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She lets him live. 

Looking back, Bloom decides she allows this to happen for two reasons. One is the fact that Baltor - despite being a power hungry, poorly dressed sorcerer with a mile-long hit list and a black hole where his heart should be - is human. She hated Lord Darkar, and has no problem admitting so, even now. And Bloom knows that’s because his humanity had been lost long ago. She could've spent years trying to coax his original self back from under that barren shell of the Lord of Shadowhaunt, but it would've never done her any good because the human in him was dead. So erasing him from existence had been easy (the kidnapping and brainwashing her into an evil henchman also helped). Baltor...he obviously had problems, but he looked like a human and spoke like a human (with a slight case of demon possession, but she was sure a few spells could fix that), which to Bloom made him human. She's never taken a life before, and didn't plan to start now.

The other reason is much more selfish, if she actually stops and thinks about it. The longer the battle with Baltor went on, the more obvious it became he was just as clueless about her parents as Bloom was. This could be good; it meant they could still be alive. Hell, her whole planet could still be alive under the layers of ice and rock knowing the Ancestresses and their tricks. And she wants them to be alive. It's a desperate feeling that twists her insides at night when she tries to sleep. 

But more prominent than that desperation is the creeping feeling she's wrong. That the months - years - of her life dedicated to resurrecting a dead planet will ultimately fail, because that seems to be the only thing she can do in reference to Sparx. And not only would she be hailed as the failure of her home world, but also the last person left from it.

It’s the latter of those two thoughts that scares her the most. Her mother always said she had a fear of being alone and tried to equate it as some deep-rooted result of being adopted. Bloom doesn’t really care about the reason. What she does know is there’s exactly one other person left with a connection to her home world and her powers, even if he was insane. And if she did kill him only to fail later on resurrecting Sparx, she would have no one to blame for her loneliness but herself. 

So she improvises.


 

The party celebrating Baltor's 'death' is full of dancing, kissing, and drinking. Bloom does her best to act both happy and humble about her not-really-real-victory. In the end she doesn't need to act very hard, because everyone's so busy celebrating they don't notice how nervous she is.

Nor does anyone notice her sneaking off a mere hour and a half into the party, walking through the trees at the edge of the clearing and not coming back. 

Icy, Darcy, and Stormy had given up the location of their last hideout when the Light Rock guards showed up. It had quickly been scanned and cleared out of all the stolen spell books and artifacts by the time Bloom got there. Since no smart villain returned to a hideout once it was discovered, and Baltor is the least-idiotic villain she's ever faced, Bloom figures she can keep him there for the time beng (Step 1 of Improvising: Use a combination of invisibility and levitation spells to bring said unconscious villain to their former hideout).

Her fairy dust hadn't destroyed Baltor; it could only get rid of dark spells. But luckily that meant it could destroy the nasty demon the Ancestrsses had infected him with. And Bloom figures the few hours she spent getting ready for and attending the party are be enough time for the spell to do its work. And for her to formulate a plan.

Both her assumptions are correct when she enters the hollow cavern and finds Baltor very much awake, struggling at the fire chains (Step 2 of Improvising: Lock villain up with Dragon Fire chains) keeping him pinned to the stone chair. He looks worse for wear, the bottom of his jacket singed black and blood in his hair. A bruise is starting to show on his collarbone, green and purple mixing together and contrasting against his pale skin. Bloom's never seen him look this bad in the entire year they’ve fought.

But at least he's still alive.

Baltor stops struggling when she comes into view. Bloom waits for him to say something or start yelling, but the cavern is silent aside from the occasional drop of water hitting the floor from a crack in the ceiling. He looks at her like he wants the gods above to come down and smite her, and it makes Bloom feel powerful. That and the fact she sees his hands twitch in the chains, trying to summon magic that won't come to his fingers.

"I assume you've heard of the Nullis Lux spell." Bloom finally speaks. "It originated in one of the books you stole."

The answer to her question is obviously a yes, because for a moment Bloom sees fear in his eyes. "You used the Nullis Lux spell on me?" Baltor finally asks. His voice is hoarse, and Bloom can see blood on some of his teeth. 

"I did."

Baltor rolls his eyes, and spits a mouthful of blood out on the ground (though not in Bloom's general direction, which makes her feel a bit better). "That's impossible. The spell takes away the powers of the weaker being; there's no way you could've beaten me so easily."

Bloom has to smirk at his still-inflated ego. "You should thank Professor Avalon. He taught me fairy dust could remove dark entities, even though you tried to tell me otherwise. After that was gone…well, stripping your personal powers weren't that much of a problem." (Step 3 of Improvising: Use a magic spell to get rid of your enemy's power) Baltor coughs and spits another mouthful of blood out in response, and Bloom involuntarily winces. "How do you feel?"

He glares at her. "Like shit, no thanks to you."

"You're welcome for sparing your life."

"Please, I don't want your pity."

"I didn't help you because I pity you." Bloom says, sitting opposite of him on the cavern floor. He looks towards the ceiling instead of at her face. "You've killed hundreds of people and caused millions of dollars in damage all because you couldn't win a fight. Your ego could cover my entire hometown and then some; I'm way past pity."

"Then educate me, Your Highness: what caused your change of heart?"

Bloom doesn't answer his question. "I'm going to go out on a limb and say you don't want to be sent back to the Omega dimension for all eternity. And lucky for you, there's an alternative solution."

"Lucky me," he quips. "What deserted dungeon do you plan to imprison me in?"

"Earth."

His head snaps down to properly look her in the eyes; the first time since she's entered. "You must be joking."

"Nope. Earth is a magic-less world with enough government to keep you in check. And who knows; maybe if you don't try to overtake it, I could give you your powers back." Even as she says the words, she knows it isn't that good of a sell, especially for someone like Baltor. But she had hoped the idea of maybe getting his powers back would help sweeten things.

No such luck. "So you're keeping me alive as a pet project? A convict you can reform into a respectable member of society?"

"You're not a pet project; once I send you to Earth you can walk into the White House and proclaim yourself leader of the free world for all I care. But I'm warning you; you won't get very far without your powers."

Baltor glares at her. "Sending me to Earth with a lack of magic still sounds like a pet project. Since this has turned into some sort of honesty hour, you must humor me; why didn't you just kill me?"

"Do you want to die?" He huffs and doesn't meet her eye, which is the closest thing to a yes Bloom’s going to get. "So again, you're welcome."

"…You've never killed before, have you?"

She blinks in surprise. Baltor's gaze is still on the wall, but he keeps speaking. "It’s for the best, really. You don't want to know what it's like. Standing over someone and watching the life fade from their eyes. It doesn't even matter if you meant to kill; you get this feeling that washes over you that you can't place, and it stays with you for weeks on end. And by the time you do work out what it is, you've killed too many people to care."

The speech he gives is unprompted, but Bloom would be lying if she said it hadn't been in the back of her mind. "What's the feeling?" she asks when he still won't look at her.

"Emptiness." There's a beat, and he finally looks back at her. "No one would've objected to you killing me."

"I know."

He gives a humorless laugh. "Do they know you didn't kill me?"

She debates lying to him, but knows if she does now things will just get worse down the line. "No. They don't."

"And why is that?"

"Because you're a coward who fears death…and I'm a coward that fears loneliness."

To her surprise, he smiles. Not a full smile – there's still a hint of a smirk behind it, but for the time being, she'll take it. "We're in each others hands, then."

Chapter Text

He gets an apartment in London.

Looking back, Baltor decides he allows this to happen for two reasons. The first is that he really doesn't have a choice. He can either lay low on this horrendously awful planet and try to build his power back up with what he can find (which, granted, won’t be a lot, but possibly enough to do something), or he can return to the magic dimension and be immediately imprisoned - or worse. The first of those two options sounds infinitely better.

The other reason is much more selfish, but considering he's now being kept prisoner by a redheaded, goody-two-shoes teenager with a surprising amount of crop tops, he thinks he's entitled to be a little selfish. And that reason is - with it's lack of magic and abundance of ancient buildings and history - he quite likes London.

And Bloom does not.


"England? You had to pick England?" Bloom mutters under breath as she walks in the door, miscellaneous bags in her hand. Baltor glances over his shoulder at her, tearing his eyes away from the city outside his window. There isn't much to do in the place with its lack of amenities, and Bloom hovering around to help him 'settle in.' "I know how America works, that would be an easy place to set you up in. I even have a second cousin in Canada I visited when I was fourteen. But no - you pick here."

"I suppose it's your fault for making my prison so big," he responds dryly.

She gives a small smile that's more polite than genuine, and Baltor takes notice of it. "So far today I've learned there's no such thing as a dollar bill - or, pound note, here. But there are pound coins, and a twenty pence coin but no twenty-five pence coin. I don't even know what a National Insurance Number is, or how to fake one for records, but I'm hoping Tecna has some gadget I can sneak to help me. Also I heard two separate conversations on the street complaining about something called Barclays? I don't know if it's a bank or a store, but either way I'd avoid it." She pauses, raising a bottle of laundry detergent out of a bag. "You probably understood none of that, huh?"

"Currency, documents, and something about clay."

"Close enough," she sighs. "Seriously, you didn't like New York? It's almost the same atmosphere as here, but I understand things."

"It isn't the same," he says easily. "New York was new. This place has a sense of time to it. It," he pauses for a moment, debating on continuing. A moment later he decides what the hell, these last few days don't even make sense so what's some more honesty? "It's a lot like Sparx."

Bloom genuinely perks up at this. "It is?"

"Yes. The planet was in the middle of a technological boost when you were born. It was adopting the technology readily available from Magix and Zenith - and doing it much more quickly than other places like Solaria. Newer buildings were coming up where there was space, but the main city still felt very ancient. Your parents were adamant about building a competition arena in order to place a bid for the Magix Games…" he trails off at the mention of Oritel and Miriam, not meeting Bloom's eyes. "It was quite a time, indeed."

When he finally glances back, she doesn't bother trying to hide her resentment. "And you ruined it all."

Not an accusation, but a statement.

Baltor merely nods. "I did."

Somehow, that sentence seems to quell her anger. Bloom just nods and goes back to unloading things. "So anyway, I found a few takeout places down the road from here, since I'm assuming you have no idea how to cook."

"Bloom."

She doesn't hear him, taking a soap container out of one of the bags and putting it away under the sink. "There's a Thai place, a sandwich shop, and a sushi place. I'm personally not a sushi person myself, but they have ramen, which are like noodles but -"

"Stop," he says, louder, and she glances up at him in surprise. "You don't need to do this. Any of this," Baltor waves his hand around the room, gesturing to the bookshelf and the computer and the curtains he's going to rip off the wall the moment she leaves. "I understand you feel a sense of guilt - though I'm honestly not sure who it's towards - but you don't have to help me with anything. We don't have to be friends - we don't have to be anything besides people who see each other once a year to make sure the other is alive. I have no problem with it."

Bloom folds her arms, a gesture Baltor has come to find out means she's uncomfortable. "Why would I be guilty?" she finally asks.

"Because you've left your sworn enemy alive? Because you're lying to your friends? Because your planet is still gone?"

"It won't be forever."

That sentence stops him in his tracks. "What?"

She smirks at him - which is honestly something he's never seen on her face before. "As touching as it is having you around, I would like to meet my parents someday. And since you don't have any idea where they are, I can only assume they're alive somewhere. So I'm going to find them, and then I'm going to resurrect Sparx."

For a moment, Baltor honestly believes she's kidding. But the determination on her face is too legitimate. He almost laughs at her, but he feels too much pity to do it. "And you're going to do this...alone?" he treads lightly. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if he upset her, but it might make her less willing to lift the Nullis Lux spell.

"Of course not. The girls and the Specialists are helping."

Ah. The Specialists. The Winx would always stay in his mind for their constant haggling and meddling with his plans. The boys were much less of a threat, and therefore much more forgettable. "So your plan for regaining a lost world is in the hands of your little friends and a group of Specialists I managed to kidnap less than a month ago?"

"C'mon, you were just talking about how great a place it was! Wouldn't it be nice to have our home planet back?"

"Of course it would," he says, somewhat irritated. "But I know better than to hope for things that can't happen."

"Well I refuse to believe that. And neither should you; it's really the least you can do after everything."

"Do you think I don't regret destroying Sparx?" Baltor finally snaps at her. "Do you think it brought me immense joy to see it frozen over? Everyone with a connection to the Dragon Fire felt it fade that day."

"Then why did you do it?"

"It was that or be destroyed by the Ancestresses. As you said, I fear death."

"My parents -"

"Your parents were monarchs, Bloom. Someone somewhere always hates the damn people. Sparx fought with other planets beforehand, and if by some miracle you do resurrect it, it'll only be a matter of time before they do it again."

Bloom's eyes are narrowed, and he can feel the magic dancing behind them. "Are you trying to deter me?"

"No. I could care less what you do with your time. I'm making you aware of the situation you're getting yourself into instead of acting like a petulant child." He sits down on the couch and looks her in the eye. "It doesn't suit you."

He watches the anger fade and a look of surprise cross her face. "...That was almost a compliment."

She's genuinely awed, and Baltor gets a strange feeling in his chest at the sight; displaying positive emotions around him wasn't exactly a norm.

"Don't get used to it." Baltor regains his senses, and turns back to the window.

He can see her in the reflection. He almost swears he sees her smile, but the light coming through the glass makes it hard to tell. "I won't. And don't get used to me stopping by all the time. Once you have everything here, I'm going back to my own life."

"I dread the thought," Baltor smirks.

"I'm sure." He watches her turn and head for the door, and after a moment of contemplation decides to try one more time.

"I meant what I said, Bloom," he turns to look at her, and she stops and glances over her shoulder. "It took a month of legal work and holding before they sent me to the Omega dimension. I heard of countless search parties being set up - members of the Magix Council demanding rescue operations come back with positive results. You aren't the first person to try and resurrect Sparx, and you won't be the last. Revel in the fact you survived a genocide, and move forward."

He expects a sort of empowering speech in return - something Faragonda would say that'll make his ears bleed and his fingers twitch to use a now non-existent voice stealing spell.

He doesn't expect a cheeky grin and a wink. "You know, if you weren't so psychotic and depressing, you'd be fun to hang around."

Chapter Text

She saves Sparx.

Bloom's emotions are part relieved, part loved, and part confused. Relieved because after so many people telling her for so long she was living a fool's dream, she can say with certainty that they were wrong and she was right. Loved, because she finally (finally) gets to meet her parents, who at least right now are wonderful people. She knows that won't be the case forever - they'll fight about something eventually - but she's not going to let it affect her. And confused because, despite everything, Bloom knows she's taking steps into unfamiliar territory. She doesn't know a damn thing about Sparx or being royalty. It's not that she isn't excited for it, but if the past is any indication, she’s not princess material. And she's worried about that. The last thing she wants to do is disappoint her parents. 

"Well, the girls and I can't take all the credit; Bloom was the person who finally defeated Baltor."

And of course, there's that other tiny little detail in London that would disappoint them even more then her not being able to waltz. 

"Stel, you know we couldn't have done anything if we weren't a team," Bloom tries to keep her response smooth and easy, but it's hard when her parents are standing a few feet away and she sees their faces pale at Baltor's name.

"I can't believe he even made it out of Omega," Miriam says, shaking her head in disbelief. "He always was slippery, though."

"He certainly posed some challenges," Flora adds. "But he was no match for the Winx Club! Right, girls?"

Stella laughs in agreement. Bloom just nods.

"It's a good thing you spent most of your time occupied with those witches, instead." Oritel says sternly, sipping the champagne in his hand. "Baltor was a deceptive thing; those witches trained him well."

Bloom raises an eyebrow. "You met him before the battles?"

"Yes; he made up some story about working in the palace. I don't remember most of it, to be honest. He posed as the head of the royal security, and faked an impressive resume from a wizarding academy on Isis. We found him out, and a few days later the Ancestral Witches began their central attacks."

Miriam smiles sadly. "He learned a lot about the palace layouts and magic vaults from us, sadly. Your father thought he was a good man, and I would be lying if I said I didn't find him charming. It's good he didn't try to get close to any of you."

"None of us ever went head to head with him alone," Stella insisted, then paused. "Well, except in the beginning Bloom went head to head with him on Tides. Nothing major though."

"He talked to you?" Miriam's eyes widen with worry.

"It was nothing, really," Bloom says. She hasn't thought about that day in a long time. "He just rambled on about having a shared past and that we were destined to be enemies. And he used to say he knew what happened to you guys, but obviously that wasn't true, either."

Oritel placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "It's for the best; I know you're far too smart to have listened to him anyway, honey. And he would've just double-crossed you in the end."

Bloom gulps, and manages a smile. "Good to know."


With the time change from Sparx to London, it goes from being late at night to early in the morning. It's impossible to tell, though, since the sun rises so early in the summer. Bloom's watch says it's only five in the morning, but light streams overhead, coating the streets in soft color.

But just because there was light didn't mean people were awake.

"Someone better be dead," Baltor glares as he shuts the door to the apartment. Sleep is in the corner of his eye, and for some reason Bloom can't actually picture him sleeping. It seems too human. "I can't believe you're here at such an ungodly hour."

"I come bearing gifts, and news."

"Joy," he slumps down onto the leather chair in the living room and tilts his head back, eyes slipping shut. "I told you I'm fine if we stick to holiday visits. You haven't been here in a month, and for a while I was hopeful you actually heeded my advice."

"Haven't you ever heard of Christmas in July?"

"Bloom," he says, half in annoyance and half in a tired groan. Something about it makes the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. "Tell me why you're here, and then kindly leave me in peace. It’s all I can ask considering I have no spells to smite you with anymore."

She smiles, reaches into her bag, and pulls out one of the books she'd found in Sparx royal library about the palace grounds. Bloom tosses it over and it lands square on his stomach, luckily small enough not to wind him.

Lazily, Baltor reaches down to take the book and holds it above his head. Bloom delights in the series of emotions that dance across his face; haziness, curiosity, realization, and finally shock.

His head snaps up and meets her eyes. "Where did you get this?" Baltor asks. Any trace of sleep is gone from his voice.

Bloom just smiles and sits on the couch, smoothing out her skirt. "I told you to have some faith in me."

He continues to stare at her in disbelief. "This was made specifically for the library in the Sparx royal palace."

"Yep." 

"The one that, to my prior knowledge, was trapped under ten meters of ice."

"It was."

There's a pause, and when she finally looks back at him he's staring at her in wonder. "You brought it back."

For a moment, Bloom thinks he might pick her up and spin her around like a movie scene, and she can almost feel his hands on her waist. She's never been able to read his emotions so easily, and something about that makes her feel special. "I did." she finally manages to say.

