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Guiding Star

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FANFICTION

Spy X FAMILY

Guiding Star

CHAPTER IX : Star-crossed Part I

 

Two years earlier…

 

It was at fourteen years-old (in reality thirteen) that Anya Forger realised that she was unexpectedly clueless about love. She could express feelings of love (for peanuts, her family, and her favourite shows) in at least three languages. She had some of the best grades of her class in Literature where many texts involved analysing romance. She had been the first witness of her parents falling in love against all odds. She could read minds.

 

And yet, the heart was a mystery.

 

Becky was quite convinced (for some reasons that escaped her) that Anya was desperately in love with Damian Desmond. Quite the opposite, thank you very much. But Becky was almost as stubborn as she was and therefore, debate was useless.

 

Anya couldn’t quite recall when her feelings for Sy-on boy changed, it crept on her slowly, silently, and suddenly, it was everywhere.

 

She had always given him a significant amount of attention but unlike what most people had wrongly assumed, it wasn’t because she had been in love with him since they were children, it was only because of Operation Strix. But she couldn’t mention it to anyone, right? Nevertheless, from the moment they had met, her attention had been drawn to him, despite the ups and downs of their relationship, and she had been acutely aware of his eagerness to learn and prove himself.

 

That was a quality she understood better than anyone. She was eager to prove she could be a perfect daughter, she was eager to have a family who would never leave her behind.

 

She didn’t realise how her small actions, to simply befriend him, only strengthened Sy-on boy’s feelings for her. It was easy to be ignorant of his feelings considering his determination to remain in denial about said-feelings, and so, obviously it went over her head.

 

After his father’s death, after what she had witnessed that night, after holding him in her arms while he had cried and sobbed his grief away, it had been ridiculously easy for Anya to just… keep an eye on him. She felt responsible, somehow, for his well-being. Now that the person he wanted to prove himself to was gone, Anya was a little scared she’d lose the Sy-on boy she’d always known. The one she understood and sympathised with.

 

Thankfully, or perhaps that would become a curse in the later years, Sy-on boy put all his focus into becoming the best Desmond he could possibly be, to prove himself to the rest of his family, to the memory of his father.

 

By the time Anya had reached thirteen years-old and had helped more than once her father at the psychiatry ward of the hospital, she understood that Sy-on boy’s determination was not a show of his will and moral strength. It was the only coping mechanism he could use to bury his grief and recover from his father’s death. In the long term, according to her father, it could become toxic as the young boy would forget all other feelings and hobbies to focus entirely and solely on what he found solace in. Studying, receiving Stella Stars, becoming an Imperial Scholar, making his dead father proud. Even if it meant forgoing sleep, food, or friends at times.

 

She had caused that.

 

Or so she thought.

 

And she aimed at helping him. She felt far too guilty for everything she had not done well enough that night to let Sy-on boy bury himself so deep in his grief and gifts that he’d forget who he really was. A genuinely good kid who loved his family, studying, soccer, and his friends.

 

“Sy-on boy!” she called on the first day of their new school year.

 

He turned around. Anya ran to him but as she reached him, she slowed down, blinking in astonishment. There was something different about him, but she couldn’t figure out what.

 

“Yeah? What do you want, Forger?” he mumbled, frowning at her disdainfully.

 

Oh no, she’s even cuter than before! How can she keep on getting prettier and prettier every year?! He thought, a flush creeping on his cheeks that he artfully ignored.

 

She didn’t. she was quite happy to provoke such reactions from him, although she had not felt such pride before. She smirked, leaning forward:

 

“How were your holidays? Did you have fun with your family?”

 

Damian immediately darkened. Not just his expression, but his mind became a cold void, occasionally interrupted by sad and dark thoughts, like the hissing wind in winter.

 

Anya shivered and took a step back, staring at this broken young man.

 

“I did,” he lied.

 

She opened her lips to reply, but he walked away. Her shoulders dropped and she looked down at the ground. A heavy sensation burdened her chest. Guilt, she recognised. It gnawed at her heart. Why would it?

