M'kay. A quick lil' explanation. The "I love you" part was a combination of two things .(which, because I'm too lazy to write it all, are going to be assumed by the characters… well I don't know if I'm making sense, but after you read it, I think you will understand). One part was the actual part of them liking each other, but the other part, part two, was when they said "I love you," it was more of a love as in friendship-love, the type of love that you have that makes you want to be loyal and protect the other person… they're not at the "I love you"-I want to marry you and live with you for the rest of my life-type of love. I hope that clears up some of the rush that they seemed in last chapter.

Sorry for the huge lapse in time since my last update. RL has been a right bitch. Anywho, I hope this makes up for it.

Please review. Thank you very much to all those who have reviewed- you guys keep me going, brighten my day, and make me glad that I spend time writing.

Disclaimer: I own the world! Ahem, um, actually I don't. This is actually where I'm supposed to say that I don't own any of the stuff that Tamora Pierce made up--- but I so wish I owned Joren in his yummy goodness.

Oh and another note. This is an AU- things are not the way they happened in the books. Kel and Joren are going to be different than their book versions to a certain extent because their pasts are different. The confident and collected Kel we met in the POTS quartet grew up in a loving home with support from both her mother and father. This Kel did not. This Kel mentally raised herself, leaving her character a bit immature in some areas, such as self confidence and the ability to function independently from a man. The psychological reasons I have chosen for this Kel to be the way she is do follow.

Also, please keep in mind that this is set in a modern world. However, the class system and ideas are still the same as those of canon Tortall. Tortall is a monarchy and women aren't supposed to do "man's" work, like being a Knight.

Kel awoke at her usual hour the next morning, her sleeping habits unfazed by her late hour to bed the previous night. Joren had left earlier for a meeting with Wayland. They needed to find out more information about King Maggur. Stretching, Kel smiled at the memory of last night. She and Joren weren't lovers or anything, but she cared for him. She didn't want anything to happen to him. A large weight had been lifted from her shoulders, knowing that Joren had her back. It was also nice now that they weren't snapping at each other.

Attached to her pillow was a note in his tidy scrawl.


As you know I am meeting with Wayland. He called this morning and imparted to me some interesting information about King Maggur. Apparently he and King Maggot, don't frown at that (for indeed, Kel was frowning), are having a meeting later this week and wish for you and me to join him. Winslow is going to be at that meeting as well so we will have to figure out a way for you to avoid showing up. We can't disguise you because Wayland already knows what you look like. Don't fret. We'll figure something out. Until I get back, entertain yourself, but I do not suggest leaving the room. Winslow still prowls the halls. Order up some room service, my treat.


Kel grinned when she finished reading the letter. 'I think I could get used to this new Joren,' she mused to herself. In a good mood that was only slightly mulled by the information about Winslow Kel grabbed her shower things and headed to the bathroom to get cleaned up.

It was almost dusk by the time Joren returned. Kel was sprawled across the bed, book in one hand and soda in the other. "Welcome home," she supplied jokingly.

Joren smirked and walked over to the desk where he proceeded to lay down his briefcase and open it. "I got you something while I was out," he told her.

Like an eager child, Kel readjusted herself on the bed to anxiously await her gift.

"Here," Joren said, handing her a package.

It was small and light. Kel shook it a bit, then tore into the wrappings. With deft hands, she gently opened a black box. "Joren!" she exclaimed. "It's beautiful. Thank you so much."

Inside the box lay a silver necklace, a single sapphire drop on a short, delicate chain. "Let me put it on," he told her.

Patiently she held her hair out of the way as he fastened the clasp. "May I inquire as the occasion?"

"Well, I have a bit to make up for, Mindelan," he told her.

Kel frowned slightly at being addressed by her last name, but let it go. 'At least he's being amiable,' she thought to herself. "I see," was all she managed to come up with.

Joren walked over to the window and pulled open the curtains, letting the red hues of the sinking sun supplement the lighting of the room. The tall blonde stood and looked out at the magnificent sight.

Kel had not forgotten about the note Joren had left her that morning. "Have you thought about what I'm going to do about Winslow being at the meeting?" she asked hopefully.

Joren turned to her, his eyes warm. "I wondered what you would think about giving Wayland some of the truth about our predicament."

Shocked, Kel's eyes widened. "Excuse me?"

"Nothing bad," Joren hurriedly assured her. "Here's what I've come up with. We disguise you and meet with Wayland during the week before the meeting with Winslow. We would tell him that we had to disguise you because we noticed in the hotel guestbook that one of your former associates from Tortall was staying here. That way it will not be an issue at the meeting with Winslow. What do you think?"

"It's an inspired plan," Kel told him with a smile on her face. "I just wish that Winslow wasn't a part of this." She sighed softly, unconsciously fingering the sapphire drop at her throat.

