Okay, it's taken me a year and you've all been very patient, but I'm finally ready to post the sequel to my fiction 'Brothers at Arms'. This next installment, 'Band of Brothers', takes place during the second season of the Winx Club when the boys are in their junior year. Like in Brothers at Arms, I'm following the 4Kids episodes and using their exact dialogue, with of course my own little additions. Sorry that it's taken me so long, but there was a lot of material to get through, and that was even before I added my own story lines. The mission to Shadow Haunt to rescue the pixies felt like a mini story all in itself. Too give you a bit of insight into the amount of work I put into this, according to Microsoft Word, Brothers at Arms consisted over just over four hundred pages while Band of Brothers is in excess of five hundred pages, and that's not even counting the bit in the middle that I'm revising since I think it could be better, so that's why I really haven't written any new stories in the last year.

I tried publishing this story before but for some reason the site didn't add it with the rest of the Winx Club stories so I had to try publishing it again.

But anyways, hope you enjoy it and just remember, I own nothing but my computer. Cheers!

Chapter One – Back to School

The fortress of Red Fountain, which a year ago had stood tall and mighty, now lay in ruins as Sky made his way through the great, crimson gates. The once majestic academy was not the same school Sky had first laid his blue eyes on two years ago. Her cream walls had large cracks in the foundations and were dull in the morning sunlight. The crimson roof had collapsed in places and the schools banner hung limply from its flag pole. The fortress had stood for over three hundred years, and now it was falling to pieces. The Trix Sisters attack at the end of last year had destroyed the school for heroics and bravery, and every time Sky regarded the carnage he felt a constricting pain in his chest. For the last two year that school had been his home – even more so than the royal palace back on Eraklyon – and now it looked beyond repair.

With a toss of his head, Sky flicked his blonde hair out of his eyes and crossed the front courtyard of the school but did not head for the front doors. Instead, he headed around the side of the school and made his way towards the back of the building to where the student quarters were. Most of the school had been deemed uninhabitable and as a safety precaution the only parts of the school that the students were allowed in were the cafeteria, a few classrooms and one wing of the dorms, which Sky room was fortunately a part of. The rest of the school was living out of tents at the back of the school which most students were quickly getting tired of. Red Fountain had once again opened its gates early since most students had to travel across the universe, and it gave the students a chance to settle in and catch up with old friends before their lessons started. Sky had arrived a few hours ago with his best friend Brandon, but as soon as he had dumped his luggage in his room the prince had gone off on a walk around the campus to stretch his legs. That flight from Eraklyon had made his legs extremely stiff.

Stepping through the entrance to the livable dorms, Sky quickly found his dorm room. Their dorm was exactly the same as last year, which meant that it was fairly large and made up to cater for three people. Their rooms weren't quite as spacious as the ones at Alfea, but it wasn't like they were living in a shoe box. The only difference between their room now and the start of last year – asides from the fact that it was now down one of its occupants – was that it now had several large cracks in the walls from the witches' attack on the school. But apparently there wasn't a risk of the roof collapsing other wise Headmaster Saladin would not have let them sleep there. Sky's luggage still lay unpacked on his bed and Brandon had set to work unpacking his own. And he wasn't alone in the room.

"Timmy! When did you get here?" Sky grinned earnestly, pulling the smaller boy into a brotherly bear hug.

"About half an hour ago," Timmy answered, adjusting his glasses when Sky released him from his embrace. Timmy may look like the stereotypical nerd, but Sky knew for a fact that his slim friend could not only beat every single person in their class in theory work, but he could also hold his own in a battle situation as well.

"He showed up a few minutes after you left to go on your little walk," Brandon smirked, rubbing Timmy's orangey-blonde hair and making it stick out in all different directions. "I told him that you heard he was coming and bolted for it but from some reason he didn't believe me."

"No one believes anything you say since that field trip to the Realm of Frost in freshmen year when you told us that you could fire a flare after we got lost," Sky reminded his best friend.

"Hey, they found us didn't they?"

"Yeah, after we almost got completely crushed by that mob of frost giants that you angered when you shot the flare right into the center of them."

"Well things always look bad when you focus on the negative."

"Anyway, how was your summer?" Sky asked Timmy, trying to direct the conversation way from such pleasant reminiscing. But before Timmy could answer, Brandon cut in.

"Why do you ask questions to which you already know the answer?" Brandon asked, collapsing down onto his now relatively clear bed. "He spent all his free time fiddling with his computer."

"Actually it was the squad ship and the only reason I spent so much time on it was because we had all my family over at my house for two weeks and the only way to avoid hanging out with my cousin is to submerge myself in some advance mechanics since he gets confused programming the microwave," Timmy explained to his two roommates as he went back to unpacking his stuff.

"Are you sure that you share the same DNA as that guy?" Brandon asked.

"Unfortunately, yes."

"Wait a minute," Sky interrupted the conversation. "They let you take the squad ship home?"

"Well yeah because the hanger was damaged during the Great Witch Invasion so a lot of the ships would have spent the summer left out in the elements. Since my dad has a small hanger at the back of our yard where he builds his inventions, I offered to house our ship over the summer," Timmy said.

"So while I was suffering in overcrowded space shuttle you were flying home in the comfort of our squad ship?" Sky asked with an un-amused expression.

"Dude, we were flying first class," Brandon reminded his prince before Timmy had a chance to answer.

"But that doesn't change the fact that I find the squad ship more comfortable and spacious."

"You are such a spoiled brat some times."

"I am not!" Sky snapped, but something about his face made Brandon laugh out loud.

"You look like a three year old pouting like that."

"Brandon, leave Sky alone," Timmy ordered.

"Yes mother," Brandon smirked.

Before Sky had a chance to call Brandon a name and before Timmy could scold the two of them, the door to their room suddenly burst open and a boy sauntered into their dorm without knocking. Not waiting to be invited in, the teenager slumped into Brandon work chair and propped his feet on the desk before turning his full attention onto the file he had in his hand. He appeared to be completely ignoring the other boys in the room until, without looking up from the file, he said, "I told you I'd be able to get my hands on the plans for the new school."

