The Abiogenesis Spell (Part 2)
Summary: This chapter may cause teeth decay. Sappiness to the max, guys.
News has a strange way of travelling around the Midlands that means that, sometimes, you learn of things almost as they are happening, but also, sometimes seasons pass before news makes its way to the interested parties.
It is only when Richard comes back from his stay at the People's Palace, in the middle of one of the harshest winters any of them can remember, that Kahlan and Zedd find out.
It makes Zedd spit the wine he had been savouring.
And such a good wine it was, too. He thinks in mild annoyance and not a bit of regret.
The spluttered wine reaches Kahlan and Richard.
He yelps and moves slightly out of the way. She lets go of the plate she had been passing to Zedd, which slides from suddenly numb fingers to the floor, making a right mess, spilling the food into the very fine rug under her feet.
And such good venison that was, too. Thinks Zedd. This time, with real regret as he lets his eyes move over the spoilt food. His bushy eyebrows lift in thought. Maybe he can use a spell to put the food back into the plate? A really, really, tiny spell of undoing? He looks at the other two as he considers. There would be no harm in that, surely?
Richard's visits to D'Hara have been growing longer through time, Richard very much enjoying his time with Cara at the People's Palace. But this was his longest stay thus far. In a different time, Kahlan would have missed him terribly, but now, she can admit to herself that four months apart is no longer a painful separation for either of them.
The round trip takes over a fortnight so the communication between the two realms is fluid, but slow. Only important news is communicated and Cara is sparse in her letters. She talks of Estate affairs, of crops, of justice imparted, of possible rebellions.
Of none of the things Kahlan would like to know, really.
Cara never discusses what she thinks about during cold winter nights, or whether she has let her hair grow longer, or if she has met anyone special.
So, after a while, Kahlan lets some of her aides run that correspondence for her. It is easier than sending news and receiving only stubborn silence as a response.
But this news!
Kahlan turns wide, uncomprehending, eyes towards Zedd. He looks away for a moment before his eyes focus back on the Mother Confessor.
There is no need to say anything. They both know the minute the words leave Richard's mouth.
The magic has finally revealed itself.
It did work.
Cara's child: It has to be Kahlan's.
It takes them over a week to organize the trip.
Zedd spends the time invoking all the magic he knows of. It only serves to confirm that this is the child of Kahlan... of Kahlan and Cara. That the spell worked, like magic always seems to work; in ways that are unexpected only to those that do not know any better.
Richard stays back in Aydindril. He knows it is time for him to step aside. Maybe the boy who first met Kahlan in the forests of Westland would had put up some kind of fight, but the man that he is now does not. He helps them prepare for the trip and then, he hugs Kahlan for a long time before they say their goodbyes. They will meet again, of course, but never on these terms. He squeezes her gently one last time before letting go. In many ways, it is their first real goodbye, and possibly, the last meaningful one.
He stays in the courtyard, watching their silhouettes become progressively smaller until they disappear entirely from view.
Richard had also known the minute he saw Cara's enlarged stomach and grumpy face.
How could he not.
He had known, all these years, of Cara's feelings. For someone who took pride in not letting her feelings rule over her, what Cara felt for Kahlan was obvious for anyone who wanted to see it. And so, they had known. All of them. In various degrees of conciousness. They just chose never to speak of it. Perhaps for fear that, by acknowledging it, they might also have to question if the feelings were returned.
It is why Richard did not send word with the news. Why he overstayed his welcome at the People's Palace, getting on Cara's last nerve. He needed the time to reconcile himself with something that he had known for a while: that the spell was a last chance for himself and Kahlan.
They had not been intimate for a while.
Neither entirely sure it was safe for Richard any more.
What is worse, neither entirely sure there would be any magic to contain.
Kahlan and Zedd travel light and send word of their travel ahead of them so that Cara knows they are coming.
It will not be easy to explain things, but explain they will.
In her own way, Cara has been confused by her pregnancy. But she lays both with men and women often enough that she figures it could have happened. Sometimes, a lot of ale is involved and she does not exactly remember the details of all her trysts. Nor does she want to. So after a while, she just shrugs it off. There is no point in wasting time thinking about how exactly this happened or who might be the father.
No child of hers needs a father figure anyway.
Neither does she allow herself to think much of Kahlan's visit when she learns of it.
And if she feels the pain under her ribs expanding and beating stronger than it usually does, making it harder to breathe, she only attributes it to a bad digestion and her advanced estate of gestation.
When they meet, Cara makes things hard.
It is her way.
She does not let Kahlan or the wizard hug her. And only reluctantly, later, when Kahlan almost strong-arms her way into Cara's chambers, does she let Kahlan touch her belly to feel the baby. It does not move, of course. She is too advanced into her pregnancy now and the baby is already in position, settled low on her hips.
