This story takes place immediately after Lady Knight. And uh, yeah. Nothing much more to say except, of course, this being me, it's probably going to be Kel/Neal.
Disclaimer: None of the settings or characters of Tortall belong to me, but rather to Tamora Pierce.
"So, when are you and Yuki getting married?" Kel inquired of her best friend, pulling Hoshi up beside his horse.
Neal smiled cheekily at her and replied, "As soon as you and Dom do," laughing as she glared at him. "Don't give me that look, I've seen you making eyes at him!"
Kel huffed indignantly. "I do not make eyes!" It was too girly for her.
"But you don't deny that you're in love with my cousin," Neal pointed out.
"Stop being stupid," grumbled Kel, regretting that she wasn't riding Peachblossom. He would make Neal shut up.
The rest of the trip went rather quickly and uneventfully. Kel avoided the topic of weddings around her friend, not wanting her crush on Dom brought up. When their group arrived at Fort Steadfast, an extremely enthusiastic Owen greeted them.
"Neal, Kel! You're finally here! Can you believe it? My ordeal's in only a couple of months!" his chubby face grew troubled at this.
Kel smiled and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I'm sure you'll be fine." She looked at the men shifting impatiently behind her. "Uh, where should we unpack?"
Owen's eyes widened. "Oh!" he exclaimed, "I can take the horses, and Yaledan will show you to your rooms," he said, beckoning to a young boy with pale hair and freckles. To the boy he added, "Just bring them to their rooms, so they can unpack their things." Yaledan nodded and started off to a formidable building, with Kel, Neal and their company trailing behind him.
"Here's the barracks," he said as he stopped by the door. "The soldiers will sleep here. Lord Wyldon says he wishes Sir Nealan and Lady Knight Keladry to stay in the headquarters." He looked at the two of them. "If you'll follow me…" The youth led them to their quarters, two rooms right next to each other. Each contained a desk, chair, small dressing table, and a bed. After Kel and Neal were settled, they met Yaledan in the hallway. "Lord Wyldon wishes to see you know," he informed them, and set off for their former training master's office.
When they arrived, he gestured for them to sit down and dismissed the boy. "It's been a few months since I've seen you two last," he said, handing them hot cups of cider. "How are things in New Hope?"
Over the next two hours, Kel and Neal informed him of the state of things in the new refugee camp. Kel noticed that toward the end, Neal was fidgeting anxiously. Once they had been dismissed and left the room, he let out an exasperated sigh.
"Finally, I can see Yuki!" he said, and with a quick hug to Kel around the shoulders, ran off to find his betrothed. Kel watched him go, chuckling to herself at her friend's impatience. But speaking of 'lovers'… I wonder where Dom is? She thought, and set out to find him.
She spotted him up on the wall near the gate, looking down the road. He heard her approach and turned to greet her.
"Kel! It's good to see you! How are things at New Hope? Is our Sir Meathead behaving himself?" he exclaimed, wrapping strong arms about her in a friendly hug. Kel grew giddy at his touch.
"Things get better every day. Meathead's doing well, we just lock him in the stocks when he misbehaves," she laughed, returning his embrace. As they pulled apart, Dom pretended to scrutinize her.
"You know, Lady Knight, I think you're getting taller. You might catch up to me still," he remarked, his blue eyes twinkling.
Kel laughed. "So how is Lord Raoul? Nervous?"
"Well, I think he's happy, but anxious about being 'tied down'. But he and Buri really love each other."
"Yes, they were meant to be together," Kel mused. "I think Lord Raoul's favorite part of being married will be avoiding all the pesky mothers at court events."
That drew a hearty laugh from Dom. Kel's stomach fluttered as they looked into each other's eyes. Down in the mess hall, a loud bell chimed, signaling that it was time for dinner. She looked down over her shoulder at the people steadily streaming in the doors.
"Well, I guess we'd better go- Neal needs someone to remind him to eat his vegetables," she sighed.
Dom looked away from her face suddenly. "Oh, yeah. I bet you're hungry after that long ride," he said as they walked down the steps.
Kel laughed in surprise as her stomach rumbled. "Starved!"
They joined Neal, Yuki, Owen, and a few soldiers from Kel's squad at a table after they had collected their food. Throughout the course of the meal, Neal and Yuki cooed at each other like doves. This irritated Kel a little more than it should have, which bothered her even more. After a particularly sickening statement, she hastily excused herself and left for her rooms, leaving her puzzled friends staring after her.
In her room, she grabbed her glaive from its resting place against the wall and started a particularly rapid and complicated pattern dance. It disturbed her that she didn't know why her friends' display so thoroughly disgusted her. They're lovers; 'cooing' is what they do! Of course they're going to get annoying, you just have to ignore it, She told herself. You're jealous. A nasty voice in her mind told her. I am not jealous! She yelled back silently. Oh, but you are. You wish it was you, in your lover's arms… the voice persisted. Kel didn't answer it. She was jealous, in a way. It had been a long time since somebody had kissed her, or held her. It's just so lonely sometimes. She sighed to herself. Enough. This isn't helping me. She sped up her glaive. It flew through the air, a blur of brown and silver. The door creaked open behind her, but it didn't register in her head. The cry of protest as she turned around did, however. Her glaive whipped to a stop scant inches from the intruder's face. Neal's shocked green eyes flashed at her.
"Really Kel, just because we were bothering you earlier doesn't give you leave to try to kill me!" he snapped in mock irritation.
She lowered the blade from her friend's face carefully. "You're just lucky that I have good control," she informed him. "Did you need something?"
Neal examined his fingernails. "Well aren't we blunt?" He shrugged nonchalantly, then looked up at her more seriously. "I was just wondering why you left dinner so suddenly. I'm sorry if we bother you," he said.
Kel shook her head slightly. "It's nothing. It's just been a long day," she said, stifling a fake yawn. She didn't really want to discuss this with him right now.
"Oh… all right then, if you're okay…" he started to turn around, but hesitated. "If you ever need anything Kel, you know I'm here for you," he told her, concern written all over his face. She couldn't help but smile at his caring. She put a hand on his shoulder.
He put a hand over hers briefly as he gave her a small smile and nodded in reply. Then he quietly left the room.
I look forward to the wedding tomorrow, thought Kel as she soaked in the tub, then undressed and slipped into bed. The gods know I could use some happiness.