"Hi Riven, great to see you too," Brandon replied to the non existing greeting. "Yes, I had a great summer, thanks for asking. Why don't you come in and defile my work desk with your filthy shoes? That's it. Make yourself at home."

"What do you mean you got the plans for the new school?" Sky demanded, ignoring Brandon's ranting.

"Well actually it's not all of the plans. This file seems to just be the designs for the dorms and by the looks of it they're going to be a big, cylinder shaped tower," Riven informed them all as he flipped through the file.

Last year, Riven got messed up with the Trix Sisters and as a result, screwed up his life royally, almost to the point where they were going to expel him from Red Fountain. But after a little research from Timmy and a bit of mind reading from Saladin, they were able to determine that Riven behaviour over his sophomore year was a direct result of a spell that one of the Trix Sisters placed on him, making him more a victim than a culprit. But that didn't instantly erase the poor grades Riven had accumulated over the months that he was with the witches' as well as his record for tardiness, skipping classes, breaking curfew, disobeying teachers direct orders, smoking and drinking on school grounds as well as several other infractions of the school rules. As a result, Riven had arrived back at Red Fountain a week earlier than the rest of his friends to discuss with his teachers what he needed to do in order to remain a student at Red Fountain. Part of his conditions was that he had to maintain a grade average of at least eighty percent, have a ninety percent attendance record for all his classes as well as zero tolerance for any major rule infractions.

But after a week of living in a tent while waiting for the rest of the school and his friends to show up, Riven had gotten bored and decided tempt the zero tolerance policy in order to keep himself entertained. His objective; uncover as much information on the new designs for Red Fountain as possible, and file was proof that he had succeeded to some degree.

Sky, however was not impressed. "Riven, what are you doing? I know for a fact that those files are being kept under lock and key in Saladin's office so don't try and lie your way out of this one."

"Okay, I won't," Riven promised and then fell silent as he continued flipping through the file. Sky tried to glare Riven into admitting he was wrong or at least feel a bit of regret for breaking and entering his headmaster office, but Sky's patience wore out long before Riven's conscious kicked in.

"Riven! You almost didn't get let back into Red Fountain because of all the trouble you got mixed up in last year, and the school year hasn't even officially started yet and you're already breaking the rules! Are you trying to get yourself kicked out? You're on a zero tolerance probation, Riven! Don't screw up this second chance that Saladin's given you!"

"I won't now quit your naggin'," Riven told him, his eyes fixed on the papers in front of him. "Besides, don't you want to know ahead of time that you've been moved into a room with Justin and Marcus?"

"What?!" Sky examined in horror, leaping over to look at the papers in Riven's hands. But instead of seeing the names of the two people he hated most in his grade, Sky saw that he was to be rooming with Brandon and Timmy as usual. Panic turned to relief and then quickly shifted into annoyance. Sky didn't even bother with scolding Riven. Instead, he just hit his friend sharply over the head and then returned to his unpacking. He didn't look back at his friend, but knew that he was no doubt smirking. Another thing Sky knew was that his two other friends were currently torn between trying to be as morally just as the prince and curiosity to see what part of their new school was going to look like. "Oh, just look at it already," Sky told them in an irritated tone, but Timmy and Brandon paid no attention to it and scurried to peer over Riven's shoulder at the file.

"Hey it is a tower," Brandon noted. "And look, we're right next to one of the spare rooms that have been left for VIP's. That's pretty cool. And you're not far from us, Riv, and you're with Bourne and Kane again."

"Unfortunately," Riven grumbled. There wasn't a person at Red Fountain that didn't like Bourne, but Riven and Kane were known to knock heads ever now and then. The two red heads just did not like each other.

"The design's all wrong," Timmy suddenly said, his eyebrows narrowed in confusion.

"What do you mean?" Brandon asked, unable to see the fault.

"Well look at it," Timmy said, pointing to the lower levels of the dorm building. "The levels get smaller the lower you go. It would be impossible for a building to support itself with such a structure. The foundations just aren't big enough to hold up the upper levels given their size. It's too top heavy and would over balance its self."

"Huh. That is odd. Are you holding the blue print the right way, Riv?"

"Yeah," Riven answered in a slightly insulted tone.

"Then how are they going to do that?"

"Well, we'll find out in a fortnight when the new Red Fountain has its official reopening," Sky reminded them all. "Although, I haven't seen any proof that they've done anything to this place over the summer."

"Saladin loves astounding people and I guess he didn't want us to be left out of the surprise," Timmy shrugged.

"Yeah, do we know anyone by the name of Helia?" Riven asked, suddenly shifting the topic of conversation.

"Nope," Brandon answered as Sky and Timmy shook their heads. "Why?"

"Because he's coming here in a week as a VIP and he's going to be staying in the room right next to yours," Riven told them as he flipped through the file. "Saladin must think that you'll be good neighbours and represent the school well."

"Well, we'll deal with that later. But right now I say that we ignore the unpacking that needs to be done and head over to Alfea before the start of year mixer starts and catch up with the girls!" Brandon suggested enthusiastically. "I have been kept from my lady love for far too long and I shall not stand to be parted from her any longer!"

"Oh god," Riven groaned, but he closed the file and removed his feet from the desk which was a clear sign that he was willing to go without much argument. Sky couldn't help but frown slightly. Normally Riven would argue for a few minutes – even when he wanted to go – just for the sake of arguing. And even though there were times when Sky wished that Riven wouldn't argue every decision made, Sky couldn't help but feel unsettled by a cooperative Riven.

"I'm up for it," Timmy grinned, excited about the chance to speak with Tecna face to face for the first time since school ended. The pair had kept in contact over summer via email and live internet chat sites, but nothing compared to looking into those turquoise eyes that made Timmy's knees go weak in person. "We can take the squad ship so I can show Tecna all the upgrades I've installed in it over the summer."

