Unguarded Moment

Sometimes it just all felt like too much. There were times that he could still feel an echo of pain from the wizard headaches. There were times he could feel the burn of the hand print marked on his chest. There were times he felt the pain of the Agiel searing his nerves. There were times he felt the pain of the knife that killed him slicing through his chest.

Richard sat away from the fire with his back against a tree and his eyes closed. He focused on taking deep even breathes. An exercise to steady his thoughts. It worked when he could concentrate. It worked when he wasn't thinking about Kahlen. When he wasn't thinking about the taste and touch of her. When he wasn't recalling just how violated he felt after waking up from being confessed by another Confessor.

Leaves crunched under the soft step of one coming near. He expected Kahlan, but it was Cara.

"You are unwell." She stated, not bothering to ask a question she already knew the answer to. "I will take your watch tonight; you are no good to us ill from exhaustion."

"Thank you." From the way her eyes opened slightly wider upon his acceptance, he knew he'd made a mistake about agreeing so readily. Before he could stop her, she reached out and placed her hand on his forehead.

"You have a fever." She regarded him again, too closely.

"I'm fine."

"What are you feeling?"

He knew she would leave him alone if he refused to answer, but this was Cara, and he knew only too well that her rare moments of compassion meant more than just a simple gesture of goodwill.

"I'm reminiscing," he started carefully.

"But the past is done. It is a weakness to dwell on what can not be changed, it is only important to move forward."

Richard nodded. "I know."

Cara frowned, unsure whether her inquires were too intrusive or not. It wasn't something she was used to considering, but this was a unique situation. Richard looked vulnerable and she had no desire to exploit his apparent weakness.

"Quests do not last forever." It wasn't so much a comforting statement, but she wasn't really good at that. It was pragmatic and that was the best she could do.

"Neither will I."

"Do you foresee your death? I am here to protect you."

"I don't foresee anything. I'm just tired."

"Then you should sleep." Cara stood up, and looked down at him searchingly. "There are few men who survive what you have suffered. There are even fewer who possess the strength of character to retain their soul after."

Richard stared down into the dirt while she spoke. Her words expressed his greatest fear.

Cara continued, "And when you find your strength tested, then I, and Zed, and Kahlan are here. Each of us will be as strong as we need to be to make you strong enough."

"Thank you."

Cara nodded her acceptance of his thanks. "You are not alone, Richard."