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: Much as I enjoyed parts of "Tears," it ended way too quickly and easily for my tastes. Not to mention leaving Cara alone while Richard and Kahlan were all happy, happy, joy, joy. So, this is my quick fix for that. Before anyone asks, ending it where I did was intentional. It's my form of subtext – leaving things to the reader's imagination *wink*. I hope you enjoy.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Life Anew
By ocean gazer


Cara sat with her back against one of the pillars, her feet dangling over the edge of what used to be a wall, looking out over the sea. She was still covered in dust and sweat from their long journey, of all the harrowing experiences of the past few days. At some point, she'd need to rejoin the others, to find a place to bathe and to eat and to sleep. But for now, she sat, swinging her feet, up where it was quiet, peaceful.

They'd somehow, against all odds, saved the world. The Keeper had been defeated. So why did it, somehow, feel like she'd lost something very important?

Zedd had been all smiles ever since the Stone of Tears worked its magic, prattling on about love and generally acting like the entire thing was his doing. In truth, he'd been doing it the whole time she'd traveled with him, trailing after Kahlan and Nicci. Had the situation not been so dire, she would have walked off and left him on his own, tired of hearing his chatter. There was something about the situation that he wasn't telling them; Cara was certain of it. But since it hadn't mattered to their quest in the end, she wasn't going to push. Leave the old man to his secrets.

Richard had been bouncing between elation at succeeding in his quest and puppy dog happiness at being able to kiss Kahlan. Cara didn't begrudge him any of it, though she wondered how in the world he could consider handing the stone over to the Keeper as a success. Still, if Kahlan wasn't going to step up and claim the credit she was due for actually making their victory possible, Cara wasn't about to argue. Richard was, after all, the Lord Rahl she served and duty alone would hold her tongue.

And Kahlan…Cara frowned for a moment. The Confessor had been full of smiles when the new Stone of Tears did its work and the world was saved and the Seeker was still alive and their love still endured. And the other woman had been ecstatic when Richard's sight was restored and it was clear that all four of them were in one piece and relatively unharmed. But there'd been a moment, while Richard and Zedd were busy sharing their adventures and congratulating each other on their quick thinking, when she'd seen Kahlan's face go blank, seen the odd mix of horror and sorrow in her eyes.

Cara had wished at that moment that her friendship hadn't gotten in the way, that she hadn't hesitated, that she'd fired the arrow to kill Kahlan and save her from herself.

Not that Kahlan would blame her for her weakness. She knew better than that.

Still, such pain in the midst of such happiness was a burden she would gladly take from her friend if she could. She had her own pain to deal with, but it was minor compared to the Confessor's. While it was admittedly difficult to watch Richard mooning over his beloved and to see Kahlan's eyes light up at the sight of him, the pain of it was familiar. It wasn't the pain of unrequited love, but rather the pain of wishing for such a love herself.

As a Mord'Sith, such a longing was laughable, ridiculous. But Cara was more than simply Mord'Sith now; her time with the others had changed her in ways she often didn't realize until they slapped her across the face.

She sighed softly, shaking her head slightly to clear the depressing thoughts. She stared out at the sea again, finding an odd bit of comfort in the grey, white-capped waves rushing up to crash against the rocks.

A soft footfall reached her ears and she didn't need to turn to know who had come to her. She simply sat where she was, eyes locked on the sea below, letting Kahlan settle in beside her.

"Richard and Zedd have gone on ahead to find lodging for tonight. Zedd remembered a town nearby with an inn that supposedly has the best pastries in the Midlands."

Cara couldn't help but snicker at that. She could always count on the wizard and his stomach to be the same, even when the world changed. It surprised her a bit when Kahlan didn't respond in kind. She glanced quickly to the side, noticing that the blue eyes were locked on the waves crashing below and the dirt-covered face was set in serious, haunted lines. She felt as though she should say something, but she honestly had no idea what to say, what might help. She simply let her eyes drift back to the sea, let her ears focus on the steady sounds of the other woman's breathing.

