Cara keeps her eyes down as much as she possibly can, because every time she looks around the room it seems like the walls are closing in on her. She's been trapped in a lot of places over the years, but only one other place has given her such an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia. As much as she tries to tell herself that the places are worlds apart, the slow, sure certainty of a diminishing air supply, dark light, and damp, dirty walls fuel the illusion until she can feel her skin itching and crawling with suppressed panic that a Mord'Sith should never feel. If she were being perfectly honest, she would have to admit that it was more likely that any Mord'Sith would feel the same, were they in her boots right now. She would have gladly traded in several decades in jail, like the one she had recently visited upon her more recent visit home, or more recently still in the dungeon at Aydindryl, than be here in this tomb where phantoms crawled around on the floor just waiting to bite.
The only improvement, if you could consider it that, was the company. Cara had envisioned a lot of different deaths over the years, and had managed to survive most of them, but this particular scenario had not been on her list, and the buzz of panic that even the pain of the agiel couldn't take away is telling her that, unlike the other times, she won't survive this. She can't survive this. She's caged like a tiger in a circus and no amount of struggle will help her. Mord'Sith are not accustomed to waiting for anything, especially not death. The idea that the woman who had once been Lord Darken Rahl's right hand would also die, trapped and short on air, alongside a Confessor was just laughable. That she would be the Mother Confessor was even worse. And she blamed it on panic and lack of air as she opened her mouth and started talking about... feelings.
"You were right," she admits, but she's barely aware that she's spoken until Kahlan's response pierces the stale air after a long pause.
Cara's eyes struggle to lift to meet the other woman, but a combination of embarrassment and the ever-present underlying panic prevent them from doing anything but roving around on the floor, from corner to corner as she tries not to look at the room while also being too embarrassed to actually look Kahlan in the eye. So instead of looking her in the eye, instead of speaking the words without pause, the best she can do is a very stilted, emotionless delivery. She would be disappointed if anything else about the situation were ideal.
"You once told me that it's a hard world. And that we don't get many chances to tell people... how much they mean to us." The last several words stick in her throat and she can barely get them out.
Her gaze has returned to the floor, but she can still see Kahlan's profile out of the corner of her eye and so she knows the instant Kahlan shifts her head to pierce her with a concerned but incredulous stare and she can't help but instinctively meet the soft-hearted concern with a defiant look of her own that dares the Confessor to say anything to make this terrible confession any worse than it already is.
Perhaps it's that touch of defiance that makes her say, "There's no one a Mord'Sith should hate more than a Confessor," and it's all delivered with the sense of calm that was so lacking from her previous words, as the pride she's been taught to have kicks in and straightens her spine. She half hopes that the words will make Kahlan take the emotional step back, away from Cara who is harsh and whose words bite on the best of days, but her traitorous mouth refuses to stop talking and any hope Cara could have had at Kahlan leaving her alone is gone as the next words leave Cara's mouth. "I was trained to hate you," she says softly, looking away as once again it becomes to painfully embarrassing to look Kahlan in the eye, feeling some amount of shame with the admission because she has come to know that, while annoyingly naive as all those who travel with the Seeker are, the Confessor has proven that she is worthy of Cara's respect. "But I don't." Cara senses more than sees Kahlan stiffen, as if afraid that a single movement will make the words vanish forever. And suddenly Cara has this inexplicable need to tell Kahlan the truth, and to be as nice about it as she possibly can. "I don't want you to die without you knowing... that I consider you to be... my friend."
Nice has never been her strong suit and the words feel so wrong that Cara nearly stops several times mid-sentence, and the unfamiliar words have a croaky quality from being forced from her throat and awkwardly across her tongue. But it seems to be enough because all of a sudden Kahlan is leaning forward, spell of stillness broken, and one startled glance in her direction shows Cara that the Confessor looks to be dangerously close to shedding actual tears. Cara freezes as Kahlan makes a sudden motion that's abruptly halted, as if the Confessor had been about to reach out to her, but thankfully Kahlan does nothing of the sort and just settles for looking at her with misty eyes and a dopey smile.
