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Guiding Star

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Guiding Star

CHAPTER I : Prologue


There had been six times in Damian’s life when he had questioned everything he thought he knew. Every single time, Anya Forger had been a key element in whatever events occurred. As if she were the catalyst of his existence, the anchor to his fate. His guiding star.

The first time had been when, at barely six years-old, on their very first day of school at Eden Academy, she had the nerves to punch him without looking the slightest bit ashamed. Looking back on it, he may or may not have deserved it to some extent… but from that day onward, Anya Forger had become the disturbance of what he had assumed could have been a peaceful life.

The second time had been when, at barely eight years-old, his whole universe collapsed with the death of his father and the unforeseen consequences that Donovan Demond’s demise brought to the world. Anya Forger had been the only one to see him crack into pieces, and she had been the one to help put the pieces back together. Even if it had been a lie.

The third time had been when, at barely nine years-old, after months and months without seeing her, Anya Forger reappeared in his life, and yet again, she became his center of gravity – not with a punch, but with a powerful kick this time! At least, she had taste for variety.

The fourth time had been when, at barely ten years-old, upon starting middle-school, he had the groundbreaking revelation that perhaps, he might have been falling in love with Anya Forger since they were children (in retrospect, he might have also been in denial most of those years).

The fifth time had been when, at barely fifteen years-old, he held her hand for the second time, and they danced for the end of the middle-school party held at Eden Academy. No one but the two of them knew about this moment spent under the stars. It was their secret.

The sixth time was now. He was just a regular teenager. He was Damian Desmond, second heir to the Desmond family. He was desperately in love with Anya Forger. And all he could do was watch as his whole world collapsed once more and his guiding star disappeared in flames and ashes. How was he supposed to save her from a burning building?

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER II : Sunlight and Butterflies


A few days ago, in a dark alley of Berlint…

Two figures dressed in trench coats and wearing wide hats stood in a dimly lit alley. The one that just arrived took out a file from inside his coat and handed it out to the other man.

“This is your new target. Our client is adamant that the target must be captured alive and well. You will find further details and instructions in the file.”

The tall and sturdy man opened the file. He didn’t show any emotion, any shock when he saw the photograph of his next target. But when he read the short summary of information, the slightest tremble took over his hand.

“What sort of…” he mumbled.

“You must confirm that this is the right child before taking any action. It’s essential that you confirm it before anything is done.”

“…Very well. It might take a while before I can take the next step.”

“Do whatever is necessary. Our client can be patient. They even provided tools to help you for your mission.”



Eden Academy, on a bright September day…

The voice of the teacher had faded as background noise as Anya got distracted. Chin resting on her palm, she was watching the birds’ nest in the nearest tree of their foreign language classroom. If their professor had noticed her distraction, he didn’t say anything. It was barely the first week of high-school and she was already bored out of her mind, and so were her classmates if the thoughts she occasionally captured from them was any indication.

The birds were chirping. The sky was blue. The sun was bright. War had been avoided and peace had never been easier. Everything was fine, right?

So why did she feel like an imminent disaster was about to turn her life upside down?

A shiver ran along her spine, and she instinctively turned her attention towards the intense thoughts that were plaguing her. Her eyes met Damian Desmond’s. Caught staring at her, he immediately turned away, a light flush on his cheeks. Her own face heated up at the attention. Worse, she felt a surge of annoyance within her when he frowned to himself and focused all his mind on taking notes. Notes that he needed to take that many notes. He was an Imperial Scholar, after all.

Anya turned back towards the blackboard, feeling the heavy weight of the eight Stella Stars on her chest. As proud as she was, most of her Stella stars had not been earned from scholar accomplishments. Professors kept repeating she was too easily distracted and she had potential she hadn’t met yet… She blamed it on her powers of Esper. As useful as they were, more often than not, they had become a real plague when puberty had hit – not only her powers got stronger, but in addition to her hormones, it made life in Eden a daily struggle. At the beginning, she would hear so many thoughts, so many dirty thoughts, so loud, that she became overly sensitive. There was a point when almost daily, she would collapse, have a nosebleed, or in the best-case scenario have a sensory overload. For the first time in her life, she felt more relief than panic when she was shutting her powers down, although learning to control that little trick had required more practice than she would have expected.

She had stopped relying on others’ thoughts for her own exams many, many years ago, but she still had the bad habit of checking into others’ minds. Just to make sure she was right of course, but it wasn’t cheating, not really. Right?

After several years of re-learning to control her powers and developing her skills, she had a near-perfect control of her mind-reading abilities. The only times she still felt titillated was when someone she was close to had very strong feelings or thoughts, about anything really, and it happened often with Becky, her parents, or other friends, but there was only one person who, no matter how well her mind-reading abilities were shut down, he would always catch her attention. She guessed it was a testimony to how strong his emotions were towards her.

Not that she let it distract her from her goal. Just like he didn’t let his feelings distract himself from his own objectives, quite different from hers. Really, it was almost funny that after so many years, their paths, so aligned, had almost diverted so often but they were always brought back together no matter what.

The alarm rang and all the students stood up to go on a well-deserved lunch break, ignoring more than ever their teacher’s desperate plea to read the next chapter by next week. The call of food was far stronger than their teacher’s voice.

“Anya-chan, wait for me!” Becky called, still sitting at her desk.

Anya turned around and bumped into a tall figure. She gasped and stepped backwards, flushing lightly, although she couldn’t tell if it was out of embarrassment or annoyance. Damian looked down at her.

“Watch out where you go,” he mumbled, hurrying past her.

His lackeys followed him with cocky grins. She glared at them over her shoulder, then rolled her eyes when they were out of sight.

“What happened between you two?” Becky asked when she reached her friend, “You still haven’t told me why the two of you are bickering so much more since we started high-school.”

Nothing happened, he just started glaring at me out of nowhere!” she exclaimed as they slowly made their way to the cafeteria.

Becky stared at her, unimpressed, pressuring Anya into giving an answer. She tried to ignore her best friend’s eyes, barely surviving the burning in it.

“I really don’t know what I did to him!” Anya exclaimed, throwing her hands to the ceiling.

“Then, if it’s so frustrating for you, why don’t you just confront him about it? It’s not like you to let things slide like that…”

“I… he’s avoiding me…” she mumbled.

Although, if she were entirely honest with Becky, she would also add that she hadn’t really tried to go after Damian to figure out why he was avoiding her in such a determined fashion. And if she were entirely honest with herself, Damian’s whole demeanour probably had something to do with the last time they had been alone together, just a few months ago…

“It’s just strange, it seemed like you two had gotten much closer last year. And then we come back, and he acts like you have the plague.” Becky continued.

“I might as well have…” Anya mumbled, glancing down at her shoes.

“Mm? What was that?”

“Nothing, just muttering to myself.”

“Not very elegant, Miss Forger,” Becky said with a bad imitation of Pr Henderson.

Anya immediately started laughing, loud and exuberant as always. Many students turned around to watch her, eyes wide at such an unlady-like behaviour. Becky smiled to herself, proud to see her friend smiling again.

“Should we have lunch in the courtyard? The weather is still so nice at this time of year!” Anya asked.

“What a brilliant idea!”

After they got their lunches, the two young women made their way to the courtyard where, despite being early September, the weather was still deliciously warm. Many students had decided to do the same, sitting on benches or sprawling on the grass and enjoying the sunlight. They were still standing in the shadowed arched hallway that gave directly on the courtyard.

“Look who’s here now!”

Anya and Becky turned their heads to see Damian, Emile and Ewen who had apparently decided to go outside as well.

Damian and Anya exchanged a quick glance, and he quickly avoided his gaze to look forward.

“The weather looks like it’s getting gloomy. Let’s go back to the dorm,” he said.

“Uh? What are you saying, boss-man?” Ewen asked, blinking as he watched the bright blue sky.

“There’s enough space for all of us, Sy-on boy,” Anya intervened with a (slightly forced) smile but no one but Damian caught on it.

He gave her a suspicious glance.

“It’d be a shame to escape inside, when we already spend so much time in the building! Look at that wonderful sun!” she exclaimed, jumping off the hallway stone into the grass, stepping backwards to talk while still facing her friends.

She spun around, her skirt lifting a little at the movement. She spread her arms, taking a deep breath.

“This is such a beautiful day to be alive!”

A dead man suddenly fell heavily at her feet.

Anya gasped, stumbling backwards.

Becky hissed in shock. Then she screamed. And all the other students followed suite when they saw the broken corpse on the grass. Ewen and Emile quickly ran away in one direction, half-dragging Damian with them. All the students screeched, going away from the sunlight, the grass, the courtyard now tainted with blood and broken bones.

Anya could only stare, wide-eyed, at the body that was laying in all the wrong angles at her feet. Blood was seeping into the grass, into the dirt, into her shoes, but she couldn’t move, frozen by shock.

He must have fallen from the roof.

She looked up but she was blinded by the sun and couldn’t see anything but the red tiles of the rooftop. No window was open, no figure was seen. A few butterflies flew around, ignorant of the horrible event that just took place. There was nothing that could indicate that anything was wrong in the world… but then why was there a dead man at her feet?

“Anya! Anya!!”

She jumped when someone grabbed her shoulder and pulled her away from what could be a potential crime scene. She looked over her shoulder, somehow even more shaken to see Damian Desmond pulling her away from the corpse, rather than looking at the corpse itself. He grabbed her arm and pulled her, further and further away from that horrifying scene.

Panicked professors just started rushing out of the building to see what had happened.

“Professor Henderson! Professor!” Damian called when they noticed the flabbergasted Head of Cecil House standing at the edge of the scene.

“Miss Forger! Oh, you poor thing! Are you injured?” the professor asked, looking her up and down quickly.

“I’m fine,” she answered automatically, blinking at the sudden mid-darkness of the hallway after being so long in the sunlight.

“I’ll take her to the infirmary,” Damian decided.

“Yes, please, do that, my boy. I’ll be here very soon!”

Professor Henderson hurried to one of his colleagues to quickly discuss the disaster that had just occurred.

And just like that, Damian’s hold on her arm became both softer and firmer. He didn’t look at her, but he guided her inside the hallways, ignoring completely the hushed and shocked voices of the students who barely noticed them, morbidly fascinated by the death scene just a few meters away.

Anya looked down. Her blood-soaked shoes were leaving traces on the pristine marble floor. A memory flooded to her before she could control herself. She looked up and for a short moment, she was much shorter, much younger, and the person taking her away was much taller, with much larger shoulders, with blond hair.

And just like so many years ago, Anya shrieked and pulled away from the man’s hold. She fell into herself, as round and tight as a ball, incapable of looking up, incapable of seeing anything but the blood under her feet that was following her, sticking to her, haunting her.


Damian’s voice was faraway and foggy. She had no right to see him, to hear him, to stand anywhere near him when the blood under her feet was his–


Damian grabbed her shoulders and shook her violently enough that she woke up from her dreadful memories. She looked up, eyes wide, breathing a little short and uneasy. She blinked. The blond hair and blue eyes faded to muddy brown hair and forest green eyes.

Her breathing relaxed.

“Sy-on boy…”

“Are you okay? That was… you’re in shock.” He said, matter-of-factly.

He swallowed, and she perceived a hint of worry and distress on his face. She was tempted to listen to his thoughts, to cocoon into it, but she knew what images would haunt his mind, what sounds would repeat themselves, again and again. She knew what she’d hear, and she couldn’t bear to have double the vision that was already haunting her.

She didn’t listen to his thoughts, but before she could say anything, or find any control of herself back, Damian scooped her up in his arms. She gasped, holding onto his shoulders and blushing.

He had barely hesitated, he barely trembled as he carried her the entire way towards the school nurse. She could feel the weight of his arm behind her back, the grip of his hands. One against her ribs, just under her breasts, the other against her thigh.

Her heart was beating fast and strong as a drum. The first reminder that she was alive and well, after all. And if she focused, she could almost sense his heartbeat, as frenetic, vibrating from his chest into her entire body.

It was the closest they had ever been, the most touched she had ever been. And not for the first time in her life, she cursed puberty and those distracting hormones for disturbing her so much in presence of Damian Desmond. Pressed against Damian Desmond. In the arms of Damian Desmond, more precisely.

And before she knew it, could think of it, could feel anything but shock, warmth, and giddy happiness (terrible timing for that last one to make a way into her heart, she had just seen a man die!), they had arrived at the infirmary.

The nurses must have heard what had happened in the courtyard because they immediately checked on Anya, pulling white curtains to cut her view from Damian, sweating a little from his effort, while another nurse took the young man into another bed for a check-up of his own.

The nurse took her pulse and Anya was painfully aware that it was still far too quick to be normal or healthy, but thank goodness, the nurse attributed it to the shock of what the young and innocent girl had just witnessed (if only they knew what else she had seen in her life). Anya knew all too well that the reason for this unnatural heartbeat was standing just on the other side of the curtain.

Stop it, stupid heart, be more mindful of what happened today. You shouldn’t be so happy! She thought to herself.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER III : Cocoon of Love


For a fifteen years-old young woman (fourteen years-old but no one knew the truth but her parents) who had just witnessed the horrifying act of a man jumping off the rooftop, the body landing in broken pieces at her feet, Anya was relatively well.


Eden Academy had shut all activities for the afternoon following what was already referred as the ‘incident’. The students had been sent to their dorms, the chauffeurs and caretakers for the ones living outside the academy had been called to collect the children. Police had been called and an investigation had started to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the unfortunate event. Anya, Damian, Becky, Ewen and Emile, and a few more students who had been very close to the ‘incident’ were required to remain in the infirmary. They were checked by the nurses and doctors of the academy, especially Anya who, according to all witnesses, had been just a hair away from the falling body.


The parents had been called to be warned of what had occurred and Becky’s caretaker had already collected her. The poor girl couldn’t stop crying and sobbing. Anya had comforted her the best she could, but what could she really do after such a scene?


Emile and Ewen also left, so did the other students, and so it was only Damian and Anya left. They had been told to rest.


As if she could sleep after such a thing.


She turned to look at the white curtain. She knew Damian was lying just on the other side, so still and quiet she could believe him asleep, but she didn’t have to read his mind to know the truth. After the initial shock, other painful memories had been brought up by seeing a man fall to his death almost at his feet.


“Sy-on boy?” she whispered to the curtain.


No answer. No movement.


She was about to open her mind to read his thoughts, as bad as it was, when the curtain was pulled open.


Damian stared at her from his bed, hands joined on his stomach. He had a very serious expression on his face, as if he was annoyed at her. But she knew it wasn’t aimed at her.


“Are you okay?” she asked.


He frowned even more, and this time, she almost startled when he directed his deep green eyes on her.


“You almost died, Anya.”


She blinked. Somehow, it hadn’t occurred to her until now that, indeed, one step closer to the hallway and she would have been crushed by the man.


“I’m okay.” She said, and she meant it.


She had seen worse.


I’m only worried about you, she added to herself.


Damian didn’t say anything, but he didn’t look pleased by her answer. It was as if he was silently scolding her for not being more frightened, more shocked, more shaken… She couldn’t help it, and she started reading his thoughts. They immediately slammed into her mind.


If anything had happened to her, I could never live with myself. He had been so close, he could have hurt her so badly. I was so close, and I didn’t do anything. It all happened so quickly, there was so much blood. Just like father. What will Demetrius say? What did I do to attract so much misery and death around me? She doesn’t deserve to witness such a thing, a sweet and innocent person like Anya, if only she had been spared, if only I could have done more, if only I could DO more! What should I do? What can I do? I’m so useless, I’m so helpless, I’m such a failure!


“Damian,” she interrupted in a gasp.


Calling him by his name instead of the usual nickname shocked him enough that it interrupted his spiralling line of thoughts. And like his gaze, his entire attention zoned onto Anya.


“It’s okay,” she continued with tight lips, “It… it wasn’t… we didn’t do anything wrong. It just happened. It was… bad luck… bad place, bad time.”


“Bad luck…” he muttered, looking up at the ceiling.


I almost lost her too…


Anya swallowed, desperate to find the right words.


The door slammed open, and Anya jumped upwards, her self-defence reflexes polished enough to react instinctively.




She let out an immense breath of relief to see her parents. She hadn’t realised how shaken she had truly been until Loid and Yor Forger engulfed her in their arms, holding her tightly.


“The academy called to tell us what had happened! What a horrifying event! Are you okay?!” Her mama asked, checking her quickly.


“I’m fine, mama,” Anya answered, breathing in her strong cinnamon perfume.


“Are you sure you’re okay?” Loid asked, a hand on her shoulder.


“I’m completely fine, just a little tired.”


“You can tell us everything later, if you want to talk about it,” Yor said with an encouraging smile.


Anya glanced at her father who was smiling reassuringly, and she caught his thoughts. He answered her silent question.


I haven’t found anything suspicious yet. Stay focused Anya. We’re with you.


She smiled back at him. She knew that the moment he’d hear about a professor dying at the academy, her father would pull his old habits of spy to find out the truth.


“Let’s go home,” Yor said, putting an arm around her daughter.


Anya got up and followed them towards the door, but before she’d exit, she turned around to look at Damian who was now sitting up on the bed, staring at the family.


“Sy-on boy, are you…”


Are you okay?


He glanced up, to look at her, then nodded.


“I’ll just go back to my dorm and study a bit to catch up on our missing classes,” he answered as if it was a perfectly reasonable thing to do after witnessing someone’s death.


“What about your…”


Anya didn’t finish the sentence and a terrible weight pressed on her heart. Discomfort. No, worse. Guilt.


She looked down, very aware of her parents’ embrace and comforting presence. When Damian wouldn’t have hoped to see his father even if he was still alive. Perhaps his mother would come, or his older brother, Anya was aware they had grown a little closer since their father’s murder…


“I’ll call my brother to tell him what happened, not that it can change anything.” Damian said, standing up with a casual shrug.


He probably already knows. What will I tell him? Should I mention Anya? That she’s safe? He doesn’t even know her, he wouldn’t care… Does he even care that I was there? Did he try calling me already? No, the nurses would have said so… Maybe he’s busy. Yeah, he must be…


Loid wasn’t a mind-reader like his daughter, but he was an expert at catching people’s emotions on their faces. He turned towards the young man with a smile:


“Damian, right?” he said, even if Anya was aware that her father was only pretending to be doubtful, “If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call us. Do you have our house phone number? I don’t know if Anya told you but I’m a psychiatrist and I will be glad to help you out if you need anything. This sort of events can lead to serious trauma and consequences, especially at such a young and impressionable age…”


Damian glanced up at the man, looking a little suspicious.


Anya grimaced. She knew her father was doing it out of good intentions, he genuinely wanted to help the young boy after everything that had happened. After all, Twilight was part of the reason of Donovan Desmond’s death… but she hated the way Damian reacted to him. To a stranger. To good intentions. As if he was scarred from goodness and didn’t want to interact with anyone nice.


“Thank you, but I’ll be fine,” Damian answered with a smile.


One he had practiced times and times again over the years, one he had mastered, one that was a lie. A good enough lie that it even fooled the master of lies himself.


Oh, I suppose that after everything he’s been through, this isn’t enough to throw him off, Loid thought. Still, I’ll need to keep an eye on him.


“Papa,” Anya intervened.


“Ah, yes, darling, let’s go home. Damian, I’ll leave my phone number to your housemaster, if you need anything… don’t hesitate.”


“It was good to see you again, Damian,” Yor said with a smile.


They left the infirmary, talked very quickly to Professor Henderson who insisted that Anya could talk to him about the trauma that was sure to occur after such an event, and the Forger family quickly left the academy grounds.


“Damian is growing up to be a handsome young man,” Yor commented as they entered the family car.


Anya looked outside the car window, insisting to herself that her flushed cheeks were only caused by the sunlight and definitely not her mother’s remark.


“Mmm,” Loid answered, far less enthusiastic on Damian’s handsomeness, and what it could potentially imply.


“And the Imperial Scholar cape looks ravishing on him, don’t you think, Anya?” Yor continued.


“U-uh,” she mumbled.


“Mmm, mm.”


“And he has such good manners, staying with you so you wouldn’t be alone after what had happened!”


“What do you mean?” Anya asked, turning back towards her parents as her father started the engines.


Yor looked over her shoulder, blinking in surprise.


“Well, he lives at the academy’s dorms, right? He doesn’t need to wait for his family to come pick him up. Why else would he stay at the infirmary but to keep you company then?”


“Perhaps he was injured,” Loid suggested with a shrug, giving a quick glance at the mirror to look at his daughter.


If he noticed her blushing and distracting herself by watching the landscape, he didn’t comment on it. He didn’t even think about it.


“I didn’t notice any blood on him,” Yor disagreed.


“Of course, we can count on you to find any injury, internal or external, in a single glance, my dear,” Loid answered with a smile.


Yor chuckled lightly. Anya bent forward, ignoring her parents’ weird flirting habits:


“Papa, did you try to find out what happened? No one would tell me what had really happened, and I didn’t get to interrogate the police!”


“I would advise you against it, Anya,” Loid answered immediately, “It would only raise suspicions if a young girl of the academy showed any interest in a man’s death. Especially considering you are the main witness. They would expect you to want to forget as soon as possible. What happened exactly?”


“I couldn’t tell… I was just standing on the grass and then, he suddenly fell at my feet… It was so fast. It was so… loud.”


Yor sent her a compassionate glance. She held out her hand and her daughter immediately took it, finding comfort in the warm hands.


“A human body makes incredible loud noises when breaking apart. We look so soft, but we are so breakable.”


“I disguised myself as a police officer but nothing suspicious was found.” Loid continued calmly, “There was no sign of struggle on the body, and apparently, the police officers found a suicide letter written by the man… I believe he was your biology professor, right?”


Anya swallowed. She didn’t remember the bloody face, but she vaguely remembered having heard the man’s identity. Being aware that she had known him had remained a faraway thought, tucked away.


“We were supposed to have an exam this afternoon.” Was all she could say.


“Oh, my poor darling, I’m sorry,” Yor said, squeezing her hands to give her some comfort.


“He always looked sad and stressed but…”


“Suicide seems to be the main lead from the police, but I will investigate further.” Loid concluded.


Anya paused, staring at her parents as they glanced at each other in a knowing way. They couldn’t read minds, and yet, they always effortlessly worked together.


“I thought you had given up being a spy, papa?” Anya said in a hushed voice.


About six years ago, with the end of Mission Strix, the Forger family had had to face two things: the revelation of all their true identities, and what to do after the mission that had brought them together. But they had chosen to stay together, to remain a family, and so WISE had accepted for their agent Twilight to retire. Mostly. And Thorn Princess had put down her weapons and poisons… unless she was trying to cook something for her family.


“I have,” Loid confirmed, “But I will not ignore such events when my beautiful daughter could have been terribly hurt today. I want to make sure there is no danger to you, or any of your classmate.”


“Or teacher,” Yor added, “If that poor man’s death wasn’t a suicide, or an accident…”


“Then someone is targeting Eden’s professors. But why? They’re not the ones with influence, it’s the children who do!” Anya replied.


“Don’t worry, Anya. It won’t be easy but try to forget about what happened today and keep enjoying your school life.”


“Especially now that you are in high-school, you have to create lots of good memories with your friends! You won’t get a second chance for this time of your life!” Yor exclaimed.


Don’t be too eager to create too many memories, Loid thought to himself, momentarily forgetting that his daughter could read his mind.






“I heard you!”


“I didn’t think you’d listen! You usually turn off your mind-reading when we’re together!”


“A man died today at my school, of course I’ll listen to your spy-expert-thoughts!”


“That wasn’t a spy-expert-thought!”


Their playful banter was interrupted by Yor’s chuckle, and their arrival at home. The moment they walked through the door, Bond happily welcomed Anya, barking to share his worry for her after having had a vision of what would happen, but too late to warn her after she had left for school.


“I’m fine, Bond, thank you!”


Anya stayed with her best friend at the entrance of the apartment until she heard Yor’s cooing voice from afar:


“Oh my darling! I missed you!”


“It was only for a few hours,” Loid said but Anya could hear the smile in his voice.


“I still missed you, my beautiful rose!”


“She was adorable as always, unlike her father,” Uncle Franky said.


Anya joined the rest of her family, smiling despite herself when she saw Yor holding her baby sister in her arms. Soft light-brown curls and bright blue eyes like her father, Rosaura was babbling happily to see her mother. Rosie caught sight of Anya and giggled, raising her arms to be carried by her older sister.


Anya took a step forward but stopped, suddenly aware of the dried blood on her shoes. She made sure not to look down.


“I… uh, will go take a bath…”


“Oh, of course, we’ll start preparing dinner,” Yor answered with a smile.


Anya hurried in the bathroom. She took off her clothes with more speed than usual. An unexpected disgust had slithered into her veins, against her skin. She needed to take it all off, to burn it if necessary. She could never wear these clothes again and not remember the smell of the blood. The blood and the… brains. She slipped into the hot, almost boiling water of her bath, and buried her face against her knees. She could hear the crunching sound, the breaking of the bones. Again and again, on replay in her mind, like a faulty movie when the TV didn’t work well.


She started rubbing against her arms, her legs most of all, under her nails, her hair. She hadn’t even touched the body, the blood hadn’t even stained her feet, but she couldn’t handle the thought of a single speck on her.


She felt dirty, she felt tainted, she felt guilty all over again. Just like the night she had seen Donovan Desmond, lying in a pool of his own blood. The blood that had soaked through her shoes. The blood that had followed her on every step that night, until her shoes had been thrown away by her panicked father.


And so, for the first time in six years, she repeated the mantra that had kept her sane that night and all the ones after.


“I am fine. I did not cause Donovan Desmond’s death. Papa didn’t cause Donovan Desmond’s death. Mama didn’t kill Donovan Desmond. The war didn’t start. Damian is fine. I am fine. I did not cause Donovan Desmond’s death. Papa didn’t cause Donovan Desmond’s death. Mama didn’t kill Donovan Desmond. The war didn’t start. Damian is fine. I am fine. I did not cause…”


Her voice turned into a whisper, her panicked heartbeat calming down a little.


She cleaned herself again, thoroughly. Until her skin was red and scratched. She got out of the bed, got dressed, and went directly into her bedroom. The curtains were drawn, and it was already dark from the night.


She ignored the faraway sounds of her family cooking, and slipped into her bed, hugging her chimera toy.


She clenched her eyes, hard. Hard enough to see stars. And the stars lulled her to a restless sleep.


She woke up several times that night. Once when her parents brought her food but letting her sleep off the shock. Another time when her mother came to check on her.


Anya startled awake and stared at Yor sanding in the doorway.




“I’m here, darling,” Yor immediately said, sitting next to her daughter.


The light from the living-room was the only light illuminating her mother. Anya looked up at her beautiful, strong mama. She blinked. She sniffed the air.


“You’re not wearing any perfume, you…”


She noticed the clothes her mother was wearing under the trench coat.


“Are you going to kill someone?” she asked in a low voice.


She tried to ignore the way her voice shook. She had seen death today. It was horrifying. She didn’t want her mama to be the cause of it.


“No, don’t worry. Your papa and I are only going to check on the body held in the morgue. To confirm the police’s initial conclusions. We’ll be back soon, but Uncle Franky is going to stay to keep you and your little sister safe.”


“Is Rosaura sleeping already? I didn’t get to kiss her goodnight…” Anya asked, disappointed.


“Then, you can kiss her good morning twice tomorrow, don’t worry,” Yor answered with a soft smile.


Yor leaned to kiss her older daughter good night but Anya interrupted her with a question:


“Did you ever get used to it?”


She didn’t need to clarify for her mother to understand what she meant. Yor smiled sadly.


“Unfortunately… yes. I got used to it. To death. But it doesn’t mean you have to…”


She brushed her fingers against Anya’s cheek, and she felt cocooned in love and protection. Yor bent down and kissed her forehead.


“Try to sleep, Anya dear. We’ll see you at breakfast.”


“Be safe…”


“Always. We’ll always come back to you, Anya.”

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER IV : Spinning Star


Eden Academy was quick to recover. The week after the incident, the students were asked to go into the main auditorium where the director gave a speech.


Professor Adler, an esteemed Biology Professor of over twenty years, had put an end to his life, following a series of unfortunate events in his private life. Help and psychiatrists were available to all students. The witnesses of the event would have weekly follow-up by the team of doctors, nurses and experts on child trauma that were brought in by the academy.


But overall, it was expected that everything would go back to normal. As normal as can be. To provide as much of a normal school life to the students.


“Cecil Hall students, be quiet! What is this lack of elegance?”


Professor Henderson’s voice resonated, and all the hyped students dispersed at their respective seats.


Once they were sitting, they noticed the other man, in his thirties, who was standing just behind Professor Henderson.


“Following the unfortunate circumstances of Professor Adler’s passing, let me introduce you to your new biology teacher. Professor, would you like to introduce yourself?”


The man, handsome in the way men who were slightly too old were, stepped forward and smiled. Several young girls immediately leaned forward, swooning. He had a charming smile, and the more they looked at his slightly messy brown hair, and his shiny grey eyes, the more handsome he became.


“Hello everyone, I am Professor Erik Dunkel. Despite the difficult context, I am very glad to be making your acquaintance. I am looking forward to the year we will spend together.”


“Very well,” continued Professor Henderson with a nod, “I will let you continue the lessons of the class. Students, I am counting on you to make an elegant first impression.”


Professor Dunkel smiled as Henderson left, then he turned towards the students.


“Well, everyone, I am quite aware of Eden’s high expectations, but I believe that today, it would be a little cruel to make you study long and difficult notions. So what don’t we just spend the hour discussing, mm?”


He leaned against the edge of the desk, his long legs crossing over the ankle. He smiled and everyone relaxed.


“What should we discuss, sir?” a student asked.


“You could introduce yourself, or just talk about what you like or dislike about biology!”


He had such an easy composure that everyone easily fell into a rhythm of interacting together and with their new professor. He was quite the contrast with the older, too thin, and overly anxious Professor Adler – not that anyone would ever admit it outloud so soon after the poor man’s demise.


Anya, sitting at the front row, wasn’t quite as charmed as the rest of her classmates. She had grown up with a father who used his charms for anything and everything, after all. She was immune. Curious about the fast arrival of the new professor, she opened her mind, focusing on him, his face, his thoughts.


And nothing came.


She blinked, tilting her head on the side curiously. She made sure her mind-reading abilities were on and yes, she could hear her classmates’ thoughts without any trouble. Many of them were sighs and moans of young teenage-girls who didn’t find the hormonal-and-acne-prone young men their age attractive or mature enough and far preferred this biology professor.


Anya focused more intensely.


Still, nothing. It wasn’t that this professor had no thought, it was impossible, it rarely happened and never for such a long period of time that anyone wouldn’t think. There was no buzzying sound like it sometimes happened if she was overwhelmed by sounds and thoughts. Just… a blank canvas.


Anya gasped, loud enough that several schoolmates heard and turned around. It attracted the attention of the new professor who smiled at her:


“Yes? Are you alright, um… let me remember your name…”


“It’s Anya Forger, sir!” One of the classmates exclaimed.


“She’s the weirdo of the class!” another cackled.


It provoked a wave of laughter. Anya flushed in embarrassment, but the professor was quick to quieten down everyone.


“Please, please, no such teasing here. Let’s all remain polite and, as would Professor Henderson put it, elegant.”


It provoked giddy chuckles. As the students were distracted, Professor Dunkel moved closer to Anya and Becky:


“Miss Forger,” he started in a low voice, “And Miss Blackbell?”


The latter, who had been mysteriously quiet this entire time, gasped and flushed happily.


“Y-yes, sir?”


“I believe you two were very close to the unfortunate even that befell my colleague… if either of you don’t feel well, don’t hesitate to take time out of the classroom. Today, but also in the future. I don’t want you to feel pressured in any way.”


“T-that’s very kind of you, sir!” Becky answered, the charm of the professor slowly hitting her (hard), “A-Anya-chan, say something!”


“Ah, yes, very kind. Thank you.” She answered, less enthusiastic.


He smiled and went back to the other students who were happily showing him past projects.


“He’s so kind and charming!” Becky exclaimed in a low voice, “He is exactly my type!”


“I’m surprised you’re not already trying to woo him,” Anya answered with an amused smile.


She put her cheek on her palm, but Becky darkened.


“What is it? I thought he was your type…”


“I… It’s just… ever since last Friday, I…”


Anya swallowed hard. She was doing alright, to some extent, after seeing a man plumet to his death and break in pieces at her feet. But not everyone was accustomed to violence and death.


She took her friend’s hand and leaned to put her head on Becky’s shoulder.


“I’m here for you if you need, Becky.”


“Thank you, Anya-chan,” she answered, squeezing her hand.


“Hey! What do you say we dance to your favourite songs after school?”


“Ah? But, your parents will not let you go to my house on a week day…”


“I’m sure we can find an alternative at the academy!”


“If we get caught…”


“Professor Henderson will put it on the shock of what happened, and in a way, it’s the truth. Let me ask Elsa!”


Becky could only watch as Anya jumped from her seat and approached one of their friends who remained at the dorm. A few whispers in the young girl’s ear, and Elsa perked up, proving that she was agreeing to the crazy plan that Anya had just concocted.


A few more murmurs in the right ears, and a few minutes later, Anya very proudly went back to sit next to Becky.


“I’ve got it handled,” she said, stretching her arms forward and joining her fingers together.


“If this works and we don’t get caught, you are absolutely mad, Anya Forger,” Becky said but she couldn’t help but smirk, “Although, I know some people who like crazy.” She added, while glancing towards the back of the classroom where some boys were chatting, far more relaxed than the girls who were surrounding the new young and handsome professor.


“I didn’t invite any boy to our surprise party,” Anya answered, “Although, they’ll probably hear about it and join anyway.”


“You don’t know how to have fun, Anya! If we are to do something a little forbidden, then we should make sure the boys will join! Where’s the thrill otherwise?”


Anya chuckled, but she was glad that Becky felt better and was more upbeat at the perspective of an impromptu dancing party.


A few hours later, after the end of school classes, most of the students of Cecil Hall, grown fond of each other after a decade together, all followed the girls who had decided to do an improvised dancing party in their common room.


The common room was a place to gather, relax, play, or learn, mostly for the dorm students, but occasionally, like this day, the students who were commuting could join. The only requirement was that they needed the authorisation of their housemaster (and Professor Henderson had reluctantly agreed) and that all the commuting students had left the academy grounds by the time all the after-school activities were done.


Which meant they had two short hours to try to forget the shocking events of a few days ago, and enjoy their youth.


Elsa, one of Anya and Becky’s good friends, owned a brand new radio that also allowed to play cassette tapes. She had many tapes, song compilations, some coming all the way from America! Becky, of course, had a whole collection and a much more powerful cassette tape player in her house but she and Anya wouldn’t be able to go there so unexpectedly.


As expected, word spread among the students of Cecil Hall that they would, for once, exceptionally, for cheering up reasons, dance to cassette tapes.


Only some of the girls had decided to join but they very enthusiastically gathered their music cassette tapes and started playing them, as loud as the player could possibly get. Some brought out snacks that had been hidden in their beds. Eventually, the girls’ singing, dancing and laughter resonated loud enough that several of the boys popped out their heads from their dorms. The common room was shared by boys and girls alike, and the young men joined, taken in by the goofy atmosphere. Then, other students from other halls also joined, bringing in more snacks.


Couches were pushed away, tables were brought together, and elegance was wholly and completely forgotten as they forgot their families, their duties, their studies, and were, just for a couple hours, simple teenagers being silly.


“My favourite song!! Anya-chan!!” Becky exclaimed when a new song started.


Anya and Becky held hands as they started jumping around, laughing loudly, occasionally snorting. They dramatically spun around, imagining that they were with their favourite fictional characters instead. It was nothing like the ballroom classy dancing they had been learning since they were children, it was the crazy Rock n’Roll brought from the other side of the world that, for a moment, helped them forget the weight of the world.


Damian had been studying in the library, only half-focused from all the thoughts in his mind, when he wandered back to Cecil Hall. He heard the smothered music and loud laughter through the door and hesitated. Somehow, he had managed to remain ignorant of Anya, Becky, and the rest of the girls’ plans.


He winced as he opened the door, wanting nothing else but aim straight to his dorms’ door and ignore their craziness. What sort of academic environment was this? Who had approved of such a plan?


But whatever he had been expecting, when he walked in, it was way worse. He stopped, stunned, to see so many of his friends, the people he had grown up with, people like him, from the top of the social ranks, with high expectations, dancing on tables and jumping around like ridiculous monkeys.




Ewen was suddenly at his sides:


“The girls decided to have a dance party, to cheer up after the other day! Isn’t it fun?”




“It was Anya’s idea! AH AH! Look at Emile!!”


Damian’s followed his friend’s finger and found Emile’s figure, dancing like some sort of round octopus, but he looked happier than he had been in a long time. Actually… as Damian looked at everyone, they all looked brighter with smiles bigger than they had been… in years. Ever since the war had almost broke, everyone’s spirits had been dampened, the cruel reality of the world had been a harsh lesson to learn. But for this short moment, they had some respite from being too old for their young age.


How did Anya do this?


“Hey! Boss-man!”


Emile waved at them, very excitedly, quite obviously asking them to join.


Damian was most definitely not joining this circus.


“I’m glad everyone is having fun… I guess…” he mumbled.


“Uh? What was that?” Ewen asked, incapable to hear over the music.


“I said… nevermind!”


Bill Watkins, as tall and massive as he had always been, grabbed Becky and Anya and raised them above their shoulders. The two girls laughed joyfully, ecstatic as their hair flew around.


Damian stiffened, an almost gasp bubbling in his throat. Thank goodness he managed to control himself just in time before any obvious reaction would be noticed.


He had never seen Anya flushed in glee like she was right now.


Already, the two girls were back on their feet, dancing and jumping around like mischievous fairies in midsummer.


He swallowed. Hard. He looked away, passing a hand over his mouth. He couldn’t control the way his heart beat, the heating in his veins building, or his lips trembling. He glanced back at the crazy girls, the music and the cheering became background noise, as his entire mind focused on Anya Forger.


Anya, Oh Anya, Anya…


The girl, as if she could somehow hear his thoughts, whipped around, towards him. A light sheen of sweat covered her forehead, some of her pink hair stuck to her skin. Her emerald eyes shone like diamonds and her gaze met his. As if his line of thoughts had been enough to attract her attention on him, enough to create a new gravity between their bodies, a magnetic bond that made everything else fade as faraway distraction.


Becky grabbed Anya to draw her in another dance. The spell broke.


Damian let out a breath he hadn’t realised he had been holding. He was vaguely aware of Anya trying to catch his gaze in-between spins. She laughed once more and even if the music and everyone’s voices were too loud for Damian to hear the carefree laughter, he had no trouble imagining what it sounded like. It was the only music to his ears, rather than this loud ruckus. Her laughter was like the enchanting melody of bells.


And a smile tugged on Damian’s lips. An honest, soft one he never let anyone see. And no one noticed. No one but Anya who remained out of reach, spinning around like a sparkling star around the night sky.


But Damian was satisfied with this, watching her from afar, appreciating her beauty from a distance. Like a star. Because if he got too close to that star, to his sun, he would burn.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER V : Memories and Stars


Anya had almost forgotten the sad event that had marked the beginning of her first year of high-school. But occasionally, she would walk past the courtyard and feel her shoulders stiffen. Sometimes, she would walk by the memorial set up at the entrance of the school and her heart would tug painfully. Seeing that single picture of the shy professor, now resting six feet under, surrounded by more candles and flowers than he probably received in his entire life… It made her incredibly sad, not that she let anyone even suspect it.


Becky was back to being her joyful self, with a very strong crush to their new biology professor. Most students didn’t mention the ‘incident’ any more. Her parents didn’t ask any more question other than about her well-being. They never found anything suspicious about the unexpected death…


Anya was about to continue her way to her after-school activities, but she bumped into someone.


“Sorry!” she exclaimed, looking up at Damian Desmond.


He stepped away to give her more space, a downward smile on his face that wasn’t quite a grimace. His usual stern face.


“Sorry, you seemed… lost in thoughts. I didn’t want to interrupt your… grieving.”


He glanced quickly at the picture. His eyes darkened quickly, just enough for Anya to feel her heartstrings being pulled again, for a different reason than the grief she truly was feeling for Professor Adler. Damian looked so… lonesome, in so much need of comfort.


She tightened her hold onto her notebooks, fighting the urge to lean forward and pass her fingers through the soft locks of Damian’s messy brown hair. She forced a smile on her face, although Damian didn’t seem fooled. It was strange how she was the one who could read minds, but he saw through her like an open book.


“Thank you,” she answered after a long pause, although she wasn’t certain it was the right answer to give to such circumstances.


“I… wanted to ask you… how have you been?” he asked, stepping away to give her the space to walk away from the memorial.


She continued her way towards the main staircase for her after-school activities, but she realised half-way through that she was slow. Way slower than she had ever been, slower than Damian could possibly need to keep up with her (he had incredibly long and powerful legs, after all). Perhaps she just wanted this strange, unexpected moment to last much longer than the fourty-or-so-meters left before they’d go their separate ways. Again.


“I’m fine, considering the circumstances. I’m looking forward to fully put this behind me. And… you?” she continued, tilting her head on a side and despite her best wishes, her mind dug into his thoughts.


I would feel a lot better if we weren’t reminded of what had happened at every corner. I hate seeing that look on your face. Your stupid fake smile can’t fool me.


“I’m fine,” he answered with a nod, to convince himself more than anyone else.


Anya smiled, sweetly, touched by his attention to her well-being. Because she could fool everyone else, but not Damian Desmond.


“You always seem to know when I’m feeling down. I might start thinking that you’re a mind-reader,” she teased, knowing full well that was impossible.


“Pff, what a ridiculous idea! As if mind-reading was a thing.” He mumbled, rolling his eyes passionately.


Ouch, she thought. Don’t let it sting too much. He doesn’t know, he can’t know.


“It could be possible… in… uh, science-fiction books…”


“I guess, but not in reality. It’s a ridiculous concept.”


“Of course… yes… ridiculous…” she repeated, glancing away.


Silence fell between them. She was counting the steps until they’d reach the stairs. Damian stopped abruptly. She turned towards him. He passed a hand behind his neck, his cheeks a little flushed.


“So… uh… you enjoy… dancing?” he asked in a surprisingly high-pitched voice.


Anya blinked, stunned by his sudden question. She hadn’t kept up with his line of thoughts, she had no idea where it came from. Just as she thought that, she unconsciously perceived his memory of her dancing a few days ago, at the common hall’s improvised party. A wide smile appeared on her face. How lovely that he’d see her in such flattering lens.


“I thought you would know already, considering what happened at our middle-school end of year’s party!” she exclaimed.


She tilted her head on the side, staring right into his eyes with a smile he couldn’t comprehend. She had that mischievous, curious look on her face that aggravated him… No. Damian was just denying what that look meant. She wasn’t clueless in the slightest. She was challenging him, silently, to face his own feelings. He was the only one she looked at this way, and he was the only one who knew what it truly meant.


Go on, Sy-on boy, you know what I want, she seemed to say.


And as if she knew what he thought, what he felt, the corner of her lips lifted. Just a little, just enough to make the sight absolutely maddening.


“Last year? You mean…”


The memory hit them both. The traditional end of middle-school’s party held at Eden where all the students had spent an evening in the gymnasium to dance and sing, in quite a crazy demeanour like the improvised party in Cecil Hall.


And the party from which both Anya and Damian had sneaked out to dance, together, in the garden, away from any prying eyes, witnessed only by the starry night.


“Well, you, uh, didn’t seem to enjoy any of it. I had assumed…”


Damian’s voice trailed off and he suddenly turned around.


“Nevermind. I’m just content you’re okay.”


He waved at her with the book held in his hands, and he disappeared out of the building for his own after-school activities.


Anya’s smile wavered and she turned towards the stairs, slowly climbing them to reach the second floor, but she had no desire to paint anything now. The memories were too close to her heart after this conversation.


A few months ago, at Eden Academy, their last evening as middle-schoolers…


Anya had only sneaked out to get away from the loud noise and lights, she needed some fresh air. She had only meant for it to be for a few minutes, but a silhouette had caught her eye and she had unconsciously followed him. Sy-on boy. Damian Desmond. Her pink dress flew behind her as she ran down the stairs to reach the giant garden of Eden academy. She had never seen the academy at night, so empty, so quiet, bubbled away from the world.


She must have made some noise because Damian turned around before she could call him. He seemed surprised to see her.


“What’s going on?” he asked her, eyes a little wide.


“Oh, uh, nothing, I just saw you leave, I was wondering if you were… okay…?” she hesitated.


“Oh, yeah, it was just…”


“Overwhelming?” she finished with a smile.


He nodded, but he looked forlorn and lost in thoughts.


I hate those stupid parties. I hate that I was forced to go there. I hate that Demetrius always forces me to participate to the family dinners and parties. It’s never been the same since he has been gone. I hate all of it.


Anya swallowed hard when those thoughts weighted on her heart.


“Hey, do you want to take a walk?” she suddenly suggested, eager to distract him from bad memories.


“Oh, uh, yes… if you want…”


“I’ve never seen Eden so dark and empty before!”


He glanced at her very quickly, visibly hesitating as they started walking.


“Someday… you should go see the Stella Lake. It’s… beautiful.”


But nowhere near as beautiful as you tonight, he added to himself (well, not quite to himself with Anya next to him).


“I would love to see it at night someday.” She answered with a smile, glad to know he was sending his thoughts in a different direction than the ballrooms and the absence of his father.


They walked in a comforting silence for a long time. They remained on the safe grounds of the academy, within sight of the buildings. They could see the colourful lights of the ballroom spilling out into the garden in waves, occasionally broken by the shadows of their dancing classmates.


Having walked for a considerable amount of time in the quiet warmth of each other’s company, bathing in a distinctive feeling that they had never experienced with anyone else, but which was too new to be comprehended, they eventually made their way back towards the building. They climbed up, slowly, to make that moment, that feeling, last longer, as long as possible, but as they reached the marble terrace, they stopped.


The music was loud enough to be heard even through the walls and windows, and a considerable change of atmosphere took place. From the chaotic Rock n’Roll music that had been preferred all evening, a lovely rhythm started raising into the night.


Anya and Damian could easily guess the giddy sighs and lovely smiles from their classmates.


My heart belongs to only you

I've never loved as I love you

You've set a flame within me burning

A flame to stay within me yearning


A discreet little cough from Damian attracted Anya’s attention and she turned towards him. Cheeks flushed, he had extended one hand towards her, the other resting in his back. The perfect stance of the perfect gentleman. If it wasn’t for his tendency to be in constant denial.


Anya felt her cheeks burn with the sweetest fire, as she took his hand. He brought her closer to him, one hand entwined with hers, the other on her waist as she leaned against him. As natural as most things were between them, they fell into the easy steps, a soft swinging of their bodies. Rather than a dance, it was a delicate rhythm that echoed their heartbeats and the warmth growing in the pit of their tummies.


There were sometimes when I was doubtful

Of this new love affair

But now my mind is no more doubtful

I've found my heaven with the help of a prayer


Damian made her spin, never stopping to touch her skin, never holding too tightly her hand, before bringing her back against his solid body. Anya was flushed and stunned by the lovely attention, and he felt pride swell within his chest to have caused such an adorable reaction from her. He was the reason why the flush on her cheeks darkened, he was the reason why she pressed herself just a little closer to him, he was the reason why he felt her heart beat faster, he was the reason why she blinked in astonishment and that the sweetest smile in the universe appeared on her face.


He had dreamt of kissing her a thousand times, but he had never hoped he’d ever be close enough to Anya Forger’s face to see the way her lip gloss shone on her lips, making a kiss so inviting. Or even less that he’d be close enough to feel her sweet breath on his face.


He swallowed, but Anya’s smile widened, in a knowing way. That almost made his heart stop, right here and now. It drove him mad. The way she always knew what he thought, what he felt, being three steps ahead from his very own heart.


What sort of spell have you put on me, Anya Forger… he thought to himself.


Her eyes sparkled.


“I didn’t know you could dance so well, Sir Desmond.”


He snorted, a most inelegant sound, but he couldn’t help it. The reaction to that ridiculous title, pronounced by Anya Forger of all people, came naturally. He hadn’t felt so careless, so free in… almost a decade.


“I’ve had lots of practice,” he answered with a smug smile.


Her smile disappeared and she stared at him. Long and hard.


He felt his palms get sweaty from that suddenly intense look.


“Oh? I had no idea so many girls lined up to dance with you,” she muttered, with a stern expression on her face.


“Wha– no! I-I mean… yes, but no, I mean, not…”


He blushed, looking away from her. He heard her chuckle and realised she had managed to trick him into thinking she could be jealous.


As if I could make her jealous. She’s the only one. She’s always been the one and only. She has no idea I only have eyes for her and only her.


“Every year, my brother insists that I participate to our family’s galas and dinners… It involves plenty of annoying dancing with plenty of undesirable partners.” He answered, looking back at Anya.


“Really? Am I desirable enough as to not annoy His Majesty Lord Damian, then? Should I count myself lucky?” she teased.


“I’m the lucky one,” he let out.


Anya’s eyes widened. She looked up at him, stunned by his honesty. Damian himself was the most astonished that his mouth had betrayed him into revealing what he really felt!!


Anya’s smile turned into a chuckle. One that was more hesitant than amused, one that was almost embarrassed, one that was a little chocked. She sounded as charmed as he felt.


A hesitant, soft smile appeared on his face. One he had never shown her. It left Anya staring at him, wide-eyed and stunned, as if she were looking up at a falling star and couldn’t decide what to wish on.


“Anya… this entire time… you’ve been my lucky star.”


My guiding star.


Her smile softened, mirroring his. Their swinging slowed down, down, down until they were leaning against each other, as pressed as physically possible. He leaned down, eyes half-closed, thinking himself asleep, dreaming. He could smell her perfume of strawberry and vanilla that was, from this moment onward, his favourite flavour of all things. She could almost taste the warmth of his breath. They were only an inch away, both only half-believing what was happening, but far too gone into their dreamy moment under the stars to really care.


Anya, my lucky star, my guiding star. The light that pulled me out of my darkest moments.


In his arms, Anya stiffened. A soft, almost painful gasp escaped her lips and she suddenly moved away.


Damian pulled back, blinking, stunned… and a little hurt she’d pull away so suddenly.


She was blushing, but her lips were tight, and her gaze cast down.


Oh. Oh. What an idiot. Damian, you impossible idiot. You greatest dumbass. You cosmical imbecile.


“I’m sorry,” he stammered, pulling away and letting go of her hands.




Anya almost stumbled when he stepped back, as if, unconsciously, she still craved the warmth and strength of his arms. As if without the magnetic gravity pulling them together, she couldn’t find her balance anymore. But she caught herself at the very last moment, looking back up at him, as if enquiring into his soul what had happened.


What has happened? Why did you make me think… Why did I think that– Damian, you imbecile. Damian, you’ve ruined everything. You absolute moron!


“Damian, wait–”


“Don’t bother. I get it. Forget everything that happened tonight. I’ll… it’s not like I care about you anyway!”


Don’t . Don’t look at me like that. Don’t look so hurt and disappointed. Don’t you dare look at me with such pity when you– you idiot, you stupid woman! How can you look at me like that when you’re breaking my heart?!


Anya opened her lips to say something, but he turned around, unable to look at her, to listen to her, to even be anywhere near her.


His entire body was fuming from embarrassment, from shame, from disgust. Not disgust from Anya, never Anya, but himself, for thinking, for even entertaining the thought that a lovely, luminous star like her would even look at him–


“Enjoy the holidays, Forger.” He mumbled, hurrying down the stairs, back into the garden, far away from the bright lights, and disappearing into darkness. 

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER VI : Roads Ahead


Anya stared at the form that Professor Henderson had handed them. The frightening form required students to write down the wishes of what they wanted to do after Eden College. Most of the students had already written their first wish, without even thinking of a second, their minds made since childhood, by their families more than themselves.


As for Anya, she couldn’t figure out what to write. What did she want to do with her life, after Eden College? What studies to pursue, what life to shape? She was free to do as she wished, she knew her parents would support almost any work she’d choose… but how was she supposed to know what she wanted when all she’s ever done was follow her father’s footsteps? As a child, all she had wanted was a home and a family, people who would always come back for her, wait for her… Then, all she had wanted, to preserve that family, was to help Mission Strix become a success. That operation had ended years ago, and she vaguely remembered that in-between time when the threat of bombs and death had floated above their heads when she had wondered what would happen to her, to her Eden education… but then peace was signed. War never came. And she pushed to the very, very back of her mind, the very idea of growing older, losing her family, of leaving them behind.


Now what?


The bell rang, startling her to attention. The last few minutes passed quickly: she walked out of the buildings, lost in thoughts, she waved at Becky at the end of the school day.


“You’re going to help your father at the hospital, right?” Becky asked.


“Yes, I’ll see you tomorrow, Becky!”


To Becky and everyone else at the school, Anya went to her father’s hospital to help the children in recovery twice a week. For her parents, she went only once.


When all the different truths of her family had come to light, they had promised each other to never have any more secret. To be honest with one another.


But Anya lied. And she’s kept a new secret life from her parents.


Instead of going to the hospital, she turned around a different street and walked, and walked, until she arrived in a café. She went to the counter:


“I’ll have a peanut butter and chocolate muffin, please!” she asked the waitress with a bright smile.


“Of course. On the go?”


“Yes, please. It looks like the rain will fall soon, mm?” Anya continued, ignoring the bright sky and warm sunlight, the waitress was not the slightest bit disturbed.


“Thank goodness, I brought an umbrella,” was her answer.


Anya grabbed the muffin, then walked to the back of the café. She went in the direction of the toilets and after a quick look over her shoulder to make sure no one was seeing her, she turned towards a staff entry. Once inside, she ignored the piles of flours, sugar, and other products, to make her way to what appeared to be a simple cupboard. She opened it and found baking tools. She grabbed one and pulled. A small trap door clicked on the floor. Anya bent down, and while munching on her muffin, she made her way down the unknown stairs.


Once deep underground, she saluted the few WISE agents she knew. Then, she found the Handler in her usual room.


“Report?” Sylvia asked, standing tall and elegant as always.


“The muffins are delicious as always,” Anya answered.


“Be serious, Agent Starlight.”


Anya’s smile wavered a little, before she forced it on her face once more.


“Nothing to report, madam.”


Sylvia let out a sigh, looking a little disappointed.


“You have yet to perfect your lying skills, Starlight.”


“I’ve never been very good at lying,” she admitted, and Sylvia knew it well enough.


Anya sat in front of the Handler, who was also her spying mentor.


“We haven’t found anything strange regarding your professor’s death. Your father may be out of service, but he isn’t dusty yet.”


Anya didn’t answer, looking down at her half-eaten muffin. How was she supposed to explain to the Handler that she had a bad feeling? This woman only dealt in facts that could be proved, not suspicions and gut-instinct.


“Are you ready for your training?” Sylvia asked, turning a little colder.


Anya finished her muffin, nodding enthusiastically.


“Very well.”


And so Anya trained for a few hours.


Years ago, after the truths were revealed and her parents found out about the experimentations that had led to her mind-reading abilities, they had asked WISE to help her. To find out if there might be a solution, a way to help her when it became too much. No information was recovered from the institution, as Anya could never remember anything from her very early years. And when the WISE experts confirmed that Anya’s health would not be endangered by her abilities, despite the occasional headaches, Sylvia proposed that she was trained as a spy.


Loid refused.


It was the one thing he had always refused his daughter. He had become a spy himself to keep children from crying, he knew the weight of constantly changing faces, he knew the pain of lying to everyone, he knew the sacrifices that would be necessary… and he refused that his daughter was ever taken in by WISE. He never explicitly said it, but obviously, Anya knew that it was part of the reason why he had decided to retire. He didn’t want WISE’s grabby hands to get onto Anya and train her to become a spy, the best spy since Twilight. After all, what better method to spy on people than read their minds?


At that time, Anya had thought the question solved, but a few weeks later, while she was settling into her life as Loid and Yor Forger’s daughter for good, as she was getting used once more to a time of peace… Sylvia Sherwood came to her, without Loid’s knowledge.


“Anya Forger. You could do great things for WISE, for world peace. I know your father is adamant that you keep on living as an innocent and carefree child… but you were never one, Anya. You have been through too much to be ignorant of the way of the world. And you have been through too much to not wish to help. Would you ignore people in need? Would you want to help the people you care about? Would you abandon orphans to suffer?”


And that speech, to an impressionable ten-years-old who was lost, confused and desperate to do good to never be left behind, was enough for Anya to agree. She wasn’t an official agent of WISE yet. She was too young still and between her studies, and the need to not let her parents suspect any of it, Sylvia kept her training to the minimum. Languages, the art of lying, self-defence, how to shoot and kill in the most efficient way… Her parents were training her discreetly as well, only so she could handle herself if she ever were in danger, and so they never suspected that her new reflexes were strange. She was doing much better at school, but she was studying far more than before, and so they never suspected that WISE was providing secret lessons in key areas.


Whenever her parents smiled and laughed, more honest than they had ever been, to each other, to the world, to themselves, the guilt of lying to them threatened to crush her heart… but she convinced herself she did it all so that one day, she could save them the way they had saved her.


And so, her secret training had continued until she had reached high school.


As Anya went home that night, (her parents thought she had arts club activities that day) she was dragging her feet. It wasn’t the exhaustion or soreness that made her steps so heavy. It was the piece of paper, that simple form, in her bag that seemed to cause an increase of gravity.


What now? What was she supposed to write? She couldn’t put down “spy”. Even if it were a conventional career to pursue, the very idea of putting it down somehow felt wrong. After witnessing up-close her parents’ sacrifices and suffering, after hiding that training for years… how could she become a spy and never let them know?


“Are you okay, Anya darling?” Her mother asked half-way through dinner.


“Oh? Uh! Yes! Of course!” she exclaimed, and from the way her father caught her lie, she immediately knew he was going to interrogate her.


“Did something happen at school? You look a little down. Is it still that professor’s death that’s weighing you down?” Her father asked, his eyes vivid enough that she knew he was unconsciously analysing every small gesture and micro-expression she’d reveal.


“I… It’s just the post-Eden College form that we received today,” she said.


It wasn’t entirely a lie, although she couldn’t reveal the whole truth.


“Ah, yes, you are growing up so quickly. Three years seems like a long time, but it will fly by. So, what would you like to become after Eden?”


It seemed like such a simple question.


Anya looked down at her plate of half-eaten dinner, turning it around with her fork.


Her silence grew longer, heavier. Loid lost his smile, staring at his daughter, a little stunned by her unusual indecision. Yor glanced between the two. Then, she leaned over to put her hand over Anya’s.


“Don’t worry, you still have time to think about it. The form won’t be your final decision.” She said with a reassuring smile.


“I… I guess… I don’t know what I want to do.”


I want to remain a family.


“I’ve always thought you’d choose a career to help people,” Loid commented as he picked up more food.


Anya blinked, glancing up at him. It was so close to Sylvia’s words so many years ago. “Would you ignore people in need? Would you want to help the people you care about? Would you abandon orphans like you to suffer?”


“It’s in your nature, you’ve always been kind and willing to reach out a hand to others, even if you had no reason to. And with your mind-reading abilities, you will immediately know how to help in the best way.” He continued with a proud expression on his face.


“You could become a doctor, a psychiatrist like your father! You would be wonderful as such!” Her mother exclaimed with a delighted expression.


“And your biology grades are great. With your results as Imperial Scholar, you would have no trouble entering medical school.” Loid agreed.


Anya nodded, pondering the option. She wished she could help people like her father did. But she had been helping him at the hospital for years and she knew she could never be a psychiatrist like him. As much as she liked the idea of it, and as much as she liked the idea of pleasing her parents by following into his footsteps, she hated the smell of hospital halls. It reminded her of her time before escaping the facilities that had experimented on her.


And her father helped so many depressed people who were deeply, deeply hurt from invisible wounds… but they weren’t invisible to her. She knew everything. She couldn’t help but empathise, she wanted to help, but it was such a strain on her mind and her heart… she often found herself feeling helpless and not good enough.


“Thank you,” she answered with a smile to dissipate their worries.


“No matter what you choose, we’ll be proud of you, Anya,” her mama continued with a soft expression.


It warmed Anya’s heart and her smile widened.


“As long as you don’t become a spy or an assassin, of course!” her father joked.


Yor joined in the laughter. Anya forced a half-hearted chuckle, but it only made her chest heavy again.


She would break their hearts if they ever found out.


That night, after her bath and homework, Anya was staring at the form that she needed to give back soon. She thought back on everything her parents said, on what she wanted, without quite knowing if her choice was dictated by her own wishes or the wish to not lose her family.


  1. Psychiatrist Help people.
  2. Art?


She was only half-satisfied with these answers, and more confused than before.




At Eden College, Damian sat down at his desk to fill in the form. He had turned the words into his head times and times again since receiving the paper earlier. He knew perfectly well what he wanted to become, what he had always wanted to be. He wrote it down in a quick, slightly messy handwriting. He should probably put more care into his handwriting, but ever since he’s read that mess handwriting was a sign of intelligence, he’s liked seeing his letters stretching in such a way, set down on paper too fast for his hand to keep up.


  1. Politician.

He put down his pen, smiling to himself as he thought back on the years and years and years he had worked so hard to get there. Just a couple more years and he would follow into his father’s footsteps.


Emile had decided to become a professional luxury baker. Ewen, as the heir of the Egeburg family, wanted to study Law to become a High Judge, like his father. Damian vaguely knew of some of his classmates’ objectives. Most would go into politics, law, or finance. He’ll probably stay in touch with them. After all, one of the advantages of studying at Eden College was to build a life-long network. Even if they all went their separate ways, they’ll always know each other, they’ll always go to the same parties, be invited to the same events and galas…


Damian’s smile wavered as he realised that, when thinking about Anya’s future, he had no idea what she would become. She had never mentioned it to anyone, except maybe Becky but to him, her life-long goals remained a mystery. If she decided to make a career related to what either of her parents were doing… she’ll probably go to a different road than the one he and so many of their classmates would take in the near-future.


Did it mean that he might never see her again after Eden? Did it mean… that their time was ticking?


All he could think was Anya walking away from him, out of his life, and the very idea rattled his heart painfully… even if it had always been meant to be this way. After all she was a commoner, he was a Desmond. It was a miracle she had even joined Eden College to begin with, and for a long time he had assumed she didn’t belong there…. But she had risen above all obstacles, all expectations, and soared proudly, becoming an Imperial Scholar.


She had become such a pivotal part of his everyday life, he couldn’t imagine what it would be like to always look for her in a crowd that would always reject that brilliant, beautiful commoner girl who had somehow managed to be more noble-hearted and better educated than most elite families in Ostania.


He glanced at the only family picture he had put in a corner of his desk. His parents, his older brother and himself, ten years before.


In a rare moment of emotional vulnerability, which he only allowed himself because his friends were already sleeping, he took the framed picture to stare at it.


Demetrius was as cold as ever, his mother had the same silly-looking smile plastered on her face, but the corner of her eyes answered to that smile, making it a real one. He hadn’t seen his mother smile like that in years, although she gave a good imitation nowadays. His younger self was looking proudly at the camera, standing as tall as he possibly could, chest out to show his five Stella Stars. Damian just knew he has never smiled like that since that day. His father was as emotionless as could be, staring at the camera as if there was nothing to look at.


Damian had spent his whole life seeking his father’s approval and love. Everything he ever did was to make his father proud, to bring honour to the Desmond family name. After his father’s death, Damian never wondered what to do with his life, the answer was obvious: he’d make his father proud, even beyond death. It didn’t matter if he never received the praise he had craved for… He’d do it anyway. For the memory of his father, for his family, for all the Desmond.


His fingers reached for the pen again, brushing it. He looked back at the single word written.


He had never questioned what he’d become, what he’d do with his life. Was it hesitation he was feeling now? Now that he was so close to his goal?


No. I’m not hesitant, I’m not a coward. It’s just the nerves of being so close. Finally.


If he repeated those words often enough, perhaps he’ll convince himself to become a politician, like his father had been. It was the life he had built for himself; it was the only life he would allow himself to have.




A few days later, after giving the forms back to Professor Henderson, the students of Cecil Hall were told there would be a reception for their parents, in a month from now, to discuss family by family, with the professors, their goals’ intentions.


Among all the excited emotions and anxious thoughts, there was a gloomy one that Anya reacted to the most. She turned around, looking over her shoulder to see Damian staring out of the window. She was the only one who seemed to notice that Damian was not looking forward to that reception. For a short moment, she wondered if by any chance, another mind-reader would feel the same heaviness coming from her thoughts. But unfortunately, she was the only one with such powers.


And she was reminded that it was a lonesome burden.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER VII : The Heavy Price of Getting Distracted


Anya was making her way through Eden College’s halls, to pick up some additional readings from the library. She slowed down when she recognized two silhouettes in front of her, discussing while walking slowly.


What were Damian and Professor Dunkel doing together?


Immediately suspicious, Anya started following them at a safe distance. She couldn’t get within hearing range without getting caught.


They stopped and turned towards each other, she jumped behind a pillar. Glancing from over her shoulder, she noticed the professor smiling to Damian, patting his shoulder. Then, he turned around and left the young student.


Anya stared at him go away before slipping around the corner. Damian looked up just as she appeared, and he froze.


“Where did you come from? I didn’t see you arrive,” he mumbled.


“I was right there! What were you talking about with Professor Dunkel, that you didn’t even notice me?” she asked in a light teasing tone.


He flushed, half of embarrassment and shame, before answering abruptly:


“None of your business!”


He turned away and entered the library. She followed him and he glanced over his shoulder suspiciously.


“What do you want, Forger?” he asked in a hushed voice.


“I’m here to pick up books,” she answered in the same low tone.


He narrowed his eyes but when they arrived at the librarian’s desk, it was quickly confirmed that they were both there for the same reason. Piles of books were pushed forward, and they each picked their owns before moving towards a nearby table. They ended up sitting together, although they didn’t quite realise they had done that until they were settling down for an impromptu study session.


They glanced at each other, then ignored each other, opening their books.

Except that neither could focus on what they were reading.


“Why did you sit here, Forger?” he mumbled after many, many minutes of useless reading.


He made sure to keep his voice low, as was the rule in the library.


“I just sat there. No particular reason.”


And it was true. They had come in together, picked up their books together, they had unconsciously moved together towards the nearest table, like a couple dancing the night away. It was only dawning on them now that they were stuck together. Unless one of them moved to another table, but both were far too proud to admit defeat.


“…There’s another table over there. Go mind your own business,” he continued after a pause, eyes stuck to the page.


“If you want to be on your own so badly, you can go there yourself.” She answered, head lowered towards her textbook with the same intensity.


“I sat there first.”


“No, we sat down at the same time. We just happen to share a table.”




Anya tried to focus on what she was reading, but it was beyond herself. She couldn’t help it. She glanced up, a twinkle in her eyes.


“That’s an interesting sound you just made… Could it be that I’m too much of a temptation for you to be around me?”


Damian gasped, blushing suddenly. And here he had thought he had been controlling his cheeks. What a fool, as if he were in any control when Anya Forger was around.


Listening to his line of thoughts, Anya chuckled, amusement rippling through her. She covered her mouth with her hand to smother the sound and not be caught by the librarian.


Damian looked up at her, gritting his teeth, but the moment he saw her, looking so adorable and sheepish, his heart missed a beat.


“Shut up before we get caught…!” he hissed as low as possible.


“Sorry…” she murmured but her eyes shone.


He kept staring at her, but his shoulders fell, and his expression turned from annoyance to worry.


“I haven’t seen you smile like that in a while…” he admitted, “Have you been okay?”


Anya blinked, stunned that he would have noticed her low mood. Not knowing how to handle his attention, this deep gaze that stared at her without hesitation, as if he could stare into her soul… It always made her feel like she was stumbling down a cliff with no wings.


“Can I be honest?” she murmured, joining her hands together in a rare show of nervousness.


“Always,” he answered without hesitation.


She glanced up, stunned by these words. The greatest focus was engraved on his face. She was his greatest focus.


“I don’t know what I want to do after graduation…” she admitted in a hushed voice, as if scared that anyone but Damian would hear.


He opened and closed his lips. He hadn’t expected such a thing. He hadn’t expected Anya Forger of all people to hesitate about anything.


“Do whatever you want to do, it’s simple,” he answered but it felt wrong on his tongue, like the bad after taste of an overly sweet lie.


She lowered her gaze, disappointed. Damian hated seeing her like that and he couldn’t help the way his body reacted. He reached out to cover her petite hands with his.


“Hey, whatever you’ll want to do… you’ll be brilliant at it. You wouldn’t be the only other Imperial Scholar of Cecil Hall otherwise.”


She looked up at him once more, her eyes shining a little. Then, a small smile pulled on her lips.


Damian felt a strange sensation over his cheeks, as if he was pulling a face… it took him a moment to realise he was smiling. A real smile. One that was so foreign on his face, it made him wonder.


They were both suddenly aware of their proximity, of their hands enclosed into each other. But they didn’t let go, and their gazes remained anchored.


I should let go, it’s been too long, it’s awkward… I shouldn’t touch her hand like that when I know she doesn’t like me…


He made the slightest, slowest, most hesitant movement to let go of her hand, but Anya moved. Her hand turned around so their palms met and she entwined her fingers through his.


Damian held his breath.


I don’t understand, I don’t understand, she doesn’t… she doesn’t like me… She pulled AWAY from me at the last dance?!


Anya swallowed hard, a crimson tinge slowly taking over her cheeks. She tightened her lips, desperate to make him understand


“Do you remember what happened during last summer’s dance?” she asked in a hushed voice.


Damian’s blush increased, baffled that she’d know it had been exactly what he had been remembering.


“I… the reason why… I…”


She blushed furiously, embarrassed by her stumbling words. Her eyes teared up and his heart hurt for her.


“Stop it,” he interrupted, surprising her, “I hate it when you cry,” he mumbled, detaching his gaze from her.


He tried to let go of her hand again, but she held on. Tightly, almost painfully. It brought his attention back on her.


“No, I just wanted to tell you– it’s not what you think!”


“W-what?” he hesitated, blinking, still blushing but that was a constant of his life whenever Anya Forger was around. The sun rose in the east, and he was a blushing mess.


“I-I’m not sure what you think happened but… I didn’t want you to leave that night…” she whispered.


A glistening tear, like a fallen star, rolled down her cheek but she didn’t seem to notice. Damian did.


Half-gasping, half-breathing for her and only her, he leaned forward to clarify what she meant–


A heavy, dictionary sized book suddenly landed between them. They startled, away from each other, their hands finally letting go.


The librarian was looking down at them darkly.


“I forgot this book you asked, Mr Desmond.” She said with a tone cold with reprimand.


She raised her glasses a little bit higher on her nose. They shone in the dim library light in a vaguely threatening way.


Damian had never paled so fast.


“T-th-thank you,” he said and to his great shame, his voice had gotten high-pitched and squeaky.




She stared down at the two of them, glancing between the two teenagers.


“May I remind you that it is forbidden for students to… flirt and frolic on academy grounds? Should I report it to Professor Henderson?”


“No, not at all, we know, we weren’t…”


His voice trailed off under her stone-hard gaze. He swallowed again, blushing.


“We’re sorry, madam.”




She turned around sharply and left them alone. But now her gaze was heavy on them.


Damian and Anya excelled at avoiding looking at each other for the next seconds. Many, long seconds.


She eventually looked up, but he stood up abruptly. He gathered his books and notebooks in a hurry and left without a word.


Anya opened her lips to call him but stopped at the last moment. She immediately threw her hands to the sky, cursing silently and stomping her feet down in the quietest tantrum to be.


Damian glanced over his shoulder just in time to see her pout and crunch her nose. She buried her face in her arms and he felt mildly guilty about leaving her in such a state… but he needed to escape her presence, or he would burst into flames.


He was very much aware of the librarian’s gaze following him suspiciously as he escaped from the library.


He never walked so fast to his dorms as he did that day. He threw the piles of books on his bed without any regard to their well-being, then he threw unceremoniously the Imperial Scholar cape off his shoulders. His jacket followed. He pulled at his tie and his shirt’s buttons in frustrated, sharp movements. Then he just laid down on the floor.


Half-dressed, out of breath, his body on fire from embarrassment, shame and hope, a fierce, burning hope he didn’t know how to handle, he just lied down on the floor like a sad starfish.


“I didn’t want you to leave that night.”


What do you MEAN?! He thought to himself, but his own inner voice was loud and furious – at himself, and a little bit at the librarian too. We were having a MOMENT, I almost KISSED you, and you pulled AWAY! What am I supposed to think?! What do you mean you DIDN’T want me to leave?!


A loud, strangled scream of rage and annoyance escaped him. He threw his arms and legs around like a petty child.


Once he was done, he just stared at the ceiling, aware of two things: firstly, he had never behaved in such an unrefined manner. Secondly, he was desperately in love with Anya Forger and he would damn himself with the very fires of hell itself if it meant he could go back to that stupid night, to that stupid party, to that stupid dance, to that stupid almost-kiss… to keep himself from being stupid again.




Anya and Damian went back to ignoring each other. Or so almost everyone in their class thought. They weren’t actively avoiding each other. But between classes, revisions, after-school activities, social lives, they had very little free time and unconsciously, without even talking about it outloud, they both decided to not discuss the events surrounding the dance and the library for a couple of simple reasons. There was no way they could discuss it without the risk of anyone overhearing them. There was no way they could discuss this without the risk of making what could fall into the category of ‘mistake’. Terrible, Tonitrus-bolt inducing mistake, life-upside-down mistake.


And so, the few days of awkwardness turned into weeks of their usual tip-toeing around each other. They didn’t say anything to each other unless it was their usual banter and teasing, although it was charged with more electricity than before, according to regular witnesses (AKA, their classmates). There was no more silly attempt at being discreet when one or the other, or the two, stared at each other for what was estimated by regular witnesses (AKA, their classmates and professors) FOREVER.


All witnesses agreed that Anya Forger and Damian Desmond, after a decade of puppy crush and requited love they didn’t seem to wrap their heads around, that those two were becoming more and more obvious in their feelings for each other.


It didn’t stop the few foolish young ladies who hoped to attract The Damian Desmond’s attentions (they were quickly turned down) or the few brave young men who thought that Anya was pretty and interesting (she cared so little about their attentions that they all gave up fairly quickly).


“Today’s practice will be against Wald Hall!” Ewen exclaimed as they all entered the gymnasium.


“Ugh, I hate sports against Wald Hall…” Emile mumbled, shoulders dropping.


“I don’t see how they’re any different from anyone else.” Damian shrugged.


“Only you would say that, Boss-man… After all, that’s the class with–”




Everyone startled, except Anya herself, at the booming voice of Bill Watkins as he, and Wald Hall class, walked in the gymnasium.


“Hi Bill!” She exclaimed, waving cheerfully at one she considered a friend at Eden.


“Today, I’ll win again!”


“I believe I won last time, though~!”


“Not today! I’ve trained in the past three weeks and never again, you will defeat me!!”


At that, Bill laughed, eager to prove himself.


As some students were catching up with one another, others started the warmup under the attentive gazes of their P.E. professors. Once everyone was attentive and had warmed up, they were gathered.


“Today, we have decided on a friendly series of volleyball matches. Let me insist on the word friendly!”


The more competitive ones cheered anyway, the less athletically inclined ones, on the other hand, shivered at the idea of facing either Bill Watkins or Anya Forger.


“To motivate everyone, the two losing teams will be in charge of cleaning up after everyone. And the two winning teams will receive a special treat from the kitchen!”


It made even the less enthusiastic cheer up a little bit. The other consequence was that everyone cluttered the most athletic ones until the professors declared they would be deciding on the teams’ line-ups. The teams were quickly made: eight in total, four from each hall. The volleyball warm-up started, the sound of balls sounding all around the gymnasium louder and louder as the students motivated themselves.


A bright laughter attracted Damian’s attention. He turned around, barely grunting when the ball Ewen had thrown at him landed against his chest. He stared across the court at Anya, who was grinning beautifully as she pulled her hair up in a ponytail. It swung around in the most adorable way possible. His heart missed two beats.


“OI, Boss-man!”


He startled, turning around to look back at Ewen who had picked up the ball back. He stared at his friend.


“Yes? What is it?”


He sounded grumpier than he intended. Ewen just sighed and rolled his eyes, used after a decade of this silly behaviour.


“We’re competing against Anya’s team first, will you be okay?”


“Of course! What are you even talking about?!” Damian mumbled, grabbing the volleyball.


“I mean… we all know what you’re like around her.”


“I’m perfectly fine and sane and normal around her!!” he exclaimed in a tone that implied he was very much not fine, nor sane, nor normal around her.


Ewen didn’t look convinced, and Emile intervened:


“I am serious about this competition, Boss-man. Free treats!! We cannot lose!!”


“Who said anything about losing?” Damian mumbled.


The P.E. teacher blew in his whistle and all the students went onto their courts to start the matches. Damian glanced quickly, across the court, to Anya who stood proud and confident on the opposite side of his. She caught his eye, which startled him, and she grinned widely with a wink.


Blushing, he quickly looked away, swallowing hard, unaware of his teammates’ unimpressed gazes.


The match started easily, everyone slowly getting used to playing the different formations after a long time without playing volleyball. Spikes and blocks flew around, and the points were added quickly.


Then came the moment when Damian and Anya faced each other.


“I won’t let you get any spike past me, Forger,” he mumbled, just loud enough for her to hear.


“Not with my Mama’s new killer technique!” she answered with a grin.


He couldn’t help it and grinned back, thrilled by the challenge.


The ball flew over the net a couple of times before the setter threw it for Anya. Damian got ready to block, mirroring her moves but at the last moment she whipped around. The three blockers struggled to keep up with her impressive reflexes. Damian was the only one who managed to jump in time. Anya looked shocked he managed to divert her spike. But the ball wasn’t out yet and it was played again between the two sides of the court.


The next opportunity Anya had to spike though, Damian ended up freezing. He saw her smile, the sparkle in her eyes, the sheen of sweat over her forehead and he just froze. As she jumped up, high enough that she seemed to float, all he could see were the elegant muscles on her lithe body. Her legs were entrancing, and he could guess the way her abs were drawn in the way her shirt floated just a little.




“JUMP!!” someone screamed behind him.


Damian started, reacting quickly to catch up after his terrible distraction that, he just knew, would haunt him in his sleep. But by the time Damian jumped, Anya had spiked, and the ball went full-force into his face.


With a scream, he fell back on the floor and let himself fall on one knee, one hand to his face.


“DAMN IT, FORGER!” he screamed through the pain.


“I’m sorry, Damian! I swear that for once I didn’t do it on purpose!!” she exclaimed, crossing under the net to check on him as the P.E. teacher came quickly.


“For once?!” he repeated, looking up to glare at her.


But her concerned look softened him so quickly that a violent dizziness took him. He wavered forward and she caught him by the shoulders. His head fell forward and the sudden proximity had them both freeze and stare at each other’s sweaty faces.


“Let me see!” The professor exclaimed.


Anya pulled away, to Damian’s great irritation which only increased when he realised that he should not feel annoyed when she pulled away after she almost killed him with a spike.


“Thank goodness, it’s not broken this time!” the professor sighed in relief.


“This time? How many noses did you break playing volleyball, Forger?” Damian mumbled as Ewen gave him a tissue to stop the blood.


“Only once! Bill broke three fingers in that match!”


“Because neither of you could calm down,” Becky commented from the side-lines.


A crowd had gathered to watch the pathetic fall of Damian Desmond, sitting on the floor while he was bleeding.


“Let’s just get you to rest for the rest of the session today. Miss Forger, perhaps you should hold back a little more when playing, mm?” the professor said.


“I’m so sorry, Sy-on boy,” she muttered, leaning down to help him up.


He instinctively grabbed her hand as she pulled him. His head must have been worse than he thought because he lost balance and stumbled forward, following the momentum she had given him. Anya squeaked when they almost fell chest-to-chest. She stared up at him and he realised how much taller he was.


“You have no right to be jumping so high when you’re tall as a chipmunk,” he mumbled, still bleeding against his hand.


You have no right to have legs tall as a tree,” she replied, without detaching her gaze from him.


And they stared at each other. And another wave of dizziness took over him.


Anya felt him waver and tightened her hold on his hand before gently guiding him towards the nearest bench. He didn’t have time to breath that she brought him a water bottle and more tissues.