"I'm sorry, Cara."

That wasn't at all what she'd expected to hear, if she'd expected anything at all, and she turned her head fully to look at her companion. Kahlan didn't turn to look at her in return, just stared out over the cliff edge as she continued speaking. "I made a mess of everything by not expecting Nicci to have a trap set. I fell right into it and nearly killed you in the process. And Zedd told me you'd had an arrow aimed at me, ready to kill me, and I'm so sorry that I put you in the position where you even had to contemplate doing that."

Cara swallowed hard, reliving that moment in her mind, and had to look away from the bleakness of Kahlan's face. Not sure what to say to that, she deflected by asking, "Did you apologize to Richard and Zedd too?"

She could hear the strain in the Confessor's voice. "I tried to. But Richard didn't want to hear it, insisting that since everything turned out fine, there's no need. Even though I killed him, he says that the fact that he's alive is all that matters. And Zedd was acting very strangely when I talked to him, muttering about how we all make mistakes and should let bygones be bygones."

There was a long pause before she heard Kahlan's whispered, "He's lying to us about something, but I don't know what. And I don't know if I want to know."

"I had the same feeling. About Zedd, I mean. And I'm also not sure if I want to know what he's concealing." When there was no response to that, Cara spoke again, choosing her words very carefully. "Richard is very much like a small boy, sometimes. He sees only what actually is, not what has been or could be. He does not think the same way that you do."

She heard a soft sigh and instinctively reached out and placed her hand on Kahlan's arm. It warmed her more than she'd expected when the Confessor moved her arm away, only to shift it slightly and grasp Cara's hand and hold it tightly. She glanced to the side again and saw that some of the tightness had eased from the woman's face.

Refocusing her gaze and looking out over the expanse of seemingly endless water, Cara said softly, "Having the arrow aimed at your back was not a comfortable position to be in. But in the end, the fault lies with Nicci, not with you. It should not have been possible for her to take that power from you. As the Mord'Sith know quite well, the power of Confession is not like other magic and is not something that just anyone can carry."

She felt Kahlan's fingers squeeze hers and squeezed back. After a long moment, Cara said slowly, "I'm sorry too. If I had not hesitated, then you never would have…"

She trailed off, unable to form the words "killed Richard," but certain that Kahlan heard them anyhow.

At that, she heard a strangled sob and whipped her head around to look at Kahlan, certain that her attempt to express her feelings had somehow made everything worse. And indeed, the woman had tears in her eyes. But before she could find words to try and make things right, Kahlan spoke, her tone firm. "Don't apologize for that, Cara. I'm honored that you care enough about me to hesitate." Fingers squeezed hers again, hard enough to hurt, and the slight pain was soothing. "Our friendship means more to me than I can tell you, and if I had been in your place, I would have hesitated too."

A weight she hadn't known she was carrying lifted from Cara's shoulders at those words. Amidst all the happiness and joy of their success, she'd been off to the side, simply an observer. She had needed this moment with Kahlan, had needed this grounding in their friendship. And while she still didn't consider herself adept with feelings, she thought perhaps her friend had needed this too. There were still dark shadows under the Confessor's eyes, speaking of fatigue both physical and emotional, but there was a new lightness in her expression as well.

And when Kahlan leaned forward to kiss her cheek, Cara could almost feel their bond reaffirming itself through the gesture.

After a moment, Kahlan turned her attention back out to the sea and Cara followed suit, still holding the woman's hand tightly. She didn't know how long they sat there, but it didn't matter. It was peaceful and it was soothing and, best of all, she wasn't alone.

"Are you going to be alright?"

Cara smiled at the compassion and concern in her friend's tone. It was so very like Kahlan to be concerned about her, no matter how heavy her own burdens. "Yes, I will be. And you?"

She didn't miss the soft sigh. "I hope so. It just may take time. But I think I'll be ok."

Squeezing Kahlan's fingers, she whispered, "You will be."