"I think of you as a friend too," Kahlan says, with obvious emotion in her voice, and Cara is struck dumb, unsure what to say or do and it seems as if for a moment the world has gone entirely topsy-turvey. She blames the sudden sense of vertigo for not moving to prevent it as Kahlan's arms shoot out to wrap her in a gentle, but solid, hug. She's more unprepared for this moment than she has ever been for anything in her entire life and the hug is such a foreign thing, as is physical contact with a Confessor, that she just sits there stiffly in Kahlan's arms until the moment has stretched awkwardly and a minute shift against her tells her that Kahlan is about to pull away. Unbelievably, the instant Cara registers that fact her arm is moving and she is gently, delicately, pressing a red-gloved hand to the back of Kahlan's arm. The light pressure, as if Cara is worried that too much will cause the brunette to break and shatter like a porcelain doll, is enough to relax tense muscles as Kahlan sinks just the tiniest bit further into the embrace with a sigh.
"We're going to get out of here," Kahlan informs her firmly, squeezing Cara's shoulders once before pulling away. Cara returns to her earlier pose and tries not to notice how badly she wants the hug to have continued. Maybe this is what the other Mord'Sith really meant when they said Confessors were dangerous. "We both know Richard. He's coming for us." She punctuates this with a little nod and Cara feels something in her chest swell painfully. The panic is back, thrumming under her skin, and the two sensations clash and war until Cara isn't sure she can take a single moment more. Any sense of relief that the earlier hug had brought, any momentary sense of calm and stillness, is long gone now. "He just needs a little more time."
"I know," Cara says, voice once more the deadly calm of a Mord'Sith in control of herself, even though the urge to move and fight and destroy is singing a siren's song in her ears and it's all but drowned out Kahlan's last words. "And I'm going to make sure he gets it." Cara is up and walking across the room before Kahlan can regiser her words, grabbing the knife off the floor as the brunette rises to her feet in horror.
"Cara, no!" Kahlan yells, but Cara can't hear her over the deafening thrum of sheer panic and the painful swelling and stretching sensation in her chest that lends it's simple warmth to the electric crackle just beneath her skin. She rises the knife high in the air, metal glinting dully in the light from the torches they couldn't extinguish, and then Kahlan's body crashes into her, nimble fingers clutching onto her arm and tugging desperately. For a moment, Cara thinks that she can keep control of the other woman's knife but with a small cry Kahlan taps a reserve of strength and pulls, sending the dagger flying to the floor and sending Cara stumbling away from it into the nearest wall only a moment later. Cara barely slows as she hits, rebounding off the wall and turning to face Kahlan with teeth bared.
"Get out of my way," she says in a voice that barely veils anger and frustration, but she knows will broadcast to Kahlan just how serious she truly is about this whole situation.
"No," Kahlan breathes in response, standing her ground as Cara gasps out one last, frustrated breath before charging for the knife, just on the other side of Kahlan. Cara knows it's a stupid move, as the Confessor has shown several times over that she can hold her own in battle, and certainly against Cara, but Cara's panic has turned into a full-fledged meltdown and it's sheer desperation and a primal need, that she can barely make sense of, to run and move and fight that sends her across the room, heedless of Kahlan's guaranteed interference, reaching for the knife.
True to all expectations, Kahlan grabs Cara's arm as the blonde tries to dive past her, throwing her back and delivering a hard slap to the Mord'Sith's face in a further effort to drive her back. Gasping in pain against the sting of a blow that her body never expected, Cara forces herself to straighten up, tossing her hair back with a hand to her stinging jaw and allows herself one more pained exhale before returning the slap with a return blow to Kahlan's face. The hit lands, but it's hardly as effective as the Confessor's had been and Kahlan recovers admirably quickly, leaving the two of them to size each other up, chests heaving with the effort of just a few short moments, before Cara is moving again, this time not for the knife but for the woman standing in her way.
