For as long as anyone had know Damian Desmond, he had always been pristine.
From the way his uniform sat uncreased on his body, Imperial Scholar cloak gently laid across his shoulders, to the way his thick hair was slicked back in artfully tousled curls. Even his school supplies were meretriciously organised along his desk, books and papers never crumbled.
So when he slid into the seat beside Anya half way through lunch in a daze looking thoroughly disheveled and slightly pink everyone stopped. There was an audible clatter of a fork against a plate as his friends stared at him as he settled in with a murmured hello, reaching for the plate they had set aside for him.
“Boss...what happened to you?” Ewen breathed in disbelief. Damian glanced up at the tall, lanky boy over his bread roll, chewing quickly.
“What do you mean?”
“You look like you got trampled by the yard animals.” Anya piped up unable to stop staring. His cheeks brightened a little more at the comment, shuffling in his seat.
“Oh, um...I’m okay. Just had to run across campus.” It wasn’t the complete truth.
“Did you have soccer practice last period?” Emile asked innocently, closing the book he had been reading, now focused on a more interesting topic.
Another lie. Anya frowned, exchanging a glance with Becky who was staring Damian down with a critical glare. Leaning forward slightly she raised one careful plucked eyebrow in challenge as the ruffled young man caught her eye.
“You’ve got leaves in your hair Desmond. Soccer ball end up a tree?”
He only nodded, shoving more food into his mouth to avoid the gaze of everyone at the table. Sighing Becky leaned back in annoyance, flicking a hand across the table to Anya.
“Anya can you fix him please? He’s hurting my eyes.” She drawled, causing the mess of a teen to splutter. Anya gave her a mock salute before turning to the scion, ruffling the debris out of his hair. He protested slightly, trying to smack back her hands but gave in pretty quickly, turning his burning face away. Her hands travelled down to his neck to fix his collar and tie, pausing slightly when her thumb and forefinger brushed against something wet on his skin. Hovering for a second she quickly settled on fixing his cape, untangling the clasp from the fabric.
“You’re gonna have a crease.” She murmured showing him how the material had been pinched.
“Oh, that’s okay.” He breathed, looking incredibly flustered. As soon as she had finished he pulled away, a particularly pleasing flush gracing his cheeks, clearing his throat. Pretending to look at his watch he fumbled for an excuse to escape.
“Oh, I need to go to the library before class. I guess I’ll see you guys later. Alrightbyethanksforlunch.”
And just as suddenly as he had appeared he was gone.
“That was weird, right?” Ewen finally broke the silence after a few minutes, shaking the others out of their stupor.
“He was definitely lying.” Becky agreed, fingers steepling together. “I haven’t seen him this flustered since elementary school around Anya.” Her gaze slid over to said girl who was still staring out the door in confusion.
“What you thinking Starlight?” She called gently, jolting her friend back to reality. Turning towards her friends, Anya began to frown, brushing her fingers over the substance on her thumb.
“He said he had soccer practice, but his hair wasn’t wet. And there was a weird stick substance on his neck.” She said slowly, lifting her hand to show the residue in the light. The boys exchanged a glance before shrugging.
“Maybe it’s sweat?
“Or tree sap?”
Anya shook her head. “No it’s not either of those. It’s sticky like tree sap but...tackier. And it smells sweet, almost like berries.”
Becky’s eyes suddenly flared up in suspicious glee.
“Like lip gloss tacky?” She purred behind her hands, and Anya’s frown deepened.
“...yeah, like lip gloss.”
If it weren’t for the eye witness accounts, no one would have believed the rumors spreading across the college that the Desmond scion had been so ruffled. When class resumed he was as effortlessly put together as usual, everything in order on his desk waiting to be used. Though there was a light tinge of colour dusting his cheekbones.
Anya frowned up at him curiously, wondering if she should break her promise and dare dive into his mind to find out what was going on. They didn’t keep secrets from each other (or at least she didn’t think they did) and this mystery was starting to bug her. Speculations were darting wild and fast around the room and she had to try and tune them out.
Becky had been beside herself with joy after their revelation
“He’s finally gone and done it!” She had exclaimed in delight at lunch. “I never thought I’d see that prudish bastard crack! And to be caught having done that.”
“Doing what?” Emile had asked.
“Honestly if Anya hadn’t been sitting here with us the whole time I would have thought it was with her but-” she continued to prattle before gasping sadly. “Oh no, Anya I’m so sorry.”
Thoroughly confused, Anya and the boys exchanged looks.
