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Pull Your Little Arrows Out

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1.

 

It doesn't take long for Cara to realize that being banished to Aydindril is infinitely less torturous when she's relaxed from a good fight and at least a little bit drunk.

Neither is particularly difficult at first; she's been given enough coin to live well, and it takes little effort to encourage men and women in Aydindril's less respectable taverns to take up arms against a Mord'Sith.

Eventually, though, she's makes herself a reputation and it becomes harder to find anyone willing to throw the first punch. And Cara has made a point, since arriving in Aydindril, to not actually instigate any altercation. Starting brawls in taverns is probably the sort of thing that Kahlan would frown on, but surely no one can fault Cara for defending herself.

The fact that no one is willing to do anything to let her defend herself as of late is making her decidedly annoyed. People in the Midlands are supposed to fear and hate the Mord'Sith; this recent apathy seems most inappropriate.

Cara eyes the bottom of her empty mug with displeasure. "Bar keep!" she shouts. She's at a table in one of the darker corners of the tavern, but she can see the bar keep jump in obvious fear as he hears her. Not even that improves her mood much, nor does the fresh mug of ale he puts in front of her with trembling hands.

The thought of more ale does not seem so interesting, suddenly, not in light of other thoughts. She stands up abruptly, eying the inhabitants of the tavern with mistrust one last time, and walks out.

Cara is well-known in the Confessor's Palace, and - after a few glares, some thinly veiled threats, and a variety of less than subtle remarks about the Mother Confessor's displeasure should Cara be denied access - she is let into Kahlan's personal quarters.

"Were you asleep?" Cara asks, surprised by the sight of Kahlan coming out of her bedroom, wearing nothing but a shift and a shawl wrapped around her shoulders. Her hair is tousled and, when she pulls her hand through it, Cara is momentarily distracted by a glimpse of bandages on her arm.

"Yes, Cara, I was asleep," Kahlan says, and there is s certain sharpness to her voice. "I was asleep, because it's the middle of the night."

"Oh." Cara looks out the window at the darkness there. Not that it's of any use - the sun just barely manages to rise in Aydindril this time of the year. "Who can keep track? It's always dark."

Cara nods decisively at the wisdom of her own words. It makes her head spin a little.

Kahlan frowns. "Are you... drunk?"

"Of course not," Cara says.

"You smell like you've bathed in a barrel of ale," Kahlan points out, crossing her arms before her chest.

Uninterested in that particular topic, Cara rolls her eyes, crossing her arms like Kahlan. "Have you heard from Richard and Zedd?"

"Cara..." Kahlan sighs with some exasperation, putting a hand to her forehead. "It's the middle of the night. Is that the only reason why you're here?"

In truth, Cara can't remember exactly why she'd been in such a hurry to see Kahlan. It had seemed really important, but all the reasons for her decision appear to have faded into obscurity.

"You should keep better track of your husband," she says instead. "He has a spectacular talent for getting himself in trouble. Have you forgotten that?"

Abruptly, she turns to leave. Before Cara can exit, though, Kahlan crosses the floor and grabs Cara by the arm, almost pulling her off-balance.

"You don't have to go," Kahlan says. "I've told you, you're welcome to stay at the Palace. I want you to."

Cara shrugs her arm free, glaring at Kahlan. "I don't like it much here," she replies, and then she leaves without another word.

 

*

 

The problem is that Richard ordered Cara not to follow him to D'Hara, but he left no other instructions on what she's supposed to do.

A Mord'Sith belongs in D'Hara, by the side of Lord Rahl. Cara thought she had made it entirely clear to him, after the short summer months the four of them spent in Aydindril, that she was more than eager to leave and see him claim the throne that was rightfully his.

Being left in Aydindril is the worst kind of punishment. Sometimes the current Lord Rahl can be so much more cruel than the previous one.

It's very early in the morning when Cara hears the door to her room at the inn open and close with some force.

She fumbles for an agiel as she rolls over on her back, squinting against the light from the window, but it is only Kahlan. Cara relaxes back against the bed. She's in her leathers, laces untied, lying on top of the covers, and it is much too early to be awake. Not so long ago, she would have risen with the sun, but there seems to be little point in doing so anymore.

"Cara, don't you ever think about anyone but yourself?" Kahlan says, voice terse, and it's not what Cara expects at all.

"What?" Cara says, craning her neck to see. Kahlan actually looks somewhat angry, and it catches Cara off-guard. It's been a long time since Kahlan looked at her like that.

Cara sits up, ignoring the way it makes her head hurt. She's become rather used to it.

There's a pair of boots by the bed, and Kahlan is staring straight at them. She may have kicked the owner of the boots out rather harshly after she'd had her fun, but what sort of idiot leaves their boots behind? Cara would very much like to know. She restrains the urge to kick them out of Kahlan's line of vision.

"Do you think I haven't noticed what you've been doing since Richard and Zedd left? Picking fights and--" Kahlan stares at the boots again "--and acting like a child."

"They attacked me first," Cara says.

Kahlan ignores that. "I haven't said anything about it, but enough is enough. Disturbing the Mother Confessor in the middle of the night for no reason is unacceptable. It's time for you to stop
this sulking."

"I'm not sulking," Cara protests. "I'm... biding my time."

Kahlan puts her hands on her hips. "You can 'bide your time' doing something more useful," she tells her. "From now on you're going to have to earn your keep."

"What? Work?"

"Yes, work. Like the rest of us."

"I don't understand," Cara says, looking at Kahlan with confusion. "Do you want me to kill someone for you?"

"Is that the only kind of work you can think of?"

"I'm Mord'Sith!" Cara exclaims. Sometimes she wonders if Kahlan forgets.

Kahlan looks at her with such intensity that Cara almost has to look away. "You are so much more than that," she says, and Cara frowns against the sharp light from the window.

"Why would I want to be anything else?" she asks, baffled by the suggestion.

"I can find something for you to do, if you want."

Cara stands up, quickly tightening her laces. "No," she says, moving to pass Kahlan. "I don't need your help." Walking down the corridor, she calls to Kahlan, "Close the door after you when you leave."

 

*

 

These are not concerns that Cara has ever wrestled with before. Perhaps, she thinks, she will leave Aydindril and go south, letting people pay for the use of her skills in a fight. But eventually Richard will let her serve him again - he promised as much - and, when that day comes, Cara does not want to be halfway across the world.

Aydindril is not a place for a Mord'Sith, but for the time being, Cara will put up with it. Luckily, Richard took a Journey Book before he left Aydindril, and has been using it to communicate with Kahlan. Cara suspects that Richard is lying shamelessly about how 'smoothly' things have gone at the People's Palace, but at least he's still alive. It's more than she expected.

When Kahlan comes into her quarters in the Confessor's Palace, Cara is sitting in a chair in front of the fireplace.

"Cara?" Kahlan says with some surprise.

Cara has bathed, and scrubbed and oiled her leathers and boots until they practically shine. Her hair is getting longer, long enough to be tied back, but, after some consideration, she leaves it down. She's grown used to wearing it that way, and until it's long enough to be made into a braid again, that's how it will stay.

Her appearance has not been this tidy since the wedding, and when she stands up, she can tell that Kahlan notices, eying her up and down for a moment.

"You look better," Kahlan says. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean what I said this morning. I know it's been difficult for you."

Cara puts a hand on her hip, smirking. "You'll be glad to hear I have decided on a new mission."

Kahlan smiles back, looking at Cara's hand briefly, before meeting her eyes again. "And what would that be?"

"I borrowed your Journey Book to discuss the matter with Lord Rahl. We agreed that due to current circumstances, my talents are best put to use here. Protecting you."

That makes Kahlan stop smiling. "What?"

"You told me to find something to do."

"That's not what I meant! I have enough guards."

Cara takes a step closer, reaching out to poke Kahlan on the arm. In her Confessor's dress, no bandages are visible, but Cara remembers. She watches impassively as pain fly across Kahlan's face as her hand quickly covers the place Cara touched.

"It's nothing," Kahlan says. "He surprised me, that's all. I killed him myself."

"Lord Rahl did not think it was 'nothing'," Cara says, trying to keep the triumph out of her voice. She's only moderately successful.

