"Are you alright," Richard asked as she finally shifted on the bed before him. It had been over a day and she hadn't moved, he had started to become concerned.
"I'm fine," she replied through a haze. "How long was I- Tommy-"
"He's fine, him and his sister. They're very grateful for the food you've been providing."
"How'd you know?"
"I heard someone in your kitchen, but the instant I saw him with the loafs of bread, I knew you wouldn't mind. They stayed for a cup of tea."
Sitting up, she looked out of the window and sighed. "I didn't mean to sleep so late."
"You were tired." Grinning, he made his way over to the bed. "Don't worry, I made sure they had something to eat." As he sat beside her, he noticed the way she leaned toward him, instantly accepting his presence. "You've been taking care of them, for months, haven't you?"
"Someone did for me once. When I was younger and my mother died, there were days Dennee and I had to fend for ourselves and if it hasn't been for Christina, I am not sure we would have survived."
"But you didn't have that memory back when you started caring for them."
Meeting his eyes, she gave a half smile. "No, I didn't. When I saw Tommy, sneaking around the house for molding bread, my first instinct was anger, but I saw her hurry to his side and the way they ate... It must have been some time since they had had anything and I couldn't stand the thought of them going hungry." Motioning to the window, she allowed her smile to grow. "I sat there for a few days, watching after leaving some bread and fruit by the brush. I didn't want to make them feel like I was taking pity on them. One afternoon he knocked on the door, his sister, Sarah, had become sick and I had been the only person who he thought they could trust."
Nudging his shoulder against hers, he beamed pridefully. "What happened?"
"They stayed here for a few days. I did what I could to help, brought a healer from town and hoped for the best." Lowering her eyes to the floor, she brought her hands to her stomach. "I never imagined I would be here, in this moment."
"I don't think that you could."
"I don't mean everything that has happened, Richard. I mean this, carrying a child." Bringing her eyes back to his, Kahlan blinked. "I never imagined this."
"Because I never wanted to... I used to hope I wouldn't live long enough to have to."
"I don't know."
"Yes, you do."
Moving off of the bed, she took a few steps, taking a blanket from the bottom of the bed. Wrapping herself in its warmth, she walked to the window and looked out at the sun, grazing upon the garden she had started. "Honestly, I- When I think of her as your child, I couldn't be more excited, but when I think further on her, who else could have... The fear I feel is far more than I wish to." She felt him standing behind her, so close that his warm scent flooded over her. It was comforting to have him there and though he said nothing, his words caressed her body. "Is it wrong to want to spin back time?"
Turning her head, she locked their eyes. "Do you know how?"
Returning her gaze to the view outside the window, she leaned forward until she was against the ledge and almost laughed. "It was worth a try."
"It's going to rain; from the clouds, it's going to be heavy." Her eyes closed for a minute, a small smile coming to her lips. "Like the night before I was taken... Do you remember?"
"I couldn't forget."
"You tried to convince Zedd that you were laying on top of me to keep me from getting wet."
Richard chuckled and stepped forward. "It may have worked if you hadn't unlaced your dress... Woken me with that kiss and-"
"I don't remember you complaining," she grinned over her shoulder.
"I would never complain about such treatment. I think I may require it at all times."
Turning, she took a step forward, bringing them a foot apart. "And if I could provide that treatment?"
"I would be delighted if you were to remove your clothes."
She blinked and he knew her thoughts, making him now wish that he hadn't spoken. "I'm sure you would rather I didn't."
"I should fix the- I have to- The roof leaks when it rains."
Nodding, Richard stepped to the side and let her pass, turning on his heels to follow her into the other room. "Can I help you?"
"There's a pot beneath the table, would you mind sitting it on top, you'll know where when you see it."
He watched her for a few moments, her grace and beauty failing to fall short in capturing his attention. She flowed around the room, bringing bowls out of the cabinets and setting them strategically around the room. When she finished, she turned back to him just as he sat the pot on the dark circle on top of the table.
