A/N: Another Kel/Dom oneshot, just because the idea burst into my mind and I couldn't resist. Enjoy, and God bless. xx
The Wrong Idea
Domitan of Masbolle was, well, a bit of a ladies' man. Not that he was at all embarrassed by this. In fact, it rather amused him that he could get such interesting reactions out of females just by doing the simplest things. Like winking, for example. One wink at a court lady and her heart was fluttering, her cheeks flushing and she was swaying slightly on the spot. It was just so easy to give the girls the wrong idea.
But there was one annoying exception to this rule, and Dom found himself constantly thinking about it- well, her. Tall and hazel eyed with light brown-blonde hair, Keladry of Mindelan never seemed to take Dom's flirtations in the wrong way. If anything, she took them as a joke, which, to be honest, made Dom quite irritated, and, well, nervous. Honestly, the one girl he wanted to give the wrong idea, and she was either ignoring his advances or was completely oblivious to them.
The former thought worried him more than he could admit, even to himself. If Kel was simply ignoring his advances, then that would have to mean that she didn't... that she wouldn't... that she wasn't interested in him. And that simply would not do. Every other girl Dom had met had seemed to think him handsome, or amusing, or noble, or gallant, or some other ridiculous virtue that he quite probably wasn't. In any case, every other girl he had met had definitely been attracted to him in some way. It irked him- and hurt him- that Kel didn't seem to be.
Dom had one week before the Own had to travel again. One week. Being a sergeant in the King's Own was definitely what he loved doing, but he knew that it was dangerous. Any day he could be killed- and the same applied to Kel. And that was why he knew that he had to show Kel how he felt, before something really did happen. He couldn't bear it if his life was ended- or hers, whispered a treacherous little voice at the back of his head that he quickly shut down- and he hadn't at least tried to have a relationship with her.
One week, he resolved. One week, after which Kel would know how he felt for sure. Then she could decide- and if she too wanted him, then they could be happy, or if she wasn't interested he would make himself go on like usual.
After all, she was the only woman he'd ever truly felt some kind of interest in.
Dom strolled down the corridor that led to Kel's room, whistling loudly to try and hide his nervousness. He actually felt kind of sick with worry- but in his mind, he was blaming it on that disgusting new slosh that the palace cook had served up for breakfast. It was definitely, definitely the slosh that was making him feel this way. Sickening stuff.
He knocked on Kel's door loudly, swapping the large bunch of roses he was carrying to his other hand, and taking a final sniff of them to make sure that they smelled as good as he had originally thought.
"Won't be a moment!" Kel's voice yelled loudly. He smiled faintly as he heard the sounds of running footsteps around her room, and then jumped back with surprise as the door was flung open violently.
"Oh," Kel said breathlessly, sweeping bangs of blondey-brown hair back from her forehead. "It's only you."
Dom blinked at her, unsure of whether to take this as a compliment or an insult. It kind of sounded insulting...
"I brought you a present," he said smoothly, offering her the rather large bunch of red and white roses.
Kel stared at him, momentarily stumped for an answer. "You brought me flowers?"
He nodded, allowing himself a slight grin. "Yes. They smell quite nice, if I do say so myself."
Nervous, he waited for her to accept them. The Corus flower seller had asked him what the occasion was, and upon probing and finding that the flowers were for his 'lady love', the seller had gone on to recommend red and white roses. He had pulled out some sort of flower guidebook and showed Dom that red meant 'a burning and wild passion' and white meant 'everlasting love'. Dom suspected strongly that the seller had also wanted him to buy the more expensive flowers.
Kel stood in the doorway for a fraction of a second, confused, but then stepped back quickly, remembering her manners. "Oh. Well. Come in, then. I should put them in some water."
As he walked in he noticed that her feet were bare, her breeches rumpled and her shirt back to front. Dom frowned, suddenly nearly having a panic attack. She looked as though... as though... she had just been, well, undressed. And why would one be undressed in the middle of the day, unless, unless...?
Suspicious, he scanned Kel's rooms carefully, looking for any evidence of a male caller. He could see none, but that didn't mean there hadn't been one, and, and...
Amidst his thoughts, he hadn't noticed that Kel had found a glass vase to put the flowers in, and had filled it with fresh, cold water from a bucket beside her bathing screen.
Her bathing screen. Dom allowed himself to exhale and relax slightly- after all, Kel could maybe have just been having a bath after training before breakfast.
"Dom?" Kel prompted, holding out the vase. Dom, holding back an embarrassed blush, shoved the flowers into the vase quickly. Kel inhaled, smelling them, and smiled. "Thanks. They're really nice."
She turned away to place them on her table, and Dom frowned. Any other lady that he had given flowers to would have blushed bright red, maybe stammered a little, giggled, batted her eyelashes. From Kel, there had been nothing like that. And the meaning of the flowers. The seller had assured him over and over that of course every lady knew what those particualar colour roses meant. But then again, Dom supposed, Kel wasn't exactly your typical lady.
