Maintaining personal space was one of many things that Diana Cavendish had mastered the craft of. The walls she built around herself may as well have been ten feet tall and made of steel. Rarely even did her closest friends attempt to squeeze their way through her impenetrable barricade. Hannah and Barbara would often tease her for it, referring to her as ‘untouchable’.
It wasn’t like they were wrong, though. The most intimate form of physical contact Diana made with others was that of an empty handshake, or perhaps a reassuring grip on the shoulder of a panicked friend. Beyond that, she preferred to keep to herself. That was just how things had been for as far back as she could remember.
Physical affection was simply not something Diana took part in.
Of course, Atsuko Kagari seemed to ignore that fact entirely.
Diana nearly gasped, stumbling just the slightest as Akko ran up from behind her and slung an arm around her shoulders. “A-Akko,” she managed, composing herself as she regained her footing. “What is it?”
“Nothing!” Akko grinned, her arm still hanging loosely around Diana’s neck. “I just wanted to say hi!”
Diana shifted, her eyes flicking to the arm that had burst her personal bubble as though it were aught. Ever since the revival of Yggdrasil, the two had grown closer—and, as a result, Akko had become a little more… touchy. It wasn’t that Diana disliked it, per se; but it certainly wasn’t something she was used to.
And it certainly wasn’t something she would go as far as to say she liked, either.
“Oh. Well…” Diana stepped forward, maneuvering her way out of Akko’s grasp. “Hello, then.”
Akko blinked, watching as Diana straightened out the newly formed wrinkles on her uniform.
“Look out, Akko,” Sucy’s voice droned as she and Lotte approached the pair. “Touching Diana like that might get you turned into stone.”
“Wha?” Akko gaped. “Sucy, don’t be mean!”
As Akko began to banter back and forth with Sucy, Diana decided to take the opportunity to make her leave. After exchanging a polite nod with Lotte to signal her departure, Diana turned on her heel and continued her way down Luna Nova’s halls. Lifting a hand, she brushed off the spot on her shoulder where Akko’s arm had been hanging moments prior.
“This is so boring,” Akko groaned, throwing her head back as she slumped in her chair.
The Luna Nova library was practically empty. It was Saturday afternoon, so most students had taken off to explore the streets of Blytonbury or spend time with friends on the campus courtyard. Akko, however, was not fortunate enough to be one of those people.
“I’m well aware that Magic Linguistics isn’t your favorite class,” Diana stated, placing her book down to focus her attention on the girl seated across from her, “but if you fail to memorize these ruins then Professor Finnelan will—”
“I know, I know,” Akko groused, folding her arms on the table and burying her head between them. “I just don’t see the point in learning something I’m never gonna use.”
“You’d be surprised. Illusionary magic has roots tied to the eras in which these ruins were used,” Diana noted, causing Akko to peek up at her in interest. “They may serve a purpose to you in the future.”
A small smile graced Diana’s lips. “It’s a possibility, isn’t it?”
Akko hummed in thought, considering Diana’s words before holding up her hands in resignation. “All right, all right,” she conceded, reopening her textbook. “You really know the way to my heart, huh?”
“It isn’t difficult to find when it’s worn on your sleeve.”
Diana paused, somewhat surprised by her own choice of words. For a brief moment, she thought she could see a similar reaction on Akko’s face, but it vanished so quickly she couldn’t be certain. Akko’s eyes were now (fortunately) glued to the textbook between her hands. Shaking her head with a sigh, Diana decided to do the same.
The following minutes were filled with silence as the two studied. Just as Diana began to forget about their conversation and delve deeper into the world of 3rd century magical ruins, she felt something that pulled her right out of it.
Something was bumping against her foot. It wasn’t a hard kick, but more of a gentle, repeated tap—a tap that slowly turned into more of a slow rubbing sensation. It was Akko’s foot against her own. Diana furrowed her brows, glancing across the table. Akko, however, was entirely focused on her reading—her face scrunched in total focus. She didn’t seem to be aware of the action.
Diana cleared her throat, but Akko didn’t look up. She pursed her lips, shifting in her seat. Her chest felt tight. She couldn’t understand why this was an issue. It wouldn’t be difficult to scoot back and continue on with her studies. Yet, she couldn’t find it in herself to do so.
She shook her head, realizing how ridiculous this was. She had an exam to study for. The touch was distracting. It was silly to allow such a trivial thing to deter her from what was most important.
Hesitantly, Diana pulled her foot away.