He crossed his arms instantly, a frown coming to his features as he stared at her. "Where are the elixirs, Kahlan?" She said nothing as he moved toward her. "They were on the table, there, now they're- Kahlan, you promised that you would think about it."
"What makes you think I haven't?"
"You've been asleep the entire time."
She was before him before he had a chance to take a breath, her eyes on his with a fire. "I've done nothing but think about it since I realized I carry another life. The thought has been haunting me every moment of every day. It's impossible not to think of it and if I had been strong enough, I would have ended it months ago-"
"But you didn't," he told her calmly. "Kahlan, you have had more than one chance and there are so many different ways you could have done it. You could have entered the first city you came to and told them what happened, anyone of them would have been there to help you end it, but you didn't."
Shoving her hands against his chest, she pushed him back, knocking him to the ground as he tripped over a chair. "How could I?! All I could think about..." Her back was to him as it started to rain, a quiet drip in the bowls and pots around them. "I wanted to end it myself," she admitted softly. "Someone found me bleeding in the trees and brought me to a healer. They thought that I had been attacked, but..." She turned around, her eyes filled with tears as she lifted her shirt to reveal a long scar on her right side. "I started and couldn't go through with it. My first thought was to ask you what to do, but-"
"Why didn't you?"
"Because of the way you looked at me."
"I don't understand."
"The woman I had been, the way you spoke of her- I was afraid that it would change."
"Nothing could change that, Kahlan."
"I remember the way you used to look at me, Richard and you haven't, for a moment, looked at me that way since you arrived. I know that things have changed, obviously, this- You've been looking at me with- You pity me and I know it must be difficult not to-"
"It's not pity, Kahlan, it's a mix of worry, fear, anxiety- Love."
Licking her lips, she met his eyes in challenge. "Yesterday, when I tried to-"
"I wanted to make love to you, Kahlan. I wanted to more than anything, but not like that." Grabbing her face, he brought it to his and pushed his forehead against hers. "How could I make love to you while your mind was filled with thoughts of those men. How could I hold you in my arms while you remembered the feel of their hands on you? Kahlan, I wanted to be with you so badly, but I didn't want your mind to connect me with them."
"How could you not? I saw the look in your eyes, the horror and if I had done what you wanted yesterday, I would have only brought you more pain."
Shaking her head, she brought her hands to his cheeks. "You could never hurt me. That's the one thing I have always been sure of. Richard, I- The memory of us, the way we were before all of this, that is what has helped me through all of these nights. Everything seemed to fade away when I would lay and imagine you with me and there were so many nights when I was so sure that I had made you up. Yesterday, all I wanted was to be reminded that we had been real." After her lips graze his, she stepped back. "I could never connect my time with you to them."
"I wanted you to be the only man who ever touched me, but they ruined that and for months, I thought that took away my chances to be with you again and I- I thought about for so long. Richard, I know that you think that after what they did, I couldn't want another man to touch me and I felt that way for a while, too and I know that I've told you this, but it's not just that you're the only man I trust to touch me, but- Richard, after everything that has happened to me, I still want to be with you." Laying her hands on top of her stomach, she watched his eyes follow. "When I remembered us, I was afraid this would be a constant reminder for not only me, but you."
"Is that why you waited?"
"For a day," she admitted quietly. "But the moment I let myself think, I knew how you would feel. I knew what you would say and that you would tell me that it didn't matter who's child she was, but it matters to me, Richard."
"She is your child, Kahlan."
"And I want her to be ours." Closing her eyes, she sat down in the chair beside the table. "It sounds terrible that I would say that, doesn't it?"
Kneeling down beside her, he laid his hands on her pant covered knee. "That you want her to be ours?"
"That I don't want her if she's not ours."
"That's not how you feel, Kahlan. I know you better than that." Taking her hand in his, he smiled. "You want this child, Kahlan and it scares you. Last night you said something that made me sure of it."
"What did I say?"
"You said 'When I give birth.' Kahlan you prepared for what you feared to be the worst and then you did more than that, you involved me."