Surely, though, the giving of flowers would have to give her some kind of inkling. Men didn't just hand out flowers. It had to be for someone special, for some kind of occasion.
Dom kicked himself mentally. He was way overthinking this. Of course Kel would realise later that he had just given her a huge bunch of roses and would consequently see that he had feelings for her. Then she could do something about it.
"So," said Kel lightly, turning back towards him. "What's the occasion?"
Lost in his own thoughts, Dom could only register the fact that she had spoken, and gaped rather half-wittedly at her. "What?"
Kel frowned a little, a small crease denting her forehead. "The occasion. What's the occasion for you giving me flowers?"
Dom snatched at this tiny opportunity. He grabbed one of her hands and pressed an extravagant kiss to the back of it. "Must there be an occasion for me to give you flowers, my lovely lady?"
Her eyebrows elevated and she blinked several times. Dom wasn't sure if this was a good sign or a bad sign. He watched attentively.
"Erm, right," Kel said finally. "Well, thankyou. I think."
"Anytime," Dom answered smoothly. "For you," he added quickly, effectively ruining his charming line.
She shot him a look that was half amused, half he didn't know what, and it was in that moment that Dom realised his one, ultimate wish: to be able to read Keladry of Mindelan's mind.
It was probably quite pathetic of him, but he was scared, after yesterday. A bunch of red and white roses and no visible reaction. Maybe giving without being there was more romantic.
So he left the box of chocolates at Kel's door, with a red ribbon and a card saying 'Hope you like chocolate. Love, Dom xoxo'.
He hoped she knew that an 'x' was a kiss and an 'o' was a hug. And that he'd put two of them on the card for a reason. He'd been tempted to write about a hundred more but his pen was precariously low on ink already. And the card wasn't particularly spacious either.
She sought him out after lunch, holding the box of chocolates, eyebrows raised. "It's not my birthday for another three months, you know."
He smiled cheerily. "I know. I remember when your birthday is, of course, if that's what you're hinting at."
She rolled her eyes at him. "You know perfectly well that's not what I'm talking about."
"Then what are you talking about?" Dom asked, blinking blue eyes at her innocently.
Kel grinned at him, shaking her head disapprovingly yet somehow teasingly. "Why do you keep giving me presents?"
He tilted his head curiously. "I've given you roses and today chocolates. Two presents. Hardly merit for asking why I keep giving you presents."
At this, she laughed aloud. "Oh, Dom. You're a funny one. Have a chocolate."
He didn't turn down the offer of a chocolate, which was obviously the right choice, because then Kel stayed all afternoon, sharing her chocolates with him and laughing.
It had to be some kind of a start. And anyway, even if there had been no fluttering of the eyelashes, swaying on the spot, or any other kind of ridiculous lovesick behaviour, there was still five days of the week left. Five days left to show her how he felt.
Dom watched Kel train. It was fascinating, really, the graceful, deadly movement of her body as she swung in the complicated dances and patterns of her glaive routine. When she finally stopped, sweating profusely, it was a shock.
He slid off the training court fence and strolled over to her noncholantly. "Hey, Kel. Looking good."
Taking a large sip of her water flask, Kel choked with surprise at the presence of another person this early. When she had regained her breath, she smiled at him calmly. "Hello, Dom."
He grinned in return, laughter crinkling his eyes. "Still practicing the pigsticker, I see?"
She shook her head at him reprovingly. "Better than your ridiculous sword."
"Ridiculous?" he protested, moving after her as she began to walk back to the palace. "What on earth is ridiculous about my sword?"
"Well," Kel started, but then she stopped moving, wincing with pain.
"What's wrong?" Dom halted instantly as well, moving to place a hand on Kel's back as she bent over with pain.
"Just a cramped muscle in my back, I think," Kel replied, gritting her teeth with pain and embarrassment.
"Hmm," Dom thought aloud. "It hurts, kind of like someone's jabbing you in the back, over and over?"
Kel nodded tightly.
"I think I may know how to help you," confessed Dom. "This is going to sound quite strange, but sit down in the grass over there."
The spot he had chosen was a little secluded, far enough behind the training courts so that no one would see them from the palace- not for anything other than saving Kel some embarrassment, Dom reminded himself.
Kel, although shooting him a doubtful look, obeyed him, flopping down in the grass.
"Okay," Dom chewed his lip and knelt down behind her. "Don't punch me for this, alright?"
With that, he placed both of his hands on her back and began rubbing gentle circles into it. "Up or down?"
"Down," Kel said, her voice strangely husky.
Dom moved his hands further down, his throat going dry at their close proximity. "There?"
"Lower," instructed Kel.
His hands moved an inch or two lower, but didn't dare to stray any further down. "Is that good?"
"It actually does feel better," Kel confessed. "What are you doing?"
