Late night happenings

Kel gave her glittering gown a one last tug before she entered the room the serving man had led her to. Her back ached from standing perfectly straight all night and her head spun lightly from the amount of wine she had consumed. It was that, or converse with the conservatives hounding her and dance. She had no wish to partake in either so as an alternative she nursed her drink that night. It was the final Mid Winter ball of the year and she was greatly relieved. Only four days and she would be riding back to New Hope with the Kings Own. It was a promising chance to be entertained on the ride alone. Kel needed to get out of the palace.

Once in the dimly lit and small sitting room Kel dipped into a low curtsy to the elegant white haired woman sitting on the couch. She figured if she was going to dress as a Lady for the night, she would act as one. The woman was expected, but the man next to her was not. Ilane had called Kel, her daughter, herself but never mentioned that Baron Piers, her father, would be there as well. Both were out of their party gear and donned light traveling clothes.

When Kel stood strait again both of her parents were beaming at her. Unexpectedly her mother swept her up in a hug, squeezing Kel till her eyes bulged slightly before letting go. Piers squeezed his youngest daughters shoulder smiling softly. She never ceased to amaze him. She was beautiful in her glimmering golden party gown Lalasa had made to fit her perfectly. Her hair was let to its natural sun streaked waves and pinned back from her face and her hazel eyes were barely touched by kohl making them seem longer. Her wide, full mouth was colored and she looked almost god born. She didn't seem like his Kel.

But she was, and he knew it.

"You look beautiful tonight." Ilane told her daughter to her discomfort. She smiled when Kel frowned. "We'll miss you."

That was right. How could she forget so easily? They were leaving back to the Yamani Islands for a year to visit the Empire and the Royal house, and this time she wouldn't be with them. Her heart twisted with worry and concern. What if something happened to her or them? This would be the last time they get to say goodbye. She was leaving back to New Hope in four days.

She hugged her mother then, feeling nothing like the woman she was. The woman who saved countless lives, who fought immortals, who killed mages and fought with the creations they made. She was the first female page, the first Lady Knight to fairly gain her shield, but right now it felt like she was five again and huddled behind her mother's skirts.

"You'll write?" she asked.

"As soon as we get there," Ilane promised and squeezed her daughter back. After a few moments they drew apart both with tears brimming in their eyes. Laughing wetly Ilane whipped her daughters face. "It's only for a year. We'll be back."

Kel nodded and then hugged her father. "If you get ambushed by pirates or Scanrans I'll come after you." She promised weakly.

He chuckled and brushed her hair back, holding her in front of himself to look at. "No need for that, Kel. We'll be fine." He squeezed her shoulders affectionately before stepping back. "Now, it's late." Kel looked around the room and noticed the candle had burned down two hours past midnight. She hadn't noticed. Piers continued. "We'll be leaving in a few hours and you need to go for bed. I know you still wake up early."

Kel nodded and hugged them both again, kissing their cheeks. She knew her father was right, and she left them to finish their packing with a shaky goodbye. Wobbly from the amount she had drunk that night she used the wall as a support as she made her way to her rooms. The hall was empty and Kel could hear stifled giggles and whispers as the last party goers made their way to their rooms.

Quietly she slipped into her room and quickly pulled off the uncomfortable dress that clung to her. Remember to kill Yuki for telling Lalasa to change the dress I asked for design, Kel thought as she looked at the now wrinkled ball gown she threw on her desk chair. It had a low cut neckline and the color was far too flashy for her taste.

Silently she slipped into her nightgown and looked at her small, one person bed. Jump was curled up on the blankets and snoring loudly. She wished she could do the same, but her nerves were getting the better of her and burned away all her exhaustion. She was worried about her parent's departure, New Hope, the war, the up coming weddings, Tobe staying at the palace when she left to work with the horses, her friends, herself…. She wasn't sure what she would do after the war ended. She was already restless as it was and she knew new Hope wouldn't need her once Scanra calmed down. She didn't want to be a solitary knight. She wanted to work. She needed to keep busy.

