This is a collaboration piece, written with coauthor evilgmbethy.
Disclaimer: No profit is being made, no infringement is intended. For specific disclaimer, see pristineungift's profile page.
A Midsummer's Eve Dream
Standing in the doorway of Kahlan's study, a small posy of flowers in hand, Richard smiled to himself, watching her work. Even after two years of marriage, watching her push her hair behind her ear as she bent over her desk made his heart flutter.
Sensing his presence, Kahlan looked up, breaking into a bright smile when she saw him in the door, her cheeks pinking. As Richard approached, she pulled open the bottom drawer of her massive desk, pulling out a neat leather case.
"Happy Midsummer's Eve," she said softly, holding the case out to Richard.
Wordlessly he handed her the flowers, taking the case in exchange. The crest of the House of Rahl and the Seal of Aydindril were stamped into the front of the black leather in gold and silver leaf, superimposed over one another. Richard opened it to find whetstones, polishing cloths, all the tools he would need to maintain his weapons.
Not a traditional Midsummer's Eve gift, but thoughtful and perfect for him.
Just like his wife.
He smiled, looking up to see her with her nose in the posy of flowers he'd picked for her. "Thank you, Kahlan," he said, moving forward to kiss her cheek, gently rubbing the knuckles of his free hand along her jaw. "Zedd is watching Taralyn so we can spend the night together..."
Trailing off, Richard gave Kahlan a hopeful look, knowing the pressures of ruling a territory. He hadn't told her of the plans he made for them for Midsummer because he had wanted it to be a surprise. He would understand if she had to attend to matters of state.
Kahlan gently set the posy of flowers on a far corner of the desk, quick, strong hands organizing her various papers into piles as she spoke, "I can afford to take the evening for us. Dennee has been helping me manage the load." She stood, coming around the desk to wrap her arms around him, "I hope Tara doesn't wear Zedd out. We have a rambunctious girl."
Leaning his cheek against hers, nose in her hair, Richard replied, "She takes after her mother. Smart, tough, and beautiful."
It was good to see her smiling and herself again. Tara's birth had been hard, and she'd only just started sleeping through the night at not quite ten months old. It was the first time in quite a while that neither Richard nor Kahlan had dark smudges under their eyes.
"There's some of her father there, too," Kahlan said.
Richard laughed. "I hope not!" He took Kahlan's hand, setting the gift she had gotten him down on the desk, "Follow me, I have a surprise for you."
Kahlan smiled as she followed Richard through the door and down the halls of the People's Palace. "I hope Zedd doesn't give her another one of those enchanted dolls," she said thoughtfully, making a face when Richard moved behind her, putting his hands over her eyes. "Richard..."
"It's a surprise," he chastised her, guiding her forward. "And I'm sure Tara is having a great time with Zedd. I always did when I was young, though that was mostly me playing pranks on him." Richard smiled to himself, briefly lost in memories of stealing apples from the crazy chicken man.
Kahlan snorted, "I'll never forget the first time I saw him, standing there naked in the dark, with just his chicken covering his erm... Life's never boring with him around, that's for sure."
She was just about to question Richard about the pranks he used to play on Zedd when he stopped, his breath against her neck. "We're here," he whispered, and then uncovered her eyes.
"Oh," Kahlan breathed.
They were in the Garden of Life. It was beautiful under normal circumstances, but on this day it was stunning, a vision from a dream.
Magical orbs of soft, sparkling light drifted through the garden to light the early evening. The flowers, in full bloom, filled the air with a sweet, heady perfume. As Kahlan moved further into the garden, eyes wide in wonder, Night Wisps became visible, winking and singing among the plants. Richard led her, and she followed, to find a blanket has been spread next to the koi pond, contrasting sweetly with the lotus blossoms floating on the surface of the water. A picnic basket rested on a corner of the blanket, a bottle of persimmon wine chilling in a bucket next to it.
