Kahlan smiled as her eyes popped open. She was greeted by the sight of her husband, who was also waking up. Darken returned her smile.
"Good morning, Kahlan," Darken said. "How did you sleep?"
"I slept like a baby," Kahlan answered. She couldn't wait to tell him the good news. She was just waiting for the perfect moment.
"Is that a good thing?" Darken asked in a confused voice. Kahlan's warm laughter filled the bedroom. Her husband definitely could be adorable at times.
Kahlan smiled as she watched Darken dress into his blood red royal robes. There had been a time when the mere sight of those robes had been enough to make her want to vomit. But everything had changed after Nicholas had been born. Even though Nicholas was a male Confessor, Kahlan was unable to stop herself from falling in love with him. Nicholas was her flesh and blood. Nicholas was her child. Nicholas just could not be a monster like his father.
Time often changes how one perceives someone else. Kahlan had slowly grown to realize that Darken was not the monster that everyone made him out to be. He was always a gentle, considerate lover towards her, the judgments that he delivered were fair, and he had carried out all of Kahlan's terms. There were houses of healing. There were places for orphans to live. There was peace between D'hara and the Midlands. It was obvious that Darken was just as glad as Kahlan that the war was over and that there no more bloody deaths.
Kahlan had wanted to despise Darken, even after she saw first-hand all the good that her marriage to him had done. Darken Rahl had sent quads to kill her Confessor sisters. Darken Rahl had sent the Whispers. Darken Rahl had sent the magical plague when he had been trying to get his hands on Jennsen and the Boxes of Orden. Darken Rahl had been responsible for the deaths of many innocent people. The babies of Brennidon had only been the beginning of his reign of terror. There was no way that Darken Rahl could not be a monster.
War is always a horrible thing. Even Darken Rahl had admitted to that, and Kahlan had been able to see in his eyes that he had been genuine when speaking that statement. Darken Rahl had told Kahlan that he had not taken pleasure in any of the misery that he had caused. He had just done what he had thought was necessary to survive. He had been alone in the world, with no one to turn to. His father had abandoned him and given up on him by siring the Seeker. Yes, Darken actually told Kahlan that Richard was his baby brother. Kahlan had been able to see in Darken's eyes that he would have liked nothing more than to have a baby brother to play with as a child. If only things had been different. If only prophecy had not existed.
Kahlan had seen regret and remorse in Darken's eyes when he spoke of the babies of Brennidon, when he spoke of all the death and destruction that he had caused either directly or indirectly. The fact that Darken showed genuine regret and remorse for all the evil that he had unleashed touched a soft spot in Kahlan's hardened heart. She could not help but forgive Darken for everything. She could not help but be moved by him.
Over time, Darken shared with Kahlan all his fears and all his insecurities. Kahlan had never been taught to see Darken as anything but a monster, but he was always human and sensitive towards her. He was always tender and kind towards her, even when she was cold and heartless towards him. Eventually, Kahlan could no longer deny to herself that Darken had genuine feelings for her. And Kahlan also could no longer deny to herself that she was slowly developing genuine feelings for Darken. She would always love Richard, but her heart now belonged to his older brother.
Kahlan no longer wanted to use Nicholas to bring Richard back. There was peace, and she loved both her son and his father. Darken was always so loving and so playful towards Nicholas, and Darken was always so innocent and so vulnerable towards Kahlan that she couldn't help but fall in love with him. Darken and Kahlan alternated between who would attend to the state of affairs for the day, so that both of them could have time to spend with Nicholas. Darken wanted to make sure that Nicholas grew up with the love that he had been denied in his childhood, and Kahlan could no longer with a clean conscience try to ask her and Darken's son to become nonexistent just so that Richard could return to the time before Nicholas was born.
Still naked, Kahlan crawled out her and Darken's bed. Darken had allowed her to sleep in her bedchamber. He only slept with her until Nicholas had been conceived. Then, he had left her alone. But after Kahlan had slowly stared to develop feelings for her husband, she was the one who insisted that they started sharing the same bedchamber. Kahlan had told Darken that since he wanted his son to grow up in an environment filled with love, Nicholas should see that his parents loved each other. Darken had been so happy when Kahlan had spoken those words. He had looked into her eyes. Then, he had unlocked the Rada'Han from around her neck, and she had never seen that hateful collar ever again. Now, Kahlan would never dream of betraying her husband by Confessing any of his people, their people.
