I know I need to update my other fics. And I will! Just not right now. I need to get my TDP feelings out. Thus, this completely self-indulgent rayllum college!au was created. I am having so much fun writing it, and I hope you enjoy reading it at least that much, too. :)


"Katolis State University is proud to introduce its first Xadian exchange student in over one hundred years - everyone, please give a warm welcome to Rayla Moonshadow!"

Callum found himself cringing at the contrast between his stepfather's genuine excitement and the student body's... lackluster response.

"I feel bad for her," Claudia murmured, resting her chin on her hand. "I understand why your dad is so happy, especially since he pushed so hard with the state to allow her to be here, but so many Katolians still don't like Xadians. I mean, look at the poor girl's face!"

Claudia had a point - the Xadian student did look extremely uncomfortable. Though Callum could clearly see that she was tall, she was standing in a manner that made her appear much smaller. Her white hair hung down to hide part of her face, the lavender streaks dancing through it almost washed away by the stage's bright lights.

"Rayla will study here for the remainder of her sophomore year. If all goes well, one of you will attend the Xadian Academy next year," Harrow continued. "But that is not something any of you need to worry yourselves over at the moment. I expect you all to make Rayla feel welcome here."

"Maybe we should go talk to her afterwards," Callum blurted out as his father continued to speak. He flushed when he realized what he'd suggested - apparently the words had left his mouth before they'd finished being processed in his brain.

Soren raised an eyebrow. "Where did that sudden eagerness come from?"

Callum shrugged, aware of how red his face had to be but ignoring it. "Like Claudia said. I feel kinda bad for her."

Claudia popped her gum, shrugging. "I'm down. Since she's a sophomore, I might even have a few classes with her. Based on the anti-Xadian attitudes of... of more than a few kids at this school, I have a feeling she'll accept any company she can get. Even if it is from weirdos like us."

Soren laughed as he jokingly elbowed his sister in the stomach. "Don't lump me in with the two of you." He pulled his phone out of his pocket to check the time. "Ugh. I have a class after this, so I can't join you. But..." He put his phone away. "If you happen to hit it off, we can all go out one night and I can properly meet her."

"Roger that," Claudia said with a mock-salute, earning another elbow from Soren and laughter from Callum.

"Rayla, is there anything you want to say to your new classmates?" Harrow's voice brought the attention of the three back to the stage.

The girl attempted to smile, though it was clearly more of a grimace. "Ah... I'm thankful for this opportunity." Her accent was thick, but not enough for her to be misunderstood.

Harrow nodded, returning the mic to beneath his face. "And we are all grateful that you decided to take advantage of it."

As his dad continued to drone on about the significance of the girl's attendance at the school, Callum found his attention drifting down to his sketchbook. He was in the middle of working on a picture of his brother, Ezran, and Ezran's leopard gecko, Bait. The jagged line that trailed to the edge of the page indicated the point at which he'd gotten distracted. He sighed and carefully erased it, doing his best to avoid smudging the graphite. He wanted to give the picture to Ezran for his fourteenth birthday, which wasn't for another two and a half months, but his inspiration tended to wax and wane thus he decided to begin working on it early. He became so focused on his sketch that he didn't notice the assembly had begun to disperse until Claudia snapped her fingers in front of his nose, startling him and causing him to drop his pencil and very nearly drop his sketchbook.

"Someone's on edge," Claudia said wryly as she returned his pencil to him. "Come on! My dad and yours are talking to the girl right now, but we have to hurry if we want to catch her before any classes she might have."

Callum nodded, closing his sketchbook and shoving it into his satchel before following his friend out of the seats in the audience and down towards the stage.

"Again, I do apologize for the late notice," Viren was saying. His voice oozed with a false pleasantry that sent chills down Callum's spine. "But none of our available students were willing to room with a Xa..." He trailed off as Harrow sent him a warning glare. "No one wanted to room with someone they didn't know."

"I'll room with her!" Claudia offered as she arrived at the foot of the stage, earning surprised looks from all. "You know that there's more than enough room in my dorm, Dad."

