SPY X FAMILY
CHAPTER XVII: Forever
Anya had insisted going to the academy, despite her panic attack. She regretted it almost immediately. She didn’t need to read minds to know that everyone was thinking of the events of the previous day. Low whispers echoed. Darkness warped around everyone, in the streets, at the academy.
It was only when she walked under the academy’s gates that she realised that she had completely forgotten to leave early to meet Damian at the gazebo, as promised. He will be absolutely furious–
She startled and turned around. Damian, followed by Ewen and Emile, ran to her.
“Are you okay?!”
She blinked, staring at him as he looked her up and down, obviously looking for some sort of injury or sign that she was unwell.
“I got so worried when you didn’t show up this morning,” he continued in a low voice so that Ewen and Emile wouldn’t hear.
They leaned closer, curiously, but Damian glared at them, and they stepped back.
“I’m fine, I promise. I just… it escaped my mind with…”
Her voice trailed off, but Damian’s face darkened. He nodded.
“The dorms were a mess last night, almost everyone received a phone call from their families. We all remember the last time a battle like that happened on the frontier.”
I waited for Demetrius to call but he didn’t, and when I tried, I was told he was busy. I should have expected it but, damn it. I hate not knowing what’s going on!
“At least, no one died this time,” Anya said.
She immediately regretted the words. Damian tightened his lips and clenched his fists, looking away.
No father is gone from their children’s lives. It’s a comfort, I guess. People are just monsters, he thought bitterly.
Anya startled and took a step back, staring at him with wide eyes.
“W-what?” he asked, surprised by her strange reaction.
She remained silent, not knowing what to say to such a thing. Such a mind. She knew him, right? Better than anyone, right?
“Anya, are you okay? You’re really pale…”
She doesn’t look well. Should I take her to the infirmary?
They turned around and Becky arrived running. She immediately wrapped her arms around Anya, squeezing her hard.
“Oh, Anya! I was so worried! This is so scary!”
“I-It’ll be alright…” She found herself answering.
Anya hugged her friend back and for a moment, their worries flew away like birds freed from their golden cage.
“We should go, classes are about to start,” Ewen intervened.
The group made their way to their first classroom. The professors did a brilliant job at making the students feel more comfortable. It was an isolated accident. It will not happen again. It will not be like eight years prior.
The rhythm of daily duties, studying and learning diligently, distracted everyone from scary thought and by lunch time, Anya felt like she could breathe. She had forgotten how overwhelming people’s thoughts could get when she lost control of her ability.
When Becky and Anya made their way towards the cafeteria for lunch, they crossed Damian, Ewen and Emile who were discussing the earlier maths class. Damian made eye contact with Anya. They were as two stars, gravitating around each other, magnetised and inescapable.
As much as she worried of what she might find out about Damian, she couldn’t escape his gaze. She couldn’t run away, not again, never again. They had done that for too long.
As he walked past her, never detaching his gaze from her, he brushed his hand against hers. Something slipped between her fingers. She grabbed it just as he walked away.
If anyone had noticed, no one even thought about it. Anya’s fist tightened around the little piece of paper he had given her, impatient to read it.
As soon as they were sitting at the cafeteria and Becky was distracted by gossiping with some other friends, Anya looked down at the message Damian had given her.
Meet me at the Quantic Physics section of the Curie Library after lunch.
She breathed, crumpling the paper in her pocket as Becky turned back to her. The Curie Library was small and far away from the main classes, most students didn’t bother going there during lunch. Even less in the Quantic Physics section. It would be quiet. And dangerous.
Considering the way her tummy tightened in anticipation, this conversation could go in two very different directions. She would either get her heart broken, or she might very well scream loud enough to warn the entire academy of their whereabouts.
She gulped down her lunch so quickly that Becky stared at her, bewildered. Anya stood up rapidly once she was done, eager to have this lunch break done with.
“W-wait for me!” Becky exclaimed.
“I need the toilets, it’s urgent, I’ll see you in the classroom!”
“A-ah, okay, b-but what…”
Her voice trailed off as Anya took off. She made her way towards the opposite side of the academy. She cursed for not taking her winter coat, but she bared through the cold, avoiding the patches of snow that had gathered in the night. Her breathe came rapidly, the white cloud was not done forming in front of her lips that the next one followed.
Thankfully, even if the Curie Library was open, the librarian was away, probably on lunch or lost in the books somewhere. Anya hurried through the maze of shelves, until she found the Quantic Physics section. Damian stood there.
It was the most remote part of the library, in a tight corner, with a window open on the next building of the academy but the view was irrelevant once they stood next to each other.
Damian looked up, a stern look on his face.
“You’re avoiding me,” he remarked.
Anya bit her lower lip, looking away.
Don’t make that face, damn it, I’m trying to be annoyed at you, he thought, which made Anya look back.