"I was testing you," she said quietly. "I wanted to know-"
"How far I was willing to go with you. I know, but you revealed far more about what was going through your mind. I-" With a heavy sigh, he sat back on his heels. "I can feel her. I have been able to for some time, but I didn't realize what it was. When I arrived yesterday and I saw you, I knew she is ours. I know. We've wanted this, Kahlan and now-"
"How can you be so sure? Do you know how many of them touched me?"
Shaking his head, he grabbed her hands. "Do you want to tell me?"
She studied his face for a moment, suddenly feeling the warmth his hands brought hers. "Thirteen."
His mind raced with things to say, wishing one of them would make her feel better. "You were mine first."
"You're mine, remember? You both are. Where are the elixirs?"
"In the bowl next to the tea cups."
"I was going to ask you to tend to the fire and then drink the blue."
His body tensed as he remembered the order the man had spoken of them. "You promised, Kahlan."
"I've thought about it enough. I want it to be the way it was before, no reminder of what they did to us."
"She isn't a reminder of that to me."
"How can she not be?"
"Because she's mine and I love her." Standing, he pushed his fingers through his hair and stepped away, moving to the fireplace. He laid another two logs in the burning blaze and slowly walked to the other room, leaving her alone. It was her decision and he needed to give her the space to make it. There was nothing more he could say that would convince her how much he wanted this to be the start of their family. He knew that it was hard of her and he would respect the decision she would make, he only hoped it wasn't one she would regret.
Laying down on her bed, he stared up at the ceiling in thought. He still had dreams about what their captors had done to her, but it helped to know that he would make sure she wouldn't endure anything like it again. She had been right though, a secret he wasn't yet going to tell her, about how he felt knowing that other men had taken her. It bothered him to think that anyone other than him had felt her around them, held himself above and touched her completely. After they had separated, he couldn't stop himself from wondering things he hated himself for thinking. He felt selfish for having been angry that someone else had had her.
Opening his eyes, he turned his head in the hopes that she was beside him, but he laid alone. The rain had stopped and as he brought his eyes to the window, he realized he had been asleep for some time. It was dark outside, but from the look of the bed, he had been by himself all night. Sitting up, he took off his ripped shirt and came to his feet. He walked quietly to the door, finding her sitting by the fireplace in tears. He was about to go to her side when he saw something that made his blood run cold. Sitting beside her, on the floor, was an empty elixir bottle and from the way she cried, he feared the worst.
Taking a step forward, he stared ahead of him as she turned to look at him, instantly wiping her cheeks to shield her tears. He continued on as though he hadn't seen her, walking to the window beside the door. He had hurt her and he knew that he had, but he couldn't make himself speak first. The stars were bright and the light from the moon lit the area outside, giving him perfect vision of it all. It was beautiful, but there was something far greater in beauty he wished to look at.
"Richard," she whispered as soft as the crackle of the fire. He turned his head slightly, not enough for a full graze, but enough to view her. "May I ask something of you?"
From the tone of her voice, he knew something was different. "Anything." He spoke before he could think, without hesitation.
With tears in her eyes, she tore them from the fire to look at him. She felt ashamed and weak, but when their eyes met, it almost faded away. "Will you hold me?"
He was quick to her side, his arms wrapping snugly around her as though it was second nature, though to him, it was. She tucked her head beneath his chin and took in a deep breath. His scent washed over her, bringing her back to the place she had never felt safer and where no other could hurt her. With a slight movement, he indicated his next motion, the desire to lower them to the floor and she flowed with him. He said nothing as he pushed the empty elixir bottle from their path, ignoring the thoughts that entered his mind. If she had taken the one to end the life of the child, it was her decision and she would need him all the more. If she hadn't, his mind rushed to reason, then she would still need him. She would always need him.
"I can hear you thinking," she whispered as his chest pressed against her back. "And you're right. You're always right; I should know better by now." He said nothing, only tightened his hold on her. "I was so scared," she continued distantly, speaking as though it was all a secret and if anyone else heard, their lives would end. "I kept picturing what she would look like if she was ours; then suddenly she wouldn't look the same anymore. She looked like him. Daughter of the Lord who had raped me." Intertwining their fingers before her breasts, she turned her head slightly, her eyes closing to the warmth of his breath on her neck. "I couldn't move past the thought. It's been trapped in my mind for months and- You said five words and they overshadowed my fear."