 

She had questioned it several times by now, she had talked about it with her parents… Even if she had been incapable of helping Donovan Desmond the night he died, she had not been the cause of his death. Her father had not been the cause of his death. Her mother had not been the cause of his death. She had no reason to feel guilty, she knew it and her parents had made sure she understood it. And yet, every time she saw Damian missing his father, she felt like the weight of the whole world was on her shoulders, as if everything was becoming a black and white movie, bleak and hopeless.

 

Had she ever seen him smile? A real smile, not one to play-pretend in front of teachers and friends?

 

She couldn’t recall.

 

Why would she feel so guilty? Why couldn’t she let go of Damian’s hurt?

 

She was enlightened, unknowingly so, by her art teacher. She had joined the art club as after-school activities for a couple of years now, partly because she realised a few years too late that now that she wasn’t part of a facility doing child experiment, she didn’t have to be taken away from drawing or painting. She could draw. She could paint. She could create anything she wanted. And that newly-understood freedom felt precious.

 

They were taught how to draw and paint, but more importantly, Anya often ignored the instructions to create a world of her own in her paintings. A world where there had been no war, where she didn’t fear being left behind by her parents, where she didn’t read minds, where she wasn’t a spy in secrecy, where Damian could smile.

 

“Oh, such poignant empathy…” her teacher whispered when she took notice of that painting.

 

“Mmm?” Anya questioned, still half lost in her painting.

 

She turned to look at the teacher who smiled at the art.

 

“Empathy?” she repeated.

 

“Yes, isn’t it the feeling you wished to express? You have a gift, Anya. You understand people’s feelings with an ease that is beyond your years, but this one… this one isn’t just about understanding. It feels like you are reaching out towards someone in need, someone important to you, someone you love and cherish… Anya?”

 

Anya stared without quite seeing her teacher, not realising that unexpected tears were rolling down her cheeks.

 

“Anya, are you okay, dear?” the teacher continued, leaning forward to check on the young student.

 

Anya looked back at the painting. It was too abstract for anyone to recognise anything or anyone, but to Anya it suddenly made sense. Too much sense. Among the colours and forms shaped into ‘empathy’, she saw tears. Glistening tears, soft as dandelions’ seeds floating in the wind, sparkling as faraway stars. And that shade of green, so different from hers, that figure of dark and sad thoughts, lost in grief…

 

“Someone you love and cherish.”

 

After almost a decade of knowing each other, of course she’d care for him. Of course, she’d… love him. Of course, she’d… cherish these hopeful tears she had never witnessed. It wasn’t the love between her parents, it was quite similar to what she felt for Becky, Bond and peanuts. Right?

 

Then, why did it make her chest tighten so painfully?

 

That painting, that she still kept, hidden in her bedroom behind layers of sheets, had been the moment she had started suspecting there was something more in her heart. But as her parents had taught her, she approached these feelings methodically, like a mission. Like father, like daughter. Like mother, like daughter.

 

What better way to investigate than keeping a close eye on Sy-on boy?

 

Most days, she could remember her mission of figuring out why she felt so strongly, so guilty, so much… so much of whatever was going on in her chest for Sy-on boy. Once she’ll figure out, she’ll take the necessary steps to stop it.

 

But some days, she just got lost. She paid him even more attention than before, which according to Becky and most of their classmates, was the sign of her feelings increasing, but Anya dutifully ignored all those silly thoughts. She wasn’t in love with Sy-on boy at all, thank you very much. But she started noticing things she had never noticed before.

 

The way he furrowed his brows when he was studying a concept he didn’t quite get. The way he often looked out the windows, sometimes for hours and hours, when the lesson was too easy and boring for him. His thoughts during those times were a wonderland and a minefield all at once. Getting lost in his mind was the easiest thing in the world, although she tried to respect his privacy by controlling her mind-reading… but it was difficult. Anyone else’s thoughts, she could easily ignore, but never Damian. She always wanted to know more about him, to dive into his mind. Some days, it felt like swimming in peanut-flavoured cotton candy, picking up flowers from endless meadows… Other times, it was like her father’s war memories. But unlike her father’s memories that she avoided because they scared her, when it was Damian, all she wanted was to reach out and help him out of that mud that smothered him.

 

For the first time, she wished she could do more than read minds. If only she could paint sunflowers after sunflowers after sunflowers in his head.