"Richard is not here, and he has no authority in Aydindril."

"He has authority over me."

Kahlan glares at her. "The Journey Book is mine, and I don't appreciate you running to Richard behind my back with things that don't concern him."

"Lord Rahl cares for you. You're his wife. One might say it's my duty to inform him of anything that happens to you."

"Yes, I'm sure that is why you told him," Kahlan says sharply.

Cara suspects her smirk might be slightly self-satisfied, but if so, she's earned it.

"Cara," Kahlan says after a few moments of silence, voice exasperated. "Don't you think I can take care of myself?"

"Of course you can," Cara says. "You're one of the best fighters I know."

"Thank you."

"Aside from the Mord'Sith, of course," Cara adds. That brings a small smile back to Kahlan's face, and Cara feels her own lips quirk up in response. "Nevertheless," she continues, "you are the ruler of the Midlands. You have more important things to worry about."

The look Kahlan gives her is suddenly very soft. "All right," she says. "If you want to."

"I don't want to," Cara clarifies. "It's my duty."

"Whatever you say."

 

*

 

Cara takes her responsibilities very seriously, and after months without purpose, it seems really important that this task be performed with all her might.

Richard may not have exactly ordered her to do anything, but when Cara had suggested she keep an eye on Kahlan, he had agreed that it seemed wise. Richard isn't like the previous Lord Rahl; sometimes Cara has to work hard to interpret his vague suggestions into orders.

Cara follows Kahlan like a shadow for the rest of the day, and at night, she carefully looks through every nook and cranny of Kahlan's bedroom.

"Any monsters under my bed?" Kahlan asks, as if this is a joke to her. It's highly inappropriate, in Cara's opinion, so she ignores her, positioning herself at the end of Kahlan's bed.

"Oh no," Kahlan says, moving behind her and pushing her by her shoulders up the stairs to the door. "Your room is still there for you. I don't need to be guarded in my bedroom."

Once Cara is on the other side of the door, Kahlan closes it firmly.

Crossing her arms, Cara leans back against the opposite wall, eying the closed door. When Kahlan opens the door in the morning, Cara hasn't moved an inch.

 

*

 

After some days, Cara is starting to see a flaw in her plan. If she is to watch Kahlan always, that leaves little time for such things as sleep.

It would only have been a matter of time before she figured out a solution to the problem, of course, if Kahlan hadn't intervened. It is late, and Kahlan is sitting in a chair by the fireplace, reviewing documents. Cara is sitting in a chair next to her, because it is a strategically sound place to keep guard from.

She only leans her head back for a moment, and then Kahlan is nudging her leg with her naked foot. "Are you asleep?"

"Of course not," Cara says, blinking rapidly against the fire.

Kahlan smiles, but then her face turns thoughtful. "Where exactly do you sleep, Cara? I hear your room is unused."

"I don't need very much sleep," Cara says. "I'm Mord'Sith."

"Everyone needs sleep." Kahlan rises from her chair, grabbing Cara's hand and pulling her up. "The room is yours, always," Kahlan says, ushering her towards the stairs. "Go, sleep. You're not going to be much use to me if you're so tired you're falling asleep standing up."

Cara stops at that, turning back towards Kahlan. "You're right," she says, a new plan forming in her head. "I will sleep."

Kahlan smiles cheerfully and squeezes her hand. "Good."

"I will sleep here," Cara announces. "Your bed is big enough for two."

For some reason, it makes Kahlan's cheeks flush pink, as she stares at Cara. "I don't think that's a good idea."

But Cara is set on the idea now. She lets Kahlan's hand go, and walks towards the bed, loosening her laces as she moves. "We've shared a bed before, Mother Confessor. Or were you planning on having other company?"

"Of course not!"

Cara pauses, leathers half-way off her shoulders. "Then what's the problem?" she asks, one hand on her hip, as she awaits Kahlan’s response.

Finally, Kahlan throws her head back, shooting Cara an exasperated look. "If you must."

"I must," Cara says, and slides her leathers off.

Kahlan's face becomes even redder, as she picks up a shift from the bed and throws it at Cara. She rolls her eyes, huffing out another sigh, but pulls it over her head even so. As it slides down over her face, her nose catches the scent of Kahlan's hair. It's not entirely unpleasant.

It's hardly the first time Kahlan has undressed in Cara's presence - they shared rooms sometimes while they were traveling, and they've bathed together in cold lakes and springs - but somehow it seems different. Kahlan turns her back to Cara before changing her Confessor's dress to night clothes. She is just barely hidden behind the drapes of the bed, and when Cara shifts slightly on the bed, tilting her head, the view is very nice indeed.

Cara wonders if this is how Kahlan changed her clothes in front of Richard, with her back turned, or if he would help untie her laces, like a Mord'Sith. When Kahlan turns around, joining her on the bed, Cara does not make a secret of having watched her, giving her an appreciative look that makes Kahlan blush again.

There's been some time (and quite a lot of ale) since they were traveling, but Cara doesn't remember Kahlan's face doing that so frequently before. It looks ridiculous, in a way that makes Cara want to make her do it again.

But Cara is tired, and she feels herself start to drift off as soon as her head is on the pillow. She's almost asleep when she feels Kahlan touch her cheek.

"What?" Cara says, sitting up quickly and eying the room, hand ready to reach for one of her agiels on the night stand.

Kahlan pulls her hand back quickly. "I... I just wanted to say good night."

"Oh," Cara says. "Good night." She turns her back to Kahlan as she settles back on the pillow.

 

*

 

Restoring the rule in the Midlands had taken some time, after they closed the Veil and returned to Aydindril. Alferon the Wizard and Dennee had done their best since their brief visit, those months ago, but the Midlands are not like D'Hara, and Cara is not sure the word 'order' would ever be appropriate. Dennee is still traveling, discussing treaties and agreements, leaving Kahlan to handle things from Aydindril. It's an odd form of rule, one Cara is not used to, and one that seems to require much diplomacy. Cara has always found brute force to be more effective.

It's a discussion she's had with Kahlan enough times that Kahlan's forehead scrunches up in annoyance as soon as the subject comes up.

There are two more assassination attempts in the following weeks. One would-be assassin is caught by the two of them while climbing up the balcony during their evening meal, and is quickly dispensed of before she can do anything with the numerous daggers and poisons she has hidden under her clothes.

Once confessed, she speaks of people from the southeastern areas hiring her services, and Cara scoffs.

"It is time that situation is handled," she says, crossing her arms. "Let me take a handful of your Home Guard and I will have it dealt with."

"No," Kahlan says, simply, and when she does not elaborate, Cara frowns deeper.

"Why not?"

"Cara.... it's not that simple."

It is that simple, Cara is sure of it, but people like Kahlan and Richard always want to complicate things that could be easy and straight-forward.

The second time, it happens right under the Home Guard's noses, which is yet another sign of their inexcusable incompetence, in Cara's opinion. Kahlan sits in judgment, another day with an endless line of people seeking audience with the Mother Confessor. It's only chance that has her turning her head to Cara, leaning slightly to the side as she smiles at her, just as a dagger flies through the air, embedding itself in the back of the throne, just inches from Kahlan's head.

Cara responds instantly, and Kahlan is not far behind.

It's a foolish sort of attack with no chance of success. They are three in total; Cara dispenses of one - a woman - on her way towards the door with a harsh blow over the head with her agiels. The next one draws two daggers from inside his shirt as she approaches, but she has no patience for blocking his amateurish waving. There's a stinging along her neck and chest as one of his daggers slashes across her skin during her onslaught; it's unimportant, because moments later he's on his knees, one agiel pressed to the side of his neck.

He screams, and it's a beautiful sound.

The third of them is already on the ground when Cara turns around; Kahlan's boot on his neck and her dagger aimed between his eyes. The guards are pulling the woman Cara knocked down to a standing, though she looks like she's barely conscious.

Cara moves her agiel to the man's chin, pressing upwards, and he screams again as the power of the agiel colors his skin red. She moves the other agiel to his ear, unable to keep a smile from her face.

Of course, Kahlan can always be counted on to ruin Cara's fun. "That's enough, Cara," she says, and Cara has to fight to restrain her instincts.

