Title: Steady Ground
Author: [archiveofourown.org profile] alyse
Fandom: Legend of the Seeker
Pairing: Cara/Zedd
Rating: PG13
Warnings/Spoilers: No warnings. Vague spoilers for season 2.
Word Count: 2,750
Author's Notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] meridian_rose for the [livejournal.com profile] legendland Thing-a-Thon exchange using the prompt 'powerful magic', and being crack, fluff and hurt-comfort :D.

Enjoy!

Summary: Getting back to killing things was always a welcome relief. It was familiar ground, but then Zedd was developing the annoying habit of yanking that right out from underneath her feet.

-o-

For all that he was happy to play the fool, Zedd was much more shrewd than Cara gave him credit for. He hadn't missed the sidelong looks she'd been shooting him, or the way that she was usually frowning when she did so.

Not that she wasn't usually frowning - she was Mord'Sith after all. She had a reputation to maintain.

And it appeared that Zedd's reputation - the one that had entire villages saying his name with awe - was entirely earned. It was difficult to reconcile the old man who walked beside her every day, rambling away quite happily in both senses of the word, with the one who was capable of creating entire castles out of the sky.

Powerful magic indeed.

She was determinedly not thinking about how he'd also managed to become young again, how much power that had taken - and she had no doubt that the magic behind that little transformation had come from Zedd, not the Witch of Agadon Reach, no matter Shota's reputation.

She was determinedly not thinking about how attractive a young Zedd had been.

She shot Zedd another look, still frowning.

He was smiling back at her, his tolerant, amused smile, the one that said all was right with the world, and that he still managed to find delight in it - and in her - no matter what the world threw back at him.

"What?" she asked him belligerently, her hand flying automatically to the handle of her agiel, the way it always did whenever she felt caught off balance. The low-level thrum of pain that ran through her was comforting, grounding her when she needed it.

"Why don't you just ask, dear one?" he said mildly. "Something is obviously bothering you."

Nothing was bothering her. She had no idea what the old idiot was rambling on about now. She quickened her pace, not intending to give him whatever satisfaction he was looking for.

Her treacherous mouth had other ideas, but then it had a habit of getting her into trouble, trouble that her agiels usually had no difficulty getting her out of.

Not that they would help this time.

"If you could do that - be young - why would you...?"

She jerked her head at him, the move managing to sum Zedd up in one neat gesture, and only then realising how it sounded. But she was Mord'Sith, and Mord'Sith did not apologise. Ever.

Zedd chuckled, not at all offended by her question or the way she'd phrased it. "Richard had very much the same question," he said mildly.

"Are you going to give me the same answer?"

He smiled, still amused. "I'm going to give you an honest answer, as I answered Richard honestly, even if the detail differs."

Cryptic as usual. Cara rolled her eyes, wondering why she was even bothering.

She knew exactly why, and it was that reason that was really bothering her.

Zedd's steps had slowed as he considered her question, his face creased thoughtfully, and she slowed her steps to match his, barely registering it.

"May I ask you a question first?" Zedd began, giving her a little quizzical look of his own. He didn't wait for her to answer, blithely assuming that even if she protested he'd be able to persuade her around to his way of thinking. He wasn't exactly wrong based on his past record in that respect. "You are a Mord'Sith - you have your leathers and you have your scars, but travelling with Richard - " He nodded towards his grandson, who was ahead of them now, his head bent towards Kahlan as the pair of them talked to each other too softly for their words to carry back.

She didn't need to hear it - she'd heard it too often, the sweet nothings that they exchanged, and the genuine feeling that lay underneath their honesty.

"Yes, Wizard," she said, letting her impatience colour her voice. "Do you have a point?"

Zedd laughed softly. "With Richard, you have no need to continue to wear Mord'Sith red. You could wear anything you like - no uniform, no allegiance but that you choose to give. And as for your scars... Well, my magic is at your command. I can't remove all traces, but I can fade those you have underneath your leathers."

The blood rose to her face, leaving her skin tight and uncomfortable, and not the kind of discomfort that she wore with pride. The idea of Zedd thinking about what was under her leathers wasn't an entirely easy one to get used to.

And it wasn't entirely unwelcome, which was worse.

Before she could lose her temper, get back on more familiar ground, Zedd drew to a stop, his gaze piercing.

"Would you? If you could?"

"No!" Her protest was forceful, but that didn't seem to come as a surprise to Zedd. He nodded thoughtfully, still watching her face.