Viren offered his daughter a pained smile. "Are you certain about this, Claudia?"

She nodded, rolling her eyes. "Obviously, Dad, or else I wouldn't have offered."

The Xadian girl shook her head. "You don't need to do that. Really. I have no problem with finding an apartment off campus if it's more convenient -"

"Don't be ridiculous," Claudia interrupted with a dismissive wave of her hand. "The best way to find your niche at KSU is live smack in the middle of it. As the daughter of the dean" - she gestured to Viren - "I was blessed with a larger dorm, plus the luxury of no roommate." She tossed her hair over her shoulder. "I have space, you need a room - problem solved." She offered her hand and a smile to the girl, though her being on the floor and the girl on the stage meant the girl knelt down to shake her hand. "I'm Claudia."

"Rayla. Though I'm sure you know that already."

"So it's settled!" Harrow said, clapping his hands together. "Rayla and Claudia will room together. I'll see what I can do about arranging it so the two of you also have at least one class together."

"Harrow? Viren?"

Attention in the room shifted to a blonde woman standing at the auditorium's door.

"Oh, crap," Harrow muttered, glancing at his watch. "Are we late, Opeli?"

"Not yet," was the woman's brisk response. "But I wouldn't push your luck."

Viren headed to the exit immediately, pushing past Opeli and not bothering to say any goodbyes.

Harrow returned his attention back to the trio. "Claudia, thank you again. Rayla, if you need anything at all, don't hesitate to come to me. Callum -" He stopped. "Callum, have you been here the whole time?" At his stepson's embarrassed nod, he sighed. "Right. Glad to know I'm a terrible father."

"It was actually Callum who wanted to come talk to Rayla," Claudia said, slinging her arm around Callum's shoulders and causing him to stumble sideways. "But he's a little shy, so he kind of became my silent cheerleader."

Callum groaned at the description. "Thanks, Claudia."

"Harrow, you need to leave now," Opeli called from the doorway. "The council is pissed off enough already. Let's not add to their list."

Harrow sighed and said goodbye, pulling Callum into a hug before taking his leave.

Callum ended up being the one to break the silence - which, in all honesty, was not something he often did. "Hi," he stammered, offering the new girl his hand to shake. "I'm Callum. Obviously you've already met my dad."

"Rayla. And Harrow's your dad?" She raised an eyebrow as she released his hand. "Forgive me if this is rude, but you don't look much like him."

Callum laughed as he pulled his hand away. "Stepdad, technically."

"Ah. Makes more sense."

"I don't know about you guys," Claudia began, "but I don't have class for another hour and I'm feeling kinda peckish. Want to hit up that new café?"

Callum shrugged. "Sounds good to me." He turned to Rayla, giving her a small smile. "Care to join us?"

Rayla hesitated, uncertainty flickering in her violet eyes. "Are you sure you want to be seen hanging around me? I know that I'm not exactly welcome here."

"Trust me, most people really couldn't care less," Claudia reassured her. "And if anyone does say anything about it, I'll just get them expelled."

Rayla blinked. "You can do that?"

Claudia shrugged. "Let's hope we don't have to find out."

Rayla burst out laughing at her comment, and Callum found himself joining in. Her laughter was contagious, and the way her accent seemed to leak through was... endearing. "Well, as long as you're sure you don't mind."

"Of course we don't!" Claudia exclaimed. "Believe me, we wouldn't have offered if we did."

"That's very true," Callum added as they began walking out of the auditorium. "Claudia is very selective about her company."

"Callum, you make me sound like a prick!" Claudia protested. "I just have standards. That's all."

Callum continued to banter with his friend as they made their way to the café, and while Rayla didn't join in, he was pleased to see that the smile on her face didn't fade.


Over the course of half an hour, Callum learned that Rayla was studying literature and sociology, with a few women's and gender studies' courses thrown in here and there. She was from Silvergrove in Xadia, and no, not everyone's accent was the same as hers. Or as thick as hers. Her parents had been security guards for a Xadian diplomat, and as a result hadn't been around much, even before the plane crash that had taken their lives a few years ago. She lived with family friends, Runaan and Ethari, and she had no siblings, for which she was eternally grateful. She'd studied martial arts for as long as she could walk. A few years ago she'd started to learn how to incorporate blades into her fighting.

