Oh wow. I can't believe we're finally at the final chapter. It feels like I've been working on this story forever and as of yet, Lord Darkar hasn't made a single appearance. But all that's about to change as we have the final showdown between the Shadow Phoenix and the Winx Club before we can go have some fun at prom. Which reminds me . . .

WARNING: Prom this year consists of a high fluff level that in some cases could be considered borderline smutty, so enter at your own risk.

Alright then, here we go!

Chapter Twenty-Six – The Ultimate Power Couple

With a cat like hiss, Dusja, Lord Darkar's most loyal and faithful servant, launched himself into the air and swooped down at the teenagers below. Timmy quickly took aim with his bee kicker blaster and fired, but the tainted cloud spirit was a lot faster in the air than his size would have you believe. With a flare of his wings and a twist of his body, Dusja veered clear of the shot so that all it hit was the rocks behind him. Unharmed, Dusja continued downward to knock the gun from Timmy's hand with a well aimed kick, causing it to go skidding into some darken corner of the cavern. Since Timmy was the only one with a firearm, Dusja had the advantage with his ability to fly even though the only weapons he possessed were his hands and feet. In fact, the only thing the Red Fountain students had going for them was the fact that, since falling into shadow, Dusja could no longer access the white magic that his race was famous for.

But Dusja did have access to dark magic. Conjuring up a wicked, black orb of magic in both hands, Dusja hurled his attack down at his opponent's feet. The teens all managed to jump clear, but the tainted spirit dived in for a second attack while they were still regathering themselves. With a hawk-like shriek, Dusja swooped down on Sky and lashed out with both hands and feet while simultaneously beating him with his wings. Unable to retaliate against such a bombardment of attacks, all Sky could do was try and shield his eyes to avoid them getting gouged out by Dusja's clawed fingers.

"Sky!" Brandon cried out in alarm, running towards Dusja's unprotected back with his broadsword. With a loud battle cry, Brandon swung at the cloud spirit, right between his shoulder blades, but then Dusja suddenly shot upwards so that only the tip of Brandon's broadsword brushed across his feathers. Arcing his flight, Dusja swooped down behind the squire, and with a rough shove, sent him stumbling into his prince. The pair collided painfully and fell into a heap on the stone floor.

"Ha!" Dusja barked as he watched the two Eraklyains struggle to find their feet, but his amusement was cut short when Helia's long, golden laser string lashed him across the side of his torso with all the bite of a bull whip. Hissing in pain, Dusja cast another ball of dark energy down at the young hero, and it would have hit him directly if it hadn't been for Riven, who had released his morning star at just the right moment so that it wrapped itself around the cloud spirits torso and pinned one of his arms to his side, disrupting his aim at the very last second.

Awkwardly managing to remain airborne, Dusja grabbed the magenta string with his free hand, and with strength that Riven didn't see coming, he ripped the Red Fountain student off his feet and sent him flying head long into a rock wall. Knocked senseless, Riven dropped to the ground in a heap and released his hold on his morning star, allowing the cloud spirit to slip out of the weapon and continue his attack. Throwing another sphere of dark magic in Timmy's direction to cancel out the blast from the bee kicker blast that the specialist had managed to find, Dusja flew forward with this claw-like hands stretched out in front of him, ready to tighten them around Brandon's throat. But just as he closed in on the squire, something snagged his left leg and held him back, allowing Brandon to jump backwards, well out of harms way.

Looking back over his shoulder, Dusja saw the golden laser strings that had lashed him earlier wrapped tightly around his leg and at the end of it was Helia who also had Timmy helping him hold his ground so that the cloud spirit couldn't rip him off his feet like he had done so easily with Riven. Dusja struggled to pull away, but Timmy and Helia was now aided by Sky and with the three of them holding him back, Dusja was unable to break free. Caught, Dusja frantically began to beat his wings in strong, powerful flaps to try and get free, but with the golden strings latched onto his leg coupled with the combined weight of Helia, Sky and Timmy anchoring him down, the tainted cloud spirit couldn't get more than a few feet above the boy's heads.

