Bow and He-Man walked silently along the edge of a wood. They were on a mission to a small, outlying village that was under attack. With most of Etheria besieged by the Horde, the rebellion had been forced to divide into pairs to cover more territory: She-Ra and Frosta went towards the north, Glimmer and Queen Angella to the south, and other members scattered in between. It didn't really surprise Bow that he and He-Man had to go east to the village farthest away. It would have been a lot easier for She-Ra to fly there with Swift Wind. Leave it to the women to make the men do the hardest work.
"Do you hear that?" He-Man whispered suddenly. Bow ducked behind a tree and listened. The distinct sound of metal marching could be heard. They both peeked around trees and saw a group of Horde Troopers walking towards the village. A few, thin lines of smoke could be seen rising from above the trees.
"Doesn't look good," Bow said. "Smoke and troopers are never a good combination."
"We need to get closer," He-Man said. "We need to figure out what they're up to."
"Running in and catching them unprepared sounds like a good plan to me."
He-Man sighed and rolled his eyes. "Bow, while your 'charge first, ask questions later' tactic comes in handy sometimes, I'd prefer to know what I'm charging into."
"Well, after you then," Bow said, making a sweeping gesture towards the village with his hands.
He-Man set off at a steady jog, Bow right on his heels. They were far enough behind the Troopers to stay undetected. At the top of a hill, the village came into view. Troopers, fire, and running peasants could be seen.
"If we run up that way," He-Man whispered, pointing to the side of a hill covered in rocks and bushes, "we should be able to get closer." Bow nodded and followed.
They crept slowly behind rocks and bushes, some large enough to conceal two grown men, some not even large enough to conceal a Twigget. The Horde Troopers, however, were not concerned with the land behind them. They were laughing as they destroyed the village. Bow grimaced as he watched one Trooper grab a middle-aged man and push him against a broken wall.
"These Troopers need a good butt-kicking," Bow said through clenched teeth.
"Easy, Bow. We'll give them what they deserve. Be patient."
Bow didn't want to be patient. At that moment the thought of kicking He-Man in the head was pretty appealing, though.
When they reached the edge of the village, they surveyed the full disaster before them. Weeping villagers, scared children, and Troopers destroying anything in their sight.
"There are ten troopers," Bow counted.
"I don't see anyone else. Any signs of Catra, Mantenna, Scorpia, or the rest?"
"No. This may be our lucky day," Bow said, pulling his bow from behind him. He extended his arm as the bow elongated before him. "Ready to kick some Horde Trooper tail?"
"You get way too excited about this stuff," He-Man said, pulling his sword from its sheath. Together, they stepped into a clearing in plain view of the Troopers.
"Hey boys, want to pick on someone your own size?" Bow announced. The Troopers turned their attention away from the barn they were burning.
"It's Bow and He-Man!" One Trooper shouted.
All the Troopers turned and started shooting at them. He-Man deflected the rays as Bow shot arrows at the Troopers. He hit one Trooper in the arm, piercing the metal armor, and knocked two freeze rays out of the hands of Troopers.
"This isn't doing anything," Bow muttered, aiming an arrow directly at the neck of a Trooper. The Trooper fell to the ground. He-Man, with a guttural yell, went charging ahead. Bow continued shooting arrows at Troopers and knocking freeze ray guns from their hands. A few of the Troopers pulled other laser guns from their armor after losing the freeze rays and started shooting them. He-Man swung and hit two Troopers one after another, then sheathed his sword momentarily as he picked up a Trooper with his bare hands and slung him off the hill. Bow ran farther into the thick of things, getting into hand-to-hand combat with a Trooper. The Trooper swung a few times, and Bow ducked them, then he landed one good one right on Bow's ribs. He grunted in pain. A few well-aimed blows to the metal armor that left his hands throbbing, and the Trooper was down. He-Man ran toward an unarmed Trooper, who started running as soon as He-Man came after him. Bow got another Trooper in the neck as He-Man leaned down, grabbed the Trooper by the legs, and hurled down the hill. The last Trooper aimed its laser gun at Bow and was just one second faster than Bow. He felt the searing pain in his arm as he let the string go. The arrow got the Trooper somewhere in the leg and He-Man finished him off with a swing of his sword.
"Bow? Are you all right?" He-Man yelled, running to Bow's side. Bow looked down at the few gashes covering his body.
"I think I prefer the freeze rays," Bow said with a shaky laugh as he touched a tender place on his ribs. His right arm was bleeding a bit and his leg had a gash, but nothing he couldn't handle. He-Man tore a small strip of cloth from Bow's cape and tied his arm like a tourniquet. "Thanks."
"No problem," He-Man said, smiling at Bow. "Now let's take care of these villagers."
Many hours later, Bow was seated beside a small fire in the woods. They still were quite a walking distance away from Whispering Woods, but should be safe from any Horde attack. Or at least that's what they were hoping.
"Take off your shirt," He-Man instructed, kneeling down in front of Bow.
"Stop being a baby. I need to wrap those ribs."
"I'm fine," Bow lied. He stood up and tried to not grimace from the pain when he moved. He sat back down. "See?"
"Take it off, or I'll take it off for you."
Bow muttered a string of curses under his breath as he removed his chest plate. He looked down at the damage, and even in the dim firelight could tell how bruised they were. He grunted as He-Man wrapped his ribs carefully. In the shadows of the fire, Bow could see the stark contours of He-Man's body, smooth, hard muscles moving deftly as they worked.
"You don't have a scratch on you."
"Yeah, I do." He-Man paused his work and sat up, showing Bow a surface wound on his side. "See? A scratch."
