Collapsing into her, Richard closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath as her fingers moved to his hair. With a slow kiss to her chest, he relished the taste of her before lifting his head. As he had done three times before, he lingered against her, savoring their release just long enough to keep from crushing her with his weight. Rolling onto his side, he brought her with him, clutching her as though she was more important than anything he possessed. If there was space between them, it drove him mad and she couldn't be close enough. Her leg wrapped over his, pulling herself closer as their lips found each other's once again.

Leaning into him, Kahlan ran her hands over his back, doing her best to bring him just a little bit closer. Her body, though exhausted, still craved his and she wasn't ready for this night to end. She could feel the dew collecting around them, reminding her that the sun would be rising soon. Breaking their kiss, she ran her tongue over her lips, desperately hoping to commit the taste to memory as she tucked her head beneath his chin.

"I love you, Kahlan."

A smile pulled her lips widely. "I love you too," she replied in a low whisper.

"Marry me."

Kahlan pulled back instantly with a mix of shock and happiness, though she didn't know which one was stronger. "What?"

Moving her to her back, he leaned over her. "Marry me."

"Richard, I-"

"I know what Shota said, but I will not let anything happen to you."

"I know."

Tracing his thumb across her bottom lip, he smiled warmly. "If you marry me, I promise that I will find a way to give you as many daughters as possible."

Her hand came up to his, resting it against his. "I'm not sure my life would be the one in danger."

"What do you mean?"

"In five days, you will seal the rifts and defeat the Keeper."

"And I will no longer be needed," he said quietly in understanding. "Kahlan, I would die tomorrow if it meant I could be married to you for an hour." His hand trailed down her chest, between her breasts and to her stomach, his fingers softly massaging her skin. "Marry me."

Grinning, she touched his cheek. "I will marry you."

He had so much to say, but nothing more than an excited moan would leave his lips. With a soft laugh, she leaned up and kissed him, bringing him down and shifting her body so he would lay back over her. Her body was, once again, craving his and with their time running out, she didn't want to waste another minute.

He watched her as she dressed, his eyes still finding it difficult to move off of her, even as more and more skin was covered up. Her back was turned to him as she laced her dress, now having to do it herself after several failed attempts made by him that only lead to more clothes being removed. When she finished and turned around, she was greeted with a wide smile on a still, very naked Seeker.

"What?" she asked, looking down at her dress to see what he was staring at.

"You're beautiful."

Her cheeks flushed as she sat down before him, her eyes quickly running over him as she fought back a moan. "You should get dressed."

"I don't think I can wear clothes again."

"You want to spend the next five days naked?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Only if you would join me." Moving to his knees, he leaned forward and connected their lips.

"They're going to come looking for us..."

"You're right," he sighed, taking his pants from her. "What's wrong?"

Swinging her eyes from the leaves to his, she tilted her head in confusion. "What?"

He almost abandoned his pants, his first instinct was to comfort her, but he was already standing with a leg inside the clothing. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she said quietly. "I was thinking."

Squatting, Richard took his folded shirt from her hands. "Thinking about what?"

"Why didn't they come after us last night?" Looking over his shoulder and into the trees, she shook her head. "Why didn't they come when I released my magic?"

"Kahlan-"

"They should have come."

"Why?"

"Because I could have destroyed you."

Laying his shirt on the ground, he grabbed her hands. "You didn't, maybe they knew."

"And Amanda and her father? Richard, they wouldn't have allowed-"

He licked his lips and sat down, being sure to keep contact with her. "Kahlan, they were gone and maybe Shota went to Cara and Zedd."

"I promised him that I wouldn't..."

Grinning, he straightened his back and pulled on his shirt. "I don't think he will be upset." Standing, he reached down for her hand, offering to help her up. "We'll go back; he will be pleased. He would love to have grandchildren."

"Richard-"

"He won't be upset, Kahlan. Trust me."

Taking his hand, she smiled. "You're right."

"Kahlan?" Zedd's voice pulled her from her thoughts. "Are you all right? You've been staring into the fire for almost an hour."

"The spell Shota used... I can still feel it within me."

The wizard frowned, understanding her worries. "Shota will do anything to-"

"Can you remove it?"

"No."

With a nod and heavy sigh, she brought her eyes to his. "Richard wants children, Zedd. He wants a family and no matter how many times he says that we're enough, we aren't. One day, he's going to realize what I've made him give up"

"This wasn't your choice, Kahlan."

Her eyes moved back to the fire, making it easier for her to think. "I agreed to marry him."

"Have you changed your mind?"

"No," she answered without hesitation, easing the sudden tension. "Zedd, when he talked about our children, I- You should have seen the look in his eyes. He was happy; I have never seen him like that before."

Smiling, the older man withheld a laugh. "That's only because you don't see the way he looks at you."

"We've come full circle," she whispered. "I am still unable to give him a family."

