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Ladies of Alfea (and Their Specialists)

Chapter Text

“Brandon!” Stella shrieked, the noise followed quickly by a massive crash as Brandon turned on his heel, losing his footing and the large number of bags fell from his arms as he toppled forwards. “Are you alright Sweetums?” She ran over, watching the floating car race past just a bit too close to the sidewalk edge for comfort.

“Why’d you yell like that Stel?” He was surprised to find his arms quickly filled by his girlfriend, her shoulders shaking slightly. “What’s wrong?”

“The car – I thought it was going to hop the curb.” Stella was definitely sniffling, even if he couldn’t see her face. She hated when her makeup ran, so she hid further into his chest, ignoring all the clothes strewn about around them on the ground.

“I’m fine Stella, I swear.” Brandon pulled her back just enough to get a good look at her, to make sure she believed him. He was right, her makeup was beginning to run even as she wiped at her eyes. “Come on Stel, it’s alright. I’m a specialist. The only casualties were your clothes and my pride.”

“I can replace the clothes. But Brandon-“ the glare she gave him was usually saved solely for the Trix and royals about to be turned on their head by the princess, “You aren’t allowed to die and leave me.”

He smiled, watching her expression soften. “I won’t Princess.”

“Good.” Brandon looked on confused as she removed her ring, the staff lengthening in her hand.

“Stella, my bike-“

“Home.” They vanished, leaving the many bags and clothes scattered about the sidewalk.

“You’re overreacting Stella, I’m perfectly alright.” Brandon tried to reason, as Stella strode around the room mumbling protection charms under her breath.

“No, you’re going to stay here.”

“What the- Stella, I’m a specialist! I’m not going to just sit in your room for the rest of my life!”

“But you’ll be safe!” That shut up the both of them, Stella not having planned to shout at her boyfriend, and Brandon quickly realizing the reasoning behind it.

“Nabu is okay Stel. We all made it through.” He approached, hands up in placation, before pulling her in for a hug. “I know it scared you, but we’re safe. You and I, we keep each other safe.”

Her anger deflated, and with it her, leaning heavily on Brandon. “I couldn’t keep you safe in the Under Realms and that crazy queen got her hands on you, and Layla barely was able to protect Nabu. What if the car had jumped the curb today? I couldn’t have done anything to help you, and you might not have seen it. Here, I can keep you safe.”

“We’re warriors Stella, that’s what we trained for. I’m not going to hide away here with you.”

“I wouldn’t hide here! I’d be out there, protecting everyone. I can’t leave the others defenseless.”

“So you’d leave me, like a Earth fairytale princess trapped alone in her tower, while you went out and fought?” At his raised eyebrow Stella realized how ridiculous it was sounding. “What if I wasn’t there and you didn’t come home?”

“Fine. But you’re going to be careful. And let me go first.”

“Stella-“

“My way or you’re stuck here.”

“Alright Stel, alright. We’ll protect each other.”

“And?”

“And you can go first.” Brandon kept the “over my dead body” to himself but by the way Stella was looking at him she knew exactly what he was thinking.

“Great. I’m going to grab our things.” Stella swept her staff, disappearing in the typical flash of bright light, only to return moments later with the clothes. “Here,” she thrust a small box at him, one she actually pulled from her purse and he didn’t remember them buying, but Stella was a master of purchasing on the sly. It wasn’t an anniversary, or his birthday, so he was surprised by the gift. “I’ll ask the others to help me spell it with a shield.”

It was a small necklace, the chain short and looking far too delicate to withstand his training regiment, but with the Winx spelling it, it would probably hold up. The metal was gleaming gold, a tiny sun stone burning in its setting. “When did you get this?” Stella had to help Brandon put it on, finding the necklace more of a choker than anything, but it didn’t impede his breathing. Riven would give him hell for the slightly feminine jewelry, but it was small enough that it could be hidden under his uniform if needed.

She glanced away, focusing on charming the clothes clean and putting them in the wardrobe. “A few weeks ago. It was going to be your anniversary gift next month – I didn’t want to risk losing it.”

