Title: Love Among the Ruins
Fandom: Legend of the Seeker
Disclaimer: I don't own them.
Summary: A look at how things might have gone if Kahlan had tried to confess Cara while in the grip of the Con Dar in "Tears".
Notes: Contains spoilers for 2x22 "Tears"
Cara's feet skidded in the dry earth beneath her as Kahlan's head whipped around to face her. The Confessor's eyes were dark as midnight and burning with anger as they locked on her. Kahlan's hand extended towards her and a small sound escaped Cara's throat as the hope that had been in her heart moments before died a sudden, painful death.
Nicci was dead but Kahlan was still confessed to her. It didn't make sense, but there was denying it.
Immediately Cara realized how exposed she was and stepped back, but even as she jerked backwards she knew her efforts were in vain. She could feel her skin tingling and her head felt light and hazy. It was magic, Confessor's magic and no matter how quickly she retreated it would soon leave her dead.
She should have been more cautious, Cara thought as she watched Kahlan lower the arm she had extended towards her. Zedd had been cautious, Cara realized as she heard the wizard approach her from behind. He was just now joining her outside of the shack where Nicci's body lay while Cara had rushed out. She had flown out of the door without a thought the moment she realized Nicci was dead because she was anxious to see Kahlan's clear blue eyes and gentle smile again.
She had reacted on pure emotion and it was going to kill her.
A heavy hand landed on Cara's shoulder, pulling her back into the shade of the shack behind them as the dark curtain of Kahlan's hair whipped around one last time and the Confessor took off into the desert.
Cara was still as Zedd's hand lay on her. She was waiting for the tears to come, and the regret. She braced herself for the agony of confession and wondered how long it would take for her to fall to her knees. It had seemed to take less than a second for Mistress Nathair to fall when Kahlan confessed her in Stowcroft, but ten or fifteen seconds had gone by since Kahlan's magic had touched her and Cara was still standing.
Blonde lashes fluttered as Cara blinked. A protective fog had come over her as she awaited death, but her mind slowly began to clear with each new breath she took. Her heart ached and screamed for Kahlan as she expected it would when under confession, but there was no physical pain, no agony, no regret and she was still on her feet.
It was curious, but before Cara could think on it she felt something being shoved into her hands and looked down.
It was her bow.
The familiar feel of the bow in her hands calmed and focused her and she turned to Zedd, ready to fight once more. He pointed in the direction Kahlan had ridden off in and Cara understood what he wanted her to do and immediately began to run in the direction Kahlan had gone clutching her bow tightly in her hand.
When she stopped and took her stance, the fog came over her again and the next couple minutes were somewhat of a blur.
Cara remembered lifting her bow and taking aim.
She remembered the way Kahlan's hair flowed in the wind and how she had thought about how soft Kahlan's hair had been the few times she had allowed her fingers to run through it.
She remembered worrying about hitting Kahlan in the neck or the head with her arrow, and she remembered the fear that gripped her heart at the thought.
There were some injuries that even the breath of life could not undo and at the distance she was, she was not certain that she wouldn't mortally wound Kahlan if she fired at her.
Cara remembered lowering her bow, and she remembered the way her gut twisted with relief and disgust as she watched as Kahlan's figure get swallowed up by the desert.
Cara put the mistakes she had made out of her head as she and Zedd made pursuit. She bundled up her feelings tightly and placed them in the small lock box in her heart where they had lived for most of her life and she focused the mission, as she had been trained to do. She rode, and she listened and she watched, a competent warrior once more, and if her heart spiked when she heard Kahlan calling her name from over Richard's prone body long hours after the Mother Confessor had disappeared into the dunes, Cara told herself that it was perfectly acceptable concern for the life of Lord Rahl that caused it, not happiness that Kahlan was once again Kahlan.
It was only as she gazed up at the newly clear sky and felt the warm rays of the sun beating down on her from above the Pillars of Creation that Cara allowed herself to think and wonder how it was that Kahlan's magic could touch her but not kill her.
She knew that a Confessor's magic killed Mord'Sith because their power came from hate. Their hearts were dark and angry which made them unable to accept the pure love of confession.
By rights she should have been dead, but as much as it pained her to think it, Cara knew that she was no longer pure Mord'Sith. She felt now, and while she did not like to dwell on her emotions she no longer denied their existence to herself and she didn't want to permanently lock them away, though she did sometimes suppress them out of necessity.