“Is there anything else you need? Did you hurt anything else?” she asked.


And then, she did the unimaginable: she knelt down, in front of him, between his legs, eager to help. Damian’s whole body tightened so suddenly that he accidentally pressed his fingers on his painful nose. He squeaked in pain and leaned over.


“Damn it!”


“I’m sorry!” she exclaimed, putting a hand on his shoulder.


“Stop touching me!” he hissed so she was the only one to hear him.


“Miss Forger, we’ll take it from there, you can finish the match now,” the professor announced when he came back with ice to put on Damian’s nose.


She went away, occasionally glancing back at Damian who was slowly but surely recovering from his bleeding nose. Recovering from the way she made him feel though, that was an entirely different problem he had been hopelessly facing for a decade.


As if sensing his line of thoughts, Anya glanced back at him, a soft blush on her cheeks. Some sort of quiet, heavy understanding, floated between them. Perhaps it was the way his nose throbbed, and his head spun, but for the first time, Daman didn’t bother looking away. He certainly blamed the dizziness.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star



Between the constant sound of volleyball bouncing around and the dizziness, Damian eventually dozed off. He woke up towards the end of the last match, between Anya and Bill’s teams. He watched the two go into a frenzy to beat the other. He had to admit one thing to himself: Anya was incredibly athletic, and he oh-so-loved admiring her body. It might have been one of the only times, except for the yearly Eden athletic competitions, where he could openly pine for her, and everyone was too busy to notice him watching her (or so he thought).


Loud cheers suddenly resonated, and Anya jumped up and down, covered in sweat from the match she had just won. Bill dramatically fell on the ground, cursing to himself and mumbling on how to improve his skills. Anya went to him and offered him her hand to help him up. They discussed for a few moments before the professors called for everything to be cleaned. The two classes divided their duties, except for Anya and Bill’s teams who were exempt from cleaning duties after winning the most matches.


Once everything was cleaned, Damian gathered his belongings, vaguely aware of Ewen and Emile whining about missing the free treats. He started drinking some water when he caught words from some of Wald Hall’s students.


“Look at him, he’s so obvious,” one of Bill’s classmates said.


Curious, Damian followed their gazes, finally noticing that Bill and Anya were standing on the side, still talking. He frowned, absentmindedly gnawing his teeth around his water bottle’s mouth.


“Do you think he’ll finally ask her out?”


Damian choked and spit water so suddenly that poor Emile and Ewen ended up covered in water.




“What’s wrong?!”


“What did you just say?!” Damian exclaimed, whipping around towards the two Wald Hall’s students.


They stared at him with wide eyes. He ignored the fact that half of the students of both halls had turned their attentions to him.


“Uh… we were just…”


“We’re wondering if Bill is finally going to ask out Anya Forger out.”




“Yeah, he’s had a crush on her for years now,” the student answered with a shrug.




Damian chocked, cheeks flushed, but not for the usual reasons and that was irksome.


“Hold on, Jamie, don’t you it’s Desmond and he’s–” the other student intervened, looking uncomfortable.


Said-Jamie turned towards his friend, blinking in astonishment.


“I know who he is, but everyone knows Bill likes Forger.” Jamie answered matter-of-factly.


Everyone, now enjoying the show, turned towards Damian whose face turned a lovely shade of unexpected jealousy.


“Bill likes WHO?!” he exclaimed, sounding furious.


Jamie stared at him, wide eyed. He understood his mistake too late.


“Ah… sorry?”




Becky, who was about to leave the gymnasium, turned around, looking annoyed by Damian’s harsh tone. He quickly walked to her.


“Did you know about this?!”


“…Everyone knows, Desmond. Except you, evidently.” She replied with a deadpanned look on her face.


“Y-you! You knew! B-but! And you’re okay with this?!”


She blinked. Then she frowned, her aura threatening enough that Damian almost took a step back. Almost.


“Of course I’m okay with this! Anya is big enough to know what she’s doing and Bill is a good guy, he’s been nice to her, unlike someone whose name rhymes with barbarian. She doesn’t belong to you.”


Damian opened and closed his mouth, but found nothing to reply. Becky left without sparing him another look.


Emile and Ewen, cleaned from the water their friend had spit earlier, joined him, looking a little worried for his sake.


“…Are you okay?”


“Did you really not know Bill had a crush on her?”


“He’s been offering her gifts every year for Valentine’s day.”


“But she keeps rejecting him, no one really knows why but well, we all suspect it’s…”


Don’t finish that sentence,” Damian hissed.


Angry at himself more than anyone else, but incapable of figuring out the source of that anger, he left the gymnasium.




Even if she couldn’t read minds, Anya was not a fool, and she knew quite well how Bill Watkins felt for her. But because she could read minds, she knew that his infatuation had started out of strange admiration for her athletic skills… She had thought it’d be a temporary crush he’d quickly get over, but it had been three years and as she opened her mind to his thoughts, she realised that he was more determined than ever, now that they were in high school. She had even caught some thoughts about introducing her to his family which was, according to her, jumping a few steps as she, as far as she could tell, had never encouraged him in the slightest. She only tried to be kind and decent to him, as she often humiliated him in sports (but that only made him more eager, somehow).


“So,” she started when they arrived at the end of a quiet hall, “You wanted to talk to me?” she asked with a smile to appear ignorant of his intentions.


Bill Watkins, as tall and big as he was, looked small and sheepish as he stood in front of her, red in the cheeks. Anya could almost feel guilty for not feeling the slightest twitch of sympathy for him.


“I… well… I’m…”


She remained quiet, and patient. It wasn’t the first time someone confessed to her. But it was the first time it was a someone who had liked her for quite some time.


I need to confess, I only need to say the words and then I’ll explain to her my plan to introduce her to my family soon!


“I was wondering if you would accept my company for the Imperial Scholars’ ball held next Friday!” he exclaimed, standing tall and proud like a soldier.




She hadn’t expected that, even while reading his thoughts.




I need to be honest with her, or she’ll never accept my attention, he thought, too fast for her to find an answer.


“I am aware that you don’t have feelings for me yet, but I have no intention of giving up! I have no regards to your commoner’s origins, my feelings for you are beyond such petty things. You are the only woman who can stand up against me, and better yet! To beat me. Occasionally. You are perfect in my eyes.”


He had obviously prepared and rehearsed this speech beforehand, but Anya had not expected the level of embarrassment she would feel. It was so different from other confessions, she considered Bill her friend and she didn’t want to hurt his feelings.


“Ah, um… uh… well…”


How eloquent of her.


“I’m not expecting an answer from you yet. Just think about it.”


He bowed to her, in a gentlemanlike manner, then turned around.


“Bill! Wait!” she exclaimed.


He immediately spun, as if ready to attack, attentive to any emotion she’d show.


Anya tightened her lips, finally feeling guilty.


“You’re my friend and I… I like you as my friend but… I’m really not interested in you in such… a way.”


He stared at her, grave and serious, in a way she hadn’t expected.


She has no idea that she deserves much better.


She startled upon hearing that thought. Bill narrowed his eyes at this movement, too alert for it to escape his attention. It somehow made him even more determined as he straightened up in all his height.


“Anya, I am aware of it. But I also know that your feelings for Desmond, if not unrequited, are aimless. He’s always treated you with disregard and, were he to start courting you, his family would never agree to such an union.”


“I’m– I’m not expecting anything from Damian!” she exclaimed, blushing despite herself.


Perhaps it was a little bit out of shame to know that, even as an Imperial Scholar, she wasn’t good enough.


“Then why are you holding onto these feelings for him? I could give you more, I would treat you much better.” Bill continued, an intense look on his face.


“I’m… I can’t control how I feel…” she mumbled.


“Of course not. But perhaps you should start considering your future and who will protect you best.”


That annoyed Anya. She tightened her fists, staring up at the imposing figure of Bill Watkins, no longer intimidated by his seriousness.


“I am not a damsel in distress who needs a man to protect me or ensure my future! I’m perfectly capable of making my own life and my own career by myself! My feelings are my own and I won’t smother them because it’d be more practical!”


He opened his lips to reply but she didn’t give him time:


“I appreciate your sentiment, Bill, and I am flattered by your feelings for me, but I am not and never will be interested!” she concluded.


He stared at her, a little stunned by her strong words.


Damn, she’s so determined, I like her even more, he thought with a grin.


“ARGH!!” Anya shouted, throwing her arms to the sky before leaving him there.


Bill watched her go, even more intent on convincing her that she deserved better.


“I never give up a fight, Forger!” he shouted at her attention.


Anya had been so focused on Bill’s thoughts that she hadn’t realised that someone else’s thoughts were raging.


Damian stepped out from behind a corner, having overheard everything, although it hadn’t been his intention. He stared at the two figures, going their separate ways after that discussion which somehow, had involved him.


His anger was gone, but now all he felt was a slimy, uncomfortable shame. He had always thought he had been discreet enough in his feelings for Anya that no one would notice, but apparently, even Bill Watkins was aware of it (unknowingly to Damian, everyone was aware of it and would cackle at his assumption he had ever been discreet).


But more astonishing, Bill Watkins seemed to interpret that Anya… felt the same for him.


She hadn’t denied it.


He should have known, he should have expected it. The way she behaved around him, especially in the last couple of years but he had always thought… he was just being hopeful. And a bit of an idiot. Because in the end, and that was the real cause of his anger and shame, it didn’t matter if he was in love with Anya Forger, or if Anya Forger was in love with him, because they could never be. His brother and mother would never accept it. His father would probably come back to life just to spit in his face how disgraceful it’d be for a Desmond to be with a commoner.


The silly puppy crush he had had as a child, and had buried deep in several layers of denial, was as impossible now that he was reaching adulthood as it had been back then.




True to his word, Bill didn’t give up. Now he was openly courting Anya forger and most of Eden Academy was keeping tabs on the evolution of what they called the “love triangle of Eden”.


Everyday, for lunch and at the end of the day, Bill would be waiting for Anya. He’d offer her red roses, chocolate, love letters, peanuts, whatever he thought would be a good sign of his feelings for her. Everyday, she rejected his gifts. Even the peanuts.


Damian could only watch from afar, incapable of knowing how to handle his feelings, especially the jealousy. He had never been jealous before. He never had to be, it had only ever been Anya and his little world, a magnetic dance between just the two of them, where neither would risk taking another step forward. No one had ever been brave enough to stand between them.


As for Anya, she was tiring of Bill’s attentions. As flattered as she was, the entire academy was trying to gossip on her love life, and it was becoming frustrating. Not only she could hear the whispers and giggles, but everyone’s thoughts were so loud. And so, she decided to avoid Bill. It was the best way to have at least one moment’s peace.


Between the classroom door and the entrance where he always waited for her for lunch and at the end of classes, there was a small hall with windows open on a courtyard no one ever went in.


“I’ll see you in the cafeteria, Becky!” she exclaimed, jumping up on one of the windows.


“Anya– wait!”


But Anya had already opened the window and slipped out of it, landing easily on the soft grass. She stood up, starting to run to catch up with Becky, but she bumped into a professor. She stumbled backwards and Professor Dunkel watched her with surprised eyes as a pile of notes scattered on the floor.


“Miss Forger?” he asked, tilting his head on a side, “What are you doing here, it’s only accessible for professors.”


“Oh, I… Well, um.. I got… lost!”


She stared at him, trying once more to figure out what was going on in his head… but like always, he was a complete mystery. Such silence, such blankness, it was making her uncomfortable.


She chased that discomfort by leaning down to gather the papers and books she had made him drop. Her eye caught sight of several names written down and she frowned.


“Why do you have a list of my classmates’ names?” she asked suspiciously, staring at the list of names in her hand.


“It’s the students whose parents I need to talk to on Friday’s Imperial Scholars’ Ball,” he explained, offering his hand to receive the documents and books.


She did as requested, reluctantly.


“Now, I won’t tell anyone that you have done acrobatics on a forbidden ground of the academy. The way out is next door on the left. Hurry up before anyone else notices you.”


He gave her an encouraging gesture towards the door to lead her away from the professors’ headquarters, and she hurried. But that list was still on her mind. Bill’s name was written there, and Becky’s, a few more, but worse of all, Damian’s was at the very top, and unlike the others, it was circled.


What was this professor hiding?


She was so lost in thoughts that she barely realised she was back on students’ grounds. She automatically made her way towards the cafeteria, where Becky would be waiting.


She felt his thoughts before she heard anything. She looked up and slowed down, suddenly face-to-face with Damian Desmond. He stared at her, as stunned as she was.


“Sy-on boy…” she said.


Since she had hit him with a volleyball last week, he had been avoiding her. And as expected, Damian frowned to see her and made to walk past her.


“I’m sorry!” she exclaimed.




“You’ve been avoiding me, I didn’t mean to hurt you with that volleyball.” She continued.


He stared at her, blinking.


“I’m not avoidi…”


Does it seem like I’m avoiding her? I didn’t mean to. I just can’t bear to look at that Watkins flirting with her like that…


“Don’t mind that,” he continued while Anya swallowed hard, realising that she had misunderstood the whole situation completely.


For a mind-reader, she could be incredibly dumb at times.




Damian stopped and turned around to look at her. And here she was, at a loss at what to say.


“I… uh… well. I’m glad your nose is okay.” She said, immediately regretting these words.


Damian grimaced.


“Uuh, thanks? My pride is what hurt the most, but you can forget it, Forger. Even if I were to avoid you for something so petty, Watkins would be here for you anyway, so you don’t have to bother with me anymore.”


Stop sounding so bitter, Damian! You’ve had it coming! I’ve been such an idiot, so blind, of course others would get a crush on her! And I’m so annoyed that he’s RIGHT! She does deserve better!


Anya frowned, tilting her head on the side. Damian’s memory flooded to her and she gasped.


“Did you– you heard everything the other day!” she exclaimed in an accusatory tone, “How could you?!”


He whipped around, flushed in embarrassment, glaring at her.


“You– how did you– I didn’t want to overhear your boyfriend confess his feelings for you, out in the open like that!” he exclaimed angrily.


“He’s not my– you don’t get to say that when you eavesdropped on us!!”


“It was an accident!”


“Of course it was!” she said on a mocking tone, rolling her eyes.


She made to leave but Damian’s arm reached out. He blocked her path and confronted her, forcing her against the nearest wall. Anya held her breathe, looking up, locked between his arms, his palms pressed against the cold stone. Her attention, and her heart, were locked by his eyes.


“It was an accident,” he repeated through gritted teeth, leaning forward.


“Give me one reason to believe you,” she replied, even though she could read his raging thoughts and knew he was telling the truth.


Damian just stared at her. He stared at her like she was the reason of all his anger. They both knew she wasn’t, but it was easier to pretend.


“Do you really think I would enjoy watching another man offering his heart to you?”


Offering you his heart and a future and a family I could never give you because there is no way I could ever disappoint my father, my brother, the entire Desmond legacy, he added to himself.


Anya tightened her lips and clenched her fists. It would hurt so much less if she could silence his thoughts.


“You heard everything, but you understood nothing,” she started, glaring at him, “I am not a damsel to be fought over by two men offering me their hearts. My feelings are my own, and I make my own choices. Perhaps… it’s time that you start doing the same, instead of simply being the puppet of the Desmond family.”


Damian stared at her, dumbfounded, astonished, bewildered by her words.


She was right, of course. And he couldn’t tell what hurt the most: that she saw through him so easily, like she had always done, or that he had been so blind his entire life?


His love for her had always been a mystery. She was cute, certainly, and pretty and intelligent and funny. Those were all reasons he could easily rationalise as to why he had fallen in love with her. But why, why could he never let go of those feelings over the years? Why was his heart so stubborn?


You have what I lack, what I’ve always wanted, he realised.


“I’m free to make my own life,” she whispered, finishing his line of thoughts as easily as if they had rehearsed those words their entire existences.


It was that spirit, that freedom, that he loved so dearly. That he wanted for himself.


Damian stared and stared and stared at Anya.


She stared back, unable to step away to ignore the weight of that gaze, that realisation. After ten years, she was used to his attention, to the way his thoughts and his heart focused on her and only her… but there had always, always been an edge to those lovely golden-green eyes. As much as he liked her, as much as he was willing to accept such feelings (to some extent), he had always been disappointed in himself, in his heart, in what he had assumed was a weakness. But that edge, that anger, that shame was gone.


Damian’s shoulders relaxed. He pressed more firmly his palms against the wall, leaning just a little closer to her.


She couldn’t look away. It was her turn for her thoughts and her heart to focus on him and only him. His gaze had softened. She had never been more in love with him than in this instant, when he let himself be vulnerable and open.


She raised her hand, and her fingers brushed his jaw. His lips trembled. She stared, then looked back up at his eyes.


Her heart sank. Her touch had broken the spell.


Damian swallowed and tightened his fists. His gaze had hardened again. That edge was back.


“I’m a Desmond,” he hissed while staring at her lips, his hot breath hitting her face.


Then he spun around and left in hurried, long steps. As if he was running from Anya, from the person he could be with her, the person he could become if he set himself free.

Chapter Text



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.




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:




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.




“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.


Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER X : Two Steps Backward


The constant mumbling eventually had Ewen looking up. He stared at Damian who was changing yet again of tie.


“You’re doing it again, Boss-man,” he sighed with a deadpanned expression.


“Doing what?” Damian grumbled as he threw the rejected tie on his bed to pick up another one.


“The mumbling.”


“I am not mumbling!” he exclaimed.


He started pulling the tie around the neck of his buttoned up shirt, easily falling into the habit of tying it. He needed to be impeccable for tonight’s gala for the Imperial Scholars and their guardians. Part of it was because he didn’t want to disappoint his mother and older brother, but in the back of his mind, he was wondering what Anya would wear. The only requirement for tonight was for the students to wear their Imperial Scholars’ capes, but they were free to dress as they wished, even if everyone knew it was an uptight event.


“No, no, the green was better…” he whispered to himself as he switched to the previous tie, “But this shade is clashing… whatamIgoingtodo…”


With a heavy sigh, Ewen put his book down.


“You are doing it again!” he exclaimed.


“I am not mumbling!!” Damian replied, whipping around.


“You always look good anyway, why do you bother?” Emile intervened from another side of their shared room.


“It’s one thing that you mumble in your sleep, it’s another when you do it in your waking hours as well. You’re always complaining that Anya Forger constantly seems to know what’s going on in your head, but you’re mumbling your thoughts away like an old woman!”


“I am not mumbling my thoughts away like an old woman! Forger is just insanely perceptible!”


“Almost supernatural, maybe she’s a witch?” Emile joked.


“Perhaps that’s how our Boss-man has been so enchanted by her pretty green eyes ever since they met!” Ewen added with a laugh.


They turned towards their friend, expecting his usual flustered reaction, but Damian continued dressing himself. He had a forlorn look on his face, that neither Ewen nor Emile knew how to deal with…


“Are you okay? Is it because of tonight’s gala?”


“…I’m fine,” Damian answered, sliding his jacket on and buttoning it carefully.


Each button had an engraved D, for the Desmond crest. He looked like the perfect gentleman and when he added the Imperial Scholar cape on his shoulders, he looked pristine. And yet, he could only stare at his reflection and feel like a lie.


“Is it because you’re going to see your family?” Ewen asked.


“Or is it because Anya is going to spend part of the evening with Bill Watkins?” Emile added in a hushed voice.


Anya had finally agreed to be accompanied by Watkins to the gala, although there was no change to their relationship, as far as everyone else knew.


Damian and Anya hadn’t spoken since their last encounter which, for the first time in their lives, felt like a real argument. They had disagreed and he had stomped away, his heart storming from the effect she had on him and the words she had dared pronounce to his face.


“I make my own choices. Perhaps… it’s time that you start doing the same, instead of simply being the puppet of the Desmond family.”


He was no puppet, he was the proud second heir of the Desmond family. Everything he had ever done, everything he had ever been, had meant… something… it had been for his father, for his family, but it had meant something for him as well… right?


Then what was it?


Why did he even wear this cape, if not to make his family proud? Was it not a good enough reason? Was it not his own achievements that had led him to wear this beautiful and heavy piece of fabric on his shoulders?


Damian started making his way to the gala, ignoring the sighs of the many girls who had gathered to see him all handsome and ready. The only one he wanted to see, to sigh for him, wasn’t here. She’d be part of the gala.


He arrived in the great hall where he waited for his mother and brother who, as expected, arrived perfectly on time. They exited the car, surrounded by half a dozen of bodyguards.




He had almost forgotten the way his name sounded with his mother’s native accent. The moment he saw her, he smiled a little, shoulders relaxing. She got to him and immediately reached up to hold his face.


“How handsome you are becoming, you look more and more like your grandfather. It’s astonishing. Demetrius took from your father, but you, Damian, you took from mine.”


“Mother… you are embarrassing me, please,” he said, flushed to be seen in such an awkward display of affection in front of so many students, their families, and professors.


She smiled a little, although it didn’t quite meet her golden eyes, and she stepped away. Demetrius reached them, tall, lean, and imposing with his large eyes, dark green, so dark they were almost black.


“Brother.” Damian said, bowing his head forward.


“Damian.” Demetrius answered with a nod, “I am glad to see that you have maintained your Imperial Scholar status, although I have heard that some of your grades have been going down. Is there any reason for your distraction?”


Anya Forger, the bane of my existence, he thought to himself.


“Of course not, I simply need to study harder,” Damian answered with a practiced smile.


“Very well, let us join the gala then,” Demetrius said without a shadow of emotion.


Damian offered his arm to his mother, which she gladly took, but he froze when a figure passed in front of them to join the queue of families. He barely noticed her parents, as tall and elegant as they were, but Anya Forger was unmissable.


Beneath her Imperial Scholar cape, she wore a forest green dress, cut in an elegant shape. It fitted perfectly with her cape and its golden details. It gave her skin an ethereal glow, her beautiful eyes shone like emeralds, and her hair was in an unusual updo, similar to what her mother usually wore. It was easy to forget, with their daily school uniforms, that she had become a woman.


What he wouldn’t do to dive his fingers and destroy that updo, to lose himself in her body.


That moment of abrupt hesitation, that moment when he got a dreamy but shadowed look on his face only lasted a second, but it was just long enough for his mother to notice a change in her son. She glanced at him, but he immediately started following his older brother who hadn’t seen a thing.


Damian’s face remained absolutely emotionless when, upon entering the gala’s giant room, he and his family overheard and witnessed Anya Forger introducing her parents to Bill Watkins and the latter’s parents. They were all smiling, shaking hands, falling immediately into an easy acquaintance. He looked away, keeping his exterior a perfect mask of neutrality when his insides were shattering like glass.


A few meters away, Anya felt a tremor going down her spine. She looked around and noticed Damian, with his mother and brother, walking to the opposite side of the room, to meet some friends of theirs. She barely had time to perceive his thoughts – heartbreak, shame, disappointment – before everyone else’s thoughts became too much. Wavering a bit, she cut out every thought, forcing a smile to something Bill’s mother has asked her.


The gala went on as it often did. Lots of talking among parents, plenty of introducing their children to one another. The slight difference now that they were in high-school was that many parents were eager in introducing their daughters to Demetrius and Damian. The latter couldn’t care less and thank goodness, for once, his older brother’s aloofness worked in his favour because Demetrius was not in the slightest bit interested in his little brother’s love life.


“Ah, what a pleasure it is to finally meet you, Mr Desmond, and you, madam,” Professor Dunkel exclaimed when he met Damian’s guardians.


“The pleasure is mine. You are the replacement of Professor Adler, right?” Demetrius answered, shaking the man’s hand firmly.


“It’s exact. Despite the sad circumstances, I am delighted to be teaching biology to your little brother. His grades are remarkable, although I believe he intends to follow your footsteps and become a politician. Is this right, Damian?”


“Ah, um, yes.” He nodded, glancing quickly to his brother who had the slightest frown at that revelation.


“A Desmond doesn’t mumble, Damian,” was his only answer.


I’m not mumbling, he thought to himself, but remained silent.


“It’s a shame that you won’t pursue any studies in biology or similar domains. I just discussed with Miss Forger and her parents, they seem quite happy about her skills. She would thrive in such an environment, don’t you think?”


Damian almost choked to hear Anya so blatantly mentioned by a professor in front of his brother and mother.


As expected, they blinked, surprised to have another student casually mentioned.


“Miss Forger?” repeated his mother, even if she usually stayed away from discussions.


“Isn’t this the commoner girl who had punched you on your first day at school, all those years ago?” continued Demetrius, turning towards Damian.


“I-it’s her, yes.”


“Oh, I had heard stories but I never thought they were real! What a change between you two since that first meeting!” continued Dunkel.


Damian had never wanted to strangle a professor more than in this instant. His eyes widened and his cheeks flushed, betraying his feelings even more.


Stunned, his mother and his brother stared at him.


“And… what change is that?” Demetrius asked suspiciously.


“NOTHING!” Damian exclaimed, far too loud because he attracted too many people’s attentions, “It’s… nothing. We’re just… we stopped competing. We are just… friends.”


He swallowed hard, but his brother kept staring at him, as if gazing into his very soul. Dunkel glanced around and let out a small gasp. The Desmond family followed his gaze, only to see Anya Forger and her parents who had been talking to Professor Henderson. They had heard everything.


“W-well…” Loid Forger started as a sad attempt to break the silence that had fallen onto the room, “I am glad that you get along with Damian, after all this time, Anya,” he told his daughter, patting her shoulder.


Anya stared at Damian, then she turned away. He opened his mouth to say something, but she talked loud and clear for everyone to hear.


“We are getting along. Although ‘friend’ is a strong word. Classmate, at best, would be more accurate.” She declared with a strong voice.


Loid and Yor Forger both paled a little, tense smiles on their faces. They glanced at each other. Demetrius and his mother turned towards their son who looked devastated. He felt like he was stuck in the middle of a snowstorm, and Anya was the cause of it.


In ten years of knowing each other, regardless of what he said to her, what he threw at her, the insults, the teasing, she had never, never turned her back from him. And here she was, publicly humiliating him.


It hit him suddenly that it wasn’t now that she was walking away from him. She had done that when she had decided to tell him the truth he hated in his face. He had been the one walking away from her. Anya Forger was giving him the cold shoulder, she was willing to ignore him, to turn away from him, and nothing was good in the world anymore. He had spent too long craving her attention and dreaming for more, confusing feelings wrapped up in denial and now that she… that she moved on, that she turned her attention towards Bill Watkins, he didn’t know how to function anymore.


Who was he now?


“Oh, so just a classmate. Nothing to worry about then.” Demetrius said suddenly, putting a strong hand on his brother’s shoulder.


The tension dissipated a little and slowly, the other groups of parents and professors continued talking. The Desmond remained silent despite the smiles they had forced on their faces.


Dunkel blinked, as if only catching up now on the rising tension.


“I… well… I will continue meeting the other parents, but if you wish to discuss with me, I am available everyday at my office. Enjoy the evening.”


“Thank you,” Demetrius said with a smile.


As Dunkel walked away, Demetrius’ hand tightened on Damian’s shoulder. He clenched his fists, to get away from his brother, but he didn’t dare move. He was as good as wrapped into threads, stuck in a cage of his own making. Of his family making. A puppet, whose strings had been pulled too tight to move.


“Demetrius…” their mother said, stepping closer.


He let go of Damian, who finally breathed. But he didn’t feel like he could walk.


“What an embarrassing professor, spouting nonsense out in the open when so many of our friends and collaborators are gathered,” Demetrius commented in a hissing voice.


Their mother murmured something in a low voice, in her native language. Damian barely listened. From the corner of his eye, he noticed Anya walking away in another part of the room, towards the table of cocktails and food. But she just remained standing there, her lips tight and her gaze far away, as if she just couldn’t bear to be anywhere near him and his family.


“Professor Henderson, how kind of you to join us,” Demetrius said when the History professor arrived.


And once again, Damian was drawn into his family discussion. But his attention was no longer on professors, grades, and results.


He had spent his life working for the recognition he was receiving now. He had studied until he’d almost blind himself to earn the eight Stella stars and wear that Imperial Scholar cape. He should be proud. He should be happy. He should be smiling.


But all he felt was that he was a failure.


A hand reached out to him. He looked up, surprised to see his mother putting a hand on his arm. She was smiling to Professor Henderson, nodding occasionally to what he said, answering a few questions. That gesture was almost nothing. A small and too discreet motherly act. But it counted all the same.


She pushed him away, just a little bit. The slightest pressure against his arm.


“Damian, could you go and fetch me a drink, please?” she asked in a low, soft voice.


“I’ll… yes, of course, mother,” he answered, realising she was giving him an opening to get away from the smothering presence of his older brother.


“Thank you, darling,” she replied with an understanding smile.


He turned around, his steps slowly taking him away. His feet were as heavy as lead. He had never realised that his mother, stuck in her bubble of small smiles and quiet words, would be so good at noticing things. But every step that took him away from his family felt lighter and lighter, until he was almost running.


Anya looked up to meet his eyes. Her lips opened. Damian accelerated.


Bill Watkins suddenly appeared at her sides, bringing her a glass of a non-alcoholic cocktail. He smiled. She looked startled and surprised that he had shown up without her realising it.


Damian abruptly turned aside from her and Watkins, just as the latter noticed him. The two young men nodded at each other, curtly, without a word. Damian went to the table where all the drinks were aligned, blindly grabbing one for his mother. He remained standing there, watching that glass of pink champagne. He was acutely aware of Anya Forger right behind him, less than a meter away. She burnt his body just by standing so close yet so far away.


Bill Watkins stood there, guardian and protector of the young woman, unaware of the torment they were feeling.


After Damian and Anya had openly said, so loudly, in front of professors and families, that they were nothing but friends… classmates, really… he couldn’t talk to her now, even less glance at her, without raising suspicions. If his brother was watching, and he surely was, he would catch onto the truth in an instant.


And so, Damian did what he had always done best. He turned away from the best part of himself, and obediently walked back towards his family. He could feel Anya’s gaze on him, but he kept walking.


He handed the drink to his mother, who thanked him with her usual soft voice.


The hours that followed were spent with Damian feeling like he was stuck at the bottom of the ocean. Aware of all the smiles, laughter, words floating around him, but none of it reached him.


Was this what the rest of his life would be like, without Anya Forger?


“We must go soon. I’ve seen everyone important.” Demetrius declared when he was satisfied with the evening.


The Desmond made their way towards the outside of the building, to wait for their private car to be brought back. It was raining heavily so they remained inside, their mother sitting down on a bench while the two brothers stood a little further away.


“Maintain your grades as they are, perhaps ensure to increase your level in Literature and Languages. If you truly decide to become a politician… you’ll need those.”


“I will. Thank you… for coming.” Damian answered.


Demetrius blinked, staring at him.


“It’s my duty. I’m your guardian, and mother’s, ever since father…”


Demetrius sighed, glancing around. He gestured to his body guards and they took a few steps away.


“Listen, Damian… do you really wish to become… a politician?” Demetrius asked, frowning lightly.


“This is what father wanted,” Damian replied automatically, like a broken record.


Demetrius stared at him, his eyes looking much deeper, much darker. Damian finally noticed all the dark circles under his brother’s eyes. It made him look much older than he really was.


“Father… was a complicated man. I don’t think this is what he wanted for you.”


Damian felt like the ground shattered beneath his feet. He stared at his brother, going pale and shaking a little.


“W-what do you mean?”


Did his father care so little he never bothered to think of his son’s future?


Demetrius looked disappointed, he tightened his lips.


“We don’t have time to discuss any of it, this is not the place, Damian. Next Christmas, when you’ll come home, we can worry about that.”


“You’re never there!” Daman exclaimed suddenly, “You’re always missing family dinners and reunions! We haven’t had a real Christmas since father died! Don’t make promises you can’t keep!! You’re never here for me, you never look at me, you never cared for me! Nothing I do will ever make you proud! I’ll never be good enough!!”


His sudden rise in voice attracted the bodyguards and several butlers. A few families were there but not enough to cause trouble.


Their mother stood up, but Demetrius raised a hand to stop her. He stared at his brother, his expression hard as stone.


Don’t yell at me, don’t accuse me of our father’s shortcomings.” Demetrius hissed.


Damian startled and realised, with dread, that his words had not been aimed at his brother. But at their father. Who had never been there for him, who had never looked at him, who had never cared for him, who had never been proud.


He whipped around, shamedly walking away from his family.


“Damian, wait! Damian!” Demetrius called, sounding furious.


Damian kept walking, he went through the doors and hurried down the stairs, ignoring the rain pouring over his head, drenching his carefully chosen clothes. He kept his fists clenched, his jaw tense, and he walked blindly, not caring where he was going as long as it was away from this family.


Hurrying down the main stone path, he ignored the occasional car passing by to pick up a rich family.


Thunder rumbled above his head. Lightning illuminated the landscape. And lost in the middle of the downpour and the dark trees, there was Anya Forger. As if waiting for him.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER XI : One Step Forward


Damian whipped around, shamedly walking away from his family.


“Damian, wait! Damian!” Demetrius called, sounding furious.


Damian kept walking, he went through the doors and hurried down the stairs, ignoring the rain pouring over his head, drenching his carefully chosen clothes. He had his fists clenched, his jaw tense, and he walked blindly, not caring where he was going as long as it was away from this family.


Hurrying down the main stone path, he ignored the occasional car passing by to pick up a rich family.


Thunder rumbled above his head. Lightning illuminated the landscape. And lost in the middle of the downpour and the dark trees, there was Anya Forger. As if waiting for him. Her pink umbrella was almost blinding in the mid-darkness.


She noticed him right away and ran to him, immediately raising the umbrella above his head.


“Sy-on boy! What are you doing here?! You’re drenched! The dorms are the other way!”


He stared at her, dumbfounded.


“What… are you doing here?” he mumbled, staring at her with wide eyes.


The rain tapped the umbrella with enthusiasm. He only noticed now that his hair was completely drenched. Raindrops were rolling down his cheeks.


Anya stared at him, her big eyes full of compassion.


“…We’re waiting for my papa to come back with the car.”


Damian noticed the figure of Yor Forger, under a red umbrella, standing a few meters away.


“Did something happen with your brother?” Anya asked, perceptive as ever.


He swallowed hard. He looked down.




She kept staring at him, he could feel it. She suddenly whipped around:


“Mama! I’ll walk Sy-on boy back to his dorms, this dumb-dumb forgot his umbrella!”


“I’m not a dum–” Damian choked, once again furious and once again himself.


“We’ll wait for you at the entrance of the academy. Be careful on the way back.” Yor Forger said with a knowing smile.


Anya grabbed Damian’s hand, which sent his heart into a frenzy, and without caring about her beautiful shoes and dress, went right into the muddy grass.


“We need to get you back before you catch a cold,” she said.


Surprisingly, Damian also didn’t care about his expensive shoes and trousers.


A car suddenly went to a stop on the sidewalk. The emergency lights went on and a tall figure went out.




He startled and glanced over his shoulder, seeing his brother furiously advancing towards him, without regard to the rain.


“What do you think you’re doing?!” Demetrius exclaimed, red in the face.


Damian stared at his brother, a little angry himself that he could not find any peace, but astonished all the same to see so much… emotion. His brother had never shown so much fury, so much anything. Even when their father had died, Demetrius’ eyes had barely shone, he had barely trembled. While Damian had been a bawling mess. He had once thought that his brother was just that much stronger and incredible for not showing his sadness and grief… but perhaps, Damian now realised seeing Demetrius tempesting in the rain, that his brother might be as broken as he was. Just differently.


Demetrius barely acknowledged Anya, glaring at his brother.


“You can’t leave like that in the middle of a gala, so many people saw your behaviour! Mother is beside herself!”


“There isn’t much that makes her react anyway!” Damian replied, rolling his eyes.


Demetrius gasped. Another new reaction Damian had never witnessed.


“Since when are you such an arrogant child?!”


“He’s always been,” Anya snorted, barely impressed by Demetrius’ glare who finally turned his attention towards her, “It’s the Desmond main trait.”


“Who are you?” Demetrius hissed.


“Anya Forger,” she replied without hesitation, “I would say, nice to meet you, but really, right now, you’re a thorn in my side.”


Demetrius opened and closed his lips.


“But I believe you’re here to make up with your brother, so… go ahead, but choose your next words carefully,” Anya continued, foolishly unaware of what Demetrius Desmond could do to her if she truly angered him.


Damian was about to intervene, but his brother gritted his teeth. He whipped his attention back to Damian who was tempted to just let those two joust each other to death. Knowing that his brother would never say anything in front of Anya, but would never leave either, Damian just walked out from under the umbrella and took a few steps away, out of hearing range of the nosy, wonderful young woman.


As expected, Demetrius followed him. And despite the pouring rain, he straightened up, bringing his hands behind him in a posture that was so similar to Donovan Desmond that Damian thought for a moment that his father had been brought back to life.


“Damian, we will talk about your future during the Christmas holidays. I know I have been… absent the last few years…”


He paused, pondering his words.


“And it doesn’t matter if I promise to make it up somehow, we can’t catch up on the time we’ve missed together as a family.”


A sudden laughter exploded from Damian’s chest. It surprised Demetrius enough to shut him up. All the pent-up anger, frustration and bitterness of his entire life suddenly came to the surface:


What family?!” Damian exploded, throwing his arms to the air.


His gesture broke the rain. Thunder rumbled in the distance and another lightning illuminated the sky, giving an unnatural light to that night scene.


“We were never a family! I barely saw you growing up, our father never cared about either of us! Our mother was a nice doll then a forgotten shell!! We NEVER were a family!”


Demetrius stared at him, mouth hanging open. Damian breathed hard. The truth of his words, of his feelings hit him hard. He stumbled backwards. He passed a hand through his wet hair, which did nothing to help the disaster it had become.


“No, we weren’t,” Demetrius finally said.


Damian swallowed hard. He would have never expected his brother to… agree to such words.


“And that’s all you wanted, right? You wanted father’s approval because you thought it’d bring you into the family.”


The young man was out of words. The D golden buttons glistening in the dark felt cheap now. The Desmond family name he had always been so proud of was too heavy now.


Demetrius glanced at his watch, eyes narrowed. He glanced over his shoulder, at the silhouettes of bodyguards ready to intervene.


“I can’t make up for our father’s shortcomings, but I can make sure that… you won’t miss on having a life that would make you happy. You, at least, deserve it. Next Christmas holidays, we’ll discuss all this.”


He glanced at Anya who startled, under her pink and flashy umbrella.


“And I guess we’ll also talk about your ‘just classmate’,” he added in an unimpressed tone.


Although it was completely useless because of how drenched he was, Demetrius pulled on the sleeves of his ruined expensive outfit. He nodded to Damian, back to his usual emotionless self.


He turned around and made his way back to the car that was still waiting. Damian noticed the figure of their mother, standing next to the door, a bodyguard holding an umbrella above her head. She might have smiled, but it was hard to tell from so far away. Demetrius walked as elegantly as he could, although he slid in the mud.


Seeing his brother struggling to walk in the mud, having run after him under the rain, having yelled at him…


Perhaps if his father had yelled at him, even once, Damian would have felt like he had cared.


And Damian finally felt like he had met his older brother.


“Demetrius!” he yelled to cover the sound of the rain.


He turned around, now stable on the little pebbles of the road. A bodyguard hurried to cover him with an umbrella, although it was completely meaningless now.


“Thank you… for coming…” Damian said, hoping his voice carried well enough.


Demetrius stared, his face almost entirely darkened by the umbrella. He gave the slightest nod, then went back into the car that quickly left the academy grounds.




In the car, Demetrius stared in front of him, unflinching despite the discomfort of his wet clothes. He was too proud to accept the pathetic handkerchief that his mother offered him.


The only sounds in the car were the rain resonating above their heads and the occasional screeches of the car wheels on the road.


“Did you have a good talk?” his mother finally asked.


Demetrius glanced at her. She sat straight and pristine, not a single hair out of place. Her lips were tilted up in that irritating smile, the one she had put up on her face after their father’s death. She always smiled now. It meant nothing now.


“You heard us yell at each other, did it sound like a good talk?” he grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest.


“You two are so similar, always mumbling without realising it,” she commented, looking outside the window, keeping that silly smile of hers.


“I am not–”


Demetrius recalled himself correcting Damian about mumbling and he cursed under his breathe. Dafni Desmond continued, as if unaware of her older son’s annoyance:


“Short-tempered, short-sighted, blind to the obvious. So determined to prove your worth to your father.”


Demetrius rolled his eyes, but knew that for as long as his mother felt the need to talk, she wouldn’t stop until she had made a point. If the Desmond brothers had inherited stubbornness from either of their parents, it was their mother.


“Damian put too much pressure on himself, he always has.”


“Father never expected anything from him, it’s ridiculous.”


“Because the one who expected the most from him was you.”


Demetrius whipped his head towards his mother who kept her gaze lost in the city lights, echoed in bubbles of colours because of the rain.


“I never expected anything from Damian! He’s always been free to do as he wishes, he’s not the heir!”


“And yet, you always expected him to be happy when you chained yourself to please your father. You tried so hard to draw his entire attention, to spare your brother, that you didn’t realise what it did to Damian. He ended up comparing himself to you, as much as he looked up to you, and your father’s behaviour didn’t help.”


“…Are you saying it’s my fault?”


“I’m saying there’s no point on turning over misunderstandings from years ago. Your father always expected the best results from everyone, but never you two.”


“Because he didn’t care.”


“Because he cared too much. What parent would ever expect perfection from their children, when the simple joy of having a child is perfection?”


She turned back to him, still smiling. But her eyes sparkled a little and to anyone else, she’d look as much of a shell as ever, but Demetrius knew.


“…That’s not what father thought, that’s what you feel.”


Her lips trembled, the closest thing to a laugh he’d ever get from his mother.


“Maybe so. But your father isn’t here anymore to dictate his way of doing things. You can choose to be kinder to your brother.”


Demetrius didn’t answer. The silence stretched on, more uncomfortable than the clothes he was wearing.


“You will be with us at Christmas, then?”


“I’ll try…”


“Good. It’ll make Damian happy.”


And me, were the unspoken words.


“Perhaps we should invite this young Miss Forger to join us?”




“The darling lady who tried to protect your brother’s image by pretending they were only friends,” Dafni continued, a twinkle of amusement in her eyes.


“That irksome creature? You should have heard the way she talked to me, she was most irritating. Hold on, what do you mean ‘pretending’?”


Dafni stared at her older son, and sighed, her smile never leaving her face. It only did when she was alone.


“So clueless, both of you. So similar, both of you.”


“I don’t understand, mother, and no, we are not inviting a stranger to our family Christmas gala!”




His shoes were most definitely ruined. They kept squelching at every step in the mud. He could feel water and humidity soaking through to his feet. Damian felt too numb to curse his fate. It had been too many emotions for him to be able to express anything right now.


Anya had it worse though. Her heels kept digging even deeper in the mud that reached way above her ankles. Perhaps he should have carried her, but it would seem meaningless after so much struggle in the mud.


He was intimately aware of the way both their hands held the umbrella. His little finger brushing her hand was the only source of warmth he felt at the moment.


“Why are your dorms so far away?” Anya mumbled after another wobbly step.


“So we can be kept as far away as possible from the girls’ dorms,” he answered.


As if that would stop any of you,” she replied, rolling her eyes.


His lips tilted up. He smiled. After everything that had happened, he could still smile. That was the effect that Anya Forger had on him.


She looked up at him. Her dress was also splattered with mud. Her hair was falling out of its bun. Her makeup was a little smudged after so many hours. She looked stunning.


She blushed and looked away. He felt himself flush.


“You were right.”


Anya stopped so suddenly that she almost fell over, and he almost tripped backwards because they kept holding the umbrella despite losing balance in two opposite directions. Both got partially soaked by the rain in their awkward position.


“Did you just… did you just admit… that I was right?” Anya repeated, a massive grin making its way on her face.


“Oh no, I’m already regretting it,” he mumbled, looking away from her adorableness.


“Did you, Damian Desmond, just admitted that I, Anya Forger, was right?!” she exclaimed, suddenly brighter than a star.


He remained stubbornly silent. He would not give her such joy. His pride would never recover. He also knew that if he glanced at her, he would crack.


And Anya knew it too because she started wobbling around him, trying to catch his eye. He kept turning his head around, his cheeks getting hotter and hotter by the second. Her laughter eventually bubbled out of her throat, and he couldn’t resist anymore. He looked.




“Say it again! That I was right!!” Anya exclaimed, hopping up and down as best she could in the mud.


He was profusely red by now.


“Y-you… you were… you were right…” he let out through gritted teeth.


She smiled brightly. His pride could rest in peace. Why should it matter when she was such a beautiful pearl?


“I am content, Damian Desmond admitted that I was right about something! It’s worth a hundred Stella stars!” she exclaimed, happily continuing her way towards the entrance of the boys’ dorms that could now be seen.


They only had a few more meters of struggle in the mud before they’d reach the paved ground, then the stairs. And Damian would be back in his dorms, in serious need of a shower. He had had no idea mud could slither in so many places.


He wanted this moment to last longer. Soaked, cold, muddy, he wanted to remain with Anya Forger in that pouring rain, under that ridiculous pink umbrella.


“You don’t want to know what was the something you were right about?” he enquired, mostly to make this conversation last longer.


“Mmm… nope! I’m always right about everything, I’m just glad you finally admitted it!” she answered smugly.


They reached the paved way and she hopped around, dripping mud behind her. Walking was so much easier, so much faster. He was tempted to just throw her in the mud.


“I never said you were right about everything, only one tiny, teeny thing! Something very small, so small it barely counts as being right to begin with!” he replied, pretending to be annoyed.


She sent him a look over her shoulder, still grinning.


“If you want so badly to tell me about it, just do it, Desmond,” she continued, the twinkle of a challenge in her eyes.


He stopped walking. It forced her to stop and turn around. They both still had their hands wrapped around the umbrella handle. His pinkie brushed her hand, shyly.


“You were right, I am a puppet of the Desmond family…” he said, swallowing hard.


These words burnt his tongue, it hurt him in a way he hadn’t expected. Realising it was one thing, admitting it to Anya Forger was another, admitting it to himself… was yet another thing entirely. It would take time for his mind to get over, to rethink of everything he had said with his brother… reconsider his future perhaps.


What was he, if not a Desmond?


He wasn’t sure what reaction he had expected from Anya, but certainly not that soft and understanding expression. It left him lost, staring at her. Her face covered in smudged make-up, splattered with mud that had somehow made its way all the way there… but her eyes, her eyes were a vision of spring, of hope, of renewal.


“It’s okay to feel a little lost, sometimes, you know…” she started, understanding with ease what he was feeling, like always. “I feel this way too, sometimes… we all do.”


“Wow… what sort of wisdom is sprouting out of your mouth, Forger? Is this why it’s raining so hard?” he continued, frowning at the sky and putting his free hand out in the pouring rain.


She elbowed him, very lightly, for teasing her, but he wrapped his hand over hers and pulled her closer. Just one small step. They were still too far apart. She shivered, and he liked to think it wasn’t because of the rain and the cold… but because of the way they had gotten closer. He expected her to leave him, to step away, to mention Bill Watkins, but she stayed there. Her hand nestled into his. Because they both had to hold the umbrella, or they’d get rained on.


Then, she said something unexpected:


“For what it’s worth… I’m really proud of the man you’re becoming…” she murmured.


His heart missed a beat. His entire life he had seeked his father’s praise, he had only ever wanted to make his family proud. He had almost given up ever hearing these words from anyone. And here was Anya Forger, giving him a solace he had never thought he’d find.


She smiled, as if she knew exactly what it felt like. She smiled as if she could read his heart.


“And I think… that your brother really cares about you… he’s just bad at… communicating it.”


Damian stared at her, a half-smile pulling on his lips.


“Another Desmond trait… is it?”


“The worst one,” she replied with a teasing smile, “A nightmare. An absolute curse. A horror.”


“Okay, that’s enough, I still have my pride, you know.”


She observed him, her eyes sparkling like stars.


“You are irritating, and prideful, and arrogant, and far too intelligent, and with terrible social skills.”


He rolled his eyes, but she wasn’t done yet:


“But you also look adorable when the rain makes your hair curl up like that, Damian Desmond.”


He stopped breathing, his eyes widened. The warmth that took over his face would have been enough to turn the rain into steam.


His name.


She had said his name.


It was music to his ears.


Say it again, say it again, sing it to me, don’t ever stop calling me that.


She did something far worse than that. She leaned on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek.


The warmth on his face was nothing compared to the one that bloomed in his body. It spread in his every limb. If he hadn’t been so frozen on the spot, in shock, he would have thrown the umbrella away, carried Anya in his arms, and shouted from the rooftops to anyone still awake at Eden Academy that he was desperately in love with this incredible, confusing, irksome, magnificent woman.


She stepped away with a smile, her own cheeks blooming like roses in spring. He could almost hear her heartbeat, or maybe it was his, drumming in his ears. Her hand escaped from his, but holding the umbrella didn’t seem important anymore.


“Hurry up inside, dummy!” she exclaimed as she started running away from him to go back to her parents who most definitely were worrying.


“Watch where you’re going, klutz!” he shouted back.


Her laugh echoed against the trees, the rain, all the way to him.


Sure, he was getting rained on now. Sure, he should hurry up inside before catching death. But how could he move when Anya Forger had told him she was proud of him? Pronounced his full name, delicious honey to his ears? Kissed his cheek?


Damian threw his head backwards, fully receiving the rain on his face. He laughed, like a wet idiot, in the middle of a storm. He slowly made his way towards the stairs of Cecil Hall but just before he entered, he punched the air in victory, a gigantic, idiotic smile on his face.


His meeting with his brother had been a bit of a disaster, but who cared? Anya Forger had kissed his cheek. Nothing else mattered. He was the king of the world.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER XII : Half-Assed Confession


“This is a disaster and I hate everything that happened at the gala…” Damian mumbled against the top of his pile of books.


Ewen walked past him, not impressed after three days of Damian moping around like that.


“We have a test in an hour, Boss-man. If you don’t wake up, we’ll have to tell Professor Henderson you’re feeling unwell.”


“NO! If you do that, Henderson will call my brother and I cannot have him know that I am even a little disturbed by what happened the other night!!” Damian exclaimed, suddenly raising up with much vigour.


“You still haven’t told us what happened the other night that threw you into such a… mess…” Emile intervened.


His two friends stared at him, eager to help. Too many things had happened. Damian was incapable of talking about any of it. It felt too… raw. As for the other events of the night… it felt too precious a memory to share it.


For all he knew, he might have dreamt it all. Anya Forger? Telling him she was proud of him? Saying his full name? Kissing his cheek?


“Just… lots of things…” he answered, as vague as he could possibly be.


“All we know is that the amount of mumbling and muttering have increased–” Ewen started.


“I do not mumble.”


“–Especially at night, especially Anya Forger’s name!” Emile finished.


Damian whipped around so quickly he almost gave himself a nosebleed. The amount of intense blushing that rose to his face also didn’t help.


“I DO NOT!!” he shouted.


“Boys! What is happening in here?!” one of the hall guardians exclaimed, suddenly bursting into the room.


“N-n-nothing, sir!” Damian exclaimed, still red as a tomato.


The guardian stared at him, narrowing his eyes.


“We were just studying for our exam, and Boss-man keeps making silly mistakes,” Ewen quickly added.


Damian glared at him.


“Mmm. Hurry up to get ready or you’ll be late.”


And he left.


Damian let himself breathe, almost turning into a pool of sweat on the floor.


“If either one of you mentions anything about me dreaming about Forger, I will murder you and hide your body so that no one ever finds you, understood?” he hissed.


“Oh, don’t worry, Boss-man! Everyone already knows you like her!”


Damian chocked, but Ewen just smiled and walked away, perfectly fine despite the Desmond threat over his head.


“He’s braver than I am, I won’t pipe a word, promise, sir,” Emile muttered before hurrying after Ewen.


“You are both idiots!” Damian exclaimed, grabbing his Imperial Scholar cape.


He had hoped that putting it on would give him some courage. And as he walked towards the classroom, he felt that bravery building up. Dream or no dream, he was perfectly capable of facing Anya Forger. He had done it a million times over in the last decade. He was a Desmond, he was confident, he was handsome, he was intelligent, women threw themselves at his feet so he shouldn’t be surprised that Anya Forger had finally admitted defeat!


“Oh, look, Anya is here!” Ewen – traitor – exclaimed when they approached their class.


Upon hearing her name, the most beautiful girl Damian had ever seen turned around. He gasped, blushing at the memory of her soft lips against his cheek.


“Nope,” he muttered, turning on his heels.


Ewen and Emile each grabbed one of his arms and forced him to keep moving into the classroom.


“Let me go, you traitors!” he hissed, “I’m sick, very unwell, I caught a cold, I need to lie in bed!”


“And risk a failure on that exam you worked for so studiously? We don’t want that for you, Boss-man!” Ewen replied.


“Ewen! Emile!”


“Sorry, boss-man, it’s for your greater good!”


“It’s not my greater good at all!! It’s my… worst bad!!”


“As eloquent as ever.”




Damian was eventually brought into the classroom by his friends, held up by his arms, his heels unceremoniously dragging on the floor. He looked absolutely pathetic. It was revolting, he, a Desmond, being dragged around like that. He silently cursed his friends when several classmates chuckled at the pitiful spectacle he was showing.


“My, Mr Desmond,” Professor Henderson started when he saw the trio walk in, “What in heaven is this? How inelegant of you.”


Ewen and Emile let go of his arms. He dropped heavily on the floor.




“Sorry, I thought you would have reacted by now. I guess that whatever Forger did to you the other night was worse than I had assumed!” Ewen told him in a hushed voice.


“Shut up!!”


“That’s quite enough, go to your seats. Mr Desmond, get yourself off the floor before I consider giving you a Tonitrus bolt.” Professor Henderson intervened, his eyes sharp and threatening.


Ewen and Emile had never reached their seats so quickly, more scared of Damian than Professor Henderson.


Damian sat himself down at his desk, pulling out his pens and pencils for the exam that he was most definitely not in the mood for. He looked up. His eyes met Anya’s.


She blushed and whipped around so suddenly that he immediately knew it had not been a dream.


He gulped down, blushing as well.


Ewen, Emile, Becky and many more of their classmates, watched the silent exchange between the two.


“Enough!” Henderson exclaimed, getting frustrated by everyone’s distraction, “I will now distribute your exams. You know the rules! I want the greatest focus and attention, if I catch anyone cheating, it’s three Tonitrus bolts and I beg of you, write elegantly!”


Thank goodness for Damian, the exam required too much of his brain cells for his mind to wander anywhere. Unfortunately for Damian, the moment he didn’t have any distraction from the classes, he was forced to face the truth.


Anya Forger had kissed his cheek.


And his absentmindedness was even more pronounced than in the morning, enough that Ewen and Emile became far more insistent during lunch time:


“So, what happened with Forger?”


“Was it during the gala?”


“Did you talk?”


“Did you dance?”


“Did you propose to her?”


“Don’t be foolish!” Damian exclaimed, glaring at Emile who grinned at his friend’s flushed cheeks.


Ewen and Emile shared a look. It was more than confirmed that whatever had happened, besides some sort of argument with his older brother as vague rumours circulated among the students, something had happened between Damian and Anya Forger.


“Did you finally kiss?” Ewen asked in a hushed voice.


Damian startled, his cheeks turning a bright red. His two friends gasped, leaning forward:


“You did!”




“After all this time, we’re so proud of you, Boss-man!”


“S-shu-shut up!” he exclaimed, hiding his face in his hands, “It… it… yeah, s-she kissed me…”


“Of course, she’s the one who was brave enough to make a move,” Ewen added with a cheeky smile.


Damian blushed even more, if it was possible.


“I still can’t believe she kissed me on the cheek…” he whispered, more to himself than anyone else.


Ewen and Emile blinked.


“On the…”




“You… are reacting like that…”


“Because of a kiss on the cheek?!”


“Stop finishing each other’s sentences!!” Damian screeched, “And be quiet! I don’t want anyone else to know!!”


“How old are you?! To blush for a silly kiss on the cheek?!” Ewen hissed, leaning forward to scold him in as low a voice as possible.


“What do you–”


“Do you have any idea what the other Eden couples are doing in random places?”


“I don’t want to–”


“Even I kissed two different girls and I’m not even popular and no one is in love with me, how can you be so silly as to–”


“You kissed WHO?!” Damian exclaimed, standing up suddenly.


Ewen covered his face in embarrassment when half the cafeteria’s students turned around. Some snickered but Emile forced Damian to sit back down.


“You’ve kissed someone, and you never told me?!”


“I thought you had already kissed Forger and it was why you two were so… so… SO!”


“So what?!”




Ewen blushed, he hid his eyes behind his hands, unable to face The Great Innocent Damian Desmond.


“So horny,” Emile commented in a low voice.


Damian whipped towards him fast enough that he could have provoked a small typhoon.


Silence on the table, all three of them a little flushed (and Damian very, very flushed) to talk about such things… Their food was forgotten.


“I’m not… that… for Forger…” Damian mumbled, ears red.


Both Ewen and Emile stared at him, unimpressed by his denial. Ewen raised a single eyebrow. Damian swallowed hard.


“I’m… a gentleman.” He continued, eyes wide as his mind went into forbidden territory.


“Gentleman or not, it doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel some sort of… physical inclination towards the girl you’ve been in love with for a decade.”


“I’m not in–”


“Stop denying or I’ll smother you with my chocolate pudding!” Emile exclaimed, “Everyone knows you’re in love with her, and everyone knows she likes you too. You two are the only ones ignorant enough to not make a move!”


Damian stared at his two friends long enough that they assumed the storm had passed and therefore, went back to their lunches. Damian remained still, frozen in shock and wonder. He had certainly taken a little bit of time to admit his feelings (just a few years), and he certainly didn’t dare ‘make a move’ as they so roughly put it…


She had kissed his cheek. On the exact same spot she had punched him the first day they had met.


But that still seemed like more of a dream than reality.


“Anya likes me?” he finally asked in a hushed voice.


Ewen and Emile looked up from their foods, incredulity written all over their faces.


“…You didn’t know?” Emile asked.


“Oh, this is worse than I thought…” Ewen sighed, rolling his eyes.


“Wait, wait, who told you that she likes me?” Damian continued, eagerly leaning over.


“…No one said anything, she’s just obvious… Only you and her are oblivious to each other’s feelings.” Ewen clarified, taking a little bit of pity on his friend.


“Oblivious…” Damian repeated, confused.


He slowly stood up.


“Damian-sama… uh… what are you doing?” Ewen asked, slightly worried.


“I need to… uh… talk… to Forger… about… something!”


And just like that, Damian ran out of the cafeteria, his food barely touched. Ewen and Emile stared at him go.


“I’m worried, should we follow him?” Ewen asked.


“Not until I’m done with this delicious meal, do you think he’s going to propose?” Emile continued with a casual shrug.


“I wouldn’t be surprised if after ten years of denial and obliviousness, he’d propose to her on the very same day he finds out she likes him.” Ewen answered with a deadpanned expression.




Anya had forgotten some of her notebooks in the classroom, so she left Becky in the library to get a head start in their studies. Her steps slowed down when a familiar voice echoed in her mind.

She looked up to see Damian coming over, glancing all around with a confused flush on his cheeks. Recalling the horrifying act of kissing him on the cheek, Anya spun around, determined to ignore his presence and the burning of her face.


Thinking back on it, she had acted impulsively, wanting nothing more than comfort him, distract him, after the terrible meeting with his brother – but she hadn’t expected her lips to linger against his skin. She had wanted to drop the umbrella and kiss him on the mouth until he was all she could breathe.


It had been a terrifying thought. To want someone so badly, to depend so entirely on them, to want so much more that would involve delivering her heart, her soul, her body to someone who might very well… break it all. Or worse. Leave her.


So she had done the only thing she could think of, and ran away. She was glad that her parents hadn’t commented on her blushing, although she had noticed her father glancing repeatedly at her the last few days. She had read his thoughts and he was assuming the worst, he had already over twenty scenarios of Damian and her, confessing, kissing, or more. And he had about thirty ways to intimidate Damian – her mother had about a hundred at that point. No matter how encouraging her parents were, they were still embarrassingly overprotective.




She froze, in the middle of the hallway, when Sy-on boy called her. She heard his running steps when he tried to catch up with her. She decided to keep walking. Maybe if she ignored him long enough, he’d forget about the kiss. And so would she.


“Forger, wait!”


She accelerated, almost running, but his legs were far longer, and he easily caught up with her.


Wait, I said!!” he grumbled, trying to catch her arm.


She pivoted out of his way. He clicked his tongue and jumped in front of her. She tried to go around but he pushed her against an alcove, his arms around her.


Anya looked up, cheeks flushed. Damian looked irritated, but his cheeks were not in a better state than hers.


They were absolutely and completely alone in the hallway. It was dangerous. She could feel it in her bones, she could read it in his eyes.


“Yes? How can I help you, Sy-on boy?” she asked with a little smile.


I can’t doubt Ewen and Emile, they were far too annoyed with me, but she is so TROUBLESOME, there is no way she likes me!


Anya almost gasped. She bit on her tongue to keep silent. What did these idiots tell Damian to have him pursue her through the hallways?


But she did kiss me on the cheek the other day, and we always have this strange waltz of avoiding each other… or maybe we’ve been flirting this entire time without realising it? She does have that effect on me, it’s far too thrilling to irk her…


“W-what do you want?” she repeated to put an end to his thoughts.


She felt his gaze intensifying, observing her. He looked down at her, at the blush on her cheeks, at the way her mouth pout in embarrassment.


He swallowed hard when his gaze lingered on her lips.


I need to tell her, I can’t keep silent any longer, it’s too much for my heart…


Sy-on boy, is he about to confess? She thought, looking up, stunned.


“You like me.” Damian declared.


It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. It left no room for discussion.


She would have none of it!


“You wish! In your wildest dreams!” she exclaimed.


He finally got it into his head that they liked each other, but she was annoyed, no! She was furious, she was fuming, that instead of delivering a normal love confession, he’d make it sound like she had lost some sort of game!


And here was his prideful smirk that she wanted to slap and kiss off his face.


“You kissed me,” he continued, the corner of his lips tilting up.


He was the one in a position of power, of dominance, and Anya wasn’t sure that she disliked it as much as she would have expected. She was too used to see him run away from his own thoughts and feelings, this sudden change of behaviour was throwing her off balance.


“I kissed your cheek, because you were pathetically bawling like an abandoned child in the rain. I only wanted to distract you long enough for you to return to the dorms!” she replied, but her tone wasn’t convincing enough.


And Damian heard it too.


He shook his head and she swallowed hard at the way his wavy hair just flew around. She wanted to dive her fingers through it and pull him down, to be the one throwing him against the wall, to lose herself in the taste of his lips.


“I am willing to give you a chance to confess right now.” He decided with a smug smile.


“Why would I be the one to confess first?” she hissed.


“Because you kissed me first.”


“What makes you think I want to do it again?”


“Because you can’t stop staring at my mouth.”


As he said those words, his own eyes lowered to her lips.


Anya breathed hard, opening and closing her mouth. She was fascinated by the shape of his lips.


“It was a very unpleasant experience,” she murmured, unable to look away.


“Are you quite certain of it?” he whispered, leaning down.


They were close enough for each other’s breath to warm their faces. Anya’s eyes fluttered shut.


If I kiss her now, nothing will ever be the same, we could never go back to before. My brother will dissect me if I ever tell him anything about Anya. He’d never understand. He’d–


Anya’s hand shot against his chest, forcing him to a stop. She looked down, her hair falling in front of her face to hide her expression.


Damian froze, staring at her with a dumbfounded look on his face.


Oh no, what have I done this time? Why is she always running away from me?


At that, Anya glared up at him:


“Why?” she exclaimed.


“Why what?” he replied, blinking.


“W-why do you keep doing that!”


“Doing what?!”


“Y-you act all nice with me one moment, and then you run away from me!” she continued, weakly punching him in the chest but he remained standing there.


I run away from you?!”


“You confuse me!” she screamed.


“You irritate me!!” he yelled back.


They stared at each other, intensely. Then he clicked his tongue, turning around.


“Damn it, I’m incapable of dealing with you! Not now, not ever!”


He started walking away, but before Anya could retort anything, he spun back, pointing at her:


“You drive me mad! Staring at me, driving me against the wall! Do you have any idea what you’re doing to my mind?!”


She couldn’t help but smirk at the irony of these words.


“I have a pretty good idea, indeed.”


“NO! You do not! You have no idea! You… you! The thought of you consumes me! I always think of you, I always want you and out of every person in the whole universe, you are the only one who understands me and always knows my mind, my feelings, as if my soul was an open book for you and it is… it is so! So!”


He screamed, driving his hands into his hair to pull at it.


Anya took a step forward, heart beating fast.


They looked at each other, just one step away. One step too far. Their hearts echoed to the same melody, their breathing followed the same erratic rhythm.


Where was this tension coming from? Pent-up tension that was only against himself and his inability to be honest with Anya Forger, about himself, and his feelings. The only times he had been capable of being himself had been with her, but he had been a mess. He hated losing control of himself, but it was all he ever did around her.


He lost sense of who he was, burnt and born anew for her and only her. And as he stared at her, he started realising that she was just as confused and lost about her feelings for him. It was quite clear they were in love with each other. It was surprisingly obvious now, after all this time. But how were they ever supposed to deal with such passion, such ardent emotions, such fear?


“It’s ridiculous,” Damian breathed, shaking his head, “I am a gentleman, I am perfectly capable of controlling myself, but you, you make me lose all sense of self…” he continued, in a low voice.


Anya swallowed, to control herself more than anything. She was so close to ruin it all.


“You love it when I ruffle your feathers, Desmond,” she replied.


She dived her gaze into his. Challenge sparked between them.


“And you love it when I push your limits, Forger,” he continued, taking half a step closer.


Their gazes were burning. The flames they felt in the depth of their bodies only got higher and higher.


“You are a miscreant.” Anya said.


“You irritate me,” Damian replied.


He put one hand against her cheek. Her eyes fluttered and she was suddenly pressed against him. Damian brushed his thumb against her lower lip, so soft and inviting. He leaned forward.


“You scoundrel…” she breathed against his mouth.


“You’re a dangerous woman, Anya Forger…”


“Nowhere near as dangerous as you, Damian Desmond…”


He was vaguely aware of the way her fingers tightened around his shirt, curling as if to reach his skin.


“I am a gentleman…” he breathed.


He was faced with a choice: losing his status, his name, his family. Or losing Anya Forger.


Anya stared up at him, her body tense as a bowstring as he pondered his next decision.


One move and they’d be kissing until their bodies burnt. One kiss and everything would change. For the two of them, their relationship, their lives


Sensing that he was hesitating, again, more, Anya pushed herself on her tiptoes, holding onto his shoulders.


“A kiss for a kiss,” she murmured, “I gave you one, the least you could do is give it back.”


Damian stared at her, bewildered.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER XIII : Sensuality


“A kiss for a kiss,” Anya murmured, “I gave you one, the least you could do is give it back.”


Damian stared at her, bewildered.


A kiss for a kiss. One now, in exchange for the one she gave me the other day. The perfect way to push the fateful choice for later. But there’s no way I’d be satisfied with just one kiss… there is no way I can do such a thing without being certain that I can pursue her…


Damian moved away, disheartened.


Anya swallowed hard. Her hands tightened against his now wrinkled shirt.


“No. It wouldn’t be enough. If I kiss you, I want it to last.”


I need to make sure my brother won’t get in between us, I need to make sure I fix things with him first. I need to figure out what I want.


Anya stepped away, so suddenly that he almost lost his balance. She turned her back from him, covering her mouth with her hands.


“You… are impossible, Desmond!” she hissed.


“I don’t want to ruin everything! Can’t you understand that?!” he exclaimed, throwing his hands to the side.


“I do understand, that’s why I’m so… so…! ARGH! You vex me!” she shouted, whipping towards him.


You aggravate me!!” he yelled back.


He turned around, to escape her, her magnetism, that burning desire to throw it all to the wind, to forgo that he ever was a well-raised young man, to kiss her until he’d forget his own name.


Anya looked at him walking away, running away, and as much as she understood his reasons, she didn’t want him to. Not again!


Furious that he’d tease her so much just to leave, frightened yet again by the weight of his family name, she looked for something to express her anger. She looked around, but she had nothing in her hands. She did the next best thing she could think of and took off her own shoe. She threw it at him.


Damian gasped when he received her shoe right in the back of his head. He spun around, red, and angry.


“Did you just–”


She hopped back to him, grabbing her shoe in her hand, pointing it at his chest.


This is for teasing me until madness, Desmond! Get a grip or next time I’ll just punch you again!!”


“What is this noise I hear?”


They both gasped, turning towards the approaching figure of Professor Henderson. He froze when he saw the two of them, standing so very close, so very red. Miss Forger holding a shoe towards the young Mr Desmond.


Is she threatening him? I knew their bantering had gone on all this time, but I never thought they’d go to such lengths! I cannot let such an undignified behaviour go without a Tonitrus bolt! He thought, frowning at his two star students that were so very annoying.


Anya gasped when she heard those thoughts. She immediately turned it into a whine.


“Oh! Oh no! Oh!”


She dramatically fell against Damian’s chest. He had no choice but to wrap his arms around her as she fell on the ground, dragging him with her.


“Miss Forger!” Professor Henderson exclaimed, coming closer.


“Anya! What are you–”


“Oh, my ankle! Professor, I am so glad you’re here!” she exclaimed, using her best acting skills, “I-I twisted my ankle and Mr Desmond was kind enough to try to help me stand up!”


“You twisted your ankle?” the professor repeated.


“Uuuh…” Damian hesitated, confused.


She discreetly elbowed him in the side. He hid his gasp with a vivid nod:


“Y-yes, I was uh… checking her ankle… but she uh… fell again!”


She glared at him for being such a terrible liar.


She wasn’t threatening him then? She heard the professor think.


He knelt down and looked at her perfectly healthy ankle. He frowned.


“I can’t see any injury or swelling, but if it’s that painful, perhaps you should go to the nurse. I will help you–”


“NO!” she exclaimed, wrapping her arms around Damian’s shoulders.


He became redder than the inside of their Imperial Scholar’s capes.


“I-I mean… it’s so… so kind of you, but… I know you hurt your back last summer…”


She tightened her grip on Damian who understood. He swallowed hard.


“Y-yes, she is waaaaay too heavy for you, professor. I will take her to the infirmary, it’s not far.”


She glared at him again for calling her fat. She was not.


“Very well, then. I will visit the infirmary to check on you later.” The professor decided.


Still holding her shoe in her hand, Anya waited as Damian stood up, easily carrying her weight.


What an elegant young couple, if only they would stop ignoring the obvious, Professor Henderson thought as they left.


Damian, still flushed, started walking towards the infirmary, aware of the professor’s glances at them. They had both calmed down considerably with the arrival of their professor and the threat of a Tonitrus bolt.


“…Did you do that so he wouldn’t catch us fighting again?” he asked in a low voice.


“Pff, of course. What do you think he would have done to us if he had caught anything that just happened?”


Damian looked down at her. Anya was suddenly very aware of his broad shoulders. Her entire body was pressed against his muscles. She flushed, heart beating fast.




“Thank you,” he eventually let out, “If we had been caught doing… whatever it was we were doing… we’d have been expelled.”


“M-maybe not to that extent… hopefully…”


They remained silent for a couple of minutes. Until Anya squirmed against him.


“Henderson is gone! I’m fine, put me down now!”


Damian tightened his grip on her, frowning.


“No. I am not letting you down yet.”


“Why?!” she exclaimed, trying yet again to bounce away from him.


He tightened his hold on her and she gasped, grabbing his shoulders. Their noses were almost brushing and every one of his touches, especially the hand gripping her bare thigh, were burning.


“Consider it the price to pay for throwing your shoe at me.”


“I was perfectly justified in doing so.” She replied, begrudgingly settling against him.


He rolled his eyes, snorting in a most undignified manner.


“I’m not the only one teasing you, you know, you drive me mad.”


“You’ve mentioned it a couple of times already.” She mumbled, looking away.


“I’m not myself when I’m around you…”


Anya realised that if he wanted to punish her, she could return it tenfold. She nuzzled her nose into his neck. Damian gasped, startled, almost dropping her. She cuddled even closer to him.


She could smell his scent. Pinewood in the rain, old dusty books, and something Damian. Something that made her smile against the skin of his neck.




“What… I’m injured, I need some emotional comfort…” she whispered.


He continued walking, grumbling in a low voice to himself. She didn’t move from the comfortable spot of her head against his shoulder. She felt safe in his arms. She felt like she was being more herself.


“…Damian, have you considered that when you’re around me, it’s not that you’re not yourself… but you’re being your true self?”


He glanced down at her once more. It forced her to crack her neck to look back at him.


She looked adorable, as always, but her words hit something deep in him. Anya didn’t need to read his mind to know what was going on through his head.


She smiled. Soft and understanding.


They had arrived at the infirmary and Damian ignored that feeling in his chest, of blooming warmth and comfort. He pushed open the door, but Anya startled in his arms.


“W-wait, I’m not actually…”


“Nurse! Help! We need help!” he exclaimed suddenly, sounding far more panicked than was necessary.


She arrived quickly and saw the flushed girl, with a shoe gone.


“She twisted her ankle and can’t stand! She needs immediate treatment!”


“Of course! Set her down on that bed!”


“W-wait, I’m much better–” Anya mumbled.


Damian put her on the bed indicated by the nurse. He sat down on a chair and the nurse immediately examined Anya’s ankle, taking off the girl’s high sock and carefully turning around the foot.


“How did it happen?” The nurse asked, confused.


“Ah, she lost her footing. Good thing that I was right here to catch you, don’t you think, Miss Forger?” Damian said with an irksome smile on his face.


Anya glared at him.


“I don’t see any swelling or redness. The pain will probably go away with a little bit of rest, it’s almost nothing, dearie.”


“How comforting,” Anya said, smiling through gritted teeth, “Thank you.”


“Stay here for a little while. I’ll come and check on you later. If the pain gets worse, come fetch me.” The nurse said with a smile.


“T-thank you…”


The nurse pulled the white curtain and left, closing the door.


“…You didn’t have to act like I was actually injured…” she mumbled, glaring at Damian.


“To have Professor Henderson come check on you later and find you well and gone? No, no, you started this little charade, we finish it.” He answered with a smug look on his face.


“You’re going to miss class, and so will I!”


“A small price to pay to make sure you receive what you deserve.”


“What I–” she choked.


“After flirting with me so openly.”


“I do not–”


She sat up but Damian put a hand on her shoulder. She gasped as he forced her down against the pillows. With far more ease than she would be willing to ever admit.


“I don’t think we finished our earlier conversation,” he continued, standing up, “And now, you can’t screech like a banshee, or the nurse will walk in.”


He sat next to her, on the bed. Anya glared at him yet again, hating the satisfaction written all over his face. She couldn’t move out of bed without revealing she had faked her injury and she couldn’t banter with him with her usual level of screaming. He had her trapped.


“Fine, what do you want to say?” she mumbled, sensing that his thoughts were far less cool and composed than he appeared.


“You like me, I like you, so far, it’s simple.” He confessed, blushing until his ears turned red.


Anya’s heart missed a beat. She watched him, her stomach twisting in a strangely comforting way.


Stop looking at me like that, or I’ll devour you, nurse or no nurse to hear us… Damian thought, looking down at her.


“T-there’s a ‘but’, no?” she asked.


“…It should be simple,” he continued, looking right into her eyes, “But… I’m still too confused about… about everything… You, my feelings, but also…”


He glanced down, lips tightening.


Anya couldn’t help it, she reached out and slipped her hand in his. He looked back at her, blinking.


“Your family,” she guessed.


He nodded, looking sad and lost.


Anya sat up. She tightened her hold on his hand to attract his attention. She put her head against his shoulder, making him startle and blush. Their bodies were facing opposite directions and yet, her head on his shoulder was a perfect fit.


“I’ll be patient.”


“Patience is definitely not one of your virtues, Forger,” he replied, brushing his nose over her head.


Her hair smelled of strawberry and vanilla. His new favourite scent.


“Then hurry up to figure it all out, Sy-on boy,” she grumbled.


He chuckled, turning in his head the words she had said earlier.


“Have you considered that when you’re around me, it’s not that you’re not yourself… but you’re being your true self?”


How does she always managed to know everything about me? How does she always manage to say the right thing to me?


Anya couldn’t see his expression, but she smiled at those reassuring thoughts.


Damian suddenly moved away from her. She blinked as he stepped around the bed, to stand at the end of it.


“Sy-on… boy?” she hesitated, tilting her head on a side.


He didn’t answer right away, cheeks flushed, but a mischievous smile had appeared on his face. She vaguely heard his line of thoughts about teasing her some more, his strange idea of punishment while she couldn’t make any noise. She squealed at those thoughts.


“What are you doing?!” she exclaimed.


Damian calmly picked up her ‘injured’ foot. He passed his hands over the bare skin, massaging it lightly.


“I’m making sure your ankle feels better,” he said.


“Y-you know I’m not…”


He pressed the side of her foot with his thumb, finding a tight muscle that relaxed quickly, and she gasped. She turned redder than he was, which was a first in their relationship. Damian glanced at her, from under his thick eyelashes. She blushed more.


He continued massaging her foot and her ankle, drawing slow circles. Truth be told, it was very agreeable, even without an injury. But the way he was touching her, so delicately, so intimately, sent waves of sparkling warmth into her body.


Her body was too tense. Her heart was beating too fast. She unconsciously tightened her legs.


The movement must have caught his attention because his thoughts turned into a chaotic series of AAAAAAAAAFLSBGZMRBVLJVQB.


That didn’t stop him.


His hands continued massaging her foot, then her lower leg, going further, higher, almost reaching her knee.


Anya was almost panting at that point. She sat up suddenly, trying to pull her leg out of his hold.


“I’ll go tell the nurse I’m feeling a LOT better! Thank you!” she exclaimed, trying to step away.


“I’m not done massaging you,” he replied in a low, almost guttural voice.


He put his free hand against her stomach to push her down again. She had never noticed how big his hand was. Her chest raised up and down, at the rhythm of her heavy breathing. His hand lingered. Anya’s hands tightened on the only thing she could reach, the white sheets on the bed.


“D-Damian… please…” she breathed.


She wasn’t sure what she was pleading for. To be freed? Or for him to continue his ministrations on her leg?


Damian stared at her, still absentmindedly massaging her bare leg. He pulled it closer, almost forcing her whole body to inch towards him, towards the edge of the bed, towards his waist, towards the rest of him.


Anya pulled down at her skirt, suddenly conscious of how short it was. She bit on her lower lip. She knew that the sight was sending his mind unravelling and that he’d probably be haunted by it in his sleep, but she didn’t care. It was exciting her even more to catch his thoughts as he realised he would never recover. With the torture he was giving her, she wanted him to be tortured at night.


Damian raised her free leg and she had images she never thought she could conjure in her mind.


He kissed her ankle, where she should have twisted it. There was no injury, but it burnt all the same. It burnt her skin and travelled the length of her leg, gathering into her stomach, like an ardent dragon gathering around a precious treasure. A treasure she had never thought she’d be so easily willing to give away.


“A kiss for a kiss,” he whispered.


He slowly put down her leg against the bed, but his hand lingered against the skin of her ankle. Anya was still panting, her head dizzy, her body hot enough to sweat. She wasn’t simply hearing his thoughts, hers were as chaotic. She was intimately aware of how everything felt for him and that was so much more than she ever thought she could feel–


“You… you… you–”


“I know, I have that effect on women,” he replied proudly.


Oh no, oh my god, oh yes, I did that, I can’t believe it, I’m so happy, I’ll never forget it, I’m cursed, I’ve never regretted so badly to have manners–


“S-st-stop it!” Anya exclaimed, surprising him as he wasn’t touching her anymore, “Stop thinking! Y-your thoughts! They’re too loud!!”


“W-what?” he asked, confused.


Oh crap, she thought, biting her lip.


“I-I c-can g-guess what you’re thinking about! I-it’s… too much!” she quickly lied.


Oh crap, he thought, blushing fifty shades darker. Am I that obviou–


“YES!” She screamed, pulling her leg away so suddenly he stumbled forward.


Damian, disturbed by his line of thoughts, confused by everything that just happened, lost his balance. He was leaning against the edge of a bed in a quite uncomfortable manner, after all. He gasped, falling towards Anya. He caught himself by placing his hands on each side of her head, but that got them so much closer.