"The squad ship?" Brandon hissed through his teeth. "Oh, I dunno. Arrive on the squad ship really doesn't fit with what I've visualized meeting Stella for the first time to be like. I was thinking levi bikes because not only are they very masculine but they also could stand symbolically for that whole riding up on a valiant steed kinda thing."

"You know, if you put the same amount of time and thought that you have for impressing Stella into your school work, you may have gotten a better grade in Battle History last year," Sky pointed out, but he was already looking for his levi bike keys. His mother had never really approved of his delight in levi bike racing and as a result she had tried to discourage him riding while on Eraklyon, so it had been a while since Sky had had a good, fast ride. And he wanted to make it something worth the wait. "Timmy and Riven take the squad ship while you and me take our levi bikes to Alfea."

"Done," Brandon instantly answered for everyone. "And how 'bout we make it interesting? Say, loser does the winners chores for a week?"

"Deal," Sky grinned.

"Oh no. I'm getting in one this," Riven told them and everyone got the message that there was no room to argue his decision. "You can fly the squad ship on your own, right Timmy?"

"Sure. I flew it all the way from Windox and at least this time I'm not breaking through any atmosphere," Timmy reminded them all. "And then you guys can catch a lift back to Red Fountain with me when the party finishes if you're too tired or overloaded on party food to drive back."

"Sounds like a plan," Brandon grinned, almost bubbling over with excitement to see his girl. "Winx Club, here we come!"

Alfea was just one enchanted forest away from Red Fountain, but an old treaty signed with the dryads of the forest decades before Alfea was even built prevented any roads being built through the forest apart from one old hunting trail that winded through the ancient trees. The road had gradually gotten wider after centuries of use, but it still wasn't a very direct line between the school for heroics and bravery and the school of fairies. And even though it had been countless decades since anyone had seen the dryads after they had hidden themselves away to tend to their sacred groves, no one dared to cut down their beloved trees.

Not that the boys really minded. While some times the road was annoying to travel along – especially if you were late for a date with one of the fairies – most of the time the boys took delight in racing their levi bikes through the ancient forest at recklessly fast speeds. There was an actual speed limit for the road, but none of the students obeyed it. Red Fountain had taught them in freshmen year how to control a bike traveling at such speeds, so there was yet to be a serious accident on the road between Alfea and Red Fountain.

Riven – who had no place to go home to during the summer – once again spent his holidays at a summer camp. Only the mot recent summer camp had been one he had really been looking forward to; levi bike camp. Riven was already pretty talented in that particular sport, but the camp had given him a whole heap of hints that he have never even heard of. He had spent a good many hours in the week he spent at Red Fountain before the rest of guys arrived to modify his bike, and he knew that there was no way Brandon and Sky's bikes could match his now. But even through his bike could out strip theirs easily, Riven kept behind the other two racers, biding his time. It was an amateur mistake to rush out too fast since it was hard to hold a lead. A better choice would to be to stick with the front pack and then choose the right moment to break through to win.

Which was exactly what Riven did.

"Oh, no! It was so close!" Stella's high pitched voice complained loudly as Sky pulling into second place and Brandon finished up in third. All five members of the Winx Club had been waiting for them at the gates of Alfea since the boys had messaged ahead to tell them that they'd be arriving for the start of year mixer early.

"And Riven wins," Flora noted in that sweet voice of hers.

"Well, Riven went to levi bike camp this summer," Musa laughed.

Brandon didn't care in the slightest that he had finished last in the race. Removing helmet, he quickly locked his eyes on the beautiful honey coloured ones of the gorgeous Princess Stella and instantly drowned in them. He had been smitten with the fairy of the Sun and the Moon from the second he had met her and as of last year they were officially an item. There had been a few rough patches along the way – mainly due to the fact that Sky and Brandon had switched identities at the start of freshmen year which everyone discovered at Red Fountain's Day of the Royals – but they had survived past that as well as the Army of Decay to the point where they had talked every day on the phone over the summer break and Brandon had racked up a phone bill of a couple hundred dollars. Brandon's dad had freaked over it and was making Brandon pay it all back to him, but Brandon would do it all again if given half the chance. "Hey."

"Nice to finally talk face to face," Stella said softly, giving him a coy little look.

"I won," Riven smirked viciously. "Looks like you guys are gonna have to do all my chores this week. Yeah!"

"Okay," Sky sighed. Why did he agree to that bet? But then he saw something that pushed all his bad feelings out of his mind. Luscious red hair shone brightly in the mid morning sun and fell freely though slightly restrained by a head band. Perfect, pale skin glowed save for cheeks that were tinted with a rose colour. A pelted blue skirt exposed a set of stunning legs and a pair to breathtakingly beautiful blue eyes glowed as they regarded him. All these things put together formed the last Princess of Sparx and the earth girl that had completely charmed him; Bloom.

"Sky, how was your summer?" Bloom asked him and just hearing her say his name was enough to make his pulse quicken.

"It would have been better if I could've seen you," he told her sincerely, taking her hand in his. Summer seemed dull compare to the times he was with her and the days had dragged until it was time for him to return to Magix. It was probably the first time in his entire schooling career that Sky had looked forward to the summer holidays ending. "You're even more beautiful than I remembered."

Bloom smiled bashfully which in turn caused Sky's grinned to widen. He loved knowing that he affected her in the exact same way that she did to him. Suddenly a shadow fell over her and she broke eye contact to look up at what was obstructing the sun. "Huh?"

"That's Timmy" Sky told her. "He upgraded the squad ship over the summer."

"He made some significant modifications," Tecna said as she regarded the craft. It swung around and leveled itself out to hover in mid air over the group of teenagers so they could all get a good look at it. "He wrote me a letter with all the details. Very nice."

