From the Ashes

Summary: Brandon confronts Riven; Saladin informs them of the girls' trip to the Under Realm.

Disclaimer: I do not own Winx Club.

A/N: . . . Yeah, I haven't been able to write anything in forever. I apologize. I'll be out of school soon, so, theoretically, I should have more time to work on this.

--Chapter Eight: Confrontations

"All right . . . what's going on?"

"What do you mean?"

"Don't play dumb. You know I'm talking about you and . . . "

"Don't finish that sentence," Riven warned. "We were just talking. I wasn't putting the moves on her, I wasn't trying to corrupt her schoolgirl innocence . . . I was just trying to be nice."

"See, that's the thing." Brandon frowned as he took a seat. "I know you, Riven, and you're never just nice to anyone . . . especially not to girls. So, I'll ask again: What's going on between you and Bloom?"

"I don't have to explain myself to you."

"I think you at least owe an explanation to Sky!"

"Why? Because I'm talking to the girl he cheated on?"

"Hey, Sky never meant to . . . "

"Yeah, well, he did." Riven sighed. "Look, remember last year when Bloom and I stayed behind at Cloud Tower? To keep the Army of Decay from following the witches through the portal? I guess we kind of bonded. Is that good enough for you?" Riven scowled. This really wasn't any of Brandon's business, but the last thing he wanted was everyone thinking he had it bad for Bloom . . . which he most certainly did not. Feeling a little embarrassed, he glared up at the other Specialist and said, "I guess we both know what it feels like to be betrayed by someone we cared about."

Brandon jumped to his feet, knocking his chair over. "You can't be comparing Sky to that witch!"

"So what if I am?"

"Hey, guys, Saladin wants to see . . . " Timmy's voice trailed off as he hung in the doorway. He stared down at his friends, who were scuffling around on the floor. He leaned against the doorframe, his arms crossed over his chest as he shook his head. "I'm not gonna ask."

"Good!" Riven exclaimed, finally managing to shove Brandon off his chest. "At least someone around here knows how to mind his own business!"

Brandon opened his mouth to retort, but Timmy interrupted. "Saladin wants to see us in his office. I'll see you guys down there, okay?"

The other two Specialists remained silent as Timmy left their dorm. They didn't speak until they heard the door click shut.

"I guess we better go."

"Yeah." Riven helped Brandon to his feet. "I didn't really mean . . . "

"I know." Brandon suddenly arched an eyebrow. "'Schoolgirl innocence?'"

"Shut up."

--Saladin's Office--

"They're what?" Sky exclaimed.

"Headmistress Faragonda has informed me that Bloom and Stella are to accompany the Princess of Tides into the Under Realm," Saladin repeated, unfazed by Sky's outburst. "They are to rescue a group of captured pixies, I believe."

"That's ridiculous! It's way too dangerous!"

"Which is exactly why you and Brandon are going with them."

"Wait, we are?"

"Yes."

"Oh." Sky was visibly relieved.

Riven's eyes widened incredulously. "What, and that makes it okay? They have no business in the Under Realm, with or without a couple of Specialists. It would still be too dangerous even if all of us went with them!"

"You're just mad that you aren't going," Sky grumbled.

"Boys, please!" Saladin raised a hand for their silence. "There's been little activity in the Under Realm for several decades now. I'm sure it will be safe."

Riven remained unconvinced.

--Later, At Alfea--

The second Bloom's arms were wrapped around his waist, Riven noticed that Sky was giving him yet another hateful glare. He returned the look with a lazy smile, which only widened when the Princess of Tides—Layla, Saladin had said—told him to move over so she could drive.

"Are you going?" Bloom asked quietly.

"No. Saladin figured the prince was better suited for the job."

"Did you want to go?"

"I don't think it's safe."

"Are you worried about me?" she teased.

Riven revved up his bike and took off after the other Specialists. "I think it's stupid to send three fairies and two juniors into a place like the Under Realm."

Bloom leaned closer so she wouldn't have to talk over the wind rushing around them. "Hey, if I can handle the Army of Decay and three psycho witches . . . "

For a moment, Riven didn't say anything. Bloom had a point, but he still couldn't believe that Faragonda and Saladin were actually letting them do this. What was so important about a group of pixies, anyway?

"Just be careful," he finally said.

Bloom's arms tightened around his waist as he took a sharp turn.

"I will," she promised.