DISCLAIMER: ABC, Disney, Terry Goodkind, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, et al own this reality and these characters. I wrote this for my own entertainment and made no money from it.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My muse has been a fickle little creature recently, but seeing the behind-the-scenes video of Tabrett kissing Bridget inspired her. (If you haven't seen it, go to youtube and search for M Sussman. He has three videos posted; two are of this kiss. The link isn't posting correctly.) The first scene in the story is based on the video minus Tab's double thumbs-up but as if it's the characters reacting, not the actors. The story is longer than I'd expected, and has more angst than I intended, and I've no idea why the hell it's in present tense. But I rather like the end result, and hope you do as well.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To cheerfuloceangazer[at]gmail.com
Good Things Come
By ocean gazer
Cara sighs. It's over. Their quest made ridiculously long by Lord Rahl's insistence on saving every stray kitten in Creation is finally over. They've somehow, miraculously, defeated the Keeper and saved the world. While Cara doesn't actually believe in such things, a miracle is the only explanation that comes to mind, considering the fact that Richard voluntarily handed the Stone of Tears over to the Keeper.
If not for Kahlan and her tears of love creating a new stone...
Cara sighs again. Zedd's been prattling on about true love and its purity, and she cannot decide whether to scream or vomit. It makes all the sense in the world for Richard and Kahlan to be together the Seeker of Truth and the Mother Confessor, two kind souls uniting, two people who've shared a path few others could walk. And yet Cara still cannot see any passion between them, anything other than deep affection.
It puzzles her why the wizard keeps insisting that they are destined to be together.
Richard's attraction to Kahlan makes sense to her. The brunette is beautiful, brave, loyal, kind, and intelligent; she's compassionate, but has a spine of steel when it counts. Who wouldn't fall in love with her?
And yet, as disloyal as she feels to her Lord when she thinks it, Cara knows he doesn't truly understand who Kahlan is. He can be strangely blind to the truth that's right in front of him, seeing only what he wants to see. She has already noticed the signs of strain, the signs that tell her that when the Mother Confessor returns to Aydindril and resumes her full duties, Richard will chafe under the demands. She fears his love will sour when he finally realizes that Kahlan will always put her duty to the Midlands above her personal life, above him. He's too obstinate, too used to getting his own way.
She still doesn't understand Kahlan's attraction to Richard. True, he's handsome and courageous and has a strong sense of right and wrong. But much of the time, the Confessor reacts to him as if he were her younger brother, in need of guidance and mothering, not as her intended lover and equal. Cara knows Kahlan must love Richard; her tears creating the new stone to defeat the Keeper attest to that. Still, she cannot shake the feeling that her friend's tears would have done the same if any number of other people had been lying dead by her own hand before her Dennee, Kahlan's mother, perhaps even Cara.
Cara doesn't usually think much. She's a woman of action. But this situation perplexes her and she needs to understand it. Especially since Kahlan's been giving off subtle signs in recent weeks that she cares about Cara in a way that goes beyond just friendship.
She turns her head, watching the would-be lovers for a moment, studying them intensely. Something about the way her friend looks at Richard gives Cara the answer she's been seeking. Safety. Richard is a safe choice for Kahlan. He may not inspire passion, but he is good and honest and cares for her. Cara remembers what she's heard about Kahlan's father and his treatment of his daughters, remembers the way townspeople sometimes cower in fear in front of the Mother Confessor.
Of course Kahlan would call it love when someone treated her with gentleness and kindness.
Particularly with Zedd spending the past two years reinforcing the idea that the Seeker and the Mother Confessor are supposed to be together.
Without thinking about it, Cara finds herself drifting closer to the couple. Their foreheads are pressed together, then they're kissing each other, tentatively and tenderly. She steps up beside them and nudges Richard aside. They turn to face her, Kahlan smiling and Richard looking curious, and Cara smirks at Richard and then grins at Kahlan, so she can pass this off as a joke if she's wrong.
Before either of them can say anything, she moves in to kiss Kahlan. Despite their lips touching, it's a quick kiss, a chaste kiss. This isn't about Cara giving in to the love and desire she feels for her friend. It's about seeing if her hunch is correct.
