Disclaimer: Same as last time. Don't own em, don't want to. Well, that's a lie. Never mind.

Come up to meet ya, tell you I'm sorry,
You don't know how lovely you are,
I had to find you, tell you I need ya,
And tell you I set you apart,
Tell me your secrets, and nurse me your questions,
Oh lets go back to the start,
Running in circles, coming in tails,
Heads on a science apart,
Nobody said it was easy,
It's such a shame for us to part,
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard,
Oh take me back to the start
Coldplay – The Scientist
Underneath the Surface – Chapter 15 – The Loneliness That Binds Us

Kel had decided that the emptiness would be the thing that was bound to kill her one day. If not in body, then in soul.

Throughout her fairly full life, Kel had had a goal: to become a lady knight. It sounded so straight-forward at the beginning. Go for training, pass the test, kick bad guy butt.

If only it had been that simple.

She had struggled, fought, and blatantly defied authority in her quest to become the person she knew she could be. The pain seemed unbearable sometimes; she would occasionally collapse in the refuge of her room, reflecting on how empty her life had seemed at the time. She had no idea what real emptiness could really be... that the feelings that she had when she was a squire could carry over to knighthood... the omnipresent hollow that cut through the soul, eating away at the very core of her being... it was simply agonizing.

She had expected everything to be better when she was finally knighted. When she could finally say that she had done something important with her life. She had expected everything to be the same as when she was distantly happy. She had been wrong.

Over the years, a subtle alienation had presented itself in Kel's behavior. The need to succeed was prevalent in her actions. Perhaps it was more her need to prove it to herself than anything. It had driven all her senses to an extreme; pushing and pressing to an almost breaking point. It was easy for Kel to lie to herself about it. It was so simple to just expect that everyone she had driven everyone away to come back to her once she was ready: her family and friends, even those she didn't consider friends, but rather, not enemies per se. She had never counted on them finding themselves just when she was inclined to come back to them.

She had found them changed when she had decided it was time to stop alienating herself from the world. Her relationship with Cleon would never be the same. The spark had long since faded in their long term, yet distant relationship. What she had once delighted in had lost its fervor, its passion. The thing that had bothered her most about Cleon was that it didn't worry her much. She could have cared less; that distance she put between herself and others for so many years was truly becoming apparent for the first time.

The others had been no different. Neal had gone off and found himself in Yuki, discovering the depths and intricacies a true relationship could hold. She barely talked to Merric any longer. Even the ever affectionate Owen had grown to be a hazy mass of uncertainty; instead of him adoring her for herself, he did it because of what he had heard of her; her deeds and actions the things he loved her for. It was similar to that of a fan loving a player for his part instead of his person. It ate at her, and she had hated them all for it for a while.

Then, she had begun to hate herself.

Questioning yourself is never a good thing, especially when it came to Kel. She had begun to doubt herself in the most fundamental ways possible, and in doing that, developed something loosely resembling an inferiority complex. It came to the point where she couldn't make a decision without consulting of one of her friends or superiors, be it Dom, Raoul, or even Lord Wyldon. It had been the latter of them that had, strangely, seen the change in Kel the most, the indecision that had been a growing factor in her behavior as of late. He had consulted Lord Raoul, who, once it was pointed out to him, agreed in Wyldon's assumptions. He spread the word to Dom and Cleon, who were stationed at his post, and slowly, they began to restore Kel to the person she had once been.

Cleon had been the key factor, strangely. She had seen the most of him while at war; their companionship had grown from an unsteady friendship to an unbreakable comradeship. They were kindred spirits in every sense of the word. Dom had returned routinely and given his part in making Kel feel as if she were part of a functional group, but it was Cleon who was her rock. It was Cleon's shoulder she had cried on when one of her friends died from a sudden Scanran attack, Cleon's fingers that brushed away the tears.

And slowly, she began to feel like she belonged.

When news came of Neal's wedding, she couldn't have been happier. She would have the chance to renew the bonds of friendship she had with not only him, but Yuki, Owen, and the rest. But as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men are oft led astray. (A/N: A.k.a. why oh why didn't I take the blue pill?) She had left with Cleon for the capital, and the rest is history.

Waking up in her bed that morning was perhaps one of the most painful things Kel ever had to do. She felt those old feelings of emptiness returning to her, that distinct sensation of overwhelming numbness that made her feel absolutely nothing. She wanted to feel pain, or remorse, but all she felt was devastatingly empty.

