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What We Do

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He needs an outlet.

Before his defeat, Baltor would take his pent-up aggression out on those who stood in his way - guards, royal officials, security systems. It wasn't the most moral of coping methods, but in those days Baltor hardly acted as a moral man. The feeling of power was - and still is - addicting to him. It's worse now with his powers returning and nothing to use them on, even with them being mostly lighter magic.

Sibylla had offered use of some training rooms in the caves before. Baltor has taken her up on the offer before, mostly sparring against her top guards who had figured out his identity. He's alone in the room when Sibylla finds him, working against the practice dummies with more force than usual. His breathing is heavy and his heart rate elevated, but it's been so long the feeling is welcomed instead of revered.

"We have a dress code, you know."

Baltor glances at his discarded shirt and jacket, rolling his eyes. "I'm sure your fairies can handle it."

She's silent for a few moments, taking in his aura and the way he's wielding magic. "Is there something you'd like to tell me?"

"If you're going to stand and ogle you could conjure something for me to fight?"

There's a sigh, and a few moments later vines spring out of the ground, morphing into humanoid figures that advance towards him. He nods his thanks and goes up against the first one to make a move.

"Is there something you ought to tell me?" Sibylla asks instead.

"Nothing that's your business."

He sees her flick a finger, and two more of the humanoids advance towards him. Before he can launch an attack something wraps around his shoulder, and Baltor is thrown onto his back, staring up at a cluster of dark green leaves and moss.

"Try again." Her tone is hard.

Baltor sits up and finally looks straight at her. "There's nothing to discuss. Another ghost of my past. Only this time on a more literal level."

"Someone's discovered you're here?"

"No. No, thank Arcadia." The vines retract from his shoulder as he stands. "Things I did during the war on Sparx are likely going to come back to light."

"Something that hasn't been discovered in the two years Sparx has been resurrected?" Sibylla's voice doesn't explicitly betray her disbelief, but Baltor sees it in the way her eyebrow twitches and her fingers tap against her thigh. It annoys him more than anything; nowadays when he actually tells the truth, people think he's lying.

I've done things in my life. Things that - if Bloom ever found out - would drop me from whatever good graces she has me in now.

"Magic on Sparx comes from two sources," Baltor finally says, because he may as well tell someone. "The Dragon Fire, and the Dragon's Flame. The Flame came first, passed down through the royal family. The wielder can share or pass it to whomever they choose, but it can't be taken by force. That's where the Dragon Fire came from - centuries ago a king shared the power with his planet, losing almost all of it himself. But it grew back stronger in both him and the people." He fights one of the vine figures that comes towards him, flipping it onto its back when it tries to hit him. "There's an old saying; don't like your fire, go for the flame."

"...You attempted to take it by force, knowing you would fail?"

"There's...an exception. The Flame can be taken if its wielder dies without passing it on to someone else. It's only happened a handful of times in history, but when it does, it turns the tides of war. And during Sparx last war, the Flame was in the hands of its eldest princess, Daphne.  Bloom’s older sister."

Sibylla doesn't say anything, but when Baltor turns to look at her she can't slip her face back to a neutral expression in time. His smile isn't friendly. "And it's no secret who was assigned to try and turn the tides of said war."

"...No it isn't." She raises a hand and the shifting humanoids freeze in place. "Have you told Bloom?"

"Not even when she's asked."

This time the surprise is evident on the Major Fairy's face. "You lied to her? Why?"

"Because that's all I am anymore; a walking history book. Containing my greatest faults and reminders of power I can no longer gain. That I'm not what I had wanted to be after so long." He sends a beam of magic out and turns one of the practice dummies to ash. The anger in his chest lessens, and Baltor sighs. "That one thing - my worst moment - had somehow escaped common knowledge. I didn't think much of it then, and afterwards...I was happy to leave it behind. To not be the direct cause of the royal family's demise, but rather a failed pawn who later tried to conquer everything."