 

She noticed other little things about Damian Desmond. He had a nervous twitch, his leg, or his fingers, during the last hour of the class, because he was getting impatient for soccer practice. His hair was curling on rainy days (her heart would squeeze a little at that, the way it would when she watched adorable puppies and kittens, but she wasn’t sure why Sy-on boy would provoke the same thing). He occasionally doodled hearts and stars in his notebooks, but no one ever noticed because he erased them quickly. He stared at her in classes. He ate a chocolate, hazelnut and caramel cake every Friday at lunch because it reminded him of family dinners long ago. He had an unexpected fondness for romance stories, although he carefully hid it from everyone. He missed his dog, Max. He missed his mother, his brother. He missed the family they had once been. Apple juice was his favourite, he didn’t like orange juice with little bits in it. He ate peanuts because it reminded of her (that made her heart skip a beat, but she wasn’t sure why).

 

He thought about her. A lot. Because he liked her.

 

She probably thought about him just as much. Maybe more. But it wasn’t because she liked him. Right?

 

His eyes changed colour. Sometimes, they looked brownish if there wasn’t enough light or when he got sad. Sometimes, on cloudy days, they looked grey. Sometimes, depending on the light, they looked golden. Sometimes, especially in summer, they looked green.

 

She loved that his eyes changed colours, and then she noticed that the light wasn’t the only thing affecting his eye colour. His emotions too. When she looked at her, they were greenish with a golden hue. They sparkled.

 

At that point, her heart was beating fast enough she had to hold back the urge to press her hand against her chest. What a strange feeling she couldn’t let go of.

 

Whatever her heart was feeling, her mind wasn’t catching up, but her body did. She blamed puberty on that one. Because she didn’t feel anything particularly enticing towards Sy-on boy, thank you very much…

 

It had been months since the start of the new year, and yet, she still couldn’t figure out what was different him. It bothered her but she had turned it times and times again in her head without ever understanding what looked different. His hair was longer? Maybe? She had noticed how pretty his eyes were?

 

She understood one dreary December day in the library. She was cold, sleepy, hungry, and doing one of the worst thing in the creation of the universe: studying for finals. She wandered through the halls and halls of books, looking for the one she needed to understand this godforsaken physics lesson. Why call it physics if it was just maths in space?

 

She spotted the book, above her head. She reached out for it, but her hand couldn’t reach it. One thing that never changed: she grew up, she built muscles, she got curves, but she never evolved from her short stature. She went on her tippy toes, determined to get the book, but she could barely brush it with her fingertips. She looked around for a stool or a ladder, but they were all gone. She was too tired to look for one, so she tried, yet again, to reach for the book on her own, scratching at the book spine in the hope it’ll magically suffer from gravity and fall.

 

A hand reached for the exact same book and withdrew it with ease. She spun around, huffing, and ready to fight for it, but she gasped when she ended up face-to-face with Sy-on boy.

 

“That’s mine!” she hissed.

 

“Oh, really? Unfortunate that you’re too short to reach for it, then,” he replied, casually letting the book rest on his shoulder.

 

She tried to reach for the book, but he held it out. She jumped towards it, but he held it higher. A smirk appeared on his face. One she wanted to punch off.

 

“Give it back, Sy-on boy!”

 

“What’s the magical word?”

 

She growled, trying yet again to reach for it. She tripped and stumbled against him.

 

Damian gasped at the sudden weight, but he managed to stabilise them both, catching her by the waist. The book was still held way out of her reach, but suddenly, they were pressed against each other.

 

The world stopped spinning.

 

Anya took in his face, that she had never seen so close. She took in his body, that she had never felt so close. He had lost some of the baby roundness of his face, his jawline was sharp. His eyebrows were thicker and his eyelashes long and dark. He was warm, he was taller. His shoulders were broader than she had ever realised, his chest was strong from unexpected muscles. His eyes sparkled, like always when looking at her but there was something… stronger, heavier, almost dark in the way he stared at her – but it wasn’t the darkness she was familiar from his sad thoughts. It was… enticing, like a spell.

 

And pressed against him like that, it wasn’t just her heart that reacted this time, but her stomach as well. The butterflies she had read about so often finally decided to flutter, vividly, strongly, like they had woken up only to fight a war against her mind.

