A/N: Again, spoilers ahead for Through The Moon.

Also, angst.


Runaway


In the aftermath of the portal, in the quiet of the night, Rayla huddles together with Callum. She presses an ear to his chest and counts how many of her breaths mingle with his. She listens to the steady beating of his heart and tries to ignore the way hers ached in comparison.

The warmth of his embrace, the way he kissed away her tears, the way he holds her, how he still refuses to let go even while he sleeps – after everything they've been through, how could she just leave?

But she looks up at his sleeping face and she knows.

She can't risk losing him. She can't lose anyone else.

The nightmares come even when she's awake. Viren lurks in shadowy corners and the dark recesses of her mind. She sees him more clearly with every visage, and something different about him disturbs her every time – the hollow of his eyes, the malice in his sneer, the taunt in his words.

In the daylight, she's always tense and struggles against her own breathing, and it is only the weight of Callum's hand and the press of his lips that pull her back to reality.

Still, she can't shake the nightmares away.

She's chasing danger. She knows that. She's risking everything she's lucky to have even found. She knows that, too.

And she's risking losing him for good. She would gladly give her life if it meant she could save his.

Rayla cups Callum's face and her breath trembles. Tears prick at her eyes but she refuses to let them fall.

Her shoulders shake regardless.


Rayla waits until the moon is at its highest in the sky.

He doesn't wake when she reluctantly untangles herself from his arms. His hand slides across her skin as she slips out of bed, and in a tense moment of weakness she is tempted to stay in the comfort of his arms. She wishes, for once, that she doesn't have to do what's right - if she's even doing the right thing at all.

But his hand falls away as she stands and she steels herself. She grabs her cloak, takes a deep breath, and heads for the door. She's reaching for the knob when Callum stirs, and she freezes. But his steady breathing returns and she lets out a breath.

He's too exhausted and too spent, and all he'd wanted to do last night was just be with her. She understands. She feels the same, but something else is driving her.

Shaking her head, Rayla pads back to him. They've only been together for a month and she's only known him for two, but it feels like he's been by her side all her life. She presses one last kiss to his forehead and for a heartbeat, the world melts away and she longs to return to the safety of his arms.

But something gnaws at her again and the anguish returns, too painful and too demanding to be ignored any longer. This is how it has to be. This is the only way. She takes another breath, and she almost whispers that she wants him to come.

Instead, she murmurs Lujanne's words, and then she's gone.


She slips out of their dwelling like a thief in the night.

The cold bites at her skin as the door clicks shut softly behind her. She pauses, listening for any movement from inside the abode, but hears nothing. All is still, only that the shadows grow deeper and darker under the waning full moon. Letting out a breath, she pulls her cloak a little tighter, turns, and takes a step.

Then she sees a flicker of movement from the corner of her eye. She has her blades drawn in an instant, poised in a defensive stance, expecting Viren to step out of the shadows.

Instead, she finds Soren.

He has his arms crossed in front of his chest as he leans against a tree, his eyes downcast.

"He'll follow you," he says softly. His voice barely carries in the cold, windless air, and for a moment, she isn't sure if he really said anything at all.

She sheathes her blades, but doesn't relax. "No, he won't. He-he doesn't know where I'm going and I-I left a letter. He'll understand."

"He'll follow you," he repeats. Soren meets her eyes this time. He doesn't move.

"Maybe," Rayla mumbles. She plays with the hood of her cloak. "You'll have to stop him if he does."

Soren says nothing, so she asks, "How did you know?"

There's a beat, and then two, before he finally answers. "Because I understand. I understand not knowing," he says quietly. "And I understand you're scared of losing him." Soren clenches his fist as he continues, "But Rayla, you're the love of his life. I see it in his eyes everyday. He'd sooner give up magic than risk losing you."

"I-"

But Soren is stepping toward her now. "I…I just don't understand. I don't see how this helps. I thought you loved him."

His words cut through the silence of the night and ring clearly in her ears. She senses anger in his voice and the accusation almost makes her flinch, but it is because of the disappointment when she does.

"I do!" Rayla starts, then lowers her voice to a hiss. "Of course I love him. More than I can bear. But I've lost everyone, Soren! Everyone but him. And if-if I lose him, I-" she chokes, unable to finish that thought. "I can't lose him. This is the only way."

Soren shakes his head. "Are you sure you're making the right choice?"

She hesitates. "No," she whispers. Or sobs. She doesn't know. The cold seeps into her bones and she wills herself into numbness. "But I have to go."

"Then I won't stop you." He pulls her into a tight hug for a long moment. When he pulls away, his shirt is stained with tears she hadn't noticed falling. "I swear if you get killed before we get to spar again-"

Her breath turns into a hollow laugh, catching her mid-sob. At last she wipes at her tears. "Bye, Soren."

She turns and pushes past him before she has the chance to hesitate again, before she wavers and runs back to Callum and probably never leave again.

She starts running.

She runs to chase Viren, to keep the shadows and spectres from Callum.

She runs as far as her legs would take her. She runs until she has hardly any breath in her lungs left.

Tears blind her, but she runs.


Edit:

The last line was originally, "She runs like the coward that she was.", but I removed it for more impact on the tears. Does the ending work better with or without it?

A/N:

I don't even read angst all that much, and now I write it? God, who am I?

If you're looking for someone to blame, blame Jelly. I know I do.

Process Notes:

1. Just needed to write this (and god did this hurt to write) to get the angst out of my system, like Dumbledore extracting memories into the Pensieve - except with a lot more tears.

Been wanting to try third person present POV anyway and this was a good chance to practice. Plus, I'm still learning how to set the mood with word choice and imagery, so there's that, too.

2. Confession time! I actually haven't read TTM, but I can sort of guess what happens based on the fandom's reactions, so this is technically an AU, I suppose. Was I anywhere close?

Thanks for reading! Now suffer with me.