She's heard it all before, about how torture isn't how Kahlan wants things done, Confession is only used when necessary, and justice is more important than anything. Justice is the sort of vague concept that Kahlan and Richard are both much too fond of, using it as though such a thing were not an impossibility. It is whoever rules that decides what justice is, which makes it as arbitrary as anything, as far as Cara is concerned.

In Kahlan's rooms, Cara bats away Kahlan's hands, walking to the fireplace and back. "Why are people not searched and relieved of their weapons before they enter the hall?"

"The Hall belongs to the people as much as to me," Kahlan says, reaching for Cara once again. "I'll send for a healer for this cut."

"Don't fuss."

Kahlan sighs, keeping Cara's arm in a tight grip, gaze on the wound on her chest. "At least let me stitch it up for you. It'll scar."

"It would not be the first scar I bear."

"Stop being so stubborn." Cara means to protest, but Kahlan continues with a hard, "Sit down," and Cara finds herself complying.

Kahlan hesitates then, hands twitching. "I'll have to... unlace your leather."

"Do whatever you want," Cara snaps, and it brings tension to Kahlan's shoulders, as she moves behind her.

"You shouldn't have been so careless," Kahlan says, pulling hard on her laces. "What if his daggers had been dipped in poison?"

"I didn't want to delay putting my agiel to his neck."

Cara pulls down her leathers, leaving her chest bare. They don't speak while Kahlan cleans her wound and carefully stitches it together. Kahlan's fingers are gentle on her breast, too much so. It's not the way anyone should touch a Mord'Sith, whatever their purpose is. It makes Cara squirm in her chair, and if Kahlan is foolish enough to think it is from pain, Cara has no plans to correct her.

Even after Kahlan is done, her hands linger. "You don't have as many scars as I would have thought."

"There are many ways to use agiels so that they don't leave scars," Cara says, though it's obvious enough that it shouldn't need to be mentioned. "And the Breath of Life heals many things."

"Did you die many times as a Mord'Sith?" Kahlan asks then, face concerned, as if the thought hadn't occurred to her before.

"Enough," Cara says, keeping her answer short. Kahlan's eyes are searching, but she doesn't ask anything more.

"The problem is..." Kahlan says instead. "It's been awhile since there was a Confessor in Aydindril. And there are always those who will see an opportunity for power and take it."

"Weaknesses will always be exploited by lesser people, that's why you eliminate those weaknesses. I could do that for you." Cara tries not to look too eager about it. Eliminating weaknesses happens to be something she quite enjoys.

"No. Stay here, with me." There is something unbearably tender in the look on Kahlan's face, as she lets her hand drop to rest on Cara's. Suddenly she can't stop thinking about Kahlan on her wedding day, and the surprised little sound she'd made when Cara had kissed her.

Kahlan glances down, cheeks turning pink, and for a moment, Cara wonders if Kahlan is looking at her bare breasts. But then Kahlan turns away, running a hand through her hair as she motions for the door. "The Council is assembling. I have to meet with them."

"I will talk to someone about the security in the Hall."

She shoots Kahlan a defiant look, because she knows she will protest. But Kahlan just watches her quietly for a moment. "Do what you think is best," she says, finally, and Cara smirks.

This, she knows.

 

*

 

"Does it hurt?"

They are in bed, and Kahlan is annoying Cara with her restlessness, sitting up and leaning against the padded bed post, while Cara lies with her back turned as usual. Kahlan seems to be under the mistaken impression that this is a good time for talking.

"Don't be ridiculous," Cara says sternly, because the idea that a small cut would hurt her is rather insulting.

Kahlan is quiet for a moment then, and Cara wishes, in vain, that Kahlan will just go to sleep.

"Are you still unhappy about being here?" Kahlan says finally, and Cara rolls her eyes, even though Kahlan can't see it.

"When you're keeping me from sleeping, yes," she says.

"I'm glad you decided to stay anyway."

"Where else would I go? Richard forbade me from following him."

With her back turned, Cara can't see Kahlan's face, but listening to her voice is enough for her to imagine her expression perfectly. "But it's not that bad here," Kahlan says, following it with a quiet, "is it?"

Shoulders tense with annoyance, she sighs. "Why are we not sleeping?"

Kahlan suddenly slides closer, knee brushing by Cara's calf. "Do you remember Dunshire?"

On the list of topics Cara least wants to discuss, Dunshire would probably come first.

"No," she says firmly, hoping her tone of voice will sway Kahlan away from the subject. It's been a long time since Dunshire, a year in the spring, and Kahlan has never brought it up before.

Cara should have known she would not be lucky enough to have it stay that way.

"It meant a lot to me," Kahlan says, and it's really not fair of Kahlan to do this now.

"I told you," Cara says, tension spreading throughout her body until every muscle is tight like a spring. "I was delirious from the lack of air. Don't talk about it again."

"It's just... "

That is enough. Cara spins around abruptly, pouncing like a cat to pin Kahlan down to the bed, gripping her shoulders to keep her down. "It's just what? What do you want, Kahlan?"

She means to be imposing, using her superior strength to intimidate Kahlan into ceasing this meaningless back-and-forth conversation about nothing. But pinning Kahlan down on the mattress is too much like things she's barely allowed herself to think about, and between both of their thin night clothes, there is suddenly a great deal of skin on skin.

Kahlan is looking up at her, mouth open, and as their eyes meet, Kahlan licks her lips, making it impossible for Cara not to stare. Suddenly she is very aware of Kahlan's naked thighs between her own, and the soft curve of her breasts, tantalizingly close.

"That is enough talking," she says, and then she rolls off her quickly, shift twisting uncomfortably as she gets tangled up in the covers. Settling on her back, arms crossed, she huffs out an annoyed sigh.

When Kahlan turns to her, inching closer and propping herself up on an elbow, Cara turns her head away. "Let's just sleep," she says.

"Cara," Kahlan whispers, and her face is close enough that Cara can feel her breath on her cheek.

When she still doesn't turn her head to Kahlan, she hears Kahlan sigh, and then strong hands are grabbing the soft material of her shift, just above her breasts, and Cara is forcefully pulled towards Kahlan.

It takes her by surprise. Her hands go to Kahlan's wrists on instinct, but Kahlan is looking at her in a
strange way that seems to drive all other thoughts from Cara's head.

"I want..." Kahlan says, tightening her hands on Cara's shift and taking a deep breath.

For once, Kahlan seems tongue tied.

Then she presses her lips to Cara's, and in Cara's opinion, that is a far superior use of her mouth.

Kahlan pulls back, breathing rapidly, and it's more than Cara needs. Before Kahlan has the time to blink, Cara has her on her back again. "Is this what you want, Kahlan?" Cara asks, challenging her with her entire body.

"I don't know." Arms encircle Cara's waist, hesitating before pulling her closer. "Yes."

The sudden force of her want makes Cara feel dangerously out of control. But, she thinks, there is no reason she shouldn't want this. Kahlan is a beautiful woman and a formidable warrior, and if the Lord Rahl is not there to service his wife, Cara doesn't mind performing that particular duty.

"Does the Mother Confessor always get what she wants in Aydindril?" she asks, and her voice sounds scratchy and raw.

"Yes," Kahlan says, and Cara kisses her with all her force and skill, just like she did on Kahlan's wedding. Hands on her back and neck pull her closer, and she sinks deeper into Kahlan, one leg falling between hers.

Kahlan smells much better than any stranger Cara has amused herself with lately, and the taste of her is almost enough to make her pant. She presses her thigh against Kahlan, and is rewarded with a breathy moan and a delicious arch of her hips. Cara can't seem to stop her own hips from grinding against Kahlan's.

Far too soon, Kahlan pushes her back, one hand on her shoulder. The room seems very quiet, the only sound their quick breaths, mingling in the small distance between their faces.

"I want to, but we can't," Kahlan says, barely a whisper. "My powers would kill you."

Cara scoffs impatiently. "Then keep them under control and tell me when to stop."

"Cara, that's..." There is something like longing on Kahlan's face. She lets a hand run down Cara's arm, and it makes Cara shudder. She buries her face in Kahlan's neck, breathing in the scent of her and tasting her skin.

