Title: A Light That Never Went Out
Fandom: Legend of the Seeker
Disclaimer: I don't own them.
Summary:After defeating the Keeper our band of heroes heads back to D'Hara, and on the way Cara meets a familiar face.
The moon was high and bright in the night sky, and most of the candles and torches burning throughout town had been extinguished when someone started knocking on Dahlia's door. Dahlia had been lying in bed but she had not been asleep, so, less than a minute after the knocking started Dahlia found herself standing at her door with a blanket draped loosely over her shoulders as she stared into Cara Mason's exquisite green eyes.
"I didn't think I would see you tonight," Dahlia murmured as she stepped back to free up room for Cara to enter the cottage.
"I didn't think you would either," Cara muttered awkwardly as she stared at her boots.
"So, why are you here then?" Dahlia asked in a voice that was tender and genuinely curious despite the blunt construction of the question.
Cara heaved a mighty sigh and then looked up at Dahlia dejectedly.
"I missed you," Cara responded gloomily.
Dahlia stared at her silently for a moment, thinking that she really should have been insulted by Cara's tone, but as she looked at the blonde a smile started to stretch across her lips, and before she knew it she was smiling.
"I missed you too," Dahlia said a little breathlessly a few seconds later. "Come inside."
Dahlia wrapped the blanket more tightly around herself, despite the fact that it was relatively warm outside, and lowered herself into one of the chairs by her kitchen table as Cara paced back and forth across the room.
"I take it, Kahlan's finally talked to you," Dahlia stated, breaking the silence that had blanketed the room since they walked in.
Cara's pacing halted for a moment when she spoke, but after giving a terse nod the blonde recovered and began stalking back and forth again.
Dahlia breathed in and out shakily as she watched Cara pace relentlessly, but taking a deep breath did nothing to calm the pounding of her heart or the sick feeling that had been building inside of her since Cara followed her inside of the cottage.
Dahlia had been worrying about why Cara had not turned up that night – as she had every night since arriving in Ragora – and it had kept Dahlia awake and tense, but when she had opened her door to find Cara standing outside looking bashful and beautiful, the unease and tension that had been gnawing at Dahlia's stomach all night had lessened. Even if she was hours late, Cara had shown up and she had said that she missed her, and Dahlia had relaxed marginally, comforted by Cara's words and her presence. However, Cara's demeanor since entering the cottage had not been encouraging, and as Dahlia watched her continue to stalk around the kitchen like an animal that had been caged for too long, there was only one reason that Dahlia could think of for Cara's agitation.
"You ... you don't want me to go with you, do you?" Dahlia asked softly, blinking rapidly in an attempt to control the tears building in her eyes as she tugged the blanket around her more tightly, as if it could shield her from the heartbreak coming her way.
Cara came to a halt again as Dahlia's words reached her. Cara turned her head to face Dahlia and their eyes met for a moment, but she couldn't bear to see the look of devastation on Dahlia's face, and so Cara looked away from her again.
"No," Cara stated flatly, staring out of the kitchen into the darkness that she knew housed Dahlia's bedroom. "I don't."
Dahlia sucked in a deep breath at Cara's response, and squeezed her eyes shut, ignoring the sting of the tears trapped behind them.
"I see," Dahlia managed to choke out.
Her voice waivered a little as she spoke, but she had managed to get the words past her lips and none of the tears in her eyes had escaped, so she considered the response a success. That didn't stop her from feeling like a fool, however. She had resigned herself to the fact that Cara would leave her the first night they were together, but despite the fact that Cara had promised her nothing, as the days wore on and they grew closer, Dahlia had started to hope. She had grown used to sharing meals with Cara, and falling asleep with the blonde spooned behind her. She had gotten used to entering her home and detecting the faint smell of leather.
Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew that Cara would be leaving, but she had allowed herself to get comfortable with Cara. She had allowed herself to dream of what Cara would look like when she was older and imagined herself beside her, and after the talk she had with Kahlan, Dahlia had allowed herself to believe that her dream might just come true.
Cara's strangled voice jolted Dahlia from her thoughts and she automatically lifted her hand up to her face, a soft sigh escaping from her lips a second later when she realized that the tears she had been trying to contain had finally escaped.