Timmy had been watching them over the ship monitors so he had overheard everything Tecna had said. He and Tecna had never really officially established what their relationship was, but Timmy knew that he was attracted to her and he had a suspicion that she fancied him too. With the ship left on auto pilot, Timmy opened the hatch and hung out of it to wave at the group below. "Hey Tecna. How's it going?"

"The squad ship looks great!" Tecna shouted back to him, and the smile on Timmy's face widened.

"I have to admit, I missed you honey bunny," Stella gushed to Brandon, though he had already knew it. At the start of summer he hadn't even made it back to Eraklyon and he had received a text message off her claiming she missed him.

But none the less, Brandon smiled at her words. "I missed you more cupcake."

Riven felt nauseous at his friends gushy comments, but instead of making some snide remark about it like he normally would, he choose to bite his tongue and not say anything. While he was hanging with the Trix Sisters, he had done some pretty horrible things to his friends – not all of them they were aware of – and although they had told him enough times that they had forgiven him, Riven couldn't seem to forget about what he had done. The bottom line was that he knew he didn't deserve their friendship, especially after the way he had acted last year. Therefore, Riven was trying his hardest not to be as difficult as he normally was and wasn't picking fights like he had always done before. He had his defenses up again, and he had no plans of lowering them again.

But he knew that if there was going to be one person to break through his defenses, it was probably going to be annoyingly cheerful and unnaturally adorable Princess Musa. That blue eyed pixie had caught his attention from the moment he had first laid eyes on her, and he was trying his hardest to avoid falling deeper into her spell. Not that she ever used any magic on him, which troubled him even more. Her natural body and personality had ensnared him and try as he might, he just could break free of the invisible bonds that shackled him to her.

"Hey Riven," Musa greeted casually as the group made its way over to the steps to catch up on what had happened over their summer breaks. Timmy was going to land the squad ship and join them.

"Hey," Riven replied gruffly, shying away from her like a spooked horse. He was willing to admit – though only to himself – that she sacred the living daylights out of him, but it had nothing to do with the musical power she possessed. Musa didn't say anything to him after that. She didn't need too. Her eyes shone merrily and soft smile tugged at her lips, and Riven had an almost overwhelming desire to taste them. Smothering such urges, Riven forced himself to do something he'd never thought he'd do; put all his attention on Stella as she talked about the fashion intern she had done over the summer.

Sky listened to Stella go on about the last fashion trends and rules that she expected them all to abide by for a couple of minutes before he noticed that it looked like Bloom was off in her own little world. She was sitting some distance away from the group on the steps and her beautiful face seemed troubled. Stella was explaining the latest rules for high heels – a topic Sky figured he really didn't need to know about – when Sky moved away from the group and approached Bloom. "You're really quiet Bloom. Are you okay?"

Bloom bit her lip for half a second before she finally decided to ask him about something that had been bothering her for weeks now. "I wasn't going to say anything but . . ." Bloom hesitated. "Well, I read this article that you were seen conoudoling with Diaspro over the summer."

Sky mentally cursed the name of his former fiancée. He had managed to convince his father to let him call off his arranged marriage to her last year to give the young prince a chance to follow his own heart, but apparently the Princess of Quartz still managed to drive a wall between Sky and the fairy that he was completely smitten with.

"Our families' vacation was on the same island but I didn't hang out with her," Sky assured her, but that wasn't because of Diaspro's lack of trying. Diaspro had never seemed to have had any true feelings for Sky, but as a matter of principle she wasn't going to give up on him that easily. A solid alliance with Eraklyon was just too attractive for her to pass up, so she had tried her very best to ensnare Sky over the summer break. Luckily, Sky's family's beach house was on the other side of the island and backed right onto a rainforest which Sky could easily slip into and vanish thanks to the skills that Red Fountain had taught him.

A small amount of relief crept into Bloom's face, but she still looked a tad skeptical. "So you're sure there was no conoudling, right?"

Sky couldn't suppress a smile. If she was that worried, that must mean that she really liked him. "There was one canoe trip but there was no conoudoling."

"Oh well what a relief," Bloom sighed, and a bit of colour instantly entered her cheeks when she realized how much she had exposed to him. She quickly tried to cover her tracks. "I mean, that's cool 'cause it's not like it matters to me. Uh, you can do what you want. I mean, I know we're just friends."

Another smile spread across Sky's face, though this one was slightly slyer than the one before it. "Well I hope we're more than just friends."

"Oh," was all Bloom could seem to say and she giggled bashfully.

"After all, not every girl can get me longing for school to start like you did to me this summer," Sky told her, reaching over and cupping her chin with his right hand. He loved how smooth her skin felt under his calloused fingers.

"Really?" Bloom asked. It probably wasn't the most intelligent or the most relevant response, but it was all she could come up with under the tender stare of the prince.

"Yeah, and you know what else?" Sky said, leaning forward slightly. "As soon as I rode up to the gates of Alfea I knew that I was right to look forward to the new school year so eagerly."

"Oh," Bloom said again as Sky leaned closer to kiss her gently on the cheek. It wasn't exactly the kiss he had been dreaming of giving her all summer, but he had the rest of the mixer to get to that. Right now, he figured it would be best if he was somewhat reserved and chaste with her. He knew for a fact that she had never had a boyfriend on Earth and he was not going to scare her off by being to forward with her. And from the looks of it, she didn't dislike the affectionate contact he had given her. In fact, it appeared that she too wanted it to be more than it was. "I kinda wanted summer to finish sooner, too."

"I believe style is change," Stella informed the others while Sky and Bloom's attention remained totally focused on each other. "Change is good. Hint, hint Riven."

The others laughed, but Riven wasn't amused by her little dig at him. It was no secret that Riven and Stella didn't have the most conventional form of friendship. In fact, it was a bit of a stretch to even call it a friendship. Stella didn't like Riven's attitude and she in turn got on his nerves. But if either of them were looking for someone to pick a fight with and get their anger out on, both of them were more than willing to comply to the others needs. They had had some splendid little fights over the few years they had known each other and had provided their friends with a rather intriguing form of entertainment since human beings as a species seem to be fascinated by conflict (1). But today, Riven didn't feel like taking the bait she had so clearly laid out for him. Putting his face in palm of his hand, Riven simply mumbled, "Funny"

A flash of disappointment went across Stella's face at Riven lack of attempt to engage her in verbal battle, so she decided to take another stab at it. "I mean, look at Timmy. He looks so much better in his new sweatshirt."