Cara backs away, still grinning. She looks over at Richard, who is walking in little circles, overcome with laughter. She spares a quick glance at Zedd, seeing the way his eyes have gone wide, though he looks more bemused than startled. She turns her attention away from him to watch Kahlan carefully. Kahlan has her hands on her hips like she's going to scold Cara, but there's nothing serious about her demeanor. The brunette is laughing and smiling, and there's fondness in her eyes when she meets Cara's gaze.
Cara's smile grows broader. She has her answer. She's just interrupted an incredibly tender moment. By all rights, the couple should be angry, embarrassed, or otherwise upset. She's seen Richard show more outrage and emotion on behalf of relative strangers. As for Kahlan, the Mother Confessor is modest, still shy even with Richard, and yet she is amused and tolerant of what Cara just did, allowing the invasion of her physical space with a smile.
The two of them may not know it yet, but now Cara does. Richard and Kahlan love each other, but they're not in love.
Now all she has to do is wait for them to realize it.
Normally, patience is not something at which Cara excels. But she knows Kahlan's stubborn streak matches her own, and pushing the Mother Confessor into something before she's ready will only end in disaster. Cara may not be in touch with her feelings the way the rest of her companions are with theirs, but she knows one thing with certainty hearts cannot be rushed.
She will wait as long as she has to for Kahlan.
Cara travels to Aydindril with them. There's nowhere else for her to go, really, since she is still pledged to her Lord Rahl. The journey is long every tiny little town wants to greet and fete them and tiresome Richard and Kahlan spend much time exploring their new-found freedom to be lovers. But eventually they arrive, and after the welcoming festivities, the four of them settle into their new lives, their new routines.
Cara is, perhaps, the least affected by this change. Her role continues to be to protect Lord Rahl. The only difference is that he has no real enemies here to worry about. Kahlan, of course, slips quickly into her role of dispensing justice and playing mother to the people of the Midlands. Zedd has old friends to keep him busy when he's not eating everything in sight or playing around with wizardry.
Richard is unsettled. Cara knows it's because he has no defined role to play here, no quest to keep him busy, and yet his days are not entirely his own because he's tied to Kahlan as her betrothed. Their plans for a wedding have been postponed until spring or summer; the Mother Confessor has been gone a long time and the needs of her people have to take precedence for now.
Cara keeps a careful eye on Richard, especially in the evenings when Kahlan is still tied up with her duties and his restlessness seems most pronounced.
Autumn slips into winter. Cara is still content to wait.
The beginning of spring finds Richard growing ever more restless. Cara watches unobtrusively over him as he haunts alehouses in the early evening, then walks along the perimeter of Aydindril, his feet following the contours of the nearest fields. She knows he's not drunk, merely feels caged in this city of stone, behind the palace walls.
Kahlan doesn't work as late these days, now that the farmers are increasingly busy with planting and preparation for their crops. She usually returns to their suite long before Richard. Some nights, Cara slips away from watching Richard to watch Kahlan. Often she sees the Mother Confessor sitting out on the balcony, her gaze on distant vistas, her normally serene face troubled.
Cara can't quite decipher what her expression means.
One night, as Cara watches over the Mother Confessor, she sees the fire-lit shadow of Richard moving inside the shared suite. He does not come out to the balcony to greet Kahlan. She watches as Kahlan turns her attention to the window, where Richard's silhouette is clearly defined. But Kahlan does not go inside to greet him.
Cara is troubled by the touch of sorrow on Kahlan's face, but there is nothing she can do. She slips deeper into the shadows, still watching.
A week later, Richard skips his usual visit to the alehouse, instead going to Zedd's cottage, spending more than two candlemarks with the old man. Cara waits outside, hidden in the trees. She sees the pensive look on Richard's face when he leaves, and the thoughtful one on Zedd's face as he stands in the doorway watching his grandson walk away.
Richard takes his usual evening stroll then, but does not head back to the palace afterward. He snatches a blanket off someone's clothesline, spreads it underneath a tree, and lies down, looking at the stars.
Cara heads back to her own room in the palace. She knows something major is about to happen. She's just not entirely sure what it will be or what, if anything, she should do about it, whatever it is.
She stares up at the ceiling for a long time before sleep finally comes.
The next day, Cara makes her way into the room where the courtiers and Mother Confessor take their mid-day meal. She slips into the seat beside Kahlan, the seat still reserved for Richard, though it's been over three months since he last ate with the group. She hears the faint gasps of surprise and the hissing whispers, but tunes them out, concerned only with Kahlan's reaction.
