Disclaimer: I do not own Winx Club. I just came up with the idea and some of the elements.
'I'm not sharing a room when I come here, and honestly, I hope I don't have to be in classes with some of these people.'
Musa leaned forward on her elbows, watching the quartet of girls standing at the bottom of the steps to Alfea's main door. Even with her music on low, she could hear the snarky comments and disdainful insults towards the student body of Alfea. Brats. It Alfea wasn't up to their exacting standards, they were free to go elsewhere. It wasn't like Alfea was the only school in the Magix Dimension, it just catered to a wider range of fairy professions: Guardian Fairies, Healix Fairies, Godmothers, and anything in between.
With the sunshine splitting the bleach pathways, glimmering off the large gothic windows that were embedded into the hard pink stone buildings, and shining on the blue roof tiles, the girls couldn't have chosen a better day to see Alfea. Not that they would appreciate it. For Musa, it was a gorgeous day but the heat was almost stifling. Her skin felt hot, her neck clammy. Growing frustrated, she blew out a breath and twisted her hair up onto her head, fixing it in place with a slim conducting baton.
Her movement caught the attention of one of the girls who sent Musa a foul look before she whispered something to her friends. All of them looked at her for a long moment, then they began to giggle. Cheeks burning, Musa continued to glare at them, refusing to avert her gaze. Off to the side, she was aware of Kiloru, Ralan and Sirusa - the latter having checked up on her just before taking a seat on the stone bleachers. All three girls were watching the quartet with growing disdain. If the new potentials were intent on joining Alfea in the upcoming year they would have to learn some humility.
Feigning horror, one of the girls lifted her hand to her mouth, eyes wide as she glanced around and said, 'They would never force you to share with riffraff Princess Lorraine, they just wouldn't.'
'Couldn't,' another one of the little posse agreed with an obnoxious click of her tongue.
'Honestly I don't even know why half of these people are here, this place has gone to ruin since my mother's time here.' This was obviously said by Lorraine's second in command as Lorraine politely agreed with her.
'Indeed Kadencia. My mother will certainly be rethinking sending me here. She knows I'm the best and these people will only drag me down.'
A Specialist strode out of the main doors and the girls perked up, preening their hair and casually posing themselves as they smiled prettily. Musa watched as Lorraine reached a delicate hand out to catch his attention but he sneered and skirted by them, jogging up the steps to drop onto the stone bleacher beside her. Oh, the girls did not like that. Of course, they were special; he should have been honoured to meet them. As one, looking much like a group of horses, the girls tossed up their heads, dismissed him as a simple serf and stalked off. With a chuff of laughter, Musa turned to smile at her companion as she tugged out an earbud.
'What was that about?' he asked, jerking his head towards the disappearing girls.
'Potentials,' she answered, nudging him and pointing to a waving Sirusa. 'Better wave back, she'll not stop until you do.'
Riven rolled his eyes but relented with a nod in the Healix Fairy's direction. 'I only met her once but she insists on pretending we're friends. So what's a potential? A new student?'
'A possible new student for the upcoming year. Girls like that are usually considered the best their school has to offer, or they've intimidated people into thinking that, but when they come to Alfea, well all airs and graces are knocked out of you by Griselda. You learn humility, you learn to get along with everyone or you fail.'
He frowned. 'Makes sense. There are guys in Red Fountain I don't like but I have to rely on them to have my back in battle, and they probably feel the same about me. If you prove unreliable, you get kicked out.'
Musa nodded, but found herself wondering if that was why Riven was so intent in getting his honour back. Was he threatened with expulsion from Red Fountain? Was he worried that the other boys might not back him up on a mission? Or were they concerned he was still a traitor? She didn't ask; if he wished to tell her, he would.
'So what brings you here?' she asked instead. It had been a while since she had seen him. She'd been in the infirmary for three days, under Sirusa's watch, while she recuperated from her magic drain, and he'd been away on a reconnaissance mission.
He jerked a shoulder and rested his chin on his fists. 'Sky and Brandon are off with the girls looking for Bloom's dead parents. I figured I'd go with, until I realised it would just be the couples.'
Ah, yes. She'd heard of that mission but there was no point in her going since it was underground and with her magic, she'd have been a danger to everyone. So here she was instead; watching the students wander around the courtyard, chatting with friends, getting a bit of extra study in, or simply enjoying the sunshine on a lovely, relaxing Saturday. In her satchel, the scroll for Palladium's next class had not been looked at since she'd ventured outside. It was too sunny, and her friends were in danger, studying to catch up was low on her list of priorities. Besides, she hadn't missed much during her stay in sickbay.
'Daphne sent Bloom a dream last night.'
