A/N: I know I said this would be up 3 months ago but it proved harder to write than I'd originally planned. When I started school, I had too much to do to write anything and I've only now had the chance as I'm on holidays. All I can say, is better late than never! I hope you all understand that even the best-laid plans go waste.
Disclaimer: None of this belongs to me. I'm not profiting from it in any way, except maybe satisfaction wise.
PLEASE NOTE: The A/N at the end of the chappie has a couple of important things in it that I'd like you readers to know. So, read it when you're done!
"Oh Neal. I love you. I don't know how and I don't know why. All I know… is that I do."
"That's good enough for me. I'm so glad you kissed me. I might have been hopping around the truth for years. I probably would only have spoken up at your wedding."
Kel giggled and leaned into me. "In true Meathead fashion."
I laughed loudly and said, "Kel?"
"Yes?" she asked, looking up.
I looked her full in the face and suddenly had no words left.
I shook my head. "Nothing."
And I gathered her in my arms and thoroughly kissed her.
My Greatest Fear
Chapter 10: Opening the Door
The door of the Chamber swung shut silently and swiftly behind Kel's back, leaving her in pitch black and my stomach in knots.
'So begins one of the longest nights of my life. Oh, how will I occupy myself? There's absolutely no chance of sleep.'
My friends seemed to be thinking along the same lines because when I turned, I found them all gathered together.
"Come on Neal," said Merric, "We're all going to my rooms to wait out the night. You ought to come with us."
I was given a split-second to consider the proposal before Shinko and Yuki came up on either side of me. They each took an elbow and, when I looked into each of their Yamani faces, they smiled sweetly, as if daring me to refuse.
"You know Merric," I said, "that might not be such a bad idea."
He grinned and nodded but I could see in his eyes a certain quiet fear that was present in each face staring at me. It was certainly in my own. All of us agreed that, although Kel was no coward and definitely strong, she had been badly wounded and that waiting an extra year was infinitely superior to losing one's life.
As a group, we left the Chapel and trouped up the flights of stairs to Merric's palace quarters. Everyone talked quietly amongst themselves, except me, flanked by my two Yamani 'bodyguards'.
I wasn't quite sure what I expected to see when we reached our destination. One thing I do know, is that Cleon wasn't it.
Seeing the large redhead waiting for us outside Merric's rooms caused us all to stop short. His eyes found mine and he glared frostily.
"Cleon," Faleron said, "how nice of you to join us."
"Did she go in?" he asked, glancing in Faleron's direction.
"Of course. We would have had to kill her to stop her."
After a moment, Cleon seemed to accept this and nodded. "So, Merric, do you think I could join you?"
Merric's head turned to look at me over his shoulder.
"They're you rooms Merric, not his," Cleon said impatiently, when he realised Merric was waiting for a sign from me.
Merric ignored him and raised an eyebrow. I responded with a slight shrug of my shoulders. My friend turned back to Cleon. "Sure, you can join us if you want."
As Merric unlocked his door, I avoided looking at Cleon. I had promised myself that, the next time I saw him, I wouldn't cause any trouble. That included initiating and/or continuing an argument. I was too tired for all that anyway. The previous night I had stayed up late with Kel who had dozed off occasionally. So many late nights just couldn't be good for me.
We all filed into Merric's rooms and found various places to sit. Merric sent for some bread and fruit and poured wine for everyone, except me. I had cider.
With good food and drink, we all settled down to wait out the night.
"It's going to be a long night, isn't it?" Owen asked.
Everyone nodded in response and, just as the women began a game of chess, a knock came at the door. It was opened to reveal Dom, for once frowning instead of smiling.
"Hello all," he said, stepping over the threshold. "I was wondering if I could wait up with all of you. Everyone down at the Own barracks is tense. I fear Lord Raoul will be grey-haired by the time dawn comes from all the stress. He's not taking it well, poor man."
This comment brought a laugh from everyone and Dom was welcomed. A drink was thrust upon him and he perched on the arm of my chair.
"And how are you coping cousin?" Dom asked me quietly once everyone was occupied with conversation.
"About as well as Lord Raoul I'd say."
Dom chuckled. "Not very well then."
I shook my head. "No, not really."
Dom was silent for a moment then leaned closer to me. "Neal, you'd probably like to know, that I know."