Kahlan smiles, and under the cover of the tablecloth, Cara feels the woman's hand drift over to cover hers. Cara lets her friend squeeze her hand and is gratified when Kahlan says, "I'm glad you're here."
The words are simple enough, but Cara hears the mix of affection and relief in them. The tone is subtle, but unmistakeable to the Mord'Sith who has spent so much time studying the Mother Confessor. And Kahlan's accompanying smile is the rare one that lights up her whole face.
Cara allows herself a quirk of the lips in response and sees the answering flash of amusement in blue eyes. Then one of the courtiers says something and Kahlan is once again all gracious hostess, paying attention to these high-ranking guests and their petty needs. But while her attention is on the people around her, her hand has yet to leave Cara's.
Cara sighs inaudibly and relaxes in the stiff seat. Kahlan's hand on hers is comforting. She's missed their friendship in recent weeks, though she'd rather be torn to pieces by a gar than admit it aloud.
She can tell Kahlan has missed her too.
That evening when Richard comes into the suite he shares with Kahlan, Cara is there. Kahlan invited her up to share dinner and they've been relaxing over cups of cider.
Cara starts to stand, out of habit and respect, but Richard waves at her to keep her seat. He doesn't seem surprised to see her; his reaction is more relief than anything. When he speaks a breathless rush of words telling Kahlan he loves her and cares about her, but isn't in love with her and can't pretend any longer Cara realizes he is grateful for her presence. Having her there makes it easier for him to tell Kahlan he's leaving her and leaving Aydindril, because he knows Cara will be there to pick up the pieces.
Only Kahlan isn't falling apart the way he, perhaps, expected after his announcement. The Confessor has gone pale and still, her blue eyes seeming too large in a face that suddenly seems too young, but she's not crying in despair or pleading with him to stay. There's pain there; Cara can read it clearly in her friend's eyes and it makes her angry at Richard for causing it.
For several minutes, there is silence, save for Richard's stuttered breaths and the crackle of the fire across the room. Cara almost jumps when Kahlan finally speaks, her soft voice echoing loudly in the quiet room. "I know you've been unhappy here, Richard. You have my blessing to go and find a life that will make you happy and a partner who will share it with you."
Cara sits stiffly in her chair as Kahlan rises from hers. She watches her friend kiss Richard on the cheek, reinforcing the blessing she just gave him. Richard smiles at Kahlan and says "thank you," but doesn't say anything more not even to reciprocate the wishes. Cara wants to snap at him for being so oblivious to the fact that the Confessor isn't exactly living a life that makes her happy she's living the life she's obligated to by her role. But she bites her tongue. It's not her place to interfere in this.
Cara fights to keep her expression neutral as Richard turns to her. He tells her, "I want you to stay here and watch over Kahlan in my stead. I'm not the Seeker anymore, I'm not Lord Rahl, I'm just Richard Cypher. I don't need a bodyguard."
She simply nods in response. There's no point in telling him that she has no interest in going with him. She's not entirely sure she would have gone, even if he'd ordered her to. She abruptly realizes her first loyalty has shifted to Kahlan, almost without her being aware of it.
There's an awkward embrace between Richard and Kahlan, and then he's out the door, slamming it shut behind him.
Kahlan stands alone, and very still, then starts to cry softly. Cara is on her feet before she's aware that she's moved. She stands next to Kahlan and runs a hand down the other woman's back. She's alarmed by the tears, thinking she's misjudged the overall situation badly, since the Confessor is so clearly upset.
Kahlan's words are barely a whisper. "Why does everyone I love leave me? I'm so tired of being alone in the world."
Despite the situation, Cara manages a tiny smile as she realizes she hasn't misjudged anything. This isn't a broken heart speaking, it's a lonely soul. She caresses Kahlan's back gently and says, "I'm still here and I'm not going anywhere."
She's not entirely surprised when Kahlan starts crying harder at the words. She's noticed before that with the Confessor, tears are as often from being overwhelmed with a "good" emotion as with a "bad" one. She awkwardly reaches out to pull Kahlan into an embrace. She's gratified when she feels her friend's arms slip around her, hugging her back tightly.
