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The Look of Love

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“Hey, do you- oh.”

Stella twisted where she lay curled upon the armchair, turning her head away from Brandon.  “What do you want?” she snapped, wiping hurriedly at the black smudges her tears had made out of her mascara.

“I- uh-” Brandon stuttered, clearly uncomfortable by her tears.  “Me, Sky and Timmy were going into Magix?  For a pizza?  And wondered if maybe you wanted to come?” Brandon’s voice lifted every time he paused, making it sound like question after question.

“Does it look like I want to come?” she asked, voice still hard, and still not looking at him.

“No, I- uh, I guess not.”

“Then go away.”

There was silence, then a creak, and Stella sighed, left alone in the dorm once again.  She’d just gotten back from spending semester break at her family’s palace, where her parents had decided to tell her that their separation was no longer just a separation, and that they were intending to divorce.  She’d left the royal throne room and stepped straight into the spaceship standing by to bring her back where thankfully her dorm-mates hadn’t returned yet.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

In her surprise, Stella forgot what a mess she must look like and glanced over her shoulder at where Brandon was still standing.  His expression was so warm, and so sure, that she surprised herself even more by nodding.

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The dress is big, the train long, and the colour a deep red; it’s a shade Bloom wouldn’t usually wear but this time has been carefully chosen to be not only a nod to her new home but also to her birth planet.  The gold accents on the dress shine in a way that wouldn’t be possible without magic and perfectly compliment the delicate tiara that’s nestled in her twisted back hair.

In short she looks like the perfect Princess, so why does she feel like she’s going to vomit?

“Stop worrying.”

Sky’s voice is smooth and unworried, a hint of a smile in it, and despite herself, despite it all, Bloom finds herself smiling in return.  There are maids and ladies-in-waiting still bustling around her, tucking in stray wisps of hair, making sure her skirts are falling just right, but it all melts away when she locks eyes with her husband.

“Easy for you to say,” she says through gritted teeth as someone behind her tightens her dress another fraction.  “You’ve already got your crown.”

Her coronation won’t be nearly as grand as his of course; people all over the dimension had tuned in to see Eraklyon greet their new king, but that didn’t mean crowning their queen would be any simple affair either.  Years as Princess of Sparx had gotten Bloom used to the ballgowns and the heels, the tiaras and the jewels, but sometimes she still felt like a girl from Earth playing dress up.

“Well, how do I look?” Bloom spreads her arms as Sky makes his way towards her, eyes sweeping her up and down.

“Gorgeous,” he says immediately.  “Stunning.  Beautiful.  Almost perfect.”

“Almost?” Bloom repeats, quirking an eyebrow.

Sky grins and steps around her, neatly dodging the train draped on the ground.  “Just one more thing,” he promises.

A nervous lady-in-waiting bustles into view.  “With all due respect, Your Majesty, we’ve been planning her Highness’s Royal Coronation outfit for months, all alterations were approved weeks ago.”

“A little spontaneity never hurt anyone, Camilla,” Sky says lightly, and the maid blushes at the knowledge that the King of Eraklyon knows her name.  “Besides, I can assure you the King won’t mind.”

Camilla blusters for another moment before curtsying in defeat and hurrying off, leaving Sky to produce a necklace from his pocket with a flourish and settle it around Bloom’s neck.

“What-?” Bloom asks, reaching up a hand to touch the necklace.  The pendant is a flawless blood ruby chiseled into the shape of a heart and twined with veins of gold.  It’s one of the oldest pieces in her collection, and Bloom still remembers the day Sky gifted her the Eraklyon heirloom.  And she still remembers the years that followed where she rarely deigned to remove the necklace, whether she was wearing flowing Princess gowns, or her more comfortable t-shirt and jeans.  

The weight of it against her collarbone is a familiar comfort and all too soon she can feel the tension leaving her body, as Sky reappears before her.  She sighs and reaches up to twine her arms around his neck.

“How did I get so lucky to marry you?”

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Flora wonders if there’s anything more beautiful than the sight of the Helia, head tipped back, face completely relaxed, hair darkening from a soft dove to a deep steel grey as it soaks in the water.  Besides the soft lapping of the water in the bowl, the world has gone quiet, save for the gentle whisper of the wind and the sweet trill of a pair of birds just outside the window.

Flora combs her fingers through the long strands, untangling them gently, before reaching up to massage his scalp, scratching lightly.  Helia hums, the sound throaty, contented, and a smile slips onto Flora’s face, the fairy basking in similar feelings of tranquility.

Her hands are slippery from the shampoo she lathers into Helia’s hair, and she can’t help but bring a hand to her face and blow softly, giggling as the bubbles lift from her skin and drift into the balmy air.  Helia’s eyes drift open, and a chuckle emerges from low in his throat as he too watches the bubbles fly away.

