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Caged

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Sky was fuming on the entire trip back to Red Fountain. Even Brandon decided to steer clear of his prince, which was definitely saying something. Annoyingly persistent as his squire/bodyguard was, he knew when to leave Sky alone to fester in his own (real) anger for a while until it would die down. And damn, did it take a while to simmer down. 

Because Diaspro had come to see him off. 

It wasn’t as though Sky hated her, or even disliked her. He just hated the idea of what she was - what she was going to be - to him. But she’d changed. He remembered a few years ago, when they were coming of age, when she confessed that she didn’t want to marry someone because her parents said so, she wanted to marry someone because she liked him. Really liked him. 

It had been easier after that. The air around them went from full of tension and awkwardness to lighter and friendlier. Mind you, that didn’t mean they were best of friends - they tried to leave the other alone as much as possible - but when they had to be seen together, it wasn’t as bad as it used to be. Because Sky had thought her confession meant that she too was uncomfortable with the situation and didn’t want to be forced into a union with him. 

Until now. 

Sky was escorted out of the palace, Brandon and Gabriel, his personal squire and head of the palace guards, at his side. Their bags had been loaded onto the airship already, and all that was left was to board. 

They were set to leave in the middle of the night, where it was less likely to be seen by potential enemies. Nobody except for a few select guards and his parents knew of the departure. 

It had happened once, before, when Sky was a little boy, where the royal family left for another planet to negotiate trade in the middle of the day. Civilians had gathered outside the palace, cheering for them, wanting to see them off.

And in the midst of all the commotion, a knife flew from somewhere in the crowd, heading straight for the King’s head. 

It was deflected, of course, by Gabriel, but the damage had been done. Chaos erupted, screaming civilians and rushing guards, accusations flying as the three royals were ushered away by an entourage of knights. 

It was from then on that any time the King, Queen, or Prince had to leave the planet or city, it was done under strict supervision, at an ungodly hour of night. It didn’t have to be said that nobody outside of the palace could know. Hell, half the palace itself didn’t even know - servants would wake up the next morning and notice that their lord was gone without even a hiccup. 

Which is why Diaspro’s sudden appearance when he would leave for school, which she should definitely not know about, had alarm bells going off in his head. 

“Sky!” she had cried, rushing towards him in a flurry of silky robes. He was frozen stiff as she threw her arms around his neck, burrowing her face into his chest. Her heady, overpowering perfume invaded his nose, and he struggled not to sneeze into her hair. 

Beside him, Brandon made a choking noise. 

“Diaspro,” he said, arms slowly coming up to awkwardly pat her on the back, “what are you doing here?” From the corner of his eye, he saw Gabriel sheathe his sword back into its scabbard. 

“Isn’t it obvious? I came to see you off! I’m not going to see you for a whole year!” She looked up at him, still embracing him - he wanted to yank himself away, because were those her nails stabbing themselves into his back? - her face full of hurt. 

“Lady Diaspro,” Gabriel smoothly interjected, “please bear in mind that the Day of the Royals is happening at Red Fountain this year. Naturally, you are expected to come, and you can see Prince Sky then.” 

No, no, no, Gabriel, why did you remind her- “Right,” he shakily said. He gently but firmly took her by her arms and nudged her away, and tried to step away. 

She didn’t let him. Her hand shot up, and she grabbed his forearm, - and God dammit, her sharp nails were digging into his skin again - and held on stubbornly. “Still,” she persisted, “you couldn’t have come to say goodbye?” 

Was he missing something? Diaspro was never this clingy. She would have to keep up appearances in front of their parents, sure, but never like this. She had nothing to prove in front of Brandon, and she knew he told him everything, and it’s not like she was doing this for Gabriel’s sake. 

His shock was wearing off, only leaving room for confusion and building annoyance. It was too late - early? - for this, and the trip was a long one. He wanted nothing more to get on the ship and clock out. 

“Sorry,” he said shortly. “Goodbye, Diaspro, I’ll see you soon.” Seeing her unmoved face, clearly not happy with his short words, he lied through his teeth, adding on: “I’ll write.”

“Much better,” she crooned softly, and then leaned up and kissed him. 

