A/N: So. Life sucks. Lol. And I'm sick. It's why the update's a little late, and why the chapters so short.
Chapter 9: Attention
Kel's head dipped as she struggled to stay awake. Luckily she had managed to wedge herself towards the back of the classroom, where she wouldn't be immediately noticed, even if it was hard not to, being the girl, and sitting next to the prince and Neal, the number one trouble maker. She was insanely tired. Her body felt weak and heavy, the added weights that Lord Wyldon had decided to give them stressing her body to its limits, even if the stables had been finished, she still had her own punishment work to finish off, and extra work from all her teachers for not completing her assignments properly, but no one had escaped that wrath. Even the prince had gathered himself some punishment from his lack of attending to his homework.
They were currently in the demonic hands of Master Oakbridge, the visit from the diplomats that Roald had mentioned was approaching, and although there would be no big ball or any other special gathering for it, Oakbridge had wanted to remind them of the proper way to behave themselves, especially in the light of recent events, which meant extra work in his class, and much more practices. Roald wasn't thrilled by the prospect either, he had already decided that he would spend as much time locked away in his room as possible to avoid coming into contact with any of the visitors.
His eyes traveled to his right side, as he felt something rest against his shoulder. Kel had completely nodded off to sleep, eyes closed, mouth half open as she breathed. He reached over and nudged Neal with his foot. As Neal looked over he nudged his head towards the sleeping Kel, unsure of whether to wake her immediately or to let her doze for a second.
"Let her sleep, lecture is almost over anyway," Neal whispered to him, his green eyes kind as he watched Kel sleep, she did too much.
"Page Nealan! Care to explain to me why you are talking while I am talking?!" Master Oakbridge bellowed out.
Neal made a split second decision. "I was simply too excited about all these bows and manners we're learning! I was just wondering if we had any more just as exciting ones left to learn!"
Oakbridge mouth formed a tight line and his hands clenched at his sides. He ordered Neal to go up to the front of the class as they went through every etiquette lessons they had had since the beginning of the term. Faleron and Merric, who had looked back at the commotion, had spotted the sleeping Kel and quickly realized how sacrificial Neal's usual type of outburst had been.
Roald stopped paying attention to the front of the class, instead concentrating on Kel. She looked exhausted. And she had a reason to be, the extra training she put in, her new maid, and her constant battles with her fear of heights. It had to be a rougher life than any of the boys there had. He admired her, even if she was younger than him. That level of determination was something he envied, even if many might mistake him for having determination. It was more that he was whipped into his position as the crown prince.
Kel shifted against him and a lock of hair fell from behind her ear to where it hung across her face. Roald reached over with his other hand and brushed it back, looking around the classroom to make sure no one had seen after he had completed the action. He watched out of the window, as people began to leave the courtyard, signaling that it was almost time for supper and then personal studies. He nudged Kel with his shoulder, watching amused as her eyebrows came together and her mouth turned into a frown, obviously not happy with having to wake up.
"Kel, class is almost over, unless you would like for me to carry you," he whispered, making sure that no one else could overhear them.
Kel jumped up at that the slightest bit, realizing who the voice belonged to. Only her Yamani training kept the embarrassment from slipping onto her face. She had fallen asleep on the prince. "I'm sorry your highness, I didn't mean to doze."
To her relief he chuckled quietly to himself, "It's all right. We're all exhausted. I'm surprised more of the pages haven't followed your example."
As he finished the big bell rang, a few pages waking up from their own little naps, the others groaning as they got up, hungry and tired. Neal almost pranced back to their little table in the back and smiled at Kel's sleepy face. "Good morning sunshine," he said with a laugh, glad to be the one fully awake and her half asleep, revenge was sweet.
Kel grumbled at him as she rubbed her eyes, shooting him a glare, "You'll pay for that." She yawned and stood up, gathering her things and walking past him to join Seaver and Esmond who were waiting for them at the door, Merric, Cleon, and Owen having gone ahead to reserve their table for them. Faleron hid a smile as he turned to sit on a table, waiting for the prince and Neal to gather their things. They headed out of the room together, a decent distance behind the others.
"So, Roald, you looked rather comfortable back there," Faleron commented, keeping a grin from his face.
Roald's eyes narrowed a fraction, something that only two of his friends would've been able to catch. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"I think it's rather cute myself," Neal added, clapping Roald on the shoulder.
"You're not making sense yet," he grumbled, feeling a little uncomfortable. He knew they could only be talking about Kel. But, he didn't know why their teasing him about it would make him uncomfortable.
"You're opening up to someone other than us," Faleron said with a smile, putting his hands together and staring at Neal wistfully, "Our baby's growing up."
Neal clasped his hands around Faleron's and sniffed, "It's time to let him go."
Roald laughed, feeling relived for some reason. He cuffed each of the boys over their heads as they turned into the hallway that led to the mess hall. "That's a biological fallacy for one, and I'm too handsome to have come from either of you."
They entered the mess hall and seated themselves, finding Kel nowhere; she had probably gone to change into her dress. They just hoped she wouldn't be late, it would be the fourth time since she had started the new year. This night, Roald sat with their group, noting that the pages they had sponsored, other than Owen, had moved onto other friend groups, leaving more room at their table. Finally the doors opened, Kel was less than a minute late, but she was addressed by Lord Wyldon regardless and given punishment work. She nodded, fetched her lunch, and dropped into the space between Owen and Cleon.
"Fell asleep again?" Neal teased, noticing the slow way that Kel blinked.
Kel narrowed her eyes and turned to Merric, "Could you stab him for me, please?"
Merric turned and jabbed Neal with his loaf of bread. "At least I'm kinder than the Stump. He's trying to torture you with all those heights." Neal remarked, grabbing his own loaf of bread and defending himself with it.
"No, he's just trying to help me get over my fear," Kel replied evenly, "to make me a better knight in the future."
"Because some day you will have to save a burning bushel of hay from a top of a loft," Neal said rolling his eyes. "It's exhausting you."
"He's not trying to torture me."
"Would you like to go ask him?"
"A little bit of both?" Roald suggested, tired of hearing the argument. It had been the topic of almost every lunch argument that Kel and Neal had, since the brawl at the stables, Kel standing up for Lord Wyldon, and Neal brining his conspiracy theories to the conversation.
"Well that's just backwards, see, his true motives-," Neal began before Owen chucked what little was left of his roll at him.
"I figured you wouldn't want to waste your food but I'm done," Owen told Kel cheerfully, who in turn ruffled his hair as a thank you.
"Ruffian," Neal replied gruffly, turning back to his food.
"Are you all right," Cleon asked, looking down at Kel, watching her eyes close as she struggled to stay awake.
Surprised by the question she turned her head up towards him, she nodded, forcing her eyes wide to look awake. "Of course, just a little more tired than usual."
Cleon nodded and swallowed the suggestion he was about to make. For a moment he had wondered what it would be like to let her rest her head on his shoulder.
A/N: Cleon is not crushing on her yet. But at some point he had to start realizing she WAS a real girl. I'm just showing the little steps as to how that may have occurred. It'll still be Kel/Roald tho', so no worries about all the Cleon mentions.
Anyway, I'm out, next update probably won't be for another few days.