 

She noticed his lips, and suddenly she didn’t want to punch that smirk off his face. She wanted to kiss it.

 

She blushed at the thought. She blushed so suddenly, so strongly, that the whole library spun upside down. Her whole world went upside down. How had he survived years and years of blushing around her? She couldn’t make sense of her feelings, of her thoughts, of anything. It was him, only him, and his lips, and his eyes, and his body, and his eyes again, and the way his thoughts were a mess like she was.

 

“Y-you’re big…” she stammered.

 

Damian gasped, his flustered face turning into a deep crimson, a red bright enough to be seen even across the dim library. She felt his heart skip a beat, and hers followed the rhythm. His thoughts went into forbidden territory but for once she didn’t feel overwhelmed or disgusted or irked off, she wanted to figure out why he felt this way, why these words had made him react that way, why

 

She caught a thought, understood why he had reacted so vividly. She gasped, blushing more, and stepped away quickly.

 

Suddenly, the distance between them, just one step, was too far. It was a chasm, a void, and her body was far too cold.

 

“I-I mean… I meant… not… you’ve grown taller than before…” she mumbled, her tongue heavy and uncollaborative.

 

She noticed my growth spurt? She knows? She… what is she even doing? I can’t–

 

His line of thoughts turned messy again and she shook lightly her head, confused by his confusion.

 

Damian handed her the book. She took it. He turned around and left in rapid steps.

 

Anya swallowed hard. She was breathing heavily, still confused even if his confusion was out of reach. Was it her own confusion then? Yes, she was confused. What had been this reaction? Why had her body betrayed her like that?

 

She dropped the book on the floor. She pressed her hand against her chest. She felt the tremors of her heart, still beating fast. She pressed her other hand against her stomach that felt warm in ways she had never felt before. She let herself slide on the floor.

 

It took her far too long to calm down.

 

What was it she felt for Sy-on boy? For… Damian Desmond? Could it be that whatever she felt for him was the same he… felt for her?

 

NO! Anya, no! It’s not! I’m not! It’s just… a weird bodily reaction. Because of hormones. That’s all. Just hormones. I’m not… I’m not.

 

But the Damian Desmond spell was on her and after that, she could never ignore the fact that she had realised how tall, how broad, how handsome he had become. To her great embarrassment, she found herself staring at him and being flustered considerably more than once.

 

After noticing his little habits, after noticing his eyes, after noticing he was becoming a man, she started noticing that… he was a good man too. He had little gestures of kindness, of attention, towards her, and others, but mostly her, that made her heart warm up. Somehow, she loved those moments more than any fluttering of butterflies.

 

When she was down, he’d buy peanuts, pretending it was for himself, but he’d only eat half and give her the rest. When she was lost in thoughts, he’d tap the top of her head. When they crossed path in halls, he’d stare at her until they were both flustered. When she lost a pencil, he’d always have one to give her. When she scraped her knee during physical activity, he had been next to her in an instant, pressing a handkerchief against it. When she couldn’t reach books, he’d always be here to bring it down for her, although he never teased her again. When she was cold, he’d always throw his jacket on her shoulders. When she was sleepy, he’d always leave a cup of hot cocoa on her desk.

 

But it wasn’t anything new. These were all things he had been doing for years, like giving her a pink rose every Valentine’s Day. She had just never noticed what it meant. She had just never noticed that it made her heart beat happily.

 

Now, she suspected it. Strongly.

 

But there was no way.

 

Right?

 

She noticed other things. Like the way so many girls flocked around him. It was particularly annoying during soccer matches against other schools. The first ranks would always, always be overcrowded from these stupid, foolish girls who sighed and screeched for his attention. The worst was when, a little flustered, Damian would wave at them.

 

Anya always ended up gritting her teeth together. If her ever noticed her, he never let it be known and that was something she didn’t like. He had always, always kept his attention on her, she didn’t know how to function when he wasn’t finding her in the crowd. The world wasn’t right, it was spinning backwards.

 

“Stop glaring at these puffs, it looks like you’re going to commit a murder.” Becky murmured in her ear during a particularly intense match for the middle-school soccer competition, if Eden won this match they’d go in finals, “You’re scarier than Master Yor!”

