Heart and Soul by alyse [ - ]
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Category: Legend of the Seeker
Characters: Kahlan Amnell, Richard Cypher (Rahl)
Rating: PG-13
Genres: Angst, Character Study, Romance
Warnings: Kinkfic

Summary: Kahlan knows better than most the darkness that lurks in the hearts of men. And she knows Richard even better than that.

Pairing: Kahlan/Richard

Story Notes:
Written for [community profile] kink_bingo for the 'spanking' square

Thanks go to Temaris for the beta.

Warnings: Kink - spanking

Kahlan knows better than most the darkness that lurks in the hearts of men. She's spent her life drawing it out, teasing the threads of truth from the lies that are woven around them, the lies that people tell even to themselves. But they can't lie to her, not once she's taken them; she's listened, stone faced, to the secrets that drop from their blessed, Confessed lips. The words tumble out, offered up to her in adoration and desperation: the children they've hurt; the innocents they've killed; the souls they've condemned to perdition.

But their condemnation is nothing to hers. Merciful and merciless, the Mother Confessor sees all, knows all.

Except she didn't see the darkness in Richard. She didn't want to know of the anger that stained even his bright soul. She can't help but see it now; see it and ache for him.

Now that he knows that it's there, he holds it to himself tightly, terrified that he will lose control of himself and become as dark as his brother ever was. She understands why; knows of his fear, his shame. She's always understood Richard, better than even he could have guessed, but this is more than just something she understands.

This is something she lives.

He won't talk to her about it, locking it away from everything, even from her. But she can see how it eats away at him: how it dims his smile in quiet moments; how it shadows his eyes; how he starts holding himself apart from them, those who care about him and those he cares about, so scared of hurting them that he hurts them anyway.

She knows him too well, as well as she knows herself. She's taught him many things and it seems she's taught him this, too. But if she's taught him how to hide, he's taught her, too. He's taught her how to love, how to let someone in no matter how much pain it causes. He's taught her how to hope for things to be better, and how even just the hope of it can make it so.

She's seen him whole and she's seen him broken and she's seen everything in between. And she's loved it all.

He's broken now, the pieces all jagged and sharp, cutting at him, and she needs to put him back together, figure out how to twist and turn all of those pieces until they fit. But before she can do that, before she can fix what has broken, she has to take him apart entirely.

She knows Richard. She knows what he needs. And she knows what she needs to do.

She's the Mother Confessor. She is merciful and merciless, all at once. And she loves Richard enough to be both.

She also loves him enough to be patient. She bides her time, watching and waiting with an aching heart until the shift of it in his chest, the burn and the itch of it, has him twitching in his own skin. Only then does she know it's time to act; it's only then that she knows Richard will let her.

The inn sits on a crossroads, somewhere to the east on the border of D'Hara. Given its location - small and out of the way - it's probably always been quiet but these days, with Banelings on the roads, it's close to deserted. That's why Zedd decides they can risk spending a night under a roof, although Kahlan suspects it has more to do with the warm greeting they got from the innkeeper, edged as it is with the desperation of a businessman who finds business scarce these days. That and the smell of rabbit stew drifting from the kitchen.

Richard doesn't seem to notice either. He's quiet, too - far too quiet tonight - and his smile is distracted, edged with the same kind of desperation found in the innkeeper's expansive hands and shrinking waistline.

No. Not the same desperation, not entirely - this is all Richard's, no one else's, not even hers, and her heart breaks for him anew.

She's not surprised when he makes his excuses early, sliding out of the main room as though they're not supposed to notice his absence. Zedd only nods absently, distracted by hot food and warm company, but who knows what could distract Cara? Certainly she watches Richard go with narrowed eyes, her body as tense, as ready for a fight, as always. But perhaps even Cara knows to pick her battles with care because she doesn't follow him. Instead she meets Kahlan's eyes and nods once, unsmiling. Kahlan doesn't need her blessing or her benediction, but she takes both as they are offered.

