Callum and Rayla didn’t fight often. If you asked those around them, they would probably say they never fought. However, all couples have their touchy subjects and at first, Runaan was one. They carefully avoided talking about him for a month or so after the war ended, until one night Rayla was woken up by a nightmare. Relatively speaking, it wasn’t one of the worst she’d had, but it was the first one she’d had featuring Runaan.
It was probably sparked by the fact that they’d talked to Gren the evening before, and he’d finally divulged everything he’d witnessed as Viren’s prisoner... including Runaan’s fate.
Eventually, Callum said, ‘You want to talk about it?’
Rayla swallowed. ‘It was about Runaan.’ She felt him tense up and disentangled herself from his arms. ‘We haven’t talked about him yet.’ She held his gaze in the dimness – they always made sure to let a little light into their room so they could easily see where they were after waking from a nightmare. He wasn’t meeting her eyes.
‘Can we talk about this in the morning when we aren’t sleep-deprived?’
‘You’ve got a problem with him.’
‘I just... he killed my father. It was him, not just one of his assassins, and there was so much I never got to say to him, so many things and chances taken from us because-‘ He broke off, looking at Rayla with a stricken expression. She dimly registered the tears gathering in the corner of her eyes through the rising fury.
‘That’s exactly why you should get it – because Runaan was my father, and I thought you’d support me now instead of telling me how much you hate him, because he’s in a coin right now! Who knows how much pain he’s in, I don’t know how I’ll get him back or how long it will take or if he’ll be beyond saving, and-‘ She choked on a sob.
Callum reached for her. ‘Rayla-‘
‘Just don’t.’ She rolled over and lay with her back to him. After a long pause, she heard him lying back down as she tried to keep the tears pouring down her cheeks silent.
She didn’t sleep well that night.
Callum hadn’t slept well that night.
Eventually he had managed to drift off, but the first thing he felt upon waking was regret. He hadn’t been thinking straight and, oh no, had he really said such things to Rayla?
She was gone when he woke up, so he dressed as quickly as he could and raced down to the courtyard, where – true to form – she was sparring with Soren. Despite their rocky start, they had quickly become good friends.
Soren, noticing him, said something to Rayla. She turned and made a beeline for him. He met her in the middle, below the tree, as Soren made his exit and left them alone.
‘I’m sorry,’ they said in unison. She laughed a little.
‘Is it ok if I go first?’ he asked. At her nod, he continued, ‘I’m so sorry, Rayla. I haven’t been thinking about what this news would have done to you. You’d barely mourned him once and then you find out something so terrible has been done to him and that must be horrible. And, being you, of course you want to help him and that must be eating away at you. Runaan is your father and you love him. You know him better than I do. I was so wrapped up in myself I didn’t think about you.’
He had felt horribly guilty all night, and even now he still felt terrible.
‘It’s not just you,’ she said. ‘Runaan did kill your father, and you had such a complicated relationship with him. You never really got closure, and he’s definitely at least partly to blame. I could have understood that it’s hard for you, and your dad is a touchy subject. We haven’t talked about Runaan or the part he played in Harrow’s death enough. But you met him on his worst day. For most of my childhood he was nothing like that, but when we heard my parents had supposedly run away it hit him hard and he was never the same after that. That day, in particular, was really hard because everything had gone wrong – and most of it was my fault. Even then, he would never have hurt me.’
‘I guess we both said things we didn’t mean,’ said Callum softly. He had never considered Runaan through that lens.
‘We were sleep-deprived,’ she said. ‘I guess it was bound to go wrong.’
They stepped towards each other in the same moment. He put his arms around her and held her tight.
‘You know I’ll help you. I’ll be with you every step of the way, and we will get him back.’