Title: Nightmares

Author: LOTSlover

Characters: Richard / Kahlan / Zedd / Cara

Rating: PG – 16 / T

Timeline: Sequel to my story Linked

Story Type: Angst / Romance / Adventure

Spoilers: Anything from Season 1 and Season 2 up through Torn

Disclaimer: I love them and love to write about them even though I don't own them or make a dime.

Summary: Richard, Kahlan, and Cara's worst nightmares come to life.

Nightmares (Chapter 1)

The air was crisp with the gentle wind that began with sundown, making the forest come alive even though it was growing ever darker by the moment. Fireflies began to flicker and glow, adding their own bit of magic to the night. The fire crackled and hissed as Cara added more twigs to it, causing a large puff of smoke to billow up and disappear into the air.

"Zedd, really I'm fine," Kahlan insisted as he cleaned the wound on her forehead.

"My dear that gash on your head is not fine. Once my powers regenerate, then it will be fine, but until that moment I need to take care of it. Besides, Richard will be most upset with me if I don't take proper care of you," Zedd reminded her.

"I can handle Richard, Zedd," she smiled broadly.

"Handle me how?" Richard asked as he entered their camp, dead rabbits in hand for dinner and a troubled look upon his face.

"Richard, I'm fine. Zedd, you don't need to…"

"How's her head?" Richard interrupted, ignoring her insistence as he leaned over to place the rabbits by the fire as he watched Zedd tend to Kahlan's wound.

"It's pretty deep; I won't be able to heal her until my powers are restored in the morning," Zedd replied with a sigh.

"Why don't you rest, Zedd. I'll take care of Kahlan," Richard stated as he walked to stand by her side.

"I'll help Cara with dinner; I'm starved after fighting off all those banelings," Zedd responded as he stood to his feet and walked to the other side of camp to help Cara with the rabbits.

"You're always starved, Wizard," Cara rolled her eyes in agitation.

Sitting down beside his Confessor, Richard poured water onto the cloth before continuing to clean the wound. His usual loving brown eyes were distant and filled with worry, brow furrowed deep in thought.

Today's attack on Kahlan was weighing heavily on his mind. While Richard and Cara had been hunting and Zedd was setting up camp, Kahlan had gone into town to restock some of their supplies. On her way back to camp, a large group of D'Haran banelings had followed her until she was out of town and then attacked her. Thankfully, they had heard her screams and ran to her rescue to find her outnumbered twenty to one.

Once the attack was crushed, Richard had swiftly pulled her into a frantic embrace. Since releasing her from his hold, he had kept his distance, staring at her at times but not talking to her or touching her.

"Richard, I'm fine…really," Kahlan softly said as she laid her hand on his leg, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

"Kahlan, you're not fine," he emphatically stated, trying to ignore the feel of her hand upon his thigh that was causing him to flush with warm desire. Fighting the urge to take her right there, he angrily responded, "Hold still."

Her touch was thrilling, an addiction he never wanted to be cured of. But right now, Richard was too upset to think about how he wanted to feel her in his arms, how desperately he wanted to make love to her. His heart began to pound in his chest at the images that lingered in his head. Images of her lying on the ground, blood oozing from her head, banelings standing over her ready to take her life; images that he knew would haunt his dreams for many nights to come.

Richard could barely contain his anger and fear. It wasn't Kahlan's fault that she had been attacked, but why had she gone off into town by herself. He swallowed hard at the anger that swarmed in his soul and threatened to choke the life out of him. He knew they couldn't keep going like they were, not with the Keeper throwing everything he had at them. Richard knew he was going to have to do something to keep her safe if he didn't want to lose her forever.

Seeing the terror that mirrored in his eyes, Kahlan placed her hand on his cheek. "Hey…Richard…look at me," she pleaded.

