Duty

Her life was never hers. Because of her powers, of her title, of the sheer respect she unconsciously demanded, her life was never hers. She couldn't quite fathom the idea of her life ever being hers. Since childhood she was used to being told this is what confessor's do and it's your duty to confess. She recited the words in her head now as she sat on the plush greenery surrounding the camp which they were currently occupying. Duty. The utter word of it revolted her – why? Why must I be forced into doing such things simply because of my abilities? Such nonsense it was. She pulled at the hem of her green dress, daring to catch a few glimpses of Richard in the far distance speaking with Cara.

Kahlan grimaced. Cara. The vivacious blonde who had seemingly decided that she, yes she, was coming along for the journey. Much to Kahlan's and Zedd's chagrin, Richard allowed it. Her eyes narrowed slightly at the beautiful yet dangerous woman who was holding Richards attention. What were they talking about anyway?

Kahlan was never the jealous type. It was only recently this new emotion tempted to cripple her integrity and resolve. Simply because of him. One man! She recoiled at her lack of self-control. Be stronger she demanded of herself. She was born in to power- allowed to be free and independent – a master of her own free will, aside from her duties as a Confessor, never to be reduced to a woman pining after a man. But Richard isn't just any man she sighed in defeat. This was ridiculous.

She could feel her face heat up as Richard grasped on to Cara's leather clad arm to emphasize a point he was making. She shook her head in shame. His choice of friends was beginning to get a bit worrisome, but he was still the Seeker. Trust in his instincts she heard Zedd's voice loud and clear in her head, reminding her. Kahlan trusted him just fine- it was her she worried about. What also worried her was how easily he trusted her. Hot anger seemed to burn through her once more, heating her otherwise cool skin. He barely trusted her when she first met him – she sighed in lost memories- he had a right not to trust me. Grabbing for a stick Kahlan began playing around the dirt, trying to take her mind off of the anger and disappointment threatening to show itself on her otherwise blank face.

"Kahlan," a voice spoke to her, bringing her out of her thoughts. She glanced up a peered towards Richard's direction.

"Yes?" she replied, sitting up straighter, pulling her long strands of auburn hair away from her face to give him her full attention.

He smiled at her; "would you be able to give me a hand filling the water skins?" he held up the containers and raised his eyebrows waiting for a response. Cara had begun walking back in Kahlan's direction, seemingly disinterested in whatever they were talking about. She took a seat on the grass to the left of Kahlan and began pulling at the leather straps on her suit.

Kahlan pushed herself up from her comfortable spot and stretched her back as she answered, "sure. I'd like that better than just sitting around." Sitting around, thinking about you and her she smiled at him. Walking over, she grabbed one of the water skins and they headed down the rough terrain towards the river bed below.

Simply being around him caused her heart to flutter slightly. She steeled herself and pushed the feelings aside. She was the Mother Confessor for goodness sakes! She had to let this go. Her feelings for him were overwhelming her, to the point where she was putting him first and foremost before even her duties as the Mother Confessor. She had the whole of Midlands she had to take care of and here she was, gallivanting with Richard, Zedd and Cara simply because she couldn't stand the thought of him being alone with her. This is a mistake. My people need me…she shook her head, Richard may need me too, though.

"What are you thinking?" Richard's question again brought her out of her personal thoughts. His brown eyes glanced over to her as he uncorked the water skin, ready to fill it. She mentally slapped herself for again allowing herself to be controlled by him in her thoughts.

"Nothing, really. Just little things I need to do." Technically, that wasn't a lie. She pulled up her dress slightly as she kneeled down by the shore of the river. Uncorking the lid, she dipped it in the water, feeling the coolness of it engulf her hand. It was becoming cooler- winter would be here soon.

Richard joined her and let loose a sigh, "really?" he questioned. She felt his probing eyes on her as he dipped his water skin in the water as well. "Because it seems as though you've gotten quieter over the past few weeks. Is there something wrong?"

