Over the years, Damian Desmond had gotten pretty good at controlling his own feelings and thoughts. At focusing on studying, on making his family proud.
He didn’t have the time or luxury to think about romance.
Besides, he knew that, as most things on his life, eventually he would have no control over that as well.
Damian had already accepted that, as soon as he reached his mid-twenties and found a stable, respectable job, he would be arranged to someone. Some stable, respectable woman he would probably only meet with the pretense of getting married and expanding both of their family’s power and lineage. So, really, what was the point of even engaging with thoughts of any other future for him?
Still, he was past the age of lying to himself. Damian knew that his heart already belonged to one Anya Forger. He had known so for nearly a decade now. That it had always belonged to her and that, as illogical as it sounds, it would always belong to the short, pink-haired hurricane that had consumed his entire life at the tender age of six.
But he was also painfully aware of how one-sided said ownership was. Of how, if by some miracle Anya felt even slightly the same, that they shouldn’t- he shouldn’t even consider acting on-
Whatever. Again, he didn’t have the time. He was a busy man, after all.
Damian had tried, time and time again, to distance himself from her. To cut ties entirely and forget. But try as he might, he was never able to get too far away from Forger.
Every time, he would find himself closer and closer, falling in deeper and deeper. Her magnetism was simply inescapable. As if she was a positive force, pulling him towards her due to his own negative polarity.
She really was like a force of nature, now that he thought about it. And loving her was simply an unavoidable truth of the universe. The sky was blue, the Earth was round, and Damian Desmond would love Anya Forger until the day that he died.
Stop thinking about her. Focus, Desmond.
Damian went back to his Physics book, the sound of turning pages echoing in the isolated library. His vision was growing tired by the minute, but he had to keep going. Only 451 pages to go. It was his worst subject by far, therefore he had to give it an extra effort.
Soon, he was so engrossed by formulas and closed systems that he was barely able to feel an all too familiar presence, now breathing down on his neck.
“Hey, Sy-on boy. Whatcha doin’?”
Damian instantly jumped out of his seat, the heavy book falling ungracefully to his lap. He didn’t even need to look up to know that she was probably laughing at his current startled and blushing state.
Compose yourself, Desmond.
He unceremoniously picked up the fallen book and tried to go back the words written on it. His heart beating so loud against his chest he was positively sure Anya could hear its ba-bumps, ba-bumps, ba-bumps. Its usual fast-paced melody for whenever a certain short girl was standing too close to him.
“I’m studying, you should try that sometime,” he deadpanned, yet already holding the book’s hardcover towards her. ‘Electromagnetism’ written in gold cursive letters.
She held up her ‘World History’ book, in return.
A smiling Anya sat directly beside him, noisily dumping her own school supplies and books next to his. Great. It wasn’t like there was literally any other seat available in the completely empty library. His eyes followed the split ends of her pink hair, then upwards to her neck until focusing on her mouth. She was so, so close.
“Hmmmm,” Anya faked considering, pointing a finger to her chin. “Maybe I will try that!”
He couldn’t help but let out a short chuckle at her antics.
They had gotten pretty close over the years, to the point where they did not need to pretend to hate each other (well, that was mostly Damian’s thing anyway), yet their banter remained mostly the same. Almost as if an unspoken agreement between the two teens.
“Want some help with anything?” He offered, sincerely. Trying oh, so very hard, to read the same sentence repeatedly.
The total magnetic flux through a closed surface is zero.
None of it registered inside his brain, of course.
“Nah, I’m good,” she was still grinning at him. Did her cheeks ever get tired from doing that? Almost as if on cue, her grin grew almost impossibly larger.
The. Total. Magnetic. Flux. Through. A. CLOSED. SURFACE. IS. ZERO.
They sat silently beside each other for hours, each focused on studying their respective subjects. He became so engrossed by his own task that, eventually, Damian was even able to get over the fact that Anya’s knee was touching his from under the table. And in record time too: only taking him about an hour and a half!
