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Flows The River by alyse [Reviews - 30]
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Category: Legend of the Seeker
Characters: Kahlan Amnell, Richard Cypher (Rahl)
Rating: NC-17
Genres: Established Relationship, PWP - Plot, What Plot?, Romance
Warnings: None

Summary: She met Richard's eyes, smiling at him as helplessly as she had been smiling at him since the Pillars of Creation. It was as automatic to her now as breathing, and as unthinkable for her not to do for more than a heartbeat or two. Richard smiled right back at her, brilliant and bright, as happy and giddy with possibilities as she was.

Characters/Pairing: Kahlan/Richard



Story Notes:
Written for Legendland's alt big bang for the prompt 'water' and the theme of 'longing'. Title and quote from 'Romance' by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Thanks go to Aithine for the beta.

Spoilers: Set post Season 2

Author's Chapter Notes:

...white flows the river and bright blows the broom...



Kahlan loved Zedd and Cara, but it didn't mean that there weren't times when she wished them gone. Not for long, of course - her day wouldn't be complete without Cara's eyes rolling at her or Zedd's stomach growling loudly in between the homilies he dished out, the Wizard's rules that Richard was, even now, still half convinced that Zedd made up on the spot. No. She just wanted them gone for long enough.

She met Richard's eyes, smiling at him as helplessly as she had been smiling at him since the Pillars of Creation. It was as automatic to her now as breathing, and as unthinkable for her not to do for more than a heartbeat or two. Richard smiled right back at her, brilliant and bright, as happy and giddy with possibilities as she was, at least judging by the look in his eyes, and she ached with the need to touch him, to stroke her fingers through his hair and feel the soft strands cling to her fingertips. Instead she pulled the strap on her pack until it was tight and fastened the buckle on it, burying everything she felt for him beneath layer and layer of duty. That was also as instinctive to her as breathing and it was a hard habit to break.

When she looked back at Richard, he was watching her, a small smile still playing around the corners of his mouth. The sun had risen hours before - as Cara had already pointed out, rather acerbically - and it gilded his hair, glinting off the stubble that adorned his cheeks; in the clearing's light, he shone as golden as any summer and she'd been in winter's grip for so long. It took everything she had not to take the few steps needed to cross the clearing and place her hand against his jaw, just to feel the short hair on his cheeks prickle against her palm. Everything she had not to touch him and taste him and hold him close now that she could, propriety - duty - be damned.

But Cara and Zedd were always only steps away, and the few stolen moments they'd managed so far, as memorable as they were - and, oh, the memories she had now of Richard - were not enough to satisfy her for long. She'd grown greedy for his touch, drunk on his kisses, addicted to the way he made her feel when he pressed his body against hers.

Sometimes she thought, rather ruefully, of the time they'd spent in the caves on their way to the Valley of the First Ones. If she'd known then what Richard had already suspected - that he was safe from her touch, protected by his love for her and by how wholly and completely he was already hers - perhaps she'd have more memories in her meagre stockpile, as brilliant and golden as the few she already had. And they were brilliant and golden, shining as brightly in her mind as Richard shone now in the morning sunlight. And if she had succumbed there, so close to a place the Creator had walked, perhaps she would already be carrying the daughter they both longed for.

If she grew any more desperate, she might even be forced to use that argument with Zedd - that she was the last of her line and it was her duty to conceive a child and ensure that the Midlands was not left without a Confessor, so would he and Cara mind disappearing for a week or two so that she and Richard could start working on it? Sometimes, she thought it might be worth trying it anyway, if only to make Richard laugh at her efforts. And he would laugh: his eyes would light up and his body shake and she'd kiss him until she swallowed all of that laughter down.

The truth was that the more time that passed between each stolen kiss, each too fleeting touch, the greedier she became for it. She'd never imagined, in those few moments when she'd dared to believe that Richard would find a way for them to be together in spite of everything she knew, how he would consume her senses, how easy it would be to lose herself in him. How much pleasure having him lose himself in her would bring.

The thought brought a flush to her cheek and, across the clearing, Richard's smile deepened into a grin as he ducked his head, laughing silently. Something fluttered in the pit of her stomach, something giddy and gleeful, wanting and wanton. Richard didn't miss her reaction either, not judging by the heat that flared in his eyes, taking her breath away.

"We should start out soon," said Zedd, his timing impeccable as usual. "The sun's already high in the sky and we're still a couple of days' good walk from the nearest village. Well," he corrected himself as his face settled into more sombre lines, "from the nearest inhabited village."

Richard had ducked his head again, his eyes fixed on the fastenings to his pack rather than on Kahlan. She kept watching him anyway, her own pack forgotten at her feet, as he said, too studied to be entirely genuine, "I've been thinking..."