I looked up at him in confusion. "What?"
"About you and Kel. I know. I… ah… came across the two of you purely by accident yesterday while you were otherwise occupied. There I was, strolling through the rose garden, and what should I come across but my cousin and his best friend…well… a little closer than usual?"
I blanched. "You did?"
He smiled. "I did, but don't worry you meathead over it. I got going once I was over the shock. I also haven't told a soul."
I stared at him with a slightly dumbstruck look on my face. "Thank you."
Dom clapped me on the shoulder. "No problem. Kel does mean a lot to me and you are family after all."
"What's all this about Kel and Neal being closer than usual?"
Dom and I turned to find Cleon standing behind our chair. He had come up sometime during our conversation.
"Do you mind?" I asked tersely. "This is a private conversation."
"It was until you started discussing Kel."
"Cleon, have you heard yourself? Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound?"
"I already asked you once to stay away from her."
"Cleon!" I said, my voice raised, the whole room silent. "Kel doesn't belong to you. You don't own her! Nor do you own me. You have no right to dictate to either of us who we may or may not see."
I stood up. This prevented me from having to twist uncomfortably to see him and it allowed me to look him in the eye.
"Neal, you know how I feel about her."
I sighed and rubbed a hand over my face. "Yes Cleon, I know, but you seem to be forgetting some very important facts. One, you're getting married and two, Kel doesn't love you! At least not that way."
Cleon was silent for a moment and I became aware of everyone watching us.
"A duel," Cleon announced, "is the proper way to settle this matter."
I sighed again, now resigned to the fact that my one-time friend was more clueless than I'd originally thought.
"Cleon, I refuse to fight for Kel as if she's a prize to be won. She's a human being, not an inanimate object. She's a big girl who can make up her own mind. Besides, it's not as if I intentionally set out to take her from you. It just happened. In any case, I'm not going to risk you killing me just because you're having trouble coming to terms with the facts of life."
"Listen to reason Cleon," Merric spoke up. "You know that what Neal is saying is true. Face the facts and move on."
"Don't get involved in something you don't understand Merric," Cleon said shortly, never taking his eyes off mine.
I could hear the anger in Merric's voice when he replied, "Don't you take that tone with me Kennan. I'm not a child who is blind to his surroundings. You want Kel but, believe it or not, Kel wants Neal, who I'm certain, returns her feelings. You have no right to intrude on their happiness."
Cleon didn't make any move to show he'd heard for a short moment, then his shoulders sagged and he sighed, defeated.
"I can't say I'm sorry for what happened Cleon," I said quietly, "I'm not. I am sorry that it had to come between us and cause us so much trouble."
Cleon didn't reply; he just stared at me with his heart in his eyes. I could see that he was breaking.
"I suppose it was only a matter of time before she fell in love with you," Cleon said bitterly. "You two are so close. You know what the other thinks and feels without any means of communication. You always know what Kel's going through, even if she refuses to tell you what it is. I can only say that I envy you and that I'm sorry for the way I've been treating you. Just don't expect me to apologize for loving her."
"I would never ask you to do that. I wouldn't do it if someone threatened me."
We stared at each other uncomfortably for a moment in the silence.
"Well…" Dom said, wanting to break the silence. "Now that we're all friends again, how about a chess tournament?"
I turned my eyes on my cousin. "A chess tournament?"
Dom nodded. "Yes. It'll make the night pass and it might even be fun."
"Kel's stuck in that godforsaken chamber, I just got myself out of a duel and all you can say is 'how about a chess tournament?' What are you?"
Dom looked affronted. "Now, now Neal. No need to get carried away. We all know how terrible you are at the game but that's no reason to stop us from playing."
I glared. "I'm not terrible at it, I just don't play very often."
He guffawed. "Yes, of course, Neal, whatever you say."
I crossed my arms over my chest and looked away from him. "You're impossible Dom."
Dom laughed out loud at this remark and sat down beside Yuki and Shinko to wait out their game.
Dawn's early light streamed through into the Chapel and washed all the people in it in gold.
Kel's whole family was there, as was Third Company, my father, Alanna, our own group, Lalasa, Kel's whole flock of sparrows and Jump.