Riven snorted. 'Is any of her family dead?'
Musa shook her head at his attitude. 'You should be happy for her.'
'Why? Your mother's not coming back.'
It was like being slapped, the words sharp and swift and oh so hurtful. She sucked in a breath, blinking the sting from her eyes. 'No, she's not. I don't think it would be right if she did. I miss her but it's good for Bloom to have guidance, even in the form of the spirit of her sister.'
One of his hands dropped to clench over his knee. 'I'm sorry.'
'That comment about your mother, it wasn't fair.'
Nodding her head, she pulled her knee to her chest. 'No, it wasn't.' But there was no point being upset about it when he'd apologised.
'So where's Timmy?' she asked, studying him over the fold of her arms. He wasn't in his Specialist uniform, but casually dressed in blue jeans and a black t-shirt pulled tight across his chest as he leaned back on his hands. Still, she was surprised he was here. Not that she wasn't thrilled to have Riven approach her, to talk to her like a friend without a life threatening mission pressurising them, but it wasn't like him. Most times he would just return to Red Fountain or linger if the other boys were around. Maybe Timmy was in the library with Tecna; the fairy of technology was tutoring Eleanor and Amaryl. Helia, she knew, was with Flora and Mirta in the Enchanted Forest. He'd arrived earlier to accompany them both.
'Timmy's back at the school helping out with the reconstruction.' His eyes lifted to the tower at the end of the wing, which had fallen in the battle with the Army of Decay. It had been mended quickly, but Red Fountain had been destroyed and even though parts of the school were still liveable, most spare moments for the students were spent trying to restore it to completion. 'There's a bunch of witches over there working on the spells that need to be embedded into the foundation, so he's telling them where to set them. I think the fairies go over tomorrow to do their thing.'
And the Specialists did the physical graft, bar those like Timmy who did the planning as well. She glanced at Kiloru knowing she was one of the fairies that had been drafted to work on Red Fountain. She was the Fairy of Structure, who'd gained her Enchantix holding up the tower during the final battle to give the younger students moments to escape. The older fairy was laughing at something Sirusa was saying, watching the brunette's arms gesture exuberantly.
'Why are you out here alone? I figured the flower fairy and Bra-burner would be with you.'
'Flora and Aisha are busy. Flora and Mirta are in the Enchanted forest, with Helia, gathering herbs. And Aisha was here but she has a rehearsal with her dance group, they're putting on a show for the town next weekend, so they're trying to fit in as much practice this week as they can.'
'They're putting on a show, but you're not involved?'
Rubbing a finger over her lips, she smiled faintly. 'I can sing, but I can't dance like Aisha does.'
'So they're just going to dance in this show? Sounds boring.'
'What, would you have watched if I was singing in it?' When Riven's shoulder jerked and his expression closed over as he stared fixedly down at the courtyard, Musa's teasing smile faded into wonder. So he would have. That surprised her. They'd grown closer during their hours in the Swamp - really it had seemed like years - but for him to want to see her perform, well that made a warm sensation spread through her chest.
Ducking her head to hide her smile, she tapped her foot before surging up to stand over him. 'Come on, you can help me with a mission.'
That got his attention and immediately he was the soldier once more, not a teenage boy. 'A mission? What mission?'
Tossing her satchel over her shoulder, she skipped down the steps and waved farewell to Sirusa - ignoring the girl's pointed look at her and Riven. She heard Riven following as she headed for the side door to the dorms. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the gloomy light as the threadbare carpet swallowed her footsteps. She jogged up the stairs, glad that Kiloru, who was also their dorm monitor, was outside; Specialists weren't technically allowed in the East Wing (1) where the dorms were situated. Despite the heat outside, the air was sweet and cool, slipping in through open windows that created squares of light on the dark green floors.
'Musa, I don't think -'
'Riven, it's fine. I just need to grab something from my room,' she told him. It wasn't like she was going to drag him into her bed. He could wait out in the lounge area that linked the three bedrooms.
'Why can't I stay down here?'
She paused on the step and turned, back to the wall, to study him. 'Well, you could, but then you wouldn't know what I came up for.' Besides, if he stayed down there, he'd probably feel uneasy and return to Red Fountain.
They crested the stairs and he continued to follow her down the hall. She knew if she looked back, his eyes would be darting over the pictures on the walls, the doors, reading the nametags attached there, as if he expected Griselda to pop out at any moment. She was just about to reach her door when a sharp cry burst from an open doorway and a white ball of fluff raced out towards them. Musa launched herself against the wall, hands slapping against the cool plaster as Riven jumped out of the way.
A wail echoed in the empty hall as Ortensia and Katy ran out of the same room. The two girls came to an abrupt halt on seeing them in the corridor, before they began their search for the rabbit.