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“I should go,” Tecna says, even as she settles more firmly against the lounge.

“Yeah,” Timmy agrees, trying to keep his mind from zeroing in on where Tecna’s shoulder and hip press warm against his.

The coffee table in front of them is strewn with blueprints, plans, and lists, all accumulated over the semester they’ve spent designing their own computer.  Every spare moment, in between attacks by witches and investigations into the Dragon Flame or course, they’ve devoted to their little project.

“It’s getting late,” Tecna adds, fighting off a yawn even as her eyes continue to trace over the plans.

“You’ll miss your bus,” Timmy says with a nod, then points to the haphazard sketch she holds.  “Maybe if we replace that wire with something better-”

“Is it a wire?” Tecna asks, peering closer at the smudge.  “I thought that was the edge of the valve.”

Timmy frowns at it.  “Is it? Maybe you’re right, or could it be-”

Tecna groans and drops the page back on top of all the others, declaring with a sigh that she’s done for the night.  This is where Tecna would usually stand with her usual brisk nod, thank him for a pleasant evening, maybe make plans for next time, before leaving.  This is where Timmy would usually follow her to the door, try to stretch out the conversation as long as possible, before reluctantly saying goodbye and heading back to gather up the loose pages back into it’s folder that’s simply marked ‘Tecna’ because the sight of her name makes him smile.

But she doesn’t do that.  So neither does he.

Instead she slouches back in a very un-Tecna-like fashion, and rubs gently at her eyes.  “I am not looking forward to the bus ride back,” she admits, but Timmy doesn’t hear her. Because his ears have gone strangely muffled.  Because Tecna’s head has drooped sideways to rest against his shoulder.

“Uh, that uh- that- that-” he says numbly.  His first instinct is to fidget with his glasses, his usual and most obvious nervous tick, but the thought that that would jostle her stops him in his tracks.  “I could always drop you back on my bike before curfew,” he eventually says, barely recognising his own voice.

“Really?” Tecna says drowsily, leaning against him more fully now.  And Timmy has never heard her so relaxed, her voice usually so clipped and to the point.  “You’re the best, Timmy.”

“You’re welcome, Tec.”

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By the time they got to the top of the hill, their legs were aching and lungs begging for air, so they wasted no time in flopping right down onto the still slightly damp grass.  Helia and Flora were both panting, but that didn’t stop them from appreciating the beautiful view spread out in front of them, the sight of the sun slowly rising and painting the sky a beautiful fusion of pinks, oranges and yellows leaving them speechless.  Eventually Helia leant back on a hand and reached for his drink bottle, taking a long gulp before handing it over to Flora who took it with a sweet smile of gratitude.

“It’s stunning,” Flora breathed, eyes on the horizon and Helia quietly agreed even though his gaze was fixed firmly on her profile.

They watched the sky for a long time as the intensity of the colours slowly faded into the gentle blue of daylight, and finally the early morning caught up with them, the pair trading turns to yawn.

“Come here,” Helia said quietly, voice barely more than a rumble as he pulled Flora into his arms and laid them both down on the grass.  Flora hummed a sleepy, pleased noise, and rested her head on her boyfriend’s chest, the feeling of his fingers slowly trailing up and down her spine more than enough to lull her to sleep.

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Nabu was the kind of tired that left an ache in his bones and an itch behind his eyes, the kind of tired so deep that it felt as though he could drop off to sleep and not wake up for an entire week.  Which made it all the more infuriating that his brain refused to slow down long enough to let him actually drift off.

The ship was quiet around him, a rare occurrence for their usually boisterous group of friends, but that was merely a testament to the intensity of the mission they’d just completed, leaving them all so tired that even the ones who had managed to stay awake didn’t have the energy to talk.

Musa and Layla for instance were curled up together on a seat opposite Nabu, Layla’s head tipped back against her girlfriend’s shoulder as she dozed while Musa twirled an errant curl around her finger, blinks getting slower and slower.  Just down from them, Brandon and Stella were dead to the world despite the hard metal of the bench seat they were stretched out on. Sky, in the pilot’s chair up front, had to be awake, and Bloom was perched on the arm, staying awake in solidarity until Sky got them back to Magix.  But even despite Sky’s idle hand on Bloom’s knee, and her tilting sideways to rest her cheek on the top of his head, the pair weren’t talking, the exhaustion making it impossible to do much more than yawn and keep the ship from crashing.