"It'll pass," Dahlia breathed out, using the blanket to dab at her damp cheeks. "Did you eat earlier? Are you hungry?" she continued a few seconds later, trying to buy herself some time to pull herself together and gather her thoughts.
She had told Kahlan that she would not weep and beg for Cara to stay, and even though her heart felt like it was being squeezed to mush and she was shaking like a leaf, she meant to keep her word.
"I'm sure I could find something to ..."
"I'm not hungry," Cara interjected as gently as she could though her voice seemed exceedingly loud in the silence of the small cottage.
Dahlia nodded but said nothing, and Cara sighed in frustration because things were not going the way she wanted them to and she didn't understand how to fix things so that they went right.
"You're smart," Cara declared awkwardly a few seconds later. "You're beautiful and charming and compassionate and you can do better than me. You deserve better than me."
"Cara," Dahlia gasped, looking up at the blonde sharply.
"The first time I killed a man I was ten, and that man was my father," Cara continued before Dahlia could say more. "I've snatched little girls away in the night and locked them in cages. I've fucked on the floor like an animal while around me people hung from the ceiling in chains. Inflicting pain on others has given me pleasure and satisfaction. I've masturbated to the sound of screams with the scent of blood in the air. I've ruined people's lives," Cara declared, voice rising as she became carried away by her words, tortured by memories that had once been a source of immense pride to her. "I've slaughtered innocent lives and destroyed families. I led the party that killed the last of the Confessor's, including Kahlan's sister and her infant son, and if my sisters hadn't turned on me and left me for dead I would have continued on exactly as I had been before, torturing, killing and destroying, without hesitation or regret. I don't understand love, and even if I did, I wouldn't be deserving of it."
The blanket Dahlia had been clutching since her arrival hung loosely over her shoulders as Dahlia stared at her with wide eyes and Cara turned to look towards the door, muscles automatically tensing for flight.
Her words were still registering with Dahlia, but soon she would comprehend them and then the tenderness and affection that Cara had become used to seeing in Dahlia's eyes would disappear forever.
The thought pained Cara, and if she was not the Mord'Sith that she was, she would have run to spare herself the agony of seeing Dahlia look at her with disgust. However, she was the Mord'Sith that she was, and so, she stayed and waited for the agony to come.
Cara's head turned with violent speed in Dahlia's direction.
"I said, 'hurt me'," Dahlia repeated before rising from her chair. "At this time of night no one would have seen you come here. My parent's house is the closest residence and they won't be back until tomorrow. There's no one here to stop you from doing what you want. I certainly couldn't. So, if you're so awful and it brings you so much pleasure ... hurt me," Dahlia repeated, opening her arms wide, offering herself to Cara.
"Stop being ridiculous," Cara declared irritably, staring at Dahlia for a moment before she reached out and pushed Dahlia's arms back to her sides. "I'm not going to hurt you. Be quiet."
"Why not?" Dahlia asked, not backing down. "It's what you do, isn't it? It's what you are. That's what you just told me. You're a monster. You hurt and kill people. You don't feel anything. You don't care about anything. The tears of children are an aphrodisiac to you," Dahlia declared, meeting Cara's eyes even as the increasing anger in them made a shiver of apprehension run through her. "If that's so, then use these hands," Dahlia said, reaching out to take one of Cara's hands into her own and then bringing it up to her lips to kiss. "If you don't love me, then use these fingers that have been inside of me to strike me. Use this mouth," Dahlia sighed, stroking her thumb over Cara's plump bottom lip, "that has kissed every inch of my body to bite and tear at my flesh until it is red as your leather. Take your agiels and use them to beat the breasts you wake up kissing."
"Dahlia," Cara said in a low, measured voice. "Stop this."
"Why place your neck in the hand of a Confessor and let her pass judgment you? Why continue on the quest for the Stone of Tears when a Seeker with no Rahl blood had been named? Why wear a frilly pink dress and speak in rhymes to save a woman whose touch is death to you?" Dahlia asked, recalling the stories Kahlan had shared with her over late afternoon tea and the tales Cara herself had boasted of as they lay together at night.
