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Touches Bestowed

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The hilt of her daggers. Her canteen. The laces on her dress. Kindling for the fire. 

Kahlan’s hands touched many things, and Cara longed to be all of them.

This knowledge had settled deep within her and grown so slowly that she was hardly aware of it. When she recognized that her eyes followed the path of Kahlan’s fingers as they swung by her side or as they adjusted the straps on her pack, there was little to be done. Cara felt helpless and overcome with the realization. 

In their time together, she had been conscious of how she responded to Kahlan and her fleeting touches. At first they had been rare, almost absent, threatening when they did come. Cara would still under Kahlan’s hands afraid that the Confessor would unleash her power and damn the Mord’Sith to an agonizing death. Yet, as time went on Kahlan’s overt threats faded, acting only as a backdrop for the unspoken power play between them. She would lay hands on Cara, daring her to flinch, to cede and submit to the danger of a Confessor’s abilities. But Cara held her ground, biting back the desire to shake off her hands.

Stowecroft was where this began to change.

When Kahlan’s hand had wrapped around her neck, Cara’s skin burned in anticipation of imminent death. She submitted to what she was due. She gave into Kahlan’s judgement, and trusted that her death would be just; proper retribution for what she had done to her father. 

Kahlan saw it all. Their eyes never broke from each other, yet they did not glare or war. There was only Cara’s pain and Kahlan’s sudden understanding and gentle outpouring of compassion. 

Easing her grip and letting her fingers slide away from the hot skin of Cara’s neck, Kahlan spared her life. 

That day they gave into each other in a way that was completely unexpected.

Since Stowecroft, begrudging trust and cautious respect, had morphed into camaraderie and battle tested confidence, leaving Kahlan and Cara where once stood only Mother Confessor and Mord’Sith. 

It resulted in a relationship that neither of them would have ever thought possible. 

Cara now saw Kahlan smile at her, showing open amusement at her sarcasm and unrestrained but good natured irritation. She heard Kahlan speak to her, teasing and playful rather than distant and emotionless. And she felt…Oh spirits…she felt when Kahlan touched her. 

Little passes of touch, when Kahlan’s hand brushed against Cara’s as they walked together. Times when their shoulders bumped as they sat before the fire, or when Kahlan nudged her amiably to emphasize a point or get her attention. Moments when they stood side by side in battle, or when tender fingers glided upon an injury the other had sustained. Kahlan would rest her hands along Cara’s arm, maybe a hand on her shoulder to offer strength, or one on her elbow or forearm to provide comfort.

Small, innocuous instances that set Cara alight, making her skin tingle and ache until Kahlan touched her again. 

No longer did these moments carry implied warning. It had been some time since Kahlan had touched her menacingly or since Cara had shaken her off out of fear rather than a general discomfort with personal contact. The rapport they had developed allowed Kahlan the ability to touch Cara knowing the other woman trusted her, and it meant Cara could be gruff without worry that Kahlan would misinterpret it. 

But now, Cara was too aware of Kahlan’s stray touches. It was not the same awareness she had once had - fearful and distrusting. Rather, she felt as if her body was reacting in ways beyond her control. It was intolerable and instilled a new kind of fear in her whenever she felt the Confessor close by. Though some part of her thrilled at Kahlan’s nearness - heart catching and then speeding on in a way that was altogether foreign - it mostly made her want to push back, pull away, and put up walls that had been eroding without her permission. 

Recognizing this, Cara had been working to put space between them. But it only made her more conscious of the other things the Confessor touched, causing her to envy a wooden ladle or a piece of flint. 

She may have understood it had it been lustful yearning - the desire to take and be taken, hands and fingers as instruments of pleasure. Though being embraced by Kahlan in that way had it own appeal, what Cara ached for were the tender and chaste touches that spoke to a feeling she did not understand. Never before had she felt anything like what she was experiencing now. She found herself caught up in fantasies of palm against palm hand holding or thighs pressed together because of a need to feel the other’s warmth. 

They were unsettling and weak thoughts no Mord’Sith would dare have. 