Something in her tone must give her away, because after a moment Baltor's face fades back to his usual coolness. Bloom feels a touch of disappointment. "Your parents?" he asks.

"Alive. Along with the rest of the planet."

"Where were they?"

"Obsidian."

"You went to Obsidian?"

"I told you it wouldn't be gone forever, didn't I?"

He shakes his head and stands, going to put the book on the shelf. "You're lucky to be alive."

"So everyone says. But my parents were more surprised I survived you."

Bloom sees his hand pause for a moment. "Do they know about me?"

"No," she replies immediately. "They think you're dead, like everyone else."

He nods in approval. "I know you're not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but I'm assuming I was an exception?"

"You were. They…" Bloom pauses, and Baltor turns around to meet her eyes. "They said it was good I killed you, otherwise you would've just betrayed me."

Baltor smirks, a familiar look on his face that doesn't scare Bloom like it used to. "Still not over me impersonating a captain of the guard, are they? I hardly blame them."

"Yeah, neither do I."

He hums in agreement, sitting back down on the chair to face her fully this time. "So is this why you came by? To gloat?"

Bloom's eyes widen. "I'm not gloating. I thought you would be happy to know our planet is back. The whole dimension is celebrating."

"Of course they are. Until Sparx rejoins the political ranks, it'll be a giant party."

"It's nice to know you're so political."

He makes a face. "It has nothing to do with politics. I'm not going to berate you for saving our planet, Bloom. I'm just telling you - it won't be smooth sailing forever."

"I know that! I just…can you let me be happy about this for five minutes? I thought you would at least be impressed."

Baltor stares at her for a few seconds, and finally sighs. "Alright."

Bloom blinks in surprise. "Alright?"

"Alright. I've underestimated you before Bloom - both in your ability to defeat me and resurrect Sparx. I should know you're not naive enough to believe things with your planet and your parents will be smooth sailing forever." He stands up again, and walks across the living room back towards the bedroom. He stops next to her on the end of the couch. "Though perhaps next time you alter the dimension, wait until the afternoon to tell me." 

Despite everything, Bloom smirks. "There's no fun in that, though."

"Mmm," he rolls his eyes, then in another surprising move reaches down and squeezes her shoulder. Bloom tries not to act surprised - it's the first time in almost a year he's touched her, she realizes in the back of her mind.

"I am impressed," Baltor finally says. "And now that I've paid you an actual compliment, will you let me go back to sleep?"

"...Can I ask you something first?" She says, and keeps talking before Baltor can protest. "About you and me last year...and Tides? When you saved my life."

Baltor looks surprised she's brought the subject up, and says nothing at first. Bloom takes a stab in the dark. "You knew who I was then - that I was from Sparx. Didn’t you?"

"I did."

There's a pause. "Is that why you helped?"

"No."

Bloom raises an eyebrow. "Then…?"

Baltor finally meets her gaze. "I don't know, really. I just did. I was curious...I suppose."

There's another pause, though it isn't awkward. "A poor choice on my part," Baltor mutters sarcastically, and finally takes his hand off her shoulder (Bloom hadn't noticed it was still there). "Stuck in this hellhole."

Bloom smirks as he makes his way back to the bedroom. "It could've been worse!" she calls.

"I assume you can see yourself out," he calls back, ignoring her comment. "Unless there's something else of importance I've missed?"

Something pops into Bloom's head then, but she debates saying anything. Sleep-Deprived Baltor seemed to be a bit more open and quippy than Regular Baltor, and she actually prefers him this way - there’s less of a caged animal vibe. He’s more calm, and Bloom has no interest throwing things off balance once again.

She changes her mind after a moment, though. "Sky proposed to me and I said yes."

His movements don't stop, but Bloom watches his posture straighten, just slightly.

"Congratulations." Baltor says, and the tone is too neutral for Bloom to tell what he's feeling, if anything at all.

"Just so you know not to have him proclaim his 'love' for Diaspro on our wedding day," she says, attempting to lighten the mood.

Baltor relaxes again, and looks over his shoulder at her. He's smirking. "I take it that means I'm not invited? How disappointing."

Bloom smiles slightly. "Goodnight, Baltor."

"Get out, Bloom." He replies in the same sing-song tone. Still smirking, he shuts the door to the bedroom.

Chapter Text

He gets arrested in Boston.

American security customs are a joke. A hotel address and a nonchalant 'catching up with relatives' grants him access into the country. Baltor's ashamed to admit he's spent time watching television - because honestly thinking about where he was three months ago, on the brink of universal domination compared to now, watching bloody Netflix should be enough motivation to walk to the nearest cliff and jump off it - but every single thing he's watched has made the United States appear to be a tight-fisted, by the books, crime-ridden country under the ever watchful eye of a totalitarian government. But the man behind the counter at customs is half-asleep when he goes by, and obviously doesn't care what Baltor tells him so long as it gets him out of his line.

He wishes he could say the same for the officer that arrests him.


"We drive on the right side over here."

"And how the hell was I supposed to know that?"

"The cars going the other direction should've been a good indication."

Boston is hot and humid; Baltor's reminded of Linphea in the summer months, only much worse. The bright lights from the street signs and sounds of cars driving along said streets honking at each other... it all makes him feel more irritable and more likely to punch someone in the face. He didn't know how people could stand it.

"Ha ha," he bites back. "I'll surely keep that in mind next time."

Bloom rolls her eyes. "Baltor, why are you here?"

"What, I can't visit the country that raised a girl as charming as yourself?" He looks up at the street sign and, regaining his bearings, sets off down Oxford.

 He hopes Bloom will leave, but knows better than to expect she’ll mind her own business. Sure enough, after a moment he hears footsteps. "You know, I may believe that if you were anywhere close to where I grew up. You're in Massachusetts - California is at the other end of the country. Another six hours or so on a plane."

 "I'll pass - the seven hour flight to get here was more than enough."

 "Yeah, back to that," Bloom finally appears at this side, barely managing to keep up with him in stilettos. "Why are you here? In Boston, on a college campus? Harvard doesn't offer a degree in world domination."

 "You are biting tonight. What did I interrupt, a date between you and your fiancé?"

 There’s a sigh of exasperation. "Not that it's even your business, but I was going to eat with Oritel and Miriam."

 For a split second Baltor feels guilt, but manages to work past it when he sees the sidestreet he's looking for. He takes a right, Bloom following. "By all means, don't let me stop you. Go enjoy your night."

 "Oh no, not until I find out why you're here."

 "You did give me explicit permission to come to America and declare myself leader of the free world."

 "And that would be Washington D.C. - two more hours in a plane."

 He rolls his eyes. "Americans must love travel."

 "Baltor. You're avoiding the subject." 

"Actually," he hears Bloom give a small sigh of relief as he finally slows his pace. He looks up at the old, weathered sign above the door of a small shop, confirming it as the one he'd looked up earlier. "I'm not avoiding anything."

He glances at her over his shoulder; her cheeks are flushed from walking. "You can come in you'd like, but I'd regain your breathing first."

Baltor opens the door and slips inside before she can stop him.

It’s much quieter inside. Wood creaks under Baltor’s shoes as he walks toward the counter. The air inside is colder, but still damp with humidity. It hangs without wind, dust particles floating aimlessly in the same small expansion of space. Books are everywhere - on shelves, tables, and in piles on the floor.

The man behind the counter - older, with greying hair and glasses - nods at him. “Can I help you, sir?” His voice carries a thick accent Baltor’s never heard before.

He smiles at the older man. “Yes, actually. I called yesterday about reserving a book in your collection? I know I said shipping would be fine, but my work took me here so I wondered if it was ready to pick up now."

The bell above the shop door dings. The old man nods, much more enthusiastically this time. He reaches under the counter and pulls out a black leather book, about the size of a journal, and hands it off to Baltor. "Ah, of course! I'm glad to see someone else is a fan of these old poems. I just need to run your credit card through in the back, and it’s all yours. We close in twenty minutes, missy!" he calls behind Baltor. 

"She's with me," he answers, not even glancing over his shoulder. He fishes in his pocket and pulls out the credit card - like those in the magic dimension, but made of plastic. The older man takes it and disappears behind a curtain into the back room. 

Baltor begins flipping through the book. "You knew Earth once was a magic powerhouse, didn't you Bloom?" he asks over his shoulder. 

The sound of footsteps pause, and start again towards him. A moment later he sees a flash of red in the corner of his eye. "...I-I knew. All the textbooks I read in school said it disappeared long ago. No one talks about why or how though."

"It was stolen," Baltor says simply. "I'm not quite sure by whom; it happened before I existed, and I never really cared. But that doesn't mean everything was lost." As if to prove his point, he snaps the book shut and waves it around. "Eighteenth century print. The seller had it listed as a book of poetry…"

Bloom takes it from his outstretched hand and flips through it, reading a few sentences on various pages. Her eyes go wide. "They're spells."

"They are, indeed." He’d recognized them easily: transformation, changing wall colors, making dresses and the like. The spells are old, meant for either simple or dated things. But they're spells.

"How many books like these are there?"

"Hundreds, maybe. Magic has been absent from the Earth for a while, but many books with it still exist. Poetry, old stories, folk tales..." 

Bloom raises an eyebrow, and looks up at him (though not very far - her heels make her almost eye level with him). "Why find these if you can't use magic, though?"

"And you're all set to go," the shopkeeper appears from behind the curtain again, and hands Baltor a receipt. "You enjoy it."

He nods, and then turns and smiles - actually smiles - at Bloom while lying through his teeth: "I figured I needed a hobby." 

Bloom doesn't seem to know what to do with that, so she just smiles at the shopkeeper and follows Baltor outside.

They’re hit with a wave of noise when leave; groups walk by them to a bar down the street, yelling to one another over a car laying on their horn. Out of the corner of his eye, Baltor sees the 'open' sign in the shop window turn off.

He almost doesn’t catch Bloom’s voice over the other noises. "I...am glad you're finding something to occupy your time. And it would be nice to have someone attempt to collect what's left of Earth's magical history."

He chuckles, and they both start walking down the street with the crowds. "A compliment. My, my, I thought I was the criminal two minutes ago."

"I have to stop treating you like a criminal," she says after a moment. "Especially if you're getting used to things on Earth and doing normal things like buying books and taking planes." 

Baltor's quiet for a minute, shocked this may actually be working. "I appreciate that."

"You're welcome." There's another pause, but it isn't awkward. For a minute it actually seems nice, until a police siren in the distance brings them back to reality.

"But,” Bloom continues. “I would really appreciate you not getting arrested again."

He laughs at that before he can stop himself. "No promises."

Bloom smirks, though she won’t look at him. "Want me to portal back to London so you avoid another seven hour flight and any police officers?"

"Now that would be wonderful."


 The clock on the side table reads some ungodly hour Baltor ignores. He should be getting sleep after the night he's had, but his mind is on other things.

More specifically, it's on the book in front of him, reading the same simple levitation spell over and over again, and then looking up at the vase on the center of the coffee table, resting in place. 

Baltor sighs and pushes the book away. He knows Nullis Lux is only meant to be used for short periods of time, and as far as he knows its been on him longer than anyone on record (almost four months and counting). Like most spells that weren't constantly strengthened, it should have started breaking down. And that breakdown should (in theory) allow him to slowly - very slowly - start using magic again. 

Two hours nonstop, and the damn vase hadn't so much as shook.

He stands, stretching his back. This is unfamiliar territory; he knows that. It’s entirely possible his magic is still inaccessible, and would be for as long as he lived. Or convinced Bloom to remove the spell. Whichever came first (if either).

Baltor turns and heads toward the bedroom; an hour nap - two at most - would give him a fresh mind to keep working at the spell. But even as he thought it, the sense of doubt that had settled at the back of his mind flared again. Maybe he could spare sleeping longer. Until morning, maybe.

He gives one last look at the spellbook, then turns and goes into the bedroom, shutting the door behind him.

The vase lifts up two centimeters, and lands back on the table with a thud.

Chapter Text

She gets attacked by the Wizards of the Black Circle. It's fair to say said attacks are the cherry on top of her horrendous first day of teaching.

It's also fair to say she really hadn't expected it. Sure, the last three years had been full of enemies and monsters, but that was all supposed to be in the past. The Trix were back in Light Rock, Darkar was dead, Baltor was powerless on Earth, and Sparx had been restored. Bloom was supposed to live happily ever after now; go on and marry Sky, learn to be a princess, and bond with her birth parents to make up for the last eighteen years.

That fantasy shatters into a million pieces when Ogron, Duman, Gantlos, and Anagan set foot on Alfea's campus.

What's worse, she knows Ms. Faragonda knows something and isn't telling them. Bloom’s seen Ogron before - he was on one of the pictures down in the Hall of Enchantments (next to a surprisingly tasteful portrait of Baltor she's going to have to ask him about later). All six girls have taken a beating, Bloom especially after whatever twisted, pseudo-exorcision they tried to pull on her. Her arms and legs are bruised and her head hurts, which she thinks makes her entitled to know why the Wizards came after her. But that doesn't seem to matter to the headmistress.

"You need rest Bloom - all you do, in fact," Faragonda says after they've been in her office for the last hour pushing for answers. "And it will take time for me to figure out how to explain this to you. We'll rendezvous tomorrow in the auditorium and begin discussing this."

"Should we bring a pencil and paper for notes, too?" Bloom hears Musa whisper under her breath. Tecna hits her shoulder in a warning.

"I know this is stressful, but you're all still very young to have this sort of responsibility. Please, let me speak to Griffin and Saladin before we figure out how to go about this."

"We could always start looking into things," Tecna spoke up.

"No, that's not necessary, dear," Ms. Faragonda insists. "Besides, you won't find much about them in any modern history book."

Bloom's eyes widen at this, her headache momentarily subsiding. Modern spellbooks may not have any information, but lost spellbooks from Earth might.


 

"Hi, Mom."

"Oh my," Baltor's voice has a dry humor to it as Bloom puts the phone to her other ear. "Calling me your mother leads me to believe you're around the rest of your pesky little friends."

"Fine, thanks," Bloom says instead. "We got settled in to our new rooms, and Flora and I are just resting before we head to dinner."

"Hi, Vanessa!" Flora calls from her bed across the room.

"Should you put me on to say hello?" Bloom doesn't need to see Baltor's face to know there's a smirk on it.

"Oh, don't worry about that. I'm surprised you got your phone to work, considering you're usually such a technophobe."

"The technology on your planet is ancient. Honestly you as well buy a pack of communication devices from Zenith and market them here; you'd make a fortune."

"And would have no way to explain the technology in them," she finally decides to respond to what he's saying.

"Pity. Well, I assume you didn't call me to chat about becoming a cell phone carrier."

Bloom slumps down onto her bed and turns so she's facing away from Flora. She used to do it all the time in her first year at Alfea when she called her parents, and the nature fairy had come to expect it as a sign she was talking about personal things. More than that though, it would mean Flora would plug in the music player Musa got for her birthday and let her talk without fear of being overheard.

She waits until she hears the beginning chords of a Solarian pop song Flora had taken a liking to recently. "Well, you could say my first day of teaching didn't go over so well."

"Already falling out of Alfea's good graces? That certainly took no time."

"Not because of that. The girls and I were attacked. Bad-guys-attack."

"The witches?" Baltor asks immediately.

"No. Four men. They were looking for me, put me in a ring of some kind, then just left without any explanation."

"You let them put you in a portal?"

"No! I...we were powerless against them. Even with Enchantix." Baltor doesn't respond to that, obviously surprised. Bloom doesn't wait for him to. "Faragonda won't tell us anything, but I'd seen their pictures in this part of the school that has a detailed history of evil villains and stuff -"

"The Hall of Enchantment?"

"...It's scary how much you know about this school considering you were only in it for five minutes."

"Griffin knew of it, back when we worked together." Baltor says. "So you want information on them?"

"If you have any, or even came across them last year when you were...attempting things. I thought since you've been looking at lost magical things from Earth -"

"I've made very little progress in that front," Baltor says. He sounds annoyed at the fact. "But the only history books I've recovered talk about magic on Earth; that died out years ago. Nor did I encounter anyone else with similar goals to mine last year. Which is odd, if what you're telling me about their power levels are true."

"You think I would make up that I got knocked around more than you ever did to me?"

"Not for this long...hold on," Bloom shifts the phone to her other ear, and she hears the rustling of papers on the other end of the line. "Did they say anything?"

"They said they were looking for me, and they had been for a long time." Bloom pauses. "Which really doesn't make sense, if you think about it. Magix has been running nonstop articles about me and Sparx. Almost all of them mention I go to Alfea."

"Exactly. They should have easily been aware of you; I have no doubt the furthest planets in the dimension are discussing Sparx."

Something occurs to her then. Bloom's eyes widen, and she stops absently tapping her night table. "Hang on. No. He didn't say Sparx. He said Earth."

"What?"

"He wasn't looking for a fairy from Sparx, he said Earth. He was looking for the last fairy on Earth. And he thought it was me." Bloom sits up in bed, looking out the window at the woods beyond the courtyard. "Maybe that's why the weird circle portal threw me out."

"If it was coded to Earth magic, it almost certainly would throw you out." Baltor said. "Faragonda knows all this?"

"Yeah. She said she was waiting to tell us anything so she could discuss it with the rest of the heads at school. And probably my parents," Bloom adds as an afterthought. "Now that the Company of Light is reunited."

"Which means I'm sure something will be omitted," Baltor says dryly.

She ignores the jab. "Could Earth really still have magic?"

"Normally I would say no, but people thought all of the pure-blooded descendants of Sparx were dead until you showed up. It only takes one person to start a domino effect."

Bloom rolls over on the bed to face the wall again. "Was there magic on there in your lifetime? Before I was born?"

"Whispers of it." Bloom is surprised Baltor's so willing to answer all her questions. Either he really has started to change for the better, or (more likely) he’s bored out of his mind. "Rumors swirled that a group of fairies were getting ready to present themselves to the Magix Council, but nothing came of it."

A hand on her shoulder startles Bloom. She turns to look at Flora, raising an eyebrow.

"The girl's and I are going to dinner," the nature fairy says. "You coming?"

Bloom forces her heart to stop beating so fast. "Yeah, let me just finish up."

"Tell your mom we're fine," Flora smiles, and heads out of the room.

"You could at least say your father next time." Baltor says with a hint of sarcasm in Bloom's ear.

"I'll keep that in mind, thanks." Bloom hangs her head over the bed and searches for her shoes. "I really should go. I know I should stop assuming you don't have a life, and it's really weird given our...history..."

"I'll see what I can find on these mystery wizards of yours." Baltor finishes.