Somewhere to the side of her Cara sighed, an exasperated sound that said everything that Cara wouldn't say, although that was more out of sheer stubbornness than politeness given Cara's general attitude towards playing nicely with others. Cara dropped her pack to the ground, where it landed with a muffled thump that drew Kahlan's attention away from Richard, if only momentarily. The look on Cara's face was exasperated as well, but it wasn't quite enough to entirely mask Cara's affection for Richard and this time it was Kahlan who had to duck her head, staring down at her pack so that Cara couldn't see the smile that was blooming across her face, one that - for once - wasn't about Richard.

"And?" Cara snapped out, folding her arms across her chest impatiently and glaring at Richard over the top of them.

Richard didn't take offence; he rarely did, especially not with Cara. They were all too used to her by now to take her brusque manner personally; it was what passed for demonstrative, even affectionate, in Cara's world. "I saw deer tracks last night."

Cara's stance loosened almost imperceptibly as Richard's words caught her attention. Had Kahlan not known her so well, she might have missed it. As it was, she was better off keeping her head down; her smile was threatening to turn into a grin.

"And, like Zedd said," Richard continued, seemingly oblivious to Cara's reaction, although if Kahlan were the gambling sort she'd have bet that he was very well aware of it, "we're at least a couple of days out from the nearest village. It won't hurt to try and supplement our supplies with fresh meat now that game is starting to reappear." He finished fussing with his pack and pushed himself to his feet, pointedly not looking in Kahlan's direction. That was a relief - if he had, she certainly wouldn't have been able to hide her grin from Cara any longer.

"I saw some early blackberries and wild strawberries back along the path a little, as well," he added and when Kahlan glanced across at Zedd, letting her hair fall across her face so that it hid her amusement from him, Zedd was wavering. She couldn't hide her grin any longer, not when it was clear just how well Richard knew the rest of their strange little family, all of their weak spots. For someone normally so honest and forthright, he could be remarkably devious when the situation called for it.

It was only one of the many, many reasons she loved him so very much.

"And I don't know about anyone else," Richard's look this time took them all in, one after another, "but we're close enough to the river to take advantage of it. I'm sure we could all do with a bath, and I wouldn't mind washing some of the dirt of the road out of my clothes." He paused, just long enough to let his words sink in; it was long enough for Kahlan's eyes to settle on his shirt, where the fabric still bore the faint, brown stains of Richard's blood, blood she'd spilled.

She shivered; she wouldn't mind at all if they took the time to wash those memories away.

"I think it's going to be a really hot day, as well," Richard added. His expression was innocent and stayed that way, in spite of Zedd's look of sudden suspicion. "It seems a pity not to rest while we can. The Spirits know we deserve a little respite, and one day can't hurt."

Zedd's face smoothed out, the suspicion vanishing to be replaced with sympathy. She could understand why; for a moment Richard's shoulders had sagged, and his voice had grown tired. The past year - the past couple of years - had cost them dearly, but they had cost Richard perhaps most of all. Even if he did have an ulterior motive, the truth of his words could not be denied.

"Hunting," said Cara, drawing the word out thoughtfully. And then she gave Richard a sharp, piercing look, her eyebrows drawn down. "I'll do that," she shot out, as quick as a whip, as if she feared that Richard would argue with her.

"I suspect my talents like more in the direction of berry harvesting," said Zedd, his stomach rumbling right on cue as if to emphasise the point.

Richard's smile at that was almost unbearably sweet. "That leaves us river duty," he said, meeting Kahlan's eyes again, and another frisson of heat ran through her. "We'll catch up with you this evening."

For a second, it looked as though Zedd was going to protest but Cara simply rolled her eyes and elbowed Zedd in the ribs, ignoring the slightly hurt look he gave her in return.

"Fine," Cara said, still ignoring Zedd. "Skilled as you are in tracking down prey, Richard..." Her gaze drifted towards Kahlan and a small smirk rose to her lips. "I'll make better time on my own." She yanked her pack back up off the ground, slipping her bow free from its ties with practiced, impatient ease before abandoning her pack again and turning on her heel, striding off down the path with her hips swaying in a way that suggested that she was just daring the deer to remain hidden.

Zedd watched her go, his lips slightly parted as though he was simply waiting for the perfect comeback to Cara, one that was unlikely to ever arrive. And then his mouth snapped shut as he sighed. He gave Kahlan a rather sheepish smile, one warmed by his affection for her and - she suspected - some amusement at her expense.

"Try not to drown," he said mildly. "It would be a pity to lose the Mother Confessor to that after everything we've been through." And then he turned to Richard, his lips parting again for a moment before he shrugged and turned to follow Cara, throwing them an absentminded wave over his shoulder as he ambled down the forest track.

And then they were alone again, finally. She turned back towards Richard, her heart skipping a beat, tension rising up in her until she was near to shivering with it.

He held out a hand to her, his eyes warm and full of everything he felt for her.

"Care to go for a swim?"

-o-

Richard had been right; the day had started out warm and it only grew hotter as the sun rose higher in the sky. It left the air around them sweet with the scent of flowers, the ones still blooming this late into the summer, and insects droned past them on the way to and from one bloom or another, sluggish and content in the warm summer air.