“What do you mean?” She asked. Becky only have her a sympathetic look.
“I’m sorry doll, I know how you feel about him. I truly thought you were the only one in his heart, but it seems the Desmond player name continues.”
Flushing a little at the implication, Anya hurriedly shook her head.
“No I don’t like him, we’re just friends.” She disagreed though an uneasy feeling was beginning to prickle at her stomach. “What’s going on?”
“No...Bossman would tell us if anything was going on.” Ewen denied, but his love for drama almost rivalled Becky’s, the excitement in his voice giving him away. Becky turned to him sparkling, nearly bouncing in her seat.
“Yes! You saw him, what else could it be?”
“He was playing soccer though.” Emile said slowly catching on as he brushed his fringe back in thought. “I saw him before lunch heading that way.”
“But he never looks that put out after practice. And he came in so ridiculously late, plenty of time to get himself together.”
Forever the last to catch on Anya grumbled, “I’m so confused. Just tell me what’s going on.”
“I think Desmond has gotten himself a girlfriend.”
Anya had barely reacted at the time, but now as she sat down at her desk, glancing back at up him again, she couldn’t help to wonder. Damian with a girlfriend? It unsettled her unexpectedly. The idea of him cozying up in some hidden alcove with a girl seemed incredulous to her. He was all about his family’s reputation and upholding it despite the scandal with his father a few years back. Maybe this was him finally rebelling. It had been a long time coming after all.
Feeling her gaze on him, he quirked an eyebrow curiously, silently asking her what was up. She gave a half hearted shrug, unsure what to think, that he returned in kind with a small smile. Once upon a time he would have glared and turned away in embarrassment but those early days were long gone. They had become pretty close over the years and it wasn’t uncommon to see them together studying in the library or gossiping quietly in the corridors. The arguing still occurred but it was more playful in nature. Becky dared to call it flirting but Anya had seen her flirting and wouldn’t compare it to that.
Returning the smile uneasily she turned to the front again, feeling more confused than ever. A girl from Cline hall dropped into the seat beside her, excitedly saying her hellos. Oh right, this was the mixed period.
“Anya you’ve got to tell me it’s true!” She gushed quietly.
“That you and Damian were caught making out behind the library!”
A cold trickle of something crept down her spine to her brewing stomach.
“No!” She gasped feeling offended. The girl, Veronica, slumped back in her seat.
“Really? But everyone is saying he came to lunch looking incredibly flushed and untidy, and that you couldn’t keep your hands off him. I thought you two had finally gotten together.” she said in disappointment. Flushing Anya shifted uncomfortably.
“Well part of that is true. He did come in looking...off. I helped him straighten his uniform a bit, you know, so he didn’t get in trouble.”
Veronica stare at her, an unknown expression on her face which made Anya squirm.
“So if it wasn’t you, which I find incredibly hard to believe,” she murmured ignoring Anya’s squawk of it wasn’t, “Then who was it? Cause there’s definitely reports of him and someone behind the library.”
Before Anya could question her further, the professor called for attention, pushing aside any rumours for now. Feeling oddly flushed, Anya sank down into her seat, barely paying attention to the lesson. She’d have to grab someone’s notes later. She felt incredibly unsettled. So use to brushing off comments about her and Damian, this had thrown her for a loop. The thought of kissing him suddenly filled her mind and she had to fight her growing blush. Those thoughts were usually flashing curiosities in her dreams, unbridled wants. To think of them consciously brought on an unwanted awareness to the situation. One she wanted to stamp back down as curiosity.
Flicking her pen she frowned, slowly processing the thoughts of her classmates as minds began to wonder away from the lesson. A lot were mulling over the rumours as well, astounded that the scion would be caught like that. Some were fantasizing about being the one to kiss him and she felt surprised to see a few came from the boys in her class, which brought up more feelings and questions within herself she’d have to dissect later.
But the most prominent one was rattling in her own head.
Who was the girl?
Slamming her book shut, Anya slumped over the table with a groan.
“Peanuts.” She muttered into the wood, ignoring the rustling beside her.
“In your bag,” Damian replied without looking up at her, “Though you need to finish your chem homework first.”
“It’s nearly done. There’s just one formula I can’t understand. I need peanuts to fuel my brain.” she snipped, reaching into her bag to feel around for the aforementioned item. Still laying on the desk, she slide the packet towards her face, fingers rummaging greedily for her treat. Munching happily she ignored his scoff as he shuffled beside her but he didn’t say anything back.