With a sigh, Richard turned his focus from the gash on her head to her electric blue eyes that shined with love. When he looked into those eyes, the worries and fears that possessed his heart seemed to just dissolve into nothingness, telling him that there was nothing they could not survive together. Somehow, though, he feared this time it wouldn't be enough.

Trying not to lose his resolve, Richard quietly said, "Kahlan, we need to talk…alone."

"Okay," she tentatively replied.

"Are you alright to walk with me?"

"My head still aches, but I'm alright," she answered taking his offered hand as he stood to his feet.

Clutching her hand tightly in his, Richard began to lead her out of the camp. "We're going for a walk; we'll be back in a little bit. Go ahead and start eating without us," he called over his shoulder.

"Well, hurry back. There's no guarantee there will be any food left with Zedd here," Cara answered, not liking the idea of them walking off by themselves, but knowing enough not to argue.

XXX

"Richard, what's wrong?" Kahlan finally broke the awkward silence that hung between them.

Coming to a stop, Richard pulled her to sit down beside him on a fallen tree. Looking up, Richard stared at the countless stars flickering brightly overhead, trying to find his words. How was he going to be able to tell her that he needed to send her away?

"Richard, you're starting to scare me; please talk to me," she whispered, anxiety escalating rapidly.

"Kahlan, I'm taking you back to Aydindril; it's not safe out here with me anymore," he rushed in one breath for fear of never being able to say the words that tore at his heart.

The thought of sending her away was killing him after all that they had been through together, especially after having their minds linked. He never wanted to be apart from her again. He had been adamant about her staying with him no matter what…but now all that had changed. Seeing her lying on the ground bleeding had almost pushed him over the edge.

"You can't be serious, Richard," she murmured, startled by his words, eyes wide in shock.

"You were right before in trying to leave. It's not safe for you, Kahlan. I know that now. I thought I could protect you, but I obviously can't," he heatedly explained, his emotions brewing just below the surface, ready to erupt at any moment.

"No, Richard, I was wrong. We're stronger together than we are apart. You made me see that," she replied as she touched his cheek and stared into his eyes.

Reaching up and grasping her hand, Richard pulled it down holding her hand in his lap. He couldn't hold onto his resolve with her hand touching his face. He had to be strong if Kahlan was going to survive.

"Kahlan, you left before in order to protect me, but I want you to leave now for your own safety. I can't bear to watch you get injured anymore and I definitely won't stand by and watch you die on me. That is why I am taking you to Aydindril. Zedd can stay there to make sure the wizards and the palace army protect you. Cara and I will continue the search for the stone. As soon as the rift is sealed, I will meet you in Aydindril. We can get married and…"

"You've got this all planned out, don't you?" Kahlan angrily stated as she stood to her feet and began pacing in front of him, arms crossed tightly over her chest in a desperate attempt to hold her heart together. "Do I even get a say in any of this?"

"Kahlan, it's for your own good, to keep you alive. I promise I will come back to you just as soon…"

"No! I'm not going to Aydindril, Richard. I can't stand the thought of being separated from you again. Besides, the Seeker needs his Confessor. It's my duty as your Confessor to protect you on your quest, Richard."

"Am I just your duty?!" he heatedly exclaimed as he jumped to his feet, no longer able to control the emotions that were creating a storm in his soul.

"You know you're not just my duty. You know I love you more than my life, but you can't just make decisions for me without discussing it with me. We're a team, Richard. You said that no matter what we would handle everything together," she cried, unable to contain her own hurt and anger.

"Was it a 'team' decision for you to go into town by yourself?!" he yelled, his emotions getting the better of him, his chest heaving with the weight of his fears.

"Richard, I'm not completely helpless. I can take care of myself!" she spat out, her eyes glowing with anger.

"Obviously not or I wouldn't have found you on the ground bleeding to death about to be killed!" he yelled back, moving to stand in front her. All his hurts and fears were spewing uncontrollably out of him like hot lava. He knew he was hurting her, but he couldn't seem to stop himself; the horror of losing her was gripping his soul and swallowing him whole.