I can't stand it here. She looked around at the cold stone walls. She was trapped in that room. Normally at New Hope Kel would be up on the battlements, doing her best to stay awake and keep the nightmares at bay. Now she stood in front of her bed actually welcoming sleep only to have it deny her.

Typical, she thought as she pulled on a Yamani styled robe. It was a deep midnight blue with elegant flowers covering the sleek silk. Kel preferred it when she had to don something over her night clothes. Its sleeves were wide and the robe itself long. The silk held in her body heat as she slipped back out into the hall.

She stuck to the dark halls at first not wanting to be seen till she found herself outside in the courtyard. A few yards away was a low branched layered tree barely touched by the snow. It was ideal for climbing and her fingers twitched for movement. Quickly she trotted over to it as fast as she could in an attempt to keep the snow from soaking the hem of her robe, but it was little help.

Quickly she scrambled up the frozen branches and sat with her legs swinging in the air. The winter air nipped at her face making her cheeks pink. Her teeth chattered but she welcomed the feeling. She wasn't one to purposely cause pain to her body, but the chill kept her from thinking about her worries.

Dom wandered outside when the ball had finally ended, chocking for fresh air. His head was tingling deliciously from the drink he had taken in, and it made his body heat rise. He needed the cold air. It wouldn't sober him up completely but it would help him walk a bit straighter.

He had been stupid, having a drink every time he saw his cousin and his fiancée kiss. They were getting married, of course they would partake in a lot of kisses. At least I didn't spill anything on my uniform, he thought as he stumbled through the courtyard. He was dressed in his dress uniform, a mixture of silver blue and black. At some part of the night he had lost his sergeants band. Some young lady probably had it at the moment.

He squinted and quieted his steps when he saw a shadow in one of the courtyards trees. It moved slightly and he heard the rustle of silk. Ah, a lady. He moved forward without announcing his presence. Once under the branch the woman was seated on he saw that she was downed in a Yamani styled robe. An early riser, no, she simply couldn't sleep. Only Kel and her friends rise so early and their probably still asleep. He contemplated over who the woman was as he studied the design on her robe. He came to a decision that he would just introduce himself.

He hoped he wouldn't stumble as he climbed up the branches wishing he had leaned away from his glass. Once at the woman's level he sat next to her on the branch. She didn't move, didn't even seem to breathe. Her hands were folded delicately in her lap, moonlight reflecting off white scars. Dom smiled. So this was one of the fighting ladies.

"Hello," he whispered, leaving his voice thick so if his words slurred it would be less noticeable. The lady jumped and her robe slipped against the ice on the branch. She screeched when she slipped back and Dom reached out quickly grabbing her around the waist and pulling up and into his side for support. He stifled a laugh. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you, Lady."

She looked up at him, hazel eyes large and deep. Her sun streaked blond hair fell half in her face and curled slightly at her pink cheek bone. Her skin was tanned and smooth, her mouth full and partly open from fear of falling. Her nose was delicate and dusted with freckles. He knew this face. He had looked into those hazel eyes countless times over the past few years. He was shocked speechless. He hadn't seen her all night and was sure she had skipped the ball as Raoul used to. Now he saw the scant amount of face paint on her lids. She had been there, he just hadn't noticed.

"Kel," he managed, "what-why are you up here?"

"I could ask you the same thing." She pulled back from him, her face icy and cold. He watched her as she slid down from the branch and landed gracefully on her feet, something he wasn't sure he could do in his state.

"What's wrong?" he asked referring to her mask. She only wore it during battle now or in a fight. Something had to be wrong.

She paused for a moment and turned back to him, face still slightly chilled. That hurt him. She held out a helping hand to him when he didn't move from his perch. "You're drunk." She stated. He winced. She must have heard some slur that gave him away.

She kept him from falling as he clumsily climbed down. He took a stab in the dark when he heard her tongue click on the top of her mouth as she said the two short words. "So are you."