Groaning, she forced herself to sit up. She still hurt from last night. There would be blood on her sheets. She would have to go and get them cleaned herself. She didn't trust anyone else to clean them and possibly spread gossip about any nightly visitors and the blood. Mustn't have that...

Kel shook her head. She was being silly. They wouldn't think that it was from that... They would just assume she had her monthlies a little early. She was being paranoid...

'Or careful?'

If anyone found out about the activities she and Neal had joined in last night, they would both be ruined. Yuki would almost undoubtedly denounce any relations she ever had with Neal. Kel's name would be stained, probably indefinitely. Dom would never forgive her. Well, perhaps he would. Not that it mattered. It wasn't like he was going to find out anyway.

Kel sighed. 'All this guilt and worry for one night of pleasure... It almost seems not worth it.'

Fingering her pregnancy charm, she edged over to the side of the bed and swung her legs over the side. She had grabbed the charm somewhere in the fray of hurried kissing and frenzied tongues and put it on. Getting pregnant certainly would not be the answer everyone was looking for. Neal had stopped for a moment after he saw that she had put it on. He had looked down at the base of her neck and ran slim fingers over her chest before meeting her eyes. All she had done was stare back in a state of calm acceptance. His hand had found the back of her neck and he cupped her head before bringing her in for a bruising kiss...

Kel shuddered almost violently. She had concluded that Neal was like a drug. Once you did him once, you had to keep doing him or you would go into withdrawl. And Kel, currently, had a very serious case of it.

Standing up, Kel walked over to her dresser, consciously avoiding view of the window. It was going to be a long day.

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

Dear Journal,

It is at times like this when I detest my life with a fiery passion.

Neal sat awake in his bed, clutching his leather bound journal in his hands, trying to sort through the past night's activities with some semblance of objectivity. It hadn't worked so far, but he was willing to keep sitting here until the entire world forgot about him and he never had to go out there again. It would be so much easier than facing them. They would greet him like nothing had happened, like nothing had changed, but he would know that it had. It would haunt him, and he hated it.

It's not like I haven't had other one night stands before.

Neal fingered his quill. He was trying to be objective. To look at his actions with a neutral, clear thinking state of mind. It hadn't worked so far, and he had little hope that that would change.

Admittedly, those one night stands have never been with a person I consider to be one of the closest people in my life. Who I had – at one point – been madly attracted to. They had always been people I considered below myself, too lowly to be taken into consideration of a serious relationship. An extremist might call them whores, in the non-literal sense, but I, myself, am too noble to think of myself as sleeping with whores. Too damn arrogant and self contented...

Neal clenched his lips together tightly. This was not thinking objectively.

I am getting ahead of myself.

I am afraid of the consequences of my actions. Never before has a woman so thoroughly driven me mad. I am afraid for myself, afraid for her. She will be ruined if the conservatives ever find out. They will tear her to shreds, and leave the pieces out to rot. And it will be all my fault. It's strange, really. I'm used to being so egotistical, so self-centered, and yet, all I can think of is her. I feel as if her very blood is coursing through my veins, her thoughts, mine, her needs, mine... I want to hold her in my arms and take comfort in her, and it kills me because I know I can't. Because it can never happen again. I didn't tell her why I needed her so specifically last night. Why I could not bear not to have her for the rest of the darkness, until dawn's soft waves caressed my skin, a soft touch of silk and warmth. I didn't tell her, and I should have.

I think it was the strip joint that did it. That made me know so suddenly, and so completely, that I wanted her. Needed her. That terribly raw look in her eyes when she confessed her true feelings to me overcame any doubt I ever had about her.

She loved me.    

She loved me, and I was going to be forced to let her go. She was going to leave my life forever. Well, perhaps not forever, but in every way that counted, she was going to leave me. I couldn't let her go right away. I needed the time with her we had been cheated out of when we were younger. So I asked her to give me the night, and I would leave her when day came around. She consented, and it probably made things harder.

It would have been so much simpler if we had just realized our feelings back when we were teenagers. When we were – innocent, untainted. When we didn't think of things so jadedly. Kel has changed, it's obvious. She's – quieter, more reserved. The only times I truly see her as she was is when we're alone together. Out in the open, though... she is as foreign to me as a group of barbarian Scanrans, and just about as cold. It pains me to think of her this way. As this distant, detached shadow of herself. It pains me as nothing has ever pained me before. Kel had always been the constant in my life, my firm foundation in which to plant my feet. It is as if, suddenly, that foundation shifted, and a schism cut through it, slicing down the middle and down into her core. I am left with my feet straddling a surface that is extremely likely to throw me down into the gaping hole below.