Dom managed a grin. "It's called massage. When I get sore muscles I find it helps."
For a while, he simply concentrated on moving his hands on her back. He gently moved his hands around her back, untensing and untightening muscles. Eventually, his hands ended up on her shoulders, rubbing circles near her neck and arms.
"My shoulders don't hurt," Kel pointed out curiously.
"I know," Dom said calmly. "But it feels nice, doesn't it?"
At this, Dom was pleased to note that Kel was completely stumped for words.
"I guess," she admitted finally.
He didn't stop, revelling in the feeling of his hands against her skin. He didn't know how long they sat there, in the grass, in the cold, early morning, winter sun. All he knew was that he never wanted to stop.
Eventually, he did, though. Stretching his tired arms and fingers, Dom moved to sit next to Kel. "Feeling good now?"
It was a mark of her tiredness and relaxation that Kel leant against him. "Thankyou."
A smile crept up onto his face. "My pleasure."
They sat like that for an age, Kel leaning on Dom, her eyes closing absently. It was a while before he noticed that she was asleep, and a tender smile lifted his mouth. Her blonde-brown hair was messy, tendrils all over her face. Gently, Dom brushed it away, behind her ears, lingering his hand on her cheek. Feeling slightly intrusive, he took his hand away and instead concentrated on the environment around him. The grass, the trees, the sky... The warmth of Kel against his side. The way her hair was brushing against his shoulders. The slight smile on her face when she slept. The pattern of the sun against her skin.
Dammit, Dom, look at the grass or something.
But Kel was so much more interesting.
When she awoke, she was apologetic, embarrassed, humiliated. He was smiling, calm, happy, at peace.
He'd just had the best morning of his entire life.
It was with some regret that he let her leave to bathe, but he went on with the rest of his day humming, thinking about Kel. Sleeping on him. In the grass and the sun.
Dom approached Kel before breakfast, coming up behind her to sling an arm carelessly across her shoulders. She looked up at him calmly, lifting an eyebrow questioningly.
"You know what?" Dom said brightly. "I think we should go to the city today."
Kel tilted her head at him curiously. "Why?"
He grinned broadly. "Why not, my dear?"
To his intense disappointment, there was no reaction whatsoever to him referring to her as 'my dear'. Maybe, he thought desperately, that simply wasn't clear enough.
And so, in the carriage on the way to Corus, Dom scooted closer to Kel on the bench so that their legs were touching.
"You know, there is plenty of spare room on this bench," she pointed out calmly.
"I know," Dom replied simply. With those words, he again put his arm around her shoulder.
No reaction. Dom scowled inwardly, wondering why on earth his amazing charm was not working.
The carriage went over a large bump and both occupants bounced, almost hitting their heads on the roof.
Dom took his opportunity. "That was close," he commented, leaning his head onto the top of Kel's own. "You almost got a bump on your pretty little head."
He felt her laugh carelessly. "A bump on my head. That would be unusual."
No stammering, no eyelash battening, in fact, no response at all. For all Kel was letting on, Dom could have been sitting ten inches away from her.
They reached Corus, the rest of the journey being the usual light bantering between them. Dom leapt out of the carriage, offering Kel a hand which she pretended not to see when she jumped out. Undaunted, Dom grabbed her hand and dragged her towards the markets, holding her slim hand tightly in his.
"Where are we going?" Kel asked eventually, after half an hour of shoving through the crowds to no visible destination.
"You'll see," Dom promised cheerfully. After several more minutes of crowd bashing, they were outside his target.
Kel read the sign out loud. "Corus's Finest Pizza Parlour?"
Dom grinned. "Have you ever had pizza before?"
Confused, Kel shook her head. "What's pizza?"
Sitting across from Kel at a rather cosy, private table, Dom revelled in the fact that the table was so small that their knees touched underneath it. Kel herself didn't appear to be aware of the fact; she was flicking through a parchment menu that had been sitting on the table when they arrived.
"What would you like?" Dom asked eventually, when he had gotten over the novelty of having Kel's legs against his.
"Hmmm," Kel said slowly. "What are you going to have?"
Dom smiled broadly. What a question. "The cheese-meat-supreme pizza with cola and a side of potato fries."
Kel tilted her head curiously. "You seem very sure."
He laughed a little. "I come here often."
She set down the menu, her lips tightening invisibly. "With who?"
Dom had to think about it, which only made Kel's mask slide on even more. "No one, mostly. By myself. But I've been here a couple of times with the boys."
Kel relaxed slightly, but not much. The thinking pause had only made her suspicious- how many girls has he taken here?- but Dom had been oblivious to this.
"Well," she decided. "Maybe I'll have the chicken-cheese pizza with lemon water."
"And fries," Dom added quickly. "You have to try the fries."
