“Sisu, Namaari is avoiding me and I don’t know why.”
The dragon’s gaze followed the pacing Heart princess back and forth across the grass outside Fang’s palace. “Did you try asking?” she offers through a mouth full of fruit.
Raya huffs. “No! Of course not! If someone’s avoiding you you don’t just go ‘hey, why are you avoiding me!’”
Sisu stops chewing. “Why not?”
The dragon shrugs as Raya bites her nails. “Okay well first of all, if Fang ever needs another trench, I’ll make sure they talk to you.”
Raya looks confused for a moment before putting together that Sisu was referring to her pacing.
“You’re not helping,” the Heart princess says, flipping her cape over her head and slumping to the ground.
Sisu barely refrains from rolling her eyes at how ridiculous both Raya and Namaari had been behaving for the past, well... ever.
She pokes at Raya’s shoulder with her snout. “Call me crazy, but moping under there won’t make Namaari un-avoid you.”
“No shit,” comes the muffled reply.
Raya flips the cape back over her head, still sitting with her arms crossed and a grumpy expression.
Sisu exhales. “Okay... well, are you sure she’s avoiding you?”
Raya nods gruffly. “Yes. She’s been acting so weird lately! She makes up these stupid excuses about why she can’t spar and she barely jokes with me anymore. I haven’t acted any different as far as I can tell... I just don’t know what could’ve set her off.”
Sisu feigns ignorance. “Hmmm. Well, I think it’d be best if you asked her about it. Sounds like something’s bothering her, but she might be afraid to talk to you.”
“Pfft. No way. She’s probably pissed at me. No way would she ignore me ‘cause she’s scared of me. That’s stupid.”
Sisu stares at her.
“I know that’s what I’m doing,” Raya says, huffing, “but it’s... different.”
Raya fumbles with words before giving up on whatever she was trying to say. “Look, what do you expect me to do,” she begins instead, “just corner her and make her tell me what’s wrong??”
Sisu shrugs. “Better than sitting out here being a big baby about it.”
Raya’s jaw drops and Sisu knows that egging her on had been the right decision as the Heart princess shoots out of the room in search of her former rival.
Namaari walks down the halls of Fang’s castle, her posture tense with fists clenched at her sides. If she’s honest with herself, she is on the verge of tears.
She grits her teeth. She would not cry.
It was simply that there were so many feelings coursing through her and she didn’t know what to do with them all.
Mainly, she is angry at herself. Angry for feeling things she knew she should not be feeling. Her heart flutters at the thought of the reason for her pacing the halls at an hour when she should be in her room working.
Namaari had always been drawn to Raya.
Ever since they met, the connection was there. To her surprise and delight, the two princesses had managed to work through their past trauma and rivalry, and had formed an odd sort of friendship. Odd as in, they were both rather nerdy and odd, but also in that it still seemed like more of a rivalry at times... a good rivalry.
Lately, however, Namaari had finally identified all of the things Raya made her feel. She had begun to realize that she didn’t want Raya to release her hand after leading her someplace. She found herself wishing she could hold her just a minute longer every time they hugged. At least now she knew why she was lightheaded when Raya had grinned happily and hugged her for the first time.
Namaari exhales and sizes up the wall, but then decides she doesn’t really want to deal with broken knuckles. Instead she just lets her fist fall into the cold surface, soon followed by her forehead.
She tells herself that all of this needed to stop. She is entirely unworthy to even be Raya’s friend, let alone anything more.
Namaari feels her face heat in anger as she thinks about how ridiculous she is being. For a moment she almost reconsiders not punching the wall. Then a wave of sadness hits her and she feels a tear course down her cheek.
Guilt, disgust, anger and all matters of longing all swirled in her tears, battling for dominance. She would have to talk to Raya at some point. She had almost caved and told the Heart princess everything when she had deflated after Namaari denied her request to spar, saying that she needed to “patrol the halls.” Everybody knew there were plenty of soldiers for that.