In fact, Cara thinks she might explode any minute now. She feels bloated and tired. Ugly and fat, really; quite ridiculous looking, forced out of her usual leathers.
She tells herself that is not the reason why she didn't let Kahlan embrace her.
However, Kahlan's wonder and joy at feeling her belly makes her relent slightly, and she finally allows herself to really smile at them. She is pleased to see Kahlan. She might be even a little bit pleased to see the wizard.
She listens to Kahlan and the wizard as they talk and talk about a spell Zedd cast on Kahlan. She tries to match their seriousness but she keeps getting distracted by Kahlan's hair, and her blue eyes, and how she blushes at some points of the story, and how she is looking straight into Cara, and how beautiful she looks, and Cara cannot stop herself from rolling her eyes every time Zedd says the words powerful magic, which is about once in every two sentences he utters as far as she can tell.
In truth, it takes Cara a bit of time to finally comprehend what they are saying.
She is frowning when she finally gets a word in, "so you are saying that the baby," she starts to ask, but Kahlan stops her.
"It's ours, Cara," she breathes the words, her whole body turned towards Cara, reaching; a look of total wonder on her face. "Yours, and mine."
Of what happens next, Cara is not entirely sure later.
Her water breaks and there is a lot of nervous yelling and running around. Not on her part, of course. It seems to her that she is the only one acting rationally in the whole damned Palace. She knows the pains of labor and they are nothing to her. She has withstood far, far worse than a few contractions.
She is pretty much in her right mind and fully aware of Kahlan hovering around when the baby finally comes.
It is a girl. A tiny confessor if she is to believe the wizard's tale.
It is all messy and bloody and everybody cries and laughs and it is really not Cara's thing.
The baby is pale with a puff of soft dark hair on top of her head and light eyes, perhaps green. Cara frowns deeply and immediately thinks that they will need to be careful with her. Something tells her exposure to the sun may cause the advent of freckles. She looks at Kahlan.
Not that there is anything wrong with freckles.
It just detracts from a truly imposing and ruthless leader, to have freckles.
The baby cries loudly after taking her first full breath. Like she is annoyed she has been pushed out of the comfy place where she has been living. It makes Cara proud that she is so loud. She must have good lungs, which means greater endurance in battle.
She notices Kahlan crying and cooing over the new born baby and can barely stop herself from rolling her eyes.
She does not wonder why she is so aware of where Kahlan is at all times. It is second nature to her, even after all these years. If asked, she would say it comes from all the time they travelled together around the Midlands. She had to know where Kahlan was if she wanted to protect her.
After the baby is born, Gretchen helps Cara into a clean shift so that she can prop up in her rather large bed. That she lets the other woman help speaks loudly of just how tired she is. She sits restlessly until, eventually, they place the newborn baby in her arms. Then, she sits in silence, just watching her. Perhaps, too stunned to do more than just sit there, with the little girl that weights next to nothing cradled in her strong arms.
She never had a chance to hold her son. But she does not let herself think about that.
She must space out for a bit, in bed with the baby, because when she finally becomes conscious of her surroundings once again, it is dark inside the room and everyone has left.
Everyone, except Kahlan.
Kahlan sits in a chair pushed close to the bed, regarding them both with a tender smile. It is the kind of look Cara hates seeing on Kahlan. Cara thinks she can spy dry tracks of tears on her cheeks. She is still wearing her travel dress and, for a moment, Cara thinks that she looks more tired than she feels. They must have travelled day and night through the Midlands and D'Hara to make it to the People's Palace so quickly.
"Hey," Kahlan says softly as she notices Cara looking at her.
There is a brightness in Cara's eye that speaks of tears she would never shed but also, of something else. Something that makes Kahlan's heart beat faster. She stands up hesitantly and moves towards Cara and the baby, sitting on the large bed, almost touching Cara, but not quite. She runs a hand over the colourful design decorating the sheets.
"She is beautiful." Kahlan chokes a bit when she says the words, smiling at them both. Then, she continues. "I- I missed you, Cara." It is the truth, but also, an understatement. It does not tell of how the winters apart have been filled with both duty and work, but also, sadness and disappointment. How being here, sitting in this bed, a breath away from Cara is the best she has felt in many months. How that feeling has nothing to do with the precious bundle Cara is holding in her arms.
Cara holds her gaze for long moments, perhaps seeing everything that is not said, until the baby makes a mewling noise and starts to move restlessly against her aching, swollen breasts.
Kahlan reaches a tentative hand towards the baby, but pulls it back before she can touch her. "Maybe she is hungry?," it is only a whisper, but her voice carries in the empty room, conveying the wonder of everything that is happening.
This is unexplored territory for Cara, and she has made up her mind already that she will not breast feed the baby herself, but there is nobody else here and she does not want her daughter to be hungry. So she resolves that if common women in godforsaken villages can figure out how to breast feed their babies, it should be easy for her.