“I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry…”
He nodded, although his thoughts weren’t quite as calm.
“Is it… because of the thing you had to take care of yesterday? Did you talk to your parents about… us?” he hesitated, squirming a little although he tried to put up a brave face.
“I… I had planned to…”
That was the truth.
“But I got distracted with…”
Her voice trailed off.
“The attack on the frontiers. It took everyone by surprise. It came out of nowhere.” He finished with an understanding nod.
“I… had a panic attack, on my way home… then once more at home…” she admitted in a broken voice.
Damian opened and closed his lips, taken aback.
She had never shown such weakness, never admitted how much the almost-war had affected her. It had affected all of them, but they all kept it hidden. It was easier this way.
“Oh, Anya…” he whispered, standing up.
He made a few steps towards her and took her hand. He drew her against his chest, holding her close. She stopped breathing, eyes wide, stunned that Damian Desmond of all people would hug her so tenderly. He held her close. He kept her warm, brushing his hands against her back.
Her eyes burnt.
She grabbed his shirt with trembling hands.
“Your hands are cold… did you forget your gloves again, dumb-dumb?” he muttered against the side of her head.
She could easily imagine him blush. She could feel his heart beat rapidly against his chest. It resonated through her entire body.
It was comforting, in a completely different way from her father’s hug. In his, she found safety and comfort. In Damian’s arms… it was warmth and peace.
“I’m sorry…” she whispered.
He pulled away, grabbing her shoulders to look at her face. As expected, he was blushing, which made a small smile tug at her lips.
She did know him better than anyone, after all.
“Don’t ever apologise, Anya! With what’s going on, it’s perfectly normal that the… that our bad memories come back… it’s only natural. I barely slept last night. I almost called to check on you, but I was worried that the academy would figure out that we’re…”
His voice trailed off and his blush deepened.
She tightened her grip on his shirt, enough that he felt it. A slight shiver ran up his spine.
“I’m not apologising for my panic attack, it’s because…”
She lowered her head, a little ashamed.
“The news talked about your brother.”
Damian’s mind darkened so suddenly, she almost chocked. It was like falling into a minefield, trapped into barbed wire. One false move and she’d bleed to death, half-buried in the freezing mud.
She shook so violently that he unconsciously tightened his hold on her, drawing just a little closer. They were almost entirely pressed together, still facing each other.
“I know, I heard the news too,” he murmured.
“They said… he’d join the party, like your father…”
“Do you think… the attack…”
Her voice broke, fear tearing at her throat.
“Never,” Damian answered firmly, frowning.
He looked at her, his gaze hard and stubborn, a stormy dark grey she wasn’t used to seeing.
There’s no way. He’d never do anything so… low.
“I’m not close to my brother, I don’t know him very well, but I know he hates war, and he would do anything to stop any fighting or war!” he continued, certain of his words.
She could hear the truth of it in his thoughts. Her shoulders lowered a little.
“But your father was…”
Damian lowered his gaze, his mouth hardened into a tight line. He started clenching his jaw, unconsciously. It was his turn to grip the clothe of her Imperial Scholar cape around her shoulders.
“My father was a complicated man. I… used to revere him. He was my hero. My whole world. But after he died… after we found out what he had been planning…”
War… How could he? How could he become such a monster? How could I ever admire a man like that? I’m not better than him for looking up to him, even now, even when I hate everything he ever did to this country, I can’t help but think of him and hope for his approval… I’m so ashamed, so horrified at my own wishes.
Anya had the answer to the questions that had plagued her in the last twenty-four hours. A single tear rolled down her cheek, quietly. Relief hit her so suddenly, her knees almost buckled.
How could she have ever doubted Damian?
“The older I get, the less I understand him. The more I…” he continued in a tight voice.
I can’t say it. I can’t admit that I despise him. The man I loved and admired more than anything… how could I betray him now? But how could I betray who I truly am by following into his footsteps…?
Anya put her hands against his cheeks, forcing his attention back to her.
“Don’t. You don’t have to say it. I… I know, I understand… No one should ever have to witness their parents become the worst versions of themselves… I’m sure… I’m sure that deep down, he wasn’t as bad as… as it seems…”
And she promised herself, someday, she would tell him. The whole truth. She would tell Damian everything he had to know about her, even if he came to despise her as he despised his father. She couldn’t not be honest with him. Her mind-reading ability, her family’s unusual origin, that fated night… His father’s last thoughts.
She promised it, silently, to herself, and to the future she hoped to have with Damian.
“Damian, I… I’m sorry you had to go through all this on your own.”
The stormy grey of his eyes turned into a dark green. Slowly, as they stared at her, they sparkled with dots of gold.
“I’m not alone anymore…” he murmured.