As the sun began to set behind them, though, Damian allowed himself a small break.
He put his book down and went on to stretch his arms and back. Involuntarily, he glanced over to his left, only to find Anya sound asleep, drooling on her notebook with her hair covering nearly her entire face. The resting sunlight was making her skin glisten in a delicious golden tone. She’s so cute, it should be impossible to look cute even like this, he permitted himself to think freely.
Even though he had known about Anya’s telepathic powers for ages and had trusted her when she said she would ‘never use them on him again’, Damian did usually try to push down such treacherous thoughts out of his own free will. They were always far too dangerous anyway.
But her soft snores were just too adorable to ignore this time.
Besides, he was on a break! This was allowed!
Almost as if moving on its own, his hand pushed some rebellious strands of pink hair behind her ear. Its disloyal fingers lightly brushed against her cheek and it felt like a match, lighting Damian’s entire body aflame.
“Damian…” a sleepy, tender voice spoke. Almost as if whispering just to him.
Said boy immediately froze, hand still on Anya’s face and sheer panic visible in his features. Every possible muscle tensing up.
Oh. This definitely wasn’t allowed!
What was he thinking?
His fear subsided when he heard yet another snore. A silent sigh escaped his lips. Damian looked at his left hand once again. How huge it was compared to Anya’s small features. How right it felt, pressed against her soft skin.
When he finally decided to retrieve the hand away from her, a frown took over Anya’s face and she stirred. Her heavy green eyes found his wide hazel ones for a small eternity, only breaking contact to yawn and shift on her seat.
“Gosh! How long was I out for?” Anya asked, scratching her head. Damian’s hand still felt as if it held second degree burns.
“Dunno, I only just noticed it,” which wasn’t necessarily a lie, Damian supposed.
Anya squinted at him suspiciously, as if noticing something had just happened but also desperately trying to control herself from poking at his thoughts.
“Welp,” Anya announced, after a beat. “Guess I should probably head home then!”
As she moved to collect her belongings, Damian spoke up against his will and better judgement.
“You talk in your sleep; did you know that?”
Anya seemed to halt in place, her delicate hands clutching her notebook so tight her knuckles had turned white.
“W-what do you mean?” She stammered through her question, clear anxiety seeping through her tone. “D-did I say something just now?”
Damian couldn’t help but wonder why she was suddenly acting so weird. It wasn’t like this was first time she slept through a study session with him. He nonchalantly grabbed his leather bag and put his chair back into place.
“Well, yeah. Also, you snore, but you already know that.”
Anya let go of her things and swiftly moved to hold his wrist as he was about to reach out for his book. Her face held an intensity Damian was sure he had never seen before.
“Sy-on boy,” her gaze fixated on him like he held a huge, important secret. She seemed so desperate all the sudden. He was pretty sure she was even blushing. “What did I say?”
He could feel heat coming to his own face when he recollected the way she had whispered his first name. He had never heard it, coming from her. And he had never heard it being said so softly. Usually, when being addressed, his given name would be uttered respectfully. Or angrily. Sometimes even fearfully. Never warmly like that.
“Nothing much,” he tried to calm her down. “Just my name, I think.”
“Oh,” Damian could see relief taking over her. “Okay, good.”
Damian looked down at her hand, still attached to his wrist. Slowly, her fingers let go, one by one, as if doing so was taking her a monumental effort. Damian’s curiosity took the best of him and once again, he spoke up without thinking.
“Why do you never call me by my name?”
It was such a stupid question; Damian wasn’t even sure why he had asked it. It’s just- It had sounded so nice, his name escaping her lips. He wanted to hear it again. And again, and again-
“What do you mean? I call you Desmond all the time!”
“You know what I mean.”
She did. At least she stared at him as if she did, like she had understood the intent behind such a silly question.
(Why are you so open with me and yet so closed off at the same time?)
The air had grown thick around the two of them. It was still December, yet Damian was getting so hot under his uniform that he was seconds away from tearing off his Imperial cloak.
