Even before the Pillars of Creation, it was there.
It lived in moments, and brief touches, and unspoken words.
And overtime, they had both seen it. It was not something they acknowledged, but they knew it was there, in each of them and in the other. Consciously or not they had nestled and nurtured it in secret, protecting it from the truths that would tear it apart.
Beyond reason, Kahlan and Cara felt for each other.
Feelings that could not be and so they weren’t.
Yet, there had been a comfort in knowing that what they could not provide for each other, no one else could provide either. It had allowed them to quietly harbor emotions that otherwise would have threatened to upend the balance and restraint that kept their relationship innocuous and definable.
I consider you to be my friend.
Even before the Pillars of Creation, it was there.
But now, what place was there for their moments?
Riding out of the desert, they were careful to not look at each other. Cara rode ahead of her - she and Zedd trying to give space to the triumphant lovers.
They had defeated the Keeper. No. That was not right. Kahlan and Richard’s love defeated the Keeper. She had created a new Stone of Tears, and he could not be confessed.
The power of their love had saved the world.
The steady trot of her horse calmed Cara. It let her slip into a rhythm outside of the blood that coursed cold through her, and when she heard Richard and Kahlan’s voices hum with laughter and happiness, the pain in her agiels let her find another focus.
Being in the lead meant she was determining their pace, and she was pushing them. Her eagerness to be away from the Pillars, out of the wilderness, and amongst people, was driving her on, even at Richard’s insistence that they need not rush.
Even so, it would take a few days to reenter the arms of civilization and get away from the stifling atmosphere Cara felt around the others.
After several hours of hard riding, night began to fall, and it was clear that the horses needed rest. Zedd had made a comment about how their riders could also benefit from a good night’s sleep, but Cara had protested, saying that she was perfectly capable of going on as soon as the horses were ready.
Richard merely laughed and began to set out his bedroll.
At that, each of them dismounted and started to make camp.
As Zedd built a small fire with horse chips, and Richard sat to ration out their evening meal, Cara watched Kahlan lay out her bedroll and exchange a soft and secret smile with Richard.
Averting her eyes, she tried not to think about the smiles they would share when they reached a village and were finally provided some privacy. The thought made her shift uncomfortably.
“I’m going for a walk.”
As she spoke, she felt three sets of eyes suddenly upon her.
Richard rose from where he had been sitting.
“Cara, there’s hardly any cover for leagues. I’m sure whatever there is to be seen can be seen from here.”
She glared at him.
“That kind of careless attitude is just what our enemies will be relying on. The Keeper may be confined to the underworld, but Darken Rahl and the Sisters of the Dark are still out there.”
As she spoke her gaze flitted briefly to Kahlan, who was looking down at her hands with a worried and pained expression. She consciously directed her focus back at Richard.
“Besides, I always take first watch.”
Her tone left little room for further question, so he nodded at her in approval. Though, the smile he wore earlier was replaced by deep lines on his forehead.
Inwardly sighing, she turned and walked into the vacancy of the desert.
Still early evening, the sand dunes took on a deep orange color in the fading daylight. Cara imagined Richard and Kahlan talking to each other, marveling at how beautiful the desert could be, how romantic.
A sick chill went from her stomach to her fingertips, and she quickened her pace.
But Richard was right. The desert was empty. There was nothing for leagues and the space around her, though open, felt claustrophobic.
No matter where she went it wasn’t far enough. She couldn’t stop seeing Kahlan’s single tear turn to stone.
When her fatigue was enough that her focus dulled, she returned to camp.
It was well after sunset, and Cara expected her companions to be asleep. Yet, she found Richard sitting up tending to the fire and Kahlan nowhere in sight.
He looked up at her and smiled tiredly.
She mentally kicked herself for being short with him.
“She couldn’t sleep, so she went to look for you.”
Cara’s back straightened at his words. As he had said earlier, the sight lines here were unobstructed except for a few sand dunes. Even in the dark, if Kahlan had wanted to find Cara, she should have been able to. It meant the Confessor had thought better of it, and Cara was unsure if that made her feel relieved.
Her face must have contorted slightly as she thought, because Richard quirked his eyebrow at her.
“I’m guessing she didn’t find you?”
There was a note of humor in his voice.
Both of his brows rose at her quick response.
“Well, I can stay here if you want to go look for her.”
Cara bit the inside of her cheek and shook her head.
“You should go. I’ll tend the fire and the Wizard.”
Richard nodded and stood.
She watched him go until he was little more than a silhouette against the starlit sand.
Turning back to the fire, Cara checked their fuel supply, knowing that the lack of wood meant that they would not be able to afford the comfort of a fire through the night.
But the stars were bright and the cool of the desert was tempered by her total exhaustion.
Zedd, who was snoring softly near the horses, apparently didn’t mind the chill either.
Laying down, Cara looked up at the vast desert sky. Hands resting on her stomach, she let herself breathe deeply. But as she did her memory flashed to Richard dead before her, Kahlan’s tear turning to stone, and her breath of life giving back what was lost.
She shut her eyes tightly and pressed into the tense muscles of her abdomen. The slightest hint of pain at too sharply closing her eyes was calming. She needed the pain, the exhaustion, the strength of her body - which had endured so much - to help her endure this current weakness.
Because that was what it was and all it would ever be.
As Cara swallowed thickly, letting the hot sting of unshed tears drip back down her throat, she heard Richard and Kahlan nearing their camp.
They spoke in hushed tones, and Cara kept her eyes closed and steadied her breathing.
The low sound of Zedd’s hushed snoring made it impossible to know what was being said, and she was unsure that she would have wanted to hear it.
But soon their voices quieted and Cara heard the shuffle of blankets and Richard’s even breathing.
Yet, even with her eyes closed, she could feel Kahlan watching her.