Kahlan fists her hand in Cara's hair, pressing her closer for a moment, before pulling her head away from her neck. Cara licks her lips, and then Kahlan is kissing her.

"I don't know," Kahlan says between kisses, "it's too big of a risk."

"I have no intention of dying, Confessor," Cara says, pulling back long enough to hold Kahlan's gaze. "Which is why you are going to tell me when to stop and I will."

Kahlan grabs her shift again, pulling Cara closer and kissing her fiercely. There is a part of Cara that wonders if perhaps her reasoning skills are somewhat impaired at the moment, because she's not usually in a hurry to gamble her life for a quick fumble. But it's Kahlan.

Cara can't seem to stop from grinning all of a sudden, and Kahlan actually giggles, which is the silliest sound Cara has ever heard from her. Pulling her shift off in one smooth movement, Cara throws it across the room, and Kahlan stares at her in a way that makes Cara feel too hot to stay still.

"I could write poetry about your hips," Kahlan says, letting her hands slide up to rest on Cara's waist, and Cara smirks.

"Go ahead, they are excellent hips. I will start for you. The perfection of your hips, Mistress Cara, if I may be so crass, is only superseded by the shape of your glorious--"

"That's enough," Kahlan interrupts her.

"Ass, Kahlan," Cara whispers, placing Kahlan's hands on the body part in question. "My ass. It is certainly also worthy of your poetry."

Kahlan blushes, breath hitching as her lips part ever so slightly, and Cara decides that she will make her look like that very often in the future. She lets her mouth and fingers move across Kahlan's body, and it shouldn't affect her so easily, it shouldn't make her feel so perilously close to the edge of something unfamiliar. Kahlan puts her hand Cara's breast, and every part of her thrums. She finds a quick release against Kahlan's thigh, panting into her ear as Kahlan's arms tighten around her. For a moment, the ache below her ribs makes it feel like she can't breathe.

If Kahlan notices, she doesn't say, but even so, Cara is fast to distract her, pulling as many needy noises from her as possible. When Kahlan pushes her away, tensing, the last thing Cara wants is to go anywhere, but she stills, taking a deep breath, and raises her head to look at Kahlan. She's flushed, breathless, and the look on her face is part panic, part lust.

"You have to stop. I can't... " She squeezes her eyes shut, taking a deep breath. "I'm not going to confess you."

"No, you're not." Grabbing her hand, Cara kisses her palm and sucks her fingers into her mouth for a moment, before placing them between Kahlan's legs. She puts her hand over Kahlan's, moving her fingers like she would have moved her own.

Leaning back against one of the bedposts at the foot of the bed, Cara does the same: hand sliding down to her own center. But the view is too great; Cara stills her fingers, not wanting anything to distract her from watching. Seeing Kahlan come undone like this is beyond anything she'd thought she'd have. It makes her hot and impatient again, mouth quirking up in a smile.

"Oh. Oh," Kahlan says when her magic is gone, and Cara looks down on her, not even bothering to hide her amusement.

"Are you all right, Mother Confessor? Maybe I should find you a healer?"

Kahlan sits up to grab Cara's hand, and Cara lets herself be pulled back down. "Can I... touch you?" Kahlan asks, breathless and flushed, and of all the ridiculous questions Kahlan has ever asked her, that must be the silliest.

Cara grabs Kahlan's hand, twisting their fingers together as she guides it between her legs, letting Kahlan feel the wetness there. "Anywhere you want."

 

*

 

In the morning, Cara wakes up to Kahlan looking at her, lying on her side with a grin on her face. "Sleep well?"

"I always sleep well," Cara says, voice low as she unabashedly stares at the ample amount of Kahlan's cleavage that's visible above the covers. When she gets out of bed, finding her leathers and sliding them on, Kahlan is still looking at her. Cara takes her time with the laces, as Kahlan's gaze brings a prickling down her spine. She lets her hand graze by one of her agiels, enjoying the sharp jolt of pain.

Kahlan leaves the bed to get dressed then, back turned, and Cara sits down on a chair, legs wide apart, and appreciates the view.

She spends the day hovering behind Kahlan as she sits in judgment, and at night, she gets into bed, back to Kahlan, as usual. Only, this time, it does not take very long before she's greeted by a hand shyly settling on her hip, and Kahlan moving closer.

Cara rolls around, pinning Kahlan down with her body, just like the night before. There's a question on her lips, one she isn't sure how to phrase.

"Is something wrong?" Kahlan asks, and there are few things Cara hates more than when Kahlan gets that look of sympathy and concern on her face.

She makes sure Kahlan is too busy with other things to ask again. Richard is not there, and Cara is very good at what she does. The People's Palace is where she should be, but there are certain upsides to staying in Aydindril, after all.

 

*

 

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. Cara knows this, of course, but she had hoped it would be a little longer before the inevitable disaster struck.

The first time, it’s an accident.

After a long morning of meetings concerning particularly petty problems that has even Kahlan looking weary, Cara grabs Kahlan's wrist and practically drags her back to her rooms, pressing her against the side of her desk until she's almost bent over it, and kissing her with single-minded eagerness.

Kahlan shoves back, attempting to turn them over. Cara's hip slides against the desk as she loses balance, and the problem is that Kahlan will always be that little bit taller. Suddenly there is no more desk, and they fall down on the floor, Kahlan on top, laughing in a way that is entirely inappropriate during situations like these.

Flipping them over, Cara leans to the side as she watches Kahlan with raised eyebrows. "Are you done?"

Kahlan laughs some more, covering her face with her hands. When she pulls her hands away, smiling, there is a particular kind of look on her face that Cara isn't sure she likes. She kisses Kahlan to replace it with something better.

With a sigh, Kahlan yields beneath her.

Every time they have done this Cara has pulled away to a safe distance. It's possible the distance has become smaller every time, but she knows better than to touch Kahlan when she is not in control of her magic.

This time, Cara pulls back, hovering close enough to watch Kahlan's face, and it's not until the Confessor magic slams into her that she realizes her mistake. Her knee is nudged against Kahlan's calf, and it doesn't matter that she snatches her leg away instantly.

It fills her up, humming through every part of her, and it's pain and not. For a few heartbeats, the magic makes her shiver as if in a fever, pulling every thought from her head. Intensity gives way to softness, a gentle piercing that makes her chest ache in a way that is as familiar as it is unwelcome. There is something salty and wet in the corner of her mouth, and she wipes it away quickly, hoping to find blood on her hand.

It doesn't kill her. The realization puts her on her feet, and she's halfway across the room, leathers hastily pulled on, in record time.

"Cara?" Kahlan sits up, face still flushed and clothes in disarray. "Don't you want me to...?"

The fact that Kahlan still can't say it would normally make Cara roll her eyes. Now, though, she just utters a clipped, "No."

With a last look on Kahlan, Cara flees.

In the Wizard's keep, she grabs a hold of one of the guards. "Get me the Wizard Alferon," she says, feeling the guard tremble before she lets him go.

She has a terrible suspicion that she's in more trouble than ever.

 

*

 

Cara does not come back to Kahlan's quarters until much later.

Kahlan is in bed already, but she rushes up when Cara walks in, even though she's being quiet. "Where have you been?" Kahlan asks, looking wide-eyed and worried.

"It is not your concern where I go," Cara replies tersely.

"That's not what I..." Kahlan crosses her arms, taking a few breaths. "Cara, you haven't left my side for weeks, and then you just disappear. I only wondered, that's all."

Cara looks to the side, saying nothing.

"And what did you do to Alferon? He came to see me before and he was practically shaking. Since when are you interested in magic?"

Instead of answering, Cara takes two quick steps closer until she can push Kahlan backwards and onto the bed. She stares at her for a moment, letting a hand sneak up her thigh, under her night shift.

"Oh," Kahlan says. "We don't have to talk if you don't want to."

Later, when Kahlan pushes her away, moving her hands to replace Cara's mouth between her legs for a final few frantic movements, Cara very deliberately lets her hand graze by Kahlan's knee.

She doesn't die, and she isn't confessed.

That would apparently have been far too easy.