They lapsed into silence again for a bit before the sun started to dip in the sky and Cara was reminded that they should leave soon if they wanted to find the inn and their companions before night fell. She levered herself up, then helped Kahlan stand. And when the Confessor's hand found hers again as they walked, she didn't think to pull away.

"You're staring at her again."

Cara raised an eyebrow as she looked at Kahlan. "No, I'm not staring. It's just that she reminds me of someone, someone I knew as a child."

She watched Kahlan's glance track across the room to the inn's watchman. Well, watchwoman, actually. The guard stood with the casual pose of one who was a highly trained fighter, her brown hair pulled back into a neat braid, her tan leathers home to an impressive display of weaponry – two sheaths for daggers, one for a sword, and another for a short knife. Her dark eyes scanned the room competently, but unobtrusively. And every time she'd met Cara's gaze, she'd nodded in recognition, as though giving respect to someone she considered an equal.

It wasn't the first time Cara had seen a woman guard at an inn, but it was still rare enough, particularly in the Midlands, to make her look twice. And the woman bore a maddening resemblance to someone…the mother of a school mate, perhaps?

Only long practice at schooling her reactions prevented her from jumping when she felt Kahlan's hand brush her arm. "You were staring again."

Cara sighed in annoyance, focusing on her companion. The men had gone to bed an hour before. Richard had been drunk; Zedd had been exhausted. They'd started celebrating their victory over the Keeper long before the women had arrived at the inn. Kahlan had escorted them safely to bed, before rejoining Cara at a small table in the corner of the common room, finally able to eat a bite of dinner. Most of the crowd that had gathered earlier was gone, either home to their families or ensconced at the bar, regaling each other with tall tales.

"I can understand why you're staring. She's very attractive."

At that, Cara nearly spit out the drink of ale she had in her mouth. She managed to swallow, barely, and stared in shock at her friend. She'd picked up people before in taverns to be her bed mates, but never when her travel companions were still awake to notice. And never when there had been any pull stronger than that of a simple night of pleasure. And the pull she felt now towards the dark-haired woman was definitely different than that.

Her tone was gruff. "She appears to be competent, that's all, which is always something I pay attention to. And as I said, she reminds me of someone I once knew."

She glared at Kahlan, but the Confessor didn't appear to be remotely intimidated by her. In fact, there was more than a hint of amusement in her eyes. But her friend's tone was both soft and serious. "There's no shame in being attracted to someone at a first glance, Cara. In fact, there's usually a reason for it."

Cara couldn't help it, her mouth gaped open and she couldn't seem to make her brain work properly. Finally she managed to spit out, "And the fact that she's a woman doesn't bother you?"

She could read the shock in blue eyes, but whether it was due to her bluntness or her question, she couldn't tell. In all the time she'd traveled through the Midlands, she hadn't seen women coupled and had never heard her travel companions make any reference to such a thing. It wasn't common in D'Hara either, but among the Mord'Sith, it was not entirely unusual.

She saw Kahlan's expression soften suddenly as the Confessor answered the question with her own question. "Why would that bother me? I've confessed women as well as men, and know that love is love, regardless of gender. And it's not the first time I've noticed that you seem to be attracted to women as much as to men."

Again, Cara did her best imitation of a fish out of water. Absurdly, it comforted her when Kahlan's hand rested on hers as the woman continued gently, "I'm not saying she's your soul mate or that this is love everlasting. It might be, or it might simply be a momentary attraction. All I'm saying is that if you feel drawn to her, you should go talk to her. Life is too short to hold back on any chance of happiness."

Cara took a deep breath to regain her equilibrium at this entirely unexpected conversation. And then, without quite knowing how it had happened, she realized she had a smile on her face. Kahlan was smiling back at her. All she could think to say was "Thank you."

Then, she slipped out of her seat and walked over to the guard, who quirked her lips in a smile. Cara smiled back and introduced herself. Much to her delight, the woman held out a firm hand for her to shake and said, "It's nice to meet you. I wanted to come over and talk to you earlier, but wasn't sure if I'd be intruding. My name is Dahlia."

The End

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