"Yes, because that worked so well," Sibylla says dryly, her gaze on the charred plant remains around the room.

Baltor doesn't spare them a glance. "Bloom will soon be given the opportunity to resurrect her sister. Perhaps it won't lead to the confession - Daphne's never said anything before, even though they’ve communicated. But I've underestimated both those girls before. I've learned to be overly cautious."

"Would you do it again?"

The question is so sudden Baltor jerks his head back. "What?"

"Given the opportunity, would you kill Daphne again?"

Something strikes him at the word kill , but Baltor doesn't comment on it. He's heard the word before - even from Bloom, when he first woke up after their last showdown. He remembers the disgust in her voice then. It used to annoy him, and now it pulls at his chest even after telling himself over and over again that he shouldn't feel that.

"No," he finally says, and is surprised at how steady his voice sounds. "I was young and foolish then. My ego wouldn't let me see how much I was being played."

She raises an eyebrow. "And because you care about her?"

Baltor can't meet her gaze. The circle of emotions constantly running through his head starts up again; that for so long he's hated Bloom, but now the hate is gone, but it might not be if Bloom hadn't gotten in the way. How the idea of his hurt pride has slowly diminished, how he has dared to think for the first time in nearly twenty years, he could be content with the way things were at the moment. The embarrassment he used to carry in his chest at such thoughts is now no more than a flutter. It's time, he's told himself. Time and a pair of sapphire eyes.

"Yes." It's what Sibylla wants to hear. Maybe what part of him wants to hear, too.

To her credit, Sibylla doesn't grin or get a giddy look in her eyes like a teenage girl would. Her face remains serious, as if this is only the first step on a climb up a mountain. But she nods, and the gesture makes him feel a bit better. "Then maybe you should start with that."


Bloom is asleep on his couch when he gets back.

It's not just that fact that's surprising. It's that she's asleep on his couch, wrapped in a throw blanket last seen in a crumpled heap at the foot of his bed. Her hair's a tangled mess half in her eyes, her shirt half-off her shoulder. The purple boots she's been wearing lately are leaning against the coffee table next to a small bag. A pot of - probably cold at this point - coffee is on the kitchen counter, a mug next to it.

Nothing's perfect - far from it. But it looks like she belongs here.

One glance at the clock tells him she should be back at Alfea - she never stays this late. So against his better judgement, Sibylla's voice still ringing in his ears, Baltor goes over and sits on the coffee table across from her, avoiding her boots (he'll never admit to her that he hates them because they make her almost as tall as he is). After a moment's hesitation, he reaches out and pushes her bangs back from her face, letting his fingers brush against her forehead to wake her.

As with Bloom, nothing is picturesque. While a heroine would slowly blink her eyes open, fully rested and calm, she jerks awake, alert and ready to fight something unexpected. A hand somehow breaks free under the blanket, but Baltor catches it easily before she hits him. "Just me," he says, his voice softer than he thought it would be.

Her eyes find his, and the surprise at being woken up melts away. Bloom's head drops back to the cushion, her lids closing and a small, unfiltered smile going across her lips. Baltor's chest tightens again, but this time without the hints of regret. His fingers stay in her hair, stroking softly.

Her instinct reaction to you isn't even fear anymore.

"Hey," Bloom murmurs, drawing his attention back to her. "Sorry for showing up unannounced."

"You're never sorry." There's no sarcasm or bite to his response; just stating a fact as he would any other. "You look like hell."

Bloom smiles again, her eyes fluttering open. "Long day. Playing kindergarten teacher for half the royalty of the universe and then battling evil sludge monsters."

"Kindergarten?"

"Primary school," she says after a moment, coming up with a British equivalent he'll recognize. "Five year olds. People who should be working together anyway but don't. I hate the politics of the magic dimension."

"You'd be hard-pressed to find someone that doesn't."

She hums in agreement, sleep slowly edging out of her voice. She blinks her eyes open wider. "When did you get back?"