She glowered at him for a moment, before her face melted and she smiled rubbing her head. "Yeah, it was an accident. I- I've never drank so much before. No more then a few sips." That made him grin, that and her own smile. Her face brightened. "I hope I didn't disappoint you, or am I wrong when you were looking to romance some strange Lady?"

Dom frowned for a second before smiling. "Never My Lady Knight, our Protector of the Small. Who could possibly be disappointed when in the presence of one as marveling as yourself?" He took her hand and bowed grandly, kissing her fingertips. He looked up into her eyes, falling down to his knees. "Tell me, gentle lady, what is it that has you distressed?" He held her hand to his cold cheek and it warmed it to a degree that it turned his skin pink. "I would wish to burn your problems from your beauteous face. Only tell me."

"At the moment, Dom, you're the only thing causing me distress. If you could call this that."

He dropped her hand from his face and clutched his heart, falling back into a drift of snow. He smiled when he heard Kel's giggles and sat up in the snow pile only to have a snowball hit him in the chest. He looked at the spot where it had hit him on his already wet tunic then at Kel who had her hands at her sides. Water dripped from her fingertips.

"My Lady!" Dom sputtered in false rage. He pulled himself from the snow but Kel had already taken off, giggling as she stumbled and ran from him. "I will not be ignored!" he bellowed as he took chase.

It wasn't hard to catch her, she kept tripping over the folds of her robe and obviously hadn't had much experience with being mobile and intoxicated as he. "Got ya'," he laughed when he wrapped his arms around her waist. Before she could pull back he had her over his shoulder and was walking to a deep snow patch.

"No, Dom, no!" Kel protested as she wiggled to get away from him. He wrapped his arms around both her legs and held them together so she couldn't kick him. "Dom!" she yelled and he threw her into the snow, grinning as he watched her stand back up wet.

"You look like an angry cat." He informed her. Her hair was damp and the pins that had held it together had fallen out. Her robe had slipped open and she shivered when wind pulled it open further. Dom looked at her, shaking in a thin , wet cotton nightgown that clung to her. Heat rushed through him when he noticed just how her body, particularly her chest, had reacted to being cold.

She stocked over to him, snow in both her hands, and hurled one handful at his face where it hit him squarely. When he opened his eyes she was right in front of him. His breathing hitched and she took her other handful and rubbed it into his hair, making it as wet as her own. She took a step back, looking over her work. "You look funny wet." She commented and began walking away.

Dom shook his head, making his hair stick out in points. "Where are you going?" he asked, following her.

She didn't look back when she answered. "Well, I'm soaking wet, slightly pissed, and freezing. What else am I going to do? I'm going to find a drink."

"Well then," Dom pulled a flask from in his tunic and passed it to her after taking a swig. "You should have said so."

He followed her to her rooms with idle chatting and fell into a chair as she lit a branch of candles. Jump raced up to him, panting happily before returning to his spot on her bed, falling asleep once more. The room lit Kel pulled off her robe and began running a brush through her hair, now grown past her chin by two inches. Dom watched her as he drank from his flask.

"Leaving again soon." She mumbled as she set the brush down. Tiredly she sat across from him on her couch, well, she half sat half laid down. Dom looked at her legs, her hips, her chest. He couldn't help himself. He took another swig to distract himself and past the flask to her.

Kel took it and took a deep gulp, surprising him. She must have had something upsetting on her mind. "I didn't see you tonight." He commented, his voice muffled as he pulled his wet tunic over his head. Getting up he set it in front of the fire place and began working on making a bigger fire. "Did you walk out on us Protector? Too many men hounding you for a dance?"

"Funny Dom. I was there." She guzzled the rest of the brandy and dropped the flask to the floor. "You're out of brandy."

"What?" he turned and picked up the flask. He looked at her shocked. "This was full Kel."

"You had some too." She reminded him, closing her eyes.

He sighed and turned back to the fire place, pulling off his shirt and putting it with his tunic to dry. He flopped down on the couch next to Kel. To his surprise she rested her head in his lap, her guards down thanks to the brandy. He wrapped his arm around her to rest on her shoulder, a natural position. "Well, who were you with all night then, if you did go?" he asked.