"Oi Riv! Gimme a boost!" Brandon shouted to his friend who was now back on his feet.

"What?" Riven snapped, still groggy from his run in with the wall, but when he saw Brandon running towards him at full pelt, he quickly understood what his friend wanted him to do. Dropping his knife with a clatter, Riven laced his fingers together with his palms facing upward, and when Brandon stepped into his hands, Riven's arm gave a powerful thrust upwards, launching Brandon into the air.

"Ah!" Brandon shouted as he swung his broadsword at Dusja's right wing, slicing straight through several primary and secondary feathers before gravity forced him back down.

Like a bird with its wings clipped, Dusja lost control of his flight and started to flounder in the air. He beat his wings feebly and kicked with his legs in the vain hope that it would make any kind of difference, but not matter what he did, Dusja couldn't correct his flight and ended up crashing down onto the rock floor. In a panic, Dusja scrambled to try and untangle himself from the laser string and unfold his wings from beneath him, but when he felt something cold and sharp pressed against his throat, he froze like a trapped animal. Lifting his eyes slowly, Dusja found that he had two blades directed at him; one green, the other magenta. Following the blades upwards, Dusja's cobalt eyes met two pairs of severe looking eyes. One was a powerful looking shade of brown, while the other was an intense violet, and both burned with a vast level of hate and disgust.

"Bloody traitor," Riven growled, but Dusja simply stared back at the specialists with a completely clam and neutral face. Fuelled by disgust, the two boys were more than willing to run their swords through the wicked creature and end its miserable life, and by the looks of it, Dusja wasn't going to stop them.

But the same couldn't be said for others there.

"Brandon! Riven! Stop!" Sky shouted, startling everyone. "Don't kill him!"

"What? Why not?" Riven asked. "Are you forgetting that this is the creep who kidnapped your girlfriend and handed her over to Darkar? He's the reason Bloom's even down here!"

"He's been working for Lord Darkar all this time," Brandon pointed out. "He doesn't deserve to live!"

"But he also didn't deserve what Darkar did to him!" Sky shouted back, silencing everyone. Even Dusja seemed amazed by Sky's insight and mercy, and he stared up at the prince with a confused expression on his face. "You heard him; he's been down here for years. Decades even. For longer than any of us have been alive, he's been living here under Lord Darkar and his malice, torturing him until he obeyed him blindly. And he's a cloud spirit. I bet anything that before Darkar got him hands on him, he was a kind, noble, pure creature, and I have to believe that despite everything that Lord Darkar has done to him and transformed him into being, that he can come back," Sky told them all, before averting his eyes and adding more softly, "I have to believe that Bloom can come back."

Brandon and Riven exchanged a long look, before retracting their blades. Lord Darkar was no doubt trying to transform Bloom into darkness – in fact he had probably already succeeded by now – and they had to hope that she could turn back or else the universe would be lost. "So what do we do with him?" Brandon asked.

"We can always lock him away in the cell on the carrier," Timmy suggested. "That should hold him while we go deal with Lord Darkar, and then we could hand him over to the authorities when this is all over with."

"And then what will happen to him?" Sky asked.

"Depends on what the tribunal sentence him," Helia answered. "And since he is an accomplice of Lord Darkar who's classed as a terrorist, it's most likely he'll be either executed or given a lifetime in the Omega Dimension."

"The Omega Dimension? But that's even worse then here!"

"Couldn't he get sent of Light Haven like the Trix did last year?" Brandon questioned. The group were too busy trying to figure out their next move that none of them noticed one final spiked shadow monster creeping up on them in the darkness. Dusja, whose eyes were more adjusted to the dark than the teenagers, did notice it however, but he remained perfectly still on the ground at the students feet, just waiting. "Maybe they'd be able to turn him back to what he was before all this there."

"That might work," Helia said, giving it a bit of thought. "Ultimately it's going to be up to the tribunal and the Magical Council, but if we get enough people in power to suggest it, they might listen. I'm sure I can sway my father and grandfather. Sky, do you think you can get your father on board with this?"

"Maybe," Sky shrugged.

"Well either way, it's the best option we have for him at the moment."