Richard didn't seem to be in any hurry, as tranquil on the surface as the still air all around them. His steps stayed slow even when the soft, swishing sound of the river, no longer flowing heavily with the rains early summer had wrought, finally reached them. It meant that Kahlan could find patience, too, taking simple pleasure in Richard's hand in hers as they made their unhurried way down towards the river bank. She couldn't remember the last time they'd been able to take their time with anything, not with the fate of the world on their shoulders and giving urgency to every action. It was nice to let some of that go, to pause at the edge of the forest and turn her face up to the sun, feeling Richard stop beside her.

When she opened her eyes again he was watching her, his face as still as the air and just as warm. She smiled at him, suddenly giddy again, heady with all of those possibilities, and once again he smiled back before gently tugging her in the direction of the river.

She went gladly, a laugh bubbling up in her throat as the long grass growing in the clearing caught at the hem of her skirt, sending small seeds flying up into the air with every step. She resisted Richard's tugging hand long enough to stop and pull her boots off, Richard waiting patiently for her with both his pack and Cara's thrown casually over his shoulder. When she straightened up again, sweat was already beginning to bead on the skin in the hollow of his throat. She swayed towards him, caught by the sudden urge to lean in and lick the taste of it off his skin. This time when she took a step, moving closer to him, the grass stalks brushed against her bare legs, soft feather-light touches like kisses against her skin. She shivered with it, trapped by the look in his eyes and the way his fingers reached up, brushing back her hair and tracing delicately over the skin of her temple.

"We have all day," she said, and the wonder of it echoed in her voice.

Richard's smile deepened, becoming something brilliant. "Yes." His thumb traced down over her cheek, along the curls below her ear. "And a load of washing to do."

She laughed again, out loud this time and catching Richard's answering grin. There was nothing stopping her, not now, and she leant in, cupping the nape of his neck with her hand and pulling him closer, slanting her mouth over his. His lips parted for her, letting her in. When his tongue met hers, a delicate, gentle touch, the heat that rushed through her was anything but gentle, anything but delicate.

She pressed against him, moulding her body to his, not holding back but letting him feel her hunger, his own rising to match hers. His kisses were intoxicating, as heady as the summer air, and his fingers tangled in the ends her hair, stroking up the curved line of her spine to her neck. She arched into him, her body quivering. When she pulled back just far enough to breathe, Richard followed her, raining soft kisses down on her cheeks, her chin and then on to her neck as she gasped in a breath. His strong fingers curled into the flesh between her shoulder blades so that she arched into that touch, too, her head falling back as his lips traced liquid fire down her throat.

His teeth scraped lightly against her collarbone and she couldn't hold back the whimper that escaped, feeling his mouth curl up in a smile against her skin. She knew exactly the look that would be on his face now because she'd seen it - his smile would be pleased, heated with his desire for her. She wanted to taste it, swallow it down: his pleasure in giving her pleasure. She sank her fingers into his hair, curling them against his scalp and tugging his face back up to meet hers. His kisses were slower now, sweeter as he took his time, his tongue tracing over her lips, sliding into her mouth, his fingers flexing against her waist. His stubble prickled against her palms when she slid her hands free to cup his face, holding her to him as she had almost every time they'd kissed. She knew the shape of his face now, the way the hairs grew, where the skin was rough and where it was smooth, here the bump of a freckle, there the small dip of a scar left by Denna's touch.

Richard finally pulled back, resting his forehead against hers but staying close enough for their breath to mingle. His eyes were closed but she kept hers open just to watch him as he breathed in and out, steady and content. His eyelids were so delicate and vulnerable; the sight of his eyelashes curving down over the dark, tired hollows beneath his eyes left her aching, wanting to smooth away each one of the cares that had caused them. Up this close she could see the scars that he bore there, too, small and white against his tanned skin. Denna's touch hadn't left those; that had been Nicci, with Kahlan's help, and Kahlan shivered, suddenly cold.

Richard's eyes opened slowly, his expression peaceful, and that momentary chill left her, warmed away by the look in them. His fingertips found her face again, thumb stroking down over the line of her cheekbone as though he couldn't bear not to touch.

"We should..." His voice was gravelly and she swayed towards him, her lips brushing over his so gently that she barely felt it. He licked at his lips when she straightened again, his gaze dropping automatically to her mouth; she smiled and let him see it, not missing the way that his lips curved up automatically in return.

"We should...?" she prompted gently, reaching up to catch hold of the edge of his shirt, letting her fingers brush against the skin of his chest and not missing the way that he swallowed at her touch. Her fingers dipped lower, tracing a line downwards towards his stomach, and he leant into her caress, a smile blossoming across his face. There was a light in his eyes, one she knew was matched in her own, and she flattened her palm, this time moving her hand so that it slid underneath his shirt, pressing down against his warm skin.