Claudia was impressed by this fact, and asked if Rayla would be willing to provide a demonstration for her at some point, to which the Xadian girl eagerly agreed.

Callum felt no need to ask for a demonstration; Rayla was currently wearing just a normal t-shirt, and based on the way her muscles flexed every time she moved her arm it was clear to him that she was telling the truth about her physical prowess.

"Aw, man," Claudia complained as she checked the time on her phone. "I have bio in fifteen minutes. Guess that means I have to say my farewells." She stood up, giving the two a mock bow. "A delightful conversation we shared, truly. See you at the dorm, Rayla!" With a wink and the swish of her black coat, she was gone.

An awkward silence fell. Callum wasn't sure how to break it - until then, Claudia had been the one primarily pushing the conversation forward.

"I take it you don't have a class to get to, then?" Rayla asked before taking a sip of her coffee.

Callum shook his head. "Nope. I don't have physics until one." And it was currently only twenty minutes before noon.

"Hm." Rayla pulled a sheet of paper out of her backpack, which was hanging from her chair. "I have Shakespearean Literature at 12:45." She glanced at him, an embarrassed expression falling upon her features. "I don't suppose you could show me where Seton Hall is?"

Callum laughed. "I don't mind showing you, no. Although I have to admit I only know where that's located because of Claudia."

Rayla gave him a knowing grin. "Ah. I see. So how long have you two been together?"

Callum stiffened as his face turned bright red. "I - she - we're not together!" he stammered as he dropped and barely caught his pen, his voice an octave higher than he would have liked. "We've just known each other for a long time! Besides, Claudia is a sophomore and I'm just a freshman, which means she's - she's way out of my league." He placed his pen down as the red slowly began to fade from his face. "Why do you - why do you ask? Did you... notice something?"

Rayla, though seemingly startled by his outburst, chuckled. "So it's one-sided affection. Gotcha." She lightly flicked his nose, which was an action Callum would have been embarrassed to receive from anyone else but for some reason didn't mind when Rayla did it. "Don't fret. One year isn't a huge gap, you know. And I asked because I noticed you sketching her the entire time."

Callum flushed and pulled his sketchbook closer to him, though he didn't bother to hide the picture of Claudia. "There's actually two years difference between us," he admitted. "Both she and her brother missed a year of school when her parents got divorced."

Rayla winced, nodding. "That sucks."

Callum snorted at her blunt response. "Well, that's one way to put it."

"Precisely." Rayla took a final sip of her coffee. "I don't think you should give up hope, sad prince. You're pretty cute. If you ever work up the courage to ask her, she'll probably say yes."

Callum raised an eyebrow at her comment, a near-pitiful attempt to regain his composure and pretend he wasn't still blushing. "'Prince'? What's that about?"

Rayla shrugged. "Your dad is the head of the college. He's kind of like a king. As such, you are kinda like a prince."

Callum paused, then grinned. "All right. I can live with that."

Their conversation shifted back to school, and Callum explained how he was majoring in physics and minoring in art, and that his favorite elective was Renaissance History. Rayla asked him about sports, and while she was disappointed to learn that there was no martial arts team, the idea of wrestling appeared to intrigue her.

"Do you know if they allow girls?" she said.

Callum shrugged. "No idea. Remember - I haven't been here for a full semester yet. Plus..." He gestured to himself. "I don't exactly scream 'wrestler', do I?"

Rayla snickered. "Well, you've got that right."

Callum gasped in mock-offense at her comment. "How stereotyping of you."

"You said it first!"

Before Callum knew it, it was already 12:30. Rayla was easy to talk to, even if she did bruise his ego, and so far time was flying by when he was around her. She was funny, quick-witted, and charming - at least in his opinion.

It saddened him to think that some people would never approach her simply because she was Xadian. While tensions had certainly lessened between Katolis and Xadia, the situation was nowhere near perfect, and he was keenly aware of the shocked and even disgusted looks that had been sent their way just from being in the café together.