It made her agitated and uneasy, and as Kahlan improved her skills in navigating Cara’s emotional landscape, she feared that the Confessor might understand what Cara felt, might see it for what it was, before she herself did. 

Such a possibility was unacceptable. So, for almost a fortnight Cara had been keeping her distance. And though there were limits to the space that could reasonably be put between them, she made sure her behavior was subtle but consistent. An obvious change was little more than invitation for Kahlan to confront her. 

So, during the day when they walked, she kept a quicker pace than the others. Staying several long strides in front of them, she made it clear that she was not interested in company or conversation. When they made camp, she would go off to hunt, secure the perimeter, or gather firewood. Cara always moved swiftly so that no one could follow her. Then just before nightfall, she would return offering to take first watch as her companions settled into sleep. She was mindful that her bedroll was far from Kahlan’s and that their belongings never came too close. 

The attention and energy it required was resulting in a ragged exhaustion that was beginning to frustrate her, and ignoring the other reasons her feelings were inconvenient and frankly unwanted, they had been keeping her from engaging fully with their quest. She had other things she needed to worry about, Lord Rahl, the Stone of Tears, the path. 

Cara shook her head trying to refocus on the dirt trail before her. Being about twenty paces in front of the rest of the group, any attack she failed to notice because of fatigue or inattentiveness was inexcusable. 

Suddenly she halted, keen senses adjusting to the sounds and movements of the forrest around them. The trees were thick and the canopy of branches above cast heavy shadows, shielding them from the afternoon sun. 

Waiting for the others to get closer, Cara stood still and silent, eyes scanning for the danger she knew was near. As Richard, Zedd, and Kahlan approached, Cara drew her weapons letting the whine of her agiels alert them to the still mysterious threat. 

Just beyond the foreground, she spotted a flash of motion. 

Behind her came the distinctive ring of the Sword of Truth being unsheathed. 

Their attackers began to reveal themselves from behind thick underbrush and and knotted tree stumps. Aware that they had lost the benefit of surprise, twelve grimy and openly hostile banelings wasted no time showing their aggression. 

One near Cara flung a hatchet. She dodged it swiftly, and it made a heavy thunking noise as it embedded into a tree trunk across the narrow path. She strode towards the now unarmed man pressing her agiel firmly into his chest, killing him. The attack spurred the others into action and out of the corner of her eye, Cara saw flames emit from Zedd’s hand. 

The other banelings closed in, using a a miscellany of weapons to strike at them. Though it was clear that these were not experienced fighters, the confined area on and around the trail meant that the terrain was to their advantage. 

Cara turned on her heel and backhanded the nearest baneling across the face. He staggered backwards swinging at her wildly with a cudgel. She kicked him in the stomach, pushing him up against a tree. 

As she was about to deal the fatal blow, she was forced to turn and deflect an incoming assault from a short sword on her right. Turning fully to defend against its wielder, Cara noted that the banelings were using space to pin her comrades down. Richard did not have room to fully extend the Sword of Truth, and Zedd had begun to yield ground as he could no longer use his Wizard’s Fire without risk of burning the forest around them.

The sight pressed Cara to increase her ferocity. She kicked the leg out from under her assailant, forcing him to take a knee. When he fell, she pushed one agiel into the wrist that held his weapon, the other into his temple. The man crumpled, dropping the sword as he did so. 

Before Cara had the opportunity to move on, she had to sidestep another attempted blow from the baneling with the cudgel. Using both agiels to block him, Cara stepped backwards, putting the man off balance. Then, she struck him in the side with one hand, the other smashing the butt of her agiel into his collar bone. Not waiting to watch his collapse, she moved towards Richard who was struggling to defend both himself and Zedd from three banelings. 

Putting herself between the attackers, she used her position to draw away one with a long sword. Then, she pummeled him with a series of short and focused blows to the gut. Though his reach extended hers, she was more agile and much quicker. She backed up carefully, stepping over fallen corpses to try and give Richard the space he needed. At a certain distance, she reversed her movements, pressing heavily into the man with her agiels. It took him by surprise just enough that she was able to knock the sword from his hand. Suddenly furious to be unarmed, he charged at her. 