He froze for real this time, eyes wide with shock, because what the hell was she playing at, and holy shit he suddenly wanted to hurl. She pulled away after a few moments and patted his cheek. He could feel her nails grazing his jaw and he shivered, but not in the good way. “Goodbye, Sky.” And with her hand dragging down his arm, she turned and left, her hair almost whipping him in the face. Her guard he didn’t notice earlier followed her out of the courtyard.

He still didn’t move. It wasn’t until Brandon spoke up - Dude, what the fuck - that he blinked. “I don’t- why-” 

Brandon, who, by the looks of it, was about to open his mouth and spiel, wisely closed it as he saw Gabriel shake his head, and stepped towards his prince. “Whatever, Sky, let’s just go. Pilot’s waiting.” He clapped him on the shoulder and quite literally forced him up the stairs of the ship. He hastily followed, throwing down a quick, “We’ll see you, Gabriel, bye!” as the door shut behind them. 

The attendant settled them into their seats, but left quickly at a look from Brandon. He chanced a peek at his prince, and yep, there it was. Sky had quite the temper when he was upset. And as his dumb shock was ebbing away, it was replaced with anger. 

“You wanna talk about it, buddy?” 

“No, not really - I just-” His hands were shaking. 

“Sky.” 

“How could she do that? She said she wasn’t into me. I’m not into her. I don’t want this, Brandon, I never did, and I don’t know how I’m going to face her at the Day of the Royals, I can’t-”

“Hey, man, don’t stress about that now. That’s months away.” His hand came up to rub Sky’s back as the prince put his head between his knees. 

Sky was still pissed, sure, but that didn’t erase the fact that he wanted to spill his dinner onto the floor. His stomach was doing flips in his worry. He took a deep breath and sat up straight in his chair, knowing they were about to take off any minute. Brandon’s hand fell back to his lap. “Sorry, Brandon. I’m fine.” 

“I have eyes, Sky. You’re not.” 

“Brandon.”

The dismissal was clear. 

Brandon abruptly stood, internally cursing Sky’s betrothed, and went to sit at the furthest chair on the other side of the room. Sky just needed to stew in his own thoughts for a bit, and he would be fine. 

Well, ‘a bit’ turned out to be well over half the thirteen hour trip from Eraklyon to Magix. Sky barely slept at all. Brandon didn’t either, worry for his best friend eating at him. Social butterfly as he was, though, he kept his mouth shut for the sake of his prince, even though the silence of the room was putting him on edge. He couldn’t text Stella on the ship, either. It was Eraklyon security policy that when a royal was traveling, all data and interweb had to be shut off, not wanting anyone to track them. He would message her when he got back, he decided. Stella rose with the sun, and that gave him about an hour or two of sleep before he could talk to - well, text - her. 

Meaning he was over the moon to see his other roommates - and talk to them - despite the early hour of arrival. He wasn’t expecting much, as Timmy and Riven were assuredly asleep, but barged in anyways. He jumped onto Riven’s bed, talking a mile a minute, before Timmy shut him up with a pillow and most definitely threatened him out. 

Seeing the slight smile on Sky’s face as he walked into their shared room, the prince having heard their yelling, was worth it. 

_______

 

Stella ended up calling when they were at the arcade. 

“Hey, Princess-”

Riven looked up from the pool table as Sky bit off his words and watched as the prince’s eyes widened in shock. Sky immediately laid down his stick on the table and pressed his phone closer to his ear, his eyes deadly serious. 

Riven slowly straightened up from his slouch over the table and made his way toward him. 

“Are you safe right now? Where are you? Don’t engage it.”

Timmy and Brandon were on Sky’s other side, Riven realized. They’d all picked up on the odd behavior, each of them getting increasingly worried. Riven strained his ears to hear Stella’s voice on the other side of the line. He couldn’t make out her words, but he heard harsh breathing and a panicked tone. 

Sky, realizing his friends were all surrounding him, quickly put his phone on speaker so they could hear her too. “I- planet Earth,” came Stella’s frantic voice. 

‘Earth?’ Riven mouthed at Timmy. He just shrugged in response, equally confused. 

