He'd been in love with the girl for four years before he got the chance to finally, properly, meet her, and it was all his meat-headed cousin's fault. Domitan of Masbolle was only fifteen months older than his cousin Nealan of Queenscove, and they were very close in their childhood. This in turn led to them being close in their teenage years, though physical distance meant that their almost sibling relationship was watered down into mere words on a page. When he did meet her, circumstances thankfully meant he was able to keep a mostly cool head, though through the years he was gratefully able to ease her into casually flirting with him, something no one in the Own had ever seen him do before. Then there was that Kennan thing, and he'd been so heartbroken he simply had to flirt more blatantly, and pretend that he did it with any woman, though he didn't really have eyes for any of the so-called beauties of the court, but at least there was a war to distract himself with.

Things were different when he saw her after her Ordeal though. She didn't sigh, not at all. He'd asked Neal about it and gotten the full story, as well as the opinion that while he had every confidence in Kel as a Knight and Commander, he was concerned for her as a friend is always concerned when they think there's something important that isn't being told. He could only agree, after all, that was what had prompted him to ask Neal in the first place.

Two years after that, Dom realised that he had been in love with Kel for ten years, and apart from flirting with her, being her friend through everything, and once even carrying her unconscious form out of a keep so that Neal could save her life, he really hadn't done much considering how potent his emotions were.

He had made the mistake of bemoaning his situation to his beloved Meathead. Thankfully, they had been in private, and even better, once Neal had gotten over his rage at Dom fixing himself on Kel – his best friend, practically his favourite little sister – had been able to provide one remarkably good pearl of wisdom-like advice.

"It started with a letter, right?" he'd said, pouring a glass of juice from a decanter in his room. "So write a letter of your own; to her mother, to your mother, ask about arranging a marriage, and for goodness' sake, talk to Kel, because if you don't, then I will."

Alright, so that last part might have been a bit of a warning, but it was still good advice.

~oOo~

Ilane gently took the letter from Piers' hand and passed him a glass, recognising shock in her husband's face when she saw it. When she read the letter, she fetched a glass for herself as well. Despite their love, neither of them had really anticipated this happening.

To Baron Piers and his Lady Ilane of Mindelean,

From Domitan of Masbolle, a sergeant in the Third Company of the Kings Own, currently serving with Keladry of Mindelean at the refugee camp of New Hope.

Greetings.

If upon receiving this letter your first thought is to worry for your daughter's health, be assured that she is well, and seems to be largely content with her position commanding our fortified encampment. Also, that she practises with her glaive every morning, and is even teaching a number of the children in the camp how to wield a spear in the same way. Apart from the few who are the type to complain if it is fine or bleak, Keladry is loved by everybody here, and she brings smiles to those around her every day, and in turn we all strive to make sure she has a reason to smile as well.

My reason for writing to you is not, however, simply to convey that your daughter is in remarkably good health. With your permission, I wish to court and some day marry Keladry. I have also written to my own parents, the Duke Amsten and Duchess Imry of Masbolle, regarding my intentions, which I assure you are of the purest nature. I await your response eagerly, for I cannot in my right mind pay court to your most excellent and wonderful daughter if my attentions were to be cut short by disapproval from either side. I refuse to do such a cruel thing to Keladry.

It is my hope that you shall meet with my parents and discuss this matter seriously, for I am most serious about my intentions.

Your eager servant,

Domitan of Masbolle.

~oOo~

Amsten poured a glass for himself, and his lady, and with relief they toasted. They had begun to fear that their second son would never find a girl to sway his heart, but here was proof! A letter from the north, from their blue-eyed boy.

Dear Father and Mother,

I am well, and the fighting is winding down, may even be over soon, so you might be able to look forward to my company again before next Midwinter.

Better news than this for you though, I am in love.

Please contact soonest the Mindeleans, as I wish to officially pay court to their daughter Keladry, the Lady Knight. Out of fairness to her and her family, I will wait until you have written me, saying that I may, but I love her very much so I hope that you shall write me back soon.

Please also tell Uncle Baird that Neal is well, if no more sane than he ever was.

Your son,

Dom.

They had some diplomats to meet with.

~oOo~

Kel was beginning to wonder what was going on with the sergeant. At any given time he could be seen with a worried expression on his face, and a distant look in his blue eyes. Twice messengers had come from Mastiff and Steadfast, and before she had reached them Dom was already accosting them, asking if they bore any news from beyond the war zone.

With a slightly aching heart, the Lady Knight could only suppose he was anxious for a letter from a loved one, though she had heard no whispers among his squad that Dom had a sweetheart.

Overhead, a hawk cried out, causing Kel – and, she noticed from the corner of her eye, Dom – to look up sharply. Kel kept an eye out for all the birds and animals around New Hope these days, but she suspected Dom was hoping it to be a messenger hawk. Watching it begin to circle lower, she suspected he may have his wish.

It was a beautiful bird, its feathers a bronzed brown, and elegant as it swept down and across the open centre of the camp before coming to land itself upon Kel's shoulder. There was a small tube tied to its left leg.

Dom appeared at her side just as she registered that the bird was carrying messages, a glove on one hand and some meat in the other.

While Dom took the bird from her shoulder, she took the message from its foot, only to see that it had Dom's name on it, as well as the seal of his family.

"Looks like a letter from home for you," she said, handing it over. "I hope it's the news you have been waiting for."

~oOo~

To Domitan of Masbolle

From Baron Piers and Lady Ilane of Mindelean; Also Duke Amsten and Duchess Imry of Masbolle.

We approve.

Now go and make her happy.

Dom yelled his joy, jumping up and running for the infirmary to tell Neal. Telling Neal was a lot easier than talking to Kel was going to be.

~oOo~

A gentle tapping at her door sounded, and Kel, not expecting company but shrouded in paperwork she could not focus on, sighed in relief at the thought of any distraction right now. She had been thinking too much on Dom again, and the menial paperwork was not helping to focus her thoughts elsewhere. She bid whoever was beyond the door to let themselves in, only to find the object of her thoughts standing before her.

She made herself smile, it wasn't hard, looking at him, but her own heartache was a bit of a dampener. "Was that message what you've been waiting for?"

"Yes," he answered, and Kel thought he looked somehow relieved and terrified at the same time.

"Good news I hope," she suggested, hoping he might talk to her about the contents, even though it wasn't really her place to pry.

"That depends on you," Dom said, an earnestness in his face.

"On me?" Kel was, she was prepared to admit, confused. She was also unprepared to admit that she was also hopeful, because if it wasn't what she hoped, then she didn't want to hurt even more from the hopes falling through.

"Some weeks ago I wrote my parents, declaring my intention to court you. I also wrote your parents, asking their permission to court you. I even went and got Sir Meathead's blessing. I got their answer today, saying that they approved, but it was up to yo-"

Dom didn't get to finish that. Kel had abruptly stood from her seat and grabbed him by the front of his tunic, tugging him forwards so that she could mash their lips together. When she released him, she took a deep, calming breath and sat down again.

"What about your career in the Own?" Kel asked, and Dom almost believed that she was calm.

"I like my work, but I love you Kel. In the event that you ever actually agree to marry me, I'll gladly resign, and be your stay-at-home husband. I've had a lot of time to think about this Kel, I promise I'm not being rash or doing anything foolish."

Kel smiled. "I love you too."

"So may I court you, properly, and tell all the world that neither of us are available for matchmaking mothers?" Dom asked, a slight teasing note in his voice.

Kel laughed. "Yes Dom, yes you may."

Domitan of Masbolle wondered then if even his wedding day would leave him so happy as that moment.