"I don't understand."
Turning in his arms, she laid on her back and brought his hand to her belly, moving it up and down until he smiled. "Why couldn't she be ours? You want her to be and I would want nothing else, so why wouldn't she?" She smiled, capturing his attention and pulling his eyes from her stomach. "That's what I was thinking of when I felt it."
"What?" he asked in a mixture of confusion and excitement.
His eyes were wide and his smile held firm, bringing the words to her mouth without hesitation, "I think it's what you feel, what you've felt. A piece of you, inside of me. For months I've been afraid and then you arrive and within a day, everything's changed."
"But you're still afraid," he whispered.
Her continued smile confused him, but as she chuckled, it fled. "I'm terrified."
"Why are you laughing?"
"Because it all seems so simple now."
"Simple?" he questioned with a half smile. "Nothing about this is simple."
"This is almost how it usually happens, isn't it?"
He grinned, closing his eyes for a moment as he nodded. "I suppose. Kahlan-"
"I know we can't stay here, not permanently," she interrupted softly. "But it can't be wrong to want to."
"No, but don't you want to go home?"
"I made this my home."
"Because you had to."
"I like it here."
"Because it feels like me."
Nodding, he brought his face to her neck and kissed slowly. "Yes, it does."
"Can we stay for another few days?"
Nuzzling his face in the cook of her neck, he closed his eyes. "We're not leaving until you give birth."
"I'll be fine to travel, Richard."
"I won't be," he replied sleepily. "Worried every moment-"
"I don't think that will change when our daughter is in our arms."
"Probably not. I don't want to risk anything, Kahlan. I need you, both of you."
Closing her eyes, she leaned her head so that it rested on his. "Alright. Richard?"
His eyes opened as he lifted his head. "I know. It's alright, Kahlan. I can't imagine how hard it's been on you; you shouldn't apologize for how you dealt with it."
"Yes, I should. Richard, I hurt you and I'm sorry."
Tightening his arm around her, he turned her slightly until he was able to kiss her comfortably for both of them. "It's alright, I forgive you."
The Mother Confessor turned to the familiar voice with a smile. She was kneeling in her garden, gathering the ingredients for the Seeker's spice soup. When she stood, the wizard and Mord'Sith froze at the sight of her very pregnant belly. "Cara, Zedd!" Rushing forward, she started to hug them, but stopped as their eyes remained on her stomach. "It's good to see you."
"Come here, dear one," the older man said, grinning as he outstretched his arms. "You look beautiful."
"She's fat," Cara mumbled as she crossed her arms.
Pulling back, Kahlan looked to the blonde and tugged her into a hug. "I've missed you, too."
Stepping away, she pointed to the cabin. "He's inside."
She started to follow her friend when Zedd grabbed her arm. "This shouldn't have been possible." He spoke in a whisper, his hand releasing her as she turned toward him. "Spirits, this shouldn't have happened."
"What are you talking about?"
"I put you under a protection spell, their seed should not have been able to take hold."
Confused, she grabbed the wizard's robes and pulled him close. "The night you found Richard on top of me?" she questioned quickly. "The night before I was taken?"
He was surprised to see her smiling, having been worried that she would be furious for him interfering with their lives. "That wasn't the first night I had been with Richard."
"The child is Richard's?"
"Are you sure?"
"I am now." Looking over her shoulder to her home, she sighed. "Did he know?"
Taking his hand, she lead him inside with a growing smile. "You must be hungry."
He jumped at the sound of her panicked voice and shove of her hand on his shoulder. Sitting up, he ran his eyes over her. "What's wrong?"
"Something's wrong," she hissed in pain as she hunched forward.
"I'll wake Zedd."