I am afraid of what is to ensue due to our actions. It is uncertainty that vexes me, that knowledge that I have almost no control of what is to happen. Generally, I like control. It feels very safe, very secure. I am not used to viewing my life as if from the point of view of an outsider, watching from the distance, confined to observation and not action. It is very constricting and more than a bit scary. That plaguing intangibility that will be my downfall...     

I want to make myself a promise: Whatever happens, I will rise to it and meet it, head on. I will not live my life in fear of being discovered. I will not be afraid of what is to happen. A life lived in fear isn't a life lived at all. I will conquer this uncertainty, and I will laugh at it when I am finished. And maybe, at the end, she'll be there, at my side, my constant, my foundation, my rock.

And perhaps, my love.

-Nealan of Queenscove

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

"'Lo, love. How are you feeling?"

Kel blinked. 'Right. I'm supposed to be courting him. God I hate him. Why can't he and Yuki both go and just get together or something? Things would be so much easier. But no. Fate despises me.'

"I'm feeling better, thanks. Much better, actually. That extra sleep really helps."

"I'm sure," Dom responded as he put an arm around her waist as she sat down at the breakfast table. "You're sure you don't want to see a healer?"

Kel looked at him. "I'm sure," she said, light sarcasm leaking through the cracks of her voice. Dom glanced at her for a moment before looking away, slightly hurt.

"I was just concerned."

"Don't be."

Dom raised his eyes to look at her in something akin to alarm. He stared at her for a few moments in uninterrupted, tangible silence.

"Am I interrupting something?" a clear voice rang from behind the couple. Kel broke Dom's gaze to see Yuki come up from behind them and sit next to Dom. Kel raised an eyebrow at the Yamani's choice of seating.

"No, you're not interrupting anything, Yuki. Dom and I were just having a little discussion."

"Oh? About what?"

"Nothing. It's not important," Dom cut in quickly before turning to Kel and giving her a weak smile. She felt her heart wrench. She did not want to be the one to break Dom's heart, and yet she constantly found herself doing it.

"Well, that's okay. Kel, have you seen Neal? I tried looking for him last night, but couldn't find him."

Kel felt Dom shift in his seat as his grip around her waist tightened.

"Actually, I saw him for a bit last night. He came right after you did, Dom, but left a couple of minutes later."

"Did you ask him to heal you?" Dom asked, something loosely resembling anger leaking through his voice.    

"I didn't think I needed it," Kel responded, a warning making itself apparent in her tone.

"But you were sick," Dom stated. "The smart thing to do would have been to at least ask him to have a look at you."

Kel would have blushed if she wasn't angry. "You know what Dom? I'm in a really crappy mood. So stop it. Just – stop." She shook herself out of his hold and turned her back to him.

Dom stared at her backside in concern. Tentatively, he put a hand on Kel's shoulder. "I'm sorry, love. I'm just – not used to you being this way."

"What way?" Kel asked, her voice rising as she turned back to him.

"Well – eh... you're usually so... contented. I've never really seen you in a truly bad mood. I'm sorry. I'll – stop." He looked down at his hands and away from Kel. She glanced at him through sad eyes.

'I am such a bitch.'

Slowly, Kel put her hand over his. She would learn to love him. She would have to.

Yuki coughed from beside Dom. Kel had almost forgotten her. Almost.

"I'm sorry, Yuki. You were saying, about Neal?" Kel asked, leaning over to have a clear look at her. She was perfect, as usual. Yuki would look perfect in the middle of a hurricane. Her hair was carefully pinned in its usual state, a bit of lip rogue lightly covering her soft mouth. She was wearing a light purple kimono that seemed to fit perfectly in every way possible.

'What the hell does Neal see in me?'

"Oh, right. Because you see, I was looking for him around eight o'clock, but I couldn't find him in his rooms, or the library, or even the kitchens," Yuki continued.

"Hm. Maybe he went out or something," Dom stated, his tiff with Kel momentarily forgotten.

"Maybe... did he mention anything to you, Kel? Perhaps where he was going?"

Kel kept that perfectly straight face it had taken her years to acquire. "No. I don't know what to tell you, Yuki." All Kel could feel was empty, distant. Lying to her friends had bothered her once. Now it had become a habit.

"Hm... I wonder where he could have gone."