It wasn’t the first time that day they were face to face, but after all the screaming and emotions, after that series of teasing touches, their faces hovering so close felt far more intense. And Damian had just kissed her ankle. And he had as good as seduced her by sensually massaging her leg. And she had been panting under him. While lying in a bed.


They stared into each other’s eyes, their bodies far above a normal temperature.


The door slammed open. They both jumped out of their skins.


“ANYA DEAR!” Becky shouted, “I heard that you… got… hurt…”


Becky, followed by Ewen and Emile, froze in the doorway. All three flushed, eyes wide.


Anya and Damian, frozen in shock, stared back. He stood above her, their bodies close and burning, one of his hands still intimately touching the side of her leg, on top of a bed.




Becky’s eyes slowly widened to the same rhythm as her lips fell open. Then she squeaked, hands flying to her mouth.


“Finally!” she sighed happily, tears in her eyes.


Anya screamed. Loud enough to make Damian partially deaf. But that was nothing compared to what followed.


Like mother, like daughter, right?


Out of panic, overwhelmed by the hotness of her own body, Anya kicked out her ‘injured’ leg. Right into Damian’s crotch. He was thrown backwards violently, screaming, and falling on the ground. Anya scrambled, sitting up, hands covering her burning cheeks.


“HOLY SH–” Damian yelled, on his knees.


“I’m sorry!” she screamed, covering her face.


“Anya!!” Becky exclaimed, running to her.


“Boss-man!!” Ewen and Emile added, trying to help Damian who was still cursing.


“Will you stop kicking and punching me, goddammit?!” he shouted, pressing his face on the cold marble floor, his hands protecting whatever was left of his ego.




The nurse and Professor Henderson walked in that moment, both blinking to see such a chaotic scene.


“What… just happened?” she asked, confused.


“He’s DEAD! He’s DYING! Help him!!” Emile shouted.


“I’m not dead!!” Damian yelled furiously, and in pain.


“We’re with you, Boss-man!!”


Anya grabbed her sock and shoe and ran off, followed by a very confused Becky.


“…I guess her ankle is better, then,” the nurse commented.


These kids… I’m too old for any of it… Henderson thought, frowning.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER XIV : Star-Crossed Lovers


Following the ‘infirmary accident’, neither Anya nor Damian slept that night. Unknowingly plagued by the same torment, they were haunted by sights, thoughts and emotions that ardently burnt their hearts. Sensations and desires that had only brushed their young bodies. What had, until that point, only been fluttering feelings and fantasies.


They had not kissed, but they had stepped beyond their carefully forged friendship. A leap of faith. Wearing a blindfold.


Becky was talking about something, but for the life of her, Anya had no idea what. She was too busy staring at Damian, across the room, who was desperately trying to focus on the book he was reading. She knew his thoughts were about her. To the dream he had had of her the previous night. It had left him hot, bothered, panting. She could almost feel the heat come in waves all the way to her.


Sighing by his lack of focus, Damian massaged his fingers against his temple, before drawing them down to the side of his mouth, against his lips. A frustrated little gesture she had never noticed from him.


It was all she would think of now.


His lips. His kiss. His lips against her ankle. His kiss on her skin.


She felt branded, and she didn’t mind.


Damian looked up, as if he was the mind-reader who had caught her traitorous feelings. Their gazes anchored.


Anya realised she hadn’t been breathing. She almost gasped from the intensity of his look. Even across the room. What would it be like to burn under his touches.




She jumped when Becky shook her by the shoulder. Her friend leaned forward and when Anya looked back at Damian, his head was down, pretending to be reading. He was biting his lower lip.


“What happened between you two? It’s been a week and you haven’t said a word! You couldn’t stop being at each other’s throats just a few days ago…” Becky continued in a low voice.


“Y-you know what…”


“I know what I caught you doing you-know-where, but how did such a thing even begin–”


Nothing happened!” Anya exclaimed, blushing.


Becky rolled her eyes, thinking loud enough for Anya to catch it.


As if she could lie to me about such a thing! I can’t believe that Desmond finally had the courage to seduce her! As long as my Anya is still innocent, pure and untouched–


“Becky!!” Anya scolded.


“What! I haven’t said anything!”


Anya lowered her face against her hand, hitting her palm hard.


Some of Becky’s concerns were true, though. For the first time in their lives, Anya and Damian were unable to talk to each other. An entire week. It had been the longest time they had gone without bickering or teasing one another.


She couldn’t find it in herself to confront him about what had happened. She just wanted to slam him against the nearest wall and lose her breathe to his. She had had quite a vivid dream of what would follow such a bold move. She knew that if she somehow resisted, Damian would not.


And regardless of what would happen the next time they addressed each other, with words or lips, how could she forget what he had said?


He didn’t feel ready. Deep down, he was scared. Of getting too close to her, to the flame she was to him, and get burnt. Worse, that his family would oppose his even knowing her. The wildest scenarios had crossed his mind, and she was becoming as paranoid as he was.


She knew everything he felt, but she was unwilling to admit anything that she felt. It was too… too strong.


Their break was over when their next class begun, with Professor Mandel. Everyone stood up straighter, turning their attentions to the Literature class. Their sudden attention was caused for one simple reason: everyone loved Professor Mandel.


She was one of the youngest professors of Eden Academy, and everyone’s favourite (without exception). Even the ones who hated Literature from the bottom of their souls enjoyed her teaching.


Long brown hair and wide brown eyes, she was always kind, always smiling, always sweet. She brought almost every week candies and snacks to the students and even knew everyone’s favourite songs or books. It was impossible not to listen, they were all enchanted by her. As a child, Anya had been certain she had been a fairy. She was so sweet she once apologised to the entire class for giving ‘only’ ten Stella stars for a big exam. She was so understanding, despite Eden’s strict rules, that she often gave the option to retry an exam for the students who had failed or had felt their results inadequate. Damian once gathered his courage to ask her to retry an exam (he had only had 74 and had been utterly disappointed) and Professor Mandel had sat him down and talked with him for two hours about how brilliant he was, how very aware of his efforts she was, he didn’t need to retry because he had one of the best results and perhaps it was her teaching that was inadequate and not his skills – she had been feeling so guilty that Damian ended up being the one trying to comfort her. He never dared tell her he had simply been annoyed that Anya (Anya, of all people!) had received 97 to the same test. It had driven him mad, until Professor Mandel had reassured him of his abilities in Literature.


She was everyone’s favourite, it was as simple as that.


“Good morning, children!” she exclaimed, waltzing in with a wide smile, “Today, we are going to leave our study of ‘The Picture of Dorian Beige’. The exam will be next week, and I want you to reread your notes and write down questions you still have, we’ll go over it all tomorrow, along with how to structure your essay.” She started explaining.


“What will we do today, madam?” a student asked curiously.


“Ah! I’m glad you asked! I want us to have a little introduction on plays, especially dramas! This is the theme of our next term, but today will just be easy and amusing!”


Her skirt flew as she grabbed a pile of documents, coming forward with the look of a hopeless romantic on her face.


“During Winter break, there will be a representation of ‘Roma and Juliet’, from the great William Shakesword, at the Grand Theatre, I will go with my darling husband, but more importantly it is such a beautiful play to study! As it unfortunately occurs during the winter holidays, we won’t be able to go as a class, but I encourage you to go in your own free time if you can.”


She started distributing printed extracts of the play, but she was a clumsy and adorable professor and dropped a few. Anya eagerly stood up to help her out:


“Oh, Anya, dear, thank you so much!” Professor Mandel said with a smile.


It became Anya’s duty to distribute all the copies their professor had printed for them.


“We will only have time to study one short extract today, but it will be amusing, I promise you!”


And everyone believed her, even though many wouldn’t consider Literature ‘funny’, Professor Mandel had a gift to make it entertaining.


As Anya reached the desk at the back of the class with the trio, she quickly left three stacks to avoid Damian. Too quickly because the papers slid off the edge of the table. They started falling. She quickly reached for them, in the same time as Damian did.


Kneeling on the floor, stacks of papers flying around them, their hands brushed. Anya and Damian looked at each other, flushing. His pinky finger brushed hers, strongly enough that it couldn’t have been an accident.


I miss you, he thought, unknowingly sharing with Anya his deepest feelings.


She quickly tried to get away, but his hand wrapped around hers. She whipped around.


“Oh dear! Are you two quite alright? Anya dear, Damian!” Professor Mandel exclaimed, immediately worrying about them.


He let her go and she stood up quickly, forcing a smile on her face.


“I apologise, professor! I dropped the plays! Mr Desmond was simply helping me out!”


I hate it when she last-names me like that… he thought, standing up, visibly irritated.


She ignored him, quickly hopping down the stairs to go back at her desk at the front.


“Oh, well, as long as neither of you are injured, it’s the most important! Thank you for your help, Anya!” Professor Mandel continued.


She started her lesson. Everyone knew the story of ‘Roma and Juliet’. The most famous story of star-crossed lovers, entwined and separated by fate, whose terrible death brings peace back to the city of Vienna. Born from two enemy families, the two lovers met at a ball, fell in love, before the hatred of their families brought them apart. They fought to be together, and they eventually were. In death.


“This is the climax of the entire play! Roma finds Juliet, and thinks her dead! And with one last kiss…”


Professor Mandel happened to glance towards the back of the classroom and fell silent. Her voice trailed off through the classroom, the students hanging on her every words, even though they knew the story.


She tilted her head on the side.


“Damian, Mr Desmond, why do you look so grim?” she asked, incapable of letting one of her students look so forlorn and miserable.


He startled, not having realised he had gotten lost in his own tormented mind.


“…Isn’t it obvious? They both die at the end, we all know it.” He answered, looking down at the script beneath his fingers.


“That’s true, they both die.” Professor Mandel agreed, looking surprisingly serious and solemn for once, “This is the meaning of a tragedy, dear. But does its tragic ending make the entire play meaningless?”


It wasn’t unusual for the professor to interrogate her students during her explanations, it was more interactive than most classes, which was another part they liked.


Despite his poor (or so he thought) results in Literature, he usually had easy answer, but for once, Damian’s mouth was dry like sand. He hesitated, then shook his head.


“They should have talked to their families instead of hiding themselves… If Roma had been more patient, none of it would have happened. It’s all his fault.” He said with a half shrug.


“Does anyone wish to discuss this further?” Professor Mandel asked around the classroom.


Most didn’t feel concerned enough by an old play they could only half understand that wasn’t even part of the program.


Silence stretched and the professor was about to intervene when Anya slowly stood up, drawing everyone’s gazes towards her. Her head hung low, and her lips were pursed, an unusual expression for Cecil Hall’s cheeky girl. It made everyone more curious.


“The play isn’t about whether Roma and Juliet live happily ever after at the end, it’s… it’s about the time they have together, about the choice they make to be together despite the hatred that divides their families. About the city of Vienna finding peace, through their sacrifice. War tore them apart, but love brought them back. All… it’s all for peace.” She explained.


She turned around, diving her gaze deep into Damian’s as she continued:


“It doesn’t make their actions any less brave and beautiful. Every choice they made was for their happiness, and for their families, even if they weren’t aware of it…”


Silence stretched. The whole classroom held their breaths, expecting tension to spark between the two star-crossed lovers of Cecil Hall. Strangely, it was an unusual sadness that hung in the air.


“He was selfish,” Damian replied.


“He was scared!” Anya exclaimed.


He glowered at her. She held his gaze.


“It’s a story about love vanquishing the worst parts of mankind, and only someone who is incapable of love would think otherwise!” she declared, stubbornly sitting down to mark her statement as finale.


Damian gritted his teeth. Anya knew she was being unfair, to bring their own affairs into this classroom, but the unadmitted tension, the unwavering sadness of keeping apart, had broken out.


Silence echoed, heavy in the air.


Damian sat down as well.


“…Why don’t we look further into a deciding scene? It might enlighten us on the nature of the choices both Roma and Juliet make.” Professor Mandel decided with a smile.


It’s important these two realise that they can be both right and wrong all at once, she added to herself.


Anya glanced at the teacher whose eyes lit up with a sudden sparkle.


“Oh! I know! Anya, dear, and Damian, please come here! You’ll read the gazebo scene out loud for everyone!”


They both startled, flushing. It wasn’t unusual for students to read some passages of whatever they were studying… but re-enacting the most famous scene of the most famous lovers in front of the entire classroom?


“Come on, come on, don’t be shy!” she continued.


Hearts drumming into their ears, incapable of finding any reason to refuse, they had no choice but to go in front of all their classmates which were, by the way, leaning forward, eagerly entertained by the way this lesson had turned out.


“W-which scene…?” Damian asked in a low voice, unwilling to put up with any of this.


“Start here,” Professor Mandel indicated, pointing at a passage of the text.


He hesitated, glancing quickly at Anya who seemed as embarrassed as he was.


Waiting for him to start, Anya looked up and it brought him back to the text he had to read.


“Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,

Having some business, do entreat her eyes

To twinkle in their spheres till they return.

What if her eyes were there, they in her head?

The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars

As daylight doth a lamp; her eye in heaven

Would through the airy region stream so bright

That birds would sing and think it were not night.

See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.”


Damian swallowed hard, the description of Juliet’s starlit beauty through Roma’s gaze far too close to how he viewed Anya. His voice became more hesitant, falling into the text and imagining it were his own sorrow he was speaking of.


“O… that I were a glove upon that hand,

That I might… touch that cheek…” he finished in a breath.


Anya stared at him, conscious of every thought going through his head.


“O Roma, Roma… wherefore art thou Roma?

Deny thy father and refuse thy name…”


Damian glanced up, forcing her to a stop.


Anya was willing to be patient, she was, but this hit far too close to her own heart. How many times had she wished Damian had been born from a different father, under a different name? If only so he would suffer less. She shook her head, quickly finishing the famous lines:


“Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,

And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”


She had talked too quickly, stumbling on the words, but no one seemed disturbed by it. Damian least of all, but something passed between them. Unspoken words, a quiet understanding that those words their professor was making them recite were the ones they had, somehow, needed to hear from one another.


“’Tis but thy name that is my enemy…” Anya continued, voice breaking as her eyes started stinging.


She had thrived so hard to make Mission Strix succeed. It had been her only goal in the first few years of her life as Anya Forger. Help her father for Mission Strix, stop Donovan Desmond, gain world peace… Falling in love with his son, with Damian, had never been part of the plan. And here she was, spilling out her heart in front of the entire class.


“Thou art thyself… though not a Montague…”


Damian remembered Anya’s words a few days ago. “Have you considered that when you’re around me, it’s not that you’re not yourself… but you’re being your true self?”


A tear slipped out of her eye, startling Damian and the entire class but Anya continued, half-blinded but reciting the words anyway:


“O be some other name! What’s Montague?

It is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face,

Nor any part belonging to a man.”


Her voice broke and more tears filled her eyes.


“Anya–” Damian intervened, taking a step closer.


Like always when Anya cried in front of him, his heart was being torn apart. He wanted her to stop crying, he wanted it more than anything else in the world. All he desired was for her smile to light up the night.


But she didn’t seem to hear him, and continued, in a wobbly voice and with a tear-covered face:


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other word would smell as sweet.

So Roma would… were he not Roma called…”


“Anya,” Damian murmured.


She hiccupped and tried wiping away some tears but they kept rolling down her cheeks.




“Anya, please,” Damian continued, taking another step closer.


“R-retain that dear perfection which he owes…

Without that title… Romeo, d-doff thy name…

And, for thy name… which is no part of thee…

Take all myself!”


A sob escaped her. Anya dropped the play on the floor and covered her face with her hands.


“Anya…” Becky whispered, standing up with a packet of tissues but she didn’t dare move closer when Damian was right there.


He only stared at Anya as she hopelessly cried and helplessly wiped away her tears.


“Anya, dear…” Professor Mandel said, standing up to come closer.


It seemed to bring back Anya because she sniffed and suddenly raised her chin high, avoiding anyone’s gaze.


“S-so! I was right!” she started, “They’re just… they’re just scared because of their parents’ strife! But they… they have no… they… they could be happy! If… if it weren’t a tragedy!”


Another sob escaped her, which she quickly tried to control, sniffing, and wiping her tears with the back of her hands.


Damian’s legs were shaking. Through the frantic drumming, his heart was being torn apart. He could never resist when he saw her cry.


It had been what had made him fall so many years ago.


It was what was making him take a leap of faith now.


“It doesn’t have to be,” he stammered suddenly.


Professor Mandel glanced at him and blinked but he didn’t seem to notice her. Only Anya. Always Anya.


The professor stepped away, eyes sparkling, watching the two students face each other.


“W-what?” Anya stammered, her teary eyes shining.


Damian stepped over the last step separating them. Hesitantly, he lifted up a hand. He put one on her cheek. Anya shivered under his touch, but she didn’t go away. He started wiping away her tears with his thumb. More tears filled her eyes, but it didn’t seem so sad anymore.


“It doesn’t have to be a tragedy… it turned into one b-because Roma and Juliet didn’t talk to their families a-and fate was against them but… I refuse to believe star-crossed lovers are inevitably doomed to sorrow!” he exclaimed suddenly.


The whole classroom, including the professor, all held their breaths, leaning forward to discover what would happen next between those two who had danced around each other for a decade, pulled and pushed by fate.


Damian’s heart was so loud it was echoing in his head. He was quite certain Anya could hear it. Her eyes were shining like liquid silver, from all the tears she’d cried.


“Anya, I…” he continued, cheeks turning crimson as he stared at her.


She held her breath, waiting eagerly for the next words. Her own mind was such a mess that she didn’t dare try to listen to his, or she’d surely pass out. Unconsciously, she leaned her cheek against the palm of his hand.


“Anya, I–”


The bell rang. So loudly and suddenly that everyone jumped in their seats. Damian and Anya froze, still standing face-to-face. The students started murmuring, disappointed, and slowly gathered their notebooks and pen cases. Lunch break was calling.


Damian and Anya remained frozen, not daring to move, like a couple of deer frozen in headlights. They had completely forgotten they were supposed to be in the middle of a class.


“Everybody, shut up!!” Becky yelled suddenly, not wanting to let go of the show, or worse, for her friends to chicken out again.


Her shout had the opposite effect. It startled Anya and she whipped away from Damian, turning crimson out of sheer embarrassment for the pathetic display she had just shown everyone. Bringing her personal story into this play, crying for the parallels that hurt, for the inevitability of it all.


“Anya–” Damian started, stunned by her sudden movement.


Anya threw all her notebooks into her bag then ran out of the classroom, far too fast for Becky to even call her.


“Oh no! Not again!” Becky exclaimed.


The students, now more eager for lunch than whatever drama was happening, were starting to fill out of the ranks.


“D-don’t forget– your notes for the exam!” Professor Mandel exclaimed, a little taken aback by the unexpected turn her class had taken.


“Damn it!” Damian swore, turning on his heels and sprinting after Anya.


“W-wait! Boss-man!”


“Your bag!”


He didn’t care. Damian ran, as fast as he ever had, through the hallways slowly filling with students. He couldn’t see Anya but he would be damned if he let her go one more time. If the simple idea of being doomed for loving him made her cry that much, what was he waiting for?


His father’s approval? HAH! His father could roll over in his grave, Damian wouldn’t care.


His family’s approval? What did they even know about him, his wishes?


The one person he had been looking out for in the crowd, for the past ten years, had not been his father or his brother, it had been Anya. It had always been Anya and it was her words that always managed to bring him out of his worst moments.


Doff thy name…

And, for thy name… which is no part of thee…

Take all myself!


“For what it’s worth… I’m really proud of the man you’re becoming…”


“I’ll be patient.”


“Have you considered that when you’re around me, it’s not that you’re not yourself… but you’re being your true self?”


“Anya!!” he shouted, hoping to see her hair flash in sight.


He wasn’t sure where his feet were taking him, he wasn’t sure where Anya would go hide. But he suddenly ended up in the hallway of art classrooms, all empty as all the students and professors had left for lunch.


He walked by the classes, a little out of breath after his run, when he noticed a bag with a familiar keychain hanging from it, left at the entrance of a classroom. The one where she went for her art club, the one where she had created that soccer banner, the one… the one where no one else would find her.


“Anya.” He called upon entering the room.


She whipped around, her hair flying like a halo. She flushed, to be caught so easily. She bit her lower lip, eyes darting around to try to escape him.


“I-I’m sorry!” she exclaimed.


“Whatever for?” he asked, frowning.


“I-I was embarrassing, for the both of us, I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry–”


“Don’t apologise, I’m… glad you did this.”


She tried to make for the door.


He caught her by the arm, not letting her run away this time. They had both played that game, and he was tired of it.


“Do you want me to throw a shoe at you too?” he muttered, but he was smiling.


She looked up at him, blinking. Then, she chuckled at the memory. His smile widened.


“Anya, the bell rang at the worst possible time…”


“The only time I didn’t want it to ring,” she muttered, lowering her face.


Damian put a finger under her chin, forcing her to look up. To look at him, at his eyes.


Anya held her breathe, mesmerized by the way his eyes shone. A beautiful green, speckled with gold. She had never seen such a colour and somehow, she knew it was meant for her and only her. She would always be the only one seeing such a look on his face… Soft, open, vulnerable. And adoring.


“Anya, I…”


Damn it, it shouldn’t be this complicated to say it! Just say the damn words, Damian!! He thought to himself.




He turned crimson, his tongue fumbling. Anya felt his distress and went on her tiptoes to attract his attention. She put her hands on his cheeks, almost losing her balance. His eyes widened.


“You like me, I like you… So far, it’s simple.” She said, quoting his own words from a few days ago.


And screw any ‘but’ that would follow.


Damian leaned forward to finally seal those words with a kiss. Eyes fluttering shut, they moved in tandem. But Anya’s unstable position made her waver. She tried to hold onto him, but her left foot hit her right and she stumbled backwards. Damian reacted too late to stop the fall.






His astonishment was replaced by irritation.


“You! We were having a moment!!”


She was already standing up, her pride far more bruised than her body. She looked back up at him, pouting as he turned red in anger.


“Anya! You! You impossible klutz!!” he exclaimed, almost furious.


“I’m sorry!! I didn’t mean to!”


“Couldn’t you be more careful?!”


“It’s not my fault! You’re too distracting!!”


I am distracting YOU?!”


“YES! You are, you foolish man!!” she exclaimed, blushing furiously and tightening her small fists while standing on her tippy toes to make herself look taller and more impressive.


Damian tightened his jaw, holding back a growl of frustration to see her so fiery, so annoying, so infuriating, so infuriatingly attractive!!


Throwing all care into the wind, he grabbed her face into his hands and bent down, kissing her fast and hard. Anya gasped against his lips, and they immediately pulled apart, breathing hard, as much from their ridiculous argument as from the overwhelming emotions. They were both a blushing mess. Their hearts were beating so loud, they were certain the other could hear it.


He had kissed her. He had kissed Anya Forger. He, Damian Desmond, second heir to the Desmond family, had just kissed Anya Forger. It had not been a good first kiss. He had been too hot, too hurried, too much of a klutz himself. Their noses had bumped awkwardly, their teeth had tapped, they had almost hurt their lips. And right now, they were staring into each other’s eyes with a mix of astonishment and the smouldering annoyance that, to be entirely honest, had morphed many years ago into an ardent passion that they had been carefully ignoring.


Disappointed and annoyed with himself, Damian tightened his lips.


“Damn it, I wanted our first kiss to be sweet and romantic, not like that at all, I’m sorry, I–”


Anya put her hands on his face, pulling him down eagerly. She kissed him, as strongly as the one he had just given her. But this time, it lasted, their lips remained connected. He pulled her tightly against his body. Their clumsy kissing was full of passion, but they had so much to learn yet.


They pulled apart, breathless and dizzy, staring at each other as if they had just discovered the secret of immortality.


“I wouldn’t have it any other way, Sy-on boy. It’s us, after all! What did you expect?” she breathed against his mouth, a giddy smile and ecstatic laugh erupting from her lips.


Any other time, he’d be enchanted by the sight, but all he wanted was to kiss her, again and again and again, until she forgot how terrible their very first kiss had been.


“I’ll never let you forget how our first kiss went,” she whispered against his lips.


He chuckled, almost darkly, a low rumbling laughter that was full of challenge, and unexpected happiness. He dived down again, forgetting his name, his family, everything that was not who he really was. Everything that was not Anya. She melted against his body, which sent an army of butterflies fluttering in his entire body.


They had a lot to learn yet, but they were more than happy to practice.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER XV : The Gazebo


“I’m done, I’m leaving!” Anya exclaimed, pushing away her mostly eaten plate of breakfast.


“Already?” Loid asked, surprised, “It’s still so early. The bus won’t be here.”


“I’m going on foot, I’ll be fine!” she continued, gathering her bag and winter coat.


“Why are you going to early? It’s unusual for you…” Yor asked, while still spoon-feeding Rosaura.


“Oh! I… uh… I’m going to study early! For the exams!” she answered quickly, adding some snacks in her bag.


Loid and Yor glanced at each other. Distracted by the conversation with Anya, Yor didn’t notice that Rosie was leaning forward, waving her hands towards the plate. She opened and closed her mouth, her way of asking for another spoonful. Anya quickly kissed her baby sister on the forehead, then her parents’ cheeks, and ran off.


“…She’s hiding something from us.” Loid said, frowning.


“Don’t worry, I’m sure she’s just a little stressed for the exams.”


“Anya? Stressed? For exams?” he repeated, shaking his head, “No, something must have happened at the academy… Why is she not simply telling us? We could help if she has any trouble…”


Yor smiled at her little girl, opening and closing her mouth to encourage her baby to keep eating. Rosie eagerly took the next spoonful.


“We can trust Anya, she never hid anything from us. She will tell us what she needs to, when she will be ready,” Yor continued with a smile.




“Don’t go spying on her, Loid.” Yor warned, sending him a harsh look.


“I would never!!” He exclaimed, looking guilty.


Yor was not impressed by his attempt and she kept staring at him until he threw his hands to the sky.


“Alright! I won’t spy on Anya at the academy!”


“Good, otherwise we will go back to keeping secrets from one another and we don’t want that.”




“Another mouthful for my beautiful girl?” Yor asked in a cocooning voice.


Rosie giggled excitedly, opening her mouth once more. As lovely as the sight was, Loid was now too worried about his older daughter. He had said he wouldn’t spy on her… but it wasn’t… a promise, right?


He shook his head. No, he would not spy on Anya, he would trust her.


Anya arrived far earlier than usual at the academy. The grounds were still mostly empty of students, beside a few of the residents who were doing some morning running or doing last minute revisions. But as expected, most of them were still getting ready and were escaping the cold.


Her breathing was forming white fog. She breathed into her hands, snow had been forecasted a few days later. She had been in such a hurry that she had forgotten her gloves. She looked around, not finding the person she was looking for. She walked past the buildings to wander into the vast park of Eden Academy. Some students were running around despite the harsh cold but she didn’t look at them, too focused on reaching the big metal gazebo that stood in the gardens.


In spring and summer, students would almost fight to get a spot in this gazebo as it provided shadow from the climbing vines that surrounded the metal frame. In winter it was a very sad view from the outside, but it still kept whatever was happening inside the gazebo hidden from plain sight.


She climbed the few stairs and smiled when she found Damian Desmond sitting on the bench, reading a book. He looked up when he heard her and smiled back.


“It’s freezing!” She exclaimed, hurrying next to him.


The gazebo seemed to have trapped last night’s cold and humidity. Even with her thick winter coat and her Imperial Scholar cape, she could feel it sink into her bones.


“How long have you been waiting here?” she asked.


“Long enough to know we are in serious need of those,” Damian answered, handing her a cup of warm hot cocoa.


“Oh! Perfect!” she said, grabbing it and using the cup to warm her hands.


She opened the lid and gasped when she saw a few marshmallows floating there. She kicked her legs in the air excitedly, making Damian’s smile widen.


He brought his own cup, of coffee, to his lips, taking a sip, without ever taking his eyes off her.


“You look cheerful,” he commented.


“How can I not when I have received such a wonderful offering for my efforts to come here an hour before the beginning of classes!”


But her joyful expression dimmed a little. Damian immediately worried.


“What is it? Did you have trouble coming here without the bus?”


“No… it’s just… I think my parents are starting to suspect something…” Anya admitted.




Although their relationship had evolved, they hadn’t quite put a label on it yet. They were together, but what should they tell their families? That they were courting, as the Desmond family would expect of Damian? That they were a couple already?


Eden was really strict on relationships, not only because it was an elite academy, but also because most of their students came from wealthy, powerful and influential families that were, quite frankly, a little old-fashioned. It didn’t forbid courting or dating, but it was an unspoken rule that any couple that formed during the time at the academy ought to be serious enough that an engagement would follow a few years after graduation. Some of the famous and successful graduates were couples that had formed there. More importantly, any show of affection was strictly forbidden. Any professor catching students being intimate would not hesitate to give warnings and Tonitrus bolts – although they had been relaxing enough to let couples hold hands and kiss (on the cheek). It made relationship a hardship that wasn’t truly worth it. Most Eden relationships were encouraged by the families first, then the gentleman would court the lady, and then the relationship would be officialised by the respective families who would have had an earlier agreement.


Anya and Damian had forgone all these steps.


Demetrius’ reaction would probably be a disaster and Damian hadn’t had the courage to tell him anything. Anya believed that her parents would be encouraging, albeit a little awkward because he was a Desmond and their hands weren’t exactly cleaned when it came to Donovan’s downfall…


And just thinking of it made Anya feel a heavy weight settle on her chest. She had let her feelings take over and she was happy every moment she spent with Damian, but when she wasn’t with him, all she could see was the bloody body of his father at her feet. How could she date him, how could she openly love him when… she had had such a pivotal role in his father’s death? How could she ever reveal him she had played a part in it? That she could read minds?


“Hey,” Damian said, taking her hand in his when he noticed the shadows on her face.


He was wearing gloves, which made his large hand even warmer than expected. Anya squeezed his hand back, looking up.


“It’ll be alright. We’ll figure it out.” He said with a confident look on his face, “I… thought about it and… I’ll think I’ll tell my brother and mother the next time I see them. About us.”


“R-really?” Anya hesitated, “But… you were so worried…?”


It had only been a week since they had kissed. Only their close friends knew about them, most of their classroom suspected it, but both Anya and Damian had carefully distracted them. The next time Damian would see his family would be during the winter break, which was coming in just two weeks. It was a really big step, coming really quickly.


I can’t let her know how scared I am. Demetrius will not be happy, but he won’t react badly… The other day, mother asked about Anya over the phone… She might be easier to convince… If I talk to mother first, then Demetrius, perhaps it’ll be alright…


Anya squeezed his hand once more, her own heart warming up to know that he was so bravely trying to put up a strong face in front of her. He didn’t want her to worry. He had no idea she was aware of everything that went through his head.


“It’ll be fine,” Damian said, raising his chin, “After all, even if Demetrius is the head of the family now, it’s not like he can disown me.”


But Anya knew it was what he feared most. To lose everything.


“If your brother disowns you, I’ll personally go give him one of my best punches,” Anya said.


Damian chuckled, looking back at her. His shoulder dropped a little. It made Anya smile again.


“In that case, he’ll definitely disown me for good.” He continued, but his voice was light enough for it to be a joke.


“Then you’ll just have to stay with me! I don’t care about your name or money, anyway!”


One of the many things he had always loved about her.


Damian leaned over, brushing his lips against her forehead. It surprised Anya enough that she startled.


“You have no idea how grateful I am that you… don’t see anything else but me,” he said in a voice shaky from unexpected emotions.


Anya took one marshmallow from her cup and dropped it in his. He opened his lips to complain but she leaned against his side and kissed his cheek. It stopped him completely. Their cheeks flushed, not from the cold this time.


“Thank you for the hot cocoa, and the marshmallows. I appreciate your gratefulness.”


“I, um, yes, well. Mmm…”


He glanced at her, a little sheepishly.


“I could show you my gratefulness in other ways, you just have to ask.”


“Why ask when I know you can’t resist?” she murmured cheekily.


The redness in his cheeks intensified. They stared at each other, challenge sparkled between them. Damian frowned, Anya smirked.


She won.


He went down, eagerly kissing her lips. She chuckled into his mouth before leaning against him. They put down their warm cups of drinks, hands still holding, and focused on kissing and only kissing. Anya’s free hand went up to his cheek, but Damian pulled away suddenly.


“Your hands are still so cold, what did you do with your gloves?” he grumbled.


“I forgot them. I had to get away from my parents before they’d figure out everything,” Anya answered.


“You klutz,” he continued, taking off his gloves.


He forced them on her hands, even though they were far too big, but they were warm. He enthusiastically rubbed her tiny gloved hands, trying to warm them as much as possible.


“That’s very sweet, thank you, but I don’t think we will be very inconspicuous if I show up at class wearing your gloves…”


“Mm, mmm. Is this better?” he asked instead, ignoring her remark.


She grinned and took his face in her hands. She felt a little clumsy with these big gloves, and she regretted not feeling the touch of his skin, but at least he wasn’t jumping away from her because her hands were too cold. She didn’t want him so far away, she wanted him kissing her some more.


She pulled him down, their lips meeting. He tasted of coffee. She believed she must have been tasting of chocolate. It must have been tantalizing enough because Damian slipped his tongue between her lips. She melted, almost too warm now.


It was incredible how good they had become at kissing, after only a week. They had had a lot of practice, after all.




Anya and Damian moved away, blushing, and panicked. They whipped towards the sound of the voice and froze when they saw Bill Watkins standing there.


He was wearing his sports outfit and he was a little sweaty.


Bill saw red. He frowned, immediately ready to charge.


Oh crap


“What are you doing to her, Desmond?!” Bill exclaimed, taking a few menacing steps even though he was almost as tall as the gazebo.


“W-wait, Bill!” Damian started, raising his hands to pacify the giant.


“It is unacceptable that you would attack such an innocent young woman in such mannerless regard–”


“BILL! Wait!!” Anya exclaimed.


Bill grabbed Damian by the collar, forcing him on his feet. He gasped, grabbing the muscled wrists.


How can he have such massive hands?! He’s going to turn me into a pulp with a single squeeze!


Anya intervened, jumping between the two of them, raising her hands.


“Stop it! Stop, Bill!!”


“He had his hands all over you, the scoundrel! I will denounce him to the headmaster!”


“No, no, no!”


“We’re together! Damiana and I are together!!” Anya screamed.


That didn’t stop Bill who kept glaring at Damian, whose life was flashing in front of his eyes.


“He must have persuaded you with his vile money and–”


I kissed him! I’m the one who kissed him because I’m in love with him!!” Anya exclaimed, holding onto Bill’s arm for dear life.


Bill froze, eyes widening. He blinked, looking down at her.


She finally managed to gather enough strength to pull Bill’s arm away from Damian’s far-too-tight collar. The latter stumbled away, panting.


Anya kept her hold onto the large man’s arm, not trusting him not to go berserk again.


“You’re… in love with him?” Bill repeated, stunned.


“I was surprised too,” Damian whizzed.


Bill glared at him, but Anya jumped in between the two.


“Please, don’t hurt him!” Anya continued.


“…You’re in love with him?”


But I thought she liked me? She smiled to me? So often? We were meant to be? We were… perfect for each other? I was a perfect gentleman? Why did she choose the one who insults and berates her on a daily basis?


His confusion was endearing, and Anya realised for the first time that Bill had genuinely liked her. It wasn’t just a silly infatuation because she had been beating him so often.


Anya stared at Bill, a knot in her throat. She threw her arms to the sides.


“I am! As surprising as it is, he’s… he’s the one that I fell in love with. Years ago. You never had a chance, Bill…”


He stared at here, blue eyes shining fiercely. He tightened his lips.


“I’m sorry…” Anya added.


Damian finally straightened up, glancing between the two. He had been jealous, he was angry that Bill had even thought possible that Anya could ever like him but… it wasn’t a discussion he was meant to participate in. He swallowed back his bitter remarks and remained one step behind, arms crossed over his chest.


“…I’m the one who is sorry.” Bill admitted, looking down, “If I had known, I would have never caused you so much trouble…”


“It was no trouble at all,” Anya replied, finally relaxing.


“Umpf!” Damian scoffed, rolling his eyes behind her but she ignored him.


Bill glared at him. Damian didn’t back down, sending the glare back tenfold.


“How long?” Bill asked between gritted teeth, “How long have you been fooling me?”


The anger and the hurt were too familiar to Damian and he relaxed a little.


“Calm down, it’s only been for less than a week. No one else knows yet.”


Except Emile and Ewen who didn’t shut up about it the other day, and Blackbell is too nosy not to know, and she’s Anya’s best friend, he added in his mind.


But the half-lie seemed to appease Bill a little. His shoulders dropped and he looked disheartened, disappointed.


“I see.”


Anya hesitated, then took a step forward:


“I really like you, Bill,” she started which made Damian startle, ready to open his mouth to express his possessiveness, but once again she ignored him, “But only as a friend. I never considered you as anything else but a friend. I’m sorry if… I made you think otherwise.”


“…I see.”


He looked down and tightened his fists. Anya opened her lips to apologise again but Damian had had enough. He stepped forward and draped one around her shoulders. She looked up, blushing, as his hand tightened on her shoulder.


“I know you are feeling hurt and betrayed, but don’t make the mistake of telling anyone about Anya and I. You never saw us kissing here. And you never attacked me. Understood?” he said in a harsher voice than needed.


Anya glanced back towards Bill who sent a death glare at Damian, but she knew it was the prideful tone used more than the words that had hurt him.


“…Understood. I won’t say anything about you two, for Anya’s sake.”


And he turned away, running to the dorms to take a shower and get changed. And recover from his unexpected heartbreak.


Anya let out a heavy breath.


“Well… that turned out better than expected.”


“Talk for yourself,” Damian muttered, pulling at his tie.


“…Wait until my parents find out… It’s going to be way worse.” Anya answered, suddenly worried.


Damian blanched. He looked over to the academy buildings. More and more students could be seen arriving. He checked his watch.


“…Let’s finish our drinks before they freeze.”


He sat back down, gulping down his coffee quickly. Anya joined him but the sweet mood was gone, replaced by worry.


If Watkins knows, he risks telling people. Worse, he might tell his family. They’re too close to mine and my brother will know in less than a day. I’ll have to talk again to Watkins before the end of the day. I’ll order some flowers for his family as apology. Damn, we can’t take too many risks, this place is too open after all… Maybe a secondary library would be better? But with the exams, it’ll be too crowded and will make it impossible to meet…


Anya watched her two marshmallows that were floating in a half-cold cocoa. They looked sad, now.


Damian’s biggest worry was losing his family. But hers was losing him if he ever found out the truth about his father’s death. How could she ever tell him the truth?

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER XVI: The Shadow of War


By the next day, Damian’s worries had escaped his mind and Anya found out, through his thoughts, that he had had a quick talk with Watkins who had agreed not to tell anyone at the academy, nor his family. Until Winter break. After that, he would be less hesitant to comply, but Damian had decided to talk to his family by then.


As for Anya, her fears had not lessened. If anything, it had made her parents even more suspicious as she didn’t have any appetite the previous day at dinner. She tired of lies, of pretending. She wanted to be honest with everyone she cared about, but the very idea of telling anything to Damian froze her insides in fear. If he found out, if he rejected her…


“Have you talked to your parents yet?” Becky asked during lunch break, as if knowing what was going through Anya’s mind.


She tightened her lips, looking down at her omurice.


“…No. I can’t bring myself to. I just know my father will want to meet Damian and threaten him to turn his organs into liquid or something… and my mother will overthink everything.”


“Mmm… but they will accept it, right?” Becky asked, “I can’t imagine Mr and Mrs Forger rejecting their daughter’s happiness. As long as you’re happy with him, it’s all that matters, right?”


Anya blinked, staring at her best friend.


“Y-yes, I guess…”


“Then it’s settled! You have nothing to worry about! You won’t have to lie to your parents about anything!”


Becky smiled.


Anya would have agreed with her, but for one small detail in her life…


That evening, when Damian discreetly asked her to study in the library with him, she turned him down, to his great surprise. He immediately assumed the worst, that he had done something wrong, that he was taking too much of her time, that she was tiring of him already…


Anya peeked around the mostly empty hall. She gave him a quick kiss on the lips, which effectively shut down his thoughts.


“I- um, I…” he stammered.


“I’ll see you tomorrow morning. At the gazebo, okay? I just need to… take care of something.”


He must have noticed that it was serious because he nodded.


“Alright. Be careful.”


Will she tell me about it tomorrow? I hope her parents aren’t suspecting something. What if she gets in trouble because of me? Maybe I should call tonight, but then the professors will know…


“Don’t worry about me, okay?” Anya said before turning her heels.


It was the day she was supposed to train with the Handler. She made her way to the bakery hideout, slowly, dreading the conversation to come.


When she arrived in WISE headquarters, she greeted everyone she knew with her usual smile, before finding Sylvia.


“You’re late,” she said, looking up at the young girl from under her glasses.


“I’m sorry. We need to talk.” Anya said in a hurry.


If Sylvia was surprised in any way, she didn’t show it. She waved towards the seat across her where Anya sat down. She twirled her fingers nervously.


“What is it? Spit it out.”


“I… uh… I think… I… I want to stop.” Anya let out, gulping down nervously.


“Stop what? Be clear.”


“I want to stop training to be a spy,” Anya finally said, looking up at Sylvia.


She stared down at her, expression unreadable.


“After so many years training, why would you want to stop?”


Anya tried to read her thoughts, but Sylvia had always been particularly careful around her, keeping her mind as clear as possible.


Why would she change her mind so suddenly? Why? She’s so stubborn, why?


Anya thought back on her parents, and the thoughts she had read from them. They were suspecting she was hiding something, they were worried, but they wanted to trust her. Because they had promised. No more secrets, no more lies. Not among the Forger. Honesty was key. And she had been hiding her training for years. She couldn’t do this anymore, the guilt was gnawing at her too much.


“I made a promise with my parents. No more lie. Never again. I don’t want to keep lying to them for this training. It’ll break their hearts to find out I trained as a spy… even if you never intended on ever letting me become one.”


Sylvia’s shoulders trembled a little. Then an uneasy smile appeared on her face.


“So… you knew.” She said simply.


“I can read minds. You’re good at hiding your thoughts around me, but not that good…” Anya answered with a smile.


“Very well. You’re right. I never intended to let you become a spy, from the very beginning.”


“Then why train me at all?”


Sylvia stared at her, then tilted her head on the side.


“Do you not remember what you told me all those years ago? After your family found out the truth about one another, after the failure of Mission Strix, and after the war was avoided… You came to me.”


Anya had a vague idea of what she referred to. It was just before Sylvia had enrolled her…


Once the threat of war had been over, WISE had taken some time to try to help Anya’s mind-reading abilities. There was no way to reverse the process that had given her such ability, but it wouldn’t threaten her life besides some headaches and nosebleeds. Of course… that was without the risk of attracting the wrong attention if anyone ever found out about her gift. Sylvia had mentioned that Anya could train at WISE.


Loid had refused. No spy training for his daughter, it would require too many sacrifices from her.


But just before leaving the facilities, a younger Anya, only eight-years old, caught up to Sylvia, grabbing her skirt.


“Let me help! Let me train! Let me become a spy! It’ll be my turn to keep mama and papa safe! I’ll be safe too and they will never have to worry about me!”


It was funny how Anya had almost completely forgotten that the reason why Sylvia reached out to her a few days later had been because she had begged for it first.


“Anya Forger. You could do great things for WISE, for world peace. I know your father is adamant that you keep on living as an innocent and carefree child… but you were never one, Anya. You have been through too much to be ignorant of the way of the world. And you have been through too much to not wish to help. Would you ignore people in need? Would you want to help the people you care about? Would you abandon orphans to suffer?”


Mama and papa won’t have to worry about me if I can train as a spy. They’ll stop worrying for my safety. I’ll be able to protect them, to protect everyone.


“…You always knew I would never want to become a spy, you just… wanted to train me so I could stay safe.” Anya concluded, looking up at Sylvia with renewed admiration.


The Handler smiled. She looked tired, but something twinkled in her eyes.


“Of course, I knew your parents would train you as well. But a little more training, and from me, wouldn’t hurt, right? Twilight had always been far too soft when it comes to children. You, especially. You are his star and life, he would never let anything happen to you.”


Anya stared at the woman who had been training her for years now. She jumped into her arms, hugging her tightly. Sylvia gasped, not knowing what to do, taken by surprise.


Thank you… You’re like a second mother to me. Your training has given me so much to focus on… You helped me so much when my mind-reading got worse… How could I ever thank you for looking after me, after my family?”


Sylvia finally put a hand against Anya’s back, tapping it gently.


“Now, now, don’t make me emotional, will you. I have a reputation to hold.”


Anya laughed, stepping away. Sylvia was smiling, light wrinkles around her mouth, but she was still a stunning woman.


“You can finally be honest with your parents.”


“That’s a relief, it was becoming so difficult to hide anything from them…!”


“What about your Little Desmond? Will you talk about him to your parents as well?”


Anya startled, blushing, but Sylvia’s smirk widened, becoming teasing.




“As promised, we kept an eye on Eden Academy following the strange death of your professor. We never found out anything about it, but we kept tabs on your story with Little Desmond. I won the bet.”


“You bet on us?!”


“Of course, it was quite refreshing, betting on a young couple rather than which politician will betray their allies first.”


Should I mention what we found out about the Desmond… Sylvia thought, forgoing her carefully trained mind from keeping walls up.


Anya froze, staring at her.


“What did you find out about the Desmond?” Anya asked in a voice colder than she intended.




Sylvia immediately endeavoured to smother her mind with useless thoughts, trying to push as far back as possible what she knew about the Desmond.


“What do you know about the Desmond?!” Anya exclaimed, standing up suddenly.


“Calm down. Do you really think we wouldn’t keep a close eye on the Desmond family even after Donovan’s death?” Sylvia mumbled.


Anya clenched her fists, glaring at the woman who kept so many secrets from everyone. Knowing she wouldn’t be able to escape without Anya finding out something, Sylvia sighed.


“Sit down, and I’ll tell you as much as I can. But you know that our investigations and its results are confidential. Do not go into my mind to know more.”


“You know something about my… my b-bo… Damian’s family! I need to know!” she continued, blushing furiously.


“We don’t have much, unfortunately. It’s an investigation that started years ago,” Sylvia said with an absentminded wave of her hand, “We were worried of the direction Demetrius Desmond would take, following into his father’s footsteps or not, so we kept a close eye. He eventually reached out to WISE.”


Demetrius Desmond? He asked WISE’s help? But… doesn’t he know that WISE participated in his father’s death?”


“He knows as much of the truth as we could tell him. You know what happened that night. So does he. But yes, as surprising as it was, about a year ago, not long before he graduated from university, he reached out to WISE and asked us to do a thorough investigation to find out the truth behind his father’s old dealings, and the family’s current ones.”


Sylvia paused, diving her gaze into Anya’s.


“As you might know, for over a year now, Demetrius Desmond has yet to pledge his allegiance to any political party, as he was not allowed to until his graduation, but tensions have been rising. Our spies close to him have found out that he has made a decision, but they couldn’t find out what party he will support. The Desmond family is wealthy, old and influential, it could determine the future of our country. Of peace.”


Anya felt her face go pale.


“A-are you saying that Demetrius Desmond will… go back to war?”


She knew from what she had overheard during the last conversation between the two brothers, at the Imperial Scholars’ gala, that Demetrius wanted to discuss something important with Damian. Something to discuss face-to-face.


“We don’t know yet. But be ready for anything. I will… soon send a message to our former agents as well, so they can be ready, in case of another war.”


Memories of bombs and terrifying moments spent underground filled Anya’s head. She shook it, burying all those awful thoughts and feelings deep. She couldn’t go back there. She wouldn’t let it happen.


“I can’t reveal to you what our agent found out during their year of investigation but… it pushed Demetrius to make a decision. He will announce it during the renowned Desmond Christmas Gala.”


Two weeks. Two weeks and Demetrius Desmond will make an announcement that could decide the next decade of this country.


War or peace.


“Damian–” Anya exclaimed, standing up again.


“Will inevitably become a target. Regardless of the direction his brother takes. The last eight years, the Desmond brothers have been a neutral force on the political stage. It will no longer be the case.”


“No! You have to stop it!”


“We can’t stop Demetrius Desmond when he hasn’t made a move yet. He could very well do the right choice. I doubt it considering where he comes from. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, after all.”


“What is that supposed to mean?” Anya hissed, tightening her fists once more.


Sylvia looked up at her, lips tight.


“Children follow into their parents’ footsteps, more often than not. We haven’t found out what Demetrius Desmond intends to do next, but all his father’s allies and friends, all important members of the National Unity Party of Ostania, have been invited to the Christmas Gala.”


“That’s not–”


Her voice broke. She knew nothing about Demetrius Desmond. Other than he was a cold and arrogant older brother who never cared enough about Damian. That Demetrius was known for being as calculating and ruthless as Donovan Desmond. That for an entire year, people didn’t debate whether he’d join the National Unity Party of Ostania, but when.


Anya swallowed hard, suddenly feeling dizzy and lost.


“It’s not possible… We can’t have another war…”


Sylvia watched her, eyes full of compassion.


“War always comes back. No matter how hard we fight for peace, no matter how chilling the horrors of war become… it always comes back. We never learn of our mistakes. This is the very reason why WISE exists… to keep war from coming back, if we can…”


Anya had believed in peace more than anything. She had believed it’d last forever. Her parents had fought and bled for this peace to come back and to last. How could such horrors be brought back? How could anyone wish for innocents to die? For parents to lose their reasons to live, for children to become orphans?




She startled. Sylvia had only ever called her ‘Anya Forger’ once. When she had enrolled her all those years ago. She had always been Agent Starlight for the Handler.


Sylvia stood up and took a step toward the young woman, putting a hand on her shoulder.


“I am aware that you care deeply for the Little Desmond, and so does he. But before you make life-changing choices for him, make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. If it comes to it, who would he choose? You, or his family?”


Fear, a vicious snake, wrapped around Anya’s throat, leaving her incapable to talk.


I can’t let this girl get disillusioned by love. This boy has spent his whole life caring about his family name and making the Desmond lineage proud. If his brother follows their father’s footsteps, this Damian will only follow more eagerly.


Anya stepped away and gathered her arms around her trembling body.


“D-Damian would never… he hates war… I know it! He has nightmares about it! He would never let it happen, he would never let his brother do such a thing…!”


“Sometimes, we try so hard to prevent fate, that our actions lead to its unfolding. As much as he hates war, he could grow to find it the only solution for long-term peace… even if it meant sacrificing the lives and safety of millions. Would he stop his brother from joining the National Unity Party? That’s where the Desmond are the most powerful, after all.”


And that… that, Anya had no idea. Damian wanted to become a politician, like his brother, like his father. The father who had aimed to cause a war and whose death almost triggered it. They didn’t study politics at Eden, besides the basics, because the academy aimed to remain neutral, especially with the many powerful families attending there, but… what did Damian truly think of people? Of peace?


What if his idea of peace was as heart wrenching as his father’s had been?


“Be careful in your choices and in the next few weeks. Don’t be hasty in anything, Anya. But…”


Sylvia put a hand on her shoulder once more.


“Just be careful, okay? And if you ever need anything… WISE will help. Even if Agent Starlight is retired… we always look out for our owns.”


Anya nodded, but she had lost all joy and fierceness. The fear of war, or worse, of Damian betraying her for his beliefs, for his family, left her cold and shaking.




Anya went home slowly, her feet dragging on the floor. She had found out too much she had not been ready to know.


How could she face her little sister and her parents who had fought for this peace, knowing war might tear apart this country again?


Night had fallen already, so early. She had missed twilight, stuck in the underground base of WISE. They were probably worrying, she had to hurry up, but she couldn’t find the strength in her legs to go any faster.


She shivered from the cold and dived her hands in her pockets. She met something unexpected and pulled out two warm leather gloves, far too luxurious for her clumsy self, far too big for her petite hands. She clenched them between her fingers, bringing them to her face in the hope that the slightest bit of Damian’s smell might have remained.


How could she face Damian with so many secrets of her own in her heart? How could she face him, not knowing him as well as she had always thought?


She looked up as bright colours and smothered sounds attracted her attention. She stopped in front of the window of an electronics store that displayed their latest and most modern TV.


A couple of men were watching the news as it started.


“The latest news from the frontier with Westalis.” The news host started with a serious look on her face, “Skirmishes have started at the frontier, between two independent groups of soldiers. According to the reports from the Major-General Watkins they acted without any order and their actions were in no way encouraged by the Ostanian government. The group of Ostanian soldiers have been arrested and will soon be judged by the military court.”


Anya felt a shiver run down her spine. She had no idea such battles had started again. Hatred had been eradicated. Peace had won. Right?


Snowflakes slowly started falling, but they melted the moment they met the ground.


“Eeeeh, these bastards of Westalian, they did it again,” one of the men muttered.


“I hope they’ll get what they deserve.”


“–These events follow the announcement from Demetrius Desmond, of the eminent Desmond family, that he would soon announce his next steps in his political career. Everyone’s attention is on the young man who inherited his father’s political influence and wealth and could be a deciding force in the next few months. But let’s let our political advisor, Mr Carl Gott, enlighten us on the situation.”


“Thank you, Emilia. I believe it’s quite obvious that Demetrius Desmond will help the National Unity Party, it is as much a family business as their many medical complexes that generates their fortune, after all!”


Anya couldn’t hear anymore, she ran off. The snow was colder and angrier now, sticking to the ground. But it was nothing against the ice that ran through her veins.


When she arrived home, the door slammed against the wall. She ran into her bedroom, vaguely aware of her parents’ shouts and her little sister’s sudden cries.


She slammed her door shut, dropping on the floor. The bombs were whistling and flying again. She covered her ears with her hands but the noise in her head was too loud. People screamed. The smell of dust, blood and death hung in the air.


She was breathing heavily, like she did back then, curled up like a small child in a corner.




Someone shook her shoulders. She cried out, flinging her arms around but her father caught her wrists.


“Anya, calm down! It’s alright! It’s me!”


Yor was still calming down Rosaura in the living-room, but Loid was right here, repeating the same words again and again until it reached her.


“It’s okay, you’re safe! Anya, you’re safe, you’re with me! You’re safe!”


Her breathing calmed down just a little. Her father’s voice smothered the memory of the bombs and gunshots. She still felt her chest closing down on itself, her throat was tight. Burning tears were running down her cheeks, helplessly.


She stopped fighting. Loid hesitated a short moment before letting go of her wrists. When Anya remained there, sniffing and trembling, he surrounded her by her shoulders and drew her against him.


“You’re okay, you’re safe…” he murmured against the top of her head.


Anya closed her eyes, breathing more easily. She relaxed against her father.


“The war… the war is coming…” she said in a raspy voice.


Yor, now standing in the doorway, shared a look with her husband. They stared at each other, dread settling down in the pit of their stomachs.


They had known war, grew up in it. Everything they had done in their lives, the good and the bad, had been so that the people they cared about and innocent children could grow up with a smile on their faces, rather than fear in their eyes. Everything they had done had been to spare their daughter to ever feel this way… but in that aspect, Mission Strix had been an absolute failure. War might not have broken out, but it had left invisible scars on the most important person they had had during that time.


It wasn’t the first time the memories became too much for Anya, but she had only ever had a breakdown because of a nightmare. Never in wakefulness. It was so much worse.


Yor, holding a sniffing and slightly panicked Rosaura against her chest, walked into the bedroom. Bond also followed, he had been too spooked by all the crying and screaming to come earlier. She knelt next to her husband who kept his arms wrapped around Anya. Bond put down his chin on her legs.


Anya opened her eyes and instead of a warzone, she only saw her loving family.


Her heart tightened. More tears filled her eyes. They smiled, even though their eyes shone, full of sadness and guilt.


Everything they had ever done had been to spare Anya such pain, but


I failed her, Yor and Loid both thought in the same time.


“Y-you didn’t, never…!” Anya murmured, straightening up.




“Y-you never failed me, never! You’re the b-best parents in the whole universe…! I’m sorry, I’m sorry–…!”


She hiccupped, her panic attack gripping her once more. But this time, her father was massaging her back.


“You’re safe, don’t apologise for anything, do not apologise for feeling this way, Anya, ever. Don’t apologise, you’re safe and sound with us…”


She calmed down.


“Is it… the news?” Yor asked in a soft voice.


Anya nodded, incapable of explaining that she was such a mess because she had seen the Handler who had revealed to her too many things about the Desmond. And yet, not enough because what she truly wanted to know… it remained a secret buried deep in Damian’s heart.


“It’s okay, you’re safe with us,” Loid repeated.


Their thoughts were dark, from their pasts, from memories, and out of absolute terror that war might come again and that this time, they would have two daughters to keep safe and sound.


Papa… is a liar… Anya thought, but she kept them for herself.




The Handler was going through a report that her brightest agent had just given her. She frowned.


“Are you sure about this?” The Handler asked, frowning.


“Yes, I caught the discussion on our bugs. It was only half an hour ago.” Nightfall, also known as Fiona Frost, said.


“…With the battle that broke out at the frontier this afternoon, this could prove to be worse than I had initially thought.”


Nightfall tightened her lips, staring at the Handler. She put down the report on the desk, looking far more worried than she usually showed.


“…Keep your eye on Desmond. I don’t like any of that. It looks too good to be true. I’ll have another agent follow the Little Desmond as well, although he unknowingly already has a fierce protector…” Sylvia added to herself.


“What do you mean?” Fiona asked, not showing any emotion on her face despite the curiosity rising in her.


“Nevermind that. Don’t change anything. Send me reports as often as possible.”


“I will.”


Nightfall bowed respectfully to her boss, then left the compound of WISE headquarters.


Sylvia read the report again. She didn’t trust these Desmond. They were from the same blood as Donovan. It didn’t matter how cute the Little Desmond was acting around Agent Starlight, he was as dangerous as his brother. Perhaps more, considering he had no idea of the power he could have after graduating.


She wouldn’t ignore the report’s latest results, but she also couldn’t ignore the shadow of war when it was looming so close.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star



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?

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER XVIII: The Queen’s Power


Anya was walking in long, hurried steps, impatient to reach the main library. As expected, the halls and libraries were mostly quiet. Exams were over, it was the last day of term before the winter holidays, and it was the most awaited day for Anya and Damian for one simple reason: to play a chess game on the last day of term.


Years ago, Anya had found out that Damian enjoyed playing chess, so naturally, in order to befriend him, she had tried as well. Turned out, she was very much not good at it, but Damian was very good at thinking of his opponent’s next steps. Which meant that, by reading his mind, Anya won quite often. Usually, the winner could ask for something in return such as a month of peanuts or a rare book.


Among his many talents, Damian was incredibly good at chess, it was something he found relaxing and enjoyable. He had not been pleased (a little in truth, but he had been too deep in denial to realise it at that point) to find that the only person in their grade to keep up with him and even occasionally win against him was Anya Forger.


And dating or no dating, their traditional competition would not mean she would go easy on him, and she expected the same in return.


As expected, Damian was already there, chessboard prepared and he was preparing himself by playing a first round against Ewen who, by the looks of it, was losing monumentally.


“I’m here!” she exclaimed.


The librarian looked up from her book, but she didn’t say anything. She was used to seeing this game unfold every term and after all exams being over, the library was as good as a desert.


“Thank goodness!” Ewen answered, pushing away the chessboard, “Your turn, Anya! My brain is going to fry if I keep this up!”


“It wasn’t that hard,” Damian commented, raising an eyebrow.


Anya settled down in front of him and set up the chessboard once more to start another game.


“One game, same prize as usual?” Damian asked, leaning forward eagerly.


“Same as usual! Whoever wins, and whoever is me, gets to ask anything they want, to be offered by the time we return to class in two weeks.”


“Well, someone’s confident,” he answered with a roll of his eyes.


“I already know what I will ask of you,” she teased, leaning her elbows on the table, placing her chin on her joined hands with a big smile.


Damian glanced up, flushing when he saw the smug expression on her face.


“A-another month of peanuts?” he mumbled.


“Don’t underestimate me, I can ask that of you anytime now! I want something special.”


“Oh? And what would that be?”


It was Anya’s turn to blush. She straightened up and stretched her knuckles.


“…Wait until I win,” she answered in a flustered manner.


Damn, what does she have in mind? Is she… I almost want to let her win. No, no, if I win, I get to ask her anything. Anything at all. She never failed to deliver. If I could ask her…


Images flashed in his mind, of intimate deeds that went beyond simply kissing.


Anya gasped, covering her embarrassment with an awkward cough. Damian was so lost in thoughts of what he could ask of her, he didn’t even notice her reaction.


If he won and he asked what he had in mind right now, their relationship would become a lot more… physical.


Oh, it’s my turn to wish I’d let him win, Anya realised, staring at him.


“Honour to ladies, you go first,” he said, waving at the chessboard.


She started moving her first pawn, and he followed. After years of doing chess with various people, including her papa who was good at everything, Anya had developed some skills. She could beat Becky, or her mama, and sometimes Uncle Yuri, with ease. But as soon as the game reached a certain level, she needed to listen to her opponent’s thoughts.


Damian was always incredibly easy to read as he strategized the different moves of the different pieces while watching the board. It was easy for Anya to pick whichever suited her best and see his face turn different shades of red and white as she played off his own thoughts.


Unfortunately, this time, it proved difficult. Damian was motivated to win the game, but his usual crystal clear strategies were a complete mess. He was too distracted by what he would ask of her. Which distracted Anya in turn. Whatever he thought of created images of her own desires coming to life. It was becoming increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything that was going on in the game when, quite frankly, she was feeling more and more… aroused.


She coughed, blushing madly, after catching one particularly loud thought.


“Are you okay?” Damian asked when he noticed her fidgeting on the chair.


“Y-yeah… just… focus.”


“I’m perfectly well focused. You are not on the other hand, and making silly mistake.”


And as he said that, he captured one of her knight. Anya gasped and tightened her fists. She had not seen this one move come. And it was childish of her, but the knights had always been her favourite pieces (who didn’t like the little horses?) and she stupidly felt more protective of the knights than any other piece.


Damian knew.


And he smirked because he knew how she’d feel about it.


“Oh no, he got her horse,” Becky commented.


“It’s called a knight,” Emile replied.


“War is upon us,” Ewen said dramatically.


You– how dare you?!” Anya asked, glaring at him.


“You are not as good as usual today,” Damian remarked, still grinning.


A mischievous glint sparkled in his eyes, and he leaned forward. His voice lowered down, hushed so she would be the only one to hear:


“Don’t tell me that you are so looking forward to what I’d ask of you that you’re willing to go easy on me?”


Anya turned fifty shades of red. It was exactly what was going on, even though she was unwilling to admit it.


Her reaction made Damian less brave. He had meant it as a way to tease her, he hadn’t expected a genuine reaction.


Oh, oh no, oh I’m so screwed when she’s so red… I want–


“Don’t!” Anya exclaimed suddenly to interrupt his thoughts.


“Ssssh!!” The librarian said.


“Don’t say things like that!” She hissed to Damian, even though she truly meant ‘don’t think things like that (or I’ll go mad)’.


He swallowed hard, flushing a little. She sat back down, looking down at the chessboard but her mind was a mess.


“…Am I right?” he asked, a smile pulling on his lips.


“What is going on between you two? Make a move, Anya,” Emile continued, ignorant of what was really going on.


Anya managed to see a pattern that could earn her Damian’s Rook. She grabbed it and breathed a sigh of relief, smiling at his shocked expression.


“Look like I’m not the only one distracted today,” she said.


He glared at her. But it had shaken him back into the game and his thoughts were far clearer. He made a strategy that Anya could follow and she sighed to herself.


She calmed down, a few more moves going back and forth, a few more pieces removed from the board.


One more move and I can use my Queen.


Crap, I need to protect my King, Anya realised, quickly moving her King away and out of reach of Damian’s Queen.


His lips tightened. He looked up at her, his gaze dark. His cheek rested on his hand and the dark expression was delicious to lose herself into. He clicked his tongue, then turned his attention back on the game.


He thought of different possibilities, Anya trying to keep up with his fast mind. He was so smart, she didn’t dare admit how much she admired his intelligence, but perhaps, someday, she’d be brave enough to do it. A day when they wouldn’t be playing chess.


Damian’s foot reached for her leg under the table. Anya startled, making Becky, Ewen and Emile glance her way curiously. Damian looked up, diving his gaze into hers. He hooked his foot around her ankle, the one he had kissed some time ago in that mind-melting moment at the infirmary. He pulled. Roughly. Anya was moved forward, gasping, distracted by the way he smirked, just as a moved a piece.


“W-wait, I didn’t…”


She looked down at the board, seeing the piece he had moved but she had been too distracted to keep up with his line of thoughts. She had no idea what he meant to do, what his next move would be, what next move he expected her to do. Could it be that he knew she was a mind-reader?


She’s always so good at keeping up with me, I just know she guesses my moves from observing me closely.


The- the- the!! This! Man! Is! Infuriating! She thought, clenching her jaw.


Meanwhile, instead of thinking of his strategy, Damian was already internally celebrating his victory and his soon-to-be-gift.


Damn it, stop thinking about where your hands will go and help me out! Anya thought.


“You’re running out of time,” Damian remarked, glancing at the timer nearby.


Her hand hovered over the boardgame. Damian hadn’t let go of her leg yet. He moved his foot, discreetly enough so no one would notice but her, but he rubbed his leg against hers. One human leg shouldn’t be so warm! What were the men uniforms’ trousers even made of?


“Tic, toc…” Damian continued in an amused voice.




Anya moved a random piece, without thinking, without looking. Damian stared at her move, then smirked, as if pitying her. She saw red. She could have jumped at him from over the table. If it weren’t for his leg wrapped around hers.




“What– no…”


He hadn’t moved a single piece yet, how could he–


He grabbed his Queen and had her cross the board right to the white King. He grabbed it. Anya had lost.


Her shoulders fell in utter defeat. Her panicked move had opened the way to her King. It was such a stupid, beginner mistake!


Damian chuckled as she looked up, glaring at him.


It wasn’t what I intended but she gave me a golden opportunity. Perhaps I should have ignored it to let the game last longer, but if I keep teasing her it’ll work against me soon.


“Another win for Damian! Boss-man truly is the best at chess!” Ewen exclaimed.


“Anya won the last three times,” Becky mumbled.


“What will you ask of her this time, Boss-man?” Emile asked.


Their friends’ conversation brought them back in the moment. Damian straightened up in his chair, letting go of her leg that suddenly felt too cold. He raised his Queen, making the piece roll between his long fingers. It drew Anya’s attention, but she shook her head to clear it. His thoughts had been dangerous, and not just because it had allowed him to win the game.




Absentmindedly, he drew the Queen piece against his jaw and his lips.


Damian,” Anya growled suddenly.


He looked back at her, and a thousand dirty thoughts flooded him.


Their friends looked between the two, at the silent conversation that sparked between them.


“I… uh… am still thinking about it.” Damian said, gaze still anchored on Anya’s.


She blushed, just from the intensity of it.


The others sensed the rising tension and they glanced at each other.


“…Should we then… uh… start going?” Ewen asked awkwardly.


“Y-yeah… my driver must have arrived to pick me up by now,” Emile said, standing up.


“Me too.”


“…Should I wait to drive you home, Anya?” Becky asked hesitantly.


“No need,” Damian cut.


Anya looked back at him, as flabbergasted as the others.


“My driver is picking me up in an hour. I’ll have him drop Anya to her home before I leave town.”


Becky glanced at Anya, her gaze full of teasing.


“Very well! I’ll see you at the gala, Desmond, and I’ll see you both at my birthday after! Don’t buy me something cheap like last time, Desmond!” Becky exclaimed, happily standing up to leave them alone.


“Hey! I thought you like Coco Chapel!”


Yes, but for my birthday I want something more!”


“Cheap? Coco Chapel?” Anya mumbled, rolling her eyes.


Becky was about to leave, but at the last minute, she went back to Anya’s side, hugging her firmly.


“I can’t wait to see you at my birthday party, be careful until then, don’t be crazy, okay?”


Becky winked, slipping something into Anya’s hand. She kissed her friend’s cheek then left with a cheerful hop in her steps. Anya glanced down at what Becky had given her and she cried out. She pushed the traitorous object on her lap to hide it from Damian’s attention, but her reaction had been too much.


“What is it? What did she give you?”




He narrowed his eyes at her, definitely suspicious. Anya looked away.


Damian glanced over his shoulder, at the librarian who had gone away to check books. They were all alone now. He stood up and moved his chair as close as possible to Anya’s and he sat down, their knees brushing. She immediately tried to move away, but her own chair made it impossible. She tightened her fist around the small square Becky had forced into her hands.


What did Blackbell give you?” Damian asked again, grabbing her wrists.




He pouted, forcefully sliding his fingers through hers to force her to lessen her grip. The moment he had an opening he pulled out the square of plastic and held it up. Anya gasped, blushing as much as Damian did. He blinked at the condom.




“Give it back!” Anya exclaimed, grabbing the condom, and pulling it out of view.


“H-hey, it’s not like we’re going to use it…”


His voice trailed off. Anya blushed deeper, he did the same. Their hearts were beating fast enough that they could almost start sweating.


“I-I mean… n-not that we’d be unsafe b-but… we’d be… we should… we–”


“It’s too soon,” Anya stammered.


“Y-yes, exactly. Way too soon! Way, way too soon to even think about it!!” Damian exclaimed, crossing his arms over his chest.


His insistence was a bit hurtful in Anya’s opinion. It sounded like he didn’t want her at all. And she knew it wasn’t the case because she had a very good insight into his mind.


She swallowed, embarrassed by what she was about to do, but after a quick glance around to confirm they were alone, she leaned forward. Damian startled, his body tensing.


“W-what are you…”


She put both hands on his crossed arms, using it to lean as close as possible to his ear. She breathed out against his neck. He shivered, violently.


“A-Anya, w-wait–”


“Damian, don’t deny that you’ve thought about itoften.” She whispered into his ear.


Nngngn… I–”


And before he could answer, she kissed his neck. A quick peck before sitting back on her chair. Damian’s ears and neck were as red as his cheeks.




“Do you deny it?” she asked teasingly.


He stared at her, glaring, unwilling to back down from a challenge. Anya tilted her head, smiling, despite the deep blush on her cheeks. His thoughts were a mess, but a beautiful one. She slid her leg against his, in the same way he had earlier to distract her. He jumped on his chair.


He stood up suddenly and grabbed her hand. He pulled her up and started walking away and through the shelves.


“W-wait, D-Damian! I-I didn’t mean to tease you so much! Don’t be angry!” she exclaimed sheepishly.


He didn’t answer and kept walking, his hand warm and sweaty around her wrist.


But his thoughts weren’t angry, he was just… finding a place where they wouldn’t get caught.


Anya held her breathe, a knot forming in the pit of her stomach. But she couldn’t help but play the game a little longer:


“A-are you… denying it?” she asked in a low voice.


He growled.


She moved her wrist from his hold so she could slip her fingers through his. He immediately tightened his hold on her hand, as if afraid of letting her go. She smiled a silly smile she would have never imagined possible.


He found a remote part of the library, in-between shelves, barely lit. He pushed her against the nearest wall. He never let go of her hand, he just raised it above her head as he dived down to kiss her passionately. Anya answered to it, especially when he put his free hand against her hip, grabbing it tightly enough she felt his fingers through the clothes. He pulled away for air. He kissed her again. She kissed him back. Her leg slid against his, drawing him closer. Panting, he pulled away, pressing his forehead against hers.


“Do you deny–” she breathed against his mouth.


Instead of an answer, he captured her lips once more. His tongue tickled her lips, and she opened her mouth to welcome him. The taste of his tongue, of his kiss, sweetened her heart. From a rough and impatient kiss, it turned long and ardent.


She tightened her grip on his hand. He growled, the sound reverberating from the back of his throat into her mouth, drawing liquid fire in her entire body. Instinctively, it answered to his attentions. Her body shivered against his. She lifted her free hand against his cheek but felt the square plastic of the condom, that she was still holding, tickle her palm.


She pulled away, looking back at it. She started chuckling. It was so unexpected that Damian pulled away, eyes wide. Anya let her head fall back against the wall, her laugh increasing.


“Ssshh, we’re going to get caught–”


She covered her mouth with both hands, trying very much to smother the sound.


“What is it, Anya?!” he exclaimed in a hushed voice.


“T-that thing–” she said, in between raspy breathes.


She lifted the condom back in front of Damian. He narrowed his eyes, then gasped. He grabbed it, looking more closely to properly glare at it.


“What the– Blackbell, that little…!”


“XS!” Anya exclaimed, and she was lost into another fit of hilarity.


Don’t! Don’t laugh, I am not…!”


Damian stammered, but it only made Anya laugh more.


“T-that’s enough!”


He tried kissing her, but she laughed against his mouth. And soon enough, he was chuckling as well. Incapable of controlling himself, he just moved away, waiting patiently until Anya was done.


As she was wiping tears of laughter, sniffing a little, he watched her and her giant grin that didn’t leave her face anymore.


“…Are you done?” he finally asked, rolling his eyes.


She chuckled a little, but she nodded.


“I’ll have to thank Becky. It was marvellous.”


Well. I’m glad one of us is enjoying this insult.” He mumbled, pushing the damned condom deep in his pockets and crossing his arms.


“Oh, I wasn’t laughing at you, I’d need to see it before I’d start laughing,” Anya teased with a light-hearted laugh.


Damian flushed and tightened his jaw, but that only made her laugh more. She calmed down more quickly this time and Damian took the opportunity to take the reins of that game of back-and-forth teasing once more. He leaned over, placing two hands on either side of her head. She was pushed against the wall, looking up at him, flushing at the seriousness of his expression. She swallowed hard.


Her eyes sparkled from the laughing tears.


It’s the first time I see her cry for a reason other than sadness… Urgh, I guess I’ll have to thank Blackbell too… he thought to himself, although he managed to sound begrudging even in thoughts.


Anya couldn’t help but smile in amusement.


“I know what I want to ask you, for winning the chess game.” He said, eyes dark as velvet.


Her heart skipped a beat. She was aware of the direction his thoughts took, and she heard herself say:


“What do you want me to give you?”


Damian observed her face. One hand pushed a strand of hair behind her ear, the gesture so tender. The back of his fingers caressed her temple, traced the curve of her cheek, and brushed against her lips. She almost leaned forward when he lingered. But his gaze and his fingers continued travelling, down her neck, where her collar formed a barrier. She bit her lower lip.


Images flashed in his mind of everything he could ask of her. She squirmed a little.


He knew she’d never say no. Out of pride after the game. Out of desire that he could see in her enchanting eyes.


Anya closed her eyes when she saw herself in his mind. Uniform’s shirt discarded and his hand exploring lower and lower. Another image of his hand beneath her skirt. Her own face, flushed and screaming his name. Herself sitting over his laps. Their naked bodies pressed together. His own growl of pleasure against her neck. Her lips around his more-than-XS-pride. Her hands tightening in his hair as he kissed her breasts. His hands tightening in hers as she gave him pleasure.


“A kiss.”


Anya opened her eyes, blinking, a little dizzy. She had lost herself in his fantasies, that had become hers. She stared at Damian, who was still blushing of all the possibilities he could have asked of her… but his request was surprisingly simple and earnest.


“My prize for winning the chess game… I want a kiss.” He repeated.


“Y-you… you could ask anything… and you want a kiss?” she asked, baffled.


His blush deepened, and he nodded.


“I always kiss you, you rarely do. I want you to kiss me.”




She blinked. He could have asked anything… and yet he simply wanted to lose his breathe. She couldn’t blame him. He was a very good kisser… and they only had about half-an-hour left before his driver would be expected.


How foolish to be disappointed when she knew that nothing could happen at the academy. That the chances of the two of them finding a moment of quiet and peace without any parent, guardian, friend, professor, to possibly catch them were… sadly low.


She leaned on her tiptoes to kiss him. He closed his eyes, but she stopped at the last moment.


“…Can I ask you one thing before I offer you your gift?”


He opened his eyes again, suspecting some more teasing or trick.


“…Anything.” He answered, his gaze on her lips and his mind on her body pressed against his.


She made a pause to make the moment last, her lips pulling into a large smile that made his heart beat faster.


“Yes or no. Give me the answer… you thought about doing it, haven’t you?”


His body tensed, she could sense he was about to deny it. His lips trembled.


“…Yes. I have. But so have you.”


It was her turn to startle at the certainty in his voice. He smirked, one hand going against her cheek.


“Or you wouldn’t want me to say it so openly. Yes, I have thought of making love to you, Anya Forger. Yes, I have thought of you making love to me. Yes… yes, a thousand times, I have thought of all the ways I could make you scream my name… and yes, a thousand times, I have dreamt that you, you Queen of my Heart, could make me forget mine. You have a power over me that would bring me to my knees. If only you asked it of me.”


Anya panted against his lips, barely holding the last strings of her sanity. Her body was about to be set on fire if he as little as brushed her skin.


She knew what she’d ask of him, the next time she’d win a chess game.


He must have guessed it as well, because he smirked. He brushed his nose against hers. He wanted to kiss her, he wanted to kiss her so badly, to seal his words, make it a promise, mark her as his… but he had won, he had made a request, and as much as he would love to drop to his knees for her right this instant… he had his pride to protect. A prize to collect. A kiss to demand.


“Now that you have your answer… Kiss your king.” He ordered with a victorious smirk.


Anya’s lips trembled, inching closer, instinctively, craving the taste of his lips. Her legs shook, turning into jelly at the tone he had used, her body tight and ready for release at the words he had used…


Damian closed his eyes, waiting for the promised kiss. Anya wanted nothing more than forget her name until he’d whisper it into her ears, again and again, and again. But she thought of his fantasies, her own, and the fact that they were trapped in a cage of good manners and expectations.


She knelt down. Damian immediately opened his eyes, stepping backwards, but he was trapped against the bookshelves. Anya didn’t wait for her embarrassment to catch up and burn away her courage. She leaned forward and kissed his crotch.


He gasped, covering his mouth. Her mouth lingered, if only to tease him a little more, and she pulled away, looking up sheepishly.


“You asked for a kiss… you didn’t say where.”




He was breathing heavily and she knew the effect her little kiss had had on his body that had already been on the edge. She read it in his mind. His urge to control himself. His defeat.


He sat down, and he buried his face in his knees, breathing in and out heavily, in a last attempt to control his body. Controlling it for some kisses was, well, easy to some extent. Not that easy but he prided himself in his manners and that he would not lose his mind and grunt like a beast just because of Anya’s delicious lips on his.


But this? This kiss? This temptation? This fire she had sparked?


Anya felt his thoughts unravel. She noticed the way he tightened his fists, desperate to lash himself to the gentleman he believed himself to be.


“I-I’m sorry… I-I didn’t think it’d be so… uncomfortable for you…” she murmured lowering her gaze.


Damian looked up, devastated to see the guilt on her face.


“Don’t, don’t…”


He sighed, pressing the back of his head against the shelf. He closed his eyes.


“Don’t apologise… I’m just trying to… to… keep it together…”


“…S-should I l-leave?”


She had barely made a gesture to get up but he grabbed her wrist and pulled her against him. He hugged her tightly, so tight she almost couldn’t breathe. Surprised, but happy, she settled herself against his body. His thoughts screamed about the way her breasts pressed against him, even through the thick layers of their winter uniform.


Any control he had left slipped away.


“Crap…” he muttered.


“I-I’m sorry…”


“Do not apologise for my lack of propriety!”


Anya remained silent, unsure what to say if she couldn’t apologise, and if he didn’t let her move from his embrace.


A moment passed. It was probably short, but their hearts beat so frenetically it felt much longer.


“I wasn’t expecting that, you mad woman…”


“…Did you like it?”


“Did I–” he chocked, “Your temptations are evil.”


“I thought I was the Queen of your Heart.” She continued with a smile, putting her head against his shoulder.


He relaxed a little, giving up on having any restraint for now.


“You are,” he mumbled, “Why do you think the Queen is the most powerful piece in chess? Only you have such power over me.”


“A hell lot of power if a little kiss can make you sit on the floor like that…” she teased.


Anya… You do realise that if anyone catches us like that… catches me in that situation… we’re as good as expelled?”


She wiggled to look at him. She opened her lips, but he covered her mouth with a finger.


Don’t apologise… Whatever consequences… we’ll face it together.”


She kissed his finger, which somehow made him blush as much as the previous kiss on his crotch.


