Disclaimer: I don't own Legend of the Seeker. If I did, there would DEFINITELY be a third season!!
Author's Note: This is a short(ish) piece set right after Extinction. Thanks to Ginnia for helping me figure out what was missing. The conversation near the end has been tweaked a bit, and I like it much better this way. :)
Only a Little
After Cara found Kahlan, they traveled for most of the day. They made good time, but Kahlan couldn't help but notice that Cara was going slower than usual. The Mord'Sith never said anything, but Kahlan could tell by her actions that she was thinking about Kahlan's ankle. She held out her hand to help the Mother Confessor over fallen trees or up small hills. She made a point of choosing the smoothest route, even if it wasn't the shortest. She kept the pace brisk but not fast, and offered Kahlan several chances to stop and rest. Kahlan turned down all but one, trying to ignore the pain in her ankle and move as quickly as she could. By the time the sun neared the horizon, however, she was having to grit her teeth to keep from crying out at every step. She never said a word, but she could tell by Cara's constant backward glances that the Mord'Sith was fully aware of her pain.
About an hour before sunset they came to a tiny clearing in the trees and Cara dropped her pack in the short grass.
"We'll make camp here," she said.
"There's at least an hour of daylight left," Kahlan said, leaning against a tree and rubbing her ankle. "Maybe more."
"There may not be another good place to stop," Cara countered.
"We've already lost time because of me," Kahlan said. "We should keep going as long as we can." Cara crossed her arms and gave Kahlan one of her classic stubborn-Mord'Sith looks.
"I ran all night and most of the day to get the night wisp to the birthing ground," she said stubbornly. "I'm tired. We won't cover any ground tomorrow if my legs can't move." Kahlan gave her a wry grin and stood up.
"We need to keep moving," she said, also stubborn. She took a step and forced herself not to wince at the pain that shot up her leg. "I'll be fine."
"Who said this was about you?" Cara said, her face expressionless. She turned and headed off into the trees. "Get a fire going. I'll find some dinner."
Kahlan smiled and watched her go. Cara could be so funny sometimes.
x x x
The sun had finally set when Cara returned with two rabbits in tow. They were large enough for the two of them, but still smaller than what Cara usually brought back. Kahlan knew the Mord'Sith had decided to return to camp and make sure Kahlan was alright rather than spending more time trying to find what she deemed to be more suitable game. She skewered the rabbits without a word and hung them over the fire. They said very little while the meat cooked or while they ate. Kahlan was tired and Cara seemed to be lost in thought. Once the food was gone they sat together in silence for some time. Kahlan was busy thinking about Richard and Rahl. Zedd and Renn had probably found them by now. If they caught up in time she might be able to see him. In the short time he had traveled with them, she and Richard had come to care about Renn a great deal. They hadn't had time to make it back to Thandor since leaving him there almost a year before. It would be good to see him again.
At some point she looked up to see that Cara was staring into the fire with a smile on her face. Kahlan tilted her head and a smile crept across her own face. As if sensing her gaze, Cara looked up and the smile quickly wiped off her face.
"You were smiling," Kahlan said, a smile still on her own face.
"So?" Cara said, trying to act as if she failed to see the point.
"I like your smile," Kahlan said. "I don't see it very often." Cara looked back into the fire, avoiding Kahlan's gaze.
"You know," Kahlan said still smiling, "you look really pretty when you smile." Cara risked a glance up, obviously not quite sure what to do with this compliment. She looked over at Kahlan's ankle, which the Mother Confessor had unwrapped so it could breathe.
"You should rewrap that before it swells more," Cara said matter-of-factly.
Kahlan almost laughed at her friend's not-so-skillful change of subject. Instead she picked up the bandage and began to carefully rewrap her ankle. Cara watched intently, her face emotionless but her concern showing through in her need to be sure Kahlan wrapped the ankle correctly. When the Mother Confessor was finished, Cara turned back to the fire. For another moment they were silent. Then another hint of a smile crept into Cara's eyes.
"What was it like?" Kahlan asked, knowing what Cara was thinking about and enjoying the fact that her friend was once again smiling.
"Beautiful," Cara said, looking up with another smile and her eyes full of emotion. "I thought I was too late. And then there were so many of them, so many little blue lights everywhere…" Her eyes got just a bit wet as she remembered. "It was beautiful." Her eyes seemed to refocus on Kahlan. "They knew my voice. They were all talking to me and saying thank-you…"
Kahlan smiled, both at the image Cara had painted and at the happiness on her friend's face. She hadn't seen Cara look this happy since before Leo died. It warmed her heart.
"So what did you two talk about the whole time?" Kahlan asked, a joking gleam in her eye. Cara's smile disappeared and her face was carefully emotionless.
"Nothing of consequence."
"You spent an entire day chatting with a night wisp?" Kahlan asked, obviously not buying it. Cara looked slightly uncomfortable.
"She did most of the talking," she said, trying to act grumpy. "It was annoying."
"You liked her that much?" Kahlan asked with a smile. Cara rolled her eyes in annoyance.
"She wasn't as bad as you," she said. Kahlan smiled and stopped teasing. Cara turned her gaze back to the fire. Kahlan looked up at the stars overhead and sighed.
"They're so beautiful," she said. Cara looked up and was once again reminded of the baby night wisps flying around the grove. Once more the spark of a smile entered her eyes.
"I wish I had been there," Kahlan said softly. Cara nodded. "I wanted to thank-you for making sure she got there in time." Cara shrugged.
"It wasn't that bad. I'm used to moving fast. But she did get annoying," she added, quickly making an attempt to salvage her dignity. "She kept asking questions."