“Stel-“

“Nope. We’ll spell it before you leave, and you’re going to stay safe. I’ll need you by my side when I’m crowned queen.”

“Of course Princess.”

Chapter Text

Bloom popped her head up from the trunk, glancing around idly to see how her parents and Sky were coming along with their preparations. Her dad was packing the cooler, yet again, a few feet away while her mom was bringing down the basket filled with their camping dinnerware. Sky had disappeared inside, probably looking for any last-minute things that she’d forgotten. It was unlikely since they hadn’t bothered to unpack after arriving late last night, but one never knew. “I’m going to do a last check. Do you need help Mom?”

“I got it sweetie. You go get Sky.”

“Alright!” Bloom headed in, glancing at the coatrack to make sure there weren’t any rain slickers left on the off chance the weather didn’t hold, and found Sky pacing in the kitchen. “Hey Sky. What’re you looking for?”

“Hey, uh-the, the lighters. For the fire.” He rubbed at the back of his neck, his other hand gesturing at the drawers.

“You remember how I’m a fairy? If they’re not in the kit I can light it myself.”

“Right. Right. Guess we should go.”

Bloom grabbed his hand, checking the living room as they headed out, and locked the door behind them. “All ready?” Sky was kind enough to hold the door for her as she got in, then joined her in the backseat, Vanessa moving the front passenger seat up as far as possible to give him room and even then, he was shifting his legs to rest in the middle-seat’s space.

“Yep! Let’s go!” His girlfriend was nearly bouncing as soon as his seatbelt clicked.

Mike turned on the radio at low volume for background as they pulled away, chatting about anything and everything that had happened since the four of them had last been together. Soon enough, chatter devolved into Mad Libs, much to the distress of Sky who hadn’t grown up with it, and thought the premise ridiculous, but played the good sport each time. It was only a few hours to the campground, and between catching up and the pad they filled, the midday and early afternoon went quickly.

They each had jobs once they’d pulled into their designated spot just at the edge of the clearing; with Vanessa heading for firewood and Mike unloading the car, it was up to Bloom and Sky to put up the tents and roll out sleeping bags. Soon enough, they were set, and headed down a small game trail to the lake, steps well known to the three who’d come every year since Bloom was a toddler. She was carrying the fishing poles, having learned the first time Sky accompanied them that the lines would end tangled in a tree soon enough if left in his hands.

“I’m going swimming,” Bloom was already slipping into the cold lake, her mom following shortly behind and with slightly more hesitancy given the brisk temperature.

Mike shook his head fondly, grabbing his fishing pole before taking up position at the end of the small dock. “Guess we know why she’s able to jump right in while the snow caps are still melting.”

Nodding, Sky joined him, the pole still unfamiliar in his hands. Most of their training at Red Fountain was about survival, and while fishing was definitely a survival skill, they’d never been given a proper rod – instead expected to fashion one out of their surroundings or utilize the net or basket techniques. “It definitely gives her an edge, but I think most of that is just Bloom.”

“True.” Neither Mike nor Sky felt the need to fill the silence, instead taking in the quiet other than intermittent splashes of Bloom and Vanessa a ways off as to not scare the fish. Mike got a few bites, but only pulled one in, and it was too small to keep so it ended up back in the lake.

A tiny scuff on the dock behind them had Sky on edge, looking for Bloom and Vanessa and finding neither down the lake’s edge. He was reaching inside his light jacket for his sword when wet arms wrapped around his shoulders, dark red hair plastered to the side of his face. “You’re easy to sneak up on.”

He released the hilt, letting out a slightly shaky breath before he pushed her hair away to turn. She’d gotten slightly burned in the afternoon sun, particularly on her nose. “Maybe don’t do that in the future?”

“Sure, sorry Sky.” She backed off slightly, confused but amenable as she sat on his far side, and Sky tried to relax, noticing that Mike was reeling in his rod.

“I’m going get started on dinner. Come up when you’re ready.” Bloom and Sky nodded. Vanessa had already slipped back up to the campsite, probably long before Bloom had snuck up on him.