That decided, Dom hailed the sleek, brunette waitress, who came all too eagerly to their table. Leaning over, so that Dom couldn't fail to get a glimpse down the front of her dress, she rested one elbow on the table. "And what would you like, sir?"
Kel, disgusted, looked away, trying her best to ignore the waitress's obvious flirting.
Dom, after one horrified glance, desperately tried to avoid looking at the waitress, eventually focusing on his lap. "One chicken-cheese pizza and one cheese-meat-supreme pizza, please. Both with fries. And a lemon-water and a cola, please."
"Anything else I can get you?" The waitress lifted one neat, dark eyebrow suggestively.
"No, thankyou, I'm quite alright," Dom tried to say it confidently and assertively.
"You certainly are," the waitress strolled off with a light laugh, her hips swinging.
Dom smacked his head on the table, a terrified expression on his face. "That was so awful."
Kel returned her gaze to him, lifting her eyebrows questioningly. "What was?"
He shot her a look. "Don't pretend you didn't notice. It was horrible."
Quite surprised by his words, Kel abandoned her oblivious act. "Really?"
Dom blinked at her, confused. "What do you mean?"
"Was it really horrible?" Kel set her elbow on the table, avoiding Dom's eyes. "I mean, you seem like you'd like that sort of attention."
He stared back at her, honestly flabbergasted and quite hurt. "You think I like that sort of thing? That sort of girl?"
Her brows drew together and she looked back at him, confused by his vehemence. "I don't know. I guess I just..." She bit her lip, trying to gather her thoughts.
Dom shut his eyes slightly, shaking his head. "Do I seem like that sort of person?"
"Well..." her trailed off answer was enough for him, he almost slumped visibly in his seat with hurt and misery.
A light hand on his own drew him back. "I'm sorry," Kel said softly.
He didn't move his hand off the table, opening his eyes to watch her tanned hand over his own. "Don't worry about it."
She smiled sadly. "I shouldn't have said that. It wasn't nice of me. I guess I just thought..." Shrugging, she almost absent-mindedly picked up his hand and flipped it over so that she could clasp it in her own.
Dom focused on their hands; it was easier than looking up to meet her eyes. "It's probably my own fault."
Kel's other hand lifted up to touch his chin, and he almost died when she let her hand spread out across his cheek, tilting his chin up lightly with her fingers. When he looked up, she was suddenly much closer than she had been before, leaning across the table, mere inches seperating their faces.
"I hate seeing you sad," she practically whispered, and his heart melted.
"Here's your pizza!" the brunette waitress practically sqawked, banging two large plates onto the table so that Kel jerked away from Dom, her cheeks flaming before she forced her Yamani calm back on.
"Thankyou," Dom said politely, really feeling a rather large urge to throw the pizza back in the waitress's face. Seriously, who interrupted a moment like that? Who knew when he'd get another one? Yet surely, if Kel was acting like that, she did return his feelings?
The waitress was still standing there, her hands on her hips, and Dom blinked up at her. "Yes?"
She took one hand off her hip to beckon impatiently. "Money, please."
"Oh yes, of course," Dom hurriedly dug in his pocket for the right change without noticing that Kel was rummaging in her breeches' pocket for money as well. Both, finding the right amount, held out their hands to the waitress, only to discover that the other was already there.
The waitress raised an icy eyebrow. "As much as I'd love to accept double fare, I think I'd get sacked. Who's paying today?"
Dom hastily reached out and grabbed the hand of Kel's that was holding the money. He congratulated himself silently on getting another opportunity to hold her hand while he nodded coolly at the waitress. "I am, thankyou."
The waitress grabbed the money and flounced off without another word, her brown hair swinging.
"I would have paid, you know," Kel said reprovingly. "After all, I'm eating half of it."
He grinned at her, putting their entwined hands on the table. "But I brought you here."
She acknowledged that fact with a resigned nod. "But I'm perfectly capable of paying for myself."
He tilted his head at her. "That doesn't mean that I don't want to pay for you."
She let this go with a laugh, shaking her head at him so that her blonde-brown hair swayed. He watched a tendril flick across her eyes and resisted the urge to brush it behind her ear gently. Their eyes met and he smiled at her slowly.
Kel seemed to suddenly find the meal incredibly interesting. "Oh wow, this pizza looks great!" she said, oddly enthusiastic. She practically snatched her hand away from Dom's and picked up her knife and fork eagerly. "So, which end do you start at?"
Tired and disappointed, Dom trudged back to his palace room. The city trip had been, well, awkward after Kel had taken her hand away from his so quickly. She had been quiet and unresponsive for the rest of the trip, and in the carriage on the way back to the palace when he'd tried to put his arm around her, she'd pulled away as fast as she could with the excuse that she was too hot. Too hot. In a freezing cold Tortall winter.
Dom kicked the side of his bed in frustration. Did she have feelings for him or not? At the pizza parlour, he'd begun to think maybe- especially when she'd touched his face. But after that, it had all gone severely downhill. This simply wouldn't do.