"Where who could have gone?"

Kel visibly jumped when she saw Neal standing directly behind her.

"Oh, Neal! We were all wondering where you were last night."

Neal gave her a blank gaze. "I went into the city."

"Oh." Silence stretched between the two lovers. "What for?"

"Just felt like it," he responded as he sat down besides Dom.

"Oh. Well, you could have invited us. We would have come with you."

"I know. I invited Kel, but she was sick."

Yuki turned to Kel sharply. "But I thought you said that you didn't know where Neal went last night."

Kel blinked. "I uh... didn't. He asked me if I wanted to go out, and I said I was sick. I didn't ask anything past that."

Yuki looked at her for a moment before shrugging and turning back to Neal. "So what did you do?"

Neal shrugged as her turned to his food and ignored her.

"Neal?" Yuki asked expectantly.

"I didn't do anything. Absolutely nothing." He continued to eat.

Yuki gazed at him, wide eyed at his behavior, before averting her glance away from him. She was silent for a moment before she spoke up. "Did something happen, you two? You're both acting strange."

Kel met Neal's gaze for the first time since she had woken up. He was staring back at her, his eyes intense, face impassive. She could barely stand it. He was so close, and yet so far away. She wanted to reach over and touch his face, and was wounded with the very knowledge that she couldn't.

It was Neal that broke the gaze first. "Nothing's wrong, love. Nothing at all."

Yuki continued staring at the two of them, even as Cleon bounded in, his usual, unnaturally happy, perky self.

"Hello, everyone. You all get enough sleep last night?"

Kel visibly blushed. Dom noticed it, but chose not to say anything.

"Why? Have something planned for us today, Cleon?" Neal retorted dryly.

"Hm. Not particularly. Just wondering, for the most part."

"Well, wonder somewhere else," Neal snapped. "Somewhere far away from me."

Kel glared at him. "What's your problem, Neal? He's just being his usual idiotic self."

Neal shook his head wordlessly at her, his eyes fierce with anger. "Oh, stop pmsing, Kel."

Kel's jaw dropped as she looked at her one time lover with barely contained shock. "Well, someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed."

"More like the wrong bed altogether," Neal mumbled to himself.

"What?" Yuki asked, an ounce of distress escaping her voice.

Neal turned to her sharply, his face an array of resentment. He let out a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment before speaking. "I – I told you I went into the city last night. Well, I had a couple of drinks, and I woke up this morning in the middle of the street. I did not have a good night, so stop being so goddamn annoying!" He said this last part looking at Kel.

She scowled at him. "Fine. Just – fine. Be like that. Asshole."

Neal looked at her wordlessly. "Oh, you know what? Fuck you," he hissed before getting up and leaving the table, exiting the mess without a backward glance.

Kel seethed inwardly. She hated him. He was making her life a mess. A horrible, terrible mess, that seemed to be quite ongoing. She wanted to punch him. Or at least kiss him. She was really beginning to wonder if their relationship truly was hate/love.

"I'm going to the practice courts. I need to hit something," Kel stated simply before she got up to leave.

"Kel..." Dom started, grabbing her arm. Kel looked at him wordlessly. "Don't do anything stupid."

Kel, on the verge of saying something regrettable, stopped herself. He was just concerned. She would not punish him for caring about her. Silently, she nodded and left the mess, in the opposite direction that Neal took.

Dom blinked. This certainly was – odd. Kel and Neal – perpetually mad at each other. Not that they hadn't been mad at each other before, but this was taking it to a bit of an extreme. To the possible extent of them never talking to each other civilly again.

Dom blanched. No, that wouldn't happen. They would make up.


"I'll go after her," Cleon said suddenly, once Kel was out of range. "Make sure she's all right."

Dom looked at the red head with something akin to graciousness. "Thank you. I don't think she would stand me right now."

"Hm. You're probably right." His acceptance of Dom's statement made him frown. However, there was a time and place for everything, and currently, things did not need to get any worse.


Cleon nodded once before getting up and turning to leave, his footsteps echoing through the mess hall.

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

"Who the fuck does he think he is?" Kel asked herself as she pounded the training dummy. "I mean – he thinks he can just waltz back into my life and act like an ass! As if he didn't know I was going to be mad at him for yelling at Cleon. Gods, I get mad at him for practically everything; yelling at one of my best friend's should be at the top of the list! Why is he doing this?"

She kicked the head off of the training dummy.


"You have some major rage in you, girl."