'Oh no.' Ortensia sighed, her body slumping against the wall. 'We're going to be in so much trouble.'
'No, we won't,' Katy argued; her brown eyes narrowing as she spied the Specialist standing against the opposite wall, his eyes trained on the spot where the rabbit had disappeared. 'Ooh, you naughty minx Musa, sneaking a boy into your dorm while Griselda's taking detention!'
Musa didn't bother to deny it, Katy would only assume it was the truth then and would immediately work on spreading the news. That was how Katy was. Nice enough, but with a tendency to be a little catty.
'Katy, don't be so mean,' Ortensia ordered, her cheeks flushing as she pushed her glasses up her nose and huffed out a breath. Her lower lip trembled. 'We're in so much trouble.'
'The rabbit went that way,' Riven muttered.
'Oh,' she flushed darker. 'Thank you.'
'Ortensia, you're such a nerd. Stop freaking out, things will be -'
'Don't call Ortensia a nerd Katy.'
Musa glanced over her shoulder to see Alice approaching them, her slate coloured hair falling in tousled waves that Musa envied but could never emulate, with a white rabbit curled safely in her arms. 'Hey Alice.'
'Hi Musa, and Riven right?'
'Uh, yeah, nice to meet you.'
Riven was hardly the prince of polite small talk but Musa had to give him credit for at least managing not to say something scoffing to sweet Alice.
'Alice goes out with Jared,' she filled in.
'Oh, yeah,' Riven muttered with a tight nod. 'Newspaper guy.'
Alice smiled faintly, 'Yes, he's very good with words.'
'Well he wooed our Alice,' Katy chirped up. 'And great, you found Lavi. We need to do something to change her back before Wizgiz finds out.'
'Change her back?' Riven's eyes darted to Musa, and she felt amusement flicker inside her but kept her expression straight.
Katy nodded briskly. 'That's not a real rabbit,' she clarified. 'That's Lavi. She's a fairy.'
'How do you presume to coax her back into her own shape without telling Wizgiz?' Alice asked softly, disapproval weighing down her words as Musa fiddled with the lock to her door. She was not getting pulled into this. She was not using her Enchantix or any other mad, chaotic idea that her classmates came up with. More importantly she was not getting detention when she had something important to do with Riven. Subtly beckoning him, she slowly turned the doorknob while Katy tried to explain that they were practicing for the Transmogrification quiz.
'Wizgiz said it was a theory quiz!' Alice snapped, her tone growing hard with her rapidly growing irritation. Alice was usually quite mellow; a gentle soul much like Flora except for when she got riled up, then she was scarier than Griselda.
Pushing the door open, Musa pressed her lips together, using her powers to suppress the creak of the hinges. Feigning interest, Riven sidled around the girls, nodding and peering down at the rabbit, then backed up beside her.
'How can we understand the theory without the practical?' Katy demanded, puffing out her cheeks.
'He did say -' Ortensia began, her hands fluttering in distress.
'Oh my Dragon! Everyone says things but what they really mean -'
'Sheath your claws Katy, you're scaring Lavigne.'
'Oh,' the brunette cooed, extracting the quivering rabbit and pulling it close for a cuddle. 'I'm not angry with you, Lavi, and if you don't want to change back or can't, I'll feed you every day!'
Darting inside, Musa spun and shoved the door shut behind Riven, then leaned against it. If the new potentials wandering around the school had seen that display, they would have run straight to Beta Academy. For all that was great with her school, it did seem to attract the crazies. She turned away from the door and watched Riven wander the common area that the five girls shared. Looking around, she didn't see much of fascination in it. Her flute was still sitting on the small side table where she'd set it that morning as she waited for the others to wake. Tecna had left a small box with wires hanging out like red and green worms with tiny copper tongues on the floor by the coffee table, and Flora's datapad had been shoved between the cushions on the sofa with her pink stylus attached to it. Bloom's pictures and sketches of her parents and Kiko were taped to the walls, along with a few popular celebrities that Stella admired. At least it was relatively clean, all students in Alfea feared surprise inspection.
'Are they always like that?' Riven asked as he finally turned to her, thumbs hooked in his pockets.
Musa felt embarrassment creep up her neck before she forcefully shoved it down. Yes her classmates were eccentric, but they were a bunch of girls sequestered in a small, elite college; they were allowed some quirks. 'They're not that bad.'
Surely the boys weren't all noble and dignified every moment of the day - she'd heard stories of what went on in their locker rooms, had seen an email that had circulated amongst the student body that included two Specialists hazing another.
Riven lifted up Tecna's box and studied it before putting it down to look at her. 'Will they be able to turn her back?'