Her heart missed a beat. He bent down. She lost herself in that kiss, wrapping her arms around his shoulders as he tightened his hold on her waist.
She had been so afraid of losing Damian, of losing faith in him, in the man he was, that she could have almost forgotten how kissing him felt. It left a sweeter taste than peanuts on her tongue. It was sunlight in her soul. It felt like belonging.
Their kiss was long and sweet, passionate but not as ardent as all the previous ones had been. When before, it had held the weight of their ardour and desire, this time, it held the substance of their love and loyalty. It was a kiss with the taste of a thousand untold promises, safely tucked in their hearts.
An entire week of thorough kissing practice, and they could still be surprised by the way it made them feel. They still had so much to learn.
Still kissing her, in between two panted breaths, Damian softly pushed her against the window nook. He lifted her up so she could sit on the nook. They took their time exploring each other’s lips, hands caressing their faces and their necks, bodies pressed closely together.
They weren’t alone anymore. They had all the time in the world.
Across the court, behind another academy building’s window, Loid Forger, disguised as a random professor, took off the listening bug that had been in his ear. He turned it off, plunging it in his pocket as he turned away from the sight of his daughter tenderly kissing Damian Desmond.
So… that’s why she panicked so much last night, he realised, thinking freely as she was too far away to hear him. She wasn’t panicking because the fighting made her fear a war that would turn this country apart. It’s because another war would torn her heart apart. It must have been what she had been hiding the last week or so… she’s now dating the second Desmond.
He sighed deeply, looking up at the ceiling.
Who would have thought that Mission Strix’s Plan B would eventually work out? And work out so well? Too well, in his fatherly opinion.
Not bothering to glance through the window, at the risk of seeing something he’d have nightmares about, he walked out of the building and took off his masterful disguise. He went home, a little sad to know that his little girl was so grown up. But smiling all the same that she wasn’t alone.
When Anya went home that night, smiling despite herself, and glowing a little, she found her parents discussing in a low voice on the couch. Rosaura was playing on the floor with a mini piano for children. She had a much better musical talent than Anya ever had.
“Ah, darling! Welcome home!” Loid exclaimed.
“We made you some hot cocoa!” Yor added with a bright smile.
“Thank you…” she said as she took off her winter coat and Imperial Scholar cape on a chair.
Should we tell her? We haven’t come up to a decision, she came back too fast from school… Yor thought to herself, which immediately made Anya curious.
Her parents must have noticed that she had listened to their thoughts because they smiled, a little awkward.
Anya came closer, staring at them suspiciously.
“…What is it?”
“Are you feeling better since yesterday?” Loid asked.
“Yes, much better,” she answered with a more cheerful look than should have been normal.
Loid and Yor glanced at each other, immediately noticing the change. Anya squirmed, suddenly embarrassed.
“W-what?” she asked, flushing.
They remained quiet. Bond watched the conversation go, glancing at one from another member of his family. Only Rosaura’s music and giggles broke the silence.
“…You need to tell her. You need to be honest with her.” Yor eventually let out, glancing pointedly at her husband.
“Tell me what?”
I had promised to not spy on her anymore…
“You spied on me?!” Anya exclaimed, suddenly angry, “You had promised to never do that again!!”
“I’m sorry!” Loid exclaimed, lifting his hands guiltily, “I know I had promised, but I was so worried for you after yesterday! I wanted to make sure you would be alright, that nothing bad would happen at school…”
“It didn’t help that we have been worrying for over a week,” Yor added quickly, “You used to never leave so early in the morning, and you started going out, and coming back later than usual…”
“I-I’m studying for the finals, before the winter break,” she answered sheepishly.
She had never been a good liar. It was way worse when she sensed that her father knew something he didn’t even let himself think about.
He tightened his lips, staring at her.
“Studying. With Damian Desmond? With his tongue in your mouth?”
Anya gasped, covering her mouth with her hands. She turned crimson. Bond stood up excitedly, aware of his mistress’ suddenly heightened emotions.
“I only followed you and put a listening device–”
“You put a WHAT!”
“–Because I was deadly worried for you after yesterday, I did not expect to find you… frolicking with Desmond in a library like some love-drunk younglings–”
“This is not an excuse!!” Anya screamed, “Papa! How could you?!”
Bond barked, glaring at Loid, although he wasn’t quite sure why.
Loid stood up:
“Please, calm down, I’m not angry–”
“I am! I am FURIOUS!!” Anya interrupted, stomping her foot down.
“I told you, you should have never spied on her!” Yor exclaimed, now glaring at her husband.
“Alright! Alright, I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have broken my promise!! I should have never spied on you, and I swear I will never ever do it ever again from now on! I don’t want any more nightmares.”
Anya caught his traumatized thoughts and the tears he had held back on his way home. She suddenly felt guilty for lashing out at him for doing what any worried father with a former career as a spy would do for his daughter… Of course, her behaviour had gotten them suspicious, and the previous day’s panic attack hadn’t helped.