After they were seated, Richard smiled and opened the basket, pulling out fruit, little boiled sweets, and other tidbits, his face lighting up as he watched Kahlan take in the transformation he'd had made to the garden. "Zedd helped," he said as he arranged things on the blanket, looking up once he had everything placed how he wanted it, a look of boyish delight on his face.
"We fell in love outside in the open air... it feels right that we spend Midsummer's Eve outside, too."
"It's perfect. It's beautiful," Kahlan murmured, still quietly taking it all in, thrilled at how much thought Richard put into his plans, especially the Night Wisps, knowing her relationship with the fae of the forest. She moved to sit closer to Richard, careful not to disturb the spread of food on the blanket. Leaning over, she kissed his cheek, his stubble tickling her lips as she breathed into his skin, "I love you."
Richard responded in kind, food forgotten as he shifted to wrap his arms around Kahlan's waist, pulling her against his chest. He didn't speak, just breathing her in, before pressing their lips together in a soft kiss.
Kissing was all they had had for so long, and for that reason, he'd always love kissing Kahlan. Her lips were warm and soft. Warm and soft, just like all of his wife. She's always felt so soft against him, her beauty sharply soft, her heart warmer than flame.
She was a creature of contrasts - half warrior, the Confessor of hard steel, determination, the ability to make hard choices. Richard loved that part of her, respected and admired her for it. Her strong sense of duty, her acceptance of of her life of service... Like it flowed in her veins, a river of self sacrifice.
In a way it did lace her blood, for she was born a Confessor and raised to rule as one. Richard knew that it wasn't easy, the life of duty she's lived, but it awed him, how she'd handled her destiny. Better than he handled his, if he was honest. Though she's young, he's seen the same traits in their daughter, Tara, and he's glad that she's inherited her mother's fortitude.
And then there's the softer side of Kahlan, the part that Richard sees and has always seen. Kahlan is sweet, gentle, and somehow, despite the the hard life she's lived, she's managed to retain that gentle nature. It's the part of her he saw before he saw the Confessor, before he even knew what a Confessor was. She'd held a knife to his throat in the first instant they met, saying she wasn't used to being touched. Now, he knew it was because people were afraid - afraid the 'soul stealer's' very skin would be toxic. The thought of it is enough to make him ache, to think of Kahlan having to go without the loving touch of another.
"I love you, Kahlan," he says against her lips, pulling her into yet another kiss, their passion rising.
Kahlan pressed herself tighter against his chest, reveling in Richard's warmth, in the unabashed, free way he shows affection. Before Richard, the only hope of such a thing was from a confessed man, and that would have been a coerced love, an empty love, a hollow thing of ashes and shattered dreams.
Richard was brazen, skin hot, alive - willing. And his expressions of love were simple, no compulsion to dress it up in fancy phrases. With a look, with a touch, with a simple utterance he tells her he loves her, and it's quiet and uncomplicated.
The first time they met she had despaired of all that made him Richard, of his faith in good, his trusting nature, his generosity of spirit. She had feared those traits in the Seeker would mean the downfall of their mission, the end of them all.
But she came to see, quickly, it was impossible not to see, that these things that made him Richard were also what made him the Seeker.
She had known in that first week, in a corner of her heart that she had thought she'd tamped down long ago, that she would always be his Confessor. Whether duty tore them apart, whether he loved another, whether their mission ended in a blood soaked horizon, whether they were separated by the sands of time...
She would wait for him always, love him always, even in the fires of the underworld.
They had to break the kiss to catch their breath, both panting with the wild rush. They indulged in one more lingering embrace, Kahlan's face flushed, then Richard pressed a kiss to her hairline and let her go, reaching back for something among the silken pillows scattered on the blanket. There was a bundle of flowers there that he had picked, matching the posy he had brought to Kahlan's study. He began to weave the blooms together with rough, calloused hands.
"I want you to tell me your dreams, Kahlan," he said as she poured them both a glass of persimmon wine. "For us. For the rest of our lives," he glanced up from the flowers, giving her a small smile, his eyes twinkling in that familiar way. "I want to know everything you want from our life together, because I want to give it all to you."