“I suppose you’re all packed, then?”
The red team’s dormitory was unusually barren. The mushrooms that always sat on the windowsill, along with the Night Fall volumes that lined the shelf beside the top bunk, were missing. Break between terms was about to begin, and Lotte and Sucy had already made their leave to their respective homes earlier that morning.
Akko had waited until the last possible minute to get her bearings together—thus resulting in a haphazard packing session which she had recruited the help of Diana for.
“Yeah. I think I’ve got everything,” Akko mused, taking one last look around the room before turning to face Diana with a bright smile. “Thanks for your help, Diana.”
“I assure you it was nothing.”
The fairies would be furious if the rooms weren’t left completely empty before their seasonal deep cleaning. So, the pair had spent the previous hour packing away every last textbook, piece of clothing, and Shiny Chariot merchandise that they could. While most of it would be tucked away safely in Luna Nova’s storage chamber until break was over, the rest would return to Japan alongside Akko.
Akko frowned, looking to the floor and shifting her weight between her feet.
Diana raised a brow. “Are you all right?”
“Hm? Oh. Yeah, I’m okay,” Akko assured with a small smile. “I was just thinking it’s a little sad… I’m gonna miss it here.”
“It’s only a couple of weeks.” Diana tilted her head. “I thought you had mentioned missing Japan?”
“I mean, of course I do!” Akko agreed, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “But, I dunno, Luna Nova’s sorta become my second home, I guess. Even if it’s just for a little while, I’m still gonna miss our teachers, our classes… Heck, I might start missing potatoes.” She laughed, looking at Diana with a smile so bright it could rival the sun. “But I think I’ll miss my friends most. Every day’s an adventure when I’m with you guys!”
Diana’s heart throbbed, and she couldn’t stop the smile that took shape on her face. “Likewise,” she agreed. “I suppose the next few weeks will feel a little less… colorful without you around.”
It happened so fast that Diana hardly had the chance to register it happening at all. In a single, swift motion, Akko had wrapped her arms around Diana’s neck and pulled her into a tight hug.
Diana’s eyes widened, a dusting of pink coating her cheeks as she stood there, dumbstruck. “A-Akko…?”
Akko buried her face into Diana’s hair, tightening her grip around her neck. “Promise you’ll call at least once…?”
Diana hadn’t moved an inch. Akko was so close that she could feel her heart beating against her chest. She could smell the mix of freshly mowed grass and plums that wafted off of her brunette hair. She could feel the heat and tickle of Akko’s breath against her skin.
Diana couldn’t remember the last time someone had attempted holding her like this. It was an odd sensation. The part of her that had spent so long building those ten-foot-tall steel walls told her to pull away—to step back and compose herself.
But another part of her was soothed by the touch—it was warm, secure, inviting. Her mind drifted back to something distant she had locked away long ago. She remembered a time before she had put so many walls around herself. She remembered the way her mother used to hold her when she was young. She remembered feeling safe and loved.
How could she have forgotten?
Perhaps once it was over, she would steel herself again. Perhaps she would retreat behind the walls that she had spent so long building. But for that brief moment, she wanted to cave into Akko’s touch.
Wrapping her arms around Akko’s waist, she gently returned the embrace.
Diana had not intended to spend her afternoon sitting alone with Akko in the red team’s dormitory, hovering over a binder filled to the brim with Shiny Chariot cards. But as soon as Akko realized she had never properly shown Diana her prized collection, she decided that she needed to fix that immediately.
“You certainly have quite the collection,” Diana noted, observing the cards that sat side by side behind laminated pages—some of which she had never seen before. She was positive she would have been very envious ten years ago.
“I know, right?” Akko bragged with a smug grin. “I just can’t believe I didn’t show you sooner. Are you impressed?”
“I find your…” Diana lulled her head from side to side, searching for the proper word that wouldn’t inflate Akko’s ego too much, “dedication impressive, yes.”
Akko puffed her cheeks, dissatisfied with that answer, but Diana ignored her and turned the page. Then her hand stopped, her gaze transfixed on a single card that was all too familiar to her.
“I felt like that one,” Akko started, shifting awkwardly, “deserved its own page, y’know?”
Shiny Chariot’s premium card was placed at the center of a single, finely laminated page. A thin piece of cardboard had been slipped behind it, likely to keep it from becoming creased or damaged. The holographic coating that covered its surface twinkled under the dorm room lights, the image of Chariot at the center shining brightly.