It was meant to be their weekly study session with the others, though they had been called away at the last minute to help with their extra curriculars. Usually Anya wouldn’t mind, but with all the speculation floating around the last two weeks about Damian’s mystery lover and people assuming it was her, she was will aware of the lingering eyes on them.
She was sick of the pity and snide remarks she received when she explained over and over again that it wasn’t her. The sympathetic looks some girls tossed her way made her want to yell. Damian was a free man, he could do whatever he wanted. But his blatant ignorance of the situation meant he wasn’t confirming or denying the rumour mill and it was pushing back on her heavily.
It wasn’t like her and the others hadn’t tried to pry it out of him but he remained stubbornly flustered and kept to his story. Every time they managed to corner him to just air their grievances over his avoidance, he’d fumble out an excuse and slip away.
“Hey, librarian approaching, lose the nuts.” He suddenly warned, his breath ghosting the back of her neck. Hiding her shudder she straightened up, pushing the peanuts back into the depths of her bag. While it wasn’t uncommon for students to eat in the library, it was against school rules. And today’s approaching librarian Mrs Price, was strict on those rules.
Reluctantly opening her chemistry homework again, Anya glared down at the formula as she walked by, staring her down as if she knew Anya was causing trouble. Which was an understandable justification.
Little delinquent. Now she’s bringing the young Desmond into her troubles.
Anya froze as the thought passed her. Seriously? Even the staff were speculating on these stupid rumours? Fighting down the urge to snap back at her, she suddenly wanted to leave. Damian must have sensed her distress as he asked if she was okay.
“Can we leave? I’m sick of everyone’s thoughts.” She groaned.
“Did she say something?” Damian asked in surprise, eyes flickering to the retreating back of Mrs Price.
“What was it?”
“Can we talk about it in private? It’s actually something I’ve been meaning to tell you.” She gritted out, running her hands through her hair tiredly. Wordlessly he began to pack up, causing her to sigh in relief. After she had shoved everything in bag they calmly left the building, heading towards the courtyard on the other side of the classrooms. It’s where their group usually meet up in the afternoons, and where they were meant to regroup with others in a couple of hours. Damian seemed to warm up as they walked, his happy mood from the last few weeks reappearing again. While she was glad to see him happy, a sourness came across her that she put down to being annoyed at the gossip.
Trudging over to his favourite bench, he sprawled in a unrefined heap across it, closing his eyes to enjoy the early summer heat. She watched him for a moment in envy before plopping down on the grass nearby. After stewing for a bit on how to begin she prodded his head for attention.
“So what did she say?” He hummed.
“It’s more what everyone is saying.” She grouched. Surprised he craned his neck towards her.
“What’s going on?”
“As if you don’t know.”
“Anya, I’ve already told you I-”
“No, you’ve said jack shit. Now you’re gonna listen.” She snapped, causing him to flinch. Hurriedly he sat up, staring at her in disbelief. They could count on one hand the times she had been truly angry at him.
“The rumours are getting out of hand Damian. Everyone keeps asking about it and no matter how much I correct them or defend you, no one believes me. They’re either thinking I’m lying or that I’m scorned lover. Could you please address them at least? You maybe floating on whatever cloud you’ve been sat a top off, but us little people are getting dragged further into your mess. The others are fighting back as well, but they can handle it better. Becky just barks at them, Ewen diverts the gossip to some other drama, and I don’t think I’ve seen Emile raise his head out his books long enough to entertain them. But you know I can’t lie for shit. And to make things worse, you haven’t told us a damn thing. Your bestfriends! We’re meant to be able to support you through this chapter in your life, but you’re shutting us out. If you’ve got a secret girlfriend I-we should at least know.”
Huffing she watched as he froze, wide eyed. He didn’t say anything for the longest time which made her more frustrated.
“Say something or I will break our promise.” She growled.
“Right, okay, sorry.” He stammered, clearing his throat. His hair was slightly tousled again and she found herself wanting to fix it, but forcefully kept her hands in her lap.
“I’m sorry you got dragged into this, really I am. I didn’t realise they were coming after you.” He blushed, muttering something under his breathe along the lines of it kinda made sense though.
Plucking at the grass in an attempt to calm herself, she waited as he tried to find the right words.
“I...I really was at soccer practice,” he began after a moment, awkwardly rubbing his neck, the blush starting to darken, “But that finished early.”
She froze, air catching in her lungs, not daring to look at him as the truth started to come out. Some how she wasn’t exactly sure she wanted to hear the rest.