The fabric scratched against her knuckles; the shirt was still a little stiff where they hadn't managed to rinse Richard's blood completely out with the water they'd carried with them, and again that thought cooled her.

Richard, being Richard, didn't miss her reaction and his fingers closed over hers, pressing them more firmly against the hard plane of his chest. It took her long moments to find the courage to meet his eyes but when she did, the look in his was warm, understanding, no censure in them either for the act of killing him or her hesitation now.

"It's a lovely day," he said, his voice soft and gentle. "And I've never been swimming with you. With someone who looks like you, yes, but not you." There was laughter in his voice this time, just below the surface but she had always known how to look past his words and see everything that lay underneath. She curled her fingers, letting them catch hold of the edge of his shirt, and shook him lightly.

"If you want to get me naked, Seeker," she said, letting her own smile show in her voice, "then you probably shouldn't mention the other women you've seen naked before."

"You," he said. "Only you," and again there was more beneath his words, unspoken vows that were as binding as any words that could be spoken over them by councillors or priests.

"Is that right?" she murmured, leaning in and letting her touch turn back into a caress. "No wonder you were so eager that first time."

He laughed and the sound this time was low, rough and ready; something settled just as low in her belly at the sound, her body tightening with need.

"I seem to remember that you were a little eager yourself." He leant forward himself, mirroring her move, and his lips brushed against her ear as he whispered, "I'm almost certain my back still bears your marks."

"Well..." Her voice came out tight and breathless this time, and he didn't miss that either. "A confessor's duty is to support her Seeker in all of his efforts."

"Is that so? You were just doing your duty?" There was nothing in his voice to give her concern, but his words had her pulling away from him, searching his face. He was still smiling, his eyes still warm with all of the love he felt for her. "I suppose I should be grateful that the Mother Confessor takes her duties so seriously."

She let her fingers curl against his skin again, right over his heart, feeling it beat steadily underneath her touch. Beating for her.

"It's not just duty, Richard."

"I know."

"I love you."

"I know that, too." And the light of it was in his eyes, giving truth to his words. "And if you keep looking at me like that, I'll forget all about the washing and the other chores that need to be done, and just throw you down on the ground to have my wicked way with you."

The shiver that went through her this time had nothing to do with bad memories and everything to do with good ones.

"Is that so?" she murmured, lowering her voice until it purred seductively, a sound she hadn't known she was capable of until she'd met Richard, met him and loved him. He laughed, low and dirty again, and pulled her closer.

"Would you object?"

"Hmmm." It was strange how teasing him like this - how being able to tease him like this - could make her so happy, giddy with it like a young girl with her first crush. "Perhaps I should throw you down and have my wicked way with you?"

"Well, I certainly wouldn't object." And he wouldn't - she had those memories to warm her heart, and her face as well. Memories of pushing him to the ground when she couldn't wait any longer, and sinking down onto him, biting at her lip at the small, dull pain as her body adjusted to him within her, the newness of being able to love him like that not yet worn off.

Perhaps he was remembering it, too, because he laughed again, pulling her against him to steal another kiss when he had no need to steal them from her - she'd give them to him, every one she had in her.

"But first," he murmured, lips brushing hers, "washing. And then we have the rest of the day."

She sighed when he let her go; even though he was already turning away, back towards the river, he didn't miss it. When he looked back over his shoulder, his eyes were dancing, mouth curled up in a way that just made her want to kiss him again and keep on kissing him, never letting him go. Damn the washing. It wouldn't be the first time they'd had to wear the same filthy clothes for weeks at a time.

"I don't know whether any one has told you this, Seeker," she said, not bothering to hide her pout even though it simply amused him further. "But sometimes you can be a little too focused."

He snorted, and the look in his eyes warned her of what was coming before he spoke. "Cara might have mentioned it once or twice." And then he leant in again, close enough for her to feel the warmth of him against her skin. "But I don't remember you objecting to my... focus before."

He sounded a little smug about it, but she let it slide, even though it was a trait she wouldn't have tolerated in anyone else. But then, only Richard could be smug and still be Richard; he might be a little pleased with himself but mostly he was simply delighted with her.

"Well, you're washing my back," she said, following after him as he headed down towards the bank. He paused long enough for her to catch up, reaching out to tangle his fingers with hers.

"I'll wash whatever you like," he said, and even though his tone wasn't ribald but warm and gentle, the heat of his words rushed to her face. He smiled again, pushing back her hair with the fingers of his free hand and again letting them linger in a caress. As always the look on his face - the love there - awed her. She'd be thanking the Creator every day for the gift of Richard. In the face of that love, she had no choice but to kiss him again, pulling his face to hers and swallowing down his laughter.

When she finally let go of him, letting her hand slide away down the column of his neck, his eyes opened slowly, meeting hers. He still had hold of her hand, his fingers wrapped around hers, and she squeezed them gently, too happy to be able to find the words. "Come on," he said softly. "The sooner we get started, the sooner we can..."

