So sorry for the delay everyone- been having quite an awful year (or 2). This story is very important to me (as they all are) and I will be finishing it no matter what. As I'm sure you can tell, we are nearing the end so please stick with me. Thanks!

Chapter XXXVIII

Her embarrassment from the night's fiasco quickly faded into anger. She knew it was misplaced but Kahlan's first stop after getting dressed was the room she knew Cara would be in. She didn't stop to think or even acknowledge the fact that there was no way Cara could've known what had happened. Bypassing a knock completely, the Mother Confessor swung the door open, startling both occupants of the bed who had, surprisingly, been asleep.

"What the-" Lila scurried to cover herself, oblivious to the fact that Kahlan's gaze had yet to even regarded her.

"Can we help you, Mother Confessor?" Cara lowered the Agiel at the sight of the woman. Her voice was low, the annoyance in it obvious but she could tell something serious had happened. Kahlan wasn't exactly the type to barge into people's bedchambers uninvited.

"Out." Kahlan finally glanced at Lila long enough to get the word out. The younger brunette frowned, having never seen such a wild look in the woman's eyes. While the two weren't exactly friends seeing as she had caught on to Ava's affections for the Confessor years ago, Lila knew better than to argue. She squeezed Cara's hand under the covers and hurriedly dressed herself enough to walk outside. When the door shut behind her, Cara half expected her old friend to either yell or throw something at her. The brunette surprised her by doing neither. She simply stood there, breathing heavily and visibly trembling. Wordlessly, Cara rose from the bed, draped herself in a robe, and went to stand directly in front of her. Blue searched green as Kahlan tried to speak. Cara did it for her.

"You saw him." It wasn't a question. Kahlan nodded, tears streaming down her cheeks as her eyes never left her friend's. "I'm sorry." She wanted to say that it wasn't her fault- that there was nothing she could have done to prevent it- but the words simply wouldn't come out. All of the anger and bitterness she had felt on her way to the room simply vanished. Now all she wanted was to be in the presence of someone who understood what she was feeling. That, and to take a bath. Without warning, Kahlan's legs gave out beneath her. Cara was quick to stop her descent, letting the woman fall against her. The moment she felt her forehead rest on Cara's shoulder, the onslaught of tears she had been withholding gave way and she found herself gasping for breath. It was ridiculous- crying on Cara's shoulder after everything the blonde had been through- but she couldn't help it. The others, Richard included, tried to help but they just never understood. Even Ava didn't grasp the terror Kahlan suppressed when it came to Darken Rahl. She hadn't been there when they had discovered she was the last of her kind. She hadn't been there when he annihilated an entire race of creatures. Most importantly, she had been there when Kahlan was repeatedly threatened with rape for over a year. Cara knew. Cara was the only one who could even fathom just how deeply rooted her hatred and fear of this man was. Because of this and more, Cara said nothing. She knew exactly what Kahlan was feeling and adding to the fact that she had killed the man in cold-blood, it was only a matter of time before she snapped. The blonde was surprised it had taken her this long. This was all without taking into account the magic that still connected the two on a much more personal level than simple friendship. As Kahlan's sobs died down, the woman found herself unwilling to move from her friend's arms. She still struggled to accept that Cara was really alive and back for good. The reminder helped calm her racing heart. Only when she felt the clenching and unclenching of Cara's jaw against her cheek did she finally lean back.

"He was in my bed." Kahlan began to explain. Cara's nostrils flared in anger at the words. "But he was…dead. Rotting."

"Even in the Underworld, the son of a bitch can't leave us alone." Cara grumbled, knowing she couldn't exactly blame this on Rahl himself.

"I killed him, Cara." Kahlan said needlessly. "I killed him but I didn't have to. He was defenseless, begging me to-"

"Stop." Cara lifted a hand before Kahlan spiraled. "He had just murdered Ava." The sentence tasted bitter. "You were in the Con Dar and even if you weren't no one blames you for expediting what we all know would've happened anyway."

"You don't know that."

"Kahlan if you hadn't killed him, I promise you, I would have." Her conviction left no room for debate. "Whether you and the others wanted it or not. That man didn't deserve to live past his thirteenth year."

"It doesn't make what I did right." Kahlan shook her head as Cara resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

"You snapped his neck, yes?" Kahlan nodded. "He spent all of, what, thirty seconds being afraid?" Another nod. "Think of it this way: you saved him from the months, if not years, of torture I would've inflicted on him." Cara tried hard to keep from looking behind Kahlan where a newly materialized Rahl jokingly tsked at her. At least this one had the courtesy to appear without decaying flesh. "So, you've made one, semi-questionable decision in your life. Congratulations. You're no longer the pretentious, straight-laced princess we all made you out to be. Welcome to the dark side." Kahlan couldn't help but let out a laugh, surprised at Cara's successful attempt at humor.

"I can't explain how glad I am that you're back- that you're you." Kahlan couldn't help but cup Cara's face in her hands.

"That's all well and good but I draw the line at you pinching my cheeks." The seriousness in Cara's tone was overshadowed by the playfulness in her eyes. Kahlan briefly debated calling the woman's bluff but was interrupted by a whine of 'mommy' coming from the doorway. The two women stood up at the sight of Kahlan's daughter, still rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she clumsily walked towards them. The Mother Confessor scooped her up at once, letting the four year old's head fall onto her chest.

"Are you hungry, my love?" Little Cara nodded, perking up slightly at the thought of breakfast. "Let's get you some eggs then." As Kahlan took a step towards the door, she felt resistance. Looking down, she saw her daughter's hand holding tightly onto Cara's robe.

"Aunt Cara coming too?" Kahlan could've sworn she saw the blonde's breath hitch at the invitation. It was the first time she hadn't flinched when someone touched her. The blonde's gaze fell, and remained, on the tiny, closed fist on her shoulder.

"Of course, sweetie. Let's wait outside until she gets dressed." Kahlan knew the girl would fall back asleep before they even made it to the kitchens. Cara, ignoring the grin Kahlan shot her, found herself rushing to get dressed like she used to during her first days as a Mord'Sith.

"It won't last, you know." Cara faltered briefly at the voice before continuing. "You're not good enough. You think the Confessors love you? They'll cast you aside just like they did before and when they do, you'll-"

"Go fuck yourself, Rahl." The blonde looked the hallucination dead in the eyes and almost cried herself when it finally began to dissipate. Blinking stray tears away, her eyes darted around the room in search of the figure. Finding none, a smile began to form on her lips. It was finally over. She was free.