But, he supposed, the week wasn't yet up. And that meant three more days to show Kel how he truly felt.
It was late afternoon before Dom finally noticed that the palace was in preparation for something. Some large occasion, in fact- at least by the look of it. Pages and courtiers scrabbled around the halls, setting up complicated arrangements of tables and decorations that were quite impressive. Confused, Dom sought someone who could tell him what the celebration was.
It was in the stables that he chanced across Neal, who appeared to be digging in the straw. "Well, well, my darling Meathead, what are you doing?"
Neal shot up from the straw like he'd just been bitten by a rather large wasp. "Nothing!"
Dom blinked at this interesting reaction. "Oh, really?"
"Mhhmmm," Neal nodded desperately. "Abbsoluuuuutely nothing."
Shrugging, Dom decided that he really didn't have time to spare needling Neal. "So, what's the occasion?"
At this, Neal's eyes bulged out alarmingly. "What?" he practically squeaked.
Quite scared, Dom held up his hands in a surrender gesture. "In the palace, in the palace! Everyone seems to be setting up for something! What's happening?"
Neal breathed for a few moments and looked less like he was going to spontaneously combust. "You idiot. Have you really forgotten the Midwinter ball?"
Dom smacked his forehead with his palm. "Is that this week?"
"It's tonight," Neal said, in the most scathering voice he could manage. "Haven't you arranged yourself a partner for all the dancing, yet, cousin? Don't you remember what will happen to you if you don't?"
Dom's eyes widened with horror at this. "Oh. Mithros. Why didn't you remind me?"
Vividly engrained in his memory was his first proper Midwinter ball, at age nineteen. His grandmother, horrified at his lack of a lady, had set him up for dancing with all the eligible court ladies. The experience had not only been humiliating but also slightly painful when with the worst dancers.
"I just did," Neal pointed out, an expression of glee now descending on his face. "Don't tell me you really had forgotten!"
"Yes, I had forgotten," Dom practically growled, his mind working through all last-minute possibilities.
"What are you two doing?" came an all-too familiar voice. Dom jerked around to find Kel, rugged up in what looked like around ten clothing layers.
"Nothing," Neal said hastily. "In fact I'm quite late for a ridiculously important meeting. So I'll see you two at the ball."
Shaking her head, Kel watched Neal sprint out of the stables. "He's acting like he's got an angry bear chasing him."
"He is, that," Dom agreed. "What's up with him?"
Kel smiled slightly. "No idea."
There was a bit of a pause while Dom searched for a way, any way, to ask her. Because he really, really, really wanted to walk into that Midwinter ball with Keladry of Mindelan on his arm.
"I was just going to see Peachblossom," Kel told him cheerfully. "Want to come?"
Dom nodded, still lost in his thoughts, and followed Kel towards Peachblossom's stall, taking the time to notice that her cheeks were flushed beautifully with the cold and her eyes were sparkling.
Kel pulled an apple out of one of her many pockets and offered it to Peachblossom. "Here you go, boy."
Dom stretched out a hand to pat him but had to snatch his hand away quickly when Peachblossom went to snap at it. "Still a testy pony, I see."
Kel grinned at the reminder of when she had first met Dom; her first day as Raoul's squire. "That was a good turnover," she said suddenly, her smile widening at Dom's surprised expression.
Dom smiled back at her, his white teeth glinting. "I'm glad."
His eyes on her made her feel tingly and warm, she looked away quickly and returned to tentatively stroking Peachblossom's nose.
"Kel?" Dom finally managed.
She glanced across at him curiously. "Yes?"
He swallowed his nervousness and tried for a charming smile. "Will you come to the Midwinter ball with me?"
The smile she gave him in return was rueful. "Tonight?"
He nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
"Sorry, Dom, I'm already going with someone."
The words hit him like an arrow to the chest. He almost choked with shock. The one possibility that he hadn't considered- that Kel would already have a partner that she was going with. And why hadn't he considered that?
Because he'd thought that he had absolutely no competition. He'd been stupid enough to forget that Kel was an amazing woman that many other men would be after. And he'd been doing an extremely rubbish job of proving to her that he was the one.
Struggling for words, Dom finally managed a croaky "who?"
Was it his imagination or did she not look particularly impressed when she responded? "Cleon. You'd remember him, I suppose?"
Dom nearly collapsed with shock. Cleon of Kennan? That large, red-headed oaf that had tried to charm Kel with those ridiculous names all progress? Cleon of Kennan?
"Isn't he married now?" Dom practically demanded.
Kel shook her head. "He married last year... no, two years ago, but his wife died during childbirth last winter. He's back at the palace for Midwinter and he might be staying for the summer."
Dom held back a large variety of insults that were bubbling to the forefront of his mind. "Well that's... nice."
She smiled slightly. "I should go get ready. I guess I'll see you at the ball?"
