You've Been Served

Richard gratefully swung out of his saddle, rubbing his posterior as he led the horse to the inn's stable.

He had stayed out far longer than the others, leading a group of village men to be certain that all the shadrin had been eliminated. No more children would go missing from this village.

All he wanted now was sleep. And a bath.

At this point he wasn't picky what order they came in.

Zedd was already in the room he had gotten to himself. Richard could hear him snoring in the hallway. (That was why he always got his own room.)

He assumed Kahlan and Cara were sharing a room, and made his way down the hall to the one that had been marked out for him.

He opened the door to find an ethereal display of candles. Cara was kneeling in the center of the room.

"Lord Rahl," she said.

She was wearing nothing but a strip of black leather around her hips.

He blushed from the soles of his feet to the roots of his hair and turned his back to her.

"Cara," he squeaked, trying to sound natural, "what's going on?"

"I am here to serve you. I've drawn you a bath."

"I-uh...Thanks, Cara."

He tried to figure out how to get to the alcove with the bathing tub without turning around. Maybe if he walked on the bed?

He jerked when Cara's hands worked the buckle of his sword belt. He hadn't heard her move. He laughed nervously as he wriggled from her grasp, trying very hard not to think about what she was wearing.

Wasn't.

Dammit.

He made a move for the bath, walking quickly to avoid looking at Cara. He jumped into the tub with his clothes on. They needed washing anyway.

Cara made no comment. She simply followed him to the tub, and poured a nice smelling unguent into her palm.

By the Spirits, she was going to wash his hair for him.

"That's alright," he said quickly, trying to make a joke out of it, "I've got it under control. Been doing it myself for a while."

He looked up at her, smiling his most winsome smile, and promptly shut his eyes.

"My body displeases you."

"No, no!" He gestured his denial with his hands, thought better of it, and sat on them. "It's..uh.. you're.. very nice.. that is... Cara, why are you doing this?"

"It is a Mord'Sith's duty to serve Lord Rahl in every way. An honor," she said proudly. He bet she had lifted her chin up defiantly. She usually did that when she boasted about the Mord'Sith.

"Did you do this... for him?" He was serious now.

Cara sounded troubled, "I thought..."

He was getting ready to apologize when she spoke again, sounding like her usual no nonsense self.

"How may I serve you, my lord?"

"Honestly Cara, I just want some sleep."

Things were quiet for a moment, and Richard had dared to hope that she had left him alone when a fluffy drying cloth was rubbed against his face. He lifted a hand to take it.

"There is a robe draped on the bed for you."

His door opened and shut.

Richard was in the robe and blowing out the remaining candles when he heard a soft scraping in the hallway.

He got the Sword of Truth and eased the door open a crack, only to find Cara in full Mord'Sith regalia stretched out in front of his door. He wondered if speed buckling was part of Mord'Sith training. In and out of the leather in less than five minutes or we put more rats in your cell.

"What are you doing now, Cara?"

"I will protect you in the night," the look of determination on her face dared him to challenge her execution of her duty.

"You don't have to lay in the hallway. You can protect me from the bedroom."

She rolled to her feet and pushed past him into the room beyond. Richard muttered to himself, "I meant your bedroom."

Cara stood looking at him, awaiting orders.

He sighed. "Just get in the bed. Let's go to sleep."

She insisted on being between him and the door. He pulled her awkwardly into his arms, mirroring the position they had once huddled in for warmth.

"Let's not make a habit of this, alright?"

"Yes, Richard."

A pause.

"And don't tell Kahlan."

"So long as you never make me watch village children again without my Agiel."

"Deal."