 

 


2.

 

When she started traveling with Richard, Kahlan and Zedd, it didn't take long for Cara to realize that Kahlan was deceptively strong. Frustrating, yes, inefficient, definitely, but she was the closest thing to another Mord'Sith that Cara had, and if she would only listen to Cara's advice, they could be excellent fighting partners, defending the Lord Rahl together.

But Kahlan has never listened to Cara's advice, she never stops trying to talk to Cara about feelings, and Cara doesn't know how she manages to get under her skin in a way that is entirely unacceptable.

They save the world at the Pillars of Creation, and when the sun has set, Cara watches Kahlan take Richard's hand and pull him away from their camp.

The Wizard puts another few twigs on the small fire, stretching his legs out. "Go to sleep, child. I'll keep watch."

Cara snorts. "I'm not going to sleep until they get back. I'm sure they're going to get themselves killed by Banelings, and I don't want my sleep disturbed."

Zedd peers at her, eyes gleaming with unexpected sharpness in the light from the fire. "It'll get easier," he says.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Cara says, and when Zedd gives her a look that seems far too knowing, she just glares back.

Whatever it is he think he knows, he is wrong.

Traveling to Aydindril takes weeks. Cara makes sure they have fresh meat every day, and during the day she walks ahead of the others, always one hand on the handle of an agiel, making sure their path is safe.

Richard and Kahlan spend most of their time holding hands, giggling between kisses, and generally acting like children. If Banelings attack, Richard and Kahlan are going to be completely useless. They would probably not even notice. But that's why Cara is there, to keep them safe. That's what she's made for.

In Aydindril, there is a celebration, and a wedding.

Richard and Kahlan are busy with each other, and Cara has no wish to spend more time than she has to with the Wizard. It comes as a surprise to her when she realizes they all expect her to be at the wedding; even worse, to be part of it. She's never been to a wedding before, for good reasons.

Zedd suggests that she wears something other than her leather, and she glares at him until he goes away. She does clean her leathers thoroughly and buys highly over-priced oil for them. She even unpacks her neckpiece and corset, completing her Mord'Sith attire.

"You look very dashing," Richard says.

Cara eyes him up and down. "You look like a wreck."

"Wedding nerves," Zedd says, putting a silver flask in Richard's hands. "Oh, I remember my first wedding."

Cara takes that as her cue to get out of there.

The ceremony is trite, as expected, but mercifully short. Kahlan is smiling, hair pulled back, adorned with flowers and pearls, lips painted pink. Cara thinks she prefers her in battle, in leather or white, adorned only with someone else's blood. It leaves a strange taste in her mouth, bitter and sweet, watching Kahlan stand with Richard, even though that is the way it was always going to be.

Much later, when the guests have either left or are too drunk to go anywhere, Cara attempts to navigate the endless halls and corridors to the room she's been given. They have only been in Aydindril for a few days, and the Palace is far larger than the talk of it in D'Hara would have had her believe.

When Kahlan walks around a corner, Cara smirks and leans against the wall. "Still in your wedding dress, Mother Confessor?"

Kahlan just smiles. "Well, someone apparently let the groom have a bit too much wine. He probably won't be awake for a few hours."

"That's too bad," Cara says. "I know you've been practicing hard for the wedding night." Taking a step forward, she stumbles, and suddenly finds herself with arms full of Kahlan, who is warm and nice-smelling, and not unpleasant to hold on to at all.

"You're drunk," Kahlan observes, raising an eyebrow in obvious amusement. That is probably true, or Cara would have definitely pushed Kahlan away by now.

"I understand it's customary on a wedding," she retorts. "I hear it's also customary in Aydindril to give the bride and groom a kiss after the ceremony."

Kahlan makes a sound that's somewhere between a laugh and a snort. "I didn't think you were one for tradition."

"Maybe I'm making an exception."

"Did you kiss Richard?"

Cara's gaze falls to Kahlan's lips, still painted pink. "I think I'll settle for you."

Before Kahlan can think of any way to protest, Cara takes her mouth with all her Mord'Sith might.

She intends only to tease, to force a blush to Kahlan's cheeks with her forwardness, and maybe give her something other than the sweet kisses Cara has seen her and Richard share. But the taste of her goes straight to Cara's head, making it impossible to ignore the pumping of her heart, and the way her veins are full of heat and liquor. She pushes forward again, letting her tongue graze against Kahlan's bottom lip, and when Kahlan's lips part, hot breath against Cara's mouth, she almost forgets herself.

Sure enough, Kahlan's cheeks are red when Cara pulls back, but the look she shoots Cara is amused.

"I like this tradition," Cara says, licking her lips with an exaggerated flourish.

"Most people settle for a kiss on the cheek." Kahlan sounds breathless in a way that makes Cara feel quite smug.

"What would be the fun in that?"

There is a sound, suddenly, from an adjacent corridor, and Kahlan takes her hand, giggling and dragging her along, down corridors that all look the same, until she can shove Cara into her room.

"Are you going to tuck me in?" Cara asks, putting a hand on her hip when Kahlan closes the door behind herself.

Kahlan quirks an eyebrow in her direction. "I think I should make sure you stay out of trouble."

"I enjoy trouble."

"I'm sure you do." Taking a few steps closer, Kahlan reaches out to touch Cara's leather neckguard lightly. "Why did you wear this?"

"It's Lord Rahl's wedding. Do you object?"

"I think I prefer you without it." It's the sort of line that Cara would have taken for something more from anyone else, but with Kahlan, it's nothing more than an innocent observation.

"Take it off, then." She gives Kahlan her most sultry smile, part invitation, part threat; infinite promises of pain and pleasure. She doesn't expect Kahlan to take her up on the offer, but after giving Cara a patient smile, she does, fingers finding the buckles on her chest and shoulders, undoing them deftly. Cara lets her eyes fall shut, breathing evenly.

Her fingers are cool against Cara's neck when she takes the neckguard off; Kahlan is always calm and collected, and it makes Cara feel too warm.

"Cara," Kahlan says quietly. "Do you ever feel like things... happen so fast you don't have the time to think about them?"

"I prefer doing to thinking," Cara replies, and when she opens her eyes to look at Kahlan, she finds a strange look on her face, just for a moment.

"Of course. Never mind."

Kahlan looks away, throwing the neckguard on a chair, smiling slightly to herself, and Cara finds herself mesmerized by that smile. Her senses are dulled from the liquor, making everything seem pleasantly void of sharpness and clarity. But it's also making it harder to stay in control, to keep unwelcome thoughts from surfacing.

Kahlan meets her eyes, a curious expression forming on her face, and Cara can't think of a reason to look away. "Oh," Kahlan says, a sudden look of surprise flitting across her features.

She keeps staring, until Cara has gathered herself enough to step back. "What?" she says, and it comes out roughly.

"I..." Kahlan is still staring, but then she looks down, running a hand across her brow, and when she lifts her head again, her face is carefully schooled. "I should go."

When she's left, Cara goes to sleep, still in her leathers, and if she dreams, she remembers nothing of it in the morning.

 

*

 

They stay in Aydindril all summer, and when Richard and Zedd leave, and Richard tells her - orders her - not to follow, Cara marches up to Kahlan's quarters.

"You know why Richard told you not to come with him," Kahlan says, and Cara grips one agiel so hard it makes the muscles in her hand twitch.

"He's out of his mind if he thinks he can do this without me."

"All he wants is to give you a chance to have the things that were taken from you."

Cara doesn't even know what that's supposed to mean. "He doesn't understand what it means to be Mord'Sith."

"Maybe not. But I have faith in Richard doing this his way. It will be fine, Cara."

"I suppose he told you not to come too."

Kahlan remains calm, but for a moment, she looks quite tired. "It's just better this way. I'm needed here, and for what it's worth, I'm glad you're here with me." She pauses, looking thoughtfully at Cara. "He is still your friend."

"Mord'Sith do not have friends," Cara says with a scowl.

She walks out of Kahlan's chambers, and out of the Palace. In one of the shadier parts of the city, she rents a cheap room and heads to the closest tavern, drinking her fill and then picking a fight with the biggest man there.

It's the best she's felt in months.