Riven didn't take that bait either, and Timmy felt the need to give credit to the deserving person since he himself wasn't the best when it came to choosing the most fashionable attire. "Well, Tecna picked it out and sent it too me this summer."

Tecna smiled at his subtle compliment. "Yeah."

Stella – realizing that she was not going to get a fight out of Riven – decided to try another one of her complaints that always seemed to draw a confrontation. "One small change can make a world of difference, Musa."

"I am not gonna changing my pig tails," Musa told her firmly but without any heat. "They were all the rage at Wizard-pa-looza."

"But they make you look like you're eight years old," Stella told her in a stuffy tone of voice.

Musa's shoulders hunched slightly, making her look rather insecure, but her voice was strong and even when she said, "It's my thing and I'm stickin' with it. Besides, we'll eventually get to the age when we'll want to look younger."

"Yeah, but that's years away. I'm taking about right now, Musa. Honestly, sometimes I don't know what to do with you," Stella sighed tragically before moving onto some other fashion rule that she had picked up over the summer so she didn't notice that Musa's shoulders remained hunched or that her navy eyes were downcast. The musical princess, who always seemed to speak her own mind and add her own opinion to a discussion, didn't contribute to the conversation from that point onwards.

Stella may not have noticed this, but Riven and Brandon did. Both knew that Musa liked to put up a tough front and act like nothing fazed her, but they also knew that in actual fact she was probably the most emotionally sensitive and vulnerable out of all the members of the Winx Club. She had a habit of putting her whole heart into things, which wasn't always a bad thing, but when things didn't work out it absolutely crushed her. Stella's unintentionally harsh words had cut her deeply.

"Hey guys," an Alfea fairy by the name of Priscilla called out to the group. "Ms. Faragonda's called an assembly in the quad before the party starts. Come on!"

With an excited little squeal, Stella bounded of towards the quad and the rest of the group followed. Hesitantly, Riven moved until he was walking along side Musa, who still looked pretty down. Shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans, Riven stared fiercely at the ground as he muttered, "I don't think you're pig tails look bad."

Musa looked up at him, but Riven kept his eyes firmly fixed on the ground. He could feel her eyes him, however, and for some reason that made the palms of his hands start to sweat. "You don't?"

"Nah," Riven said, shifting his shoulders. "Stella's just being a brat."

Musa chuckled softly. "She does get like that sometimes."

"Sometimes? Please. She was born a bitch," Riven told her. He didn't think there was anything wrong with that statement – after all, he did believe it to be true – but for some reason Musa took great offence to it. Her navy eyes went flat and narrowed dangerously, and her smile became an un-amused straight line.

"She is not a bitch and I don't appreciate people calling her that" Musa said stiffly. "Especially people who are supposed to be her friend."

"Me friends with Stella? C'mon, you know that's not true. I could never be friends with a spoiled . . ." Riven started, but trailed off when he realized that he was just digging his own grave.

"Spoiled what, Riven?" Musa snapped, her eyes blazing. "Spoiled little princess? Did you forget that I'm a princess too, Riven? Huh?"

"I – "

"You know what? Stella's right. Style is change, and unfortunately you are never going to be stylish because you will never change from the self centered, chauvinist, arrogant prick that you are!" Musa spat at him, before storming away from him.

Riven, however, was left completely dumbfounded. What the hell just happened? One minute she was laughing and the next she was ripping into him. What the hell? Women! Riven would have made more sense out of Timmy when he was talking his computer jargon. Furious, Riven stalked over to stand with Sky, Timmy and Brandon, the latter of which had been watching the whole thing.

Brandon felt sorry for Musa since he and her got along very well, but he couldn't help but grin as Riven made his way over to them. "I've gotta hand it to you man," Brandon smirked. "Even when you complement a girl you somehow manage to offend her."

"You think this is funny?" Riven asked, his face like a thunder cloud. "Well, do you wonna know what I think is funny? Stabbing squires."

"You sadist you."

"Guys! Quiet! Ms. Faragonda's talking," Sky hissed, and the two boys fell silent though Riven still continued to death glare Brandon who was grinning at him like a maniac.

Ms. Faragonda was one of those old ladies who looked like a strong breeze could take her out, but as the boys witnessed last year when the Trix Sisters attacked with the dreaded Army of Decay, that fragile looking geriatric was more than capable of holding her own in a battle. The fairies of Alfea all adored her and the boys of Red Fountain all respected her wisdom and knowledge. There was still no word on what the witches of Cloud Tower thought of her.

"Fairies of Alfea and heroes of Red Fountain, I would like to welcome you all back to Alfea and back to the school year. I hope you all use this year to your fullest potential," Ms. Faragonda said to the assembly from her place on the school steps. "And I would also like to say thank you for coming to our back to school mixer. What a great start to the year."

"All we did was show up," Riven growled as everyone else clapped. "What's so great about that?"

"Oh, lighten up, Riven. She's just trying to be welcoming," Sky told him calmly, but the burgundy haired specialist continued to look pissy.

"After last years witch invasion the school had to under go major remodeling," Ms. Faragonda continue. "In a moment we will unveil the new wing which we've named in honour of a very brave fairy. We would not be here without her. Bloom, my dear, would you please join me up here."

Bloom's eyes widened. "Me?"

"What are you waiting for?" Musa asked, giving her a push. "Go take a bow."

"Hold on a second," Stella stopped her. The blonde princess quickly removed the headband that was holding back Bloom's luscious red hair and then stepped back to view the final result. "Perfect. Now stand up straight and remember to smile. Your smile is your most outstanding feature."