Ah, well that was a good question. She pursed her lips and gave a delicate shrug. 'I don't know. We're not supposed to be able to Transmogrify yet. We're just working on the theory.' Folding her arms, she leaned further back into the door. 'Honestly, I don't know why they tried it. They'll probably have to go to Wizgiz and while he might be short, I wouldn't like to be in their place right now.'
Riven raked a hand through his hair. 'Theory of Transmogrification, really?'
'It's all about knowing your balance when you shift into another form, and lots of other things that no one really thinks about when they consider shape shifting.' She found the idea fascinating but the mechanics of it really put her off. It also always seemed like more of a witch power. Darcy was an ace at messing with her body. She flinched. Yeah, not going there. Don't even think about Darcy. Don't think about the Swamp. She still had nightmares about the bats. So, no, she wouldn't be thinking about it.
'So why are we here?'
'Oh!' She circled past him and pushed open the door to her room. 'Just stay there a minute while I get it,' she called out as she moved to her bed and jerked open the drawer in her bedside locker.
'You share with Tecna? What's that like?'
'Easier than sharing with Stella or Flora,' Musa answered without looking at him, her eyes scanning the contents in front of her. Pens, stationary, pieces of paper with musical notes, a keychain, and spare earphone accessories, as well as other bits and bobs. She had put it in there, it was where she put all her important things, safe and within easy access.
'I thought Flora would be… you know.'
She glanced up at him and smiled, enjoying his awkward shuffling in the doorway. It was rare to see Riven so out of his element but she liked that he'd come to her, was talking to her and treating her like a friend, rather than that girl from the Winx he could kind of stand. 'Flora talks in her sleep. As does Bloom, though that's because of the dreams Daphne sends her, but Flora has conversations in her sleep. I shared with her once and I was drifting off when Flora called my name and told me that she'd forgotten to tell me something. She starts to talk about something behind the school that she has to show me and I should remind her tomorrow. I thought it was a plant or a shrub, so I told her I'd remind her and the next morning Flora had no clue what I was talking about, claimed I must have dreamt it.'
Riven snorted with mild amusement. 'Sounds frustrating. I share with Helia and he's not so bad. I don't think I could share with Sky, maybe Brandon. I shared with Timmy in first year but he has this weird breathing problem when he sleeps, half the time he sounds like he's whinnying and I wanted to punch him. That's when he slept, he keeps weird hours.'
She heard him wander over to Tecna's side of the room as she finally located the parchment she'd been looking for. 'I get that; Tecna spends a lot of time on the computer. She might not sleep until an hour or two after lights out.'
Riven looked up from the gadget he was scrutinising. 'Probably talking to Timmy; I don't think their conversations are always PG.'
What? Was he alluding to -? Musa barked out a laugh. Her hand slapped over her mouth, before she slowly pried it away and suppressed her grin. 'They're sweet, we shouldn't bring them down to our level.'
'Our level?' A maroon brow lifted over assessing violet eyes.
'Not like that,' she flushed and looked away, needing a distraction so he wouldn't question her. She thrust the square parchment towards him. 'This is our mission. I found it in the house in the Swamp, and I want to get it reframed and… well I'm not sure. I want to return it, but if I do, will it just get forgotten in the house again? What if this time it rots and they're forgotten? Lost to decay?' Like the pieces of Red Fountain, dissolved and eaten away by the rot - at least Saladin, the staff and students had pictures of what they'd lost and their memories. Who would remember that family on the farm? Did anyone know who the family was?
Riven took the photo from her, his lips still curved in a smirk that slowly faded as his gaze became intent on the picture. 'You got this in the Swamp?'
'In the homestead,' she explained. 'It was on the floor outside the bedroom, I sort of stepped on it and cracked the glass. I felt bad leaving it so I took it with me.' Plus the family unit reminded her of her own, before her mother died.
'You…' he sat down on Tecna's bed with a heavy thump. He continued to stare at the photo, his hands trembling finely.
His head snapped up and his eyes locked on hers, dark and piercing. 'I need to show you something.'
When Riven had said he needed to show her something, Musa hadn't expected to be pulled off the bus to Magix and dragged down an alleyway she'd never seen before. Honestly, she was quite sure that Riven's brusque attitude as he hustled her out of Alfea had raised some alarms. Knowing Katy's penchant for drama, she'd probably called Griselda and reported Musa's kidnapping. Still, as her feet - thankfully in flat boots - slapped through the stale puddles lingering along the crevice-dented passage, she found herself wondering about Riven's intentions. He wouldn't hurt her, that much was a given but something about the picture had spooked him. For Dragon's sake, he wouldn't even stop to let her get a new frame for the photo, so it now remained folded up in his pocket, probably creased with white lines cutting down the middle of the father's face or maybe the child had been dissected.