She smirked at his mistake. Widening her stance in order to deflect his rush, Cara knew suddenly that Kahlan was behind her. Even in battle she felt a tingle just below the surface of her skin at the Confessor’s nearness. Briefly, their backs were together. 

Cara faltered under the touch just long enough that she failed to end the life of the charging man. Instead, she propelled her shoulder and elbow into his torso, knocking him to the ground. Now the error was hers. 

From his fallen position, the man grabbed the short sword from the baneling Cara had killed earlier. In a last desperate move, he used it to slash her across the thigh as she forced him fully down with an agiel to his chest. 

Upright once more, Cara saw that the remaining banelings would quickly fall. Otherwise, the battle was over, ground littered with blood and bodies. She tested her leg, finding it unable to bear her weight. 

As the last of their attackers were defeated, a hush settled over the group as everyone caught their breath and reclaimed their nerves. 

Quietly Richard began moving the bodies into a pile, while Zedd looked on waiting to use his Wizard’s Fire to dispose of them. 

Cara dared a glance at Kahlan noticing that the other woman was retrieving a dagger from where it was buried in a banelings throat. 

She then watched as Richard approached - checking the Confessor for injuries even as Kahlan seemed to shift awkwardly under his attentions. Then, he hauled the body before her towards the others. 

Soon enough their attackers were ash and the single-mindedness of battle had dissipated. 

“Cara! What happened?”

Richard was suddenly upon her, closely examining her wound.

As he kneeled before her to take a better look, Zedd and Kahlan came over as well. Cara noticed that though the others had taken damage, scrapes and bruises on all of their faces, she was the only one bleeding. She gritted her teeth, at the attention they were giving to her weakness. 

“It’s fine.” 

She waved her hand at Richard prompting him to rise and back away. 

“Cara, it’s not fine. You’re bleeding.” 

As she spoke, Kahlan rested a hand on her upper arm. It was only a reminder of what had caused Cara’s focus to lapse. She shrugged the Confessor’s hand off and shot her an angry look. 

Kahlan backed up, cradling her hand as though it had been wounded.

“If you’re all so worried as to waste time staring at me, maybe the Wizard should have a look.” 

Though Cara’s tone was clipped, Richard nodded gravely. 

“Zedd, can you heal it?”

The wizard snapped to attention and moved closer to the offending leg. 

“I believe so.”

His hands started to glow with magic and the flesh on Cara’s leg slowly knit together.

Before the wound could fully heal, the magic in Zedd’s hands faded and he stood. It was clear that the battle had exhausted him. 

“I’m sorry child,” his voice was strained “until I can get some rest, there’s little more I can do.”

Standing more evenly, Cara found that her leg would bear weight now. Enough at least that she would be able to walk. 

“It’s not as though I need it fully repaired to carry on. It’s hardly worth concern.”

Richard and Kahlan both looked at her disbelievingly.

“You should be more focused on Zedd.”

She said it harshly - anything to get their eyes off of her. 

Indeed the wizard looked tired, though experience said that after a good meal and a full night’s rest he would be fine. 

Still, both Richard and Kahlan seemed troubled. 

“Richard, Cara’s right we need to find a place to camp for the night.”

Cara could feel Kahlan looking at her, but refused to meet the other woman’s gaze.

He nodded in response. 

“Not here though. Cara you’re sure you can walk a bit farther?”

She rolled her eyes.

Gathering their composure, they set off down the path. Making sure that the others understood that she would not be incapacitated by her injury, Cara moved quickly at a pace she knew her leg would be not be capable of sustaining. Hopefully, she thought, they would make camp before she was forced to slow and acknowledge the partially healed wound. 

As they moved, she could feel Kahlan’s eyes on her. The sensation made her spine prickle. A few times, she was sure that the Confessor had sped up, making to stand and walk beside her, only to rethink it and fall back into step in front of Richard and Zedd. 

Other times, she knew that she herself was slowing - the dull throb of pain in her thigh making it difficult to keep her strides even and rhythmic. 