"You girls all have to come up there with me," Bloom told the rest of the Winx Club. "We all beat the witches together."

"You sure?"

"Come on. Let's do it Winx Club!" Bloom cheered before heading up onto the step with Ms. Faragonda and the other teachers. After a moments hesitation, the rest of her friends followed her.

"Here," Stella said as she handed Bloom's headband off to another fairy. "I'm needed."

"Weren't there three schools involved in the defeat of the Army of Decay and the Trix Sisters not just five freshmen fairies?" Riven snarled.

"Stop it, Riven," Timmy ordered. "You know perfectly well that we wouldn't have won if it hadn't been for Bloom and the rest of the Winx Club. Now stop being such a sour puss."

"Sour puss?" Brandon repeated with a grin. "I haven't heard that one in years. I'm gonna use that."

"And now let's unveil our new Dragon Fire wing!" Ms. Faragonda said proudly and the assembly applauded again. "Release the magic doves!"

Last year, some of the rot monsters that belonged to the Army of Decay had gotten bored with beating up high school students and had set to work in destroying the halls of Alfea. Upon arrival at the girls school, everyone had noticed that the parts of the school that had been ruined were covered by what they all thought was a large, magical cloak but in actual fact they turned out to be hundreds of tiny, magical doves. Upon Ms. Faragonda's command, the doves all flew away from the tower they were covering and revealed the new wing named in honour of Bloom and her powers. In the sky, fire works exploded, signaling the start of the party.

"If building a new tower is considered 'major remodeling' in Ms. Faragonda's books, I wonder what she thinks of what they're going to do to Red Fountain as," Brandon pondered, speaking aloud what a lot of the guys' thought. "Oh well. Not like it matters. Let's party!"

The start of year mixer was different to the others start of school year social events in that instead of being held at night which is what they normally did, they had it during the day which made it feel like on massive barbeque. Maestro, the chef from Alfea, teamed up with his little brother and chef from Red Fountain, Jacob, to give the students the choice of not only filling up on party snacks but also gorge themselves on food that one might find in a high quality restaurant. Many of the students devoured both types of food with equal enthusiasm and stuffed themselves to the point where they felt physically ill.

Another difference with the mixer was that for the first time in Alfea history, a witch and an ogre had been invited to the festivities.

While she was at Cloud Tower, the witch Mirta had never really fitted in and the other witches tended to avoid her due to her sweet personality, which of course made her easy prey from bullies, particularly the Trix Sisters. At one stage Icy had even transformed her into a pumpkin which was how Mirta had lived out most of her freshmen year until Flora could figurer out a way to break Icy's spell. But now she had transferred to Alfea as an exchange student and while there were a few fairies – mainly those from the older grades – who still acted hostile to her, a lot of the fairies of Alfea had come to accept that Mirta was not like most witches and that it was time to put an end to this continuous witch verse fairy battle that had plagued society for centuries.

The ogre Knut, who was now Alfea's groundskeeper, however, was not one that the girls would embrace so easily, but that was mostly because of his body odor. He had improved a lot in the smell department over the summer, but he still reeked.

"This mixer's awesome," Sky said to Brandon as he stretched himself out in his chair. After a summer of sitting up formally and respectfully like any prince his age was expected to, it was great to just slouch for once.

"Yeah, Lady would have loved it," Brandon noted sadly as he looked down at all the food that had somehow managed to find its way onto the ground. Lady – a little cream coloured dog that Sky, Brandon, Timmy and Riven had taken off the streets and made into their pet – would have been more than happy to help clean Alfea by eating up all that food. But along with the new campus that was yet to be unveiled, Red Fountain had made a few changes to the school rules over the summer. With the exception of a few members of the dragon riding club, pets would no longer be allowed at Red Fountain so Brandon and Sky were forced to leave Lady with Brandon's family over the school year so she could at least be taken care of by Brandon's little brother Will.

"She'll be alright, bro," Sky assured Brandon. "Will promised to look after her."

"But it's not the same," the squire whined. "She was our mascot."

"Well, now she can be the mascot for the Eraklyon Boys Junior High."

"I don't want her to be the mascot for the Eraklyon Boys Junior High. She was the mascot for Red Fountain and . . . and . . . Oh, I don't know! The Super Squad."

"Super Squad?" Sky repeated in horror. They were not calling their squad that.

"I couldn't think of anything," Brandon shrugged sheepishly.

"Yeah, it shows."

"What did I tell you about naming our squad, Brandon?" Riven asked, climbing over the table in order to take a seat along side the squire.

"That you'd be forced to kill me with your bare hands if I ever did (2)," Brandon mumbled as Riven took a swig from his can of soft drink. Brandon breathed deep and a familiar scent filled his senses. "You haven't been smoking now have you?"

"Nah, Lex was while I was talking to him," Riven replied calmly, but Brandon had a suspicion that his friend might be lying to him. Unfortunately, it was next to impossible to tell whenever Riven wasn't telling the truth or not since the guy was one damn good lair.

"I thought you were quitting."

"I am, I am," Riven assured him, though in actual fact he was finding it a lot harder to give up the smokes than he had originally thought it would be. Lady Nicotine had gotten her claws into the teen deep, and it was getting more and more difficult to get them out with each passing day. "Just get off my back about it."

"It's a bad habit."

"I know."

"You should have never picked it up in the first place."

"Brandon, shut the fu – "

"Alright guys. That's enough of that," Sky interrupted the little fight before it escalated. The school year hadn't even started and Brandon and Riven were already at it. "Brandon, leave Riven alone. Riven, calm down. This is supposed to be a party, so why don't you guys go have some fun. Brandon, go find Stella and spend some time with her and Riven, you can go see if Musa's talking to you yet."

"She's not," Riven answered.