"Comes with the territory," was all He-Man said. Bow wondered what it would be like to be He-Man or She-Ra, so strong and powerful, but he realized he didn't want what came with it. He liked where he was, just a prominent member of the Rebellion. He didn't want to do any of that leader stuff. And besides, he knew how much the Horde wanted to kill him; he couldn't imagine how much they wanted She-Ra and He-Man dead. And they were wanted dead on two planets! Bow was just fine with being wanted dead on one planet.
"Ow!" Bow snapped as He-Man bumped the wrong part of his chest.
"Sorry," he said and rubbed the spot soothingly. Bow opened his mouth to object, but closed it. He inhaled and actually started to relax. Then, too quickly, the hands were gone. He-Man stood up and looked around. "We should probably do something about food."
"Now that I can do," Bow said, standing up gingerly.
"You need to rest."
"I'm fine." Bow pulled an arrow from his quiver. "I may be slightly injured, but I am still the best shot in all of Etheria."
He-Man studied him carefully, then consented. "Okay. I'll help you hunt, though."
Bow agreed and they set off quietly into the forest. As sharp as Bow's senses were, he figured in dark, unfamiliar trees He-Man's super-senses would come in handy. A low whistle came from his side, and he spied He-Man pointing ahead. Bow scanned the trees, saw nothing, and took a step forward. A twig snapped. A small deer darted left and Bow cursed.
Both Bow and He-Man took off running, Bow trying to ignore the slight pain in his ribs. They neared a clearing and Bow stopped, waited a moment, then let the arrow go. It shot through the night and hit its target with a thud. The animal made a noise and fell to the ground.
"Score!" Bow said, then started running towards his kill. In the dark he didn't see the stump sticking up from the ground. He fell face first and rolled a couple of feet to the side.
"Bow!" He-Man ran over to him and knelt beside him. He grabbed his arms, then touched his head. He cradled his neck with his hand. "Bow? Are you okay?"
"If I make it through this night without killing myself, it may be a miracle."
He-Man laughed, the sound rumbling deep in his chest. His fingers closed around Bow's neck reflexively. Neither of them moved.
"At least I killed the deer," Bow said, breaking the silence. He tried to sit up, but had some trouble. He-Man slid his arm lower, arm wrapped around his back as he helped him up. When Bow was straight, their faces were inches apart. The trees shaded them from moonlight, so he couldn't see the other's face very well. He could smell a faint earthy scent, hear even steady breathing. Impulsively, Bow leaned forward and pressed a kiss against He-Man's lips, rough and quick. The arm around his back tightened, the faces closer, the kiss deeper. A few moments later, the two broke apart. Awkwardly, He-Man stood up and extended a hand to Bow. He ignored it, and with quite a bit of trouble and pain, stood up.
"I can't carry the deer back," Bow stated. He ran his thumb and forefinger across his mustache awkwardly.
"Don't worry about it. I got it. Stay here." He-Man ran quickly across the distance, picked up the deer like it was a feather, and slung it over his shoulder. They walked back to camp in silence. When they returned, they skinned, gutted, and hung it upside down to dry. "Should be ready by morning."
"Sounds good. I'm looking forward to waking up to a large breakfast." Bow settled against a tree as He-Man lay on the ground on the other side of the fire. He wasn't tired, so he stared up at the sky. The trees obscured most of the stars, and he kept glancing at He-Man. It was awkward, but not – and that made no sense to Bow. He wasn't quite sure what had happened back there. It seemed wrong and right, but he was too tired and pained to think about it now. To clear his head, he pulled out his harp. He strummed a few notes and sang part of a song quietly. He-Man shifted, and Bow stopped.
"Is this bothering you?"
"No. It's actually soothing. Please, continue."
"I doubt you know any of the ballads from Eternia. I am unfamiliar with the songs of your world. Play me your favorites."
"All right." Bow started playing a song that many people requested of him. The music was calming in the night. He started to relax as he played. He played for a couple of hours, and He-Man didn't fall asleep until after Bow had put away his harp.
They returned to the Whispering Woods late the next day. Bow was still feeling the ache from his injuries, but it didn't hurt as much as it had. On the return trip, Bow and He-Man said very little. It was obvious that both men had not forgotten what happened the night before.
When they returned to the rebel camp, the other groups had also returned. After debriefing with She-Ra and Queen Angella, Bow went in search of a good mead. He found Spragg who gave him a huge mug, then went to a chair underneath a tree and rested. The camp was holding a huge gathering to celebrate the return of the warriors.
Bow saw He-Man from across the camp. He was at a table talking with some people. Next to him was Frosta. Frosta, with her flowing blue hair, long legs, and tight blue corset. She had her arm hooked through He-Man's, intent on whatever he was saying. Bow suddenly realized he was jealous. Jealous of Frosta. How ridiculous. Of course Frosta was hot – why wouldn't He-Man want her?
Disgusted with himself, he got up and walked away from the camp, near a fire that was deserted on the edge of the festivities. He stood closer, warming his hands over the blaze.
"Tired of the festivities already?" He-Man asked, stepping beside him.
"Long couple of days," Bow answered. "Why aren't you at the party? I saw Frosta was warming up to you quite nicely."
"She's always like that," He-Man said, frustrated.
"Do you not like her? She's kinda hot."
"She's just…not my type."
Bow smiled despite himself.
"I'm returning to Eternia tomorrow." Bow remained silent. "Want to play a few more Etherian ballads for me before I leave?"
He-Man sat by the fire as Bow got out his harp.