 

Before Anya could answer, Damian managed to swiftly run past the defence and kick the ball. She heard the panicked thought of the goalkeeper:

 

Crap! I can’t stop it!

 

The ball had barely brushed past the goalkeeper that Anya jumped up, yelling:

 

“YES!!”

 

Damian somehow heard and spun to her. The whistle resonated, and one second after Anya, the entire crowd of Eden students rose, cheering in celebration.

 

She was smothered by the wave, too short to be noticed by Damian. She was almost embarrassed that she had yelled so loudly, the only one who had reacted before the goal had even been announced.

 

Damian was risen on top of his teammates’ shoulders, everyone jumping and cheering for their place in the finale. He looked out towards the crowd, smiling, but there was something in his eyes. He was searching for something, for someone.

 

Anya climbed on top of a chair. Her heart skipped a beat when his eyes met hers and his smile widened.

 

He had heard her. He had noticed her, even lost in that crowd. It was almost as if this celebration belonged to them, even if neither quite knew why it felt this way.

 

Eden Academy was beyond happy that they had qualified for the soccer finale. Although they had a good team, they had been stuck in quarter and semi-finales for almost a decade now. For a week, the entire school was entirely focused on the soccer team and so, the art club had decided to create a giant banner to encourage their team. Anya was the most enthusiastic about it, adding peanuts and griffins to the decorations. She was so eager that she skipped her spy training and stayed behind after everyone else was gone so she could finish it in time.

 

She wasn’t expecting anyone to come visit her when it was almost night, but Anya looked up when she heard footsteps.

 

“Becky! Look at our banner! What do you think?” she asked, excitedly bringing her friend in.

 

Becky had just finished her drama club and she looked at the banner, quickly noticing the griffins represented there.

 

“…You’ve been acting different lately,” she started.

 

“Uh?”

 

“Around Desmond.” Becky added.

 

“W-what do you mean?”

 

Becky turned to her, frowning lightly.

 

“I’m not sure what happened, you’ve always… I’ve always assumed you were in love with him, and that it was why you were so obsessed with him as kids… but you’ve always been so aloof about it and now…”

 

“…Now what?” Anya questioned, her heart beating fast.

 

Becky pondered her answer carefully. Anya feared what she’d learn.

 

“Now, you look like you two gravitate around each other. I don’t understand anymore. I thought I knew… you… I thought I knew my best friend and I thought that I knew that she was stupidly in love with a boy who doesn’t deserve her… but I don’t know anymore!”

 

Becky’s voice wavered on those last words. Anya swallowed and felt her chest tighten. She wanted to comfort her best friend, but it was completely different from the way she felt for Damian.

 

“But I’m not in love with him,” Anya replied with an easy smile.

 

Becky turned to her, eyes wide.

 

“How long are you going to pretend that?”

 

“But… I’m not in love with him,” Anya continued with the same smile.

 

She felt like she was wearing a theatre mask, a forced smile painted on it. But the mask was slowly breaking apart. She couldn’t let it happen. She couldn’t face the truth.

 

Becky would have none of that.

 

“Why would you keep saying that?! To me?! I thought we were friends, why do you want so badly to lie to me?! You’ve always liked him, and I never judged you for that, but now that you two act like… like star-crossed lovers or something, you keep trying to convince me that you don’t like him but that’s… that’s…! That’s BULLSHIT!!”

 

The young lady gasped and immediately covered her mouth.

 

“Oh no, I cursed,” she mumbled against her hand, “Don’t tell my father, don’t tell anyone that I cursed–”

 

Anya just stared at her. She clenched her fists and shook her head.

 

“I’m not…”

 

“Don’t you dare say it!! Why is it so difficult for you to admit that you’re in love with Desmond?!”

 

“Because I CAN’T be in love with him!!” Anya yelled, feeling like she was jumping out of her own skin.

 

Even Becky startled and took a step back.

 

The mask fell apart in pieces.

 

“It’s not fair for him!! I CAN’T be in love with him!! He’s… he’s a Desmond!”

 

He was a mission!

 

“I’m not supposed to have this life!”

 

It was supposed to be a lie!

 

“He’s in so much PAIN and I… I…!”

 

I caused it!

