Disclaimer: Legend of the Seeker/Sword of Truth is owned by Terry Goodkind and all the grand high mucky mucks of ABC. No copyright infringement is intended and no money was made from this of course. Any similarity to any other story not my own is coincidence.

Title: The Absence of Fear
Genre: Legend of the Seeker; Kahlan/Richard
Rating: PG-15; rated to be safer than sorry for the smooches. *grin*
Timeline: Between "Reckoning" and "Marked;" basically that week between the first quest and the next. *grin*
Author's Notes: So, to be warned, this little fic pretty much revels unabashedly in something that comes close to purple prose. It fit the tone I was trying to achieve in the sense that Kahlan and Richard are an archetypal high romance sort of pairing with flashes of a more physical sense of chemistry. (Essentially they make big ole declarations and smooch *grin*)

Title snurched from the Jewel song of the same name.


know that my beloved is hidden from everyone
know that she is beyond the belief of all beliefs
know that in my heart she is as clear as the moon
know that she is the life in my body and in my soul

-Jalal Al-Din Rumi


Kahlan sat with perfect grace on the simple stone bench of the twilight garden, her head bowed and her ivory white skirts draped elegantly about her legs. In her hands she cradled a ripe, sunset gold peach, absently turning it in her cupped palms. Behind her, a devotional fountain dedicated to the legacy of Mother Confessors past was slowly filling, finally restored after so many years of forced neglect. And all around her, the blessed quiet of peace filled the secluded Temple garden.

But Kahlan remained almost hopelessly restless and aching.

She knew that she should be as jubilant as the chiming waters behind her, or as peaceful as the twilight surrounding her, but instead, her thoughts were turbulent and troubled.

"Richard..." she whispered, his name falling from her lips almost as prayer song, an aching plea to the spirits.

Then, as if it had indeed been a prayer calling for an answer, the Seeker suddenly stepped through the garden gates. Kahlan looked up as the soft creak of them admitted him into the green sanctuary. She watched as Richard approached her, smiling softly.

"Here you are. Zedd and I wondered where you had gotten off to."

The Seeker settled himself next to his Confessor, setting the Sword of Truth aside for the moment.

"Kahlan?" He asked, suddenly noticing the unshed tears that darkened her eyes to an almost midnight blue. "Kahlan, what's wrong?"

She bowed her head once more, not answering him and instead, taking a small bite from the peach in her hands. Richard waited. Finally, she swallowed the little piece of fruit and spoke in a quiet voice.

"They don't have these in Aydindril."

Kahlan brushed her fingertips over the warm, ruddy skin before taking another small bite of the fruit.

"I'll miss them when I'm there, when you've..." she said before falling into a profound silence that tangled around them both for a moment.

"Kahlan..."

Richard finally broke free of the weight of it as he said her name tenderly, but when she still didn't respond, he surprised her by gently taking the peach from her hands. Once he was certain that he had her attention, Richard took a large bite from the fruit, the sweet juices running down his chin.

Impulsively, the Confessor reached out her hand and brushed her fingertips over her Seeker's bottom lip and down his darkly stubbled chin. He went still.

"Richard..."

Before she could think better of it, Kahlan brushed her forefinger over his bottom lip once more, gathering droplets of juice on the tip. And then suddenly, Richard slipped his tongue through his lips and licked lightly at his Confessor's fingertip.

"Richard..." she gasped, and bit at her own bottom lip, lightly drawing it into her mouth.

With a sound close to a low hum, he slowly drew Kahlan's finger into his mouth, sucking the juice from it. His tongue caressed her as he did so, curling about her finger and drawing a breathless moan from her. Then, with only a moment's hesitation, he did the same with her next finger, and the next.

"Richard we..." Kahlan whispered even as her eyes fell closed, savoring the sensations rushing through her body and the indescribable pleasure of what Richard was making her feel.

He grasped her wrist lightly before she felt him shift on the bench next to her, straddling it carefully.