Grabbing his hand, she held him still. "No!" Gritting her teeth, she squeezed her eyes shut and fought the urge to scream. "You have to- He can't do anything and it's too dangerous to try." Sucking in a deep breath, she opened her eyes. "Rada'Han- It's beneath wardrobe."
"You have to. I can't hold it back much longer."
Grabbing her face, he shook his head. "You don't have to. Let it go."
Shoving him away, she threw her head back with a hiss and groan. "Now, Richard!"
He flew across the room, grabbing the metal quickly before rushing back to her side. Her pain seemed to dim once it was locked closed, but he knew it was because she was now able to stop worrying about releasing her magic into him. "Kahlan, hold on. I'm going to get Zedd, he will know how to help."
"No," she panted as she grabbed his arm. "Not yet."
"If it's a boy, I need you to break your promise." Bringing his face to hers, he gave him a quick kiss and swallowed her pain for another moment. "Please, Richard."
"Alright," he whispered against her lips. "I take it back."
With a swift smile, she leaned back and grabbed the bed sheets. "Spirits! I don't know how women do this."
"They're strong enough to." Giving her forehead a quick kiss, he moved off of the bed and rushed into the other room, calling out for his grandfather with each step.
The night passed slowly as the cries of the Mother Confessor grew louder. Her hold on Richard's hand had turned his skin white, but he couldn't feel it over the sound of her pain. He was sitting behind her, trying to make her more comfortable on the floor. His chin rested on her shoulder as he whispered in her ear, giving her the courage to take another breath and push a little harder. There were moments when he found it impossible to breathe as he allowed his mind to think about what was happening. Hours came and went and suddenly, just as the sun's light began to shine through their bedroom window, the room was filled with the loud cry of a baby.
Kahlan gasped in relief, her body collapsing in his arms as she watched the wizard wrap their child in a warm blanket. Cradling the bundle to his chest, Zedd smiled. "She's beautiful."
"She?" the couple asked in unison as their daughter was gently laid in her mother's arms.
Richard touched his fingers to their daughter's thick, dark hair and smiled. "She has your hair."
"Lucky for her," she teased with a smile. Only moments before she felt like she was going to pass out in exhaustion, but as she held their daughter to her chest, she was filled with energy and excitement. "She has your nose." He was quiet and she couldn't imagine he was doing anything other than examining her face. "Richard, I- I know that I should have told you before, it would have made this easier."
"I already know," he whispered into ear. "Zedd told me a few days after they arrived. I understand why you didn't say anything, though. Testing me quietly."
Kissing her cheek, he poked their daughter's hand with his finger. "No, you're not. It's alright, Kahlan. I know why you withheld the information and I think that I understand. You're right though, she does have my nose."
"She's beautiful." Leaning closer to the small child, she brushed her nose and forehead against hers. "I can't believe she is real."
"Me either, but I didn't carry her for months."
With a light chuckle, Kahlan lifted her head and turned to look at him. "I did and it's almost too hard to believe she is lying in my arms. I can feel her breathe, see her eyes and turn her head. Richard, we have a daughter."
"We should name her."
Closing her eyes, she pushed her lips together and smiled. "You're right."
"Dana?" Richard asked with a grin.
"Where did you hear that name?"
"You've whispered it in your sleep."
"What do you think?"
Holding gaze, she brought her face closer to his until her lips touched his. It was a slow kiss, both taking the time to savor the taste and feel of the other. Closing her eyes, she allowed him to pull her closer, his right hand coming to her neck to hold her to him.
"Hold out your arms," she whispered against his mouth. "She wants you to hold her."
Shaking his head, he tightened his hold on her. "I am, through you." Smiling he kissed her cheek and looked down to their daughter, who slept in her mother's arms. "My father once told me about this moment of my future." He smiled widely, enjoying the memory with his present. "He said that there is no greater comfort to a child than the arms of their mother. Look at her, sound asleep in the safest place, listening to the soft beat of your heart... I don't want to end that."
Turning, she nudged his arms with her elbows. "I don't see how she wouldn't have that with you. She may feel safe with me, but I cannot imagine anything safer than you. Hold out your arms."