“Together,” she repeated, “And… if it’s of any comfort to you… you have the same effect on me…” she admitted, biting on her lower lip.


Oh screw it, she heard him think but before she could react, he kissed her. Hard. Arousal or no arousal, he couldn’t let go of her lips. His hand went against her cheek, and she kissed him back, leaning against him to seep as much warmth as she could, in prevention to the many days where she wouldn’t see him at all.


He must have reached to same conclusion because his kisses became more urgent, more desperate. She held onto him, trying to move to a more comfortable position, without finding enough strength to do so. His free hand fell on her leg, slowly rubbing circles, like he had done at the infirmary. But this time, he went higher, higher. She slid her body closer, closer. She shivered when his warm hand went under her skirt. He spread it wide, his large fingers reaching parts of her skin she hadn’t thought of before. In between two wet kisses, she gasped into his mouth. He tightened his grip. She kissed him again. His other hand left her cheek, brushing her side, until it rested against her lower back.


He thought of pulling her closer, over his laps, of exploring her body in a way no one ever had before…


Damn uniform, he thought annoyingly enough that she pulled back.


Ah. Too many layers.


He let out a heavy huff that expressed his rising annoyance at all the barriers that kept rising against them.


She held onto the collar of his uniform, far easier to take off. She’d just have to take off a few buttons, pull off his tie, and she’d have access to his skin far easier than he could ever hope to reach hers. She was tempted to go through with it, just to tempt him further whilst knowing she’d remain painfully unreachable. She wasn’t sure she’d survive it though.




He put his head against her shoulder, breathing in her scent, even if after an entire day of exams, she was probably sweatier than she was comfortable with.


“If you had won the chess game… what would you have asked of me?”


“O-oh, it’s silly, after… what you asked…”


“I’m used to you being silly, I won’t think any less of you,” he said with a grin, lifting his head.


She glared at him, losing her smile for a short time.


“…I want to ask you for a date. J-just you and me… whenever you’re ready… whenever your family is… ready…” she mumbled, blushing sheepishly.




That’s adorable. Why did I not even think of it? I’m so stupid! I never even thought of seeing her outside of the academy but… once my family knows, nothing will keep me from seeing her outside of class…


She glanced up as he started thinking of places to take her out, gifts to offer her, clothes to wear, ways to woo her… She couldn’t help but chuckle at his enthusiasm, that only his thoughts revealed. His gaze was too thoughtful, his expression too serious. But it was how intensely he thought of her, of them.


“W-what? Why are you laughing?”


“Nothing, you’re surprisingly cute… I guess it makes up for the XS.”




She chuckled once more, mostly because he’d react so earnestly to her teasing.


Damian was not amused, and he was eager to prove her how wrong Blackbell had been in her bad estimations. But that was a plan to prepare for another day.


“The libraries will close in fifteen minutes.” The speaker announced.


Anya and Damian both calmed down. Fifteen minutes before they’d have to leave their cocoon of banter and flirting. Fifteen minutes before they’d walk out of the library, and he’d ask his driver to take her home. Fifteen minutes before they would not see each other for almost two weeks.


“…You can come over during the holidays… my parents wouldn’t mind… they actually want to meet you, properly…” Anya intervened timidly.


“B-but, it should be a family celebration…”


She looked up at him, then she took his hands in hers. She kissed his knuckles.


“You’re as much family as they are, for me. It won’t feel complete without you here.”


Damian felt a knot form in his throat. He hadn’t expected to be so important for Anya. He was… moved. He suddenly wished he had insisted for her to be invited to the family gala… but too much had yet to be told to his family.


Anya smiled, putting her hands against his cheeks to draw his attention away from dark worries and heavy expectations.


“Anytime you want to come over, you are welcome. I’ll be waiting for you, Damian Desmond. I promise.”


He swallowed hard, nodding. He blinked away at the burning sensation in his eyes. The power this queen had on him.


He leaned down, kissing her tenderly. He kissed her cheek, thoughtful…


“…I don’t want to leave you without a gift of my own,” he murmured into her ear.


She flushed as he started kissing her cheek again, then her jaw, her neck, going down, down, leaving peppering kisses. Light as the brush of a butterfly wing, hot as a burning metal brand on her skin. Invisible marks that would leave her panting and writhing as soon as she’d be alone in bed. Every touch of his lips made her breathe a little heavier, every kiss made her shiver a little more, every brush of his hands on her body made her tremble a little closer.


One hand bravely went to her collar, pulling off the small tie of her uniform. Anya opened her eyes again.


“Don’t worry, I won’t… go too far…” he murmured as he popped open a few buttons from her shirt.


She wasn’t worried, not under his touch. She didn’t have to worry when she knew what he wanted. When she impatiently waited for it. Her silence seemed to encourage him before he quickly had an opening on her white neck and the top of her collarbone. More skin than he had ever seen so far, or touched.


He continued kissing the side of her neck, her collarbone, more intensely. She pressed herself closer, leaned her head away to give him more access. She drew her fingers into his hair.


He bit her skin. She gasped and tightened her grip on his soft curls. He immediately tried to appease the sharp and delicious pain. Tentatively, hesitantly, clumsily, he spent a few minutes kissing, biting, licking, inches of her skin that left her burning. She was squirming, her legs kept tight in worry he’d realise how much effect her king had on her.


“The library will close in five minutes.” The speaker announced above their heads.


“Damn it,” he muttered, pulling away as he looked at his work.


He seemed satisfied, and a little proud, as he closed her shirt again. He tied the ribbon around her neck, but he was used to ties and it was too delicate for him. She grasped his fingers in hers, and leaned over for a kiss. It was long and satisfying. When she pulled away, she pressed her forehead against his.


“Thank you… I’ll think of you tonight, before going to sleep…” she murmured.


His thoughts screamed. He swallowed hard.


“…Then I’ll meet you in my dreams.”


She grinned, looking forward to whatever fantasies she was sure to dream of next.


“We should go, before the librarian locks us here…” he said, disappointed.


They stood up, but he kept leaning against the bookshelves, carefully avoiding her eyes.


“You go… ahead… I’ll meet you at Cecil Hall’s common room. As soon as possible.”


Aware that he still had a sizeable problem to take care of on his own, Anya nodded. Still blushing, pulling on her collar to hide her hickeys, she quickly went back to the table they had left still covered in chessboard pieces. She cleaned it up and put her bag under one arm, the chess board under the other, and hurried outside the library.


She had never seen Cecil Hall’s dormitories so quiet. Almost every student was gone. Some would leave in the morning, for the few who lived too far away to travel so late. If anyone wondered why she was sitting on the couch, they didn’t question it. She was starting to worry that Damian had gotten stuck in the library when he appeared, cheeks red from the cold and hair ruffled from the wind. And possibly the way her hands had drifted into his hair, again and again, tightening so much. He glanced at her, the red on his cheeks deepening. He didn’t take long grabbing the small luggage he had already prepared to join her. They made their way, quietly, towards the entrance of the academy, where he was sure his driver and butler would be waiting.


Without surprise, the big and expensive car was there, along with the two family servants. They smiled upon seeing Damian, but looked confused to see Anya trailing him.


“Master Damian, it’s a pleasure to see you again. You look well.” Jeeves greeted.


He glanced quickly at Anya. Damian grabbed her hand, in a way that left little to the imagination as to what their relationship was. Both servants raised their eyebrows at the bold show of affection.


“We will drive Miss Forger back to her home first. But I would be grateful if you didn’t tell anything to my brother…”


“…Of course, young master,” Jeeves said with a smile as he opened the door.


Anya walked in first, followed by Damian who let out a sigh of relief. She took his hand when she noticed how violently stressed he was that rumours from the servants would reach his brother before he could talk to Demetrius.


It had been a bold move from Damian, to show Jeeves and Joseph, what he felt for her. It could be risky. But she knew he was determined to settle this discussion with his brother as soon as possible.


“Wait,” Damian suddenly said as the car started driving towards Anya’s address, she had given them, “Go around, towards Berlint Centre. To the…”


He glanced at her. Anya just caught the thought that he wanted to surprise her and she intentionally shut her mind-reading ability as much as possible as he leaned over and whispered the address to the driver. It was killing her to keep herself from reading Damian’s thoughts, but he looked so eager that she couldn’t ruin his joy.


It was becoming increasingly difficult on her to shut down so firmly her ability, when the car finally slowed down to a stop. Damian immediately jumped out the car. Anya tried to see where he was going but he had been clever enough to stop before whatever place he wanted to stop at.


She ended up alone, in a heavy silence, with the driver who was glancing through the mirror at her. She smiled awkwardly.




“…Hi, young… mistress Forger.”


“Oh no, just Anya is fine!”


“I’m afraid I am not allowed such lack of manners.”


“Ah. Um…”


The door reopened and Anya had to shut down her ability once more, clamping down on it suddenly when she heard the excited flurry of a happy Damian. He was a little out of breath, from running, as he handed her an envelope.


“W-what is it?” she asked curiously.


“Open it.”


She pulled off the envelop top and found two large tickets with an elaborate, golden lettered writing on it. On each, the name ‘Damian Desmond’ was written. And then…


“Roma and Juliet!” she exclaimed joyfully.


“I know you like the play, and most works of Shakesword. I saw you read them a lot in the academy park or the libraries, and also it’s the play that…”


That brought us together, he finished in his mind, echoing her own thoughts.


“But– how– I asked my parents to go see it but there was no more tickets available!”


“Ah, I have my ways,” he answered cheekily.


She looked closer and saw that it was a VIP ticket. Her heart missed a beat. He must have pulled some strings to get some last-minute tickets, of that quality, for private seats.


“Damian, I-I can’t accept such a thing, i-it’s… it must have cost you a fortune…” she mumbled sheepishly, slowly handing him back the tickets.


“No way, our family is in very good terms with the director of the Grand Theatre. I just had to ask to call Uncle Tim and he immediately got us some tickets.”


Uncle Tim?” she repeated, eyes wide.


“We’re not really related, but he’s been such a close friend of the family for so long, he’s the closest thing to an uncle I have. I only met my real uncles once, when I was a child. Joseph, you can drive now.” He ordered with a casual wave of his hand.


“A-are you sure these tickets are okay?” Anya asked.


Even though she had grown up at Eden Academy, surrounded by rich kids, friend to Becky Blackbell, even if she had never needed anything, her family wasn’t particularly wealthy or powerful… WISE was still paying her education, as retirement salary to Twilight. She wasn’t used to such money, such spendings, it was… Would it be her future with Damian? Being driven around by a private chauffeur while going to expensive plays, operas, restaurants, and other grand things?


“Don’t think about it,” Damian intervened when he saw her lost in thoughts because of the tickets, “I don’t want to wait to go to Blackbell’s birthday party before seeing you again… it’d be too long… and you wanted a date, no?”


“I-I had thought of a walk in the park and having a hot cocoa with a peanut and caramel cookie at the Christmas Market… N-not a fancy evening play in a private booth in the Grand Theatre…”


He tightened his mouth and leaned forward, taking her hand in his. He brought it to his lips to kiss it quickly.


“If it really bothers you so much… I can return the tickets… we can go to the park anytime… but when will we have the chance to see Roma and Juliet again? The play we both love and argue about and… the one that brought us together? Is there no better way to celebrate our being together than by going to see it?”


She wiggled her fingers until she could slid them around his. She leaned over and kissed his lips quickly.


“No, you’re right, it’s the perfect date. Thank you, Damian…” she said with a smile.


Damian blushed, glancing quickly at Jeeves and Joseph who were pretending not to watch. Anya startled and covered her mouth with her hands.


“Oh no! I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have– in front of your–”


“They haven’t seen anything,” Damian said, turning back to her, “And they won’t hear anything else either.”


“…Master Damian?” Jeeves asked.


“Joseph, make sure to take the long way around,” he ordered as he pressed a button Anya hadn’t noticed.


A black window rose to separate the passengers from the drivers. Jeeves and Joseph heard a surprised chuckle and some smothered sounds before they focused on the road. Their young master had said they hadn’t seen anything and they hadn’t heard anything. They wouldn’t.


“…He said the long way around, but how long…?” Joseph asked sheepishly.


“…Just keep driving. As long as the young master is happy.” Jeeves answered with a smile.


Chapter Text



Guiding Star



Upon hearing morning birds singing, Damian stretched his long limbs. The freshness of morning hit his torso and he immediately grabbed the covers to raise them to his shoulders. He turned to his side, reaching out to pull Anya closer to him.


He only touched the soft silky sheets of his bed. He sleepily opened his eyes and grunted.


A dream.


It had all been a dream. He brought his hand to the base of his neck, pressing on the sore spot where Anya had left a hickey for him, as thank you for the theatre tickets, and in response to the ones he had left on her neck. He smiled, reaching his fists into the air in victory, kicking his feet against the sheet in a ridiculous attempt at expressing his joy.


It hadn’t been a dream after all! Well, not all of it. Only the part where, as promised, he had taken the Queen of his Heart to bed and made long, sweet love to her until dawn. But eventually, that would become reality, he knew it. He just had to be patient. For now, all he could draw strength from were the memories of Anya’s body pressed against his, the taste of her skin, and the dream that had had, as a consequence, caused more than just the dawn to rise this morning.


He yawned sleepily, wondering how much time he had on his hands before his presence would be required. He hadn’t been at the family mansion since the summer and with all the driving around Berlint, they had gotten back much later than planned. Jeeves had promised to let him sleep as long as needed.


Damian had plenty of time to relive his fantasies in that case.


A knock on the door interrupted his lovely line of thoughts and he jumped in the bed, pushing, and pulling the sheets around to look for proper clothes other than his pyjamas.


“A MINUTE, JEEVES!!” he called out, panicked.


“It’s not Jeeves!”


His feet got tangled in the satin sheets and he stumbled out of bed, hitting the floor hard. He hissed and grunted, trying to raise himself just as his mother opened the door.


“Oh dear, are you still sleeping?” she asked, blinking in astonishment.


“I… was… occupied. What is it, mother?” he asked, standing up, all thoughts of Anya and last night’s dream gone from his mind.


“I was hoping you’d be ready to have lunch with your brother and I, as a family reunion, as you came home late last night.” She continued with a smile.


Damian blinked, baffled.


“Lunch? With Demetrius? Demetrius is here?”


“Ναί, αγάπη μου, he did promise to spend the holidays with us, didn’t he?” she answered with a big smile.


It had been a long time since his mother had slipped in her native language. She must have been even happier than her smile let on.


“…I’ll get dressed, give me a few minutes and I’ll join you both,” Damian answered, more curious than eager.


She left him and he sighed deeply. His mother meant well, but he suddenly felt out of place in this huge room in which he spent just a few weeks a year, in this huge mansion he barely knew, with this defective family who only knew how to play pretend.


He didn’t even remember the last time he had had a meal with both his mother and brother that didn’t involve some elaborate gala, charity dinner, invitation or other. He took way longer than necessary to get dressed, simply because he didn’t know what to expect.


Half lost in the halls, he made his way towards the huge dinner room that was empty. He crossed path with a servant who indicated to him that his mother and brother were having their lunch in the conservatory. He hadn’t been there since he had been a child.


He walked there and heard a familiar barking before he even saw his dog.


“Max!” he exclaimed, running to his oldest friend.


Max jumped around, delighted to see Damian who rubbed him behind the ears. Olympia, Max’s mate, came as well, just as eager to receive some nice pettings.


“I’ve missed you too! Hey, where are the puppies?”


Max barked, wagging his tail proudly.


“We kept them in their room for now.”


Damian looked up and saw his brother standing in the entrance. Even if it was supposed to be a casual family lunch, he was wearing a sharp suit that made him look tall, dark, and imposing. Damian immediately sobered.


“You looked happier seeing the dogs, than me,” Demetrius remarked.


Without waiting for an answer, he turned around and entered the conservatory. Damian followed, admiring for a short moment the room decorated with many flowers. But most lovely of all was the sight of the immense Desmond park covered in sparkling snow, still fresh and untouched.


Damian glanced at his brother who was already sitting, reading the newspaper, while his mother smiled at the other side of the table. He sat down, many meters separating him from both, feeling torn and misplaced, as forgotten as the puppies. Max and Olympia sat next to him, still wagging their tails to see him.


“And you look as cheerful as a willow tree,” Damian finally answered his brother.


Demetrius looked up from his newspaper, unimpressed. He put down the papers, then nodded to a servant who brought in the first course for lunch. The servants must have known Damian had slept in because one brought for him an orange juice glass and a cup of coffee.


“Since when do you drink coffee?” Demetrius asked, narrowing his eyes.


“Since I’ve been pulling all-nighters to become an Imperial Scholar, but I’m glad you’ve noticed my efforts all these years.”


Damian almost bit his tongue for being so arrogant, but he couldn’t help it. He had never been so… so annoyed at his brother, but now that they were face-to-face, he couldn’t ignore the last time they had seen each other. Their argument under the rain. He couldn’t go back to bowing his head and hope for a pat, he needed to express his bitterness, even if it meant antagonising his brother.


Demetrius huffed, and didn’t bother with a reply.


Silence fell on the table, only broken by the occasional clicks of the cutlery on the porcelain. Despite his annoyance at being here, with a broken mother and an absent brother, Damian had to appreciate the familiar cooking of his childhood and the landscape that he couldn’t wait to explore. It didn’t snow every year, but every winter, he’d take his mare, Penelope, and gallop for hours until he’d lose sight of the house. It’d be delightful to do it in the snow this time. Perhaps someday in the future, he could bring Anya. He had no idea if she could ride a horse, but he’d teach her.


His expression must have morphed to something softer because he felt his brother’s intense gaze.


“How is school?” Demetrius asked with narrowed eyes.


Damian immediately tried to turn his thoughts away from Anya.


“Good. How is… your life?”




More silence, not as awkward as previously, as the second course was brought.


“Mother,” Damian intervened to cut the quietness, “Are those your flowers?” he asked, waving a hand around.


“Yes, aren’t they lovely?”




“I have quite missed my greenhouse and plants while spending the autumn in Berlint.”


She hesitated, putting back down her glass of water to smile, in an embarrassed manner to Damian.


“I-I was hoping that next term… I could see you more often. The apartment is only an hour away from the academy after all. I could send Joseph pick you up and–”


“Mother,” Demetrius interrupted, “Damian must be quite busy studying during the weekends, if he is half as serious about being an Imperial Scholar as I was.”


Damian stared sharply at his brother, swallowing back a biting retort. Their mother glanced between the two, a disappointed tightness replacing her smile. She quickly forced it back on her face, turning once more towards Damian:


“Of course. He must focus on his studies. Damian, dear, tell me, how is Miss Forger?” she asked cheerfully.


Damian, who had been drinking from a glass of water, almost spat it out. He choked, coughing loudly, sensing a dreadful red tinge taking over his cheeks.


“W-why are you asking about Anya!?”


Did Jeeves and Joseph say anything?!


Dafni blinked, staring at her son’s strange reaction. But it was Demetrius who spoke up:


“‘Anya’,” he repeated, “You seem on awfully good terms with this young lady. Is there anything we should know?”


Damian swallowed. Hard.


“N-no, no, not at all. Just a classmate.”


Just a classmate, just a friend,” Demetrius mumbled to himself, rolling his eyes.


“What was that?” Damian asked, narrowing his eyes.




“S-she was so lovely the time I saw her, I had hoped that she might join us for the gala!” Dafni continued.


“Mother, we discussed this. This year’s gala is essential, we cannot afford to be distracted by some clueless, irksome creature who has the manners of an ogre!”


“I beg your pardon?! Who gave you the right to talk about Anya in such a way?! You know nothing about her!” Damian exclaimed, standing up suddenly.


“Oh, be quiet and sit down, Damian!” Demetrius replied with a roll of his eyes.


“Why would you even talk about inviting my classmate without mentioning it to me?!”


Dafni and Demetrius glanced at each other.


“This year’s gala is important,” his brother repeated, jaw tight.


“…Because you’re finally going to follow into father’s footsteps! Woah, what a surprise!” Damian continued, rolling his eyes in fake bafflement.


“Do not use this tone with me, young man–”


“Do not insult my friend without even knowing her, you old… brother!” Damian replied, half-assing the intended insult.


Demetrius sent him a deadpanned expression, unimpressed by his brother’s attempt at an offense.


“This year’s gala is important, I will explain to you later, but only once you will have calm down and relearn some manners.” Demetrius answered in a very serious tone.


“Why not now?”


“After lunch, I have an appointment that I cannot miss. We will discuss tomorrow if I have time.” Demetrius continued, grabbing a file that had been resting on the table this entire time.


“And you won’t have time, and the day after as well, and the one after, and after, and after and then I’ll leave! We never talk about anything, you never think that I’m old enough to be worth talking to!”


“With such behaviour, certainly not,” Demetrius replied without looking up from his file.


Damian stared at him, his anger rising to the surface. Their mother glanced and started standing up to calm down the situation.


“You’re no better than father, I don’t know why I expected you to be any different,” Damian hissed.


He threw his napkin on the table and left, followed closely by Max and Olympia.


Demetrius ignored him.


“Damian, wait!” Dafni called.


But she was ignored by her younger son. She sighed, looking back at Demetrius.


“…Can we not have one meal together? Is this too much to hope for?” she asked, her accent strengthened by her heightened emotions.


Demetrius didn’t react, but he stopped reading the words. Dafni left as well, in a far quieter manner. Demetrius sighed, putting down the file and looking over the blank canvas that stretched in front of him. What a sad sight for lunch. He left as well, as lonely as his mother and his brother were in their own bubbles, scattered in the huge house.


Damian simmered his anger down by walking aimlessly for a long while, then he stopped in the room where the dogs had their toys and play space. The puppies were so grown he barely recognized them. They had been born at the end of summer, just before he had to leave for Eden.


“Look at you all, I can’t believe so much time has passed…” he murmured as they yapped and ran around him, pulling on his clothes and biting his hands with their baby teeth.


So much had changed. Between his family and himself, where it kept feeling like they were making progress before ruining everything. Between Anya and himself.


He was in love with her, she was in love with him, and they were dating. He quite frankly didn’t care about anything his brother would decide about his career, even if he should care, as it concerned the whole family. He should guard his manners around Demetrius more… or he could never ask for his blessing to be with Anya.


Max suddenly started growling. Glancing over his shoulder, Damian saw the dog baring his teeth at the door. It drove Olympia and all the puppies on edge. Frowning, Damian stood up and opened the door but there was no one, just faraway voices from people walking away. Max growled some more, taking a step forward and pulling his ears behind in a threatening manner.


“Down, Max. Good boy. It’s just Demetrius’ guests.” Damian told him, patting his head.


Max listened and sat down, but he kept glaring at the hallway. Towards where his brother’s office was.


“I’ll go see Penelope now, I’ll be back tonight, okay?”


He blinked at him, making a whining sound.


“I can’t take you this time, you’ll get tired too quickly in the snow. In spring, we’ll go together, okay, buddy?” Damian continued.


Max barked cheerfully, wagging his tail. Damian half-smiled, then left the dogs behind to get changed. He put on his rider’s outfit, realising that he had put on centimetres and muscles around the shoulders, and he’ll have to ask the family tailor to fix this. Dressed warmly and horse-riding boots on, he decided to take a shortcut to the stables.


It took him right in front of his brother’s office. Surprisingly, he heard yelling voices. A little worried despite the earlier altercation with Demetrius, Damian leaned over the door, listening. The door was too thick and the voices too angry. He couldn’t tell what they were saying. He was tempted to go get some security guards to intervene when he heard rapid footsteps. He jumped away behind the hallway corner, half-hidden. The door opened so violently it hit the wall.


Damian startled as he heard voices getting closer.


“This fool! What an imbecile!”


“He’s just a child, give him some time…”


“We don’t have any! His father was far easier to manipulate!”


“We’ll have to move everything to headquarters,” a third voice intervened.


Hush! Not here, you idiot! Keep it quiet, we’re still in the Desmond stronghold!!”


They moved past Damian who stayed hidden. He stared at the three angry men’s silhouettes disappearing behind the hallway. They were carrying leather satchels, full of papers that must have been forced inside in a hurry, from the way they were poking out chaotically. Damian moved towards the window, seeing the men ignore the butlers and go into their car that drove away quickly. The tires screeched on the gravel.


Noticing something on the floor, he bent down to retrieve a paper on the floor.




He immediately pushed the paper down his pocket, turning towards Demetrius who had poked out of the office. His cheeks were still red in anger, from whatever argument had occurred.


“What are you doing here?”


“I was going to the stables. What’s going on?”


“…Nothing of importance. Just angry, selfish men I had to dispose of. …Give my regards to Penelope.”


Demetrius walked back into the office, slamming the door shut.


Damian’s hand tickled to read the paper, but he decided to hurry out of the house and into the stables. He saluted the stable master and quickly prepared Penelope, his favourite mare, chestnut coloured, who appeared all nice and gentle until she was off riding and showed her mischievous side. Just like he was. Penelope was more than happy to ride out in the snow. She probably hadn’t been out for a long ride since summer.


She tired quickly and he let her go to an easy pace, simply enjoying the cold on his cheeks and the smell of snow and pine as he entered the small forest from the massive domain. It was so much colder than in Berlint itself, even if the Desmond mansion was only two hours and a half north from the capital.


He looked over his shoulder, at the immaculate snow and the huge mansion standing tall and proud as any Desmond man ever had. The only traces that had disturbed the snow were Penelope’s legs, and the occasional rabbit, squirrel or fox that had walked around, without ever being seen by him. Once under the trees, the snow was sparse, kept away by the tall pine trees.


He clicked his tongue, tapping his feet into the sides of Penelope who went off in a light gallop.


As soon as they arrived in the centre of the small forest, he pulled on the reins and jumped off the mare. She tapped the ground, finding some grass untouched by the ice and snow. He walked towards the stone bench that stood, lonely, in the forest. It was a lovely place in summer to read, away from everything and keeping the heat at bay. It had the opposite effect in winter, but he didn’t care as he sat down.


He pulled out the document he had found on the floor earlier. Probably one of the many papers that had been poking out of the angry trio’s satchels.


It was a financial document, about a list of products that had been bought, with their estimated prices. The blue and white symbol screamed ‘medical’ but he immediately realised he wasn’t familiar with this particular institution. It wasn’t part of the Desmond Group. Did they wish to join, but Demetrius had refused? That’d explain their anger. The name of the institution was also unknown, COEUS, written in sharp blue letters under the stylised symbol of a single eye, surrounded by rays of light.


What a strange symbol to choose for a medical institution. And that name… it was vaguely familiar but where had he heard it from?


His eyes went down to the list of products, with lots of numbers and references he didn’t understand, only a few words stood out, which only confused him more:


“Diapers, baby milk, oats, defibrillators…” he murmured in a low voice, his breath forming a white fog.


His gaze followed a series of dots until it reached words that chilled him to the bones.


“PJCT CHMR –– CODE X01 –– 5 specimens –– human–”


He stopped breathing. He swallowed hard.


“Human female…”


Damian felt his skin go pale. He followed the line, seeing an absurd number that represented the money to… to buy… human girls?


“W-what… what is that thing…” he muttered.


He continued looking all over the paper, fear slowly griping his heart. He looked lower and he stood up abruptly.


He closed his eyes, massaging them with his gloved fingers in the hope he was hallucinating. But when he looked again…


There was a date, written in an elegant handwriting, from over twelve years ago. And the unmistakable, sharp signature of Donovan Desmond. His father.




Damian spent hours in the forest, reading and rereading the document, again and again, hoping that he had made a mistake. But it was an agreement of payment from twelve years ago, for various products and five human girls.


It was only when the sky darkened, and Penelope started being nervous that he realised he should go back to the mansion. Although he dreaded going back to this place.


Once at the stables, the horse master hurried to his side.


“Young master Damian, your mother is worried sick!” he exclaimed.


“What? Why?” he asked, immediately going down his mare, holding the reins.


“She thought you had gotten an injury during your ride, we were about to send people after you.”


“No! Don’t come after me!” Damian shouted.


The horse master startled and Damian immediately regretted it. He lowered his gaze, ashamed to have yelled at a man who had taught him almost everything about horses. Even Penelope tried to pull away from him. Damian let go of her reins and the horse master immediately grabbed them as Damian pulled off his gloves, quickly, nervously, with shaky hands.


“I apologise,” he said sharply, looking down at the leather gloves he pulled off.


“…Are you alright, young master?”


“I’m fine,” he hissed, as he walked away.


He hurried through the snow and up the stairs of the manor, ignoring the servants who all sighed in relief to see him back.


“Damian! Mωρό μου!”


He shook his head, ignoring his mother as she ran after him.


“I was so worried! The night has fallen! What were you doing?!”


“I lost track of time,” he huffed, climbing the stairs quickly.


“Are you hurt? Did something happen? Are you–”


“Leave me ALONE!” he shouted so suddenly that his mother jumped.


He bit the inside of his mouth, glancing away. He opened and closed his lips, to apologise, but he shook his head and hurried away.


How could he explain to anyone how he felt? His father might have done human trafficking, or worse, twelve years ago. Long after the war had been over. Not that the war would have justified any of it. He had never heard of this COEUS institution, medical or not. And his brother– did Demetrius know anything? Did he have any idea? He must have, he must know, he must… he must be as horrified as Damian was. Right?


But then why did he meet with these men today?


Once in his room, he took off his jacket angrily, pulling cloth after cloth. He realised only then that he had been so nervous and in such a hurry to go back before night fell completely, that he was sweating like a pig. He looked around his room, putting the cursed document into the secret bottom of his first locked drawer to make sure no one would find it. If anyone knew about such a thing, the entire family would be destroyed.


He went to take a long, hot shower, forgetting himself in the almost-boiling water.


His father… his father. The man he had loved and admired more than anything. He had known him to be ruthless and cold, the sad consequences of being a war-worn politician who thrived to unite countries and make peace… but what if Damian had been wrong? What if his father had been… a monster? Like those from the war, the ones who had been sent away overseas, to the West, to be jailed. Or worse, as some rumours said, to share their atrocious discoveries from the war and continue their research, under the vigilant gaze of the western power who would benefit the most.


Damian abruptly stopped the water, his skin reddened. He passed his hands over his face, chasing the water and the burning tears. He couldn’t cry, he couldn’t allow it.


No, there had to be an explanation. There had to be some… some reason why… He had jumped to conclusions. Maybe it wasn’t an agreement of payment. Maybe… maybe his father had been helping those human girls. Maybe it was just a list of products to help injured people?


Yes, that was the answer, it had to be.


Then why talk of ‘specimens’.


For the first time in his life, Damian cursed his intelligence and his ability to connect dots. He wished he were an idiot, so he could remain ignorant of whatever horrifying truth hid behind the Desmond name.


A name he had always been proud of. Until now.


He dried himself and got dressed, without quite thinking about it. Someone knocked at the door, but he sent them away with a sharp order to leave him alone. Jeeves apologised behind the door before leaving.


Perhaps Damian could try sneaking into his brother’s office to find information. But that would mean risking his wrath if he got caught. Or worse, finding the truth.


Incapable of staying still, he went to grab the document once more, reading it again and again. He knew the codes and words by heart now, even if he didn’t know what the references stood for.


PJCT CHMR –– CODE X01 – 5 specimens – human female


PJCT CHMR –– CODE X01 – 5 specimens – human female


PJCT CHMR –– CODE X01 – 5 specimens – human female


PJCT CHMR –– CODE X01 – 5 specimens – human female


PJCT CHMR –– CODE X01 – 5 specimens – human female


The words were branded into his mind. Every time he closed his eyes, they came back, haunting him.


Another knock at the door.


“I said I wasn’t hungry, Jeeves!!” he shouted.


“It’s not Jeeves.”


Damian gasped, recognising his brother’s sharp voice through the door as he turned the handle to walk in. He quickly hid the document under his pillow, but not fast enough for Demetrius not to catch the movement.


“What is it?”


“What is what?” Damian asked nervously.


“What did you just hide under your pillow?” Demetrius continued, suspiciously.


Damian swallowed hard, his hand pressing down on the pillow, as if it’d make the paper disappear. Demetrius took a step forward. His brother couldn’t know that he was aware of their father’s past, whatever it was.


“It’s… porn! Don’t look!” he exclaimed quickly.


Demetrius stared at him with wide eyes. He looked so much more like their father that Damian shivered.


He was a terrible liar, but Demetrius was terrible at knowing when his brother lied. He grimaced, looking disgusted and rolled his eyes.


“Ugh, teenagers. I swear to god…”


“You’ve been a teenager before, unless you… don’t function right…” Damian mumbled, looking away with a blush on his cheeks.


“I function perfectly well, thank you. I heard about your loss of temper at mother and the house staff. Would you take aside your… activities so we can discuss?”


His brother’s tone didn’t leave him any choice. Damian stared, suddenly suspicious.


“…About what?”


Demetrius looked at him, from his great height. Sitting and intimidated, Damian felt like a small child again, facing his impressive father. Had his memories of Donovan Desmond always been this chilling?


“Family business,” Demetrius answered after a long silence.


He turned around sharply, walking out, expecting Damian to follow. Terrified, but even more afraid to remain in the dark, he stood up to join his brother. Whatever may come.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER XX: Victims and Culprits


All Damian could hear were the confident footsteps of his brother walking ahead of him. His shoes resonated on the marble tiles and against the wall. Each step made Damian lower his head a little more.


What did Demetrius mean by ‘family business’? Did it have anything to do with… the men he had met earlier? The scientists from COEUS, and their father’s former business with them?


Demetrius guided Damian through the dark halls and into his office, their father’s old office.


Damian hesitated on the threshold. He had always been forbidden to enter this place, even though he had thought himself brave when sneaking in as a child. All he had ever caught were glimpses as he had walked by the rare times the door had been opened.


Demetrius didn’t show any hesitation. He had probably never been forbidden to enter this place growing up. It had become his office since their father’s death, eight years prior.


Damian eventually entered, glancing around. From his memories as a child, everything had seemed big, impressive, sparkling with pride. It wasn’t that grand, now that he was old enough to recognise what it really was: just an office, well furnished and decorated with diplomas and prizes from the family but… nothing stood out as particularly extraordinary. Or perhaps he had had that idea because he had sneaked in back when he still admired his father. He hadn’t for a while now, the memories echoing with the harsh reality that years and maturity bring, but how could he ever feel anything but shame now that he was aware of what his father had done?


“Sit down,” Demetrius said, walking towards a small table where bottles of strong alcohol and glasses stood, starting to pour himself a glass.


Damian obeyed, if only because he felt too lost to discuss. He sat on the chair at the desk, facing the empty and much bigger seat that Donovan Desmond, and now Demetrius Desmond, used.


To his great surprise, Demetrius came back with two glasses of alcohol, instead of one. He put one in front of Damian who looked up at him, eyebrows furrowed in confusion.


“What’s that?”




“Father and you always said I’m not allowed to drink alcohol other than champagne, or the occasional glass of wine.”


Demetrius looked down at the golden-brown liquid in his glass. He turned it around thoughtfully.


“You’re not a child anymore. You don’t have to drink it, if you don’t want to. But you’ll need it.”


Damian straightened up a little, feeling the slightest urge of confidence to know that his brother didn’t see him as a child anymore. His words, though, worried him.


“Need it for… what?” he asked in a low voice.


Demetrius walked around the desk and sat down. The seat was much bigger than the man, rending him even more imposing than before.


“The last time we met, your professors and yourself mentioned you wanted to become a politician. Why?”


Of all things to discuss about their family, Damian had not expected his career choices to be the topic this evening. He swallowed hard, mouth dry.


“I… I don’t know, I guess… It’s always been… what I wanted to do…”


“Because father was one before us? Because that’s the path I chose?” Demetrius concluded.


Damian flushed, embarrassed to be caught with such childish reasons. But for once, his brother didn’t seem judgemental. Demetrius crossed his fingers and leaned forward:


“When I was your age, I had to choose what career I would want to pursue. To be entirely honest, even though I aimed to make father proud, I had never thought of what I’d do after becoming an Imperial Scholar and graduating. My whole life had revolved around this simple thing: make father proud.”


Damian observed his brother, as if seeing him for the first time. It echoed his sentiments perfectly. Bitterness hanging onto these last three words included.






Wasn’t it all the two Desmond sons had been raised for? The only thing they had been good at?


“So when I was asked what I wanted to become, I didn’t wonder what would make me happy, but what would make father happy. I was his heir, I’d become a politician like him. You would be free to do as you wished once you’d come of age.”


More bitterness, aimed at Damian’s lucky place as ‘second son’.


Damian moved in the chair, suddenly uncomfortable.


“Then, father died. War almost broke out. I graduated. And I was faced, once more, with a choice. Should I become a politician to make a dead man happy, or should I become a politician to be happy?”


Demetrius paused. Damian eventually managed to let out a semblance of words, jumbled together:


“And you… uh… what did you… your choice, what was it?” he asked, awkwardly.


“I chose the country. The people. Not me, not father, but the… victims of war. I don’t want another war. Never again. Never.”


Damian couldn’t help but sigh in relief. Despite his words and conviction when Anya had been terrified of the possibility of war, a part of him had worried that Demetrius’ ambition would have smothered his humanity. But he had been right, his brother hated war. He had been born into it, spent the first six years of his life sheltering from horrors he couldn’t avoid, before being thrown into the expectations of being the son of Donovan Desmond.


In comparison, Damian’s life had been a walk in a meadow.


“That’s why I became a politician… even though I was pushed into it because of father, I would have never succeeded, were it not for my own personal beliefs that by becoming a politician, I would be able to help people and stop conflict. Politics is… not something you can do simply because you are forced or expected to do it, Damian. You must believe in it, in its power and what you can achieve, for the greater good.”


The conversation had suddenly become personal. Damian looked down. Had he ever truly wanted to become a politician? Or had he written it down because it had been his father’s potential wish? Because he wanted to make his rotting corpse, six feet in the ground, proud?


Did he believe in it? Did he believe he could do it, be happy becoming… whatever his father had been? What his brother might become?


A ghost that barely acknowledged his children, a shell that only saw the shadows of war and the threat of death, exhaustion engraved so deep in one’s body that no joy could seep out?


He thought of Anya’s smile. Her happiness, her cheerfulness, her love for life, bright and marvellous to look at, to bathe in. Would she smile that much, that beautifully, if he were to become a man like his father and brother?




He had seen what the possibility of war, of his brother being a monster, had done to her. He had held her in his arms, had wiped her tears. Her body had been trembling, in fear of war, of ashes and death. We he to become a politician, Damian knew he would never support war, he would choose to be like his brother, to prevent conflict and bring smiles to innocent children… but what would be the price to pay?


He looked up at Demetrius whose haunted gaze stared deep into his.


He knew the answer.


He wasn’t sure he had the heart to pay that heavy price.


He wasn’t sure he had a heart that could give up on Anya’s smile.




His voice cracked. What was he, if not a Desmond? What would he become, if not another politician?


“Don’t give any answer. Think about it carefully. You still have two years before making a final decision. And even after… if you regret and decide to change path… I wouldn’t object to it.”


“R-really?” Damian asked, surprised.


“Yes. Many think that sticking to one’s choices and paths is a proof of strength and willpower but… why make yourself miserable if you realise you changed heart? The greatest courage is to realise you have made a mistake, or changed your mind, or want something different in your life… and accept it, and act for your own happiness. Even if some people might disagree or your family might not be proud of you.”


Damian observed Demetrius, opening and closing his mouth like a fish out of water. How much of these words were for his brother’s own peace?


“And… uh… are you happy?” Damian asked hesitantly.


Demetrius looked back at him, as if surprised he’d be asked such a question.


Damian’s heart sank when he realised that, quite similarly to himself, Demetrius didn’t get this question often.


Are you happy? Such a simple thing to ask, to your friends, your family, yourself, but so easily forgotten in a world that valued wealth and productivity over one’s well-being and joy.


“I’m not sure if ‘happy’ is a word I could use in this moment of my life but… I… am at peace with the choices I’ve made, and will make…” Demetrius answered honestly, as surprised by it as Damian was.




Silence fell between the two brothers. Demetrius rubbed his thumb over his other hand, gaze lost.


“…As much as I want you to make a choice that will make you happy… I didn’t bring you here to only discuss your post-graduation choice…”


“Family business…” Damian echoed, in a low voice.


Fear slithered into his veins. After the document he had accidentally found, he reconsidered everything his brother had just said. What choices had he made, he will make, that would… bring him peace? What did Demetrius even mean by ‘peace’?


“What I’m about to reveal to you concerns our family, our father, and it cannot be shared outside of these walls. Do you understand, Damian? You cannot tell anyone about it, even people you think you can trust.”


Damian knew it’d be a lie if he agreed to such terms, but he nodded anyway.


Promise you won’t tell anyone,” Demetrius continued, expression firm and unforgivable.


“I-I promise…” Damian said, more and more worried.


Demetrius sighed, and nodded, more to himself than anyone else. He stood up, took a long sip of his whiskey to give himself courage, then walked towards a large cabinet that was locked. He pulled out a key, unlocked it, then brought out a few files. The shelves were covered in carefully organised files, books, documents, but Demetrius didn’t hesitate as he picked a few and brought them on the table.


He pressed his hands against the wooden surface of the desk, staring at the files, without letting Damian touch them.


“During the war… the second one, when I was born… Father became chairman of the National Unity Party in only two years, gathering even more power and influence. When he died, eight years ago, I had barely graduated and needed to begin my political studies. As I did, many of his friends and colleagues from the National Unity Party helped me out, by handling parts of our business, taking over some minor dealings. I… was young, stupid, grieving, and didn’t know any better. I signed many documents without quite understanding what it was, other than it had been important for father.”


Damian clenched his fists, not liking where this story was going.


“Just after I graduated, I told those friends that I no longer needed their help but they were… reluctant to give up their influence on me. I had been suspicious for a long time, at that point, but it confirmed that I needed to cut all ties with them. They were not happy.”


“What happened then?”


“I… looked into father’s old files and many things seemed to contradict themselves. I became curious, and worried, so… after graduating, I asked a Westalis organisation, called WISE, to discover the truth behind what our father had done during and after the war, what his ‘friends’ who had been helping me out truly wanted. It took almost a year for this organisation’s agents to find out the whole truth, digging out old secrets and horrors… This,” he continued, showing the files and the wardrobe full of more, “Were the results of their investigation.”


Quiet, Damian looked at every file, then at the piles still in the locked shelves. He had a terrible suspicion that all the questions he had been asking himself all day, since reading that document, will be answered. He already knew he didn’t like any of it.


“You have had history lessons so you know what happened during the second war, how it ended, and what were the consequences.”


“Of course,” Damian answered nervously, “Westalis kept its independence, both sides were forgiven for their war crimes and the allied countries also stepped away, to some extent. New alliances were created, Westalis and Ostania are at peace, and both are working together for a better unity between our countries, to avoid any conflict in the future.”


“I assume you know, even if it is not discussed much in history lessons, that the war was the forefront of horrors. Bombings on civilians, families, children murdered, war camps… It wasn’t a war of battles, but a battle of ideology.”


“Of course, I know…” Damian repeated, a little frustrated his brother would have so little faith in his knowledge of what had happened just over two decades earlier.


“But there was also a hidden battleground, invisible for most people, that we don’t talk about. The fight to gain superiority against the others, with military strength, weapons, science… Many developments were aided by war and, ironically, despite the barbaric nature of it all, progress was made.”


“Yes, yes, I know, this is what pro-war militants use to justify it. Wars lead to progress, in medicine, surgery, transport, energy…”


Demetrius hesitated, as if unsure of what to say after so many words had already been shared. Damian wished he could read his mind, if only to understand what he was going for.


“During the war, a medical institution was created. To help Ostanian soldiers who suffered from brain and spinal injuries. Its name was COEUS.”


Damian shivered, swallowing hard.


“C-COEUS…?” he repeated, but his brother didn’t seem to notice how shaken he was.


“Yes, unfortunately, this institution didn’t focus only on helping brain and spinal injuries. They also developed a line of research on brain functions and they created Project Chimera.”


Demetrius pushed a file towards Damian, with the words ‘PROJECT CHIMERA’ written in a bloody red. He hesitated, before reaching out. He pulled on the thread and opened the file. He found a series of paper, about the creation of this project, dated towards the end of the war. Many people whose names were familiar had signed for it. People from the National Unity Party, and among them, their father had signed.


“With the war ended, COEUS was put to an end, and Project Chimera was shut down. Or so we thought.”


Damian glanced up, hesitant. Then, he turned some papers from the file. There were lists of products, reports on their findings, on their advancements, new potential research… photographs of the injuries they were trying to treat. His heart climbed to his throat, and he quickly closed the file.


“What happened then?” he questioned, looking back at his brother as he put down the file on the table.


“Officially, COEUS disappeared from existence, but many who had encouraged its initial launching thought that the discoveries were too important to be thrown away and so, it continued its research, and Project Chimera went on, in secret. Its objective was to develop humans with higher-cognitive abilities.”


“W-what?” Damian questioned, shaking his head.


“Project Chimera’s objective was to create hyper-cognitive humans.”


“W-what do you mean by… hyper-cognitive humans…?”


Demetris reluctantly reached for another file, that he pushed towards Damian. Hesitantly, he took it and opened it, finding a series of documents. Each was about a ‘test subject’ that had been part of Project Chimera. Physical descriptions, details about their provenances, if known, of the ability they were trying to force on them… Things that Damian would have expected from a science fiction book, not a medical report: telekinesis, mind-reading, precognition, mind manipulation… Black and white, grainy pictures accompanied the files. Big stamps had been added, in red capital letters, as to the state of the subject after the many, many experimentations they seemed to be going through.


Children. Each and every one of them. No more than five years old, maybe.


Test Subject 001 – DEAD

Test Subject 002 – DEAD

Test Subject 003 – MISSING

Test Subject 004 – DEAD

Test Subject 005 – DEAD

Test Subject 006 – DEAD


He closed the file and pushed it on the table, incapable of looking beyond. The stack of papers was thick. Too thick. Too many lives broken, too many children tortured.


Damian was going to vomit. He stood up. He walked around aimlessly. He passed his hand over the lower half of his face, disturbed, disgusted, disheartened.


“Did all these children… are they all dead?” he asked in a trembling voice, turning around.


“Most died during the tests that involved… electrocutions, shots of various chemical, surgical operations… Some went missing, others got the stamp ‘unknown’ which, according to the investigation is for the children that were still alive by the time I…”


Demetrius’ voice trailed off. He lowered his head, closing his eyes.


Damian’s blood went cold.


“What…? What did you do?”


His brother remained silent.


“Demetrius! What did you do?!” he shouted.


“I… after finding all that, I sent the SSS after the location of the COEUS headquarters. By the time they arrived… it was too late. Many important files about the research and the children, the scientists, had disappeared. Someone among the SSS had betrayed their attack on the headquarters and COEUS had the time to disappear. We never found out where they went, or where they took the children. It’s been theorised that they went over the border, in another country but…”


“You can’t find them…”




Damian recalled the three angry men and the way Demetrius had furiously sent them away.


“The three men who visited me today had taken an appointment under a different name. I had never met them before, but I recognised one of them from the files that I have thoroughly studied. I threatened to call the SSS, for fooling me, for asking more money for what they’ve done, and they still tried to convince me that they were another branch of the former COEUS institution, that all their research had been to truly help brain-injured people…”


“You didn’t believe them?” Damian asked.


“No. They left when I called the SSS. They tried to tail them, but they’ve lost track of their car after it went over the Ostanian border, in Westalis. I believe they are… still trying to investigate it now.”


Damian swallowed hard.


He had his answers.


COEUS was a secret institution, created during the war, to torture people. Children, innocents. To give them some… some superior mental ability. Most died. Others disappeared. It might… have kept going this entire time.


His father had done that. His father, Donovan Desmond, had done that. He had signed off money to send to that institution, to that research, to torture children, to develop them into some sorts of… of chimeras themselves, broken into pieces and remade anew. His father, the man he had loved and cherished more than anything, had done that. His father, whom he had been proud of and admired more than anyone, had been a monster.


Was it his inheritance, as a Desmond?


Heir of horror and monsters.


“The WISE agency believes that most of COEUS activity has been ceased. They can’t find any trace, the people who used to send them money have kept themselves clean of all suspicion and even their agents in Westalis can’t find anything.”


“A-are you sure it’s all over?” Damian asked.


“WISE says so. Who am I to disagree? They found everything, if there was any research, any trace of COEUS, they’d find it.” Demetrius said in a serious voice.


A heavy silence fell into the room.


He couldn’t believe his father would have done such a thing. He couldn’t believe it.


Somehow, despite his brother’s words that he should trust, despite all the evidence scattered over the table, Damian wanted more than anything, from the bottom of his heart, to hope that… Demetrius was wrong. That for once in his life, his brother that he had looked up for and been jealous of for his bright mind, intelligence, and perfect scores, could be wrong.


“Father… he would have never…”


Deny it, say he never did any of it. He didn’t know, like you, he was unaware, he only wanted to help… Please, say it! Damian thought desperately.


But his brother remained silent.


When Damian turned around to look at him, Demetrius’ expression was tortured. Broken. Haunted. His brother had always been so good at hiding his feelings, smothering his emotions behind a mask of coldness. Now Damian understood it had nothing like their father’s ruthlessness… It had been the only way for Demetrius to be able to… handle that weight, that burden on his shoulders. The burden of being a Desmond. Of being the son of a monster. The guilt and the shame that shone in Demetrius’ eyes now hung heavily in Damian’s heart.


“…That file,” he started, pushing the last one forward, “Shows correspondence between father and several of the scientists, including the head of COEUS. It also has photographs. Father… witnessed it all.”


Damian wasn’t sure he wanted to know, to see with his own eyes. But in some sort of depraved, self-destructive urge, his body moved to come closer to the cursed file. He opened it, automatically. He ignored the letters, the words mixed together, as if it were another language, another alphabet. He didn’t understand the meaning of any of it. But he found the photographs.


His father was shown visiting what appeared to be a series of cells, all in white and glass windows. Children were sleeping, or sitting, curled up, small, weakened. Donovan Desmond was passing by, as if inspecting any other facility. A close-up showed his face, impassive as always and somehow, that made it worse.


That was the face Damian had always seen. That was the face he had grown up with. That was the face his father had had looking at him.


The pictures continued, but he froze when he saw more sights of his father, looking over what appeared to be a surgery room. A child was attached on a reclining chair with metal handcuffs holding them, electrodes all over their forehead, a pained expression on their face.


Damian shut the file violently. He threw it on the desk and bent against it, pressing his hands over the wooden desk, just like Demetrius had been doing earlier. He needed something solid to hold onto and that table was the only thing available.


He caught sight of the untouched glass of whiskey. He grabbed it and gulped it all down in one-go. The alcohol had nothing of the delicate taste and tickling sensation of champagne. It didn’t have the many flavours of wine dancing on his tongue. It burnt his throat. It made his head dizzy and clear all at once, too suddenly. But it distracted him from the tears building behind his eyes and the stinging pain in his heart.


“It’s not possible…” he whispered, slamming the glass down.


Demetrius watched him, sad and compassionate. An expression Damian thought impossible from his brother of all people. And yet, here he was. Demetrius Desmond, carrying the weight of the world, simply by being honest with his little brother.


“…It is. The only comfort is that… it’s all over now. We can move on.”


“I can’t. I won’t! I CAN’T!!”


“Give it time…”


“NO! How could he…? How…!”


“I… I guess we’ll never know what went in his head. Father is dead, his activities are officially over now that I have completely taken over the family business.”


“The family business,” Damian chuckled, rolling his eyes, “Torturing children? Killing them? Is that our family business? Is that where our wealth comes from?!” he continued, throwing his arms to show around the office that suddenly seemed too big, too luxurious, too good for one person.


“No,” Demetrius answered firmly, “Our family business is to help people, heal people. We will not let our father’s horrifying acts define what we do with the Desmond name, Damian. It is our duty to make it up to the world… somehow.”


Damian just stared at him. He wished he had such heart, such faith, that they could fix it. Fix the world. But COEUS had disappeared from circulation, it had not stopped, not entirely. Damian didn’t believe it and he knew that, deep down, his brother didn’t either.


Damian just felt lost, confused, numb.


His heart beat steadily, but each beating sent a wave of discomfort through his body. What right did he have to live, to live such a luxurious and easy life, when innocent children had been removed from their parents, tortured, and killed for… for impossible things such as reading minds and moving objects from afar?


What sort of joke was this? What sort of sick joke had his life become?


What was he supposed to believe, when his brother’s words were so strong, but their father’s blood flew through their veins?


Who was he? What was he? The son of a monster, a liar, a cold-hearted criminal. What did that make him?


How could he ever face Anya again?


“M-mother… does she…” he hesitated, glancing at Demetrius who swallowed hard.


“She had no idea. I told her the results of the investigation… partly because I had hoped she’d prove it was wrong somehow… but at some point, she just stopped listening to all the evidence. I… don’t think she can handle thinking of father this way. She knows I wanted to tell you about it because…”


Demetrius let out a heavy sigh, slowly gathering the files to put them back in the locked cabinet.


“I am not going to join the National Unity Party.”


He sent a wary glance towards Damian, who was far more flabbergasted than he should have been. Somehow, with all this mess, he had forgotten about the battle at the border and the whole debate surrounding Demetrius Desmond’s political future. For over a year now, people had discussed when he would join the National Unity Party and follow into their father’s footsteps. Not if, when. Damian never even questioned it. It had seemed as obvious as him becoming a politician, as his father being the centre of his universe…


Now he wasn’t so sure anymore. He didn’t know what to believe anymore.


A year of debate, since Demetrius had officially finished his studies. A year postponing it because he was secretly investigating their father’s past and discovering nightmares.


“Good,” Damian finally answered, although he wasn’t sure what that word meant anymore.


That surprised Demetrius as much as Damian. Demetrius straightened up suddenly, blinking, then he nodded once. Twice.


“Good,” he repeated, nodding once more, looking a little relieved.


“…Will you join… the ruling party, then?” Damian asked hesitantly.


Their family had never been on the left side of the political stage, and yet… what other choice did they have if Demetrius didn’t join the National Unity Party?


“…No. I… will create my own party. A new party.”


“…I beg your pardon?”


“I… am going to create a new political party. Democratic Development.”


Somehow, even though it was obvious that parties needed to be created at some point, it had never occurred to Damian that one could just create a political party so easily.


“Democratic Development? That’s the name of your party?”


“Yes,” Demetrius answered very seriously.


“…It sucks.”


He frowned, but he didn’t seem shocked. He must have heard the same response before.


“Democratic Development… DD. For Demetrius Desmond?”


“How did you–”


“I have the same initials, you big knob.”


“What did you just call me–”


Damian ignored him, sighing deeply. He looked up at the ceiling, putting his hands on his sides.


“Go for it.” He finally said after a moment of thoughtful silence, looking back at his brother.


“R-really? You’re… if I fail, then the family… might be ruined, our reputation and… and our future. It could be all for nothing.”


“Demetrius, I have never known you to fail at anything,” Damian said, and for the first time in his life it wasn’t bitterness that he tasted on his tongue. But pride. He was proud of his brother for following his own path, his own instinct, his own heart.


Not only had Demetrius found out the truth about their father… but he was rejecting it. It’d be much easier to bury it as some old and shameful skeleton and never talk of it again. Many illustrious families had done that to cover up their war crimes… but not Demetrius. Not Demetrius Desmond. Because that was what he was, a Desmond, a Griffin, proud, stubborn, rough around the edges, but true, honest, and hardworking.


If anyone could create a new political party in a divided country and unite everyone behind him… it was Demetrius Desmond.


Damian had never been so proud of his brother. Of sharing his blood, even tainted by their father. They shared that burden, but his brother’s greatness… Donovan had never realised it, acknowledged it, witnessed it. Damian did. And he would keep on witnessing how great and magnificent his big brother would become.


“The National Unity Party is losing power, they keep talking of war and conquest when no one wants any of it. The few who want to unite by discussions and laws are kept under the heels of the power-hungry old men who rule it. All the ruling parties are playing in the hands of the West, they are greedy, and they don’t care about the people, only their own selfish interests. No one can lead our country right now, especially not in the long term, not by looking out for our people… but you can. You have the money, the influence, the potential… You wouldn’t be a new piece on the chessboard, you’d be a whole new colour, a king in your own right who could very well destroy everyone else.” Damian declared, his jaw tightening from the waves of emotions that kept rolling through him this evening.


Demetrius watched him with widened eyes, as if seeing him for the first time. Witnessing for the first time that his little brother was growing up and becoming a man.


“…With a speech like that, you could never be a politician, you know,” he said, his lips tilting up slightly.


Damian grimaced, but he didn’t look down or lower his shoulders. He faced his brother head front.


“Too much honesty is dangerous in politics. But you have always been too honest, you talk before you think, and you move before you talk.”


“…It’s not such a bad thing.”


“No, it’s not.”


Demetrius paused. He put the cursed files about their father’s legacy where they belonged, locked behind metal doors and far from the eyes, if not from the mind. Then he took another key and opened a drawer from his desk.


“I’m not going to ask you to make a choice, about what you’ll do after graduation… but perhaps this will help you decide what to do with your life.”


He pulled out a single document, that he pushed towards Damian. Reluctant and worried of what new secret he’d find out, he took the paper. He read it over quickly, eyes widening. He read it again.


He looked back up.


“Are you… joking?” he asked, swallowing hard.


“No. This is your inheritance, that you will gain once you turn eighteen years old,” Demetrius said, “I had the same amount, and so did mother, although she’s not touching much of it. I believe she insists on giving most of it to us, but I’ve refused so far.”


“B-but, this is… this is enormous…”


Damian had always known his family had power and wealth, but he had never asked numbers. Since he had been a child, he had received monthly amounts to spend if he wished, but despite his fancy and expensive tastes, he had never felt the need to show it off to anyone – unlike Blackbell or some other rich kids he knew. He spent it when he needed something, with little regard to the price, but he didn’t fancy spending any of it.


He hadn’t even thought about the inheritance he’d receive, after his father’s death. A third of the Desmond wealth, as expected. Far more than he had ever thought he’d ever touch, far more zeros he had imagined.


A dark thought suddenly occurred to him. His arms went down, along with the flimsy paper in his arms that was his future summed up as a massive number.


“This money is…” he started, expression dark.


“It’s not from human trafficking or human testing. I made sure of it. Father gave money to COEUS, to finance their research, but they never offered much profit in return. I believe that most of the money they received was as promise to develop human weapons and spies… but it never got any proper result to offer to their sponsors. All this money, the Desmond money, comes from our estates and domains, and the Desmond Group, which deals in medical development and medical institutions… Real ones that truly help people.”


Damian knew where their money came from, but the doubt had frozen his veins like poison.


“You have no reason to be ashamed of that money. But know that the reason why it is such a huge amount is partially because father was, for better or worse, a great businessman long before he became chairman of the National Unity Party. He handled the Desmond Group with an iron fist, which ensured a continuous and increasing flow of money, even eight years after his death.”


Demetrius grimaced, crossing his arms in a gesture that was very different from anything their father had ever done. Perhaps he was more relaxed because he had finally revealed the truth to Damian, because he was more open.


“But the flow is… slowing down. It’s still far more than anyone could hope to earn in a lifetime, but it is slowing down nevertheless. I have been too focused on my studies, and now on creating Democratic Development… I don’t have the mind or the time to kick the Desmond Group back into business.”


It suddenly all made sense to Damian. His brother’s surprised and pinched expression when he first heard he wanted to become a politician. His questions as to why he wanted to become one. If Damian did so, there would be no one to handle the family business. The true origin of their wealth and power, more than any political stance.


“You want me to take over the Desmond Group after I graduate,” he realised with a dark chuckle, “I never…”


“Thought of this possibility, I know. And I will not force you to choose that option. As our father’s heir, I am still the CEO in name and responsibility, but the one who is currently handling all the business aspects is the Group’s Strategic Assistant–”


“Marius Steinmann, who had been father’s Strategic Assistant for decades and is only a few years off retirement himself…” Damian finished.


“Once you graduate and after your studies… it’d be the perfect timing to pass it all on to you.”




Damian’s voice cut.


He felt dizzy. He let himself fall into the couch, rather than the hard seat next to the desk.


“You don’t have to give any answer, any time soon, Damian. I had just hoped… you would consider this option.”


Damian had basically grown up with Marius as a cheerful old uncle. He remembered the man bouncing him on his knees as a child. He remembered him disguising himself as a very bad version of Santa Klaus for the Desmond Group’s children’s Christmas Party…


“Does Marius know that father…”


“No, he knew nothing of COEUS. He was very shocked. Father had been very good at concealing most traces of his actions…”


Damian let his head fall into the back of the seat. He looked up at the ceiling and closed his eyes. He was suddenly so, so tired. He wanted to curl up in bed and wake up to realise it had all been a nightmare.


Footsteps echoed and once they stopped next to him, he opened his eyes, straightening up. Demetrius was handing him another glass of whiskey.


Damian was dizzier than he had ever been, but he doubted it was the alcohol. He gladly took it and this time, the sensation was far less difficult to handle. It didn’t help his growing headache though.


“Give yourself some time, Damian. Rest while you’re here. Enjoy your time at Eden. God knows it’ll go by far too quickly…”


He opened and closed his mouth to answer but… he found nothing. No word, no feeling, just a disturbing numbness that had taken over his mind, turning it foggy and dark.


Still quiet, still confused, still heart-broken, Damian stood up. He barely registered the way his body moved as he exited his brother’s office and walked, aimlessly, through the labyrinth of halls and rooms of the Desmond mansion.


It was quiet and dark, most servants had gone to bed already. He hadn’t realised how late it was until he wandered, the freshness of winter night seeping through his clothes, all the way to his bones. He almost wished he’d have access to that bottle of whiskey to burn from the inside, and forget everything he had learned.


It hadn’t quite sunk in. Not yet. He wasn’t sure he wanted it to, but he could feel it coming. The anger, the sadness, the horror. It’d be here soon, it’d take over his mind, his body, in a way such emotions never had before, and he wasn’t sure how he’d react. How long it’d last. To grieve his father all over again. To mourn the man he had thought him to be.


Mind foggy by exhaustion, alcohol and too many heavy secrets, Damian almost jumped out of his skin when he saw a silhouette standing in the family library. Dressed all in white, he thought a ghost had come to kill him, as vengeance for all the innocent lives his father had taken, before he recognised that profile and those sad eyes…


He hadn’t seen his mother with her hair down since he had been a child. It had so much greyer than he had assumed. She looked old and tired and she shouldn’t.


Upon hearing his faltering steps, she turned to him, eyes shining from unshed tears.


Damian swallowed hard when he realised she had been staring at the giant portrait of Donovan Desmond that still hung above the chimney.


“…You can’t sleep after everything Demetrius told you, isn’t it?” she asked in a low voice.


“…No, I can’t,” he admitted, although he hadn’t realised the reason behind his hopeless wandering.


She looked back at the portrait. If Damian were entirely honest, it was not a flattering portrait. It didn’t make his father look nicer, or warmer. Just the cold, tall, prideful man he had truly been in his life. Damian would have preferred a lie, if only so looking at this portrait wouldn’t remind him of the painful truth.


“Did you really know nothing of what he was doing…?” Damian asked in a low voice, approaching his mother.


Her lips trembled, and she shook her head.


“I loved him…”


Her voice broke and hearing that sadness, that ever-lasting grief, hurt him far deeper than he would have thought. It reminded him of his own grief that he couldn’t quite shake off. Even after eight years. Especially after tonight.


“You never knew him like I did, you or Demetrius, you only knew him as a distant father but… he was a good man. He… had been a good man, when we were young. Then the war happened, and it changed him… he never was the same.”


She opened her hand, showing a picture she had been hiding against her heart. Damian had never seen this photograph, but her mother was young, wearing a pretty and puffy white dress. Their wedding day. Donovan Desmond had been looking much younger, happier, laughing.


Damian had never seen his father laugh.


Three young men were surrounding them, as joyful, as cheerful, patting the newlywed on the back. The photograph was blurry from all the moving and laughing. It was so true, so authentic, so full of joy that it tore something into Damian’s chest.


He had never known his father like that. Nor his mother. He had only had shells of their former selves as family.


“These three men were your father’s best friends. They grew up together, went to Eden together, graduated together. They were like brothers, the four of them. They’d do the most foolish things together, get in so much trouble…”


She chuckled a little at that, but as surprising as it was, it resonated with too much hurt and loneliness for Damian to rejoice in such a sound.


“I never met them…” Damian realised, not recognising any of the three men.


“They all died. In the war.”


She pointed a long, carefully painted nail, towards the one on the far left.


“Peter’s house was bombed. He died, with his young wife who had been pregnant at the time. Whatever was left of their limbs was so destroyed they couldn’t identify which was whose.”


Damian swallowed hard, but he couldn’t look away from the photograph. A shattered memory, lost in time.


Dafni’s nail continued, to the second man he never knew.


“Darius, here…”


“M-my name…” he stammered.


“Damian Darius Desmond. Your middle-name is in his honour.”


He had never even heard these men’s names pronounced by his father, ever. And he had been named after one of them.


“Darius and Donovan had been in the same unit, your father was a young captain still. They got ambushed and Darius pushed your father out of the way from a stray bullet that got him in the head. Darius died in his arms, slowly, painfully, crying for his mother the entire time. Or so Donovan told me.”


Tears burnt his eyes, for men he had never knew had even existed. For a man who had saved his father’s life, without whom, he would have never been born.


“And Edgar…”


Dafni’s voice turned even more pained and cold as she showed the last man on the picture.


“He betrayed your father’s entire battalion, to the enemy. He had made an alliance with a Westalis general who had promised him his life and riches. I never knew the details of what happened that night but… whatever your father found out about Edgar, they fought… and Edgar never walked out alive of that fight.”


“F-father had… he…”


“He killed him. To save the regiment. He earned a medal for it. He never wore it. Not once.”


No matter the betrayal, he couldn’t imagine killing Ewen or Emile. What crime had Edgar committed to push his father to… to murder him?


“Six years of war… Your brother was so small when he was born, during bombings, in a basement. I had been lying on a pile of coal for the entire labour… Demetrius was covered in charcoal!”


A wet laugh escaped her at the memory.


“He was born too soon, too early, the doctors said he wouldn’t last the night… but your father had heard about his birth, and he crossed all of Berlint, under an endless rain of bombs, to meet his son… He held him and said that Demetrius would never give up on life. He represented too much hope to die so soon. And he was right…”


Damian had heard the story of his brother’s birth many times before. He had never heard that part of the story. He just knew that just after, while his father remained in Ostania, his mother and brother, still a new-born, had crossed the country, then two allied countries torn apart by war, so she could reach the safe haven that was her far away family in the Greek islands. Demetrius grew up there, until he was six years old, until the war was over, and he was sent back in Berlint. A few months later, he was at Eden and started his life of successes.


“Your father was not the same after the war. I never saw his smile again. Except once.”


A single tear fell on the old photograph. Damian glanced at his mother.


“When he held you for the first time…” she said in a broken voice, her accent strong and pained.


Damian’s tears finally rolled down his cheeks. Letting out a shaky breath, he wiped them away quickly. Quiet sobs shook his mother’s shoulders. He hesitated, opening his mouth.


Mother, he wanted to say, like he always did when she was sad, and he didn’t know what to do.


“Mamá…” he said instead.


She startled at the term he had not used since he had been a toddler, a small child. Damian surrounded her shoulders with his arms, trying to give her comfort, without knowing how.


After the gripping horror, the icing fear, the dizzying numbness of the entire day’s revelations, secrets, and emotions, he experienced his greatest shock yet. He was shaken to the core. His mother seemed so fragile, shaking in his arms.


His father had been a monster. But he had not always been one. His mother, for better or worse, held onto the memory of the man she had loved. The father of her beloved children.


Regardless of what he’d do in the future, what he’d become, Damian knew one thing. He would never forgive his father for the monstrosity he had allowed to occur. But he also knew that whatever depravity had taken seed into his father’s soul, whatever horror had hardened his heart to stone, it had only one cause…


The cause that made humans victims and culprits all at once.



Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER XXI: Melting Heart


Damian’s breath formed white fog in front of his mouth, but he kept walking. He had lost sight of the house a long time ago. He had passed the small forest, went beyond the maze in the park, kept walking past the old ruins. It was only when he caught sight of the little town, nestled in the middle of the hills that he slowed down a little. It was over twelve kilometres from the Desmond residence. He hadn’t realised how far away he had walked, how desperate he had been to get away.


He turned around, towards the mansion he couldn’t even see.


He turned his back from it and kept walking, his legs heavy from all that walking in the heavy snow. He arrived at the town, where almost everything was closed. It had snowed again the previous night, it was freezing, it was two days before Christmas. Everyone wanted to stay with their families. To celebrate, gather warmth and rejoice together.


His stomach rumbled, but he ignored it, as he walked through the town he had visited so often as a child. In summer, he often cycled or went horse riding all the way there. Although Penelope was very nervous around cars, and he avoided coming too close.


He stopped at a stone bridge that had been decorated with mistletoe for the festivities. He shook the snow off the tiny little plant, sweet and innocent looking. He then looked down at the river that went on quietly under the bridge. Half-frozen, the flow was much slower than he was used to.


He put his elbows on top of the stone wall, looking down, but he couldn’t see his reflection, only a muddy brown something that probably was his head.


A memory came back to him. He must have been four or five years old, he hadn’t entered Eden yet. It was spring, or summer, warm enough that he had been wearing shorts and held onto a sweaty hand. Big, large, with long fingers tight around his wrist. Tight to make sure he wouldn’t get hurt if he tripped in the roots and branches of the nearby big forest through which the river continued south.


“Look, Damian, these are tadpoles. They are baby frogs.”


“They look weird!”


“All babies look weird. But they’ll grow to become big frogs.”


Just then, a frog had jumped from a rock to Damian, landing on his chest. Screaming, he had fallen backwards and tripped into the river, splashing water everywhere. He had started crying but someone had lifted him up, high, high above their head, as high as their arms could lift him. He had stopped crying, looking down, amazed and comforted by his father’s strong arms and how tall he was and how high he could lift him.


Damian thought he remembered his father smiling in amusement.


The photograph showing his father’s expressionless visage, while watching children being tortured, interrupted the memory.


A sudden headache hit the side of his head. Damian frowned, massaging his temples, and closing his eyes. He didn’t have any recollection of that memory, at the river, looking at tadpoles, with his father. Had he imagined it? Had he imagined his father’s smile? Some of it must have been true, but how much of his father had been an illusion, a lie?


“Oh, it’s the young master!”


Startled, Damian whipped around, surprised to see Joseph standing there, accompanied by a woman of his age, and three children of various heights, two girls and one boy.


“Joseph… Hi,” Damian said, blinking.


The two younger children hid behind their mother’s skirts, but they grinned at him mischievously. Not quite knowing what to do, Damian gave them a little wave. They chuckled, but remained hiding.


“Come on, children, say hi to Master Damian, don’t be shy,” Joseph said, encouraging them with a gentle pat on the head.


They obeyed, mumbling shyly.


Damian lost his smile, witnessing such an unexpected act from his driver.


“What are you doing here, young master?” Joseph continued with a smile, “I would have expected you to stay with your lady mother and the master. It’s so rare for the three of you to be together.”


“Oh, uh… I… needed a walk…”


Joseph blinked, losing his easy composure.


“You walked here? Surely someone could have driven you here… Should I accompany you back at the house?”


“No! No, no, no, I… I enjoyed the walk… I needed it. To clear my head.”


“…Very well, sir. If you need my services, we live right around the corner,” Joseph continued, pointing at a house.


It’s quite small for such a big family… Damian thought, blinking.


“We are very lucky to be living in such a nice place,” Joseph’s wife added with a smile, “It’s thanks to your brother’s protection, sir. We are very grateful to the Desmond for the life they have offered us.”


Damian felt a knot in his throat. He nodded automatically. He looked at the three grinning children. He thought back on the hundreds, possibly more, who had died because of his father.


But those three smiles gave him comfort.


He could never endure the guilt and weight of the lives gone too soon… but his brother, his family, had managed to help this family. Had helped these children grow up with such an innocent joy.


“I’m glad,” he said, voice tight, “Are you… looking forward to Christmas?” he asked the children.


They nodded eagerly.


“Santa Klaus is going to visit me first!” The youngest exclaimed suddenly, jumping up and down.


“Santa Klaus will visit all three of you in the same time, he doesn’t have any favourite,” Joseph intervened.


“But, I’m the baby!”


“That’s not fair!” The middle child exclaimed.


“Now, now, no arguing or Santa Klaus will not visit at all,” their mother said.


That quieted them down quickly. They rapidly turned back towards Damian with smiles on their faces.


“Are you the mister who lives in the big, big mansion where daddy works?” the youngest asked eagerly.


“I… uh, well, I spend most of my time in Berlint. I’m only here… to visit my family.”


The children looked confused.


“Where is your family?”


Lost. Scattered. As cold and lonely as those snow-covered mistletoe.


Incapable of finding an answer, Damian just stared at them. The silence stretched on and on, only interrupted by the occasionally gurgle of the river under their feet.


The children, starting to worry they had done something wrong, and a little scared of the consequences, looked up at their father.


They looked up at him as if he had all the answers in the universe. Joseph smiled at them, to reassure them they had done nothing wrong. They immediately relaxed.


“I should go,” Damian said suddenly.


“A-are you sure? You look pale, sir…” Joseph hesitated.


“I’m fine, thank you…”


Damian walked off, feeling the worried gaze of Joseph burning in his back. Damian kept walking, down the main street, until he heard running footsteps coming towards him. Panicking a little, he turned around but saw Joseph coming with a smile.


“Let me accompany you, young master.”


“…You don’t have to. I know the way back.” Damian answered automatically.


“I know, but you look like you need a little bit of company.”


He didn’t have any answer to that. Joseph walked by his side quietly.


“…I didn’t know you had children…” Damian finally said, cutting the silence.


“Ah, yes, lovely little ones. A little mischievous and high on sugar, but who can blame them at Christmas?”


He laughed, as if it was an obvious joke. Damian didn’t quite understand it, but perhaps it was his exhaustion nagging at him.


He had barely slept the previous nights, catching only glimpses of blank darkness until the sun woke him completely. He had thought everything had been a terrible nightmare, but he had found the COEUS document under his pillow. He had hidden it again, in his locked drawer, then he had gotten dressed and had walked out while the servants were still preparing breakfast.


“Are you sure you are well, sir?”




His voice trailed off, he looked up just as they were walking past a small hand-craft gift shop. He went to a stop. Joseph sent him a strange and curious look.


Damian stared at the window of the shop, at the mountains of wooden toys, little figures, little Christmas trees that lit up, doll houses, silly mugs… but what had drawn his attention was the big and beautiful crystal star, with edges decorated with gold.




His guiding star.


The ice of his heart finally started melting, a slow-burning fire making his heart beating once more. How easily he would have let his heart turn to stone. It was so much easier, to numb it all, than face any of the pain. But not when he thought of Anya, of her smile, of her light. If it was for her, if it was with her, he’d face a lifetime of shame and guilt, as long as he could keep her smiling.


Letting out a heavy sigh, his shoulders dropped as he stared at the slowly twirling star that hung there, catching light and reflecting hope.


“You must love her very much.”


Damian turned towards Joseph, eyes widening and his cheeks taking an unexpected red that had nothing to do with the cold.


“The young lady you spent quite a while in the car with,” he continued with a smile, “I had never seen you so happy before. You must love her very much.”


Damian looked back at the twinkling star, blinking.


“…I do.”


And he remembered that he had had one objective when coming to see his family: tell them about Anya. With all the chaos of the revelations surrounding his father’s past, he had forgotten that there was life and love ahead.


“I do,” he repeated, his voice stronger.


“I’m very happy for you, young master,” Joseph said.


Damian blushed, but he nodded.


“I… I remembered that I needed to buy some Christmas presents still… That’s why I came here… I’ll uh… finish that. Have a good holiday, Joseph.”


“Thank you, young master. You too, have a Merry Christmas!” Joseph exclaimed, visibly reassured that Damian had cheered up.


His young master stared at him, a little stunned by such profusion of joy.


He heard these words every year, but somehow, they had always seemed meaningless. Until now.


“Merry Christmas,” he answered with a genuine smile.


Joseph bowed to him, then walked away. Damian watched him stop at a confectionary shop, probably more sugar for his children that he obviously doted on. He felt a bit guilty, knowing that Joseph spent most of his time in Berlint, away from his family, driving his mother or himself around the city.


Damian walked into the shop, startling at the little bell that announced his entrance. He had hoped to walk in discreetly and have a look first but the shop keeper, an old lady with a big smile and a bun of white hair, turned to him.


“Welcome! Oh, young mister Desmond!”


“Uh… hi.”


He glanced around. The shop was small and he felt clumsy, worried he’d hit something and break it. He had never felt so little confidence in his life, and yet here was, a ridiculous version of himself.


“I haven’t seen you since you were tall as three apples! How you’ve grown! You’re becoming a charming young man!” she exclaimed, standing up and wiping her hands on an apron.


He blinked, he had no memory of ever entering this place. But it was a delight for children, so he had no trouble imagining himself dragging his mother, or a servant in here, and buying half of it just because he could.


“You used to come every time you and your brother went to the river down in the forest, to look at insects, animals and even frogs! Your brother always took such good care of you!”


She laughed cheerfully at the thought. Damian almost fell over in shock.


His memory of the tadpoles… it hadn’t been his father?


…Of course, it hadn’t been his father. Why was he so sad at the obvious realisation?


The temperature difference with the outside hit him. And the sheer warmth of that lady’s smile. He felt too hot and sweaty, very uncomfortable.


He took out his hands from his pockets, then his gloves and opened his jacket.


“I… wanted to buy…”


He pointed at the big crystal star, blushing well enough for the shop keeper’s eyes to twinkle in a knowing manner.


“Of course, sir!”


She took it off its hanging place and carefully wrapped it in many layers of paper for safe transport. While she was doing that, Damian walked around the shop, looking at everything.


He grabbed a snow globe with a meadow of flowers in it, for his mother. A wooden glasses box, decorated with painted owls, for his brother, even if he didn’t need glasses (yet).


He had other gifts for them he had brought from Berlint. A luxurious leather bag Blackbell had said was the top of fashion for ladies. A silk tie for his brother. But somehow, those silly and inexpensive gifts felt… more authentic.


He added them to the table, glancing around to make sure he wasn’t forgetting anything. His gaze landed on the big wooden doll house, every room equipped with furniture and details he would have never even thought of. There was a sizeable wooden train and tracks. He vaguely remembered having one of those as a child, although he had no idea what had happened to it.


“I’ll take those, as well,” he said, pointing at the wooden train and the doll house.


The shop keeper blinked, confused. He flushed, then continued, head down.


“D-do you know Joseph, who lives across the bridge? He’s my driver and uh…”


“Oh, I see!”


“Could you have it delivered for them?”


“Of course, sir!”


“And uh…”


He looked around, vaguely remembered Jeeves talking about his granddaughter.


In the end, almost an hour later, Damian walked out empty handed, but feeling a lot lighter. The shop keeper waved at him, her booming laugh for “getting her out of business by buying so much” still resonating in his head. She hadn’t seemed to mind though. Everything he had ordered would be delivered in time, before Christmas, to everyone he had wished to offer a gift. Some would be delivered to the Desmond mansion by the end of the day, including the star he wanted to offer Anya.


He crossed through the little town, jumped off the wall that surrounded it, and made his way towards the vague direction of the Desmond manor. He decided to take the shortest way, through the hills. Which proved to be a terrible idea when, half-way back, walking steadily on the snow, he suddenly ended up falling into the sparkling powder up to his knees.


“Damn it!” he exclaimed, feeling snow sneaking into his boots.


He tried to raise his leg and make another step forward but it only made him fall deeper. Buried to the waist, he shook his legs and lost his balance. He fell into the pile of snow, shaking his arms and legs and cursing. He tried to get up, but that proved impossible.


“Damn it!!” he shouted, flailing his arms and legs around in annoyance, trying hopelessly to get up again.


He shook off the snow, got wetter, colder, more annoyed. Frustration built up in him and he expressed it with a sudden, furious scream. He kept screaming and screaming, until his throat was sore and he was out of breathe, falling into the snow that was turning into a surprisingly comfortable bed. A bit cold, but comfortable nonetheless. Arms and legs spread out like a star, he closed his burning eyes.


The quietness of nature surrounded him, smothered him, like a blanket.