 

*

 

The winter is mild, and the Mother Confessor's bed is quite warm.

Spring comes early that year, and when there hasn't been any sign of snow in more than a fortnight, the Mother Confessor and her party travel over the mountains in the north, to the outskirts of the Midlands.

They ride along with a dozen men from the Home Guard, and the Wizard Alferon, who still acts like he's afraid that Cara will slay him if he dares to turn his back. Perhaps she was too hard on him when he wouldn't give her the answers she wanted, but then again, a little fear never hurt anyone.

It does not take long for Cara to realize that the northern parts of the Midlands are even worse than she had suspected. Not to mention cold.

And frustrating.

Cara groans as Kahlan presses closer, breasts against Cara's back. Heat flares between her legs as she feels Kahlan's hips against her backside.

"So cold," Kahlan whispers, close to her ear. "How can you be so warm?"

Weeks of pent-up need, probably. She grabs Kahlan's wrist, sliding her hand further down. "I can make you feel very warm."

Kahlan snorts, and snatches her hand back. "No."

Cara glances at the others nearby. Aside from the men on guard further away, everyone is asleep, and none of them would ever know what went on beneath the blanket covering Kahlan and herself. And even if they did, surely the Mother Confessor's prowess would not be something to hide. But she already knows that Kahlan does not agree with this point of view, so she sighs, as Kahlan laughs quietly against her neck. "Were you like this last year?"

"I didn't have anyone rubbing themselves against me every night back then."

Kahlan wiggles against her, coming impossibly closer. Clearly, Kahlan's torture skills are unprecedented. "Mother Confessor," Cara says. "You should know better than to toy with a Mord'Sith."

Kahlan laughs, as if she thinks the threat is a joke. She really should know better.

They reach the settlement a few days later; a massive encampment of brown tents, each one adorned with a colorful flag. It seems these people keep to their fortresses in mountains even further north at winter, only coming down to the valleys in the spring and summer. Cara isn't quite sure why anyone would trade stone walls for tents, no matter what the season, but being baffled by people who are not Mord'Sith is nothing new.

They've been expecting them, and Kahlan and the Wizard are whisked away immediately to a tent in the center of the camp. Cara grasps one of her agiels when they refuse to let her follow, but after a look from Kahlan, she remains still. Apparently these people do not understand the concept of bodyguards. It matters little, as Cara is sure that Kahlan could take the delegates she glimpsed inside the tent out with her hands tied behind her back. It's just that it's mind-numbingly boring for Cara to be left to her own devices in a place such as this.

After she has tended to the horses, she finds the men from the Home Guard. They're playing a game of dice, and when they see Cara looking, they invite her to join them.

"I don't play games of chance," she says, looking down at them with her arms crossed. "What’s the point in games based on luck?"

Captain Dalby eyes her, something between apprehension and curiosity on his face. "What skill-based games do you play then?"

Cara raises an eyebrow, pursing her lips. "You wouldn't like my games, Captain."

"I've seen you fight," he agrees. "I'm sure I wouldn't."

It's most likely an attempt at politeness. No doubt the Captain has heard rumors about the Mord'Sith and what sort of degenerate pleasures they like to indulge in. Cara looks him up and down for a moment, deciding that she doesn't mind the half-lie.

"You lower you shield before you make high attacks," she says, feeling generous. "I saw you sparring last night. Announcing an attack so blatantly makes you an easy prey."

"I-- uh." He looks at a loss for words. Not that Cara had expected gratitude.

"You," she continues, turning to another of the soldiers. "Twisting your hips away when you strike means you lose all your strength. It's ineffective. You might as well not bother to strike at all."

The man blinks, mouth opening as if to speak, but no words come out.

Cara is prepared to go on, but just then Kahlan and Alferon exit the tent nearby, and Cara quickly returns to her place by Kahlan's side, ready to draw her agiels. Kahlan's hand finds her elbow. "I need some place to review documents."

One of the delegation members, a woman dressed in blue, nods beside them. "I'll arrange tents for the Mother Confessor and her party."

"Tents?" Cara says, perking up at the prospect. "Excellent idea."

"For working," Kahlan says.

"Of course. You will do your duties," Cara says, quirking an eyebrow as she looks down the lacing of Kahlan's white dress, "and I will do mine."

Luckily, Cara's duties are highly flexible.

 

*

 

There is no place in the world like the People's Palace.

Cara walks down the halls of the Mord'Sith temple, turning left towards Lord Rahl's private towers. Her braid feels heavy on her back, leather tightly secured around her body. She lets one hand rest on her hip, so that her agiel brushes against her little finger with every step.

For a moment it seems like there should be two of them, two agiels strapped to her thigh, ready to be used. But no Mord'Sith uses two. There are traditions, and such a thing is not done.

Another hallway, and then Triana is walking beside her.

Darken Rahl has sent for them, of course, that is why they head toward his chambers.

"Did you kill the Confessor?" Triana asks.

"Of course," Cara says, keeping her voice calm, even though she is unsure why Triana would need to ask. When Cara is sent to kill someone, she does not return until it's done.

Triana stops walking then, and Cara turns around, quirking her eyebrow in a silent question. It's always been Triana's problem, that she lets her thoughts show all over her face, visible to anyone, and now it speaks of something most unnatural to a Mord'Sith: concern.

Long, black hair fall freely over her shoulders, and Cara notes idly that Triana must have forgotten to braid her hair. Briefly, Cara finds herself wanting to bury her face in it.

"She confessed you," Triana says.

In the blink of an eye, Cara lashes out, the back of her hand sweeping across Triana's face. "I should have you on your knees for that."

Wiping blood from her mouth, Triana looks at her, dark eyes defiant, as always.

Cara smirks. "I can think of many services for you to perform on your knees that puts your sharp tongue to better use."

But Triana does not respond like she should, with subservience or with her agiel. Instead, she just keeps looking at Cara, licking her split lip, and when she speaks, there's an accusatory tone in her voice. "Why would you let her do that to you?"

"It's not my fault," Cara says, cringing at how childish and whiny her voice sounds. "It's her fault." Vaguely, she remembers feeling Triana grip her braid, pulling her head up hard, as the dagger cuts through her hair. "And your fault. And the Wizard's and Lord Rahl's fault. Not mine."

Cara grabs the reins of her horse and pulls him out of the encampment, anger coiling tightly in her chest. "But most of all it's Kahlan's fault."

The horse makes a snorting noise of agreement, and then they stop in front of Richard, who looks up at them curiously. He barks happily, tail wagging as he runs around her legs, an excited blur of brown, fuzzy fur.

"Lord Rahl..." Cara says, rolling her eyes, nudging him away with her foot, which only makes him bite down on her boot. "If you ruin my boots, the money for new ones will come out of your pocket."

Cara wakes abruptly, heart pounding. She dreams only rarely, and it's not an experience she particularly enjoys.

"Are you awake?" Kahlan asks behind her, and when Cara turns her head, she sees that Kahlan is lying, propped up on one elbow, watching her with an expression on her face that could best be described as amused.

Feeling suddenly exposed, as if Kahlan could peer inside her dream, Cara slides out of bed before Kahlan can protest.

"You were dreaming," Kahlan says, as Cara washes off quickly with a wet cloth.

"I don't dream."

Kahlan giggles. "You said, 'sit, Richard' in your sleep."

That isn't something Cara deems worthy of a response.

Later, she dresses Kahlan, like a Mord'Sith would. Standing behind her, she closes her eyes as she ties her corset. "When will Richard come to Aydindril?"

"Soon, I imagine. When he's able to."

It's been more than half a year since Cara saw Richard last, not counting the occasional Journey Book conversation. It seems far too long, but then, Richard visiting Aydindril brings its own slew of issues. Kahlan and Richard's marriage is not Cara's concern, of course, but she's become used to sleeping where she does. It's convenient and practical, that's all.

"Do you intend for me to sleep elsewhere when Richard is in Aydindril?" she asks, and perhaps it comes out sounding a little defiant.

Kahlan turns around at that, looking perplexed, as if the idea hadn't occurred to her before. "Only if you want to." She pauses. "Cara, Richard knows. I would never keep something like this from him."