Cara grabs Kahlan by the shoulders, ready to force the brunette's nose crashing into Cara's leather-clad knee, but Kahlan breaks her hold and quickly sends her on the defensive, trying to hold her own and failing as once more the Mother Confessor sends the Mord'Sith flying into the wall behind her. This time, Kahlan's shove wasn't as powerful, and Cara's back thumps into the tomb wall with only enough force to cause a painful collision, but not to send the blonde bouncing off of it. There's a moment where Cara just leans against the cool, solid stone behind her, trying to catch a breath that she knows can't be caught, and then she's launching herself off the wall with a scream of fury, using the stone as a spring board to drive the brunette into the opposite wall with enough force to send the breath from Kahlan's lungs. Breathless, Kahlan is still a good enough fighter to recognize the opening presented as Cara takes a step back to gain more room to maneuver and soon enough Kahlan has managed to tangle Cara's arms all up in each other and the Confessor is spinning around to deliver a vicious backhand with a closed fist to hit in the still burning spot on Cara's jaw from earlier.
Mouth open, breathing hard, Cara tosses her hair back as she straightens up with a grin made all the more wild-looking by her open mouth and attacks once more, forcing two wild swings that are not only totally off the mark but that leave her so twisted around that Kahlan can easily wrap her up in her arms once more, only this time the hug that Cara still wishes hadn't ended is a weak chokehold that Cara can't muster the energy to break free of. Still, she grabs at Kahlan's closed fist out of reflex.
"Stop pretending my life means as much as yours!" she demands through harsh pants as the two gasp for breath, bodies pushed flush against each other. The panic that had fueled her motions earlier hasn't let up as air becomes harder and harder to come by; if anything, it's stronger than before. A quick jab of her elbow into Kahlan's solar plexus earns her a high pitched wheeze and Cara uses what's left of her strength to toss Kahlan over her shoulder, the brunette landing hard on her back and, though stirring, she doesn't rise from the floor as Cara goes staggering back until she hits the wall.
She can see Kahlan gasping for air that doesn't come, mouth wide and face painted with shock, as Cara also loses the fight for oxygen and slides to the floor, sprawling gracelessly next to the Confessor in the thick layer of dust and dirt as the torches start to flicker.
"There no air left." Kahlan manages to gasp out about one word per breath, although each is delivered on a sharp wheeze that hurts Cara just to hear it, despite how truly focused she is on trying to breathe herself. Mentally, she is cursing herself at having failed so poorly in her original task. Granted, she'd been distracted by her own feelings and... emotions... and jittery nerves but she had, underneath it all, never truly lost sight of this, possibly insane, idea that she could save Kahlan by sacrificing her own life so that the Confessor might be able to survive for longer. After all, Kahlan had said it herself: Richard needed more time. And Cara knew that she could not bring herself to kill the brunette, no matter how much she had once wanted to and regardless of what her training had prepared her for. Kahlan was quite off-limits for a whole variety of reasons, but mostly because Cara didn't like the idea of a world without the other woman in it. And maybe Richard only needed a second or two more, but maybe he didn't, and there was no way she was willing to put Kahlan's life more at risk by inducing death in the hopes that the Mord'Sith would be able to use the Breath of Life on her later.
The light of the torches was flickering harder now as the fire, too, fought to stay alive, and the tomb is still and silent but for the loud gasps of both women. Cara, still feeling the untamable urge to struggle without any physical means of doing so, can't help but wonder what the woman next to her is thinking in this moment. She'd always heard that when you were about to die your life flashes before your eyes, but as someone who reversed death on a frequent basis she tended not to believe that sort of tripe. After all, she doubted that any of the people she had killed, and revived, had the time to think about their lives much at all before their passing, and not a single one had mentioned it when they were brought back. Not that she'd ever asked about it. She did know, as did all Mord'Sith, that imminent death, or recent death for that matter, had a way of focusing your priorities. It was the type of experience that forced you to make a choice about something. At the very least, it was the type of thing that motivated you to never do it again. That had always seemed to be enough for Cara.