Everyone was on edge. As I waited, all I could think of, was the priests opening the heavy door and revealing Kel's dead body to us.
'She's strong,' I thought to myself, not for the first time. 'She's the strongest person I know, in very many ways. The Chamber would have to be insane to let her die. Of course, no one ever said the Chamber was sane in the first place.'
These thoughts did me no good, I knew. All I could do was sit impatiently and pray that the Gods really were merciful. It would be just like them, to get us together and then take her away from me.
I was glad that Cleon and I had come to a kind of truce. I couldn't blame him for loving her. How could anyone not love her? She was perfect, after all.
The priests approached the door and we all shuffled around uncomfortably. I swallowed and found my mouth dry. Merric clapped me on the shoulder encouragingly and my prayers flew through my head at double speed. I needed to get in as many as I could before the door opened completely.
The priests pulled and I couldn't keep my eyes from shutting. Mentally hitting myself, I forced my lids open again and held my breath as the door was opened fully and Kel was revealed… slightly hunched over, but alive.
I breathed out in relief and had to grab one of the pews in front of me to keep myself upright. Raoul hurried forward to help her out and all I could do was stare at the woman of my dreams. She was alright! She was fine.
'I told you so,' said the voice in my head and for once, I didn't push it away. I savoured the four words that went around my head.
Ilane went forward to help Raoul with her daughter. From between them, Kel's head rose and she looked straight at me. She gave me a weary smile and I managed a single step towards her.
Ilane and Raoul propelled her forward until she stood before me.
"How do you feel?" I asked softly.
Kel gave the tiny smile that I found so endearing. "Fine. I may have bled a little through the bandages, but I think it's alright."
I didn't know what to say. She'd done it, what she'd sworn to do right from day one. She was now a knight of the realm.
"You know what this means, don't you?"
She looked perplexed. "I'll need a healer?"
I laughed, a real carefree sound that betrayed the relief I felt. "No. You're a knight now. We're both knights now."
Kel glanced at the ground and looked back up at me in shock. "Gods, you're right. I didn't even realise." She laughed a little. "I completely forgot."
I slipped her from the arms of her former knight-master and mother and supported her gently with my own. She slid her arms around my neck and our noses were nearly touching.
In a whisper meant only for her ears, I said, "So long as you don't forget how much I love you and you love me, you can forget whatever you want."
She smiled tiredly. "I could never forget something like that. What do you think got me through the Ordeal?"
I grinned happily. I couldn't think of anytime when I'd been happier than I was at that moment. There was just one thing left to do to make it perfect.
"I love you," I said and captured her lips with my own in front of everyone present.
I felt her lips smile right before she returned the favour.
A/N: … I'm kinda lost for words at the moment. That was it. It's over. (sigh) OMG. I can't really get it through my head. This chapter took a lot out of me. When I couldn't write it, I went through hell. I thought this would be easy, but let me tell you, it wasn't! I liked this chapter, except the bit immediately after Cleon and Neal 'made up'. Everything before and after that was fine though.
Gosh, I just have to say a few things before I let you all go so PLEASE READ THIS!
First of all, this was an amazing fic to get to write. The feedback and support I received was outstanding. I had to keep improving myself to keep up with the standards you guys set.
Second of all, if anyone would like a hand with anything writing wise, I'm always open to lending a hand. I beta for Jeweled Rose, so I do know what I'm doing. Check out her fic 'New Beginnings'. It is also a K/N and is great! You'll love it, I guarantee.
Third, thanks to all the people who actually left a review at any point during the course of this fic. If you haven't reviewed yet, I'd greatly appreciate it if you did. I currently have 178 reviews for this story and it would be great if I could reach 200 with this chapter, so go out and tell all your K/N shipper friends!
Finally, this fic means a great deal to me. I'm almost crying, knowing that it's over. Despite this, there will NOT be a sequel. I may write another K/N in the future. I have become very attached to Neal, whose presence has seemingly been just over my shoulder ever since the beginning of this fic. Therefore, no matter how many of you want a sequel, there won't be one. It would just ruin everything and besides, I'm way to busy at the moment, what with school and writing a sequel to a Lily/James (Harry Potter) fic I have.
So, thanks from the bottom of my heart guys. Just leave a review each for the road and I'll be eternally grateful.
Lady Knight 1512