Chapter XXXVII

The two parted ways afterwards, Kahlan in search of her husband in order to update him and Cara, strangely enough, in search of Ben. It didn't take the Mord'Sith long to find the man, the sound of steel against steel ringing throughout the Palace entrance told her exactly where he would be. Stepping foot on the familiar training ground, Cara made out his silhouette amongst several soldiers, all paired up and sparring with one another. Weaving her in between them without barely a glance, Cara planted her feet directly in front of the light-haired man and waited for him to notice her. It didn't take long.

"Mistress Cara," the general said with a smile, "care to join us?"

"I didn't come to humble you and your men, General." Cara shot the one man who dared scoff the deadliest look she could conjure. Needless to say, it was effective. However, while she would never admit it out loud, Cara knew that after years of captivity, these men could probably best her easily. If they couldn't, she'd be concerned for Richard and Kahlan's safety. Despite her feelings of weakness and inadequacy, that wasn't what she wanted to discuss.

"Then what can I do for you?" Ben's question, while flirtatious in nature, was genuine.

"I need to speak to you. Alone." Her gaze left no room for questions and the man immediately sheathed his sword and followed her. Stopping underneath a canopy, away from the burning, summer sun, Cara waited while the general quickly downed two cups of water. He then yanked off the sweat-covered shirt he'd been wearing, splashed some water on his face, and turned his attention to her. Much to her surprise, his physique made it difficult to keep her eyes from wandering- another thing she would never admit out loud.

"Is everything alright?" He asked, concern obvious on his features. Ever since their trip to the cemetery, the two had developed a strange relationship- one where Ben offered her small bits of comfort and Cara told him exactly where he could shove them. Despite her callous nature towards him, Ben knew that Cara was his friend. You don't go through the things they have together without becoming friends. That was why, instead of going to Richard or Lila, Cara chose to come to him.

"No." She admitted, causing him to frown immediately. "I…I saw him." She chose to lead with the most traumatic of the events that had transpired recently. "I saw him and he spoke to me and now Kahlan can see him too and it's all because of me."

"Whoa, Cara. Slow down." Ben took a step forward but didn't reach out to touch her like he wanted to. He knew she was still wary of physical contact. "None of this is your fault. You have to know that. You didn't ask for any of this."

"That doesn't matter." She waved her hand in dismissal. "He called me a monster and, after what I did, I'm finding it hard to disagree."

"What you did?" Ben asked, not knowing. "I don't understand." For some reason, the thought of telling him she had slept with Lila made Cara's stomach flip. She ignored it.

"I hurt Lila." She admitted. Ben's eyes widened. Considering what the brunette had said to her in the courtyard, he immediately assumed the worst. "Not like that."

"I still don't understand, Cara. Is Lila alright?" She found his concern for the woman almost annoying.

"She'll be fine. We just…ran into each other last night and one thing led to another and we slept together." Cara's cheeks turned pink at the words and she wasn't sure whether it was because she was embarrassed about hurting Lila or she simply didn't want to tell Ben.

"Oh." The man finally understood. "Did you make her do anything against her will?"

"No!" Cara's shout drew the attention of the closest pair of sparring partners. When she turned their attention to them, they quickly resumed. "I would never do that."

"Then…she asked you to?" Cara nodded slowly as Ben's frown dissipated. "Then I don't see how you've done anything wrong."

"That's what she said." Cara almost rolled her eyes. Why couldn't anyone see what she saw?

"Far be it from me to tell you what to do…there, but if it's something you don't want to do again, then don't. I take it she knows how uncomfortable it made you?" Cara nodded. "Then if she's a decent person, which I believe she is, she won't ask you to do it again."

"You…make it sound so simple."

"Because it is simple." Ben offered her a thin smile. "Cara, you've been through more than literally anyone alive. No one expects you to wake up the next day and be perfectly fine. You need to heal and whatever that means for you is whatever you need to do…even if that means sleeping with her again." Cara tilted her head in surprise as Ben's voice deepened towards the end.

"I guess." She thought.

"As long as the two of you are on the same page about it and it makes you feel better, it's a start." Ben shrugged nonchalantly.

"I'm surprised you feel that way." Cara admitted, the ghost of a grin on her face. "I almost expected some sort of half-baked attempt to change my mind." Her joke caused Ben to break eye contact with her and rub the back of his neck awkwardly.

"Well, uh, I just mean that if that's what you want then you should do what, or who, you want, you know?" The redness in his cheeks expanded as Cara frowned.

"You're being strange." Normally, the two would harmlessly flirt with one another and go about their day. It was just who they were. Ben would flirt with a tree if it could respond.

"No, I'm not." Ben insisted. "I mean, you're my friend so I want you to be happy…because you're my friend."

"Yea, you… mentioned that." Cara nodded, raising an eyebrow in suspicion. "I'm going to go before you fully transform into a tomato."