"Hmm, conservatives." She said sleepily. Her laugh was soft. "That's why I was drinking."

"Oh, sorry." It was quiet after that. She's really tired, Dom noted her limp legs and the tight shoulder muscles. When he looked at her face again she was asleep, frowning and whining softly. She couldn't even relax in her sleep. He closed his eyes and rested his head against hers, feeling her breath against his face. Slowly he fell asleep as well, worry for his best friend creasing his forehead.

Kel woke up not long after she had fallen asleep, panting and cringing. Her mind raced with pictures, a collage of the dying and the dead. Children's cries rang in her ears and she panicked, jumping to her feet and knocking Dom over. She fell from her fighting position when she remembered Tobe was in the stables, but that only let her mind remember the dream clearer.

She hugged herself, cringing as the pictures hit her. The voices and their cries sounded so real that she wanted to cry herself. She bit her lip and forced her eyes shut to prevent it, but she was shuddering and gasping as more memories hit her.

"Kel?" something tugged at her arm, trying to make her turn and let herself go. Reluctantly she turned around and looked up at Dom, a tear escaping the corner of her eye and rolling down her red cheek. Dom looked surprised, and hurt, and sad all at the same time. She could feel empathy radiating off of him as he pulled her into his arms, hugging her tightly to his chest. "Kel." He whispered into her hair and kissed her forehead.

Kel let him hold her as she worked to calm her heart. She didn't know if it was because her crush for so many years was hugging her half naked, or because of her dream, but it was hard to control her thoughts.

Suddenly she pulled back, breaking from his hold. "Shit!"

"What?" Dom asked. He watched her as she scrambled around the room. His eyes widened and he looked away quickly when she tugged off her nightgown and pulled on her breeches.

She ignored his presence and continued to change. She tugged on her boots and bolted for the door, blowing out the branch of melting candles as she past. Dom followed after her, tugging on his shirt.

It was still dark out when Kel made it to the stables. The years of traveling with the Own paid off and she had Hoshi saddled in minutes. Dom didn't even try to stop her, and instead saddled up his gelding.

Pulling herself up on Hoshi she took off as fast as she could not caring if Dom was behind her. She was being stupid and rash and silly, but she didn't care. She raced through Corus, heading down the empty and dark streets. There was no noise but for Hoshi's clomping steps.

She halted at the gate leading out of the city and tied Hoshi up quickly. Ignoring the guards that watched her warily she clamored to the ladder up to the top of the battlements and began to climb.

When she reached the top she saw the sun peaking over the land and a carriage off in the distance. Biting her lip she sent a prayer to the goddess to watch her mother and father on their trip. To watch her family. She couldn't protect them anymore, the moment they stepped on the boat she couldn't do anything. She was sworn to her realm and they were leaving it. She couldn't defend them as a knight and she hated it. What was the point of knighthood when you couldn't even protect your loved ones?

Arms snacked around her and she leaned back knowing it was Dom behind her. "I'm sorry." She whispered, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I just don't want them to get hurt when I'm not around. It's too dangerous now." She knew deep down inside that they would be fine, that the Scanrans were frozen where they stood at the moment by Tortallan soldiers, but her heart wouldn't listen.

Dom squeezed her and rocked slightly back and forth. Kel was reminded of when she had done the same to Tobe when he was frightened or crying. It felt odd for someone to be doing the same for her, holding her together.

"It's alright," he whispered back. He didn't try to turn her away from the road. He let her look off at the spot where her parents had disappeared in. "They'll be fine. They'll be back next year and you'll be leaving to New Hope in a few days. You can see your people again." He tried to cheer her up with that fact, but she knew that her time there was numbered. Soon New Hope would be a town, and she would be a position-less knight. Stuck at court with nothing to do but attend balls and keep in practice.

They stood there and watched as the sun rose slowly. Eventually Kel turned and looked at Dom, smiling weakly. "Lets go see Neal and get him to make us some hangover remedy. My head hurts."