Kahlan let out a breath and realized he wouldn't give up unless she gave him something, "I'm just a bit concerned, that's all," There. Concerned is a good word for it.

"Concerned? Over what?" he questioned again, his eyebrows furrowing in a quizzical manner. Kahlan looked over at him, her blue eyes piercing his. She pulled the water skin out of the water when she was sure it was full and pulled herself to her feet.

"I'm just concerned with having…well, you know, having a Mord'Sith around…" he began to protest but she cut him off, "look Richard, I know you and trust in you and your instincts as a seeker, but do you think that maybe," she looked away from him as he stood up tall, facing her, giving her a look of worry, "maybe you're being clouded in your judgment of her?" Kahlan pointed towards the camp, indicating she meant Cara. "I mean, she's a Mord'Sith, sworn to protect Lord Rahl…"

"Lord Rahl's dead" he stated fatly.

Kahlan shifted uncomfortably under his scrutinizing look, "I know that. I just don't think we should be so ready to trust her." She looked at him, pleading, "Even Zedd agrees with me on this one! She must be clouding your mind some how to make her trust you" She prepared herself for what she said next, "perhaps it's her beauty that's causing you to make judgments you otherwise wouldn't. I mean, I won't say much for her character, but the woman is obviously pleasing to the eye and…"

"Kahlan," Richard stepped closer. He gently dropped the water skin on to the high reeds that surrounded them and grasped her shoulders, pulling her blue eyes to his, "My focus is on the task at hand - the mission. Right now, we have to seal the underworld. There's too much at stake for me to think of anything else," he seemed to collect himself before continuing, "Besides, if there's any woman here that is a distraction to me and my objective, it's you. I won't deny that fact that Cara is a beautiful woman- she is. But Kahlan, you are a masterpiece; it's not only your beauty, it's your character, your integrity, your spirit. I will never find another woman that equals you," he whispered the last part, "I never want to, either."

Kahlan looked away from his penetrating gaze, suddenly feeling very foolish. Embarrassment replaced her resolve and she wished he would look away from her- focus on something else so as he wouldn't see her blush. All she wanted to do was to love this man. All she wanted to do was to show him how much he meant to her, show him that she cared only for him and do things only lovers do to each other. Being so close to him, physically and emotionally just reminded her how much she couldn't be with him. Richard's gaze never wandered from her face, even as she looked away. With gentle arms, he pulled her to him, hugging her to his chest. He knew exactly what she was thinking- the exact same thing he had been thinking.

Kahlan returned the hug in kind, wrapping both arms around his taut middle. She pressed herself to him, though she knew she had no right. The connection they shared was so deep, even the simple hug they shared threatened to overwhelm her. She could feel the power within her rising and impulsively pushed it down. She could never allow herself even just the simplest of all things- to love and to be loved because of her abilities. She shuddered, but not at the cold.

He held her there against him for some time, his big hands holding her to him, neither wanting to let each other go. She engulfed herself in his scent, his breathing, his heart beat. She pressed herself harder into his chest, simply wanting to melt into him, be one with him. Stop it, Kahlan! She challenged herself, you're only making this worse for yourself a small whimper escaped her before she could catch it. She took a deep breath and pushed him away with a hand at his chest.

"So," she picked up the water skins and avoided his eyes, "we leave at first light tomorrow?" He ran his hand through his thick hair as he looked at her with an exasperated look.

"Yes," he said. Bending down, he picked up his water skin and placed a hand over the hilt of his sword, instinctively. He did it without thinking, just to make sure it was still there. Last time he was at this river bed, he had lost it while being distracted by Kahlan…well, a Kahlan look-alike at least. She noticed a smirk on his face and gave him a questioning look. He shook his head and started heading up the trail, toward their camp. Kahlan, though confused at his sudden change of mood, headed up the trail behind him.


