Disclaimer: I do not own any of the character or place, also part of the plot belongs to writeaway03 who inspired this story.
"So what do you think of Lady Rose?" asked Wolset.
"She's divine!" replied Aiden.
"I don't think I've ever seen a better looking woman!" said Fulcher.
"The way that dress fitted her? It was amazing!" said Lofren.
"Her curves are heavenly!" At that Kel groaned.
"Her hair, I just want to bury my hands in it and kiss her rosy lips!"
"And her breasts! They looked so round and perfect!" said Wolset, sighing after the lovely Lady Rose.
Kel was, to put it mildly, getting annoyed. Here she was with most of Dom's squad and they were talking about court ladies. She hadn't minded at first, but then they started to talk in more and more vulgar ways. She didn't want to know that this lady's breast felt like or how good this other lady was in bed.
They considered her one of them. She was flattered. However she did not need to hear about the men and their conquest. She just, didn't need to. They often forgot she was a woman and talked to her in vulgar ways.
"Imagine kissing your way down her throat!' said Dom.
Kel groaned and got up to leave. 'Wait Kel! Where are you going?" asked Dom.
"I'm going to groom Peachblossom" she yelled back at the men.
She had had enough. Hearing the men talk like that wasn't as bad as hearing DOM talk like that was worst. She did not need to know about his conquest. He had talked about some of his most notorious affairs.
She was now 23 years old. The war in Scaran had ended and she was riding with the Own most of the time. She hadn't had a relationship since Cleon, a good five years ago. She often commanded the company, whenever Raoul went to stay with his wife, and had received many accolade and praise. Also purses. Mindelan was no longer a poor fief. They used to have barely enough money to pay for her training, but now she made more money and Mindelan was prospering. She realized that she was head over heels in love with Dom when he had got shot by an arrow during the war.
She had been so worried that he wouldn't make it. But he had, and every day she praise Mithros for that. However she had yet to tell him how she felt. She couldn't make a fool of herself. There was no way he returned her feelings. After all, he had court ladies around him like a hive has bees around it.
She was resigned to it now. That she would most likely spend her life alone. No husband to come home too, no small ones to tuck in bed, no love after a war. All she had was friends who didn't see her as a woman and her duty. She excelled at her duty.
Even though she was resigned to that fate she often felt lonely. Out of all the pages in her study group only herself and Owen were not married, and Owen was about to be betrothed.
The older she grew the more it hurt. When she came to the Palace and saw all of her friends happily married, she felt like something was missing.
Small displays of affection, like holding hands, or tucking a stray strand of hair off your lovers face made her realize how alone she was.
But it was when Dom talked of his relationship that she felt like crying. She loved him, but he didn't return her affections. She was always there for him, but he never realized it wasn't because he was a good friend, no it was because she was hopelessly in love with him.
"How was your trip?" asked Neal, once his best friend finally arrived.
She laughed as she dismounted. "Not even a Hello?' she asked.
"Hello" he shot back.
"It was fun! No one got hurt and I manage to actually defeat a giant! On my own!" she informed him.
"So I've heard" he said.
"You should've seen her!" said Dom, coming up behind Kel. "It was glorious to watch! This lone Lady Knight just stood there facing a giant and took him down without blinking an eye!"
Kel laughed and punched Dom. Neal looked on, in wonder. Kel had changed these past few year. She was more withdrawn and more silent. She rarely laughed and smiled barely. It always warmed him when he could hear her laugh. He knew something was wrong, but he didn't know what, and she hadn't informed him. He kept letting her know, with small hints, that whenever she needed to talk he was there for her.
At first he had thought he was imagining it, but he wasn't the only one who had realized it. Only him, Lady Alanna and Lord Raoul realize that something was off with the second Lady Knight.
For her, it seems, it was work with no play. She hadn't had a vacation since forever. She was always practicing, riding to save people, writing reports or on those rare day she didn't find anything to do, she'd do Lord Raoul's reports.
Even for midwinter she'd go off to save people. Once again he dropped a hint that he was there for her and left to his chamber.
There was a ball that night. Everyone was there. Cleon, Owen, Merric, everyone. But most surprisingly Kel was there. She stood among all her friends talking.
None of them asked her to dance. She was used to this. It's not like they didn't like her. They just didn't think of her as a Lady. To them she was Kel. They knew she was a girl but they did not realize that she liked to dance and she would love to have someone romance her. But she was Kel, not Lady Rose.
Neal was the only one who asked her to dance and that made her feel better. At least her best friend knew she was a woman. He had always understood her better than the others. In the long ball, she had danced once.
Towards midnight, she looked on the dance floor to watch Dom dip his head toward Lady Rose. She watched on as he gently eased his lips over the beautiful lady's.
That night she went to bed feeling thoroughly depressed and alone.
Neal was on his way to his room when he heard someone crying softly. Deciding to investigate he tried to figure out from which room it came from. He came in front of a door. It was clear the crying came from that room. He was shocked to realize it was Kel's.
He opened the door to find his best friend on her bed crying. He walked over to the bed and laid his hand on her shoulder. "Talk to me" he instructed.
She sniffled. "Am I pretty?" she asked.
