Bet You Awry
Summary: Cara kisses Kahlan. Things get complicated.
A/N: Reply to ivanolix's kiss fic-a-thon prompt on LOTS femlash LJ in two stories. This story starts after they defeated the Keeper. Then, it moves into a second story, 'Over Again,' which happens about six years later. I am skipping everything in between. I know. I am just too lazy to write the middle bit.
She did not mean anything by it.
And still, one week later, Kahlan can think of little else.
She is distracted, unfocused.
She cannot look at Cara in the eye without blushing.
She cannot kiss Richard.
It was just a kiss.
Just a joke. An unfortunate one, to be sure. A silly bet between Cara and Zedd when they were both slightly drunk at a local tavern, celebrating the end of their quest: that they had finally, finally saved the world and defeated the Keeper. And, of course, Cara would simply refuse to lose a bet to the old wizard. Not when she was sober, and certainly even less when she was decidedly less than perfectly sober.
Kahlan wonders if Cara even considered her actions for more than a few seconds before marching to where she was, firmly grabbing her face with both hands, and kissing her full on the lips.
She does not judge Cara. The Mord'Sith is reckless on the best of days, bent as she is on her own personal crusade towards betterment. Kahlan knows it is a road with many dark detours that Cara travels. She knows it is likely that the Mord'Sith has not thought about the kiss since. After it happened, Cara had just smiled at Kahlan, licked her lips, and turned around resolutely, leaving behind a stunned Mother Confessor. She had moved towards the wizard with her usual confident swag, giving a widely grinning Zedd a smug look and announcing to a furiously blushing Richard that the wizard was taking her watch for the next fortnight.
It is not Cara's behaviour that she questions, nor the wizard's.
Granted, Kahlan is not happy with Zedd, but she knows of his mischievous nature.
It is her own part in the whole thing that mystifies her. Kahlan cannot understand what had propelled her to kiss back, because there is simply no denying that she had. Or why she had felt the kiss in a number of places where they were not actually touching. Why she still feels it.
She shakes her head.
She did not mean anything by it.
Kahlan thinks the words over and over, hoping that if she manages to convince herself, it will help settle her frayed nerves.
The kiss had been soft and warm and slightly wet. Just a press of soft, full lips against hers. Nothing to write home about, really. But somehow, it had been momentous. It had given her pause. It had confused her. And she is a woman of certainties. As the Mother Confessor of all the Midlands, she knows her place in the world. She does not hesitate. She does not question herself, her position, her decisions. It is that assurance that gives her the strength to withstand any and all difficulties in her path. To rule with a sure hand. But the fact remains that she has kissed Richard a hundred times. And a hundred times she has felt his lips on hers, his tongue touching, searching. And still, she was not prepared for Cara's kiss.
It had felt different: real. Like a proper, grown-up, kiss.
It had made Kahlan feel young and inexperienced. Like a blushing girl being kissed for the first time.
It lasted only for a moment, she thinks in annoyance. And being brutally honest with herself, she does not know if she is annoyed because she is still thinking about the kiss, or because it was so short.
It was just a kiss, she repeats to herself. This time she even nods, half convinced. But then, a traitorous hand reaches up to touch her lips. And she is back to blushing, and to being upset at herself for such juvenile foolishness. She drops her hand and wipes it on her skirt, as if that would help rid herself of the ghost of Cara's lips on hers. Or of the tingle that those full lips have created all the way down her spine; between her legs.
She is bewildered when she thinks she should not be: they have defeated the Keeper, she has found out that love protects Richard from confession.
She knows it is time to move on with life. To marry Richard. To settle at Aydindril and fulfil her duty.
But somehow, her heart does not know what her brain insists she should know.
Kahlan feels tired as they finally stop for the night. She did not sleep well last night. Nor the night before. She keeps having strange dreams that she cannot really remember, memories of a warmth that she does not really want to recognize, teasing at the edges of her conciousness.
They stop at Kelton. There is a small inn in the main square where they will be able to have a good night sleep. They are still leagues south of Aydindril, but fortunately, no longer in a hurry and so, a small detour to stop for the night feels perfectly justified.
Kahlan picks at the food on her plate and drinks more ale than she should, not paying attention to her companions. It is almost unheard of behaviour for her, but the others are distracted by the villagers that excitedly celebrate the arrival of the Seeker and the defeat of the Keeper, asking Zedd for tales of their exploits. So she hopes that, amidst the celebrations, nobody will notice if she does not join in much, or if she is drinking too much and eating too little.
"Kahlan, are you all right?" Richard asks.
Kahlan looks up from her plate and notices three sets of eyes on her. Richard's hold concern, as do Zedd's. Cara's face, as usual, is unreadable, although there is a small lift to her right eyebrow that hints at confusion.