 

“I CAN’T HELP HIM!!” she shouted from the top of her lungs, like never before, voice so high and breaking that it physically hurt her throat.

 

Anay’s eyes burnt and suddenly, a gasping sob escaped her. She immediately started sobbing, in a way she had not done in years. She covered her face, but the tears wouldn’t stop. She tried wiping them away, but they wouldn’t stop, they kept falling, again and again. It wouldn’t stop.

 

“He’s in so much pain, he’s so lonely and I can’t do anything to help him! I don’t know what to do, Becky! It’s all so new! I don’t understand why it feels this way! If this is love, why does it hurt?!”

 

Becky stared at her best friend, her childhood friend, whom she had never seen cry, even less sob, even less break down, and here she was, in pieces, upon the realisation that… she was in love and couldn’t help the person she was in love with…

 

“Oh, Anya…”

 

“I just… I just…!”

 

“Have you really been in denial this entire time? How much… how much you’ve endured, you… you foolish, brave girl… You…”

 

Becky took Anya in her arms. Her sobs became more intense.

 

Her mask was just dust at her feet.

 

She didn’t know why she cried anymore.

 

Becky didn’t quite know how to comfort Anya. She was too stunned to understand that this entire time Anya had been unaware of her feelings. It was a whole new level of stubbornness and denial that even Damian Desmond had not managed to reach. But that was a discussion for another day. So Becky wiped Anya’s tears, she put cold water on her face, she helped her clean up the art club’s room, and she took her home.

 

Despite Becky’s best efforts, it was obvious for her parents the moment she got home, that Anya had been crying. A lot.

 

“Anya! What happened?” Yor exclaimed, immediately coming to her side.

 

“I was starting to worry, it was getting so late. Were you attacked? Who hurt you?” Loid asked, immediately wrapping an arm around her.

 

Anya’s eyes teared up, but she shook her head.

 

“I-I was just… I was helping with the… the stupid banner… for the soccer team… That stupid banner…!”

 

It was obvious that she couldn’t say anything else, so Yor prepared her a cup of hot cocoa and took her to the couch. Loid remained sitting on the other side. Bond was at her feet, looking sad for her.

 

“Are you feeling better? Do you want to talk about it?” Yor asked, an arm around her daughter’s shoulders.

 

“I-I don’t know what to think… anymore… I don’t know how I feel.” Anya admitted, looking down at the half-drunk hot cocoa.

 

“What is it about, Anya darling?” Yor asked patiently.

 

“I’m such an idiot…!”

 

“You’re not, Anya. Tell us what happened, so we can help you.” Loid continued with an encouraging smile.

 

She stared at the hot cocoa. A tear fell into it, creating circles and shapes. Somehow, she thought back on that painting hidden in her room. About empathy, about tears, about a thousand shades of green and gold. About Damian, really. It had always been about him.

 

But he had also always been her secret. Apparently, everyone had known she had had a crush on Sy-on boy since they had been children. But Anya Forger being in love with Damian Desmond had been her secret. No one had figured out how she truly felt, not even Becky, not even herself. How could she trust her heart when it was so confusing?

 

Denial was much easier. She understood far better why Sy-on boy had been so deep in denial.

 

If she asked her parents, if she said anything, they’d know… He would no longer be her secret. A secret that had guided every choice she had been making for years, without even realising it, like a guiding star she had held close to her chest, hiding its light from everyone, including herself.

 

But they had promised, no more secret. She had one too many already for her parents.

 

“Mama… papa… how did you… how did you know that you were in love?” she asked in a low, trembling voice.

 

Somehow, a ridiculous fear took root. What if by asking about being in love they decided she would become a burden and abandoned her? What if her parents, the people she had thought were the centre of her universe this entire time, left her? Would she ever, ever recover from that terrifying fear of losing them? Of being alone again?

 

Her body was tense, her heart was beating coldly. She closed her eyes, horrified to be abandoned.

 

Her parents leaned forward, and they wrapped their arms around her, smiling, albeit a little sadly. Falling in love should be happy, and yet, their daughter didn’t have that luck. It should have been happier for her, than it had been for them.

 

Anya gasped, realising that they were there, they stayed there, they surrounded her with love and warmth. She grabbed them, with one hand, the other shaking around the hot cocoa cup.