“Something wrong?”

“No Bloom. Why?”

“You’ve been weird today. Was it the Mad Libs? I know they can be kinda of lame.”

Sky laughed, pulling in his own line. “They’re weird, but fine. I think I’m still getting use to all your Earth stuff.”

“Well what did you do on road trips? Or space-trips?”

“Mostly read or joked around with Brandon if it wasn’t a formal royal convoy. We spent almost all our childhoods together, so it wasn’t dull.”

  “That sounds nice. Having a friend to go on trips with I mean, even if the royal part sucked.”

Sky shrugged, noting the sun was dipping lower and a chill was stealing across the water. “Let’s head back.” They made it just as Mike and Vanessa were pulling the burgers from the fire, small salads set on blue tin plates, and soda poured in matching cups. It was easier to relax around the firepit as they ate, but once Bloom was spearing marshmallows on poorly-whittled sticks and her parents had retreated to their tent, unease crept back into Sky’s mind, causing him to glance at the forest around them.

“Alright, out with it! What’s got you jumpy?”

“It’s nothing.”

“Seriously Sky, you always get like this. What is it?”

“I’m…not the biggest fan of Earth camping.”

“You don’t like camping?” The idea didn’t sit right with Bloom – Sky had come along with them for the last three years, always making time during the summer right at the beginning or end to spend a long weekend fishing, grilling, and sleeping outdoors.

“No, I don’t. It’s one thing to camp during a mission, but Earth camping? It’s…it’s strange.” He was abashed, rubbing at his neck again as he stared at the roaring fire.

“Then why come?” Her marshmallow was nearly there, just one more side to toast and then it would be perfect.

“You liked it. And it’s nice spending time with your parents. They’re kind. And they don’t expect anything from me, or you, despite knowing we’re royalty.”

“You didn’t have to torture yourself with camping to spend time with my family. They would have loved it if you’d just joined us for the holidays or an odd weekend now and again.” Bloom leaned further into his side, letting just a whisp of her magic out to ward off the chill of the early summer night. “Our friends don’t expect anything.”

“Not status, or the like, but we’re still powerful royalty. There’ve been a few times I’ve seen them biting their tongues when we’re talking and they disagree.” Sky shrugged, glancing up at the stars and trying to enjoy the view. “Even Brandon – I never knew if he agreed to exchange places with me because he thought it’d be fun or because it was me asking.”

“Of course it was because you were asking; not as his crown prince, but his friend Sky.”

“Maybe.”

“Not maybe. I may not have been raised as a princess, so I don’t know how often people have acted like that around you, but our friends don’t expect anything more than they do of each other – meaning being friends. That means you can ask for things, and they can too. Anything they’re holding back is because they don’t want to hurt your feelings over something small or stupid, not because they’re worried you’ll take it out on them.” The fire flared up, an unintended consequence of Bloom having let her magic out and then getting frustrated, charring her marshmallow and causing it to slip into the flames. “Don’t insult them like that.”

Sky hummed, not having realized how it may come across to Bloom. It was so straightforward to most princes and princesses, the idea that people would either suck up or hold back because of your position, but the biggest change to their friends during the whole switch reveal was everyone being vocally pissed Brandon and he had lied. Bloom’s coming out as the missing princess of Sparx only resulted in Stella trying to put tiaras in all of her new formal outfits, and Bloom could turn them to ash if she wanted. “I didn’t mean to.”

“I know. So no Earth camping next year?” She carefully replaced her lost marshmallow, shifting logs around with another stick to reveal some coals on the perimeter, and tried roasting it to golden brown once more.

“Please no? Three years every decade may be my limit.”

“Missing out, but alright. You can come for Fourth of July and Thanksgiving instead.”

“Fourth of July? Thanksgiving?”

“Fireworks, and tons of hearty, delicious food.”

“What’s Thanksgiving?”