"Because they are part of you," he said, still mild even as her blood was beginning to boil. She opened her mouth, ready to let forth some of the vitriol, let loose some of the pressure building up in her the way it always did when she was pushed out of her sense of true, but Zedd cut her off, still watching her closely, his expression no longer amused but fond, now.

"They map your past, child, and like you I have no desire to forget my past, not even the painful parts." He touched his face, fingers tracking the lines that radiated from the corners of his eyes, the furrows in his cheeks from smiling. His expression was rueful, but his eyes were still bright blue, still piercing and heading back towards amused. At himself, she thought, rather than her. "These are my scars," he added. "They mark the journey from who I was to who I am today. These lines, this hair... I've lived a long life, Cara, and I no longer have the desire to hide it. The Creator knows I have my faults - many, many of them and I'm willing to admit that vanity is one of them, but it's not that kind of vanity, thankfully. Not anymore."

"Unless you're visiting a whorehouse," she said, a bite in her voice. "I notice you had no problem putting on a pretty face in there."

Zedd laughed, as part of her had known he would.

"Well, as I've said, I have my vanity," he admitted, his eyes twinkling instead of piercing now. "And Salindra, poor thing, was worth the effort, even if she was too shallow to see the gold in the dirt without that transformation." He winked at her and she snorted, easier now that they were back on familiar territory.

"But," said Zedd, neatly sweeping that certainty out from underneath her feet, "I'm flattered that you thought me pretty."

He winked at her again while she was still reeling and lengthened his stride to catch up with Richard and Kahlan, leaving Cara to stare after him, open-mouthed.

-o-

She was more aware of Zedd after that, and not just in the 'where is he while we're fighting so I don't accidentally remove his fool head' way. If Zedd noticed her stolen looks - or her frowns or snorts or any other one of the myriad ways she probably gave herself away - he was kind enough not to mention it.

It was, of course, entirely possible that he remained oblivious. He could be shrewd, true, but he was still a man and therefore - in Cara's not so humble opinion - still ruled by his appetites.

And, for once, she wasn't just thinking of the one that concerned him filling his stomach.

It was disconcerting, disorientating and damned inconvenient. But Cara was Mord'Sith, and Mord'Sith were more than capable of ruling their own appetites. They were not men to succumb to fleeting cravings; they were disciplined, self-controlled - they did not submit to their desires. They made others submit to them.

And she wasn't hungry.

Not at all.

Not until she died and became a Baneling and had to deal with a hunger of a different sort.

She had Zedd - or his family, at least - to thank for changing her back.

-o-

Time passed, as time seemed to do in the Midlands - rapidly, frenetically and full of people trying to kill them.

Cara was starting to lose patience with it all.

The kidnapping Gars though, they were new. New and vermin ridden and really she could have done without the whole 'pretending to be a Princess' thing. Or the Zedd being strangely appealing in a dress thing. That was... almost as disturbing as the idea that someone could train Gars.

Almost.

Fighting the Margrave's guards - putting a knife to his throat (and other areas of his anatomy to which he was more attached, although that attachment could be a temporary thing as far as Cara was concerned) - was therefore cathartic. She knew where she was - who she was - when she had a sword in her hand, even if it didn't have the comforting weight of her agiels.

But that didn't mean that she wasn't relieved when Zedd changed back out of his dress into his more familiar Wizard's garb.

She knew who he was then. How she should treat him. And it didn't involve wondering how his mouth would taste with lipstick on it, whether it would have the familiar waxy feel to it as Triana's lips had had, or Dahlia's. Or finding herself distracted by thoughts about whether his lips would be soft underneath that makeup mask, and whether he would nip at her bottom lip, fighting her for dominance, or simply sigh, submitting to her touch.

Getting back to killing things was a welcome relief. It was familiar ground, but then Zedd was developing the annoying habit of yanking that right out from underneath her feet.

-o-

Apparently she'd turned evil.

She wasn't entirely sure how she felt about that, or how she felt about the fact that Zedd had, quite literally, remade the world to get her back.

Twice.

The one thing she was sure of was how she'd felt when Zedd had bellowed her name, panic and fear in his voice, or the relief that flooded his face when she answered him. At the sound of his voice, the fear in it and the longing attached to her name, her heart did that little trip, the one she buried underneath familiar affection and irritation, ignoring the ever-present pull that she felt around him.

They still had the world to save, and that helped.

Frankly, that distraction was the only thing keeping her sane.

-o-

And then Zedd died.

