Yuki just, doesn't exist in this story.


Kel has been dragged to a party. A large party, with music and dancing.

And women. Lots of women.

Lots of pretty women with flowing hair and make-up and pretty dresses that make Kel's hair and bare face and boyish clothing look like a natural disaster. Lots of pretty women who make her look less than plain.

Lots of pretty women for Dom to flirt with.

She sees him with a woman with green eyes that could stop a griffin in its path and a dress that's a little low cut for Kel's liking, but according to Dom's wandering eyes he likes just fine. Her eyes follow the pair as Dom whirls her across the dance floor and she throws her head back to laugh, her throat exposed, and Kel is reminded that the neck is the weakest part of the body.

The most vulnerable.

She's so busy watching them that she doesn't notice Neal plunk down beside her.

"Don't you just love parties?" His voice is sarcastic but she doesn't even notice because Dom is now whispering in the woman's ear, telling her a secret Kel desperately wants to be a part of.

Neal follows her gaze, sees his cousin and the bimbo, and takes his best friend's hand.

"He's drunk, Kel."

She finally pays attention to him, turning her head so she's staring at him, looking strangely haunted.

"Is that supposed to make it better?"

Neal shakes his head. "You know he loves you."

"Then why isn't he with me?"

Kel's voice is low, trying to conceal her emotions, but Neal can see through that, and he strokes her hand reassuringly.

"Kel-"

Suddenly Kel stands up, shaking her head as if trying to clear it. She still has a hold of his hand, and she pulls him up.

"No. This is a party. I'm going to dance. And you're going to dance with me."

She tries to pull him towards the floor, but he digs his heels in and stops her.

"Kel-"

"What?"

"You don't want to dance."

She seems to deflate before his eyes.

"What else am I supposed to do? I'm a woman, aren't I? And women are supposed to dance."

Neal shakes his head adamantly. "Kel, don't do that to yourself. You're perfect the way you are."

"Apparently not!"

They're starting to draw attention. "Why don't we go outside, Kel. Get some fresh air," he cajoles.

After a moment's hesitation, and one last look at Dom, she nods.

Once they get outside, it is significantly quieter. As they walk to the gardens, Neal starts to talk.

"When we were little, Dom and I would play rescue the princess. We didn't have a girl to play the princess, we just used our imaginations. At the end, when all the monsters lay defeated behind us, Dom always got the princess. And her sister. And her best friend's."

Kel sits down, staring into the distance. "Is this supposed to be making me feel better?" She asks.

"That's just how Dom is, Kel. He's a ladies man. But he's loyal. Goddess only knows what he's saying to that girl, but that's all it is. Just words."

She shakes her head. "It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if they're just words or not. He's ashamed of me."

Neal recoils as if he's been slapped. "He is not!"

Tears are welling up, and angrily she reaches up to wipe them away. "Yes, he is. He's ashamed of the way I dress and act and speak. He's ashamed of who I am. He wants me to be like her, all smiles and make-up and more dresses than brain cells."

"That's not what he wants, Kel."

"It is too! And I could defeat one hundred killing devices, but she still wins, because she's in there with my lover."

Neal shakes his head, grabbing her hand again. "She doesn't win, Kel," he assures her, but it's no use. Tears are streaming down her face.

"All my life, I've been penalized for who I am. I just thought he might be the one to love me despite it."

Neal shakes his head. He feels as if he's going to burst.

"Dammit Kel!"

She looks up at him, surprised. He jumps up, standing in front of her, grabbing hold of both her hands.

"When are you going to understand? You don't deserve someone who's ashamed of you; you deserve someone who's proud of you. Someone who loves you because of who you are, not despite it."

Tears continue to fall, but Kel stays silent. Neal crouches down and takes a hold of her face.

"I love you for who you are. I'm proud of you. And if I had you, I would show you off constantly. Isn't that enough?"

She doesn't answer him. She stares at him for one long moment, then suddenly she leans forward and kisses him.

Neal responds to her lips with an enthusiasm that surprises her. He moves closer, and his hands move to her waist and he pulls her down so they're both kneeling on the ground. He kisses her greedily, and Kel is almost distracted from everything going on, her arms locked around his neck.

But then suddenly she pulls away.

"No Neal!"

Neal, breathless, looks at her in confusion. He won't let go of her waist.

"What?"

"Don't you understand? By doing this, I'm just like him. I'm worse than him. And I'll be becoming everything I hate about those girls. I can't… I can't do this, Neal. I'm sorry."

She gets up, breaking his embrace. Where his hands use to be on her skin is now cold, but she keeps running, ignoring him as he calls her name.

Every instinct is telling her to turn around, but guilt propels her forward.

xxx.

She runs to the room she shares with Dom. The party will be over by now. He's probably wondering where she is.

"I kissed Neal," is the first thing she says when she gets in the room.

Her voice reverberates back to her, bouncing off the walls.

She's all alone in this empty room.

"Dom?" She asks, thinking he might be hiding.

He's not.

She shakes her head, fresh tears springing up in her eyes, but she won't let them fall.

She turns around and walks away.

xxx.

It's a long walk back to his room. A long, lonely walk back to his empty room, where he'll spend another night in his empty bed.

When he gets in his room, however, it's not empty. Kel is sitting in the middle of his bed. She scrambles up when he walks in.

"It- it was unlocked. I figured you wouldn't mind."

He shakes his head. "I don't mind. But… what are you doing here?"

She steps forward tentatively.

"Dom… he wasn't in our room." She hopes he will understand what she means.

He does.

His arms open wide and she almost trips over her feet trying to get to him. His arms close around her and he pulls her in tight to him, as if trying to mould her to him so they'll never be separated.

Neither of them will be lonely tonight.