“That’s the hearty, delicious food. We get together, say what we’re thankful for in the last year, and then eat for about five hours and watch football between lunch and dessert. We eat BBQ on the Fourth.” Sky chuckled, unsure how people on Earth survived given nearly all their holidays seemed to revolve around astounding amounts of food.

“Sounds wonderful.”

Chapter Text

Musa was strumming her guitar, trying to finish out a score that had been floating through her head for the last few hours, as Riven quietly mumbled in the living room. It was rare for him to step out during a call, neither typically caring if the other heard their conversations with their friends, but at the moment Musa greatly appreciated the attempt to be quiet while she worked. The door clicked open, and a quick glance up saw Riven slinking over to the bed, lying beside her and listening to her play. When Musa finally set aside her instrument, scratching in the last few notes, she shifted so that Riven could lie with his head on her lap, slowly stroking his hair.

“Got a surprise for Tuesday evening. Available?” He asked, keeping his eyes closed.

“Cool. Yeah, I’ll meet ya at the front gate.” Musa didn’t comment on the way he curled into her hand, enjoying the odd calm in their usually drama-wrought relationship.

“Wear athletic clothes.”

*                                  *                                  *                                  *                                  *

On Tuesday, Musa was at Alfea’s front gate long before their agreed-upon time of 18:30, headphones blasting as she kicked at the low wall she was lying on. Riven would be there at the last minute, as always, but she was just excited that for once the Trix weren’t attacking, the entire squad was getting along, and Riven and her were in a pretty good space. Their tempers still caused them to butt heads, Riven flinching back from offered comfort nearly every time, but every once in a while, like last Saturday, he would seek it out. She was enjoying the sun on her face, eyes closed, letting the minutes slip away as one song faded into another.

“Happy birthday Musa.” Riven was right behind her, sneaking past while she was bobbing along to the song, and she slipped off the wall at the abruptness of his presence.

“Riven, you’re early.” Not by much, five minutes or so, but it was nice he wasn’t expecting her to jump on a still-moving bike like last time.

“Yeah…” He was looking anywhere but Musa. “Wasn’t sure you’d be ready.”

“Because I’m always the one cutting it close.” She rolled her eyes, popping her headphones around her neck as she moved closer, unsure if he’d appreciate, or allow, a peck on the cheek in greeting.

Expression somewhat pained, and having glanced around for any wandering eyes, Riven bent down slightly to kiss her. She wasn’t sure it could really be called a kiss, too fast and barely a brush of lips, but he was working on the whole PDA thing and obviously trying.

“You consider that athletic?” Okay, maybe not trying that hard on all fronts.

He was dressed in his usual uniform, sans the cape, while Musa had on a blue open-shoulder mini dress, matching arm warmers, and her favorite pair of black combat boots. “I’m wearin' shorts and a racer tank underneath. Do I need my sneakers?”

Riven took a moment, considering her boots versus the ones she normally wore when transformed, and figured she’d probably be fine. “No.”

“Where’re we goin’?” She followed him to his bike, parked just out of sight of the main gate. He was still a bit uneasy on Alfea grounds given everything that had gone down with Darcy and the Trix his second year, and while most were the type to forgive, fairies didn’t necessarily forget.

“Magix.”

“No, really? I assumed we were gonna bounce over ta the Dark Dimension.” She may not have been trying all that hard either, but she mounted the bike either way, arms settling around his waist in a tight grip.

Riven waited until they were on the move before murmuring through the helmets “Dance lesson.”

“Say what?!” Musa nearly let go of him, baffled. Riven hated dancing, as in it took half the Winx to drag him onto the dance floor, and a tight hold on his wrist by Musa to keep him there.

“Don’t make a thing about it.”

“Seriously? We’re gonna dance?”

“Yeah.” The rest of the ride into Magix was silent, Musa stunned and Riven focused on avoiding the nutjobs that flew through the streets, himself being one of them in Musa’s opinion.

Riven was able to find a spot close to the front of the studio, the building set back on a side street a few blocks out of the city center. Musa was nearly thrumming, hands going to her headphones and back down by her sides as Riven locked up the helmets and bike, trying to keep the look of being headed to the gallows off his face. “If ya don’t wanna be here we don’t have ta.”