Cara's life has never had this kind of intimacy in it this closeness that has nothing to do with sex or sexual release. With anyone else, she would protest and fight; with Kahlan, it feels natural and necessary, even though she's still not used to showing affection in this way.
They stand there for a long time, silence reigning except for Kahlan's harsh sobs. Cara does not try to utter words of comfort. There's nothing she can say. She simply holds her friend.
When Kahlan's sobs finally quiet and her tears abate, Cara can feel the weariness in the body slumped against her. Without a word, she releases her hold on her friend, then snakes one arm around the woman's waist and guides her over to the bed. Kahlan stops at the edge and doesn't move or speak, seeming lost in an exhausted daze. Cara hesitates only a moment before reaching out to undress the Confessor, readying her for bed. The brunette does not protest, simply follows Cara's simple instructions like an obedient child.
She nudges Kahlan, who climbs into the bed and slips under the covers. Cara looks down at her friend who is curled on her side, clutching the blankets tightly and decides she cannot leave her alone after such an emotional storm. She quickly strips off her leathers, then traipses to the wardrobe to find one of the Confessor's spare tunics. Normally Cara does not dress for bed, but she knows how modest Kahlan is.
She slips in beside Kahlan, half-expecting the woman to already be asleep. But her friend rolls over, facing her, and then inches closer to cuddle up against her. Cara wraps her arm around the brunette, holding her close, only mildly disconcerted by the sense of comfort that rushes over her at the innocent contact. Kahlan's head is snuggled against Cara's neck and she feels a soft kiss being pressed to the pulse point in her throat.
"Thank you, Cara. It means a lot to me that you're here."
The words are soft and simple, but they make her happier than she ever would have expected. She smiles in the darkness, listening to Kahlan's breathing. It quickly shifts to the slow, steady cadence that tells Cara she's asleep.
Cara wants to lie awake and enjoy this moment. But she's let her guard down, knowing they are both safe and well-protected, and sleep finds her quickly.
Over the next month, things settle into a routine. Cara spends her mornings alone, dines with Kahlan and the courtiers at mid-day, trains with the palace guards during the afternoon to keep her skills sharp, then spends the evenings with Kahlan. A few days after Richard's departure, Kahlan asked her to move into the suite. Cara couldn't refuse.
Kahlan is still quieter than normal. They don't talk a whole lot during their time together. Cara isn't entirely sure, but she thinks her friend is thinking, mulling over what happened with Richard, mulling over all the changes that have happened in the past few years.
Cara is still content to wait. Kahlan falls asleep in her arms every night. She feels more at peace than she has since she was a child.
Cara wakes from sleep when she feels Kahlan shift in her arms. She lies still, waiting for her friend to settle once more.
She feels soft lips press against her cheek, before moving to her mouth. Kahlan's kiss is soft and sleepy, and Cara can tell she's not completely awake.
Kahlan tucks her head into the hollow of Cara's neck, drapes an arm across her waist, whispers, "Love you, Cara," and is quickly asleep again.
Warmth spreads through Cara's chest.
Two months after Richard's departure, Cara sees that Kahlan's clothes are beginning to look slightly tight on her. Not enough for anyone else to notice, but she does. One night after dinner, she asks Kahlan if she's pregnant. The Confessor's response is not at all what she expects Kahlan nods and then starts to cry.
Cara rolls her eyes. For a woman who does not wish for a child, this news would be bad. But the Mother Confessor needs to have a child; the future of the Confessors in the Midlands depends on it. She cannot fathom why Kahlan is so upset, especially since Richard must be the father...
That thought hits her like a blow, and for a moment Cara can't breathe, unexpected fear choking her throat. Of course Richard will want to come back once he knows Kahlan is bearing his child, and of course Kahlan will want him back because he's the father. Cara will be relegated to the sidelines once more, losing the closeness she and Kahlan share, losing the hope that has sustained her this long.
She closes her eyes tightly, but can't prevent a tear or two from escaping.
Cara suddenly feels a hand on her arm and opens her eyes, blinking herself out of her stupor. Kahlan is kneeling on the floor beside her, face still stained with tears, but with concern and compassion written in blue eyes. Kahlan asks what's wrong and Cara can't quite stop herself from saying, "Everything will change if...when Richard comes back."