Bloom sighs in relief, though she isn't sure why. "Thank you."

"Don't thank me before I've found anything. But if there is a band of powerful wizards roaming about Earth trying to find what's left of its magic, I can assure you I'll beat them to the punch."

"Right, I'll hold my breath for the day you suddenly throw fireballs again."

"Doubting Faragonda and gloating? Are you sure you're Bloom?"

Despite everything, she laughs. "I'll keep you updated. You'll do the same?"

"I don't know. I'm so busy with all of these mortal things; television and reading three-inch-thick history books."

"Baltor."

"Also food. The things you have to eat on this planet are unbelievable."

"I'm hanging up!"

"Before you do," Baltor's voice suddenly turns serious. "Watch yourself. Your past with Faragonda is much more positive than mine, but it is not above her to withhold information for the sake of making her job easier."

Bloom bites her lip. "I know. I'll be careful."

"You dying means I never have the chance to regain my powers, so don't."

"Wow, that was so close to not being all about you. I’m impressed."

She hears a chuckle, and he hangs up.

Chapter Text

He finds the last Earth fairy.

Baltor holds up his end of the bargain, barely. After Bloom gives him a name - The Wizards of the Black Circle - he manages to find some basic information. They're a band of wizards from Earth, relying on dark magic to destroy the light magic that rested there. The magic they do possess is nothing to scoff at, but without fully eradicating the light from Earth, there's little they can do to the dimension. Faragonda obviously knows this, because Bloom knows it when she calls him later.

She does more of updating him; there's a single fairy left, likely unaware of her powers. She lives in Gardenia. Bloom and the Winx are going there to find her. They're planning to try and integrate magic back into the planet (they have a long argument during that call). And, finally, she's busy with normal 'Earth' things, and will call when she has more information.

Baltor doesn't mind the lack of updates. He feels like a librarian trapped behind thick wooden doors, only existing to provide information and cater to Bloom's every whim. It's beginning to annoy him, and he has more important things to do.

Namely, work on regaining his magic.

He notices soon after Bloom's first encounter with the Wizards it can be accessed. It's fragmented and weak, and gaining control of it has to be treated like learning to walk or talk. It's infuriating, but Baltor forces himself to work on it, sometimes for days straight without stopping. He can manage small spells - lifting, changing colors of things, creating a small flame in the palm of his hand. Some spells work better than others. The progress he makes is better than expected, but not nearly as fast as he'd like.

He also doesn't know what he'll do when - or if - he returns to his full power. It's something he'll have to discover with time.

One of the particular spells he can do with ease is teleportation - only between locations on Earth, but it's better than plane rides. He doesn't know why his magic can't send a person seventy feet in the air and drop them back down but can send him to the center of Paris in two seconds, but he doesn't care. Baltor decides strengthening magic in one area could lead to it opening up in more, like a streetlight shining into the opening of an alleyway. He quickly learns he can make it halfway around the world and back so long as he has an hour or two between jumps to rest.

So he does. Every other day for two weeks.

To Gardenia.


 

Bloom spends most of her time at a bar on the beach, ordering smoothies with the rest of the Winx and talking to the local band (half the time playing with them for a song or two up on stage. He never knew Bloom could sing). Baltor uses a disguise spell the first few times he shows up, but eventually gives up the ruse because so long as he sits at the end of the bar, no one notices him.

Oddly enough, he ends up befriending the pink-haired bartender that works most nights. She's young, hardworking, and the only one who attempts to carry out a decent conversation with him (the main owner of the bar usually works the room, but Baltor admits he too seems decent. Several people also ask him to dance, on occasion. He declines). But their cornerstone of friendship is her muttering about how annoying the Winx are when they show up, and Baltor's amusement at the fact.

He also senses the magic on her in an instant.

"The blonde one is the worst," she says one night, topping his drink off. "She acts like watermelon is the greatest invention ever, even though it's been around for centuries. Who’s that ditzy?"

Baltor laughs at that and risks a glance down the bar at Stella and Layla, just turning away with drinks in hand. "Perhaps you should tell me what you really think."

She smirks. "I'm sorry, okay? It's just that they're so…"

"Positive?" he attempts to fill in.

"Entitled." she says instead. "Well, not all of them. The brunette and the redhead are alright. Look, I've been doing this since high school, and I've gotten good at reading people from behind the counter. And those girls - there's something off about them."

Baltor assumes it's the magic she senses, but plays along. "You're sure you're not just jealous?"

Her mouth drops in mock surprise. "I am offended at the idea, sir. Jealous of a group of airheads."

"You just said they aren't all airheads."

"They act like it around Andy, Mark, and Rio," she huffs. "If they keep taking their stage time my dad will have to hire them, too."

"Right, not jealous at all." He smirks and takes a sip of his drink, raising his eyebrows challengingly as she glares at him.

"At least I don't like them," she shoots back, challenging.

Baltor chokes on his drink.

"Don't pretend," she insists, grabbing a rag and wiping down the bar. "You're here every time they play. So who is it? The brunette one?"

"No," he says sharply, the previous humor gone. "It's not like that."

Baltor sees her blink in surprise, and sighs. "I - It's...complicated. The redhead."

"Andy's ex girlfriend? Bloom?"

"Yes."

"...How do you even know her? She went to boarding school for the last half of high school. This is the first time she's been back for more than a few weeks."

"She...helped me in a situation, a few months ago. We're not friends...but I owe her my life."

"Whoa, serious stuff. What fun."

Baltor smirks lightly. "Don't tell her I'm here."

"Your secret is safe with Roxy Morgan," the girl draws an x on her chest with her left hand. "But if I were you, I'd stop sitting at the bar. She can see it from the stage when she performs."


 

Five days later he's back, and can sense the pent-up anger Roxy has. It's making her magic fritzy - something common in younger magic-wielders who lack basic control. It makes sense with her, but it’s also far more dangerous since she’s the only magical being currently drawing from Earth’s magic. It’s a strange parallel to what he and Bloom were over the last year.

Only Bloom could control herself. Mostly.

"You need to calm down," Baltor says carefully as she places a beer in front of him.

She has a brave face, but her eyes are standoffish, looking for a fight. "I'm fine," Roxy mutters, but even her voice is tense.

Baltor grabs her hand before she can walk away. "No, you're not. You look like you could punch a man twice your size and knock him out cold."

"What like you?" Roxy snaps, then closes her eyes in regret. "I'm sorry. I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm just stressed with work and figuring out college and involved in a not so legal scheme and those girls… I just feel so jumpy all the time, like I'm ready to burst." She groans in annoyance and pulls her hand out of his grasp. Baltor watches a bottle behind her inch forward a few centimeters on the counter. He rounds off a quick spell and keeps it from tumbling over and shattering on the ground.

The magic from the girls (and maybe even him) is awakening her own. It's a proven theory; he's seen papers on it back on Sparx. Baltor knows at this rate, her magic will be picked up by the Winx - and the Wizards - in a matter of days. She needs to know what she’s up against, but he also knows his own minimal magic will be less than convincing. And what would he even do; teach her? Be 'one of the good guys?' The thought that this is what a magic-less life has led to, contemplating good deeds, makes him want to want straight into the Pacific Ocean.

"Go and take a break," he says instead. "Five minutes. I'll tell your father if he asks. It's better than you taking it out on the customers." He knows he has her; Roxy prides herself on being friendly to patrons - even the Winx.

She takes a deep breath. "Yeah, yeah okay," she says, and smiles a little. Baltor feels the tension in the air decrease. "You sure you don't want a job here? You'd keep me sane."

"Serving up fruity drinks just isn't appealing," he smirks. "Go."

She does. For the next few minutes Baltor watches the patrons moving about. Klaus comes by, and he lets him know about Roxy. He's not pleased but thanks him, and takes over at the end of the bar until she comes back.

A few more minutes and he hears footsteps heading towards him, then feels a pair of arms go around him and a head rest against his back in a sort of hug. Baltor questions the gesture, but allows a small chuckle anyway. "A bit easier to just say thank you, isn't it?" he asks. "I didn't realize we were so friendly."

The laugh dies out as he sees Roxy come back around the bar and stop cold when her eyes hit him. "Oh," she says, very quietly.

"I am so gonna kill you," Bloom says from behind him.

Baltor sighs. "It's fine," he says to Roxy, and she nods and goes off to bust tables.

Baltor turns around in the bar chair and comes face to face with Bloom. She's dressed much more casually, her hair up in a ponytail. "I didn't realize coming to a bar was a crime in your book," he says dryly.

"What are you doing here? If I remember correctly your passport says England, not America."

"So I'm not entitled to visit? I may as well see the whole world, considering I can't go into the dimension. Besides," he lies, "I finally discovered the joys of flying first class."

"Why are you here?" she ignores his remarks. "You knew the girls and I were going to be here, and the Specialists. When I saw you last night I had to keep all of them away from the bar. Why not - oh I don't know - stay out of sight?"

"What, and miss out on the ‘action?’ Not likely. Your planet is boring enough as it is, and contrary to your beliefs, being your own personal librarian does get tiresome after a while."

"You are an ex-con. I am the person in charge of saving the universe. I don't need your help."

"Oh really?" Baltor bites back. "Then answer me this; who is the last fairy on Sarth? Because I know."

Bloom blinks at him, obviously surprised. "You don't." she says after a moment, but her voice is unconvinced.

"Yes I do. And she knows you - and your drink order - by heart."

Her head swivels around. "What, Roxy? You're crazy. Roxy's not a fairy."

"Are you daft? Even I can sense her magic, and I don't even have any anymore."

Bloom sighs in annoyance. Briefly, Baltor wonders what's happened to make her this irritated, but he's too annoyed to care. "So what's your plan, then? Turn her into your new little slave?"

"What?" he stares at her in bewilderment. "Me and what army?"

"I'm sure you'd find a way."

Baltor scoffs and puts a twenty down on the bar, nodding to Kalus. "Let me know when you wake up from your little fantasy, then." He gets up and heads for the exit. "I leave in the morning. Let me know when you stop acting like the world is out to get you."

"Baltor!" she yells, but he ignores her.


 

He goes back to London and sleeps for twelve hours, partially to recover his magic, and partially because the idea of returning to his current world is so off-putting.

There's a voicemail on his phone when he wakes up.

"Hi. Okay, you were right, it's her. And I think we scared her off, and I have no idea where the Wizards could be. I...just please tell me if she calls you. And call me back when you land, even if she doesn't. Please."

He waits until nightfall and redials.

"We have her." Bloom answers. "She's okay."

"The Wizards?"

"Tried to take her. We fought them off. We have a new form now."

"No more Enchantix?" he asks lazily, going to stand at the window. "What a pity. It suited you."

Bloom doesn't respond for a minute. "Do I treat you like a glorified helper-monkey-slash-pet-project?" she finally asks.

"In a way." Baltor says. "But it's not like I have much else to do. And admitting that is no easy task. Not to you or myself."

"Still. I shouldn't do it."

He doesn't say anything for a while. "Should I talk to her?"

Bloom sighs. "Maybe. The Specialists are working there now. You probably can't get away with sneaking in anymore. Sorry."

"Taking my magic, the dimension, and now my local pub. Is nothing off-limits to you, Bloom?"

There's a laugh; small but there. Its message is clear; drop the subject for now.

"It's called a bar here. And the boys have a break between eight and eight-thirty."

"You can transport me there at eight-fifteen, then."

"Baltor," Bloom says before he can hang up. "She really enjoys you. She doesn't know who you are, but she told me about you."

"As in she likes me?"

"No. But...you may be her last idea of what 'normal' feels like. So if -" Bloom stops and sighs. "Not to tell you what to do -"

"Tread carefully." he fills in. "I will."

"Thank you."


 

Roxy sets a beer down in front of him. "It's been a while - by your standards," she smiles. There's a bruise starting to form on her left cheek. "Bloom scare you off last week?"

"I'm afraid so," he gives a small smile and fishes a bill out of his pocket. "I'm not staying long, and I don't plan to come back often. Keep the change."

Roxy stares at it in shock, then looks back at him. "I...I can't accept this."

"I think you can." He pauses for a moment. "I heard you've had a long week."

She stiffens. "And where did you hear that?"

"Just around."

She bites her lip. "You're not coming back...because of Bloom?" Roxy fills in the gaps.

"And the rest of them. Yes. Other than Bloom, I think they'd want me dead. And I'd prefer to die naturally rather than in a cloud of sparkles."

It's a small acknowledgement; one that says he knows, but that he doesn't plan to do anything about it. Roxy picks up on this as well, though Baltor sees her run her tongue over her bottom lip, and he readies himself for a question.

"Does this...insanity get any easier to deal with?"

Baltor smirks at that. "No. But you get used to it. I assume the Winx will train you?"

"...Yeah."

"Then you're in good hands. They're the only people to ever defeat me."

Roxy's eyes widen, just slightly. "A big thing, especially if you're owning up to it."

"Don't remind me. It's still a sore subject." He stands at that. "I need to go before your newest servers return. Bloom has my phone number." he adds before he can stop himself, then mentally hits himself over the head. He's not helping her; it's not his jurisdiction.

"Wait. Before you do...do I at least get a name?"

She looks hopeful, almost, and Baltor's surprised by it. "...It's Baltor. Though again, best not to mention."

"Well thank you, Baltor, just this once."

Slowly, he nods. "You're welcome."

He walks away from the bar towards the beach. Bloom waits by the waves, just able to see inside. "Thank you," she says again.

Baltor ignores the praise, just as he did when she called. "Those Wizards have certainly shaken her up. She's terrified."

"I know. She...reminds me of me, when I first found out."

"So you're taking her in for personal and not-personal reasons?" he smirks at that. "My, my, how un-heroic."

"I'm sending you back now. And please stay back from America for at least a month." she pointedly ignores him, and magic sparks to life in her hands. "Try France or something."

"Bloom," she looks up at him when he says her name. "Give those wizards hell."

She smirks and nods, and he's standing in his living room.

Chapter Text

She ends up on national television.

In the back of her head, Bloom knows this was only a matter of time. She remembers her mom telling her there'd been a story in the paper when they went up against a small Earth gang two years ago. Back then she hadn't thought anything of it. Now she realizes she should have, because being semi-famous in the magical dimension was one thing. Being world-famous on Earth - the place she always counted on being a nobody - was something else entirely.

The way she finds out isn't nearly as pleasant either. Namely, she's on her way to the Frutti Music bar in the morning and gets stopped by Mr. Ginero (the older man who runs the corner grocery store), who tells her she looks like the fairy stuntwoman on the news.

Bloom almost drops the apple she has in her hand. "W-what?"

"Stations have been running it all day," he says with a serious tone. "CBS had it at the top of the hour this morning. Girls with wings fighting scary looking men down by the docks. Oh, Stephie thinks it's real of course, but it has to be stunt people for a movie or something. Very under wraps, since no one's taken credit."

"Movie," Bloom repeats dumbly, taking her change back from his outstretched hand.

"Of course. Everyone knows there's no such thing as fairies." He laughs, and Bloom manages a smile. "By the way, are you seeing your mother at all today? I need another dozen sunflowers for the window when she gets a chance."

"I'll let her know." Bloom says, and half walks, half sprints to the Frutti Music Bar.

Nabu and Brandon are the only ones working when she gets there. The television above the bar is switched onto the morning news, and she sees two grainy outlines that are most likely Musa and Tecna fly across the screen. A second later a clearer image - though not by much - flashes on the screen. Bloom's pretty sure it's her.

"How long has this been running?" she asks as Brandon walks up to her. The brunette gives a timid smile, and Bloom rolls her eyes. "That long?"

"The pictures don't get better than that, if that helps."

"Is it all of us?"

Brandon just squeezes her shoulder. "It'll work out," he says sympathetically, and goes off to help set up for the day.

Bloom's about to go after him and keep asking questions, but her phone buzzes. She expects it to be her mother, but instead it's a string of numbers with 'International Call' flashing below it.

"Yeah?"

"I've decided it was a wise choice to get a television," Baltor says in her ear. "The news is nowhere near as fast as the realm-wide-web, but BBC One is currently running an interesting piece at the top of their evening newshour."

Bloom groans. "Please tell me it isn't my face."

"Well that would be a lie, now wouldn't it?"

She stomps her foot in frustration. "How clear? The footage here isn't clear."

"Cheap, Earth phone quality. I'd give it a week before they get better, considering how often the Wizards are attacking you."

"Great," she forces a smile as Nabu goes past, carrying one of the outdoor tables to set up in the sand. "There's a bar at the end of your street, isn't there?"

"...Yes." his voice comes through after a moment. "A bit early to drown your sorrows in alcohol, isn't it?"

"Probably, but it's going to be a long day, and I'm legal there. Twenty minutes?"

"Fifteen. You're paying."


 

"How did you do it?" Bloom asks, taking a sip of cider. The bitter taste offers little relief for the headache she can feel coming on, and knows this is not a proper response to the current situation. But so long as she just has one it should be okay. "It took months for the blogs to run current pictures of you in Magix. How did you stay hidden so long?"

"I wasn't trying to," Baltor sets his own drink down. "While I was regaining my powers the Trix were mostly sent out for public attacks. The first time I went out in the open was when I took over Cloud Tower."

Bloom sighs. "Long after you'd broken out of Omega and regained what you'd lost."

He nods and glances over at her, almost weary. "What's so unappealing about being famous here? I can only imagine how often you're spoken about in the dimension."

"I know. It's stupid but…Earth's my home. Like, where-I-was-raised home. It's the place without witches and wizards and monsters trying to kill me every other week. The biggest problem here is supposed to be what the weather's like and the economy. Not…" she trails off and rests her head on the bar. "I'm normal here. I've always hung onto that. I don't want to lose it. They haven't even started believing in magic; how bad will it get when they do?"

Baltor stares at her for a moment, and Bloom feels fingers brush her bangs behind her ear. She almost froze at the contact, but forced herself to relax. Baltor isn’t a criminal anymore; she needs to stop acting like it. And oddly enough, the feeling of his fingers going through her hair is almost...normal. Most likely because of Tides, but she lets herself believe it's also because she's getting better at being around him.

His words snap her out of her state. "Things don't stay the same forever. We're two people who know that very well."

Bloom sighs again. She knows better than to expect Baltor to comfort her, especially when it comes to her own magic. "I know, I know. But that doesn't mean I have to like it."

"Change is difficult," Bloom rolls her eyes as she catches the sarcasm in his voice. Baltor picks his drink up again and swirls it in his glass. "But if you make a big enough effort to hide from the billions of cameras on this planet, the Wizards will figure it out. And that will most likely give them an advantage."