“No.” He let her take his arm, still tense but determined. “Let’s go.”

The guy behind the counter glanced up from his book when they entered. “You must be Riven and Musa. Mai will be out shortly for your pole dancing lesson.”

What do you mean ‘pole dancing lesson’?” Riven was full on growling, held in place by the soft hand on his forearm and the wish to not ruin Musa’s birthday by blowing up, but he essentially tugged Musa along behind him to get to the counter.

“You said you were training with poles, and to pick something since your girl ‘dances to everything’.” The guy was trying not to chuckle, amused but obviously uncertain how long Riven would keep his temper mostly in check if someone straight up laughed in his face. “Figured you’d want to impress her.”

“You asked what I was trained in; I’m a Specialist! We’re focusing on fighting with staffs this month!”

“Come on Riven, it’ll be fun.” Musa tried to defuse the situation, thinking it would be pretty interesting to watch Riven try to contort a meter in the air. “There’re cushioning charms?”

“Of course. We don’t want anyone to get hurt while learning.”

“There ya go. Ya already paid Riven, – might as well try it out.”

It took a few moments for Riven to nod, trying to be pleasant about it since it was Musa’s day. “Not a word of this to anyone.”

“Yeah, yeah.” If he was willing to do something like this, maybe they did have a chance in the long run, prickly attitude or not. 

*                                  *                                  *                                  *                                  *

Riven regretted his decision nearly immediately. Not only did he hate dancing on a good day but trying to twist around a metal column without falling off or pulling a limb in the wrong direction made it easily a hundred times worse. Musa, on the other hand, appeared to be having a blast, practically floating around the pole while Mai dedicated most of the beginning of the lesson trying to get Riven to shift upside down, and roll down around the base without crashing to the cushioned floor. A few times, Riven was nearly certain that Musa was using magic, but the air around her lacked the usual shimmer that identified low-level charms.

“Go teach Musa.” He finally bit out, stonewalling the teacher’s attempts to help him until she finally gave up and went back to Musa, immediately showing her new ways to dismount and eventually a full sequence while Riven watched from the sidelines. She was as composed as always when dancing, hearing the music in a way he never could, and he couldn’t help smiling just slightly whenever he saw her glancing his way.

Musa promised Mai that she would come back for another lesson when the hour was up, acting like the Energizer Bunny with how she bounced around, even more excited than when they’d arrived. “Can we grab a pizza?”

Nodding, Riven decided maybe it was worth the pain and embarrassment of dancing poorly to get to see Musa so happy.

Chapter Text

Tecna had calculated the timing down to the millisecond, even going as far as to pause by a window that had absolutely zero appeal to her and was more up Stella’s alley to delay her arrival at the small ice cream shop. She refused to give off the impression of being overly eager. Truly, she needn’t have worried as Timmy had been waiting around the corner from their meeting spot for the last few minutes, trying to plan his own arrival to correspond with hers. When he saw her approach, he casually strolled into view, or well, that must have been his intent, because it appeared more so to Tecna that he was dazed and confused.

“Timmy!” She pointed to the large floating sundae a few meters above and ahead of him, as if he needed reminding about their plans. It had been a whole thing set up by their friends, in one of those painful fashions where a large group was to meet and then they all canceled at various points leading up to it for ridiculous things. Musa’s excuse had been the most blatantly obvious – as if Tecna or Timmy were expected to believe that she’d managed to convince Riven to go to a weekly dance class following her birthday. Bloom’s was nearly as appalling, something about willingly living in the wilderness for the weekend with her parents and Sky. Either way, the numbers had dwindled until it was just the two of them who were meeting at the shop.

“Hi Tecna,” Timmy waited for her under the sign, immediately pulling out his phone to show her the newest line of code he’d developed for his blasters’ targeting system. “So it’ll target not only heat temperatures, but those shard attacks Icy uses as well.”

“That’ll be incredibly helpful the next time we battle the Trix.” His face immediately went red, glancing towards the parlor as he fidgeted with his glasses. “Should we enjoy a frigid dessert to assist in counteracting the summer heat?”

