A bandit fell like a puppet with his strings cut, an arrow between his eyes, and Erend refrained from cheering. He was crouched in some tall grass and cheering would definitely have given away his position and probably ensured that Aloy would never take him anywhere ever again.

Even with Hades defeated and the Shadow Carja retreated back into their hidey holes, bandits continued to crop up, harassing travelers and generally being a nuisance. Erend and the Vanguard had often been dispatched to deal with the ones closer to Meridian. This time, however, it had been pure chance that led him here. Aloy had wanted to show him a cauldron and share with him some of what she had been finding out about Gaia and the Old Ones. Due some time off anyway and eager to learn anything Aloy wanted to share, Erend jumped at the chance. They had been on the road when the bandits attacked. It had, of course, been suicide on their part, daring to attack both the Captain of the King's Vanguard and the Savior of Meridian.

"You suppose there's a camp nearby?" Erend had asked, nudging one of the dead bandits with his foot.

Aloy had shrugged. "Shall we find out?"

There had been a camp nearby and now here he crouched, waiting for Aloy to thin their numbers a bit before they charged in. He nearly yelped as Aloy materialized next to him in the grass. She was scarily quiet when she wanted to be.

"That's all I can get from out here," she said quietly. She tapped her focus. "There are at least 10 still inside, maybe more. And they have an alarm. I'll sneak in, disable the alarm. On my signal, you attack from the front and we'll . . ." She trailed off at his unabashed grin. "What?"

"I love when you talk dirty."

She rolled her eyes. "Focus, Erend."

"I'm focused. You go be sneaky and I'll come in loud and proud with my hammer. Bandits won't know what hit 'em."

"You're enjoying this way too much."

"What can I say? I get to clear out some bandits and spend time with the Savior of Meridian. Plus you're much better looking than my Vanguard."

Aloy was looking at him, an odd look on her face. Before Erend could ask what was wrong, she shook her head. "Wait for my signal," she said and slipped away. Erend frowned, wondering what he'd said. She didn't usually mind his flirting, shameless as it was. His thoughts were interrupted by a flurry of panicked shouts from inside the bandit camp. Hefting his war hammer, Erend stood up and charged the front entrance with a yell.

It was over in a matter of minutes. Between his hammer and Aloy's bow and spear, the bandits never stood a chance. Afterwards, as Erend cleaned his weapon and Aloy rooted around in some supply boxes, he brought the subject back up.

"Earlier, before we attacked, you seemed bothered. Was it something I said? Cause I have a big mouth and I say a lot of stupid things."

Aloy sat back on her heels. "Do you enjoy killing?"

He blinked. "Well . . . I mean, no, not really, but it has to be done. Someone comes at me or threatens someone else and I'll take him down, but no, it's not . . ." He trailed off, looking down at his bloodstained war hammer. "Sometimes the fight is enjoyable," he said quietly. "The adrenaline, the focus, the thrill of beating your opponent, but I . . . I wouldn't kill for sport or just for the hell of it." A hand on his shoulder startled him and Aloy sat down beside him, their hips touching.

"There was a man I met once," she said. "His name was Nil and he helped me clear out some bandit camps." Erend tamped down a flair of jealousy. "For him, it was a sport. He enjoyed killing them. The way he talked about it . . . it was like killing turned him on, excited him."

"I'm not like him, if that's what you're asking. I admit, I did enjoy all this, but only because I know what bandits do to innocent people. And because I got to be with you." She looked at him and he felt his cheeks go pink. "We should probably get moving right?" he said, standing and slinging his war hammer onto his back. "I don't know about you, but these camps give me the willies."

"Willies, huh."

"It's the spikes. And the weird machine corpse monuments."

Aloy shook her head with a smile. She stood and together they headed back to the road, leaving the bandit camp behind.

Not what I had originally thought of for this prompt, but this is where it ended up.