A/N: Picks up after Lady Knight, to the evening of Raoul and Buri's wedding. I've got a fair bit written, and will update periodically. Let me know what you think!
Kel sighed happily, idly stroking Tobe's hair as he dozed with his head in her lap. She smiled, watching as the men of Third Company laughed and drank, enjoying this holiday and their Commander's happiness. If that knight and his new wife weren't still laughing at the antics of the Own and grinning foolishly at one another, she probably would have gone to bed, if nothing else than for Tobe's sake. He flatly refused to be parted from her, even to go to his much needed bed.
When Dom plopped down next to her on the bench, she gave him a quick grin. "Having a good evening, Sergeant?"
Dom's answering grin was wide, his cheeks slightly flushed. Raoul didn't drink as a rule, and under normal circumstances his men tended not to drink in front of him, but the Commander had purchased several barrels of ale for his men to celebrate his wedding, and no soldier would let such a gift go to waste. No one was drunk, but many of the men of the Own and the Riders had enjoyed a tankard or two. Kel had refrained, not wanting a blinding headache in the morning. "Oh, yes. I'm glad to have something to do before the winter boredom sets in. We don't even have the joys of building a refugee camp and designing a flag for a certain lady knight to distract us this year." He winked at her, making her shake her head and laugh. He and his squad had helped to build her first refugee camp, Haven, as well as making a flag for her that had greeted her arrival.
"I do like that flag. I was very impressed with the embroidery skills of your men." Tobe shifted slightly, draping one arm around her waist.
"That little man," Dom nodded at Tobe, "hasn't let you out of his sight since you arrived."
"Well, he's yet to forgive me for running after my refugees without him. He's convinced I'll disappear on him again if he lets me. I can barely even get him to let me alone while I'm bathing."
Dom laughed. "Well, Mother, I don't think any of your friends were too pleased you didn't invite them along on your little Scanran jaunt."
Kel's smile turned slightly sad. "I was glad to have you along. I still have to find a way to thank my Lord for giving you your orders. I half thought you were lying to me when you told me he'd sent you."
Dom didn't ruffle her hair as he had when she was a squire, he just tucked a piece behind her ear before giving her a one armed hug around the shoulders. She supposed it was because she was wearing it a bit longer these days, the ends reaching just under her chin. "Well, I can't guarantee my squad wouldn't have wandered off to find you if he hadn't. It was hard work getting you trained up. We would have hated to have to do it again with another one."
She peeled his arm off her, putting it back in his own lap. She could keep her face smooth despite his nearness; her heart wasn't so obedient, her pulse rushing erratically. "I'd have hated to inconvenience you all," she said, voice dry.
They both looked over to another table, whose occupants were pounding it's surface rhythmically. Alanna and Wolset had tankards tilted back, gulping the contents as quickly as they could. Alanna was the first to slam down the empty, her face split in a grin as her husband, who'd managed the trip from the south for the wedding, just shook his head. Dom nudged her in the ribs."You better hope the other lady knight doesn't remember you. She loves to get competitive."
"Ye gods, I hope not. I can't even have a glass of wine these days without a raging headache in the morning. I'll have to ask her to stick to the practice courts."
They spent a few moments in silence, both looking out at the men of Third Company and those Rider groups that had been able to come, with the smattering of women thrown in. It was a comfortable silence, relaxed and easy. Dom was the one to break it. "It's funny to see you in a dress."
Kel managed not to wince. She sometimes hated having such a hopeless crush on Dom. At least he didn't know; that was the only thing that helped in these moments. She did put an affronted frown on her face. "Well, thanks, Dom."
He back-pedaled frantically. "I didn't mean funny, I meant, well, just different. It's nice." He paused. "You look nice."
She exchanged the frown for a sardonic grin. "No wonder the court ladies are all swooning over you. You have such a way with words." She sighed. "It's Buri's fault I'm in this thing. I'd brought my Mindelan dress tunic to wear. Of course, my former maid had made a dress for me when Buri told her I would be at the wedding. She made Buri's dress as well and Buri decided she wouldn't be the only one in a dress today. She cornered me as soon as I got here, telling me she would have my Lord stuff me into the thing if I balked."
He gaped at her for a moment before breaking out into laughter. "If she'd done the same to me, I would be here in a dress. That woman is far more terrifying than she has any right to be. How does someone half a foot shorter than either of us manage to loom so?"
Kel grinned before taking a sip of cider. "I really don't know." She sighed and looked at the boy asleep in her lap. "I really should put him to bed, even if I am still awake."
"I'll keep you company for a bit, if you like. I need to keep away from the Lioness. I'm supposed to be taking my squad on patrol tomorrow and I'd like for at least one of us to not be too hungover to move."
Kel thought for a moment before she nodded. She really wasn't ready to sleep yet, and sitting in her room reading just wasn't appealing. "Of course. I just need to say goodnight to the happy couple."