But it seemed that the wizard was in worse condition than she was. Sometime in early evening, as the dense forest around them started to clear and the path widened, Richard called to her from the back of their small company, letting her know that Zedd was too tired to go on and that they needed to find a place for the night.

Though she made sure not to openly emote, Cara felt a wave of relief. 

The place they found was nestled within a ring of trees just off the trail. It provided good cover while still allowing them the option of a speedy exit should one be required.

As they settled in for the night, all were unsurprised when Zedd fell asleep soon after eating much of what remained of their rations. He had apologized profusely as he did so, but Richard assured him that these woods were likely rich with game and it would be no trouble for him to do some hunting before his watch. As soon as his grandfather started to snore, the Seeker took his bow and quiver and disappeared into the trees. 

That left Kahlan and Cara more or less alone. 

“How’s your leg?”

She had spoken across the low pulse of the fire, voice laced with concern. 

Struggling between the urge to throw her head back and scoff and the urge to lick her lips, raise an eyebrow, and ask Kahlan to come see for herself, Cara did neither. 

“It’s fine.” she said, shrugging.

Interpreting this perhaps as an admission of pain, the Confessor walked over to sit next to her. The worried lines on her face and the copper tones in her long dark hair were set aglow in the firelight as she moved closer. 

As Kahlan sat, their legs brushed together and a wave of uncharacteristic panic rose in Cara’s chest. The feeling was only made more intense when Kahlan leaned in and rested a hand right above the wound on her thigh. 

Abruptly, it was too much and she jerked, pushing Kahlan away from her as she did so. Heat was running through her body and Creator forbid it, coloring her face. Averting her eyes from the woman beside her, Cara did her best to tame the wild beating of her heart. 

“Have I done something?”

Kahlan sounded angry, and as Cara glanced at her she could see that the Confessor’s arms were crossed over her midsection. 

Afraid that her voice might give her away, the Mord’Sith shook her head keeping her eyes focused on the heart of the fire. 

“Cara, look at me.” 

Turning, Cara lifted her eyebrows in a silent question. 

This time when Kahlan spoke, her voice was gentle, carrying undertones of hurt.

“Something’s been going on with you.” 

“I’m fine.”

“You’re not!” Kahlan snapped as she moved closer.

Scoffing, Cara rolled her eyes. 

“Confessors can’t read Mord’Sith.”

In response, Kahlan’s jaw tightened, her lips pressing into a thin hard line. 

“Maybe not, but I can read you.”

Cara’s own jaw clenched then, but she said nothing. 

At the silence, the Confessor slid closer so that their knees touched. The blonde couldn’t stop herself from looking down at the sudden contact. 

“You haven’t been getting enough rest.”

It was too worried a statement for the anger she had expressed only moments ago. 

“I’m fine Kahlan. Just because Mord’Sith don’t need as much sleep -”

“If you were really fine would you have been hurt today?” 

Cara felt her nostrils flare at the insinuation of weakness, but she bit her tongue and looked back into the fire.

For a while, they sat. Kahlan’s eyes were on her with an intensity that she dared not turn to see. This woman was wearing away at her composure, their knees still barely together. 

When enough time passed that Cara had convinced herself that the issue was dropped, Kahlan spoke softly breaking the quiet around them. 

“Why have you been putting space between us?”

It was not a question the Mord’Sith expected. It was also the last question she wanted to answer. 

Without moving or speaking, Cara continued to look at the flames in front of her as they flickered in the fading daylight. 

The woman beside her shifted, breaking their contact. Yet, before Cara had time to miss the feel, Kahlan’s hand was on her forearm sliding down towards her hand. As it moved, she became aware of how close the Confessor’s face was to her own. Kahlan’s breath tickled her ear as she whispered. 

“Please just talk to me.”

Cara’s breath hitched and she jumped up, separating herself from Kahlan entirely.

“That!” She said harshly. 

The Confessor looked distressed and confused. 

“You want to know why? That!”

“Cara, what? I don’t -”

The Mord’Sith exhaled sharply. 

“Touching me!” 