"Go swimming?" Her grin had to be wide if the one on his face matched it, and he ducked his head, his ears pinking up.

"Yes." He squeezed her fingers back and just that - and the look on his face - was enough to set her insides fluttering again.

This late in the summer the water wasn't as cold as it could be but even so her hands were soon chilled, aching with the weight of wet, heavy fabric as she rinsed out her white Confessor dress. She didn't mention that to Richard, kneeling by her on the bank, his face focused as he rinsed out one of Zedd's shirts. If she had, he'd have taken her fingers between hers and chafed them until they were warm again, but she knew that if he touched her, even just to hold her hand, she'd not be able to resist any longer. As it was, she was holding onto her control with her fingertips, constantly aware of Richard's warmth next to her, the scent of him in the warm summer air, the way his hair fell into his eyes, making her fingers itch with the need to push it back. Instead, she bit her lip and reached for the next garment from the pile, scrubbing at it with the thin sliver of soap she held.

They travelled light; at least that meant that there was little left to wash. When she finally turned back from hanging the last of the wet garments she'd washed over a low hanging branch, where they would dry in the breeze, Richard was still kneeling by the water. But he was no longer leaning out over the river. Instead, he was sitting back on his haunches, pulling the shirt he wore over his head. She stood and watched him for a moment as the lean lines of his body were revealed. He was beautiful and not just because his face and body were well-proportioned and appealing. He was beautiful both inside and out, and the goodness of his spirit shone through.

Right now, though, it was his body that was calling to her, drawing her in with the need to touch and taste.

She drifted closer, her bare feet hardly making a sound as she stepped onto the large boulders that edged the river bank, where they'd been kneeling. Even so he heard her, turning his head to greet her with a smile. Perhaps her intent - her desire for him - was clear on her face, because he paused in scrubbing away the dirt from his shirt and simply watched her come, a single step at a time.

Now that she had his attention, there was no need to rush even though want for him was singing in her blood, curling tight and hot between her legs. It pulled a flush to her chest and neck and put a roll into her hips, which drew his gaze down to them. When he looked back up again, that same flickering heat she felt was reflected in his eyes. He let go of his shirt and it fell wetly against rocks with a heavy, hollow slap as he pushed himself to his feet, waiting for her to reach him.

Now that she could touch him without fear - and now that their chores were finished so that he wouldn't stop her - she indulged herself, letting her fingers drift slowly over his body as she drank him in. His skin was smooth and hot under her touch, warmed by the midday sun, and she flattened her palm against the firm muscles of his chest, right over the place where the Keeper's mark had tainted his body.

There was nothing there now, nothing but a dip marring his skin underneath it where her blade had struck true.

His fingers closed over hers, holding them against his body as he leant in and stole another kiss. It may have started slow and chaste, the kind of kiss that they had shared even when they could go no further, but then he pressed closer, his tongue stroking lightly against her lips until she parted them and let him in. When his tongue met hers again, again she felt the shock of it rolling all the way through her, a slow heat that warmed her limbs, turning them heavy and liquid as she leaned helplessly into his embrace, a low moan escaping her.

His large hands settled in the small of her back, pulling her tight against him. She was panting now into his kiss, every muscle of her body straining to be closer to him, and his kisses grew more demanding. She slid her fingers into his hair, pulling his face closer as she kissed him over and over again, no longer calm about it, no longer willing to wait, not when she burned everywhere they touched.

His hands slid higher up her back, reaching the top of her corset. His short nails scratched lightly over her skin as his fingers moved to the nape of her neck, tangling in her hair. It left her skin sensitive wherever he'd touched, shivering and needy, and she swallowed back on another moan, pulling him even closer to her until it felt like they would melt into one.

When his hands slid down her back again, she arched into his touch, twisting her body to get even nearer to him. His kisses slowed, deep and heady, filling her senses. She wanted more; her fingers cupped his face, holding it to her as she kissed him again and again.

He finally pulled away from her, laughing breathlessly as she followed him automatically, desperate for another kiss, another touch. He had other ideas - his fingers slid away from her skin, moving to the laces of her corset. Oh, yes. She moved to help him but her fingers only managed to get in the way and, with another low laugh, he pushed them away, pulling the laces free with easy grace.

She contented herself with watching his face instead, catching each glance that he sent in her direction. When he realised she was watching him intently, he slowed his movements, making them deliberate, teasing her as much with a smile and the look in his eyes as with the way his fingers brushed over her skin each time he tugged a lace free of a hole.

Spirits, she wanted him. She licked at her lips, catching her lower lip between her teeth when sudden heat flared in his eyes, something as close to predatory as Richard ever got. The need to touch him again was irresistible and there was nothing holding her back now; she lifted one languid hand, letting it slide down from his shoulder, over firm bulge of his biceps, feeling the need for him rising up in her until it threatened to swallow her whole.