In the end, this battle is all Kahlan's, and she's no more used to losing than Cara.

Richard isn't waiting for her. Instead he's staring out of the window, down towards the small courtyard where their horses are stabled. His face is set and still, and there is that now ever present tension in the lines of his body. When he hears her enter the room, he turns to look at her and she watches while he consciously relaxes, summoning up a smile for her.

It takes him a moment, just a frozen second of inaction before he finds one that will fit. It breaks her heart all over again.

"Kahlan." The genuine pleasure in his voice does nothing to mask the pain underneath, not from her who can see the truth in everything. In that, as in many other things, they are perfectly matched. "Did Zedd's stories drive you away from the main room as well?"

"No," she says, watching him closely. "I came for you."

That gives him pause but then he moves closer to her, taking her hand, and his smile this time is real. Real and just for her. It soon fades, though, and his eyes darken with the pain of his own humanity. "I'm glad you're here," he says, and the truth of his words is clear to her, even though part of him - as always now - is held back from her.

"Richard." His name comes out on a sigh, and he leans in closer, his brow furrowing with concern for her. It's so easy to reach up and place her hand on his cheek, feeling the way that he instinctively turns into her touch. He's so vulnerable to her sometimes, and the trust he has in her catches her breath in her throat. "Let me help you."

He pulls back, confusion clouding his face. And then it clears a little, his hand mirroring hers, cupping her cheek gently the way that she's still touching his. "You help me every day, Kahlan. Just by being you."

"Do you trust me?"

His frown returns. "You know I do. With my life." His thumb strokes gently over her cheek and his expression softens. "With my heart."

"You know I love you."

It isn't a question - it can never be a question, not now that she no longer hides what should never have been hidden - but Richard answers her anyway, even now trying to ease what he believes is her pain.

"Of course I do, Kahlan. And you know that I love you. What is this about?" His expression grows even more concerned and her resolve weakens, at least on this. She slides the hand she still has on his cheek around to the back of his neck and pulls him down into a kiss. He melts into her touch the way that he always does, and that gives her the strength to see this through.

"Richard," she murmurs against his lips. "I need you to trust me enough for this."

"I trust you," he whispers back and she squeezes her eyes tightly shut against the weight of that, pressing her mouth against his and stealing his breath.

"Take off your clothes." He starts in surprise and her fingers tighten on the back of his neck, stopping him from pulling away. It holds him in place, yielding to her, but there's still doubt in his eyes. Doubt and want, warring together. "Trust me."

Want wins. But only because Richard trusts her completely.

He takes a step back, his fingers already moving to the buckle of his sword belt. She watches him, not hiding the way he makes her feel, not now, and when he catches her eye he hesitates. She holds his gaze steadily and, after a moment, he moves back to undressing, pulling his shirt off over his head.

The fastenings on his breeches are next, and his fingers fumble a little as he tugs at the laces. She fights the urge to step in, to help him with them. The sense memories of his fingers against her skin, stripping her bare in Kieran's tomb, are far too vivid, even blurred as they were by Vivian's presence in her mind and in her body. She will not give into the longing that grips her, not now. Not when she's fought for control for so long, and successfully for the most part.

But still she cannot - will not - tear her eyes away as he pulls his breeches open, sliding the fabric down his lean legs.

She's always thought him beautiful, even clothed, and she's caught more than one glimpse of him when parts of him have been stripped bare. But now, with the moonlight streaming through the window and Richard meeting her eyes, his shadowed with something like fear - of the darkness within him or of her reaction, she can't tell - he is more than beautiful to her.

He's perfect. Not least because, like all men, he has his flaws.

She moves closer, her fingers tracing along the raised scars left by the Keeper's mark, and this time he doesn't stop her. He watches her instead, his eyes steady and unwavering with the kind of focus that both warms and heats her. She gives into temptation and lets her fingers drift over his skin: up his shoulder and around his neck, coming to rest on the nape. He doesn't resist her when her touch becomes heavier, guiding his head down, and again his lips meet hers. The kiss is chaste at first despite his nearness and his nakedness, but when she parts her lips, his name coming out in a sigh, the tip of his tongue touches hers and the heat of that touch flashes through her.