Some birds screeched in a tree. Some snow fell off a branch on the ground. Potentially in the aftermath of his agonising shout.


He opened his eyes and tears rolled down his cold cheeks. He sniffed and wiped them away quickly.


His heart hurt. His comfort had only been temporary. The closer he got to the house, to his family, to the secrets, the more he feared seeing anyone again.


The more he feared having to face his father’s ghost. A father he was growing to hate, a hatred he abhorred all the more. An abhorration that was taking root in the depth of his chest, tangling in his ribs, pulsing through his heart. He hated hating his father. He hated himself for hating his father.


A couple of birds fluttered through the sky, just above his head, then flew off in the distance. He watched them go.


“If they have love, they can soar through the sky!”


She probably didn’t remember ever telling him that. He never understood why it had stuck in his mind. Engraved in his heart.


His heart, that had melted and iced again, warmed up once more. Even though his entire body was, quite literally, freezing.


He sat up, accidentally getting deeper in the snow. He tried getting up, fell down. He stayed there, face buried in his knees.


Some birds sung.


It made him stand up again. He managed to take a step. Perhaps if he stacked the snow enough with his weight, he’d get out of this impossible trap.


He fell face first into the snow. He spat out what he had gotten in his mouth, an annoyed look on his face.


Upon hearing another bird song, further away, he stood up again.


It took a long while, but by falling, standing, and eventually, unceremoniously, and in a very non-gentleman-like fashion, rolling down the hill, he managed to stand on two legs again, shaking off the snow that had gotten in every bit of clothing that were supposed to keep him from the cold.


Hair wet, socks wet, boots squeaking, he eventually arrived at the mansion. If he had looked at himself, he’d have run away. His face was pale from lack of sleep, his eyes had deep and dark circles, his legs ached from all the walking and struggling in the snow, his stomach was tight from hunger after skipping several meals…


But he stumbled towards the conservatory. He was so sleepy that if he weren’t so uncomfortably cold and wet, he’d probably just collapse in bed. He stumbled on a patch of ice, catching himself against the stone wall of the house. He started opening the conservatory door, kicking his boots against the first step to get rid of any accumulated snow there.


Just as it dropped, he heard the voices of Demetrius and his mother, talking around a cup of tea, so preoccupied by their conversation that they didn’t even notice him behind them.


“…Must tell him before the gala.” His mother continued, staring at Demetrius intensely.


“He’s in enough shock already. I’m not going to add more to what he’s going through at the moment.”


Dafni opened her mouth, just as Damian sneezed. Loudly. Demetrius and Dafni jumped, turning around, seeing Damian there, glaring and red-nosed, an absolute mess.


“What in heavens happened to you?” Demetrius asked, looking him up and down, completely bewildered.


“The snow attacked me,” Damian answered with a serious expression.


“Oh, dear! Oh, I’ll go get a towel!” Dafni exclaimed, running out of the conservatory.


“Mother!” Demetrius called after her, “No, fetch a maid, you don’t know where the… towels are kept… anyway…”


He gave a stern look at Damian’s poor appearance.


“…Did you at least win, against the snow?”


“Of course, I did,” Damian answered, rolling his eyes.


He could have almost laughed, if it hadn’t felt so surreal. His brother, Demetrius Desmond, just made a joke.


They stared at each other.


“…How are you feeling?” Demetrius asked, lowering his gaze on the floor, as if he was the one who had committed some atrocity in the past.


“…Not as bad as I could be, but…”


Damian shrugged.


“I don’t really know…”


Demetrius nodded, absentmindedly.


“You’re handling it better than I did. I spent three days locked in my room with liquors. Fighting snow is better.”


“You think?” Damian exclaimed, his voice dripping with irony, holding out his arms, just as more snow fell off his shoulders.


Demetrius’ lips tilted up, then he sobered up, as if controlling himself from showing any amusement.


“What was it I heard? More secrets?” Damian mumbled as he took off his now useless and wet coat and threw it on the first chair he saw.


Demetrius looked uncomfortable. He acted uncomfortable. He moved on his chair and looked away, as if he didn’t want to face Damian at this exact moment.


Damian narrowed his eyes, even more suspicious. He had never seen his brother act this way. His brother was never uncomfortable. He made people uncomfortable, not the other way around.


“Spit it out, Demetrius,” he hissed.


“I’m getting married,” he let out so quickly that Damian wasn’t sure he had heard it well.




“I’m… getting married.” Demetrius repeated with a determined look on his face.


Damian stared at him. Did he have snow in his ears?


“You’re… getting married?” he asked, blinking in astonishment.


“Yes, well… Rather, I am getting engaged. Soon.” He continued, talking slowly as if his brother was dumb.


Spending so much time outdoors might have had more consequences to his health than Damian initially considered.


“…You’re getting married… with what? Who? A woman?”


“Well! Yes! Not a snowman!” Demetrius snapped.


He stood up, starting to walk around in long paces. He was nervous. He was nervous because he would get engaged soon.


“…I didn’t even know you were… considering… that you were interested in women! Or getting married!”


“What did you think I was interested in?” Demetrius mumbled, rolling his eyes.


“I don’t know!” Damian exclaimed with a big shrug, “Spending the rest of your life escaping your own reflection in the mirror!! You never showed any interest to anyone! How long have you been dating?! Who even is that woman?!”


“Oh, we have not been dating, what are you even thinking, Damian? We are gentlemen, we can’t flounder ourselves to the first woman who gets our attention!” Demetrius exclaimed, looking wildly shocked, “I have been courting her since last summer, but I wanted to wait for… well, to discuss with you about father before… officialising my courting.”


Oh no, Damian thought, his heart beating fast.


He had forgotten how very old-fashioned his mother and brother were. How could he ever tell them about Anya? His brother would have an aneurysm.


“As for who she is… It’s Diana Blum.”


Damian opened and closed his lips, straightening up.


“Diana Blum… of the Blum family? The heiress of the Blum family?” he asked.


“How many Diana Blum do you know?” Demetrius mumbled impatiently.


Who had not heard of the Blum family? They were new money, but already so powerful. The father had gotten incredibly rich between the two wars by increasing his wealth through real-estates. Now, he owned half of the buildings of Berlint, most of the entertainment malls, centres, theatres, and cinemas. He had married a gorgeous (and very rich) American actress who had given him three daughters who were considered the brightest jewels of the country: Diana, Elena, and Frida. Frida was a year younger than he was, at Eden, with six Stella stars.


If he recalled well, Diana had been from the same year as his brother, but in different classes. She had been, since middle-school a horse-riding champion. She had made it her professional career, winning almost every golden medal and trophy she could. She had qualified for the Olympians, and gotten a Silver medal. He remembered watching the interview where she had placed second, and laughed about it, looking forward to her next chance to win Gold.


“You want to marry Diana Blum?!” Damian shouted.


“YES! Will you please get over it?!” Demetrius exclaimed back, voice rising uncontrollably.


Several maids and butlers poked their heads in, curious to hear the two brothers screaming, but they only watched curiously.


“DIANA BLUM?! Why of all women did you choose the one with a name that starts with a D!! Don’t we have enough D’s in the family, by now?!”


That’s your issue?!”


“NO! My issue is that I was the one supposed to tell you that I’m in love with someone and you’re ruining EVERYTHING!!” Damian shouted furiously.


Dafni came back just then, arms heavy with several covers. She looked between her two sons whose eyes were wide and cheeks red. In anger or embarrassment, she couldn’t tell. She leaned towards a maid:


“What just happened?” she asked in a low voice.


“Master Demetrius just said he intends to marry Miss Diana Blum…”


“Oh dear, I should have been the one telling Damian, Demetrius has no tact…” Dafni sighed, shaking her head.


“And Master Damian just said he’s in love with someone…”


“He hasn’t said who, yet,” a butler piped in discreetly.


Oh no, he should have told me first…” Dafni despaired, giving the covers to the maid.


Dafni stepped forward, to calm things down, but Demetrius finally reacted. He lifted his hand, one finger shaking, as if in disbelief.


“…What did you just say?”


Damian looked away, blushing terribly.


“…None of your business,” he mumbled.


“You did not say that! Did you say you’re in love with someone?! You’re a child, what do you know of love?!”


“More than you know! Mister-Courting-Diana-Blum-In-Secret as if we were still in the eighteenth century!!”


“Who is this young woman! Please, do not say Anya Forger–”


“Anya Forger,” Damian answered quickly.


Demetrius closed his eyes, clenching his jaw. He brought a hand to his face, massaging the bridge of his nose in utter abjection.


“…Well, that’s said and done, I’m gonna take a shower!” Damian exclaimed in a hurry, trying to walk away.


“Hold on a minute!” Demetrius cried out, grabbing his shoulder.


Damian made a strangled sound, as his brother continued:


Please, do not tell me that you have started courting her without my authorisation!”


“Well…” Damian stammered, looking as far away from his brother as possible.


“Or her father’s authorisation!!”


Well… the funny thing is…”




“We may or may not have missed a few steps of the whole, uh… courting thing…” he admitted in a low voice.


His brother’s hand tightened on his shoulder, suddenly hard enough that he yelped. More out of fear than proper pain.


“You have what…” he hissed in his ear.


“Oh! Give me a break! We’re not in a history book! Or in a romance novel from Janet Austen!!” He exclaimed, walking away from his brother.


Considering the long, long silence that followed, Damian dared a look over his shoulder.


Demetrius looked completely shocked. Appalled. Distressed.


“Darling, are you okay?” Dafni asked when her sons finally got silent.


Demetrius ignored her, looking back at Damian.


“Is she… missing a few steps… did you… are you… is she… is she in a compromising position?” Demetrius asked in a low, frightened voice.


Damian turned fifty shades of red. His body became so hot that he was quite certain than any melted snow left on his clothes went into steam.


“NO! NO! YOU– We did NOT!! We are NOT! YOU! HOW DARE YOU IMPLY SUCH A THING?!” Damian shouted furiously.










Damian ended up out of breath, glaring at his brother as much as Demetrius was fuming. He raised his finger again, as if to scold him, but Damian started walking away.


“DON’T turn your back on me! We are not DONE!”


“We are DONE! I have nothing else to say to you! You are incapable of love or attachment, it is not something you could possibly understand!!”


“She is rude! She’s a commoner!”


Damian whipped around, pointing a vicious finger at his brother.


“Don’t you dare talk of Anya that way! She may have been born a commoner, but she is a thousand times nobler and braver than any of us, fancy idiots! She is bright, intelligent, beautiful, optimistic, cheerful! She is the light of my life! She is the star of my nights! I have been in love with her since she punched me in the face! I have been in love with her before I even knew what love was! I am happy with her, she makes me happy, and I would rather give up on the Desmond name and wealth than ever think of a life without her!!”


Breathless, blushing, Damian stared at his brother who gaped at him like a stupid fish.


“Oh, Damian, my darling,” Dafni whispered, hands coming to her mouth.


Demetrius looked around, confused, and startled by Damian’s unexpected confession. He took a deep breath, not looking away from his older brother’s flabbergasted expression.


“…I am not giving up on her… and I had intended to tell you about her in a more… relaxed manner, but you threw me off with your… your secrets and new political party and your engagement to Diana Blum of all people! What you are even getting married for is beyond me, but I… I’m in love with Anya. And I’m not giving up on her.”


With these words, Damian felt hope flaming in his chest that maybe, maybe, his feelings would reach his brother. Surely, if he was considering getting married, he might know what love was, after all. He might understand how Damian felt. How important it was for him, to be allowed to be with Anya without ruining forever his relationship with his family.


Demetrius opened his lips. He said nothing and closed his mouth. He opened it again. He frowned, silent.


Damian’s nerves were so stretched, after the previous night, and the entire morning and early afternoon spent battling his emotions and the snow, that he was very close to just punch his brother in the hope he’d make another face than that aghast expression.


“Say something–” Damian hissed furiously, all the pent-up anger, frustration, and annoyance of the last night – not, the last decade – coming back full force until his body shook.


“You… kissed her… in the library?” Demetrius finally said, after a long moment of silence.


Damian tightened his fists. He held back, he tried, he truly wanted to hold back. But faced with this impossible, idiotic, older brother, he could not


With a raging scream, he attacked. He jumped against Demetrius who, too stunned to react, was pushed against the nearest wall.


Maids and butlers gasped but Dafni held them back with a sharp nod of her head.


Pressed against Demetrius, as if to tackle him, Damian kept screaming. Demetrius, beyond his initial shock, finally grabbed him by the collar, trying to push him away.


“Let me go, you little brat!” he exclaimed, using words he had never even thought of.


“You! Are! Stupid!”


“I’m not!!”


Another urge of strength from Damian had the fragile door of the conservatory open wildly. They fell through it. Demetrius stumbled in the snow until they both collapsed in a pile of white powder. The biting cold hit him and he pushed Damian off. He stumbled and grabbed snow that he threw in his brother’s face. Demetrius did the same, cursing while spiting snow out of his mouth.


“You! Stubborn! Stick-up-the-ass! Idiot! Old! Bamboozled! Gorilla! I can’t believe I was ever JEALOUS of you!!” Damian continued, punctuating every word with another handful of snow he forced against his brother’s face, neck or whatever he could reach.


“Madam, shouldn’t we do something?” a maid asked Dafni who stared at the spectacles.


“Don’t be ridiculous, they never played in the snow like that,” she answered with a smile.


“I don’t think they’re playing, madam…”


“Fighting is therapeutic…” she replied stubbornly.


The maids and butlers glanced at each other worriedly, witnessing the first and very unexpected snow fight of the Desmond children.


“Ungrateful kid!” Demetrius shouted, “You’re the second one! You don’t know how lucky you are!”


“What did I ever get except being kicked in the dirt by father?! By you?!”


“I never did anything to you!! I only wanted to let you be free! That was a mistake!!”


You’re the mistake! You never cared for me!” Damian exclaimed, tripping over his own feet.


“I only cared for you! Always!! More than father ever did!!”


“I don’t believe you!!”


“She’s a commoner!”


“What’s so wrong with being a commoner?! With being in love?!”


“It’s just hormones!!”


“It’s not!!”


“She punched you in the face!! You can’t be in love with someone who punched you in the face, when she KICKED me!!”


Damian stopped, mid-swing. The snow fell out of his hand. Eyes wide, he stared at Demetrius snow-covered, red, furious face. It was the first time he saw his brother with hair out of place. Most of it was standing wildly.


“She what now.” He asked in a harsh voice.


Demetrius pushed him off, into the snow, sitting up and trying to dust off what had accumulated on his shoulders. He blushed more, although Damian couldn’t tell if it was his anger or embarrassment.


“She accidentally kicked me in the face when going down her horse… That’s how we got acquainted,” Demetrius mumbled.


Embarrassment, definitely embarrassment, and Damian would never let his brother forget this moment.


My punch wasn’t an accident, it was very much intentional,” he answered.


Demetrius glanced at him, unimpressed. If anything, he was more horrified.


“We were six!” Damian exclaimed, as if it justified anything, “And I… deserved it.”




“Ah, what.”


“Ah. I remember now. A friend of mine came laughing to tell me that my little brother had made an embarrassment of himself for getting punched by his classmate on the very first day of school.”


Damian glared at him.


Demetrius looked down, looking a little remorseful and ashamed of what had just passed between them. A silly fight, as if they were toddlers fighting for the same toy. The toy being simply the need to let out the steam they had held on for too long.


“…You should have talked to me before doing anything to her. Commoner or not, once her father finds out, they’ll have expectations. You’re too young to understand what you’re doing, neither of you, and with the growing uncertainty about the Desmond Group, and my party…”


“Believe me, I’m quite certain that Loid Forger’s last wish is to get his daughter married to me,” Damian answered with a bitter smile, “All he wants is for her to be happy. And I intend to do just that. With or without your blessing. It’d be easier with. For all of us.”


Demetrius glanced his way. His brother was staring with a stubborn, unflinching look on his face. His gaze was alit with a determination he had never witnessed before.


“…It’s the first time you ask something for yourself.”


It surprised Damian enough that his expression morphed into one of confusion.


“You’ve always only wanted to make father proud, to be noticed and receive praise. You never asked for anything in return for all your efforts.”


“…Does this mean I have your blessing, then?” Damian asked hopefully.


“Not until I meet her and her family,” Demetrius answered, standing up suddenly.


“Why! I’ll never ask anything else from you, ever! I promise! Just let me be with Anya! I beg of you!!”


“A Desmond does not beg, have some pride,” Demetrius scolded, as if they had not just fought in the snow like petty children, in front of half of the staff of their house.


“Then, I’m not begging! I’m asking very, very strongly to have your blessing!”


“I am not giving my blessing until I have met her and her family, Damian!” Demetrius exclaimed in a tone that didn’t leave room for more debate.


Grimacing, clenching his fists, Damian stood up to face him. He crossed his arms over his chest. He realised that they were almost the same height, which flared his ego.


“Then I’m not giving you my blessing to marry Diana Blum!” he replied with a casual shrug.


“I don’t need your blessing to marry her!” Demetrius answered with wide eyes.


“But you would like it all the same, isn’t it?” Damian said and his brother grimaced in a way that told him he was right, “I’m the same. I won’t stop dating Anya because you haven’t given your blessing… but I would like it all the same.”


They stared at each other. Neither willing to give up.


Dafni moved closer, carrying some covers, but she glanced between the two curiously. She had never seen her children so unruffled, so uncaring of their appearances, of their duties as Desmond. For the first time in their lives, they were unknowingly following the same path: listening to their hearts, being stubborn for it, rather than hope for a dead man’s approval. She couldn’t help but smile, even though they were quite confused with the whole ordeal.


“…I will ignore you dating this commoner for now, at the condition that you don’t make a fool of yourself. Don’t make it known that you two are… courting. Ask for her father’s blessing before taking any other move. Do not make a fool of yourself. Do not kiss her in the library, it’s irresponsible and rude. I will reserve my blessing, if I judge her good enough for you, until I meet her. I might have some time off in spring.”


“In spring?!” Damian repeated, “What do you want me to do until then! Count flower petals in the hope she doesn’t dislike me?!”


“Court her properly, discreetly! Be a gentleman! And don’t make a joke of the Desmond name!” Demetrius snapped, “It’s bad enough you didn’t wait for anyone’s blessing before kissing her, father would return from his grave if it’s ever known you… you… did anything to ruin this young woman!”


“Oh, she’s the one ruining me…” Damian muttered to himself, cheeks blushing.


Demetrius glared at him. So that was what he meant by ‘not making a fool of himself.’


“As for Diana, don’t you dare embarrass me in front of her. You’ll meet her during the gala. If you say anything discourteous, I will disown you, understood?”


“You sound about as threatening as a squirrel, covered in wet snow like that.”




“Alright! I will not say anything discourteous to that poor woman you intend to marry!”


“She is very pleased with the arrangement, I’ll let you know.”


“I’ll reserve my blessing, if I judge you good enough for her,” Damian replied with a shit-eating grin that infuriated his brother.


Before Demetrius could reply anything, Dafni finally intervened. She forced towels in both of their arms.


“Now that you’re getting along again, come in, before you catch a cold, sweetpies,” she said with a smile that was so happy that both young men were a little stunned.


They hadn’t seen their mother so happy in a long time. They glanced at each other. Perhaps they should fight more often.


As they walked in, Damian remembered something. Before leaving the conservatory, ignoring the servants shuffling away quickly, surely to spread the gossip as fast as possible to the rest of the staff, he turned back towards a shivering Demetrius. He was glaring at the unfortunate tea that had cooled down by now.


“By the way, I’m taking Anya out at the Grand Theatre the day after the gala so you won’t see me for two days.”


“You are WHAT!”


Damian quickly escaped out of his brother’s shouting range, ignoring the way the maids giggled at him as he passed them. And yet, despite being covered in melted snow, shaking and still full of too many emotions… he had never felt this warm in this huge house.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star



Damian looked at his reflection in the mirror. He wore an elegant and sharp black suit with a dark green waistcoat and a golden tie. His shoes were shining as much as his golden cuffs engraved with an elegant D.


Guests had already started arriving for the much expected Desmond’s Christmas Gala.


Every year, on Christmas Eve, they organised a gala with all the Desmond Group’s associates and important members, with the addition of friends and distant family. More often than not, it was a big and fancy event used as an excuse for all the Desmond Group’s advisors, strategists and essential minds to gather, along with many guests from several political parties, but obviously, a majority of National Unity Party members.


The huge Christmas tree in the ballroom was decorated and had been displayed with many little gifts for every guest, although no one cared. Except the children, but there were few of them attending. Damian remembered asking, as a very small child, for his brother to play with him hide and seek during one of these galas. Demetrius had refused strongly, and Damian had never felt anything but absolute boredom during those events.


 Of course, over the years, he got used to it. He expected them. He looked forward to them. If only for the praise that rained on him from almost complete strangers.


“What a handsome young man you are becoming!”


“An Imperial Scholar, so young! How impressive!”


“Captain of the football team, you won the championship! Congratulations!”


Of course, he had been starved for compliments and attention. Of course, he now was old enough to understand that these praises had all been to gain the Desmond’s good grace.


Someone knocked at the door, and for once, he was dressed and ready.


“Are you ready to go?” His mother asked with a smile.


He nodded before joining her. He presented his arm, and she placed her hand in his elbow.


“Your brother is extremely nervous, so don’t banter with him, Damian,” she murmured as they slowly walked towards the end of the hall.


“…I’ll try my best.”


“Damian, please…”


“I promise I’ll try my best.” He sighed, looking away.


She seemed satisfied with it, but he noticed that her smile was tight and forced.


He swallowed hard.


The guest list had not changed this year. It was the same as always, with perhaps a few additions for new alliances. But he knew Demetrius intended to announce to everyone about his plan to create a new party. They had had a long family discussion about this, to make sure everything went smoothly. Demetrius had spent months polishing this evening. He had discussed his plans with the more important Desmond Group’s board of directors and essential associates, already signing new alliances and confidential plans. Many influential people from the political stage, politicians, journalists, militants, had been introduced, in secrecy, to Demetrius’ plans. Several left and centrist newspapers were already preparing an article to come out on the twenty-seventh, to follow this grand announcement. The most delicate part will be to control the reaction of the National Unity Party.


Damian was quite certain these old and egotistical men were already cheering and congratulating themselves for finally getting their greedy hands on the most influential family and wealth of the country.


They will be furious. They will feel insulted. That will make them dangerous.


Dafni and Damian found Demetrius checking for the thousandth time his outfit, very similar to Damian’s, except it was black, dark blue and silver.


“Are you ready, αγάπη μου?” Dafni asked.


“Of course,” he answered cheekily, raising his chin high.


He turned to go through the giant double-doors to enter, in great ceremony, the ball room. They could already hear the smothered sound of background music and excited discussions.


Dafni reached out for Demetrius, forcing him for a stop. She pulled him closer and placed herself so she could face both her sons in the same time. Her smile wasn’t quite as tight.


“I know we have a complicated history, and we have made many mistakes… but regardless of what happened tonight, and in the future… I want us to remain a family. Promise me.”


Demetrius and Damian glanced at each other, a little stunned by her intense gaze. It was as if their mother was slowly coming back to life, after eight years of being half a ghost.


“…Of course, mother. We’re…”


Demetrius hesitated before taking his mother’s hand, then the other on Damian’s shoulder. The latter blinked, unused to such… gestures with his family. It was new… but he didn’t dislike it. It was probably the one thing he had craved his entire life. Acceptance, to be part of the Desmond family, to belong to it.


Ironic that it took their father’s betrayal beyond death and a silly snow fight to be brought together.


“We’re a family, no matter what.”


Dafni’s smile could have lit up a thousand Christmas trees.


Demetrius tightened his hold on Damian’s shoulder. They hadn’t apologised to each other yet, they were too proud, and they might never be brave enough to seek forgiveness for that heated argument… but deep down, they knew that whatever wall had been built between them in the past had broken down. Whatever laid beyond was unknown and frightening, but… the wall was gone. It was all that truly mattered.


They were a family, united at last, for better or worse.


“You’re as much family as they are, for me. It won’t feel complete without you here.”


Damian swallowed hard, looking away. He brought his hand to his chest, his heart beating strongly, but something was wrong. The red string of fate that tied his heart, to Anya’s, was pulled too tight. It hurt. He didn’t know why.


“Ah, one minute, I almost forgot!” Dafni exclaimed, hurrying towards a nearby maid who had a silver tray covered in green things they couldn’t identify.


She brought back three branches of mistletoe, the milky white plant shining under the golden lights. She put one in Demetrius’ chest pocket, then Damian’s, and attached hers on her brooch.


“For good luck.”


She took Demetrius’ face, despite his grimacing expression. And pulled him down for a forehead kiss.


“No matter what, I am so proud of you, αγάπη μου. Remember that, always.”


He nodded, softened by the tender gesture. Dafni then kissed Damian, to his great dismay at the idea of having any lipstick on his cheek, but she put her arm back around his arm.


It was Dafni, the Lady Desmond, chin high and standing proud, surrounded by her two handsome sons, who told the butler to open the doors.


Light flooded over them.


Blinded by the attention, the crushing expectations of this evening, Damian stepped through in the same time as his mother and brother.


They stood over the top of the stairs for a short moment, the entire attendance looking up at them with the usual mix for such gatherings: awe, jealousy, pride, resentment. It flew over the three Desmond like mere raindrops over a bird’s feathers. Over a griffin’s resplendent plumage.


They went down the stairs, and with the ease and practice of years of such a life of lights and fake smiles, they mixed in with the guests. Meeting, shaking hands, laughing whenever necessary.


Damian caught sight of some of Eden students he knew in the crowd, among them Blackbell and Bill Watkins, but he kept himself occupied by following his brother. He had yet to give an answer on what he considered for his future, in taking over the Desmond Group rather than fall into the hell hole that was politics, but Demetrius had insisted on introducing him to many of the Group’s most important partners.


Damian had met them all in the past, but even if the words were not spoken outloud, for the first time, he was being introduced to them as an equal. As a potential CEO. Their gazes, which had been kind and encouraging whenever they had asked, in the past, about his Stella Stars and achievements, were gone, replaced by wary, distant, questioning eyes.


Was he good enough for a CEO? How did he behave? How strong was his handshake? Was he just a child inheriting something too big for him? Or did he have enough potential to be considered a true leader in the future?


Damian was aware of their doubts, their questions, their judgements, but he met them head-on. Answering questions, discussing current affairs, smiling whenever it was deemed appropriate, being serious beyond his years whenever it was needed. Marius Steinmann, the Desmond Group’s Vice President of Operations, was more than eager to stand by his sides, encouraging the topic that a normal teenager shouldn’t be familiar with, to continue.


At some point, without realising it, Demetrius left his side. Damian had been handling on his own an entire group of wilful men, three times his age, who were looking for any weakness or shortcoming the way vultures circled the sky to pick a corpse’s rotting meat.


But Damian didn’t waver. He even surprised himself at how comfortable he was.


“You were brilliant,” Marius Steinmann said when he finally steered Damian away from the Desmond Group’s board of directors.


“Ah, thank you…”


“Your brother told me you weren’t sure about your future, that you consider politics… I’m sure you’d do great, but you’re such a bright kid. Always have been. Do you remember when you were a child? You had been brought to the headquarters because your nanny and tutor had both been sick. You were told to sit still and be quiet, and yet, hours later, we found you reading a whole encyclopaedia!”


Marius laughed at the memory, tapping fondly Damian on the shoulder.


“I have no memory of such a thing…”


“You couldn’t have been more than five years old… Small and lanky, so chubby, no taller than that, and look at you now!” he continued, pointing at his knee as a reference to Damian’s former height, “And there was this one time when I visited your father and you had decided to hand out drawings to everyone, drawings of a griffin, you know. You gave one to me, and your father, everyone who had been at that reunion, then you didn’t stop there! You gave one to every servant, butler, and maid of the house!”


He laughed again, making Damian flush in embarrassment.


“And when your father asked you why you did such a thing, Donovan had looked so flabbergasted, so confused, you answered in the most innocent way possible that, ‘griffins protected people’, and so you ‘wanted to protect everyone, as a Desmond ought to’!”


Marius eagerly grabbed two glasses of champagne, handing one for Damian.


“You are intelligent, of course, and hardworking, but your greatest quality, that I always thought shone brightest in you, Damian, is how earnest you are! You are sweet and good…”


His voice trailed off. Damian followed Marius’ gaze, finding Dafni and Demetrius talking to some old friend of their father, from the National Unity Party. They acted distant and tense, despite the polite exchange.


“Politics… ruined Donovan. I knew him for a long time, before he joined that party. Got his head all jumbled about during the second war… Demetrius is too headstrong to be manipulated like your father was, but you? You’d be moulded like a second Donovan in their hands.”


Damian stiffened, not liking the way this conversation was turning, but Marius was being extremely serious.


“What do you mean?” Damian asked in a hushed voice.


“…You’d do everything for the greater good, obviously. But… it’s surprisingly easy to do the wrong thing, for the right cause.”


“…Do you think this is what happened to my father?” he continued, lowering his voice so no one would hear.


Marius’ face darkened.


“I hope it did. I can’t imagine my friend…”


His voice broke. He shook his head, forcing a smile back on. He tapped once more Damian’s shoulder.


“Don’t let your father’s wrongdoings burden you. You never did anything wrong. Not you, not your brother. Just focus on having a happy and long life… and by the way, talking of ‘happy’, I heard from good old Tim that you have a lady friend…” he continued in a teasing voice.


Damian flushed.


“Is she here? She must be, if she’s from Eden and is bright enough to catch your attention of all people! Care to introduce me to the future Lady Damian Desmond, eh?” he asked with a wink.


“She’s… not here…” Damian admitted, looking down at his glass.


The champagne bubbles sparkled happily, far too joyful for the way he felt inside. That tightness in his chest was back. He couldn’t shake it off.


“Oh, how disappointing… You should invite her next time! It’d be lovely to meet her!”


He nodded, absentmindedly.


“Ah! George!” Marius exclaimed, seeing an old friend, “I’ll be back soon, Damian!”


Damian slipped away before having to put up a mask once more. He quickly drank all the champagne in one go, regretting instantly, fearing someone would notice and think him an alcoholic.


“Someone looks forlorn and depressed,” a voice piped up from behind him.


He turned around, grimacing when he saw Becky Blackbell. She immediately frowned in return.


“You could at least pretend to be glad to see me! Your favourite classmate!” she exclaimed, pouting stubbornly.


“I am overjoyed to see you here, Miss Blackbell. You look absolutely ravishing in that aubergine-coloured dress.”


“It’s dark purple with a raspberry undertone and lilac crystals!” she corrected, stomping her foot down.


“…Aubergine is more accurate,” he replied, grabbing another glass of champagne from a waiter that walked by.


She glared at him, crossing her arms in a way that still made her look dignified, with her little purse in one hand and her glass of purplish rosé in the other. She had managed to pick a drink that went perfectly with her outfit’s colour code. Of course, she had, why was Damian even surprised.


“You don’t look well,” Becky started, tilting her head on a side, and narrowing her sharp eyes at him.


“It’s been… a long eight days…” he mumbled.


“…It’s only been five days since we left Eden, Desmond.”


“My point, exactly,” he replied, raising the glass as if to cheer for it.


She observed him, lips pursed together.


“If you had fought with Anya, she would have told me, we went shopping together last Saturday.”


“You saw her?” Damian asked, whipping his head towards his friend (ugh, friend with Blackwell, how things had turned upside down).


“Of course,” she answered, blinking, “Considering the hurt puppy look on your face, I assume you didn’t.”


“I was stuck here. I’ll see her on the twenty-sixth though.”


“Yes, for the play, I helped her choose her dress and you are going to fall on your knees for her! How romantic! Does your family know about Anya?” she asked excitedly, edging a little closer to him.


He grimaced, which was all the answer she needed. Her joy died down.


“…They’re not…?”


She didn’t dare finish her sentence.


“They are… not forbidding it, but they are not encouraging it either. My brother wants to meet her before giving his blessing.”


“That’s good, then! Anya can charm anyone… oh well, maybe not your brother if she is too honest with him but… she seemed really hopeful about the two of you the other day. She’s…”


Becky glanced hesitantly at Damian, who seemed far more eager to talk about Anya than anything else.


“She’s really happy with you, Desmond. I knew you had been in love with each other for a decade but… I hadn’t expected you two to… to glow like that. I’m very happy for you two. And I wish you the best,” she continued.


And for once, she was sincere. Damian could tell as much. He smiled, grateful for that small reassurance that, as long as Anya was happy, all was well in the world.


“Thank you.”


“She misses you terribly… She’s really looking forward to seeing you again, she was sparkling just at the idea of spending an entire evening with you.”


Damian’s chest tightened. It hurt. He brought his free hand to his chest, wondering what was wrong. And Becky’s words made sense, for once.


He missed her. He longed for her. After a decade of loving Anya in secret, being finally able (despite his brother’s reluctance) to love her, to hold her, to find comfort with her… He loved kissing her, but more than anything, he loved being able to be himself, be fragile, be vulnerable in front of her.


These last few days, he had let out steam, anger, frustration, screaming and kicking, like a petulant child… But all he wanted was to curl up against Anya. The only person with whom he could be himself, find himself, make sense of his existence. The one person who had always shone for him, guided him, through everything.




His voice faltered, just as Demetrius walked on a small stage with a microphone. He clicked a spoon against his glass into it, attracting everyone’s attention. The music from the orchestra ceased and the entire ballroom’s attention turned to Demetrius.


In truth, Damian’s mind was far too focused on the realisation that he wanted to be with Anya, right this instant, to listen to most of his brother’s carefully crafted speech. He only looked up when he managed to calm down his frantic heart and pay attention to something other than the memory of Anya’s lips on his. Not the hot, wet kisses they had exchanged out of passion, but the long, soft ones full of tenderness.


He wanted this, right now. He wanted Anya to be by his side, to show her to everyone, to climb the stage and scream to the whole world that he was in love with her.


“…Which is why I have decided, after a long time thinking of a future that I want to be proud of, to create a new political party.”


Many guests gasped. Many, far more than Damian would have expected, didn’t look surprised. Probably all the people Demetrius had met beforehand to conclude an early alliance. What was a political party if no one followed, after all? And from what he could witness with the few smiles and eager expressions, many had already adhered to his brother’s ideas.


“A political party focused on the maintaining of peace, between the West and the East, and the development of our country on every level: economics, strategics, international market and renewable energies. Our people’s safety, well-being, and comfort, is at the forefront of my program, which you can discover on the pamphlets being distributed right now.”


Without even Damian noticing, waiters had swapped the glasses of alcohol for piles of well-written pamphlets that enlightened everyone on Demetrius’ ideas. Damian had already read it, and more, in the last two days, but he took one anyway. Becky’s eyes were wide as she read it, more shocked by Demetrius’ choice than what she read. Knowing her as he did, she probably agreed to most of it.


She glanced to her father nearby, and she tightened her lips, understanding in the same time as Damian did, that he had known and had already signed up to follow Demetrius. The Blackbell and Desmond had been very close friends for many, many decades, after all, it was no surprise.


“But today is a day of celebration, of gathering, to rejoice about being with one’s family and friends! I will not bore you with old and redundant politics!”


He chuckled and many laughed as well. Charming as always.


The sharp sound of glass breaking resonated. Several heads turned towards a group of men. Furious ones. Cursing under their breath, most of the National Unity Party guests decided to smash their glasses and, under a heavy silence and the wary gazes of everyone in the room, they left. Everyone walked out of their way to let them pass, eager to see the men who felt betrayed leave the place.


Whoever had felt a little inclined to share their time with them had now changed their minds.


By acting in such a harsh manner, they had made themselves potential enemies to everyone gathered here.


Damian glance at his brother who didn’t seem surprised. Demetrius watched them leave, his cold and calculating gaze following each and every one of them. A sharp, metallic light lit up in his eyes. Satisfaction.


One of the National Unity Party members glared viciously at Damian, bumping into him purposefully, almost hitting Becky Blackbell in the process. Damian stepped back, glaring back, and putting a protective arm in front of Becky to make sure no one would dare attack the young woman at his side.


With a shiver, Damian understood two things.


Firstly, his brother had planned it all. He had secretly created a party, backed, and funded by most of the Desmond’s long-lasting alliances. He had let the National Unity Party believe he’d join them, along with his wealth and influence. He had invited them here and publicly announced his decision to create his own party, at the opposite of their ideas. He had known they’d behave in such a manner, leaving suddenly, offended and insulting everyone gathered in the Desmond Estate, making a future partnership with any of the families here impossible. The most influential and powerful families of the country.


Demetrius had cornered them into getting so angry about his decision that they’d shoot themselves in the foot.


Secondly… Damian could never become as manipulative as his brother was. Lying and being two-faced would be impossible for him. Marius was right. He was too earnest.


Once every member of the National Unity Party had left the room, Demetrius’ expression changed completely. It looked open, cheerful, and heartfelt, which Damian knew was a lie, as well-crafted at this entire evening.


“To peace!”


“To peace!” Everyone echoed, raising their glasses.


“Merry Christmas everyone!”


“Merry Christmas!”


Wordlessly, Damian raised the glass and took a sip, just as Becky slipped back next to him, whispering so he’d be the only one to hear.


Merry Christmas, before we might end up with an internal conflict on our hands…”


He sent her a warning glance.


“Don’t you know, Blackbell? Politics is just a polite version of war.”


She stared at him, her gaze unflinching. Her father came forward, checking on her after the rude behaviour of the previous gentleman. Finding himself out of place, Damian walked away, receiving congratulations for his brother’s new party, even though he had learned about it only a few days prior.


As expected, now that the secret was out, everyone eagerly talked of the new party, the new program, congratulating Demetrius who shook hands and took pictures, laughing as if nothing had happened. As if a third of the politicians of the country had not declared war to his face. The shards of glass and spilled champagne had already been cleaned. It was as if nothing had ever happened. Everyone acted as if nothing had happened.


Damian was visibly surprised when he noticed his brother shaking hands with Major-General Watkins of all people. Hard not to notice this man, when he stood taller and stronger than everyone else here. And more surprising still, that his son, Bill, managed to sneak up on Damian.


“My father has placed some of his men all over the estate, you’ll all be safe tonight,” Bill started, as if it were a normal beginning of conversation.


“…I wasn’t expecting your father, of all people, to make an alliance with my brother. He is anti-war, you know. Wouldn’t that force your family into early retirement?” Damian continued, relaxing a little when Bill contented himself of simply standing at his side.


“…Everyone needs an army, even in time of peace. Once, I asked my father if he missed the battleground and the viciousness of war… do you know what he answered?”


Damian shook his head. As dysfunctional as the Desmond were, they weren’t talking of missing battlegrounds at dinner, at least.


’The best army is a bored army, because it means we’re at peace,” Bill answered, his blue eyes shining proudly, “I didn’t understand then… I’m not sure I will until I get some field experience… but… I’d like that. A country that’s so peaceful, it becomes boring.”


“Boring means people seek change. Isn’t it dangerous?”


“Ah, then, that’ll be your brother’s job to make sure they’re happy being bored,” Bill replied with a smirk.


He lost his smile quickly, diving his gaze into Damian’s, putting all his superior height and musculature to look imposing.


“Did you talk to your family about your intentions towards Anya?”


“…I have.” Damian replied warily, recalling Bill’s promise – he wouldn’t tell anyone about catching the two of them making out in the gazebo… at the condition that Damian revealed it to his brother, before the end of the winter holidays, “Go on, share what you know. I’m not worried about my future with Anya.”


“Your future, with Anya?” Bill repeated, frowning, “I don’t think you understand, Desmond, that I have no intention of giving up. Sooner or later, you might break her heart, and I will be there to pick up the pieces. I have been infatuated with her for almost three years, these feelings will not be so easily forgotten.”


Damian couldn’t help it. He laughed, loudly enough that it startled Bill and made a few guests turn their heads curiously towards them. He turned back towards Bill and for once, he didn’t feel intimidated at all. One hand went into his pocket, casually, and the other raised his glass of champagne towards the young man.


“Watkins, you talk of ‘infatuation’, I talk of love.”


“If you are so serious, why is she absent tonight?” Bill replied, his mouth turning into an annoyed grimace.


“Because as much as I love her, I don’t need to prove it to her by forcing her into this wolves’ den before she is ready. When she will want to join, she will. Until then… This isn’t some battle game you can win by developing a new strategy…”


Damian leaned forward, not caring if he was being arrogant. He lightly tilted his glass against Bill’s, forcing the man to retreat back a step, as if expecting a hand-to-hand fight.


“But don’t flatter yourself, Bill… you were never even a player.” He said with a cheeky grin.


Bill went red in anger, but Damian walked away, not the slightest bit nervous. Bill had no idea what went on between Anya and him. He didn’t understand. He’ll figure it out soon enough.


“Damian, dear!”


He turned around as his mother grabbed his hand.


“Come, come here, Demetrius wants to introduce you to Diana!”


Damian didn’t have a choice and followed his mother towards the small group made of his brother, Diana Blum, her parents and her two little sisters.


“Ah, Damian. Let me introduce you to the Blum family. You have heard of them, I presume.”


“How could I not? You are one of the most influential family this evening, and I can’t tell which one of your daughters is the most splendid tonight,” Damian answered as way of greeting.


Frederik Blum laughed. As expected, he was known to be a proud man, who loved compliments.


The two younger daughters, Elena and Frida, leaned towards each other, whispering in a low voice while staring at Damian. Then, they laughed, loudly, which made him flush at whatever secret from Eden they knew.


“Girls,” Diana intervened, sending them a quick glance that silenced them despite the occasional snorts, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Damian,” she continued, turning to him, “Your brother told me so much about you. He is very proud everything you’ve accomplished already.”


“He is? I didn’t expect him to even think of me in his free time, less alone talk about me,” he answered, far too honestly.


“Of course, I am, what sort of answer is this,” Demetrius said with a tight smile.


He sent his brother a warning look.


Damian then noticed that despite his easy composure, Demetrius kept his hands clenched behind his back. He had the slightest bit of sweat on the side of his face. The alcohol he had drunk this entire evening might be getting to his head, but Damian thought he even saw him trembling.


Demetrius was so nervous. Damian had to bite the inside of his cheek to not laugh.


“Ah, I see some friends. I will see you around, I suppose, Demetrius?” Frederik Blum continued in an obvious attempt to leave his older daughter alone with the family.


“Of course, you are welcome anytime to visit.”


Frederik and his wife went away, with their younger daughters, leaving Diana with the Desmond.


She was very pretty, although, according to Damian’s very biased opinion, she didn’t hold a candle to Anya. She had mid-length hair that she kept on the side of her head, and lovely blue eyes. She smiled a lot and seemed to be a very pleasing person. He was obviously familiar with her horse-riding career, and he knew she had been an Imperial Scholar, so he imagined her to be intelligent and talented. With her fancy, light pink dress, she looked like a jewel waiting to be adorned on a crown.


That dress would look better on Anya though.


Damian pinched himself discreetly, to stop thinking about Anya. It only hurt his heart more.


“So, I was told you kicked my brother’s face when first meeting him.” He said to start a conversation.


Diana and Demetrius both looked mortified, but she quickly broke into a laugh, while his brother looked horrified. Which delighted Damian, obviously.


“It was such a silly accident! We had met, back in Eden, of course, but I had never looked at him twice!” Diana started with a smile.


Demetrius glanced at her quickly, wide eyed. She hadn’t been interested in him in their youth, something he had probably not considered before tonight.


“We had both been invited by mutual friends, to go horse-riding in the countryside, and when lunch arrived, I was so impatient to eat food that I didn’t notice Demetrius standing right there.”


“It was a very light kick, I barely felt a thing,” he intervened, attempting to look braver than he was considering how much sweatier he was getting by the minute.


“Oh please,” she said, turning towards him, a new sparkle in her eyes, “You acted like you had been shot!”


Demetrius flushed in embarrassment. Damian, shocked beyond recognition, leaned towards his mother, talking in a low voice so no one would hear.


“Is she flirting with him?”


“I appears so!”


Unaware of mother and son’s conversation, Diana laughed at some inside joke, putting her hand on Demetrius’ arm.


Damian made a confused, grimacing face.


“Does she actually like him?” he asked, flabbergasted because until now, he had assumed it had been some sort of arranged marriage, but Diana seemed to genuinely enjoy Demetrius’ company.


“I believe so,” Dafni answered, enchanted.


“Why?” he asked, baffled beyond comprehension.


“Damian, don’t be rude, your brother is very charming when he wants to!” she scolded, lightly tapping her son’s arm.


He finished drinking his glass of champagne, observing his brother and his unexpected sweetheart. He narrowed his eyes. Demetrius now looked constipated, which in Damian’s sophisticated opinion, didn’t qualify as being ‘charming’. By some miracle, Diana was most certainly charmed, if she didn’t notice any of it.


“Your brother said you enjoy horse-riding, Damian,” Diana continued, turning back to them.


“Oh yes, he is very talented,” Dafni said, pushing her son forward to encourage him in the conversation.


“Eeeh, not really. I just enjoy the freedom it gives me, to run away from… everything.”


She smiled in an understanding manner.


“I know that feeling. Your brother is not too bad, although his posture could be improved.”


“I am still waiting for the private lessons you promised me.” Demetrius answered with a smile.


Damian raised an eyebrow at his brother, who just glared back at him, unbeknownst to Diana who was too flustered to notice a thing. The moment she turned back towards Demetrius, he was all smiles and sweetness.


“I am waiting for your invitation… the grounds look beautiful, even at night.”


“You should come next spring, then. We will… have a family reunion,” Demetrius continued, glancing quickly at Damian who understood it as the time when he would introduce Anya to his brother and mother – and apparently the Blum as well.


“I guess I’ll properly get to know your fiancée then, brother,” Damian added, honestly trying to help his brother out.


He knew he had made a mistake when Demetrius’ eyes widened considerably, almost popping out of their sockets. Diana’s smile wavered. She hesitated, suddenly looking heartbroken, as she glanced between the two brothers.


“Y-you have a fiancée? I… had no idea…” she started.


Ah. Fuck. Damian thought to himself.


He was vaguely aware of Dafni covering her face behind him. Demetrius was losing years of his life.


“NO! No, no, no…! I mean, eventually, hopefully… maybe! But not… w-what Damian meant was…”


Demetrius had never stammered in his life. Never. His words were sharp and confident. Not today.


He whipped towards his brother who startled into speaking up again:


“I meant that… in a fancy event like tonight…”


Demetrius nodded encouragingly, but Diana still looked so sad at the idea that Demetrius had played her, it left Damian hesitant.


“It’s difficult to make an acquaintance, but… alone… in spring… it’d be easier for you to meet and talk… despite family and… other people being here like, uh, girlfriends– I mean, ladies– I mean, fiancées!”


He knew he had messed up again when Demetrius closed his eyes, obviously holding back from strangling his pain-in-the-ass of a little brother.


Diana looked utterly betrayed and heartbroken.


“I didn’t know you were soon to be engaged, Demetrius… I should probably wait before visiting the Desmond grounds, I wouldn’t want to interrupt… an important family reunion… If you’ll excuse me.”


She bowed quickly, then left to join her family in long steps.


Demetrius pinched the bride of his nose. Damian swallowed hard, especially when he saw Diana join her sisters and the three engaged in a vivid conversation about how Demetrius had obviously played her while being soon-to-be-engaged with another… From the way she gestured and quickly left with her sisters, Diana had decided to leave the gala early.




He turned towards Demetrius who finally moved his hand away from his face, eyes still closed.


“You had one job… being a cute little brother.” He hissed.


“You didn’t say that! And you don’t get to judge me for missing a few steps in courting Anya, when you missed a few steps in proposing to Diana! She doesn’t even know you want to marry her, you dumbass!” Damian exclaimed, in as low a voice he could manage.


“I didn’t have time to ask her!” he screeched, trying to smother his voice as to not attract attention.


“I bet you already have a list of baby names starting with D, and you didn’t even imply to the poor woman–”


“I did imply, plenty of times! I even wrote her letters!”


“You wro– you never answer my phone calls, and you write her letters?!” Damian exclaimed, throwing his hands to the sky.


“Oh, do shut up!” Demetrius mumbled, irritated.


He went away, looking for Diana in the crowd. Their mother had gone, obviously trying to salvage the situation towards the Blum family.


“Next time, be more explicit in your instructions!” Damian called out, loud enough for people to turn around.


Demetrius glared at him from the other side of the room, but most people chuckled at the ‘cute’ brothers’ banter. Little did they know, Damian had accidentally, potentially, ruined his brother’s chance at ever getting married. Because who would ever look at him the way Diana did?


Damian hurried away from the middle of the crowd, eager to get away from the smothering sensation of having ruined everything. And here he had thought he had been able to finally be part of the family, of belonging among the Desmond, of being almost normal brothers who fought in the snow and bantered for silly things…


He looked over and saw Demetrius looking absolutely panicked as he looked through the crowd. He hadn’t noticed how quickly Diana had left.


Damian hurried, running out of the ballroom, through the huge entrance, and out the house. As expected, a car had pulled up and the three Blum sisters were entering it.


“Wait! Diana, wait!! I mean, Miss Blum!”


Diana stopped, one second before closing the door. Damian rushed down the stairs, despite the surprised glances the butlers sent his way.


“Wait!” he cried out again as she straightened up.


“Damian? What…”


“I messed up! He doesn’t have a fiancée, it’s you!” he exclaimed as he arrived next to her.


She blinked, blushing suddenly.


“I mean… he hopes you would become his fiancée… he… uh, skipped a few steps in the process… a bit of a family trait… but I never saw my brother like that and I think he genuinely likes you… so could you marry him please?”


Damian paused, biting his cheek, turning red.


“…I probably shouldn’t propose to you, for him… he’ll be the one to… uh, do that… with the flowers, and ring, and the whole… shebang. But could you at least go back to talk to him? Or he’ll murder me in my sleep…”


To his great surprise, despite Diana’s obvious embarrassment, she started laughing.


“Well, I want to murder my sisters all the time, so I guess Demetrius and I truly are perfect for each other!”


“Don’t encourage him, please.”


“We heard that, Diana!” Elena exclaimed from the car.


Diana stuck her tongue out at her sisters, before turning back towards Damian.


“You don’t know me. I might like him for his money. Why come after me like that?”


Damian hesitated, not quite knowing the answer. But he had never seen his brother as distressed as when he had gone into the crowd, desperate to find her.


As desperate as Damian had been to catch Anya that day they had first kissed.


“I… found my star… I don’t want him to lose his,” he replied with a shrug.


A gentle smile slowly grew on her face.


“…Then perhaps you should go back to her, instead of looking so lonesome in this boorish gala,” she replied, “Thank you, Damian,” she said, leaning to kiss his cheek.


He blushed as she went away, back towards the mansion. Back to Demetrius.


“For your information…”


Damian turned towards Elena and Frida who were leaning over the car door, the latter was glaring at him:


“I thought we could have escaped this place so I could go back to my books, I officially hate you for ruining it!” Frida hissed.


Flabbergasted by these moody ladies, he just spread his arms in disbelief.


“I’m trying to make your sister happy! We never even talked before!”


Frida rolled her eyes, before pushing Elena.


“Ouch! You’re hurting me!” She cried out.


“We can’t leave, now that Diana is back in there!”


“Watch it!”


The two sisters kept arguing, reluctantly going back to the gala.


A cold breeze shook Damian. He shivered, just as one of the Desmond family’s drivers approached him.


“Young master, shouldn’t you go back inside?”


He should. He must. It was his duty as a Desmond to attend this gala.


But his feet were frozen on the ground. He closed his eyes, not feeling the cold… but sensing that dreadful pain in his chest.


He had almost ruined his brother’s happiness. His father’s horrifying past had ruined any esteem he had ever had in the Desmond name. In the blood flowing through his veins.


What was he? What was he doing? Standing in the cold while the party went on, nobody noticing his disappearance.


Opening his eyes, he looked up at the starry night. They were far enough from any big city that most lights, even from the mansion, couldn’t pollute the sky.


It was Anya’s body he looked for in his bed when he woke up. It was Anya’s smile he had thought of every time darkness had overwhelmed him. It was Anya he feared losing if he ever told her the truth about his father…


He didn’t want to confront her about it, to confront himself, but how could he ever not face her, her bright, beautiful person, if he intended to love her with everything he had, everything he was? He couldn’t lie to her, lie about his family’s past. That was the great weight that had been resting on his heart all this time. He wanted to be honest with her. He might lose Anya with these secrets, but he wanted to love her with all his heart and soul. Desmond Depravity and all.


“If they have love, they can soar through the sky!”


“I’m in love with Anya. And I’m not giving up on her.”


“You’re as much family as they are, for me. It won’t feel complete without you here.”


“She misses you terribly…”


“Perhaps you should go back to her.”


Damian whipped towards the driver, who startled.


“You’re… Jeremiah, right?” he hesitated, making him blink.


“Y-yes, sir…”


“Are you available right now?”


“Of course, sir.”


“Then drive me to Berlint! Please!”


“Now, sir?” he asked, surprised.


“Yes! Now! Right now!” Damian exclaimed impatiently.


Startled and confused, Jeremiah went away to find a Desmond car he drove in front of Damian who jumped in.


“Where to, sir?” he asked, glancing in the window at the young master who pulled at the tie around his neck.


“Miss Anya Forger, I have something important to tell her!” he exclaimed.


“…I don’t know where Miss Forger lives, sir.


“…Just get to Berlint, and I’ll guide you to her apartment building.”


Jeremiah didn’t look overly confident in his skills as a guide, but Damian didn’t care.


The further he went away from the Desmond’s Christmas Gala, the less stretched and painful that red string, buried between his ribs, felt. It pulled him, pushed him, towards his guiding star.


Tonight, for better or worse, he’d tell her everything he had found out about his father’s past. Tonight, Anya could make or break his heart. Tonight, truth might mean losing her forever.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER XXIII: Fated Promise


Anya let out a long and heavy sigh, leaning against the side of the couch, her chin nestled in her palm as she killed time counting the very few cars that passed by on the road. She glanced down at the book she had been reading. A spy novel she should have been enjoying. That she usually enjoyed, but every time she tried to keep reading it, the main character’s arrogance reminded her of Damian and it hurt to be so far away from him and have his absence thrown in her face again and again.


She thought she’d be okay not seeing him for a week. She was wrong.


Ever since she had entered Eden Academy, Damian had been here. He had been a constant part of her life. Over the years, with her feelings growing for him, her attachment hadn’t felt like a necessity for some mission anymore. It had felt real. He had always been a bright and inspiring fire she looked out for, that she couldn’t help turn to. He was a celestial object that had mesmerized her into a dance in the night sky. Confessing their feelings to one another, reaching out for one another, finding comfort in their touch and bodies had changed things. Now, his absence made her feel cold and lost. Without him, she felt like a half-broken, half-forgotten, half-sad constellation.


Anya had been okay the first day after seeing him leave to his estate. But the moment she had received a phone call from Becky and they had spent three hours talking about everything that had happened in the library, after Becky decided to show up at her doorstep for an emergency shopping session to find her an appropriate dress for the theatre… it had been much harder. Becky had meant well, but every moment spent with her had reminded Anya that she’d have to spend days, days and days without seeing Damian while, unfairly, Becky would get to see him at the Desmond’s Christmas Gala.


The gala happening right now. She had never wanted to be invited, she didn’t want to participate to such a fancy event… but she couldn’t help but fear the worst. What if all the time spent away from her proved to Damian he deserved someone better? Someone like him, who was rich and well-mannered, who didn’t kiss him on the crotch in the library. Someone he could dance with. Someone he might be dancing with right now.


“Anya! Where did you leave the parsnips?” her father called out from the kitchen.


It drew her attention back to her family. She stood up to help her parents in the kitchen, not noticing the one car that suddenly stopped in front of her building. She passed by Uncle Yuri who was making funny faces and cooing at Rosaura.


Anya carefully avoided looking for too long at the cute scene. Her relationship with Yuri had definitely improved since she had been a child, she’d even say they had grown very attached to one another. He eventually grew to consider her Yor’s child and his family. But the moment Rosie had been born, Yuri had focused all his attention on Yor’s biological child. Anya had been old enough to understand, she pretended she didn’t mind it and her parents didn’t love her less for not sharing blood, but Uncle Yuri didn’t realise that his behaviour to Rosie was so different to the one he had ever displayed for Anya. She didn’t hold a grudge against her little sister. It was still her family. She still loved them, but sometimes… she couldn’t help but feel like she didn’t quite belong. As if occasionally, she stumbled off a carefully drawn line she had had to follow her entire life to keep her family together.


She found the parsnips her parents couldn’t find in a cupboard.


“Can I help you out?” she asked, desperate for a distraction that wouldn’t remind her of Damian.


“We’re fine, thank you, just enjoy your time with your sister and uncle,” Yor answered with a smile, skilfully chopping the vegetables.


Anya hid her true feelings with a smile. Her parents were so distracted by each other, they didn’t notice that it was half a grimace.


The bell suddenly rang, surprising everyone.


“That must be Frankie and Francesca,” Loid said, wiping his hands on his ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron he wore.


“I’ll open the door for them!” Anya exclaimed, cheerfully running to the door.


Uncle Scruffy had never changed behaviour with her, and she knew he had quietly figured out her slight jealousy against Rosie and Yuri. He had compensated by being even more of a fool around her, dragging her into crazy adventures and games whenever there was a family dinner.


She opened the door wild with a bright smile, but it wavered when she recognized the person standing there.


Damian breathed heavily, cheeks flushed, as if he had run up the stairs, too impatient to wait for the elevator.


For a moment, she thought she was dreaming.


It must be a dream. Damian was over two hours away from Berlint, at the Desmond Gala, with his family.


“Anya…” he let out in a whisper.


His green-golden eyes were glazed with emotions she couldn’t begin to fathom.


“D-Damian?” she stammered.


Everyone must have heard because Yor, Loid and Yuri carrying Rosie suddenly approached, standing a few meters behind the young couple, still too bewildered to do anything but stare at each other.


“Who is that brat?” Yuri asked in what he intended to be a low voice, eyes narrowed in suspicion.


It startled Damian back in the present, out of his reverie of seeing Anya again. He shook his head, straightening a little bit more. He opened and closed his lips, glancing behind her, at her family.


“Damian, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at your family gala?” Loid asked, stepping forward, a worried look on his face.


The young man swallowed hard. His thoughts, that had been sparkling in quiet joy to see Anya again, suddenly crashed. It was sudden enough that she couldn’t control her power and read all his thoughts, stumbling wildly one after another.


Oh no, I shouldn’t have come. Of course she’s with her family… I’m an idiot, I shouldn’t have bulge into her without warning. They’ll hate me for interrupting their time together. I need to go. I need to return to…


Memories of what seemed to be the previous days, of long dark talks with his brother, loud arguments, and overwhelming emotions in the snow, flashed rapidly in his head.


Anya wavered, shaking her head, and bringing a hand to her temple. Loid immediately noticed and put a hand on her shoulder to stabilise her. Eyes widened by what she had perceived, what she couldn’t quite understand, she looked back up at Damian.


“I… I’m sorry,” Damian suddenly stammered, looking down at his feet, “I shouldn’t have come so suddenly, without… I apologise for interrupting your family dinner. Have a Merry Christmas.”


He gave a quick bow, turning his heels and leaving in long strides.


Anya almost gasped, jumping after him. Loid almost stumbling by her sudden move.


“Anya, wait–”


She grabbed Damian’s hand. He stopped, looking back at her, shocked. Anya stared back, holding his hand with two of hers, clenching it. He was real. She could touch him. It was all real. He was standing right here, he had come all the way here, for her. Just as she couldn’t think she could endure missing him any longer, he had showed up on her doorstep, as if answering the silent call of her heart.


She slipped her fingers against his palm, through his, and he looked down, in disbelief that after this journey and awkward moment on the doorstep, she was holding his hand so tenderly.


His shoulders dropped.


“Don’t! I-if you’ve come here… just… stay… a little longer… please… You are more than welcome here. Please…” she said, sounding pleading, her cheeks flushing.


Damian couldn’t help the way the corner of his lips tilted up. He turned back towards Anya, wanting nothing more but dive his fingers through her long, soft hair, to bury his face in her neck and forget the last few days. His chest hurt, heavy with emotions he hadn’t yet been able to grasp. Seeing Anya again had been the trigger for everything to slowly start crashing down on him. The dam he had carefully built around his heart was cracking and he was about to drown.


Anya’s unexpected joy to see him morphed as she felt all these emotions passing through him. She opened and closed her lips, wanting to talk to him, to ask him what had happened that had driven him to go all the way to Berlint to see her. She couldn’t make sense of what he thought, he was too much of a mess.


A loud ting came from the elevator as the doors opened on Frankie, Francesca, and their little girl.


“The partyman has arrived! Who is ready to celebrate the greatest Christmas of all times!” Frankie exclaimed, stepping off the elevator.


He stopped, blinking, when he saw Anya holding hands with Damian, in the middle of the hall, Loid standing in front of his apartment, Yor, Yuri and Rosie glancing from the door.


“Oh dear, did something happen?” Francesca asked, sensing the tension.


“What is the Desmond runt doing here?” Frankie asked without any tact.


“Anya!” Amelia exclaimed, running to her without caring about the young man she had never seen standing there.


Anya stumbled a bit at the force Amelia used to hug her legs, and she hugged her back, temporarily letting go of Damian.


“Amelia… it’s nice to see you again, darling,” Anya said.


She looked up at her father and he finally reacted.


“How about we all go in?” Loid started with a charming smile, “Damian will join us tonight, apparently.”


“Good thing we always cook big meals,” Yor added, gladly welcoming him.


“What are we eating tonight, Uncle Loid?” Amelia continued, rushing to him instead of Anya.


“It’s a Christmas special, and a surprise for good girls.” He answered easily.


That delighted the little girl who went inside, followed by her parents.


Anya turned back towards Damian, and she finally noticed a driver at the end of the hall. The poor man looked lost, going from one foot to another, staring hopelessly at his master.


“I… I forgot the gifts, damn it,” Damian muttered, looking away from Anya, “I should have brought them, I’m sorry, I–”


“Hey, hey,” she started, putting her hands on his face to draw his attention back on her and divert his thoughts away from this… this guilt she didn’t understand, “It’s okay. You’re the surprise. We don’t need any gift. Okay? Are you… you don’t look fine, Damian…” she murmured worriedly.


Damian breathed heavily, his eyes darkening in a storm of emotions. He put a hand against her face, brushing his thumb against her cheekbone, as if to make sure she was real and tangible.


He opened his lips to say something, but a voice erupted from behind:


“Oi, keep your hands off my niece, if you don’t want to lose those pretty fingers of yours.”


“Uncle Yuri!” Anya exclaimed, whipping towards him, “Do not threaten to cut off his hand!”


Damian blinked, swallowing hard as he glanced at the uncle. The latter didn’t mind his niece’s warning, he only sent an intimidating glare at Damian.


“Yuri!” Yor’s voice exclaimed from inside the apartment, “Leave them alone for now! Come help us prepare dinner!”


Reluctantly, Yuri went back inside. Anya sighed heavily, massaging her temple in exasperation, but she didn’t seem truly annoyed by her uncle’s behaviour.


“Jeremiah,” Damian called to his driver who startled, “I’ll… find my way back. Go… home, to your family. They live in Berlint, right?”


“Y-yes, sir, but…”


“I’ll be fine,” he answered, waving it off easily, “I’ll go to an hotel or something.”


“But, sir…”


Anya glanced between them at the exchange.


“Go.” Damian said in a firm and slightly impatient voice.


It made Anya startle more than the driver. He tightened his lips then nodded, bowing thankfully before leaving the building. She kept staring at Damian, she had never seen him lose his patience so quickly to one of his family’s servants, or anyone who wasn’t her. Whatever had happened had left him frail and easy to anger…


She didn’t like that. She had a bad feeling.


But she took his hand anyway, and took him inside the apartment.


Frankie and Yuri looked at them from the living-room, one curious and amused, the other annoyed and slightly threatening. Amelia was playing with Rosie. Her parents were cooking dinner. Loid glanced at her worriedly, but Anya forced a smile.


“We’ll be back soon,” she said, pulling Damian away from the smothering looks of her family.


What is going on with these two? I don’t like that he showed up so suddenly, unannounced and obviously shaken by something… She caught her father thinking, but she ignored it.


She dragged Damian into her bedroom, half-closing her door, knowing that if she closed it completely her family would barge in with guns and knives in their hands.


She forced him to sit down on the side of the bed and somehow, he didn’t even realise that they were (mostly) alone in her bedroom. He just let her push him around like a stringless puppet. The moment he was sitting, he stared at an empty spot, elbows on his knees, chaos in his head.


Anya, desperate to get him to talk or feel anything but such despair, knelt in front of him. She gently touched his knees, brushing her hands against his.


“Damian, what happened?” she asked in a hushed voice.


His lips trembled, then an unexpected, strangled laugh escaped him. He raised his head, jerking it backwards and covering his eyes as he kept laughing, and laughing. It wasn’t his usual laugh. It was harsh, brutal, and agonising.


Anya shivered.


A heavy breath escaped him. His shoulders shook, and she understood he was holding back from crying.


“Damian, what happened?” she repeated, her voice more urgent, more worried.


“He… he told me everything… my brother told me everything about… my father…” Damian finally said, calming down as suddenly as he had erupted into laughter.


Anya shook her head, still confused, trying to ignore the jumble of chaotic thoughts that bang in his mind.


“W-what is it? W-what did he do?” she questioned, her own guilty memories of Donovan clawing at her soul like a forgotten demon that had woken up to tear her apart.


Damian didn’t answer right away, breathing deeply, to make sense of his emotions, of how to say any of it. His thoughts cleared a little.


Anya focused on them. She stopped breathing.


He listed to himself his own memories from two days ago, everything his brother had revealed. She saw files that had become engraved in Damian’s mind. Words and images she had thought forgotten.


COEUS. White hospital walls and halls that made her skin blanch. Smells of chemicals, disinfectant, burnt flesh, that covered up the family dinner cooking in the Forger apartment. PROJECT CHIMERA. Photographs of children attached to the medical equivalent of an electric chair. She could still hear the rumbling of wheels rolling on the marble tiles when they got rid of a dead one. TEST SUBJECT 007– The doctors in their white gowns and cold eyes stood over her.


She was four years old again. Lonely, frightened, longing for nothing more but a home and a family.


Even though she was in the apartment she had lived for years, her parents, sister, funny uncles just on the other side of the wall, it was as if it had all been an illusion. Her family had gone into smoke. The young man sitting in front of her, who needed her, shaken as he was by his family secrets, was nothing more but a shimmering lie.


Anya unconsciously moved away from Damian, horrified. Horrified of what she saw into his mind. Horrified of what it meant. Horrified of what he knew.


“During the war… and after the war… my father… he gave money to some medical institution called COEUS that worked on something called ‘Project Chimera’… it… it wanted to– it doesn’t matter what they wanted to do because in the end, they did something horrifying.”


Anya couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t talk.


Damian mistook her silence for encouragement, unable to look at her as he unravelled his family secrets, his pain, unconscious of what hurt he was putting her through.


“They picked innocent children and… and experimented on them to do impossible things… they… they died, Anya– all of them, most of them, I don’t know, but my fatherI… I loved him so much only to find out that all this time he had been a monster…”


He finally looked up, seeing revulsion on Anya’s pale face.


No, please, please, don’t look at me like that… he thought hopelessly.


He wanted to stop, he needed to stop, he couldn’t handle the way his heart shattered seeing Anya in such despair. But the dam broke into pieces and the water flowed. He lost control, of his tongue, his emotions, his life.


“I-I didn’t know, I swear, I… my brother found out recently and he tried to get them all arrested! But I can’t believe… how could my father do this to innocent children? I knew war had hurt him, but I had never though he’d become such a terrible person– he wanted… he gave money for mad scientists to create… create some sort of super human, who could read minds and other impossible things! He killed them in the process, and I could never… I could never live with the guilt, the shame, knowing what my father did to innocent children–”


He stopped abruptly as tears burnt his eyes. He covered them, sniffing. He tried to wipe them away. But the numbness he had grown comfortable into was gone, a safety net that had been ripped from his body. He was now left naked and vulnerable.


He hated this. Feeling this way, so raw, so hurt, so impossibly damaged.


He covered his face with his hands, smothering the sobs that threatened to break out. He barely breathed in the process.


Anya’s silence lingered.


Deep down, he hoped she would reach out for him, gather whatever pieces were left of him in her arms, and kiss him back to life… but she didn’t. She remained motionless, wordless, too shocked to do a thing.


The anger at his father, at this heritage of nightmares, burnt out.


Fear, its cold and treacherous sibling, took residence instead. It stabbed him through the heart, icing his soul, at the very thought that perhaps… perhaps it wasn’t something Anya, bright and cheerful as she was, could handle.


Anya could make or break his heart. Truth might mean losing her forever.


He thought he had been ready for that possibility. He’d rather be honest with her, a thousand times over, than having to lose her in the future.


But when he looked up, silent tears streaming down his face, and saw the terror on her face, something snapped. His heart maybe. Or whatever good he had inherited from his mother. Or that red string that suddenly grew taunt and painful, pulling at the part of his heart that belonged to Anya. Most of it.


What was he, if not a Desmond? What would be left of him? What was he, if Anya didn’t love Damian?


“Anya… please…” he pleaded, reaching out for her.


She moved away so suddenly, she fell behind, on the floor, one hand held up to protect her face.


From him, his hands, his touch, the violence of his father’s legacy.


Damian froze, more tears rolling down his face, helplessly, hopelessly. They dropped on the floor, resonating in the aching silence.


Anya gasped, breathing hard, eyes wide, covering her mouth with her hands, in horror. Not of what she had heard and realised. But at what she had just done. She shook her head, opening and closing her lips to apologise but her throat was too tight. So tight she couldn’t breathe, she was choking, the darkest part of her childhood she had left behind came back haunting her, more violently than if she was reliving it all over again.


I have lost everything now…


That thought, that simple thought, and the crushing, overwhelming, heart-breaking despair that came with it, startled her.


Impossibly, clumsily, she reached out for Damian. He jumped at the touch of her cold hand grabbing his. There was none of the gentle tenderness of earlier, gone was the worry and questioning look. It was desperate, awful, the way she dug her fingers into his skin, but he held her hands with his free one with the same clawing desperation.


Now or never. Broken heart or reborn soul. Loss or love.


He couldn’t bear the waiting, the way she looked at him, eyes glazed by terrifying thoughts he couldn’t understand, and it left him wavering, dizzy and trembling– not knowing what went through her head, what she felt for him after all that.


“S-say something…” Damian breathed, voice breaking.


Anya must have heard how much he needed her reaction. She saw herself in his mind, slapping his face, clawing his skin off, screaming, kicking, or on the contrary, hugging him, kissing his tears away, carrying his hurt off his heart. What he feared fighting against what he hoped.


But she couldn’t do either of those.


Her heart had stopped beating when she had seen, through Damian’s mind, that photography of Donovan Desmond’s distant and cold face as he watched children being tortured. Watched one of her earliest comrades and friends. Could have watched her being torn apart and built anew until she had forgotten any identity but Test Subject 007.


“Y-your father was… he’s the reason why…”


Her voice broke. She fell down, tearing her hands away from Damian’s. She watched her nails scratch the wooden planks of her floor. She remembered doing it in her white cell, forever ago, to create something different, new, so it wouldn’t be so white, so empty.


Something built up in her chest. Her mind snapped, separating body, feelings, and consciousness. She hurt. It hurt, it hurt, it hurt so much. She wanted to tear out her heart from her chest and crush it to a pulp. Perhaps then, the pain would cease.


“A-Anya?” Damian hesitated, kneeling in front of her, suddenly worried for her rather than his own fate.


A low, painful wail rose from her throat. It smothered her, drowned her–


“Anya, what is it?!” Damian exclaimed, his own tears rushing at his helplessness, at his guilt, at the pain he had caused her.


The door opened suddenly, startling Damian. He rose his hands in defend, falling backwards, confronted to Loid Forger who walked in quickly.


“That’s enough,” he snapped, frowning darkly.


Whether it was the door slamming, or her father’s voice, Anya calmed down, so suddenly, it was even more frightening than seeing her unravel.


Yor hurried in, wrapping an arm around Anya’s shoulders, and quickly dragging her away. Away from Damian, away from him, from the blood that was on his hands, through the actions of his father.


Damian instantly tried to follow, desperate to help her, to make it right, but Loid grabbed his shoulders and held him back.


“She needs help, she needs–”


“So do you, now calm down!” Loid exclaimed.


Damian tried to push him off, but he was far stronger than he looked and held on, keeping Damian back.


He ran out of strength and will far too quickly. Trembling, he only watched the door through which Anya had gone.


Surprisingly gentle despite having made his daughter fall apart on Christmas Eve, Loid pushed Damian back on the bed. He passed a hand against the young man’s back for as long as he breathed heavily, not understanding what was going on, why his chest was so tight, the air impossible to inhale, his insides so cold–


“Let it out, breathe slowly, in and out… breathe in, breathe out…”


Half-conscious, Damian listened to the doctor’s words and slowly, they sank in. Slowly, he followed his instructions. Slowly, they became effective… His breathing calmed down.


Drained beyond recognition, eyes red and burning, Damian just leaned over his knees, staring at the smeared tears of Anya and himself, mixing on the floor.


“In and out… good…” Loid said, putting a hand on his shoulder.


That simple gesture gave him more strength than he would have thought. His brother’s touch was still clumsy and hardly comforting. His father had had no idea that physical touch could comfort his children.


No one had ever held him upright like that. Damian found it strangely calming.


Confused, feeling that numbness creeping back on him, he turned hesitantly towards Loid Forger. The doctor was frowning, out of worry rather than anger.


“…I-I’m sorry…” Damian stammered.


“What for?” Loid asked, confused.


“I… I hurt Anya… I… lost control… I’m… I’m sorry…”


Panic threatened to smother him again. Loid sensed it and leaned forward, forcing Damian’s attention on him.


“Hey, calm down, Damian. Anya will be fine. I promise you, she will be. And so will you, okay? You don’t have to apologise for feeling this way, okay? You have every right to be overwhelmed and struggle with panic attacks after finding out so much… about your father…”


Damian hesitated, glancing back at the man who didn’t stop holding him up.


“Y-you heard…” he realised, fear taking on a new form, “Y-you can’t tell anyone, if my brother finds out I told anyone–”


“I won’t tell anyone, neither will Yor. I swear it. I promise. Believe me, your secrets are safe with us.”


Strangely enough, even though he barely knew the man, Damian believed him. A little reassured, and panicking still enough that he felt the need to cover himself with a mask of slight arrogance, he couldn’t help but comment:


“…What? You’re going to tell me that you have some horrifying skeletons as family heritage as well?” he said ironically, a little bitterly.


Loid smirked, surprisingly amused.


“You would be surprised. Every family has its secrets, some heavier than others.”


They paused, taking in the far-away sounds of the uncles and young children playing, unaware of the quiet, intimate war going on in a young couple’s hurtful souls.


“Do you want to talk about it?” Loid asked, turning towards Damian as soon as he knew the young man wouldn’t shatter again.


“…There’s nothing else to say. I’ve told Anya and she hates me now. I’ll never tell a soul again, I should have listened to my brother and kept it all a secret…”


“If there is one person you can’t keep a secret from, it’s Anya. She is incredibly perceptive.” Loid answered, as if he was sharing a very important secret with the young man.


He paused thoughtfully.


“She would have found out eventually… You may not think so right now, but it’s better you faced her honestly and told her everything in your own terms, rather than let the wound fester and affect you both when you didn’t expect it. Besides… I don’t think she hates you. She is… in shock, she is hurt, but it has nothing to do with you.”


“…My father, instead.”


“Who is not you. She knows that, even if it might take her a bit of time before she comes to terms with… everything. Give her time, and everything will be back to normal.”


Damian looked away. He finally took in the fact that he was in Anya’s bedroom, sitting on her bed. Her pillows were surrounded by many animal stuffed toys, but the two that stood out the most were a massive penguin, covered in terrible scars, and a colourful chimera.


A chimera… how ironic that, of all creatures, she’d have picked a chimera… he thought with a bad taste in his mouth.


“I won’t. I can’t. Let it go back to normal, I mean. Nothing will ever be the same. Not for me…” he admitted, finally tearing his eyes away from the stuffed toys, only to look down at the floor once more.


Loid observed him from the corner of his eyes.


“You can’t go back to normal with Anya, because you somehow think you hurt her, or you can’t go back to normal with yourself, because your father hurt you beyond his grave?”


Damian’s heart missed a beat. It became heavy as stone. Tears filled his eyes once more, but they didn’t roll this time.


“…I only ever wanted his approval… his love, and… I thought he was a good man, the best man… I loved him, I hate him… I still love him, and I hate myself for that…” he murmured, voice breaking like a thousand shards of glass, “K-knowing everything he did… everything he let happen… how could I love a man like that?”


“He’s your father, it’s normal to love him. It’s normal to have a complicated relationship with him, especially now that you can’t confront him about it. You’re confused and hurt. It doesn’t make you less of a man for loving him, even knowing his wrong doings. It doesn’t make you less of a man for hating him… You feel what you feel, Damian. There is nothing wrong with it. What your father did doesn’t define you.” Loid continued, staring helpfully at the young man whose life had been turned upside down.


“But I admired him! I hate him so much for what he did, but I can’t stop loving him! What does that say about me?! He was a monster! I hate him! That makes me a monster too!”


Loid put a heavy hand on his shoulder, almost throwing Damian off-balance. Or pulling him back on whatever tightrope he had been blindly walking on his entire life.


“Damian, his crimes are not yours. This is not your guilt to carry.”


He hesitated, before continuing, tightening lightly his grip on Damian’s shoulder.


“You and I haven’t talked much in the past, but I believe I know you enough. You’ve been part of my daughter’s life for almost as long as I have. It offends me as a father, but you might know her better than me by now. Just like she knows you better than anyone else and… from everything she told me over the years, I know that you are a brave and kind-hearted young man. She admires those traits in you… she fell in love with you because of those. And those are not the making of a monster.”


He let the words sink in before he kept going, diving his eyes into Damian’s, still shimmering from tears.


“You can love your father, it doesn’t mean you condone his actions. You can hate your father, it doesn’t make you a monster. From the little I know of you, Damian Desmond, you are a thousand times the man your father could have ever hoped to be. And I know it’s his pride and attention you always wanted, but if I were your father, I would be more than proud, it would be my greatest honour to call you my son.”


Loid slid his arm around Damian’s shoulder. And even though it wasn’t his own father’s comfort, even if it wasn’t Anya’s peace, the young man still found some unexpected solace from that strong and heartfelt embrace.




He turned his attention back to Loid who was smiling, a little sadly, but it was gladness that shone in his eyes.


“I can’t think of anyone more worthy of my daughter… than you…” he said slowly, making sure every word was heard loud and clear.


Hope, thankfulness, and unexpected pride flared in Damian’s chest. Flamboyant and beautiful, chasing all the darkness and demons away.


“I would do anything, everything, to make your daughter happy, to make her smile… I will never give up on Anya, I promise it on the Desmond name, on my name, Damian.”


Loid smiled, almost cheerfully if he weren’t so torn by melancholy. He tapped Damian’s shoulder eagerly.


“I’ll hold you up to that promise, Damian Desmond.”




Anya didn’t realise her mother had carried her in another room until she was on the floor, and she felt the soft carpet of her parents’ bedroom. Somehow, it made her panic attack worse. She couldn’t breathe, her chest hurt, her throat was too tight. Tears didn’t stop, sobs threatened to shatter her body to pieces.


“Anya! Anya, darling! Look at me!”


Yor’s voice was strong and unwavering when she took her daughter’s face in hers.


“Look at me, Anya!”


Through blurry tears, dizzy from her own thoughts and everyone’s overwhelming feelings, Anya bravely tried to find her mother. The silhouette was far away and ghostly. The doctors’ figures were real and threatening.




Yor pressed her forehead against Anya’s. It made her daughter wriggle, trying to get away but Yor didn’t let go. Anya shook, closing her eyes, whimpering, but eventually, she stopped struggling.


“It’s okay! Anya, you’re with mama, you’re safe, you’re with your family…” Yor murmured, drawing Anya against her chest and hugging her tightly, careful not to break any bone.


But from the way Anya held onto her, strong and desperate, she could have hurt Yor. She didn’t mind. She could endure a million times the worst pain in existence if it meant her daughter found any comfort.