He felt the same way if the way he pulled apart the edges of her corset, his hands suddenly impatient, was any indication. As soon as it had opened up enough for him to slide it down over her hips, he pulled it away from her body, and she stepped out of it, caught on the cusp between a laugh and a curse as it caught on the fabric of her skirt and she had to shimmy her hips to free it.

When she straightened up, Richard was watching her hungrily. When she licked her lips this time, his eyes dropped to her mouth and then lower still, taking in the sight of her bare breasts. He reached up, tracing his fingers lightly over the slight red marks the corset had left on her skin, down over her shoulders and the curve of her collar bone before dipping lower. She leant into his touch wantonly, wanting his hands on her breasts, and he obliged, cupping one in his palm as his thumb stroked lightly over her nipple. It hardened under his fingers and he leant in again, capturing her mouth, no longer gentle.

She met his hunger with her own, sliding her arms around his neck as his fingers continued to glide over her skin, tracing swirling patterns that left her aching for more. They reached the band of her skirt and made quick work of the fastenings there as well, and she was soon kicking that away from her body, leaving her naked to Richard's gaze.

She'd been shy the first time he'd seen her stripped bare, even after the time they'd spent travelling together. But the awe in his eyes, the love and the lust, had soon put her at ease. That same love, that same awe was clear in Richard's face now, but his hunger for her, his desire for her touch was winning out. It made her feel powerful, more powerful and desirable than her magic ever had. Her magic held fake promises but this was real, something for her rather than something that lived in her.

He reached for her and she went gladly, falling into his arms as they wrapped around her, his fingers pressing firmly into her back. He kissed her again, hot and heated, then pulled back far enough to give her a grin, one that was wicked around the edges. It was the only warning she got before Richard's grip on her tightened as he toppled backwards, pushing off with one foot and taking her with him, letting out a loud whoop as they fell towards the river's surface.

The water closed over her head, ice cold, and she gasped, spluttering as Richard kicked, powerful strokes that soon had her head breaching the surface again. Her hair was plastered around her face, slicked down by the water that was even now still cold enough to take her breath away. Richard was breathless, too, but with laughter, and she swiped at him, her hand hitting his flesh with a loud splashing sound, hard enough to have him letting out a gasp of his own.

His smile didn't dim; if anything, it became brighter and more brilliant. He let go of her, sculling away from her and dunking his head back under the water, pushing his hair back from his face as he surfaced again.

She cupped her hands and used them to send a surge of water at him, splashing it over his head, and he laughed again, the sound delighted as he returned the favour, the pair of them sending wave after wave of water at each other until she finally held up both hands in submission, laughing too hard to even plead for mercy.

He swam closer, smiling at her as she pushed the heavy, wet weight of her hair from her face. She wasn't surprised when he helped her, the wet strands of her hair clinging to his fingers as he pushed it behind her ears; his hand settled against the side of her face and he leant in to kiss her again.

His lips were cold against hers, chilled by the water but the water wasn't why she shivered. The inside of his mouth was warm, and his kisses almost unbearably sweet as his tongue slowly mapped the inside of her mouth with that delicate touch he had that did nothing to dampen down her desire for him.

He pulled back with a soft sigh, holding her gaze for long moments, and then he reached in again, his fingers settling in the curve of her neck where it met her shoulder. His thumb traced a line up the column of her throat, and she tilted her head back, shivering again when his lips replaced his thumb, pressing heated kisses against her chilled skin.

She pushed herself closer to him, resting her hands on his shoulders as his mouth continued to work its magic. He sucked lightly and she moaned at the sensation, the sound turning into a gasp as he scraped his teeth gently over her skin, not hard enough to hurt but just enough for her to feel it. Underneath the water, his hands were sliding over her body, fingers spread wide. She could feel the strength he kept reined in when he touched her, clear in the breadth of them as they spanned her waist. There was something fierce in the joy and need that swamped her, having him hold her like this.

She sank her fingers into his hair again, curving them around the shape of his skull as he let his tongue drift over her skin, tasting her. Her breath caught in her throat as his hands found her breasts again, his fingers stroking them gently as his thumbs caressed their hard peaks. She wanted more and somehow he knew that; he captured one nub between his fingers and thumb, pinching it gently before rolling it between his fingers. It sent a surge of heat through her, settling between her legs, aching and wanting, and she pulled on his hair, guiding his mouth from her neck to lower, where she needed it.

His lips slid down over the slope of her breast, his hands pulling her closer at the same time as he used the buoyancy of the water to lift her higher. He mouthed gently at the darker skin of her aureole, where the skin was already puckering under his ministrations, his tongue flickering every now and then over the taut peak of her nipple, just enough to tease, just enough to add to the tension slowly building within her. And then, just when she thought she'd cry out from the pleasure of it, he pulled away, his lips tracing a path from one breast to another, pressing wet, open-mouthed kisses against her skin as he went.

She arched into his touch, gasping out his name before even that was beyond her and all she was capable of making were these wanton little sounds, gasps and groans and moans that would have embarrassed her if not for the effect they had on Richard. He seemed to love them, his hold on her tightening, his mouth pressing more firmly against her skin, hot and wet and needy.