“I don’t know,” Anya decided to answer truthfully. “Why do you never call me over to your house?”
(Why do you never allow me in, even after all these years?)
“I don’t know.”
The next day, when Damian arrived at the library, there she was again, almost as if expecting him to arrive.
And the day after that.
And the day after that too.
On Friday, though, it was like she wasn’t expecting him at all. He found her in her usual spot, holding a highlighter with her mouth, entranced by whatever it was she was reading.
And it seemed as if they were alone once again. Tch, even if it was winter break, the other Eden Academy students should know better than to come back to school unprepared. Though, by the looks of it, not even the Eden Academy staff seemed to be available that day. Go figure.
“Such a rare sight!” Damian announced in a low voice as he got closer, mimicking the way she had breathed on his neck before. “I didn’t know you could read, Forger!”
She greeted him with silence and a scowl, but patted the seat next to her all the same. Her eyes hadn’t even moved from the pages of her book. Still, he went over to excitedly take a place beside her, as if he were a dog, receiving a command from his owner.
How pathetic of you, Desmond.
He opened up his notebook and started to work on his notes.
His eyelids were beginning to grow heavy when he felt a finger touch his shoulder.
“Can I borrow your highlighter? I think I broke mine.”
“What happened to your- Oh.”
Damian glanced over only to find a highlighter nearly broken into two, sitting on top of Anya’s notes. A suspicious shade of neon yellow marked the left corner of her mouth.
“Here,” he deposed his green highlighter on the table.
Anya thanked him quietly and got back to reading.
“Anya, there’s something on your-“ he pointed to her lips. She didn’t seem to get what he meant, though. Staring blankly back at him, her head tilted to the side.
“Your- you know, here-”
Damian licked his thumb and tried to rub off the paint from her. Ultimately successful after a few tries. He gave her a reassuring smile, a rarity when displayed on Desmond's features.
“There!” He declared triumphantly.
Anya’s face was deep red by that point. Damian’s gaze trailed down towards her, now clean, mouth. It was hanging open, forming an adorable “O” shape. As if abruptly realizing his mistake, Damian apologized profusely.
“No, hum- Thank you, Damian!”
And there it was again. His name, said by her in such warm naturality that it left him dumbfounded.
Anya moved to throw her old highlighter in the garbage bin. When she came back, her face was still almost as pink as her hair, but she held a genuine smile towards him. He couldn’t help but gawk at her, watching her movements carefully and not moving an inch, as if trying not to spook her away.
Please say it again, please.
Damian mentally slapped himself and forcefully tore his gaze away. He shouldn’t have done that. So stupid.
They went back to studying.
“Hey, Sy-on boy,” Anya whispered out of the blue. Startling him out of his previous thought process. “Do you wanna go out and do something? I’m bored.”
“You’re always bored, Forger.”
He wouldn’t dare to look at her. Because he knew that, if he did so, he would agree to anything she asked of him. And right now, he really needed to focus-
Oh God, not her ‘please’. At this point she already knew she could get anything out of him with just that. He just knew she had her special puppy eyes on when her hand grabbed his thigh, hoping to garner his full attention.
“I want peanuts from the cafeteria!” Anya exclaimed.
Damian, on his end, was having a small short-circuit, his brain coming alarmingly close to shutting off entirely. After all, Anya Forger’s hand was really, really close to his-
She probably realized it as well, judging by how rapidly she retrieved said hand. Damian stood up and turned around, worried she might’ve even seen something she shouldn’t have.
“Okay, fine, let’s go.”
He was already moving to the door when he heard her trailing behind him.
They talked about all sorts of things on the way to the cafeteria.
About the newest TV shows they were both watching. About Becky’s newest boyfriend. About George’s arranged marriage. Then about memories from when they were younger. About the adventures they went through. And finally, about the day she revealed to him all her secrets, inside a broom closet, holding a hand around his mouth like he was her hostage.
“To be honest, I should’ve suspected there was something going on with you much sooner,” Damian commented, as they got closer to the counter.