'Riven, where are we going?' She really wasn't quite dressed except Kiloru had all but shoved them out of the dormitory wing ('Boys aren't allowed up here Musa, I expected better from you. You're not Stella!'), and Sirusa had given her the thumbs up. Even Lavi, still in her bunny form, seemed supportive. None of them would be too concerned.
He grunted; his hand, warm and rough, curled firmly around her wrist as he guided her around a corner towards a dingy wooden door. The paint was chipped, the bottom was warped, and there had once been a name stenciled upon it, but only the faded imprint remained, missing letters. She sighed as she saw the padlock dangling from a rather shiny steel bolt.
Great, dead end.
Except Riven was reaching into the open neck of his shirt. Reluctantly fascinated, Musa tilted her head and watched as he drew a long chain out of the V-neck collar of his black t-shirt. The purple crystal orb for his transformation, swung gently on the fine silver chain but it was the small key, the perfect fit for a padlock, that caught her attention. Navy eyes narrowed before lifting to meet violet.
'You have a key?'
'What, you expected me to pick the lock?'
She jerked a shoulder, averting her gaze. She didn't expect him to, but that didn't stop her thinking it might be sort of cool to watch him fiddle around with the lock - and she'd always wanted to know how to pick one. Not that she'd ever tell the girls that, Bloom would be mortified, Stella would pretend to be scandalised, while Flora and Tecna would not be impressed; Aisha might find it cool.
Riven rolled his eyes with a drawn out exhalation. 'Alright, I'll show you sometime.'
Biting her lip, Musa hid her surprised pleasure. He said sometime, which suggested that he wanted to hang out with her again. It was a big deal and she couldn't help feeling a little giddy.
As she watched him bend over the lock, she scanned the building looming over her. It was made up of old weathered stone, and rectangular glass windows, separated by varnished wooden frames, greyed by the elements. It harked back to the older factory era of the town of Magix, before it became a merchant town. She knew the history of the place, the fact that people had counted on the factories for jobs but the closed in position of the town had made exporting their produce and importing the materials so impossible that most businesses went bankrupt. The buildings then became refurbished, turned into apartments, hotels and with the installation of the three schools, the town's priorities had shifted. A lot of craft builders had also moved in, those who could get their materials from the local area, and their produce would be sold in town, such as carpentry, metallurgy and weaving. The town expanded into a city though and the older buildings like this one were left behind, becoming the outskirts.
Shouldering the door open, causing the wood to shudder, Riven stepped aside, allowing her to enter. Inside it was gloomy and the place smelled of wet wood and musk. The light from the street caught the fine particles of dust floating in the air, and bounced off the edges of large towers, casting long shadows. Her foot scuffed as she moved further into the building, her eyes flickering over each silhouette. It was too dark to see anything, but she had the impression that she was in a closed in space, with a low ceiling, perhaps rafters? Lots of wood; she could tell because every step was accompanied by a creak from various corners and she could feel vibrations as her magic bounced back at her.
A quick glance over her shoulder assured her that Riven was still behind her, which was good, because she didn't think she could be here on her own. Another tentative step forward and then there was a scratch, a hiss and a sudden flare of light as Riven lit a lamp. Shaking out his match, he lifted the glowing pot and held it high, allowing the warm, gold light to slide over the room. It was larger than she first expected but just as cluttered, with large crates stacked high to - yes, she was right, there were rafters - and a work bench that lined the longest wall, brimming with tools and small blocks of wood. Narrow windows had been placed just below the ceiling but they were encrusted in dust and grime, creating a perfect shield against the outside light. On the floor, shavings and dust had formed dark piles and carpeted the once wooden floor - some of it had rotted away in one corner leaving a black jagged hole where the faint whistle of a breeze could be heard.
'What was this place? A work shop?' Whatever it was, it was clear it hadn't been in use for many years.
Riven sighed, raking his free hand through his hair as he stepped around her towards the front of the 'shop' area. 'It's where a carpenter used to work.'
'What does that have to do with the picture?' Would she find a suitable frame here? Or was it something to do with the family? Dread, cold and heavy, began to sink into her stomach, pressing down in a slow squeeze.
Setting the lamp on a relatively clear spot on the bench, Riven stretched up to towards the ceiling. When he rocked back down onto his feet, he held a picture frame in his hand. Dusting it off, he held it out to her. 'This.'