Shocked Neal answered "Well you are pretty, not the most beautiful woman here but not ugly"
"Then why did only my best friend dance with me tonight?"
Neal was shocked. He realized that it was true. He wanted to say that they just forgot, but then that sounded pretty bad. He finally understood what was wrong with her, she was lonely. Very lonely.
"Oh Kel" he said as he hugged her. "You'll find a man that will love you! You deserve it" he said.
"I am a woman, and yet they don't seem to notice. They talk about their conquest to me. I don't want to know those things. They consider me one of the boy, yet I am different. I'm not a woman, I'm Kel to them. Just Kel. It hurts. I mean I'm also a lady who would like to be romanced. I'd like to get flowers, poems and someone to come home too. But I'm the Lady Knight. Not the kind off girl people dream about romancing. I'm to muscular, to tall, not pretty enough. I could never bat my eyelash the proper way. I am bound to remain single. I can usually repress it. But it's at balls like these and when I see everyone with their lovers that I realize how much I'm missing. "
"Who is he?" he asked softly. Everything she had said had somewhat of a true ring. However he knew fairly well that there was someone that she had a crush on. He would find who that person was and try to give his best friend what she deserved.
"There is no one" she replied. He knew she lied, but he didn't call her out on it.
"Do you want me to stay here and talk to you tonight?' he asked. He knew she wouldn't ask, but if he offered she might agree.
"Sure" she said.
So he settled himself on the floor beside her bed. "So Kel, tell me everyone you ever had a crush on and when"
"Well, Cleon. That was on progress" she said, sniffling softly.
"I knew about that"
"Well... I kind of had a crush on you from the second year of page to our first year of squiredom" she said.
"Really?" he said.
"Really" she replied. He was a bit shocked he didn't realize that Kel ever had had feelings about him.
They kept talking late into the night.
The next day Neal woke up to realize he wasn't in his bed. He was on a hard cold floor. He opened his eyes to see that he was in Kel's room. The previous night flooded back to him and he stared at the lump she made on the bed. He was truly sorry for her. He vowed he would make life better for her.
The men often didn't realized it but they owed so much to Kel.
That night Raoul hosted a little party, like the ones he had hosted during Kel's squire days. Kel had practice jousting and her other weapons all day. She was running slightly late. She rounded the corner to Raoul's suite to hear her name being called out. "What about Lady Keladry?"
She silently went over to the door and listened in. She knew she shouldn't eavesdrop but she couldn't help it.
"No!" chorused most men.
"Kel is fine, she's a great warrior, but no, that's just weird!" said Merric.
"Why would it be weird?' asked Raoul.
"Kel's not a court lady" said Esmond, shyly.
"What makes a court lady?" asked Yuki.
"Well, not Kel!" said Merric "Kel is great, but she's way to uptight! She means to loosen up! No one knows what she is thinking. She's so perfect! Not one flaw!"
"I could never look at her as a potential lover" said Wolset. "She's just too scary with that glaive"
"And anyway it's not like Kel has girly feelings like that! She's KEL!" said Owen.
"Of course she has 'girly feelings'" snapped Alanna.
"Well, she doesn't show it!" said Fulcher.
"Maybe she doesn't show her feelings because if she did you would make fun of her, because you'd all tease her for being a girl, for being like a court lady" replied Neal angrily.
However his anger was obviously lost on most of the men present. "I can't just see her like that" said Lofren.
"Imagine her kissing someone! It's Kel! She's not a lady like that. Can you imagine someone bringing her flowers?" said Faleron.
"What about Cleon?" asked Daine. She was very angry at these men.
"Well that was different, she was a squire and, it's just not the same" said Esmond.
"So none of you men would consider Kel in a romantic way? Or are even attracted to her?" asked Yuki.
When Kel heard the chorus of No's she felt a tear go down her cheek.
"You guys don't think she's pretty?" asked Raoul.
"Well, she's not ugly" said Dom, slowly.
"but she's no beauty" continued Merric "She's way to tall and muscular"
"What bothers me is her mask" said Seaver "She doesn't let us in"
"Well, if my friends viewed me that way I'd definitely use a mask like Kel's to defend myself" said Buri, she was upset those men looked at one of the greatest girl in Tortall that way. She noticed however that Neal and Raoul were angry. At least two of the men present weren't idiots. Another person that caught her attention was Dom. He hadn't outright said he didn't like Kel that way and he looked thoughtful. Thinking back on the conversation she notices that Dom hadn't said anything bad yet. "What and who is Kel to you guys?"
"A damn good one"
"A great warrior"
"A great friend, who is always there for us" said Dom "She's always there for us, no matter what we need" he sounded a bit remorseful.
"Don't you guys see her as a Lady? Or a woman?" asked Daine, shocked, and very andry on her friends behalf.
"Not really no" replied most men.
The door creaked open to reveal Kel standing there, a tear going down her cheek. Silence fell on the room. She just shook her head and turned away. The men at least looked ashamed. They all tried to follow her but Raoul yelled at them to stop.
Raoul nodded at Neal who left to go find his best friend.
"Now you men are in trouble!" said Lady Alanna.