Today, though, was different. It had been different from the onset. Being with Kahlan, and with Richard and Zedd, had a way of making everything different. Dimly, she registered movement to her left and a moment later the feeling of Kahlan's fingers bushing against hers registered, and she turned her head with a monumental effort to stare dumbly at their now joined hands. Perhaps different was the polite term for the sort of day where a Mord'Sith and the Mother Confessor suffocated in an empty tomb, holding hands.
It felt more right than anything else Cara had ever felt, even with that terrible, unfamiliar warmth spreading through her. In that moment, Cara knows that if she is to die, there was no better way to have managed to go out.
The torches flicker once, twice, and extinguish.
A stone slab grinds open, bringing a flood of fresh air into the tomb just as Cara's vision begins to go dark, and ungloved fingers twitch against her own as Kahlan, too, is able to take a deep breath. And then Richard is there and their hands are torn apart and the unfamiliar warm is gone.
Cara sits up, still feeling restless and trapped and not the least bit ill, and looks around, eyes skipping over Kahlan and Richard almost automatically. This time, the walls still close in on her, as they had before, but she knows it's not due to the demons of her past, but rather the brunette cradled in the Seeker's arms. A woman she once again can't bring herself to look at, because Kahlan has always had a way of making things different, and Cara, for the first time, can truly feel herself changing.
As the four of them set back out on the road, yet another crisis averted along the way to the Stone of Tears, Cara purposefully places herself several feet ahead of the others, hoping against hope to avoid the inevitable moment in time where she and Kahlan will be forced to discuss, however briefly, what was said in that tomb. It was a doomed plan to begin with, as the men are more than inclined to leave the women alone and Kahlan is not at all inclined to respect Cara's self-imposed solitude.
"You were wrong before," she says as she falls into step besides Cara, who tries her hardest to avoid any sort of response, verbal or otherwise, to the Confessor's presence. She likewise does her best to ignore the return of the unfamiliar warmth in her chest, which has started to suffuse throughout her body and is decidedly too distracting to allow the Mord'Sith to function at full capacity in the way that a legitimate Mord'Sith should be functioning. "Back in the tomb?" Kahlan continues, as if it doesn't matter that Cara is pretending to ignore her and had instead asked for clarification. "Your life is just as important as mine is." That's almost enough to earn a rebuttal from Cara, and her head turns and her mouth opens to deliver it before she thinks better of it and faces forward once more. Unfortunately, her self-restraint isn't enough to deter Kahlan from continuing her one-sided conversation. "If it weren't for you we wouldn't have been able to free Zedd from the nygaix."
She pauses long enough that Cara decides Kahlan is done talking, but she sounds so smug that Cara, finally, loses control and can't help but respond. "About what I said back in the tomb..." There's the tiniest of pauses that she can't help but include, wondering how she could possibly tell the woman next to her that the Confessor has changed everything, that Cara now feels this infernal and distracting warmth that simply will not go away and that she doesn't have a clue what it means (but can't admit that she doesn't want it to go away).
Of course, Kahlan being Kahlan, the tiny pause becomes all the woman needs to interject again. "It really meant a lot to me," she says, and her whole body is turned towards Cara's as they're walking, the boys are catching up, and there's some something in her chest that's making it painfully tight and Cara just simply can't with Kahlan anymore so she says the first thing that comes to mind.
"Forget I said it. I was delirious from the lack of air." The words are trying to be both blithe and biting, and Cara's pretty sure they fail on both counts, but they do have enough shock value to enable her to speed up and once more outpace the Confessor. Perhaps this time Kahlan will respect the self-imposed distance and not push any more for the day.
For about ten steps, Cara almost believes that she wants the Confessor to leave her alone and for about five steps, Kahlan almost believes the same.