Yup... So Ares is Beowulf. Well, not really. Anyway, this'll definitely be X/A shippy. That's me for you.
Also, hang historical accuracy. The Viking age is entirely the wrong time period for Xena.
Disclaimer: All characters and general concepts are property of Renaissance Pictures and StudiosUSA. No copyright infringement intended. This is just how I entertain myself while I should be studying.
Ares reined in his horse and rubbed his eyes. He was exhausted, hadn't had a good wash for days, and now a godsdamned procession was occupying the entire street. He knew he was close, though. It had been hard over the past year, chasing nothing but rumours and gossip, but Xena had to be here.
"It's Lord Hrothgar and Lady Wealthea," an excited voice said somewhere behind him. "They must be back from organizing that trade route with the lords of Brittannia."
He sighed impatiently, watching the long lines of slaves walking before him.
"Really?" said another shrill whisper. "Doesn't that usually take months?"
"It's the influence of Lady Wealthea; I'll bet my life on it," replied the first. "I heard she could charm the teeth off of a bear."
"I heard that they own a hundred…"
Ares tuned out the gossiping women as a man who looked like his face was being eaten by his beard rode by on a huge black horse. Must be this Hrothgar man, he thought, eyeing the gold liberally draped over his neck. Pompous ass.
A sharp gasp sounded behind him, and one of the women surged forward, jostling his horse.
"Look! It's Lady Wealthea!" she said, oblivious to his glare.
A flash of white caught his eye, and he turned. His breath stuck in his throat.
His ears roared, drowning out all external noise, and he could feel his heart slamming against his ribcage. He opened his mouth just as her eyes met his.
Her eyes slid away without a flicker of recognition.
Ares stared at her receding back, stiff and straight through the white furs in which she was swathed, and he frowned.
What was that?
Ares hauled himself through the window with a grunt as his foot tangled itself in some rich drapery. Biting back a curse, he untangled himself and looked around, taking in the opulent fabrics and nasty, guttering candles. His mouth tightened when his eyes swept over the bed, and he quickly turned away. Xena and her… husband—the idea was disturbing.
He sighed and let the leaden knot of jealousy sink into his stomach.
The sound of approaching footsteps jolted him into action, and he slid soundlessly into a dim alcove half-hidden by a heavy tapestry.
Xena pushed open the door and stepped inside, closely followed by Hrothgar.
"My Lord," she said, a faint tremble in her voice that Ares had never heard before. Before she could continue, Hrothgar grabbed her shoulders roughly and pulled her into a kiss.
Ares' hand clenched until he was sure he could feel a trickle of blood through his fingers.
"My Lord," she repeated, pulling away, "please. You have guests. I will be waiting when you return."
Hrothgar stared at her for a moment before stepping back with a gruff "Very well." He jammed his helmet back onto his head as he left.
Xena's head fell as if an enormous amount of tension drained out of her, and she flopped down into the chair placed before a vanity mirror set into the wall. She didn't move, even when Ares stood behind her. He frowned. He couldn't remember the last time he was able to sneak up on her like this.
"What's going on, Xena?" he said softly.
She flinched and looked up into his reflection. She stood slowly, dull blue eyes never leaving his face.
"Are you an assassin?"
"No." He narrowed his eyes. "Were you expecting one?"
She didn't respond, and she didn't react when he reached out to gently tug her around to face him.
"What are you doing here? Where's Gabrielle? I keep hearing these rumours about her being some magical goddess with the power to grant all your wishes trapped in a ring of fire. Xena—"
That got a scowl. "Why are you calling me that?"
"I don't know how you got in here, but my husband will return soon, so I suggest you leave immediately, you lunatic."
Ares stared at her. "You really don't remember?"
There was a bang from somewhere outside, and he grabbed her hand. "Come with me."
"What? Are you truly insane or just deaf? I told you, that's my husb—"
"Then why do you look so afraid when he touches you?" Ares snapped.
Her eyes darkened, filling with a familiar fire. She wrenched her arm away and sneered, "I need no hero."
"I'm a—" he cut off his belligerent retort with a sigh. "Look, I know you don't trust me, but what about Gabrielle? She needs you."
Xena's eyes unfocused. "Gabrielle," she said in a small voice. "That name…"
"Great, she gets a reaction," Ares muttered. "You can reminisce later, but we have to go now." He took her hand again and dragged her out into the outside hall.
"Wait! You can't go that way; there are guards!"
Ares had already pulled his sword and charged the startled men standing near a heavy door down the hall. His first swing bit deep into a shoulder with the crunch of splintering bone and a spray of blood. He dragged out his blade in time to deflect an axe aimed at his head. He easily dodged another swing of the heavy weapon and shoved his sword into the second man's chest up to the hilt. There was the whistle of a descending blade at his back, and he steeled himself. This was going to hurt if he was wrong.
The blow never reached him, and he let out a ragged breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He turned to see Xena standing behind him, a dagger in one hand and sleeves stained up to the elbow.
She opened her mouth, staring at her red hands, but no sound came out.
"Thank you," he said.
"You saved my life." He placed his hand over hers and squeezed, the blood on her palm making an unpleasant squelch. "When you thought I was an assassin, you acted as if death was your goal. The Xena I know isn't pathetic like that. Xena is alive. That feeling, hot blood on your hands, that means you're alive." He smiled at her stare. "I've learned a lot about being mortal after you left me on that mountain."
"I don't even know you! My body just moved…"
"But you killed for me."
A clanging alarm sounded down the hall, quickly escalating as others picked it up and started their own alarms.
Ares glanced around hurriedly and tugged at her. "So now that you're a fugitive, now will you come with me?"
Xena scowled at him and turned abruptly, dragging him behind her. "That's the wrong way."