Callum takes an arrow for her one day.
It’s dumb - her body has a better immune system, and a faster recovery rate, and Callum knows this (she thinks), but they’re on their way out of a small town near the Breach one day when Rayla’s hood falls and the guards figure out what - and who - she is.
He doesn’t even think about it. He sees a guard take aim at her from the corner of his eye, and he cries, “Rayla, watch out!”, shoves her out of the way, and takes the arrow in his arm.
Honestly, it would have been faster for everyone if he hadn’t tried - Rayla might have seen it in time - she would have - and maybe they wouldn’t be in this situation, and maybe he wouldn’t be hurt, and -
“That was stupid!” she snaps when they’re in the clear. “Yer such an idiot, Callum, what were ye thinkin’?”
“That guard would have hit you!”
“He might no’ have!”
“I was just looking out for you!” he snarls. “That’s what friends do , Rayla, they look out for each other!”
She scowls at him and presses the bandage - a bit of cloth she’d torn off the edge of her cloak - harder into his shoulder. “I can take care of myself,” she grumbles. “I don’t need ye to look out for me. I would have been fine.”
“Maybe you would have, but I’d still rather it be me than you.” Callum sets his jaw and glares stubbornly into the fire. Rayla doesn’t think she’s ever seen him so angry. “They shouldn’t want to hurt you just because you’re an elf.”
Rayla purses her lips at him. “I think it migh’ have been because they think I kidnapped ye and Ez.”
“They’d want to hurt you anyway, even if they hadn’t figured that out,” says Callum quietly. “It’s stupid, and awful, and just - ” His good hand closes into a fist and punches the dirt gently. “It’s not fair. You haven’t done anything wrong.”
“I did bind myself to kill Ez,” she reminds him.
“Not the point.” Callum sighs and winces a little as Rayla lifts the cloth to check the bleeding. “You’re a good person, Rayla. No one should treat you as anything less just because you don’t look like them.”
Despite herself, Rayla can’t help the little smile that tugs at her lips. “The thought is nice,” she admits quietly. “But the world doesn’t work like that.”
“Wish it did,” grumbles Callum.
She sighs gently, and she shifts a little so that she’s seated beside him but facing the opposite direction. “It doesn’t matter,” she tells him. “The elves should never have banished humans from Xadia, and humans should never have attacked the Dragon King, and neither of us should be so hostile to each other. Everything abou’ this war stupid. But we can change all that - we are changing that - and, Callum - ” She pauses, hands stilling at his shoulder and squeezing just a little - not enough to hurt him, but enough that she hopes it comforts him. “Ye and Ez don’t think I’m a monster, do ye?”
“Of course not,” says Callum quietly, touching her hands and holding them still.
Rayla freezes. His touch feels funny against her skin, and if he wasn’t still bleeding, she might have pulled away. “Callum,” she murmurs.
“Can I have my hands back?”
“Oh. Oh. ” Callum flushes.
His hand falls away and Rayla almost immediately misses its warmth against her skin. She says nothing though. She ties off the bandage and shuffles around so that she can look into the fire too. “Yer still an idiot,” she mumbles at last. “But thank ye. For - ye know.”
Callum smiles just a little, and it’s enough to convince Rayla that there’s hope for peace yet.