A/N: Yes, yes, I know. It's been a month. I get it. I suck at life 'cause I can't update on time. But I had an excuse I SWEAR! You see, I was just sitting down to start the new chapter when a rhinoceros burst through my kitchen window and stamped on my little toe. now, as I'm sure you know, without your little toe, you can't walk upright. it throws off your balance. so, with my toe broken, I had to sit in bed for three weeks.

okay, in actuality, I was at my grandma's house and she doesn't have a computer. but wasn't the rhinoceros one much more interesting?

FOR FUTURE REFERENCE: my disclaimer is in the first chapter. I usually forget to put one so here, for every following chapter, refer back to the first for a disclaimer, Kay? Kay.

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(2)

December 11
Camp of New Hope
In the 21st year of the reign of
Jonathon IV and Thayet, his Queen
460 H.E.

Sunlight streamed through an open window onto Neal's face. He struggled to keep it from waking him, but the inevitable could not be avoided. Opening his eyes, it took him a moment to realize where he was.

Sitting up, Neal noted the numerous weapons hanging on the wall opposite him and the modest bed he was lying on sat in the far corner of the room. There was a small, wooden vanity to his left and atop it was an antique brush and a jewelry box. He recognized that box, it was a gift from his friend Cleon had given to Kel one midwinter.

Looking to his bed-mate, the night before came flooding back to him. He had arrived here last night in a fit of rage and confusion. He wanted answers and no-one else could give them to him. Remembering the reason for Yuki's departure, a sinking feeling engulfed the Knight. He brought his hands to his face and felt the crust of where his tears had been last night. With an exhausted sigh, he leaned back down and tried to drift off to a dreamless sleep once more. Just then, Kel turned to face him.

Obviously, the previous night was a blur to her as well, because upon seeing bright green eyes so close to her own hazel ones, she let out a startled yelp and increased the distance between the two.

"Neal! Wha-" she stopped short. "Oh! Oh right right...Okay." she sighed and brought both hands to her face in order to hide her look of relief. She barely remembered falling asleep the last night.

"I was a bit surprised myself Lady Night," he chuckled using her title as a sign of affection. His emerald eyes were dancing with mischief where just moments ago there had been sorrow. It was as if he was seeing her. Really seeing her. As more then just a comrade and formidable opponent. Now he was seeing her as a woman, afraid for her virtue. "I'm sorry about last night, Love, I was just..."

She knew already what he was feeling. She knew that he had meant her no disrespect or harm when he had burst into her room. He was merely distraught and dealing with the feelings he had been repressing for weeks. "I know. You don't have to explain yourself," her eyes were full of understanding and comfort. She had cared about him for too long to let one night of distress offend her.

"Thank you," he replied softly. His brown hair was standing on edge every-which-way and he had fallen asleep in his clothes. Kel, who had been in bed when Neal came in looked like a vision in white silk and lace. Her skin glowed with rest and her big eyes were all to easy to get lost in. The dull brown hair cropped at her earlobes she had had in her days as a page was now a deep chestnut and feel just below her shoulders, making hr seem very much like a goddess. When Cleon had said very similar things about the then squire, Neal had laughed it off with the rest of their friends as nothing more then a crush. But now, now Neal saw the very things his friend had been speaking of. Kel was no longer the awkward looking youth she had been when they first met, she was a full-grown woman now. And she had become quite a beauty.

And then he was kissing her.

And she was kissing back.

It started soft, then began to grow in intensity as both let go of their doubts and let their bodies take over. His hand found it's way to the back of her neck, tilting her head back to deepen the kiss as his other hand slid up her back. Her hands were roaming the inside of his tunic before pulling it off his body entirely. Pulling her on top of him, Neal stripped Kel of her night shirt and left her in nothing but her loincloth and Brest band. Once more they rolled over so that he was pressing down on her intimately. His mouth began to wander. First he kissed the side of her mouth, then her jaw line. Slowly he worked his way down to between her breast and then to her naval. He was taking his time examining every inch of his companions body. He meant to make her want him, as he wanted her.

"Oh. Oh! Oh, Mithros no!" Kel screamed suddenly kicking Neal off of her bed with a thunk. "No, no, no, no, no." She struggled to get her night shirt back on and threw Neal's tunic to the floor next to him. "Neal, we can't. You know we can't. I love you dearly, you know that as well, but this," she gestured to her bed, "this can't happen. It would cause so many issues. You're under my command. And if someone were to find out-" Neal held up one poised finger to silence her rant. He was sitting up on the floor, with one knee pulled to his stomach which he now leaned on.

"I know. I know all of this. Your right, it wouldn't be appropriate. I'm sorry," he said this all gently, with a look in his very green eyes that Kel couldn't quite describe. It was somewhere between longing and understanding. He stood and put his hand under her chin to make her look at him. "and I love you too," he said finally.

No sooner had Neal slipped on his tunic did Tobe walk in with Jump in tow. "Are you better Neal?" the young boy asked while Jump, living up to his name, leaped into Neal's arms and began to lick his face ferociously.

"No, not quite yet. But I will be Tobe, so don't worry," And with that, he left the room towards his own, closing the door behind him.

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"No-good-Mithros-forsaken-dung-heap!" Merric mumbled under his breath that night at dinner. Instead of taking his squad on patrol, he had spent the day cleaning out t he latrines because no one else would, do to the cold. Snow had fallen during the night and everywhere you looked was white with frozen water. Merric hated winter.

"You need to lighten up Merric. It's just a little snow after all. What harm could it do?" Kel asked, her mouth full of hot stew.

"What harm! What harm! My dear Mindelan, have you ever shoveled human waste in the freezing cold?" he retorted raising his voice to it's very squeakiest decibel. When she didn't respond, he finished "didn't think so."

"Just because I haven't had latrine duty recently means nothing. If anything you've got it easy. Try shoveling waste mid-summer, when the sun is hot above your head making everything smell worse and sending the horseflies in your direction, then you can complain to me about latrine duty," she sent a menacing glance toward his vegetables, ordering him to eat them, and ending the conversation at once. Merric knew when he was defeated and promptly bit into a spear of asparagus, scowling all he while.

"Neal never complains...,"she said almost dreamily.

"Neal never complains...naaa," he mumbled again in his falsetto-Kel-voice. Which in reality sounded nothing like Kel.

As if on cue, Neal appeared and sat down next to Merric with his own bowl of stew. "Did I hear my name Merric?" he asked sweetly, avoiding Kel's gaze.

The moment he sat down, Kel became flustered. Her face felt warm and her palms started to sweat. "Um, yeah, we-I was just saying how you never mind what job you're given. You just do it without complaining," she stammered looking at her empty bowl.

"Well, I don't have much of a choice do I?" he replied cooly, still not looking at her.

"You always have a choice Neal," she started slowly, trying to make him look at her.

"Yeah, sure," was all he said and then he stood and walked grumpily over to the other side of the mess hall before plopping down at a table with a group of soldiers.

"What was that about?" Merric asked, "have you two gotten into an argument?"

"No...not an argument..," she stood and walked to her room, thinking over the events of the past 5 minutes and wondering what it all meant.

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A/N: Reviews would be awesome!