Title: Fairly Naked (PG-13)
Author: Crystal
Characters: Richard, Kahlan, Zedd, and Cara
Rating: PG-13
Timeline: sometime after Torn
Story Type: romantic, humorous
Spoilers: Torn, Mirror (but only in a vague way)
Short summary: Kahlan surprises Richard while he's washing up in a creek.

After Richard stripped off his clothes, he pulled out a handful of grass from the bank of the creek. Without soap, it was the best he could do, especially if he wanted to get rid of the rank odor he'd noticed this morning. The last thing he needed was Kahlan wrinkling her nose as he scooted next to her later tonight. And being this incredibly smelly would definitely destroy his chances for a proper goodnight kiss.

As he stepped gingerly over pebbles and rocks, the gently flowing water rushed past his ankles. It felt cool and wonderful. Richard sighed and waded in until the water was up to his thighs. Then he sank down, immersing his whole body and ducking his head under the surface.

With a splash, he emerged and shook the hair out of his face. The sun warmed his skin while the breeze cooled it, a wonderful combination. Richard leaned back, eyes closed, and let his legs drift with the current, holding onto a large rock to keep himself from floating downstream.

He really didn't have time for more than a quick wash, but there were so few moments when he could just relax and enjoy himself. Surely, even the Seeker was allowed a little self-indulgence, he thought. But images of Zedd or Cara coming to look for him broke up his reverie. With another sigh, Richard brought his legs down to the bottom of the creek and used the grass to rub off the sweat and grime.

After he'd done the best he could, he gave his underarms a quick sniff, glad to notice a definite improvement, and turned back toward land. Just as he was about to stand, he saw her and froze, half-crouched and half bent over like a fishhook about to be baited.

Kahlan was standing next to the creek, watching him.

Richard crouched until the water was up to his waist. "Kahlan!"

"Hi," she said, smiling.

"What are you doing here?" Then he winced at the plaintive tone to his voice.

She laughed and held up a towel and brush. "Same as you apparently."

"Oh." Richard waited, but Kahlan just stood there. "Well, I'm done."

"Good."

"So maybe you could . . ." He nodded toward the area behind some bushes, out of sight, and made a shooing motion with his fingers.

"Could what?"

"Kahlan, you know what I mean." Why was she being like this? Richard stared at her, but she just looked at him expectantly. "Would you mind turning your back or something?"

"Actually, I would mind."

Richard blinked. "Pardon?"

"Yes," she said, a smile twitching the corners of her mouth. "I mind being out of sight while you change back into your clothes." She put one hand on her hip. "Richard Cypher, do you realized that you have seen me naked twice, but I have never seen you naked? Ever?"

"That's not true. You saw me naked when we went swimming . . . or when we made . . ." Richard frowned, realizing neither time had actually been Kahlan, or rather, an incarnation of Kahlan that had a memory of the event. "Never mind."

"So unless you want to sit in that stream all day long, I suggest you come out and get dressed in front of me. It's only fair." She adjusted her hold on the towel and brush and gave him a defiant glare.

Richard tilted his head and peered at her, just now noticing the how the dappled sunlight danced across Kahlan's wind-tossed hair and how it highlighted the swell of her breasts. Her blue eyes practically glowed while her freckles stood out on her fair skin, making her look young and vulnerable and oh so beautiful.

A slight blush crept up her cheeks as she tapped her brush against the towel. "Well?"

"You're right," said Richard, his voice suddenly low and raspy. He cleared his throat and felt a smile twitch the corners of his mouth. "It is only fair."

With that, he rose out of the water and began walking toward the bank. Kahlan's eyes widened and her lips parted in an "oh" of surprise. Her cheeks turned a darker shade of pink as she quickly glanced up and down the length of his body, as if afraid to linger on any particular spot.

Richard had been naked with women before this, but he'd never had them watch him the way Kahlan was. He should've been nervous or embarrassed. He should've been blushing from his chest to the top of his forehead. He should've been hurrying to get his clothes on as fast as he could.

But for some reason, he wasn't doing any of those things. He was standing tall, arms at his sides and not in front of him like a shield. He was walking slowly, being careful to avoid stepping on the sharpest rocks. He was letting the woman he loved see all of him, even now, wet and shivering from the breeze, his cock shrunken from the cold water.

"Is it fair now?" he said hoarsely, as the water dropped below his ankles and goose bumps pebbled his skin.

"Actually," she said, and then paused to wet her lips. "This is one time. You still owe me one more after this."

"So you'd like to see me naked once more?" Richard stepped onto the grassy bank and walked up to Kahlan, stopping just close enough to feel the heat from her body, but not close enough to touch. She smelled like sweat and smoke and strawberries, sweet and musky, and it made him want to taste her so bad his hands rose of their own accord toward her.

"Yes," she breathed.

So Richard took the towel and brush from her arms, and dropped them on the ground beside her. Then he grabbed her hands in his and pulled her against him, intertwining their fingers. He leaned forward and nuzzled her nose, breathing her in, very aware of his nakedness next to the hard leather of her dress and wondering if Kahlan was just as aware of it. "Just once more?"