Diana hadn’t laid eyes on the card since the night she had given it to Akko at Last Wednesday Society months prior. Her heart ached just the slightest upon seeing the reminder of her childhood. Though, looking at something she had kept shut away in a box for so long placed so tenderly alongside dozens of other cards like it made her chest swell in a way she couldn’t quite put words to.
She smiled. “I see you’ve taken excellent care of it.”
Akko beamed. “Of course I have!” She reached over, pushing a lock of hair out of Diana’s eyes. Akko let her hand linger against her cheek, her expression softening. “It’s my most treasured possession.”
When Diana’s eyes met Akko’s she could have sworn that her heart stopped. She and Akko were mere inches apart from each other, and the look she was giving her would have been enough to make Diana go weak in the knees had she been standing. Her crimson eyes were soft and her smile was warm. But the one thing Diana couldn’t get past was the hand pressed against her cheek.
It wasn’t like any touch she had felt before. Something about their proximity to each other, about the smoothness of Akko’s skin, about the way her thumb grazed over Diana’s cheek, left her forgetting about her personal space policy. It was enough to fill her with the desire to lean in closer—to feel more.
The sound of a clicking door snapped Diana back into reality. Sucy walked into the room and Diana pulled back so fast that her mind needed a moment to catch up with what her body had just done. Akko was left blinking—unsure as to what had just happened.
Sucy flicked her gaze between the pair, skeptical. She narrowed her eyes. “I hope you weren’t making out in front of my mushrooms.”
“So, what’d ya think of that?” Akko bragged, hopping off of her broom and planting its base firmly into the ground. She leaned against the handle, smirking. “Pretty smooth, am I right?”
Diana looked up at her friend from her spot on Luna Nova’s grassy courtyard. The glow of the moonlight above them gave Akko’s eyes a glint that made Diana’s heart race. She turned her head away, clearing her throat. “You still have room for improvement,” she commented, straightening herself out. “Your acceleration could be steadier, and your turns are rather sloppy.”
Akko deflated, her expression turning sour as Diana continued on with, “Try not to sacrifice form and balance for cheap tricks. There’s a difference between being skilled and being reckless.”
Akko groaned, letting go of her broom and flopping down onto the grass beside Diana. “Okay, okay, I get it! You still think I suck!” Akko groused, laying on her back and pulling her hat over her face. “Tell me how you really feel, Diana.”
“I don’t recall saying that,” Diana clarified. “I simply felt as though you were getting distracted in an attempt to show off.” She narrowed her eyes. “I hope that you aren’t taking advice from Amanda O'Neill.”
Akko winced. “W-well…” She peeked out from beneath the brim of her hat, offering a sheepish smile. “Maybe she gave me a pointer or two…”
Diana sighed, rubbing her temples. It was stressful enough knowing that the two of them were already breaking at least three school rules by being out after dark so Akko could show off her new broom techniques. Her stress only skyrocketed knowing that she had learned said techniques from Amanda, of all people.
Her eyes fixated on Akko’s broom, which was now laying on the ground at the feet of its handler. A small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. “...I will say, considering you could do little more than get on a broom a year ago, you have come a long way.” She looked to Akko, lifting the hat from off of her face. “I can’t deny improvement when I see it. Your efforts are paying off.”
Akko blinked, then flashed her a grin, propping herself up on an elbow. “That’s what happens when I believe in my believing heart! Wouldn’t you agree?”
Diana didn’t know what it was about the way Akko looked at her that made her heart skip a beat, but she did everything in her power to hold back the blush that was threatening to creep its way up her neck. “I…” she started, averting her gaze as she gripped at the rim of Akko’s hat, “suppose so.”
A silence hung between them—and while it wasn’t tense or awkward, Diana could feel Akko’s eyes on her, and it made keeping down her blush increasingly difficult. She internally debated standing up and calling it a night, but her legs wouldn’t budge from her spot on the grass. She decided to focus her attention on the stars above them instead.
The Big Dipper looked nice tonight.
Akko’s voice had been so quiet that Diana almost missed it. She furrowed her brows, meeting Akko’s gaze. “For what?”
Akko shrugged, rising into a sitting position. “Just… everything, I guess.” She smiled bashfully, scratching her cheek. “I might still be stuck on the ground if it hadn’t been for all the support you’ve given me.”
That wasn’t true. Diana knew it wasn’t. With or without her presence, Akko’s determination would have carried her through any obstacle she may have faced. Diana admired that about her. It was just one of the many qualities that made Akko such a brilliant person.