Kel whirled around to face Cleon with hard, impassive eyes. She stared at him for a moment before telling him, "I don't want to deal with you right now."

Cleon shrugged. "Too bad. What the hell is wrong with you?"

Kel made a face at him before turning away from him. "Nothing," she said, picking up the head and placing it back on the body in the most realistic way possible.

"That's bullshit, and you know it."

"So what?" she asked. "It's not like it matters."

"It matters to me."

Kel turned abruptly to face him. "You know, I don't care. I don't care if it matters to you, I don't care if it matters to Dom, or Yuki, or hell, even Neal. I don't care."

Silence stretched between the two of them so thickly that Kel swore she could have tasted it. Cleon just stared at her for a moment. Then, he walked toward her, full of purpose and intent.

"You need a sparring partner? Since you've broken the dummy over there." He nodded to the straw figure.

Kel watched him for a moment, her eyes unflinching, cold. Cleon was the one person she could count on right now to do the right thing. He would never hurt her or take advantage of her. She could trust him.


"Fine. Don't beat me up too badly, though. I want to have feeling in my limbs tomorrow."

"Hm. That's nice," Kel said as she walked up to him.

"I'm serious. Numbness, although wonderfully blissful for a while, wears off after a couple of hours. Then the bruises will set in, and then it will be just painful, generally."

"I'll keep that in mind," Kel said as she nodded to him that she was to start. Cleon set himself in a fighting stance.

"Now don't think I'll go easy on you-"

Kel had kicked him in the shin.

"Ow! Jeez, Kel, do you have to-"

Kel punched him in the ribs.

"Gods, that was my-"

Kel jabbed her elbow into his stomach.

"Okay, you can stop now..." Cleon said, coughing up bile.

"Oops. Sorry, Cleon."

"Yeah, I'll bet. I bet you were just dying to do that all summer long."

"Hm. Not really."

"Yeah." Cleon coughed again, then spit. "Anyway..."

Abruptly, Cleon ran up to her and tackled her, picking her up from the back of her legs to lift her up above his shoulders.

"Gah! Cleon! Let me down!"

"No! Not until you tell me what the hell is going on!"


"Fine, then." Cleon walked steadily over to the area the pages and squires used for bathing. It would be empty now, since it was so early in the morning, but that didn't make the idea sound any more appealing to Kel.

"Cleon, put me down this instant!"

Kel saw Cleon's grin from out of the corner of her eye. "No," he stated simply as he strode over to the pond.

"Don't you dare, Cleon."

"And why not?" he asked cheerfully.

"Because. I will kill you."

"Hm. I hear the black god's realm is nice this time of year."


"Any last requests, milady?"

By then, they had reached the edge of the pool. Kel leered at it from her upside down position. He wouldn't dare...

Cold, icy water stung through Kel's body.

Or maybe he would. 

"Cleon!" she shrieked. "Cleon, I can't believe you just did that!"

A throaty laugh bubbled from his lips. "And yet, you're sitting there wet, while here I am, dry." He laughed again. "You look good wet, did you know that?"

"Oh, you are so dead once I get out of here."

"Really? Are you going to chase me then, milady?"

Suddenly, Kel grinned wickedly. "No, I don't think I'll have to chase you very far." She smirked as she reached over for Cleon's pant leg to pull him in. He landed with a resounding splash in the pool. "Nope, not far at all."

Cleon surfaced, wiping his hair out of his eyes. "You are an evil woman, did you know that, Kel?"

"So I've been told."

Cleon snorted from a few feet away from her. "Now that you're at least smiling," he said, his own grin matching hers, "can you please tell me what's bothering you?"

Kel's face went cold again. A frown presented itself on her features, distant and detached. Cleon's face changed to echo hers. He walked slowly closer to her, their bodies a length away. Kel lowered her gaze to avoid his eyes.


Cleon placed two wet fingers under her chin and forced her eyes upwards. "I'm not going to judge you. I've never done anything but been your friend. Why are you afraid to trust me?"

Kel stared at him for an indefinite amount of time. Seconds had the weight of minutes. Kel could hardly stand him looking at her that way. He loved her. She knew he did. Maybe not in the way Dom did, or Neal did, but he still loved her. He would cry if she died, and give up his life for her, given the chance. He had never let her down as of yet, and she truthfully didn't believe that he would any time soon.

Yet, there was a part of her that doubted…

"Cleon, please don't ask me."

Cleon recoiled as if he had been struck. He had been so sure that she would open up to him... so sure...

