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After the Battle
Kahlan wasn't sure if she was more concerned with Cara's faltering gait or the fact that she was watching the other woman closely enough to notice it. When they moved forward in a rush after the skirmish, Cara had taken up her usual place at the rear of the group but since then she had drifted back farther and farther. And while Kahlan couldn't swear to it, she was fairly certain that she had just seen the always-sure footed Mord'Sith stumble slightly. Something was very wrong.
"Richard, can we stop for a bit? There's a clearing up ahead," Kahlan said.
Richard nodded in agreement. "It's close enough to sundown. That might actually be a good place to make camp."
Kahlan let Richard walk on while she waited in the path for Cara to catch up. As Cara drew closer, Kahlan could tell from the slick sheen covering Cara's face and the slightly awkward way Cara was moving that her suspicions were well founded.
"You're hurt," she said, her critical gaze skimming across Cara's leathers, looking for the breach.
"I'm fine," Cara said evenly through not-quite-clenched teeth.
"No. You're stubborn," Kahlan frowned. "We're stopping up ahead. Can you make it that far?"
Cara only glared in response, moving forward again. This time, Kahlan stayed beside her, noting Cara's labored breathing and carefully measured steps. As they entered the clearing, she took Cara's elbow.
"Sit," she said, her tone leaving no room for argument. "Zedd!"
Cara rolled her eyes but obeyed, gingerly reclining against a large tree. The Wizard approached them with a smile that gradually faded as he followed Kahlan's gaze to Cara.
"Cara is hurt. Badly. "
"It's a scratch."
"Then this won't take long at all," Zedd said, kneeling close to Cara and winking up at Kahlan.
"I'm telling you, it's nothing. I can stitch it myself."
"Cara," Kahlan warned.
Cara sighed and began working on the laces at her side. Kahlan joined her on the ground, hastening the task by adding her hands to the process. When the seam loosened, Kahlan felt warm wetness beneath her fingers and looked down to find her hands red with Cara's blood. As carefully as she could, Kahlan eased the form fitting leather away from the stab wound just below Cara's ribs.
Kahlan fought down her panic with a swallow. "Zedd, you need to hurry."
Cara rested her head back against the tree trunk, closing her eyes as the Wizard leaned in to place his hands above her injury, chanting the healing incantation that, by now, all of them knew by heart.
"Thank you," Cara said, eyes fluttering open.
"Unless you've devised a way to give yourself the breath of life, you might think to ask for help a bit sooner next time," Zedd replied archly, shaking his head as he wandered off to collect wood for the fire.
Cara considered a retort, but merely nodded.
"Don't. Move." Kahlan's eyes were blue fire as she spun on her heel to join in the preparations for making camp.
Too weak from loss of blood to argue, Cara merely allowed her eyes to drift shut again.
That night, in the golden glow of the fading firelight, Kahlan spread Cara's bedroll next to hers and they lie down together to sleep. Kahlan had not spoken a word to Cara since Zedd had restored her and Cara was somewhat surprised that Kahlan wanted to be this close.
"Are you still angry?" Cara asked quietly, disgusted with herself for caring about such things but too aggravated with the continuing silence not to break it.
"Yes. But not quite as angry as before," Kahlan replied. After a moment she rolled onto her side, facing Cara. "Were you trying to kill yourself? Why didn't you say something sooner?"
"There was no time after the battle. I knew the Wizard would heal me when we stopped for the night."
"So you're a healer now? You can tell how much blood it's safe to lose?"
"I thought you said you were less angry than before," Cara said dryly.
Kahlan sighed, exasperated. "Neither your fortitude nor your courage is in question. It's okay to ask for help before you need to be pulled from the brink of the Underworld."
Cara looked into Kahlan's eyes and saw the flicker of something she hadn't ever noticed before. Maybe it had never been there to notice. "You were frightened."
Kahlan returned her gaze and for a long time said nothing. Finally, she nodded.
Cara smiled at her, a small, careful smile that didn't reveal too much or expect too much in return.
"Don't do that again. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Cara whispered. Then, finally, "I'm sorry."
Kahlan shook her head and inched closer to Cara, close but not touching. "I forgive you," she said softly as she closed her eyes.
As her own eyes closed, Cara felt the small smile blossom into fullness on her lips.
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