Xena raised her eyebrow over her piercing blue gaze. Something fishy was afoot, and it was more than the supper that was Gabrielle’s turn to cook. Things had gotten too quiet in their camp, and Gabrielle as a rule had never been good with quiet. Not when they were safe. When they were in danger, though…
Taking up her chakram, Xena went down to the placid water where Gabrielle was supposed to be cleaning the fish Xena herself had caught earlier. There wasn’t a ripple on the surface, and she could see both her own reflection in the water and clear to the bottom of the pond. The trees above didn’t move, and not a leaf shook in the wind.
“Ares,” she said with a clenched jaw, so certain that he had done something to quiet nature and take her travelling companion.
“Why do you always think it’s me?” he asked, walking from a godly portal to the bank of the pond where Xena was crouched low like a tracker.
He looked as lusciously virile as the God of War always looked. Hercules had told her once of his mirror version as the God of Love, and she could believe it. No matter which loves came and went from her life, she always had a pull to him.
“Where is Gabrielle?” Xena interrogated, her ring blade held threateningly at his neck.
“It’s not my fault if you can’t keep track of your pets,” he said, lightly pressing away the blade with the tip of his finger. “But I can help you find her for a favor.”
“I don’t like owing you favors,” she said, loosening her shoulders but still at ready for whatever might come.
“This one you will. I need someone to work at an orphanage for war orphans. You and your bard would be perfect for it.”
Xena tried to keep her suspicious words inside her mouth. “What’s the catch?”
“No catch. Except one of the rejected muses has them working on a play with music so atrocious I would give up war to make it stop,” he said with a sigh. “A God of War has to have some standards.”
Hanging her chakram on her belt loop, Xena said, “Fine. We’ll do it. Now take me to Gabrielle.”
“Right this way,” Ares replied with a gentlemanly wave of his hand.