"Fine. Fine. If you want to live the rest of your life alone, with no one to rely on, lying to yourself, be my guest. But if you want to live the way you were supposed to, with friends and people that care about you, then you know that my door is always open."

He turned his back on her and slowly ascended out of the pool.

"Cleon, wait."

Cleon froze mid-step.

"Come back, please. Please, just – just come here and be with me."

Cleon slowly turned back around, looking plaintively at her. His glance told her everything that he thought about her, from the loneliness he knew she endured, to the emptiness that ate at her in the dark hours of the night.

He walked over to her deliberately and carefully, each step planned and intended. He stopped when he reached her, pulling her close to his body and holding her to him tightly. Kel slowly felt all her anger at him, all her anger at the world slowly dissipate. She was used to holding people, but never being held. When she was holding others, it was always a sign that she protected them, that she was the one to keep guard over them. Actually being held was a different experience all together. She felt safe, protected. The world could collapse around her and she would be oblivious until those arms untangled themselves from her body.

When Cleon finally released her, all she could feel was a certain serenity that came from having an utter content with the world. She took a deep breath, and she smelled the sweet scent of vanilla. Cleon always smelled like vanilla. Amazing the things you notice when you finally let your guard down.

Cleon was looking at her, examining her. His gaze was scrutinizing, yet accepting at the same time. He looked at her with such affection, such pure devotion...

"I slept with Neal last night."

Cleon blinked. "It's about time."

Kel pulled back from him. "What?"

Cleon grinned. "After the ball, Ermelian and I both agreed that you two were in love."

Kel blinked. "Ah. Because, you know, that makes it so clear."

"Heh. Doesn't it?"

Kel snorted. "So I told you. So now what?"

"Well... let's start out with the basics: what are you and Neal going to do now?"

Kel stopped for a moment. Slowly, she began: "We agreed that we had to break it off." Cleon nodded at her statement. "But – I don't know, Cleon. I just – I don't know what I feel about him. I know – I know I'm attracted to him, that's kind of a given."

"But what you want to know is: do you love him?" Cleon finished for her.

"Well, yeah."

"Hm..." Cleon pondered. "Does he love you?"

"I don't know. It's not like I asked him."

"Maybe you should have."

"You are kidding, right?"

"Not really."

"Hm. That's kind of not an option, I'm afraid."

"What, asking him if he loves you?"

"Well... yes. What am I supposed to do, just stroll up to him and ask, 'oh, by the way, Neal, are you in love with me?'" Kel snorted.

"Well, perhaps you shouldn't be that forward in it."

"Perhaps." A smile escaped Kel's lips.

Cleon paused before he continued. "Are you going to tell him at all?"

Kel looked up at him and thought about her answer before she spoke. "Truthfully... probably not."

"Oh." Cleon looked down at her. "So you're just going to let him get married? Just like that?"

"I don't have much choice."

"Sure you do. Tell him. Break up the wedding. Who cares what the conservatives think, as long as you're happy."

"It's not that simple. It's not just the conservatives I'm worried about, it's Yuki, and Dom, and the people I actually care about."

"Hm. That does present a problem."

"Just slightly."

Cleon sighed before he answered her. "Well, listen, Kel. If you're not going to tell him, and you're going to just let him get married and walk away, my advice is to just do everything you can in order to get over him."

"Get over him... how?"

"Whatever you need, love. Whatever you need. Now come on, walking around in wet clothes in the middle of October will get us both sick, and what will Neal do with an ill maid of honor and usher?"

Kel shook her head as he accompanied her out of the pool. 'Get over Neal... How the hell am I supposed to do that? Nothing short of a miracle, or marriage...'

Cleon had watched Kel as they treaded out of the pool. He had no idea how she would do, now that she had consented to give Neal up. 'It must kill her inside, to watch Neal just go and give himself to another woman. Better be prepared with plenty of tissues...'

He was remotely surprised, therefore, when suddenly, Kel grinned.

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

Dear Journal,

Scratch that bit before. I have decided that I don't want Kel anymore. Only a complete mad man would ever want that woman. Who does she think she is? Making a scene like that, in front of everyone, is inexcusable! Now they're going to be even more suspicious, asking questions and prodding and poking and I'll never be able to get any sleep at night! Sensibly, she should have just let the Cleon remark go. It's not as if we haven't exchanged repartee before. Hell, we do it all the time! And her, of all people, should have known that I would be in an amply bad mood when I came to breakfast this morning. She kept me up all night as it is...