"Good."

"He's... he says he's pleased for me. For us. I..." Kahlan stops, hesitating, as if unsure, and then she smiles, secretive and shy.

Cara finds it hard to look away, because Kahlan is eying her with a strange kind of intensity. It pulls on something in her chest, and suddenly she craves the familiar stone walls of a Mord'Sith temple, and to serve the Lord Rahl with her Sisters. "When Richard comes to Aydindril," she says, "I will go back with him to D'Hara, whether he wishes it or not."

Kahlan's smile falters, but her voice remains soft. "What would you do there?"

"Serve Richard. It's my purpose."

"The Mord'Sith have had to change, you know. You can go back to D'Hara, but it's not going to be like before."

The look on Kahlan's face is one that is far too close to pity for Cara's liking. When Kahlan goes to fetch her white dress and pulls it over her head, Cara crosses her arms, deliberately not helping her with the laces.

"And when yours and Richard's leniency leads to a war? Richard will need the Mord'Sith."

"There won't be a war," Kahlan says, and Cara can tell she's not as calm as she pretends to be. "There are other ways to solve this."

"Your ways are ineffective."

"Maybe they are, but if they prevent a war, I don't care."

Cara scoffs. "You'll compromise."

"Yes, I'll compromise. So will Richard." Kahlan takes a step towards the tent's exit, as if to leave, laces half-untied, but then she turns back, voice falling to an agitated whisper. "And you know why Richard didn't want you with him. Do you think I don't know that you asked him to torture you?"

It's the business of Lord Rahl and the Mord'Sith, not something that concerns Kahlan, but if she wants to know, Cara is not afraid to tell her. "If he is to rule D'Hara," shes says, "he needs to learn these skills."

"So you would give him pointers while hanging from the ceiling in chains?"

Unfolding her arms, Cara shrugs stiffly, eyes narrowing. "I am proficient in torture. Sometimes I think you forget."

"You know Richard. What did you think he would say?"

Cara clenches her jaw, saying nothing. For a few moments, the tent is quiet enough that Cara can hear a horse whinny outside of it, and a child laughing.

When Kahlan speaks, she is calm and collected again, clasping together her hands in front of herself. "It's not forever," she says, quietly. "He'll want you there, eventually. I've always known you wouldn't stay in Aydindril for very long."

"I belong by the side of Lord Rahl," Cara replies, after a few steadying breaths. "Aydindril is no place for a Mord'Sith. You must have realized this by now."

Kahlan closes the distance between them then, hands grasping at Cara's. It's dangerously close to a hug, but Cara remains still.

"You should be where you want to be," Kahlan says, and everything about it is far too tender. "I've enjoyed having you with me, though."

That makes Cara smirk, hips canting forward to meet Kahlan's. "Of course you have. I'm very pleasant company."

If Kahlan looks somewhat like she's suddenly holding back laughter, Cara decides to ignore it.

 

*

 

They breed cows in the north. A particular sort of cow with huge horns that could probably kill a person if it turned its head the wrong way. Or the right way, as it were. Cara is fairly certain that any such beast would have a healthy killer instinct, no matter how much people have tried to convince her of the animals' friendliness.

Having lived most of what life she can remember in Mord'Sith temples, Cara is not overly fond of spending unnecessary time outdoors. Traveling with Richard, Kahlan and Zedd back and forth across the world did nothing to change her mind on this matter.

Kahlan, though, seems to have an unnatural love of forests.

"You seem more at ease here than in Aydindril," she says, pulling Cara down to sit next to her on the grassy slope.

"My senses are probably dulled from boredom."

Kahlan laughs, as if she thinks Cara is joking. "I like it here," she says. "It's peaceful."

"I hate it."

"No, you don't." Kahlan bumps her shoulder against Cara's, still smiling.

"Yes, I do," Cara insists with a frown. "This place is even duller than Aydindril, which I didn't think possible."

Fingers caress Cara's brow, then, and continue to brush hair away from her face. Next, Kahlan leans over to kiss her, sweetly, on the lips. Cara's heart jumps in anticipation, and the corners of her lips quirk up. It's a warning Kahlan should recognize by now, but she still appears surprised when Cara, in one quick swoop, pins her down on her back.

"Is this what 'taking a walk' means, Kahlan?" Cara says, unable to stop herself from leering. "If you'd said so, I would have agreed the first time you asked."

They don't talk at all for a while after that. Not until Kahlan suddenly pushes at Cara's shoulder, laughing breathlessly. "I think we're being watched."

One quick glance to the side confirms the observation. In less than a heartbeat, Cara is on her feet, assuming a defensive stance, agiels aimed threateningly toward the creature.

It's one of the cow beasts, its horns casting a large shadow over Kahlan, while it stares at them and chews menacingly.

"Get back down here," Kahlan tells her. "She's just curious."

Cara risks a glance down at Kahlan, who is giving Cara her best pout. Cara almost forgets about the dangerous animal in front of her in favor of jumping on top of her. Almost. "I'm not turning my back on that thing."

Kahlan rolls her eyes, sighing dramatically as she gets to her feet. Looking at Cara, she puts her hands on her hips. She tilts her head, eyes narrowing, before she deftly starts undoing the laces over her breasts.

If she really thinks that Cara will fall for that, Kahlan is sorely mistaken.

Cara sheaths her agiels and, in one smooth move, bends down, grabbing a hold of Kahlan's thighs, flinging her up over her shoulder. Kahlan squeaks like a child. Without further ado, Cara starts walking.

"Cara, let me down!"

"Maybe later," Cara says. "I'm supposed to protect you from dangerous beasts."

"I'm the Mother Confessor, I order you to let me down!" Kahlan unsuccessfully attempts to kick her, squirming like a scared rabbit, but it's no use.

Keeping Kahlan's thighs in an iron grip, Cara snorts. "I'm Mord'Sith. You have no authority over me."

By the time she walks into the encampment, Kahlan has settled, probably with the realization that struggling will only lead to more attention. Cara smirks proudly and pats Kahlan's backside to signal her approval.

She can practically hear Kahlan's teeth grinding.

Once in their tent, Cara puts Kahlan down on the bed, crawling over her until they're pressed together from thighs to breasts. "Did I do something to upset you, Mother Confessor?" she asks, all innocence.

There's a stubborn set to Kahlan's jaw. "Do you really think I'll let you touch me after that?"

Cara presses her hips harder into Kahlan's, watching her eyelids flutter. "Yes."

"You do terrible things to my willpower."

 

*

 

It's almost summer when they come back to Aydindril, and while Kahlan is happy to be home, Cara sobers somewhat at the sight of the Palace.

Lord Rahl's visit has been further delayed - perhaps in the fall, he says - and Cara finds herself itching for something to kill. She sneaks out of Kahlan's bed early one morning for a hunt, hand stroking her bow as she makes her way out of the city. She brings a deer back to the Palace kitchens, and feels much better for it.

In fact, she's in quite a good mood when she slinks back into bed, body still humming from the chase. She's just settled when she feels Kahlan move in close behind her, breath hot on her neck. "Where did you go?"

"Maybe I had important business to attend to."

"Is that so?" Kahlan slings her leg over Cara's, under the covers, hand down her stomach. Cara catches Kahlan's hand before it can reach any further, putting it back on Kahlan's leg.

"It is," she says. "And now I'm tired."

Kahlan snorts against her shoulder, hand wandering over Cara's waist again. "You're never tired."

That is probably true, at least it would be a grave exhaustion indeed that would make Cara too tired for this. But Kahlan is not the only one who can play coy. "You are spoiled, Mother Confessor," she says. "My services are not available right now."

When Kahlan's hand stills over her hip, as if she really intends to stop, Cara sighs loudly. "I might change my mind if you ask nicely. Say, 'please, Mistress Cara. I ache for the slightest touch from your hands'."

Kahlan has a minor laughing fit behind her, more so than what seems reasonable. It's not that funny; people have begged on their bare knees for Cara's touch in the past, more than once. She is about to say so, when Kahlan leans closer, whispering the words against her ear.

Of course, Kahlan is spoiled, and Cara does not think she's ever had to beg for anything before. It sounds more like a demand than anything else, but Cara finds she doesn't mind very much at all.

