In Kel's Room

"That was fair foolish of you," Neal said as he kneeled in front of Kel to inspect the damage. "You should know better than to come between two men in a brawl. Hasn't all of that training under The Stump taught you anything?"

Kel looked into Neal's face, one that was so much like Dom's, but different. He and Dom were so close, Kel didn't know if she should tell him of the realization that had hit her along with Tobe's fist.

"Kel?" Neal asked concerned, "Now I know something's wrong. Normally you would ramble on about duty, or some such thing. But complete silence? Are you sure he only got the side of your face?"

Kel smiled slightly, and leaned back against the wall. Neal's hand glowed with a sparkling green fire that was his Gift, and touched it to her face gently. Instantly, the pain she hadn't known she felt evaporated, and she could feel the swelling go down.

Neal inspected his handy work.

He is one of my best friends, Kel thought while Neal muttered about misplaced weight, and blaming the society for the corruption of the youth. I can tell him anything.

"Neal, I want to tell you something." Kel's serious tone made Neal cease his endless ranting.

"What's the matter? Are you feeling any discomfort? Do you have a headache?" Ever the healer, Neal placed a hand against Kel's forehead, as if checking for a fever. Kel laughed a little, and pushed his hand away.

"No, you know you're a good healer. I'm not having any adverse reactions."

Neal smiled a bit, then asked jokingly,

"Are you sure? You might need to see someone better than I."

This time Kel laughed out right.

"Now you're just fishing for a compliment."

Neal laughed and agreed.

"True, but you must admit, I am fairly wonderful." He gazed at her keenly, "Or are you too smitten with my cousin to see that?"

Kel smiled, and said,

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about." She drew a deep breath.

"I think I'm in love with Dom." She sat very still while watching Neal's face for any sign of reaction. It came in a form of a hand pressed to his heart, and a startled gasp.

"No! You? Our dear un-romantic Lady Knight? Thee of little poetry and song, whom teased me mercilessly for being silly about 'all that love nonsense'."

Kel grinned, and shook her head.

"All right, Neal, I get the idea."

"Thou, our beloved Yamani Lump? You, who shows no pain nor pleasure, no fear or fancy? It cannot be! Love does not come to those who do not believe! It's simply too fantastical! Too silly, and nonsensical!"

Kel laughed again at her friends' antics.

"Neal, I understand, you're not surprised, all right."

Neal shook his head, and grasped Kel's hand firmly between his own.

"No, my fair lady, you do not understand. I'm not in surprise, but complete disbelief!"

Kel pulled her hand free, and stood to pace. Neal watched her with eyes full of mirth.

"That's just it, I'm in the same place. I can hardly believe it myself! Neal," she stopped in front of him and turned, "How do I let him know? How do I know if he feels the same way?"

Neal grew more serious, then answered.

"Love makes some things more difficult, Kel. Are you sure you want him to know? As soon as he does, you know my cousin, he'll want to marry you. Are you ready to give up your life as a fighter, and become a housewife?"

Kel looked incredulously at her friend. Was he kidding? Of all her friends, she figured he would understand best that a woman did not have to give up her shield to get married. She told him as much.

"What of Lady Alanna? You traveled with her for four years as her squire. You know she did no such thing. She kept her land and titles, and married the Baron. She has children, a husband and a home, but she also has a duty to the Crown and the kingdom of Tortall. You know as well as I do, that I would go inactive about as soon as Owen would stop thinking bandit clean-up is jolly. No, Neal, I would simply finish what I needed to do now, and then become a regular Knight, with a family, and responsibilities all the same. I do not have to settle for one or the other, when I can easily manage both."

Neal smiled.

"So, you have been thinking about a future with Domitan, then? I wondered, of course, especially after that first night here."

Kel looked at him quizzically.

"I saw the way you looked at him. It was as if you were coming home. I know that look, I've worn it myself many times. Every time I see my precious Yuki. And I saw the way he watches you. Kel, if you want to know how Dom feel about you, look into his eyes one of these days. That should tell you all you need to know and then some."

Neal stood and placed a hand on her shoulder.

"But, there now, you are wearing yourself out, and you need to rest. I've never seen anyone become so tired, so quickly after a healing. And this pacing of yours is sure to wear you out more."

Kel smiled up at Neal, and gave him a hug.

"You're such a wonderful friend, Nealen of Queenscove. I don't know what I would do without you."

Neal laughed and hugged her back, before releasing her, and stepping toward the door.

"Probably have a lot more bruises. Sleep well, Lady Kel."

Kel sat on the bed, and watched as her best friend left the room. Regardless of what Neal might say, Keladry was not very tired. She stood up and walked to the door. Quietly she opened it and looked out into the hall. Neal wasn't anywhere to be seen, so she closed the door, locked it and went to her dressing room to change for dinner.

She struggled fruitlessly for a few moments, then gathering up her clothes, went to find the one person who could help.