"Yes. Yes, sorry, I was just thinking." Kahlan says, smiling and turning slightly in her seat towards Richard, to keep as much of Cara out of her field of vision as possible. "What were you saying?"
Richard nods and tentatively returns the smile. "We were just deciding how to split the rooms." He blushes slightly as he signals awkwardly to the other two, lowering his voice. "There are only two rooms available, so it is probably best if I share with Zedd." He reaches to touch her hand lightly. "Is that all right with you?"
She answers too quickly, "of course it is, Richard, why-," a pause, "oh." She is on her second pint, and still in control, but a bit slow on the uptake. Two things dawn on her at once. One, that Richard would like to share the room with her. Two, that if he is sharing with Zedd that means she will have to share with Cara. She looks at him helplessly, more worried about the second problem than the first.
Richard only shrugs at her and gives her another of his reassuring smiles, blissfully unaware of the second problem. "We can share some other time." He smiles hopefully, "soon."
She squeezes his hand. She has been distant and preoccupied this last week. "Yes, of course." Then, she moves to kiss his cheek. He turns his face and kisses her lips, surprising her slightly.
She lets him kiss her. But it is not a good idea. It only makes her even more aware of differences she feels sure she should know nothing of.
When they go up to their room, Kahlan leaves her pack by the door, before turning to look at what is possibly the tiniest bed in all the Midlands.
Cara does not seem to object to the size of the bed, as she immediately starts to remove her leathers, moving towards the basin stand that is placed in one of the corners, intending to wash herself. Kahlan tries not to watch and busies herself with turning back the bed covers and unpacking a clean shift to wear to bed. Her hands tremble slightly. She is a bit drunk.
"I'm done." Cara tells her, touching her arm briefly to get her attention. Kahlan pulls her arm away as if Cara had touched her with one of her agiels instead of with her naked fingers, recoiling from the unexpected warmth.
She turns towards the Mord'Sith slowly, feeling foolish. Cara is regarding her with a guarded look. Kahlan knows that she has been acting strange around the other woman since the kiss. She has been avoiding eye contact and conversation, moving away whenever Cara is near. She knows Cara has noticed. In fact, for the last two days, she is almost sure that Cara has been making a point of touching her, something that she has never done before.
She thinks Cara might be evaluating her reactions.
She hates to think what she might have read in her.
Cara frowns, her eyebrows scrunching up together. With any other woman, she would know, she would understand what this means. The blushes, the trembling when she is near. She is used to people pulling away from her when she touches them. She knows that she is pain as much as she is pleasure. And so is her touch. But this is Kahlan. And she has never touched Kahlan like that.
She puts her hands on her hips and huffs in sudden irritation, annoyed at herself that she is bothered by Kahlan's behaviour.
That she cannot let it go. "What is it." She asks in a flat tone.
Cara is standing with her legs apart, wearing only a nearly translucent shift. Kahlan can see her form, the long line of her neck as Cara moves her head a bit to the side, regarding her with slightly narrowed eyes. Kahlan feels like Cara can see her, through her. It does not help things.
"It's nothing, Cara. Let's just get ready for bed." Kahlan says, giving her a small smile and turning towards the basin, her back to Cara.
She listens intently and after a moment, she hears Cara sigh again and move to collect her leathers. As she undresses and washes, Kahlan can hear the Mord'Sith moving about the room. She knows Cara is cleaning her leathers, as she can smell the oil that she uses to tend to them.
When she is done washing, Kahlan puts on her night shift, folds up her dress and, finally, turns towards Cara and the bed.
Cara is standing by the bed, looking straight at her, mouth forming a tight line.
She is not going to let this go.
Kahlan looks at the floor for a long moment, saying nothing. But silence is Cara's ally. Kahlan can never best her at it. She is not sure if she is ready to talk about this, much less when she is not completely sober.
The way things unfold only proves she should have kept quiet.
"You shouldn't have kissed me." Kahlan finally says, making eye contact. "Why did you do it." It sounds like a whine, childish and peevish, even to herself.
Cara just shrugs her shoulders, trying to act unconcerned, her eyes observing the other woman carefully. "It was just a kiss." She says slowly. She sounds more puzzled than anything else.
"It was not just a kiss!" Kahlan replies quickly, speaking louder than she means.
Cara crosses her arms over her chest, growing defensive, "I am not going to kiss you again, if that is what you are worried about," she drawls.
Kahlan shakes her head, frustrated. "It's not that."
"It didn't mean anything." Cara adds after a moment of silence. She is not sure what Kahlan wants to hear. She does not know why she wants to say the thing that Kahlan wants to hear.