"Yeah, see you there." Dom suddenly felt very tired and very defeated.
He was perfectly, on the dot, on time to the ball, which was the depressing part. Usually he was late because he was picking up his partner, and of course, being court ladies, they wouldn't be ready. It was because he was so early, and without a partner, that he actually had to endure sitting down and watching all the entrances. Floods of court ladies, knights, men of the Own and other assorted people descended the stairs to the sound of the herald's voice, some gracefully, some clumsily, and some just plain hilariously.
Eventually, the time came. Dom braced himself to hear it...
"Cleon of Kennan and Keladry of Mindelan!"
The red headed oaf trudged down the stairs gracelessly, his face one big beaming smile. So it should be, Dom thought sourly, walking in with Kel on his arm.
It was then that his attention flicked to Kel, and did not move away for the whole night.
She looked amazing. Clothed in a simple golden gown that could have only been created by Lalasa, her hair was curled and tumbled freely around her shoulders. Glittering red stones rested around her neck and her wrist, and scattered across the dress were shining threads and jewels. Her eyes appeared to sparkle on her face, and her teeth flashed constantly in a heart-wrenching smile. The dress did not try to hide her natural, muscled curves, but accentuated them, making Kel appear confident and free.
Dom couldn't look away. All through dinner, his food was tasteless in his mouth as he stared across the room at Kel and That Kennan. His muscles tightened when Cleon rested his arm on the back of her chair, and he felt like running over and smashing Cleon over the head with an axe when he asked Kel to dance.
And then Kennan proceeded to hog Kel for the whole evening. Dance after dance, Kel spent with Cleon of Kennan, floating like a goddess on her feet. Dom scowled, picking up a cold glass of cordial off a nearby tray as the song changed, and Kennan didn't let go of Kel.
The next song, Dom left his glass on a table, and walked up behind Cleon, tapping him lightly on the shoulder. "Sorry to steal her from you Kennan, but may I have this dance?"
Looking at Kel, he smiled at her directly, again appreciating the fine figure she cut in a dress. Kel smiled back radiantly.
Cleon suppressed a scowl and nodded at Dom politely. "Of course."
Dom moved forwards, placing one hand on Kel's waist and the other lightly on the back. He led her neatly in the next waltz, pulling her close so that her head rested lightly on his shoulder.
"Are you having a good evening?" Kel asked eventually.
He smiled down at her. "I am now. Are you?"
She grinned back up at him. "I think so. I'm a little uncomfortable, dressed like this, but the dessert was amazing."
Dom, sadly, had not noticed the dessert- he had been rather preoccupied.
The music changed abruptly and Dom halted reluctantly. "I suppose I'd better give you back to Kennan."
"Oh, don't bother," Kel said, waving a casual hand. Dom stared at her, surprised, and she, shockingly, blushed slightly. "Oops. Did I say that out loud?"
Dom's eyes were now fixated at the colour that had spread across her cheek. She had blushed? Kel never blushed! Maybe, maybe...
He tilted his head with amusement and continued to lead her in the dance. "Yes, you said that out loud. I thought you liked him?"
Kel bit her lip and smiled. "I do. I really do. But he's so..." she sighed faintly. "He's very overprotective. And, well, he's been married. He seems to think that he can just pick up where we left off two and a half years ago, but?" she shrugged and shook her head. "I don't think that's what I want. Not now, at least."
Dom concentrated on the steps of the dance, considering his words carefully before he replied. "I'm glad."
She lifted her eyes up to his face. "Oh?"
Embarrassed at the questioning, oblivious look on her face, Dom messed up. "Yes. I guess I just don't think... I mean you and him, you're not... Well... Maybe he's just not the one for you."
Her eyes lowered again. "You believe in all that one true love kind of thing?"
Yes and you are mine. Dom shrugged his shoulders carelessly. "I suppose so. I mean, it seems nice, doesn't it?"
She nodded minimally. "I guess. Kind of."
It was at that moment that everything began to go wrong.
"Domitan!" came a horribly familiar screech from the edge of the dance-floor. Dom shut his eyes momentarily and steered Kel away into the throng of dancers.
"Hide me," he whispered desperately, pulling a terrified face. Kel stared at him, bemused.
"Domitan!" came the screech again. "I can see you cringing away with those dancers! Come over here so I can introduce you to your new dance partner!"
An old lady with brittle grey hair and a royal blue dress stomped out towards Dom, who gulped in alarm. "Oh, Mithros."
"Who's that?" Kel asked, eyeing the lady up and down.
Dom let go of Kel reluctantly. "That is my grandmother."
Kel watched with some interest as Dom's grandmother marched up to him and grabbed him by the arm. Dom's head bent as they walked away; and he looked like a scolded page, much to Kel's amusement. He turned around, mouthing 'sorry' at her.
"How rude," Cleon appeared next to Kel. "Leaving you in the middle of a song like that."