"I took care of myself long before I met you!" she hissed. Her breathing ragged with anger and hurt, Kahlan started to move around him to walk back to camp, afraid she was going to say something she would later regret.

Richard quickly moved in front of her, grabbing her arms to make her stay and talk to him. He had to make her realize he was only doing this to protect her. Seeing the smoldering anger in her eyes, he tried to bring his own temper under control.

"Kahlan, I can't lose," he heatedly exclaimed, desperate for her to understand, to see why he was doing this.

"No, but you've already decided to send me away instead. I am the Mother Confessor. No one tells me what to do, Richard…not even you!" she said in a deadly low whisper, laced with hurt as she jerked her arms free from his grasp and marched away from him, leaving him standing alone.

Running his hands through his hair, Richard released an angry cry that permeated the calm sanctuary of the woods. Turning, he slammed his fist into the nearest tree trunk, incensed that he had just hurt the woman he loved. Couldn't she see that it was destroying him to send her back to Aydindril and go on without her, that he couldn't live with himself if something happened to her?

Richard hung his head in frustrated anger as he held his throbbing hand. Everything inside of him was screaming at him to chase after her and make her see that it was only because he loved her so much, but he knew that they both just needed to calm down. Maybe in the morning after getting some sleep, Kahlan would be more open to his decision.

XXX

Richard sat alone on the fallen tree for some time, gently swinging his legs as he stared at the stars overhead. His mind kept replaying the argument he had with Kahlan; his heart ached so badly he felt as if he could barely breathe. He couldn't believe he had lost his temper with her. The fear of losing Kahlan consumed his thoughts and haunted his dreams. He honestly thought that he was doing what was best for her, putting her safety above his own happiness.

Finally making his way back to camp, Richard mulled over the decision he had made. He only wanted her to be safe, not out in the open with him where she was an easy target. He knew it would be painful to be separated again, but he thought Kahlan would have been happy to return to Aydindril and begin planning their wedding for when he returned.

A small smile crept across his lips at the thought of marrying Kahlan. It caused his heart to flutter with happiness at the thought of seeing her walking down the aisle towards him, of making Kahlan his for all eternity. Images of Kahlan in her wedding dress, of making love to her on their wedding night in her bed began forming in Richard's mind, temporarily pushing aside the heartache that had been consuming him. It felt like an eternity away; that day could not come soon enough for him.

As he entered the clearing, Richard noticed Kahlan on the far end of the campsite. She was already asleep on her bedroll, her blanket draped over her. Zedd and Cara were just finishing eating their dinner as Richard approached them.

"Did Kahlan eat already?" Richard softly inquired, sorrow piercing his heart at the site of her all alone, far away from where he had laid out his things.

"She said she was tired and didn't want anything to eat," Zedd quietly informed his grandson.

"Did she let you check her wound?" his eyes narrowing with concern, feeling guilty for letting Kahlan return to camp by herself.

"No, she went straight to bed after she returned; she looked pretty exhausted," Zedd told him as he began to clean up the dishes. "Here, I saved you some dinner, my boy."

"I'm not hungry," he wearily answered as he sat down to lean his back against a tree away from Cara and Zedd.

"I'll take first watch," Cara readily volunteered, obviously anxious to escape the thick tension that hung in the air since Kahlan had returned to camp.

"No, Cara, I'll take it. I probably won't be able to sleep tonight anyway," Richard stopped her.

"I think Cara can handle the first watch, Richard. You need to rest; you look exhausted yourself. You haven't been sleeping much, have you?" Zedd asked, worry in his eyes.

Cara left to walk the perimeter before Richard could object, glad to be away from all the emotional stress that was permeating the camp. Whatever Richard had said to Kahlan, it had not been well received.

Richard leaned his head back against the tree, closing his eyes in a futile attempt to escape all the pain he felt and the hurt that he had caused Kahlan…