"You understand love, Cara," Dahlia breathed out, her voice soft but fierce as she looked into Cara's eyes. "When you were a child the Mord'Sith took you and hurt you in unimaginable way an attempt to destroy every drop of goodness inside of you, but they didn't. They couldn't. You're so strong. Too strong, even for them," Dahlia whispered, blinking against the tears forming in her eyes.
"You fought against what had been done to you, and you changed. You've saved lives. You've saved villages. Cara, you helped save the world! You've reunited families and saved mothers and fathers. You've made true friends, friends who would die for you and who you would die for. You've touched me with more tenderness and love than I dreamed was possible, and with such passion that I blush just to think on it," Dahlia breathed out, her cheeks flushing as she thought about the intimacies she and Cara had shared. "I know what these hands are capable of, both good and bad," Dahlia continued, stroking Cara's hand tenderly, "and I would kiss them forever," she whispered fiercely, drawing Cara's hands up to her face to press her lips against them. "I love you, Cara. I want you. I want to be with you."
Dahlia took Cara's face into her hands and held firm so that Cara could not look away from her.
"Do you want to be with me?" Dahlia whispered.
Cara closed her eyes as feelings bombarded her, overwhelming every inch of her until she worried that the attacking emotions might actually kill her.
She hadn't been prepared for this. She hadn't thought that Dahlia would want her after she had told her what she had done in the past. She had expected cold hatred not warm love. She had expected curses to be hurled at her, not declarations of love. Dahlia's words, the feel of her hands on Cara's skin, the look of love and longing in her eyes made Cara feel ... so much. She was being flooded with feelings and as her heart pounded madly and she struggled for breath, Cara feared that she would drown in them.
"Do you want to be with me?" Dahlia repeated as Cara breathed in and out rapidly. "Do you want to ...?"
"Yes," Cara rasped finally. "Yes," she sighed, feeling her rapidly beating heart begin to calm as she stared at Dahlia, watching as her perfect lips slowly curve up into a smile and her bright eyes danced with warmth and happiness. "I want to be with you," Cara whispered, feeling lighter and freer with every syllable that passed her lips. "I want you with me. I don't want you to go away," Cara breathed out, closing her eyes and tilting her face to the side into Dahlia's warm hand.
"I'm not going to go away," Dahlia promised, leaning forward to kiss Cara's lips before she kissed her cheeks, and then her nose and then her brow. "I'm always going be around … just like Ducky," Dahlia vowed, and to her surprise and delight, her words inspired Cara to release a bark of laughter before the blonde reached out for her and wrapped Dahlia up tightly in her arms, hugging her with a force that literally took Dahlia's breath away.
"I'd forgotten about Ducky," Cara whispered into Dahlia's neck a few moments later, loosening her hold on Dahlia though she did not release her.
When they were smallish, possibly five or six, a duckling had followed Cara home from the pond one afternoon. Her father had caught the duckling and returned it to the water, but the next day it had appeared again, meeting Cara outside of the schoolroom. Once again it was returned to the pond, but no matter how many times the duckling was led back to water it kept showing up again, following Cara around like a cuddly shadow until finally everyone just let the duckling follow Cara around if that's what it wanted to do. Cara had then decided it was her pet, and despite her wonderful child's imagination, she had decided to name the duckling Ducky, and she and Dahlia had spent many hours playing with Ducky and looking out for him until the afternoon the Mord'Sith came to town and snatched Cara away.
"I don't know how to do this," Cara said softly as she drew her head away from Dahlia's neck so that she could see her face. "I've never had a ... relationship?" Cara continued, her voice rising uncertainly as she said 'relationship,' the concept so foreign to her that she wasn't sure she was even using the right word. "What if I'm no good at it?"
"Nobody's any good at it ... until they are," Dahlia said softly, stroking Cara's cheek tenderly before she leaned forward and pressed her lips against the smooth, warm flesh.
The truth was that she was no relationship expert either. She'd had nothing but fumblings and relatively chaste dalliances with girls, and a few sweet beginnings with land-owners sons that had soon turned sour when Dahlia realized they wanted a maid servant who would share their bed instead of an equal and partner with whom to share their lives.
In her late teens she'd given her body to the blacksmith's son whom she'd loved with the parts of her heart that hadn't been snatched away with Cara, but he'd joined the Dragon Corp and gone off to war shortly afterwards and he'd never come back, so the longest commitment Dahlia had ever made remained to dodging marriage.
