Lightning arches across the sky. The rain has become freezing. Whipped by the wind, it hits her with a force that sets all her senses on fire. The feeling of water on her arms and legs makes her skin crawl. The boat’s rocking raises bile in her throat.
She should go below deck. Ezran is already there, cuddled with Bait and warmer and dryer than she could ever be out here. She could wait out the storm, maybe even sleep. But she can’t. Overwhelming everything--the cold, the thunder, the water --is worry.
She’s worried for him.
Callum is clumsy and awkward and inexperienced, but he’s no fool. He is brave and clever and determined and he can handle himself for a few hours.
So why is she so worried?
She thinks of his face in the rain, his soppy hair plastered against his forehead and dribbling water down his cheekbones. She thinks of the faraway look in his eyes, that shine of curiosity and wonder and intelligence that appears whenever he talks of magic. She thinks of his voice as he speaks, cracking and hesitant but growing more and more confident the longer she knows him. That face, those eyes, that voice--they have all become immeasurably dear to her.
So they better come back.
They do. He does. His shoulders are slumped and everything in him droops with insecurity. But the sun is shining, and he’s in front of her, physically whole and here and okay. Her relief threatens to crush her and send her flying all at once.
He raises sad eyes to hers. The light illuminates his face fully, and she suppresses a gasp at the sight.
Somewhere along the line, he’s become the most beautiful boy in the world.
And everything is just….
Rayla’s always been pretty. Even holding a sword at his throat, she, with her hair and horns and ears and spirit, had commanded his attention. And she’d kept it. Her kindness and bravery had lent a whole new dimension to those strange, strange eyes, and her playfulness and energy had made lithe limbs into living artwork. She’s the most amazing person he’s ever met. He’s grateful that they met. He wouldn’t change a thing about her.
He just wishes she’d stop throwing herself into the flames.
Right now, she’s quite literally about to face fire. He is torn between admiring her courage and wanting desperately to drag her far, far away. Anywhere but here, where there is a very high chance she will make her last stand to keep him safe.
But Rayla is Rayla, always pretty, always brave, always too ready to die.
I don’t want you to die, he thinks with a force that makes him dizzy. If there is such a thing as destiny, keep her alive.
Of course she nearly dies. Destiny is pebbles against tons of solid rock, and for a horrible moment he is utterly convinced that she’s gone too. But luck makes it through the cracks, and so does she.
She picks up his scarf, scratched and singed but whole all the same. Throws him an impish grin as the sun ignites her eyes. Says something that hardly registers because his entire mind has become overloaded with the sight of her. The life of her.
She’s the most beautiful girl in the world.