She pulls away and he lets her, his hands hanging loosely by his sides. He doesn't reach for her as she steps back, his expression still and guarded.

She's the Mother Confessor. She's strong enough for this, and Richard deserves all of her strength and more. She does what needs to be done.

She holds Richard's gaze as she lands the first blow; his eyes widen with shock when her hand hits his flesh. It drives his lips apart, his breath rushing out of him. But she knows him, knows him well enough to see what else flashes across his face, the need - the relief - that is hidden behind the shock.

Denna had him for too long, but perhaps part of Richard has always been broken, even before Denna's magic caught hold of him. She loves him for it: his vulnerabilities as well as his strengths.

Richard is still staring at her, rendered speechless, and she reaches up again with the hand that is still stinging from the blow she landed. Her fingers cup his cheek again and he doesn't flinch; instead he leans back into her touch.

"Richard," she says and his name on her lips is soft, full of all of the love she feels for him, "tell me to stop."

He doesn't, for all that his lips part again as though he would speak. Instead he simply looks at her, the words stopped in his mouth before he can give them life, and she nods.

The second blow curves up over his hip and again her hand stings, burning where her skin touched his. It's not all pain; as she pulls away again she lets her fingers curl so that they leave Richard's skin last, skimming along the dip of his waist. He sways into her touch but his eyes are still stunned, lost and broken, and she wants so much to catch hold of his face, pull him down into her embrace and take away his pain.

Instead she has to inflict pain to ease it.

Richard licks at his lips; she watches the pink tip of his tongue as it darts across and the urge to comfort him eases. Now she feels an urge of a different sort and she sways in place herself, her fingers instinctively stretching towards him.

She stops herself, flattening her palm and swinging her hand again. It lands lower this time, high up on the outside of Richard's thigh, her fingers meeting hard muscle, and he hisses, his breath leaving him through clenched teeth.

Her hand is aching and she resists the urge to rub it. To do that would be to break Richard's gaze, to break the spell she's casting over him without ever needing magic to do so. Instead she licks at her own lips, dried out by the tension growing inside her, and Richard's eyes follow the move.

This time he sways into the blow instead of away from it, and her fingers don't trace over the skin of his hip. They press against the curve of his behind, sliding up towards the dip in the small of his back. He sways again, towards her, and the shift this time is greater than any achieved by her blows.

She lets her fingers trace higher, up the curve of his spine, moving closer to him until only a hairsbreadth separates them. She can feel the warmth of his skin, the pressure of each breath he lets out against her face. His eyes are still lost, still broken. Still beautiful.

Still needing.

She slides her hand lower again, pressing more firmly this time, and again he sways, drawn in by her touch. He doesn't flinch when her next slap lands on his rear, hard and perfect, and the hiss he lets out is matched by her own. Her hand is burning now, aching fiercely, but she's borne worse pains than this for Richard's sake. But the ache inside her - the burning need for Richard's touch - is harder to bear. She steps away from him, her face flushed with heat and a twisting weight in her belly that she can't quite control. Better to put some distance between them now than lose herself as well as him.

The distance makes it both easier and harder to continue. The angle is better now, and Richard no longer holds in his gasps as her fingers find his flesh, but she longs to be closer to him. Even closer than this.

His eyes are beyond lost now, something breaking behind them, and when she lands the next blow he staggers slightly, just a step towards her. She steadies him with a hand to his chest; she can feel the way his heart is beating, fast and furious under her touch, and his eyes... Oh, his eyes.


She slides her hand into his hair, feeling the tendrils - damp with sweat - curling around her fingers.

"Tell me to stop."

He doesn't. When she lands the next blow, the gasp he lets out is louder, harsh and broken.