His line of reasoning is spot on, and even worse true. "We do our best. Try and stay at the city limits, train Roxy at night, stuff like that. That'll help for a while."

"For a while, yes."

Bloom picks her head up from the counter and takes a long drink. "Aren't you going to ask?"

Baltor raises an eyebrow. "About?"

"Roxy? And her progress?"

"The girl hit a soft spot, Bloom, but I haven't become her life coach. I leave that in your capable hands."

"It wouldn't hurt to make a friend or two, is all. I thought Roxy might be one."

"We're friendly. A big difference. Besides, Earth is a bit too...quaint. Finding people of interest here is difficult."

"You could always hit up a prison." Bloom says dryly. "I'm sure they're more your style."

"Ha ha."

Bloom goes back to resting her head on the counter, letting the soccer (wasn't it called football over here?) game on the television provide ambient background noise. She pushes her drink aside, resolving not to have any more until she drinks a glass of water or eats something. She glances at Baltor out of the corner of her eye, but his eyes are off of her, towards the game.

It quiet for a few more minutes and the bartender brings over a small bowl of nuts before anyone speaks. And it's Baltor, sighing and turning to face her. "All right, what is it? I may be powerless, but I can still sense you through the Dragon Fire connection. You want to ask me something."

"It's nothing."

"Bloom."

She bites her lip. "I don't even know how you would go about it, if you even said yes." He continues staring at her, and she sits up. "With the Wizard's dark powers, and us needing to train Roxy as fast as possible...I was wondering if there was a way you could...show me any spells. Ones you remembered."

Baltor blinks in surprise. "Are you asking me to train you?"

"Sort of?"

"Without any powers?"

"Look if it was a dumb question I'm sorry -"

He holds up a hand, and Bloom falls silent. "Why would want my help? Out of the spells I do remember, most of them require dark magic to operate. They'd be of no use to you."

"I've accessed dark magic before. Everyone has some in them; you know that. And I have more from my encounters with Lord Darkar."

“So the Trix said.” Baltor finishes his drink, setting the empty glass down on the counter. "But you've never resorted to using dark magic to fight your battles. Not even with me."

Bloom shrugs.

"They have you scared."

"I'm not scared," she snaps. "I just want to get this handled as quickly as possible. The Wizards are reckless, and they're putting the general population in danger. I won't let what happened to Sparx repeat itself here."

Baltor stares at her for a few moments. "While your efforts are admirable, you know Roxy is far from completing her training. Which gives the Wizards ample time for more attacks. Like it or not, you're going to be found out. And the public will just have to get used to it. The answer in this situation is patience, not a quick power trip." He pauses, taking note of the defeat in her eyes. "And I suspect you know that already."

"And what makes you suspect?"

"You're the smartest out of your group."

The comment makes Bloom laugh, and she raises her glass, finishing it in one gulp. "I could get used to the drinking age here."

"Though if you're planning to go back to Gardenia today…" Baltor pointedly trails off, glancing at the bottle.

"I know, I know, too much alcohol messes with magic. I'm only having one." Bloom stands and stretches, pulling a twenty out of her wallet and setting it on the bar. "I need to get back."

Baltor rolls his eyes, picks up the twenty, and exchanges it for a twenty pound note. "Send my regards to the Wizards."

The comment makes Bloom pause, and she glances back at Baltor. "They haven't showed up here, right? The Wizards. I'm sure they're trailing us - they wouldn't be able to learn our location so quickly."

"They haven't been around, no."

"Well do you think they will be?"

"I doubt it. The Wizards have much bigger prizes to fish for," he gestures to Bloom, and she narrows her eyes in mock annoyance. "Besides, a few power hungry wannabe rulers don't scare me. You should know that."

"How dare I think otherwise," she shoots back, and pauses. "But really, Baltor. Without your powers you should be careful."

He smirks at her. "Bloom, it's not as though they're going to show up on my front door."

Chapter Text

He meets Ogron. Just Ogron.

Baltor’s surprised. The last few weeks the world has been far more focused on the discovery of magic and the Magic Dimension. There have been nonstop newscasts and think pieces - so many that the last time he entered a bar every television was on the news instead of football.   Bloom told him the Wizards had gone underground, and therefore the girls’ priority had changed to locating and rescuing the Major Fairies of Earth. It was taking up most of Bloom's time, which was fine with him. It left more room to focus on regaining magic, traveling to different corners of the world, and rebuilding his spell collection (rebuild was a strong word; he was coming across more history books than anything else). But the point was, no one seemed to care about the Wizards beyond their defeat at a train station some weeks back.

Until now.

He knows something's wrong when he enters the apartment lobby and finds the woman who occupies the other first floor flat trying to calm down the building's resident old bat (Baltor doesn't actually know her name, just that she lives on the ground floor, is well over sixty, and constantly complains about anything).

The old woman's eyes narrow when she sees him. "Bringing your riff-raff blokes along here too, now? Damn Americans and your company."

"Ms. Hayes, please," the other woman says, and looks at him apologetically.

"Someone's up there?" Baltor glances towards the stairs. The landing on the second floor appears empty from his vantage point.

"There's been a man," the younger woman says, "or she's saying. Hanging around your door."

"Been there since two this afternoon," the now-named Ms. Hayes snaps. "Knocked and won't leave."

It's five now, according to the clock above the elevator. Baltor stops cold as a dark presence seeps into his bones. His eyes stay on the landing, and after a moment he feels it again. Dark magic.

"Do you know him?" Baltor snaps out of his state as the woman touches his shoulder. "Is he dangerous? He looks like…" she trails off, but he knows what she's thinking.

"I'll take care of it," he says, and goes up the stairs.

Sure enough, a man is leaning against the wall opposite his door. His hair is dark red and hanging around his shoulders, his eyes sunken in, dressed all in black. He looks impatient, but also exhausted. Baltor doesn't need much to know whatever magic he has is at low point - if it weren't he would've felt it the moment he stepped in the building.

"Can I help you?"

The man jumps, then pauses when he sees who's talking. His eyes narrow, and he straightens up to try and look menacing. It's of little help, considering he and Baltor are the same height. "I'm looking for Bloom." he says the fairy's name like it's a threat.

Baltor keeps his posture relaxed and walks to his door. He makes his voice sound uninterested. "I hate to be a disappointment, but she's not here. We're not exactly friends."

"You're not? Well you certainly could have fooled me considering how often she's been by."

Baltor raises an eyebrow as his eyes slowly rake over the other man. He's no fool; he knows this is Ogron. The sketches Bloom sent over months ago are a dead ringer, as are the images he's seen on television. "If you're here to kidnap me and use me as bait, I'm afraid your plan has already failed. The rest of the Winx Club would sooner drop me in Omega and throw away the key then save my life."

Ogron laughs, but it's more biting than friendly. "You're a wise man."

He slides his key into the door and undoes the lock, mentally using his small magic supply to create a shield. "Would you like to know the most important thing I learned from spending the better part of a year trying to kill those six brats?"

The redheaded man looks curious.

"Work alone." He pushes the door open and goes in without looking back.

He expects to hear it shut, but instead there's a thump as though it's been blocked off. Baltor glances over his shoulder to find Ogron - and his boot - in the doorway. "I wouldn't be here if I had any other options. I'm begging you, I'm powerless."

"Welcome to my world." he responds dryly.

"You said you wanted to kill the Winx. Allow me to provide you an opportunity to do so."

Baltor stops at this. "You have a way to kill the Winx?"

"That depends on if you're willing to listen."

He stares at the man for what feels like a very long time, though in reality it's only a few seconds. Baltor weighs the pros and cons briefly, before turning and going into the kitchen. "Would you like a drink?" he calls over his shoulder, taking note of the curiosity on Ogron's face.

"A drink would be wonderful." the other man answers after a moment, and Baltor hears his footsteps as he enters the living room.

He takes two glasses from the shelf and one of the more expensive bottles of alcohol he's bought. "So," Baltor drawls, passing one to him, "Please enlighten me on your apparently groundbreaking idea."

Ogron chuckles, and takes a seat on a barstool at the counter. "From what I last heard, the Winx have rescued the Major Fairies. And it didn't end so well."

"Did it not?"

"Seems the blame for their imprisonment has shifted from us to the humans, who should be eradicated. Bad news for you hiding out here, I take it."

"It would be." Baltor stays cautious as the man speaks, making sure to show as little emotion as possible. "I suppose there's a solution to that up your sleeve?"

"If you were asked," Ogron leans back in the chair, "what is the Winx's biggest weakness?"

Baltor doesn't need to think long. "They show mercy."

The redheaded man nods. "Their mercy is their ultimate downfall. They'll put all of their energy into proving to the Major Fairies the people of this planet should be shown mercy. And that's where we come in.

"Once the Winx have gained an audience with Morgana - their Queen - my fellow wizards and I show up and claim surrender. We're sorry for what we've done, and we're ready to accept whatever punishment Her Majesty sees fit."

"You'll lie your way into the palace and destroy them when their guard is down." Baltor gives a small, approving nod. "But you're in no condition to fight them now; how could you expect to win? And in their own home?"

"With this." Ogron reaches into his pocket and slides a small, intricate ring across the counter.

Baltor picks it up as Ogron continues to speak. "The Black Circle has been the source of our power for years. It's weak now, but if it gets close enough to Morgana it can siphon her energy. Simple enough to beat them to the ground. And once that's done, we can let you in."

The man stares at Baltor expectantly, who finally slides the ring back. "You're thorough, I'll give you that."

"Research is vital to success." Ogron gives him a strange look, then drains the rest of his drink in one gulp. He straightens up. "And of course, if you give me the word we can leave yours alive."

He raises an eyebrow. "My what?"

"Bloom."

Baltor nearly chokes. "Bloom isn't anything to me. Not a friend, not an enemy, and certainly not mine."

Ogron just chuckles, getting up and going across the room to look at the books on Baltor's shelf. "You think I don't know who you are, Baltor of Sparx? The man who joined the Ancestral Witches, turned a planet of fire to ice, and last year attempted to reclaim the galaxy? What a coincidence the person who stood in the way was the lost princess from that very planet."

Baltor stays silent.

"I'm sure you've met Roxy at this point," Ogron continues, nonchalantly. "Or at least you've heard of her. Funnily enough, she's the most annoying of the bunch, despite being the most useless. But I feel that magic in her whenever I'm close, and pity the lack of potential she'll achieve. Every now and then I wonder what it would be like if I could work her over to our side - tried on occasion as well. I think of what the looks on those girls’ faces would be as they're betrayed by someone they'd grown to trust. And her power, her raw emotion, and whatever else I could get out of her. And I get the feeling, Baltor, you've thought the same thing. Only with the redhead."

Baltor drums his fingers on the counter, forcing his expression to remain neutral. He takes his glass and walks over to the window himself. His thoughts travel back to the Magix Museum of all places, to the first time he ever saw Bloom with Enchantix. There was a raw power in her that hadn’t been present before, and though a small part of his mind told him to be afraid, an even larger part whispered think what you could accomplish with her at your side.

"It's been a long time since I've entertained an idea like that." Baltor finally says, because he can tell Ogron is perceptive and there's no point in hiding it.

"That's exactly what I'm saying, my friend. This is your chance. Get her to trust you. It should be easy enough, given how often she's here. Lie to her, seduce her. And then, when you're certain abandoning her will break her, use her."

Ogron is grinning like a cat about to catch a canary. Baltor feels a sense of satisfaction when he wipes the smirk off the man's face.

Because he starts laughing.

He leans against the window, taking even more pleasure as he watches the anger start to spread across Ogron's face. "If you think," Baltor says after a moment, "the Winx would be so easily seduced by power, you've learned nothing from fighting them. And out of the now seven, the one least likely to trade her friends for darkness would be Bloom."

"I - "

"Would know that if I'd paid even the slightest attention, I know," Baltor cuts him off, and lets the smirk fall off his face. "Obviously you haven't. This has been highly entertaining, my friend, but I'm afraid you've exhausted my interest."

Ogron stands there staring at him, his jaw set and his eyes narrowed. Baltor watches his hands ball into fists, and feels magic start to charge the room.

He takes a deep breath, drops his shield, and uses his magic to create a fireball in his free hand. It's not as big as it would have been a year ago, but it's still slightly larger than his hand. "I wouldn't," Baltor warns lowly. "The man who by your own admission turned a planet of fire to ice versus a weak little pest such as yourself? Should we take bets on who'll win?"

"You said you were powerless," Ogron's voice is level, but his face betrays his nervousness.

"Surprise."

For a few seconds they stand battle ready, and Baltor starts calculating how much power he can put into a fight like this. But then (much to his relief), Ogron lowers his stance.

Baltor lets the magic hovering above his hand dissipate. "Now then," he says, turning to face the window. "You've wasted enough of my time. And it appears you have a horrendous plan to try and execute."

Baltor sees Ogron tense in the corner of his eye. "Very well." Ogron finally grits out, and heads towards the door. Baltor watches him in the mirror, and smirks when he sees the other man attempt to conceal a decent sized object in his jacket.

"Take the book," Baltor calls, and watches Ogron stop dead in the window’s reflection. "I saw the missing space in the shelf; it's a volume from a history collection, not a spell book. You'll have little use for it."

"...A token of my failure, then." Ogron reaches out and grips the doorknob, then stops. "Oh, and Baltor? I'll do my best to leave your little girlfriend alive, but I make no promises. And if by some miracle she does defeat me, don't expect me to stay down forever."

"Of course," he says, his voice laced with sarcasm, "because you've done so well defeating them in the past, destroying the last fairy on Earth - oh wait." He finishes off his drink, still not bothering to turn around. "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

There's an annoyed grunt, and said door slams shut.

Chapter Text

She watches Nabu die.

After years of close-encounters and always coming out on top, it's the last thing Bloom expects. They survived the Army of Decay, Relix, and Baltor's insane assaults on the Winx the previous year. The Wizards of the Black Circle had been no different; power-hungry and ruthless like the rest of them.

But they'd also played Bloom like a flute. And she had gone right along with it.

Layla's horrendous state makes the redhead feel like she's failed as a leader. And maybe she has - Bloom had advocated for assisting the Wizards. It had seemed like a good call, especially watching the progress she'd been making with Baltor. In fact, blaming him for the whole fiasco would've been easy - he'd clouded her judgment and made her put trust where it should never have been in the first place. But Bloom knows she has no one to blame for her poor judgment except herself.

It doesn't help the fiery anger in her gut, though.

She wants to start looking for the Wizards now, but Timmy - ever the logical one - points out they're all exhausted. And as dangerous as it is for Layla to be in such bloodthirsty company, Nebula will keep her safe. Plans were made - go home, get some rest, and meet at the north beach of Tir Nan Og the next morning.

Most of them go to sleep, but Bloom goes to London, fighting back tears and contemplating if murdering murderers will make her a bad person.

This is how Baltor finds her; angry, exhausted, and flipping through the small collection of Earth spells he'd begun to accumulate in his apartment (she'd used magic to get in; really though she should just ask for a key, but asking for a key felt too much like a foreign territory she wasn't ready to enter yet), looking for anything to help.

"How the hell did you get in here?"

"I don't have time for that. What spells in here can take three people's heads off and leave no room for coming back to life?"

Baltor sets his bags (he has grocery bags, and if Bloom wasn't so angry she thinks she'd have time to revel in how mundane and almost not power hungry he looks) down on the floor with a loud thud and stares at her like she's grown a second head. "What happened?"

"Nabu's dead." She forces the words and tries her best to sound emotionless, but she knows it isn’t. She chokes his name out and has to close her eyes for a few seconds so she doesn't cry. "Well he's not technically dead, but he's in this coma-thing he probably won’t wake up from. So I guess by most people's definition he is. And it's my fault because I'm a gullible idiot for trusting those wizards… look, I said I don't have time for this. Do you have anything or not?"

He doesn't respond, just stares at her. Bloom can't stand the look; it's one of pity and condolences, neither of which she has the emotional capacity to withstand. She huffs in annoyance and turns her back to continue searching through the books, scattered around her in piles. "I'll return your powers," she says, picking a book from the top of a pile she’s gone through at least three times. "I'll figure out how to make them tenfold what they were if you help me kill them."

"Bloom -"

"Come on, you're a heartless, power-hungry bastard - you should be leaping at this opportunity."

Even as she says the words she knows they're a mistake. Her actions aren’t Baltor's fault, and she knows better than to tick him off. But there's something that feels good about attacking him with words, and it outweighs the guilt she feels over saying them.

She hears him stalk over to her, and Bloom thinks there's a good possibility she's about to get into a fist fight with the man who almost killed her a year ago. She's seen him angry at police officers and landlords, but not at her. Not in a long time.

He doesn’t come around to face her. Instead he reaches around and yanks the book she’d been holding out of her grasp. Anger flares in her, and she actually growls at him. She turns - probably to lunge at him, but Bloom actually isn’t sure - but before she makes it all the way around Baltor’s arm goes around her, pinning her back against his chest. There’s a sound of a book thudding against the floor before his other arm locks her shoulders.

She tries clawing at him, childish as it is, even though the angle he's pinned her makes it impossible to reach. After struggling for a few moments she tries to scream, but shocks herself when all that comes out is a weak, miserable cry.

Baltor's arms tighten, and Bloom vaguely realizes he's holding her steady. Baltor, of all people.

The anger in her dulls, and she starts to sob, trying to suck in air and blurring her vision with tears. Baltor doesn't let go. His arms stay tight around her, and she feels his chin on her left shoulder. Her ears ring, and Bloom vaguely thinks this is ridiculous, crying so much. It helps fuel her guilt, still strong in the pit of her stomach.

"I...I'm sorry -"

"I know." Baltor's voice is low and warm in the shell of her ear. "It's not your fault."

"It is though! I was in charge of them, I was supposed to protect them…"

"You can't protect everyone, Bloom."

"I - "

"Shh," one of his hands goes to her hair, stroking it back from her forehead.

Bloom still feels tears going down cheeks. Part of her doesn’t believe the words he’s saying, but she also knows Baltor wouldn’t bother if he didn’t mean them (or sound so sincere). It makes her feel accepted, like there’s nothing to be ashamed of if she loses herself for this sliver of time. Here she isn’t the fearless leader of the Winx or the composed princess of Sparx. She is simply a person running through her own emotions with no facades to uphold, while someone else holds her up. There’s something about that that begins to - finally - soothe her.

With one hand in her hair, Bloom realizes she could break free of Baltor’s hold. She knows that’s what she should do, because she needs to keep looking through spell books, and Baltor isn’t Sky. But she doesn’t move, partly because Bloom remembers Sky’s arm around her shoulder in Tir Nan Og, a comfort but a reminder he was just as upset about Nabu, and wouldn’t want to see her until their rendezvous tomorrow.