She stood, carefully hoisting Tobe into her arms. He'd gained a bit of weight thanks to regular meals, but he was still an easy burden. He didn't even wake, just wrapped his arms around her neck before snuggling his face into it. Buri smiled at the boy when she said goodnight, and both she and Raoul gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before going back to chatting with those around them. She waved quickly at Neal and Yuki, who barely looked at her before they had their eyes locked on one another again.
She was housed in the officers' quarters at Steadfast, in a small room with a bed, writing desk and even smaller dressing room. When she walked in with Dom behind her, Jump was already curled up on her bed, his belly full of all the scraps he'd begged at the evening meal. She gestured for Dom to take the chair, then tucked Tobe into the pallet he'd insisted be made up in one corner and started to stoke up the hearth fire. Even fall this far north was cold, and her room felt icy after the warmth of the crowded mess. Once she had the fire crackling merrily, she shifted Jump so she could sit on the bed.
"Would you like a cup of tea?" Buri had also brought a package from Kel's mother, which included fresh green tea from the Islands and the whisk and bowls used for it. Kel loved fresh green tea, and was thoroughly enjoying having it.
"Why not?" Dom made as if to help her, but she waved him away. The room was small enough without the two of them getting in each other's way. She filled the kettle and swung it out into the fire on the iron hook set into the hearth for such purposes.
While the water heated, she set out the delicate bowls after she shifted the writing desk so they could both use it as a table. She loved the tea set her mother had sent her, from the beautiful lacquered box that everything nestled into to the crackled blue glaze on the bowls. Dom picked up one of the bowls and examined it. "What are these?"
Kel smiled very slightly. She probably should have specified what type of tea she was going to have. "They're tea bowls, from the Yamani Islands. I'm making green tea. My mother sent it up with Buri, and it's so nice to have it again."
He set the bowl down carefully and looked at her before he spoke. "That explains the Yamani face you've got on."
He waved slightly at her head. "Your face has gone all still. You always do that when any of the Yamani ladies are around, or when you don't want to relax and joke around. It's been a while since I've seen it." He smiled at her, and she was forced to smile back. Somehow she couldn't help but smile when he grinned at her like that.
"So," she changed the subject, "how do you think my Lord is going to enjoy married life?"
"Knowing the two of them, it's going to be anything but sedate. Raoul's toast was very amusing. I had no idea you were the one who finally pushed them together."
She moved the kettle off the fire, carefully pouring the steaming water into the two bowls. "I just told him to bring her to a family party. I mean, anyone could see that they cared for each other, I just gave them a very gentle prod and they figured it out themselves. He really didn't need to give me any credit."
She fell silent as she prepared the tea, carefully whisking the powder into the hot water while Dom watched her. She was uncharacteristically nervous, but she put it to one side, focusing on the ritualistic process of making tea. Her motions were precise as she used the whisk to beat it until she had a bit of foam. When she was finished, she handed Dom his cup with a bow, not pointing out that he should bow as well. She only ever preformed the most basic tea ceremony, and she certainly couldn't expect him to know the appropriate responses.
She was slightly surprised when he spoke after taking his first sip. She was so used to drinking green tea with her family or the Yamani ladies, who always took a few moments to savor the tea before taking up conversation. "This is nice. It's bitter, but it's nice."
She nodded slightly. "I'm always after Mama to send me some. So, is Third Company enjoying the lull in combat?"
Dom took a slow sip of his tea before responding. "Well, it's more entertaining now that so many of the Riders are here. Of course, if they don't leave soon, the jokes we play on each other are going to reach truly inappropriate heights." Kel raised her eyebrows. She didn't even know that there was any prank Dom would consider inappropriate. "Speaking of which, if Commander Larse asks, I was with you this morning."
Now she grinned. "Well, if I'm going to vouch for you, I need to know what you got up to."
His own grin was wicked. "Let's just say he's not going to be amused when he cleans his teeth tonight. I'm not saying anything more, I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise."
They both looked over at Tobe when he shifted suddenly and sat up. His voice was small, wavering slightly. "My Lady?" He was still mostly asleep.
She smiled at him, patting a spot on the bed beside her. "I'm here. Come sit and go back to sleep."
He quickly hopped up onto the bed, pulling a blanket over himself before he lay his head back in her lap and returned to sleep. Dom gave Kel a half smile. "Mother is getting to be a more and more appropriate nickname for you, Kel."
Kel stroked Tobe's hair. "He's been having nightmares since we got back from Scanra. They're less often these days, but when we first got back I would always find him in my bed by morning." She laughed quietly. "That first morning in New Hope, I had all the orphans in with me when I woke. It brought back a lot of memories of Haven for them, sleeping indoors again. It's getting better."
Dom smiled. "Well, at least you'll be warm this winter. There were points last year when I was tempted to crawl in with Lerant." Kel smiled at the thought of Dom getting into bed with the very prickly standard bearer.