However, even if her feelings were enough for confession not to kill her, it still did not explain why she was still herself instead of Kahlan's slave.
It was true that when she looked at Kahlan, when she thought of Kahlan a warm feeling traveled through Cara's body. She thought of Kahlan often and she liked to please the Confessor, though she felt no compulsion to. She felt proud when she was able to make Kahlan smile, and though she did not often initiate physical contact she enjoyed it when Kahlan did and sometimes found herself hungering for Kahlan's soft touches. On truly mortifying occasions Cara had even found herself contemplating the sky and comparing it to the blue of Kahlan's eyes and she had always found nature lacking.
But it wasn't confession. She was certain of that. The thoughts and feelings she had about Kahlan were not new, at least not new enough to have been the result of Kahlan trying to confess her that afternoon. Besides, she had seen enough of confession that day to know what it truly did to people. Seeing Kahlan follow meekly and subserviently behind Nicci had forced Cara to comprehend the true horror of it in a way that she had not before. Confession left no morsel of free-will. Confession was total. Confession was utter and complete. What Cara felt for Kahlan was love, she could admit that to herself. It was love but it was not a love that eclipsed everything else about her. She was still her own woman with her own thoughts, her own desires, her own concerns and her own feelings.
"I tried to confess you."
The sound of Kahlan's voice brought Cara out of her thoughts.
"It didn't work," Richard replied sounding happy and then confused.
"How is that possible?" Kahlan asked, voicing the question that had been plaguing Cara only moments before.
Zedd started narrating what had happened five minutes before and Cara's interest started to wane, but as the wizard neared the end of his speech Kahlan's eyes caught Cara's and the blonde focused on the old man as he concluded that Richard had survived Kahlan's attempt to confess him because there was "no magic more powerful than love."
A soft, sweet smile spread across Richard's lips as Zedd finished speaking but Kahlan's wide eyes were trained on Cara, staring at her in amazement.
Mercifully, Cara was saved from Kahlan's staggered gaze by Richard drawing the Confessor into a tight hug. With Kahlan's eyes no longer holding her in place, Cara released a sigh born of relief and regret and then drew in a deep fortifying breath before she turned towards the stairs that led to the bottom of the Pillars.
She did not begrudge Richard and Kahlan their happiness, but she felt no desire to stand around and watch them bask in it.
There was not much day left when they had arrived at the Pillars and soon after the rift to the Underworld closed the sun when down leaving the moon master of the sky.
As they set up camp among the ruins Cara felt Kahlan's eyes on her, but she assiduously managed to avoid the Confessor. She picked a spot that was set away from the others on an overturned column during dinner, and after their evening meal Kahlan and Richard disappeared from sight for a stretch of time which allowing Cara to relax her guard. In Kahlan's absence she leaned against one of the columns, looked up at the stars and tried did not think about where Richard and Kahlan had gone or what they were doing.
However, later that night, as Zedd's snores filled the air and sand danced across the dunes beyond the pillars, Kahlan approached Cara where she sat the base of one of the crumpling columns and lowered herself beside her.
"We've come so far," Kahlan murmured a few seconds later, her eyes focused on the gently sloping sand dunes just as Cara's were.
"We've traveled quite a distance as well," Cara replied dryly, easily seeing through to the true meaning of Kahlan's words.
Kahlan smiled at that, but the expression was fleeting.
"I tried to confess you," Kahlan began softly, keeping her eyes focused on the sprawling desert beyond.
"You didn't," Cara replied, her voice modulated to reveal nothing.
"No," Kahlan breathed out, turning to face Cara though the blonde held her position. "I couldn't. There's a difference. I tried and failed, just like with Richard."
Cara's eyes closed briefly at the mention of Richard's name, but other than that she did not react to Kahlan's words.
Kahlan accepted the silence for a while to give Cara time to gather her thoughts, but when the blonde remained silent Kahlan finally reached out and took Cara's hand into her own.
"Please look at me."
Cara sighed deeply. Kahlan's words were a request but Cara could as well have been confessed for she was completely unable to deny them.
"I know you love Richard," Cara said tensely, turning to briefly meet Kahlan's eyes before she cut her gaze away again.
"Cara," Kahlan whispered, her voice cracking partway through the blonde's name.