"Nothing quite like rabbit stew to prepare you for a long journey!" Zedd stated matter-of-factly to no one in particular. His bony hands fingering the last of the bread as he glanced around the campsite, looking to see if anyone was going to challenge him over taking the last of it. When nobody protested, he took it and dipped it in his bowl, scraping every last piece of the soup he could get before plopping it in his mouth. He sat on a fallen tree log, his long legs spread out before him with his shoes off, warming his toes by the campfire Richard had built. Cara sat to his right, rolling her eyes at his lack of propriety. Her long blonde hair was out of its braid, cascading flawlessly down across her shoulders. Her blue eyes, though striking, looked weary from the day of catching rabbits and sparring. She yawned and put her bowl down, seemingly ready to head to bed.

Kahlan was quiet for the better part of the evening. She felt awkward after speaking with Richard, as she knew she had shown weakness. The last thing she ever wanted was to seem vulnerable, now, sitting aside Richard with Cara across the campfire, she felt more vulnerable than ever. Richard had been kind and didn't push her anymore. After heading back to camp, Richard, Cara and she had headed out in the forest to do some hunting for dinner. Kahlan didn't even bother trying to be included in the conversation they were having – she was far too uncomfortable.

Kahlan was well aware of the fact that Cara knew her feelings; she was a woman- how could she not? There were times when Kahlan swore Cara was flirting with Richard, simply just to nettle her. She would often steal glances towards Kahlan's direction and smile viciously as if claiming her victory. Kahlan, trying so hard to be the mature one, ignored her attempts to get her ire, though inside she was seething.

Richard had grabbed all of the plates and began washing them with the warm water he had placed on the fire. Kahlan got up and began helping him dry them and put them back in their packs when finished. Once done, Richard grabbed at his pack, pulling out his blanket, placing it on the dirt ground next to Kahlans.

"It's getting rather cold," Cara glanced in Richard's direction, "It might be best if we slept together so our bodies can keep each other warm," her smile widened at seeing Kahlan's face turn a strawberry red. Zedd coughed uncomfortably and turned to busy himself with pulling his things out of his pack.

Richard shook his head, smiling as he grabbed a bar of soap from his bag, "I think I'll be just fine, Cara. Thank you for your concern." He stole a quick glance in Kahlan's direction. If looks could kill. "I do have an extra blanket though, if you need it that badly" he stated. Cara rolled her eyes in response. Standing up straight he changed the subject, "I'm heading down towards the river for a quick wash up. I shouldn't be too long."

Kahlan grasped his pant leg as he walked past her, halting him. "Alone?" she questioned, worry dripping from her tone.

"It'll be alright. I'll be fine," he smiled down at her.

Zedd shifted in his seat, letting loose a sigh, "No my boy, she's right. You need someone to go with you. Two is always better than one," he scratched at his chin, "Kahlan you go with him. You were stating earlier how much you wanted a good wash. There's enough reeds you won't see each other, but you'll be able to hear if something goes wrong." He got up and stretched his blanket out before easing his way onto the cotton fabric. "I'd go, but I'm far too exhausted," he sprawled himself on the blanket and placed an arm over his weary eyes. He was done for the night.

Richard looked to Kahlan, "Well?" he questioned. Kahlan looked at her hands. This is a bad idea…a very bad idea her head screamed.

"If she's not up for it, I can definitely be of use," Cara grinned, licking her lips, "I could always wash your back for you," her lustful eyes fixated on him, awaiting his reply, "among other things." Her smile widened.

Richard shifted uncomfortably over the sticky situation he found himself in. All he wanted was a bath! He could see Kahlan's ire fuming in her beautiful blue eyes.

Kahlan piped in before he could respond, "Don't worry," she stood up, challenging Cara with a look that even Cara was taken back, "I think I can handle it."


Kahlan could hear Richard as he stepped into the water, could hear him grimace at the coolness of it as it inundated him. She looked around, clearly uncomfortable with taking her clothes off in the middle of a clearing, in the cool weather, with Richard swimming just feet away from her, naked.

