He got her to take a little supper after all, which they ate side by side, wedged in together in a single wide chair before the fire. His elbow occasionally wandered into her space, and she quietly tolerated it. Every few minutes he’d put a warm hand on her back as he ate, as though to make sure she was still there.
They didn’t really speak except for the pardons and thankyous that go along with a courteous species of cohabitation, during the cleanup and bathing and other little things that must be done. It wasn’t until they were curled up beside each other in the dark that it became easier to say the things that needed to be said.
“You don’t have to stop being you, you know.”
“I don’t know what to do,” Ryn said. “Those people were wrong. But…I’m not sure that I was right.”
Quiet, they were just bodies in the dark. After a while, he replied. “I didn’t care about your principles, or whether you were right. I thought they’d kill you. I thought you were going to let them.”
“I would have.”
“You were ready to throw it all away because he pissed you off. You’re always ready to throw everything away. But that’s…I don’t think that’s how love is supposed to work. You don’t only belong to yourself, not if you love me. It’s hell, thinking you could just get in over your head one day and I’ll have to fucking bury you, Ryn. I can’t.”
“Everyone has to bury someone.” Her voice got quieter, huskier. “It’s just the job.”
“You’re more important than any job. You’re not…you’re not a bullet, Ryn, some kind of expendable garbage. You’re a person. You’re better than that. And you’d be better than that, even if I didn’t love you and need you.”
“So what am I supposed to do, Veldarin, become a secretary? Have you seen my handwriting? This is what happens when you have no parents and get shipped off to the military.”
There was a sigh. “You don’t have to stop doing this job. It’s not about the work at all. It’s your suicidal fuck-you reflex that gets you into trouble. I hold my breath every time you fight. I never know if it’s going to be the last one.”
She was silent for awhile, breathing shallow next to him. “I didn’t have anyone to live for, for a long time.”
“You do now. There are a lot of people here who care about you. Not just me. They worry. I worry. We love you.”
“I love you too,” she said. “And I’m happy here. But I don’t know how to change.”
“If you want to change, you’re already halfway there.” He kissed the top of her head.
“What do I do?” she asked.
He thought for a moment. “I think you have to practice thinking before you react. If something makes you angry, you can think about why that is, and whether it’s something worth fighting for.”
She sighed. “Alright.”
“And I’ll help you. Any way I can. We’ll talk to Father Lolo. Get everyone on board. You don’t have to do this alone. You shouldn’t.” It was his turn to sigh.
Ryn grunted. “This is going to be a real pain in the ass.”
“A pain in the ass, for my pain in the ass. I love you so much.”
She kissed him on the cheek, and rolled onto her side. “Enough talking for one night.”
Ryn pressed a finger to Veldarin’s lips, and the room went silent.