There was a moment, between the blow landing and Zedd crumpling to the floor, where the world stopped turning. She felt it like a blow herself - that absence, that stillness as the colour leached from everything, leaving it grey, unformed. Her ears were ringing, as though someone had screamed, a cry of fear and rage and grief that echoed throughout the clearing.

When the world came back, in flashes of brilliant red and white, D'Haran soldiers lay dead around her, their bodies twisted with the pain she'd inflicted as she'd killed them, and Zedd was so still, so very still as she knelt by his side, her throat aching and tasting of iron.

"Cara!"

Richard's cry sounded faint, distant, as he skidded to a stop, and there was grief in his voice, too. Even Richard's pain seemed distant as she reached out, settling her hand on Zedd's chest, right over his heart.

A heart that beat no longer, but that instead stained her glove with a deep red to match her leathers.

She summoned her magic, pulling everything she could into her, pulling on Richard's magic, too, the magic that bound the Mord'Sith to their Lord Rahl. Richard grunted, another sound of pain and loss, but she shut him out, shut everything out but the sound of the heart beneath her hand, the one that no longer beat.

She pressed her mouth against Zedd's, breathing out everything she had, all of her magic, all of her soul, pushing it into him.

The remnants of his magic - those lingering strands that still clung to his corpse, infusing every cell but fading now, fading as Zedd was fading - resisted her, turning her magic back on her like a Mord'Sith's power turned back all other magic. It was stubborn, slippery, like trying to pour water into a vessel in the face of a fierce wind. So much spilled away; so much, while so little settled into Zedd.

She persisted, determined to out-stubborn the old man, even now, at the point of death. She pushed and pushed, fighting fiercely, fighting to overcome him and his Keeper-damned magic, pouring everything she had into him, everything and more.

She was a Mord'Sith. She didn't lose. She wouldn't lose.

Not him.

The world greyed out again, and still she pushed, still she breathed for him, fighting his magic with her own, forcing his heart to beat again in time with her own.

His chest rose, once, twice, and then she felt it, that beat she'd been seeking, slow and soft at first and then growing stronger, steadier.

His hand closed over hers, and the world came back in flashes of red and gold.

"Cara," he murmured, and her hand became a claw, digging into his robe, gripping at his flesh, holding him to her, anchoring him when she was the one who - for once - needed that anchor. If she hurt him, he didn't make a sound - not Zedd, who complained constantly, a twinkle in his eye even as he did so.

There was no twinkle now, just a concern and a warmth that was only for her. He struggled to sit up and she let him, her hand still pressed against his chest, his hand still covering it.

"Richard," he said, his eyes finally leaving Cara's to meet Richard's over her head. "Perhaps you and Kahlan might like to hunt down the rest of this D'Haran contingent?"

Richard must have nodded, although Cara didn't turn her head to see it, unable to tear her eyes away from Zedd, Zedd who was breathing again. She heard Richard leave, though, the Lord Rahl slipping away almost silently like the wood guide he'd been.

It was not silent enough to escape Cara, not when everything was suddenly so clear and so sharp.

"My dear," Zedd said softly, his thumb stroking the back of her hand. She should pull away, put the walls back up again, but she couldn't move, couldn't retreat back to safety. "I could make myself look young again if that would help?"

That twinkle was back in his eyes, the corner of his mouth turning up, full of amusement and warm affection - with love - for her. He finally let go of her hand, his palm settling gently on the side of her face, cupping it carefully and his thumb now stroking over her cheek.

His touch was so gentle, and a Mord'Sith didn't need gentle. A Mord'Sith couldn't handle gentle, and she felt the pain of it - the pain and the longing - deep in her core.

"You deserve a young man, you know. Someone like Leo, whose knees don't ache on cold mornings and who might stand a chance of keeping up with you."

"You can keep up just fine, Wizard." His voice might have been soft, but hers was hard, uncompromising. It didn't throw him - if anything, his smile simply deepened, a slightly smug edge to it now.

If she'd had the energy - if her eyes didn't still sting and burn and her heart still ache - she'd have rolled her eyes at him, not let him get away with it. Remind him who she was and what it meant to be Mord'Sith.

A Mord'Sith was strong, unbending. A Mord'Sith resisted, but Cara no longer wanted to.

A Mord'Sith also took what she wanted, and that was the easier path to take. The right one to take, no matter how unsteady her footing felt.

She kissed him, pressing her lips firmly against his, demanding - and getting - his submission. His lips were dry and a little chapped, but they opened up under hers beautifully, letting her taste the remnants of her magic, and his on his tongue, in his soul.

And the ground stayed steady beneath her feet.

The end
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