"Richard..." The sound of her hand hitting his flesh rings in her ears - but even over that she can hear the sound of his breathing, faster and faster, and his eyes are wet when she looks. She hits him again, her hand bruised and sore, and she bites at her lip, holding in the sounds of her pain.

Again, and Richard lets out a soft cry, so low that she can barely hear it. The wetness in his eyes wells over, a tear running down his cheek and she can't fight against the need for him any longer. She leans in and captures it with the tip of her tongue; the sound Richard lets out this time is just as pained as if she'd struck him again. He sways into her touch, seeming to yearn for her as much as she does for him.

"Richard," she says again, and his head falls forward, coming to rest in the hollow between her neck and her shoulder. She remembers this as well, all too vividly, and her fingers curl around his neck, holding him to her, just as she did then. Giving him her strength as she did then, and taking her own strength from him.

"Stop," he murmurs into her skin and her fingers tighten as she presses her face into his hair. "Kahlan..."

"I love you, Richard." Her voice is steady in spite of the tears that are now running down her face, relief and love and shame all mingled together. "That's not going to change. That's not ever going to change." He turns his face into her neck, pressing closer to her, his arms coming around her, and she can feel the tension in his body easing. "Do you hear me?" He nods, the move small against her skin.

"You are not perfect, but no man is. You don't need to be perfect. I could not love anywhere near as much as I do if you were. Do you hear that, too?" His arms tighten around her and that's all the answer she needs. "Richard..."

He pulls back and looks at her, simply looks at her, and the look in his eyes, for the first time in a long time, is one of peace. She can no longer resist the need to touch him and once again cups his cheek with her hand. Again, he turns into her touch, closing his eyes, and there's a surrender in his stance that there wasn't before. Richard would give her everything, she knows that now.

Her hand slides lower, tracing down the side of his neck. When she reaches his throat, she wraps her fingers lightly around it, feeling the pulse of his heart as it beats underneath her touch. It quickens as she smiles and his lips part for her as he breathes out, soft and sweet. His eyes drift shut; there are tears drying on his lashes, on his cheeks.

She could take him now, Confess him, and he would fall for her willingly, give her everything he has with a soft sigh and a softer smile. She knows that. She can feel the ache of it deep in her bones, the want of it twisting inside her, all at once both heavy and light. But not even the surrender of Confession could be as complete or as sweet as Richard giving her this.

She lets go and steps back, and his eyes open slowly, taking her in. There's a softness in the curve of his lips, in the depths of his dark eyes, and her heart lifts.

"I love you," she says again, quietly and calmly, and his lips curl up.

"And I you." She's never doubted and she never will. "Thank you," he breathes and she has to touch him, even if it's just the slide of her palm over his cheek again.

"You should..." The colour rises to her face, a flush of heat. "You should probably put some clothes on."

He ducks his head, letting out a soft chuckle, and her heart lifts even further. She can't remember the last time she heard him laugh, even as muted as this, and not even the fact that Richard moves slowly to collect his clothes, obviously feeling the ache of her attentions, can dim her pleasure in the sound.

Her own hand is swollen, stinging, and she presses it against the curve of her belly imagining, for a split second, that it's his touch. The thought does nothing to ease the other ache she feels, the one that still twists low in her gut, shivering through her body whenever he's near.

He pulls on his shirt, his face turned away from her and hidden by the dark wing of hair that falls over his eyes. "Will you stay?" The question is tentative, diffident, and she shouldn't, even though she aches for him and the comfort his presence will give her. It's too dangerous when he's this vulnerable and when the need for him fills her. But she will find the strength she needs for Richard's sake. She will find everything she needs for his sake.

"Yes," she says, and the word has a power all of its own - the power to make him look at her, to make him smile, and if it's still a little broken then isn't the whole world? "Always."

It's a vow she'll keep until the day the last breath leaves her body. If she's his strength when he weakens, then he is hers.

She knows that they're both strong enough for this.

The End