"Right," Sky nodded. "Well, let's get him into the cell so we can – "

Sky stopped mid-sentence when Dusja suddenly sprang to his feet and bolted for it. At first, everyone thought he was making an escape and scrambled for their weapons, but they all froze when a loud roar filled the air and the shadow monster bound out of hiding. With another hideous roar, the monster tensed and fired a round of it spikes directly at the group of unprepared and shocked teens. But then, suddenly, Dusja was there. Standing between the students and the monster, Dusja extended his wings and arms to act as a living shield, and didn't even flinch as he let the spikes impale his body with a sickening thud. The shadow monster let lose another, rocky growl before tensing for a second attack, but moving faster than the monster was expecting, Riven ducked around the wounded cloud spirit and ran the monster through. With a pitiful wail, the monster dissolved into shadows and the threat was gone.

Unfortunately, the damage had already been done.

"Dusja!" Sky gasped as the cloud spirit sank to the ground. Dropping down alongside him, Sky bent over the servant of his enemy in order to examine his wounds. The spikes had impaled him deeply and had stained his front with the silver blood of a cloud spirit. Helia – who had actually received the best marks in their sophomore year first aid examination – crouched down on the other side of the wounded cloud spirit, but one glace at the pacifist's face told everyone that there was absolutely nothing he could do with a wound this severe. Looking Dusja in the face, Sky searched for some kind of answer in the cloud spirits eyes, and for the first time, found a trace of sanity there. "Why? Why did you do that?"

"Because . . . because in all the years I've down here . . . in all the years I can remember, you are the first to show me mercy," Dusja whispered as silver blood leaked from the corners of his mouth. His breathing was becoming heavy and his eyes drooping, but for the first time, Dusja actually seemed at peace. But that didn't mean Sky was about to let him go.

"Hang in there. We can help you," Sky promised him, making the cloud spirit smile softly.

"No, you can't. You've got to go save the Keeper of the Dragon Fire. You must stop Darkar," Dusja reminded him. "Just let me go. Let me die."

"But we can't leave it like this," Sky said, his teeth gritted in anger. How can he be so helpless? Why can't he save him? "We have to turn you back."

"Into what? I have no memory of my life before this. I only know what I am because Darkar was so proud of being able to change a cloud spirit to do his bidding, and I only know my name because the paladin Avalon called me it moments before I imprisoned him and stole his identity. My life is a horrible nightmare from which there is no waking. Let it end and go save the universe like you're supposed to."

"Dusja," Sky tried to object, but he knew that the cloud spirit was right. There was nothing he could do and he still needed to save Bloom. Dusja could no longer access the white magic to heal himself and there was no medic skilled enough to treat him.

"Go," Dusja ordered with a calm expression, but it suddenly shifted to one of discomfort as his magic started to leave him and all the spells cast on him began to fall apart. The wicked tattoos that Lord Darkar had etched onto him in an effort to control him faded, as did the spell that disguised him to look like Avalon. His hair turned white and although it was as long as Avalon's, it fell freely unlike the paladin's braid. His skin turned pale and his eyes turned to a lighter shade of blue, as it was with all cloud spirits. Grasping Sky hand, Dusja stared directly into the prince's eyes and gave him a soft smile. "You have a good heart, Prince Sky of Eraklyon, full of understanding and love. You will need it before this is over."

And then, with one final breath, a white light began to glow from inside the cloud spirits chest and he started to dissolve into air. The light steadily grew until it was too bright to look at any longer, and when it faded, Dusja the Cloud Spirit was gone forever.

Sky remained where he was, staring at the ground where moments before Dusja had been lying. An odd silence fell over his group of friends as they waited for him to collect himself, but his thoughts were a tempest of pity and anger that it was taking him a while to sort it all out. Dusja had never really been their enemy, Sky realised. He was a victim. Just a pawn in Lord Darkar's wicked game. And then suddenly, a thought flashed through Sky's mind.

This was all Lord Darkar's fault.