“He did it! He did it! He did it all!”


“Who? Who did what?” Yor asked, not having heard as much as Loid from the young people’s conversation.


He’s behind COEUS, he’s the one who did this to me, he’s the one–”


Her voice broke into sobs. She fell against her mother, shaking all over.


Yor’s eyes widened, her heart missing a beat. The horrifying understanding washed over her coldly.


Donovan Desmond was behind COEUS, he was the one behind her daughter’s long-ago torture and pain, he was the one behind her terror right now


Her gaze sharpened, a dangerous flame lighting deep in her blood red gaze.


“…If he weren’t already dead, I would be on my way already to tear him apart…” Yor hissed.


Anya froze in her arms. Slowly, she moved away, panicked. She shook her head.


“No… no, no, no, you c-can’t do that, you can’t do that to Damian–”


Yor startled, realising that she had fallen into her old and dangerous habits. Anya was panicking, she shouldn’t be thinking about revenge.


“No, no, sweetheart, I didn’t mean it…” she tried but Anya’s words hit her a moment later, “Donovan is dead, he’s already dead, I can’t kill him, he won’t be killed again! I promise, Anya, Damian won’t be hurt again, I promise!”


It seemed to calm Anya a little.


“Now breathe, breathe, in and out, like your papa taught you…” Yor continued, breathing in the same time as her daughter.


Slowly, eventually, light came back in Anya’s eyes and the shaking subsided. The tears stopped. But she remained sitting on the floor, looking lost and half-broken…


Yor went to pick up some tissues, wiping away her tears. Once Anya had cleaned herself up, red eyes and sniffing, she kept her gaze down.


“…I never thought… that Donovan Desmond had been… that he…”


“No one knew, Anya. Don’t let it bring you back in that dark place. It happened a long time and you are never going back there.”


“D-do you promise?” Anya asked in a shaky voice.


“I promise, I swear it on my life, I will never let anyone touch a single hair of yours again…” Yor said fiercely, drawing her daughter into another hug.


She caressed her shoulders in comfort and for a long moment, mother and daughter just held onto each other, like they have so many times.


“…How can I ever face Damian again…?”


Anya’s voice was barely higher than a whisper.


“What do you mean?” Yor asked, blinking in confusion.


“T-the way I reacted… I… he must hate me now… he needed me and I… I–”


She couldn’t shake off the memory, replaying again and again, in her mind, of Damian leaning towards her. The way she moved away. The way, for a short moment, she saw Donovan Desmond himself, trying to capture her.


“No, darling, Damian would never hate you, no matter what you did… You were in shock, and so is he… both of you are feeling… raw and vulnerable… Give it time and he’ll understand. Just like you will understand why he needed to tell you all this…”


Damian knew everything, in far more horrifying details than she did, about Project Chimera and COEUS. He knew everything that had been done to her.


But he had no idea she was one of his father’s victims.


If what she had sensed, his despair, guilt, and shame, gnawing at the deepest parts of himself, had been what he felt knowing his father had committed such a crime… how would he react to know Anya was one of his father’s monstruous creations?


“Should I tell him?” Anya asked in a whisper, more frightened than she ever remembered being.


For years, she had feared losing her family. But a smile and holding their hands had been enough to chase away such a fear.


Losing Damian would shatter her completely.


She hadn’t even realised how much she loved him, until she was faced with the possibility of losing him. Until she was faced with that gaping hole that tore her soul apart. That chasm in which she might plunge if he ever found out the truth and, for one reason or another, fate would be cruel to them again.


Yor took a long time to answer Anya’s question. Probably the most important question she would ever ask her mother. The most important answer her daughter would ever need.


“If you want to tell him the whole truth… your father and I will support you, no matter what.” Yor said with a smile.


Anya observed her, still lost, and confused.


She looked away, not knowing if she could ever be brave enough to jump in that void, not knowing if she would land safely at the bottom.


Telling him about her mind-reading ability would immediately reveal to Damian that she had been one of the test subjects of Project Chimera. Beyond the heart-breaking revelation and what it would do to him, he was smart enough to understand something else: Anya was not Loid Forger’s family. If she started telling him the truth, she couldn’t lie to Damian and she’d have to reveal everything to him.


Her father’s former spy activities. Mission Strix. Her mother’s former assassination activities. Their made-up family.


His father’s death.


Whatever hatred and disgust he felt towards his father would most definitely be aimed at her.


Having him hate her would be a worse fate than losing him.


“It will be alright,” Yor said when she sensed her daughter’s slowly growing fear.


“…How can I be with him when his father was…”


“It’s quite simple,” Yor continued, drawing her daughter’s gaze back to her, “Do you love him more than you hate his father? If the answer is yes, then what reason do you have to not be with him?”


Tears filled Anya’s eyes.


Yes, yes, I love him so much, so much more than I ever thought I could love…


The hatred she felt for Donovan Desmond, for the scientists, for anyone who had had a hand in Project Chimera was a mere candle compared to the majestic sun that was her burning love for Damian.


“What if… when I tell him the truth… he hates me more than he loves me?” she asked in a raspy voice.


Yor tightened her lips, caressing her daughter’s face to chase away the frightened tears.


“You won’t know the answer to that question, until you talk to him. Today, or in a week, or in a year… you can take your time. But if he loves you half as much as you love him… and I’m certain his feelings are just as strong… he will have the same answer as you. Love is stronger than hate.”


Anya captured a wandering thought from her mother’s mind.


Loid and Yor should have been enemies. But they fell in love, unknowingly on opposite sides. They should have hated each other. They did hate one another for a short amount of time, when they found out the truth and the hideous lies… but their love was stronger than any hatred that could have ever existed. What they had thought had been hatred and anger had been nothing else but pain and betrayal, which they chose to turn into honesty and promises.


Their love had grown only stronger for it all.


“Have faith in Damian. I don’t believe his heart is so easily shaken.” Yor finished with an encouraging smile.


Have faith in Damian.


Anya stood up on shaky legs, ignoring her mother’s worried look. She carefully, silently, moved towards her bedroom. She remained behind the wall, overhearing everything Damian and her father were discussing.


“…From the little I know of you, Damian Desmond, you are a thousand times the man your father could have ever hoped to be. And I know it’s his pride and attention you always wanted, but if I were your father, I would be more than proud, it would be my greatest honour to call you my son.”


Anya’s heart missed a beat. She had never doubted of her father’s approval, but to hear it, to hear such words, even though they were meant for only Damian… It meant the world to her. That someone else saw Damian’s worth.


“I… I can’t think of anyone more worthy of my daughter… than you…” Loid added, his voice betraying the slightest hurt of having to let go of his daughter.


Anya closed her eyes, leaning against the wall, a smile growing on her face. She focused on Damian’s thoughts, suddenly bright and beautiful, as if a field of sunflowers had grown, erasing the warring darkness.


Such beauty, such radiance, couldn’t mean anything but love. A love strong enough to burn hatred away.


“I would do anything, everything, to make your daughter happy, to make her smile… I will never give up on Anya, I promise it on the Desmond name, on my name, Damian.”


She almost gasped. Even after everything she had done to him, leaving him to swallow in self-pity, in hurt, pushing him away, rejecting him… he still aimed to make her smile, he still put her before himself.


She stepped out, just as her father smiled warmly.


“I’ll hold you up to that promise, Damian Desmond.”


Damian must have sensed her presence, somehow, because he looked up just as she appeared in the doorway. Even her father was surprised, but Anya didn’t detach her gaze from Damian’s astounded expression, as if she were an angel sent to him by the heavens.


“…I’ll finish cooking that dinner,” Loid said, easily sneaking out of the room.


He patted his daughter’s shoulder, with an encouraging smile and a nod.


Be happy, he thought, knowing she’d hear him.


More tears filled her eyes. She nodded quietly.


This time, Loid closed the door to give them some privacy.


Damian stood up, looking uncharacteristically hesitant. It was different even from the look he had shown Loid a moment ago. That look, that golden hope shining in his eyes, it was hers and only hers.


He opened his lips to say something, but they both understood at the same time that words wouldn’t be enough.


Anya ran into his arms, surrounding his body with her arms, holding as tightly as she dared. He almost fell over, in shock more than her light weight. He hesitated, arms trembling, before returning her embrace.


It was strong. Like their feelings for one another. It was unexpectedly tender. Like their love.


For the first time in days, they both felt safe and sound, warm and comforted.


“I’m sorry,” Anya started, voice cracking, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry–”


“No, no, Anya, whatever for?” he asked, pushing away her hair to look at her face and her still red eyes.


“I should have been here for you, but I-I pushed you away, I didn’t mean to, I swear, I–”


“No, no, my love, don’t apologise, ever, I… I don’t blame your reaction. Believe me, your reaction was a lot better than mine…”


A dark chuckle escaped him, as he thought back on the shameful fight with his brother, in the snow, all these pent-up emotions they had let out at one another in that short moment.


“I can imagine…” Anya answered with a half-smile, a little bittersweet.


He had no idea she knew him so well.


“It was a lot to… to tell you, to expect of you… I won’t burden you anymore with my family–”


“No!” she exclaimed, shaking her head, surprising him, “Don’t say that! It’s not a burden… y-you are not your father, you are not his offenses… You are you, and I choose you, Damian Desmond. Skeletons, secrets, lies and everything else that comes along with you! I’ll share the burden, but don’t… don’t shoulder it all by yourself… You’re not alone anymore, I’m here, okay?”


Damian’s breathing hitched. He pressed his hands against her cheeks, staring at every inch of her face, her bright, determined eyes, the slight pout of her lips.


How could he ever resist her?


“Promise you’ll let me be here for you, no matter what!” Anya continued.


His lips turned into a wide smile. A grin like he had never smiled before. One that made his eyes lit up.


Her own lips smiled to mirror his, giddy and amazed by the sheer beauty of it.


“I promise… and you promise in return the same?” he asked, brushing his thumb against her cheek.


She closed her eyes, burying deep the fact that she would keep hiding some truth about herself for a little longer… She leaned her cheek against his palm, nodding.


“I promise… No secret between us, I’ll tell you everything. I promise.” She murmured against his skin.


She met his eyes and he dived towards her, sealing the most important promise of their short lives so far, with a passionate kiss.


Their lips moulded against one another perfectly. They gasped into each other’s mouth, tilting their heads and going deeper, deeper.


They could breathe again.


They could live again.


Damian gathered his arms around Anya’s tight waist, lifting her up so she’d be the same height as him. She started laughing, giddily, putting her arms around his shoulders, suddenly over twenty centimetres taller.


He would have captured that laugh, into his mouth, to breathe it back into his lungs, his heart, every time he’d feel lonely.


The door opened suddenly. He dropped her on the floor as they turned towards Amelia’s grinning face. She turned back towards the living-room.


“Mama! Papa! I told you they would be kissing!”


“Amelia!” Anya exclaimed, blushing.


“Leave them alone, Amelia!” Francesca exclaimed.


“Who is kissing who?!” Yuri called from afar.


“And they are kissing a LOT! With the tongue and everything!” The mischievous little girl continued.




“Then leave them to it!” Frankie laughed.


“Dinner is ready!” Loid interrupted loudly, “Anya, Damian, come join us!”


Amelia ran off before Anya could strangle her. Grabbing Damian’s hand, she pulled him to the living-room, both red in annoyance and embarrassment. Loid and Yor were smiling, and everyone else (besides Yuri) seemed to tease them.


But it was warm and welcoming.


Anya sensed Damian’s sudden gratefulness. She turned to him, squeezing his hand. He squeezed back, a small smile tugging on his lips before he turned back towards the Forger chaotic family.


“I apologise for our abrupt introduction earlier, and my lack of manners. My name is Damian Desmond, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”


Anya suddenly wrapped her arms around his, embarrassing him further.


“He’s… he’s my boyfriend, so be nice, all of you!” she scolded, frowning at each and every one of them.


They glanced at each other, grinning in what seemed to be a hell lot of teasing to come.


“After all these years, we were despairing you’d ever come sit in the chair we’ve been saving you!” Frankie exclaimed with a laugh.


“Come on in, you’ll fit right in!” Amelia added, grabbing his hands and pulling him forward.


He was forced into a chair that was slightly different than the others. He soon realised that almost the chairs were mismatched and there wasn’t enough room for everyone to comfortably sit without elbowing one another a little bit.


But everyone was smiling, everyone was laughing. Anya most of all.


“Welcome to the Forger family, at long last, Damian,” Yor said with a bright smile, handing him a dish of steaming potatoes.


He would have thanked them, but mere words wouldn’t be enough. But from the way they smiled, he knew they understood.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER XXIV: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Stars


Damian sighed heavily as he listened to the ringing on the other side of the phone line.


“Desmond Residence,” a butler answered the phone.


“Damian Desmond. May I… talk to my brother or mother?”


“…Of course, sir. One moment, please.”


There was a beep and after a long pause, the phone was picked up again.


“Damian, αγαπούλα μου! Where are you?! What were you thinking, leaving without telling anyone?! Thank heavens, Jeremiah gave us a phone call to warn that he had dropped you at Miss Forger’s residence...!”


“I’m sorry, μαμά,” he answered with a wince, “I didn’t think you’d notice my disappearance before I’d have the possibility of giving you a call.”


She cursed in Greek, which surprised him enough his eyebrows went high.


“What are you saying, not noticing your disappearance… Of course, I noticed, and so did your brother when Diana told him what happened. It was very sweet of you to try to help your brother and Diana… although I’m not sure Demetrius is very happy that you proposed to her instead of leaving him to do it himself.”


“Oh, well, at least… uh, what was her answer in the end? Is she… going to marry him?” he asked in a hushed voice, very aware of Anya standing nearby and pretending to not eavesdrop.


“They’ve talked it through, but he hasn’t told me what was her answer… I believe they might wait.”


She sighed heavily over the phone.


“Your brother should have asked her, before ever telling us he wanted to marry her.”


“You knew they weren’t engaged?!”


“I knew they were not engaged yet. But I had thought he’d explain the full story to you.”


“He obviously didn’t…” Damian grumbled, rolling his eyes, “And then, he scolds me for missing a few steps by courting Anya when he hasn’t even bothered talking about wanting to marry Diana with her!”


“Damian… it’s not the same. Diana and Demetrius both have marriage on their minds. It’s not the case for Anya and you, you are too young to be in a serious relationship, things could go wrong far too quickly with your inexperience and eagerness…”


What makes you think I don’t have marriage on my mind, yet? Damian thought to himself grumpily.


He turned around when he heard Anya almost fall over, quickly catching a vase before it’d shatter on the ground.


Loud laughter resonated from the card game the ‘adults’ were playing in the living-room. Rosie has been in bed for over an hour, and Francesca had left with a sleeping Amelia a few minutes ago when her taxi had arrived, but Frankie had decided to stay a little longer, quite tipsy – although not as much as Yor and Yuri who could hold a drink about as well as a cat could resist catnip.


“What’s this sound? Laughter? I thought you were at Miss Forger’s residence,” his mother intervened worriedly.


“I am. It’s her… um, uncles… they’re a little loud.”


“Oh, what charming sounding people,” she answered, immediately delighted that her son was bonding with Anya’s family, “May I talk to Mr Forger, sweetpie?”


Damian immediately panicked, sending a quick and wary look at Anya. She tilted her head, silently asking him what was going on.


“W-wh-what do you want to talk to Mr Forger for?” he stammered, flushing.


“He let you join a family event, with no invitation, or expectation of your coming. The least I can do is thank him for letting you stay for dinner. Besides, it’s getting really late. I’ll call Jeremiah to come pick you up and–”


“N-no, I told him to join his family, I’ll uh… I’ll go to an hotel. There’s one just around the corner.”


“Darling, if you had told us you wanted to see Anya, I could have given you the key to my apartment–”


“I know, I know, I was a fool. I’ll handle it, mo… mother. Don’t worry. I’ll be back tomorrow.”


“…Let me speak with Mr Forger.”


He opened his mouth to deny but Loid just happened to pass by, carrying empty dishes. Anya grabbed them and nodded towards Damian. The doctor understood at once what was going on and he held out his hand for the phone. Feeling trapped, Damian sighed, handing the phone to him.


“Oh, Mrs Desmond, what a pleasure. It’s a shame we couldn’t make an acquaintance face-to-face.”


Damian hung on every word, even as Loid tried to turn away, but the young man was too close to not hear the very awkward conversation – or at least, for him because Loid smiled, as charmingly as if he were facing his mother.


“He has been a charming addition to our evening, don’t worry about it.”


Something was said by his mother, a very long series of sentences that made Damian even more nervous.


“Of course, it’s not a problem at all.”


What wasn’t a problem?! He wondered, just as Anya came back from the kitchen, glancing between Damian and her father.


“It would be my delight, madam!”


There was a little laugh. Damian grimaced.


“Have a good evening, Dafni.”


DAFNI?! Damian thought, narrowing his eyes at Mr Forger who dared calling his mother by her first name before even a proper acquaintance.


Loid then turned towards Damian who jumped back on the phone:


“What did you tell him?”


“Oh, nothing important, sweetie. It’s very late and I’m not as young as I once was, I’m getting tired… I’ll leave you now. Be careful on the way home.”


“Yes, yes, mother…”


“Good night, see you tomorrow. And be careful!”


“Yes, yes!”


There was the final beep that indicated the end of a conversation. Damian stared suspiciously at the phone.


“…Why do I feel like I’ve been tricked into something?” he mumbled.


“It can’t be that bad if it was a trick from your mother,” Anya answered with a chuckle, “Come on, we’re about to start a boardgame!”


Damian had been confused by the profusion of playing that had been involved in the family evening. But he had carefully hidden it, as to not offend any of the Forgers or their guests. He had done enough clumsy steps in one evening to haunt him for the rest of his life. He was far too used to a life of a luxury. Even knowing that Anya had been a commoner, he hadn’t expected their lifestyles to be so… drastically different.


Despite it all, wine and exhaustion had soothed his nerves. He had even dropped his tie and jacket during dinner. He was still the best dressed person in the entire apartment, but no one except himself seemed to care.


Anya dragged him back at the table, which had been cleaned of all food, but not the alcohol, and replaced by a boardgame that was being setup by a very tipsy Frankie. Damian much preferred chess but even he knew Monopoly and how to play it. He used to do it a few summers ago, with his brother and Marius when he had been visiting. Marius had obviously won every single time.


“Do you know the rules of Monopoly, Damian?” Loid asked as he sat down.


Before Damian could answer, Frankie laughed:


“Don’t be ridiculous, Loid! All he knows is how to ride horses and do fencing and chess stuff! He’ll be completely lost! It’ll be my turn to win!!”


Anya glanced, amused, at Damian, who didn’t deny it.


“I must admit I am not as familiar with Monopoly as chess,” he answered, which wasn’t entirely a lie.


“EHEHEH! Okay, Fancy Boy, here’s the rule in the family! Whoever wins Monopoly gets to go home with… mm…”


“A bowwle of wine!” Yor exclaimed passionately.


“Nah, nah, that’s too little! Let’s say a very big cheque in their name, okay? Written by the person who has lost the most in the game!”


“That’s not a family rule,” Yuri corrected, frowning, “The only rule is that we SHOW NO MERCY!”


Damian stared at the two uncles, raising an eyebrow. He couldn’t help it, when he saw a challenge, he craved solving it. And brilliantly. Smirking, he leaned against one forearm, holding out his hand to Frankie who suddenly looked a bit intimidated by the youngling in half a sharp suit smiling more deviously than Loid ever had.


“Bet accepted. Were I to lose… which I’m afraid might happen, I’ll write a cheque with the number of your choosing, to whoever wins.”


“R-really?” Frankie hesitated.


“Family rule, right? Were I to win… I’ll ask for a favour the loser will owe me. After all, I would feel guilty to expect money from any of you, when you are already so generous with me.”


His arrogant tone fired up Frankie and Yuri, while Yor laughed. Loid sighed, calmly distributing the ‘money’ among the players. Anya watched all of it unfold with a very amused expression on her face.


“Good luck, I always win,” Loid intervened as they got ready to play.


“Oh?” Damian replied.


Electricity sparked between them, making Anya a little more unsure about the outcome of this evening. Although, it’d be very nice to see her father losing for once.


“Beginners’ first, you little runt,” Yuri hissed, passing the dice to Damian.


“What an honour,” he replied, looking down at the dice.


He clenched his fist around them and, cockily if he said so himself, he leaned towards Anya, holding out his fist for her:


“I might need a lucky kiss, my lady,” he started.


“You certainly will need luck against all the protective men of my family,” she replied with a smile.


She kissed his knuckles as he chuckled.


“HEY! That’s cheating!!” Frankie exclaimed.


“How is that cheating? She just kissed his fist for good luck,” Loid answered, rolling his eyes.


Damian threw the dice and received four and four.


Frankie and Yuri immediately went silent to see him do a Double on a first try. Anya started laughing. Damian advanced his piece, as she gave him the dice again:


“You get to do it again! When you do a Double!”


“Ah, lucky me,” Damian said innocently.


“…Beginners’ luck…” Yuri hissed, narrowing his eyes at him.


Damian didn’t deign answering him, playing again. Anya and Yor played next, reasonably well for the first one, a bit of a disaster for the second, but Yuri was already swearing to save his beloved sister. He unfortunately got a sad ‘one’. Loid made a good enough play. Frankie, who didn’t want to risk losing against Damian so early, asked Anya to kiss his fist like she had done for Damian, but it didn’t bring him any luck.


It continued, fake money going back and forth under the screams or lamentations of Frankie and Yuri. Yor eventually fell asleep half-way through. It quickly became obvious that Loid was in the lead.


Anya glanced at Damian, knowing he was waiting before doing anything other than buy properties. At that point, Loid and Damian shared two-thirds of the properties, the rest divided with the other players. Loid had started building, earning a regular amount of rent from the others. Damian had unfortunately been unable to build anything as one of the properties he needed was owned by Frankie (one could only build once all properties of the same colour are owned by the same person). Anya had seen Damian’s plan in his mind though, which would be bold as there was no time-limit for Monopoly. The moment any of them called it off, it’d be over, and he’d lose. But he seemed to have quickly analysed that Loid was too proud to give up, and Frankie and Yuri too motivated to stop the game anytime soon.


“Not again!!” Frankie exclaimed when he landed on one of Loid’s properties, paying him rent directly.


“That’s a shame, Frankie,” Loid answered, sparkling to be winning so effortlessly.


Duh, what he deserves. As long as the little ruffian goes back home to his mommy crying in her skirts, I’ll be satisfied. He’s got a nasty look in his eyes, I don’t trust him at all, SSS instinct talking! Yuri thought, glaring yet again at Damian (the young man had already developed a form of immunity against it and simply ignored the drunk uncle).


“Uncle Yuri!” Anya exclaimed when she caught that thought.


“OI, Anya! Stop reading my–”


“YURI!!” Loid and Anya screamed in the same time.


Yuri went silent, wide eyes glancing at Damian who frowned.


“…Face. Read my face, obviously, while I silently insult you,” Yuri continued after a moment of silence.


“Oh, I had not noticed,” Damian mocked with a grim smile.


“Well, stop insulting him, silently, with your face or otherwise! Or I’ll unleash my secret weapon to win it all!” Anya exclaimed.


“What secret weapon?” Yuri asked, immediately hooked on the trap.


“AH AH! I can’t reveal it to you, or it’d ruin everything! You’d better be prepared!”


She had effectively managed to distract him from Damian. Yuri was now worrying about Anya and her ‘secret weapon’, muttering to himself in a low voice that was, quite frankly, a bit frightening. After a few more plays, while Loid was distracted receiving yet more money from Frankie, Damian leaned towards Anya.


“What will you do, if I win?”


She blushed, clearly remembering what she had done the last time he had won a game. He smirked, in promise.


“AGH! I don’t have enough rent! Can’t you, uh, give me more time?” Frankie asked Loid as he ended up with his last bill.


“No can’t do.”


“I don’t want to sell my only property…” Frankie whined.


“I’m afraid you don’t have any choice, old pal,” Yuri said, handing him the necessary amount from the bank.


Having enough for Loid’s rent, it was Damian’s turn. He got lucky, as he managed to land on the property Frankie had just sold. Which he bought.


“Traitor!! I thought we were family!!”


“There’s no family bound in Monopoly,” Damian replied calmly, “I’ll also build two buildings in every property I own.”


Loid gasped as Damian handed a huge stack of money to the Bank. He had almost nothing left, but just as Loid had realised, it only took a few plays for the stack of money on Damian’s side of the table to rise, as he owned enough properties and buildings, with enough rent, that almost everyone owed him something at every turn.


“OI… oi, oi, oi… did he do it on purpose?!” Frankie realised when he had to pay, for the third time in a row, money to Damian.


“Took you long enough to figure it out,” Yuri mumbled, arms crossed over his chest as he glared at Damian.


“How long have you been planning this coup?!” Frankie yelled, “You said you were a beginner!”


“No, no, I merely said I was more experienced in chess, not inexperienced in Monopoly,” Damian corrected proudly.


“OI! That’s not– it’s not– it’s not fair!! Loid, tell him!!”


“…He played by the rules, unfortunately.”


“The little shit!”


“I get that a lot,” Damian answered without looking up from counting his ‘money’.


“Watch your lanbwage,” Yor mumbled from the side of the table where she was half asleep.


Loid caressed her hair tenderly.


“Like she said. You don’t want to get her angry in that state.”


Anya started laughing.


“That’s it! I’ve been humiliated long enough! I’m calling it quits!” Frankie exclaimed, standing up suddenly, “Why is the room spinning like that!”


“Don’t be sick in the living-room like last time, please,” Loid intervened as he counted his own money.


Anya watched her two favourite men as they counted.


“Twenty thousand and three hundred,” Loid announced, staring right into Damian’s eyes.


“Twenty thousand, three hundred… and fifty.”


Gritting his teeth, Loid just stared at Damian who put down the money on the table, smirking proudly.


“BWAHAHA! I take it back!! The whole game was worth it just for that look on your face!!” Frankie exclaimed, laughing in his friend’s face.


“Oh, alright, I can’t win every time!” Loid grumbled.


“Looks like you owe me a favour, pops,” Damian continued as he stood up to grab his jacket.


Something fell off from it and he bent down, just as Anya gasped, running towards the nearest window.


“It’s snowing!! Look, it’s snowing!” she exclaimed, as everyone gathered to look at the snow slowly falling.


“And it’s almost 1am, which means… it’s Christmas Day,” Loid said, putting his arms around his wife and daughter, “Merry Christmas, my darlings.”


“Merry Christmas, everyone!!” Frankie exclaimed, raising his glass to the ceiling.


Yuri, in his drunken crazed state of mind, opened the window and shouted from the bottom of his lungs:




“It’s Merry Christmas, Uncle Yuri.” Anya corrected, smirking.




Some shouts, fireworks and equally joyful and chaotic shouts resonated in the neighbourhood.


“Close the window, or you’ll catch a cold!” Yor exclaimed.


Yuri immediately obeyed as she handed him her Christmas gift.


“A GIFT! From my beloved Yor!!”


“Stop shouting, you’ll wake up the baby,” Loid continued as he distributed the gifts.


They all thanked each other, but Anya put aside her gifts to slide next to Damian who had remained standing behind, staring at whatever he had picked up from the floor after it had fallen from his jacket.


“I have a gift for you, it’s in my bedroom, I didn’t think we’d see you before after-tomorrow. Sorry it’s not under the tree! But I’m sure Santa Klaus didn’t forget you…”


“I don’t need any gift, but you,” Damian answered, cheeks a little flushed.


Her eyes sparkled. He opened his hand, showing the little branch of mistletoe his mother had given him earlier in the evening.


“You know what that means, Anya Forger?” he asked cheekily.


She slipped her fingers through his, against the little plant.


“I guess I don’t have a choice, do I, Damian Desmond?” she replied eagerly.


Smirking, he leaned towards her to kiss her.


Frankie coughed loudly. Turning their gazes towards the rest of the family staring at them, either in annoyance or smiling in a teasing manner. Damian and Anya pulled away, blushing.


“Oh, don’t stop for us!” Frankie continued, popping some chocolate in his mouth as he watched the show.


Yuri elbowed him hard enough to make him yelp in pain.


“Sorry we haven’t prepared any gift for you, Damian, you were, well, a little unexpected,” Loid said with a (slightly forced) chuckle (he had almost witnessed the boy kiss his baby girl, after all).


“Oh, please don’t worry about me, I… was incredibly rude to show up at your door without warning. I am truly grateful for… the warm welcoming you have given me… It’s… more than I would have expected from Christmas.” Damian answered honestly.


In their drunken states, Yuri, Frankie and Yor started singing loudly some Christmas song. Frankie wasn’t as far gone as the siblings, he just enjoyed irritating Loid’s ears.


“You are welcome here anytime, Damian,” Loid continued, tapping the young man’s shoulder.


“Thank you, Mr Forger. I… should probably go, it’s getting really late, and I don’t want to trouble you any longer.”


Loid blinked as Damian pulled on his jacket again.


“Go? Go where? Didn’t your mother tell you?”


“Tell me what?”


“We agreed that you’d stay the night here, with us. She wasn’t comfortable with letting you wander around at night, which I understand completely.”


Anya slid closer to Damian, smirking brightly. He flushed, swallowing hard.


“B-but, I can’t impose myself any longer…”


“Nonsense!” Anya exclaimed, wrapping her arms around his, hugging him close enough that he felt most curves of her body pressing into his side, “He can stay with me!”


“What? No, it’s out of the question,” Loid said, frowning, “He can stay in the guest bedroom–”


“Uncle Yuri will sleep in it! And we can’t let Damian, or anyone, sleep on the couch, it’d be rude!!”




“Please, please, please, please, we’ll be good!” she begged.


“It’s not–”


“We won’t wake you up, I swear!”


“Most definitely not–”


“It’s Christmas, papa! Our first Christmas together, you can’t separate us!” she exclaimed, definitely overreacting a little.


Loid opened and closed his lips.


I can’t let them sleep in the same room, it’s completely insane. I’m willing to let him stay over, but not to the price of my baby girl losing her innocence–


He noticed Anya’s threatening gaze. He understood she had caught his thoughts. And she was not happy with him trying to interfere with her relationship…


Clicking his tongue, Loid looked away. He glanced back at the two of them. Blushing, holding hands, ignorant of the world, stubborn… and with deep bags under their eyes.


Rolling his eyes, he then pinched his nose.


“…I can’t believe I’m about to agree to this…”


The two immediately started glowing.


“…I’ll bring out your old mattress, he can sleep on the floor.”


Anya opened her mouth to deny, but Damian took her hand.


“I don’t mind. It’s more than we could have hoped for.”


Perhaps she’ll let me sneak in her bed for a short time, he added to himself, flushing a little.


Anya blushed in turn, turning towards her father.


“Alright. The old mattress.”


Loid narrowed his eyes.


She accepted veeeeery quickly. That’s suspicious…


She held his gaze, trying not to let him guess what she was thinking of.


“It’s our only choice, isn’t it?”


“…It is.” Loid confirmed.


“I should start going, I don’t want to miss my little girl’s shining eyes when we’ll open the gifts tomorrow morning,” Frankie intervened.


After more ‘Merry Christmas’ and good nights, he called a taxi and left in a few minutes. Loid guided a very drunken Yuri in the guest bedroom, and Yor in their bed, before pulling out the old mattress to leave it in Anya’s bedroom. She eagerly started preparing sheets and pillows for Damian, even if she had no intention of letting him sleep a single minute in it.


“Here, you can get changed in Anya’s bathroom,” Loid said, handing the young man pyjamas trousers and a baggy shirt.


“Oh, uh, I’m fine and–”


“Damian, you can’t sleep in a Ralf Florens suit. Believe me.” Loid insisted, forcing the clothes into his arms.


“T-thank you, Mr Forger…”


“Yes, yes. You two get some sleep, and nothing else, got it? If I hear as much as whisper, I’ll come in here with guns in both hands, understood?”


“Papa!” Anya exclaimed, mortified, while Damian laughed at what he thought was an innocent dad joke (it wasn’t).


“Alright, alright… Good night, you two.”


He glanced between Damian and Anya, sighing. Then he smiled. He left, leaving the bedroom door a little ajar as he started to get ready for bed in his own bathroom.


“Go get changed first,” Anya said, indicating her small bathroom to Damian.


He was too tired to argue. He walked in, finding a clean (pink) towel she had left out for him. He was more or less the same height as Loid Forger, which made the clothes quite comfortable, far more than his Ralf Florens suit that he left, carefully folded, on the chair. He looked around, finding lots of hair and skin products, make-up, and hair stuff he wasn’t familiar with. Curious, he grabbed a small pot of what he assumed was perfume, but it made the entire pyramids of products collapse in the sink. He jumped, trying to catch it all.


Every sound was so much louder at night. The whole building must have heard him.


Grimacing, he put it all back on the shelf, more stuff stumbling around until it was back in its awkward balance.


It’s a miracle she doesn’t blind herself with all this stuff every day… he thought to himself. When we’ll live together, I’ll have to make sure we have a giant bathroom, or I’ll never survive.


He went to clean his hands and face, then he realised he had gotten himself a bunch of sparkles which origin was unknown. They must have landed on him from one of the products. The sparkles didn’t want to leave his skin.


“Great… girls’ stuff…” he mumbled, wiping his hands and face on the towel.


He slowed down his movement, cheeks heating up as he smelled the towel.


…Unfortunately, it smelled of detergent, not of Anya.


Realising she was probably waiting for the bathroom to get ready for bed, he left it, finding her already changed in her pyjamas. A new shade of red appeared on his cheeks, his heart thumping rapidly when he saw her kneeling on her bed, wearing a comfy purple night dress. It was very big, smothering all her curves into inexistence, but it made him even more curious…


He had only ever seen her in uniform, modest outfits… and now that baggy pyjama.


“Disappointed I’m not laying, completely naked, waiting to be devoured by you?” she teased, smirking when she saw him blush some more.


“…I’m not…” he stammered, but he didn’t get to finish his sentence.


She stood up and slipped into the bathroom, closing it so she could finish readying herself for the night. He glanced at the bed. He glanced at the sad mattress on the floor. Sighing, he sat on it, wondering if he would catch any sleep at all, with Anya so physically close yet so far away from him.


She came back quickly, glaring at him:


“What did you do to my bathroom shelf?! It’s a mess!”


“It… fell on its own!”


“Oh, because of gravity, perhaps?” she mocked, looking for something around her bedroom.


“Well, technically speaking, yes.”


“And why are you covered in sparkles? Where did it come from?”


“I don’t know, Anya,” he answered, raising his hands to the sky.


She grabbed a hairbrush and she knelt next to him on the mattress, taking his hands in hers. She smirked to see all the little fairy dust, sparkling in the dim light.


“You are impossible, Damian Desmond…” she sighed with a silly smile on her face.


But he observed her, no longer worried about the sparkles that had decided to settle themselves permanently on his hands and, he assumed, the side of his face.


“W-what…” she stammered, embarrassed by his intense stare.


He pulled out the mistletoe branch, flushing a little.


“…I believe we got interrupted, I didn’t get my mistletoe Christmas kiss…” he said, pouting a little.


“Oh? I guess we have to remediate to that, then.”


“I request a twenty percent rate of interest,” he demanded seriously.


“Twenty percent? You’re a difficult man to deal with…” she replied, leaning forward slowly.


“I’m hard in business… but I’m open to negotiations…” he continued, leaning to meet her halfway.


They kissed softly, tenderly, both holding the little branch of mistletoe between their hands. It took a long, long time until they felt satisfied after so many days without kissing, so many days of aching for the other’s comfort. When they pulled away, Damian put it over her ear, behind her hair, making her giggle.


“A waiting present, until I bring you the one I have back at the estate.” He decided.


His gaze was attracted by the hair accessories on the top of her head, that looked like horns. He moved his hand to take them off, but Anya moved away, subtly.


“D-do you sleep with them?” he asked, genuinely curious because he had no idea how girls’ hair worked (probably something mystic that involved the moon or whatever).


“N-no but…”


Anya grabbed a strand of her hair, curling and uncurling the tip nervously. How could she explain to him that she put on her hair accessories to hide


What is it? Some sort of personal habit? She doesn’t want me to look? He wondered, curious and not daring to cross boundaries.


“…I just have… I wear them to hide…”


She closed her eyes, as if defeated.


“To hide scars… ugly scars… on the sides of my head… I-I got them as a child…”


“Oh… I have scars too, everyone has got some.” He answered, matter-of-factly.


Not like those, she thought to herself.


Unable to look at him, she reached up, slowly removing the pins that had been carefully attached to keep the horn-like accessory in place, no matter what. She felt the strands of hair falling around the bare area of her scar. She took off the other one. Then, she stood there, eyes closed, heart beating fast.




Damian leaned forward, observing the obvious marks. Large circular scars, on the sides of her head, keeping an entire strand of hair unable to grow back. The little horns hid them perfectly and he realised that the only few times he had seen her without her hair accessories, her hair had been tied back to cover it.


“How did you even manage to do that?” he asked, more bewildered than disgusted as she had feared.


“I… fell down,” she lied, “I don’t remember much… Bad head injury…”


“To leave scars like that, certainly…” he answered thoughtfully, trying to come up with a scenario that would make sense.


I can’t tell him that’s where the scientists hired by his father in a secret project dug holes in my skull to mess with my brain… she thought, looking down.


“Hey, Anya, it’s just scars, don’t look so grim,” he intervened, tilting her chin up.


But it wasn’t just scars, not for her, it had a history she wasn’t ready to tell him.


“I don’t care about it… it’s not ugly… and even if it were… I wouldn’t care either way.”


She hummed doubtfully. Sensing that she wasn’t believing him, Damian suddenly stood up, dragging her up with him. She blinked curiously when he reached for the bottom of his shirt and took it off. Anya gasped, blushing fifty shades of red, a sudden heat coiling at her insides. She didn’t have time to admire his abs and pectorals that, to her great disappointment, he was already turning around. The fool.


She gasped again, not for the same reason.


“Who did this to you?” She exclaimed, brushing her fingers against two vertical scars in his back, to the level of his shoulder blades.


“Only my own stupid younger self,” he answered with an embarrassed smile, glancing at her from over his shoulder.


She frowned, silently requiring an explanation. She was almost vibrating in anger, ready to punch whoever had hurt him in the past.


“For some reason, I loved the myth of Daedalus and his son, Icarus, as a child. And there is this giant pine tree in the Desmond Park that I used to climb… One day, I decided to make myself wings, like Daedalus had done for himself and his son. I thought that if I tried hard enough, I could fly.”


Anya’s lips tugged into a smile, incapable of resisting when she saw flashes of his memory.


“I read up some engineering books about flying and planes for days, made my wings, got to the pine tree, climbed it… and I was convinced that I had mastered man-flying at the mere age of four years old.”


“Oh no…” she said, but she was grinning just from the way he was smiling about it.


“I fell down, really badly,” he laughed, “The branches broke so harshly that they still haven’t grown back, and we can see the trajectory I followed in my fall. I would have landed, harshly on the grass, but my improvised wings had held on. I fell on my back and the metal parts dug deeply… I learned two things that day. There was a good reason such a myth existed… and gravity is a thing.”


“Oh no, Damian…” she repeated, covering her face from second-hand embarrassment, “It’s kind of adorable, though…”


“I got so scared, I never climbed that tree ever again. But you know what my mother told me? Even if I couldn’t fly, it still looked like I had had wings, for a short time.”


He pointed at his back and Anya realised that indeed, it looked like the scars she’d imagine a fallen angel to carry on their backs. Or, in this precise situation, a fallen, human griffin.


Her fingertips touched the scarred skin. He startled, then relaxed when she placed her hands over his shoulder blades.


“You could have gotten really, really hurt…” she whispered.


Her warm breath against his back made him shiver. She sensed his reaction, and his blushing cheeks even without looking at him. She couldn’t help her hands from moving, over his back, his shoulders, gently massaging the tense muscles. She hadn’t expected to be able to feel them ripple under her fingertips, and yet, she could feel every move, every intake of breath, every tremble.


She leaned forward, pressing her lips between his shoulder blades. He jumped, turning his head around.


A-Anya– if your father catches us, I am dead–”


“He’s already asleep, don’t worry,” she answered.


He paused, opening and closing his lips, looking at her in disbelief.


“Oh, screw this,” he murmured, turning around.


She barely had time to brace herself before he kissed her, pushing her against the desk behind her. One hand went against her back, drawing her against his bare chest, the other grabbed her hip. She arched against him, gasping into his mouth to feel so much of his muscular chest. Her hands held onto his shoulders, then went against the back of his neck, into his hair, pulling him closer, closer, and closer.


She opened her lips and he eagerly dived into paradise, longingly, passionately, exploring her mouth, tongues dancing and tasting days’ worth of longing.


“I missed you,” he breathed, in between two kisses.


She answered by capturing his lips again. His two hands rested on her hips, greedily grabbing the fabric, almost pulling it off her body. Her hips grinded against his.


He pushed her away from him. So suddenly that it took her a moment to register what had just happened.


He turned away from her, passing a hand against his swollen lips, then into his hair, grasping it.


“I-I’m sorry,” she stammered, blushing and embarrassed to have acted so brazen.


“N-no, it’s me, I just… I’m not sure I can control myself when…”


Heavens, she’s as good as naked under that stupid baggy thing… the clothes I’m wearing do nothing to conceal anything I might feel… I can’t let her rile me up, or her parents will definitely wake up and I’ll die… Pops is the kindest man I’ve ever met but there’s something murderous in his eyes when he threatens me…


“No, I’m… you’ve been… emotional and so have I and…”


Silence fell between them. Anya straightened up, trying to conceal what kissing him half naked had done to her. He only had to lift the bottom of her night clothe to find that out. That would unleash the beast he is trying so hard to control.


“Should we… go to sleep…?” she asked hesitantly.


He turned back towards her, nodding.


Anya’s gaze got lost as she visibly checked him out. From shoulders, to his abs, navel and the way his hips drew a V shape that drew her attention no matter what.




She shook her head, forcing her gaze to go back to his face.


“Yes?” she squeaked.


“As flattered as I am that you obviously like what you are seeing, it is the middle of winter, and I’m starting to feel the cold…” he said, a prideful smirk lighting up his face.


She rolled her eyes, grabbing the shirt he had left at her feet and throwing it at him. He caught it effortlessly, putting it back on despite her pout. A pout he wanted to kiss away, but she was right. They had been emotional, they were tired, and they needed sleep before doing something particularly stupid.


“Get in bed, so we can finally catch some sleep,” she muttered, obviously grumpy that she didn’t get to see any more of him.


He smirked, puffing out his chest just a tiny bit. Then her words hit him.


“Wait, what? In bed? Your bed? Together?” he stammered.


She was already settling on it, pulling the covers up to invite him.


“Unless you’d prefer that,” she said, pointing at the mattress on the floor.


A night on a cold mattress on the floor? Or a night spent with Anya?


He might have been dreaming, but he wasn’t stupid. He’d choose the dream a thousand times over.


A little shyly, he approached her. He lied down, she pulled the covers over the two of them. She turned off the light, and the night began.


Anya stared up at the ceiling, heart beating hard against her chest. Damian was just as still, hands carefully gathered over his tummy.


Long, long minutes went by when they remained completely unmoving.


Fuck, there’s no way I’ll be able to sleep with her next to me like that, he thought, even though sleep pulled at his eyes.


Anya glanced at him, swallowing hard when she perceived his thoughts.


She had spent lots of sleepovers at Becky’s or other friends’, but… they always had big houses with several rooms. She had never slept with anyone else. She had never heard someone’s thoughts, so loudly, in the quiet night.


Especially not when the thoughts were about her. About her body. About what had just occurred. What could have occurred. What could still occur.


They were nervous. So nervous. It almost energised the air around them, keeping them awake despite the absolute exhaustion they felt, especially Damian who hasn’t had a proper night’s sleep for several nights in a row… But he couldn’t bring himself to fall asleep when he was so tense, next to Anya.


“Damian,” she whispered in the night.


He startled next to her, but he wasn’t that surprised to hear her still awake.




She turned on her side, propping her head on her hand, her elbow resting next to him. Despite the darkness, she could still trace the shape of his face and see his eyes gleam.


“…You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to but… did you fight with your brother?”


It took him a long moment to answer, his memories fumbled enough that she remained confused about what had really happened.


“No. Yes…? Maybe? I don’t know… but… we communicated… even with a lot of shouting… which is… progress, I guess.”


“Are you okay? Besides… the obvious…”


“I wasn’t expecting to be told that my father was a war criminal and a monster but… I think… in the end… I’m glad… to know the truth… That my brother trusted me enough with the truth. I owe it to him to be honest in return, even if it means screaming our heads off at each other.”


She observed him, her heart quietly reaching for his. Aching to tell him everything, no matter the consequences.


“Damian… I need to tell you something…”


He looked at her, a glimmer of what she assumed was curiosity in his eyes, with a bit of worry.


“I-I haven’t been entirely honest with you… there’s… there are things I need to tell you… I… I just don’t know how…”


Her voice broke. Damian suddenly sat up, reaching for her face, half-blindly. He cupped her cheek.


“Hey, it’s okay… don’t feel forced to say anything now… I think we’ve had enough emotions for a whole year, at least…”


She chuckled, fighting the tears. He must have sensed her emotions, because he pressed his forehead against hers.


“Whenever you’re ready to share this burden with me… I’ll be here for you… I promised I’d share my burdens with you, right? And I’ll take some of yours, I’ll do the same for you, αγάπη μου…”


“W-what does this mean?” she asked, blinking in confusion.


She heard the words in his mind before he whispered them against her lips.


My love.


“My love… Cheesy, I know–” he answered, laughing in embarrassment.


She leaned over, kissing him tenderly.


The kiss pushed him down against the pillows. He brushed his thumb against her cheek. She took his other hand, entwining their fingers together.


Sighing for breath, to let out some of the overwhelmingly beautiful emotions that had replaced the darkness and the sadness, Anya leaned against his body. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight and close to him.


“I can hear your heartbeat,” she murmured, in awe, pressing her ear against his torso.


He smiled, in the darkness, eyes closing slowly.


“And I can feel yours against my side…”


It beat steadily, like a lullaby. Curled into one another, fitting perfectly like two pieces of a puzzle, like two stars of a constellation that had found one another, they slipped into a peaceful and restful sleep with ease.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star



When Damian woke up, something tickled his nose. He sighed against it, breathing in a wonderful smell, feeling a warm body pressed against him.


Another dream about Anya, he realised, his body slowly wakening, in more ways than one.


He smiled, still lost in his sleepiness, switching back into a state of complete darkness for a few seconds, or an entire hour, he had no idea. The body moved around then started licking his face. Damian grimaced, pushing away the creature that had forced him to wake up.


“Not now, Max–” he grumbled in a raspy voice.


But his dog didn’t stop licking his face, the fur getting into his mouth. Damian pushed the huge dog away, before realising that Max was not allowed into his room, nor his bed.


Panicking a little, he opened his eyes wide and was met with a dog alright. But not his dog. He was slightly confused, until the mountain of white fur moved to show two brown and kind eyes.


Screaming, Damian jumped away from the unknown dog that had climbed into his bed. His bed that was suddenly too small because he fell backwards and onto the floor. Hard.


“Who the fudge–”


The dog barked, tail wagging happily.


“Bond?!” Damian exclaimed, finally recognising the dog that stood on the small bed.


Anya’s bed.


Oh no, it wasn’t a dream. We spent the night together. She was in my arms. Anya was in my arms last night and she’s turned into her dog?! Wait– no


“Hey! Good morning!”


He startled, looking up at Anya who walked in, still in pyjamas, with the addition of big fluffy socks, carrying two large plates of food.


“Anya! Don’t eat on your bed!” Loid called out from another room.


“We won’t, papa!” she answered, slamming the door with her foot.


Damian was still lying on the floor, legs tangled in the duvet. The duvet they had slept in together. His back ached from his harsh fall, but it didn’t quite sink in yet.


“Come on, get up, sleepy head!” Anya continued, putting the plates down on her desk before climbing over the unused mattress on the floor.


She reached down for him, helping him up. His long, gangly limbs got more tangled but after a few seconds of struggle, he was freed. Bond had already given up the bed, sniffing eagerly the plates that smelled delicious. His stomach rumbled, louder than the dog’s, and he flushed in embarrassment.


Anya only smiled.


“I’ll push the mattress out of the way so we can have more space,” she said, leaning down to put the pillows and covers in a messy pile on her bed.


“Your room is too small,” he complained.


She stood up again, face-to-face with him, their chests almost touching. Damian tried to get out of her way, but she followed suite. They both moved in the same direction a moment later, and with some awkward chuckles, he eventually jumped in a corner as she pulled up the mattress and moved it out of her bedroom.


“Bond, come on!” she called, “You already had breakfast!”


Damian moved to help her out but his leg caught onto something. He glanced down, at a canvas that had been covered in a white sheet and hidden between her wardrobe and her desk. All her other drawings and canvas were out in the open, half-finished or brilliant works of art, but not this one. Curious, he bent over to observe it just as Anya came back in.


“Bond, I told you to go, come on!”


The dog whined, giving her puppy eyes.


Sausage… bacon… he sent her way, tilting his head in an adorable manner.


“The poor thing is obviously starving, have some pity,” Damian intervened with an amused smile although the fluffy big dog was nowhere near showing he had ever missed a meal with the Forger.


Bond had always been a very bright animal and he eagerly, hopefully turned towards Damian, wagging his tail.


“No, no, the veterinarian said he needed to lose weight,” Anya said, giving a scolding finger to her dog.


“It’s Christmas, everyone deserves a treat on Christmas,” Damian answered, grabbing a sausage from his plate and bending down.


It was swallowed in one happy gulp by Bond who immediately pulled closer to him, licking his face in thankfulness.


Happy, thank you, Mr Anya, thank you! He thought, which melted Anya that Bond’s interpretation of Damian was “Mr Anya”.


“Good boy, now listen to your mistress, okay?” Damian continued, ruffling his fur.


Bond barked happily, then went towards the door.


“He doesn’t obey so enthusiastically to me,” she complained, as she pulled the door wider for the dog to walk though.


Anya quickly closed it, leaving them alone. The smell of food draw his attention and she vaguely caught his thought about not having a proper meal during the few days he had been with his family.


“Eat,” she said, pulling him down on the only chair of the room.


She pulled open the curtains of her room, letting the morning light flow in. The wonderful sight of the soothing Berlint, covered in snow, celebrating Christmas quietly, met them. She lived right across from a big park, a bit further away from Eden than in her youth.


“Nice view,” he commented, comparing it quickly to the view he had from his rooms at the estate.


“…Not nearly as good as what you’re used to, I bet,” she replied, rolling her eyes.


She grabbed the bathroom chair then joined him. Without another word, they started eating the food prepared by Loid.


“Wait, what time is it?” he asked after realising how high the sun was.


“Ah, past lunch time, but we both slept in very late. Bond took over me when you didn’t even budge when I got up.” She explained.


Damian flushed a little. He had grown up sleeping in dorms, surrounded by more-or-less loud boys, who went through puberty, of course he’d be a heavy sleeper.


“Sorry, you should have woken me…” he mumbled, looking down at the hands staying on his lap.


Anya observed him a short moment, recalling the sight that had greeted her that very morning. He had been sleeping so soundly, so peacefully, looking a lot more relaxed than she had ever witnessed. His hair had been sticking everywhere, his lips half open, as a steady breathing moved his chest up and down. She hadn’t caught it all, but she knew he had been dreaming.


She had watched him sleep for a good hour before she had even tried to move out of his arms, enchanted by the sight of a Damian she had never seen before. Sleeping, vulnerable, hopeful, looking his age rather than a few years older once awake…


“Oh, I tried,” she replied, a moment too late to be convincing, especially with such a smile on her face, “But there was no waking you.”


He stared at her, not believing her lie, but his cheeks flushed to guess she had probably stared at him sleep.


There was a knock at the door and Loid passed his head through. He stared suspiciously at the two young people, then he glanced around the room, checking for anything… unusual. They remained still and awkward, knowing very well what he was looking out for.


“…I’ll pick up your plates if you’re finished,” he said.


“O-oh, thanks, pops, the food was delicious,” Damian said, standing up eagerly, a little too quickly to be inconspicuous.


“Thank you. Your mother called again this morning, but you were still sleeping. She said she’d send a car for you. It should arrive in less than an hour.”


“Oh, thank you,” he replied, shoulders sagging in slight disappointment.


Loid hesitated, clenching the empty plates of brunch he had made for them.


“…I believe you’ll be back tomorrow, to take Anya to the Grand Theatre, right?” he asked.


“Ah, indeed, I’ll arrive around 5pm. I’ll take her to dinner, then the theatre. It will last until almost midnight, I’m afraid…”




Loid made to leave, but Damian awkwardly took a step forward:


“And– uh– if it’s alright with you…”


He trailed off when Loid turned back towards him, raising a single eyebrow.




“…I… I would like to… uh… I mean… I don’t want to trouble anyone so late at night, after returning from the theatre… especially with the baby sleeping… so…”


“…So what?” Loid asked, aware of Anya’s gaze vividly going from one to another.


Damian blushed profusely before asking what he wanted:


“So I thought that I could take Anya to my mother’s apartment instead of… back here. For everyone’s sleep.”


The older man narrowed his eyes, not in the slightest bit fooled.


“For everyone’s sleep?” he repeated, “You don’t have to worry, Yor and I have gotten used to having our sleeping interrupted by Rosie. You and Anya coming back late will not bother us in the slightest.”


“B-but, papa, you’ve been so tired…!” Anya continued, pinching in to help out Damian give themselves a moment of peace.


No. It’s one thing to exceptionally let him sleep on the mattress in your bedroom, it’s another to let the two of you go for an entire night in his apartment, left alone to whatever hormonal rush you’ll experience.”


Anya had a very clear idea of what he imagined the two young people would be doing, left alone, and he wasn’t entirely wrong, but…


Damian didn’t give up so easily, he coughed lightly, straightening up:


“Ah, I believe that after last night’s Monopoly game, I won a favour from you. If you are an honourable gentleman, you’ll hold true to your word and let me ask any favour.”


“I know damn well what you’ll ask of me and it’s out of the question! I won’t let my daughter and you sleep in some unknown place, completely alone and supervised!”


“I can ask for a maid to be present for the entire time that we will be at my mother’s apartment, we would not be without a chaperone.” Damian immediately replied, without any hesitation, which made Loid’s argument far weaker.


He narrowed his eyes at the young man who continued with a genuine look on his face:


“I promise you I have no intention of doing anything ungentlemanly to your daughter. We will have different rooms. We will not be left alone. Until I receive my brother’s blessing, Anya and I will not do anything untoward that could tarnish her reputation.”


Besides, if I were to properly ruin her reputation, I would do it over the course of a whole week, not a single night, Damian added to himself, making Anya blush hard enough to make her father even more suspicious.


“Papa, please,” Anya intervened, taking his hand in hers, “We’re… we’re not even interested in any of the scenarios you’re thinking of.”


Well, a little, Damian thought but he didn’t correct her.


“We just want to spend some time alone. We never get any of it, at Eden, or during holidays, or even here! We’ll get to talk about… important things.”


She dived her gaze into her father’s, to make him understand that despite everything that had gone well the previous day, Damian and she still had things to talk about. Things that couldn’t be overheard and needed to be done in private.


And Loid could never say no to his daughter, not when she looked so torn.


He sighed deeply. He thought about it for a long time.


“Papa, please. Damian and I need a moment alone… and it’ll be our only chance until the next holidays, if we’re lucky.”


Loid looked back at Damian and pointed a finger at him.


“Anything happens to her, I hear even a rumour of you brushing even one strand of her hair… and I will find a way to make you suffer. Do you understand, Desmond? Nothing is done to my daughter. More than her reputation, it’s her heart I care about.”


Damian straightened up, his expression serious and solemn.


“That’s one thing we have in common, sir,” he replied, holding out his hand.


Loid growled but grabbed his hand. They shook it firmly, and Loid tightened his grip to give him a lasting impression, but Damian didn’t seem in the slightest bit unfazed by it, smiling even more.


The brat is probably used to shaking hands with politicians and share-holders since he’s been a child, damn it, Loid thought to himself, realising he couldn’t intimidate him with his handshake.


“Consider that one favour done and paid for.”


“It’s an honour, sir.”


“Don’t call me ‘sir’, it’s ridiculous after all this time. Loid or ‘pops’ like you usually do.” He replied, rolling his eyes, “Don’t make me become a bad guy, or worse – provoke my wife’s anger. You are too young to understand what it’s like to protect one’s child. If one day you have a daughter, you’ll understand what I’m going through. Until you’re finished with Eden, engaged and married, I will never stop keeping an eye on you, Desmond.”


Anya and Damian both gasped, blushing at her father’s words. He left before any remark could be done.


“…Did your father just give me his blessing to marry you?” he asked in a hushed voice to Anya.


“No, I didn’t!” Loid exclaimed from the other side of the door.




She closed the door, crossing hers arms in annoyance.


“…Your father is really kind to me, should I worry I’ll die in my sleep?”


“Believe me, if he catches us in any compromising position, he won’t wait for you to be asleep,” she answered, gritting her teeth, knowing far too well what he planned on doing to Damian long before any engagement could even be thought of.


Despite what she’s saying, I’ll take his words as encouragement that he’d be happy to let me marry his daughter, Damian thought with a little smile to himself. And he even wants grandchildren– a granddaughter! I wonder how many children Anya would like, she loves children and she’s so great with them, after all–


“Damian,” Anya mumbled, clenching her legs tight as his thoughts went way too far ahead.


“Sorry, I lost track of what we were talking about?” he answered, turning back to her.


“My father planning different ways of murdering you without anyone tracing it back to him,” she replied without any hesitation.




Maybe I should wait a little longer before asking Anya what she would like our future to be like. And… I’ll have to wait for Demetrius’ full blessing… he has yet to give it to me.


That thought made Anya more hesitant, slowly catching up on his memories. She had only been a little worried about Damian’s family reaction to her, but now that she was aware of the disaster of the last few days between him and his brother, she dreaded what this Demetrius would think of her.


Nerves started rattling her.


An awkward silence fell between them.


“What’s this?” Damian suddenly asked, pointing at her covered painting.


Anya flushed, which only made him more curious.


“It’s… a painting.”


That, I know. What does it show? It’s the only one covered.”


“It’s a painting… of you.” She admitted in a low voice.


She immediately wished she could take it back, so she could keep surprising him and see that wonderful expression on his face again and again. He had not been expecting such a thing.


He glanced down at the painting next to him.


“Can I… look?” he asked.


She nodded, pushing herself off the door.


She sat on the edge of her bed as he grabbed the painting and unwrapped it. Once the white sheet was off, he stared at it for a long, long time.


Wow… She painted that? It’s me? …Where am I? Ah, it’s too abstract, I don’t get it.


Anya’s lips trembled in amusement, as he turned to her, placating a fake smile on his face.


“It’s beautiful, I love it,” he lied.


Even if she couldn’t read minds, she would have caught his lie. He had always preferred classical paintings to contemporary ones.


“You’re looking at it upside down,” she answered.


He frowned, confused, turning the canvas around. His eyes lit up.


“It is me! I knew it, obviously.”


He observed it for a long time, catching a few details. It was the painting she had done so long ago, before realising her feelings for him. A painting of various shades of dark green, sad, and haunting, representing his hurt, the corners of his minds, with some golden details for glistening tears and hopeful dandelion.


The longer Damian looked at it, the more he saw himself. His soul. Even the parts he hadn’t acknowledged yet but had been slowly clawing at him the last few days.


“…How do you do that?” he asked breathlessly, turning his attention back to Anya.


His gaze was hard as marble and shone like crystal. It caught her breath.


“It’s like… you know me, better than anyone, better than myself… How do you do that?” he continued.




She could say that she was very perceptive. Of course, she had come up with this painting by losing herself in his mind. But deep down, she knew that she had never needed any mind-reading ability to know him. She always had, she always would. Reading his mind and understanding his feelings had just accelerated the process.


She had always been drawn to his thoughts, his heart, his soul. It was part of the reason why she had fallen in love with him, after all. That connection that magnetised them.


“I guess I’m just… meant for you…” she murmured, glancing up at him shyly.


They both felt it in the same time. When their hearts missed a beat, the way that red string pulled. There was no pain, no tightness, just the silent acknowledgement that they had always been meant to be.


Someone knocked at the door and Yor popped her head in:


“Anya, dear, could you look after your sister for a short time?” she asked with a smile.


Rosaura walked in just then, her steps a bit clumsy in her big winter socks.


“Ana!” she called, holding out her arms for her sister.


Anya automatically bent down to take her sister in her arms.


Yor disappeared, as Rosie snuggled into Anya’s arms.


“Ana, play wiz me?” she asked, still struggling with long sentences and some syllables.


“Not this time, sweetie. I’m staying here. You go and have fun with mama, papa, and Bond, okay?”


Rosie looked disappointed, but she quickly cheered up when she saw Damian, still sitting on the desk’s chair. She wriggled out of Anya’s arms and stumbled towards him, holding out her hand very seriously.


“Ah, um, hi,” he hesitated, taking her little fingers in his to shake her hand.


She giggled but as he tried to pull away, she held onto his last two fingers, holding tightly, and grinning adorably.


Anya watched curiously as Damian’s mind blanked for a moment.


“Rosie! You?” Rosaura asked eagerly, making Anya bit her lower lip in anticipation.


“Ah, I’m Damian.”


“Mian? Miaow? Kitty?” she continued, frowning, obviously confused.


“No, no, I’m not a cat. My name is Damian.” He corrected, very seriously.








Anya couldn’t hold any longer and started laughing. It distracted Rosie from Damian and she let go of his hand, smiling widely to see her big sister laugh.


“Ana! Ana!”


“Yes, yes, I’m here, you did a very good job saying his name,” she answered, bending down as her sister reached for her again.


For a short moment, Damian’s chest tightened. Not in pain or guilt, but in longing. For a moment, he couldn’t help but have what he assumed was a vision of the future. His future, their future. Anya bending down with a sweet smile and a soft look on her face, hair falling around, as she gave her full and unwavering attention to their daughter. He longed for it, almost as strongly as he craved Anya’s presence in his life. For a small child to hold and a family that would be true and honest.


Anya looked up at him suddenly, eyes wide, sparkling, her cheeks rosy. She reached out for his hands, squeezing them tightly. She opened her lips to say something just as the doorbell rang.


“Damian! Your driver has arrived…” Yor called from the living-room.


“Already?” he exclaimed, frustratingly glaring at the door.


“Well, there probably isn’t any traffic, it is Christmas, after all…” Anya answered with a pout.


Sighing deeply, Damian realised that he wasn’t even dressed. Cursing, he rushed into the bathroom, pulling his clothes on as quickly as he could. By the time he was ready, tie stuffed into his jacket and clothes a little wrinkled, his driver was casually drinking a cup of coffee with Loid and Yor.


“Ah, young master,” Joseph said, standing up.


“Joseph… Shouldn’t you be with your family?” Damian exclaimed, shocked to see him here, especially because of his silly escapade in Berlint.


“Ah, well, I couldn’t refuse the lady after the wonderful gift you offered my children. They are so busy playing with the wooden house and the train that they barely noticed me leaving the house!”


He laughed good-heartedly, genuinely grateful to Damian.


Anya, still in her pyjamas, but wearing a bathrobe to look a little bit more decent, glanced at her darling, smiling to feel his joy to know the children had enjoyed his gift. She quickly cut from his thoughts when she almost got spoiled with the gift he had bought her.


“AH! Gift!!” She exclaimed, rushing back in her room.


She looked for her Christmas gift for Damian that she had completely forgotten. Hair a mess, clothes barely suitable for anyone but her family, cheeks pink in her hurry, she caught him waiting in the entrance. Even as messy as he looked, he was breath-taking to behold.


“Your gift! I almost forgot!” she exclaimed.


She handed him the package. He blinked curiously at the size of it. it was about the width of a book, but much larger. Something inside clicked as he moved it around.


“Is it fragile?” he asked.


“No, it should be fine, but don’t play soccer with it,” she replied with a smirk.


He glanced up at her, eyes twinkling in amusement. He passed the gifts under one arm, using the other to pull her to him. She gasped and chuckled, suddenly flushed against him, a wide smile on her face.


“Merry Christmas, Damian,” she said, sparkling joyfully.


“Merry Christmas, Anya,” he answered, heart full of warmth.


He leaned down to kiss her but from the corner of his eye, he caught sight of Loid standing right behind Anya, staring in a menacing manner at Damian. He hesitated. Anya whipped towards her father, glaring viciously.


“Father.” She hissed.


Loid gasped, putting a hand on his chest to be called with such a distant name.


“What happened to ‘papa’?!” he exclaimed, eyes wide in panic.


“I’ll call you papa when you’ll stop looking at him as if you were threatening his very existence.”


He didn’t seem in the slightest bit happy about it, but Loid eventually rolled his eyes and turned around, away from the young people.


Anya turned back towards Damian who gave her a very quick and reasonable peck on the mouth.


“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he whispered against her lips.


“Tomorrow? I’ll dream of you long before that,” she answered cheekily.


He chuckled, unable to resist giving her another kiss on the cheek.


“In our dreams, then.”


Damian let go of her and with more ‘thank you’ and respectful bows to Loid, he left the building. Joseph was waiting outside and opened the door of the fancy car. Jeremiah probably got the day off considering the sudden journey he had been forced to do because of Damian’s sudden urge to see Anya. He did feel guilty towards Joseph for missing the day with his children, but the man was almost glowing in thankfulness.


Damian caught sight of Anya staring at him from her window. He gave a little wave for her, and only her. She dramatically brought her hands to her chest and pretended to be swooning.


As Joseph drove away from Berlint, Damian opened Anya’s Christmas gift. He found a little paper, in her lovely handwriting.


For all my future wins!

Merry Christmas, Damian!

- A.


He stared at a beautiful, luxurious, and custom-made edition chessboard. The top was beautifully engraved with a lacquered, dark wood for the black cases, and golden ones for the white. He unlocked the box and found the two sets of pieces beautifully aligned inside. A series of dark green pieces, contrasting with light pink ones.


“…As if I’d let you win so easily,” he murmured to himself with a bright smile.


Once returned at the Desmond Estate, he felt a little strange by how very quiet it was compared to the previous night. All the guests had left sometime in the night, even most of the servants were off for Christmas.


He wandered around, leaving Anya’s gift and Yor’s box of cookies in his room and grabbing the few gifts he had yet to give. He found his mother and brother having a late light lunch in the family (enormous) dining-room. Dafni brightened upon seeing him, messy hair, winkled clothes, and everything. Demetrius barely looked up from the book he was reading.


“So, Mister Desmond dares honouring us with his presence, at last,” Demetrius mocked.


Damian let out a heavy sigh, frustrated but not quite as annoyed as usual with his brother.


“I apologise for ruining your engagement with Miss Blum last night. Although none of it would have happened, had you bothered telling me that you were yet to even mention to the poor Miss Blum that you considered proposing to her.”


Demetrius let out a sigh that could have competed with Damian’s, putting his book down and finally sending a harsh look at his little brother.


“…Diana told me that you went after her to salvage the situation… I am…”


“Like we practice, Demetrius,” Dafni intervened with an encouraging nod.


He rolled his eyes with passion.


“I am grateful that you… did such a thing… Even though, it was your fault anyway.”


Damian opened his mouth to reply to this, but Dafni clapped her hands, standing up.


“All is well! Everyone is cheerful and happy to be spending Christmas together!”


Her two sons stared at her, only mildly enthusiastic to her declaration. She ignored their sour faces and approached her youngest.


“Damian, tell me, how was little Anya?”


Memories of the previous night, of the morning, of the warmth of the Forger family flooded to him. A soft smile appeared on his face.


“It was wonderful to see her…”


Dafni and Demetrius both stared at him, eyes wide to see him in a state of such solace… They had never seen him like that.


Dafni smiled, shoulders relaxing.


“I’m very happy for you. Now come, tell us, how did you spend the evening? How were the Forger?”


“They were very kind. I’m glad I got to see such a happy family spend Christmas together. Anya was… she was so lovely…”


He hesitated, glancing quickly at his brother who felt the question coming before it had even appeared in Damian’s eyes. He answered before he’d even open his lips:


“As rude as you leaving the gala was… I’m not nearly as angry at I should be. Everything else went far too well. I’m glad… you had a good time. Although I am hoping it wasn’t too good…”


“Demetrius…” Dafni started.


“Alright, alright. I will try my best to meet this Anya Forger and her family as soon as possible.”


Damian smiled, genuinely happy.


“In the meantime, comport yourself. Ah, and Marius looked for you before leaving last night, he’ll probably give you a phone call before your New Year’s party at the Blackbell.”


“What did he want?” Damian asked curiously.


“He’ll tell you himself. I won’t interfere. Until then. Merry Christmas, mother. Merry Christmas, little brother.”


He pushed a couple of gifts for each of them. Dafni smiled, taking hers and unpacking a beautiful and high-quality silk scarf in a shade of blue that lit up her skin. Damian opened his, immediately recognising the shape of a book, quite curious about it.


He stared at the title, engraved in gold on the leather cover. A sardonic smile appeared on his face.


“…Brother.” He started, through gritted teeth.


“What? I thought it necessary.” Demetrius answered with a wave of his hand.


Dafni leaned over curiously, chuckling when she saw the title of the book: Manners and customs of a gentleman. A short summary of high-society’s etiquette and expectations.


“I haven’t touched that book since I had been ten, at most,” Damian whined.


“Which is probably the reason why it is sorely needed again,” Demetrius answered with an exaggerated shudder.


Damian rolled his eyes, but pulled out his own gifts. Both the fancy ones from Berlint and the ones he had bought at the town’s shop.


Dafni was delighted by both gifts, thanking him with a kiss on the cheek. Demetrius stared warily at the box of glasses.


“…I don’t understand. I don’t wear glasses.”


“Not yet, but you’re not getting any younger,” Damian said with a teasing grin.


Demetrius didn’t seem quite as amused. It was Dafni’s turn to offer them a small gift, the same one, of the same size. They opened it and found a card game. It was beautifully made and hand-painted, the drawings far more exquisite than in a regular card game.


“My friend, Alicia, painted those.”


They both couldn’t help but admire the artistry for the cards’ design. Glancing over at one another’s decks, they realised they had been customised. Demetrius’ cards were painted in an art deco style, whereas Damian’s looked like stained glass, the characters in elaborated, colourful, and slightly wild demeanours that reminded him of some Joan Niro paintings.


“There’s a card missing,” he realised as he looked through them again.


“Indeed, it’s a card deck doubled with a game. You need to find where the missing card is hidden.”


“Is it somewhere in the house? It’ll be impossible to find, mother, it’s far too big,” Demetrius mumbled.


She only smiled mysteriously, obviously happy to have her sons do something unusual for once.


Damian looked over all the cards once more, counting them until he found out which card he had to find. A half-smile pulled on his lips.


The Queen of Hearts


His mother was as perceptive as Anya sometimes. These women were scary. But perhaps that was why he admired and loved them so much.


“I’ll look for it,” Damian decided, although he had no idea where to even start.


“Thank you for the gift,” Demetrius added, looking less convinced that it’d be worth any of his time to look for the missing card.


Damian wondered briefly if he had the same card to find, or a different one, but then his brother turned towards him once more:


“You should get changed, your clothes look terrible. And your hair. Oh, and, there’s another gift waiting for you in your room.”


“Oh, really? Thank you…”


“Yes, yes, you can go now and reappear once you look human again,” Demetrius said with a dismissive wave of his hand, picking up his book again.


A few days ago, this behaviour would have pissed Damian off beyond reason, but now he only smiled.


He stood up, gifts gathered, and went into his room to take a well-deserved shower and change clothes. He did look, and potentially smelled, quite bad. He couldn’t shake the smile off his face.


He easily found Demetrius’ second gift, sitting on one of his pillows, wrapped in a red paper with little Christmas trees and smiling reindeers.


“Does he still think I’m a child, for such a wrapping paper?” he mumbled, tearing the paper off.


It was another book, except that there was no title or author on the cover or on the spine. Demetrius had left a message, in his sharp handwriting.


If you’re old enough for your ‘late activities’ and ‘love’, I assume you are old enough for this reading. I learned a lot, make the most from it.

Do not bring shame to the Desmond name.

- Demetrius


Curious, Damian opened the book and almost dropped it, turning fifty shades of red.


“What the–”


He covered his face with his hands, remembering with great mortification that he had stupidly tried to hide from his brother the COEUS document by pretending it had been ‘porn’. Demetrius had taken it too literally.


Despite his bashfulness upon the initial shock, Damian couldn’t help but pick up the book again. Swallowing hard, he opened it again. He had unfortunately fallen upon a very detailed depiction of one of the scenes of the novel. An erotica novel.


What did his brother mean by ‘he had learned a lot’? ‘Make the most of it’? ‘Do not bring shame to the Desmond name’? As if he’d leave anyone unsatisfied… not that he knew how but, surely, it couldn’t be that difficult, right?


Blood flooded hotly through his veins as he went through the pages, half cursing and half thanking his brother for, well, encouraging him, in his own embarrassing manner, to pursue Anya. He stopped at a particularly confusing scene, and he lifted the book, turning it over to figure out where was the top and bottom.


Biting his lower lip as he imagined everything he could learn from this particular reading… and everything he could explore with Anya when their relationship will lead them to such things… Damian quickly put down the book. His mother and brother were expecting him back at some point, after all. He couldn’t waste too much time.


He quickly hid the book under his pillow then got showered and changed, stubbornly ignoring the late-night reading waiting for him. When he saw his brother again, Demetrius was smirking teasingly. Damian glared at him, knowing full well that the main reason Demetrius had done such a thing had been to torment him. After all, Damian was forbidden to do anything with Anya until they received his blessing… which wouldn’t arrive until spring, at best.




The next day, Damian actually felt rested and eager for his date with Anya. Their first date. To watch Roma and Juliet, at the Grand Theatre, the play that had unexpectedly brought them together a few weeks ago.


He got ready in an elegant suit. His waistcoat was a light grey and he made sure the black buttons of his shirt contrasted against the white of the fabric and his white bow-tie.


“You look irresistible.”


He turned towards his mother who had entered the room without knocking, or perhaps he hadn’t even heard. A butler followed and grabbed Damian’s bag with his change of clothes and the gifts he had decided to bring Anya and the Forger.


“Thank you,” he answered with a casual shrug, “It’s not the first time I go to the Grand Theatre for an evening special, after all.”


“No, but it’s the first time you’re bringing a lady friend. People will talk.”


Damian tightened his lips, far too aware of this fact, even though Demetrius had not officially given his blessing. Perhaps by not forbidding him to take Anya out on a date, it was half a blessing? It was hard to tell, especially because Demetrius was still sulking a little with the accident with Diana.


“Here, to thank the Forger family for looking after you during Christmas,” Dafni intervened, handing him a bouquet of beautiful of pansies, probably from her own greenhouse.


“Oh, thank you, I ordered a box of French Richard chocolates to offer them, it’ll be a lovely addition.”


“And… here is for your lady,” she added, bringing out another bouquet from behind her back.


It was a series of pink and red roses. A dozen of them.


Dafni smiled knowingly, a twinkle in her eyes. Damian’s shoulders dropped.


“…You know that I’ve been offering pink roses to Anya every Valentine… don’t you?” he realised, raising an eyebrow.


“I’m your mother, I always look after you, even if you don’t realise.”


“…So you’ve known this entire time I was in love with someone, and you never mentioned it? Even if she was a commoner?”


Dafni didn’t answer right away, dusting off some invisible fluff from his shoulders. She tried arranging his hair, but he was grimacing.




“What does it change? Commoner or not? Both your father’s family and mine are long-ago, forgotten nobles… but it doesn’t make us any better. She may not have the same origins as us, or she has not been raised with the same values and expectations as the rest of us, but she is still a student at Eden, she’s an Imperial Scholar and most importantly, she’s the one you chose and who makes you happy. Right?”


Dafni, satisfied with her son’s outfit, finally looked up with a smile. She tilted his chin up, plunging her golden eyes into his.


“Does anything else matter but your happiness?”


“…Do you think Demetrius will accept it…?”


“I’m sure he will. He is just terribly stressed with his new party. In a few months, things will have quieted down and we’ll have some time to relax. He’ll propose to Diana, properly, and he’ll meet Anya. I’m sure he’ll give you his blessing then.”


Damian nodded, half-heartedly.


“Until then, just enjoy your time at Eden. You’ll graduate sooner than you think and in a few years, you’ll look back and realise how peaceful it had been.”


She gave him a quick hug, careful not to damage the two bouquets of flowers.


“And as promised, a key to my apartment. Maria will be there to look after the two of you, as agreed with Mr Forger.” She continued, holding out a pair of keys for Damian.


He reached for them eagerly, but she held them away.


“Can I count on the two of you to be careful and not… make any mistake that young people too often commit?” she continued, surprisingly serious for once.


“Of course, mother!” he exclaimed, flushing.


“Good, I know you and your brother were raised well but, youth… Hormones and the changes your bodies are going through can make you think you are ready for activities that are far beyond your years.”


“Mother, please…” he pleaded, too embarrassed to receive the ‘talk’ from his mother.


“I expect you to remain untouched and inexperienced until the wedding night, both of you–”


“Mother!” he exclaimed, finally grabbing the keys and putting them in his pocket.


“Alright, we’ll discuss this further after your brother will give his blessing and your relationship will be official. You should go, you don’t want to be late. Be sure to thank again the Forger for welcoming you in their home.”


He truly, deeply hoped his mother wasn’t seriously expecting him and Anya to remain untouched until the wedding day – or he might marry Anya a week after they’d graduate. But she was so old-fashioned, and so was Demetrius who, despite his other gift, would never encourage his brother to do anything that could damage Anya’s or the Desmond’s reputations.


Dafni walked him to the entrance, a cover wrapped over her shoulders against the winter cold. Demetrius was casually checking the newspapers in the main hallway, which was an obvious attempt at pretending meeting Damian had been an accident.


“You look reasonably well dressed,” he remarked with a quick look at his brother.


“Thank you for this heartfelt compliment, brother dear. On that note–”


Demetrius grabbed his shoulder before he could leave, and leaned over his ear so he’d be the only one to hear:


“Uncle Tim called me. Among tonight’s guests… there are a few members of the National Unity Party.”


The memory of the way they had reacted to Demetrius’ announcement was still fresh in both their memories.


“They’ll probably ignore you, you’re not important enough for them for as long as you’re just a student at Eden but… watch out for anything you might say or do in front of them.”


“…I’ll be careful,” Damian answered, tightening his jaw.


Demetrius tapped his shoulder.


“Try to enjoy the evening. The reviews for the play are quite good.”


“Thank you.”


But his heart wasn’t there anymore. Determined to enjoy his first date with Anya and not let his brother’s politics get in the way, Damian made his way to the car, driven by Jeremiah, that would take him to Berlint for the next two days. Two days with Anya, an entire evening in her delightful presence, a whole night alone with her in his mother’s apartment… Even if good old Maria would be here to ‘look after them’, she’d be long asleep by the time they come back from the theatre.


By the time the car pulled up in front of the apartment complex where the Forgers lived, Damian had completely erased any thought or warning from his brother.


He insisted on bringing up all the gifts himself, not letting Jeremiah accompany him upstairs. Oh, he couldn’t wait to be old enough to drive his own car and be free to take Anya anywhere he wanted without feeling constantly chaperoned.


He rang the door, which opened after a short moment, on Loid Forger. Eyes narrowed, he looked up and down at the young man before letting him in.


“It’s a pleasure to see you again, pops,” Damian started.


“Damian, welcome back,” Yor intervened, stepping forward.


“Here, flowers for you. From my mother, to thank you both for taking care of me on Christmas Eve and Christmas.”


“Oh, that was nothing! Please, thank your mother! It’s so kind of her!” Yor exclaimed with flushed cheeks, happily taking the flowers.


“Pwetty!” Rosie exclaimed, reaching out for the flowers with sparkles in her eyes.


“And what about Anya–”


“Of course,” Damian quickly intervened, bringing out the second bouquet of pink and red roses, “I have another set of flowers for her.”


The two men stared at each other. Loid, annoyed that he had thought of everything and hadn’t a mistake yet, and Damian in triumph that he would never make a social faux-pas. Not for that, at least.


“And to thank you both, I brought the gifts I had forgotten to offer you the other day. I apologise again for all the trouble.”