"Hey, I'm not- you're just…fine. Bye." He stuttered as Cara slowly turned her back. As she walked away, she replayed the entire conversation in her head, searching for a hint as to what made Ben go from the typical playboy flirt she knew to prepubescent schoolboy. As she distanced herself, she could practically feel his eyes on her back so she turned, watching him fumble in a feeble attempt to hide the fact that he was staring. As she quickened her pace, telling herself she was eager to get out of the hot sun, the blonde couldn't help but wonder why her own cheeks were beginning to flush.

"That is a significantly less amount of wine than last night." Lila couldn't help but comment as Cara dutifully returned from the cellar.

"I recalled someone saying they couldn't remember everything and that will simply not do." The blonde joked, placing the bottles she had swiped on the table and pulling Lila down with her as she sat. The younger woman let out an involuntary squeal as she fell but was immediately steadied by Cara's hands around her. Lila placed her weight comfortably on the Mord'Sith's lap as her legs wrapped almost fully around the chair in an attempt to bring the blonde closer.

"Someone's feeling better." It was almost a question as Cara poured them each a glass. Handing it to the brunette, she nodded.

"I am." She told her. "The first twenty-three years of my life were stolen from me. Then I lost five more in that place. I'm not going to lose any more time being angry." Lila smiled- actually smiled- at the words.

"I'm so glad to hear that, Cara." The Mord'Sith knew the words were genuine. "You deserve a life full of happiness after everything."

"So do you." Cara told her with a raised eyebrow. "You know I lost someone I cared for as well." Lila took a giant gulp of wine before refilling the glass. "It gets better."

"It might." She said skeptically, swinging back another full glass. "But for right now, I just want to make you feel better." Cara was quick to down her own glass before responding.

"Oh?" Her pupils dilated to pins almost immediately, her hands going to Lila's waist and squeezing. "And how do you propose to do that?"

"It's simple really." Lila grinned mischievously, her lips dropping kisses along the blonde's collarbone and neck. "I plan to give you so much pleasure that the past twenty-eight years will be nothing but a blur." Cara growled in response, her hands moving into silky hair and pulling it back. Before Lila could react, Cara pressed her full lips against hers, soaking in the taste of the wine. Standing up, she felt Lila wrap her legs around her waist fully and lock her ankles behind her. Swiping everything but the wine off the table in front of her, Cara gently placed the brunette on it and hovered above her.

"I hope you're not overly fond of this." The blonde's hands moved to Lila's shirt and, before the woman could respond, ripped it straight off her body. Lila let out a gasp as the cold air hit her bare skin but she wasn't cold for long as Cara's body covered hers and her mouth immediately went to work.

"By the Spirits, Cara." Lila cried out as the blonde drew her leg up and placed it firmly in between the woman's thighs. Desperately trying to focus, Lila forced her eyes open and began undoing the laces of Cara's leather in between moans.

"Having some trouble?" Cara whispered in the woman's ear with a grin. Lila writhed beneath her, adept hands setting her skin free inch by inch.

"Help me get this off of you before I cut it off." The brunette all but demanded and Cara couldn't help but chuckle.

"As you wish." Cara rose to her knees and finished removing the leather from her torso. The moment her skin was exposed Lila surprised her by taking a jug of wine, pouring it down the blonde's front, and running her tongue from between her breasts up to her neck. Cara couldn't help the rush of arousal that washed over her as she was drawn back in for a kiss. By the end of the night, the two had made several more trips to the wine cellar with nothing but sheets around them, praying that no guards saw them.

Eyes darting beneath closed lids as she slept, the Mother Confessor felt an familiar and not entirely unpleasant feeling wash over her. Lips parting slightly, she awoke and immediately lowered her hands in search of what she knew to be Richard's head nestled between her thighs. Once her fingers entangled themselves in dark locks, she frowned. It felt dirty, almost greasy, and as Kahlan glanced down at her hands, her arousal immediately turned into concern as a large lump of hair rested in her palm. A smell overwhelmed her senses and she recognized it quickly: death. Pulling away from Richard's touch, Kahlan opened her mouth to speak only to find the words stuck in her throat as she realized what was happening. It wasn't Richard touching her in the middle of the night. In fact, it wasn't really anyone. As Kahlan fought hard to keep the food in her stomach, she watched as Darken Rahl, his face and body decayed and rotten, smiled up at her.

"What is it, Mother Confessor?" he said. "Don't like the sight of your handywork?" Kahlan's retort died in her throat as she found herself paralyzed. She knew this wasn't real- that he was dead and this was just a result of her connection to Cara- but it didn't matter. Seeing the man of her nightmares literally in bed with her made her want to peel layers and layers of her skin off. She shut her eyes tightly, willing the delusion to vanish and silently begging Cara to stop whatever it was she was doing that provoked this. Upon opening her eyes, however, Kahlan found herself nose to nose with the decomposing face of her worst enemy. His smile was almost black, teeth just as rancid as the rest of him, and Kahlan failed to suppress the scream that woke the entire Palace.