"Well, Stella's still talking to me, so if you'd excuse me boys," Brandon said, getting up and leaving the two of them before they could reply. Running a hand through his fringe as he walked, Brandon snuck up behind the Princess of Solaria as she was handing out a few fashion tips to a bunch of new Alfea freshmen's. Wrapping one arm wound her waist from behind, Brandon pulled aside her lovely, long blonde hair with the other and tenderly kissed the back of her neck. He felt her shiver at the contact, and when she twisted around to look at him, her honey eyes were glowing with delight. "Hey there, princess."

"Hey there," Stella said coyly. "What are you up too?"

"Seeing what the most gorgeous girl in Magix is doing without me."

"Just in Magix?"

"Did I just say Magix? I meant the whole universe."

"Oh, you're sweet." Stella smiled proudly, playing with his hair in a very affectionate and intermit manner. "How'd I ever find such a catch like you?"

"Oh, you're just lucky I guess," Brandon grinned, then he suddenly remembered something had had been dying to ask her all summer. It was something he wanted to do in person, and this was the perfect time to do it. "Hey, Stella, do you wonna take a walk with me so we can talk a bit in private?"

"Not at all," Stella said, linking her arm through his when he offered it to her. "Lead the way, honey bear."

Brandon led Stella to one of the more secluded wishing wells Alfea had on offer. It was actually the same well that Sky had talked with Bloom privately beside during last years' prom, but Brandon didn't know that. He also didn't know exactly why a school needed more than one wishing well, but he really didn't care at the moment. There was hardly anyone around and he had the girl of his dreams with him.

"Did I tell you how amazing you look in that outfit?" Brandon asked her even though he knew for a fact that he had but he aslo knew exactly how to charm the princess.

"Oh, it was just something I threw on," Stella told him with a small wave though Brandon was pretty sure that she had spent hours going through her wardrobe and trying one every possible out fit at least once before settling on her final choice.

"Your effortless radiance amazes me," Brandon grinned at her, and she lapped up everything he said.

"Why thank you sweetie," Stella said bashfully, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "Now, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?"

"Well Stella, I wanted to tell you that I thank the gods every day that such a charming and beautiful young lady like yourself would even look at such a lowly, common squire," Brandon told her, taking her hands in his

Stella smiled brightly and her eyes shone merrily. "Well, how could I not look at such a lowly, common squire when he's so incredibly cute and noble?"

"Yes, well, while I may be all those things, I am also a jealous and selfish man, especially when it comes to a goddess like you," Brandon told her as one of his hands let go of hers to dig around his pocket until he found the ring he was looking for. "Which is why, my sweet, sensitive, sunny, stylish Stella," Brandon said, making Stella giggle at his rough poetry, "I would like to officially ask you to be my exclusive girlfriend since I cannot bare the thought of losing you to another guy."

"Oh Brandon," Stella gushed. "How could I possibly say no?"

"And as a token of my affection, I would like to give you this so that everyone knows that you're my girl," Brandon said, pulling out the ring he had gotten over the summer for her. It was a plain, simple band of gold with three small hearts etched into its surface. It wasn't as elegant as Stella deserved, but it was all Brandon could afford for her with his mediocre allowance. It wouldn't draw as much attention as the other jewelry he had seen her wear, but he had had an inscription engraved on the inside of the ring which he hoped would make it more personal.

"Oh Brandon," Stella said again, accepting the ring with her trembling hands. "It's beautiful."

"There's an inscription inside," Brandon told her, unable to keep a foolish smile from spreading across his face. Stella shifted the ring in her finger tips until she could look inside.

"'My girl, B&S always'," she read aloud. "Oh Brandon! That is so sweet! I love it!"

"Really? I mean, I know it's not like the other rings you have but – "

"You're right, it's better," Stella told him, slipping the ring on her finger and then extending her hand to get a good look at it. "It's gorgeous Brandon. It really is."

"That's good," Brandon said, wrapping his arms around her. "It matches you perfectly."

Stella smiled softly and then looked up into his brown eyes lovingly. "Hey, guess what."


"You've got a girlfriend," she told him in a sing-song voice, reminding him of times in kindergarten when he and the other kids in his class used to torment each other with that very chant if you so much as spoke to a member of the opposite sex.

"Yes I do, and she's the most beautiful girl in the whole universe," Brandon grinned, dipping his face until he pressed his lips next to hers and everything around them disappeared.

"You've been gone for a while," Timmy commented when Brandon returned to the group. The squire's hair was a tad disheveled, but the brunette didn't seem to care. In fact, he looked as though you could put a spear right through his foot and he wouldn't stop grinning.

"And I bet I know who he was with," Sky said, looking over at Stella who had the same messed up hair and dreamy expression on her face as Brandon did.

"She accepted the ring, bro," Brandon told his prince dreamily, causing Riven to choke on his drink.

"You didn't . . . you know . . . purpose to that harpy, did you?" Riven asked, his violet eyes wide with horror.

"What? No! I asked Stella to be my girlfriend exclusively and then gave her a ring to show that she's my girl and no one else's. There is no way I'm getting married anytime soon," Brandon explained. "And stop calling her a harpy."

"Wow, you must be really terrified of commitment if you freak out when someone else does it," Sky said to Riven who still looked a little wild around the eyes.

"Yeah, pretty much," Riven agreed before his eyes narrowed slightly in confusion. "Wait a minute. I thought Stella already was your girlfriend."

"We weren't official or exclusive which meant that she could have gone on a date with someone else if she wanted," Brandon said. "But now, she is officially mine and mine only."

"Well congratulations, bro," Sky grinned, slapping his best friend on the back. "She's a great girl for you."

"She'd have to be to tame Brandon into a one woman man," Timmy smirked. "Remember during the start of freshmen year how he was chasing any girl he saw? I thought he was trying to be the first to date every single fairy at Alfea at once."

"Yeah, but that all change as soon as he met Stella, huh," Sky smiled at Brandon. His friend had come a long way from ladies man to a monogamist and Sky couldn't deny that he was somewhat proud of Brandon for changing so much.