"I'm not a school-girl with a crush on the family farmhand. I can assure you that I'm not going to tie a boulder to my leg and fling myself into a lake. We don't need to talk about this," Cara stated staring moodily out at the sand again, hating the way her chest ached as she pushed the words out of her mouth.
"Cara," Kahlan said a little more sharply than before.
"Your friendship is more than I deserve," Cara interjected before Kahlan could continue.
She was in no great hurry to hear the no doubt gentle words of condolence and regret that were about to fall from Kahlan's lip. She hoped that she if covered enough of the points Kahlan might wish to address that the Confessor would stop trying to discuss the matter.
"Even so," Cara continued forcing herself to go on enduring the indignity of speaking presently so that she could be spared Kahlan's pitying looks in the future, "I wish to keep it and I would ask no more of you than that."
'Cara!" Kahlan said in a voice that was positively shrill.
"What?" Cara snapped peevishly, lifting her head belligerently to glare at the woman beside her.
"Shut up," Kahlan declared meeting Cara's fiery gaze with her own.
"You shut up," Cara shot back before she could think better of it.
Kahlan blinked, once, twice and three times, then the ire in her eyes died out and her lips twitched in amusement. Cara's eyes narrowed and she turned away from Kahlan, showing the Confessor her back. Kahlan was still and silent for a minute, giving Cara a chance to cool down, and then she gently placed her hand on Cara's shoulder.
Cara sighed deeply in response to the softly spoken word, but she grudgingly turned to face Kahlan once more.
"Can I talk now?" Kahlan asked.
"If you must," Cara muttered.
Kahlan reached out with one hand and directed Cara's face towards her own so that she could see the blonde properly and then, with the utmost care, she lifted her other hand so that she was cupping Cara's face. There were words on the tip of Kahlan's tongue, loving, gentle, romantic words, but as Kahlan gazed at Cara she could not force any of the words past her lips.
Instead, Kahlan found herself swaying forward and when her lips parted again it was to sigh softly and contently against Cara's lips as brunette kissed the blonde like she had been aching to for weeks.
They lingered near each others lips for a few moments after Kahlan pulled back, simply enjoying the closeness of each other. Or at least that was Kahlan's intention. However, as Cara released a small sound from her throat and sucked her bottom lip into her mouth, Kahlan found herself closing the scant distance between them so that she could kiss Cara's lips again, and again and again until the need from air made them part.
"I love you," Kahlan whispered when they pulled apart again. "Never doubt that."
Cara blinked, Kahlan's words pulling her out of the haze the Confessor's kiss put her in, and a veil fell over her eyes.
"Richard," Cara began vacantly but Kahlan shook her head faintly and Cara held her tongue.
A distant bird called and Zedd snored on, but other than that for a minute all was silent among the ruins. However, just as Cara was beginning to get restless Kahlan sighed and then leaned forward, resting her forehead against Cara's, drawing strength and comfort from the contact.
"There are many types of love," Kahlan said softly a few seconds later. "Richard and I thought ours was one type but with time it grew and changed into something no less meaningful, but somewhat less … romantic, than it had been."
When Richard was near she felt warm and comfortable. She felt safe, protected and loved when she was with him, but his presence did not ignite a fire inside of her. The nearness of him did not make her hands shake and her heart pound as being around Cara did.
"Today I found out that I can love without confession," Kahlan continued a faint blush touching her cheeks, "and I'm here with you. I … want you," she finished somewhat breathlessly, forcing herself to meet Cara's gaze and to allow the other woman to see the desire burning within her.
Cara's eyes held Kahlan's unblinkingly, studying the Confessor with her intense green eyes. As she watched Kahlan her body swayed forward minutely, Kahlan's presence instinctively drawing her closer, but Cara did not embrace or even touch her.
"I'm not picking you any flowers," Cara murmured finally, her eyes still watching the Confessor keenly.
She was not a gallant prince like Richard. She could not compose poems about Kahlan's beauty. She would not write their names together in a heart she had drawn in the dirt, and if Kahlan desired those things in a mate she deserved to know that she would not find such qualities in Cara.
Kahlan's shoulders relaxed as Cara's words washed over her and she smiled as a gentle chuckle escaped her lips.
"I don't need flowers," Kahlan whispered, her eyes shining happily as she reached out to stroke Cara's cheek. "Just you," she continued, smiling gently once more as she watched Cara watch her. "Besides, you're very sweet in other ways."