But Kahlan bristles at that. This is pretty much the conversation she has been having in her own head all week, but clearly, she has failed to convince herself, because what comes out of her mouth shocks even her. "But it did! It meant something! It spoiled everything. You spoiled everything, Cara!"
Kahlan blushes bright red as she sees the Mord'Sith's comically wide open eyes fix on her.
Cara's whole body tenses up as she finally allows herself to understand, to put all the signs together. "You liked it," she breathes out. It is not a question. She is tempted to step back, but she cannot. Her knees are against the bed.
It is a good thing too, because Mord'Sith never retreat.
Kahlan stares at Cara for a long time, wanting to deny it, but she is unable to. She cannot lie. Not even in this. She turns around and moves towards the door, but she stops before opening it. She is wearing only a shift, she cannot go anywhere. She cannot turn up at Richard's room and explain to the men that she cannot share the room with Cara because the bed is too small.
She stands by the door for an undefined amount of time, eyes closed, just breathing and trying to calm down.
Finally, she rubs her forehead with a weary hand and smiles bitterly at herself and the situation, turning around. Cara is still looking at her, but now there is something different in her eyes, something wary.
Kahlan is used to stirring love, attraction, devotion. It is who she is, her magic, her very essence. She has confessed many men and women over the years, and she knows the look that comes over her confessed: their desire to serve, to love. But specially, to be loved back. She has seen something similar in Cara's eyes. Not often, but it had been there just the same: when they were trapped in the tomb together, when they saved the night wisps. Enough times, really, to understand how much she may have just shaken the balance of Cara's life by acknowledging there may be more between them than either of them wants to admit.
She feels herself trembling and understands that she has thrown them both off-centre. She fears she might have erased a vital part of the common ground they have worked so hard to build between them. The desire to take back the last five minutes wars with something else, another desire for which she has no name.
"Cara, I-," she looks down at her hands, then up again. Her voice takes the nasal tone that signals she is on the brick of tears, "I am sorry. It's not your fault. I am just confused and... a bit drunk," she tries to smile as she moves closer. "It's just been a long day."
Cara regards her quietly. Her jaw clenches for a moment, like she is biting on words that she does not want to say out loud. In the end, she only nods. When she finally speaks she does not make eye contact. "Do you want me to sleep in the barn?"
There is something in Cara's voice that makes things even more complicated.
Kahlan moves closer, until they are breathing the same air. She cannot stand that she has made the other woman unhappy. Cara flinches at Kahlan's proximity. Not physically, of course, but her eyes draw back for a second. Kahlan does not notice, but Cara can read things in the confessor, in her body language. Things that Kahlan is not aware of showing. But Cara speaks the language of the body fluently; she knows what is about to happen before Kahlan does.
Kahlan knows she should take Cara on her offer: ask her to leave. It is the sensible thing to do. "No." But for once in her life, Kahlan does the opposite to the sensible thing. It is a bad decision, of course, against everything that rings true to her training. She reaches to touch Cara's chin, lifting her face so that she can make eye contact. "No." She shakes her head. "I'm just confused," she repeats, no more than a whisper. Her hand is still touching Cara's face, her fingers caressing, her face moving closer, her eyes on Cara's lips, her own lips just a breath away.
Their second kiss is completely different.
It is entirely Kahlan's doing. And still, it feels very much the same.
Kahlan's lips touch Cara's lightly, and it is little more than lip over lip, really. After a breathless moment, Kahlan shifts minutely, her lips moving, pressing another soft kiss into Cara's plump lips, and then, opening, biting lightly on Cara's lower lip, before kissing there again. When she pulls back, she is trembling. Shaken. She moves only enough so that she can look at the Mord'Sith, to gauge her reaction, but Cara's eyes are closed. Kahlan runs a hand over Cara's hair, marvelling at its softness, her fingers pressing down, touching her neck, her thumb caressing the warm skin there. Her other hand comes to rest lightly on Cara's waist.
She presses herself closer, breast to breast, rubbing her body against Cara's.
It is too much. She lets out a soft moan that sounds wanton in the silence of the room.
She kisses Cara again, even softer. A ghost of a kiss. Then, her lips move over Cara's cheek, to her ear, her neck. Her arms move around the Mord'Sith as she pulls Cara even closer, hugging the smaller woman to her.
She feels all the places where they are touching with a burning intensity.
Her head moves to rest on Cara's shoulder and she stands in silence, embracing her, breathing in her scent, for time unknown.
Cara has not kissed her back.
Her arms rest listlessly at her sides.
That night, they sleep with their backs to each other. Somehow, they manage not to touch at all.
Kahlan lies awake for most of the night. Cara falls sleep almost as soon as her head touches the pillow.
They never speak of any of it again.
A week later, when Kahlan marries Richard at Aydindril, Cara stands by his side, wearing perfectly oiled leathers.