Maybe it is the months away from Aydindril that has made Cara lax, or maybe it is the fact that she has grown more and more careless and bold. She buries her face between Kahlan's legs, skillfully teasing her until Kahlan is practically keening, and ignores the way Kahlan tugs at her hair. She has every intention of pulling away, of course, it's just that Kahlan is always so needlessly careful.

It takes her by surprise to feel the Confessor magic pour into her. She's light-headed when it's over, because she's never had so much of their skin touching when Kahlan's powers are released. Resting her head against Kahlan's thigh, she tries to regain her equilibrium, before looking up.

Kahlan is staring.

Unsure of what to do, Cara remains still, saying nothing.

When Kahlan speaks, it sounds unnaturally loud in the silence. "How long have you known about this?" she asks, and Cara doesn't know what to make of the sharp edge in her voice.

If she could take it back, she would. Instead, she gets out of bed, finding her leathers and sliding them on quickly, effortlessly, like she's done a million times before. If her fingers feel clumsy, she does not let it show.

"It didn't seem important," Cara says finally, pulling one of her boots on with a snap.

Kahlan has sat up now, clutching the covers to her chest, dark hair spilling over her shoulders. "When I was in the Con Dar... before we sealed the Veil. I think I tried to confess you, and I couldn't."

Cara doesn't know why something like that would possibly matter right then. She crosses her arms as she looks at Kahlan. "There are many forms of magic stronger than Confession."

"Really?" Kahlan is starting to look quite angry, which makes no sense at all. "Tell me what sort of powerful magic is responsible then."

Cara frowns, because between Kahlan and Alferon, it seems like everyone's determined to undermine her good reasoning. This is exactly why she didn't want Kahlan to know. "Do not make something out of this that it isn't," Cara warns.

Kahlan runs a hand through her hair, all frustrated tension. "I don't even care why." She huffs out a breath, jaw clenching. "But it would have been nice to know that I don't have to worry all the time about killing you."

Cara meets her gaze, eyes narrowing. "You mistake me for someone who wants to indulge in talking about things that don't matter. You were right about one thing, though." She raises her chin, looking down on Kahlan. "You don't need more guards."

 

*

 

Nothing lasts. If there is one thing Cara has learned, it's that.

In retrospect, traveling with Richard, Zedd and Kahlan had been... a comfortable living. If walking criss-cross around the Midlands and D'Hara and back could really be called comfortable. Staying at the Confessor's Palace with Kahlan had also entailed a certain amount of comfort. Maybe that was her mistake, thinking of comfort as something suitable for a Mord'Sith. Not so long ago she would have scoffed at the idea, and she would have been right.

She has not accumulated much during her stay in Aydindril, and what little there is might as well be thrown out for all she cares. Her agiels and her leathers are the only things she needs, and she would never go anywhere without them. Leaving the Mother Confessor's chambers, she has no set plan, simply walking the same route she had taken earlier in the morning. It leads her through the courtyard, past the kitchens, and outside the Palace, to the Home Guard's training area.

Several soldiers are sparring with blunted swords and shields, and Cara finds herself slowing her steps. A man Cara recognizes as Captain Higgs stands by the side of the area, and she joins him. "Are these new recruits?"

"Hardly," he says with a laugh. "They are well-versed with sword and shield."

Cara nods. "Of course. It was their general incompetence that fooled me."

Higgs stares at her and gapes, mouth working without sound. It makes him look somewhat like a fish.

"Why are there no women in the Home Guard?" By his continuing silence, Cara is fairly certain his only response would have been an unsatisfactory one. "If there is a war, would it not be practical to use all available resources? Not just the ones without breasts."

The Captain squirms before her, again failing to offer a reply. But in the end, it's not her problem. Aydindril can fend for itself; there are other places she needs to be.

She casts one last glance over her shoulder as she leaves, witnessing, in the corner of her eye, one of the soldiers moving in a way that nearly has him impaling himself on his own sword.

With a long-suffering sigh, Cara turns around.

 

*

 

It's getting dark outside when Cara returns to the Palace. She has to search through Kahlan's chambers before finding her in the study, a feather pen in one hand and a fork in the other. There's a meal on a tray on her desk, and a rather frightening pile of documents next to it. Her mouth falls open in surprise when Cara enters, striding up to the desk and leaning over it, snatching a piece of bread from the tray.

"The Palace security is pathetic, and your Home Guard is useless," Cara says. "I'm going to make them better." When Kahlan says nothing, Cara continues, "While I do that, I'm going to be staying here. It's closer than the inn."

Silence breeds tension; Cara reaches stiffly for a grape from Kahlan's tray. "And I fired Captain Higgs."

"That's..." Kahlan shakes her head, brought out of her stupor. "You can't do that."

"He said that too, at first, but he changed his mind after I explained it to him."

"I thought you'd left," Kahlan says, and there is hurt and something akin to a challenge in her voice.

Cara rolls her eyes, shifts, and crosses her arms. "I'll wait for Lord Rahl to return."

It looks like Kahlan wants to say something more, but Cara takes advantage of the silence that follows the lapse in conversation, and leaves.

Her old room in the Palace is still there, and if she is no longer the Mother Confessor's personal guard, it seems like the best option.

 

*

 

It's a week before she sees Kahlan again. She spends the days with the Home Guard, and the nights in her room, even though the bed there is too soft and the discomfort makes her moody.

There's a knock on the door one night, and then Kahlan lets herself in. Cara falls back on the pillows when she sees who it is, eying Kahlan from the bed. A few quick steps, and then Kahlan slips under the covers beside her. "I can't sleep," she says tersely. "I'm too used to your breathing."

"Fine. Stay if you want." Cara rolls over so that her back is turned to Kahlan, as usual. She can practically feel Kahlan staring at her back.

"You are the most stubborn person I know," Kahlan says in a half-whisper. "And that's not a compliment."

"Is that the reason you're here, Mother Confessor? To insult me?"

"No, it's because I can't sleep without you, and I need my sleep. I'm sorry if it makes you uncomfortable that people might need you for something other than killing."

"Not at all," Cara replies. "Enjoy my breathing as much as you want."

Kahlan doesn't say anything more, but she's not falling asleep either. Cara can tell from her breaths that she's not even relaxing, and the silence becomes rather thick. It's not Cara's fault - Kahlan is the one who chose to come - but even so, there's something in the pit of her stomach that lesser people might call guilt.

There are many things that Kahlan wants, and Cara is woefully unequipped to give her most of them. Even the things she can provide never seem to come easy. "Are you..." Cara starts, unsure of how to proceed. "...cold?"

"Cold?" Kahlan asks, confusion evident in her voice.

"Never mind," Cara says quickly. "Just sleep."

There's a pause before Kahlan speaks. "I might be, a little."

Cara rolls around, eying Kahlan, who looks back at her with a serious expression on her face. "Turn around," Cara says, and Kahlan complies. Placing her arm around Kahlan's waist, Cara pulls them closer together.

"I'm still angry at you," Kahlan says, even though she doesn't sound particularly like it at all.

Cara tightens her arm around her, reminding her who has the upper hand in their current positions. "Is that meant to scare me? You didn't bring your daggers and you can't even confess me."

When Kahlan stiffens in her arms, Cara knows that the implication of the words is not lost on her. It is more than Cara wants to admit, even to herself, but she is Mord'Sith. She will face this battle, like any other, without hesitation.

"How unfortunate for me," Kahlan murmurs.

"Very."

Kahlan is silent for a few moments. "That must be some very strong magic," she says quietly then, and there is something slightly breathless to her voice. "If it protects you from Confession."

"Never underestimate the strength of a Mord'Sith's constitution," Cara replies, lowering her voice as she continues. "People rarely stay alive long enough to regret such a mistake."

That makes Kahlan snort into the pillow.

It's probably a bad sign that Kahlan always seems so very amused by the things Cara says and does. Once upon a time, Kahlan had slept with daggers in her hands, and Cara had put her bedroll close, just for the pleasure of provoking Kahlan's anger.

It's only because Kahlan can't see it that Cara allows herself a small smile.