“I was heading towards the library with some of the team, when one of them brought up the drunken truth or dare we had a little while ago. It was then they realised I hadn’t finished my dare that night, so I had to face the punishment.”
“And you never back down from a challenge.” Anya whispered, her heart hammering.
“Yeah,” he squeaked, suddenly very red. “They dared me to either finish my original dare, or find my crush and...kiss her.”
Her heart shattered.
“So you found your cr-crush and the kiss went very well I’m guessing.” She choked. He was so red now she thought he might explode.
“Well, there was a kiss but-”
She stood up abruptly, having heard enough. Brushing the grass off her skirt she stiffly picked up her bag.
“Well I’m glad you finally opened up. Next time you go making out with your new girlfriend at least have the decency to straighten up. Wouldn’t want more rumours to circulate.” She sneered.
“Wait, Anya, that’s not-”
Ignoring him she started to walk off before pausing as thought hit her. Taking a deep breath she glanced back over her shoulder with a pained smile. He looked like he wanted to say something but she bet him to it.
“Whoever she is, I’m glad she makes you happy. You’ll have to introduce us to her soon. Tell the others I went home early. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She hurried off, ignoring his shout. As she turned the corner, she glimpsed him grab at his face and drop back down onto the bench in frustration.
The others could tell something had happened. When they tried asking her, she simply said Damian had told her the truth but it was his secret to share. The fact she was bitter about it didn’t go unnoticed by Becky who pulled her aside a few days later, demanding she spill.
“Cut the crap Anya. What did he do?”
“Nothing.” She snapped. “I confronted him about his denial of the rumours and how they were affecting us. He apologised and told me the truth.”
Becky regarded her with that ever knowing eye of hers, rubbing her arms comfortingly.
“And you didn’t like the truth.” She stated, making Anya flinch.
“Is that bad?” She whispered after a minute, drowning in the sadness that had been consuming her. Becky clucked in sympathy as she pulled her into a tight hug.
“Oh my poor dense idiot. You had no idea about your feelings until just then did you?”
Anya could only shake her head in response.
“I’m glad you can confine in me you jealous being, but it’s not going away any time soon. Love hurts my dear.”
“I don’t even know who I’m jealous of. If I had a face or a name, maybe I could reason with it.”
“So he does have a girlfriend.”
“Well he didn’t directly confirm it, but he said that he was dared to either kiss his crush or finish a previous dare. And from the state he was in, I guessed the outcome.”
Becky froze against her, before slowly pulling away to look at the younger girl’s face in shock. Confused Anya stared back at her.
“What did you just say?”
“That he had to finish some drunk dare or kiss his crush. It’s really not that hard to figure out what happened.” Anya groused. A range of emotions flittered over her bestfriend’s face, her thoughts churning just as fast, before frustration finally settled across her brow.
“You. Dumb. Dense. IDIOT.” She yelled, shaking her angrily. “The both of you, omg I can’t believe this is happening. Did he try to say something to you while you made those assumptions?”
Shaken Anya tried to reel in her spinning head. “Well I think so, but I had heard everything I needed to, and just wanted to get out of there.”
Becky broke away from her to pace, muttering unbelievable under her breath along with some fine swears.
“You’ve avoided him the last few days because of this correct?”
“And he’s been staring after you like a lost lamb every time. But he is also too stubborn to do anything about it.”
“Wait, he has?”
“And none of this is going to settle until either of you stop this awkward dance and actually try to listen to the other.”
“Becky, what do you mean?”
The brunette came to a stop, swiveling to glare at her friend.
“It has to be you Anya. Go out there and find Desmond. Listen properly to what he has to say. And when you do, try and understand where he’s coming from.”
“I don’t know if I can Becky.”
“You better or so help me-” she paused to take a deep breath, “You can. It’s your mission. And you don’t turn down a mission now do you?”
Offended at her love of spy terms used against her, Anya grumbled that she would.
“Good, now go and find the dweeb and listen to him. I’m sick of seeing you two look like kicked puppies.”
With a push out the door, Becky left her to fend on her own, stomping back over to the other two boys in a huff.
“What happened?” Ewen asked. Becky flopped onto the grass beside them in annoyance.
“Our friends are dense idiots.”
Anya had been searching for him for a while, not really sure what she was going to say when she found him. Becky was making this sound like it was her fault, and it really didn’t sit to well with her.