And he pulled out several carefully wrapped packages. One for Loid, one for Yor, one for a delighted Rosie – he even had brought a particularly tasty bone for Bond and bottles of wine from his brother’s extensive collection for Yuri and Frankie.


Damn it, he’s too good, Loid grumbled to himself when he opened his gift – a very nice watch, his own had been getting old after all.


Yor had gotten a perfume and Rosie a little doll she was already hugging tightly.


“Thank you so much, Damian!”


“Thank you, Dameow!” Rosie exclaimed, making her mother chuckle at the strange nickname.


Yor noticed that Damian still carried the roses for Anya and a last package under his arm. She smiled, standing up:


“She’s still getting ready, but you can go see her in her room. She’s been really looking forward for tonight.”


Flushed, Damian glanced quickly at Loid, but he simply nodded in agreement. Damian eagerly went to Anya’s bedroom, knocking once.


“Come in!” she exclaimed, sound muffled.


He walked in, finding a bit of a mess all over her bedroom, mostly when it came to clothes that had been thrown randomly, but she wasn’t there. The bathroom light was on.


“I’ll be ready very soon! I’m sorry I’m late!”


“Don’t worry, we’re still very early,” Damian answered.


She made a weird sound and he heard the clicking of her products. How did she not make everything topple down was beyond him.


Something drew his attention and he blushed. He swallowed hard, resisting the temptation. He glanced at Anya’s bathroom door. He glanced over his shoulder. He stared at the wall.


Time ticked by. She was still moving around in the small bathroom.


His gaze was drawn once more at her pink, lacy bra, resting casually on her bed, in the middle of so many other clothes.


He swallowed again.


A very quick look, a peck, barely a touch, just out of curiosity. For practice, to know what to expect. That was all.


His hand reached out and he picked up the piece of fabric. It wasn’t particularly soft, but it was more layers than he would have expected. The little hooks seemed impossible to put on or off.


…Another woman’s mystery. How did she manage to put that devil’s trap on?


“I’m ready!” Anya exclaimed, coming out of the bathroom so suddenly Damian jumped.


He let out a pathetic scream, blushing madly, and throwing her bra right at her face. She gasped when it hit her, then fell between her hands. She looked down at it, blinking.


“I-it-it wasn’t me!” he exclaimed, panicking, “It was just lying around! It’s a damn mess and I tried to clean up! It just happened to, uh, land in my hands!!”


She stared at him, quickly catching up on what had really happened. Her silly, majestic grin that had the power of always getting under his skin appeared. Damian gasped, taking a step backwards but he bumped into something on the floor. He looked down, seeing several pairs of shoes thrown there in absolute chaos.


“Oh? An accident? Is it?” she teased, coming closer.


“I-it is, yeah! Just an accident–”


“Then you are not in the slightest bit interested in my underwear, heh?”


“N-ne-never, I’m a gentleman, I have manners!” he continued, heart beating far too fast.


“Then, you will not be interested at all to know that I’m not wearing any bra right now?” she concluded, still grinning.


Damian stopped working. His mind turned into such a blank, chaotic canvas that Anya couldn’t help and laughed loudly. Her head fell backwards and she covered her mouth, delighted by his reaction.


It drew him back in the real world and he stared, cheeks red and eyes wide at her lovely expression.


“You should have seen your face!” she exclaimed, still laughing.


“S-stop teasing!”


She grinned up at him, obviously delighted to have trapped him so easily. At some point she had dropped her bra back on the bed. And damn it, it drew his gaze again.


“Y-you’re not really… not… wearing…” he continued, unconsciously glancing down at her chest.


“Of course, I am, silly. I’d only avoid wearing a bra if I had a bare back dress, duh.”


“…Obviously.” He replied, at a loss.


He looked at her, from head to toe, and was once more frozen, this time in awe and admiration.


Becky had tried to warn him, but nothing could have prepared him for such a sight.


Anya wore a long, beautiful, sparkly, evening dress in a midnight blue shade that emphasized the porcelain tone of her skin and the rosy tint of her cheeks. It kissed her body delightfully, showing the curves of the woman she had become, that he had barely noticed under the Eden uniform. Her makeup was light but made her look older than she was, in a sparkly gold that made her eyes look like jewels. Her silky-looking hair had been pulled back into an elegant bun.


“Y-you’re… you’re beautiful…” he stammered, knees trembling.


She smiled, as if she knew exactly what he was truly thinking. ‘Beautiful’ wasn’t a word strong enough to describe what he felt.


“Oh! Is this for me?” she asked, sparkling as she finally caught sight of the flowers he had almost dropped five times already.


“YES!” he shouted, pushing the bouquet in her hands abruptly.


Damn, how does she manage to make a mess out of me, every single time? He thought, terrified on how he could control himself for an entire evening.


Anya stared at the roses, obviously loving them. She looked back up at him, her smile making his heart miss a few beats. He could die now and he’d die happy.


“Thank you so much for the flowers, Damian! They look so lovely!”


“A-an-and this!” he exclaimed, handing out his Christmas gift.


Anya took it and sat down on the side of her bed, despite the messy clothes everywhere.


“Did you like my gift?” she asked as she slowly unwrapped hers, somehow knowing it was fragile.


“I loved it. I can’t wait to beat you with it,” he answered, sitting down next to her.


She elbowed him, rolling her eyes. Banter was easy, banter was familiar. He relaxed a little as she discovered the sparkling star, shining with golden details.


“I love it! It’s beautiful! Look how it catches the light!!” she exclaimed, making it spin on its thread.


“I thought you’d love it,” he answered.


My guiding star.


She glanced at him, flushing.


“The golden details look like embroidery, look,” she continued, pointing at many details he had failed to notice.


She admired for a while longer before leaving it, carefully wrapped, on her desk, pondering out loud where she’ll put it.


“Kids, you should start going soon,” Loid intervened with a quick knock at the door.


He glanced around suspiciously, but he didn’t find anything he could blame on Damian. Nevertheless, the young man started sweating uncomfortably.


“Ah, right, we should go. We don’t want to be late at the restaurant.”


Yor handed her own white fur coat to Anya that she put on. Both were ready to go.


“You know what to not do,” Loid said as a last warning to Damian, shaking his hand and patting his shoulder.


“Ah, uh, of course, I will never ever do anything… wrong…” he replied, intimidated.


“…Enjoy the evening, both of you,” Loid said, genuinely smiling.


Relaxed, finally feeling free and like they could be themselves, Damian offered his arm to Anya. She took it, grinning excitedly.


“Anya, aren’t you forgetting something?” Loid asked before they left through the door.


She blinked, checked her little handbag, looked up at Damian in confusion. Shrugging, she went up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek, despite her parents’ presence.


“Thank you for the Christmas gift and the flowers?” she hesitated, not understand why her father wanted her to show her thankfulness to Damian again.


“Your shoes, Anya! You forgot to put on your shoes!” Loid exclaimed angrily.




She ran back into her room, while Loid and Damian both massaged their foreheads at that airhead. Upon noticing they had had a similar reaction, they straightened up, looking away from each other.


She came back, cheeks red in embarrassment, a few centimetres taller with her shoes on.


“Let’s just go…” Damian sighed, rolling his eyes.


“You distracted me…” she accused him, pouting.


“How is this my fault?”


“Have fun at the theatre, children!” Yor exclaimed, waving at them eagerly.


They barely noticed, too busy bantering and flirting.


“Aren’t they cute?” Yor continued, closing the door.


“…Adorable.” Loid admitted regretfully, glancing away.


“Come on, he’ll take good care of her. And she won’t be your baby girl forever, you know.”


“…I know…”


Yor leaned against him, smiling.


“Besides, it’s not such a bad thing that they’re going to spend the night at Mrs Desmond’s apartment.”


“How so?” he asked, genuinely baffled.


She leaned to kiss his cheek, flushing her dear husband.


“Because once Rosie is in bed, it’ll be just you and me…”


He made a sound from the back of his throat and closed his eyes in mild embarrassment.


“Perhaps, he should take her out more often, mm?” she teased.




Yor laughed and Loid finally relaxed a little, trusting that, for better or worse, Damian was a gentleman, and he was in love with his daughter. He could trust him.


Once outside the building, Anya stopped Damian. She started patting his sleeves, his collar, his pockets.


“What… uh, are you doing?” he asked, confused by the intense look on her face.


“…Making sure he didn’t leave any listening device on you,” she answered seriously.


Damian laughed at how ridiculous this sounded. Not finding anything suspicious, Anya finally let go of her search, staring up at him and his relaxed demeanour. He had never behaved like that before. Before her, before them.


Her smile lit up her eyes that made them brighter than a thousand constellations. When he caught sight of her beauty, of that soft smile, his heart skipped a beat. His laughter died in his throat. He stared at her, mesmerized.


He leaned down, tenderly kissing her lips. She went up, kissing him back.


They pulled away after a moment, foreheads pressing together.


“Time to go, Your Majesty,” he said, taking her hand in his and kissing it sweetly.


She flushed, but a cheerful hop accompanied her steps when he drew her to the car. She felt like a princess, back as a child and playing with her father and uncles… No. She felt like a queen. And only Damian could have made her feel this way.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER XXVI: Little Secret


Anya blinked, a little in awe at the beautiful Grand Theatre, illuminated with Christmas lights. It twinkled like a jewellery box, and they hadn’t even stepped in.


It was one of the oldest theatre on the continent, built and decorated from an old style that gave it an atmosphere unlike any other place in Berlint. Any play, any opera, any show presented by the Grand Theatre was of a certain quality and the tickets were expensive and still, often went away in just a few hours.


Observing Anya’s sparkling eyes and awe, Damian couldn’t help but smile as he slowly guided her towards the big stairs.


“Have you ever been to the Grand Theatre before?”


“A few times, with my parents, but it was always the afternoon representations. It seems… different.”


They climbed to the grand entrance, decorated in golden details and they entered the main entrance. A man in a fancy suit, but obviously a member of staff, greeted them and guided them to a giant room where canapes, champagne, cocktails and other drinks and foods were distributed to an entire crowd of fancy rich people. They all knew each other, they all talked in small groups, visibly used to such experiences.


Glancing around at the other members of audience, all dressed up in rich dresses and expensive jewellery, Anya felt a little out of place. The way these people greeted each other, talked, smiled, behaved, was so different from the few times she had gone to the Grand Theatre. Each and every time, it had been in the day time to begin with, and she clearly remembered running on the red carpet as a child. There was no running tonight, no matter the level of excitement. These ladies seemed to be floating over the ground, it was how lightly they were walking. She had initially thought that Becky had overdressed her, but clearly, her friend had known what to do. Still, she felt clumsy in that beautiful dress she was wearing, with so few accessories compared to these rich women.


Even though she attended Eden Academy, she wasn’t used to such luxurious events. Her friends behaved normally, although they also owned yachts, houses and whatever else when she did not. She never minded. But now, she felt inadequate and awkward. She hadn’t been raised to attend such places, to behave in such a way, and she stood out like a sore thumb.


Sensing her nervousness, Damian squeezed the hand she had against his elbow. She turned to him, looking a little bewildered.


“The evening shows are always more refined, especially on special occasions like tonight. It’s the day after Christmas and it’s the last show for Roma and Juliet.”


“I feel like these people are going to take one look at me and decide to hunt me with spikes,” she mumbled in a low voice.


Damian couldn’t help the laugh that escaped him, which attracted the curious attentions of several attendees. He quickly ignored them, turning to Anya as they slowly made their way through the room, not stopping next to anyone in particular.


“Then, they’ll eat me as one of their little canapé, or worse a mini-sausage…” she continued, clearly taking comfort in his laughter and ease.


“I can assure you that, as far as I know, there’s no cannibalism here. Although I’m afraid I can’t help you if they decide to hunt you down.” He answered on a light-hearted tone.


She glanced up at him, mildly annoyed, but his smug grin was impossible to resist:


“Hey, I’ve got a reputation to protect!”


What reputation?” she mocked, rolling her eyes.


“Mr Desmond!”


That one, Damian thought as he made them stop and turn towards a group of gentlemen.


“How lovely to see you! How have you been since the last time we met, last summer, was it?”


“Yes, for your daughter’s birthday. How is Elisabeth, sir?” Damian replied with an easy countenance that surprise Anya.


She was so used to see him in Eden, flapping his Imperial Scholar cape and glaring at anyone who would bother his study session (usually, yours truly, Anya herself), that she had never bothered imagining him in the middle of such refined society. But it was where he had been born, where he had grown up in.


He was a fish in water. And she was a crab stuck on its carapace on the sand.


“Well, very well!”


The man glanced at Anya but purposefully didn’t say a thing. He looked at her from head to toe.


Tch, I guess Desmond isn’t available anymore. Elisabeth will be heartbroken. I have never met this girl though, her hair looks sad.


She startled at those thoughts, with such a smile plastered on his face.


“And who is the lovely lady accompanying you?” he asked Damian, ignoring her completely.


“My name is Anya Forger, and the lovely lady can speak for herself,” she intervened with a determined look on her face.


From the way the men all looked at her, she had done a social faux-pas. Damian smiled proudly, looking back at Elisabeth’s father.


“She is one of my fellow Imperial Scholar at Eden, and my girlfriend,” he added confidently.


“An Imperial Scholar?” another man said, immediately finding more interest in Anya.


“You must be truly talented and bright, to attract Mr Desmond’s attention of all people!” Another commented.


They shook her hand quickly, congratulating her, congratulating them both. Even Elisabeth’s father finished by leaving with an elegant bow, although he was silently cursing, but only Anya knew it.




They turned towards a man who must have been in his fifties, tall and lean, with an elegant moustache.


“Uncle Tim!” Damian exclaimed, and Anya recalled this man as the one who was as close as an uncle to Damian, the one who had gotten them these tickets… and the director the Grand Theatre.


“How lovely to see you! I am sorry I missed your brother’s gala this year, but you know how far away it is from my wife’s family estate…” Tim said as he came to them.


“Don’t worry about it, Demetrius was so busy he probably didn’t notice.”


“Ah, I heard a few rumours… is this true, then?” he continued in a low voice.


Damian nodded gravely, knowing well enough his almost uncle to know what he meant.


Then, these boys are finally flying on their own. Hopefully, it will be for the best. For them and for this country. But I trust them… Tim thought, forcing a smile on his face before turning towards Anya.


“Is this the charming lady I heard of so much? I am enchanted to meet you, young Miss Forger,” he continued, taking her free hand to kiss it.


“Ah, nice to meet you too, sir,” she answered automatically.


Mmm, she is pretty enough. I wonder what else there is between these two. Damian isn’t the type of young men to just be attracted by pretty things…


“I heard you are an Imperial Scholar, is this correct? Is this how you two met, then?” he continued, genuinely curious.


“Oh, we’ve been in the same class since we begun at Eden, ten years ago,” Damian answered.


“I punched him in the face on the very first day for being a little brat,” she added with a teasing glance at him.


Damian flushed, eyes widening in mortification to be publicly reminded of such an event.


Tim stared at them, blinking, absolutely bewildered by such a turn of event.


“You…” Damian grumbled, gritting his teeth.


“Don’t be irritated, it taught you an essential lesson.”


“Ah? And what would that be?”


“That you weren’t as high and mighty as you thought you were,” she replied, raising her right fist to the side of his face.


She gently bumped his cheek, right where she had hit him, a decade ago. He grabbed her wrist, kissing her knuckles quickly, glaring at her.


Tim suddenly started laughing.


“AH! Ah, I see! That’s why!!”


It drew Damian and Anya’s attention back to him, as he tried to control his laughter.


“Please! You are welcome anytime here, Miss Forger! It would be a delight to learn more about you, and everything you’ve taught this young man!”


These two are perfect for each other!


It made Anya flush, but her hand tightened on Damian’s arm who tried to hide his own embarrassment.




“I know, I know, but I want to learn more about the two of you. The show will start very soon, please, enjoy it!”


He tapped Damian’s shoulder energetically, before leaning towards him to whisper discreetly, but Anya heard through Damian’s thoughts.


“She’s a firecracker, it’s a good thing for you, but good luck in the future, Damian!”


“Tim! I… know that. I know perfectly well what I got myself into…” Damian replied, cheeks taking a pink tone.


“I’m very glad to see you so happy, Damian,” he continued, looking at both young people this time, “It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Forger.”


He kissed her hand and Anya smiled at the warmth radiating from this man. As he walked away, Damian started guiding her towards their attributed seats.


“He seems very nice, and very happy for you,” she commented.


“Ah, he really is one of the kindest persons I’ve ever met. He helped so much for my final essay last year, about ‘Cyrano de Bergamon’…”


“So that’s why you got such an unexpectedly high grade…” she teased.


“Oh, shut up,” he replied, “As if your parents don’t help you with homework.”




Someone looked at their ticket and started guiding them to their booth. They crossed path with more people who sent curious looks at Anya the moment they recognised Damian.


Who is this young woman?


I don’t recognise her, is she special?


Is the young Desmond showing off his popularity?


Oh, so the little Desmond isn’t so innocent anymore… Playing womanizer, uh?


He’s brave to show up in public after what his brother did…


Damn Desmond family, I’ll make them pay


That last one made Anya react. She looked over her shoulder at the man who had thought that. She wasn’t being discreet at all. The two men who had been conversing caught her glancing at them and they immediately glared.


Who does she think she is?


What an impertinent child


“Anya, are you alright?”


She turned back towards Damian, forcing a smile on her face.


“O-of course… I’m just… I can’t help admiring the beauty everywhere…”


A door was opened, and they walked into a private booth, with snacks (including peanuts, to her delight) and glasses of champagne. The seats were some of the most comfortable she had ever sat on and from there, they could see the entire stage. She had always thought it’d be annoying to look from such an angle but it was much better than expected. Besides…


As soon as they were alone, Damian took her hand in his and leaned over to kiss her cheek.


“You look splendid,” he whispered in her ear.


Besides, the intimacy was the best part of it.


“No one can see us from here,” he whispered in her ear.


She flushed, and the dirty thoughts that flooded her brain, for once, had nothing to do with his desires.


“You were great earlier. You handled it like a champion…” he commented with a smile.


But the other men’s thoughts, against the Desmond haunted her.


“Damian, what… did your brother do, exactly?” she asked, expression dark.


He tightened his lips, frowning to himself.


She must have heard what Tim mentioned… Hopefully no one will talk about it tonight, I don’t want to drag her into this…


“He just made his decision public, for his political career. He didn’t join the National Unity Party, after all. He created his own party.”


Even half-following his thoughts, that surprised Anya.


“Really? But then…”


“A lot of people are angry at him for that. But don’t worry, I won’t let anything happen to you.”


They’d be a fool to target me, or worse, anyone I care about. Demetrius is the one who needs a higher security… Perhaps Diana too, if their relationship becomes official but I doubt they’ll do anything of the sorts while Demetrius is just starting his party.


He squeezed her hand, just as the lights went down. Everyone’s little conversations quieted down and soon enough; the play’s cast had drawn the full attention of the theatre.


The actors did a marvellous job bringing the play to life and giving it something particularly special. Or perhaps Anya and Damian just felt more drawn than usual to this play after what had happened between them, just a few weeks prior. When the most famous scene, the gazebo scene, their scene, came up, their hands tightened.


“It is my lady, O, it is my love!

O, that she knew she were!

She speaks yet she says nothing: what of that?

Her eye discourses; I will answer it.

I am too bold, 'tis not to me she speaks:

Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,

Having some business, do entreat her eyes

To twinkle in their spheres till they return.”


Damian turned towards Anya, watching her expression of awe and her eyes twinkling under the faraway light of the stage.


She sensed his gaze and turned his way, cheeks rosy and perfect.


“What if her eyes were there, they in her head?

The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,

As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven

Would through the airy region stream so bright

That birds would sing and think it were not night.

See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!

O, that I were a glove upon that hand,

That I might touch that cheek!”


He mouthed the words as he cupped her cheek, leaning towards her slowly. She closed her eyes, tilting her chin upwards as their lips met. Her fingers brushed his cheek, slowly caressing their way to his jaw. A featherlight touch as they kissed, longingly, tenderly, a thousand promises in their hearts.


Eyes closed, foreheads pressed together, they held hands tightly as the play continued. They didn’t need to look at it, for no matter how brilliant the actors were, they had none of the truth that shone between the two of them.


Damian eventually put an arm around Anya’s shoulders, pulling her, and her chair, closer. She rested her head on his shoulder. He jolted in joy for a short moment at the realisation that they had never sat so closely, so intimately, but the peace they felt soon overcome the thrill of it.


Holding hands, bodies melted together, they watched the play unfold. When tears and sobs took over Anya, he tightened his hold on her.


“Promise me we won’t let our story become a tragedy,” she whispered in his ear when the death scenes shook the entire audience.


“I promise,” he murmured, recalling these very words he had said just before he had run after her that day.


“It doesn’t have to be a tragedy… I refuse to believe star-crossed lovers are inevitably doomed to sorrow.”


She relaxed in his arms, as they watched the last few scenes unfold. The city brought back together, unified in peace, at the price of two innocent lovers’ lives.


When the play was finished, Anya eagerly stood up to applaud, like most of the theatre. Damian joined her, as the lights were brought back on. It took them, well, mostly Anya, a moment to get over all the tears, but by the time they stepped out of the booth, she was smiling.


“It was amazing! Incredible! I don’t think I had ever seen such a perfect interpretation of Roma and Juliet!”


“Yes, it really was splendid,” he agreed, holding her hand tight.


They walked out into the main hall and Anya slowed down.


“Ah, give me a moment, please,” she asked him shyly.


She nodded towards the toilets, and he let her go.


“I’ll wait for you in the main hall,” he answered.


She hurried into the small corridor for the toilets, and he took a few more steps, admiring a few of the paintings in the main hall that he had never bothered looking at in all his previous visits there. Unlike the beginning of the play, at the end, the attendees usually left pretty quickly, saying quick goodbyes before going out to walk into their awaiting cars or taxis. Rapidly, only a few waiting people, like Damian, or a couple of small groups still discussing the play, were still there.


“And I’m telling you that we can’t do anything at the moment–” a man hissed, viciously enough that it drew Damian’s attention.


He glanced around, quickly finding sight of the three men who were talking to each other in a nearby alcove. He was slightly elevated, so they didn’t see him standing there, close enough to hear their conversation. No one else seemed to have noticed them. He went back to his admiration of the painting of a sinking ship, but the men’s next words shook him to the core:


“Desmond will be over the moment it comes into the light,” a second answered.


Damian froze completely, immediately thinking that it was about his father’s past crimes. He glanced discreetly, trying not to make himself known, and he recognized two men from the National Unity Party, and the third was unknown, wearing thick, round glasses.


“We can’t make a move yet, we need more information.”


“Do you really need this one?” the first man asked impatiently.


“Yes, they are essential for the future of our research. Our agent is investigating and gathering intel. This environment is too unique, the personal development, and–”


“Never mind that, how is the next phase going?”


Loud laughter smothered the answer and Damian only caught a few words as the other group of men left the theatre. There were only four gentlemen waiting for their ladies, himself included, and these three men who obviously had an angry tooth against the Desmond.


But it doesn’t sound like they want to bring my father’s crimes to light. What are they talking about, then? He thought, trying to listen, as discreetly as he could.


“–Successfully moved to the new border’s facilities.”


“And you are sure we can’t trace anything there?”


“No, it’s far too removed, and looks too abandoned. No one will even think of it as a possibility!”


“As for Desmond, we’ll make our own move, but let’s wait New Year to pass. He’s too secluded in his estate at the moment. We’ll hit when it’s the most unexpected, and we’ll hit where it hurts the most.”


Sudden terror tightened Damian’s stomach. What did they plan against his brother?


He turned around, back to the men, and walked to the nearest till where one last staff was closing everything.


“Give me a phone,” he ordered in a low voice.




“Give me a phone, right now!”


The man was too tired after a long shift to answer. He pushed the phone that was on his desk. Damian picked up the phone and started making a number, but he stopped half-through.


Should he call the SSS? But then, what? Even if he knew two of the men’s names, he had only overheard things, he had no proof, no other witness. Call his brother? But then he’d worry, and what was he supposed to tell him? That what he already suspected might happen was happening?


Before he could make a decision, Anya reappeared. She looked for Damian and the moment she caught sight of him, his tormented thoughts hit her.


Demetrius is in danger, but what should I do? These men threatened him, but no one else heard–


She looked around, gaze narrowing at the group of three men walking out of the door. Without even making a sign towards Damian to warn him of her presence, she started walking after them, to catch up to them, find out their thoughts, their true intentions. She recognized two of them as the ones with the dark thoughts before the play.


The third one opened the door for them, half-turning. He caught sight of her. Anya froze. He looked back at her, momentarily confused.


She recognized that towering man. She recognized those glasses.


And when he smirked, she knew he recognized her too.


My, hello, Test Subject 007… he thought, aiming his attention at her.


She shuddered.


She was a child again, looking up at this tall, scary man. She was a child again, lost in a maze of white walls and electric chairs.


A sudden touch on her arm had her jump, grabbing Damian’s wrist tightly enough that he cried out in pain. She stopped herself before she’d break his bone.


“Anya!” he exclaimed.


She let him go and turned back but the door was just closing. She hurried there, high heels clicking on the marble tiles.


“Anya, wait!” he called, going after her, massaging his wrist.


She rushed through the door and down the stairs, looking both sides, but there was no one. Nothing, except one black car driving away. She took a step forward, glancing at the plaque number, but Damian grabbed her shoulder just then, whipping her back towards him:


“What is wrong with you?!” he exclaimed.


She turned her head back to the car, but it turned a corner. She cursed to herself, she had only caught half of the plaque number, but it might be enough.


“What happened? What is it?” Damian continued, trying to get her attention back to himself.




Is she okay? What did she see? Why is she so panicked right now? I’ve never seen her behave like that… She followed those three men, there’s no way she knows them, right? Or overheard anything they were saying about my brother…


“I thought I had… heard those men… say bad things…” she lied, looking away.


Ah, damn it. I didn’t want to drag her into any of it!


“It’s okay, they’re… they’re gone now…” he said, his touch becoming softer, “Whatever you heard, they won’t do anything.”


“They threatened your brother! You!” she exclaimed, although, truth be told, it was for her life that she was trembling.


“My brother is too powerful to be touched, nothing will happen to him. I promise. As soon as we get back to my mother’s apartment, I’ll give him a call, he’ll take care of it.”


But she was far from reassured about any of it. Damian turned towards a butler, ordering him with sharp words to bring the Desmond car. He drew her into his arms, trying to bring back the comforting feeling they had had in the theatre, but it was gone. They were both too scared, too worried, to be able to find any sort of peace.


Their worst nightmares were coming to life.


It only took half a minute for Jeremiah to bring the car over, but it was the longest half a minute of their existences.


They remained plunged in complete silence for the entire car ride, then Anya followed Damian through the huge golden doors, nodding to the security man sitting there. He seemed surprised to see Damian, even more to see him with a young woman.


“Welcome, Master Desmond,” he simply said, eying Anya suspiciously.


They got into an elevator and slowly made their way, ignoring the classical music that seemed out of place with their hearts. Damian was incapable of supporting such tension, especially when it hadn’t even been caused by an argument between them. He grabbed her hand, squeezing it tight.


“I’ll show you the bathroom, and the bedroom that has been prepared for you. One of my mother’s maids, Mariam, is in the apartment but I expect that she’s sleeping.”


He paused, cheeks flushing a little.


“We’ll be just the two of us for now but… tomorrow morning, we have to make sure Mariam doesn’t catch us together. I remember her habits well enough, I’ll wake us up both before she could figure out anything.”


“So… so… we’ll sleep together tonight, right?” Anya asked hesitantly.


Her tone of voice made him less confident, he glanced at her quickly.


“I-if you want to… n-nothing has to happen, I don’t… expect anything, and I made a promise to your father I’d be a gentleman but… um, our bedrooms will connect, I made sure of it. I-if you want to join me, you can… if you’d rather not… I understand.”


He couldn’t hide his disappointment.


After what happened tonight, our entire date is ruined! The mood? Gone! All because of my brother’s stupid announcement of creating his own party! He couldn’t wait a few more days so Anya and I could enjoy our time together, no?!


Before she could answer that she really, really, really wanted to stay with him for as long as possible, the elevator stopped. The doors opened, resonating loudly in the dead of night but she imagined that such fancy apartments were very well isolated.


Damian took her to the apartment at the very end of the corridor. He opened the door, entering on quiet feet. Everything was dark but even then, Anya could see how richly furnished it was.


“Come this way,” he said, putting his hand on her lower back to guide her through, “Mariam is on the opposite side of the apartment, she won’t hear a thing.”




He glanced at her quickly, but smothered his imagination running wild. He showed her the kitchen if she needed water or food, ignored the living-room, then the hall with their bedrooms. The biggest one was his mother’s, which he just indicated with a wave of his hand, and then two guest rooms. The ones he or Demetrius, or any of her friends might use if they visited. He took her into the bedroom that would be hers for the night, turning on the light and pointing at the other door.


“This door connects to my room, it’s open if you want to come in. Just across the hall, you have the bathroom and there’s probably uh, make-up stuff and things…”


“I packed some,” she indicated, finding sight of her bag that had been brought earlier by the driver.


“Good. I’ll… uh, I’ll go call my brother. Take your time, and uh…”


He hesitated, going from one foot to the other shyly. He looked down, cheeks turning red.


If she wants to join me, she will, if not… I’ll swallow back my disappointment.


“I’ll see you tomorrow morning, then…”


He made to turn around, but Anya grabbed his wrist:


“I-I’m sorry for earlier, I-I panicked, the way I reacted, I…”


He opened and closed his lips, before entwining their fingers together.


“Hey, we couldn’t predict these men would be here.”


Demetrius warned me, I should have been better prepared, kept her safe, he thought bitterly to himself even though he put on a brave smile for her.


“My brother will settle this in a matter of minutes. You don’t have to worry, Anya.”


He leaned down and kissed her cheek, but she held him there.


“I-I loved the evening… I-I don’t want it to end with us in different bedrooms…” she murmured, cheeks burning.


He watched her with widened eyes, a little surprised by it. He nodded, not quite knowing what to do.


“Y-yes, of course, anything you want,” he answered.


She nodded and he left, ideas running full speed through his head.


Once alone, she took off her heels, grimacing at the slight needle-like pain in her feet. She wasn’t used to wearing heels for so long.


She glanced around, amazed by the richness of the “guest” room of Dafni Desmond’s city apartment. From what she had understood, Dafni spent most of autumn and winter in here, and went back to the family estate in the warmer seasons.


Her bed was king sized, far larger and bigger than her own, or even her parents’. It was covered in white and cream sheets with lots of fluffy pillows. Several paintings decorated the room, along with vases on various wardrobes and chest of drawers. Curiously, she opened a few, that she found mostly empty, except for a few clothes that costed a year’s worth of her father’s salary but had been completely forgotten there… One was a very nice black satin robe that still had the price on it. A huge number that made her cringe.


As much as she loved Damian, she couldn’t help but be a little disgusted by such huge amounts of money thrown so carelessly. There wasn’t a single speck of dust in this room, it was far too well cleaned by the maids (it’d put her mama’s cleaning to shame), but she was willing to bet that no one visited this room more than a couple of times a year.


So much space, so much luxury… just to read magazines and meet friends once a day, maybe? That sounded like a lonesome life.


Regardless of what future Damian and I have, I refuse to end up a trophy wife, Anya decided.


She’d go mad in a week.


She took her toiletry from the bag she had prepared, and went into the bathroom to get ready for bed, with or without Damian, the day’s emotions were starting to get to her.


She saw him, standing at the other side of hall, jacket and bow tie discarded, probably in his bedroom. She tiptoed to the end of the hall, eavesdropping on his phone call with his brother, and more importantly, on his thoughts and feelings.


“…Hubert, and Linus Ingersleben, no doubt.” Damian answered, giving the identities of the two men he had recognized from the National Unity Party.


“Tch. No surprise there, these two are the worst leeches in the universe. Did you talk to them?”


“No, I don’t think they even knew I was there. They barely acknowledged me before the play. They were too far gone in their plans to even think they might be overheard.”


“Good. I’ll immediately contact the SSS and some private investigators to keep an eye on them. I don’t like the sound of everything you heard.”


“Are you going to ask… uh, those WISE people to do something?”


“…It’ll depend on what the SSS will tell me.”


“Are you even safe? And mother?”


“We are both safe and sound, no one will approach the estate. And once we’ll be back in the city, what could they possibly do? We’ll be protected by bodyguards all the time, it’s been the case for years. I’ll hire more security if that’ll reassure you.”


“…I’d prefer that.”


“Don’t worry. Hubert and Ingersleben talk big, but they never follow with their plans. Cowards.”


“I’d rather they remain cowards for a little while longer…”


“Of course.”


There was a pause.


“Damian. We’ll be safe, okay? Nothing will happen to us. Don’t worry.”




“…Did you at least enjoy the play? And uh, Miss Forger? Is she alright with all those stressful events?”


“She seems fine… the play was really nice.”


“Good. You two enjoy your evening… but not too much!”


“Of course not, you know me. I am a model of moderation in all circumstances.” He said in cocky irony.


Demetrius grumbled his disapproval.


Anya covered her mouth with her hand to smother her laugh. She couldn’t agree more with the older Desmond. She heard the conversation drawing to an end and she slowly made her way back to the bathroom. The last emotion she captured from Damian was immense relief and reassurance that his family would be safe no matter what.


She took off her makeup quickly, cleaning herself rapidly to make sure that the evening’s emotions hadn’t made her sweat too much. She put her feet into cold water to ease their aching. She quickly took down her hair, brushing through it with her fingers as she heard Damian getting ready in his bedroom.


She ran back into hers, suddenly impatient to press herself against him. She reached for the door that separated her from him but she hesitated. Blushing she went back to her bag but for some reason, she hadn’t thought of packing anything that would be comfortable and tempting… not that she owned anything… sexy to begin with.


Biting her lip, she glanced over her shoulder, at the chest of drawers she had looked into earlier.


She shouldn’t.


But it had never been worn, it still had the price tag. She shouldn’t… it was his mother’s, probably. But…


In his bedroom, Damian had taken off most of his restrictive clothes, and after a quick journey to the bathroom to freshen up and clean his teeth, he had come back in the bedroom, glancing at the door, heart beating fast.


Everything was quiet, even if there was light. If Anya had had any intention of joining him, she would have by now. Shaking his head in disappointment, swallowing back his pride, he started unbuttoning his shirt. Just as a shy knock resonated.


It was so quiet he thought he had dreamt it.


“Uh… yeah?”


The handle turned down and Anya poked her head through, hair falling like a curtain of wide curls after an entire evening pulled in a tight bun. Her make-up had been removed, but some smudges were still there, around her eyes, her lips were still pinker than normal.


“Do you… need anything?” he asked.


“No… do… you?” she replied, blushing without coming any closer.


He opened and closed his lips, fingers still frozen over his shirt’s buttons. Sensing his confusion, she took a brave step forward. His knees buckled.


Anya closed the door behind her, pressing her back against it, glancing up to avoid his direct, burning gaze. The black satin robe covered her, following her like a princess’ dress, the belt tight around her waist. She opened her mind to his thoughts. They ran wilder than horses in the plain.


She locked her gaze with his.


For a short moment, it was just him, just her, their thoughts and fantasies livelier than their own bodies.


“Anya,” he let out in a raspy voice full of sentiments they had yet to experience.


It broke any restraint they held over their lusts. They ran to each other, hands immediately diving into each other’s hairs as their tongues devoured the other’s mouth. Damian’s hands immediately went over her back, her waist, her hips, digging his fingers through the thin layer of that dream-inducing night robe. He immediately grabbed handfuls of the fabric, pulling, pushing as she drew her body as close to his as physically possible.


He pulled away, breathing hard:


“I made a promise to your father–”


“To not behave ungentlemanly to me– what gentleman would leave his lady unsatisfied?” she mumbled against his lips.


He growled and caught her hips. He lifted her in one swift movement, surprising her enough to make her gasp. She put her arms around his shoulder as he took her towards his bed. He let her fall, hair an aura around her head. She looked up at him, a little breathless, and he almost lost it right there.


He grabbed her knees, lifting them up until he could take a proper hold of her left leg, lifting it up, up, until her heel rested on his shoulder. Not detaching his gaze from hers, he turned his head just enough to kiss her ankle.


A kiss for a kiss.


Their very first kiss.


“Your wish is my command, my queen,” he said in a voice dark with promises.


Anya’s legs tightened, her cheeks darkening at the memory. He dived down, his hand tracing the length of her leg and not caring if it pushed the flimsy fabric up. He pressed his body against her, kissing her lips once more. She brushed his neck with her hands, wriggling under him. She pressed her palms against his torso, brushing the fabric of his shirt. Hesitantly, her fingers reached for the black buttons he hadn’t touched yet. She pulled lightly, glancing up at him.


“Is this… okay?” she asked.


He blinked and almost laughed.


“You’re asking me if it’s okay to take off my shirt, when you’re as good as naked under me? I should be the one asking that!”


“We both know you’re enjoying this way too much…” she answered, her eyes falling to his tempting lips.


Smirking, his only answer was to pull off in a quick movement the last buttons that hid his muscular torso. He took her hands and put them against his hot skin. She felt the frenetic pulses of his heartbeat. It didn’t take long for her courage to come back as she traced his pectorals, his abs, slowly making her way down.


He started kissing her neck and shoulders just as she eagerly pushed the shirt off his back. He quickly raised his arms from her to pull it off and throw it somewhere in the room. Her nails dug into his shoulders, drawing him closer.


Their kiss intensified, built up from the accumulated emotions. He kissed her deeply, intimately, caressing everything corner of her mouth, dancing with her tongue. Unlike most of their kisses so far, this one felt more. He was leaning over her, only a few centimetres and thin layers of clothes separating their bare skins. They had never been in such a position, on a bed, their mouths making wet sounds that turned them on even more.


Anya’s hands passed over his arms, kissing him more eagerly every time she took conscious of the muscles under her touch. She had always known him to be fit, really fit, but not to that extent. It was different to admire his arms from afar and to touch him like that. He started kissing her neck, careful not to leave any trace of what they were doing. Her fingers caressed the back of his neck, scratching her nails just enough to make him more desperate to taste her skin. She grabbed his hair in encouragement as he reached the plunging collar of the night robe that felt like delicious silk against her skin, every one of his touches intensified by the fabric.


One hand was resting on her waist, the other on the mattress. The one that had been good so far grabbed the belt of the robe, clumsily untying it. She helped him, fingers fumbling. The moment her undergarment was in sight, Damian bent down, kissing her collarbones, leaving little biting marks that only she and he would know about. Their little secret. He could feel, under his hot, hot lips the slight curve of her breasts.


It was enough to draw the other good hand that had been clenching her sheet to move to trace the lines of her stomach. He gave up having any distance between their bodies, plunging so they would be chest to chest. Her soft curves against his hard muscles.


Both sighed. Anya tightened her hold on his hair, dragging him upwards quickly. She wriggled under him, doing things to his body he hadn’t expected. He almost growled when her felt her most intimate part pressing against his. He plunged his gaze into hers, pressing his forehead against hers.


Anya… we can stop now…” he started in a breathless voice.


“I don’t want to stop…” she replied, caressing his lips with her fingertips.


He captured her fingertips into his lips, eyes burning. Never letting go of one another’s gazes, he sucked gently, before letting her fingers go free. They lingered on his chin, so tempting.


“We should stop now…” he continued, trying to be sensible.


“Remember the other night? You didn’t get your twenty percent fees,” she answered, half-serious and half-teasing.


He grinned, lips hovering just above hers.


“…What do you want me to do?” he breathed, closing his eyes.


“Anything you want,” she replied, nibbing at his lower lip.


With a growl, Damian pressed himself completely against her, capturing her lips, swallowing her gasp, as she felt, for the first time, the effect she had on him.


Her thighs trembled on each side of him as she felt how hot his hardening cock was, even through layers of fabric. The slightest hesitation made her move her head away but, unable to give up now, Damian kissed her neck. She closed her eyes, losing herself in his warmth once more.


“Y-you’re burning…” she whispered.


He only made a little moaning sound of agreement against her throat. He bent down, kissing her solar plexus. She swallowed hard, eyes fixed on the ceiling as he tentatively put his mouth around the golden fabric of her bra, right where her nipple was. She jumped a little at the unexpectedly good sensation. That encouraged him, his mouth giving attention to one breast, while his hand took care of the other.


He started pulling at her bra straps, passing one hand behind her back and pulling at the clasp. He moved away from her, frowning as he tried to focus on how to take that damn thing off.


Laughing, Anya deliciously bent her back, passing her own hands behind and unclasping her bra in one swift movement. She didn’t think as she threw it away, out of habit for seeking freedom.




Damian sat up, looking down at her, his expression absolute reverence. His gaze held the weight of worship for ancient and forgotten gods. He growled, standing taller as his hands went down to his belt. Anya knew what was coming but she still held her breath when he sharply removed his belt and opened his trousers. They fell to his ankles, but he then hesitated, gaze going up and down, all over her body.


She squirmed under his burning gaze. To be looked at this way was as arousing as if he were touching her directly.


Keeping his distracting underwear on, his gaze finally rested back on her breasts, going up and down to the rhythm of her uneven breathing.


“They’re smaller than I imagined,” he remarked, even though he was glowing in absolute delight to live one of his fantasies.


She kicked him lightly in the side of his hip. He gasped dramatically.


“Hey! I’m being honest!”


She rolled her eyes but he bent down, quickly putting one nipple into his mouth, nibbling until she gasped and arched her back.


“But delicious nevertheless…” he added, kissing every inch of her breasts he could reach.


He spent a lovely amount of time kissing, massaging, teasing her breasts, using his tongue, teeth and fingers until he figured out what made her gasp, shiver or arch uncontrollably. The lovely butterflies of falling in love had left place for a burning hunger that urged her to move in ways she had never done before. Anya wasn’t sure what sort of instinct she was following, but she did nevertheless, long past feeling herself getting wet from his kissing and touches alone. And the sheer weight of his crotch between her legs.


Tentatively, she moved her hips upwards. The electrifying sensation would have frozen her, if it hadn’t been for Damian’s sudden growl. He bucked his hips against hers. Both gasped heavily.


W-what now? I don’t know what to do– I’m as inexperienced as her, h-how am I supposed to– to give her pleasure? He thought, trying to calm himself by kissing her neck, which actually didn’t help.


If Anya hadn’t been feeling so feverish, she would have laughed at how endearing his thoughts were. He was thinking of a thousand ways he would make love to her, but all he wanted was to give her pleasure, even if he wasn’t sure how.


The one thing Damian Desmond didn’t know. The one thing they hadn’t been able to read about in books and through their studies.


They were as lost as any awkward teenager dealing with intimacy for the first time could be…


The memory of the images that Damian had been studying came back to her mind. Anya blinked, staring at the ceiling, cheeks red. They weren’t… entirely lost and guideless… in a way… but to go into the position she had seen in his mind, a position that required her to take matters into her own hands, it was


Oh no, I’m too far gone, I’ll have to take care of my erection eventually, but she’s here and I can’t leave her like that!


Panic was blurring Damian’s thoughts. Anya shook her head, to clear her connection to his thoughts. She braced her body, tensed her muscles. She pushed him off her with unexpected strength, using her legs to roll him around. Damian gasped, blushing all over his body as she straddled him. They were too close to the edge of the bedroom. She almost fell backwards but he grabbed her by the butt. Tight.


Damian, eyes wide and dizzy, stared up at Anya who was now sitting over him, her hips pressing down on his. As if it wasn’t enough, she was biting her lower lip in the most tantalising way.


Blood, desire, rushed down to his erection. She must have felt it because her thighs tightened, almost imperceptibly. She was as soaked as he was hard.


They remained still for a long moment, eyes locked.


Damian lost first, leaning up suddenly. He captured her lips in his, kissing her deeply. Her tongue against his, her low moan, and that position destroyed him. Anya moved her hips against his, both groaning. Her hands brushed his and he let her guide his touch. Against her sides, he felt the muscles trembling under his fingertips, his hands embraced her breasts. He pushed off the satin robe, leaving her completely bare, except for the underwear that still protected her most precious treasure.


Oh, oh it’s happening, it’s happening, I’m touching her


He hesitated just a little, but Anya’s hold on his wrists was confident. Somehow. She pulled his hands against her breasts. She sighed as he cupped the soft flesh. Her nipples pressed against his palms.


Her hips rubbed against his length. Breathless, he showed his teeth, any sound now futile. Instinct took over. He moved his hands, his fingers, playing with the sensations, her reactions, as if he was learning to play a new instrument. The melody he was rewarded with were her sighs and moans.


It didn’t take long to find out what she liked. She pushed her chest closer into his hands, into his mouth, his fingers more agile than expected considering it was his very first attempt.


Her hips grinded against his. He bucked up in return. She gasped. He moaned. They tentatively started a new dance, between their cores, needing friction, relief, anything. Fingers digging into each other’s backs to hold onto something, they pulled away, just long enough to look into each other’s eyes, to take in the layer of sweat building on their foreheads as they bucked and thrusted.


Electrifying sparkles ran through their bodies, their legs, the tight coil of heat building quickly, too fast, in their lower bellies. They went faster, impatiently, roughly, drunken on the sensations their young bodies were discovering so swiftly.


She made one desperate thrust downward and gasped, tightening her hold on him. Her nails scratched his skin. He tightened his grip on her, thrusted harder.


White and black dots flashed behind their eyes and their minds blanked completely.


Anya was the first one to let herself fall backwards, moaning impossibly loudly. She remained frozen and still in his arms. The realisation she had come filled him with warm pride.


They barely realised they had reached their peaks that they were already coming back down.


The room echoed their long moans and heavy breathings.


Damian fell backwards, an expression of absolute delight on his face. Anya followed, burying her face against his chest, his hands still onto her back.


They remained still, eyes closed and slowly coming back to the present time. To reality.


Anya wriggled and nestled on his side. They lied down, staring at the ceiling, still catching their breathes.


“…Wow.” He let out, mind still numb from his first real orgasm.


Touching myself is nothing in comparison… he added in his mind, blinking.


“I agree…” she whispered, as bewildered.


“Uh?” he asked, turning towards her.




She panicked, afraid she had betrayed herself, but his already red cheeks turned a deep crimson.


“I-I mean, you uh–”


“I talked out loud again, didn’t I?” he mumbled in embarrassment.


“Y-yes, you did…” she answered in a low voice, glancing away, a little ashamed of lying to him for such a thing.


There was a pause, where they were too awkward to talk or look at each other. It was one thing to date and kiss in the library, it was another completely to discover the pleasure of the flesh.


“…I thought it would have lasted longer,” Anya commented, pouting a little.


“S-sorry,” he mumbled, covering his face with his hands.


“No, no, no, I didn’t mean it like that– it’s just– movies make it look like it lasts forever, and uuh– it’s only been fifteen minutes, so!” she exclaimed, sitting up and raising her hands.


He sat up immediately, eyes wide:


Fifteen minutes?!” he exclaimed.


He glared at the clock on his night table, as if it were the one at fault here.


“Damn, I definitely need to work on my stamina,” he grumbled.


Anya stared at him, stunned that it’d be the conclusion he’d reach. She hadn’t meant to offend him, but he was not happy that their first make-out session had been, well, rather quick.


Laughter bubbled in her throat. She covered her mouth to smother it, attracting his bewildered attention. Under his gaze, she closed her eyes tightly, but she couldn’t hold back her laughter. It escaped her, slipping through her lips and fingers. Loudly, she kept laughing, not really caring if her naked body twisted around. She couldn’t stop laughing, her abs burning from helplessly trying to resist it.


Damian glared at her, trying to be annoyed at what appeared to be mocking him, but he rapidly lost composure. He buried his face behind his hands, his own laughter slowly building. He fell backwards, laughing just as loudly until they wiped happy tears from the side of their eyes.


“Ah, Damian, you’re so dumb,” she eventually said in-between two laughing gasps.


“O-oi! What is that supposed to mean?!”


“Nothing, you’re adorable…” she commented, rolling over to kiss him quickly on his lips.


He wanted more, more than just kissing. Now that he had had a taste of a small bit of delicious chocolate, how could he stop at just one bite when a whole cake was in front of his eyes?


She stopped though, an inch from his lips. She quickly drew her hand between them and boldly cupped his crotch. He gasped, turning fifty shades of red, despite what they had just done. He was half-hard already when she pulled away, to his great disappointment. She looked down at him, a prideful, teasing smirk pulling on her lips.


“…Smaller than I imagined,” she commented with an exaggerated pout.


He almost choked, sitting up, offended by her words. She laughed at his face when he grabbed her waist and threw her back on the bed.


“You little–”


“You said it first!” she exclaimed as he tickled her sides.


It made her laugh even more, twisting and wriggling to escape his feather-light torture.


“I know! Not a good reason!” he answered, laughing just as loud.


Her nose bumped into his chin but they didn’t stop their little fight. For some reason, they landed, breathless and smiling like idiots, on the other side of the bed, where the pillows were. Damian pulled at the sheets and started drawing the pillows closer so they could rest a little.


Suddenly taken over by exhaustion, Anya smothered a yawn, stretching a little. They had both had a long day, followed by a long and emotional evening, followed by an intense make-out session. Sleep was pulling at Damian’s mind as well, but he covered Anya with the duvet.


“I’ll be back soon,” he murmured, kissing her forehead.


He slipped back into the bathroom to clean himself, splashing some water on his face. Grinning so much that his cheeks hurt, he went back into bed, eagerly slipping under the duvet. He instinctively moved as close as possible to Anya who was now hugging several pillows, forcing an unexpected wall to separate them.


She was fast asleep. His smile turned softer. He pushed some of her hair away, she didn’t even tremble. Considering all the efforts he had done to make sure they’d get to spend all that alone time together, they’ll have to keep it a secret from everyone they knew. If Demetrius, Loid, or anyone found out what had happened that night, they’d be banned from even breathing the same air.


That’ll be their little secret.


He made sure she was well covered, then he turned off the light, closing his eyes. He was almost asleep when pillows attacked him. He pushed them around, about to curse and shake Anya when she drew herself, still mostly naked, against his side, seeking his warmth. He swallowed hard, but her breathing was still quiet and rhythmic as a lullaby. Smiling in the dark, he drew her close to himself.


At least, she preferred him over a wall of pillows.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star

CHAPTER XXVII: Delicacies and Glimmers


The alarm rang so suddenly, so loudly that Damian jumped in his bed, immediately rubbing his sleepy eyes. He turned it off, as Anya moaned loudly, burying her head into the pillows. It took a minute for Damian to remember last night’s events and everything that had happened…


“Anya, wake up,” he said, shaking her shoulder.


“MMgghnn… no…”


“Come on, wake up,” he repeated, stretching his arms overhead.




He glanced down at her, annoyance showing on his face. She rolled around, dried drool on the side of her mouth and messy hair sticking everywhere.


“You have no right to be so adorable, you know that?” he mumbled, flushing when he caught sight of her still bare breasts.


She must have felt cold because she grabbed the duvets and covers, pulling everything around her until he had next to nothing.


“Oi, Anya, you really need to–”


Footsteps resonated at the other end of the hall. Blood rushing, the adrenalin woke him in an instant. He pushed the duvets off Anya who yelped as he grabbed her and threw her over his shoulder.


“If Mariam catches you here, we’re both dead!” he exclaimed.


She mumbled, half awake, holding onto his back as he threw her quickly on her bed. She bounced a little, glaring at him for the absence of any softness in his gestures. He closed the door that separated their rooms, about to jump back under the duvet. He stopped, grabbing Anya’s robe that was laying in the middle of the room. He took it with him, hiding it under the covers that he pulled up to his nose.


A sharp knock resonated against his door.


Without a word, Mariam walked in with her familiar limp. Damian pretended to be sleeping, heart drumming against his chest. She pulled the curtains open, letting light in. Even if he had been awake, he whined, bringing a pillow to his face.


“I heard the alarm, I know you awake.” She grumbled, unfazed, her accent far stronger than his mother’s.


Pouting, he sat up, glaring at his old nanny. She grinned back, one tooth missing. She looked around, finding the mess of his clothes. Damian stopped breathing when he caught sight of Anya’s bra laying just at the bottom of the chair in a corner.


Shit, shit, shit…


Mariam cursed in Greek, bending down with difficulty to pick up his wrinkled shirt.


“No! I’ll do it!” he exclaimed.


She cursed even more, throwing the shirt in his face.


“Pick up the mess… Breakfast is ready. Made your favourite.”


“T-thank you, Mariam, I’ll uh, wake up Anya.”


Mariam’s dark eyes flashed, narrowing at him. He forced a smile, wondering if she knew anything. This woman had the instinct of a fox.


She snorted and used her walking stick to get out, closing the door behind her.


Sighing deeply, Damian let himself back in the pillows, covering his face with his hands. He quickly got up and got dressed in comfortable, warm clothes. He did pick up the mess of clothes, bringing Anya’s clothes back to her. He knocked at her door, half-worried she’d throw shoes or other things at him for the way he had treated her so roughly that morning.


He found the bedroom quiet and dark.


“Anya?” he called.


He opened the curtains and found her back under the covers, sleeping again. She frowned a little at the sunlight that hit her face, but she only rolled around.


“Anya, are you really not awake?” he grumbled, sitting next to her on the bed.


“Mmmggmnn… go ‘way…”


“No. You need to get up. Mariam has prepared us breakfast.”


She grumbled some more. He started pulling off the covers, but that only motivated her to bury her head deeper in the pillows. Some had already fallen off the bed. He sighed deeply, marvelling at the fact that she arrived on time (almost) everyday at the academy.


“Five more minutes, papa…” she mumbled.


Damian flushed. Loid Forger had the patience of an angel for dealing with this mess since forever. He leaned down, whispering directly into her ear:


“It’s Damian, not your father, Anya. Damian, your most incredible lover… it’s too soon to call me ‘daddy’…” he murmured teasingly.


Her shoulders shook. She sat up suddenly, cheeks red. She turned around and he didn’t move fast enough. Her fist landed against his jaw. Far softer that when she had purposefully hit him at six years old… but it hit nevertheless.


“Oh! Damian! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean it this time, I swear!” she exclaimed, immediately wrapping herself around him in apology.


“Ugh…” he mumbled, bending over his legs, “Is this going to be like that everyday?”


“I got scared when I heard you wanted me to call you daddy…” she admitted, cheeks turning pink.


“That’s not what I said!” he exclaimed, straightening up suddenly.


“Oh? Then what… what did you say?” she asked, confused and flushed.


He thought back on his own words. He looked away, far too embarrassed to repeat them. He pushed the bundle of her clothes, including her bra, back to her, without daring to catch a glance.


“Get dressed! We need to get breakfast!” he exclaimed.


She took her clothes and, smiling to herself, she slid off the bed. He kept his back turned to her as she got dressed with brown leggings and a big cream jumper. He glanced over his shoulder, looking her up and down, while she brushed her wild mane of hair. She must have sensed his gaze, because she looked back at him, smiling in a knowing manner.


“What?” he mumbled.


“I was remembering last night…”


They both blushed at the memory, eyes sparkling.


“Do you think we’ll have some alone time before your driver comes back to pick us up, daddy?” she asked with a wink.


Damian chocked, standing up suddenly.


“D-do-don’t call me that!!”


“Why not? I thought you’d like that, Ô Most Incredible Lover!” she mocked, clearly holding back her laughter.


“D-do-don’t say that!”


She couldn’t hold back anymore, laughing suddenly. Damian’s shoulders relaxed to see her so happy. Despite the chaotic morning, he’d be willing to go through that every morning if it meant seeing that sleepy smile and have that laugh ring in his ears so early.


“Come on, I’m famished! And I want to meet your nanny! She sounds fun, I bet she has lots of embarrassing stories about you!” Anya exclaimed, grabbing his hand and eagerly walking out.


He only made a whining sound, fearing the worst.


They found Mariam still in the kitchen, piling plates with far too much food. The old nanny turned around when they arrived, looking the two young people up and down. Especially Anya.


“H-hi!” she said with a smile.


The woman who had helped raise Damian was way older than Anya would have thought. She was bent over, and suffered from severe back pain. Her grey hair were pulled in a tight bun. It must have been black in her youth, as dark as her eyes. She seemed to be grimacing constantly, frowning, and unhappy.


Anya listened to the song of Mariam’s mind. She was immediately hit with an icy desert of pure pain. So strong and so unbearable that Anya immediately shut down her ability around the woman. She shuddered, squeezing Damian’s hand.


“Anya, this is Mariam, my old nurse. Mariam, this is Anya.”


The older woman looked Anya up and down, one hand on her painful back.


“Thin. Too thin!” Mariam exclaimed annoyingly, pointing at Anya’s waist.


“Eh?” she hesitated, blinking.


“You make a baby, you die!” Mariam added as clarification.


Damian’s eyes widened, while Anya paled at the certainty in the woman’s voice.


“O-oi! Mariam! That’s not– you can’t say that! It’s rude!”


“Girl too thin, not good for babies.” She answered stubbornly, turning back towards the plates of food.


“We don’t have to think of that anytime soon! Don’t– it means nothing!”


Mariam rolled her eyes, carrying the last plate to the table where two glasses of orange juice were already waiting with other plates of food Anya had never seen before, at least not for breakfast.


“Eat, you need it,” Mariam ordered, narrowing her eyes at Anya.


“T-thank you for the food…” she answered, a little overwhelmed by the woman’s headstrong nature.


She only huffed, unimpressed by Anya’s politeness. Damian quickly took her to the table, then he went to talk to Mariam in a low voice, talking fast and in Greek. He seemed to be scolding her, but she was having none of it. She waved her hand dismissively, clicking her tongue, then walked away, leaving the two young people together.


“…Did you just speak Greek?” Anya asked hesitantly when he plumped down on the breakfast table.


“My mother is Greek, you know. I learned it, I’m just out of practice.” He replied with a shrug, flushing in embarrassment.


“It’s weird to hear you speak another language that I don’t understand.”


“Your surprisingly exceptional skills in languages don’t cover the ability to understand something you’ve never studied before,” he replied teasingly.


“I know that… it’s a shame that Eden doesn’t offer Greek as an elective. Your only chance to ever beat me in a foreign language…” she casually answered, taking a sip of orange juice.


He glared at her overly confident expression.


“You never act or sound half-foreign, it’s strange to see you in such a different environment than Eden.” Anya commented, more seriously.


“…My father insisted that Demetrius and I received the best education possible. He didn’t like that by talking another language, our level in our native language was lowering… My brother is a lot better at Greek than I am, though. He grew up for years there before coming back in Berlint.”


“During the war, right?”


Damian nodded, his mind darkening, tugged by memories of his father and brother. Anya leaned forward, putting her hand on his.


“So… what’s a Greek breakfast? I don’t know any of this,” she said, pointing in front of her.


“Right… it’s usually a mix of breads, Greek yogurt, fruits…”


“Any peanut?” she asked hopefully.


“Better than peanut, pistachio,” he answered with a grin.


Oh now, you are starting a war…”


He chuckled and started piling up several things for her to try. He took one hearty-looking bread, covering it with feta and sun-dried tomatoes.


“Open your mouth,” he said, turning to her.


“I can eat by myself.”


“Open… it’s called eliopsomo,” he insisted.


She chuckled when he grabbed her jaw. She opened her lips as he put the bread into her mouth. She took it in her own hand as she bit into it, moaning her agreement.


“Good, right? Try that, you’ll love it.” he continued, adding more to her plate.


Anya took a little pastry covered in honey that left a sticky sensation on her fingers. She bit into it, her eyes widening in delight.


“I told you it’d be better than peanuts,” he said, taking a bite of his own.


She lifted a finger, munching quickly to reply to that bold statement:


“I wouldn’t be that presumptuous, but it is delicious. What is it called?”


“Pischies, it’s a pastry with sugar, cinnamon, syrup and almond or pistachios.”


After a few minutes of eating, Anya glanced at Mariam who walked by, ignoring them, carrying some clean sheets to another room.


“Don’t mind her comments… She’s a bit rough around the edges, but that’s how she shows she cares,” Damian commented in a low voice.


Anya thought back on the impression she had had of Mariam’s mind.


“If your father didn’t want you and your brother to be raised in Greek, why have her as a nanny then?”


“My mother insisted…” he replied, glancing away, “My mother met Mariam in Greece, when she had travelled there with my brother to escape the war and find safety with her brothers. Mariam had three sons, all grown up, all lost in the war…”


Anya darkened, a bad feeling growing in the pit of her stomach as she understood the reasons behind Mariam’s cold heartbreak. Having a child and losing them too soon was horrifying. Even more because of something as meaningless as war. But three? Three would be unbearable.


“She… didn’t want to keep on living. My mother told us that she found Mariam hanging from a tree, half-strangled because she hadn’t made the noose tight enough.”


She shivered, edging a little closer to him. It was one of those horrible tales that children who had grown up without war heard so casually mentioned by their parents, siblings, or grandparents that had been intimately familiar with such horrors.


“Mother ordered her to be saved and Mariam cursed her for that. My mother wasn’t impressed. She was supposed to be in hiding, but my mother had never let go of Demetrius even once since he had been born. He was really sick during that time, and she couldn’t figure out why… She was far away from Berlint and hadn’t seen a doctor in several weeks, the war had forced them all to the front. Mariam used to be a nurse and a midwife, and so my mother hired her… a little forcibly, to help her with Demetrius… and then Mariam followed her in Berlint and she’s taken care of us ever since.”


Mariam has been here for me more often than my father or Demetrius ever were, before I entered Eden… She didn’t participate much in my education, but I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been like, without her, he added to himself, although Anya heard it all.


After a pause, Anya spoke up:


“Is this why she commented on…”


She put her hands on the sides of her waist, showing the tightness of it that should have been hidden by her jumper. But a midwife would know these things instinctively.


“Probably. I… well, forget it. I… like you just the way you are…” he answered, unable to meet her gaze, cheeks flushing.


I never thought that her having a tight waist could be dangerous in any way but perhaps I should look it up some other day… Mariam has a knack for figuring things out before anyone else, especially for pregnancies and childbirths– OI! Why am I even thinking of that now?!


Damian had no idea that Anya could read his mind, but she found it so endearing. Even if they had barely started dating, didn’t even have his brother’s blessing, he was already considering their long-term future. She leaned over and kissed his cheek, startling him.


“Thank you… I like you just the way you are too,” she answered, thinking of his adorable and protective habits.


Once they had eaten breakfast, leaving many plates of bread and pischies for later, Anya went to clean up the dishes, but Mariam came back like a demon, pushing her away and doing it herself.


“C-can I help?” Anya asked.


“No! Go do kisses somewhere else!”


“We’re not kissing right now,” Damian replied, frowning, “What did you think of my Christmas gift, Mariam? Did you like it?”


“Good, good, thank you. Now go away!”


She used her towel to slap his shoulder. Damian knew a dismiss when he saw one, he drew Anya away. While he sat down and picked up a newspaper to read, she looked around the luxurious apartment. Everything was expensive but it was quite simple and not as extravagant as she would have expected.


There was a TV, a radio, bookshelves, piles of magazines, and plenty of pretty and colourful decorations.


“Do you come here often?” she asked, plopping down next to Damian on the couch.


“Not really, once or twice a year maybe, never for long. I spend all my time at Eden or the estate,” he replied without looking up.


“…Your mother must be lonely.”


That made him look up, glancing around at the clean room as if he could imagine his mother spending her time there. Alone, if not for Mariam’s reluctant company.


“She visits Demetrius often. She has lots of friends in the city, she sees them. They visit her as well. She likes going to horse race too, and uh… I believe she paints, but I never saw anything she made, other than the ones she put on the walls.”


That caught Anya’s interest. She pointed at the paintings just in front of them. Damian nodded with a little smile. She immediately jumped off the couch to admire the artistry. It was nothing like what she painted but she could see the quality of it. She had never managed to figure out how to bring out such details without smothering the entire painting in colours and traits.


“She would love you.”


Anya turned around, towards Damian who couldn’t help but smile.


“My mother. She’d adore you. She wants to meet you. I suppose she’ll wait for my brother to give us his blessing… She’s the one who picked up the flowers I gave you. She has this huge greenhouse, in the estate, that she spends more of her time in during the warmer months. She says the plants talk to her. I’m not sure I understand what she means but, that makes her happy.”


“You love her very much…” Anya remarked, smiling to see him so relaxed, so himself.


He flushed a little, and shrugged. He looked down, his attention back on the newspaper. Eager to change from the embarrassing topic, he raised the paper:


“My brother’s decision has officially been announced to the whole world,” he declared, showing her the headlines.


She came back next to him, taking the newspapers in her hands to read the article. ‘Demetrius Desmond, heir to the wealthy and powerful Desmond Group, is set to found his own political party!!’ Long explanations followed, including an interview he must have given months ago.


“How do you feel about it?”


“A bit strange… I always thought he was my father’s puppet, that he’d be a twin of everything our father had ever done. But I’m glad he’s found his own way.”


His thoughts turned to his father’s crimes in the past. It must have been difficult for Demetrius to handle such a burden on his own this entire time, but it never let him go weak. He just found a new strength from the horrors their father had unveiled, years after his death.


“…My brother wants me to become CEO of the Desmond Group,” Damian suddenly admitted.


Anya turned to him gravely. She had caught his thoughts about it previously, but now he was less confused about it. He seemed… relaxed.


“I’m not sure I know what to do anymore with my life now…”


He looked down, as if ashamed, but she took his hand in hers.


“Hey, I have no idea what to do after Eden! Graduation terrifies me just for that. At least, you’ve had goals before… I only ever wanted to keep my family together, safe and sound… I have no idea what to do for my career,” she answered, but she was smiling nonetheless.


“…You’re so good with children…” he couldn’t help but remark, recalling the many, many times she had done projects and earned Stella stars by helping children and orphans.


“O-oh… y-you think?” she hesitated, flushing.


“Yes. Why don’t you think of a career taking care of children? They love you and it’d make you happy.”


Anya blinked. She had never considered such a possibility. She had never thought of working with or for children, even though she had always, unconsciously, done so during her time at Eden. She always looked out for the younger students or creating programs and ways to help hospitalised children or orphans.


“I… uh… I guess I haven’t thought of that…” she answered, eyes wide in slow realisation.


She had never thought of her future until that paper, a few months ago, had been given to her by the professors. She had only understood that she didn’t want to be a spy and couldn’t become a psychiatrist like her father, or any medical area for that matter. The very idea of working in an environment of sterile white and antiseptic smells made her sick.


“Looks like we’re reconsidering everything we always thought we’d do with our lives,” he admitted, glancing away.


“Even if your brother wants something different for you, you should do what you want. I thought you had always wanted to become a politician?” she asked, genuinely surprised.


“I’ve always wanted to be like my father…” he corrected, frowning to himself, “But now, it’s the last thing I want.”


Anya caught his thoughts. What his brother wanted him to become…. take over the Desmond Group… that was huge.


“…D-do you know what you would do instead, then?” she continued.


“…No,” he replied with the taste of a half-lie on his tongue, “I’ll… think about my options.”


For some reasons, it comforted Anya, that he wasn’t giving up, or wasn’t entirely lost. He still had the same goal: make his family and the Desmond name proud. His means would be different, and the person he looked up to wasn’t his father anymore. It was his brother. Himself even, in the future.


“If there’s anything I’ve learned, watching over you for a decade, Damian Desmond, is that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.” Anya said, proudly.


He watched her, eyes wide, then he smiled a little. He wanted to thank her, his eyes screamed it loud enough that she didn’t need to hear it. Instead, he decided to tease her, as always whenever they got embarrassed:


“Oh? So you’ve been watching over me this entire time? I didn’t know you had been so enamoured with me, for so long.”


“Don’t flatter yourself,” she replied, flushing and pouting.


But he grinned, a mischievous light sparked in his eyes. He sat up and moved closer to her. He traced, with his pinkie finger, the side of her arm, teasingly, until she shivered. He captured her hand in his before she could move away. That caught her attention, her eyelashes fluttering towards him without quite meeting his gaze.


“Tell me, how long have you been irresistibly in love with me, Anya Forger?”


“…Irresistibly is a strong word,” she replied, looking away.


He grabbed her chin, forcing her to look back at him. He still smirked, knowing a victory when he saw one.


“Tell me,” he ordered.


“I-I don’t know…” she answered vaguely, trying to get away from his intense gaze.


“You do know, tell me,” he repeated, leaning down.


He kissed her cheek, her jaw. She sighed, closing her eyes, and tightening her lips.


“Tell me…” he whispered into her ear.


Anya tried to move away from him but he slid his arm around her waist. His nose brushed her cheek.


“Tell me…” he added, kissing the side of her neck.


She bit her lower lip.


“I-it’s been happening so smoothly, so naturally, I can’t recall a defining moment where I fell for you… It’s… it’s been you, it’s always been you…” she whispered, a little breathlessly.


Damian was surprised enough by her honest answer, by the way it mirrored his feelings, that he pulled away just long enough to look at her.


“You… yours, I’ve always been yours…” she added, cheeks red.


He kissed her lips. She chuckled at his eagerness as he tightened his hold around her waist. He raised her and drew her on his laps, keeping her close and kissing her cheeks, her neck, her hands.


“I’m the one who should be saying that, Anya Forger. You’ve had my heart before I even knew what love is. You taught me everything…”


She leaned down, kissing him deeply.


A loud, sudden cough, resonated behind them. Anya pulled away, blushing, as Mariam glared at the two of them.


“No! Baby!” she exclaimed, deciding to stay in the living-room and chaperone them.


Anya slipped away from Damian, sitting properly once again. They glanced at each other shyly, cheeks red. But a laugh escaped them.


They ended up watching silly Christmas movies on the TV, Anya laying entirely on top of Damian. He was half-asleep, lulled by the sounds of the screen and her warm body pressed against him, feeling safe and content.


A few hours later, his driver came back to pick them both up. They stopped at the Forger residence first, Damian stepping out of the car and accompanying Anya all the way back to the apartment, carrying her small bag.


“Did you two have fun?” Yor asked, preparing a cocoa for the two of them, not knowing that Damian was an eager coffee drinker.


“It was a wonderful play, we had a great time!” Anya exclaimed, picking up a few marshmallows to eat.


“Thank you again for trusting me with your daughter, it was really relaxing,” Damian added, smiling to both Yor and Loid.


The parents glanced at each other, then they smiled back at the young man.


“I’m glad. You look a lot better than a few days ago.” Loid answered.


Anya forced a marshmallow in Damian’s mouth, almost making him choke, which made her laugh. He glared at her, but he couldn’t remain annoyed with her.


They sat down, around cocoa, tea and coffee, catching up a little. Anya could tell that her parents knew about Demetrius’ decision gone public and were eager to ask Damian about it, but they didn’t dare bother him when he looked so relaxed.


Once they were done catching up, Damian stood up again.


“I should go. I’ll come pick you up for Blackbell’s party on the thirty-first,” he said, taking her hand to kiss it quickly.


“So you’ll both spend the two days at Blackbell’s?” Loid asked, accompanying the young people to the door.


“Y-yes, I believe she has reserved a whole floor of the Ritz-Charlton for the occasion, with enough rooms for most of us.” Damian answered.


“And the theme is the Roaring 20s?”


“That’s exact. She insisted on all men wearing white and all ladies to wear… what was it again?”


“’Glimmers and shades of silver and gold’,” Anya quoted diligently.


“What will she wear?”


“I’m not allowed to say.”


“Knowing Blackbell, she’ll make sure to stand out as much as possible…” he grumbled, rolling his eyes.


“It’s her birthday, and her New Year’s Party! She has the right to do so! She was particularly excited to finally organise it all by herself…”


“I fear for Berlint’s society once she will turn eighteen…”


Please, her influence will reach far beyond Berlint!”


Loid watched the two, half-discussing, half-bantering, mostly flirting. He let out a heavy sigh, smiling to himself. Truly, no one would have been able to hold up against his daughter but Desmond.


He put a heavy hand on the young man.


“I’ll accompany him to his driver. We don’t want Damian to get back to his estate too late.”


“O-of course not,” Anya answered, staring at him in confusion.


Loid understood that she read his mind, and knew he had something to tell Damian, but she couldn’t figure it out yet. She was confused and she didn’t like it.


She turned a sweet smile to Damian, kissing him quickly on the cheek.


“See you in a few days!” she exclaimed as Damian and her father walked towards the elevator.


The moment the door was closed, and Damian was alone with Loid, he got a lot more nervous than he had shown until then.


Good, let the boy fear me a little, he thought with a smile to himself.


Loid opened his lips to speak up, but Damian surprised him by doing it first:


“You work in a hospital… Have you ever heard of an institution called COEUS, pops?” he asked in a serious voice.


Loid blinked, not having expected a serious discussion with the young man when he had investigated it. Of course, he knew about COEUS. He had been the one to find a few information about it after finding out about Anya’s ability – his research had been terribly restricted with the war threat and Anya insisted that he didn’t want him to know. He had had retired and respected her wishes… but he had kept in touch with most WISE’s agents and he was aware, to some extent, of what they had found. He had connected the last pieces the other day, when overhearing Damian reveal everything about his father to Anya…


He couldn’t tell him any of that.


“Only what I heard from you, the other day, when you talked to Anya… about your father. It’s horrifying that some of my colleagues, who vowed to protect lives, would turn to such practices.”




“Does it bother you still?” Loid continued, putting a comforting hand on Damian’s shoulder.


“…I’m figuring things out. I’m… getting over it, I think. What you told me really helped. Thank you again, pops.”


The elevator doors opened then. They walked in and Loid smiled, a genuine and warm one.


“It’s nothing. If you ever need to talk to me, don’t hesitate to give me a call, at home or at work. You can visit the clinic too, if you feel like it.”


“T-that’d be great… thanks…”


“Don’t underestimate the importance of talking about your mental health. And talking to a professional… I understand that you would feel far more comfortable opening up to Anya, or your friends, but they don’t necessarily know how to respond to one’s traumatic experience.”


Damian hummed, nodding in agreement.


“I should probably send my brother over to you, he’ll need it with all the stress he’s put on himself.”


“Ah, yes, Democratic Development,” Loid was beyond grateful that Damian had unintentionally given him an opening.


“Yes, its official beginning will be on the first of February. Until then, I might be busy helping him out.”


“Shouldn’t you focus on your studies?”


“It’s actually getting a bit boring now,” he replied casually, “Besides, I need to get used to helping my family more seriously from now on. Especially if I want to offer a proper future to Anya.”


The doors opened on the ground floor, and they stepped out. But before going out of the building, before Loid could come up with an answer, Damian turned, forcing him to a stop.


“I understand that… considering everything my father did in the past, and I believe the two of you disagreed on some things, you have no reason to trust my brother or I for the future of this country but… if there is one thing my brother and I agree on it’s peace. That’s what I want, for everyone, and for Anya. What’s between Anya and I isn’t a fleeting thing, I am serious about her and I have no intention of giving up on her,” he declared, a determined look on his face.


Loid stared, blinking in bewilderment. Then, he started laughing.


“Did I scare you that much, that you’d feel the need to give me such a speech?” he exclaimed good-heartedly.


“Well, uh, no, maybe–”


“Don’t worry, Damian! I know perfectly well that you feel nothing but total devotion to my daughter. Pardon me if I am protective of her but… she is everything to me. My family is everything…”


He put his hand on the young man’s shoulder:


“The two of you are still young, you don’t have to be so serious… but when you’ll be older and mature enough, I’ll be more than happy to welcome you as part of my family, Damian.”


Damian’s eyes stung. He looked away, flushing.


“…You’re really trusting me with Anya…”


“Strangely enough, I do. Of course… hurt her, break her heart…”


Loid raised a suggestive eyebrow on what would happen to his corpse. Damian straightened up, nodding vividly.


“You’ll kill me, I know–”


“Oh no, she’ll kill you yourself! But I’ll definitely be here to hand out her weapon of choice.” Loid continued with an extremely serious tone.


He dived his cold blue eyes into Damian’s. He swallowed hard, feeling threatened. Then, Loid laughed, so suddenly it threw off Damian.


“Don’t be so serious, I tell you! It was a joke!” Loid said, tapping his shoulder.


It wasn’t, he added to himself, glad Anya wasn’t here to listen to his thoughts. Hurt her in any way and you’ll face the whole Forger family’s wrath.


Damian sighed, smiling a little.


“I really do appreciate everything you’ve done for me, pops. And… I appreciate even more that you accepted my relationship with Anya… She is… very precious to me. I want you to know that.”


Despite his best intentions, Loid recognised a heartfelt declaration when he saw one. He nodded, smiling softly.


“I know.”


Damian visibly relaxed. He turned towards the driver who opened the door to him.


“Damian,” Loid called before he’d go into the vehicle, “…You’re welcome here anytime. Even to sleep over, if you want.”


“…Thanks, pops!” Damian answered, giving a little wave and genuine smile.


Loid had never seen the boy smile so widely, so warmly.


The car departed and he went back to the big apartment where his family waited. Yor was sipping tea on the couch, watching over Rosie who was babbling and talking to herself, practicing her syllables.


There was someone missing.


He barely had time to notice it that, already, he felt a presence behind him.


“What did you want to tell him?” Anya asked in a low, vaguely threatening voice.


Loid smirked, turning around. His daughter glared at him. She had sneaked up on him completely silently.


“Good job, you’re getting better at that,” he said, “Even if you forget your shoes when going out with your boyfriend–”


“It was one time!!” she exclaimed, embarrassed, “And don’t try to change the conversation!”


“We only had a little talk, man to man…”


He lifted his hands, opening his memories without putting up any barrier. She read his thoughts and visibly relaxed.


“COEUS is really haunting him…” she remarked, looking dim.


“You haven’t told him the truth, then?” Loid asked, putting an arm around her shoulders to take her to the living-room.


“…Soon. I-I’m scared but I don’t want to wait too long… Except Becky’s party, he’ll spend all his time at the Desmond estate, so… I guess I’ll tell him at some point once we’re back at the academy…”




“And uh… he’s intelligent.”


“He is very smart, indeed.”


They remained silent a short moment, Anya hoping her father would figure out on his own what she dreaded to ask…


He must have understood because he squeezed his daughter’s shoulder.


“And when you’ll tell him you can read minds, knowing about COEUS’ ambitions, he’ll understand pretty quickly that you can’t be my biological daughter…”


“I don’t want to tell him… your stories…”


Loid and Yor glanced at each other.


“We can’t reveal our secret careers, even if we’re retired. It’s too risky.” Loid decided firmly.




“Don’t forget he’s a Desmond. He may be your Damian, but he also and always will be a Desmond. He was your father’s target, and Damian’s father was assassinated by a colleague from the Garden. Nothing will keep him from having us all arrested. Yuri’s protection won’t reach that far.” Yor continued, lips tight.


Anya looked down, not wanting to consider keeping any secret to Damian. It was one thing to keep her secret, and she understood her parents’ fears but…


“If it was just us three, I wouldn’t mind, Anya. If worst came to be, we could easily change identities and flee…” Loid continued casually.


But that was only another fear weighing on Anya’s heart. If Damian did find out the truth about her parents and did call the SSS to have them arrested… they’d have no choice but leave their whole lives behind.


“But we can’t let Rosie have such a life of running away…” Yor concluded sadly.


“Even if Damian accepted it all, what if he told someone he thought he could trust? His brother? It would be a disaster.”


It was obvious that her parents had discussed it beforehand.


For many, many years now, they have had a bag full of different identities, documents, and stacks of money to run away if it became necessary. But the moment Rosie had been added to the family, it had become a lot trickier. Anya had inevitably been dragged, as a child, into their adventures as spy and assassin, but they would never let Rosie live such a thing. Anya was more than happy to let things go on as they had always been… But the moment Damian would know… how would he react?


He’d be anguished to find out Anya was one of COEUS’ experiments, one of his father’s victims. He’d probably accept that Loid Forger found her, adopted her, and decided to give her the best education… But if he knew that both her parents had had some influence in his father’s death… what then? They had not committed the crime, but they had been there that night, they had been unable to stop it.


Anya looked up, seeing her little sister play with her stuffed toys. She was so lovely, so innocent. She couldn’t remember her own first years being so sweet. She had to be protected. At all costs.


“…You’re right, Rosie comes first…” Anya agreed, nodding slowly.


Her parents visibly relaxed.


“We’ll come up with a story that Damian will believe, don’t worry.”