Kel felt faintly irritated by this judgement. "He had to go. I'm tired of dancing anyway. I think I'll sit down for a while."
Cleon shrugged. "I'll come."
Kel strode to the outer benches and sat down, fanning herself with her hand. "It's hot in here."
"Would you like to go outside?" the invitation from Cleon came all too eagerly.
Kel shook her head, her eyes still fixed unobtrusively on Dom. "Is there any drinks?"
Cleon leapt up. "I'll find you one."
"Thanks," Kel mumbled, as he practically jogged away.
With his grandmother, Dom was now being introduced to a multitude of young, giggling court ladies. One, a bold blonde, was particularly obvious in her intentions, when she smacked Dom on the backside with her fan. Dom mentally made a note of her appearance and resolved to avoid her at all cost.
He shot a glance back to the dance floor and, disappointingly, couldn't spot Kel anywhere. Where had she gone? Where had Kennan taken her?
"But this," announced his grandmother in an all-too familiar tone. It meant that she was announcing her jewel of the night, the 'best of the best', and that Dom was expected to dance with the young lady. Dom cringed in expectation.
"This," ploughed on Dom's grandmother. "Is Alissa."
The girl in question wasn't disgusting; in fact she was really quite beautiful. Short and slim, with fiery auburn hair and glinting brown eyes, Alissa was definitely one of the better looking court ladies. Her green dress hugged her body and didn't have a particularly high neckline. And she definitely was not Kel. Dom looked away awkwardly, searching for Kel in the crowd.
"Domitan?" his grandmother prompted, her voice becoming slightly shrill. "This is Alissa."
Dom quickly returned to charming mode. "Hello, my lady." He bent to brush his lips against her pale white, soft hand, and marvelled at the contrast between Kel's firm, tanned, calloused hands, and this creature's lily white, pale, almost pudgy hands.
Alissa smiled and predictably batted her eyelashes a little. Dom sighed inwardly and resigned himself to a night of charming simple court ladies. "May I have this dance?"
She nodded quickly and Dom once again set out onto the dance-floor, this time with a much less pleasurable partner.
Kel watched Dom and the lily-white, red-headed, slim girl dance. She moved gracefully, Kel had to admit, and was light on her feet. Kel watched as her head leant lightly on Dom's shoulder, and then had to look away when he whispered in her ear.
So she'd been right, after all. Dom wasn't interested in any particualar girl- he was just interested in girls as a whole. It didn't really seem to matter to him which girl he got, so long as he got one.
She was glad she hadn't fallen for his charms. Dom may be a good friend, but he certainly wasn't the kind of man she could afford to love. Even as much as she wanted to.
Later, when Cleon returned with a glass of cordial, Kel made herself laugh and talk like she was interested in him. Because although she really, really wasn't, it felt better to try and charm Cleon when Dom was across the room flirting with some auburn haired, empty-headed court lady.
Dom was roaming the palace listlessly, searching for an idea to show Kel how he felt. He was out of inspiration. Flowers, chocolate, a massage, a trip to the city, dancing- but no success. None at all. The situation bordered on ridiculous.
It was a lost cause, thought one half of himself.
There's still two days left, said his bold, rebellious side.
And Kennan. The reappearance of Cleon- most unhelpful, and it could have possibly ruined all his chances. Even after Kel's words to him about Cleon last night, he'd seen her later laughing and talking quite animatedly with Cleon.
Dom's mouth turned down like he'd just bitten into a lemon.
It was then that he walked into an empty- or so he thought- hallway, and chanced across Kel herself. She was standing next to an open window with a tiny jar of something in her hand.
Dom summoned up his carefree, flirtatious self and approached her smiling. "What's in the jar?"
Kel jumped, startled, and then relaxed as she saw it was only Dom. She returned his smile lightly, and tilted the jar to show him that it was empty. "It was lip balm."
"What's that?" Dom asked, honestly clueless. The word lip had only succeeded to remind him of Kel's own lips, and it was there that his gaze was drawn to. Her lips were so pink, so soft looking, so...
Kel laughed out loud at this question. "You really don't know?"
Dom shook his head woefully, dragging his thoughts away from Kel's lips. "No. Should I?"
She smiled. "Well, maybe. You put it on your lips when they're dry. You know, from wind and stuff?"
He blinked. "Wow. Maybe I should invest in some. What's it taste like?"
Kel considered. "Pretty nice, actually. Like fruit and sugar and sweet things."
The most stupid, daring thought came into his mind, and it didn't even occur to him not to carry it out. His anger at Cleon for taking Kel to the ball, his desperation at having only two days left, his confusion about Kel's feelings for him...
Dom leaned forward so that his face was mere inches from Kel's. "Really?"
She nodded, her brow creasing in slight confusion, but she went with the flow. "Really."
Dom lifted a hand and cupped it gently around her cheek. "I think I want to try it for myself," he whispered softly.