School had long since finished when she finally found him, lounging in the courtyard as per usual, waiting for them. There was no other students hanging around and she guessed Becky had held back the boys from coming here. Slowly approaching him, she stopped shy of the bench, clearing her throat uncertainly. He raised his arm off his eyes, jolting when he realised it was her.
“I’ve been told I owe you an apology.”
He slowly sat up, cheeks already staining red.
Shrugging she toed at the grass. “For not listening to you the other day when I had just ripped into you about doing the same thing.”
Looking up to meet his eyes briefly she murmured, “I’m sorry.”
There was an awkward silence for a moment before he sighed heavily.
“I guess I owe you an apology as well. I really should have told you sooner.”
“It’s okay. You deserved to have some happiness in your life, and despite your ignorance you had been in the best mood in weeks. I guess having a girlfriend really brought that out of you.”
To her surprise he groaned in annoyance.
“Anya, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, I don’t have a girlfriend.”
She blinked at him, startled before trying to control the sneer that was starting to leech onto her face.
“Oh so you are just some random player. What other poor girl’s heart did you break?”
“I’m not a player! You just keep jumping to conclusions before letting me finish.” He snapped, jumping to his feet, towering over her.
“Well then spit it out. You said there was a kiss.” She remembered the curious fantasies of her classmates and gasped, “Or was it a boyfriend?”
“What? No! It was a girl!”
“If you’re just saying that to cover up that’s fine, I’ll keep your secret.”
“No it was girl from the female soccer team!”
“So you have a shared love of sports, okay I get that.”
“It was my dare from that night! Either I made out with her for five minutes or kissed my crush.”
“So why didn’t you kiss your crush?”
“Because I didn’t want to upset our friendship!”
“Well you did anyway so why-” she paused, clicking onto what he had said. Becky had told her to listen properly and try to understand him. Slowly trying to read his burning face, she felt her own begin to colour rapidly.
“Me?” She managed to squeak. He shifted from foot to foot, stealing glances her way.
“You.” He whispered after a moment. “I either had to make out with Johnston or kiss you. And I had hoped that our first kiss would have been in mutual agreement and not something the public eye got to witness. I chose to do the lesser of two evils thinking I could handle some mild teasing. I hadn’t expected to be so into a kiss, but I think that was just hormones. I am truly sorry you got dragged into the teasing though, that wasn’t meant to happen.”
The sourness that had been eating away at her stomach for weeks suddenly seemed to evaporate with the steam coming out her ears. Chuckling in embarrassment Damian looked at her with shy hesitancy.
“I’ve loved you for a really long time Anya. Since elementary school. But if you don’t feel the same way, I’m perfectly happy with our friendship.”
“We are dense idiots.” She whispered, unable to comprehend what was going on. He blinked at her in confusion.
“You weren’t listening properly before. I said what other girl’s heart did you break.”
She could see when the cogs finally clicked into place, as his eyes darkened suddenly. That was all the warning she had before he grabbed her by the face and pulled her towards him.
His lips on hers were hungry, as if he wouldn’t get another chance to do so. She fisted her hands in his cape, forcing him to bend down to her level as she kissed him back with as much ferocity. It was not the sweet first kiss they had both imagined, but one fueled with years of pent up frustration and desire. She licked at the seam of his lips for entrance which he groaned with acceptance. Her tongue snuck in to collide with his, as his hands crept from her face to settle on her body, pulling her ever closer.
She wasn’t sure how long they stood there making out, but eventually the need for air got too much and they pulled away slightly, puffing. Her hands had ended up in his hair at one point, the curls had fallen slightly into his eyes. She felt a shiver go through her at the absolute feral look he was giving her. She probably looked a mess as well.
“Say the words.” He dared, resting his forehead against hers.
“I love you Damian Desmond.” She managed to breath before he was kissing her again.
The next day at lunch, the air was once again filled with rumours.
“I heard Mr Henderson found them making out in the back of the classroom.”
“I heard it was the library, you know, same as before.”
“Well I was told it was in one of the rarely used corridors. Either way I’m glad they’ve finally gotten together.”
Becky could only smile as she listened to the gossip, glancing at the empty seats across from her.
“Fifty dalc they come in disheveled.” Emile spoke from behind his pages.
“I bet they won’t even turn up at all.” Ewen challenged. Emile nodded at the deal just as the doors creaked open and two figures snuck into the café, making their way to back where their friends were. Sliding into the empty seats, Becky couldn’t hold back her laugh as Ewen grumpily slid Emile his money.