He then proceeded to pay for both of their foods and motioned for them to go back to the library. Anya nodded, as he continued.
“I mean, things used to always be weird around you.”
“Yep. But to be fair, you were always pretty weird around me first,” Anya replied with a laugh. “Like since the day we met.”
Probably because I have loved you from the moment I first laid eyes on you.
“Yeah… I’m sorry for how I treated you when we were kids,” Damian admitted instead, unprompted yet just as sincere.
For some reason, Anya’s eyes went wide, and a pink hue started to form around her chubby cheeks. Oh God, had she read his mind? Had she somehow heard his confession? Was he too obvious? His palms started to sweat. Goddammit, Desmond, control yourself.
“You know, I’m sorry for how I used to treat you back then, as well,” Anya voiced, that lovely shade of pink now reaching all the way to her small ears. “And, hm. Sorry for punching you that one time. And also, that second and that third time,” the girl added with a coy smile.
Funny, he couldn’t recall ever seen her acting shy like this. Anya Forger was anything but shy. Especially around him.
They continued to walk in silence, side by side.
The rest of the study session went by pretty much uneventfully after their break.
That was, until Damian decided to collect his things and leave, already feeling both bored and exhausted. He decided to leave Anya with his highlighter after seeing her still engrossed by her book. He had joked before, but it really was a rare- and beautiful- sight to see. Her, so focused on something that her brow would frown and her thumb would move to her bottom lip.
Damian accidentally let his leather bag fall off his shoulder with a loud thud, startling Anya. God, he really should stop thinking about her lips. He quickly moved to pick it up off the ground. That thing was expensive, after all.
“Where are you going?!”
“Huh, back to the dorms?” He pointed with his thumb at his room’s general direction. A bit thrown off by her sudden reaction. “Where else?”
“I- I don’t know.” What was going on with her? Something felt weird.
“Okay?” Damian wasn’t sure why he’d phrased it like a question. He gave it a pause and, when Anya didn’t care to elaborate, he turned his back towards her and waved casually. “I’m off then, have fun.”
“No, wait! I need to-”
He felt her hand on his wrist again and turned around to find her looking anywhere else except at him. Weirdo. He paused, expecting her to continue. Instead, she continued to avert his gaze, forcing him to inch closer and closer until he could smell her sugary perfume. The scent so strong, it could intoxicate a man.
“Your highlighter!” She still wouldn’t look up at him. “I have to- hm, give it back to you.”
Why did it feel like she was hiding something?
“You can do that later-”
She finally met his eyes, and it felt like a whole punch to the belly. Like one of the ‘Anya Forger specials’ as he would come to call them. And then she did something even more brutal to him. Worse than any punch she could ever land.
She slipped her hand lower and lower until it met his.
It rendered him completely speechless. Damian gulped.
Slowly, tentatively as if asking for her permission, he intertwined their fingers. Anya nodded.
It felt so nice, to hold her hand. He couldn’t help but look at their joined hands and reminisce. They were kids the last time they held hands like that, doing so out of fear. But it was different this time. For one, his hand was much larger than hers, engulfing it with ease. But also, Damian was pretty sure it meant something now. He wasn’t sure what exactly, but it did.
It was like a monumental, historical event had just taken place at that cold library. Like they had just danced past a point of no return.
Neither of them had the courage to say a word. Damian was scared that doing so might break whatever spell was biding them together at that moment. Instead, he moved closer and closer against her, looking down as he did so. As if trying to confirm that this was truly what she wanted, that she was feeling that same magnetism too.
When she moved her free hand to rest on his chest, he completely lost it. He had to do something.
Whatever it was he was about to say was drawn out the second she reached up to his neck and pulled him down towards her. Her lips met his with ease, as if they had ever done something like that before. As if Anya Forger kissing Damian Desmond was a regular occurrence.
Oh, God. Was this really happening?
It took him a few blinks to even properly close his eyes due to shock alone.
