Crown Prince Adam of Eternia stood before the full-length mirror in his bathing chamber and studied his reflection with great care. Then, frowning, he reached out and brushed a stray golden lock back into place. It promptly returned to its original position, hanging rakishly into his eyes, but the prince did not notice for he had already moved his critical inspection onto other areas. He adjusted the leather straps across He-Man's thickly muscled torso, fidgeted with the chest plate, and altered the angle of the sword hanging on his back. Then he took two steps back and struck a heroic pose, arms crossed in front of him. He held it for exactly five seconds before his shoulders sagged and he started hyperventilating again.
This is ridiculous. She's my wife. There's nothing to be nervous about. Taking a deep breath and then exhaling slowly, he assumed a new pose, this time with his hands on his hips and flashed a brilliant smile at the mirror. It quickly melted and he found himself sitting on the side of the bathtub with his head in his hands. Could I possibly get more pathetic? he wondered dismally. She's not going to be very impressed if I act like a bloody virgin. Especially not tonight – not on our fifth anniversary. He rubbed his hands together and, slowly, a genuine smile spread across lips. Five years with Teela – the mother of my child.
He stood abruptly, marched back to the mirror and threw his best in your face, Skeletor attitude at it. The effect was everything that he, or Teela, could have wished for. Just keep it together boy, he exhorted himself. She deserves this. The Elders only know just how much she deserves this.
The air coming in through the open bathroom windows was warm and heavy with the perfumes of summer. The perfect conditions for a late evening ride. He could tell that Teela had been puzzled, somewhat hurt and more than a tiny bit suspicious when he declined to go with her. It didn't take a genius like Man-At-Arms to tell that she was angling for a little romance, but Adam had desperately needed that spare hour to prepare their rooms for an even more romantic tryst and to mentally prepare himself for what he was about to do.
Technically, they'd exchanged gifts just after waking that morning, a new staff for her and a new saddle for him. Not that waking in Teela's arms isn't present enough for me. It was hard to believe that it was only six years since the day that she'd made one twenty-five-year-old, extremely nervous, border-line panicked, crown prince the happiest man alive by agreeing to be his bride. Five year since she'd made him the most relieved man alive by actually showing up for their wedding, and almost four years to the day since she'd presented him with his heir.
Their daughter. His little angel. If there was a way she could be any cuter, he simply could not imagine what it was. With her mother's beautiful hair, her grandpa Randor's cobalt blue eyes, her grandma Marlena's grace, her grandma Teelana's melodious voice and her grandpa Duncan's wit, she was just about perfect. Oh, and of course, she had her daddy's heart. At least, that was what everyone told him. Little Melisande was such a tender-hearted child that he was never certain whether they meant that she had his sensibilities or if the comment was merely a reference to how thoroughly wrapped around her tiny finger he was.
The day Melisande was born, he'd thought his heart would burst with the joy of it. The day of her Presentation, when she was officially put on display for all the courtiers to gawk at, was one of the worst of his life. Skeletor had attacked in force and while Adam was off changing into He-Man, Beastman, that flea-bitten monstrosity, had actually gotten his hands on her. The memory of the ensuing rescue, the battle, the attempted sacrifice of HIS little girl – it still gave him nightmares. He'd been so shaken, He-Man had been so shaken, that he slipped up and Teela saw him transform back into Adam.
Not that she bothered to tell me that she knew the truth, oh no. The fish-eyed, almost hostile stares with which she'd favored him in the days following the battle, the long contemplative looks as she studied him – well, by the end of the third day, Adam had become convinced that she despised him. He'd run away from yet another fight, and this time their daughter had almost paid the price. How could she not despise him?
Heartbroken, Adam had moved into a guest room. No one asked why, which only confirmed in his mind the certainty that his wife must loathe him. And Melisande… he'd realized for the first time what it might be like for his darling girl to grow up with an acknowledged coward for a father. The teasing. The scorn. The disgust. He'd sobbed for hours and in the darkest hour of the night he'd come close to taking the most cowardly action of his life. Not even Cringer could comfort him, though his loyal companion had done his level best. No. Only the knowledge that Eternia needed He-Man stayed his hand and kept the blade from his throat.
And a blasted good thing it did, too, Adam thought as he once more tweaked his bangs into some semblance of order. Teela would have been so furious she'd have tracked me down in the afterlife just so she could kick my tail one more time. He snorted, still caught up in the memory of that day.
There was no denying that waking up with her in his arms had gone a long way toward healing his troubled heart. Her pseudo-innocently asked, "Are we moving into these rooms, dear?" had brought instant tears to his eyes and he'd cried out his relief on her shoulder. When his grief was spent, he'd lain there limply in her arms while she played with hair. The dawn light had played on her beautiful, soft skin. She'd hummed quietly, much the way she did to calm their daughter's nighttime fidgets. And then – she'd said the magic words.
"I love you, Adam" she'd said, her voice choked with emotion. "I know you're He-Man because I saw you change back the day they took Melisande, but I still love you anyway… and I am going to personally strangle my father."
Miracle of miracles, the hate-filled looks she'd been sending his way were not actually directed at him! Amazingly, she was infuriated on his behalf! It was everyone else she was enraged with, as she'd been only too happy to explain to him at great length.
"Clearly," she'd snapped, "my loving father must know the truth. The Sorceress, too. As for your parents – "
"They don't know," he'd hastily assured her.
