Note:Wow, so...this is actually an entirely new work I wrote over the last couple days. Go easy on me. Written for the prompt "abolish," which I received on Reddit.
"I'm simply saying, as the Mother Confessor, you could abolish this barbaric practice outright."
Kahlan giggled softly at Cara's continued rant as she rose from a half-crouch behind the Mord-Sith, letting go the umpteenth lace of the dress which once belonged to Princess Laurelin of Trice. It had been hard to stop laughing, really, since the adrenaline from the brawl with the Sisters of the Dark had subsided. After all, Cara had looked absolutely ridiculous, stomping through the Margrave's dungeon wielding a sword with one hand, hiking up her skirts with the other. In truth, the incredibly-pink garment was in no way unflattering, but it obviously also wasn't Cara. She wondered how deeply Zedd had to beg her to follow through with their caper - in any case, Kahlan was definitely glad that she had. She could have been lost to the Sisters of the Dark if the rescue had failed.
"Abolish what practice?" Kahlan asked over from Cara's shoulder, struggling to disguise the amusement in her voice. "The wearing of dresses?" The word itself caused her to break - she chuckled loudly before covering her mouth, whispering yet another wheezy apology. Cara just glowered even more fiercely at the undergrowth at her feet.
"Yes," she hissed as Kahlan went back to assisting her, pulled backward abruptly as the Confessor worked at another knot. "They're nothing but ineffective, useless costumes. Every time I moved, every breath I took, I was stifled by all these infernal layers. I could hardly fight! It's altogether absurd and I want no part in it, ever again."
She looked like a pot about to boil over. Kahlan swore she could see the steam rising from her exposed skin...of which there was admittedly not much, minus the parts revealed by the pronounced decolletage (another laugh, here, not even held back - Cara's bosom alone had probably saved the day). To see a Mord-Sith, well-accustomed to torture of the most heinous degree, throwing a tantrum over her outfit was equal parts unsettling and comical.
"You seemed to fare just fine, as far as I could tell." Kahlan shrugged noncommittally, sparing Cara's squirming body from another set of eyelets. Honestly, it was like changing a toddling child's clothes. "I'm sure you realize that I happen to be in a dress during every fight. You've seen the sleeves on my white dress, haven't you? If you ask me, you were lucky." Cara grunted in response, though it was somewhat closer to a snarl, tugging desperately at the ruffle of lace around her collar.
"Besides," Kahlan continued, "your leathers don't exactly seem to give the promise of comfort to their wearer, and you've never once complained about them."
This did it. Cara whirled around to face her assistant. Her jaw was clenched tight, glaring at the Confessor, teal eyes enraged but pointedly clear and wide, and Kahlan might have been a bit more alarmed by the sudden reaction if...well, if Cara hadn't resembled a carefully-decorated baked good at that very moment.
"My leathers," Cara enunciated slowly, dagger-like, "are quite functional, to the contrary. Flexible. Protective. A symbol of power and strength, and discipline. It's an honor to have the distinction to wear them." She all but ripped the tiara from her coiffed hair and the dangling jewels from her ears, tossing each one onto the ground as she continued. "Give me a thousand lifetimes in my leathers before a repeat of this lace and these feathers."
She stopped abruptly, turning alabaster, horror setting in at her last phrase. Kahlan gaped right back at her, slowly raising a hand to cover her open mouth. As much as an escaped snicker at this point might have led to complete and blind fury.
"Damn it all, what has the wizard done to me? I can't stop this hellish rhyming!" Cara cried in panicked despair, throwing her arms up as far as the dress's bodice would allow her. She took a deep, ragged breath, pressing the heels of her palms into her forehead. "Kahlan, just end this misery for me. Confess me. Don't make me beg."
The histrionics were somehow only amplified by her deadly-serious tone, and Kahlan rolled her eyes playfully at Cara's injured pride. "I could hardly do anything of the sort. Not after you endured this egregious injustice for my sake," she teased, turning Cara around by her shoulders and resuming the task of unlacing yet again.
"Please, Kahlan," Cara scoffed. "You might have spared me in Stowecroft, but don't flatter yourself thinking I'd willingly cram myself into this pastel monstrosity for you." It wasn't said to offend, and Kahlan wasn't; she just shook her head at the dramatics as Cara continued. "I was following Richard's command. If he chose to go along with the wizard's asinine, self-satisfied plot, I had no choice. It was my duty."
"...your duty to put on a pretty pink dress?"