But that’s the problem, papa… we can’t fill up every gap in one’s life with lies and stories…


She kept her thoughts to herself.


She was just glad they weren’t trying to dissuade her to be with Damian. No matter what, they wanted their daughters’ happiness and safety… She hugged her parents.




The days flew by. Soon enough, Becky’s birthday party arrived. Anya was (surprisingly) already prepared with a sparkly flapper-dress. She was finishing her hair when Damian rang at the door to pick her up.


For once, it was Anya’s turn to be stunned by his looks. She was so used to see him in his Eden uniform or some dark suit that she had trouble imagining him any other way. She slowed down, coming to a stop, admiring him as he talked to her parents.


He was wearing a white suit, as required by Becky, but he had added his own touch by wearing a deep black buttoned up shirt. It clashed with the pure white and golden details. His tie was as golden as her dress, and a thin golden line followed his collar and lapel. He had kept his suit jacket open, and he kept one hand in a pocket. And the swooning touch? The white and black fedora that stood just at the right angle on his head.


Oh, the room was far warmer than she would have expected.


She put her hand against the wall for stability, feeling flushed and weak in the knees. It attracted Damian and her parents’ attention, who turned towards her.


“Hey, wow… You look magnificent.” Damian said, blinking as he looked her up and down, “I’m almost grateful for Blackbell’s dress code now…”


He took his sweet, sweet time detailing her outfit. She had obviously received Becky’s direct help. She wore a golden flapper-dress, a straight cut that flattered her lean body. It was decorated with sequins along the collars, straps, down her tummy and it widened around her hips. The rest of the dress was covered in sparkling fringes that flew at every one of her movements. Becky had insisted on lending her (very expensive) long pearls necklaces. She also wore white gloves and a white and gold headdress covered in sequins, pearls, with a fancy black feather standing on the side of her head. Her hair had been styled in a wavy ‘faux’ bob, in the fashionable way of the 1920s.


Damian shook, as if to remind himself that there was more to the evening than simply admiring one another. He lifted a single white rose, that he gave her.


“T-thank you,” she said, flushing, aware of his thoughts as he kept glancing at her figure.


She is so beautiful, I’ll have to bite my pride and thank Blackbell for that 1920s theme. This dress is doing marvels to Anya’s body– and her legs, she never shows so much of her skin, even in the summer uniform… Damn, I’ll have to make sure no boy approaches her tonight. And damn, the way she twinkles and glimmers, like a star–


Loid coughed loudly. Damian looked up at him, confused and innocent. Loid gave him an explicit gaze and the poor young man flushed.


That sent a jolt to Anya who finally reacted.


“We should start going! We don’t want to be late…” she said, grabbing Becky’s birthday present and putting her hand over Damian’s arm.


“Don’t forget your coat,” Yor intervened, giving it to Anya but she kept it in her hands.


“T-thank you, let’s just go…”


They left and climbed into the car.


“You’re wonderful, a sight to behold…” Damian murmured, still unable to detach his gaze from her silhouette.


“T-thank you… y-you’re very handsome too…” she answered, biting her lower lip.


Sudden warmth rushed through him at these words. He looked away quickly and she felt the echo of his desire that rang through her own.


S-she’s never complimented me, she never said I’m handsome as the devil…


“I didn’t–” she immediately tried to correct him.


She bit her tongue, stopping herself before betraying her ability. She cursed mentally, before continuing:


“I-I should compliment you more often… Y-you’re devastatingly handsome, Damian Desmond. You’re a sheik…”


That jolted him back to his usual arrogant and confident self.


Oh? Someone has studied 1920s slang… I see… he thought, jumping on the challenge she was offering him.


He grinned, and with the white suit, with the fedora, Anya stopped breathing.


“My, I had a feeling you couldn’t resist me, moll.”


“Don’t think I’ll let you become a cake eater during tonight’s wingding. You’re mine, baby.” She said, her voice tightening just enough for Damian to know she had no shame in claiming him.


“Jealous already?” he asked, winking.


It’s all the fedora’s fault… she thought to herself annoyingly.


She pulled out the feathery fan that Becky had judged an ‘indispensable’ accessory – she had been damn right. Anya opened it with a quick movement of her wrist, starting to fan herself frenetically while Damian laughed to himself, basking in his own self-accomplishment and ego.


Anya had been best friend with Becky for a decade. For better or worse, Damian had known Blackbell for even longer than that. They knew her. They knew her extravagance. And yet, nothing could have prepared them for the sight that welcome them when the car pulled up in front of the Ritz-Charlton Hotel. Many floors above their heads, spotlights of many colours were moving around frenetically.


“…Surely she didn’t go that wild for her sixteenth birthday…” Damian mumbled.


“It’s probably another party for New Year. Becky told me she had a small budget!” Anya answered as they went in the hotel, announced whose party they were here for and were guided by a footman.


It’s exactly what worries me, her father isn’t the kind of man to give his daughter a small budget, Damian thought to himself with a sigh.


The elevator doors opened directly on the floor that had been rented by Becky. Music resonated loudly, along with the laughter and vivid discussions of all her guests. Balloons and ribbons of all colours were flying. Lights in various shades were dancing to the rhythm of the music, played by a group on an elevated stage. The crowd of white and shimmering figures dancing in the middle of the vast ball room stood out. There were several tables and waiters, carrying trays of food, drinks, and appetizers.


How did we manage to underestimate her, yet again?” Damian asked, his voice barely audible above the loud music reminiscent of the 1920s, with a modern take that made every young people here rejoice.


The party was only getting started.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star



The elevator doors opened directly on the floor that had been rented by Becky. Music resonated loudly, along with the laughter and vivid discussions of all her guests. Balloons and ribbons of all colours were flying. Lights in various shades were dancing to the rhythm of the music, played by a group on an elevated stage. The crowd of white and shimmering figures dancing in the middle of the vast ball room stood out. There were several tables and waiters, carrying trays of food, drinks, and appetizers.


How did we underestimate her, yet again?” Damian asked, his voice barely audible above the loud music reminiscent of the 1920s, with a modern take that made every young people here rejoice.




They turned towards the host and main celebration of the evening. Becky ran to them, hugging Anya so suddenly and tightly the two girls almost fell over. Damian just stared, already tired of the exuberant show.


“I’m so glad you’re here! Finally!!”


“Happy birthday, Becky! You’re stunning!” Anya exclaimed, looking at her friend’s outfit.


Becky chuckled, posing for her friends, ignoring Damian’s blatant roll of his eyes. She wore a flapper-dress, red with glittering black sequins and fringes. She wore pearls, no glove, but she had a stunning headdress with a red feather and black details of what was reminiscent of a black dahlia. Her makeup made her eyes and lips pop with a bright red that made her look older than her sixteen years.


“Wait– your hair!” Anya exclaimed, touching the tip of her new haircut.


“Do you like it?”


“It’s amazing! You look so cute!”


Anya admired the short hair. Becky had cut it far shorter than she had ever had with a fringe and gentle curls to frame her face. Becky laughed, delighted by the rain of compliments.


“Oh! I must introduce you to Antonio!”


“Who?” Damian asked, confused.


But Becky grabbed Anya’s hand and pulled her in the crowd, so quickly that Damian was just left in front of the elevator, confused and lost.


“Wonderful, not even two minutes and I’ve already lost her…” he grumbled.


He was about to start exploring the crowd and enjoying the party, with or without Anya, when the elevator doors opened again with a loud ‘ting’. He looked over his shoulder and his expression darkened even more.


“…Greetings, Watkins,” he said.


“Ah. You. Greetings.”


They glanced at each other warily, appreciating little to be stuck on the edge of the dancing crowd together.


“If you’re here, it means that Anya is there too. Is she well?” Watkins asked.


“I’m sure you can ask her yourself. I’m not her babysitter.” He answered vaguely, shrugging.


He gave his gift for Blackbell to a servant, Watkins did the same, and the waiter brought it to a pile that was near collapsing on the side of the room.


“…I’ll go give my best wishes to Becky. Have you seen her?” Watkins asked.


Damian made a vague gesture towards the dancing, bouncing crowd.


“Good luck finding her.”


Watkins didn’t answer, probably strategizing the best way to find a target in such a wild environment.


Damian decided to get away from him and started exploring the place, finding Emile dancing in the crowd. He found Ewen near the drinks. There was a pyramid of champagne glasses, further away there was a chocolate fountain with an array of fruits to pick and a long table of more savoury delicacies to eat.


“Boss-man! I saw Anya earlier, with Becky, she was very pretty!”


“Pretty? She’s radiant,” Damian corrected with a frown.


“Ah? Uh, yeah, sure. Are you gonna dance?”


“…Not my style.”


“Shame! But hey, there are other stuff to do over there!”


Ewen dragged him to another side of the massive ballroom, finding more activities. Some couple, that he recognized from Eden, were making out in front of a black and white, silent movie that no one really looked at. There were some billiards, and some tables for card games, including what he thought was poker. There had been a few evenings at Eden where the dorms’ students had participated in such contests.


He glanced over his shoulder, at the incredible music, his feet unconsciously tapping to the rhythm. Anya wasn’t in sight, still, so he shrugged and joined a couple of card games and billiards, not minding trying out these various drinks and cocktails the waiters were distributing. Martinis, mojitos, gin & tonic – all 1920s popular drinks that he had never gotten to try in his brother’s fancy parties.


Anya, on her side, was enjoying the various drinks as thoroughly. Becky enthusiastically introduced her to Antonio and his friends – a group of Italian, rich, young men Becky had met the previous summer. Antonio and her had had a bit of a romance, and they had kept in touch. Anya hadn’t realised it had been a serious enough fling that he’d be invited, along with his friends, to come all the way to Berlint to spend New Year with Becky.


He was charming enough, if not a bit older, Anya was glad to speak Italian and understand his thoughts. He definitely had a strong crush to Becky, but he probably wasn’t quite as taken into her and she, him.


“Come on, let’s dance!”


Becky dragged Anya on the dancefloor. It didn’t take long for the crazy atmosphere and the alcohol to get to her head and follow the frantic rhythm.


It was impossible to not be taken into the crazy atmosphere of this 1920s party. More than a theme, Becky had invented a time machine to take all these young, rich, pressured kids, suddenly unsupervised, into the time of colourful, prosperous, duty-free Roaring 20s! They were loud, happy, booze was flowing, and they didn’t have a worry in the world. It was a gleeful carnival of sensations and experiences. The glittering outfits and jewellery inspired everyone to follow the frenzied dance steps of the professional dancers on the central, round stage, elevated in the very centre of the ballroom.


For a very long time, Anya lost herself in the dancing, following the enthusiastic steps of the Charleston. It didn’t take long for Becky, the star of the evening, to climb on the central scene, joining the dancers, pulling Anya with her. At some point, spinning and dizzy from the frenetic dance that the dancer she had been paired with was doing, Anya caught sight of Damian, staring at her from the other side of the ballroom, on a slightly elevated part. He lifted his drink, grinning to her. She smiled back, just as Becky grabbed her hands. They danced, swinging their hips wildly, heels clicking at every Charleston back-and-forth step. Becky threw her leg up, almost dropping off the stage, if not for Anya and a couple of dancers who caught her.


Still laughing, so hard their abs hurt, sweaty and quite certain their makeup was smudged, the two young ladies finally made their way towards some couches where the Italian group of young men was lounging. Two were openly making out with two young girls, friends of Becky, but the latter didn’t seem to mind. She settled herself against Antonio who lit up when seeing her. He gave her a red coloured cocktail, with a cherry floating in it. She drank it all in one-go, as thirsty as Anya was.


“Chi sei, bellissima donna?” one of the gentlemen who wasn’t currently busy with another asked Anya.


He smiled charmingly, she could have almost been flattered, if he hadn’t had the balls of putting his arm around her shoulders. She forced a smile, grabbing his wrist in what she hoped was a warning gesture.


“Sono un’amica di Becky…” she answered.


It had the opposite effect as the young man’s eyes sparkled to hear her speak his language, with an accent he found sexy to that – or so, she heard in his mind. She rolled her eyes, unimpressed, glancing at Becky who was too lost talking with Antonio to notice a thing.


“Ma! È perfetto! Mi chiamo Carlo, sono un’amico di Antonio! I tuoi occhi sono merovigliosi–”


“Hands off.”


Anya looked up, secretly glad to see Damian stand there, a threatening grin on his face. He looked down at the Italian man, like a ferocious gangster, protecting his lady, in his white suit. Anya’s stomach did a flip and she straightened up, smiling to her boyfriend.


Without waiting for an answer, or for the stunned drunk man to get over his apparition. Damian, still smiling sweetly, took his hand, pushed it off Anya’s shoulders, and he settled himself between the two. It forced Carlo to shuffle away, annoyance clear on his face. Damian put his hand on Anya’s shoulders, dragging her into him and settling down in the couch like he owned it.


“Are you anyone important?” he asked Carlo.


The poor man knew a defeat when he saw one. He stood up, following one of his friends who had been kissing a young woman. He glared at Damian, while putting his arm over both his friend and the girl’s shoulders.


“Ugh, Italians…” Damian grumbled, rolling his eyes, “Are you okay?” he asked Anya.


“I’m fine, I was just about to break his wrist when you showed up.”


“Ah, then next time I should be a little more patient.”


She laughed at that, which made him smile.


“Who are these guys, anyway?”


“Becky’s friends from her trip in Italy. She really, really likes Antonio,” Anya continued, talking directly in his ear to not be overheard despite the music.


She pointed discreetly at the young man who was vividly talking with a chuckling and blushing Becky.


“How old even is this guy?”


Only seventeen, but he looks way older.”


“Probably lied about his age.”


“Nah, he didn’t. She’s making progress, getting a crush on a reasonably aged man.”


“Ah, yes, the last one had been twenty-nine. Or was it fourty-three?” he teased.


She elbowed him, making him laugh. He made a sign to a waiter who brought them drinks. He took two, handing one to Anya. Her head turned and spun, but it was a delightful feeling. Perhaps it was the atmosphere that encouraged her to get as tipsy as possible. It made dancing and laughing so much easier. She could tell from the way he thought and how easy his smile was that Damian was also quite tipsy.


“The least this– what was his name?”




“The least this Carlo could have done was offer you a drink. What a ruffian.”


“Said the man dressed like a gangster–”


“You love it.” he said, quickly nipping at her ear.


She startled and blushed, the rush of blood through her body making her feel sweaty again. Damian grinned, as if he knew exactly the effect he had had on her.


She stared at him, at his lips. His smile widened as they leaned towards each other. Lost in their very own bubble, she put her hand on his leg, squeezing just above his knee. He took her wrist in his fingers, intent on making her touch him further–


“Ah! Damian!” Becky exclaimed, finally noticing him, “Meet Antonio! Antonio, this is Desmond!”


“AH, nice, nice to meet you! Enchanted! Piacere di conoscerti! Ah, che donna meravigliosa, vero?” he continued, pointing at Anya.


“Uh, yeah, si, si,” Damian agreed, although he wasn’t quite sure at what.


Antonio must have guessed it, because he laughed.


“Lucky, lucky man, you!”


“Y-yeah, I am!”


The music was too loud to converse easily. Becky said something into Antonio’s ear and they stood up to go dancing.


“Come on, get moving, you two!” she told them, moving to the dancefloor with Antonio.


Damian stood up, showing his hand to Anya. She flushed, taking it. But before he’d pull her towards the crowd of dancing people, she noticed several people’s thoughts aimed at her and Damian.


Is this Forger? Are they together?


There’s no way, he must be drunk–


Damn it, I had wanted to seduce him tonight!


Glancing over her shoulder, she stopped Damian, noticing several young women from Eden who had been following Damian like vultures.




“Do you prefer to go watch the movies?” he asked, leaning towards her ear to cover the loud melodies.


“What movies– no! But… people are watching, they’ll know about us! Your brother hasn’t given his blessing…”


She glanced, not as discreetly as she had hoped to be, towards the group of young women who were pretending to not be interested in Damian. He followed her gaze and understood her worries. The vultures started getting closer, thinking they had Damian’s attention.


We should probably be more discreet until Demetrius gives his blessing but…


The music changed, to something even catchier.


Too tipsy to care, determined to show to everyone that Anya was his and he was hers, he put his arm around her waist. He pulled her to him swiftly and kissed her. His lips and tongue tasted of martini, a distinct difference with the cherry cocktail she had been enjoying most of the evening.


Several people gasped, not just the little vultures, but even among the dancing crowd. Despite a few other guests, the great majority were Eden students – students who knew very well who Damian Desmond and Anya Forger were… and what their relationship now was.


He pulled away with a big grin.


“Let them see!” he exclaimed.


Before Anya, still flabbergasted by his drunken kiss, could react, he took her hand and took her on the dancefloor. Laughing to herself, she vaguely heard a few shocked and jealous thoughts, but she shut it out, focusing only on the music and Damian’s smile. He took her by the waist and, surprisingly, he had no trouble following the rhythm of what was on the opposite of his usual gala dances. The alcohol might have had a bit of a hand in it.


Anya lost herself in the dancing and in Damian’s arms. A few minutes, or a few hours later, legs achy and sweat accumulated in all the worst places, the music slowed down until it turned into a new take on “Happy Birthday”. Everyone started singing, carrying entire bottles of champagne over their heads as Becky was brought on the main central stage. It was only then that it hit Anya how ingenious Becky’s colour-coded instructions had been: every man was in various shades of white and cream, all the women in metallic colours like gold or silver – but Becky was the only one who could pull off a red and black dress. She stood out like the cherry on top of a cake, the wildest, most cheerful spot of colour in these waves of white and sparkling students.


Four waiters came in, carrying an enormous birthday cake. The whole crowd parted ways, still singing, for them. They put it in front of Becky who swung and danced, sending kisses to the crowd still singing Happy Birthday. Just as they cheered on the final notes, she blew the candles. More cheering ensued, echoed by a brilliant trumpet solo by one of the musicians.


While the waiters started cutting the cake, big enough to feed an army, Becky took the first bites, in front of everyone, publicly sharing her plate with Antonio. Just as Damian somehow managed to get his hands over two plates of the cake, black and red like she was, a delicious forêt noir that Anya was already reaching for.


The wide glass doors opened. Breezes of cold air blew in, refreshing everyone that has been close to melting.


Most people rushed out on the balcony, like every other party of the Ritz-Charlton Hotel. Becky hadn’t been the only one to book an entire floor. Drunken chanting and partying echoed from below and above them. Becky had climbed on a table, a bottle of champagne in one hand, a long and dangerously sharp knife in the other.


“Is it New Year already?” Anya asked, eagerly hopping to the balcony.


“It appears so, I didn’t notice how many hours had gone by!” he said following her, realising that she had somehow managed to snitch one of the cake plates for herself without his noticing.


Some people started counting, a little chaotically, then everyone in the hotel, the air carrying the voices of the different floors and balconies, everyone in Becky 1920s party, people in nearby buildings, people in the streets, down, down, started chanting the few seconds before the New Year:


“Ten! Nine! Eight!!”


Damian grabbed Anya’s waist, kissing her quickly:


“Last kiss of the year–”


She grinned at him as everyone around them, kept screaming quite literally from the rooftops:


“Four! Three! Two! ONE!!”




Anya jumped, ecstatically, shouting as energetically as everyone else.


They were cheering just as the first fireworks started, not far from the hotel, giving them a magnificent and perfect view.






Becky used the long knife to break open the bottle of champagne, the fuzzy alcohol raining on them. More bottles were opened the same way, making Anya break in laughter.


Wind rose, making the entire crowd shiver but they kept screaming at every blooming light in the sky. Figures and effects were drawn in explosive paintings above their heads, colouring everyone’s faces and glimmering outfits.


Damian gave his half-eaten cake to Anya and took off his jacket to put it around her shoulders. She looked up at him, thankful, his cake already in her mouth.


“Hey– I just handed it to you so I could put my jacket on you!”


She should have felt guilty, but she laughed. She gathered the very last bits of the slice on the spoon, on dangerous balance (she had eaten her entire slice already?!) and forced it into his mouth. He almost chocked, quickly munching on the sweet chocolate and cherry cake. Once swallowed, she left the plates to a nearby waiter.


People were sharing kisses, embracing each other and wishing more New Year’s congratulations. The fireworks were still ongoing, the music was still resonating behind them. It was chaos.


Damian saw the massive figure of Watkins giving quick kisses to Becky and other ladies or vigorous handshakes to some friends, including Ewen and Emile who almost fell off the balcony by the force of the shoulder pat they received. Suddenly possessive at the very idea that the giant man would dare look at Anya and think he could kiss her, even for the New Year, Damian grabbed her waist. He pulled her against him, suddenly, and dived headfirst into paradise.


Anya moaned against him, putting her hands against his cheeks, kissing him back. The sweetness of the forêt noir and the tanginess of the alcohol exploded on their tongues and yet, what drunken them the most, was the taste of their love. She melted against him, her body meeting his eagerly. He dived his fingers against her cheeks, her neck, along the length of her back, ignoring the way his fingers got tangled in the fringes of her dress.


The fireworks finale exploded in the sky, causing the entire city to erupt in further cheering.


Anya and Damian’s bodies were the ones to light up, not noticing anything that was happening outside of their bubble of dizzy embrace.


Watkins was completely forgotten, they were so lost in their long, passionate kiss that they didn’t notice it when the young man passed them, eyes wide at their obvious display of affection. In truth, no matter how many gazes glanced their way, they didn’t care.


After a few minutes, they finally pulled away, breathing hard. In the winter night, their breathes caused some fog, but most of the crowd had gone back inside. The fireworks still echoed in their minds and bodies, but it was over. The party continued, the music echoing more wildly than before if possible.


“We should go back inside…” Anya murmured, feeling him shivering in the winter breeze.


“Mmm, uh, yeah…”


He pecked her lips, they deepened the kiss, just as Becky stomped outside.


“Oi! Stop kissing! I need Anya!” she exclaimed, grabbing her best friend’s arm even though they were in the middle of kissing.


“What for?!”




“Don’t you have your Italian guy for that?!” Damian whined.


Anya grabbed his hand, heels clicking as Becky furiously brought her back inside. He was dragged as well and without quite knowing why, they were back at dancing, and dancing, until their feet and legs ached, and they kept dancing even after that.


They lost complete and absolute notion of time. Damian was just vaguely aware of sitting in a couch and noticing that firstly, his mind was clearing up from alcohol, secondly, most guests were leaving, and thirdly, the music was (finally) quieting down. His head was pounding.


Anya came back so suddenly he jumped when she sat down, loudly.


“I found your jacket, it was near the pyramid of gifts,” she said, handing it to him.


She carried a big plate with another pyramid, of sweets she apparently craved, following the evening (night?) of dancing.


“Here, keep it, you’ll catch a cold now that you’re not dancing like a mad woman,” he said, putting it back on her shoulders.


She smiled, and handed him a miraculous slice of birthday cake that had survived all these hours of partying.


“Thank you,” he said, realising he was quite hungry.


They spent a while, quietly eating everything Anya had brought on that plate.


From the other side of the ballroom, Bill Watkins stared at them. He sensed an enemy approaching and he glanced down at Becky. She looked exhausted, her feathers and headdress were gone, her hair was sticking all around, but a giant smile was plastered on her face.


“Your lipstick is all over your face,” he noticed, frowning.


“Not as much as on Antonio’s face,” she answered, laughing loudly at her blatant display of drunken affection to the young Italian man who was somewhere, “Are you going to provoke Damian in a dramatic duel?”


“…No. I genuinely thought that Anya was perfect for me but… I’m not so sure anymore.” He admitted regretfully, alcohol untying his tongue.


Becky, looking surprisingly sober, glanced up at him.


“If it can be of any comfort to you… I really thought that you could have made Anya content.”


“But content is not happy, right? And only Desmond could give her that…”


“He’s an impossible competition, and once he sets his mind on something, there’s no slowing him down.” Becky continued with a smile.


“…They look happy. I’m glad.”


Becky turned her attention towards her friend. Anya was laughing while Damian grimaced for all the chocolate she had accidentally put on his face. She wiped it away and their gazes met. For a moment, there was nothing but simple solace shining between them. It quickly turned into a cheerful banter as he grabbed her hands and applied melted chocolate on her nose. Laughing, Anya fell into his chest. He kissed her forehead, uncaring of who would witness them, half-sprawled on the couch, kissing and teasing.


“They’re adorable!” Becky exclaimed, a hand to her cheek.


“…I guess they are. And… you too.”


Blinking, she looked up at Bill Watkins who gritted his teeth.


“You think I’m adorable?”


He looked down at her, as astonished as her.


“I meant, you and your Italian boyfriend.”


“Oh, of course.”


They stared at each other, suddenly awkward.


“I should go. Enjoy your birthday and New Year, Becky!” Watkins suddenly exclaimed.


“What was that?” she wondered, staring at him go, raising a curious eyebrow.


“Miss Blackbell, most of the guests have left, except for the ones for whom you have extended their invitations to a bedroom on the floor. Should we distribute them their rooms’ keys?” a waiter came to ask her.


“Oh, yes, please! I’ll withdraw soon. Do you have everything handled?”


“Yes, miss.”


The waiter started distributing the keys to the few guests and very close friends she had wanted to keep for the night and spend all of the first of January with. Anya and Damian received their respective keys and it didn’t take long for the two of them to stand up and go to the back of the ballroom, which had been hidden this entire time, to access the few rented rooms.


Becky smirked to herself, watching them go.


“Why such a smile?” Antonio asked, coming back to her, and pinching her cheek teasingly.


“All according to plan…” she answered mysteriously.


He leaned down, telling her a few words that sent shivers down her spine. She laughed and he picked her up, bridal-style, carrying her to her rented room.


Anya and Damian followed the hall of numbers. Some rooms were obviously already used and closed. They stopped, in front of Room 927.


“That’s my room, let me walk you to yours,” he said.


“Uh? No, that’s my room,” she corrected.


They glanced at each other’s cards.


“There’s no way…” he mumbled, opening the door.


Without as much surprise as they should have, they found both their bags on the luxurious bed.


“Of course, I should have guessed Blackbell would get us only one room… Damn this conniving woman–” Damian cursed, throwing his jacket on a nearby chair.


“Does it matter? It’s not like we haven’t spent a night in each other’s bed previously…” Anya answered, quickly removing her shoes and throwing them on the side in the decided manner that a woman who didn’t intend to walk around any longer did.


“I-I guess not…” he answered, flushing.


She hurried in the bathroom, probably the main reason why she didn’t want to waste looking for another room or debate with Becky. Or so he thought, because when she came back, she looked refreshed. Her smudged make-up had been arranged, the sweat was gone from her brow, she even smelled better than he did.


Suspicious, Damian walked around her as she took off her earrings.


“W-what?” she asked, glancing up at him from under her eyelashes.


“…You cleaned up.”


“Well, yes, I don’t want to stink in bed!” she exclaimed, pouting a little.


“You can take a shower, if you want,” he said, shrugging, certain there’d be a collection of soft towels.


He sat down on a couch, putting one ankle on his knee, looking at her up and down.


“Go on, then, I’ll wait here for my turn.” He said, shrugging.


She slammed her jewellery down on the table, glaring at him for some reason.


What is it? I’m being a gentleman, letting her go first, no?


Then he noticed the way she was looking at him, her eyes travelling over his black shirt, down to the white trousers. He raised an eyebrow, temptation and pride suddenly flaring up in him.


“Unless… you want me to be the one taking off your clothes, doll…” he continued, standing up in a swift, elegant movement.


She stammered as he made his way to her. He didn’t waste a minute to smoothly cup her cheek, kissing her longingly. She arched against him, like she had done on the balcony, a couple of hours ago. He was suddenly reminded of the way she had been staring at him all evening. He pulled away, tracing her lower lip with his thumb. He loved beyond reason the way she kept staring at his lips, as if hypnotised.


“But you might prefer taking off my clothes?” he teased, sensually.


A slight whine escaped her. They locked gazes, silently pondering if they should do such a thing. They had kissed a lot, wanted a lot, and their last experience had been short and intense. They had been sober, which had helped guiding their actions instead of blurring the limits of what they were ready to do.


“Are you tipsy right now?” he asked seriously.






He kissed her again, hard enough that she stumbled against the table. She immediately kissed him back. Any trace of alcohol burnt away, replaced by the fizzy and building excitation of youthful lust.


The build-up was fast and intense, they had spent the entire evening eying one another, warmed by alcohol and bodies pressed close.


Damian put his hands on her hips, bringing her up on the table, kissing her jaw and neck. She tilted her head backwards, her fingers tangling in his hair. She grabbed the damn fedora that had haunted her all evening, throwing it away. His hands were already rubbing the sides of her thighs. She wrapped her legs around him, pulling him closer. They kissed again, excitedly, sloppily. Impatiently, roughly, she started pulling at his tie and the buttons of his black shirt. Once open, he quickly took it off his shoulders. Anya held back a growl as she leaned down, kissing his neck, hands tracing his sides and muscles. He sighed, smiling to himself as she explored his body. He took off the headdress from her hair and started pulling at the long pearl necklaces still clinging against her dress.


Sensing the pull of the necklaces against her throat, she looked up, helping him pull them off. When only one was left, Damian used it to force her head backwards. Careful not to pull too tightly, he kissed and bit her neck, not caring if anyone saw the love bites all over her body the next day.


Anya groaned, dragging her leg against his side. The sound that vibrated against his tongue, the salty taste of her sweaty skin taking over his lips, and her slight movement, sparked a fiery desire. Moving away, he took off her necklace, admiring her for a short moment. Sitting on the table, bending backwards, her legs keeping him close. Her emerald eyes met his, darkened by lust.


He had never seen her like that before.


He started pulling at her dress. She jumped off the table, helping him out by pulling and wriggling her body until the sparkly clothe clicked on the floor. He immediately dug his fingers in her sides, drawing him to him. She kissed him back, pushing him and pulling him towards the bed, no doubt feeling his hardening desire for her. The moment her hands were around his shoulders, he bent down and lifted her up once more. She wrapped her legs around his waist. He dropped her on the edge of the bed, pushing without a care their bags that were still there. They fell loudly on the floor. She unclasped her bra in one swift movement.


He fell on his knees. Reverence shone in his gaze as he devoured the sight of her delicious body.


The slightest gasp escaped her, revealing her surprise as he pulled her towards him. He kissed her tummy, making her giggle. He traced the lean muscles until he reached her breasts. Their previous and short experience proved to be promising because he didn’t hesitate when he put his mouth around the erect nipple, using his hand to tease the other. It didn’t take long for Anya to arch into his mouth, sighing and moaning. Bolder, he started using his teeth, making her gasp and shake under him. The mix of teeth, tongue, sucking, and tweaking proved marvellous. She pulled at his hair, her voice and gasps more erratic and less and less subtle. He loved those sounds, every single sound that came out of her made him harder and braver.


“Anya, I’m going to make you scream now,” he said in a voice dark with promises.


She glanced at him, curious and turned-on by those words. She imperceptibly tried to close her legs, but he grabbed her thighs, not letting her do such a foolish thing. Not when he was hot and rampant like that.


“D-Damian…” she sighed.


Holding onto her knees, keeping her legs open for him, he leaned down. He quickly smelled the musty scent of her desire. That urged him on.


He had that effect on her. She became wet because of him. She wriggled and moaned for him.


Of course, she made him feel a thousand times hotter than normal, and she wasn’t even touching him.


Some savage, animalistic urge took over him as he breathed in deep. All he wanted was to bury his face in her most intimate flower, to discover her petals and glistening bud, one after another. With his tongue, obviously.


He reigned in his feral instinct and gently kissed the side of her knee, slowly, dangerously slowly making his way up her thigh, leaving soft pecks, delighting in the soft skin.


“A… a kiss for a kiss…” Anya let out, breathing heavily, “You expect the same in return… right?”


He hadn’t expected anything, but his cock throbbed eagerly at that idea.


“Dangerous thing to say, you sheba,” he answered.


The animal took over. He grabbed the sides of her underwear, pulling abruptly. She gasped, almost jumping off the bed. Without wasting a second, he grabbed her hips and pulled her to him. He buried his face against her core. Her gasp was not quite finished when she screamed, in shock.


He should have probably been more tender for his first taste of her, a faraway part of his brain thought.


He moaned. His mind blanked. It was all he lived for now.


Anya’s lips trembled as he slowly, excruciatingly slowly, started exploring her in a way she never had. Her fists tightened in the sheets. All she could see was his mess of black hair and his bare shoulders, moving to the rhythm of his head.


His tongue touched her clitoris. Electrified, she let out a scream. He startled, as surprised as she was by her sudden reaction. She grabbed his hair, not knowing if she wanted to push him away or pull him closer. As he did another sweep of his tongue against her pearl, she just tightened her fist.




She closed her lips, throwing her head backwards. He tightened his grip on her, which somehow made it worse– no, better, so much better. It didn’t take long for Damian to figure out what she liked, what made her jump and gasp.


He pulled away, glancing up. He licked his lips, which made her core heat so quickly that it was a miracle she didn’t burst into flames.


“I said I wanted to hear you scream…” he said darkly.


He passed his fingers against her core. She honestly saw white and black, lost in some other place for a short moment.


“M-make me–” she replied in a gasp.


He growled, gladly accepting the challenge. He used his fingers, diving them into her vagina. She cried out, this time in pain. He must have understood that he had been too rough, too quick, because he pulled them out, biting his lower lip.




“J-just… go slowly… please…” she answered.


He nodded, deciding against using his fingers. He just traced her clitoris and her entrance with his tongue, quickly making her sigh and moan once more.


She felt his fingers probe gently. She felt his need for encouragement, all his courage gone after accidentally hurting that sensitive area. She opened her legs wider, softly pulling at his hair. That was all he needed to slowly use one finger to enter her. He moaned against her, his tongue making the sound vibrate into her entire body. She almost fell backwards, overwhelmed by sensation. White and black dots danced in front of her eyes. She had to breathe to focus on what he was doing, which immediately sent another tingling wave from her core to her entire body, leaving sparkling heat.




He seemed encouraged by it, using his fingers and his tongue to make her moan more, louder. She tightened her hold on his hair. He used his teeth, making her gasp and arch her body.




His other hand caressed her inner thigh. She shivered. Violently.




His fingers reached a part of her that made her go blind.




Her abs burnt from holding herself up. She fell backwards, on the bed. But it wasn’t done yet. He pressed his hand against her tummy to keep her down, intensifying the rhythm of his tongue against her.


“A-ah! D-Damian!” she cried out, rolling her hips to meet his mouth.


He growled against her, starting to move back and forth his finger. It was too much and not enough. She bucked her hips, a moan building, building in the back of her throat.


“P-please! J-just– Damian!” she continued, voice rising as he passed his free hand against her tummy, up her ribs that stood out from her frenetic movements, until he grasped her breast.


The accumulation of sensation only encouraged her further to roll her hips, against his mouth, his delightful tongue, desperate to reach the absolute culmination that only he could offer her.


Realising he was getting clumsy with her erratic wriggling, he took out his fingers. She gasped. Both hands dug into the tender flesh of her hips. He pressed his mouth impossibly deeper, growling, moaning, as her taste invaded his mouth.




His tongue went faster, harder. Her orgasm hit them both.


“AAAH!” she cried out, arching off the bed.


Body electrified. Skin covered in pearls of sweat. Nothing but white took over her mind. Frozen over the bed, fingers tight around his hair, Anya barely realised what had happened until she completely collapsed on the bed.


She had never had a peak like that. Breathing hard, she opened her eyes, white and black dots dancing happily. That orgasm had hit her like a sudden summer rain, accompanied by thunderous lightning.


Breathing hard, she didn’t even realise, eyes getting surprisingly sleepy after such a high, that her fingers had let go of Damian’s hair until he moved, away from her. She suddenly felt too cold, shivering from the accumulated sweat on her too hot skin. Her entire body shook, and she realised that it wasn’t just the air that made her shiver – it was the aftermath of her peak, like the echoes of an earthquake. All her muscles tensed, rolling against her, like a cat curling his back, asking for more pettings.


Damian made his way next to her, leaning on one elbow, grinning so widely he couldn’t even properly lick his lips. He was so proud of himself, he was glowing like a star. She looked up at him, taking in his dishevelled state, the glistening love juice on his chin. And his eyes. His burning, intense, green-golden eyes that she wanted to drown in.


“So? Am I amazing or amazing?” he asked cockily.


She didn’t bother answering. She put her hands against his cheeks, rolling him on his back and kissing him deeply. He moaned, hand going against the back of her head to intensify their kiss. Her leg brushed against his trousers, and she was suddenly aware that she was entirely naked, and he had yet to drop the rest of his clothes.


She didn’t waste time, making her way down his chin, his throat, leaving kisses and biting marks that made him shiver and growl. It was an amazingly empowering sensation to stand over a man of his calibre, his power, his size, and make him sigh. Biting her lower lip, her hands reached his belt, unbuckling it quickly. It was much easier, standing over him like that. He looked up, swiftly raising his hips when she pulled down his white trousers. Getting impatient and reckless from the lack of touching, he sat up when she took off his shoes and socks. She kissed him back, his hands embracing her tight waist as she fell over him, back on the bed. Their noses and teeth clacked, a little uncomfortably but they didn’t care. She sat over his hips, feeling his burning erection against her core, even through his underwear, the last layer of clothe between their bodies.


She opened and closed her lips, wondering if she should ask him what he wanted, but his thoughts were loud and clear. All he wanted, craved, needed was any sort of relief. She observed him, sliding her hands down his beautiful body, settling between the two of them. Against him. His long, hard erection.


He sighed, a deep, heavy sound, as he let his head fall back.


Heart beating furiously, nearly as much as his when he had been between her legs, she tentatively slid her hand up and down his length. He was tall and lean, she shouldn’t have been surprised by the sheer size of him, but she hadn’t expected him to be so large. As imposing as his ego. She almost got annoyed at how fitting that was – for the first time, his arrogant, cocky behaviour was justified. But a part of her, her constantly growing desire for him and the embers of her previous orgasm were enraptured to know that thisall this… this handsome, prideful, majestic man was hers, all hers, only hers.


Eager to please him and bring him as much pleasure as he had for her, she leaned down. She pulled off his underwear, heart beating fast when he didn’t react as vividly as for his trousers. Instead, he grabbed her wrist.


“A-are you sure? Y-you don’t have to…” he hesitated, cheeks crimson, but his gaze visibly thrilled at the possibility.


“A kiss for a kiss,” she answered, pecking his lips quickly.


That shut up him. Obedient as a well-raised child, he raised his hips and that last piece of clothing slid off his body with surprising ease. Or maybe she pulled too fast, too impatiently, she couldn’t quite tell.


He remained sitting, biting on his lower lip hard to smother any sound he might make, watching Anya observing him, then glancing down at his erection. She held her breathe. A new wave of heat rushed down.


They were entirely, utterly, naked. Nothing protected them from whatever place their desire would take them.


Heavens, this is insane, we’ve only been dating for a few weeks, and she’s already– I’m already– I’m ready to do anything she’d ask of me… A slave to my Queen.


Anya was about to touch him, but she hesitated. She looked back up at him and he smiled, trying with much difficulty to hide his disappointment.


“Should we… figure out how far we’ll go?” she asked in a hushed, timid voice.


“Uuuh… I can put my clothes back on, i-if you don’t trust me…”


“No, no, no, I do! I do trust you… I just… how far do we want to go?” she hesitated, glancing away.


He swallowed hard, trying to control his desire. He wanted to do a million things that unexperienced virgins should definitely not consider for a first time.


“Let’s wait,” he decided, “I-I don’t think we’re ready… I-I mean…”


He pointed at his crotch, blushing even more.


“I-I want you, don’t take me wrong…”


“I can see that,” she replied, smiling a little, amusement coming back in her eyes.


“But we’re too quick, too eager… let’s… uh… try to wait before doing it… at least, until my brother gives his blessing. After that… we’ll figure it out as we go…”


She nodded, silently agreeing. Then, to his great surprise, she lifted a hand, moving her pinkie finger. She smirked, obviously happy to have confounded him.


“Pinkie promise?”


“You moron– we’re naked as worms and you want to pinkie promise– fine!!” he exclaimed, hooking his finger against hers.


She chuckled adorably. He rolled his eyes, acting annoyed, but dying on the inside because she was the cutest, greatest, funniest person he had ever met.


She pushed him down suddenly, grinning wickedly.


“Now, down, baby, my turn to make you scream,” she murmured, green eyes shining in the night like a panther.


“…You sheba,” he mumbled, mind going numb at how sexy she was.


She chuckled against his throat, quickly going back down his body, hands constantly caressing his thighs, edging far, far closer than any woman’s hands had ever gotten to his crotch. Her nails traced the lines of his hips, following the V and the line of dark hair going down to his erection.


She was so close, her hair kept tickling his body. He tried to remain serious and focus on her touch but frankly, her hair was in the way and bothering him–


As if sensing his growing annoyance, she pushed all her hair away, on one side, to his great relief because he had been really, really close to just laugh from the tickling sensation (and the nerves). Before he’d think about it any further, her lips kissed his length. He gasped, instinctively sitting up.


Anya grinned against the sensitive skin. She took in the sweaty smell that, she bet, was full of pheromones to drive her mad. She slowly kissed her way to the top of his erection, glistening with white pre-cum – she hadn’t known about that, which made her hesitate.


They had learned a lot about preventing any pregnancy – Eden was adamant on doing regular session of sex-ed every three months, to the students’ great embarrassment and distress – but they never mentioned anything about what sex was like, what to expect, or heavens forbid how great it was (as far as her very little experience had revealed).


Damian didn’t seem particularly panicked about it, so she shrugged her shoulders, considering that it probably was normal. She went back to building her courage to take him in her mouth. She had seen a few movies, with Becky, that involved what she wanted to try – but it never showed any detail on how to do any of it!


“Damn it! I’m at a loss! How did you do it so expertly?!” she cried out, glaring at him.




“I’m just going for it!” she decided stubbornly.




Impatient and reckless as she was, she barely heard him. She wrapped her lips around the head of his erection, sucking in a way she thought might be good. He cried out, immediately grabbing her hair. She let go, suddenly terrified she had hurt him.


Gasping, he watched her with wide eyes.




“Again,” he ordered, breathless, “Do it again– please…”


She didn’t stop watching him, wanting to see his expression. She lowered her face down, taking him back in her mouth. His reaction was instantaneous. He let his head back, moaning with a wide smile forming on his lips. His fingers tightened in her hair, sparking something deep in her. She clenched her legs unconsciously, slowly adjusting her mouth to his sizeable member.


It took a little bit of time, and a lot of embarrassing slurping sounds (the movies didn’t have any of that, they usually had sensual songs in the background!) but his moans were worth all her bashfulness. She eventually found out what he liked when she added her hands to the mess – she was drooling, to her great shame! But there was no way she’d stop when he was groaning so eagerly.


His hips started bucking up, making her gag a little. He tried to control himself when he noticed her growing difficulty, but the sensations were too great, too overwhelming, to care. They were tipsy again, on each other’s lust, blood sparkling from fervour rather than champagne.


“Faster…” he muttered.


She did her best, going up and down with greater speed, her hand following the rhythm on the rest of his shaft.


“Mmgrrr… Anya–”


Her name, on his lips, in such a heavy voice, thick with lust, dripping with greed, stroke the fire in her body.


“Anya… Anya, Anya…”


He couldn’t stop, her name a prayer on his lips. A prayer for release. A prayer to reach the heavens. The sweetest death was promised to him.


His throat let out long, ardent moans that rose, louder and louder, turning into a sound closer to a lascivious growl than any of the soft sounds she had let out.


“Anya, Anya, I’m close, I’m–”


His grip on her hair got tighter. He closed his eyes, trying to hold back, to fight the urge to just shout. She went faster, impossibly, inconceivably faster, better, greater.


Anya, I’m– FUCK!”


He roared.


He held her down tightly. His mind went impossibly blank. White and pure as the angels’ song in blissful heavens.


Anya gagged and coughed, his erection still in her mouth. She startled, moving around even though he kept growling, and growling, and growling, coming long and hard into her mouth. She tried to swallow but she somehow, mind-reading ability an all, hadn’t expected it to come so fast. The moment his fingers lessened, she pulled back, coughing loudly. She swallowed whatever was left in her mouth. She would have probably appreciated the salty semen, had he not chocked her on it by accident.


Damian fell backwards, eyes closed, body so relaxed she could have bet he was nothing but jelly. He breathed heavily, handsome body glistening with sweat, like pearls of mercury. A peaceful, euphoric, orgasmic smile pulled on his lips.


Anya observed him, heart beating like a drum to see him so blissful. She brushed her fingers against her chin and around her lips, where the rest of his cum had dripped. This time, she could appreciate the taste, finding herself a little gross to like it so much…


Never thought I’d grow fond of something new so quickly… she thought to herself, sucking discreetly on her fingers.


His mind was still mostly blank, empty of nothing but her. Thought of her, of her lips, of her taste, of how much he loved her. It exploded like fireworks.


Then, he started laughing. So suddenly, so authentically, it took her by surprise. Her heart missed a beat, then she started chuckling, taken into his elated joy.


“D-did you like it…?” she asked timidly.


He opened his eyes again. They shone with specks of golden stars, a whole constellation. He grabbed her hand, pulling her down to him quickly. He didn’t answer, kissing her deeply instead. He moaned into her mouth to taste himself, the remnants of her on his lips.


She pulled away, laughing, and leaned her cheek against her palm.


“So. Am I amazing or amazing?” she teased, echoing his earlier words.


He took her chin between his fingers, kissing her again. And again. And again. Never tiring of the way she felt. She pressed herself against his side, every soft part of her body perfectly moulding the hard lines of his.


“Amazing,” he finally answered, kissing her cheek, she laughed at the tickling sensation, “Incredible,” he added, kissing her jaw, “Stunning, marvellous…”


He added a kiss for every word he found.


“Dreamy, unbelievable, beautiful, gorgeous, delightful…”


As sensual as his kisses were, she laughed, dazzled by his attentions. He chuckled, coming back to kiss her lips.


“You know… I never heard you say ‘fuck’ before,” she teased, smirking, profusely amused by his suddenly flushed cheeks.


“…You’re the only one who would have the power of making me swear…”


She laughed, falling against the comfortable pillows, and stretching.


“At least, out loud!” she added, still chuckling.


He paused, blinking at her.


“Out loud? How else would you hear me swear otherwise?” he questioned, raising a curious eyebrow.


She froze, blinking.


Damn, I relax far too much around him, I need to watch my mouth–


“I-I mean… I bet you swear all the time in your head!”


“…I don’t know, I don’t really listen to my own thoughts,” he admitted with a shrug, suddenly pondering universal and philosophical questions about one’s own mind and consciousness.


“Which probably explains why you’re so bad at understanding things about yourself… Like your feelings for me, which took you, uh, a whole decade to admit and act on?”


“H-hey!” he exclaimed, suddenly embarrassed.


She laughed, snorting, and rolling around. He sighed, smiling to herself. He leaned down and kissed her forehead.


A sweet soreness took over their cooling bodies, they faced each other for a moment. He kept brushing his thumb against her cheek, admiring the way she fought sleep. Her eyes kept closing, her eyelashes trembling against her cheeks. Her swollen lips, dried lipstick on it, were moving softly, to the rhythm of her breathing. Her hand was caressing his arm, drawing him closer. When her movements became more languid, slower, sleepier, he reached for the sheets, tucking her into it. The only sign that she wasn’t completely asleep, body heavy with slumber, was that, when he hugged her tightly, she moved so his chest rested against her back. He closed his eyes, breathing in her strawberry and vanilla shampoo, the scent covered by sweat, make-up, and remnants of the evening’s champagne. And him. To his great delight, his ego stroked even more than with the way her eyes had darkened with desire for him, she smelled of him.


His lips trembled, against the back of her neck.


I love you, Anya Forger, I love you, I love you, I love you… he thought.


She shivered and sighed in his arms, as if, even in her sleep, she could sense what he wanted to tell her…


But when he’ll say it for the first time, he wanted her to be awake. He wanted her to hear him, to listen, to understand how much he loved her.


He’d roar it from the rooftops.


I love you, Anya Forger…


That was a promise he made to himself, as he fell asleep.

Chapter Text



Guiding Star



If anyone found suspicious that Anya and Damian walked together, holding hands, in the ballroom miraculously cleaned of everything from the previous night and turned a breakfast buffet for all of Becky’s closest friends, no one said anything. At least, out loud. But Anya heard their every thought and had a keen suspicion of the horrifying and shameful rumours that would soon start spreading at Eden Academy.


There was no way Demetrius Desmond would never hear of it.


She has no shame, walking in there, holding his hand like he belongs to her…


Damian deserves better!


What a whore…


I’ll tell my father, he’ll be sure to force Damian’s brother to put him back in place.


She’s just a commoner, she’s nothing!


That’s not fair… Damian is a much better man than she could ever hope for!


Anya had a very different opinion of Becky’s friends, especially the ones who usually were nice to her at Eden. She had had no idea that dating Damian would antagonise so many of them.


Becky, on the other hand, immediately perked up when she saw them. She had been clearly flirting with Antonio, at her side, but he smiled, good-heartedly to Anya and Damian. She waved eagerly at them, and patted the seat next to hers.


“Anya! I kept you a seat! Desmond can join too, I guess…” she added in a less enthusiastic voice.


Damian rolled his eyes, sitting down on the other side of Anya, and greeting Ewen and Emile who were yawning, not handling the alcohol and long parties as well as the rest of them. Pretty much everyone was hangover.


“You look perky! Did you have a good night’s sleep?” Becky asked teasingly.


Anya almost chocked on the orange juice she had been drinking. She leaned towards her friend to have some privacy.


“You… did it on purpose, didn’t you?” she mumbled, blushing.


“Of course! Consider it my New Year’s gift, you’re welcome.”


Becky took her hands, drawing her away from the others and lowering even more her voice. Her eyes were sparkling:


“So… did you do it?”


Her voice trembled in excitement, images of what she assumed Anya and Damian had done flashing in her mind (Anya almost chocked again to see such things in her friend’s mind).


“O-of course not!” she answered, but her hesitation made Becky raise an eyebrow.


“Liar, liar, double penitence, you know… You don’t have to hide anything from me, I won’t tell a soul!”


“W-we really didn’t do it, Becky… w-we decided to wait…”


Becky knew that her friend was too honest to lie about this sort of things. Her shoulders dropped, utterly defeated, and clearly disappointed.


“B-but, we still did some stuff…” Anya added.


That cheered up Becky, who clasped her hands.


“I knew it!!” she exclaimed, loud enough for everyone to hear.




“I know, I know– I won’t tell anything to anyone, but you MUST give me the juicy details later–”


“Later, Becky, now hush before all Eden finds out before lunch that I spent the night with Damian!!”


Becky giggled, far too happy about it to debate it any longer with Anya. The moment she was back at the table, sighing deeply, Damian leaned towards her:


“You’re okay there? If she’s troublesome, just tell me and I’ll give her a warning or two…”


“It’s fine… just Becky being Becky…”


During the brunch, the atmosphere far lighter than the previous night, Becky opened most of her gifts, thanking the ones who were present, and making a list of ‘thank you’ notes to send to all the others.


Becky had organised some games for her large group of friends, which finished with much laughter and amusement. Even Damian dropped some of his usual aloofness and relaxed,  inspired by Anya’s easy demeanour. Eventually, the entire group had to start leaving, and as promised, Damian was the one to drive Anya back to her home. He walked her all the way to the apartment that the young people found empty. Loid and Yor had gone for a walk with Rosie and Bond.


“I should go soon, or my mother will worry,” Damian mumbled, noticing the time.


It was winter so the day passed by quickly, but the sky was already turning into shades of greyish purple.


“So… I’ll see you… at Eden?” Anya asked, pouting a little.


“Less than a week, it’ll go by quickly,” he answered, forcing a smile, “I’ll be back at the academy on Sunday, we could meet somewhere, if you want?”


“You’ll be tired, I don’t want to take all your free time. Besides, if you fall behind and your grades fail, you’ll blame me.”


She meant it as a joke, but he frowned. He cupped her cheeks, pulling her towards him.


As if I would ever let myself fall behind… The one I’m worried about is you.”


“Hey! I’m not that bad at studying! Even if I get distracted easily…”


“And I am your greatest distraction.”


She rolled her eyes, but she didn’t deny it. He kissed her nose and she immediately started smiling again.


“Just a few days, and I’ll see you everyday…” he murmured, brushing his nose against hers.


She smiled, tenderly. A warm softness surrounded them. She leaned against him and he hugged her tightly. She felt so comforted, she could have fallen asleep.


Damian kissed the top of her head, then after a few more minutes of soft and regretful goodbyes, he left… Only a few minutes later, her parents and Rosie came back, surprised to see her back so quickly. She was curled up on the couch, covered in a blanket.


“Anya, are you okay?” Loid immediately asked, jumping to the worst conclusions.


“…I miss him already…” she muttered.


Loid sighed in relief and he smiled, sitting next to her. He put his hand against her head, brushing it softly.


“You’ll see him again soon enough. Did you have fun at Becky’s party?”


Anya couldn’t hold back the wide smile that took over her face. It made her parents smile in return. She nodded eagerly.


“Yes, it was so much fun,” she answered.




There were still a few days before her necessary return to Eden and she spent most of her time painting, drawing, and spending time with Rosie, giving some much-needed reprieve from her parents. She loved taking her sister for walks in the park where they played in the snow for hours, before going home, grabbing a hot cocoa on the way back – and a babyccino for Rosie, of course.


“Is your babyccino good?” Anya asked.


Her sister nodded enthusiastically, licking her upper lip covered in a white line of warm and foamy milk.




“It’s Anya!”




She looked up when she heard over a dozen of voices calling her. Smiling, she waved and brought Rosie closer to a group of orphans from a nearby children’s homes where she had spent the last few years volunteering.


“Anya, how lovely to see you again,” Marta, one of the carers of the centre, said.


The whole group approached Anya and Rosie. Many of the children hugged Anya or held onto her coat and legs.


“Oh, how you’ve grown already! And you, Mary, look at your new hair! Robert, have you practiced your counting?”


They all happily piped in all the progress and new things they had been doing in the last few months since last seeing Anya. After a few minutes, they went on the snowy playground, including Rosie in their games, while Anya and Marta looked over from afar.


“You must be very busy now that you are at a high-school level at Eden,” Marta continued with a smile.


“Ah, yes, many things have happened recently. How have the children been doing? Did you receive the funding that you had applied for in August?” she asked.


Marta darkened, then shook her head. Anya’s shoulders dropped, severely disappointed.


The children’s home – a fancy name for what was an orphanage – had been struggling for years to have enough money and fundings to properly take care of the children until they’d find a home and family… If they ever did. Not everyone was as lucky as Anya had been. Especially when it comes to teaching essentials, these children had a few teachers or went in local schools but most of them had had difficult lives that had made education difficult. By the time they arrived in any school, they had accumulated too many struggles to keep up with their classmates. Anya had been volunteering, for years, at several children’s homes, in particular this one because it was so close to her home she walked by the children very often, to help them with their studies, or with other activities such as painting, sports, or theatre (with the occasional help of Becky).


And the more years passed by, the older a child got, the more difficult it was for them to be adopted. If a child didn’t meet a parents’ expectations, scholarly wise, it made things even harder for these children. By the time they reach eight or ten years old, especially if they’ve gone through several families, they had a tendency on giving up on every little joy…


Anya had become aware of her incredible luck – she had been adopted by the best parents in the universe, she was receiving one of the best educations from the elite school of the country… What else was she supposed to do but share the little she knew with these children? What else was she supposed to do but give them a fighting chance in this world?


“We didn’t get the funding… You know how difficult it is for children’s homes to receive any help. The government has increased the electricity tax too, so we’ll probably have to quit the monthly movie outing…”


“It’s not fair. These children need all the help they can get. If they are unable to be adopted by a family, the least they deserve is a chance to create a good life for themselves!”


Marta only smiled, sadly. She was used and worn to the bones to see the same history repeating itself again, and again, and again


“You’re a very good girl, Anya.” She said, patting the young lady’s shoulder.


She clenched her fists, glancing at her little sister who was running after a few of the children. Some were sitting on the benches. They were so small, they looked so fragile, but their eyes were already so old.


“I’ll come back soon. To help them out. I could teach them more things. And if you can’t go to the cinema, we could create stories ourselves!”


Marta opened and closed her lips, obviously hesitant.


“Why would you do that? Didn’t you receive your eight Stella stars, already?” she asked, confused.


Anya blinked.


“Yes, but I’m not doing any of it for the Stella stars. I want to help them. To help all of you.” She answered determinedly.


The older woman smiled, visibly relaxing, but there was some sort of doubt in her eyes. As if she didn’t quite believe that Anya would actually come and help.


“Thank you very much, Anya. We appreciate it so much.” She answered with a smile.


She felt so angry at the world, at the government for not giving enough fundings, for the amount of money that her friends spent on ridiculous things, that Anya ordered hot cocoa with marshmallows for every single child. If possible, they all loved her even more after that, thanking her as if she were offering them a treasure.


Heart wrenched, she noticed how none of them had gloves. Their clothes looked old and worn out. She knew better than anyone that Marta and the other carers at the children’s home did their best, but they could only do the best with what little they received…


When she went home, and for the several days left before she returned to Eden, she prepared a whole plan to help out this children’s home. But as she watched her carefully written planning, she realised something disheartening: whatever she came up with would only be a temporary solution. She had helped before, she knew other adults and students who had helped as well, but it had never been enough. The problem had its roots far deeper. It was the lack of attention and help that children’s homes, all across the country, received from the government. She wanted to believe that what she could do, as a young student at Eden, could help, a small step forward could be enough… If she could help just one child she’d be happy.


But she couldn’t forget their small hands, reddened by the cold and the absence of gloves. She couldn’t shake off those haunted gazes on too young faces.


“You’re so good with children. Why don’t you do a career taking care of children? They love you and it’d make you happy, I think.”


Damian’s words came back to her, on a loop, again and again. Every time she thought of those children.


She pulled the paper she had been written on, turning it into a tight, angry ball she threw in the bin. Her gaze landed on her Eden bag, as if seeing through the leather to find the paper she had been ignoring for months now. Hands clenched tightly, she picked up her bag, and pulled out the document the teachers had asked them to fill in at the beginning of the year.


  1. Psychiatrist Help people.
  2. Art?


She scratched it all. And rewrote what she was now considering:


  1. Psychiatrist Help people. Help children and orphans.
  2. Art?




At the Desmond Estate, Damian had been practicing his piano when he received a phone call from Marius Steinmann. Demetrius had mentioned the old man had wanted to talk to him during the Gala that he had escaped unexpectedly.


“Marius, how are you?”


“Fine, fine, my boy. How were your many evenings with your lady friend, eh?” he answered in a teasing tone.


Damian couldn’t fight the flush that coloured his cheeks. He still had dreams about that night he had spent with Anya at the Ritz-Charlton. He still sometimes wondered if it had all been a dream.


“It was really nice. Demetrius told me you had wanted to talk to me at the gala…”


“Ah, right, it’s the very reason why I’m calling you. Look, I won’t beat around the bush. I know you’re unsure about your future after Eden, but you are considering becoming the CEO of the Group, right?”


“U-uh… I… I’m not sure yet, I… I guess I wouldn’t mind but…”


Marius laughed, for a reason that escaped Damian.


“That doesn’t sound very convinced!”


“There are a lot of things I’m not convinced about anymore…” he admitted in a low voice.


There was a short silence, the conversation suddenly a lot heavier, even though the two men were in different cities.


“Would you like to join the board of directors during our next meeting?”


Damian blinked, not sure he had heard right.


“Uuh… but, it’s… forbidden? Only the directors and share-holders or their representants can assist the meetings… I’m… I’m just a kid.”


“Nonsense! You may be underage, but you’re studying at Eden, you’re a Desmond! If you’re going to become the CEO someday, you might as well start making yourself known as such! And even if you decide of another path… what have you got to lose to assist to those meetings? All you need to do is show up, and figure out if you might enjoy doing it for the rest of your life.”


Damian pondered this option. Even if he had already chosen to become a businessman, he hadn’t considered that Marius, or anyone else, would let him walk into Donovan’s footsteps so quickly…


“I’m warning you, kiddo, it involves listening to a lot of boring people and signing a lot of incomprehensible papers!” Marius added, his booming laugh echoing to the words.


Damian couldn’t fight the smile that appeared on his face.


“That sounds a lot like Eden to me.”


Marius snorted, very inelegantly.


“You wish! But you’ve got plenty of time to figure that out… Would you join us, then? Our next meeting is on January 15th. Your brother already agrees, and he’ll sign the authorisation to let you off the academy grounds. If you get bored, no one will be angry at you for leaving early – you’ll be the only one allowed to do so, so don’t waste that chance, AH AH!”


“Why not?” Damian said, his mouth speaking before he could think properly.


He felt a weird rush of adrenalin he couldn’t quite comprehend.


“Wonderful! I’ll tell my assistant to prepare you some hot milk and add more croissants to put you to sleep with ease!”


“Hey! I’m not a child!”


Marius laughed gleefully.


“If you’re going to let me assist to the meeting, then send me information beforehand so I can be prepared,” Damian added seriously.


“Damn, kiddo, you already sound like you know what you’re doing.”


“On the contrary, I have everything to learn.”


Marius laughed again and promised to have him some documents sent – but nothing confidential, for safety, before the Desmond Group’s meeting.


When Damian put down the phone, he let out a heavy breath, heart beating fast.


It was starting.


He wasn’t sure what made him so excited, so eager. But something new in his life had started. He had never felt such a genuine rush to learn before. It had always only been to earn Stella stars but this… this was far more important, something still unknown which could determine the course of his life.


It was starting.


A few days later, at Eden Academy…


Damian stood at the gate, arms crossed over his chest, ignoring the cold that seeped through his Imperial Scholar cloak and winter uniform. Many students walked past him, curious to see Damian Desmond stand there. But many more would side-eye him and whisper to their friends, obviously sharing gossips from the last few days: Damian Desmond had been seen at Becky Blackbell’s birthday party, he spent a night with a girl, he was dating Anya Forger, Anya Forger had tricked him into a relationship, he had even been seen to the Grand Theatre with three different people…


He ignored it all. These whispers and heavy gazes slid off his shoulders like oil from water.


When Becky’s car pulled up, she stepped out, flashing her new haircut for everyone to see. He raised his eyes to the sky, just before he caught sight of Anya. She immediately smiled and walked faster to get to him.


“Look! Look, it’s Damian Desmond!”


“Is he really dating the Forger Bolt girl?”


“No way!”


Lost in their bubble, completely ignoring the nasty words thrown at them, Anya slid her hands into Damian’s just as he leaned down to kiss her cheek.








“Elizabeth will be RED!”


“I knew it!!”


“I need to tell Anastasia!!”


“You two are disgusting,” Becky growled, hushing Damian away from Anya with the back of her hand, “Keep doing that and the professors will expulse you.”


“Physical gestures of affection are forbidden on the academy grounds, but I am technically outside the gates, right now,” Damian answered, tapping his foot on the sidewalk.


“Don’t stretch your luck. I don’t want to lose my Anya because you can’t keep your hands off her.”


“I’ve studied the academy’s booklet in lengths, I know what we can and cannot do in details,” he replied with a determined look on his face.


Becky didn’t seem particularly impressed. She put her arm through Anya’s, forcing her to walk towards the gates.


“Let’s go, we don’t want to be late because Mr Swooning is too busy sticking his tongue down your throat.”


“OI!” Damian exclaimed, turning red.


“Don’t worry, Becky, we know what we’re doing,” Anya replied, although she wasn’t sure she was entirely confident about that.


Do you, though, you silly lovebirds,” Becky replied.


For better or worse, they made it to their classroom, Damian and Becky bickering about each other’s nicknames. They were about to take their seats, when Anya saw Professor Henderson make his way to another classroom.


“You two go ahead!” she exclaimed, turning around.


They watched her run to the old professor. She talked to him for a few minutes before going back to Becky and Damian.


“What was that about?” Becky asked, raising an eyebrow.


“Just a few questions,” Anya answered vaguely, sitting down at her usual seat.


She could feel Damian’s intense gaze, but before he could ask any question, their first class started. Maths, the one she dreaded the most.


At the end of the day, even though she wanted nothing more but spend some time with Damian at the library (studying), she left her friends behind to go see Professor Henderson in his office. He received her with tea and biscuits, like always.


“So, what was it you wanted to discuss with me, Miss Forger?” he asked once the young woman was comfortable.


“I, well, I was wondering… I think I know what I want to do after my studies at Eden.”


“Oh, how wonderful, miss,” he answered, raising surprised bushy eyebrows, “And you are asking me because…?”


“I want to become a professor…” she finally said, flushing in embarrassment.


She looked away, unable to face the old professor. To her surprise, he chuckled.


“Aaah, I did think you had a good understanding of children’s difficulties. You’ve volunteered as a teaching assistant, if I remember well. With your education at Eden, it will be easy for you to continue studies at the university, similar to those I followed, and become an elite professor. Perhaps you could work here in the future, or even as a private teacher for powerful families.”


Anya pouted, then she reached the part of her plan that was more complicated:


“Actually… I… I would like to be a professor for orphans and work in children’s homes, or rather… I want to ensure these children receive a proper education. Raise the fundings for such projects, make sure that children’s homes can stop relying so heavily on private donations. Ensure that orphan children who don’t get adopted will have a good education and the tools to start a life once they turn eighteen years old.”


“I see… It’s a noble and difficult project you have in mind, young lady.”


Anya had no answer to that, she already knew how difficult, impossible it might prove. But it was a little flame, guiding her into her future. She stared at the professor, a wilful look on her face which surprised him.


My, my… I have never seen her so determined in anything. Miss Forger has always been headstrong and stubborn, but she had used her willpower for naps, snacks and avoiding detention… Never for the greater good. What a refined young lady she has become, I am strangely proud.


“Very well. We can look into the best path for you to follow for such a project. Education, of course, but perhaps…”


He stood up, pulling out a few books for children’s orientations.


“A superintendent is not an easy path, it will be long and difficult. You would need to rise to become a school principal first, which is no easy feat in itself, then perhaps a practical doctoral degree, but business is always a good addition to the education they have already received. Then there would be the superintendent licence…”


Anya paled to hear so many steps before being able to help a little. Years and years and years of studying, working, studying some more… A dreadful doubt buried itself in her heart, but she tried to ignore it.


“A-and… uh, all that would let me… help children in home cares?”


Professor Henderson paused, fingers brushing his elegant moustache and beard thoughtfully.


“Mmm… It’s possible you might need additional knowledge and education.”


“Of course…” she mumbled, twisting her mouth.


“But I’ll discuss your project with Mrs Abeln and Mr Simons.”


“Professor of Law and the Head of the Department of Political Sciences?” Anya questioned.


“Yes, they might have a better guidance than me. I am simply a Professor of History, after all.”


“You’re far from being simple, Professor Henderson. Your classes are far too engaging.” She answered with a smile.


“Thank you, Miss Forger.”


Anya thought for a moment of everything he had told her already. If she went through with this project, she wouldn’t see it become anything concrete for years, for decades but… for the first time in her life, she had an idea of what she would do with her knowledge, the education and life she had had the chance to receive thanks to her parents.


The least she could do is return the favour to the thousands… no, the millions of children who didn’t have her luck.


“Thank you for everything, Professor Henderson,” she answered, smiling gratefully.


“I will talk with my colleagues about your elegant project. I will come back to you once they have an answer.”


“Thank you!”


She couldn’t help but give him a quick hug, out of sheer gratefulness that this old man who had seen her grow up would go to such lengths to help her figure out her life. She wasn’t sure many professors would be that determined to promise a good future and life to the children they had cared for.


“My, my, now you go back to study. I will keep in touch with you, Miss Forger,” he answered, touched by her gesture.


“Thank you again, professor!”


She went out of his office, a hop in her steps, excited to share the news with her friends and family – once she will have figured out the details. She found her friends at the library. Obviously, they couldn’t voice their questions too loudly, but she felt their curiosity.


Damian hooked his foot around hers to force her attention on him rather than her notebooks (for once). He was frowning and leaned over the desk:


“Is everything okay? You’ve been spacing out all day, and now you’re all happy…”


“Everything is fine, I just met Professor Henderson to… uh, to discuss about what I want to do after Eden,” she answered with a smile.


He blinked, visibly surprised.


“Oh? Oh, that’s great…”


She knows what she wants to do? What the hell am I doing, hesitating about everything? We only have two years before we have to make choices…


Anya reached out for his hand, squeezing it until he raised his gaze towards her.


“Hey, we’ve still got time. Don’t worry about making choices right away.”


He blinked, stunned by her incredibly intuition.


“Y-yeah… You’re right.”


She let go of his hand, going back to her notes and books, almost humming to herself.


Damian observed her, a strange sense of dread creeping up in the back of his mind. It wasn’t the first time she showed such insane discernment. About a lot of people, their worries, and fears, but especially about him. He had almost always assumed she was just naturally perceptive… but…


No, there’s no way. It’s impossible.


He shook his head, forcing himself to focus on his homework. But Anya had caught his thoughts and looked up, a second too late for him to catch it. She started biting her lips, suddenly worried about what he was slowly understanding…


You’re the one who is insanely perceptive, Damian, she thought to herself, her mind too far away to focus on anything.


The first week back at Eden was quite easy as they slowly went back into their usual rhythm of a full day of school, after-school activities, homework… with the addition of Damian and Anya meeting in some hidden corners of the academy whenever they could, usually at lunch time or after school. They weren’t as bold as that one time in the library (students were now back to roaming the libraries all the time), they most definitely couldn’t sneak into his dorms and only had access to the (busy) common room of Cecil Hall… They often went into empty art classrooms, or Anya found Damian behind the football club’s changing rooms. They couldn’t do anything beyond a few kisses and snuggles. After everything they had done during Becky’s party, as big as the temptation was, they didn’t dare do more in fear of going too far on academy grounds which risked being caught and therefore, expulsed.


But the frustration was growing. It was almost worse than being separated, to be so close to one another on a daily basis, and incapable of sharing more than a few kisses in a dark hallway. Which was why, Anya quickly decided on having a date outside of the academy grounds. They were both busy on Saturday, which only left Sunday, supposed to be their only day off, to meet. It had been a last-minute decision, two days prior, and they hadn’t made plans so they just met in a nearby park.


The snow had held on, surprisingly, but the cold was discouraging everyone from going out. They were almost completely alone, walking by freezing benches, dark trees and a big pond that was sadly empty of any animal at the moment. It still had a charm unique to winter. A quiet and tranquillity that no other time of the year could offer. As if everything was slowed down, to enjoy the simple fact that they were alive and living in this moment.


“I’m going to be busy next week, I might not see you as much,” he told her as they walked, hand in hand.


“Uh? But you’ll still study with me, right?”


He grimaced, and shook his head lightly.


“I’ll do my homework late in the evening, after you’ve gone home. I need to spend the rest of my time looking into the files Marius sent me.”


“Oh, because you’re going to assist him with that big meeting… Are you excited about it?”


“I guess so… I think I’m more curious to find out what his life is like. I’m surprised Eden authorised me to go off the academy grounds in the middle of the week, for so many hours, even if my brother authorised it. And uh…”


She already knew what he was about to tell her, it’s been plaguing his mind since the morning, but she smiled innocently anyway.


“My brother said I could help him out after school, with the last preparations for his political party… The official beginning is coming in three weeks, and it’ll give me an idea of what to expect a politician’s life to be like…”


“It’s good that you’ll get to have an idea of both your possible careers, it’ll help you make a decision!” she exclaimed cheerfully.


“Yeah, but… it means I won’t be able to see you outside of class until Democratic Development has been launched… in February.”


Anya had known about it all day, she had known it was coming. It didn’t mean the thorn of displeasure in her heart wasn’t real.


She forced a smile. She was certain he could see through it.


“It’s okay, it’s important to you. I understand.”


“It’s only temporary, I’ll make it up to you somehow,” he answered, shoulders dropping a little in relief.


They had both known what dating one another would involve. They were already busy as Imperial Scholars at Eden Academy. Besides classes and after-school activities, they had a responsibility to maintaining high grades and volunteering. They had known without talking about it, that Damian especially would become busy before even finishing high school, because he was a Desmond.


They knew it’d be difficult. It didn’t ease the disappointment.


It hung in the air, clung to their skins, chasing the tranquil winter atmosphere of the park.


Damian looked away, grimacing, feeling guilty for being busy, for being a Desmond. More than the guilt he felt to let down Anya, he felt terrible because he wanted to spend time with her, and it’ll be impossible for the next few weeks.


“What about you? You haven’t told me anything about what you’ll do after Eden. You have an idea, right?”


“Y-yes, and it’s thanks to you…” she answered, cheeks flushing deeper.


“Me?” he asked, surprised.


“I… I think I want to work with children… orphan children… but I’m uh, still figuring out the details. Professor Henderson has been helping me.”


“That’s very kind of him. He’s always had a soft spot for you.”


“That’s because he has a soft spot for my father…” she answered in a low voice.


“But I’m sure you’ll do great!” he exclaimed, turning to her.


“R-really? E-even if… it’s not as impressive and fancy as… um, movie director, politician, CEO… or what everyone else wants to do?”


Damian turned to her, eyes wide, and he shook his head.


“Who cares about that? As long as it makes you happy to do this job, then it’s all that matters. I’m certain that anything you’ll choose to do, you’ll do great, but I’d rather you choose something you enjoy. A-and I’ve seen the way you sparkle when you spend time with a child, when they thank you or make some progress because you’ve helped them… You’ll be brilliant, Anya. And I’ll support you, no matter what you choose.”


Anya let out a heavy sigh, not having realised how heavy her worries and self-doubt had been weighing on her. Her parents had been happy and encouraging, but their words had been nowhere near as comforting as Damian’s. Her parents had been happy she knew what to do with her life, but they hadn’t realised she had been distrusting her own abilities. Damian had immediately, unconsciously, caught on it, and given her the words she needed.


“Thank you, Damian…”


They passed on merrier topics, chuckling, and laughing. They saw three children playing together in the snow and Anya let go of Damian’s hand, running to the nearest pile of snow. She made a snowball and threw it at him. He hadn’t expected it and it landed square into his face.




It didn’t take long for Damian to crouch down and gather some snow to throw at her. Unfortunately for Damian, she had many years of snow fighting experience with her crazy uncles and family. She easily avoided anything he threw at her, while landing most of her snowballs at him. She laughed a little louder, a little brighter, every time she did so. Eventually, he just gave up on trying to land any projectile on her. Screaming, he ran after her.


“Ah, no!”


Anya tried to escape him, but she had been laughing too much to keep an eye on him. He grabbed her by the waist and lifted her up over his shoulder. She started laughing again, his shoulder digging into her belly, but she couldn’t stop her laughter, he was covered in snow and looked ridiculous.


Damian walked straight for a pile of snow, standing a little afar from the little path they had quietly walked on this entire time. She screamed when he threw her into it. She fell through the snow, almost buried. Laughing at her legs and arms moving desperately, he fell next to her. She tried to throw snow at his face, but he grabbed her wrists, twisting them a little to make the snow drop on her face. It was his turn to laugh as he stood over her, holding her hands tightly and rolling on top of her.


“I won,” he whispered with a cocky grin.


“I didn’t know it was a battle,” she answered, realising that her winter hat was slipping off, “But if it was, I won! I hit you with every snowball!”


“But I defeated you in the end!”


“Throwing me in a snow pile isn’t fair!”


“All is fair in war,” he replied stubbornly.


She glared at him, lips shaking as she held back a laughter. She wriggled her wrists, but he had a firm hold on them. She moved her neck up, kissing him on the lips quickly. He gasped, surprised, and let her go. She pushed him off, sitting up and laughing.


Or in love! All is fair in war and in love!” she exclaimed as her hat fell off into the snow.


“You sound like Becky,” he mumbled, sitting up as well.


He grabbed her hat, shaking the snow off it.


“She is my best friend, you know.”


“Does this mean she’ll be a thorn in my side for the rest of our lives?”


“You act like you can’t see each other, but you like her more than you are willing to admit.”


“Oh no, I will have to spend the rest of my life with Blackbell in my vicinity,” he continued, faking an exaggerate horror at the idea.


She elbowed him, he pretended to fall, holding his side as if she had used her mother’s strength.


“Oh no! Look at me! I’m injured! I’m dying!”


He grabbed her arm, pulling her down to him instead of sobering up. She chuckled, snuggling into his side, even though they were still half-buried in the snow and the cold was starting to settle deep in their bones.


“Hey, my parents are probably out right now, should we go to my home? It’ll be warmer,” she said suddenly.


Damian flushed, his mind reeling at the idea of being alone with Anya with the certainty of her parents being away… but he tried to control himself as he nodded.


“Y-yeah, sure. Let’s go.”


She stood and helped him up. He brushed snow off her hair, brushing strands behind her ears, then he carefully put her winter hat back on, making sure her ears were covered. She was smiling that silly, enamoured smile of hers when he looked back down at her. Knowing damn well that she loved the attention, he offered her his arm. She happily took it, grinning and holding onto him tightly.


They weren’t far from Anya’s apartment and as planned, her parents were away, spending the evening with Frankie and his little family, but they would be back before dinner. While Damian was busy in the toilets, Anya prepared hot cocoa, the way her mama always did, for the two of them. She even put five marshmallows, instead of the usual three.


She brought the mugs in the living-room, the radio was on in the background, letting out some Christmas songs, and he noticed the last Bondman’s comics that he picked up. They started talking about it, Anya easily falling into the excitement of talking about one of her favourite things. She gathered her legs under herself, making herself comfortable, sipping the hot cocoa.


Looking up at Damian who was going through the comics, she snorted suddenly.


He looked back at her, confused.




“…Nothing, Mr Desmond.”


She took a big gulp of her hot cocoa, then pulled the mug away, pushing her chocolate-covered upper lip out to mimic him.


“Ah! Damn it!” he exclaimed, rubbing his hand against his mouth.


Anya started laughing, almost falling off the couch in the process.


“Watch out, silly!” he scolded, grabbing her mug before it’d fall on the carpet.


But she couldn’t stop laughing. Grumbling to himself, Damian, grabbed her waist. She cried out, pulled to him. He leaned over until they were lying on the couch. He glared at her, blushing in embarrassment to have had a chocolate moustache just a moment ago. She kept pushing her lips out and laughing, still covered in cocoa. He leaned down and shut her up with a long kiss. She smiled into it. His tongue tickled her lips and she eagerly opened her mouth. Their kiss deepened and she put her hands against the back of his head, leaning into his touch.


They both tasted of chocolate and their bodies were fuzzy from the feeling that only a warm home in winter could provide.


He pulled away for breath, chuckling at the sight of her lips, still covered in chocolate. Anya licked her upper lip and rubbed her hand to chase the last traces of it away.


“Every time I see you lick your lips, it makes me think of what we did the other night…” he admitted, thumb brushing her lower lip.


A teasing smile made its way on her face.


“I know,” she answered.


He snorted, rolling his eyes.


“How? You read my mind or something? I’m more discreet than you think, Anya.”


Anya’s smile wavered. She joined in his laughter, but her heart wasn’t in it.


He sat up, glancing at the clock and thinking that they wouldn’t have time to do anything other than kissing, not with the risk of her parents coming back at any time.


“Can I borrow your last Bondman? I’ll give it back to you tomorrow,” he continued, picking up his mug of cocoa and the comics to flip through the pages some more.


Anya sat up, looking in front of her. Right in front of her, next to the radio that let out the silly Christmas songs, she could only see a series of photographs from her family. Her parents a few summers ago. Her parents and her, last summer. Rosie as a baby, Anya holding Rosie. So many photographs, so many precious memories they had shared and kept to always remember what they were holding onto. What they had fought for. What they sought to protect. What they had promised to each other. Her family, founded on lies and fake identities, that had become more real and more precious than anything else she had ever had. Until now.


Never lie, always tell the truth.


Damian was commenting on a passage of the comics, but the words sounded far away, as if she was buried at the bottom of the ocean, and he was screaming at her from the surface. It didn’t make any sense.


“What do you think?”


Not receiving any answer from her, Damian finally looked up. He saw her looking at nothing, her expression distant and… sad. As if something heart-breaking had dwelled on her unexpectedly.


“Hey, Anya? What’s wrong?” he asked, touching her arm.


She turned to him, his words suddenly loud and clear. Resonant and vibrant with intensity, with ignorance.


“How? You read my mind or something?”