"Look at me, Kahlan," he urged her. "I need you to look at me..."

Slowly her eyes opened. She shifted to face him, straddling the bench herself, the open folds of her Confessor's gown flowing down her legs. She watched as Richard drew her finger back into his mouth, keeping his own autumn dark eyes on her. His heated gaze was enough to make her shiver as if she had a sudden fever. And by the time he had reached her last finger, her eyes had fallen closed once more and she was trembling.

"So sweet...Kahlan..." Richard said in a voice shaken rough with emotion.

Suddenly she felt the warm flesh of the peach gently pressed against her mouth. Blindly, she took a bite, spilling sugar sweet juice over her own lips. Then unexpectedly, Richard turned the fruit in his hand so that he could brush the smooth unbroken curve of it over his companion's chin and down the slim column of her throat. The soft peach fuzz tickled like velvet and the juice felt cool against her flushed skin. Kahlan gasped as the sensations nearly overwhelmed her.

"I've wanted to touch you for so long," he confessed. "Tell me you've wanted it too," Richard urged her in a quiet voice.

"I have," she sighed helplessly. "Of course I have, but Richard..."

"Because I love you," he interrupted gently, leaning forward to whisper it softly into her ear, his lips brushing softly against her skin. "It feels like I've loved you forever... since almost before I met you... like I was waiting for you all my life..."

He leaned back to meet her eyes with a look full of an unabashedly wild kind of wonder and desire. "I want to show you how much. I need to show you, Kahlan..."

She knew that she should object; stop what was happening, but somehow, she couldn't quite form the words, even as she felt Richard brush the peach further down her body, caressing the upper curves of her breasts. She could feel sticky sweet juice gliding down her skin, lower and lower, until droplets clung to the uppermost edge of her black corset.

Impulsively, Kahlan reached for the lacing of her gown and began to undo the simple weave, only vaguely registering the soft thud of Richard tossing the peach aside. Soon enough though, his freed hands replaced hers at the lacing and his fingers were deft and nimble as he loosened it. He pulled the fine white ties open until he could gently brush the sleeves of the Confessor's bodice down over her shoulders.

"Oh, Kahlan..." Richard murmured, caressing her name as he kissed first one bared shoulder and then the other. "My Kahlan... my dearest Kahlan..."

The Seeker rolled her name over his tongue as if he were savoring the taste of it like some deliciously exotic wine; as if he were intoxicated by it, and by her.

"My own love," he whispered before capturing her lips with his. And in that moment, there were no more quests, no trials and tribulations, no prophecies foretelling either doom or victory. There was just Richard's mouth on Kahlan's, his breath entwining with hers as his soul reached for its mate. In that moment, they weren't the Seeker and the Mother Confessor, they were just Richard and Kahlan. They were simply lovers.

"Please..." she gasped, unsure in that instant if she meant it as a plea, or an admonishment. But Richard met the questions in her eyes with the answers in his own, and suddenly it was too much; it wasn't nearly enough. Kahlan reached desperately for him, her hands clutching at his shirt, tangling in the well-worn fabric as she returned his kiss with a devastating passion that burned more fiercely than even the deepest magics contained within the Sword of Truth. And when he finally drew his mouth away from hers, she would let him do so to only the mere distance of a breath from herself.

"Don't stop... oh, Richard, please don't stop..." Kahlan gasped against the warmth of his lips, coaxing a preciously rare chuckle from him that tingled over her skin.

When he finally slipped his mouth from hers, it was to begin kissing his way down her chin and neck; open mouthed kisses that traced the sweet paths that the peach juice had made over her skin. And he followed them as a wayfaring seeker, intent on discovering all the sacred truths those paths could lead him to.

"Oh my... Richard..."

He smiled with pleasure, coming to linger at the hollow of her throat, feeling her pulse dancing wildly beneath his lips.