Nabu was so busy people watching, eyes drifting lazily from side to side that he almost missed it when Riven tilted from where he had his head tipped back against the wall, snoring quietly, to rest against Nabu’s shoulder.  But it would be impossible for Nabu not to feel the warmth of Riven’s proximity, nor to miss the way his heart jolted.

He supposed he should wake his friend up, Riven was not one to show any sort of outward affection, and would be embarrassed to find himself in such a position when he awoke, but Nabu couldn’t make himself.  Not when the heavy weight of Riven against him was settling something inside him, and the faint traces of his friends cologne were lulling him too into a gentle slumber.

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Brandon saw Stella fall out of the corner of his eye and his heart fell along with her.

“Sky-” he gasped out, lungs constricting painfully with every second that Stella lay defenceless on the ground.

“Go,” his friend grunted, deflecting a spell with his blade.  “I’ll cover you.”

So leaving Sky to deal with Darcy and trusting him to protect his back, Brandon turned and ran for Stella’s prone form, scooping her up into his arms, and hurrying her into the ship.

“‘m fine,” she mumbled, but groaned quietly when she was jostled in his arms.

“Not fine,” he said through gritted teeth, keeping one hand clenched tightly over the bloody gash in her side.  “Not fine at all.”

The fact that she didn’t put up any more protests worried Brandon more than he could explain, and he took her straight into the ship’s med bay, lowering her carefully onto the padded bench, before hurrying away to source some bandages and healing potions they kept stocked.  Stella was quiet as he worked - another thing that worried Brandon - but her eyes were open and watching him while he dressed the wound and encouraged her to gulp down a potion.

“You’re all cute when you’re worried,” she said, words slurring slightly as the potion took effect.  Her fingertips were pale from blood loss but surprisingly steady as she reached up to trace the frown lines etched in his forehead.

The sudden thrum of the ship powering up below them cut off Brandon before he could formulate a response, not that he thought he would be able to with his heart still thudding painfully in his chest.  Bloom appeared at the doorway to explain that they’d decided to retreat; she looked furious that the Trix had won this battle, but her concern for her friend overwhelmed that.

“You okay, Stell?”

Stella managed a weak smile, and took her hand away from Brandon’s face to give a thumbs up.  Once Bloom had left again, Brandon caught ahold of the hand and laced their fingers together before bringing it to his lips so he could kiss the back of her hand softly.

“Don’t ever do that to me again, please,” he murmured into her skin, unable to look at her quite yet.

“Hey,” Stella said, squeezing his hand, voice unusually serious.  “Hey, I’m okay.  You saved me.”

Brandon shut his eyes against the surprising tears, knowing that although he’d been there this time, next time he might not be.

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Brandon could see the tension rolling off his wife in waves as he caught sight of her leaving a meeting only to be inundated with advisors as she hurried along to her next appointment.  He called over one of the stragglers who was typing furiously into her phone.

“What’s her afternoon look like?” Brandon asked, nodding at Stella’s retreating back.

The advisor blinked rapidly at him, probably an effect of too much coffee and not enough sleep Brandon thought, before rapidly scrolling through her phone.  “After meeting with the Lynphean ambassador, Her Majesty has a conference with the head of palace security to go over the new changes, then she has some royal court documents to review.”

“So, what I’m hearing is it can all be rescheduled?” Brandon asked with his trademark grin.

“Uhh, not really, Your Majesty, I’m sorry but tomorrow Her Majesty has-”

“Come on, Vera.  You’re the most brilliant advisor Stella has on her staff.  If anyone can make this happen, you can.”

Vera blushed at the compliment but still seemed unsure, and Brandon felt his smile dim slightly.

“Please.  She needs this.”

Vera squared her shoulders and tossed her hair over her shoulder.  “You got it, Your Majesty. I’ll make it work.”

“Brandon, what is this?” Stella was saying tiredly as Brandon led her through their royal suite towards the bathroom.  The exhaustion alone in her voice when usually she would have been more than up for blowing off a few royal meetings told Brandon how much she needed this.  “I really don’t have time- oh.”

Stella’s breath escaped her in a quiet puff as she took in the darkened room lit only by sweet smelling candles.  Quiet music trilled throughout the room and the bathtub was filled to the brim, topped by a generous layer of bubbles.

“I just thought,” Brandon said, easing Stella’s blazer from her shoulders.  She was so distracted that she didn’t even notice when Brandon tossed it to the ground.  “That you needed an afternoon off. You’ve been working so hard lately.”

Stella turned to him, smiling begrudgingly.  “What did I do to deserve you?”

“I am pretty great,” Brandon admitted, slowly unbuttoning her top.

“One condition though: you get in with me.”