Kahlan’s face fell, and she bit her lower lip and looked down at her hands, now folded neatly in her lap. 

“I’m sorry.” Her voice wavered as she spoke. “I’ll stop. I didn’t realize that it bothered you so much.”

She looked up at Cara then, a weak smile pulling at the edges of her mouth. 

For her part, Cara stood dumbly, shocked by Kahlan’s words. All her frustration gone, it felt as though her lungs deflated as she processed what had been said. It made no sense. She should be glad. Kahlan’s touches were distracting and unproductive. They were little more than unwelcome echoes of feelings that she did not understand. But the thought of not having them…

Kahlan stood and began to walk over to where she had laid out her bedroll, but Cara reached to her, grabbing her upper arm and pulling her back. 

“That’s not what I mean.” she said quietly averting Kahlan’s inquiring gaze. 

When the Confessor did not speak, Cara licked her lips and continued. 

“You don’t have to stop.”

Still keeping her eyes elsewhere, she dropped her hand from Kahlan’s arm and swung it lamely at her side. 

“It doesn’t bother you?” The Confessor sounded almost hopeful as she asked. 

Cara looked at her, knowing that if Kahlan really had learned to read her she would see something now. 

“It does. Just not for the reasons you think.” 

For a brief instant Kahlan’s face contorted with confusion before realization set in, anger and hurt dissipating leaving only a look of open awe. 

Shifting uncomfortably, Cara could not decide what she should do now. 

Thankfully, Kahlan made the choice for her. The Confessor swallowed hard, and stepped towards the Mord’Sith resting her hands on Cara’s hips. 

“This doesn’t bother you?” 

Cara shook her head no, doing her best to look unperturbed. 

Kahlan pulled her so their bodies were only a breath away from touching. Then she lifted a hand and ran her knuckles along Cara’s cheek, opening her palm to hold the blonde’s face. 

“What about this?” she asked breathily. 

Again, Cara shook her head no. It felt like her body was on fire, ready to shoot sparks if she disrupted the moment by speaking. So she stayed still and watched as Kahlan slowly leaned towards her. 

Their lips brushed against each other softly, almost chastely. It was barely a kiss, but Cara felt it through her whole body. Her eyes fluttered closed as Kahlan backed up just enough that they were still sharing the same space but less intimately. 

“And that?” A small smile flickered across her face.

Cara was distantly aware of how hard her heart was beating. The feel of Kahlan’s hand on her hip, on her face, the instant that their lips had met made her throat constrict with feeling.

She was sure that if Kahlan stepped away Cara herself would crumble.

The realization gave her pause. She felt her control slipping away as the Confessor’s fingers only coaxed them closer.

Raising her hands she gripped at Kahlan’s waist.

“It wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but it will do.” 

Then she pulled their bodies together, mouths joining in a kiss that tasted like a thousand things Cara didn’t have the words to name. 

As it deepened and their tongues met, they clung to each other as if there was nothing else in the world that could keep them standing. The Confessor’s hand had worked its way into Cara’s hair, while the blonde let her own hands run up and down Kahlan’s sides. 

Only when the air between them was too charged to take a breath did they pull apart. Still close, Cara watched Kahlan’s chest rise and fall as a pinkish hue spread across her skin.

As heavy breathes slipped over lips, now swollen and red from the kisses they had shared, Kahlan spoke. 

“Tell me then,” Her voice was deep in a way that started a fire in Cara’s belly. “What did you have in mind?”

Leaning in she nipped at Kahlan’s jaw and smiled as she heard the Confessor hum with pleasure at the feeling. Working her way towards an ear she whispered.

“I would have been content to hold your hand.”

Though her tone had been flirtatious and teasing, Kahlan pushed her back and Cara knew that she hadn’t been able to fully disguise the truth in what she had said.

“Really?”

Her voice was laced with emotion, and a bright smile spread across her face.

Before Cara could speak, either to reassert the boundary between them or break it down, her ears perked. Stepping away from Kahlan, she scanned the woods knowing that Richard was nearing the perimeter of the camp. 