"You've already given him something he has always wanted." The confusion on her face widened the smile on his. "Richard has never looked at any woman the way he looks at you."

"Zedd," she spoke quietly. "I want a family with Richard, too." Saying it out loud was almost as painful as it was hidden within.

His warm smile did nothing to comfort her, but she appreciated the effort. "I know, dear one."

Lying down beside her, he lifted her arm and inched in close as he tried to keep from waking her. She hadn't been feeling well and this was the first night in three days they were able to sleep. Being so close to the pillars, the disciples of the Keeper were arriving in large groups, keeping them from having any time to rest. He froze as she shifted in his arms, moving into his arms comfortably.

"I didn't mean to wake you."

Smiling, she raised her head. "How did you know I was awake?"

"Your heart started to beat faster."

Lifting her chest from his side, she looked down. "You can feel it?"

His chuckle shook her as she laid back against him. "Yes." Drawing circles on her back, he tightened his hold on her and sighed. He knew what had been going through her mind, it had been in his as well and if they didn't discuss it now, it could hurt her more. "Kahlan, I- If you have to take a mate to have children, I won't-"

She was looking down into his eyes almost at once. "What?"

"I want us to have a family, I do, but if we can't create one together-"

"You want me to take a mate?" she questioned, doing her best to keep her voice and face calm and impassive.

Bringing his hands to her face, he pushed back her hair for a better view. "I want you to be a mother."

Moving out of his embrace, she frowned. "You want me to be with another man, to have his children?" Licking her lips, she tried to push down the heavy feeling of betrayal. "You think that giving me to another man..." She couldn't continue. The sick feeling once again rose up to greet her, making it almost impossible to breathe. Her eyes began to dampen as she looked away from him and rolled onto her back. Covering her face with her hands, she tried to calm herself and see the situation the way he did. Looking back to him, she shook her head. "We should sleep while we have the chance."

Rolling away from him, she closed her eyes and did her best to keep her heart from racing. It was pounding in her ears and she didn't want him to hear it too. This made no sense to her. Why would he ask her to marry him and then request that she take another man to her bed? How could the arrangement be alright with him? Would he would be with another woman too?

Snuggling against her, he pushed his face into her hair and wrapped his left arm around her. "I don't want you to do it, Kahlan. I want you to be mine alone, but if I cannot give you a child, children, I... I know it is more important to you than you said. I know you. I know how wonderful of a mother you will be and I know that as difficult as it will be for both of us, having a daughter, family, will be more than worth it. I'm not suggesting it easily."

"Why would you suggest it?" she asked in a low whisper, her mind suddenly going back to thoughts of him and the sylph Amanda.

"You once told me that you imagined having children. We were sitting by the fire as our breakfast cooked and you said that there were times before when you used to see how your life would be. You'd have three daughters, beautiful girls and one you always thought would look like your mother. You sat beside me, smiling for the first time in days and talked about how you would make sure they were safe and when we defeated Darken Rahl, they could be." He sighed, rolling onto his back as he pulled his arm away from her. "I haven't been able to stop thinking about that conversation, Kahlan. You had plans, your life planned and I'm taking it away from you."

Her head turned toward him slowly. "I never believed I would have those things."

"Why?"

"I didn't think I would live long enough to have children."

Meeting her eyes, he gave her a sad, but hopeful smile. "You'll have that life, I promise."

"It doesn't mean anything to me anymore."

"Yes, it does," he said strongly, losing the whisper.

"I haven't thought of that life since we were trapped in James's painting."

"Kahlan,"

Her body turned toward him, making it easier for her to look at him. "I didn't want to think about it. I told myself that when you settled down, maybe I would try to do what was expected of me. Those few hours we spent in there... I wanted to stay and I kept thinking that you were right. It was perfect."

"It wasn't perfect. Four nights ago, Kahlan. That was perfect."

A smile came to her lips, keeping his attention from her reddened cheeks. "I don't want that life anymore. I don't want a child with someone else."

Pulling her back into his arms, he sighed heavily. "Me either."

The world had gone silent in battle; the only noise he could hear was her heavy breathing and soft grunts of war. Blood dripped from her nose as she pushed her dagger into one of her attackers, taking only a moment of her concentration. They were at the pillars, a few dozen feet from sealing the rifts and their enemy showed no signs of diminishing. He tried to remain at her side, a doomed wish as they were separated time and time again. The prophecy of the Keepers win with her death was all but too much. As long as he drew breath, she would live.

Cara smiled as another wave of blood splattered upon her face. Every baneling and Sister of the Dark she killed was another delight she basked in. If she went a day without killing someone, she thought she would be driven into madness. The more blood that was spilled by her enemy was cause for celebration. She enjoyed almost nothing more.

The path was small, but time was running out. If he didn't hurry they would all die. Fighting his way to her, he grabbed her arm and pulled her with him. He didn't want to leave her alone for a single moment. It was easier for him to take down the threats when she was with him. No one could stand in the way when she was in danger.