Breaking the gap between them, Dom pressed his lips against hers lightly, and then drew away, only to kiss her again, this time slowly and longer.
He finally drew away, not taking his hand off her, and ran his tongue over his lips meditatively. "Hmmm. Not bad."
To his intense surprise, Kel seemed to be glaring at him, her brows drawn together with apparent anger. Her eyes glimmered with... were those tears? Stunned, Dom practically stared at her, bug-eyed.
"You know, you could have just asked and I would have bought you a jar," she snapped furiously. "You don't have to keep playing with me like that."
With those baffling, uncomprehendible words, Kel stormed out of the room, leaving Dom frozen to the spot with horror. What had he just done?
Dom walked purposefully across the palace, towards a door that could either result in a tragic rejection or the best day of his life. He had with him a piece of metal, his wits and hopefully a whole lot of charm.
He knocked. The door sounded solid and comforting.
"Who is it?" her voice was tired and frustrated, his heart ached to hear her like that.
"It's me." He said simply.
There was a long silence, and then she replied. "I don't think it's a good idea for me to see you. Not today."
He rested his head against the door, shutting his eyes, and hoping. "Please, Kel. I need to talk to you."
When the door opened, he was both unprepared and in an awkward position. Dom fell, head-first, into the doorway, only to land on a rather shocked Kel.
"Sorry, sorry!" Dom apologised quickly, leaping up and off her, reaching down a hand to help her up.
She took his hand with some reluctance and allowed him to pull her up. "What were you doing?"
Dom blinked, feeling like a complete idiot. "Well I was leaning against the door and then you opened it."
She stared at him. "You asked me to open it!"
"I did not!" he replied, quite indignantly. "I told you I needed to talk to you!"
"But you knocked!" Kel argued. "That indicates that you would want the door opened, and-" She cut herself off halfway, shaking her head, and on any other day Dom would have found it hilarious. "You didn't come here to fight about whose fault it is that you fell through the door."
"Actually," Dom pointed out smartly. "If I hadn't have come here I wouldn't have fell through the door and then we wouldn't be arguing about it!"
She rolled her eyes at him, and it was then that Dom noticed that her eyelids were slightly red. She hadn't been crying... had she? Looking at Kel, Dom felt even worse.
"Okay," he began, quite nervously. "I guess I'll say what I came here to say?"
"Well that would seem useful," Kel said coolly, dropping down to sit on a lounge. Dom sat opposite her, careful to keep his legs from touching hers.
"Okay," he repeated, and cursed himself for sounding like a loser. "Well here's the thing."
Kel lifted her eyebrows expectantly.
"I'm sorry!" he blurted out guiltily. "I didn't mean for it to look like I, well... wanted you. I mean, I do want you. Wait no! That didn't come out right."
He took a deep breath, avoiding looking at her face, and started again. "I kind of seriously maybe sort of well yeah I do love you. And I've been trying to show you that for the past week. But it hasn't worked. And I think I've given you the idea that I just wanted to sleep with you, when that's not what I was trying to get across. I really like you Kel, I have for years. And I don't know how you feel about me but I know what I want for my future. And I want you to know that I'm serious about you. So..."
He shut his eyes momentarily, slid to the ground, and knelt in front of Kel. "Will you marry me?"
With slightly trembling hands, he reached into his pocket to find the piece of metal that he'd bent into a circle that morning. Not daring to look up at her face, he continued. "I'm sorry it's not a proper ring. I didn't have time to go to Corus and buy one. But I wanted you to have something- well that is if you want to- as a symbol of you and me."
Dom counted slowly to ten and hoped for the best. Staring down at that pathetic, miserable piece of metal that he'd bent into shape, he felt the odd urge to laugh hysterically. He was making such a ridiculous fool of himself, honestly. But this was what he wanted. Kel was what he wanted.
When he finally looked up, he looked up to an honestly stunned Kel. Her face was frozen, her eyes wide, and her eyebrows practically hitting her hairline.
"Kel?" he tapped her lightly on the knee. "Did you hear a word I said?"
Kel recovered herself a little and nodded wildly. "Yes... well, yes."
Dom bobbed his head, relieved. "Well..."
"Yes!" Kel said again, quite loudly. "I'll marry you. I want to marry you. But not now. I'm not letting you give up the Own for me. I'm happy just being with you. I-"
Dom grinned broadly. "Kel."
She blinked. "Yes?"
He stood up, grabbing one of her hands and pulling her up so that she was standing directly in front of him. "I never thought I'd see the day when I had an effect on you or actually manage to give you the wrong idea. But I did. Just then. You were babbling."
Kel tilted her head mischeviously, a large, slightly goofy grin taking root on her face. "Maybe I was."
He leant his forehead against hers. "Good."
With that, for the second time ever, Dom pressed his lips against hers gently.
And for a while, there was silence.