She braced herself as she undid the ties on her dress and pulled it over her shoulders. The cool, fall air nipped at her flesh as she stood, naked in the clearing. Walking towards the water, she gently placed a toe at the shoreline and yelped. She heard Richard chuckle.

"You'll get used to it, trust me," he called out to her from his bathing area. She snorted in response.

"Ya, right," she responded and placed her whole foot in the water. This feels like ice! She held her arms over her chest, trying to warm herself as she stepped further and further into the cool water. "We should've went farther up the mountain, maybe we could have found a hot spring or something," she called out to him, her teeth chattering as she pushed herself further into the water.

Richard was splashing around in the reeds beyond her. She could hear him dunking himself, "I suppose we could have. Probably would have taken us at least a few hours, though. A few hours we don't currently have." He stated. Kahlan knew the truth of that. Although it still would have been nice. She couldn't wait to get back to camp to warm herself by the fire. The thought just seemed simply wonderful.

She took in a deep breath as she began to get used to the water and dunked herself under. Her long hair clung to her back as she came up, water sluicing from her face. She could hear Richard was saying something to her, "what was that? I didn't hear you, sorry" she called to him.

"Are you ready for the soap?" he asked again. She could hear rustling about in the reeds.

"Uh…" she faltered in her words as she saw something underneath the water swim around her feet. The moon reflected off of it and all she saw was a glimmer of something long and silver, but too thin to be a fish. In the moonlight, she could see more of them- at least three, swimming around her. Her breathing began to get a little heavy as she turned in the water, trying to see what it was that was swimming around her That can't be a fish…is it?

"Kahlan?" he pressed from the distance. "Is something wrong?"

"Umm…" she said as she saw one swim towards the reeds and back towards her again. She was only able to get quick glances at it in the moonlight as the silver of the body shimmered in the water. She sucked in a breath as they swam around her. Suddenly, she felt something slimy scooting up her leg. She gasped and screamed in shock.

"Kahlan!" Richard quickly started swimming toward her direction. He was there in seconds, looking at her dumbfounded as she stood there shaking, arms across her chest, covering her breasts. "What's wrong? What happened?" he made sure to look her in the eyes.

Kahlan looked up at him and dared not to move, "snakes…" she whimpered, her eyes starting to tear up. She hated snakes beyond reason. They terrified her, more than any of Darken Rahl's men ever could. They were unpredictable, sneaky and terrifying. Darken Rahl's men were predictable and slow. Snakes were fast.

"Of course there are snakes here! They're just water snakes, though. Tiny little guys," Richard let loose a breath as he realized there wasn't any real danger. "Kahlan, they won't hurt you. Even if they bite, it's like a pin-prick, really." He stepped closer to her, placing an arm on her shoulder. She still didn't move, unconvinced. He rubbed her arm, trying to reassure her and warm her, "trust me" he smiled at her, lifting her chin with his hand.

Her eyes were darting about the water, trying to see where they had went, but they had seemingly swam off, probably scared off by Richard's movements. When she was satisfied that there were no more snakes around her, she let out her breath. It was then she suddenly realized just how naked she was and just how naked he was. She was suddenly thankful for the darkness, hoping he wouldn't notice her sudden blush. She dropped deeper into the water so she could seek the comfort of it to cover her. Richard also suddenly felt uncomfortable. He held the soap up to her, looking away from her so as not to embarrass her more. He noticed the blush.

Kahlan reached out for it, "thank you," she stated, allowing her eyes to wander down his chiseled body. She began to forget about her blush as knew thoughts started forming in her head. He's just so perfect she found herself wanting to touch him. She wanted to feel his velvety soft skin, wanted to feel the hardness of his muscles underneath her hands. She wanted to feel his warmth, wanted nothing more but to simply feel him. Her shame at being naked was suddenly replaced with desire. Stop it, Kahlan she said to herself, you have no right! It's dangerous. It wasn't fair. Why shouldn't she be able to be a normal woman? Why shouldn't she be able to love like so many others? He felt the same way – they had talked about it before. She had given up so much of herself for others - had given up her life for a calling she never asked for. Was she not allowed to take pleasure in the simplest form? Was she not allowed to be a woman at all, ever? This was her chance. The spirits wouldn't have given her such strong feelings for him for no reason. Her heart began pounding in her chest as she stared at him. She pulled her bottom lip through her teeth. He was about to turn around to go back to his area when she grasped his wrist.