Ignoring the churning in her gut, she stepped forward and took the picture from him. Two men, in black and white, stood on a street, standing in front of what had to be the work shop, only there was a name over the door and the windows were painted, glinting in the sunlight. The older man, the father, stood in a short sleeved shirt and a pair of slacks, mostly covered by a long leather apron while the younger man stood with his hands in his pockets, hips cocked and wearing a short sleeved t-shirt. The man… 'He's from the picture.'
Riven nodded, jaw clenched tight as his throat worked. 'The old man's name is Clive, he was my grandfather, and that was his son, George, beside him.'
His son? But… 'Was that boy, you?' How was that even possible? 'Or is he a cousin?'
For the first time, Musa realised how little she knew about Riven. She claimed to care about him, bemoaned the fact he'd never see her as anything but a tomboy fairy but he knew more about her than she'd ever found out about him. Had she assumed he'd just appeared in Red Fountain one day? Of course he had a family, of course he had a past. Why had she never asked him about it? She knew Sky and Brandon were from Eraklyon, she knew Helia was Saladin's grandson and that he'd attended art school - he'd been quite the conversationalist while he'd visited her in the infirmary, always making sure to catch Flora's reactions to his tales - and Timmy was actually from a smaller colony, near the moon of Melody. She knew that because she'd initially thought he was from Zenith, like Tecna.
'I - I'm sorry.'
'Why?' Riven asked, taking the photo from his pocket and unfolding it.
'Because I never thought to ask -'
'Oh. Look, Muse, I wouldn't have told you. I just don't talk about that stuff and I don't want sympathy -'
'I wouldn't -' Because she knew what that kind of sympathy felt like. It was always said with the best of intentions but it was empty and it made people uncomfortable so that they eventually pulled away.
'Not you, people like Bloom or Stella with zero tact in their pinkie. Look at Bloom, she's off hunting her dead parents because if you're Bloom's parents, you can't be dead, and Stella's whining because hers won't stay married. If you don't love someone, why make each other unhappy by pushing at a relationship that's just not working?'
She sighed and approached him, easing herself up onto the counter beside him. 'It's different for both of them though. It's very fresh and they're still reacting.'
He snorted; then stretched out his legs, taking the photo frame from her. 'Yeah, that's my father, though I didn't know that house in the Swamp was his.'
'You don't remember living there?' She could remember a bit about the apartment she'd shared with her parents before her mother's death. They'd moved out because neither of them could stand the memories. Now she found herself wondering if they'd left any photos or mementos behind.
Setting the frame down, he pointed to the baby in the photo. 'I'm guessing that's me, but I've never seen a photo of myself that young. That's Imogen though. She gave birth to me. And that's George.'
Musa hugged herself and inched closer to him, whether to soak up his heat or provide comfort, she honestly couldn't have said.
'I don't know much about them, other than what I gleaned from my grandfather, or whatever I picked up on the streets. They were a bad match though, everyone agreed on that. He wanted a simple life; didn't like working with wood but liked the earth so he took to farming. I guess the Swamp was more fertile then? Maybe he had a power like Flora's and could coax them to grow, but he was doing well enough to go to the Market and sell his produce. That's where he met Imogen, she was a Gypsy dancer, like the ones that come with their caravans and put on shows in the city park?'
She nodded, remembering the bright tents and painted caravans, the horses, the fires, the singing and the music; oh, the music was amazing. The girls had watched them last year and had promised to go this year when they came again.
'Imogen was their favourite daughter but she had wanderlust, always looking elsewhere. I don't know how they got involved but she got pregnant, and he did the honourable thing and married her. Maybe he loved her, maybe she fancied herself in love with him. It got messy. She didn't want to be a mother or a wife; the novelty wore off fast. Then she discovered that her husband wasn't just a farmer, he was the grandson of a rather rich shipping magnate on Eraklyon.'
Musa's brows winged up. Oh. So that's where Riven's family originally came from? Eraklyon? No wonder he had issues with Sky. 'Your grandfather… '
'Oh granddad wasn't interested, he was the third son and didn't have a chance of taking over the company, so he ran off to Magix to get an apprenticeship with a carpenter and got married. Apparently Imogen thought George was being lazy by not being part of the company. They started fighting, she started to not come home at night, he drank, the baby screamed -' he broke off and pinched his nose hard. With a wry laugh, he sighed and stared at his feet. 'Anyway, long story short, he tried to make her happy by taking a position in the company, but he was only a clerk - his uncle didn't want him to be taking the heir's place. Then Imogen had an affair with his uncle, and there was a scandal because the wife found out about it.
'It was pretty big news. It shattered George. He tried to get her to come back, she wouldn't because she'd found herself another patsy and so he came back to Magix and drank himself to death. And that's the end.'
'That's not the end. What happened to the boy?'