He did so immediately, eagerly awaiting the feeling of holding their daughter for the first time. Dana shifted as she was laid in his left arm, making him freeze in a slight terror that he had awoken her. "She's beautiful," he whispered, his eyes moving over her carefully. Her body turned toward his, soaking in his warmth as her mother did the same.
Leaning into him, Kahlan closed her eyes for a moment, praying to the spirits that they would grant them a lifetime of these moments. Looking to their daughter, she smiled at the peaceful face of sleep that she knew very well, the one her father held when he was asleep at her side. She had spent many of the previous nights watching as he slept, wondering about everything that seemed to fade from his mind. "I think this feeling is what your father was referring to."
Holding her head to his chest, she inched closer to their daughter as her finger slipped into her hand. "I can't take my eyes off of her."
"Me either." She shifted with a soft moan, one she was hoping to hide, but was unable to. "Do you want me to go get Zedd? He can-"
"I'm fine," she whispered though a smile. "Considering I just gave birth, I think I feel better than I should." She started to chuckle, but stopped as her body fought her with a serge of pain. "I like the pain," she admitted softly.
"I think you've spent too much time with Cara."
"No. I'm not sure how to explain it. I'm proud of it."
Laying his cheek on the top of her head, he nodded slowly. "I think I understand."
"Look how small her hands are," Kahlan mused. Dana's left hand was holding her mother's index finger firmly, squeezing every now and then with her breaths. "She's strong."
"She gets that from me," he teased. "I think she will have your eyes. When she looked at me, I think she saw right through."
"She's a Confessor."
"It was like she was making sure she was safe, the way you looked at me when we first met."
"She must have seen that she could trust you." Grinning, she blinked quickly, trying to get her eyes back to their daughter without missing anything. "I don't think I'll ever want to move."
The sun was beginning to set as they reached the gates of Aydindril. The people rushed around them, cheering that they had returned. Kahlan held Dana to her chest, both wrapped tightly in a blanket to keep out the cooling breeze. No one would have known had she not heard the excitement and joined in with a squeal of her own. The people grew quiet as the Mother Confessor looked down to her chest, pulling back the cloth just enough to reveal her daughter to the world. She had prepared herself for this moment, remembering the way it had been for other Confessor's but when her people saw the child, they cheered louder. Richard's horse stood beside hers, his eyes locked on her as she moved in case she needed him for any reason.
He wanted to tell the world, announce that it was their child, but he remained quiet. His smile, however, said everything his tongue couldn't. Their daughter peered out at the crowd, smiling as the women waved and cooed. Her beauty matching that of her mother, bringing all eyes to them. Without hesitation, Kahlan handed her to Richard, smiling as he brought her to his chest and kissed her head.
The Mother Confessor straightened her back and raised her hand, bringing the surrounding people to quiet as she prepared to speak. The speech she was about to give had been rehearsed more times than she could remember, each detail being adjusted as the couple decided on a few things. "Lord Rahl and I have created a child, Dana, uniting us all. We do not wish conflict between our people or our lands and we will do what is necessary to keep peace. We ask you to stand by us in our decision to raise our daughter differently than those in the past, allowing her the freedom to grow. As a Rahl, it is possible she will have their magic, but allow us both to assure you that she will be no threat to you." Looking to Richard, she smiled with a nod, asking him to continue. "They're your people too."
"Hi," he said with a smile, bringing the crowd to chuckle. "We ask for your patients as well, maybe even your help. As new parents, we will make mistakes, but we want to assure you that it is our intention to give all of us a better life. You are part of our family and we will do everything we can for you." Looking down to Dana, he let is smile grow wider. "Take a look at our people, your family."
Dana was turned in his arms, her two month old back pressed against his chest so that she was able to see them all clearly. Her small head turned slowly, her eyes seeming to look, joyfully, at each person around them. After a moment, she blinked and let out a happy squee, her arms jumping up as the crowd, her family, did the same.
Holding his gaze, Kahlan reached for his hand, squeezing it tightly. "Are you ready?"
Grinning, she tugged on the reins of her horse. "Me too."