For some reason Bloom thinks this is better.

She does finally break the hold, but only enough to turn so she faces Baltor head on. She’s afraid of the look in his eyes, but it’s neutral, devoid of pity she’d seen before. It’s calming, and it scares her.

“I-I...uh…” she takes a shaky breath and reaches up to wipe what must be trails of mascara from her face. And again Baltor surprises her, his hand going to her other cheek and wiping the wetness away. The points where his thumb drags across her skin feel hot.

"When's the last time you slept?" Baltor asks. His voice booms in the silence of the apartment. There’s no sound from outside, even with a busy roadway a few hundred yards away.

Bloom thinks about it for a minute, letting her head fall to rest on his shoulder. "Wednesday night. I think? What's today?"

"Friday."

"Yeah. Wednesday then."

She feels his chest rumble, like he's holding back a chuckle. "You need rest."

"No. That...that helped. Really. I should start going through those books you had, maybe with a little less anger this time."

Baltor's fingers run along against her shoulder. "Bloom, look at me."

She moves her head back from the crook of his neck to the edge of his shoulder. She's ready to start arguing, but the idea leaves her when she sees his eyes.

There's something there; something she's never seen on his face before. It's...caring, almost. He's looking at her like even though she’s just crumbled to pieces in front of him, he's going to put her back together if it takes all night. It doesn't belong on his face, but she likes it there. Something about it makes her heartbeat change.

I want

She feels Baltor's fingers touch the back of her head, and the thought slips away as her eyes close.


A car horn outside startles Bloom awake.

She jerks into a sitting position. She's on a bed, soft light streaming in through a window across from her. A clock on the bedside table reads fourteen-twelve, and it takes Bloom a second to switch her brain to military time. Another second, and she realizes she's in Baltor's bed, in his apartment, still in London. She's been asleep for the equivalent of a full night.

Bloom rubs the sleep out of her puffy eyes, gripping the sheets with her other hand. The linens are pure white, but wrinkled enough to indicate they'd been slept on before her. And they smell - like musk and old books, out of place but yet somehow fitting.

Her shoes are next to the bed, and Bloom puts them on and goes out to the living room before she can scare herself into worrying about it.

The television's on, and Baltor's sitting on one of the side chairs, a book in his hand. He closes it when he sees her emerge, and puts his hands on the arms like he's going to stand, but then thinks better of it and stays sitting. "There's coffee," he says, almost cautiously. "Your planet may be boring, but it does make the best."

"You took my shoes off," Bloom says in response, and goes to pour herself a cup. "I didn't think you'd ever care about me enough to take my shoes off."

He clears his throat, something she’s never heard him do before, and it makes her think she’s caught him off-guard. "Don't flatter yourself; I didn't want you ruining the sheets."

So they aren't talking about her breakdown. Bloom can live with that. Though she can tell from his posture and their tones the implications are there already. Things are...softer, almost. Less snarky, more sincere. She doesn't know if she likes it or not, or if it will last. Part of her mind had compared this incident to Tides, but in her right mind she knows that isn’t even true. A difference between physical and emotional exhaustion.

Bloom pours two cups of coffee and brings them over, setting them both on the table as she takes a seat on the couch. She doesn't know where to start; to apologize, to ignore, to threaten him to never reveal what she's said ever again (though that brings up the question of who he would ever tell), or some other fourth option she's forgotten.

She opts for the fourth when she takes a drink of coffee and realizes how quickly it revitalizes her. Because she knows caffeine is a natural magic filter, and realizes why she stayed asleep for so long, unable to remember past Baltor holding her. "You put a sleeping spell on me."

"Hmm?" He looks over at her, but Bloom knows he heard.

"You put a sleeping spell on me. Don't try denying it, I can tell. Your magic...you have it back?"

He just stares at her, and while he does Bloom reaches out with her own powers. There, at the edge of her consciousness, is a faint, familiar ember of power.

The corners of his mouth twist into distaste, picking up on her connection. "It's not as powerful as it once was. I don't know if it ever will be again. Part of it is because you eradicated the spells the Ancestresses had on me last year. The rest is due to the Nulis Lux spell." Baltor looks her in the eye. "I'm not sorry for hiding it, if that's what you're expecting me to say."

"I know you're not. Magic has always been important to you."

“And yet you sound so disappointed.”

Bloom sighs and leans back. "I thought because you and I were...well, I don't know what we are, but I thought I could replicate it with Ogron and the Wizards. Which obviously went about as well as you not getting magic back. I don't mean it like it's your fault, but...that's why I beat myself up so much. Why I still will."

He nods, slightly. "You and the rest of your team."

"I have a different weight on my shoulders. You know that."

Baltor hums in agreement. "He was here before." he says after a long pause. "Ogron."

Bloom's head snaps up. "He was?"

"He was. I believe he was hoping to turn me against you, if I wasn't already."

"...You didn't work with him?"

He smirks. "After the Trix, I've learned I work better alone. And he lacked vision. No plan beyond trying to get into Tir Nan Og and destroying it."

"So Nabu was just a casualty, not a death that was premeditated." Bloom stares into her coffee. "I don't know if that makes it better or worse."

"You shouldn't focus on that," Baltor says. "You should focus on the fact that his lack of planning means he's running scared. Cornering him should be easy."

"Cornering him…where would he even go? Layla told Nabu's parents what happened. The whole dimension will be on the lookout for them now." Bloom turns back to Baltor, deciding to put this newfound civility to the test. "Where would you go?"

He drums his fingers against the arm of the chair. "I would hide. Somewhere desolate, where few people would expect me to go."

She sighs. "I guess. I can read you more easily, though. I wouldn't even know where Ogron would consider going."

The drumming stops abruptly, and Bloom’s gaze slides back just in time to see a look dawn on his face. "Baltor? What?"

"He took a book."

"What?"

"Ogron." He sets his drink down and goes over to the bookcases on the other side of the living room. "He took a book on the history of the magical dimension. I believe he thought it was a spell book. I let him leave with it; the set was useless to me when I started going through it. But with his lack of knowledge about the rest of the dimension…"

Bloom picks up on his idea. "That could be where he's gone." She stands up and walks over to him. "What volume's missing?"

Baltor carefully examines a row of books with dark brown covers. She can see based on the numerals the sixth edition is missing. He flips through a few pages of the fifth edition, returns it to the shelf, and does the same thing to the seventh. She then sees a dark smirk - one reminiscent of the days where they battled in Magix - spread across his face. "The creation and modern use of the planet Omega."

Chapter Text

He gets a visit from Sibylla. He really needs to recover his magic enough to put a shield on his apartment it seems every other week someone's found their way inside, and in a way it makes him appreciate that Ogron bothered to wait outside when he showed up.

Baltor's kept track of Bloom over the last few days, through the various news outlets reporting on her. He knows now that Ogron is gone - trapped in the Omega dimension with the other surviving members. He also knows everyone is now celebrating at the Frutti Music Bar. He debates going there for a short amount of time, to check on Bloom and see Roxy, but eventually decides the magic and adjusting to the time difference isn't worth it.

But he still gives up on going back to sleep, deciding instead to start reading the latest books he's found. That's when he finds Sibylla, standing in the middle of his living room as though waiting for him to emerge. He knows who she is through legend, and the books he'd had in his possession back in Magix.

She nods at him. "Good evening."

It's three in the morning. "I have a door," he responds flatly, going past her and picking up the first book on his newest stack. "You might have noticed it."

"I apologize for the intrusion, and at such an awkward hour."

"And yet here you are," he sits on a chair and snaps his fingers. A coffee materializes on the table next to him. "Considering that," he gestures to the cup, "is the extent of my abilities at the moment, I can't exactly throw you out. So state your business, if you please."

A small smirk crosses her face, and to Baltor it seems out of place. "The stories about you are true, I see."

He doesn't respond, only lifts the drink to his lips.

Sibylla nods, but doesn't sit down. "Ogron made you aware to me during his stay."

"Which worked out wonderfully, I must say."

Apparently this is the right thing to say, considering the smirk reappears. "Villains don't deserve second chances?"

Baltor's eyes narrow. "I think that depends on their threat level, and motivations. Not to mention who says they deserve second chances. Some people are more willing to give them compared to others."

"I see. And am I more or less willing to do so?"

He studies her. "I'm not sure. By all accounts I've heard it would be the more willing, but as I said…"

"Ogron." Sibylla nods. "Yes, I know."

"He told you about me?"

"He did. Said I should be on my guard for the man who was the most feared wizard in the magic dimension a year and a half ago." She looks at the coffee cup, mildly amused. "Perhaps he over-exaggerated."

Baltor rolls his eyes, feeling the obvious blow to his ego. "Have you come to mock me?"

"Not at all. Though I admit my primary reason was to see what kind of state you're in." She pauses. "The rest of the Major Fairies and I are to meet with the Magix Council tomorrow to discuss our part in inter-dimensional affairs, if any. By the rules of both the Magic Dimension and Earth, I should let them know you didn't perish as previously thought."

A cold pang hits Baltor's chest, and he does his best to keep his face neutral. He says nothing, but mentally starts calculating how long it will take to pack essentials, and how annoying he'd find the Canadian wilderness if he were to hide out there for a year.

"But," Baltor's eyes fall on the fairy as she continues. "As you said, I seem to be more willing than others to give second chances. I figured before I doomed you - again - I should see for myself what kind of threat you are."

Her look is thoughtful, and it seems odd to Baltor. Sibylla saya nothing more, so he takes another drink of coffee. "Have I given you an answer?"

"I'm not sure. You're powers are weak, that much I can tell. But magic is not the only test of power. We both know that."

He nods, barely.

"Humor me, Baltor. If your powers were restored fully, how long before you restart your quest to take over the universe?"

Baltor thinks about this, honestly. Even with his magic slowly reemerging, it could take years for it to come close to what it once was. The idea has been in the back of his mind for months, but not worth entertaining. In fact, Ogron was the last person to dredge the thoughts back up, and even then their conversation had begun to fade from his mind.

"Unless you're going to lead me to believe you're a reformed man?" Sibylla continues.

He chuckles at that. "No. I don't have the energy so late in the night. And it would be idiotic to assume being holed up on this planet would tame me."

"Ah, yes, a horrible cage," Sibylla glances around, taking in the books and the television and the sleek black countertops in the kitchen. The lights of London shine outside the bay windows, making the overcast sky appear a light grey in the night. "It has a view, at least."

"Power intrigues me more than Hyde Park."

"Yes," her eyes fall back to him. "If you don't mind me asking; how did you survive?"

Baltor raises an eyebrow. "You don't know?"

"I want to hear your story."

He doesn't answer immediately, looking at the book on his lap. "I didn't decide," he says finally. "Someone else did for me."

Sibylla laughs, and it sounds like wind blowing through the trees. "Bloom? Honestly?"

"What reason would I have to lie about it?" He shoots back. "She feared being the last of her kind. I would assume you understand."

"I do. Forgive me, it's just...the irony."

"I'm aware of it, trust me," Baltor says. "Any other questions?"

"Is she the only one who knows?"

"Roxy. No one besides them."

"I see… a very interesting choice. I wonder what the underlying reasons for that decision were."

Baltor sighs and leans his head back on the chair. "Please, save your breath. I haven't manipulated or slept with Bloom. I would have preferred to die at the height of my power instead of without any on such a planet, but like any man, when left to my own devices, I don't possess the will to do it. She saved me for reasons much more selfish than romance."

Sibylla smiles. "I'm not the first one to question this, am I?"

“You, Roxy, Ogron, the annoying old bat downstairs; you're joining a long list."

"My apologies. Though I do believe she regards you as a friend."

He scoffs. "And what leads you to believe that?"

"I know she didn't return to the Winx's home the night Nabu passed."

Baltor raises his head to look her in the eye.

"I could sense conflicting emotions within her that night," Sibylla continues, pacing toward the bookshelf. "She was better when she returned."

For the first time in a while, he's at a loss of what to say. "I didn't do anything."

"I believe you did. Intentional or not. I was curious as to the reason behind those intentions." She thumbs a thick volume of gardening spells from the fifteenth century. "But now I see that even you aren't aware of what your feelings are. And far be it from me to tell you."

"You're suggesting I'm in love with her?"

"Of course not. I believe you're in love with your power, first and foremost. And I cannot tell you how to feel. Still...thank you for watching her."

He hates people thanking him; it makes him feel like a decent person, something he hasn't been in a long time. "So you came here to see if I was a power hungry maniac, and to warn me the Magix Council will soon be aware of my location?"

He sees her smile. "Yes and no. I was curious as to what kind of person you were, yes. Cautious as to Bloom's decisions to keep you alive. I am still not entirely sure she's correct, but...I am less skeptical."

"Thank you," he says, sarcastically.

"That being said; I don't plan to tell the Council."

Baltor's eyes widen. "You don’t?"

"No. I don't feel it's necessary at this time." She takes a different book off the shelf. "How many of these do you own?"

"Earth spell books? Around sixty, and various other magical references."

"Morgana wanted to try and catalogue what was left of Earth's magic. There's a large book in the main palace that contains a record of every spell book produced on the planet, but it's been at least eighty years since someone compared it to what's left." Sibylla looks over her shoulder at him. "How detailed are your records?"

Baltor understands where she's going with her comments. He snaps his fingers and a small journal floats from the table to Sibylla. She takes it and flips through, nodding approvingly. "Are you offering me a job? With magic?" He asks her. "Baltor the big, bad wizard?"

"In a sense. It would keep you busy during your time here." Sibylla closes the journal and hands it back to him. "And it might make your prison a little more interesting. If you'd like."

He raises an eyebrow, studying her face. "Why?"

"I won't lie and say I trust you completely. It would be to keep an eye on you. And because I have faith."

Baltor genuinely laughs at that. "Faith I can be a good person?"

She smiles, just slightly. "Curious, isn't it?"

"Very." He stands from the chair, stretching his arms above his head. "You're correct in assuming I have nothing better to do with my time. I'll look through your lists. But if you're expecting me to be a chipper little helper, you'll be gravely disappointed."

"I will be sure to keep my expectations in check."

"Now is there anything else, or can I go back to sleep?"

"Of course; I apologize again for the late hour." Sibylla lifts her hand, magic falling from her fingertips, but after a moment her hand stills. "One last thing; we will be seeing the Winx tomorrow. Would you like me to tell Bloom about this?"

He considers for a moment, thinking about her small squeal of joy and the speech she would give him on the benefits of a morally positive life. He thinks about the ridiculous happy smile he'd likely see on her face - the one he's only seen when watching her through a magic orb. And he thinks about Sibylla, and her apparent confidence in him.

And he thinks about Ogron, and what he said as he stood on the opposite side of his living room.

"No," Baltor says, turning and heading back toward the bedroom. "That's not necessary."

Chapter Text

She knows there is no 'them.'

Just having to think it annoys Bloom, because thinking it is ridiculous. Of course there isn't a them; there has never been a them, and there never will be. The original reasoning still rings in her head; keep Baltor alive as the only other person from Sparx . And even though that wasn't true anymore, she couldn't just throw him aside. Not after a year of not trying to take over the world, of helping her. It had to count for something - a very little something, but something nonetheless.

That still didn't make the two of them a them . Because it's still just too crazy to think about.

Something's different, though. Bloom knows that much. A tiny little voice in the back of her head tells her she should worry about that.

She doesn't.


"Must we do this?"

Bloom glances over her shoulder, walking further out to the center of the roof. It's dark and surprisingly cool in London, the sky a shade of grey warranting an oncoming summer storm. "I need to see how far you've come with regaining your magic. You're sort of my responsibility, after all."

Baltor looks unamused at the comment and goes over to the ledge, standing far enough away that he has to crane his neck to see the street, six floors down. "I hope you're ready to be severely disappointed, in that case."

"You can't be that rusty."

"It's not that I'm rusty ," he makes air quotes around the word, and Bloom smirks. "It's that aside from quick bursts of magic, I can't do much else. Advanced spells are still mostly inaccessible to me."

"How advanced are we talking?"

He sighs and waves his hand, a fireball appearing. The color is a darker red, not blue like it once was. Bloom can feel the energy in the air; it's decent, but weaker than she's used to as far as Baltor's concerned. They lock eyes for a moment, and something in them must be surprised because he gives a small huff of annoyance. The fireball dissipates.

"Spells are easier," he says, "but bursts of magic like that are...difficult to keep up for extended periods of time."

Bloom takes note of the tone of his voice and his eyes on the horizon instead of her. "Wait a second, are you…are you embarrassed ?"

She sees his eyes widen.

"You are ! You totally are!"

He scoffs, and the dark look on his face makes the smile fall off hers. " Thank you , for reminding me," his voice has an angry tone to it as he stalks past her to the other end of the roof. "As if you defeating me single-handedly and taking my power wasn't degrading enough."

"Well gee, if I remember correctly you told me you didn't want to die."

"And I also told you I didn't want your pity."

"It's not pity!"

"Then what would you refer to it as?"

Bloom opens her mouth, then closes it. "I...I don't know! Concern!"

"Concern for me? That's rich."

She crosses her arms over her chest. "I thought we were past this."

Baltor chuckles, turning back to face her. "And just what are we past , Bloom? Attempting to kill each other? Being enemies? You expect me to believe you've forgotten all that?"

"Of course I haven't forgotten that! But do you think I'd come around so much if I still thought you were going to try and kill me?" she snaps.

"Then pray tell, my dear , if we're not enemies and you don't use me as a personal history book, what are we?"

The sarcasm in his tone makes her snap. Before she can think about it she throws out her hand and sends a fireball towards him. Standing on the edge of a six-story building. With limited magic.

Her eyes widen and she starts to yell, but he's already half-facing her. Bloom watches Baltor's eyes widen, and he steps to the side and throws his arm out.

The fireball changes course, slowing and going right into his open hand. Baltor's fist closes around it, and the magic dissipates. Bloom feels it leave her proximity, meaning it’s been absorbed. A few stray ashes fall to the ground.

They stare at each other for a few seconds. Thunder rumbles in the distance.

Bloom breaks first, swallowing and forcing her posture to go back to relaxed from a battle stance. "I...um...I didn't know you could still do that."

"...Yes. Well that makes two of us." Baltor's outstretched arm slowly falls back to his side.

"You absorbed it?"

"Yes."

"Do you -"

"Yes," he says again before she can finish. "I feel it. It's stronger magic than I have."

Her mouth closes. "Your magic is red."

Baltor raises an eyebrow at her. "What?"