She feels guilty and has to look away. Richard is, after all, supposed to be her Lord Rahl. She's supposed to be loyal to him above all. She feels gentle fingers caressing her forearm, takes comfort in the fact that Kahlan hasn't pulled away in shock or disgust.
Kahlan's whisper catches her off-guard. "That's what I'm afraid of, too. That's why I was crying. I...I don't want things to change...well, I...I do...just not like that, anyway."
Cara looks at her friend in surprise. It's not often that the Mother Confessor stumbles over her words or shows such a lack of confidence. She stares into Kahlan's eyes, seeing such a mix of emotions that she can't even begin to decipher what the woman is thinking. She asks simply, bluntly, "What do you want?"
"I want you."
Cara's heart beats faster and she can't move a muscle. There is such love and longing in that simple statement that it overwhelms her. All she can do is whisper, "I want you, too."
Then Kahlan is moving, rising up on her knees, cupping Cara's face in her hands and kissing her. The press of soft lips against her own breaks Cara out of her daze, and her hands find the back of her friend's neck, pulling her closer.
This first real kiss is all that she dared dream it would be.
Several minutes later, Cara reluctantly pulls away. She doesn't want Kahlan's knees to be bruised from kneeling too long on the stone floor. She stands and pulls the woman to her feet, then leads her over to the bed, where they can sit next to each other. She slides her arm around Kahlan's waist and is gratified when the brunette leans against her, her arm sliding around Cara's waist in return.
Cara sighs, from a strange mix of contentment and unease, and asks, "So now what?"
There is no response. For quite some time, they sit together in silence, save for the sounds of their breathing. Cara isn't expecting an answer, not really. After all, Kahlan was already reduced to tears at the mere thought of how things might change. Then again, the woman sitting next to her on the bed is also the Mother Confessor, used to untangling even the most complicated problems in other people's lives. When Kahlan finally speaks, her tone is confident, certain.
"We explore this new side to our relationship and continue living our lives together, the way we already have been in recent weeks. I have this child and we raise her together. If Richard wants to come back and help take care of her, that's fine."
Cara tenses slightly at that, then relaxes as Kahlan pulls her closer and presses a kiss to her temple. The Confessor continues, "But we won't rearrange our lives around him. Not anymore. He's not my mate and he's not your Lord Rahl. You're the one I want to spend my life with, and our happiness yours and mine is all that matters to me."
Cara smiles, but can't find any words to say what she feels. Instead, she turns, reaching out to cup Kahlan's face in her hands, and stares deeply into her friend's eyes. Heart overflowing, she leans in to kiss Kahlan.
One kiss leads to another, then another. Cara's pulse is pounding and she can see desire burning in blue eyes. She shifts position, pulling the other woman with her, until they are lying next to each other on the bed, bodies close enough to touch. Her mouth finds Kahlan's again and her hands roam the length of the brunette's body, needing to explore.
She gasps when she feels Kahlan's hands on her, caressing, the tentative touches leaving trails of fire in their wake.
Before long, Cara has Kahlan completely out of her clothes, and slips off the bed just long enough to strip out of her leathers. When she climbs back in, her naked body pressing up against Kahlan's, she notes the suddenly scared look on the brunette's face. As gently as she's able, she asks what's wrong.
There's a pause and Cara tries to imagine what is troubling Kahlan. She doesn't think it's the risk of confession. Surely by now the Confessor trusts that true love renders her power useless, even against a Mord'Sith. Perhaps it's fear that things are moving too quickly. But the woman's answer is not what Cara expects. Kahlan blushes and turns her head to the side and admits, "I...I don't know what to do...with a woman, I mean...and I don't want to disappoint you."
Cara cups Kahlan's cheek and coaxes her head back so that their eyes meet. Her words are soft, but emphatic. "You could never disappoint me, Kahlan." She drops her head, gives the brunette a tender kiss. "As for what to do with a woman, it's not that complicated it's whatever makes you both feel good."
She kisses the Confessor again, harder, deeper. Cara's hands slide over soft skin, mapping the territory, exploring, her senses attuned to the touches that make Kahlan gasp.
She whispers, "I love you, Kahlan."
Kahlan's eyes are black, the pupils dilated. Cara moves her hand firmly against her lover's body, hears Kahlan's breathing quicken at the touch, then hears a whispered, "I love you, too, Cara."
There are no more words as their bodies settle into a rhythm as old as time.
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