A slow, easy smile spread across Cara's lips at that, and Kahlan's heart skipped beneath her breast.
"You haven't experienced my other ways yet," the blonde drawled wickedly.
Kahlan's skin darkened after Cara spoke and the blonde watched as the Confessor's eyes dropped down to consider her lips, but the brunette didn't say anything so when Kahlan's eyes sheepishly lifted to meet hers again, Cara continued.
"How am I sweet?" Cara asked with a touch of challenge in her voice though Kahlan could also detect a genuine note of curiosity.
She was sure that Cara was not used to being described as sweet.
Kahlan's complexion returned to its normal pale, creamy perfection and a tender look settled over her features.
"Plums," Kahlan said simply.
A pale eyebrow arched high on Cara's forehead.
"Plums?" the blonde repeated dubiously.
Kahlan nodded, smiling.
"Your sister," Kahlan began watching Cara closely," she told me they were your favorite, but whenever we have them you always give yours to me."
Cara's eyebrows scrunched together creating small wrinkles between her eyes.
"Why were you talking to Grace about plums?" Cara asked finally, not bothering to deny that she went without her favorite fruit in order to make Kahlan happy. Early in their travels together she had learned that plums were Kahlan's favorite fruit as well and giving hers to Kahlan when they happened upon them had seemed to be the … compassionate thing to do.
"She was talking to me actually," Kahlan said lightly, though her eyes were serious as she remembered the chat she'd had with Grace. It seemed like such a long time ago now, but it had been less than a year since they'd had that conversation. "She was able to sense some … tension between us," Kahlan continued, phrasing her words as diplomatically as possible which only made Cara snort derisively. "She wanted you kept safe," Kahlan went on, unconsciously stroking the back of Cara's hand with her thumb. "She wanted me to know that there was more to you than what you chose to show."
Cara's eyes skated away from Kahlan's when the Confessor finished speaking, and the blonde was quiet for a few moments.
"She never knew when to mind her own business," Cara muttered finally, her tone surly as Kahlan had ever heard it. However, when Cara's face turned back towards her Kahlan was able to make out a slight upturn of her lips and she knew the words were spoken with affection, grudging as it may have been.
The expression made Kahlan's heart flutter with tenderness and impulsively the brunette leaned forward and pressed her lips to Cara's, kissing her with aching gentleness. Cara's hand lifted to cup the back of Kahlan's neck and the Confessor found herself moaning softly as Cara deepened the kiss, seizing control of the caress in a way that made Kahlan's heart pound and her thighs shift restlessly.
Cara's hand moved to rest on her thigh on top of the material of Kahlan's skirt but as they continued to kiss Cara's touch grew bolder and her hand slipped beneath the skirt and began to run teasingly up Kahlan's inner-thigh.
The Confessor gasped and clutched at Cara, kissing her forcefully as the blonde's hand crept higher and higher, but when Cara's fingers brushed against the warm heat between her legs Kahlan pulled back and drew herself out of Cara's reach.
"Not here," Kahlan breathed out apologetically, her body shaking faintly with the force of the desire Cara had called up in her. "Zedd's a sound sleeper but Richard isn't," she continued when Cara smoothly slid closer to her, closing the distance Kahlan had put between them after their kiss.
Cara stayed close by, close enough that Kahlan could feel the heat of her body, but the blonde didn't attempt to touch her.
"We spoke earlier, Richard and I," Kahlan went on when she was sure Cara would stay put. "I told him about what happened in town, about how I had tried to confess you. I don't know what he saw on my face, but when I hold him how I felt about you, he didn't seem surprised. He … he's always been a gentleman," Kahlan said staring at her hands where they lay trembling on her thighs. "But I'd rather not abuse his kind nature," she went on, her body going still for a moment before she reached out for Cara's hands and held them warmly. "We should come across a town in a day or two once we're out of the desert. We can be alone then and …" Kahlan trailed off, blushing once again as her eyes dipped to take in Cara's lips once more, and then dropped further to the open "V" of her leather top.
"As you wish," Cara exhaled lightly.
She had gone without sexual contact for longer than she had since she was a teenager as she traveled with Lord Rahl. In the beginning it had left her bothered and practically itching for the press of another's flesh against hers. However, as the weeks and months wore on she had become more and more adept at dealing with a certain level of sexual frustration, and had in fact become used to the faint ache.
She could wait until Kahlan was ready.