“Uh, yeah, that – yes.” Tecna hid her smile as he stuttered and held the door open, preemptively selecting a point at the back of the room where they could sit and have full view of the entry points and other patrons. They were primarily children let free for the season who could have been using the time to improve their intellect, and a couple of younger fairies. Not a witch in sight, much to her relief, but it wasn’t likely they’d frequent this type of establishment anyway. “What do you want?”

“I am considering either the lemon ice or the basil ice cream.”

“Basil?”

“Basil has an exceedingly refreshing flavor. My calculations indicate that it would transfer well to the medium of ice cream, and given the ratings that this ice cream parlor has received, their confectioner should have adequate capabilities for its creation.” Tecna ordered, the question having cemented her decision, and moved to the till while Timmy hurriedly requested and received his small sundae. “Let’s sit.”

“Wait, Tecna, we need-“

“I have already paid for our items.” He didn’t know what to do, following just a touch demurely after her. The main rule that the others had hammered into his cranium was that he should pay for the sweets, and here he hadn’t even been given the chance to offer. At the table, Tecna positioned the chairs so that they would both have a clear line of sight to the main door and large windows.

“My forecast was correct. Would you like to try the basil ice cream?” She held out a small plastic spoon that she must’ve grabbed at the counter, a large dollop sitting on top.

“Oh, sure.” Timmy decidedly was not a fan of the herb-flavoring, despite its subtle inherent sweetness, and quickly followed the taste with a mouthful of his own. “Would you-?” He gestured to his own treat, and after a quick visual inquiry, Tecna shook her head.

“I am not particularly fond of foods whose names include the word ‘Death’. That is what they have titled Death By Chocolate, correct?”

“…Yeah.” He tried to hide his wince. Strike two on the date checklist – sharing their desserts. All of Brandon’s many, many stories about his dates with Stella included sharing food. Why? Timmy couldn’t figure it out for the life of him. It was one thing to taste each other’s dishes, but it sounded like Stella and Brandon often nearly switched entire meals. They should just order what they wanted to begin with rather than eating half or more of each other’s. Granted, given their ice cream choices, Timmy and Tecna wouldn’t be having that issue ever.

Tecna watched him, licking at her cone as he seemed to be having some type of internal crisis over her rejection of his dessert choice. “However, I am intrigued as to why someone would call an ice cream flavor that. And it does appear to be popular by the low volume in the tub at the counter.” He immediately perked up, much to Tecna’s curiosity. Perhaps this attempting to read people that Flora suggested would come in handy – why a person wouldn’t simply state things plainly didn’t make much sense, but it was unfortunately the norm outside of Zenith.

“Here!”

She carefully took the offered spoon, cautious of the ice cream, banana piece, and the sprinkling of charmed candies on top. It looked as if its mere presence would cause irrevocable damage to her teeth, but she’d committed. The confectionary would not be added to her list of acceptable treats to keep around the apartment, but she would likely be overruled by the rest of the Winx if Timmy ever mentioned the sugar-ladened creation. “It is certainly an acquired taste.” That was good enough for him, and he happily went back to devouring it, the pair slipping into talk about additional upgrades to his blasters once more.

When it was finally getting late, Timmy insisted on driving Tecna home on his bike. He didn’t use it nearly as much as the others, but he wasn’t a bad driver, and Tecna enjoyed having a reason to get close, since normally Timmy, and Tecna not that she’d ever admit it, became awkward when they got within a foot of one another. “I had a really fun time tonight, even if the others bailed.” Timmy sounded so scripted that Tecna couldn’t help laughing for a moment, not realizing how Timmy would take it as they stood beside his bike.

As soon as his face started to crumple, she grabbed him by the back of the neck, pulling him down for a short kiss.

“Oh, wow.”

“My calculation puts us having another outing devoid of the others at 87% given your reaction.” Tecna was trying to stay calm as she waited for him to piece together a sentence that actually made sense, since the half-words he was sprouting couldn’t be counted as such.