She makes a frustrated noise and wipes her tears, careful not to smear any makeup. She leaves the wall behind and continues her path down the hall. The princess knows she needs to get a grip, for it was only a matter of time when she would inevitably run into Raya again.
Suddenly Namaari feels something collide into her from behind; she is then turned and slammed against a wall in one of the small alcoves of the castle she was passing.
Namaari lowers her fist as she realizes just who had their forearm pressed against her throat. “Raya!”
The Fang’s princess’s blood goes cold. Why is Raya looking at her like that? She squirms against Raya’s grip on her shirt. The arm against her neck was unwavering, and Namaari had to remind herself that it was not enjoyable.
Namaari frowns at her. “What the hell!”
Raya pulls her back from the wall a little and then slams her back against it so she’d get the hint to stop moving. Namaari grunts and gives her the biggest glare she can muster.
“Why are you avoiding me?” Raya demands. “If you don’t want to hang out anymore, just say so!”
Namaari blinks at the determination in Raya’s eyes. And yet, there was also a hesitancy there, barely noticeable, but as much as she might say otherwise, it seemed like Raya truly cares what Namaari’s answer would be.
“I… it’s… complicated,” she says.
“I have all day.”
Namaari sighs. “Raya, this isn’t… I’ve just had a lot on my mind lately.”
“That’s never made you avoid me before.” Namaari feels a tear threaten to fall at the hurt expression that flashes across Raya’s features, and the soft way she asks, “Did I do something wrong, ‘Maari?”
Namaari can feel her throat tightening. She will not cry. She tries to keep her breathing steady, but her heart is racing and she feels trapped. Not by Raya’s firm grip, no, that grounds her. She can’t stand feeling overwhelmed and she truly does’t know how to go forward.
A calloused hand brushes away the tear that Namaari hadn’t even realized was falling. “I can be a dick sometimes, I know,” Raya adds. “If I did something, just tell me. Maybe I can make it better…”
Namaari huffs. “No it’s not that… I mean, well, you are sometimes—”
“Hey!” A punch.
“Ouch. But I can be too! And anyways, it isn’t that… I…” She lets out a groan of frustration and squares up the wall at her back.
Raya grabs her arm with a slight eye-roll. “Don’t punch that.”
The Fang princess shrugs off her arm.
Raya sighs and pulls her into a hug. “‘Maari, you’re so tense. Tell me what’s wrong?”
Namaari shies away from her touch because it makes it so difficult to think.
Raya thinks it’s because she doesn’t want to be touched. “Oh- do you not want... okay.” She steps back. “I’m sorry, you should’ve just said you didn’t like hugs—”
“No!” She clears her throat. “No, that’s not it...”
“What then?” Raya asks gently.
Namaari huffs and puts her head in hands. “I was not ready to do this today.”
“Do what, dep la?”
Namaari starts fully crying against her will. “Don’t— you shouldn’t call me that...”
“Oh…” Raya says softly.
Namaari swipes tears off her own cheeks until Raya gently moves her hands away and wipes the tears herself, gentler. “No, it’s just that... people might think...”
Raya looks so confused. “Think what? We’ve always called each other that. And, I mean, you are beautiful. People would have to be blind to—”
Namaari has melted into a puddle. “You slam me against a wall and now you’re calling me beautiful?”
Raya shrugged and chuckled. “Pretty much sums up our relationship, huh?”
Namaari looked down and mumbled, “Yeah.”
Raya tucked her hair behind her ear for her. “Please tell me what’s bothering you?” When the other girl hesitates, she added, “I’m sorry if I was giving you too many hugs...”
Namaari shook her head adamantly and chased the retreating touch. “No, I adore your hugs.”
Raya smiles in that bashfully awkward way that was so rare and it made Namaari’s heart swell. “Oh... you adore them, huh? That’s... pretty high praise. Especially coming from the grouchy Fang princess.”
Namaari frowned at her, and then Raya smirked and it made her heart do somersaults. She swallowed. “It’s just that... when you hug me, or when we spar... I don’t want it to end.”
“I-I value you, our friendship.. so much, and I’m so scared that I’m going to mess it up.”