If Cara had been a bit less disciplined, she would have thrown herself to the ground. Kahlan felt her arms tense in anger and, without needing to see the indignation on her face, ran a hand up her back to her shoulder. A firm, soothing squeeze, and the Mord-Sith relaxed almost imperceptibly.
"I'm only teasing you," she said. "I have the same plans for Richard when we're finished here. The blond hair was surely something to witness. For all the quips you make at us, it's time you learn to receive as you give." A beat, and Cara, head hanging, finally gave the slightest laugh.
"You're easy targets." She smirked, and Kahlan's smile widened.
"That very well might be the case. But, you should know that you might have made Zedd's entire life a bit brighter by playing dress-up for him. He hasn't stopped buzzing about it yet," Kahlan pointed out, raising her eyebrows as Cara glanced over her shoulder. "I worry for the poor patrons of the next tavern we visit."
"I should mention that we never would have succeeded if I hadn't taken matters into my own hands," Cara commented, smirking, nearly boasting, and a little swell burst in Kahlan's chest. Cara was certainly not humble, that much was clear, but it was heartening to hear her being proud of herself and of her efforts for the good of everyone. "Zedd isn't the only one of us who can formulate and properly execute an impromptu strategy."
"You certainly did," Kahlan assured, finally working out the final knot of the dress's lacing. She pulled the garment looser, and Cara groaned with relief, among the most vulnerable sounds Kahlan had ever heard her make. But instead of releasing her, Kahlan kept her grasp on the fabric paneling, holding Cara where she was. She leaned over her shoulder to speak softly into her ear. "And, with this part I wasn't joking: you looked very pretty doing it."
For a moment, neither spoke, both becoming preoccupied looking at something inconsequential in two opposite directions. Finally, Kahlan cleared her throat, letting go of Cara's dress. Cara immediately began pulling at its sleeves, sweet liberation finally within sight.
"Well, I should see if Richard needs any help with Zedd's dress," said the Confessor. "I'm assuming you can handle your petticoat alone?"
At that, Cara plainly sneered.
"You would be overcome, Confessor."
Kahlan, again, rolled her eyes, leaving Cara's comment without rebuttal. She turned and began away, but a few steps later, she heard Cara's voice behind her.
"Kahlan." Kahlan stopped and turned again. Cara's arms were crossed over her chest, holding the dress in place; her eyes were on the ground just before Kahlan's feet.
"Thank you for helping me." Cara's voice was just a murmur, but a murmur in which Kahlan could hear sincerity, even without her Confessor powers. "It's a relief that you're safe."
Something between them shifted, even if neither realized it.
"I'm happy to do it," Kahlan replied, just as quietly, but with a warm smile. There was more begging to be said, so she continued. "I know you said you didn't suffer this for me, but I'm grateful for it anyway. Among a great many things, today's success has proven you to be indispensable. I'm really glad you're with us, Cara."
Their eyes met, just for a second, before Kahlan turned and walked away for good. She felt Cara's gaze on her back until she broke through the far line of trees, where Richard was surely struggling with Zedd's corset.
After everyone was back in their proper clothing, they made camp for the night with plans to finish the journey to Nargoth the following morning.
The evening looked quite similar to the one that began the whole dalliance in Rothenberg. Richard and Zedd were gathered around the cooking pot, listening with rapt attention while Arla demonstrated a new recipe for their growing repertoire. Cara, comfortable back in her leathers, was splitting logs to continue feeding the fire. The cadence of her hatchet strikes was rhythmic, regular. Kahlan, smiling contentedly at nothing in particular, sat in quiet observation as she relaxed before dinner. She leaned over to pull her pack towards her, planning to brush her hair before they ate. She sat up, confused, when she touched an unfamiliar item placed right on top.
It was a small white cloth, folded into an even tiny square. Kahlan narrowed her eyes uncertainly as she unfurled it, growing even more befuddled as she studied the pattern sewn into it - or lack of pattern, she thought. An awkward starburst woven in blue and yellow thread, with no identifiable shape, like the handiwork of a child. Kahlan smoothed it over her lap and was about to address her the mysterious handkerchief out loud…
When she realized she had heard Zedd tell this tale three times already this evening.
The whack of the axe-blade on wood had stopped. Cara was standing still, watching Kahlan from across the fire. Their eyes met in the shadowy dark. Kahlan swore she saw a tiny excited smile ghost over the Mord-Sith's lips before she raised the hatchet again and gracefully continued her toil.
Kahlan grinned as she folded the handkerchief and placed it gently back into her pack.