"Your magic. When we used to, or, when we fought before, it was blue. It's red now. It's...interesting."

She watches him exhale. "Your fairy dust erased the Ancestresses dark magic in me. That included their power, which I often relied on. All I have left is light magic; Earth provides little of the other kind on account of its lack of wizards and witches. And more often than not I draw from the light magic...improperly."

"Light magic. How awful for you," she says lightly, testing the waters.

He smirks, just slightly. It's embarrassing for him to admit this, she realizes. "I don't think relying on that will turn you into a model citizen, sadly." Bloom continues, carefully.

"Thank God."

She releases something between a huff and a laugh. "Y'know, I'm actually not horrible at drawing from dark magic."

He raises an eyebrow at this. " You? Dark magic?"

There are flashes of memories - the few days at Cloud Tower with the girls, the impressed look on Griffin’s face as she sustained a ball of dark magic, laying tied up on a slab of rock in an underground castle, a cold talon stroking her cheek -

 

Bloom shakes her head and realizes Baltor is staring at her like he’s just realized he’s asked a very personal question.  “I-It’s a long story,” she finally manages to say. “I’m sure the Trix told you all about it.”

“Some things,” Baltor admits after a moment.  “But nothing more than I didn’t find out just from searching you on the realm wide web.”

"Yeah, well. Some parents were up in arms I was allowed back after Darkar... messed with me.  So when you showed up and Diaspro started telling the Eraklyon officials I was aligned with you...it was an interesting few weeks.”

"Hmm," he says. "Well, it appears they weren't completely wrong.  Just about the darkness."

Bloom gives a polite smile at his attempt to make her feel better, and glances out to the skyline. She can see rain starting to fall on the other side of the city. "Look, I -"

He cuts her off again. "Don't apologize. Please."

She glances back at him, wrapping her jacket more tightly around herself. The wind is picking up. "Do you still think we're enemies? A year later?"

Baltor takes a deep breath and looks her in the eye. They never used to do that, but now it seems like most of their conversations involve eye contact, like their first encounters. "No. But I wouldn't exactly call us friends, either."

"...Do we label ourselves then?"

"Do we need to?" he shoots back.

Bloom thinks about it for a minute. "I guess not. Do you want to label us?"

"No. I've always been of the belief labels make things too complicated too quickly."

"Former enemies standing together on a roof in London debating their status and not shooting magic fireballs at each other...aren't we already complicated enough?"

He smirks at that. "Exactly why it shouldn't be made more complicated."

Before she can say anything, her phone buzzes in her pocket. She reaches for it and looks at the screen. "It's Stella. She needs my help getting the rest of our boxes out of the apartment in Gardenia."

Baltor nods. "By all means."

She feels something wet touch her head, and she runs a hand through her hair. Another shiver wracks her. "Considering the rain's starting, it's a good idea."

"Bloom."

"Yeah?"

He gives her a pointed look, and she narrows her eyes. "What are…" she starts, but she feels another raindrop. Except it seems far too light to be a raindrop.

She looks down at her hand just in time to see a small fleck of white melt into her hand.

Bloom's eyes widen, and when she feels more she looks up. Beyond the roof she sees rain starting to fall heavily over the city, but around her, Baltor, and the rooftop air conditioning units,  snow is falling. A small gasp escapes her lips, and she turns to see Baltor’s reaction -

He smirking at her.

She picks up on the implication immediately.  "...You're doing this?" she asks, and kicks herself because her voice sounds awestruck.

"You've been to Omega before; obviously you've seen snow."

"Well yeah, but," Bloom trails off and walks over to the nearest ledge. She sticks her hand over and feels fat raindrops. She draws it back, and the light feeling of snow takes its place. She exhales and watches a cloud of breath form, and disappear as it goes beyond the roof. "It's like eighty degrees, in July. And you're making it snow on a roof!" She turns back to him. "How are you doing this?"

"Bloom, Bloom," he chides her, but there's a light tone to his voice. "I told you my magic isn't much, but it can still do some things."

She grins before she can help herself. "Someone's going to see this," she says, looking down at the snow starting to gather on the concrete. "How do you explain why it's raining everywhere except the roof of your building?"

"The storm probably isn't even reaching Croydon. But if it makes you feel better." His smirk widens, and he snaps his fingers. The snow in the air dissipates, and rain starts falling over them. Bloom yelps at the sudden blast of humidity that comes over her.

"Hey!"

"You need to leave. And I would prefer to go back to studying my newly acquired books." Baltor walks past her towards the door that they used to get to the roof. Snow crunches under his feet.

She has a quipp ready, but she doesn't say it. Instead she just smiles at him and rattles off the teleportation spell in her head. After she says the last word she blinks, and she's standing in the lobby of the now defunct Love & Pet, her wet boots leaving water on the floor.

Maybe there is a 'them' after all.

Chapter Text

He knows this can't last.

Baltor prides himself on few things; one of them has always been his ability to read people. Figuring out weaknesses and flaws had been second nature to him, since before he became a pawn of the Ancestral Witches. They simply gave him new ways to exploit said weaknesses. It was appreciated at the time, before they screwed him over.

He sees the change in Bloom. It's slow, but there nonetheless. She's less leery of him; she comes around more often, so much so that the old bat downstairs asks him if they're dating. He scoffs at her and denies it, but she smirks like he's lying to her (or himself) and she knows it, and rather than say anything more lets it slide. Something about the look on her face makes him uneasy, and he vaguely wonders if it's how he used to make people feel.

It's awful, he decides, and Baltor makes it a point to ignore her most of the time after that encounter.

It doesn't change the fact that Bloom is still around.

Baltor's always thought of himself and Bloom as two opposing forces, fighting for control since the day they saw each other. That's what their relationship had been during the year they fought, a constant back and forth that ended with her in control. He's trying to regain some of it; through his magic and working for Tir Nan Og, but he still feels it slipping between his fingers.

It's slipping because he...likes having her around. He likes…

He's not ready to finish that thought.

There are many reasons why, but the main one is pride. Admitting he feels anything other than animosity towards Bloom also feels like giving up. He remembers the first time he had a conversation with her, saw her face to face after pulling her lifeless body out of the sea. She was half-delirious with water still in her lungs, and he said his name and Bloom's eyes had shown him unfiltered fear. He hadn't seen it since that day - she'd kept her emotions in check and replaced it with rage - but Baltor remembers that look in her eyes. It made him feel powerful. As he went on he relished it when others had that same fear in their eyes.

A dark part of him wants to see it in Bloom's eyes again.

But yet another part of him doesn't, and that terrifies him even more.

Many things over the years have damaged his pride, but nothing would do it more than becoming a 'forbidden lovers' cliché.


"Did you ever fight Erendor?" Bloom asks when she stops by to return the book Ogron took from his apartment.

Baltor's head snaps up from his cup of tea. "What?"

"Erendor. The King of Eraklyon?"

Her voice is nonchalant, but Baltor can tell from the way Bloom doesn't meet his eyes she's fishing for information. "Not in person, no."

"Oh," she says, filling in the silence between them. On the other side of the kitchen counter, she snaps her fingers. Another cup drifts from his shelf and lands in front of her. "I had just...heard things."

He sighs and hands the teapot over to her. "Havram?" he asks because there's no point in  talking around the issue.

She blushes slightly. "Yeah."

Baltor remembers very little about Havram; he had only visited once before it was destroyed. But he knows the story from the Ancestresses, and Erendor's promise to stay out of Sparx's destruction to keep his own planet safe. "I had very little to do with him. My battles focused on Faragonda and the rest of your family."

"But you knew about him?"

"His alliance with your father? Yes," he lifts his drink to his lips. "Beyond that, though, I didn't pay much attention."

"...That's fair."

Her eyes are on the cup as she dunks the tea bag in, slowly changing the color of the water. Her fingers tap against the counter in a steady rhythm. Baltor rolls his eyes. "What?"

Bloom looks up at him, far too quickly for her to actually be distracted. "Huh?"

"What else?"

She opens her mouth, just slightly, then closes it, then opens it again. "It just made me realize there's a lot about Sparx I don't know. About the battles you were in."

The openness of her answer catches him off guard. "...It isn't as though that changes what happened. Or what I did."

"I know. But it was the Ancestresses more than you. You were just…"

"Their pawn?" he fills in wryly, and she gives a small smile. He stares at it for a few seconds before looking away. "It wasn't a pleasant or cinematic battle. It was strategy, months of unraveling Sparx's allies and political structure. People died. It's better to forget it."

"Maybe it should be forgotten," Bloom says, "but it's still the history of my planet. I'm curious about it.

"And," Baltor's gaze turns back to her as she continues. "You know I don't blame you for it, right?"

The cup would've shattered to the floor had he been holding it. "You should blame me," he finally says, but his voice is uneven and he has to clear his throat before continuing. "I was a part of it, no matter how minimal. My status now doesn't change that."

She doesn't say anything to that, and a cold feeling settles in Baltor's chest when he glances at her face. "You said you had a class today?"

Bloom glances at the clock on the kitchen wall. "Oh my gosh! I completely forgot, and it's...darn it," she extends a finger, and the wisps of heat rising from her tea cease. Bloom drinks it quickly and stands up. "I feel like all I do is drink and leave you…"

"Yet I always manage," though he kicks himself, he feels a small smirk go across his face. "Thank you for the weekly checkup."

She smiles, and disappears in a clap of air.

Baltor's lips fall when she's gone.


She has no fear left for him. He hates it, and when a small voice in his head says he shouldn't , he just hates more.

Years of rotting in the Omega dimension, his time trying to rule the universe - all of that plotting shattered by the daughter of his sworn enemies.

He knows the longer he stays here, the more acceptable that idea will become.

There are things Baltor has done he isn't proud of. Many of those things are not common knowledge, and remain buried with the dead. There are the things that, should Bloom ever discover, would likely lead her to come to London and kill him on the spot. Those secrets won't stay buried forever; he knows that. If his powers were back to full strength he would worry less, because it would be easier to relocate without Bloom discovering him. But they aren't, which leaves him as a mostly mortal man with his last tie to the magic dimension being the same girl he…

God, he's weak.

The scales are tipping; he feels it. Their emotions are changing. Baltor won't admit it to himself, but he is terrified of where they will lead.  Because he has a feeling he knows where Bloom's are going, and he’s scared he’s not far behind. 

It's a waiting game to see who cracks first.

Baltor doesn't want to lose.

Chapter Text

She gives an 'interview.'

The last few days on Earth have been a whirlwind of concerts and oil spills and battles, leaving Bloom feeling sore as she walks up and down the beach with a trash picker and a plastic bag. The turnout of people to help clean up has been decent so far, but she knows the turnaround time to get it anywhere close to 'back to normal' will be months.

Or until they can figure out how to stop Layla's insane cousin.

"Hey Bloom!" a voice jolts her out of her thoughts, and she turns around to see Roxy heading towards her, a brunette man with a notepad in tow who regards the beach with a slight disdain. "If you want to take a break, this is Mister…"

"Free," the man behind her supplies.

"Mr. Free, from the BBC. He wanted to ask you some questions about the beach cleanup and what sort of thing caused it."

Bloom wipes the sweat from her brow and straightens up. She's about to ask Roxy why she let a reporter around when they were planning a press conference later, but she feels a ripple of magic, and watches the male figure change. "Oh," she says.

"My apologies for bombarding you," Baltor nods at her, a small smirk on his face. "I won't take too much of your time, I promise."

"Is he always so pretentious?" Roxy asks, and Bloom smirks while he glares at her. "There's enough people here that you don't have to bother with some cover story about being a reporter."

"Then Roxy, you're not nearly as paranoid as I am."

"I've got it," Bloom says to the other girl. "Will you check to see if anyone needs another water bottle? It's so hot out here."

"Roger that," she says, squeezes Baltor's shoulder, and heads back in the direction of the Frutti Music Bar a few hundred feet from where they are

"I didn't think I'd be seeing you on this continent. Or for a few weeks with how all this is going." The two start a slow pace up the beach, Bloom stopping occasionally to grab a piece of trash.

"I suppose I miss California," he says, glancing at her out of the corner of his eye. "You look…"

"Yeah, no kidding," she interrupts.  Her hair is in a messy ponytail and sweat is dripping down the back of her neck. "Come to check up on me? Make sure I was alright?"

He chuckles, and something about it makes the anxiety settle in Bloom's chest. "A secondary benefit. News outlets are already reporting on this; and every major disaster seems to be blamed on magic these days." he trails off as a group of young girls go by, laughing. "There were reports you faced - along with sea monsters and exploding oil rigs - three questionable looking magic wielders without wings."

The Trix , Bloom thinks, and suddenly his presence here makes sense. Something ripples through her chest, but she doesn't dwell on the feeling too long (out of desire to push on or fear, she doesn't know). "Yes. Three witches. Icy, Darcy, and Stormy."

"Interesting names."

"Don't tell them that. They've escaped one of the most secure rehabilitation facilities twice now...it wouldn't take much for them to freeze you solid and break you apart in a tornado." Bloom trails off and looks over at him. "Worried?"

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't. Though...concerned seems to fit better," Baltor steps in time with her, despite the terrain of the sand. "I find it unlikely they'll track me down. They don't even believe I'm alive...do they?"

"Not to my knowledge," Bloom says. "Are you calling me untrustworthy?"

He chuckles. "No. Those three are resourceful. You know that as well as I do. I needed to know where I stood."

"...Right. Of course." Bloom focuses on picking up a plastic drink holder with her stick. "Well, you'll be relieved to know you're not even near their field of vision. You should be perfectly safe so long as you stick to Earth. Which you should be doing, anyway."

"Hmm...but it seems they have caused some damage here." Baltor steps around a broken wine bottle sticking out of the sand. He waves his hand and when Bloom looks back it's repaired, the glass shards out of harm's way. "And it's being said they didn't act alone."

She shrugs. "So?"

"So, you may as well ask me about the mystery fourth contender while I'm here."

"I thought you didn't like me doing that."

"So that means you're never going to ask?"

Bloom rolls her eyes, and finally stops walking. She looks out to the ocean, now a dull grey color from the garbage and overcast. She feels Baltor's gaze, but doesn't look back to see if it’s her or the sea. "You imprisoned Queen Ligea when you took over Tides, right?"

"I did."

"Come into contact with her children?"

"No," Baltor says after a moment. "They fled with King Neptune after the initial attacks and stayed hidden until well after I left. Not to say I wasn't looking; his powers have always been considered impressive. Ligea escaped not long after I captured her," his voice carries sarcasm. "I wonder who I have to blame for that."

She smiles, just slightly. "Sorry."

"Doubtful. But their children are involved in this?"

"The oldest one - Tritannus. Didn't take too kindly to his brother being the favorite. Got thrown in jail for trying to assassinate him, broke out with the Trix." Bloom pauses. "A little familiar, isn't it?"

Baltor doesn't say anything, but she hears him chuckle faintly. "Those three are repetitive, at least."

"Are any of your old hideouts on Tides still standing?"

"There’s a slim chance. They were more towards the Omega portal…"

"Which got a heavy upgrade after you destroyed it."

He looks pleased at the fact. "I can give you a few places, but honestly you'd have better luck watching for him on that pillar I pulled out of the sea."

Bloom shivers involuntarily, thinking of that day - the current weather seemed to be about the same. "You could've made the ocean warmer," she mutters, almost as an afterthought of the memories.

She glances back to see a look of surprise on his face. "...I'm surprised you remember any of it."

"I remember all of it."

They're silent for a few moments, staring at each other. Bloom feels her heartbeat quicken, and wonders what that means (which is a lie - she has an idea of what it means but she pushes it back down). "I -" she begins, and takes a breath. "I thought after I got Sparx back that would be it. The end of all the fighting and the wars I dealt with my first few years in the dimension. But they keep going, every time I think it's going to end. And it's invading home - the home I grew up in where I never worried things wouldn't be okay. I...I hate it."

"Am I one of those invaders?" he asks, not accusingly but as though he wanted to know where he stood.

Bloom thinks for a minute. "Sort of? I don't count you as a bad thing, if that makes sense. You've just sort of bled into being a part of it - my parents live in a house off of Harper Street, my favorite coffee shop is on the PCH, and you live on the second floor of a building off Kensignton Gore."

"You don't think of me as a threat anymore, hmm?"

"Should I?" she asks, because in all honesty she doesn't anymore, and when she stops to think about it, maybe that's a bad thing.

Baltor looks surprised by the question and doesn't answer her immediately. She watches him think like she had before, but before he says anything she hears Flora yell from somewhere down the beach; "Hey Mike!"

They both turn their heads to see Roxy coming towards them again, Mike with her this time instead. She gives a quick, apologetic grin.

"It appears I had little time to be of use," Baltor says, a touch of sarcasm in his voice.

"I'm sure you're devastated," she shoots back, smirking at him.

He gives her a small smile, almost like he’s proud of her holding her own against him, and straightens up. "Well," Baltor says, slipping back into his alias. "I believe that is more than enough information for my boss to get off my ass. I hope I didn't take up too much of your time?"

"Not at all. Please let me know if you need anything else." she says. "We want the public to be well informed."

Baltor nods. "I'll be in touch," he says, and holds a hand out. Bloom blinks and then slides the plastic bag up her arm to properly shake it. She feels Dragon Fire flow from one body to the other, and when she lets go it feels like a light flips off.

His magic is getting stronger .

"Mr. Free," Roxy calls as they get within hearing distance. "There are a few reporters setting up for a press conference at the Fruitti Music Bar, if you'd like me to direct you."

Baltor responds to her, and Bloom turns her attention to her father. "Hi Dad," she kisses his cheek. "Come to help with the cleanup?"

"That, check up on you, and start getting eyewitness accounts for the oil rig fire."

Bloom watches with wide eyes as he turns his gaze to Baltor. "Hope you're not giving my daughter too much trouble." His voice is friendly, but Bloom knows the underlying protectiveness in his eyes. "I've run off more than one reporter."

To her relief, Baltor chuckles. "Sir, if I was, I'm sure she'd have no trouble turning me into a charcoal briquette."

Mike laughs. "Think that myself every day with her temper."

"She seems perfectly well-mannered to me."

"You haven't seen her in the mornings without caffeine."

Bloom's cheeks turn red and she hits Mike's arm. " Dad !"

She glances back at Baltor, and sees mischief shining in his eyes. "Take care, sir." He nods at Mike, and walks off with Roxy back towards the Fruitti Music Bar.

"He seems nicer than the run of the mill guys I saw setting up." he says to Bloom when they're far enough away.

The fact that someone close to her is complimenting Baltor's personality is almost jarring, and she looks back towards him. "...Yeah. Guess so."