Raya places a hand back on her cheek, caressing it gently. “Namaari, you can’t worry about that. We’ve talked about this before, I trust you completely and I love being friends with you.”
Namaari’s heart physically hurts as she nods. “Me too.”
Raya hears the finality in her voice. “This isn’t all you wanted to say is it?”
Namaari swallows. “No. But I don’t know how to say the rest.”
“It’s okay, you can take your time.” Raya wraps her arms around Namaari’s waist in a hug. “You smell nice.”
Namaari hesitantly returns the embrace and burrows her face into Raya’s hair. “So do you.” She feels Raya chuckle into her neck. “What?” she asks.
“Namaari of Fang adores my hugs, huh?”
Namaari rolls her eyes at the shit-eating grin she knew was on Raya’s face, even though she secretly found it very endearing. “Shut up,” she drawls.
Raya ignores Namaari’s attempt to push her away. “Oh no you don’t!” Instead she wraps her arms around the Fang princess’s neck.
Raya frowns and pulls back to look at her. “Namaari, are you sure you like being touched?”
Namaari nods, entranced by Raya’s gaze.
Raya’s eyes flit across her features, stalling for a little too long on Namaari’s lips. The Fang warrior feels heat rush to her cheeks and her pulse skyrocket. Could Raya feel the same…? No. Even if she did, it was wrong. She would never deserve her.
“I like it too much…”
Raya quirks her head. Namaari feels herself smile at how adorable it is despite the panic in her whole being.
“When you ask me to hold you when we share a bed,” she continues, “and the sun comes up in the morning… I want to stay there, with you…”
Raya beams up at her. “Dep la, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Namaari looks away.
“Hey…” Raya turns her head back. “I do that too!” She laughs softly. “When you braided my hair for me the other day… it was nice.”
Namaari’s frown softens at the thought that Raya liked her touch.
Raya shakes her head. “Dep la, I guess I just don’t understand. What is it you’re afraid people will think…?”
Namaari shuts her eyes, sighing. “I’m afraid people will think you like me.”
Raya frowns. “But I do like you.”
Namaari pulls back, huffing. “Raya… that’s not—”
Raya’s lips pinch to a thin line. “No, I do! I do like you!” She searches the ground for the words she’s trying to piece together. “I-I-I’m sorry that I… I’m just not good with words and feelings and things like that… but I do like you,” she takes Namaari’s face in her hands, her eyes glancing at her lips again, “so much, dep la. And—”
Namaari closes the distance between them. And in the split second their lips touch, she knows she made a terrible mistake as she feels Raya gasp and tense. Namaari pulls back and her heart sinks at the expression of utter bewilderment looking back at her.
Raya pulls away, blinking and panting. “I…”
Namaari glances away, sick to her stomach. “Damn it, Raya. I’m so sorry. I thought…”
Raya’s head vaguely shakes side to side.
Namaari tries to turn the sob that escapes into an exhale. “Dragons, forgive me. I—”
Raya backed up. “It’s-it’s okay I just… I have to go.”
Namaari stands paralyzed as Raya leaves her. Her heart physically hurts as she slumps to the ground. What the hell was she thinking?? She knew this would happen, she had told herself this would happen, and yet she did the exact opposite of what she told herself to do.
Her eyes become too blurry to see anything. Her stomach churns, as a potent loathing settles over her. She hates herself. She literally messes up everything she touches. And she hates herself for being so selfish. For developing these feelings. For not being strong enough to make them go away. She hates herself for wanting Raya. For dreaming of her. It was wrong. Clearly, she had just ruined her chances of keeping her closest friend.
The wall is cold against her back.
She cries for an indeterminable amount of time.
Eventually, she returns to her room and cleans herself up. She would face what she had done. She wouldn’t cower.
“I don’t know what to do!”
Sisu patted the back of her human, Raya. Her fur is soaked in tears. “Hey, don’t worry about that right now. Let’s just try to calm down first.”