The wizard's fire filled the air with a dark smell of death, making sure more of the dead would not return. Preparing the way with a large force, Zedd threw out his hands and pushed the last set of Sister of the Dark flying away from the couple running toward them. A blinding light covered the area and instantly Richard pulled her into his arms to protect her. The ground shook beneath their feet as the rifts began to seal. With a step back, she looked around them in awe at the sight before them.

"You did it," she whispered as he, too, looked around.

Stepping to her side, he grabbed her hand and smiled widely. "I didn't do it alone."

Exhausted, she took a step backward and looked over her shoulder to their friends, who now came walking toward them. Their enemies were gone, the ground still stained with their blood and ashes. They had won and everyone was safe once again. It filled her with pride, the knowledge that the man she loved had saved them all. Now it was time for a different adventure.

With a sigh, Kahlan dropped to the ground and leaned back against one of the large stone pieces that were scattered around the area. Her body ached and she suddenly realized she was free to relax. Closing her eyes, she adjusted her hand as he sat down beside her, neither wanting to break their contact. Leaning sideways, she laid her head on his shoulder and waited for her breath and strength to return to her. Richard's arm was around her quickly, pulling his hand from hers as he brought her closer to him. Looking up to his friends, he grinned.

"We did it." The wizard nodded, smiling down at the couple before turning to look out at the, still sealing, rifts. "What do we do now?"

"We go home."

"How far to Aydindril?" he asked softly as he realized the woman in his arms was asleep.

"Eight weeks."

Closing his eyes, he relaxed his body and lowered them both to the ground, holding the brunette to his chest. "We'll start out in the morning."

Zedd kneeled down beside them with a smile. "We should wait a day or two. She shouldn't travel hard for so long."

"I don't understand."

"I expect not," the older man replied. "After you informed us of your visits from Shota, I placed you both under a protection spell. It kept hers from taking hold on Kahlan. She is pregnant, Richard."

Pride and happiness replaced the confusion on the Seeker's face. He wanted to wake her and kiss her until he couldn't see, but he couldn't. There was a reason she hadn't told him; he would give her more time.

"We'll stay here tonight. She will decide if she is able to travel in the morning."

With a nod, the older man stood and licked his lips. "Cara and I will find dinner."

When she opened her eyes, she was laying against his chest, nearly on top of him with his arms wrapped firmly around her. Blinking away the sleepy blur, she ran her hand over his side and lifted her head. She felt rested, but the sun was setting, telling her she hadn't been asleep for very long. Easing herself out of his arms, she sat up and looked around. There was smoke and a flickering light in the distance, reminding her of their friends. Something was cooking and the smell was making her sick.

Moving quickly, Kahlan made her way to a small section of bushes that were a few feet away and instantly emptied what little was in her stomach. She didn't want to wake him, but she knew it was only a matter of seconds before he would notice she was gone. Wiping her mouth, the brunette sucked in a quiet breath. Her mind was spinning in thoughts and she wasn't sure she could keep them from him for much longer. He deserved to know the truth, even if she didn't know exactly what it was. When his hand touched her shoulder, she sighed in relief.

"Richard," she started softly. "I wanted to say something before, but I didn't understand; I still don't understand."

His heart began to race, excited for the moment words of their child growing inside of her left her lips. "Understand what?"

She looked into his eyes for a brief moment and sighed. "How long have you known?"

It was impossible to stop his grin from spreading across his face. "Not long, but I want to hear it from you."

Smiling, Kahlan nodded. "I'm pregnant," she whispered secretly before looking around them quickly to be sure she wasn't heard.

Pulling her into his arms, he hugged her tenderly, resting his chin on her shoulder. "We'll have our family, Kahlan."

"She's going to come for her... I don't want to lose her, Richard."

Pulling back, the Seeker cupped her face in her hands and leaned close. "Shota will not come near our children. I will not let anything happen to daughter, to either of you, I promise."

"I know," she responded quietly. "But I'm still afraid. Richard, I don't know how we created her. Shota-"

"Zedd had us under some kind of protection spell. He said it kept hers from taking hold on you. I- Kahlan we don't think Shota is worried I children will be monsters. She doesn't want them to be more powerful that her."

Closing her eyes, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pushed forward, removing the empty space between them with a hug. All of the fears that had been running through her since the realization of her pregnancy suddenly vanished. She never imagined that their children would be as evil as the witch had said, but she couldn't help but wonder if her love for him blinded her. She knew one thing, if she gave birth to a son, she would not have the heart to kill him. Now, she only prayed that their love would keep him from the darkness.

The cry of a baby rings through the trees, announcing the birth of another child. A boy destined for power, loved by his parents until he breaks free and destroys them all.

The darkness is within you, it grows until it can no longer be contained. It wants to be unleashed and feed. It cannot be stopped.

THE END