I am convinced that she will drive me mad one day.

Of all the idiotic things... going off like that! I admit, I did lead her on a bit, telling her to stop pmsing and being so annoying, but really, calling me an asshole? Was that really called for? She was the one that said that we couldn't do this anymore. I would have been perfectly happy to drop Yuki for her in a second, if she had only let me. Well, perhaps not perfectly happy, but willing, nonetheless! If she would only stop being so damn self-righteous and see that I am here for her, waiting for her, wanting her... I cannot help how I feel, or how seeing her sets me on fire. I cannot help how badly I wanted to touch her when I looked at her this morning. I cannot help that insatiable passion that drives me to want her, to crave her...

Perhaps I should not have been so rash.

I knew our tempers would both be easily ignited. I let myself go in the heat of the moment, and in doing that, possibly lost any affection she could have retained for me.

I am a fool.

A fool in love.

God help me.

-Nealan of Queenscove

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

"What do you suppose is going on?" Yuki asked as she and Dom walked back to her rooms after breakfast. They had carefully avoided any conversation regarding Kel and Neal up to this point, evading any uncomfortable moments. They both, however, knew that it would come down to this.

"With Kel and Neal?" Dom asked, looking at her. Yuki nodded wordlessly. "I have no idea."

"I don't see what could be the matter. They've always had their tiffs before, but never like this... and as far as I know, Neal has never cursed at her. What he said..."

"It was inexcusable."

"Yes... but the things Kel said, too. She could have let the Cleon remark go, we both know it." Dom nodded as he looked at her. "Do you know if they got into a fight before they came here?"

"Well," Dom started. "Neal had been at Kel's rooms last night. Maybe they had a misunderstanding that carried over to today."

"Some misunderstanding..." Yuki trailed off. She paused before she continued. "You don't think it's anything – permanent, do you?"

"You mean... a falling out?"


Dom let out a deep breath before speaking. "I hope to god that it isn't. Because if they can't make it, no one can."

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

Kel had retreated to her room for the rest of the day. She definitely wanted to avoid seeing Neal accidentally and having another confrontation with him. She would either end up beating him to death, or undressing him in the middle of the hallway. She wasn't sure which was the lesser evil.

She had to stop thinking about him. Anything, if it would just keep her mind off of him for one bloodied second. Cleon had offered to stay with her after she had cleaned up, an offer she had declined. Now, she almost wished she had his company to keep her busy.

'How am I going to let him walk down the aisle in three days?' Kel thought wordlessly to herself. 'I can barely stand to see him with Yuki, let alone let him marry her. I need something to get him out of my head. Images of him plague me, my thoughts, my dreams... I thought it would go away, but it didn't. I thought I could just ignore it, and it would leave. Why do I crave him so? Why is my lust left so insatiable?'

Kel took a deep, hissing breath. She had to focus on getting over him, not being more in love with him.

'I thought I could just taste it. That I could just have a little, and that would be it. I never dreamt I could get sucked into his world, consumed by his passions... I need to stop thinking like this. It's going to get me killed. Maybe not physically, but emotionally...'

'Cleon was right. I need to get over him.'

'But how the hell am I supposed to do that? Beats me if I know.'

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

Dom had retired to bed at around nine o'clock that night. Relatively early for him, but considering that the wonder twins were still fuming, it was probably best.

He had no idea what to do about Kel. She had seemed – testier, as of late. She had changed, undoubtedly, since he had greeted her on her first day back from the border. She had become – more outgoing, yet cooler, at the same time. A contradictory statement, but somehow, it worked. He needed to find some way to break her out of this – funk that she was going through. He was so afraid that whatever was going on with her would never get better.

What was worse was that he felt like he was helpless to stop it. Kel was the type to do things on her own, even if it meant taking the fall alone. She would shut him out, and he wouldn't be able to do anything about it. He hated that she could be so stubborn, so self-righteous. If only she would just let someone help her...

Then again, just as we can't change who we are, we also can't change the ones we love, no matter how much we know it will help them. If Kel was going to act obstinate and immovable, he would just have to let her see for herself that she was in for a huge downfall. The only person Kel was going to listen to was herself, now that Neal was out of the picture.

Dom's musings were interrupted by a sharp knock on his door. It rang quick and clear in his ears. Glancing down at the side of his bed, he reached down for the pants he had so carelessly discarded before crawling into bed. Having an unknown visitor see him in his loincloth was generally not be the best idea.  