“Yes.”

“I will text you.” Her confidence was fading quick, so this time she only kissed him on his blush-heated cheek. “Good night Timmy.”

Tecna got a mumbled ‘good night’ in return as she walked off, thinking perhaps Layla’s advice wasn’t the worst thing in the world. After all, she’d have been waiting all night for Timmy to get his courage together if she hadn’t done something.

Chapter Text

Flora had to hunt for the small clearing west of the lake, feeling reminiscent of their first-year Voice of Nature test in the swamp when she promptly stepped in a mud pit and nearly lost her shoe. A quick charm removed the black sludge, but there was a definite icky-ness that had seeped into the openings, and she found herself walking barefoot through the grass and sporadic wet spots. A whistle had her turning slightly more North, eyes easily finding Helia through the trees a half dozen meters away with a large picnic hamper set on a blanket.

“How did you find this place?” Flora loved the lack of industrialization, so much like the far-reaches of Linphea. This deep into the forest, it would be difficult to see Alfea even from the air, and it was silent except for the rustle of wind and critters through the fauna.

“My first year at Red Fountain, before I took the year off, I like to wander to avoid my squad mates. No one comes this far out so it became a refuge for me to work on my art.” He gestured to his sketchpad, charcoal and brushes, laid out at the edge of the cloth.

“And you’re sharing it with me?”

“Flora…” Helia raised his arm, providing ample space for her to curl into his side when she sat down. “Of course I am; if anyone could appreciate this place it’s you.”

“It really is amazing.” A closed flower caught her eye, and almost immediately she was scooting towards it, leaving Helia amused. “Is that-?”

The moment her fingers touched the closed bud, petals began unfurling to reveal a shocking fuchsia core. “An Everlasting. Fitting it would bloom for you.”

Carefully, Flora scooped the partially closed blossom from the earth, using her magic to encourage its roots to hold a large clump of soil. When she turned back to Helia, he was holding out one of the cups he’d brought in the basket. “Thank you Helia.”

She was both nervous and excited to hand the flower over to him, knowing the old wives’ tale that the first two people to touch a blooming Everlasting would be in one another’s lives until they died. It didn’t explicitly say it would be in a romantic sense, but the idea that their relationship would end and yet still see each other often didn’t sit particularly well with her. While it was possible that Helia didn’t know the legend, it was unlikely, and his willingness to help Flora temporarily pot it in the mug had butterflies in her stomach.

“I only brought two cups, so it appears we’ll have to share one for our tea.” Flora nodded mutely, still looking at the Everlasting as it continued to spread, until the dark purple edges of its six petals created a stark contrast with its center. “Flora? There are also some grapes and other food if you’re hungry. It’s all vegan.”

“You didn’t have to do that Helia. I know that you like honey and brie with grapes.”

 “Small price to pay.” He waited until she got close again to kiss her, then poured the herbal tea and handed her the cup to sip while he riffled through the basket. Helia primarily stuck with foods that were naturally vegan, neither of them fans of the overly processed items that were intended to mimic other foods. They were quiet for a long time, watching as beautiful dragonflies zipped through the air, and enjoying their break from the ever-present beeping of technology while around Tecna or when Helia had his communicator on anything but emergency mode.

“Helia?” Flora shifted, trying to find a new comfortable spot leaning back against him, now that he’d moved, grabbing a bag from the picnic hamper.

“May I braid your hair?”

It wasn’t a particularly unusual request, and she nodded, sitting forward just a touch so he could pull her long hair to the front before settling once more. He could still easily complete his set upon task. Slow and steady, his fingers carefully separated portions and began twisting plaits, movements pausing momentarily now and again. “What are you doing Helia?” She really did love saying his name, taking every opportunity she could, and Flora only hoped he didn’t find it too annoying.

“I have another surprise for you.”

“Another?”

With one last twist, one of Helia’s many hairbands was firmly wrapped at the end of the braid, and he guided her hand to touch some of the intersections. Small six-pointed plastic pieces adorned her tawny hair, and she shot a glance towards the Everlasting sitting in its cup. “I know you don’t like picking flowers, so I thought I’d get you ones that can’t die.”

