“As if we wouldn’t know to come back,” grumbled Dom. He and Kel rode together one morning, guarding the supply train.
Kel grinned at him. “But we wouldn’t, unless ordered to. You know we wouldn’t.”
Dom grinned back, making Kel’s pulse speed up. “Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean he has to treat us like unruly children.”
Kel, who knew the pranks the Own and the Riders played on each other when left alone, raised her eyebrows. Dom chuckled.“You look just like my lord when he does that,” he informed her. To Cleon, who rode up, he said, “Doesn’t she look like Lord Raoul when she raises her eyebrows?”
Cleon scowled. “She looks like herself,” he retorted.
Dom looked at Kel with a wry smile. He shivered. “Does it seem cold to you all of a sudden? I believe I’ll find a blanket.” He rode off with a wink at Kel.
So! Kel had an admirer! Dom had been around - he could recognize the signs of jealousy when he saw them, and this Cleon of Kennan had all of them. Short temper, inability to take any jokes, wanting any ‘competition’ gone. His scowl had said it all. Dom smirked to himself. He wondered if Neal knew. Scratch that - he wondered if Kel knew. Kel didn’t seem the type to be overly observant when it came to that sort of thing, whereas Neal’s sharp eyes tended to catch everything - within the bounds of his own expectations, of course. Dom didn’t call his younger cousin ‘Meathead’ for nothing, though it was more for his stubbornness.
Dom didn’t have a chance to ask about it until they were in Persopolis, when the Lioness and Neal rejoined the progress.
“It seems our favorite girl squire has got herself an admirer,” he commented at dinner one night, after Kel had left the mess with Raoul. “How long has she known this Kennan fellow?”
Neal gave a startled laugh. “Even you, Dom? They must be the worst-kept secret on this entire progress!”
“Except my lord and Commander Buri,” Dom said, grinning.
“Right,” Neal agreed. “How’d you find out?”
“Oh, just the particular shade of green he turned when Kel and I were chatting,” Dom said, smirking.
Neal laughed again. “He’s not very subtle, is he?”
“Neither are you ,” Dom pointed out, always quick to take his cousin down a peg or two. As Neal scowled, he added, “So Kel’s… aware of the situation, then? She’s seeing him?”
“Hm? Oh, yes,” said Neal, suddenly distracted. Dom glanced over his shoulder to see the Yamani ladies walking past the entrance to the dining hall. He turned back to his cousin, smiling.
“Speaking of badly-kept secrets,” he prodded. “Got your eye on one of the princess’s ladies?”
“No!” Neal denied, instantly.
“What’s her name?” Dom continued, ignoring the denial. He knew Neal. The younger man’s shoulders slumped in defeat.
“Yukimi,” he admitted.
“Worked up the courage to talk to her yet?” Dom asked, taking a bite of flatbread.
“ Yes , actually,” Neal said, snippily. “She’s one of Kel’s friends. I’ve talked to her more than once.”
“A little different from your usual sort of infatuation, my dear cousin,” Dom remarked lightly, leaning back in his seat and looking hard at Neal. Usually Neal developed crushes on unattainable ladies and then spent the next few months pining after them - and endlessly going on about them in his letters - then lost interest until another unattainable lady caught his eye and his fancy. But he’d not made one mention of this Yamani girl to Dom before now, and he’d actually talked to her.
“I suppose,” Neal replied, uncomfortably. “Anyway, I thought we were talking about Kel!” he added.
Dom let the evasion slide. “I think my curiosity’s been satisfied on that topic. Unless you’ve got something else you’d like to share…?” He trailed off, raising one eyebrow.
“Mithros, Dom, get your head out of the gutter,” Neal said, straight-faced, and Dom laughed, pushing his chair back.
“Good evening, Squire Meathead,” he told his cousin, who looked indignant. “I’ll see you about.”
“I’ve got to come up with an insulting nickname for him,” Dom heard Neal grumble, as he walked out of the banquet hall, and Dom laughed to himself.