Teela'd smiled kindly at him, stroked his cheek with her thumb, and said "Obviously. They are quite clearly IDIOTS!" The memory of the sheer, trembling fury in her voice had been enough to keep Adam walking on air for weeks afterward. She knew. Finally, she knew. And she was on his side!
I don't think I really knew what a towering rage was until that day she confronted her father. Poor Duncan. The shouting had been clearly audible, if not intelligible, throughout the palace. Unfortunately for them, his parents had made the mistake the very next day of asking Teela if something was bothering her. The verbal battle that followed had been both spectacular and horrific. Adam shuddered. That's not a memory I care to relive. Still, it wasn't all bad. Mother and Father finally learned the truth about me.
Adam grinned. No man could ask for a more supportive wife. Or more intelligent. Or beautiful. Absolutely beautiful and she just keeps getting prettier. He laughed aloud. I can't wait to see what she looks like at sixty.
At the ripe old age of thirty-one, the Prince Adam had recently begun noticing laugh lines around his eyes. His golden hair was as fair as ever, but his eyesight was beginning to get a little questionable. It won't be long before I'm wearing spectacles to read, he admitted with a resigned sigh. Luckily for him, and for all of Eternia, the man reflected before him at that moment was eternally young, forever at his peak, forevermore beautiful and strong. And he, Adam thought sourly, doesn't have a bad back. What woman wouldn't want him… the mammoth man. He-Man. He rubbed his face. What if she never wants Adam again? I guess… I'll just have to live with… whatever she wants.
There was a sharp rap on the door to the bathroom, and Adam/He-Man all but jumped out of his heroic skin. "Adam, honey, are you in there?" There was an oddly amused lilt to her voice.
It's her! Oh, crud, I didn't hear – I wasn't paying attention – I – At least I got the candles lit and the flowers out before I came in here to make the change. He had intended to be waiting for her, decoratively lounging across the petal-strewn bed, but – too late now. At least age has deepened my voice enough not to be obviously false. Taking a deep, nervous breath, he called back, "You're early, hon. I'll be right out."
"All right. Take as much time as you need," she sang back, sounding rather breathless through the intervening wood, stone and plaster. Now he could quite clearly hear Teela making her own hectic preparations. Was that… yup, she just opened the wardrobe. Maybe I better give her a couple minutes.
While he waited for the scurried sounds ofher movements to taper off, he studied He-Man's reflection one last time. In all the time she's known my secret, she's never asked for this. Never once. But I know… I know she wants him. Well, tonight, I'm serving him up. Adam fought back an unexpected wave of nausea at the flashback his thoughts evoked. He-Man, drugged and bound to an enormous platter, waiting to be served to the Bolerese king. No one had thought to warn him that the country's aristocrats were cannibals. Why spoil the fun after all? Being rescued by the Masters was so… ugg.
Teela called to him again. "Are you ever coming out?" This time, her voice held a hint of steel in its depths. Taking one, last, bracing breath, He-Man yanked the door open and stepped into the bed chamber he shared with his wife, his princess, his soul mate.
Teela was draped across the bed, wrapped in something green and silky. Her auburn hair hung unfettered, fanned out beside her. The fabric had been carefully arranged such that, other than her face, one tanned shoulder and one long, shapely leg were all that showed. His breath caught in his throat and any thought of a manly, heroic entrance was forgotten as he slowly approached the bed.
Teela's eyes were incredibly wide, candlelight glinting in their depths. Her mouth opened, closed, opened again, then closed with a decisive snap. Her gaze traveled from the roots of his hair to the soles of his raw-hide boots and back again. He trembled.
"Well," she said after an eternity of just looking at him. "This is… unexpected." Her tone was smoothly neutral, revealing nothing.
He-Man gulped and knelt slowly on the edge of the bed, careful not to wind up on top of her splayed hair. That wouldn't end well. He risked a small smile and got one in return. His heart leapt in his chest. Emboldened, he leaned forward and gently brushed her lips with his. She let out a small sigh and returned the feathery kiss. He leaned in, leaned over her – and was promptly pushed back onto his haunches.
"Did I do something wrong?" he blurted before he could stop himself, then winced. If there was any character trait of his guaranteed to put a damper on the festivities, it was his insecurity.
But Teela just smiled wryly and shook her head. "That was very interesting, but if you don't mind, He-Man, I'd like to make love to my husband now."
He-Man blinked. "But, I thought – I mean, you – you were always flirting with – " Taking a deep breath, he took the plunge, "Don't you want to spend the night with the most powerful man in the universe?"
Teela laughed, got onto her knees and gave him an enormous hug. "Thank you, He-Man. That is a very gentlemanly offer. But I would much rather spend the night with the sexiest man in the universe, and that just isn't you."
He-Man only barely managed to restrain himself from asking who she meant before it dawned on him. Me. She wants me! She wants Adam! The return transformation took only a moment and then they were falling to the bed together, intertwined and giggling.
"Grandpa, why aren't Mommy and Daddy reading me my bedtime story tonight?" Melisande asked as she gazed up into the much loved, hairy face above hers.
The man she'd sometimes heard others call Man-At-Arms smiled down her as he tucked a stuffed tiger into the bed beside her. "They're having a special night together, Mellie. This is an important day for them."
She contemplated this for a moment. A special day. "Are they having a pillow fight?"
She tilted her head as his skin turned pink, like her nightdress. "I heard them laughing once and bouncing on the bed. Mommy said it was a pillow fight, but I couldn't come because it was past my bedtime."
The pinkness darkened. He coughed. "That's probably what they're doing right now, honey."