"Well," said Kahlan, "it depends." And she leaned forward and pressed her lips to his in a sweet, tender kiss.

Richard pulled back in mock outrage. "Depends? On what?"

Kahlan giggled and grabbed the back of his head and pulled his mouth to hers, kissing him thoroughly, her tongue darting into his mouth to mingle with his. Richard let himself sink into the moment, forgetting about Zedd and Cara and quests and clothes. He brought one hand around Kahlan's waist and cupped her breast with the other. As Kahlan ran her fingers up and down the bare skin of his back and then ventured down to his rear end, Richard wondered if she could feel how aroused he'd become through her leather dress. And sounds of contentment escaped from the back of his throat.

This can't be good, he thought vaguely, raining kisses down her neck and across the top of her breasts. It's a bad idea. But how could something that felt this good ever be bad? He tried to puzzle out the answer to that question, but Kahlan skimmed her hands across his chest and down his waist to his hips. All coherent thought left him as he twitched in anticipation of where she might touch him next.

Kahlan moaned into his mouth. Then she pushed against his chest and turned her face to the side. "No, we have to stop."

Richard tried to recapture her lips, but she pushed against him harder and put two fingers against his mouth.

"Richard, please."

Richard blinked, suddenly remembering why this was a bad idea. "Oh, okay."

They leaned their foreheads against each other's, breathing hard.

"I should get dressed," he whispered after a moment.

"I'm sorry," she said, brushing a strand of hair out of his face and tucking it behind his ear. "I thought I'd be stronger. I shouldn't have come here, teasing you. I didn't mean to . . ."

"Kahlan, it's all right. It's fine." He swallowed and tried to regain some control. Zedd, think of Zedd, or D'Harans. Big, hairy D'Harans with scars and pot bellies, eating beans with their fingers and slurping ale while it spilled over their beards. It was helping.

"No, it's not fine," continued Kahlan. "We should be able to make love when we want to. I shouldn't be daring you to show me what you look like." She pressed her lips together and angrily brushed at a tear. "I should remember what happened when we were together before. It might've been our only chance to . . ."

Richard grabbed her hands and gave them a squeeze. "Kahlan, okay, you're right. It's not fine that we can't make love. But we will someday. I promise you that. It'll be my next quest. After we close the rift, I'll find a way for us to be together. We'll have a million more chances. I promise."

"But what if you can't?"

Richard smiled and gave her a quick kiss on the tip of her nose. "Now you start to doubt me? You think I can save the world from the Keeper, but you wonder whether I'll be able to do this? Kahlan, believe me, if there's one quest I want to succeed, it's this one."

"You're right." Kahlan gave him a rueful smile. "I believe you can do anything you set your mind to, Richard. It's just so hard sometimes."

"I know. Believe me, I know."

Crashing noises sounded from the bushes above the creek. "Richard? Kahlan?" called Cara.

Richard swore as he pulled back and leapt to his pile of clothes that sat on a big rock next to the creek. He found his pants and turned them around and upside down, frantically looking for the front. Hopping on one foot, he tried to put them one, but the uneven ground and his still-muddled mind were making it very difficult.

"Are you sure they came this way?" grumbled Zedd from the bushes.

"Richard," called Cara again. She was much closer. He could hear her swearing under her breath.

Kahlan slapped the pants out of his hands. "Stand still." She shook out the towel and began to wrap it around his waist just as Zedd and Cara appeared in the clearing.

"There you are," said Cara. She opened her mouth to say more, but stopped to stare, one eyebrow raised in surprise. "I guess I know why you didn't answer me."

Kahlan jumped back, her cheeks turning a bright pink again. Richard clutched the towel with both hands and adjusted it for maximum coverage. He had a hard time meeting Zedd and Cara's eyes.

"I was just—" began Kahlan at the same time Richard said, "She was bringing me a towel."

"Sure," said Cara, with a smirk, "if you say so."

Zedd rolled his eyes. "Let's go Cara. I trust the Seeker and the Mother Confessor will join us as soon as they're done here." He gave Richard a long look before turning to go back up the hill. "I'm sure they won't be much longer."

"Not unless Richard needs another . . . towel," said Cara.

Kahlan's mouth opened as if she wanted to retort, but Cara had already turned her back and was following Zedd back to camp.

When they were gone, Richard chuckled. "Good thing they didn't come here any earlier."

"Oh my," said Kahlan and then she began laughing too.

After that, Richard got dressed quickly while Kahlan folded the towel and retrieved her brush. When their eyes met, she smiled. "Richard Cypher, things are definitely more interesting with you around."

He grinned, feeing his love for her spread warmly inside his chest. He would find a way to be with this incredible woman, he vowed to himself, no matter what. "I can say the same about you, Kahlan Amnell."

With that, they began walking back up the hill toward camp. When they got to the top, Kahlan paused and leaned in close to Richard's ear. "Don't forget—you still owe me one." Then she patted him on the rear and ran back to camp, leaving Richard standing alone, mouth agape.

"I won't forget," he called out. Then he added under his breath, "Believe me, I will not forget."