"She was very curious," Kahlan agreed. "She wanted to know all about me and Richard and why we couldn't be together." She paused. "What did she ask you?"
Cara suddenly looked uncomfortable.
"She… wanted to know about you and Zedd and Richard. She seemed to think I have feelings for you. I told her it was absurd," she added quickly, looking up to be sure Kahlan had heard. "And she also seemed to think that you care for me."
"What did you say?" Kahlan asked, watching Cara carefully.
"I assured her you only keep me around because I'm useful," Cara said, refusing to meet Kahlan's eyes.
"Do you really think that?" Kahlan asked. Her eyes were full of incredulity. Cara wouldn't meet her eyes. "Cara, I know you're used to being just a tool, but Richard and Zedd and I don't see you that way. We care about you. Aside from Dennee and the other Confessors, you're the closest friend I've ever had. Your friendship means a lot to me. And so do you." Cara looked up, surprised by Kahlan's words. Then she looked away again.
"You should get some rest," she said finally. "We have a long way to go tomorrow."
They put the fire out, and then both lay down and stared up at the stars. Cara had resolved to stay awake all night and keep watch, but she knew Kahlan wouldn't sleep unless she thought the Mord'Sith would also get some rest. For a long time they stared silently at the stars. Finally Kahlan broke the silence.
"Cara? Can I ask you something?" When she got no response, she decided to keep going. "When we were in the tomb, you were ready to kill yourself. Why?"
"Your life is more important," Cara said matter-of-factly.
"That's not true," Kahlan said, looking in Cara's direction. "Every human life is worth the same. None is more important than another."
"Except the Seeker's," Cara said, a bit sarcastically. "And the First Wizard's. And the Mother Confessor's."
"The prophecy says that as long as you live, the Keeper won't win."
"Since when do you believe in prophecy?" Kahlan asked, propping herself up on an elbow so she could see her friend.
"I don't. But your life is still more important than mine."
"Because you're the Mother Confessor." Cara was beginning to get agitated.
"Why does that matter?"
"Because. You help people."
"So do you. You've helped us save countless lives, including Richard's and Zedd's."
"Richard would be a wreck if anything happened to you."
"So you did it for Richard?"
"What are you trying to get me to say?" Cara asked, sitting up in frustration.
"I just want to know why you were ready to die even if you knew you wouldn't come back. You said yourself that you don't care, so why? Because you thought it was your duty?"
"Because I couldn't just sit there and watch you die!" Cara yelled. She met Kahlan's eyes and then abruptly looked away. "I couldn't…" She trailed off.
For Cara, the tomb was still a slightly painful memory for her. Lying there on the floor with her lungs screaming for air, she had felt completely helpless. Cara was a fighter. She was used to having an enemy and being able to fight them off. She was not used to being helpless. But what had unnerved her the most about those moments was what she had realized afterwards: that even scarier than being unable to fend off her own death was the knowledge that Kahlan was lying next to her dying and there was absolutely nothing she could do about it. For three nights afterwards Kahlan had tossed and turned in her sleep every night, her mind once more trapped in the tomb with no air. Every time it had taken Cara back and the fear had resurfaced. She wasn't used to caring about people so much. Maybe that was what really scared her the most.
"You know," Kahlan said softly, "that's why I wouldn't let you do it. Because I couldn't watch you die either."
Cara stared at her, disbelieving.
"I killed your sister," she reminded Kahlan roughly. "You tried to kill me for it!"
"That wasn't you," Kahlan said, almost as if explaining something to a child. "You've changed, Cara. You've proved that time and again. I didn't believe it at first, but when you asked Dennee for forgiveness, I knew you really were changed. That was when I started to forgive you. I can never forget what happened on Valeria, but you should know that I forgave you a long time ago. You're one of the closest friends I've ever had. I think of you almost as a sister. And I'm not going to let you die if I can help it. Never."
When she finished, Cara's eyes were wet. She didn't say anything, but it was written all over her face. That statement of forgiveness meant more to her than she could say. And what was more, she returned the feelings Kahlan had expressed. They were on the same side now, in this together. Somehow they had become sisters. And sisters had each other's backs, no matter what.
Cara looked away, overwhelmed by emotion. She lay back down, looking up at the stars and turning Kahlan's words over in her mind. After a moment Kahlan lay down as well. They were both quiet for a long time. After Kahlan was silent for some time, Cara began to think her friend had fallen asleep. She let out a small sigh. Then she began to talk quietly, her voice awkward and her sentence full of pauses, not quite sure how to say what she had finally decided to say.
"I… may have told the wisp… that... I care… About you… A little."
There was a long silence and Cara found herself hoping that maybe Kahlan was asleep already and hadn't heard her awkward confession. But then she heard a tiny contented sigh and knew Kahlan was smiling.
"I care about you too," the Mother Confessor said softly. "More than just a little."
She reached over and found Cara's hand and squeezed it. Cara squeezed back. She heard Kahlan exhale contentedly and shift around a bit, getting comfortable. A few moments later her breathing became lighter and Cara knew she had fallen asleep. Even so, she made no move to take her hand out of Kahlan's. She would never have admitted it, but it was nice to have that small degree of human contact. She shook her head. She was beginning to go soft and sentimental, just like Richard and Kahlan and Zedd. She would have to work on that. Darn wisp.
Knowing someone needed to stay awake and keep watch, Cara kept her eyes open, listening to Kahlan's rhythmic breathing beside her. She stared up at the star-spattered sky overhead and found herself once more reminded of a flood of young blue night wisps all swirling around her and chirping happily. It really had been beautiful...
For the third time that evening, Cara smiled. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to be just a little bit soft.
But only a little.
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