Anything a common woman can do, a Mord'Sith can do better.
She reaches to move her shift out of the way, baring her breast without thought. She hears Kahlan gasp and raises her eyes to look at her, noticing the slight flush suddenly colouring Kahlan's cheeks and neck. Kahlan keeps her eyes on the baby, or maybe, on Cara's breast, refusing to make eye contact.
The baby starts feeding almost as soon as Cara puts her nipple close to her mouth. It is a strange feeling, the pull from the suction that is hardly noticeable at first, but then grows stronger as the baby figures out what she is doing. It is not entirely unpleasant.
This is keeping her away from important duties, but Cara cannot find it in herself to be upset with Kahlan for knocking her up, or with Zedd for his ridiculous half-assed plans and remarkably poor magic.
She is only upset about that sappy bit about mutual love being necessary for the spell to work.
They had better not tell that to anyone else, she thinks morosely.
It is the only part that makes her doubt what they have said. Kahlan had not outright confirmed it, but when the wizard explained, she had been looking straight into Cara's eyes. Cara saw it in her eyes. And the Mother Confessor does not lie. This she knows as much as she knows anything.
She feels a slight touch across the top of her breast as Kahlan finally reaches out a hand and touches the baby's head, her fingers sliding tenderly across the upper skin of Cara's own chest as she tries to smooth down the dark hair of the baby.
It only seems to make Kahlan blush harder, but she doesn't stop touching them for a while, until at last, she raises her eyes to look at the green ones so close to her own.
"Cara, can I-," she stops and looks away, trying to form her thoughts, her wants and needs, into words. Then, she takes a big breath and tries again. Her voice is soft but sure as befits the Mother Confessor.
"Can I hold her?," Cara looks at her and nods. She moves her arms and the baby minutely towards Kahlan, offering her, but Kahlan shakes her head and looks straight into Cara's green eyes as she finds the words to ask what she really means.
"Can I hold you both?"
Maybe it is because of the loss of blood during labor. Or the fact that Kahlan is here and looks so beautiful and is being so tender.
Maybe it is the way Kahlan is looking at her, touching her.
Maybe it is something else, but she says yes. She nods once. "If you must," Cara says.
Kahlan stands up. She should really wash herself before she gets in bed with Cara and the baby, but she doesn't want to move too far away, in case Cara reconsiders and takes back her offer. So she takes off her dress and boots and cleans herself up as best she can with the water and towels that have been left behind after the birth of the baby. She stands for a moment, wearing her corset and underwear.
She looks at Cara. Cara looks exhausted, although the Mord'Sith would never admit it. The baby has fallen asleep against her naked breast and she is not sure if the blonde has even noticed.
Her corset feels rough and hard. She does not want Cara to be uncomfortable, pressed against it. Of course, Cara would never complain, but she knows the metal parts are pointy and hard. And thus, without giving herself time to think this through, she takes it off too.
She stands for a moment, facing Cara, who looks at her with that appreciative look that Kahlan now realizes has always been in Cara's eyes whenever she regarded her.
"Move forward a bit?" Kahlan asks gently as she takes hold of the sheet covering Cara and slips under it, moving to rest her back against the pile of pillows that Cara has been leaning against. Her legs move around Cara, one on either side, touching the other woman's bare legs under the covers, where Cara's shift has ridden up a bit.
It takes a moment of shifting around, but it is a comfortable fit for them both. There is no awkwardness. They have gone through too much together and in this moment, none of the daily barriers that have kept them apart for years are up.
When Cara finally leans back completely and Kahlan moves her arms around her, holding both the mother and the baby, Kahlan feels the slight woman shake in her arms.
Maybe it is Kahlan that is shaking.
It is hard to tell.
Holding her like this, Kahlan realizes how much bigger she is. It is only Cara's formidable personality that makes her appear taller and stronger.
She inhales deeply, closing her eyes for a second. Memorizing this moment, engraving it into the tapestry of her being. The feel of Cara in her arms, even through one layer of clothing, burns her skin. It makes her nipples grow hard as liquid fire travels through her limbs, making them feel heavy and warm. She is instantly wet and aching. She is not surprised to feel like this. Regardless, that is the last thing from her mind right now.
Cara is soft and warm. Kahlan feels Cara relaxing into her, burrowing deeper into her body, letting her head fall back to rest against her neck and shoulder, the side of her forehead rubbing slightly against Kahlan's cheek.
It is too much at once.
Kahlan cannot stop herself. She turns her face enough to leave a kiss on Cara's forehead. Then, another one on her cheek, on the corner of her mouth, and again, on her forehead.
Kahlan squeezes her gently, as much as she dares, one arm moving across her stomach and the other reaching all around Cara, to place it over the hand that is holding the head of the baby.
She would sing to them if she thought she could get away with it.
If she has been happier than she is right now at any point before in her life, Kahlan cannot remember it.