Kahlan massaged Darken's shoulders. He moaned in pleasure. "I have good news for you, my love," Kahlan whispered sexily into his ear. "I'm pregnant."
Darken spun around abruptly, a look of surprise on his face. "Are you sure?" he asked in disbelief.
"A Confessor always knows," Kahlan replied with a smile. "I don't see why you're so surprised. We actually do sleep together on a regular basis now."
Darken grinned at his wife. "This is joyous news indeed, Kahlan," he breathed. "I've always wanted Nicholas to have siblings that he could play with and love."
"Why did you never tell me this?" Kahlan asked.
"Because I knew that you despised my presence," Darken answered. "Because I knew that it was painful enough for you to sleep with me in order to conceive Nicholas. I didn't want to cause you anymore pain than necessary."
Kahlan wrapped her arms around Darken and held him tight against her. "Things have changed, Darken," she whispered. "I don't hate you anymore. In fact, I love you."
Darken did not cry, but Kahlan saw the tears glistering in his eyes. "For my whole life I've felt empty inside," he spoke, "but you have made me complete, Kahlan. You are my life, just like Nicholas is, just like our new baby will be."
Kahlan kissed Darken softly on his lips. "I better get dressed now," she said. "It's my day to attend to the state of affairs."
Darken's eyes took in her entire body. "You know, Kahlan," he said teasingly, "if you had not said anything, I would have never noticed that you were naked."
Kahlan laughed and gave Darken a slight slap on his buttock before putting on her white Mother Confessor dress. After Darken had released her from her Rada'Han, she had officially become his equal. Kahlan alternated between wearing red and white. Darken insisted that she looked ravishing in both colors. He had worn white only once. He had thought that he had looked like an idiot. Kahlan had told him lovingly that he had looked like a dork but an adorable dork. That had not been enough to convince Darken to ever wear white again.
Kahlan suddenly felt Darken's hand slightly slapping slap her buttock. "Revenge is always sweet," he grinned in a rather childlike manner. That was another thing that Kahlan had slowly began to see in Darken, in so many ways he was still a child. She couldn't help but love him for that.
Kahlan laughed as she felt Darken's fingers pinching her buttock in a loving manner. She quickly pinched his buttock back before she ran out their bedroom, Darken close behind her. They quickly composed themselves when they caught sight of their young son.
"Mommy, daddy," little Nicholas cried happily as he ran towards them. Both Darken and Kahlan embraced their child. Darken affectionately ran his fingers through Nicholas's blond hair.
Darken and Kahlan spent several moments saying good morning to Nicholas and asking how he had slept. Nicholas's mouth ran a mile a minute, and his parents only understood a quarter of what he said; but he sounded so happy that Darken and Kahlan did not stop him.
When Nicholas finally stopped to take a breath, Kahlan kissed him on his cheek before telling him that she had affairs of state to tend to and that she would see him later. Nicholas insisted on giving Kahlan a big wet kiss before finally letting her go. Smiling brightly, Kahlan waved goodbye to both Darken and Nicholas.
"It's just me and you now, Nicholas," Darken spoke. "What do you want to do?" Darken hoped that Nicholas didn't want to ride on his back again, but unfortunately that was one of Nicholas's favorite things to do with his daddy. Nicholas loved both his parents, but he would never ask his mother if he could ride her back. Nicholas was going to be a mama's boy one day Darken thought with affection.
Darken spent most the morning carrying Nicholas on his back. Darken was extremely grateful that he was in such excellent physical shape. He hoped that his and Kahlan's next child wouldn't want to ride on his back. Darken's back was aging faster than the rest of his body, but he didn't complain. He was happy to spend time with Nicholas, and he often found himself wishing that he had done such activities with his father. As Darken carried Nicholas around the palace, he wondered how he was going to tell Nicholas about his coming sibling. Darken finally decided that he would wait until they had lunch with Kahlan. She was a lot more experienced than he was in dealing with children. Darken was glad that he had Kahlan. He loved Nicholas, but he knew that he could never raise Nicholas on his own. Darken needed Kahlan in more ways than one.
When noon arrived Darken and Nicholas joined Kahlan at the dinning table. Kahlan quickly summarized her morning. She would give Darken fuller details after they had put Nicholas to bed. She and Darken didn't want to bored Nicholas with politics until he was much older. Both Darken and Kahlan had been robbed of their childhood by their fathers. Both had to grow up fast as a result. They both wanted Nicholas to be a child as long as possible.