Riven grew quiet. 'The boy was a brat.' There was no fondness as he said the words; he simply stated a fact. 'He was angry, he took it out on his grandfather because the old man was always there, always took it. To push the boundaries, to see if his grandfather really cared, he would stay out on the streets at all hours. He got in with a 'bad crowd' but that's an excuse, he wasn't a lost child, he knew what he was doing. He found them. He started to steal, he grifted, ran a little enterprise. And then one day his grandfather died.'
Scrubbing his face with his hands, Riven pushed himself to his feet and began to pace. 'So the kid had nowhere to go, no one to turn to. His mother's people didn't want him, they were shamed by Imogen's actions, and every foster home was suffocating with their niceness. He didn't even end up in a bad one; they were always so nice. But they didn't understand. So he started back into his business dealings again, couriering here for one gang, doing this for another, got beat up a time or two. He thought he was hard.'
Rubbing her arms, Musa felt a hard pain gathering in her chest, like something thick and hot had swollen and lodged itself there.
'Then he stole an old man's cane because it looked expensive, an antique, and ran for it, thinking he could get away because he was fast, but the old man was wily and the boy got caught. His friends scattered and he was arrested.'
'Oh Dragon,' she breathed, blinking her eyes against the burn.
'The old man offered him a chance; he could stop what he was doing and go to school. This school would be special; he'd learn to be a hero. Well the boy thought that was stupid, he'd do the time. So the man left and never came back. The boy was stupid - I was stupid,' Riven said with a harsh laugh. 'I thought I could handle it and it got worse every time I saw the pity in the cops' eyes. I swore I would prove them wrong. I could deal with prison. It wasn't hard; sit in a cell all day, sleep, eat. Easy. Except it was lonely and the longer time went on, the more I realised I had no one. No one was coming for me. It wasn't like before where I'd get a slap on the wrist or when granddad would come and get me, cuff me around the ear and take me out for tea. No one actually gave a damn - Don't even start crying Musa, I won't continue telling you this if you cry'.
She was crying? She quickly felt her cheeks and flushed hot, wiping the traces of wet from her skin. 'Sorry, I didn't realise.'
He nodded but his knuckles were white, held in tight fists and his jaw was clenched, a muscle ticking hard in his left cheek. 'Right, well keep it that way. Because this is the happy ending, right? See, because just when I was about to give up all hope, the old man comes back into the station, jolly as you like. And I should have known because there was no reason for me to have to stay in that cell for those five days. I should have been brought up in front of the Council, received my sentence but I didn't realise, not at that time. I was just so relieved. When Saladin offered me the scholarship for Red Fountain again, I jumped on it. I could put up with stupid training for a while, maybe beat up a pansy-assed prince or two, and then ride a dragon out of there.
Except,' he sighed and leaned against a crate, tilting his head to study her. 'I was good at it, being a Specialist. I fit there, it was right. Yeah, Sky got on my nerves but I pretty much beat on him every practice. I found friends, everything was grand. And I had Ruby Rascal, I couldn't leave without her and being the only female, she was constantly watched.'
'And then we came along?' She knew this part of the story. The girls came and turned the boys' heads and they weren't their special little group anymore.
'No, then I ruined it by falling into league with a witch and her sisters, and I pissed everyone off and never apologised for it. So, I'm sorry. You kind of deserve it more than anyone. I should have backed you up in Magix, I didn't.'
Well then. She swallowed the hard lump in her throat and slowly nodded her head, struggling to find words to clear everything up. 'I -'
'You don't have to forgive me or anything. Just, you know, it needed to be said.' Colour rode high in his cheeks but his eyes were serious.
Taking a deep breath, she reached out to touch his hand, feeling it solid and warm under hers. She wanted to hug him but she knew he would shy away from that. 'You were under a spell. We talked about this before. I don't blame you for what happened. Technically, I could have avoided it all by not slapping Icy.'
Riven's grin was lightning fast, surprising given how dark his mood and story had been and her heart did a slow roll, exposing its belly. 'Yeah, Icy was pissed about that. And that mark!'
Her hands flew to cover her face as she struggled to regain her balance. 'Don't, just don't remind me.' She peeked through her fingers. 'Did it really last?'
'She had it covered with a thick layer of make up for three days after.'
She sniffed, and suppressed a smile. 'Well, she had it coming.'
'Yeah, no kidding,' he chuckled. 'Dragon knows I was glad to finally get my revenge on Darcy for all that shit she put me through.' He slid his hands into his pockets, rocking on his feet. 'Okay, I'll admit, there was a lot that I gave her to play with because of my bitterness but she fucked with me, and even when she was 'done' with me, she still had her claws in my head. If it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't have been able to break that final spell of hers.'
