By Modern Day Lady Knight
Domitan of Masbolle had seen many things in his time with the King’s Own. A soldier’s pride would lead him to laugh at most implications that he was afraid of his current intentions, however, truth be told he was. It was not the kind of fear which made him focus on the battle field, nor the kind of gripping fear which caused some to avoid heights, or water, or other things for irrational reasons. No, this was something he rarely dealt with, the fear of rejection. For all that he’d always been a flirt, those flirtations rarely mattered beyond a short time. It was, he decided, very different to be approaching someone he knew so well, without being certain of where they might stand on such an offer. He supposed he could have enlisted the aid of Meathead, but he shuddered at the thought of how much his cousin would have to say before anything useful came out. So he took a breath, and knocked on the non-descript wooden door marked ‘Commander’s Office’.
“Come in.” Called the calm voice of the very woman he was looking for. Dom eased the door open, slowly popping his head through while leaving his body in the hall. Keladry of Mindelan sat at her desk writing what he presumed was a report about the comings and goings of New Hope, she only looked up when no further sound issued from the door. He caught a hint of curiosity in those hazel eyes just before she spotted his head, peering sideways around the door. Dom was treated to one of Kel’s rare, very open smiles as she stood and waved him in. “Dom! When did you arrive? Roaul said he was sending me a squad for a time, I should have guessed it would be you.”
“I may have volunteered.” Dom informed her, stepping inside and shutting the door behind him. He came forward and pulled her into a friendly hug. “I got here about half a bell ago.”
“It’s good to see you.” Kel told him, pulling out of his arms and gesturing to a chair. He took a seat and watched as Kel walked over to a table before returning with two cups of juice. He accepted one as Kel resumed her seat and put the finishing line on her report. Dom drank in the sight, she looked well and things had begun to wind down here in the north. Her hair was a half inch longer than he last remembered, but otherwise she was the same Keladry he danced with at Roual’s wedding.
“Kel?” He broke the companionable silence they’d fallen into, and those hazel eyes met his blue eyes again. He offered her a warm smile, reminding himself that he should really get this out. “I’ve been wanting to tell you something . . .”
Dom wandered into the infirmary about two hours after he arrived, it was good to see that Neal’s only current patient was a minor burn. The sergeant didn’t announce himself, the distracted healer called over that he’d be just a moment and continued to care for the refugee he was treating. True to his word, a few minutes later Neal ushered the thankful refugee out, then turned and noticed his blue eyed cousin. Neal yelled out his name happily before the two exchanged a back slapping hug. In the quick conversation that followed Neal must have caught something, because he seemed to be trying to wheedle information from his older cousin.
“I’m fine, really.” Dom told Neal as he stood, intent on visiting the mess tent for lunch. “Are you going to come eat?”
“Of course, Mother would be after me should I not eat the vegetables she mandates.” Neal clapped his shoulder as they stepped out of the infirmary. “Wait, has Kel seen you? She’ll be so happy to have you here with us.”
“I reported to her just before finding you.” Dom answered, leaving all details of that conversation aside. He thanked the Gods Neal started talking about all the wounds he had been seeing rather than asking more about Keladry. Dom tried to remind himself that needing time to think was not the same as a rejection, but it felt distinctly like one.
In the mess hall Dom followed his younger cousin to a table occupied by Kel, Merric and a few others. She looked up as Neal shoved Dom toward the seat beside her, slipping into a seat across from his best friend. Dom set his tray down, offering a smile to the woman beside him and receiving one in return before she turned to look at his cousin, asking after the man with the burn. That turned out to be slightly more interesting than he expected.
“So the poor man volunteered with the black smith, they set him to stoking the furnace, and he became over enthusiastic about his duties.” Neal informed them. “He pushed too much air too quickly, flames lapped at him and caught his sleeve but the smith saw it and put him out quickly. It could have been far worse.”
“I doubt he’ll volunteer with the smith again.” Dom commented and heard a cough from Merric. They looked to the knight who informed them he’d seen the man trying to volunteer again on his way to the mess hall. “He must take after Mother.” Dom joked and was slightly surprised to feel Keladry lightly slap his thigh under the table. Otherwise she pretended not to hear a word.
Conversation moved on and Dom was soon pressed for news from the other forts. He swallowed the last of his food, leaned his arms on the table and began to tell them the latest up to when he’d left for New Hope. If it so happened that leaning as he did caused his leg to press slightly against Keladry’s, he made no comment. Kel’s eyebrow raised fractionally, but she joined the boys in asking questions to draw more details from the blue eyed sergeant. She did not shift away and Dom decided that perhaps, not all was lost.
Three days into his squad’s stay at New Hope, Dom found they’d all drawn the night watch. He stood on the wall, above the gate, gazing out into the dark lands beyond and listened to his men below where they kept watch on the gate itself. Most of New Hope’s citizens seemed to have settled for the night, fires banked and almost all souls in their beds. Slow steps on the wooden stairs drew his eyes from the darkness and he spied Kel making her way up to the walkway which ringed the wall. He turned to lean against the wall where an archer position stood and grinned at the lady knight. She strode over, leaning against the wall as well, leaving a foot of space between them, and gazing at the sleeping camp below them.
“Evening, Kel.” Dom looked to his side, watching her as she watched the camp. “It’s a nice night tonight.”