Though she tried to keep her eyes fixed on the trees around them, Kahlan lightly ran a hand along her upper arm. 

“You should go to sleep.” 

Cara tilted her head, her face twisting in confusion. She always took first watch. 

Kahlan’s face however, had cooled. Her Confessor’s mask had slipped into place, and the sight of it made Cara unsure about the meaning of what had happened between them.

But before she had the opportunity to argue or better understand where this left them, Richard appeared carrying two hares. 

Stepping towards him, Kahlan’s back was suddenly to Cara. 

“Cara and I just agreed that I would take first watch, why don’t you keep me company while you dress those?”

He grinned at her before glancing over her shoulder to look at Cara.  

“Is that right?”

She nodded tersely, doing her best to calm herself with the same practiced effortlessness as Kahlan had done. 

At that, Kahlan led him back through the trees. 

Cara stood alone for the first time that day, mind swirling with thoughts more intrusive than those that had distracted her to the point of injury. In one moment she felt the rush of heat that had come when her lips had met Kahlan’s, only to feel icy unease and uncertainty in the next.

Without the option of paroling or even leaving camp she lay down in her bedroll and tried not to let Richard and Kahlan’s murmured conversation keep her awake. 

When she next rose it was still dark, but the fire was low and pulsing. 

Glancing around, she saw both Zedd and Kahlan sleeping. 

Richard, however, was up. 

“I was just about to wake you.” 

A small smile pulled at the corners of his mouth, but not his eyes. 

Rising from her bedroll, she sat and faced him. 

Expecting him to take that as a signal for him to get some rest, Cara was surprised when he stayed where he was. 

Neither spoke, and he only stood to add more wood to the fire. Normally, time spent with Richard - even in silence - was comfortable. But as the night wore on, the darkness around them seemed to be heavy with tension. 

It made her anxious, and she wondered what had transpired between he and Kahlan - what might have been said. Her head ached as a number of scenarios ran through her mind, and she was forced to acknowledge just how ill-prepared she was to deal with any of them. 

But despite her internal conflict, Richard sat, seemingly unaware. 

After at least a candlemark passed with Cara debating whether or not to speak, she finally broke the quiet.

“It’s late.”

The words sounded rough as they tumbled into the space between them, but Richard lifted his head as though he had only just realized of the time. 

Rising, he started to move towards his bedroll just behind her. But, as he was about to pass her, he paused and rested a broad hand on her shoulder. 

A beat went by and Cara wasn’t sure that he was going to speak or even look at her. Then he swallowed thickly, angled his head, and let their eyes met. 

“It’s ok.”

Her mouth fell open at his words, and her mind raced with the possible implications of them. But he smiled at her in the soft and kind way only Richard was able to, and everything she thought she might say died on her lips as he spoke again. 

“Kahlan and I…we haven’t - not for a long time. So it’s ok.”

His face was sad but gentle, and in it Cara saw everything that had ever made her believe in him - his compassion, his strength, his faith. She had trusted him and found a wonderful and unimaginable place in the world, a place no one else could have given her. 

So, she nodded at him and decided that she had to believe him now, take his words as they were, and trust that he meant them. 

His eyes brightened just a bit at that, and he nodded back at her before lifting his hand and going to lie down. 

She turned and watched him for a while. He was facing away from her, but seeing his body rise and fall with rhythmic breathes steadied her amidst a swirl of thoughts and feelings. 

Yet, as the night wore on her mind was restless as ever. Even Richard’s vague acceptance of whatever had transpired between she and Kahlan lost some meaning as Cara allowed her uncertainties to grow. 

She felt out of control, unsure where she stood with either Richard or Kahlan. The events of the night made it clear that her position with each of them had likely shifted, but what that meant or what it would look like was unfamiliar and unnerving. So, any comfort she might have found in accepting their words and actions at face value was undermined by a lifetime of being trained to see deceit, imminent betrayal, and secret agendas in everyone around her.

And not knowing what Kahlan had said to Richard put her even more on edge. 

So, Cara sat watching the dim pulse of the fire - body rigid with anxiety. 