Screw a short-circuit, Damian was pretty sure his entire brain had melted after that seemingly spontaneous action. He would never again be able to form a single, coherent thought after this.
However, that didn’t stop him from pulling her by the waist and kissing her back harder when she threatened to move away. If this really was happening, then he did not want it to end so soon.
Anya gave his hand a squeeze and sighed into the kiss. Man, he was a goner.
Her lips were unlike anything he had previously imagined. Perhaps because he had never really kissed anyone before, but Damian had a suspicion that Anya’s lips were different than anybody else’s. They were soft, yes, but also somewhat hard against his demanding ones. The only comparison that came to mind would be that of chewy candy, for some reason. The sweet and expensive type that exploded on the mouth like fireworks. His favorite.
When they ultimately had to break apart for air, Damian let out a spoiled whine. He didn’t want to stop kissing Anya for something as secondary as ‘breathing’ or ‘staying alive’. Those were overrated anyway. If he died right then, he would’ve died a happy man.
Part of him didn’t even want to open his eyes up again. Ever. Just in case he would realize some horrible truth, like that it wasn’t truly Anya, but her father in disguise. Or that he was in a medically induced coma. Or-
With a sigh, Damian unclasped their hands, already expecting the worst. But when he finally gathered the courage to look up again, he found Anya Forger staring back. Holding a dazed expression, probably mirroring his own. Her cheeks were puffed, and her chest kept rising up, then down and then up again as if she had just run through a marathon.
Damian desperately wanted to kiss her again.
And he didn’t have any time to lose either, quickly moving his hands to take her face and softly press her up against the library’s nearest pillar. He needed her closer. Somehow, he wanted more. As impossible as that could sound. And if the way she was hungrily kissing him back was anything to go by, she probably wanted just the same.
After moving her hair and cloak out of the way, Damian’s lips left her mouth in order to focus on her neck, leaving a trail of kisses on his way down. The action earned him quiet noises of approval, that came from Anya’s throat and reverberated all the way to his bones. It was, without hyperbole, the best sound that had ever graced his ears. Her hands flew up to grab at his hair and he groaned raucously.
They should keep quiet though, deep down he knew that. If anyone saw what they were doing on school grounds, they would receive three Tonitrus Bolts each, minimum. In all honesty, Damian could not care less at that time. He would gladly receive all eight, if he had to. If it meant he could keep drinking up Anya Forger like this.
There it was again. God, she was driving him insane. Well, to be fair, she had already successfully driven him insane a long, long time ago.
“Damian, I need to tell you something.”
Her serious tone made him stop on his tracks and look up with expecting eyes. What could she possibly have to say that was so important?
She was moving away to another country. She was betrothed to someone else. She was wanted by the police. She had killed someone. She-
Oh, thank God it was nothing.
Not even dignifying her outburst with a response, Damian went back to her mouth. When their lips met again, Anya’s were opened, as if offering entrance. And God, did he want to be let in. Taking the opportunity, Damian snuck his tongue in to meet hers.
Jesus, that was something else entirely. She tasted like peanuts, and it was oh, so incredibly fitting. Of course, she would taste like peanuts. The savory, salty flavor suited her like nothing else ever could.
In between sloppy kisses, though, Damian seemed to fully understand what she had just confessed to, and a multitude of questions rose in his mind again.
“Wait, what do you mean you’re 14?”
On the next morning, Damian woke up with his head still spinning and a knock on his bedroom door.
Did all of that actually happen to him? Had yesterday been real?
Perhaps it had all been just a very lucid dream, Damian thought, sleepily touching his bottom lip. Nonetheless, the boy pushed away his covers and went to answer the incessant knocking.
On the other side of the doorframe, however, stood a very real, very tangible Anya Forger. Her tiny hand holding up a green highlighter as if it was a precious trophy.
“I told you I had to give it back,” she declared, in lieu of a greeting.
Damian pulled her inside and towards him without wasting a second or a word. But with a smile on his face and the world at his feet.
It had been real.
All of it.