"I love you, Kahlan," Richard whispered, pressing the words into her heated skin. "I've always loved you."

"Richard..."

"I will always love you," he vowed into the beat of her pulse, weaving his words into the rhythm of her heart.

He reached for her hips, splaying his fingers wide over the soft curves as he pulled her towards him. She went impulsively, wrapping herself around him even as she felt the power inside uncoiling within the heart of her.

"Forever, Kahlan..." Richard swore as he slid his hands up her spine, supporting Kahlan as she arched back, more graceful than the most elegant longbow.

He lowered his mouth tenderly back to the soft hollow of her throat before trailing kisses light as rose petals down her body, his tongue tracing lover's secrets over her skin as he tasted the sweetness of the juice glimmering there.

"I want to make love to you forever, Kahlan," Richard whispered as his lips came to linger over her heartbeat, savoring the way it trembled in her breast; the way it raced at his touch.

And even as her heart responded to him, so too did her power. It reached for the Seeker, feeling like a flower opening and craving the sunlight, and Richard was the sun. For a moment, all Kahlan could do was lose herself in the feeling. It had never been like this before, it had never felt so right or so perfect in the past.

Then Richard lifted his head so that his gaze could meet hers and the Confessor suddenly found herself humbled and awed by the depth of the love she saw in her Seeker's eyes. No one had ever loved her as much as the man before her and she knew, in that moment, no one else ever would. In that moment, Kahlan realized that Richard was hers completely, heart and soul.

"I want you," she confessed, drawing him back up, her lips finding his once more. But even as they did, Khalan imagined that she saw a glimpse of black cooling the warmth of Richard's autumn colored eyes. She suddenly flung herself from him so quickly that she nearly fell from his grasp.

"Richard," she gasped, shaken to her very core.

She untangled herself completely from him then, trying to ignore the bereft look that haunted his gaze and the silent plea of his empty arms reaching for her.

"Oh, Richard..."

Kahlan felt shattered, devastated by how very close she had just come to Confessing the man she loved.

"Richard, we can't do this..."

She rose with a more familiar grace then, backing away from the garden bench and the Seeker who still straddled it. And as she did so, she quickly slipped her arms back through the sleeves of her bodice, as if her dress was some desperately needed armor.

"Kahlan, I'm not afraid. I trust you," Richard assured her gently, turning on the bench to face his Confessor once more.

"I know," she whispered in reply. "And I don't know which scares me more, that, or how close we just came... how very close I just came to..."

She tried to say more but the words seemed to lodge themselves deep in her throat, stealing her breath.

The Seeker finally stood, and Kahlan took an almost involuntary step forward before forcing herself to just as quickly take an immediate step back.

"I love you, Richard," she confessed, bowing her head. "I will always love you. But this can't happen. It can never happen again. I'm just..." she brought tear filled eyes up to meet his. "I'm just not strong enough."

"Kahlan, you're the strongest person I know," Richard countered quietly, stepping carefully toward her.

"Not with this," she replied simply. "Not with the way I feel; not with the way you make me feel."

She bowed her head, letting her hair fall forward to hide her face in shadow. She took a deep breath as if preparing for a battle that she knew she might not survive.

"Maybe..." she almost whispered on the exhale. "Maybe you shouldn't accompany me to Aydindril. I'm certain that there are others that can be found, capable resistance fighters..."

"Kahlan what are you saying?"

"I don't think I can leave you, Richard," she admitted in a rush of breath that stopped his. "I'm not sure that I can anymore... but you can leave me... you should leave me..."

Richard closed the final distance between them, surprising Kahlan by reaching out to brush his fingertips over silk and leather before finding the loose lacing of Kahlan's bodice. Then slowly, ever so slowly, he began to re-lace the white ties as Kahlan watched in breathless silence.

"The place of the Seeker is at his Confessor's side," Richard insisted in an intimate voice meant for lovers' secrets. "My place is at your side."