"I suspect that being madly in love would be helpful though," Dahlia whispered, holding Cara's eyes intimately before she tugged Cara into a kiss.
Cara's body started to relax as Dahlia kissed her, the stress caused by talking about the unfamiliar quickly being replaced with the comfortable burn of arousal as Dahlia's tongue began to lick at her lips.
Cara reached out with one hand and grasped Dahlia's hips possessively while the other moved to Dahlia's face, cupping it as Cara took possession of the kiss and deepened it, stroking Dahlia's tongue with her own until Dahlia was moaning into her mouth.
"Regular sex would help too," Cara whispered against Dahlia's lips as her own curved up into a smirk while her hands began to roam.
"Regu ... you can't possibly be implying that we should do it more," Dahlia said, tilting her head back to give Cara's lips access to her neck. "I almost can't remember what my flower looks like without your face covering it," Dahlia breathed out, smiling widely a few seconds later when she felt the vibrations of Cara's laughter as blonde pressed her face against her neck.
"Is that a complaint?" Cara asked before nipping at Dahlia's neck playful.
"Absolutely not," Dahlia sighed. "It's an absolutely breathtaking view."
Cara smiled against Dahlia's neck and then drew her head back so that she could kiss Dahlia softly on the lips.
"We should take advantage of the bed while it's here," Cara said, and then she scooped Dahlia up into her arms, a rush of contentment flowing over her a second later when she felt Dahlia's legs wrap securely around her waist. "You're going to miss such comforts when we're on the road."
"I'll be okay," Dahlia stated confidently, stroking Cara's cheek reverently with her finger as Cara began to walk them into the bedroom. "I'll just lie on top of you," she declared smiling.
"I might not mind that," Cara said before the tip of a pink tongue peaked out from between her lips to wet them.
"We both know that you won't," Dahlia responded boldly, though a blush still spread across her cheeks.
"That's very true," Cara admitted.
She held Dahlia still in her arms for a moment longer so that she could kiss her, and then she leaned down and opened her arms, allowing Dahlia to tumble gently onto the bed. "But I think I'll be on top tonight."
Dahlia rolled her eyes at that but laughed softly. As if Cara was ever anywhere else.
"I'll allow it this one time," Dahlia whispered playfully, smiling up at Cara for a few seconds before her eyes squeezed shut and she bit down on her bottom lip when Cara's hand found its way between her legs.
Cara's lips twitched up into a smile, and when Dahlia's eyes fluttered open again, Cara leaned down and brought their lips together kissing her with all of the passion and love that she could not express in words.
Dahlia would have to make sacrifices to join them on the road, but Cara planned on showing her – all night if necessary – that there would be rewards as well as sacrifice. She still wasn't convinced that she deserved Dahlia or the happiness that being with Dahlia made her feel, but Cara was not someone to repeatedly ignore opportunity when it presented itself. Kahlan was right, the way she felt about Dahlia was new and strange for her, and it did ... unsettle her, but Cara was not a woman to back away from a challenge. If Dahlia wanted to be with her – even after all Cara had revealed to her that night – then they would be together.
For even if Cara felt that she didn't deserve love, there was no question that Dahlia did and Dahlia loved her, so Cara would give Dahlia what she deserved and love her with all that she had and all that she was.
Cara couldn't change her past, but she could determine her future. She couldn't be Dahlia's first and only, but she could and wouldbe Dahlia's best and her last.
Three Days Later
"Why is this bag so heavy?" Cara groused as she lifted the saddle bag that had been purchased the day before for Dahlia and began to secure it to her horses saddle. "Did you pack the bed?"
"Uh huh," Dahlia deadpanned, smiling sweetly. "I also put the kitchen table in there and every book that I own. Do you think I should have packed the pots as well?"
Cara turned to look at Dahlia with narrowed eyes and Dahlia closed the distance between them and kissed Cara on the cheek softly making Cara's lips helplessly curve up in a happy smile. Cara shook her head a second later, and then muttered something under her breath, but whatever she said only made Dahlia laugh and with a huff Cara turned back to preparing the horse.