“Please hurry. I’m zapped, and Bloom doesn’t really know how to fight. We’re kind of barricaded in her house. 

“Princess Stella,” Brandon spoke up, “Whatever you do, don’t engage this thing. Stay barricaded for as long as you can. Try to find a back exit and run-”

“I can’t.” Stella’s voice crackled through. “Bloom’s parents are here, and they can’t leave-”

Riven interrupted her. “You’d prefer they stay there and die? Their house can be rebuilt. Just get out and secure everyone’s safety.” He had no idea who this Bloom girl was, but from the sound of it, she was useless in a fight. And she had her parents with her. Stella had three civilians holding her down. Bad odds.

“Excuse you, Riven, there is no other way out. I’m not going through the front door where an ogre, a troll, and a dozen wraiths are waiting for me. No windows we can escape from, either, this is a shared building.” 

“Stop arguing,” came Timmy’s voice of reason. “Earth is about an hour warp away.” Riven noticed Timmy’s phone in his hand, opened up to an information page on the interweb. “We can get in a Red Fountain ship and be on our way in the next twenty minutes. Try to hold off until then, Princess Stella.” He grabbed Sky’s phone and ended the call. 

“Hey, Timmy, what gives-”

“He’s right. We’re wasting time.” Riven grabbed his jacket off the back of a nearby chair, and quickly made his way to the door. 

Sky ran after him, and they soon fell into step together. “Man, when she said she would call, this was so not what I expected.” 

_________________________

A fifteen minute walk turned five minute jog-sprint later, the four found themselves back at Red Fountain. Unfortunately, it wasn’t common for sophomores to just take a high maintenance warp-capable school ship, so they wasted the ten minutes they earned from their sprint arguing with Professor Varsh, the mechanics instructor. He also operated the ship bay, and authorized trips with any school owned ship or jet. And he wasn’t letting up.

“This is getting us nowhere.” Riven growled under his breath, a bead of cold sweat slipping down his neck. He slipped away from his friends, and strode towards Saladin’s office, his senses confirming he was in there alone, thankfully. 

He didn’t bother to knock, and quietly entered instead. 

“Riven, my boy, what brings you-” Saladin stopped at the look on Riven’s face. He was breathing harshly, and his eyes were wide in panic. 

How could I not have realized before? Stupid, Riven thought, biting his lip in frustration. “Saladin,” Riven gasped, “I need you to portal us to Earth.” 

“Us? Why Earth?” 

Riven met his eyes, and Saladin was unnerved by the edge he saw in them. “Because that’s where it is coming from.” 

The three others were there in the office with him in the next ten minutes. As Saladin created the portal, a wide, blue vortex that sent their hair flying back, pure energy and cold striking Riven’s senses, Timmy leaned over to him and whispered, “how’d you get him to make us a portal ?” 

“Don’t know. Seems like he really wants us to go.” Riven lied. 

“Boys,” Saladin said, and everyone stood alert. “This will be your first official mission. There is one fairy and three civilians trapped inside a house in a city setting with an ogre, a troll, and several wraiths wanting to get to them. Your job is to intercept them. Capture the troll and ogre if you can, but your priority is to the girls and their safety.” Saladin met their eyes, one by one, and his steel grey eyes were hard and serious. “Be safe. Remember that you are representing Red Fountain. But ….” he trailed off, and a slight smile graced his face. “You can’t represent this school like that.

And with a simple click of his fingers, the boys, previously dressed in casual civilian garb, were in their cream and blue uniforms. Riven blinked, immediately checking his pockets - which he still didn’t know how pockets existed in skin tight uniforms, but hey, magic, right? - for his weapons, confirming that they were all there. To his left, Sky was squealing in delight: “whoa, Headmaster Saladin, do that again!”, and Brandon was blinking down at himself, pulling at the fabric. 

Saladin coughed lightly, and the chatter dispersed immediately. “You’ve been briefed and have everything you need. Get going, and get back safely. The portal will open up again when you need it to.” His eyes cut to Riven for a second, and he understood instantly. I have to open it when we’re done. He nodded imperceptibly in response. 

And without further ado, the four jumped into the dizzyingly blue ocean of light.