"Where's he from?"

"...BBC, I think."

Her father nods. "Keep that guy around. He seems pleasant, and having a news liaison for you girls here on Earth might be helpful."

"I-I'm not too sure if I get a say, but I'll keep it in mind." Bloom shakes her head to clear it, and smiles at Mike. "So...oil rig eyewitnesses?"

Chapter Text

He knows Sky has lost his memory.

Baltor isn't looking for the information when he finds out. Not that he isn't interested - old habits die hard, and staying up to date on royals had been a large factor of his life for many years. It was only natural, or so he told himself. It didn't have to do with anything else. Or anyone.

Oddly enough, Sibylla is the one to bring it up when he's dropping off spellbooks he's found in Edinburg.

"You mean he's lost all of it? Battles and his royal training and time at Red Fountain?"

"Mostly," she says. "I'm not quite sure how or why it's happened, but it is unfortunate nonetheless. If not for Eraklyon, then for Bloom."

"I would switch those," Baltor says, almost absently, then looks back at her. "How did you find this out?"

"I've been keeping in contact with the Magix Council and Ms. Faragonda. They're impressed with the magic being recovered on Earth." She offers a small smile, which Baltor doesn't return. "Quite a turn of events though."

He recognizes the tone in her voice, and groans. "Sibylla, honestly."

She has the sense to look a bit embarrassed. "I did not mean - "

"You did mean, we both know that." He leans back against the wall of the cave and glares at her. "Why is it that, no matter how much I insist I haven't done anything with Bloom, you assume the opposite?"

Her face turns to an expression Baltor - surprisingly - can't decipher. "I would like to ask you a question."

Baltor raises an eyebrow, but says nothing.

"Why do you refuse to believe that you could be happy without first ruling the free world?"

He would be lying if he said he expected the question. "...Did you not say I was in love with my power first and foremost?"

"I did believe that, yes. But lately, it seems my opinions are changing." She looks down at the books Baltor brought, thoughtful. "My powers grant me many visions of what the future holds. Some of them come true, others don't. But a constant I have seen as of late is you, and your weakening desire to obtain such power."

"Because of Bloom?" He asks, clearly unconvinced.

"There are some because you've died," Sibylla shoots back wryly. "But yes, mostly Bloom."

Something about that makes his chest feel strange, but he pushes it down. "I appreciate the sentiment," Baltor says, "but I'm not sure such ideas can become reality."

"What makes you say that?"

He hesitates. "There are things I've done in my life. Things that - if Bloom ever found out - would drop me from whatever good graces she has me in now. I'm not proud of them, but I would never expect her to overlook them simply because of what I am now."

Sibylla raises an eyebrow, obviously intrigued. "I don’t supposed you would elaborate on that?”

“You suppose right.”

“I see.” Sibylla pauses.  “Regardless, the past is the past.  There is ample opportunity to move past it.  Move forward .”

"Do your powers only allow you to speak in riddles regarding my future?"

"I would hate to accidentally influence you. But please, all I ask is you consider the idea that the girl may think of you as more than a former enemy, and that you could be happy without all of your powers."

"If I say I will, will you leave the subject alone?"

"Yes."

"Then yes. Am I free to go?"

"Of course," Sibylla's tone changes as though the last few minutes never occurred. "When you get a chance, there's a collection of spells on agriculture magic. Their last known location was around Yamato, though I believe the city name has changed."

"I'll look into it," Baltor says, and heads for the cave entrance.


Baltor portals back to a secluded area in Hyde Park near his apartment - he keeps up the appearance of coming and going so he doesn’t arouse suspicion from the neighbors.  The walk gives him time to mull over his emotions, and Sibylla’s words to him. It annoys Baltor, because even taking a little time to consider her words make him realize how much he’s changed since arriving on Earth.  

But even so, that leaves the question of how much of his past could be excused due to the change.  Or maybe how little .

He considers the thought as he enters his building, but doesn't have long to dwell on it before he hears the Old Bat yelling at him from down the hall. "You plan to keep your girl in the cold all afternoon?"

Baltor looks over, doing little to hide his distaste. "Forget your medicine today, Ms. Hayes?" He asks in an overly-sugared tone.

"Don't give me that shit, you," she responds, that knowing smirk he hates crossing her face. "Your girlfriend's upstairs."

His feet halt, and reaching with his Dragon Fire senses her upstairs. Baltor glances back at the older woman, sighs, and heads for the stairs without another word.

Bloom leans against the wall opposite his door, books under her arm and her phone in her other hand. She's too engrossed in whatever she's looking at to notice him coming up the stairs, which gives Baltor the opportunity to look her over while her guard is down. A slight shake to her hand tells him she hasn't been sleeping well. Her clothes are more formal than what she usually wears from Alfea, her makeup is more precise (though it does little to hide the redness in her eyes that backs up his theory of lost sleep).

It all points to the idea she's worried over Sky - trying to look as proper as she can in case he comes around or needs her assistance in a pinch (it also explains the color of her shirt - eavesdropping from Cloud Tower years ago, Sky had told her he loved the color on her). That being said, she doesn't seem anxious or worried. Just tired, maybe even a little annoyed when her eyes narrow at something on her phone screen.

He clears his throat, and she snaps her head up. "Don't you have classes?" he asks her, digging around his pocket for the key.

"Afternoon one got cancelled, and Roxy gave me these," she motions to the books under her arm. "They're about Earth - mostly fable stories on magic, but I thought maybe you'd want them."

"You didn't need to do that." It's true. Bloom still doesn't know he's gathering books for Sibylla as well as himself, making the gesture that much more personal.

"Yeah well, I needed a break from Alfea and the people there."

Baltor turns to the door to put the key in, mostly so she can't see his expression. "Trouble in magical paradise?" he asks, though he already knows the answer.

"To put it mildly. It's nothing, just...reason to start thinking."

It's not the answer he's expecting, and something about it makes a bit of hope flicker in his chest. He takes a deep breath and wills it back down, holding the door open for Bloom to step inside. "Where have you been all afternoon?" she asks, and he can hear the curiosity in her voice.

"Chasing down an antique book I'm fairly certain doesn't exist," he says it partially out of habit and partially because he doesn't want her to have to keep another secret regarding him.  Once upon a time he was just desperate to have something that was his again, untouched by what Bloom had forced him into.  It doesn’t matter as much to him, anymore. "Overall an uneventful day."

"Sorry to hear…" she trails off and stops walking halfway between where the hallway opens up and the living room. "What?"

Baltor realizes he's staring at her.

That strange feeling is back, and before he can push it down he opens his mouth. "Do you want a key to the flat?"

Bloom almost drops the books; Baltor sees her fingers start to go limp before she catches herself. Her cheeks are already going pink. "W-What?"

"You're here almost every week. It'd be easier than waiting around in the hallway or wasting magic picking the lock." He keeps his tone neutral and finally looks away from her, going into the kitchen to get a glass of scotch he now feels like he needs. "Just a suggestion if you want."

He opens the cupboard and looks back at her. Her expression has turned to one of thoughtfulness. "Is that...too personal?" she finally asks.

"Would I suggest it if I thought it was?"

There's a pause that's almost too long, and Bloom breaks it before he does. "All right. If you really don't mind, I'd like one."

In response, Baltor snaps his fingers. He hears Bloom's sharp inhale and a soft plink as a magic-copied version of his key drops on the counter next to her. "Now then," he turns around to face her, the bottle in his hand and a smirk on his face. "Should I be pouring you a glass before your return to Alfea, considering your desire for a break?"

Bloom smiles back at that. "Please."

Chapter Text

She invites him to Sparx.

Bloom wishes she'd had a camera to capture the look of surprise and horror that crosses his face. "Why in Magix's name," Baltor says when he regains his composure and Bloom stops giggling, "would I go back there?"

"Not as you ," she says as if it were obvious. "You'd need disguise spells - which I can totally help with. But my parents are officially reopening the palace to the public. It's been closed -"

"Since the first attacks," Baltor finishes. He looks grim. "You want me to come?"

"Yes. If you want to."

"Will I be intruding on a date of some kind?" he asks.

She feels her heart skip a beat and forces her face to stay neutral. "He's busy."

"Ah."

She's surprised when he agrees with little argument after that. The opening is on the Friday before Christmas, (even though Christmas doesn't matter much in the magical dimension, but it means she can spend Christmas in Gardenia with her other parents), and Bloom is the only one of the Winx that doesn't have class Friday afternoon, which means she can go with Baltor and not worry about them seeing her with another man and asking questions. Not that it would be a big deal for her, but because she knew they would make a big deal out of it.

Something in the back of her mind says she should come up with a rational explanation as to why she’s asked Baltor to come with her, but Bloom decides the fact that Sparx is his home planet too is sufficient. Maybe it wouldn't have been back when she first let him live, but so much has changed in that time.

Maybe too much.

Nevertheless, she shows up at his door on the day of, because if anyone on Sparx or otherwise picks up on the dark Dragon Fire Baltor still possesses they're both going to be in trouble. She knocks to be polite, and he answers in the same disguise spell he'd used at the beach.

"You're in a suit," she smiles at him as she steps inside, grateful that unlike the hallway, the apartment is warm.

"And you're in jeans," he shoots back, obviously surprised.

"My makeup and hair are done; I didn't want that woman downstairs giving you grief if I showed up in a ball gown," Bloom takes her gloves off and smooths her bangs back behind her left ear. "I know you said you don't like her, but she seems really nice."

"Then you've been deceived," Baltor closes the door and turns to face her. "Do you think the spell is powerful enough?"

Bloom reaches out with her magic, and though feels seems like the wrong phrase, it's what she does. The magic isn't deep, but it’s powerful even to her own inner flame. "I can add a few layers of magic to it if you want."

"If you could," he says without any embarrassment. Bloom raises an eyebrow but doesn't say anything else, instead casting her own version of the disguise spell. A ball of red magic flares between her hands, and after a few moment it flies out and surrounded Baltor. He catches it easily and lets it dissolve around him. Bloom feels the spell around him thicken.

"I've never seen you this nervous," she says, twisting her finger in a different spell to put her dress on.

"I can't believe I agreed to it. The dimension is one place to go, but almost everyone on Sparx has seen my face. If the spell fails, I've essentially stepped into my own suicide."

"You'll be fine. Please, I hate how boring events like these are. Help me Obi-Wan ."

"The fact I'm aware of that reference is painful to my ego," he looks back and Bloom sees him stop short as he takes in her new attire.

Her cheeks pale. "Is it too much?" she glances down at the full dark blue skirt, the gold detailing starting from the thin straps holding the dress on her shoulders. "You've spent more time at the palace than I have, and if this is somehow inappropriate -"

Baltor holds up a hand. "You took me by surprise. It's fine." He pauses for a moment, and Bloom sees the corner of his lips quirk, just slightly. "You look lovely."

She smiles.

Baltor visibly relaxes when they arrive, realizing there are so many people and so much magic he easily fades into the background. Bloom loses him for a while, considering they enter separately to not draw attention. She's already seen her parents and made small talk with officials and nobles she doesn't know the names of before she finds him, standing at one end of the ballroom looking at a picture she's seen on the wall for ages, of the Great Dragon surrounded by fire in a burning forest.

She goes to stand next to him, just brushing his hand with hers so she doesn't surprise him. He looks over at her with just his eyes, but doesn't drop the spell in any way. "How does it feel being back?" Bloom asks, making it appear like she's making small talk to anyone who passes by.

"Strange." Even his voice has changed; it's a higher pitch, less smooth and more thin. "After so long, I assumed if I stood here again it would be in the middle of a war. To see a party, and people enjoying themselves…" he trails off, and Bloom glances over at him. His face is thoughtful.

"Tell me about the picture," Bloom says, because she feels like she needs more to connect this different man and different voice to the person she's known the last few years.

Baltor raises his eyebrows. "Your great-grandparents commissioned it, if I remember correctly. From a painter on Earth."

"Someone famous?"

"Leonardo DaVinci."

Bloom's eyes widen. "Are you serious?"

Even with the disguise spell, Baltor's smirk still comes through as his . Her eyes narrow when she realizes he's playing with her and she hits his shoulder. "You jerk!"

He laughs. "I have no idea where the painter is from or when it was done. It has been here for a while though; since I first set foot in the palace. And I know it's a favorite."

She purses her lips, looking at it for details she may have missed before that would help her appreciate it more as a family heirloom. As she does, Baltor steps to the side, putting distance between them. "You have company," he says, quietly enough for only her to hear.

"My dear Bloom."

Her eyes go wide, and she turns to the side as the man approaches. Regal attire, thinning brown hair, and a smile she doesn't entirley trust even after all these years. She gives a curtsey. "King Erendor. What a wonderful surprise; my father didn't tell me you were coming."

"He asked me at the last moment," Sky's father bows back to her, but Bloom feels as though it’s only for formality's sake. "A way to show both our people Sparx and Eraklyon are allies again. Of course there's ground to cover," she sees something dark flash across his eyes, and it's unsurprising considering the whispers she's heard from others. "But I'm confident in our abilities."

Bloom nods, not knowing much else to say. As his gaze continues to bear down on her, she finally bites the bullet. "How's Sky?"

"I was going to ask you the same question. Have you not seen him much since his return to Red Fountain?"

She knows his tone of voice is meant to strike a nerve, and it takes a lot to keep her smile up. "Of course. But we both have our own classes and such. I don't want to push him. And he has the rest of the Winx as well, the Specialists, teachers...and Diaspro."

"Of course. She's not slacking off now, is she?" He says it almost as a joke, but all Bloom feels is her knuckles tightening on her skirt.

"No. But I don't speak with her much..." Erendor nods at her, and Bloom bites her lip. "Your Majesty, if I may ask -"

"Why I asked her to assist our family?" The smile he gives her is trying to be friendly. "Looking at my previous banishment of the young woman, I felt I was too harsh on her."

"She spelled Sky against his will and convinced half of Isis' council we were aligned with Baltor," Bloom says before she can stop herself.

"Of course I do not condone her previous actions. But Diaspro has made great strides since then, both magically and personally. She's apologized for her behavior, and I believe in second chances, don't you?"

She never apologized to me , Bloom wants to yell.  "I -"

"And not to mention she was trained to rule Eraklyon one day; combined with growing up with Sky, she was simply the best candidate. Unless you'd like to object?" he raises an eyebrow and finally falls silent, and Bloom knows she's just been pushed into a corner on the particular issue. She feels her cheeks starting to darken in embarrassment.

"My apologies," Bloom jerks her head in surprise at the voice before her brain connects it's Baltor next to her. He places a hand on her shoulder. "I hate to interrupt, but before the orchestra pauses, Her Highness did promise me a dance."

Erendor looks taken aback, and Bloom has time to relax her posture before his gaze comes back to her. "May we continue this conversation later on?"

"...Of course." he says, and takes a step back realizing his encounter has been watched by someone else. His eyes slide to Baltor, and Bloom realizes he's still eyeing Sky's father. "Is there anything else?" Erendor asks after a moment.

"My apologies," Baltor gives an unfriendly smile. "It’s just... funny .  That you think such cowardly acts towards our princess will absolve you of your own guilt."

Bloom's jaw drops, but she's led away before she can say anything else, or read Erendor's reaction.

The orchestra is in fact in the middle of their last song, but Baltor keeps them on the edges of the crowds. Bloom's spent more time in dance lessons since her first disaster in Alfea's library under Stella’s teaching, but it takes her a moment to get the steps right. Baltor for his part doesn't say anything, waiting for her to become more comfortable with the movements to truly lead. His hands are around her waist, hers on his shoulders; they don't dance as much as keep in time with the music.

She finally looks over at Baltor when she trusts herself to speak. He isn't looking at her, but she knows he has been. "You didn't need to do that," she says.

"I know." His voice sounds more like himself than it had before. "I've never liked Erendor; even when he was friends with your father I thought he was an ass."

"Still...thank you."

"You're welcome." Bloom realizes it's the first time he's ever said it to her. After a few moments his normal smirk comes back to his face. "So, trouble in paradise?"

"Yeah," Bloom doesn't bother trying to hide it. "His memory's gone; he lost it in one of the battles. He doesn't know about his royal training or his time at Red Fountain...or me."

"You stopped wearing the ring," he notes quietly, his gaze falling to her hand.

"I didn't want to accidentally influence him. Being engaged is a big shocker."

"Even if said influence is true?"

"Even if said influence is true. It just...made me think. He remembers he's supposed to be king, remembers Brandon, Diaspro, even Stella, and his Red Fountain training. But not proposing. And it was upsetting, but also...sort of a relief? I never really wanted to get married young, or if so I wanted all this fighting to be over." Bloom sighs. "Maybe he really belongs with Diaspro."

"Paint her as the villain when you're not working to be a heroine? That's hardly you."

Bloom's eyes widen. "I am not -"

"Aren’t you, though?" His smirk widens. "I'm hardly one to judge, Bloom. If you don't want to be with him anymore, that's one thing. And no one should blame you for falling out of love; such things happen." He finally looks her in the eye. "Not marrying Prince Charming doesn't make you less of a hero, or mean you should rot alone.  But hiding behind circumstances, blaming them while doing nothing to change them...well.  I'm merely telling you what I see."

She stares at him for a few seconds, at a loss of what to say. "That's...quite a speech."

"I suppose it's a festive day." The smirk lessens in intensity and Bloom has to blink and set her mind straight because no, no he probably did not just flirt with you .

"...I suppose it is." Together, they slow to a halt, far enough away from the dance floor that they aren't noticed. Her hands are still on Baltor's shoulders, and his hands are still on her waist. She feels the same flush she had when she danced with Andy at their freshman Homecoming dance. "I'm glad you came, Baltor." She finally says, a small smile on her face.

He actually smiles back. "The pleasure was mine."

Chapter Text

He kisses her on New Year's Eve.

Their relationship before that moment ends. Their relationship after it begins.


"Nope," Bloom sits down on his couch with a thud. "I refuse to let you spend New Year's Eve alone with your nose in a book."

"Oh really?" He glances over at her. "Don't you have an evil ocean sludge monster to battle?"

"I do, but he's gone underground. Come on, I have to wait another month before I can celebrate in Magix. New Year's is my favorite holiday."

"Really?"

"My parents usually rolled Christmas and my birthday into one - which was fine, but...money wasn't something we could just throw at it. New Year's is just some party hats, neighbor's fireworks, and hope about the future."

"Ah, hope. Well that explains it then."

She glares at him, but it's friendly. "Ever seen the ball drop in New York City?"

Baltor looks over at the clock on the wall, reading half past nine. "Time change?"