"Richard, wait," she stopped him. He glanced over his shoulder, a questioning look on his face. She had to think of something quick, "Let me wash your back for you?"

Richard's brow went down slightly. He wanted Kahlan beyond reason but knew her powers would take him. He didn't know if this was such a good idea, "Kahlan, I…"

"It'll be ok, Richard. Nothing more, just a quick wash," she interrupted him, walking up behind him. He'd never seen her like this before- her eyes were different. The look she was giving him made him suck in a breath. Her usual soft and kind eyes had turned and were now full of pure desire and lust. His heart began pounding and he tried to push his mind to different thoughts, other than her. He conceded quickly to her touch on his back and sank back towards her.

Kahlan was slowly slipping, her inhibition leaving her as she brought the soap up and ran it across his soft back. She was surprised at how soft his skin really was. The soap smelled of lavender and she pushed herself closer to him to feel his warmth radiating from his body. Richard's mind was swimming as he felt her getting closer to him. The gentle touch of her hands on him were driving him deeper and deeper in desire. He was finding himself loosing this battle.

Kahlan pushed herself even closer to him yet, to the point where her chest was touching his back. She let out a breath as she realized how excited she was getting. Her love for him was what was driving her. Love and lust. She felt his muscles tense at having her so close to him, feeling him, breathing with him. She wanted so badly for him to put his arms around her, to feel her. She reached her head up and started placing small kisses on his back, as she wrapped her arms around his torso, feeling their bodies pressed together.

Richard's heart felt like it could explode at simply feeling her soft kisses on his flesh. He wanted nothing more but to feel her body, kiss her, make love to her. His reasoning was quickly being replaced by his manly desires. Testosterone blazing, he turned so they were facing each other.

She smiled at him, ignoring the fruitless attempts made by her reasoning to stop now.

"Kahlan…" he tried one last time but words failed him as she swam closer. They were inches away from each other. It took all his will not to look down and kept his eyes on hers. She slowly inched her arms around his neck, pressing herself against his chest. The feel of her on him was driving him crazy. "This is a bad idea," he whispered to her, their eyes locked on each other.

Kahlan leaned forward and touched her lips to his. His arms encircled around her waist and pulled her closer to him. She moaned at the kiss, at his hands and at his warmth that surrounded her. She had dreamed of kissing him again almost every night. She wished for this moment above and beyond anything. Becoming more adventurous and brave, she wrapped her soft legs around him. His hands pushed her tightly against him as their kiss deepened. She pressed her lips urgently against his and ran her fingers through his wet hair. His breathing was becoming quicker as he allowed his hands to roam; his left hand stayed firmly on her back, holding her to him as the other ran down her sides, feeling her soft flesh. She moaned against his lips again as he allowed himself to run his hand down the side of her silken thighs under the water. He gripped her thigh as he deepened the kiss. They broke away from their embrace as he started trailing kisses down her jawline the way he'd always dreamed he would. He pressed a suckling kiss to her neck, just below her ear. She gasped at the tickling yet arousing kiss and how his warm breath against her neck was driving her past reason. His kisses continued down her neck to her collarbone. She arched her head back as he kissed her chest, just above her breasts.

"Touch me," she panted, wanting to feel his hands on her. He obliged willingly and slid his right hand from her thigh, up her waist to her breast. She moaned against his warm hand feeling her, finally. She was so happy. It was happening. This was happening. Feeling Richard touching her in the most intimate of ways was exhilarating. She wanted so badly for him to be in her. Wanted so badly to feel his manhood. Wanted so bad to just be one with him. She knew he felt the same- she could feel him becoming more aroused by the second. He looked up at her and met her gaze, desire clear in his beautiful brown eyes.