Slipping on his pants, he stumbled to the door. Opening it quickly, he raised his eyebrows when he saw who was standing there.

"Eh... hi Dom."

Dom blinked. "Kel. I ah... didn't expect to see you."


Dom broke the silence that had stretched between them first. "Do you want to come in?"

"Eh... yeah."

Moving to the side, Dom opened the door wider so that Kel could step in. Her arm brushed his, and he shivered slightly. Closing the door behind her, Dom turned to face her. She was gazing around his room with interest, something bordering on curiosity. Dom raised an eyebrow.

"See anything of interest?"

Kel turned to look at him. "No. I mean - not that you don't have anything of interest here, I mean, it's just..." Kel stopped, blushing.

"It's all right. You want to sit down?" Dom asked, motioning to a chair near his desk. Kel gave him a small smile and sat down, Dom seating himself on the desk itself. Kel looked up at him, towering over her.

"Eh... do you mind if you sit someplace... lower? I'll hurt my neck looking up at you like that."

Heat crept up Dom's face. "Oh. Sorry. I'll get a chair."

Kel gave him a tight smile as he slid down from the table and brought a chair over to where they were sitting. Sitting down, his lips curved up in a grin. "So... what do I owe the honor of your presence?"

Kel took in a deep breath. "Well, first, I want to say that I'm sorry for this morning. I – was in a bad mood."

"I noticed."

Kel gave him a look before continuing. "And I – I just want you to know..." Kel's voice trailed off.

Dom raised his eyebrows expectantly at her. What was so important that she was this fidgety about it?

"Yes?" he asked, his voice anticipating.

"I want you to know – that I love you. And that I would never do anything to hurt you."

Dom blinked. Kel - loved him?

"You – you love me."

"I guess it's like you said, we've known each other for so long, that we sorta didn't need all that courting crap to tell us that."

"Uhm... yeah..."



"Eh... I know this is sorta... well, sudden, but uh..."


"One day... do you think that maybe... we could..."

Silence stretched between the two of them.

"Yes, Kel?"

"That maybe we could get married?"

Dom blinked. Did she just –


"Well, yes. And I know that we couldn't for a very long while, because you know, men in the king's own can't be married, but – "

Dom leaned over and placed a finger over Kel's lips. It was callous and rough, nothing of the gentile smoothness of Neal's. Kel leaned into his hand as Dom shifted to cup her cheek.

"Of course, one day. You know I wouldn't say no."

Kel let out a sigh of relief as a smile dazzled her face. "Good." She simply stared at him for a moment, thinking. He loved her so much. He was willing to give things to her that no other man would have been so tolerant of. He gave her all of him, and expected the same in return. Kel would never so willingly gave all of herself to a man. She would always find some way to hold back, to not bestow that one last bit. Sad, but true. The only man she had ever done that with was Neal, and he had broken her heart.

"Ah... Dom?"


"Why don't you come to bed?"

Dom looked at her, his eyes bright. "Uh... Kel, are you-"

"I'm sure, if that's what you're asking."

"Well... if you're sure..."

"I am."

Dom swallowed, his throat convulsing slightly. "Well then... okay..." He took her hand and led her into his bedroom, Kel following him, her eyes for him only.

'Remember... anything to get over him...'

* ~ * ~ * ~ *



Okay, I'm done now. Anyway. I hate this chapter. It's so freaking depressing. And angsty. And not funny. Bleh. Cept for Kel beating up Cleon. I found that amusing. But anyway. Ohmigod! 510 reviews, dudettes! 510!!! I feel like I should make it in all big capital letters, but you sorta can't, since they're numbers and all. Hm. Shame. Oh well. I am VERY VERY SORRY!!!! (I was gonna use French, but Nell made it all confusing and damn her) I don't think I've updated in like... a month. I was so busy... tests and homework and quizzes galore. Galore. Funny word. Teehee. Right. I want to thank you all who kept reviewing, even when I didn't update. And for everyone who cheered me up when I was having that weird ass pmsing thing a while back. Y'all are so sweet. Anyway. IM me! Teh... By the way, anyone read Anita Blake? Cerulean Sins came out yesterday! YES! FINALLY! Heh... Eh... still accepting people for the mailing list, y'all. So go and put in a review that you want to be on. And then I'll put you on. And it'll all be good. Riiight. Okay. This is a long ass a/n. I'm gonna go now...

*flings self into 4th dimension... again*