Title: Beautiful Agony

Pairing: Cara/Kahlan

Rating: NC-17 (yes! I finally wrote smut…sort of)

Disclaimer: I do not own or have any official association with Legend of the Seeker

Summary: Another continuation of an episode. This one for 2x17 "Vengeance"

A/N: Angst alert people!! No one dies, but this isn't really happy. Also, I tried to do something clever with the last scenes as far as getting into Cara's head, and I may have failed. This was written after a truly weird and long day and I'm a little strung out (though only from stress, not from fun sillegal/s things) so I apologize.

Cara is intimately familiar with pain.

She understands its purpose and nature; has detailed knowledge of the infinite variations in intensity and type and duration; is highly skilled in its application. And she understands, perhaps more than any but another Sister of the Agiel, just how indistinct the line between pain and pleasure truly is.

It is more than mere knowledge however. The source of all Mord'Sith's power is pain. They are taught from the first moment to accept it, to use it, to embrace it. Pain isn't just familiar to Cara, it is a part of her, of who she is. She feels it like some people feel the air in their lungs – as a sign that she is alive.

And because of this, because she understands her relationship with pain, there is a significant part of the blonde woman that wonders if the reason that she has come to feel what she feels for the one person she can never have, is simply because it causes her the most pain.

She has no illusions about her body. She is desirable, at least, to those who don't fear her. She can have nearly anyone. She could have Richard with the crook of a finger, though he would feel guilty and torn and stupidly noble and conflicted about it. She could certainly have Zedd, though the thought is ludicrous enough to make her lips twitch in amusement.

But the one person she can no longer pretend she doesn't ache for will never be hers.

It is not simply Kahlan's obvious feelings for Richard, it is that should the Confessor ever truly let go, Cara's life would be the price. And though Kahlan might once have jumped at the change to kill her, Cara knows now the toll is far too high for the other woman to pay.

So she keeps her distance, and her pain to herself.

Hard won self-discipline makes it possible. Nothing makes it easy.

With each mile that passes beneath their feet, Cara finds herself making little mistakes: A word, a gesture, a touch, an awareness of the other woman, a desire to put Kahlan's needs before her own. Like tiny flowers whose roots struggle through the tightest stone walls, what Cara feels erodes the armor around her heart.

And each time a piece is loosened, it hurts a little more.

In a bitter twist of irony, it is combat that has become the most painful.

Or rather, not the fighting itself, but the aftermath.

Cara is a Mord'Sith, trained to combat from childhood. She is a weapon who comes alive in the struggle against her enemies. She has always loved fighting.

Nothing however, in all her training or her time in the service of the former Lord Rahl could prepare her for the experience of fighting at Kahlan's side.

Even from the beginning they communicated well, but the synergy they share in battle has become almost a living thing, and it fills Cara with an indescribable joy…and an equally inescapable longing.

This time is no different.

The Sister's battle cries cut through the thick emotion stagnating the air around their group. Cara almost thanks the Creator as she glances at Kahlan and draws her Agiels.

Her heart pounds, pulse singing in her ears as the familiar rush of adrenaline sizzles in her blood. And always, even when she can't see her, Cara is aware of Kahlan. They move together like they are merely two halves of one being: Twisting, blocking, striking…killing. Here neither woman need hold back, and there is a terrible, wonderful freedom that only exists in these fleeting moments of struggle between life and death.

If it were only Cara that felt the joy and hunger, she might be able to control herself better. She might be able to bury these feelings that surge in her chest when she finally lowers her guard and find's Kahlan's gaze, the two of them breathing heavily and grinning wildly, if only for a moment. But it is not just her. The smaller woman can see it in Kahlan's eyes as they guard each other: The same hunger, the same need for release.

Fighting with Kahlan isn't merely exciting or exhilarating, it is arousing. Sometimes painfully so, as it awakens not just Cara's body, but her treacherous heart as well.

Most of the time she can force her body to obey her, calming her racing pulse and turning back the tide of desire in her blood.

Sometimes she can't.

Those are the nights when she slips away from the others and into the woods to take her own relief. Alone in the darkness, she could close her eyes and pretend, but she won't. Cara never allows herself even the fleeting illusion of fantasy, and as she slides her fingers into her own slick heat, she savors the phantom pain deep in her heart.

Sometimes however, she is weak. Sometimes, as her release washes over her, her eyes fall closed and she whispers Kahlan's name.

It seems to take a ridiculous amount of time to build a pyre for the former Panis Rahl and make a plan to track the Sister with the scroll. Part of Cara understands that this is necessary. A part of her still doesn't care. She is too on edge. The sight of the Dark Sister raising her arm to throw the dakra at Kahlan's unprotected back still flashes in her mind, as does the look on the Confessor's face as she sends her daggers flashing past Cara's shoulders to take down the enemy trying to surprise her. In that moment - that one instant - it was as if the world dropped away and there was only the two of them, only Cara and Kahlan.