She placed her hand over Akko’s. “Don’t be silly. Everything you’ve accomplished has been as a result of your own efforts,” Diana assured, grazing her thumb over the back of Akko’s hand. “You’re far more talented than you give yourself credit for.”
“Aw,” Akko giggled, threading her fingers with Diana’s. “You trying to make me blush?”
Diana smiled. “Perhaps.”
The word had escaped her mouth before Diana even had the chance to think about it. She wasn’t sure why she did it—why she played along with Akko’s flirtations. Maybe it was the way Akko was looking at her. Or the way the sound of her laugh made her chest flutter in ways she didn’t think possible. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the warmth radiating off of Akko’s skin—the way her touch electrified her. Maybe a part of Diana hoped that going along with it would let her feel more.
The nudge of Akko’s shoulder against her own as she scooted closer worked like a magnet that Diana was immediately drawn to. Her body eased up as her side made contact with Akko’s arm. She was aware this was completely unlike her. After all, never before had Diana so openly lowered her guard around anyone.
But Akko wasn’t just anyone—she knew that.
Akko’s voice was small and carried the slightest quiver with it. It sounded like… nerves? Anticipation? Diana couldn’t say for sure. Akko inched nearer, and Diana’s heart leaped into her throat as Akko squeezed her hand.
She sucked in her breath. “Yes?”
Their noses were nearly touching. The heat of Akko’s breath tickled her skin, and she reflexively wet her lips. They were so close, but the distance still felt unbearable. Diana wanted nothing more than to press herself into the heat she could feel radiating off of the girl across from her.
Akko didn’t need to finish that question. Diana already knew what she was going to ask, and she already knew how she would answer. Without wasting a second, Diana gently cupped Akko’s cheeks between her hands. At that point, it wasn’t just something she wanted—but something she needed. Like an unscratched itch, or a deep, unsated craving; she had to feel Akko against her.
And just like that, her walls came crumbling down.
Taking one final breath, Diana leaned in and pressed her lips against Akko’s. Akko was eager to reciprocate, and Diana felt a heat rise from her stomach into her chest. She had never kissed anyone before, and she was certain Akko hadn’t either. And yet, the sensation of Akko’s lips against her own was familiar, somehow. It was like being reunited with something she hadn’t known she was missing.
A deep, gaping hole in Diana’s core cried out in desperation for more. Her fingertips found their way to the back of Akko’s head, tangling themselves in her hair. Akko’s mouth parted from hers briefly, but Diana wasn’t ready to stop—she wasn’t ready to let go. Fortunately, Akko didn’t seem to be either as she came back to Diana, almost apologetically so.
Diana couldn’t have imagined just how intoxicating everything about Akko actually was. Adrenaline rushed through her veins as Akko gripped at her waist. She couldn’t tell if the rapid pounding against her chest was that of her own heart or Akko’s. Her citrusy, earthy smell overwhelmed Diana’s senses in a way that was nothing short of hypnotic.
Every brief moment she came back for air felt like eons until she was against Akko again. Each kiss was fervent and hungry in a way that left Diana wondering how she had gone this long without experiencing something so wonderful until now—or how she could even begin to consider going a second longer without it.
Nothing had ever made her feel so whole.
Diana needed to resist the urge to wince when Akko finally pulled away for real. She heaved deep breaths and her face was flushed with scarlet. She swallowed hard, her mouth opening, and then closing again as she shifted her gaze away.
“Is… this okay?” Akko asked, flicking her eyes back to Diana. “I mean, we can stop if you’re not… Y’know.”
As Diana’s senses slowly came back to her, she noticed the way Akko bit her lip and shifted in the grass. She was worried—worried she had crossed an unspoken boundary between them. Truthfully, Diana may have wondered that herself as recently as a month ago.
But she knew now how preposterous that thought was. Keeping herself guarded for so long was what had left her feeling so starved in the first place. Why would she ever consider going back to that when every touch Akko had to offer was so fulfilling?
Akko blinked as Diana tightened her arms around her neck. Soft red eyes met with her own, and Diana’s stomach tied itself in a knot. She allowed her lips to barely brush against Akko’s in something that couldn’t exactly be considered a kiss, but was enough to satisfy her until she could speak.
“No. I think…” Diana closed her eyes, a smile tugging at her lips as she pulled Akko closer, “I’d like to stay like this.”