Now that caught her attention. She had wondered how he broke it. It wasn't like Darcy's illusion spells were a piece of cake to see through and there was a lot of power going into the one she consumed Riven in. 'How?'
Restless once more, he leaned back against the tower of crates and crossing his feet at his ankles, he drummed his fingers against his forearm. She watched the play of muscles flickering under the taut skin before averting her gaze to his legs, a less obvious thing to ogle. She could merely be looking at the floor.
'Saladin and I partitioned a part of my mind so that if something like that happened again - we didn't think it would - I'd have some way to escape. It relied on me realising it was an illusion though. The minute I decided I had to leave, something would appear to show me the way out.'
'What if you didn't recognise what that something was? How would you know that it wasn't part of Darcy's illusion?'
Riven shifted uncomfortably as he stared at the ground. His answer came out in a mumbled rush that she couldn't even process. With a sigh, she asked him to repeat himself. She needed to know in case it happened again. After all, if he had this escape spell inside him, why hadn't he used it before, unless the tendrils of Darcy's magic still tied in his mind prevented the spell from recognising her magic as an attacking force?
'We chose something that Darcy would never think of.'
He made a frustrated sound and scowled. 'You! Okay, it was you! I didn't think Darcy would ever try to use you in an illusion because you would be just the person to shatter it.'
Despite the quickening beat of her heart, Musa forced herself to nod. 'Because of your feelings of guilt -'
'No! Not guilt, alright?'
'But what if Darcy did use me? She's sneaky and… she used me in her other attack, before I tore her magic out of you with my fairy dust.'
'Yeah, well I didn't know that she would at the time. But she fucked up your wings and my version of you doesn't look like that.'
'I told you, I prefer your other outfit,' he growled, standing up with his hands still in his pockets, his eyes fixed on the wall over her shoulder, 'now can we please get out of here?'
He preferred her other outfit? Musa tried to ignore the sudden flutter in her stomach, the giddy rush of excitement that she couldn't control. Perhaps things weren't as messed up with her and Riven. Maybe there was a chance for them. But she wouldn't rush things. They still needed time but she had hope now, and with hope, nothing was really impossible.
Sliding off the bench, she stepped close, feeling the heat from his body, even as she frowned up at him, noting how his eyes darkened. 'Then why did you bring me here?'
He sighed and tugged a strand of her hair, before dropping his hand. 'Needed to check the photo. Besides, now you can help me figure out what to do with this place. I have no intention of being a carpenter and this place can't stay neglected forever. Next weekend our mission is to find my granddad's solicitor and talk to him.'
She felt her lips curve in a smile and she shook her head in exasperation. Was this, she wondered tucking that stray piece of hair behind her ear, what being friends with Riven would be like? If so, she could probably deal with it. It certainly would never be boring. 'Fine, but we should get some advice from Tecna and Timmy.'
'But not if they're texting each other. That could get awkward fast.'
She winced and jabbed him with her elbow as she stalked out ahead of him, feeling the warmth of the evening air while he locked the door. As the sun set low over Magix, the two of them wandered companionably back towards the bus stop. Without even realising it, their relationship had already begun to change, just enough, all because of a trip to the Swamp, Darcy's involvement and a picture of a family.
1 Got this from the Alfea project on the Winx Writers Anonymous forum.
A.N. I wrote this chapter about seven or eight times since I posted the last chapter and it refused to go the way I wanted it until I finally just let the story play out itself. It's always been about Musa and Riven moving from the final episode of the first series to becoming friends (I hadn't seen the other series when I started writing it) and to force them into a relationship neither of them was ready for would have been wrong and unfair to them. Those looking for fluff, there's a lot of it on the site and a lot of time it makes the characters OOC, I refuse to do that to Musa and Riven. This was their story and this final chapter has always been Riven's story but he didn't want me to be in his head as he told it, he wanted to tell it to Musa. Forcing anything else created such a flat story. Sasha can tell you that. She's read a few drafts and agreed it was just off.
I hope you enjoyed this story. I have loved every minute of writing it. I may or may not do an epilogue, depending on how people receive this chapter. All critique is welcome, because I can't get better if people don't tell me where I'm going wrong. As for if I'll write anything more in this, I honestly do not know. I have an idea for the Princess Pals storyline but I'm still developing it so far. For anyone looking for good writing, there's a lot of really good authors on this site but at the moment my favorite story is Tears-in-Rain 'The Great Witch Rebellion'. You should all check it out (but don't review telling me about it, I know it's good, I'm reading it, tell the author that).
Thank you so much for being with me and MxR on this little trip to the Swamp and good luck for those of you who go back to school soon.