Chapter Text

Stella was giving Bloom the silent treatment, but the way she jabbed roughly at Bloom’s arm with the cotton bud spoke volumes.  The wound wasn’t even that bad, just a long slice along her forearm that with a little antibacterial wipe, maybe a healing potion, will have faded to a scratch by morning.  But even so Bloom could tell Stella was furious about it.

“You can’t ignore me forever,” she pointed out, when Stella, still not talking, yanked a bandage from the drawer and began winding it around her arm.

“It’s either ignoring you or screaming at you,” Stella said through gritted teeth.  “Take your pick.”

Bloom didn’t answer, but winced as the bandage grew tighter as a result of Stella’s ferocious nursing.  The blonde fairy grimaced but pulled the bandage free and started again, hands gentler this time around.

“Hey, I’m okay, you know?”

Stella finished bandaging her arm and secured it, still refusing to look up at her even as she slipped her hand into Bloom’s.

“I’m okay,” Bloom repeated, brushing her free hand against Stella’s cheek gently.

“I know,” Stella said quietly, eyes on their intertwined fingers.  “You just scared me.”

“I know,” Bloom said, also quiet, apologetic.

Stella’s lips twitched up into an unwilling smile as she finally glanced up at her girlfriend and leaned in for a soft kiss.

Chapter Text

Bloom walked back into the kitchen to find Sky sitting right where she’d left him, head tilted back against the chair, eyes shut, and idly listening to the quiet music drifting from the radio on the bench.

“Well,” she said, and he cracked an eye open to look at her.  “I’m glad that’s over.”  She pulled the last of the pins from her hair and threw them onto the table in disgust.  

Sky hummed an agreement, before lifting his head to look at her properly, eyes dragging up her bare legs appreciatively.  Bloom just grinned at the molten look in his eyes and shook the tangles from her hair.

“Dance with me?” he said suddenly, standing and rounding the table to take her hand.

“Didn’t we do enough of that tonight?” Bloom asked, but didn’t protest as he tugged her towards him and slid an arm around her waist.

Sky merely scoffed, and they began to sway together to the quiet music.  The dance of choice at that night’s ball had been the waltz, one they both hated with vengeance, and besides they’d spent half the night being pulled away from each other dance with princes and princesses from other planets, visiting dignitaries, and anyone else their parents thought necessary.

What a pair they must have made in the middle of their tiny apartment.  He with his bare feet, dress pants, and unbuttoned shirt, her dressed in one of her boyfriend’s shirts and nothing else.  But secretly, Bloom much preferred this version of them to the picture perfect Prince and Princess they’d been only a few hours ago.

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“That’s my sweater.”

Riven didn’t remember making the decision to say something, but the moment he saw her, soft brown hair spilling over the shoulder of his favourite black sweater, a sweater that practically dwarfed her, the sleeves trailing over her fingertips and the hem falling to her mid-thigh, all reasonable thought left his brain.

Flora frowned at him, forehead creasing in confusion and his hand twitched with her urge to smooth out the lines with the pad of this thumb.

“Sorry, my clothes were all wet.  I can give it back-”

“No,” Riven said, probably too quickly, and definitely too vehemently, and he grimaced turning away to busy himself with the kettle on the stove.  “It’s fine,” he said to the tile splashback instead of Flora.

“Oh, well, okay,” she said, and he thought he could hear a smile in her voice as she pulled out a chair and took a seat at his tiny kitchen table.

He brought over their mugs, sliding the one filled with tea over to her without a word, and lifted his coffee to his mouth, observing her over the rim.  She’d claimed to have been just in the neighborhood when the rain had started and had messaged him, begging to wait out the downpour in his apartment, but Riven suspected she’d had ulterior motives.  He didn’t know what it was about him but his friends seemed to think that he just sat alone in his apartment when they weren’t on missions and constantly felt the need to check up on him.

Nevermind the fact that most of his time off was spent alone in his apartment.

He saw his friends of course, on missions and whenever they hung out as a group, but almost all of them were in long-term relationships now, so a lot of their down time was spent in domestic bliss.  In fact the only one who wasn’t in a relationship at the moment was Flora, which was maybe why she checked up on him more than anyone.

“Flora,” he said, setting his mug down.  “What are you doing here?”

Anyone else might have been offended by the borderline but Flora just smiled and tugged at the sleeve of his sweater that she was wearing.

“Is it a crime to want to spend time with my friend?”  As she asked the question she shifted, tucking her long legs up beneath her and inadvertently hiking up the hem of the sweater further.  Subconsciously his eyes dropped to all the bare skin she had on display and he fought down another flare of possessiveness at seeing her in his sweater.

“Not at all,” he replied, crossing his arms across his chest, and noting with satisfaction that her own eyes were drawn to his flexing biceps.  Whatever game she was playing, he could play it as well.