"He might be easier to pass the night with than this lad." She patted Tobe's head. "I don't understand how a creature can be made completely of elbows, but he is."
He laughed with her. When she noticed that his cup was empty, she offered him more tea, and he accepted. She wasn't looking at him when he started speaking, focused on whisking the tea properly, but there was a tone in his voice she couldn't identify. "I hear Kennan got married this summer."
She looked at him, blinking in surprise. "Well, he went home to marry in the spring, so that really isn't surprising." She grinned, passing him his frothy tea. "I was so relieved when he told me this past spring, which is awful, but it's true. I was just happy I didn't have to tell him I wasn't in love with him."
Dom laughed with raised eyebrows, an odd combination. "The poor man. You sent him off with tears in your eyes, letting him think he was breaking your heart?"
She laughed and shook her head. She loved the easy friendship she had with Dom, how he was comfortable enough with her to joke about anything. "There were no tears. I was sorry; he wasn't happy to be married off and he did love me. Gods, though, the thought of marriage makes my blood run cold."
Dom laughed at her shudder. "It's official; you've spent too much time with the Own." She laughed with him. After a moment he continued, slightly more serious. "I thought you would have been more upset that your lover married someone else."
She ran her fingers over the rim of her bowl, studying the details of the glaze. "We were just stepping out together. We went such long periods without seeing each other, which made it impossible to ever really be serious." She couldn't say that they hadn't slept together. That was a bit too personal to discuss with Dom. She didn't, however, want him to think he needed to have a word with the man who'd jilted her.
Dom was frowning when she glanced up at him through her eyelashes. After a second or two, his eyes widened slightly. He tried to cover his surprise by taking a sip of tea, but years in the Yamani Islands had trained her in recognizing the slightest reaction. He understood what she meant. "Cleon certainly seemed to think things were serious." She shrugged, not wanting to explain that the attachment was always stronger on his side. "Well, since you're so calm about the whole thing, I'll have to tell the lads of Third Company to stand down." She gave him a puzzled glance. "We weren't too happy when we heard he got married. That's why I asked if you'd heard." He sighed slightly. "I was elected to feel the situation out. Now I know we don't need to have a special reception planned for him when he returns to the border in the spring.
Kel nearly went slack-jawed in shock. "Dom! What were you going to do?"
The sergeant shrugged. "We hadn't made any specific plans yet, but winter is long and boring. I'm sure we would have been very inventive. You're like a sister to most of Third Company, and Lord Raoul basically thinks you're his daughter."
She tried not to wince at Dom casually stating he basically thought of her as a sister. She knew her crush was pretty hopeless, but it wasn't enjoyable to be reminded of that. She had another thought. "My Lord didn't plan on getting... inventive, did he?"
The grin on Dom's face was positively gleeful. "I think he planned on being the most inventive of all." She felt her cheeks warm slightly. She was mortified. "I'll let him know it's not necessary." She reached out and clasped his hand in gratitude. "If you'd like, I could also let him know he might want to have a word with Kennan's former knight master as well."
She gripped his hand tighter. "Oh, ye gods, not Inness too?" Dom nodded. "You're all insane, I hope you know that." He grinned at her, stroking her palm with his thumb. "Don't you idiots think that if I wanted to teach him a lesson, I'd just make him spend a day in the practice courts with me?" She snatched her hand back, trying to quell the butterflies that had started thrashing about in her stomach.
"We've no doubt you could, but you're far too sensible for that." He leaned back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head.
"Thank Mithros. Someone has to have some sense with all of you around. I don't know how you manage without me."
He sighed dramatically. "It is difficult. You were so much more fun to flirt with than Wolset."
She giggled loudly, then stifled it so as not to wake Tobe. "You are terrible." She smiled, then sighed. "I need to get to bed. I'm going to spar with Yuki in the morning and it's going to be embarrassing for me as it is, let alone if I'm asleep on my feet. When do you go on patrol?"
He smiled, standing and shifting the desk back to its proper place. "Noon. Are you interested in riding along?"
She gave him a quick smile, shifting Tobe off her lap so she could stand. "If Yuki doesn't keep me in the practice yards all day, I'll be glad to."
"Good." She opened the door for him. "I'll look for you before we head out, though I'm sure I'll see you in the morning. It was always entertaining to see you and the Yamanis using those glaives against each other." He leaned into her and brushed a quick kiss over her cheek. He smiled widely at her and she kept her face smooth with effort. "G'night Kel."
"Good night Dom." She gave him a long-suffering look before she shut the door firmly. She undressed quickly, leaving on her long chemise, cleaning her teeth and giving her face a scrub before blowing out the candles and shifting Tobe in her bed. "Mind your elbows, Tobe." She felt him nod slightly as he hugged her. She sighed, brushed a kiss across his forehead and closed her eyes.