“It is.” She agreed, crossing her arms and crossing one ankle over the other. She looked very relaxed, except that her ‘Mask’ was up which meant she was most likely thinking. The silence stretched and Dom sighed slightly.
“Kel, don’t be afraid to say no. I’m a big boy, I can take it and we’ll be friends regardless.” He saw those hazel eyes turn his way again and there seemed to be many thoughts swirling behind them in the low light provided by a slightly distant torch. “I will always be there for you as a friend.”
“Thank you.” Her words came out softer than he expected, and she turned her eyes back to the camp again. “I was thinking about that, not that I can avoid thinking about your words.” She sighed this time and seemed intent on not looking at him, at least for the moment. “Since I received my shield almost everything I’ve done, every choice I have made, has been about the good of others. This is the first time in a while that I’ve really had to think about what’s best for me, what I want for me.”
“The life of a knight is not easy.” Dom agreed with her and saw a twitch that may have been a smile trying to escape.
“Nor the life of a soldier.” She reminded him, there was a pause before she spoke again. “And I’ve already learned that courting another in service to the Realm is anything but easy.”
“Very little that is worth fighting for is easy.” He reminded her and this time he knew that was a twitch of a smile.
“I had a crush on Neal, when I was a page.” She told Dom, seemingly at random. Dom choked off a small laugh, trying to picture his dramatic cousin courting their sometimes stoic young friend. She lightly backhanded his arm for the laugh, he caught her hand and dropped a kiss on her fingers. He caught the smallest hitch in her breath as she pulled her hand back to herself, and he thought he saw a touch of warmth in her cheeks but it was so hard to tell in the low lighting. Even the color of Kel’s eyes was washed out in the low light. She started again. “When I was a page I had a crush on Neal, I thought it was much deeper than it turned out to be thank the gods.” This time when he coughed to hide a laugh she didn’t slap him. “But when I left with the Own, after I saw him again, the crush had passed. Four years of attraction were simply gone. I did have a crush on someone else and that made me worry I was fickle.”
“Keladry, you are many things, but I cannot imagine fickle among them.” He informed her and she silently shrugged. It was a moment before she spoke again.
“When I courted Cleon, I still held a crush for this other man which only made me feel worse.” She shook her head before he could comment. “And no, I am not pinning for Cleon, I was relieved when it ended though I was sad for him.”
“Why are you telling me this?” He asked, curiosity driving him to speak.
“I’d like you to understand what I have been thinking, where my decision comes from.” She replied though she seemed to consider not saying her next words, before she turned to look at him and spoke again. “And if we do this, I want to be honest with each other. I don’t want either of us to be afraid to end something for fear of hurting the other, if our hearts are not in it. I’m not interested in being a casual lover, but nor am I wishing to be married any time soon.”
“So you’re saying you’d allow me to court you?” Dom asked, waiting for her to give him a nod before he let a grin slip across his face. He pushed off of the wall, moving to stand before her and bracing his hands against the wall she still leaned on. Kel’s hands came to rest on his shoulders as they looked at each other, and Dom leaned down to speak very close to her ear, and this time he felt a small shiver run through her. “I don’t want to be your casual lover, Keladry. I want to court you, and if things work out when we’re both ready, I’d like to talk to you about settling down. . . But right now we both have our duties.”
“I’m glad we can agree on that.” She was clearly trying to sound unaffected, and Dom felt the playful need to draw proof that she was effected. He dipped his head, kissed her temple lightly before he spoke again.
“But Kel, who was this crush who stole you away from Sir Meathead?” He asked, feeling her laugh as she leaned into his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her, nudging her playfully in the ribs with a finger. She tried to swat at his hand but his other arm held her tight against him and she gave in.
“You.” She informed him, relaxing into his shoulder as he stopped poking her. Dom leaned back enough to see her face and raised an eyebrow.
“Me?” He asked.
“You.” She agreed and tugged his tunic collar slightly. She didn’t seem bothered by his chain mail shirt he wore underneath, as he leaned down and met her in a kiss. He meant to keep it light, but then he felt her hand slip into the hair at the back of his neck and deepened their kiss. When they parted Kel was pressed between the wall and the sergeant, and she could not hold her Yamani mask. Her expression, one of contented bliss, led him to steal the next kiss from her lips.
Ever practical, Kel finally drew away, reminding him he was on watch as she slipped from his arms. He caught her hand, kissed the back of it and threw her a wink as he wished her sweet dreams. Kel gave him a heart melting smile, before slipping quietly back down the stairs and making her way toward her rooms in the headquarters. Dom basked in the calm silence for several minutes, until Kel slipped completely from sight into the building. From below came a round of soft applause and a couple soft wolf whistles. Dom laughed, how had he forgotten Wolset and another soldier stood below him at the gate.
“Congrats Sergeant, ‘bout time you two stopped dancing around each other.” Wolset called up to him.
“Thank you, corporal.” Dom called back drily.
“Oh, and Sergeant?” Dom came forward to look over the walkways edge, just making out Wolset standing below and looking up at him. The Corporal sounded like he was smiling, but he did not sound joking. “Ye realize, if ya hurt her we boys will take it out of yer hide?”
“I’d expect nothing less.” Dom tossed a salute at the corporal and returned to gazing out across the dark, open land outside the walls of New Hope. Tonight he knew his dreams would be pleasant ones filled with a certain lady knight.