“Are they-? Did you really get me…?” At Helia’s nod, Flora’s face flushed and she immediately turned to hide it in his neck, fingers still touching the small plastic Everlastings tucked into her hair.

Chapter Text

Ducking around a corner, he caught sight of Layla wandering off from the rest of the Winx, looking as if she were headed on a hike by the knapsack slung over her shoulder. The others were off towards the bus to Magix, so Nabu trailed behind his fiancée for a little while, watching as she created Morphix bridges and boulders to help her over rivers and chasms, other times simply launching herself into those odd flips she was so fond of. It was during one of those gymnastic feats that he lost sight of her, the small pack dropping to the ground, and he hurried closer, concern making him reckless despite knowing the power she had at her fingertips.

Nabu probably should have anticipated his surprise visit resulting in Layla sitting on his chest, fist a scant few inches from his jaw, when he decided to wait to announce his presence for a while. “Hi Layla.”

She shook herself, sitting back so her weight rested more comfortably on his stomach, and raised an eyebrow. “What are you doing here Nabu? I thought you were on Tides until the end of the month.” He didn’t bother trying to move despite the rock digging into his shoulder blade, smiling up at her as she rolled her eyes.

“Your father was pleased with the budget suggestions the treasurer and I drafted so he let me go a few days early.”

“You’re getting lucky this week – I could’ve blasted you point blank!” Layla finally got up, helping him to his feet and taking the opportunity to tug lightly on his braid. “That would’ve been an awful way to start your visit.”

“You’d have to catch me first.”

“What are you talking about? I did just catch you!” She retrieved her knapsack, pulling out a couple power bars and tossing one to him. They were a good hour from Alfea on foot, and she had plans for a few hours more before turning back. The foothills of the mountain range were nearly in view, and Layla was eager to see how far up she could get before midday, but a question first. “Why were you tailing me?”

“You were relaxed, and I didn’t wish to intrude.”

“So you’re telling me it’s better to stalk me in the woods so I’d be ‘relaxed’ rather than just saying hi? Ever think it’s really weird to do that? And given my history with Darkar and the Trix and Baltor that maybe following a person isn’t the best idea? That it may be the opposite of relaxing? And didn’t you learn anything from the last time you decided it was a good idea to follow me around?”

Nabu didn’t even look like he was going to argue with that, instead opening the foil of his snack and taking a bite. “Fair point.”

“Well, I’m not changing my plans just cause you decided to ambush me, so you coming or what?”

He nodded, following her farther into the foothills, hiding his grin behind the power bar as she inquired after her family and realm. Nabu was happy to provide what information he could, just enjoying the opportunity to have an additional few days with her.

Of course, the peace couldn’t last, and soon enough that competitive streak of hers was rearing its head. “Bet you can’t get to the top of the outcropping before me.”

“No magic?”

“Gotta give you a chance.” Nabu missed her wink, already taking off over the rough terrain before her brain caught up and she scrambled to follow. “Not fair!”

He paused a few jumps from the top, glancing back to find his lead had evaporated and Layla was only a half-step behind, so the moment he stopped she nearly crashed into him, barely shifting to the side to avoid an accidental pileup on the rocks.

She didn’t let the near stumble deter her though, and within seconds she was sitting on the top ledge while Nabu just stared. “I did give you a fair chance, and you even took off before me.”

He pulled himself up, kissing the delight off her face before settling beside her. “I should know better than to indulge you.”

“You love our competitions.”

“Yeah. And I love you.”

“Remind yourself of that in a few decades. You may not be a sore loser now, but even that’s got to take its toll.”

“You remind me every day.” If he hadn’t already proposed, Nabu thought maybe this would have been the best place to do it – no eyes, friendly or otherwise, around to see, and Layla the happiest she’d been in months, slightly out of breath from the race up the rocks. “And you’ll let me win every now and again, right?”

“Don’t count on it!”