"Not long ago."

"Out on more exciting book hunts I'm sure."

"...Talking with an acquaintance, actually."

Bloom actually smirks this time. "What? There's an actual human you talk to besides me? That almost sounds like a social life."

He chuckles. "I do things besides sit around and wait for you to show up with history questions. Shocking, I know."

"Very." Bloom sits up, stretching her arms above her head and rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. Mascara smudges on her top lid. "We're in the home stretch with Tritannus. I can feel it. Sometime soon - hopefully within the next few weeks, this'll all be over."

He trusts her judgment on such things; he remembers feeling the same, watching the Winx break his final hold on Cloud Tower. "Until the next power-hungry assailant comes banging on the dimension's door."

"Big talk from a guy who used to be said-assailant." She winks. "At least there's usually a few months break in between. Long enough for things to almost feel normal without bad guys."

"A break would be a welcome change. Give the BBC less to complain about," Baltor notes. He straightens up, and Bloom turns her full attention to him. "I was serious about talking to you when this finally blows over. You know that, right?"

She stiffens for a moment. "Yeah."

Baltor raises an eyebrow and watches her chew her bottom lip. "It's just...sort of daunting." She finally says after realizing he’s still staring. "The idea of it."

"Still that scared of me?"

His sarcasm is rewarded with an annoyed glare that fades to tension just as quickly. "You know what I mean. It's...the unknown. About what happens, what we do, how we deal with...us."

Us lingers in the air, heavy.

Baltor breaks first, because in his head he feels responsible; he's older, has seen more, has changed more. He's the one that held her on the living room floor while she sobbed, the one who agreed to dance with her on Sparx, he's the one who suggested the kiss. "Do you want there to be an us ? In any sense of the word?"

She laughs a little and shrugs. "Don't know. I've never really thought through what developing feelings for your former sworn enemy would feel like."

It’s the most either of them have ever acknowledged their feelings, and it gives Baltor a thrill he has to fight.  "I'm not encouraging you to act on them. Not after everything that's happened."

"I know."

He rolls his eyes. "I tried to kill you."

"I know."

"You broke off your engagement with your fiancé of two years less than three months ago."

"I know ." She pauses, meeting his eyes again. "Do you want there to be an us ?"

The question is one Baltor associates Sibylla or the Old Bat with, not Bloom. He's never thought of her being brave enough to ask it. "I can live if there's not," he says, because that's the first thing that comes into his mind that isn't a single word.

Bloom smiles, barely. "That's not an answer."

"...The answer's more complicated than a 'yes' or 'no.' I," he pauses and takes a breath. "I know I tell you there are things about me you don't know, that I don't like admitting to. You really should know them before deciding on anything. And you should hear them when you're not preoccupied with saving the universe. The minute Tritannus is sent to the underwater equivalent of Omega you can portal yourself here, but not before."

She drums her fingers against her leg but, eventually, nods. "Fair point."

"Every now and then," he says mildly, glancing at the clock. "And speaking of fair points, isn't this usually your time to head back to Alfea? After a very short but layered encounter about our history?"

That at least causes a laugh, and Bloom shoves the blanket away and reaches for her shoes. "Fine, fine, but only to stop hearing about how many good ideas you have. What a horrible way to wake up."

Baltor smirks. "Seems like a fair trade for the blows you given my ego."

"Whatever makes you feel better." Boots on she stands, Baltor following suit. As expected, instead of looking down at her, the shoes bring her up to nearly his height. The more easygoing look on her face dissipates. "I'll probably be touch and go for a while. Not that you don't know that's what happens with things like this, but just so you don't think I'm avoiding you. I may not be back here the second Tritannus is gone, but I will be as soon as I can."

He nods. "Do what you need to. I don't exactly have anywhere to be."

Bloom smiles at him, and Baltor feels her hand slip into his and squeeze. He looks down at their intertwined fingers, and before his gaze can come back, he's alone.