The girl had burst into the room in near hysterics, talking about Namaari and how she’d hurt her and made her cry and that it was her fault all along and the word kiss was in there too somewhere… Sisu was very eager to hear the whole story but right now her girl needed to breathe.
Once Raya’s crying settles into little hiccups, she asks, “Now, what happened that’s gotten you so worked up?”
Raya sniffs. “Namaari kissed me and I panicked.”
Sisu’s brow shoots up. “Oh. Wow, okay… there’s a lot to unpack here.”
Raya sighs. “She said she was scared if I called her dep la that people might think I like her, and I told her I do like her, and then I kept at it and told her how much I liked her and then she kissed me.”
“Wait, wait, wait.. so, you confessed your feelings but you didn’t want her to kiss you?”
“No, I did! I mean I.. I didn’t actually really have any clue what was happening. When she said people might think I like her, I thought she meant like, as in, just, like…”
Sisu facepalms. “My girl, you’re kidding…”
Raya facepalms. “I know I just didn’t realize what all these feelings were and I was scared and kissing her felt really nice and I wasn’t expecting it and my heart was going speedy fast and I panicked!”
Sisu sighs. “So you just left her?”
Raya looks at her lap. “Yeah. I didn’t know what to do.”
They sit there for a moment before Raya speaks again. “But so many things make sense now. I must’ve been jealous the other day when that Fang woman flirted at her…”
Sisu rolls her eyes. “Ya think?”
“Raya, do you like Namaari?”
Raya nods immediately.
Sisu facepalms again. “I mean, romantically.”
Raya’s breathing sped up. “I-I think so—”
“Dragons, okay. If she kissed you again would you be mad?”
Raya looks down in embarrassment. “…no.”
Sisu claps. “Okay then! You definitely need to go tell her that because she’s probably sobbing right now.”
Raya searches for Namaari in the hallway where they had been before, in her room, the training grounds… finally she checks the flower fields and sure enough, the Fang princess was lying in the flowers, eyes puffy and lidded.
Raya’s heart aches at the thought that she caused Namaari to be upset, but she hopes that she can finally make things right. If she’s honest with herself, her heart is pounding in her chest at the thought of both possible outcomes of this conversation.
Namaari looks up at the sound of footsteps, jolting up when she realizes who is approaching her. “Raya!” She forms a gemstone over her heart and bows.
Raya can’t help but chuckle as she gently tilts Namaari’s chin to look up at her. Namaari’s posture remains hesitant and anxious.
“I’m so sorry, dep la,” Raya says.
“No, I’m sorry. I never should’ve done that. I wasn’t thinking. And I am grateful you’re even speaking to me right now,” Namaari says quickly.
Raya shrugs a shoulder and takes a step toward her. “Actually, I was hoping we could do a little less speaking…”
Namaari deflates. “Understood. I clearly misread the situation—”
Raya’s hands cup Namaari’s cheeks once more and she grins at the look of utter confusion and hope that washed over her features. “No you didn’t.”
And then Namaari’s heart stops as Raya kisses her. She melts into the Heart warrior’s touch, wrapping her arms around her waist. When they pull apart, Namaari shakes her head, expression pleading for Raya to explain what was happening.
“I’m sorry I left,” Raya says. “I was scared. And confused. I’ve never felt for anyone the way I feel about you. I didn’t know what it all meant. I do now.”
Raya couldn’t help but peck her lips once more. “I love you, Namaari of Fang.”
Namaari is trying desperately not to cry again and failing miserably. “You do?”
Raya nods. “I do. I have for so long.”
Namaari sniffs. “I’m sorry I scared you.”
Raya chuckles. “Don’t be. Dragons know my dumbass wouldn’t have realized if you didn’t help me.”
Namaari huffs in amusement. “I love you, Raya.”
Raya smirks, blushing nonetheless. “I’m assuming that’s what you wanted to tell me earlier—”
Namaari laughs and pushed her away, only for them to play fight and kiss among the flowers.
Sisu watches from the balcony, shaking her head at their antics. “It’s about time those morons confessed.”