"Richard," she gasped again, pulling on his hair to guide his mouth back up to meet hers, their tongues tangling together and sending another shivering surge of sensation through her. His hands moved to her waist and he lifted her up, bracing her body against his as he took two or three steps forward, stopping when rough rock pressed against her back. He lifted her even higher and she boosted herself up, settling on the bank and steadying herself with her hands splayed behind her.

She stared down at Richard, still in the water, his eyes dark with need. His hands settled on her thighs, thumbs inwards, and then he started to slide them slowly upwards, parting her thighs and settling between them.

Oh. He'd done this once but only once before; it was all so new but this, yes this she had liked. More than liked; his kisses there were even sweeter than those he placed on her lips and she shivered again, sinking down onto the sun-warmed rock and closing her eyes.

He pressed the first kiss on the inside of her knee, his tongue flicking against her skin, licking the river water from her body. She sighed, laying her hand flat against her belly and letting her fingers curl there; her nails prickled against her skin, which was already tingling from everything Richard had done and everything she knew he was going to do.

The next kiss was a little higher and she gave herself over to him - and to this - completely. When he touched her, his fingers were cool against her skin, slow and careful as they crept higher, Richard's mouth following in their wake. It was his mouth she wanted this time, letting out a soft sigh when his tongue traced a line along the crease of her thigh. His thumbs settled high up on her inner thighs, exerting gentle pressure until she slid her legs further apart, Richard's warm breath huffing against the most sensitive parts of her.

The first flick of his tongue against her opening had her gasping, her eyes flying open to stare up at the sky, blue and wide and stretching forever. The next flickering touches were slow and steady, feather-light, and her eyes drifted shut again as her entire focus narrowed to the places that Richard was tasting. He was gentle and considerate in this as in so many other things, and the pleasure began to curl its way through her body, building with each caress.

His tongue flicked lightly against the tight little bud at the top of her opening, the part of her that was most pleasurable, and she gasped, arching her back again, bucking into his mouth. When she twisted, caught between pushing closer and pulling away from the pleasure that was tingling throughout her body, he placed one hand on her belly, his fingers resting over hers, and held her steady. Again, he flicked against that small, hard little nub and again she gasped, the sound dying on a moan as his tongue came back, steady pressure this time, back and forth. She reached down with the hand he didn't have trapped, tangling her fingers in his hair because she needed to touch him, any part of him; he lifted his head briefly, pressing a wet kiss against her fingertips before guiding that hand back to her stomach as well.

She took the hint, her fingernails curling against her flesh again, sharp little pinpricks of pain that contrasted with the pleasure he was bringing her. He moved his tongue lower, pushing it into her, and she let out a cry that broke on a half-sob. Her hand flew to her breast, gently squeezing and teasing it the way he had earlier, longing for his touch again, there and everywhere. Perhaps he just knew what she needed or perhaps the words had fallen from her lips, lost amongst the other soft, meaningless sounds that his touch was driving out of her. However he knew, whatever the reason for it, he crooked a finger and pushed it into her, his tongue continuing to torment her, driving her higher and higher with each touch.

When he moved his finger, stroking her inside and out, she cried out his name, her fingers digging into the rock beneath her as she twisted and arched, her whole body shaking, in the grip of its own kind of magic. Two fingers and the cry this time was wordless, sharp and shrill as any bird's. Three and she opened her eyes and soared up into the bright blue sky.

He kissed her stomach gently as she came down to earth again, sliding his fingers from her body. She shivered as they brushed against her thigh again, wet and slick but not with the river's spend, not this time. Her whole body was thrumming, limbs leaden and tingling, and each touch sent another shiver through her.

Richard hauled himself out of the water, landing a little ungracefully beside her, and she reached up with one heavy hand and cupped his face, pulling him down for another kiss. There was fire in his touch, now, and his eyes were dark and deep. When she slid her hand down from his cheek to his chest and then lower still to the fastenings of his breeches, the leather laces were wet and swollen, too slippery for her fingers, which were still heavy with pleasure. He pushed her hands away again, still gently, and fumbled with the laces himself as she stretched like a cat, basking in the warmth of the sun and in the pleasure he'd brought her.

The soft sound of wet cloth against rock roused her again and she opened her eyes as he stretched out beside her, momentarily blocking out the sun as he leant over her, nothing but a silhouette against the sky. She reached up and touched his cheek, sliding her palm down over his jaw, again feeling his stubble prickle against her skin as he turned his face into her touch; the submission in that move stirred something in her that she'd thought satisfied.

But she wouldn't be satisfied until he was, and she slid her hand down his neck again, down over his chest and the taut muscles of his stomach, which tensed for a moment under her touch. And then she found what she sought, the length of him hot and hard in her hand. He closed his eyes when she wrapped her fingers around him, his head dropping to her shoulder; his breath was warm and ragged against her skin and the need in him was clear.

