Chapter Thirteen

     If Anna thought her three little brothers were the most damaging creatures to the Helsingr grocery bill, she had clearly forgotten about what happened the mornings after a sleepover with the entire Knight’s roster. It didn’t take long until the cabinets were practically cleared: bowls of cereal competed with stacks of pancakes, almost five pounds of bacon and two dozen eggs for space across the island in the center of the kitchen. They’d gone through two entire loaves of bread just making toast alone and the large glass bowl that had last night been overflowing with fresh fruit was now empty.

     Kahlan sat beside T.D. at the end of the dining room table. She peeled the skin off her clementine and popped a piece in between her teeth. The juices exploded in her mouth as she chewed, sweet and tart. The older girl tore in to her bacon and eggs, licking the grease from her fingers as she went. “How’d you sleep last night?” T.D. asked in between bites.

     “Pretty good, Terra doesn’t kick half as much as Arella does.” In fact, Terra slept straight as a board, boneless, unmoving throughout the entire night. “What about you?”

     “I was out the moment someone hit the lights off.” T.D. admitted. “Thoughsomeonehad a phone that kept getting boyfriend texts all night.” She directed at Cara who was making her way towards the table.

     Cara sat down, her plate loaded with pancakes that she had smothered with fruit. The sweet sticky syrup dripped off the sides and on to the ceramic plate as she shoveled in her first mouthful. “Well you snore.” She teased T.D.

     “Oh, like you don’t.” Julie commented from across the kitchen. “That time we shared a hotel room in Quebec, holy cow I thought there was a buzz saw outside my window all night.”

     Everyone, even Cara laughed at that. Her green eyes sparkled as she took her cousin’s teasing in stride. “Speaking of boyfriends, how’s Teddy?”

     “He’s good should be heading up on Thursday actually.” Celeste did a small little dance of excitement at prospects to come in less than five days, which of course successfully drew teasing from the Carey sisters, Teddy’s cousins. “Alright, coffee’s ready.” Celeste watched the last few drops fall in to the pot. “And it’s the good stuff: Dunkin blend.”

     The dark rich aroma was tantalizing. Anna swept in and grabbed the pot, pouring herself the first cup. “That’s exactly why I’m diving in.” She took a sip and said, “By the way, Laila had to head to Cambridge early today: her group had to gives some presentation to their board of directors.”

      “Geez, talk about child abandonment.” T.D. snorted. “Don’t worry; I’ll drive you and Terra back to the Barrows.”

     T.D. drove a sleek charcoal colored Scion TC coup. She kept it spotless: all her hockey gear tucked neatly in the trunk out of sight, the fabric on the seats were crisp and freshly vacuumed and the floor was practically spotless. “Buckle up.” She instructed as she sped down the Helsingr’s driveway.

     “I’m glad you two came last night.” T.D. mused as she maneuvered through traffic near the on ramp. “It’s been too quiet lately.” T.D. looked in her rearview mirror, her brown eyes sad.

     Kahlan smiled back. “I missed you guys too.”

    The ride was mostly silent, but the three never were much for unneeded conversation, they didn’t feel awkward and need to fill the car with noise just for the sake of it. Kahlan pressed her head against the cold glass of the window and watched the highway fly past.

     T.D. was driving so fast that Kahlan didn’t even have time to read the billboards. Country music softly played through the speaker, mixed early morning variety that always quickened the rides to and from the city. Kahlan hummed along to Kip Moore, his voice singing out:

“Somethin' 'bout a creek, around 2 a.m.
After a few of those beers, you wanna dive on in
You don't need no clothes, so just hang em on a limb
There's somethin' 'bout a creek around 2 a.m.”

       Kahlan thought about how the hot, sticky summer days of extreme heat and no wind where slowly encroaching on the city and thought that skimming across the surface of the water sounded very appealing. T.D. reached Terra’s house first, pulling up on to the curb up off the street. The Barrows were coming to life, people slowly trickling out in to the streets to start their day. Kahlan exchanged her place in the back for the passenger seat, waving goodbye to Terra through the window as her cousin made her way up the stoop and through her front door.

       “Have you seen your aunt or uncle since the wake?” T.D. asked. Her eyes were trained protectively on Terra until the door closed behind her.

      Kahlan looked at her cousins’ house and sighed. There was a distinct tightness in her chest, her heart aching for Tory to burst through those doors any second now. “No.” She admitted regretfully. She sat back and looked at the older girl forlornly. “I don’t want to look at them and know that all they’re thinking is ‘here’s our niece who lived when our daughter died.’”

      “I’m sure they don’t feel that way.”

      “Aislin does.” Kahlan muttered. “You should have heard her yesterday arguing with Aria and Laila...they don’t know I heard, but how can you not feel that way?” Against her will, tears pricked at her eyes. “How can you not look at me and think; ‘Oh look, there’s that girl who got shot along with her cousin. The other one didn’t make it though.’? How can anyone that knew Tory not help but wonder how I survived over Tory?”