So far this year, the Shadow Phoenix had kidnapped and almost destroyed the pixies. He had let a Lio Dragerus loose in Red Fountain, putting a whole stadium of people in harms way. He had sent the Trix in to Cloud Tower and almost destroyed that school from the inside out. And, under Darkar's orders, the Trix had followed them to the Resort Realm and had attack the Flower of Life in Pixie Village, almost ending and entire race of pixies. He had imprisoned the real Avalon and kidnapped Bloom. And now, because of him, an innocent cloud spirit whose life had been utterly destroyed at his hands was dead.

Well, Sky was not about to let that happen to anyone else.

Getting to his feet, Sky picked up the sword he had dropped when Dusja had been hit and marched forward. "Come on, you guys. This ends now."

The last time Sky had been at Shadow Haunt, he had never actually been inside the castle, but he could tell within the first minute that he was inside that it wasn't a place he would like to visit again. Using Timmy's thermal imaging detector, they travelled through the hallways after the fairies. Luckily, they didn't run into any more shadow monsters, but at one stage they did stumble across Codatorta, Ms. Faragonda and Professor Griffin fighting yet another big, scary monster that was supposed to be extinct. Under Codatorta's instructions, the boys left the teachers to deal with the monsters and went to catch up with the Winx Club who had gone with the Pixie Elders to try and get into the Realm of Realix.

"If Lord Darkar's got all the pieces of the Codex, then how the hell are we supposed to get inside?" Brandon asked as they ran.

"I'm sure they've worked something out," Sky replied, not slowing his pace.

"Thermal imagining show's someone up ahead," Timmy told them all suddenly, his eyes on the hand held screen and his mind praying that he didn't run into anything while he wasn't paying attention to where he was going.

"Do you know who it is?" Helia asked. He was really getting tired of fighting shadow monsters. It seemed to him that they had taken out fifty thousand monsters, and the monotony of it all was starting to get on his nerves.

"It's Tecna," Riven – whose eyes were better in the dark than his friends – informed them and a second later, the rest of them were able to make out the digital fairy who was standing alone with her pixie, the bones of a shadow monster at her feet (1).

"Tecna!" Timmy called, running up to her and pulling her into a tight hug. Behind him, he sensed the rest of his squad come to a stop. "It's so good to see you."

"Let's save the reunion for later," Sky suggested, eagre to find Bloom and finish off Lord Darkar. "We have to go find the others."

"Okay then. Let's move out," Tecna and Timmy both agreed in unison.

"You two say the same thing all the time now," Helia told them while Brandon and Riven smirked widely. Sky was too focused on finding his girlfriend to find anything amusing.

"Huh?" Tecna and Timmy both said again before looking sheepishly at each other.

"Yeah, you should really try to avoid doing that," Riven suggested, still smirking.

"Guys! Can we please just go find the others?" Sky begged, and without waiting for a reply, he started moving off again. The rest of them followed after him at a run, and it wasn't long until they managed to find Lord Darkar's throne room, and waiting for them there was Musa and Flora.

"Helia," Flora greeted with a relieved smile, slipping her hand into his when he approached her and gave it a quick squeeze. Riven and Musa simply regarded each other from a far, and Musa silently nodded her head, signalling that she was unharmed. Once that was out of the way, they were able to focus on the situation at hand. "Lord Darkar's already combined the Codex and entered Realix."

"And Bloom?" Sky asked desperately.

"He must have taken her with him."

"So how do we get inside?" Brandon asked, putting his hands on his hips. After all, it wasn't as if they had another spare Codex floating around.

"That where we come in," a small voice full of authority told them, and for the first time, the boys noticed four new pixies had joined the fairies. Athena, the Pixie Elder of Red Fountain and Ninfea, Queen and Pixie Elder of Pixie Village they knew, but joining them was two new pixies, but at one glance, the boys knew who they were; Discorda, Pixie Elder of Cloud Tower and Concorda, Pixie Elder of Alfea. It had been Concorda who had spoken, and one look at her outfit told the boys which school she belonged to.

"We've used these ancient artefacts to open a portal to the Realm of Realix (2)," Discorda informed them, gesturing to a glowing portal that they surrounded.

