the black vehicles careened off the road and plowed into a ditch, coming to an abrupt halt.

"They're called motorcycles," Ares added, smiling. "Actually a fun way to travel. I tried it while I was there."

"What's that little flashing red thingy on David's, uh, motorcycle?" Aphrodite asked nervously.

"That?" Ares smiled. "Trouble."

"Now!" David shouted as the red light on his gauge flashed insistently.

"I can't do this!" Gabrielle shouted in fear.

There was another brilliant orange blast of flame as Johnny held off the second car.

"Dammit, Gabrielle!" David shouted angrily. "Get off my fucking bike!"

David and Derek crossed their hands and grasped each others handlebars. This gave David throttle control over both bikes while at the same time, allowed Derek to maintain the stability of the ride.

Gabrielle placed her hands down behind David's butt. Another fiery blast behind them startled her.

"Uh," John's voice came over the speaker, calm as always. "I can't keep this up forever?"

"Gabrielle!" David roared. "Go!"

Gabrielle eyed the narrow foot pegs behind Derek's calves. He pushed up on her hands and launched herself across the narrow gap, landing neatly on Derek's narrow seat pad, her feet landing solidly on both pegs. The two bikes wobbled violently for a moment, and the two drivers released their holds on each others bikes.

Aphrodite realized suddenly that she was chewing on her finely manicured nails.

"Johnny!" David called. "Bug out!"

"Right," John replied dryly. "See ya!" There was a loud howl, and the yellow monstrosity rocketed past them.

Gabrielle looked back over at David. He slapped the visor of his helmet down and reached his left hand back onto the hilt of the sword.

He looked over at her and nodded. She saw the hand on the weapon. Her eyes flicked back to the closing vehicle and she suddenly realized what he was about to do.
"David!" she cried out.

"Derek," David said simply. "Ruin their night."

"Alright, brother," Derek said gleefully. "Y'all stay black now! I'm outta here like last year!"

Aphrodite watched in amazement as Derek's left foot and hand wiggled slightly and then cranked the throttle all the way back. The engine screamed in delight, and he and Gabrielle shot away from danger like a thunderbolt.

"Go, baby, go!" David cheered. "Hang up." The strange vocal connection was broken.

He looked down at the pavement whizzing past his feet, and then back at the temp gauge. "Any second now."

"What happened to David?" Aphrodite asked as she watched the silver shape screaming away into the night at unbelievable speed.

Ares smiled, enjoying her angst. "Just watch. You'll see. That sword he has on the side actually comes in handy?"

There was a soft ping, and then a sudden thud as David's bike finally succumbed to the massive buildup of heat within its engine.

Aphrodite jumped again when she saw the subtle yellow flash between David's legs.

David managed to shift the bike to the left just before the rear wheel locked. The black Chevy still in pursuit came roaring up behind and to his right like an infuriated juggernaut. Time seemed to slow into one long terrifying series of moments.

A high pitched nervous squeal began to emanate from Aphrodite as she watched the events. Her hands up in front of her mouth, eyes wide.

David pulled the sword from its sheath and leapt as the front end of the car connected with his rear tire. He flipped over and threw the weapon at the windshield. The blade punched through the driver side of the windshield a split second before his body bounced off the hood and was launched skyward.

The car slid sideways, sailing off the road and flipping over into the ditch, rolling with a series of sickening crunches.

David's body seemed to writhe and twist as it flew through the air, moving like a cat. He managed to get his legs beneath him. When he impacted the ground, his boots blasted through the asphalt on the shoulder with a loud whump. His left hand also hit the ground and he paused, looking down at his feet and the large series of spider web cracks beneath them.

Then he looked up and back toward the wreckage of the car behind him.

The image froze on David's face, his eyes wide with shock, staring out at them from the pool.

Aphrodite looked at it as it faded away, revealing the clear waters again. Her breath burst from her in relief and then she frowned.

"Wait a second?' she said. "How did he?"

"Survive?" Ares asked, smiling. "Because I let him, that's how. I gave him a few little things to help him get through all this, just so Gabrielle could finish what she needed to finish. Once that was done?" He shrugged. Then, before she could ask another question, he waved his hand at her and vanished in a puff of smoke.

She fumed for a moment, her mind racing furiously as she thought about everything she had seen. Her eyes drifted back to the pool and she invoked the last few seconds of that series of events, watching David sail up into the air, writhe and land on his feet with a force that would have smashed normal men. As she looked at him, crouching now, just after the impact. Her mind began putting things together. Her gaze fixed on his hand, punched through the stone. His left hand. The same hand that had dropped the knife. And his back? Well, she didn't need to be a genius to figure that one out!

"Oh boy," She said nervously. Suddenly, her own needs seemed petty compared to what she concluded might transpire. "Oh, this is bad! This is really, really bad!"

She waved her hand over the pool again, this time invoking the entire series of events, from the moment Gabrielle arrived in David's world, and with wide eyes, she began to watch…