It was only when she heard a shuffle of movement nearby that her thoughts were redirected. 

“You didn’t wake me for my watch.” Zedd said carefully as he stood and stretched. 

Cara shook her head jerkily, suddenly realizing that the fire had died out and the sun had risen.

She grit her teeth at her inattentiveness.

“Well” He started moving closer to her. “I am grateful, and the least I can do to repay the kindness is to finish healing that leg.”

His outstretched hand started to glow atop her thigh, and when it moved away the wound was healed. She ran her fingers lightly over it, feeling the smoothness of the freshly repaired skin. 

Zedd smiled widely at her, then turned to rummage through his pack. 

“I don’t suppose Richard caught anything last night?” He eyed her over his shoulder. 

Though he had gone back to searching through his belongings, Cara nodded and stood.

Near Richard’s bow, she found the hares he had caught. They were skinned and wrapped neatly in some waxed cloth. She tossed the bundle at Zedd, who fell slightly backwards as he caught it. 

Together they started to collect kindling from the camp’s small woodpile to restart the fire. 

As they moved, Richard and Kahlan stirred and awoke. 

They yawned and stretched where they lay, as they might have any other morning, and Cara breathed in relief that nothing had changed. 

But then, she felt their eyes on her and stiffened.  

Though Zedd was oblivious, caught up in the task of cooking their morning meal, Cara was all too aware of the way they were watching her. Not wanting to justify their attentions, she remained near the woodpile, toeing the dirt with the tip of her boot. 

And when Kahlan moved towards her, she turned and made a show of neatly stacking what wood remained. Even as Richard offered her a plate of food, she took it without making eye contact.

Though that did not stop her from seeing the glance he quickly shared with Kahlan. 

Her stomach bubbled and she put her plate to the side half eaten. 

After their meal, each of them set to work rolling their bedrolls and repacking their sparse belongings. Zedd tried to chat with Richard and Kahlan, but they responded with little enthusiasm. 

It was only as they left camp and started off down the trail that Kahlan pulled Zedd close and whispered something in his ear. 

He coughed and nodded solemnly. 

“Cara, though your leg is healed, it would be best if you allowed it the benefits of an easy pace.” 

She scowled and scoffed at him. 

“Sounds to me, Wizard, that your magic simply hasn’t done all you claim it can.”

He tilted his head, and placed his hands on his hips. 

“You dare question the power of a Wizard of the First Order?”

Cara rolled her eyes and bit the inside of her cheek. She wanted to fire back at him, to be angrier than she was, but it was Zedd. He was easy to bicker with. 

Besides, with a quick glimpse at Kahlan - who was looking down and pretending to have no part in what was happening - it was obvious that his magic was not the reason for the suggestion.

Zedd huffed, and tried to puff out his bony chest. Richard laughed at the attempt and pulled his grandfather further down the trail. 

Still, despite her exhaustion, Cara was not of a mind to let others dictate how fast she walked. But as she made to speed up and pass them, Kahlan spoke. 

“Cara.”

Her voice was gentle, and Cara cursed at herself, because when she heard it she slowed down so they were walking side by side. 

Still, she kept her eyes focused on the path in front of them - ignoring the way her heart and mind both raced. 

It would have been easy to overtake Richard and Zedd, to lead the group and resume the reconstruction of her boundaries. Yet, standing next to her now, remembering the feel of her mouth, remembering the weight of Richard’s hand on her should as he told her it was okay made it seem harder than it should have been. 

Cara swallowed thickly and tried to reason out what her place was now, what walls she had left in place. 

But as she thought, she felt something bump against her forearm. Glancing down, she watched Kahlan wrap a hand around her wrist.

Her uncertainty almost had her rip the arm away with a callous dismissal. 

Though before she did, Kahlan slid her hand down joining it with Cara’s - fingers intertwined and palms pressed together. Her body surged with heat at the contact, and her chest pounded so heavily she feared it was audible.  

Looking up, their eyes met. Kahlan was smiling at her softly, and suddenly Cara’s unease dissipated as a slow growing longing was sated.