 

And she realised something really silly. She didn’t want to be left alone. She didn’t want to lose anyone she loved. It included her parents, Bond, Becky… and Damian. Admitting to herself she was in love with him, that she cared for him so deeply, meant risking losing him. And she couldn’t risk it. She had not been able to risk it. But her heart’s cry had become impossible to ignore. Denial was no longer an option. Only drowning in a thousand shades of green and gold was.

 

“It’s easy, I realised I was in love when all I wanted was to see your mama smile,” her father murmured against the top of her head.

 

“I realised I was in love when all I wanted was for your papa to be happy,” her mother added, kissing her forehead.

 

***

 

The soccer finale arrived. Becky elbowed so many of these stupid puffs, viciously glaring at them, that she, Anya, Emile and Ewen managed to find seats on the very first rank, putting up the arts club’s banner. When the boys’ team lined up, Damian standing proudly as team captain, he immediately noticed the banner.

 

All Eden Academy cheered for their boys’ team.

 

The match was tight, it seemed impossible to win. Neither team marked a single goal for the entirety of the match… until the very last minute. Damian jumped around, fast and agile, the soccer ball flipping between his legs. He kicked it. The incredible goalkeeper jumped to catch it. His fingers touched the ball. It flew up. And then it fell back into the net.

 

The whistle resonated. All Eden stood up, cheering. The boys’ soccer team ran to their captain, to Damian, and raised him on their shoulders, screaming and cheering his name.

 

Damian was so lost in happiness, in pride, he laughed to the sky.

 

Anya’s heart missed a beat, and her applauding hands came to a stop. And she just stared, and stared, and stared at Damian. For once, he didn’t catch her eye, he didn’t notice her, but she was fine about it. His attention wasn’t elsewhere, it was with himself. He had accomplished something incredible, out of joy, out of fun, out of love for soccer. He had done it for his team, but mostly for himself. And not a single thought about his family, his name, or his father. Just himself.

 

Most of Eden’s students invaded the field to celebrate their team. Becky had grabbed Anya’s hand and forced her to follow but the celebration had separated the two girls.

 

Anya ended up lost in the crowd, overwhelmed by the thoughts of everyone.

 

She felt the force of his thoughts before she heard them, clattered and excited and happy. She whipped around and ended up face-to-face with Damian Desmond. He was still smiling. A wide, happy smile that made his eyes sparkle like emeralds.

 

It was a new shade of green.

 

Oh, Anya thought, a sudden realisation taking place, in her heart and her mind hand-in-hand.

 

It was like falling in love all over again.

 

“Forger! Thank you for the banner!” he exclaimed, coming up to her.

 

Damian froze.

 

Anya was crying tears of joy. Endless, impossible to contain. They wouldn’t stop rolling down her cheeks. She didn’t quite understand why she felt this way, but she didn’t want to deny it any longer.

 

“A-are you okay?” Damian asked, worried, his heart twisting in his chest.

 

Like always, when she cried, he was ready to set the world on fire, he was ready to pull down the moon. But unlike the tears he had always seen until now, these glistening stars were accompanied by a beautiful smile. A smile that took him by surprise.

 

Oh, he thought, Am I falling all over again for her?

 

Having captured that thought, Anya laughed through the tears, her smile ecstatic, so much so that Damian couldn’t help but chuckle and smile back, confused but happy.

 

“Are you okay? Why are you crying?” he asked, stepping one step closer, but never close enough.

 

“You’re smiling, you’re happy!” she answered, still smiling.

 

It finally made sense, it all did.

 

That guilt, that heaviness, she had always felt for him. It was because she wanted him to be happy. That perpetual staring, that constant reach of her mind for his. It was because she wanted to see him smile.

 

Everyone had been wrong. Anya didn’t have a crush on Sy-on boy since they had been children. That much was true.

 

But somehow, over the years, that connection they had denied and nurtured all at once had transformed into something more. Someone to care for, to cherish, to look out for. Someone to make smile, someone to make happy.

 

Anya didn’t have a crush on Sy-on boy. But Anya Forger was in love with Damian Desmond, and somehow, she knew it must have been what the stars had wanted all along.