     “I don’t think that way.” T.D said gently. “Kahlan, I wasn’t blessed with a big family like you guys, or even the Helsingrs. I didn’t get brothers or sisters, not even cousins to keep me company. You Knights, you’re the best I’ve ever had and even though I can’t imagine how much you and Terra and the rest of your family is hurting, I love Tory too. And I miss her.” T.D. swallowed. “But never in these long weeks have I ever thought about what you’re talking about Kahlan.”

     “You’re probably the only one.”

     T.D. laughed. She couldn’t help it. “Someday, you’ll need to tell me what exactly it is I’ve done to be on that pedestal you’ve put me on.” Her voice grew firm again; the kind of tone Kahlan was used to associating with line drills. “I’m sure everyone’s been telling you that Tory wouldn’t want you to feel like that or to be sad etcetera…but you’re the one who knew her best.  So frak what everyone else says.”

      Kahlan’s eyes widened. In nearly fifteen years of knowing T.D., Kahlan had never heard her captain curse before. “If I had been the one who died, Tory wouldn’t have rested until she found out who did it. I feel like I’ve wasted so much time already, so many hours being sad when I should have been furious.” Kahlan felt heat rising in her face.

      “Whoa! Calm down there Kay.” For a moment T.D. looked frightened. “You look like you’re about to tear in to my seats.” She rubbed her dashboard fondly. “Don’t worry Zoe; I’m not going to let her.”

       The Scion’s engine almost seemed to purr in response. The car was T.D.’s baby, paid for entirely with her own money, and she took pristine care of it. An enormous sci-fi fan, and unable to resist the pun, T.D. had named her Scion after Caprica’s main heroine, Zoe Graystone the first ever Cylon. This was why, even though the gas gauge read almost half full T.D. pulled in to the nearest Cumberland Farms. She passed Kahlan a five and instructed, “Go grab us some junk food while I fill Zoe up.”

       While scanning the rows of candy, trying to decide between peach rings or caramel creams Kahlan heard someone calling her name.

       “Kahlan! Kahlan McDara!”

       She turned and saw a tall boy with unruly brown hair heading her way, a smile so big that it completely consumed his face. “Itisyou!” Ronan Pendra had ears that were a bit too big for his head, but Kahlan had always thought that was what made him so cute, along with his pretty eyes: a soft blue with long dark lashes.

      “Ronan.” Kahlan ducked her head to hide the flush of her cheeks. “How are you?” She gazed at Ronan shyly through her lashes

      “I’m well thank you.” His smiled grew even bigger. Ronan had been in several of Kahlan’s university classes since her freshman year and had lived in the dorm only a floor above her own. Those fey blue-green eyes that flickered like the heart of a flame had been what pulled Ronan in right from his first meeting with her. “Class has been boring without you.” He cleared his throat suddenly awkwardly. “I was sorry to hear…”

     “Thank you.” Kahlan murmured.

     “Hers is a loss keenly felt.” Ronan bowed his head. “If there’s anything you ever need, you know where to find me.” It was now Ronan’s turn to feel heat crept up his neck and spread across his cheeks. “But I’ve been meaning to ask you for a while…”

      “Kay!” T.D. was a few feet behind, oblivious. “All set?”

       Kahlan whirled around and fixed T.D. with a look. “In a second Teagan.” Her voice was strained.

       T.D. immediately understood and had to keep herself from spluttering with laughter. “Okay, just meet me in the car.”

      Turning back to Ronan Kahlan said, “Sorry.” She bit her lip nervously. “You were saying.”

      Ronan cleared his throat again, but when he spoke once more his voice was stronger. “Would you like to hang out next weekend?” He asked at last. “Maybe see a movie?”

      “Yes.” Kahlan said instantly. She chuckled and then a bit less aggressively answered again, “Yeah, I’d really like that.”

      “Really?” Ronan’s eyes glowed. “That’s great! I’ll call you later.”

       Forgetting her candy debate Kahlan rushed back and practically leapt in to the passenger’s seat of T.D’s car. She didn’t dare look at her captain: she could barely keep her smile from spreading across her entire face as it was, just keeping her eyes glued to the window. Kahlan felt T.D furiously start to nudge her arm with her elbow. “Look at me.” She teased. “Ah! He totally just asked you out!” T.D. grinned. “He’s socute! Oh my God, no excuses, you are giving me all the details after!”

      “All right, I promise.” Kahlan’s eyes happened to catch a look in the rearview mirror, and for a moment she swore that she could see a quick flash of Tory’s fierce bright eyes shining back knowingly at her. But the moment passed: Kahlan figured it was simply the reflection of her own irises staring back at her.

      When T.D. dropped Kahlan off in front of the Céilí, first making her swear up and down of course that she’d let T.D. help her get ready, Kahlan hobbled her way up the stairs as fast as she could. “Hey Mum, hey Da.” She greeted quickly, giving Nym’s head a fond pat. Reaching the top of the stairs Kahlan made her way to Aria’s room.

       “Hey Kay, you have fun last night?” Aria had one hand rested on her stomach while the other was cradling a book. Her sister peered through the lenses of her reading glasses, waiting for an answer and then saw how wide Kahlan was grinning. "Kay did you do something slutty?"

The End

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