"Darken Rahl has been defeated. The prophecy is fulfilled," Kahlan countered, shaking her head as she finally lifted her eyes back up to meet Richard's. "You could..."

"My place is at your side," he insisted once more with tender conviction before reaching out his hand to gently caress her cheek, his fingertips warm against her skin. "I will never leave you, Kahlan, ever. You have to know that."

Kahlan lay her hand lightly upon his chest, seeking the steady beat of his heart beneath her fingertips.

"I want that, Richard," she whispered, pressing her palm flat to his chest. "I do; but if I ever... if my power were to ever touch you, really touch you... "

"I won't leave you, Kahlan," he repeated, stealing away the single tear on her cheek with a chaste kiss. "There's nothing your magic could do to me that would be worse than having to live without you."

"Richard," Kahlan gasped, surprised and nearly overwhelmed by his declaration.

"I've been touched by your love, Kahlan, and as a wise man once told me, of all the magic in the world, there's none more powerful than love."

"Not for a Confessor, Richard.

He gave her a small, secret sort of smile.

"Maybe, especially for a Confessor," Richard suggested before brushing his lips over hers, swallowing any protest that she might have had with a simple, sweet kiss. "I'm already devoted to you, Kahlan Amnell," he breathed against the warmth of her lips. "I live for you... I'd die for you."

"Richard..."

"More than any prophecy, more than any quest, you are my fate; my destiny. And all of that is because I love you, not because of your power, Kahlan."

He smiled again, his autumn eyes whispering hopeful secrets and lovingly inviting her to share them with him.

"And someday..."

He kissed her with the sure promise of warm desire, savoring the last lingering sweetness of peach on her lips.

"I want to believe that we'll be able to do more than just taste the fruit," Richard confessed in the absence of all fear.

Slowly, the Mother Confessor closed her eyes. For a moment, she was still, even her breath only a hushed whisper caressing Richard's skin as she enjoyed the intimate pleasure of feeling him breathe her in as she breathed out.

"Kahlan?"

Thoughtfully, she licked her bottom lip, pulling it into her mouth briefly to taste the honeyed echoes of passion before smiling just a little as she felt his steady heartbeat speed up and entwine with her own. Slowly and quietly, an unexpected serenity eased the ache in her heart and made it murmur quiet secrets to her, truths just out of reach, but nevertheless patiently waiting for Kahlan to discover them.

"Kiss me again?" She asked in a small, still voice.

"Are you certain?" He asked softly.

"Of you... I am," Kahlan replied, slowly opening her eyes once more. They seemed almost impossibly blue in the twilight, filled with quiet faith and cautious hope. She looked down to where her hand rested lightly over his heartbeat. "I love you," she whispered before bringing her eyes back up to meet his. "And I want to believe in someday too."

Richard smiled with unrestrained pleasure before sliding his hands into her dark, winter fire hair, gently entangling his fingers in the soft curls. He felt the silken tendrils twine about his fingertips, fascinated by the way they caressed his skin and how golden highlights danced through the strands.

"My own love... my sweetest love... my Kahlan..." he murmured, making her name a sacred and passionate prayer to all the good spirits.

She sighed as Richard pulled her close, his lips caressing hers with devastatingly exquisite skill. Then he deepened the kiss like a promise, and suddenly Kahlan felt as if she had burst into a million glorious pieces, shattered and scattered into nothing more than light and sensation. For a moment, there was no Mother Confessor, there wasn't even a Kahlan Amnell, there was just the brightness of her spirit, yearning and reaching for Richard's, so close that they could nearly touch; almost join as one. And it was a tangled pleasure that was on the edge pain, but still, she reveled in the feeling even as it slowly slipped away, returning her gasping and shivering back to her body.

The Confessor rested her forehead against the Seeker's as he slipped his hands down her shoulders and arms to finally entwine his fingers with hers.

"Someday..." Richard promised softly, embracing his one true love in the last of the twilight...