"Oh, that's right." She puts her chin to her hand, pursing her lips.

He sighs. "Don't do that."

"Do what?"

"That little sad face when you try to convince me to do things."

"I don't do that!" He stares at her pointedly, and she smirks. "Well I don't force you."

Baltor scoffs at her, but sets his book aside. " If I agree, you let me live in peace for a month. No taking me out for nights around the world on a whim."

Bloom grins. "Can I still drop by and take spellbooks if I need them?"

"Yes."

"Then I agree."

"Then, rumor has it, the best views are on the Thames. We should start looking for a place to watch."


They start heading toward the river, making their way through the crowds. New Years Eve means the streets are closed for cars and buses, but it quickly becomes apparent they still won't make it to the riverside or onto the bridges without getting squished among tourists, or without tickets (which neither of them have nor feel like spelling into existence). Baltor hates the thought of being trapped within the hoards of people, but at the last minute Bloom tugs him through a gap in the crowd and under an awning everyone seems to be avoiding.

"Maybe waiting for New York isn't such a bad idea," she mutters.

He glances at the building behind them. They're in front of a theatre a few stories high that he walks past every now and then. And he sees lights on the roof of the building that aren't usually there. "What about sneaking into a view?" Baltor motions up, and Bloom follows his hand.

"A party on the roof?"

"It certainly would be less crowded."

Bloom shrugs, zaps the door, and they slip inside.

Three floors up, they find themselves in the midst of a party with the cast, crew, and friends of the theatre. It's less crowded than the streets below, but there are still enough people to fade into the background. Pieces of the set have been brought up onto the roof, though all Baltor can tell is that the show involves some strange paranormal themes. Bloom sneaks a few drinks and snacks from a table, and they take an area near the edge of the roof. Baltor stays back and watches people walk through the streets below, occasionally making small talk as Bloom goes off and mingles, eventually finding her way back with another round of drinks. Baltor doesn't know what time it is, but based on the murmur of the crowds on the street it's getting close to midnight.

"We should see their show later to compensate taking their drinks and food," Bloom says with a small smile and passes him one. While the last drink had an orange taste, this one is more obviously a type of whiskey.

"It depends on if they're any good," he replies, because saying 'no' outright will just annoy her.

He must do a poor job of covering up his disinterest, because Bloom hits his shoulder playfully. "Even if they're horrible."

"If they're horrible, they should be glad they brought anyone through the door," Baltor points out. Another quip is on his tongue, but he sees someone approaching and falls silent to be safe.

"Here you are," a blonde woman smiles at them and hands Bloom a white balloon with gold stars on it. "To release during the fireworks - they're a few minutes away. We're running short, so you couples will have to share."

Baltor senses Bloom tense beside him. "Oh, no no no," she stutters out, and he can only imagine the color of her cheeks.

"We're not a couple," he adds. "But I'm fine, thank you."

The woman glances between them, almost skeptically, then shrugs and heads off without arguing.

Baltor looks at the balloon, then at Bloom. Her cheeks are in fact red, but lighter than he thought they'd be. "So because I am a shut-in who refuses to interact with commoners," he begins, and she smiles lightly without looking at him. "Is there always such a focus on couples on Earth, or is it this holiday in particular?"

This is obviously the wrong thing to say, because he watches her cheeks darken again. "It's a superstition. You kiss someone at the start of the new year, or you'll have a year of loneliness."

He raises an eyebrow. "It seems like a ridiculous concept."

"It's not ridiculous! I happen to believe it."

Baltor can't help laughing at that. "After all the real magic you've seen? Why in Arcadia’s name would you?"

She narrows her eyes at him, but the blush is back on her cheeks. "My dad always kissed me on the cheek every New Years; I like to think it worked. And when my first boyfriend kissed me, it was the year I found out about my powers. So I've done it every year since."

"And various people still try to kill you every year," he points out, and Bloom rolls her eyes. "Well I suppose it's hard to feel lonely when monsters and witches keep attacking you."

"It's not about that, and you know it," Bloom leans over the half-wall to look at the streets below. "It's...I don't know. Like a tradition and a routine mixed together. It makes me feel better about the year ahead. Like I told you...when this started. I fear it."

He remembers their conversation in one of his old hideouts, seemingly decades ago. About death and loneliness and wanting to run from them, even though eventually they catch up with everyone. He remembers Bloom that night, looking tall and in-control despite being a teenager with less than three years of training under her belt. It's the same girl standing next to him now, but for some reason she looks younger and more soft. Likely due to the lighting, he tells himself. More than likely due to the alcohol.

Baltor leans over next to her and squeezes her shoulder. "You are ridiculously superstitious, especially when you know such things aren't true. But I suppose saying that won’t put your mind at ease?"

Bloom chuckles, but doesn't turn to look at him. She does however reach up and place her hand over his, not gripping but resting. Baltor raises an eyebrow but doesn't comment, continuing his other line of conversation. "If you are so determined to do this, you should make your selection now."

That causes her to look over at him. She raises an eyebrow quizzically. "What?"

"Bloom, there are more than a few men here willing to help you fight superstition. Granted if you're recognized the press may have a field day..."

"Wait...eww! Gross!" Bloom yanks her hand away and turns to face him. "I'm not going to kiss a stranger!"

"Does that invalidate your fictional rules?" Baltor asks with a smirk.

Bloom crosses her arms over her chest. "While many people may be willing to exchange saliva with a total stranger for the sake of tradition, I'm not one of them."

"Well then you made a mistake asking me to accompany -" Baltor's cut off as the crowds below start to yell. He glances over the roof at people waving flags and banners. It dies down, and he realizes people are counting down. "The brunette who asked you to dance twice may be a good candidate." he says mildly.

"Okay! Dumb tradition, I get it." Bloom snaps, and he hears sadness creeping into her voice. He blames the alcohol; he's never seen her drink more than a single glass, and she's on her third now.

"Oh for…" Baltor turns to face her again. " I'll kiss you."

They both stop as soon as he says the words, the echoing of numbers filling the silence.

"...What?" Bloom finally asks.

"I will kiss you; if it's that important to you." Even as Baltor says the words his brain is yelling at him. What are you doing? What the hell are you doing?

She opens her mouth, then closes it. "You would kiss me?"

"It's not as if we're enemies anymore. Our...mutual interactions over the last few years have at the very least dulled some of those emotions. And if I don't offer I'll never hear the end of it." He adds, trying to think of anything, anything to justify the ridiculous thoughts he's having.

"Do...you want to kiss me?"

It's too loaded of a question, so Baltor smirks instead. "Afraid I'll turn you into a frog?"

The quip seems to snap Bloom out of her shock. He sees the muscles in her jaw tighten, and feels her Dragon Fire flare. "Fine."

His jaw falls slightly before he can stop it, and now Bloom smirks. "Didn't think I'd say yes?"

"Honestly? No." The counting has reached below twenty.

"So long as you don't actually turn me into a frog."

"I promise not to turn you into a frog."

They're roughly an arm's length apart. Bloom bites her lip and takes a small step towards him. "This doesn't mean anything."

He takes a step towards her. "Of course not. It never will mean anything."

"Right. Just between friends." Another step.

"Quite a strange pair of friends." They're in front of each other. Baltor meets her eyes; they're wide, shining in the lights around them.

"Yeah well, what else is new in our lives?"

He has to smile at that, then glances at the party around them. People are gathered among friends, couples in corners who have jumped ahead of the clock. Dozens of them on the roof, thousands below, and no one looking at him except Bloom. He hears the number 'six' on the streets below.

"Please tell me there isn't a strange Earth custom for kissing I don't know."

"Well you're about to find out."

She comes up short, so Baltor puts his hands under her elbows and uses a levitation spell to help lift her.

It isn't pure magic. They're both too scared to move, leaving their lips pressed against each other like children. Their noses brush, tiny hairs scratching against skin and jolting nerves. Bloom breathes out her nose, and the warm air running down Baltor's cheek makes him shiver in the cool air.

Despite that, Baltor feels like his chest is on fire. Bloom's lips are soft and slightly parted on his own. Their magic flows from one body to another, connecting like a circuit. It's an addictive feeling, almost as addictive as she is. Common sense begins to fade from his mind. His hands tighten on her elbows, and he feels her hands slide up to grip the front of his jacket.

The sound of the first fireworks startle them, and they break apart. Baltor glances up briefly before returning his gaze to Bloom. Her cheeks are crimson now, and as she catches his eye he feels a small shiver go through her. The levitation spell stops, her feet hitting the ground with a small clack . Baltor's hands stay on her elbows, though, while Bloom's stay on his chest. For a few seconds, all they can do is stare at each other while people around them cheer. He has no idea what happened to the balloon.

"Well," Bloom says, finally. "Happy New Year."

"...Yes. Happy New Year."

Chapter Text

She wants to save Daphne.

There are things she wants to do first, of course. Most of them involve inflicting pain on the Trix and their newest boytoy. Her sister's encounters with the Ancestral Witches were enough torment for a lifetime; Tritannus holding her hostage is just more icing on the cake. There has to be something she can do, but until she can get those four out of the Infinite Ocean, she's in a stalemate. But Bloom has an idea - still in it's early stages, but an idea nonetheless.

But before she can start looking into it, there's one thing she needs to take care of.


Sky looks at the pendant and ring in Bloom's outstretched hand, and then back to her face. "You're sure?" he asks, but it sounds like he knows the answer already.

Bloom bites her lip and nods. "I'm sure."

He sighs, but takes the pieces of jewelry and slips them back into his pocket. Then he reaches out and pulls her into a hug. "You couldn't have broken up with me before I remembered I proposed, huh?"

She laughs into his shoulder. "You know I couldn't do that."

"No. I'm glad you didn't." They finally pull away from each other. Sky's eyes are shining with tears, and Bloom realizes she's close to crying herself. "Just...It wasn't the memory loss thing, right?"

"...Not just that, anyway." Bloom's thought about this for a long time; more so in the last few weeks. "It made me reevaluate things. Look at what I didn't want to see. I would've figured it out eventually, even if you had remembered." She pauses. "I'm sorry."

His lips quirk in a small smile. "You don't need to apologize. I'd rather you be happy, no matter what. You know that."

"I know. But it doesn't mean I'm still not sorry." Bloom shoves her hands into her pockets. "We've been through a lot of things, and I don't want to forget that. I know the 'let's still be friends' thing is cliché and almost never works out, but…"

Sky nods. "I'd like to be."

"Me too."

"But I need some time. To figure out where I stand with you, and what kind of relationship I want to have with you. What kind of friends."

Bloom nods. The statement doesn't hurt her as much as she expected. "That's fair. Take all the time you need. And if you don't want me to hang out with the others when you're there, just tell me. Or have Brandon tell me or something."

"Yeah." Sky takes a deep breath. The tears Bloom had seen in his eyes are dissipating, but he still swipes at them. "I used to think about this happening. I always thought I'd be...well. Maybe that means I've known this was coming, too."

"Maybe we both did." Bloom pauses. "You're going to make someone really happy someday, Sky."

He smiles at that, and reaches down to grab his bag. "So are you, Bloom. Whoever that ends up being."


Bloom does not break up with Sky because of Baltor - at least that's what she tells herself. There were other issues in their relationship; their ages, kingdoms to run, the thought of being tied down for the rest of her life, and the fact that Erendor really doesn't seem to like her.  Those were secondary to their own fears, wants, and personalities, of course, but they were things to consider.

But you know, when you kiss another man while you're engaged, it's probably a sign something is wrong.

There are other specifics, but she decides to save them for another day. And she has other things to do, involving ancient magic research. Alfea's library has given her no clues, so despite her fears she knows where to check next.

Baltor isn't home, and Bloom's partially grateful for that. She hasn't seen or spoken to him since New Years, and she does not feel like getting into her breakup. Of course that doesn't change the fact she should see him to make sure things were okay, but she's too worried about what will happen if the answer to that question is no .  For the time being it seems better to just not ask.

She's in the middle of her third hour, working through a particularly thick volume on Magix and its magical history when there's a cough.  When Bloom looks up, Baltor is standing in the doorway staring at her.

Bloom knew it would be strange, but she wasn't expecting the tension to be so... awkward .

It seems like longer than a few seconds, but she finally manages to stutter out: "To be fair, I'm not here to whisk you away for the evening. Just raiding your magic history books."

"I can see that," Baltor says. His look is far too calculated to be natural, and it makes Bloom's pulse elevate. Things are different; of course they would be. "Does this involve picking my brain as well?"

"Well it depends on how helpful the books are."

He chuckles at that, and it relaxes her slightly. Baltor walks over to the table and picks up one of her already discarded volumes.  Bloom notices he keeps a respectable distance.  "The most recent book on that shelf covers the early twentieth century.  What are you looking for information about?"

"Sirenix."

To the untrained eye, it would seem Baltor didn't flinch at the mention of the fairy form. But Bloom knows better - she sees his fingers almost rip the page he's holding while his shoulders tense. He puts the book back on the table. "You likely won't find anything in there," he nods to the book but doesn't meet her eye. "I might have one on the shelf in my room. Let me look."

"Thanks," she says with a raised eyebrow, and watches him go back to the bedroom. "So you don't know?" she calls after him.

"Don't know what?"

"Anything about Sirenix." Bloom snaps her fingers and the pot of coffee she made earlier flies over to the sink to start cleaning itself - it had gone cold long ago. "I'm trying to find anything I can about it, and it seems like the Ancestresses had something to do with its corruption."

"Then you know as much as I do." A second later Baltor reemerges with a book under his arm. He raises an eyebrow at the coffee pot, but doesn't comment on it. The silent resignation makes Bloom smile. "I didn't have the resources to tamper with something so powerful, even if I wanted to. The first time I ever heard about Sirenix was when the Ancestresses told me they used it to imprison your sister. I thought it was a myth before then."

"Yeah, you and me both...thanks," Bloom takes the book from his outstretched hand and flips to the folded pages. "Background information?"

"Mostly. It's a book of known fairy forms - it won't have as much detail as a work specifically dedicated to a single form, but it’s better than chasing myths from Andros."

"I didn't even think there were forms beyond Enchantix before Faragonda told us about them." Curiously, she flips forward in the book, looking at a drawing of large, almost butterfly-looking wings before she snaps back to the task at hand. "But that's not the point."

"Most fairies only reach as far as Enchantix during their studies - a good many never even surpass Charmix. Going beyond that used to be saved for dire situations and specifically trained women. It appears all the chaos in the dimension now just goes to you six on a regular basis."

Bloom smirks. "Trust me, I wish it didn't. Stella complains about how often she has to rework her closet to match whatever form we have."

"How exhausting," Baltor quips. "What are you looking for in there? Information on gaining it?"

"Got that part down. I'm more curious about the wish we're supposed to get."

"You get a wish?" There's still a touch of awkwardness in his voice, and Bloom doesn't know if it's because of her interest in the transformation or because of her .

"Supposedly...ha! Here it is...because they said 'wish,' I wanted to know if it was a real rule-free wish, or like a genie-style wish with limitations..."

"What would be the point of a wish if it had limits?" Baltor asks, sounding genuinely confused.

"I don't know, it's an Earth thing. Most beings that grant wishes have limits, they say...no making people fall in love, no killing, no bringing people back from the dead."

"How mundane," Bloom's Dragon Fire flares a bit, and she glances up to see him leaning over her, reading through the page she's on. She quickly averts her eyes back to the page, ignoring the fact that she can feel some of his hair brush her cheek. "See? Nothing about limitations on a Sirenix wish."

She takes a deep breath to level her heart rate. "Yeah. Good. Too bad you weren't here earlier - would've saved me a few hours."

Baltor chuckles and Bloom - thankfully - looks back to see him straighten up. "I assume this means you have something up your sleeve for this wish."

"I do. Daphne."

There isn't a response, the room falling into uncomfortable silence again. She turns to Baltor, that same look on his face. Though she doesn't want to, she meets his eyes, holding his gaze for what feels like a very long time. He breaks first, sighing and turning his head away. "Why am I not surprised?"

Bloom bites her lip. "Why do you keep doing that?"

"Doing what?"

"Looking at me like I'm going to throw you out a window. Look I know it's been weird since…" she trails off when she sees his shoulders tense again. "That kiss was a mistake, wasn't it?"

Baltor sighs. "It's not about the kiss. Not completely."

"No?"

"Bloom...you should know I still feel very responsible for what occurred on Sparx." He pauses and gives a humorless laugh. "I am still responsible. Perhaps it's all the time I've spent not under the Ancestresses, but remembering what I've done now..."

The awkwardness fades slightly, and Bloom smiles. "Is this the great wizard Baltor...having a moral dilemma about his past actions?"

It's the right thing to say, and he smiles at her. "You bruise my already fragile ego, Your Highness."

Bloom laughs and stands to stretch her legs. "My apologies. Maybe it's a good sign, though. You're becoming a better person."

"If it makes you feel better."

"It does." She looks over at the clock on the wall. "I should be heading back. The girls are going to be ready for an multi-hour interrogation."

"Have you been here that long?"

"N-No, it's not that. It's..." Bloom reaches up to fiddle with her pendant before remembering she didn't have it anymore.

Baltor notices. His eyes go from her bare neck to her left hand. She watches his eyes scan her ring-less fingers. He inhales sharply. "Bloom."

Of course he would have realized she didn't have them anymore. Of course that would make things worse. "It’s not a big deal -”

“It isn’t ?”

“No!  You just...y-you were right. On Sparx, when we were dancing. I was being a brat. People...fall out of love. And that's okay."

He opens his mouth, but before any words come out Bloom's phone goes off. She scrambles to get it out of her pocket, hitting the silence button. "It's a text. Stella."

Bloom watches Baltor take a few deep breaths. He takes a step towards her, and another, and another, until they're less than an arm's length apart. She looks up at him. "I know you need to go," Baltor says to her, his voice surprisingly soft. "But later, when this ends - you fighting Tritannus and the Trix - I think you and I are due for a talk."

She gulps. "About?"

" Bloom ."

" Okay . Okay...yeah, you're right. Sounds good." She takes a breath. "I didn't break up with Sky because of...what happened. You should know that."

"I certainly hope not. That…" Baltor trails off, shaking his head. There's a small smile on his face, but it isn't happy.

She reaches out and puts a hand on his shoulder before she can think better of it. His shoulders don't tense like they did before, and something about that makes her stomach turn. It's relief and anxiety and fear and something else she vehemently ignores. She almost takes her hand back, but at the last moment leaves it there. "We said nothing would change. Even before the kiss. But they have, haven't they?"

Baltor sighs. "Yes. Yes, I think they have."

Chapter Text

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.