Darken glanced at Kahlan. She understood his message. "Nicholas," she said with a smile as she turned to look at her son, "your father and I have some good news for you." Nicholas looked up at her with the excited eyes that only a child could have. Kahlan smiled to herself. She had been two when Dennee had been born. Nicholas was only three.
"I know that you're going to have a lot of questions and concerns," Kahlan continued, "but your father and I will always love you. We will always be there for you." She paused briefly before saying, "Soon you're going to be a big brother." Instinctually she placed a hand over her stomach, over her and Darken's growing child, over Nicholas's growing brother or sister.
"Oh," Nicholas said simply after several moments of wide-eyed silence. Darken couldn't help but chuckle slightly at his son's reaction.
"Do you understand what that means, Nicholas?" Kahlan asked.
Nicholas nodded his head. "You're going to have a baby," he said, "like I was a baby once."
"You make it sound like that was such a long time ago," Darken smiled.
Nicholas laughed with the joy that only a child could have. He then looked at both his parents and asked innocently, "Where do babies come from? How do they get in the mommy's belly?"
Darken and Kahlan both looked at each other. Neither had thought about this question coming up. Neither had experienced natural childhoods, so they didn't know what was normal questions for children to ask.
Darken directed his attention to Nicholas. "Well, you see, Nicholas," he began, "when a woman and a man decide that they want to unite their bodies-"
"Darken, please keep it rated safe for children," Kahlan interrupted with panic in her voice. She then directed her attention to Nicholas. "Well, you see, Nicholas," she began, "when a mommy and a daddy decide that they want to have a baby, they spend time together."
"You and daddy spend a lot of time together," Nicholas cut in. "You should have lots of babies then."
"The mommy and the daddy spend time together naked," Darken muttered under his breath.
Nicholas, having heard his father's voice, turned to look at him. "What did you say, daddy?" he asked innocently. "Did it have something to do with babies?"
Kahlan, unlike Nicholas, had heard Darken's words. "Darken, don't you dare repeat what you just said," she warned. He merely grinned at her.
Kahlan turned to look at Nicholas again. "Well, you see, Nicholas," she attempted to begin again, "when a mommy and a daddy decide that they want to have a baby, they, well, they, um-, they, um-, they-"
"Do wonderful things together," Darken offered in an innocent voice.
Kahlan glared at him. "You're not helping at all, Darken," she said through gritted teeth.
"I could have said they do things together naked," Darken said just loud enough for Kahlan to hear. "I could have said they make the bed."
The look that Kahlan gave her husband could have melted ice even when there was snow on the ground. Darken chuckled nervously. As soon as Nicholas was out the room, Kahlan was going to chew him out good, and whenever she chewed someone out, it was always enough to frighten even the bravest of men. Kahlan's chewing out would probably be enough to frighten even the bravest of the Mord-Sith, and they were frightened of nothing.
Kahlan softened the look in her eyes before she turned again to Nicholas. "It's simple really, Nicholas," she said. "A mommy and a daddy do something special."
"What is this special thing?" Nicholas asked.
"Sex," Darken muttered his breath. Kahlan gave him another killer glare.
"What is this special thing?" Nicholas asked again.
"It's kind of hard to explain with words," Kahlan replied, "but it's a really special moment."
"Like when you and daddy eat chocolate," Nicholas offered. "You don't do that often."
"Not quite," Kahlan responded.
Nicholas looked at his father. Darken prided himself on being a quick thinker, but that was only when he was dealing with adults. Children were much more difficult and much more complicated than adults. Children were also smarter than adults. They knew how to find an adult's weak spot, and they knew how to draw blood from that weak spot.
Darken shot Kahlan a look of helplessness. She returned the look.
Nicholas sighed impatiently. "I think I'll go ask Alice," he said. "She's very good at making things clear." Nicholas got up and walked out the room.
Darken and Kahlan looked at each other. Then, Darken asked with genuine concern in his voice, "Kahlan, are we horrible parents?"
Darken sounded and looked so innocent and so vulnerable that Kahlan couldn't help but smile. He really was a big child at times. Kahlan forgot all about chewing him out.
"We should look at this from the bright side," Kahlan smiled. "Whenever Nicholas asks a question at a time when we want to make the bed or spend time together naked, we can tell him to go to Alice because she's so good at making things clear."
Darken looked at his wife for a moment. Then, they both busted out laughing.