"Are you okay with showing me where my class is now?" Rayla asked as she threw away her cup and the wrapper that had held her pastry. "I want to get there a little early, if I can."

"Sure," Callum replied, following her lead and disposing of his trash. He tucked his sketchbook and his pen into his satchel, but before he could get to the door, Rayla stepped forward to hold it open for him.

"Princes first," she said with a smirk, snickering as he rolled his eyes.

"Seton Hall actually isn't far from here," Callum said as they headed further into campus. "It's the same building the auditorium and most acting classes are in."

Rayla frowned upon pulling her schedule out of her back pocket and examining it, straightening out a bend in the top right corner of the page. "Why aren't my other literature classes in this building?"

"I always thought they put Shakespeare in the building with theatre classes because of the overlap between the courses," Callum offered. "Maybe you get to see them perform some of the plays."

Rayla shrugged, shoving her schedule back into her pocket. "I guess I'll find out."

They arrived at her classroom a few minutes later, with just under 10 minutes left before her class started.

"I suppose this is where we part ways," Rayla said, shouldering her booksack and giving him a soft smile. "It was nice meeting you, Callum. I hope we find time to hang out again."

Callum chuckled. "With Claudia as your roommate, I'm sure plenty of opportunities will arise." He hesitated, then added, "I could give you a tour of campus. Someday. If you're interested."

Rayla's smile widened. "I'd like that a lot." She reached into her pocket, pulling out her receipt from the café before ripping it in half. "Can I use your pen?"

Callum fished his pen out of his satchel and handed it to her, their fingertips brushing as he did so. She proceeded to scribble something on one half of the receipt before handing it all back to him.

It was a phone number, he realized.

"The school provided me with a temporary phone and number to avoid international texting charges," she explained, shoving her hands into her pockets. "Rather kind of them, now that I think about it." When Callum didn't respond, instead simply staring down at the slips of paper and the pen in his hands, she rolled her eyes and sighed in mock-exasperation. "Callum, the polite thing to do when someone gives you their number is to give them your own."

Callum felt the blood rush to his face. "Right," he stammered, tucking her number away in his pocket and writing his own onto the other half of the receipt before handing it to her.

Rayla winked at him as she accepted the paper. "See you later, Callum!" she said before disappearing into her classroom.

Callum remained there, frozen, for a few seconds more, his pen still clutched to his chest. Rayla was... an interesting person, to say the least. She seemed smart - certainly more clever than him.

Then Callum remembered that he, too, had a class starting soon. But his phone buzzed only a few minutes after he'd headed out of the building.

(330) 229-6868: I'm sure you've realized by now that typically only one person receives a phone number in an exchange between acquaintances

Callum, in fact, had not thought that deeply about it, but he wasn't going to tell Rayla that. He added her as a contact before responding.

Callum: Yeah, I was wondering, lol

Rayla: I assure you that there is a method to my madness

Callum: Riiiight

Rayla: Look. I knew you wouldn't have the guts to ask for my number

Rayla: Don't deny it

Callum guiltily erased the beginning of That's not true.

Callum: Maybe

Rayla: And I also knew that even if I gave you my number, you wouldn't dare to text me first

Rayla: Now we both win!

Callum couldn't stop himself from grinning at his phone at her response. So not only was she smart and funny, but she was also far more lighthearted than he'd originally given her credit for.

Callum: Seems so

Rayla: oh my god you sound like a pretentious douche over text

Rayla: Class is starting soon

Rayla: Give my number to Claudia pls

Callum: Ofc

She didn't respond, so he assumed her class must have started. He tucked his phone into his satchel and continued his walk to physics, stepping up his pace to ensure he'd get there on time. And while he walked, he couldn't keep the happy smile off his lips at the thought of his new friend.


But he liked it.


I wrote this from Callum's POV because my crush on Rayla is much easier to articulate than my crush on Callum, haha. I hope you enjoyed! (Updates will be loosely consistent for a while. School is starting again soon so I cannot provide an exact schedule.)