Waving his hand, Ares popped both Graegus and himself inside his temple. Turning, he smiled at Gabrielle. "So, what about that first part of the curse? You up to fixing that?"

Gabrielle's stomach twisted nervously. "I thought you didn't want to do that?"

"Well, I thought about it while you were walking Graegus and I thought we could give it a try. If you want to, that is." Ares moved in front of Gabrielle and smiled down at her. He had to admit she was beautiful, even if she was covered partly in dog slobber! "You really impressed me today, Gabrielle. Not very many mortals would have the guts to walk Graegus. You were given a challenge and you passed it with flying colors. Not only that, but my dog likes you and as far as I know, that never happened before."

"But what if you loose your powers and become mortal?" Gabrielle asked, concerned. "I couldn't ask you to do that."

"But you forget we'd be right there in Aphrodite's temple." Ares pointed out. In fact, even he had forgotten that! "Dite would just give me Ambrosia and I'd be back to being a God again."

Graegus pushed his snout into Gabrielle's back and she was shoved forward right up against Ares.

The War God laughed. "See, Graegus thinks we belong together!"

"Look, I just want to get this curse off me, that's all." Gabrielle tried to squirm away but she was stuck between Ares and that dog! Twisting her head, she noticed Graegus had his big head resting on his paws and had gone to sleep!

"Are you sure that's all you want, little bard?" Ares asked as he wrapped his arms around her. "Because like Aphrodite said, you might get a lot more."

Gabrielle found herself staring at his chest, which is what was at her eye level. For some odd reason, she didn't feel like looking Ares in the eyes right now. She knew he had very beautiful eyes though. Zeus! If Xena could only hear her thinking things like that! Then Gabrielle paled. What if Ares could hear her? "Of course that's all I want. What else could I possibly want?"

"Oh, I don't know....how about a boyfriend?" Ares grinned. He knew Gabrielle was attracted to him but was being shy about it. Well, sooner or later she had to admit it! "Tell you what, how about we go pay Dite a visit? Then you can make up your mind."

Without another word, the two popped out in a flash of light.

****

Xena had hurried to Hades Cave that led to the Underworld. By the time she got there, she saw the giant footprints leaving the cave. Not bothering to get off Argo, she galloped across the flower dotted fields in search of her friend. If the footprints were any indication, Gabrielle HAD tried to walk the monstrous beast. Horrible images with amazing detail fluttered through Xena's mind. She imagined Gabrielle trapped somewhere as the War Dog tried to eat her, the giant teeth crunching on her bones. The Warrior Princess was so deep in thought she almost didn't see Hercules and Iolaus walking her way. Pulling up Argo, Xena came to a halt.

"Did you see Gabrielle?" Xena asked instantly.

"Yeah." Hercules told her, a slight breeze blowing his longish brown hair. "She was with Ares dog, Graegus. The thing almost got me and Iolaus! But she just called it and it followed her...somewhere..."

"She was cleaning it's teeth, too!" Iolaus added with a shiver. "I guess she wants it to have clean shiny teeth when it chomps on people!"

"That can't be right." Xena said, confused. Gabrielle couldn't have been cleaning the War Dog's teeth, could she? "Are you sure it was Graegus?"

"Oh, it was Graegus all right!" Hercules told his friend. "Trust me on that one. It remembered me from last time. Besides, no other monster could be that ugly!"

"Say, what's this all about anyway?" Iolaus asked. "I mean, what's Gabrielle doing with Ares' dog?"

"It's some stupid curse caused by the Gods!" With that, Xena flicked Argo's reins and leaned forward in the saddle, squeezing the horse's middle with her legs. Argo leaped forward and they were off, following the deep tracks left in the earth. In a few moments, they were out of sight.

Hercules looked at Iolaus. "Hmmm...I should have known that."

"Yeah, we should have guessed it was your wacko family." Iolaus started forward again.

"It's always them." Hercules sighed. His face brightened. "Hey, you want to stop in town and get some supper? I'm getting kind of hungry again. We didn't really get to finish that last meal we had."

"Great idea! Let's go!" Iolaus picked up the pace as he hurried to keep up with his best buddy's longer strides. Things were looking up for them.

***

Gabrielle blinked and opened her eyes. Pink. Lots and lots of pink. They were once again in Aphrodite's temple. Part of her was surprised she had managed to return here alive in one piece.

"OH, you're alive!" Aphrodite wailed as she raced forward and hugged Gabrielle. "I was so worried about you! You were gone so long I thought you had actually tried to walk that horrible thing!"

"But I did walk it, Aphrodite." Gabrielle admitted, her chin held high. "Graegus wasn't all that bad, once I got used to him."

"WHAT?" Aphrodite's hand flew to her red lips. "You walked that thing and you survived? Oh, you could have been killed! That thing hates mortals! He thinks their doggy biscuits!"

"Graegus likes her." Ares informed his sister with a smile. "And he isn't the only one that likes her."

The Love Goddess' eyes flew to her brother. Could Ares have figured out that Gabrielle was right for him? "And you're hear to do the other part?"

"I'm willing. It's up to Gabrielle now if she wants to." Ares walked until he stood in front of the blonde bard. "So, you want to get mentally hitched or whatever Dite said would happen? The more I think about it, the more interesting it sounds. Yeah, very interesting."

Gabrielle gulped. This is what she had set out to do in the first place. Kiss Ares. It shouldn't be that hard. People kiss each other all the time. Yet the idea of it was making her a nervous wreck! Then there was the thing Aphrodite had said. If she kissed him now, in Love's Temple, something would happen. Dite wasn't exactly sure what, but in the case of two mortals their souls would get connected. She wasn't sure if she wanted to be connected to Ares.

Looking at him, she realized how beautiful he was. The thick black hair, those intense eyes staring at her, the silver earring glinting in one ear, the neatly trimmed facial hair which added a sense of nobility. And he definitely looked good in the black leather outfit that hugged his well muscled body. A thrill raced through her body as she realized that he could be hers. All she had to do was agree to kiss him. One tiny kiss and she would have an immortal lover who no one in their right mind would dare oppose!

Stepping forward shyly, Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Ares' neck. He stared into her blue eyes for a moment, to be sure that this is what she wanted. Being assured that it was, he lowered his head and kissed her. As their lips touched, a golden glow passed from his body into hers. Gabrielle tightened her grip around his neck, deepening the kiss. Her whole body tingled as a pleasant warmth surrounded her. Joy filled her heart and she felt him whisper her name inside her mind. In reply, she whispered his name back with a single thought. Slowly they parted and the warmth stayed with her as did the pleasant tingle. She felt different but wasn't sure why or what had happened.

"Ooohh! You're immortal!" Aphrodite squealed with happiness. The Love Goddess gave Gabrielle a tight hug, then pulled back. "Congratulations! I knew you two were right for each other!"

"Come on," Ares held out his arm to Gabrielle. "Let's go home."

She took it and they disappeared together in a flash of light.