"She is gorgeous isn't she?" Brandon said in a dreamy tone, making Sky and Timmy grin again. Riven, however, looked like he had just swallowed a glass of off milk, but he kept his mouth shut none the less.

The end of the party came far too quickly for most, but the guys had to get back to Red Fountain to finishing unpacking. Timmy had shown Tecna all the upgrades he had done on the squad ship over the summer but she still hadn't had a chance to show him the programs she had created over the summer.

"Oh well, I guess you'll have to show them to me later, Tec," Timmy said to her.

"You can count on it. And don't be afraid to e-mail me anytime you want. I mean, if perhaps you'd like a second option on some of your calculations or something," Tecna told him shyly.

"Sure thing," Timmy smiled, wishing he had the courage to at least kiss her good bye on the cheek, but he didn't. "Well, I better get going. Looks like it's gonna take some effort to separate Brandon and Stella from each other."

Brandon and Stella both wore identical looks of delirious happiness and hung off of each other until Timmy and Riven had to literally pull them apart.

"Bye snookums!" Stella waved as her beloved got dragged onto the squad ship.

"Bye cup cake!" Brandon called back.

"Oh gods," Riven growled, rolling his eyes before stealing one last glance at Musa before they left. The musical fairy glared at him, and then purposely turned her head away from him. Apparently she was still angry at him and by the looks of it she would be for a while. "Sky! Hurry up man!"

"Coming!" Sky shouted before returning his attention back to Bloom. "Well, I had a really great time today."

"Me too. I had never really looked forward to summer ending back when I was on Earth, but now that I go to Alfea I couldn't wait to get back and see you all again," Bloom confessed to him. "I really missed everyone."

"Hey, I missed you too," Sky smiled softly, cupping one of her cheeks in his hand. She stared at him with those beautiful blue eyes and Sky felt his knees start to go weak.

"Sky!" Riven hollered again.

"Just a minute!" Sky shouted back, and he could hear Riven cursing darkly. "Anyway, we've got to get settled into school and prepare for the big unveiling of the new Red Fountain, but I'd love to see you again soon."

"Sure. Call me whenever to have some free time and we'll see if we can arrange something," Bloom smiled softly at him.

"I'd love that," Sky smiled back, leaning forward slight. "Well, I'd better get going but before I go . . ."

Sky closed the gap between them and brushed his lips lightly across hers. A spasm of delight shot down his spin and he felt his legs get goose-bumps of pleasure. One of his arms snaked its way around her waist in order to pull her closer to him and the other found its way into her hair. It felt as smooth and soft as it looked. He softly ran his tongue along her bottom lip and she opened her mouth in answer to his silent request. Sky quickly move to deepen the kiss when –

"Sky! C'mon!" Timmy called and Bloom quickly pulled back from the contact. A tidal wave of disappointment and irritation crashed down onto the prince, and he glare at the ship in pure hatred.

"So yeah, call me sometime," Bloom told him, straightening out her hair bashfully. Her cheeks matched the colour of her locks perfectly. "It was great to see you again."

"It was great to see you too," Sky smiled at her, though his irritation still bubbled away below the surface. "And maybe next time we won't have any annoying friends screaming at us, huh?"

Bloom giggled. "That might be fun."


"Blondie! Move it!" Riven ordered impatiently.

"I'm coming! I'm coming! Geeze!" Sky spat at the ship before turning to Bloom again and giving her hand a quick squeeze. "See ya."

"Bye," Bloom waved as Sky stormed towards the squad ship ready to rip his friends into pieces after ruining his moment with Bloom.

"You guys couldn't have waited one more minute?" Sky demanded as soon as he set foot on the ship. Timmy started up the ships engines and got ready to take flight.

"Not with the way he's been carrying on," Riven stated evenly, jerking his head in Brandon's direction. The squire had been forcibly tied to his chair like a crazy person and a gag had been forced into his mouth. His brown eyes were glaring at Timmy and Riven and any cruses he might have been throwing at them were muffled by the gag.

"What did you guys do to him?" Sky asked, his eyes wide in shock.

"He kept shouting all this lovey dovey crap at Stella and I couldn't take it any more," Riven explained calmly was if it was perfectly normal to chain your friend to a chair.

"And Timmy, you let this happen?"

"Well I thought we were just going to tie him to the chair. Riven came up with the idea of the gag on his own," Timmy said. "Now get ready for take off."

"You guys are insane," Sky told them, moving over to take the gag out of Brandon's mouth.

"You bastards! You stinking bastards!" Brandon spat at Riven and Timmy as soon as he was able to talk freely. "How dare you do this to me?! You are so dead! You are so unbelievably dead! I'm going to shave your heads in your sleep! Your eyebrows are history! I'm gonna – "

"Okay, hold on guys," Timmy said as he started up the ship.

" – make you wish you have never been born. I'm – "

"Thanks for coming guys!" they could all hear Stella call to them from outside. "Great party!"

"Stella! My darling! They're imprisoned me!" Brandon tried to tell her as he struggled against his bonds. "Sun blast the living day lights out of them! Please! Stella! You've got to help me! Stel – "

At that point, Sky shoved the gag back into his friends' mouth and the only that filled the ship was in incoherent curses that were once again muffled by the gag in Brandon's mouth.

Sky rubbed the temples on side of his head as he tried to stop the headache that was forming in his brain. He could remember over the summer break when he's wish he was back at school with all his friends, but now he was starting to wish he could go back to summer break again. His only hope was that this year might be a bit less eventful than last year.

But unbeknown to him, back at Alfea the Winx Club had stumbled on the exhausted Princess of Tides, who would change the course of the year entirely.

(1) 'Human beings, as a species, are fascinated by conflict' was a topic we had to discuss in English during my High School Certificate (the exams year 12 students in New South Wales all sit. We call it HSC for sort) and adding it into the story was kind of an inside joke to me. I still get a kick out of seeing it there.

(2) Brother at Arms, Chapter Seven: Grounded

Nothing much really happens in this chapter, but it's a start. Catch ya later.