"She made a face when I kissed her cheek," Kahlan commented glumly from the doorway of the stable where she and Richard were resting.
"The thought of even trying to kiss her cheek is enough to give me nightmares. The fact that you managed to touch her with your lips without getting an agiel in the ribs is pretty impressive in its own right."
Kahlan smiled and then laughed softly at that, and Richard gathered her up in his arms and their attention went back to Cara and Dahlia.
"She does have a way with Cara," Richard observed, smiling gently as Cara and Dahlia stood side by side as Dahlia stroked the horses neck and inquired if it had a name which made Cara turn her head and stare at her incredulously.
"You named him Horsey, didn't you?" Dahlia asked knowingly as she grinned at Cara, and once again Cara responded to the gentle teasing by smiling briefly before schooled her expression into a frown and muttered, "No," morosely which made Dahlia laugh.
"She does," Kahlan agreed happily, smiling as she watched the two women.
"I told you so," Zedd boasted as he walked up to Richard and Kahlan, chomping on an apple.
"That was for the horse, old man!" Cara yelled at Zedd a moment later.
"You should have posted a sign," Zedd yelled back, shooting Cara a sickeningly sweet smile that had Cara taking a threatening step towards him before Dahlia placed a restraining hand on her arm and leaned in to whisper something to Cara that got her to settle down and turn her attention back to the horse.
Zedd smiled triumphantly and took a large, satisfying bite from the apple as Richard and Kahlan shook their heads at him.
"What?" Zedd asked with a touch of petulance before pointedly taking another bite from the apple.
"The moment Dahlia is distracted you're going to get an elbow in your soft tissues," Kahlan said laughing. "You are aware of this, right?"
"Cara's been sweetly 'nudging' me into wakefulness with her boot for months. Her elbow will be a welcome change of pace," Zedd grumbled before finished the apple off and tossing the core over his shoulder in Cara's general direction.
A few seconds later it was flung back at him, but it simply bounced harmlessly off of a shield Zedd had cast around himself and Zedd brushed his hands together and smiled victoriously as Cara glared at his back.
"Can we go now?" Cara called out peevishly.
Kahlan rolled her eyes at that, but smiled with affection as she moved over to the post where her horse was already tethered.
She, Richard and Zedd had been packed and ready to go for over a candle mark. Dahlia had gone to her parents to say goodbye in the morning and it had taken longer than Cara had anticipated making them late arriving at the stable. 'The woman just kept crying, crying and hugging and then more crying. Dahlia's clothes were damp when we finally escaped,' Cara had told Kahlan with a look of abject misery on her face when she had finally made it to the stable. Kahlan had nodded sympathetically and squeezed Cara's shoulder in response to Cara's tale of woe, but she'd had to bite down on her bottom lip to stop herself from laughing.
Cara mounted her horse as Richard, Kahlan and Zedd reached theirs and began to untie them from the post, and as her companions mounted their steeds, Cara held out her hand to Dahlia and helped hoist the brunette onto the saddle in front of her. They had discovered during the rides they sometimes took in the evening that it was more comfortable for Dahlia to ride that way, and that it gave her a better view. Since it also allowed Cara to bury her nose in Dahlia hair, and kiss her skin as they rode, Cara was more than willing to comply with Dahlia's preference.
"Let's head out," Richard called out a few seconds after Dahlia had fixed herself comfortably in the saddle.
"Are you going to miss this place?" Cara asked when Dahlia craned her head back to watch as Ragora slowly faded from view.
"Yes," Dahlia sighed wistfully. The village had been very good to her and her family and she had many pleasant memories of the years she and her family had spent there. "But I would've missed you more," she continued, placing her hand over Cara's, squeezing it tightly.
Cara kissed Dahlia's cheek and then nuzzled her face into Dahlia's neck in response and Dahlia smiled, leaned back against her contentedly and looked forward.
"I'm glad you're here," Cara said softly a few seconds later, her voice so faint that her words were almost lost in the wind.
"So am I," Dahlia breathed out, lifting Cara's gloved hand up to her lips to kiss it softly.
Cara made a complaining sound in her throat at the sentimental display, but she pressed her lips to Dahlia's cheek again, and when she kicked her heels against the horse to pick up their pace she found that she was smiling and couldn't quite seem to stop.