Joren looked at her concerned. "I'm sorry, Kel," he said quietly. "I wish that there was another way where you wouldn't have to interact with him."

Kel nodded and looked away, embarrassed. They may have come to an understanding the night before, but years of disagreements did not go away over night. She'd built up her wall at the Academy- hiding behind her mask to avoid showing her weakness and now she'd shared everything with someone who could easily turn it against her. Hoping that she'd made the right decision in confiding in Joren, she got up and retrieved a pad of paper and pen.

"I'm going to make a list of things for you to pick up at the store. I will disguise myself tonight, okay?" Kel didn't wait for an answer, but instead began scribbling on the notepad. Finished, she ripped the sheet off the pad and handed it to Joren.

With amusement she watched as he read the list.

"Red hair color?" he asked with one eyebrow raised.

"I've always wondered what I'd look like as a redhead and now I have the perfect opportunity." She smiled at him, looking into his eyes. "You need to leave now if you are going to get to the store before it closes."

Joren nodded and folded the paper before sticking it in his pocket. He ran his fingers through his blonde hair, settling it into place. "Want me to pick up some food while I'm out?"

Kel nodded with an amused expression on her face. "Stop messing with your hair," she ordered gently. "You're going to pull it all out."

Shaking his head, Joren exited the room, willfully removing his restless hands from his hair.

Kel stared at herself in the mirror, her blue eyes dancing.

"Good job," a deep voice said behind her.

She turned to Joren with a soft smile on her face. "These contacts are taking a minute to get used to," she admitted.

"Well, Christiana, I'm glad that not everything is perfect. When we leave Scanra I don't think your friends would very much enjoy if you kept the disguise. They might blame me for getting rid of the old Kel."

Kel rolled her eyes. "I do wonder how Neal would react knowing that you and I have found we can be civil to one another."

Joren shrugged noncommittally. Truthfully he wasn't anticipating their return to Tortall. He had a feeling Neal wouldn't be pleased that he and Kel were on better terms.

The hotel phone rang, startling both Kel and Joren. The blonde went to pick it up.

Kel walked into the bathroom, to take another pass in front of a mirror with better lighting. She had done a wonderful job disguising herself. With makeup she'd covered all her freckles and had used eyeliner to enhance her deep blue orbs.

"Kel!" Joren's voice was urgent.

"What is it?" she asked, walking back into the room.

"Winslow and Wayland are on their way here. They want to meet now, something has come up. I told Wayland about your disguise."

Kel nodded her understanding. A sharp knock on the door made her jump. She quickly went to the table and sat, as Joren moved to the door to let in their guests.

"Wayland!" Joren exclaimed, reaching out a hand in greeting. He turned to the younger man, who stood at the door, and extended his arm. "I assume you are Winslow. It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Matthew."

Winslow quickly shook his hand, giving him a small nod. Kel was sitting at the table, the picture of a businesslike woman. Her laptop was open and she was typing furiously, the table around her covered with charts and figures. Feigning joyous surprise she stood and made her way towards the door.

"Wayland, it is good to see you," she said lightly, keeping her voice falsely bright. She hoped that Winslow wouldn't recognize her voice. It had been years, but she was very afraid.

Wayland shook her hand and turned towards Winslow. "Christiana, this is Winslow, my trusted partner. Winslow, this is Christiana."

Kel looked at Winslow and extended her arm in greeting. "It is wonderful to finally meet the man Wayland speaks so highly of," she said in the same light voice. "I apologize for my voice; I am getting over a cold." She smiled sweetly before returning to the table. "May I offer either of you a beverage?"

Wayland shook his head, but Winslow requested a soda. Kel retrieved one from the ice box in the room and got her and Joren water. The four sat around the small table.

Joren turned to Wayland. "You said it was urgent?"

"Unfortunately. It has come to my attention that King Maggur is planning on attacking Tortall with first melt. His weapon won't be completed until then and he is using the time to train his armies. However, he has amassed a smaller force in the south that will attack the northern border of Tortall within the next week. This is all very good and is all on schedule, yet, King Maggur is unhappy. He has made a new request of me that I have yet to fulfill."

Wayland paused and the others looked on expectantly. Kel and Joren were excited that such detailed battle information had been freely given to them, but were both apprehensive about King Maggur's most recent request. Both had schooled their features into those of intrigue and wonderment.

Wayland sighed before resuming. "He's requested a woman to do his bidding." Wayland's voice was suggestive; Kel knew exactly what King Maggur was looking for: a whore. "He says he will pay well. I told him I knew just the woman."

Kel gulped nervously, her face slipping into her Yamani mask.

The Tortallan traitor turned so that he was looking into Kel's eyes. "Will you comply?"

How far will Kel and Joren go to break down King Maggur's forces? Will they be able to find the Tortallan weapon plans in time? Stay tuned! Also, please review. The faster the reviews come in, the more motivation I have to write.