And then the instant passed and the fight moved on.

"I'll take first watch," Zedd offers when they finally bed down for the night. The others nod and settle down.

"I'm going hunting," Cara states. Zedd looks like he might say something, but whatever he sees in her face stills the words on his tongue and he just nods.

The moon is bright, and it is easy to find her way through the woods. The night air is cool and clear, and Cara breathes deeply. In the silence of the forest, the thought of simply continuing, of just walking away crosses her mind: Away from Richard, away from this ridiculous quest, away from Zedd and his ill advised faith in Richard and said quest, but most of all, away from Kahlan. Away from her gentle, bright smile and strength that goes far deeper than most will ever see, away from her knowing eyes the color of glacial pools, away from her tender, fleeting touches. Away from the pain.

The thought of leaving however, of never seeing that smile, or never feeling Kahlan's hand on hers again, hurts enough to drive the breath from her lungs and Cara nearly stumbles, going to her knees in a tiny clearing.

She has her answer. After all, who better to live with pain than a Mord' Sith?

Under the gentle moonlight the blonde woman peels her gloves away, dropping them to the side and unhooking her belt. There is no care to the motions, only efficiency. Tonight is no different than any of those that preceded it, and Cara keeps her eyes open, staring into the deep shadows beneath the trees as she unzips her leathers.

She gets no farther.

The sound of quiet, familiar footsteps stills her hand and she tenses. Cara can sense that she is no longer alone, but the other makes no sound behind her.

For a long moment, there is only silence, and then the kneeling woman feels the air shift, and the sound of fabric rustling. Cara is intensely aware of everything around her – from the say the pine needles crunch under knees to the rustle of the breeze high in the trees - for a moment, nerves strung wire tight, and then gentle hands settle on leather covered shoulders, and a form she would know anywhere presses against her back. The Mord'Sith nearly gasps as lean, booted thighs rest against her own, mirroring her kneeling position and surrounding her. Dark hair falls over her shoulder and Cara has to stop herself from reaching up to run her fingers through it.

"Close your eyes," comes the gentle whisper.

A retort is on Cara's tongue, but something stops her.

"Close your eyes…please." This time Cara hears the plea beneath the soft command, and she understands. Without sight this can all be fantasy – a dream – it can be a moment that doesn't exist. .

She should say no. She should stand up and leave what is being offered, because she knows there will be a price.

She doesn't resist.

With a soft sigh, Cara closes her eyes, letting her body relax into the gentle hold of her unseen companion. Willowy arms wrap around her and her head is guided to rest on a strong shoulder.

In her mind's eye Cara can see the two of them kneeling in the moonlit clearing. So close that not even shadows can separate them, Kahlan's arms around her and her own pale hair spilling across the taller woman's shoulder.

And then those elegant hands begin to touch her, and the Mord'Sith is no longer able to concentrate.

Cara has always been an aggressive lover and demanded the same in kind. Her training, her power, all have left her unmoved except by the sharper edges of pleasure. She has never understood other's desire for tenderness.

She begins to understand it now.

The touch that moves over her is achingly gentle, her body not taken but explored, revered and discovered, until she is left gasping and craving more. Though still partially separated by her leathers, Cara can feel that tender, burning touch as it traces along her thighs and up her hips, over her ribs, before slipping beneath the clothing to cup her breasts. She moans softly, arching into sure, knowing hands as the want becomes nearly unbearable.

Just when she thinks she can't take any more, the touch moves again, and Cara nearly cries out as Kahlan finally slips inside her.

Pleasure that should be impossible from so gentle a possession builds from the movement of the other woman's hand, until - held tightly against her unseen lover and eyes still shut - Cara's release breaks over her. It seems to last for an eternity, and yet not nearly long enough. Those skilled fingers continue to move inside her, drawing it out, until she sags, breathing raggedly.

Softly, the hand slips away. For a moment there is stillness, and then her lover shifts and Cara's head is cradled and tilted. Lips, soft and full press against hers and the blonde woman tastes herself on them. The kiss is slow and deep, and not nearly enough. Cara wants more. She wants to drink the other woman down, to feel her skin under her hands, to know the sound of her voice in passion, to see….

To see her.

As if hearing what the blonde is thinking, a finger is pressed to Cara's lips, and then lips are pressed to her brow and the Mord'Sith feels the wetness of a tear that doesn't belong to her on her face.

And then Cara is left alone.

Body pulsing in the aftermath of pleasure with her muscles languid and weak, the kneeling woman waits for a long time to open her eyes, unwilling to let go of the image of herself in Kahlan's arms.

It is the pain that forces her hand.

Familiar and sharp, it gouges her heart, and with the strength of long practice, Cara embraces it.

As she opens her eyes and straightens her clothing however, she whispers Kahlan's name into the night.