A smile transformed Kahlan's face, her eyebrows raised, and Richard continued, his face hot, "I was thinking earlier, and I realized that with being Lord Rahl and the Mother Confessor, and having Tara, we never talk about things like this anymore."
The sudsy sweet persimmon wine tickled Kahlan's nose as she sipped, her tongue tingling. She watched Richard's hands, his strong fingers, admiring the skill and strength he put into such a simple task as weaving. "My dreams?" she asked, a whimsical note in her voice. She sighed, thinking of the wish closest to her heart - to give Richard a son.
But there was no point in dwelling on the impossible.
"I've dreamt of peace since I was a child. But," she stopped to gaze at him lovingly, unaware that she was doing so, "my vision of peace has changed. It used to mean quietly serving as Confessor to a village under a just ruler. But now?"
She smiled, her eyes seeming to glow as her gaze turned inward, to a vision of the future only she could see. "Now I see the two of us, and Tara... and more children, eventually. Tara complaining about her sisters and us having a mother-daughter chat, bonding in a way I didn't get the chance to with my mother."
She looked him up and down, lips twitching into a saucy grin of appreciation, then gestured to his hands, "You teaching them to make flower wreaths, them covering you in them." Kahlan laughed at the image, the sounds of her mirth sending little trills down Richard's spine. "And us growing old," she finished, "and our grandchildren complaining about the crazy old Lord Rahl that's always telling them about how he used to be the Seeker."
While they were talking, Richard's hands stayed busy, skillfully weaving the flowers he had picked into a crown. He loved watching her talk about their daughter, and their future. She was never more beautiful to him than as a mother. "How many daughters will we have?" he asked, playfully sincere.
"How many do you want, Richard?" she countered, sipping from her goblet before saying cautiously, "I thought... five or six?"
She did not speak of the duty she felt to continue the line of Confessors, but she doesn't have to. She knew Richard understood.
"As many as you'll give me," was his answer, prompting Kahlan to giggle a bit girlishly, the wine having gone to her head. Her eyes a bit unfocused, she covered Richard's face with butterfly kisses, sloshing a bit of the frothy spirit onto the blanket with the sudden movement.
"You're a wonderful father," she said once he'd wrestled her to the blanket, her goblet lying forgotten on its side in the grass. "I'm proud to carry your children," her voice was suddenly quiet, sincere, her eyes overbright. More than anything, Kahlan was grateful that any children she had with Richard would have a loving father who loved them because he wanted to, a father that would be what a father should be.
For this, she thanked the Creator every day.
Sitting up, Richard retrieved the slightly crushed wreath of flowers, and gently placed it on Kahlan's head, in the tradition of Midsummer. Later, they would jump the bonfire and wish for a fruitful year.
"You're beautiful," he said, smoothing his hands through her hair. He loved her hair. He loved every part of her.
All of her.
Having just a part of Kahlan simply was not something he had ever wanted. He'd always loved all of Kahlan, even the parts of her that made it difficult for them to be together. Even their duties, their harsh destinies... Kahlan had always been so sure of who she was, and that in turn had helped Richard accept his fate, as the Seeker, and then as Lord Rahl.
Difficult paths should not be walked alone.
Kahlan touched the crown of flowers on her head, thanking him in a breathy voice. As always, she was amazed at the contradiction that was Richard. She'd seen him wield death when necessary, a force of righteous fury on the battlefield, and yet, this same man wove her a flowered crown.
She loved who he was, what he was, because without him, she wouldn't be the woman she had become since knowing him.
She wasn't some weak willed thing defined by men, and yet Richard had marked her in ways he didn't even see. Without him, she would be a cold, hardened creature of duty. It was because he came into her life that she learned to let love in, his touch that made her feel like a woman. The world knows the Mother Confessor, expects the Mother Confessor.
It's Richard that lets her be Kahlan.
Glancing at the koi pond, she thought of the tradition followed by girls throughout the Midlands.
If you look into a pond on Midsummer's Eve, you will see the face of your true love.
Kahlan didn't have to look into the water to know that she'd see Richard's face reflected at her side.