And she couldn’t hold a grudge against him when she had hid from her parents for years that she had been secretly training with the Handler.
Sighing, Anya passed her hands on her face. Finally, when she felt ready to face them, she dropped her hands.
“…Alright. Never spy on me again. I won’t… hide this sort of things from you either.”
“Oh, darling, why did you ever feel the need to hide it?” Yor asked, standing up to wrap her arm around her.
She drew Anya towards the couch, forcing her to sit down. Loid sat on the other side, a worried look on his face.
“Did you think we would react badly?” Yor continued, caressing her daughter’s cheek tenderly.
“…Not badly, but…”
Anya glanced at her father, looking accusing.
“…I’m sorry,” he said, flushing in embarrassment.
“So, Damian, right?” Yor said, joining her hands together, “I knew it! It’s been so long since you two have been in love, it was finally time you acted on your feelings… Who made the first move? You must have, you’re much braver than he is.”
“Y-you knew…?” Anya hesitated.
“Of course,” her father answered with a hesitant smile, “Why else would you have run back to him so desperately the night his father died?”
“But I wasn’t in love with him yet at that point,” she replied.
Her parents stared at her, a knowing smile on their faces. She blushed.
“It’s okay, it took me a while to figure out I was in love with your father too,” Yor said with an amused twinkle in her eyes.
Anya lowered her gaze, memories from that night flooding back.
“…It’s so unfair… why did I fall in love with him? When his father died because…”
“Donovan didn’t die because of you, nor any of us, you know that, Anya,” Loid interrupted, putting a comforting hand on hers, “Donovan’s death was committed by an assassin of the Garden that no one suspected until your mother and I uncovered the truth.”
“…I know, but… I can’t help but feel like it’s somehow my fault… if only I had run faster that night…”
“Then the assassin would have killed you too,” Yor whispered, drawing her against her chest.
“And our whole world would have fallen apart,” Loid added.
“…Something tells me, that Damian’s world would have fallen apart too. Whatever happened is in the past and none of it was your fault, Anya. Don’t live in the past, or you are doomed to make mistakes.”
There was a moment of hesitation, until Loid spoke up again:
“And… from what I accidently overheard… you and Damian…”
He sighed deeply, his fatherly instinct clashing against his wish for his daughter to be happy.
Anya glanced at him, worried and hopeful.
“It’s more than simple infatuation…” Loid murmured, looking down, “You two are… it’s real, isn’t it?”
“W-will you… threaten him at gunpoint if it is…?” Anya hesitated, her voice shaking at her poor attempt at a joke.
Her father laughed, jerking his head backwards. She chuckled, a little comforted that it was her father’s first reaction.
“Only if he breaks your heart!”
“And if he does, your father will not be the one Damian will have to worry about,” Yor added with a threatening smile.
“Guh, remind me to never introduce him to either of you…” Anya mumbled, flushing in embarrassment.
But her heart sparkled, happy that her parents had not transformed into Medusa-like creatures, ready to hunt down Damian.
“On the contrary, I want to meet him properly, man to man, father to…”
Loid’s voice wavered. He looked away. He brought his hand to his mouth and tried to hide a sniff.
“Papa?” Anya hesitated, putting a hand on his arm.
“…You’re still so young… you’re… you’re everything to me, you, your mother, your sister… I don’t ever want to see any of you hurt.”
She didn’t need to read his thoughts to know that his eyes had teared up again.
“Are you happy?” Loid asked, turning back towards her.
His eyes, as expected, were filled with tears. Anya noticed for the first time that the years had gone by and had had an impact on her father. He still was handsome and in good shape. But the tiniest of wrinkles had started to appear at the corner of his lips, of his eyes. There was a patch of grey hair mixing with the blond.
She jumped into his arms, surprising him. But he quickly wrapped his arms around her, tightly, as if by letting her go, he’d lose her forever. Emotions tightened her throat.
“I am… I’m the happiest I’ve ever been…” she admitted with a silly smile and tears filling her own eyes.
“Good… Good, good.”
I’m not ready to see my little girl so grown up.
“You know I’ll never leave you behind, papa, mama… Who is going to reveal your most embarrassing thoughts at family dinners otherwise?” she continued with a teary laugh.
Her parents laughed, as emotional, arms wrapped around her.
“Who indeed,” Loid said, sniffing loudly.
Bond came closer, tail wagging happily. Rosaura stood up on her chubby legs and made her way to her parents and sister, her steps still clumsy and hesitant. Anya grabbed her and lifted her to rest on her knees. Her innocent giggles filled the air, echoing with the wet laughter of the Forger family.
Who would have thought that such a tiny family, forged for a short-timed mission, would last forever and beyond?