"Richard," she murmured against his hair, sliding her fingers along the length of him and then away, her fingers coming to rest instead on his waist. The remnants of pleasure were still pulsing through her; she didn't have the energy to pull him to her, not just then. Not even with the want for him beginning to curl through her again.

"I brought the blankets," he said, and the need for her threaded his voice, layer upon layer of it as he pushed himself up again, looking back towards the meadow where their bags lay abandoned. "We should..."

"No." She stopped his words with her fingers, pressing them against his lips. When he leant in and kissed her this time, desperate and needy, she could taste herself on his lips, on his tongue. "Here." Now she could tug him to her, her thighs falling apart, ready for him. Desperate for him. "Please?"

He looked down at her for a long moment, his desire for her warring with some chivalrous need he had to make her as comfortable as possible, as though she wouldn't take him in the darkest depths of the darkest pit if that was all that was on offer. Or even if it wasn't - if that was simply where they were. "Richard," she sighed again, her hand slipping down to stroke along his hardness, and his desire for her won.

There was no pain this time when she guided him into her, nothing but a sense of fullness that sent new waves of pleasure coursing through her, little starbursts of sensation wherever they touched. She wrapped her legs over his hips, wordlessly urging him to push in deeper, fill her completely, and he propped himself up onto his hands and elbows, rocking into her and driving a sharp cry from her lips. The rock was below her and Richard was above her, and her world was shrinking down to the space between the two.

"Please," she murmured against his skin, burying her face against his shoulder and pressing mindless little kisses there as the pleasure began to build again, slowly spiralling throughout her body. "Please."

His breath was panting harshly against her face, his strokes picking up speed, faster and harder into her, and she slid her legs higher, her hands clutching at him, pulling him into her, deeper and deeper, urging him onwards. There was no thought now, nothing but the feel of his body against hers, nothing but the magic coursing through her veins. Nothing but the pleasure, the bliss of him in her and over her, all around her.

She dragged her fingers up his back, digging them into his shoulder blades as her body started to shake, the feel of him in her too much for her to bear. She was coming apart again, the magic swirling, a pressure building that she couldn't hold back.

She no longer needed to, not when Richard's love for her protected both of them. She let go with a cry, feeling it pulse out of her and over Richard, her body shaking and trembling as the ecstasy overwhelmed her.

When she came back to herself, her world widening out from the place where his hardness was buried in her, Richard's body was tense against hers, driving into her over and over again as he sought his own release. It sent little aftershocks through her; she stroked one languid hand down his back, memorising each move he made inside her, each twist of his hips, each harsh breath he let out, adding them all to her growing stockpile of things that were good, things that were right.

He let out a choking gasp, tensing against her as he spent himself inside her. She pulled him closer, holding him to her and not letting go, not even when he tried to pull away rather than let his weight rest on her. She liked it, that feeling of Richard still inside her, the weight of him making it real in a way that part of her was still scared it couldn't be.

He gave into her with a soft laugh, nuzzling at her hairline, but he shifted position so that most of his weight rested on his hip and arm rather than on her. As long as it meant that she could still hold him in her arms, she was content, although there was a brief pang of regret when his shuffling meant that he slipped free of her body.

He settled more comfortably beside her, one leg still thrown over hers and his arm a firm and heavy weight over her waist. The sun was still high in the sky; the day would get even warmer, and stretched on for hours ahead of them.

"We should move," he said softly, his breath stirring the hair drying at her temple.

"Mmmm." She stretched against him, beyond content, and he laughed, slow and sweet, his arm tightening briefly. "'M comfortable."

"I'm sure we can find somewhere more comfortable than this."

She turned her head, looking at him as he propped his head up on his elbow, staring down at her, the expression on his face soft and full of everything he had no qualms about saying anyway. "But then we'd have to move," she said, letting her fingers stroke the length of his arm, the one whose weight pinned her down, from elbow to wrist. "And I like it here."

"I must be heavy."

"I like that, too." He let out another soft laugh, leaning down to steal another kiss and she moved her fingers to his hair, holding him to her for long breaths as his mouth moved slowly over hers.

"We have blankets, Kahlan," he said when he pulled back, sunlight shining on his face again. It didn't leave any shadows there, not this time. "And the grass will be a lot softer. And..." He didn't complete the thought, not at first, but his fingers stroked over her skin, along the curve of her waist, and his mouth crooked again, his smile never far away. And then he leant in towards her again, his laugh clear in his voice as he said, softly, inches from her ear. "And I think my knees will thank you for it later."

The promise in his voice, deep and husky, sent another shiver through her, one that had nothing to do with the chill of the river still tumbling past only feet away. "We have the whole day," she said, and the wonder of it shone in her voice again.

"No," he corrected gently as his fingers caught hold of one of her damp curls, winding it around his index finger. The warmth of the sun had nothing on the look on his face now. It could never be as brilliant, as all consuming. "We have our whole lives."

The End.






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