"Kahlan," he whispered, touching his forehead to hers. The connection they shared was overwhelming him, even just the way she looked at him made him weak at his knees. With her in his arms, naked and completely vulnerable to him, he never felt happier. This moment was what he had been dreaming of since the day he met her. He smiled as her fingers played with his wet hair, "I love you."

She stopped and blinked up at him. Reason flooded back in to her. Her heart began pounding faster but not from desire, from the pain at realizing what could have just happened. She could feel her power teetering on the edge, could feel that within minutes, Richard would be her slave forever. She put a hand to her mouth as tears filled her eyes. How could I do this? She gasped back a sob I love him so much, how could I ever do this to him? I'm such a terrible person.

Richard's face faltered. Worry creased his brow as he noticed Kahlan's change in demeanor. He understood. Reality hit him like a ton of bricks. They were so close. So close, "Kahlan," he pulled her to him, hugging her as tears coursed from her cheeks. He ran his hands through her wet, tussled hair and held her head to his shoulder, comforting her in any way he could.

"I can't believe I almost…" Kahlan cried, not able to say the obvious. Richard shushed her and held her tightly against him. Though they were both still naked, neither of them were thinking of anything but each other's emotional well-being. Kahlan clung to him I can't believe I was so stupid! She cursed herself.

Richard pulled her away from him to look her in the eye, "Kahlan, I'm sorry." Tears threatening to choke him, "I shouldn't have allowed it to go that far."

She bit her lip as more tears poured from her beautiful face, "It wasn't your fault," she cried, "I'm the one who should know better." She wiped the tears from her cheeks and looked away from him, "I'm so embarrassed right now," she admitted, hanging her head, pulling away from him. She began swimming back the shoreline.

Richard sighed and followed after.

"Please, Richard. Can you turn away?" she asked crouching underneath the water to not expose what he had already seen moments ago. He nodded and turned his gaze elsewhere as she pulled herself out of the water and started placing her clothes back on, still crying. When he was certain she was done, he followed suit and threw on his clothes as quickly as possible. No words were spoken as she started her way up the trail towards their camp.

Richard grabbed her wrist before she could go anywhere, "Kahlan," he said, pulling her eyes to his, "we should talk about this first."

She wiped the tears from her cheeks again but more kept flowing, "please, Richard." She cried. "I'm sorry… I just wanted you so badly. I…I…" words failed her. Her long, wet hair hung around her shoulders, shielding her face as she looked down. She felt so ashamed for allowing her own desires to block her reason. You're so stupid, Kahlan. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

"Shh," Richard brushed some hair away from her face, "I wanted you just as badly." He whispered. She was shivering. He gently walked closer to her and wrapped his arms around her, trying to warm her up. She was still crying but not as hard as before.

"I could have taken you." She whispered into his shoulder, "You could be lost right now. I'm a danger to you. I shouldn't be around you. You have far more important things to do. I shouldn't…"

"Stop it," Richard scolded her, "stop it. You are not a danger to me. I willingly…participated in what we just did. You didn't force me. Kahlan, we slipped up," He pulled her away from him, gazing into her eyes; "we made a mistake. We just won't let it happen again, ok? I'm fine. You didn't take me. You stopped before. You were able to control it."

She found her voice, "I only stopped because of what you said." She looked uncomfortable and started playing with her hands, "had you not said what you had, we may be in a very different situation right now."

Richard ran a hand through his hair in frustration, "Kahlan, do you regret what we did?"

Kahlan considered it for a moment, "I regret being so close to harming you," she looked at him sheepishly, "but not at what we did."

He smiled at her, "Good," he pulled her to him again, "I do love you, Kahlan. I will find a way. We just need to be a bit more careful until then." She whimpered at his words, knowing full well that there was no way. "Come, let's get back to camp before they come searching for us". She could only nod as he led her up the trail.