Kahlan visibly relaxed at the sound of her words and Cara carefully leaned forward so that she could brush her lips against Kahlan's. She knew that Kahlan liked soft things, and she did not want to stoke passions she had just agreed not to inflame, so she kept the kiss light and tender.
The gentleness of the kiss surprised and pleased Kahlan and the Confessor found herself sighing happily as her body unconsciously leaned into Cara until the blonde was able to take Kahlan into her arms. The kiss broke a few seconds later, and when it did Kahlan's head found its way onto Cara's shoulder and Cara wrapped her arms more securely around the Confessor, holding her gently as the stars twinkled merrily in the sky above them.
"It's getting late," Kahlan whispered what could have been minutes or hours later.
"It is late," Cara responded dryly, which made Kahlan smile.
"We should sleep," Kahlan sighed, knowing it was true though she didn't really want to move.
Days in the desert passed by more slowly than in the woodlands and it was easy to tire quickly. Lack of sleep would only make what already promised to be an exhausting day even harder.
Without a word Cara rose and Kahlan sighed softly at the loss of her. Cara moved to the side, heading back into the main area of the Pillars where Zedd and Richard lay sleeping and Kahlan began to rise to join her, however before Kahlan could stand Cara's sleek form moved back towards her, her bedroll clutched loosely in her hand.
"What are you doing?" Kahlan asked looking up at her curiously.
"I like the feeling of you in my arms," Cara stated simply, and then she lowered herself back down to the ground and rested her back against a nearby pillar.
Once Cara was settled she opened her arms, and with a small, uncertain smile Kahlan took the cue and crawled into Cara's arms taking up a similar position to the once she had before, only even more comfortable this time for Cara was able to recline slightly.
"Sleep," Cara said as she draped her bedroll over Kahlan's body.
Kahlan thought about protesting. She knew that Cara would not really be able to rest in the position she was in and that if the blonde did manage to fall asleep that she would certainly be sore and cramped in the morning. But Kahlan knew Cara, and knowing Cara she realized that she would be wasting her breath if she argued with the blonde. Cara had clearly made up her mind, and when Cara had made up her mind she was stubborn as a mule.
Cara's arms tightened comfortably around Kahlan and the brunette hummed happily and relaxed, giving herself over to the embrace. Soon after that Kahlan's eyelids began to grow heavy and she knew that the warmth from Cara's body and the bedroll were beginning to coax her tired and weary body to sleep.
"Told you," Kahlan murmured sleepily, "Sweet in other ways."
Cara released a soft puff of air from above and Kahlan didn't need to lift her head to know that the blonde was rolling her eyes. The thought reassured Kahlan and the next time her eyelids closed she didn't fight them.
Cara tipped her head back against the column behind her as Kahlan's breath evened out in sleep and she allowed her eyes to leisurely scan the expanse of stars above her. She had become almost used to Kahlan's touch over the past few months but she had never had such sustained contact with her before. Mord'Sith did not linger in each other's arms once they had taken their pleasure, but Cara had known that Kahlan was the sort to want the prolonged contact and in weak moments when she had allowed herself to think about what it would be like to have Kahlan as her mate she had wondered how she would respond to Kahlan resting in her arms.
Even in those weak moments she had never really allowed herself to believe that she would get the opportunity to discover whether or not her speculations were correct, but as Kahlan slept peacefully against her Cara was pleased to discover that she enjoyed the contact a great deal.
The day had started out well enough. Cara enjoyed fighting first thing in the morning, and it was nice not to have to restrain herself with the banelings since Kahlan couldn't confess them for information. However, as was generally the case for them, things had quickly taken a turn for the worse and Cara had spent the remaining daylight hours – and most of the night – oscillating between irritation, worry, rage, confusion, relief and to her shame, dejection.
Yet, as Cara's fingers trailed through the soft strands of Kahlan's hair while the Mother Confessor breath gently warmed her skin, Cara calm and peaceful in a way she couldn't remember feelings since she was a child. Thoughts of woodland Inns and private rooms occupied her mind, and despite the heat and sand and drudgery that awaited them she found herself looking forward to the morning. There had been far too much magic being tossed around, way too many confessions, an unfortunate case of Con Dar, inopportune blindness, lots of stabbing, and the world had nearly been destroyed, but as Kahlan sighed softly and snuggled further into Cara's arms, the blonde couldn't help but think that it had turned out to be a very good day.