While Malin had kept Wil occupied in the Rys'tihn Retreat's modest playroom, Garran had been out for the morning, taking some much needed time to himself. He hadn't gotten much sleep over the past few months, suffering quietly through his guilt and grief while focusing on caring for his two-year-old cousin. Surprisingly, Deilia's memorial service he had attended the previous night alongside his father and the rest of the Rys'tihns had been strangely...calming. He almost felt a sense of closure, as though Deilia had been with them again and had come to comfort them all herself as they formally paid their respects to her. He wasn't sure if that was the case, but the thought brought him peace. And watching Malin with Wil in the playroom for a moment before going inside to retrieve the boy, Garran was able to smile for the first time in a long while.
Just as he began to depress the door's panel to open it, he heard someone approaching from the hall nearby. Turning to look, he wasn't expecting to see Mand Natiyr walking towards him, a wary expression on her face. He assumed she was looking for her friends Koril and Elena, but when she lingered and looked in on the playroom, as well, he recognized that something else was on her mind.
"Hi, Garran," she greeted him softly, her attention still on the boy in the room, "...how has Wil been doing?"
Her concern was so earnest and genuine, surprising him again, but he nodded positively in response. "He's been alright, all things considered. He's had to get used to a bit of a different routine around here, but Malin has been a good big brother for him, and he seems to really like it here on Paneau." He paused a moment, reflecting on his thoughts. "I think that's what Deilia wanted in the end, for him to grow up here with his family, not in exile with her."
Mand seemed to be relieved to hear his answer, but when she remained silent, he continued. "Did you know her very well?"
His question almost seemed to make her nervous, which he found slightly odd. "No...no, I didn't, unfortunately. I met her only once, about ten years ago, so most of what I know about her came from Koril or Elena." She looked around for a moment, as if searching for the courage to say what was on her mind. Finding it, she met his gaze squarely with her brows furrowed with anxiety. "Listen, I came to talk to you because I noticed something when we met Wil the other day, something that's been bothering me... And when you didn't mention it when you introduced him, it just made me even more sure." She paused, taking in and releasing a shaky breath before she finished.
"Garran... I know who his father is."
Stunned, Garran felt his stomach turn to ice. He hadn't told a soul...
At least she seemed sympathetic to his reaction. "His eyes. I'd recognize them anywhere."
Garran's heart sank. He had hoped that in their sorrow, everyone would only notice how much Wil resembled his mother in every other feature...
After a few moments, he sighed in resignation, knowing he couldn't deny it and feeling that he owed it to her to explain. "Deilia made me promise not to tell anyone, not even my dad. It's not that she was embarrassed, but...she didn't want anyone to treat Wil differently just because of who he was."
Mand nodded somberly. "I understand completely, trust me. It's better that they not know."
Appreciating her assurances, he looked back in on Malin and Wil. "He's a good kid. He's very smart, and he watches everything going on around him. He doesn't cause much trouble."
"He definitely did not get that from his father."
Garran had to grin. "Deilia wasn't exactly a saint, either. The two of them were a lot alike."
"...does he know?"
His expression neutralized with his answer. "No. He left before she knew she was pregnant. She wanted to find him and tell him, but...her search for Lucien took precedence. Without Deilia's assistance, I wouldn't even know where to start looking for him..."
Taking some time with her thoughts, Mand crossed her arms over her chest with a wan smile as she watched Malin tumble Wil over in his lap, tickling him as the boy laughed breathlessly. "I think that for now, Wil has everything that he needs to be happy right here. I've seen how he takes to you. As far as that boy is concerned, you are his father. His family is all here on Paneau."
Though he agreed, he still harbored reservations, perhaps because of his own personal history. "He deserves to know that he has a son."
She considered his assertion for a few moments before she gave him a small nod. "Once Wil's a bit older...I'll help you find him."
Agreeing with a nod, as well, Garran released a slow breath, feeling both relieved and anxious at the same time. Though no one else was supposed to know, one more person also holding Deilia's secret was somewhat liberating, but could she be trusted completely? "You won't tell anyone?"
"I won't tell anyone, I promise."
They both looked into the playroom as Malin and Wil began waving enthusiastically at them, earning smiles and reciprocated waves. With her concerns resolved, Mand's expression was noticeably lighter as she turned away from him.
"Take care, Garran," she told him kindly as she left, allowing him to finally step into the playroom and rescue Wil from Malin's persistent tickle attacks.