"Stella and Layla have already gone inside to face Lord Darkar, who has turned Bloom's heart to darkness," Athena told them, giving Sky a sympathetic and apologetic look.

"You must go in after them. Lord Darkar must be stopped," Ninfea said as she and the other Pixie Elders pulled on the edges of the portal, making it large enough for the humans to pass through. "We will stay here and keep the portal open. Now hurry."

"Right," Brandon nodded, but things suddenly became more urgent for him when he heard a familiar scream. "Stella!"

"Brandon!" Riven shouted as Brandon jumped head long through the portal, not caring what was on the other side. "What kind of a fool just throws himself through a portal without knowing anything about what's on the other side?"

"A fool in love," Helia replied, grinning when Riven made a face.

The second Brandon landed on the other side of the portal in the Realm of Realix, the first thing he saw was his beloved Stella who was stuck to the ground by some kind of brown, oozy sludge. Brandon assumed Layla was in some kind of simular state, but at the moment, the only thing he could focus on was his girlfriend. The second thing he saw was some foul creature who he guessed was Lord Darkar moving in over the trapped fairies.

"Now I'll finish you off," the monster snarled, making Stella scream again, and that triggered Brandon into action.

"Back off!" Brandon shouted, running to place himself between Stella and the advancing monster with his broadsword raised. Glaring into the creatures red and black eyes, Brandon got his first look at Lord Darkar, and he could tell that Layla's description of him was right on the money. His body seemed too made up entirely of a red, exoskeleton like armour with a ratty, stringy cape descending from his shoulders. His fingers were clawed, his teeth were pointed, his faced was masked and his waist was ridiculously thin. He stood taller than Brandon, and his black eyes burned with flames the colour of a deep, evil-looking red, but Brandon was going to slice him up more that pathetic excuse for a cape of his if he dared lay one, clawed finger on Stella. "I said back off!!"

With a disgusted look, Lord Darkar levitated himself into the air as he watched the rest of the teenagers enter the Realm of Realix through the portal. Where they landed was the ruins of what looked to be a temple, but now the realm had fallen into such disrepair that all that remained was half collapsed stone structure surrounded by cloud. "This is ridiculous!" he growled. "This is not some kind of prep school mixer!"

"Give it up Darkar," Sky spat, glaring at the creep who kidnapped his girlfriend. "We're going to put an end to this!"

"The only thing that's going to get put to an end is you!" Darkar shouted, hurling a powerful spell in their direction. Musa and Flora managed to side step it, but the rest where hit with a violet coloured spell that intensified the gravity being forced down on them. Floored by the sudden weight, the group fell to the ground alongside the still trapped Stella and Layla, and no matter how hard they tried they couldn't lift even one finger under the increased gravity.

"There's some kind of spell on me," Sky grunted, struggling to move. "I can't get up."

"Don't bother. I'll finish you off right where you are," Darkar grinned.

"No matter what you throw at us, we're going to save Bloom!"

"Save her? You make it sound like she doesn't want be here," Darkar almost purred, before turning to regard his new main girl. "Bloom, my dear, what is it that you want?"

"The Ultimate Power!" Bloom screamed in a gravely voice that was not her own. She was floating above the top of a pyramid-like altar, her hands raised above her head as she tried to gather the power. She was in her winx form, but it was not the outfit the boys were used to seeing. Her clothes and boots – which was usually a soft shade of pale blue – was now deepest black. Her wings now had an evil look about them, and her eyes had transformed from their beautiful shade of blue that Sky adored so much, to a wicked gold with cat-like pupils.

"Bloom!" Sky tried, but Bloom was too far into darkness to even hear his voice, let alone recognise it.

"You're not going to get away with this, Darkar!" Musa shouted, her body visibly shaking in rage.

"Oh, I think I am, and I highly doubt that a group of high school students are going to stop me!" Darkar growled, hurling another attack at the defenceless teens trapped on the ground. But Flora and Musa weren't about the let the Lord of Shadow Haunt hurt any more of their friends.

"Deflectus!" Musa shouted as she and Flora jumped in front of the attack to block it before it hit their friends. It held for a second, but then Flora's magic failed against the darkness of the Shadow Phoenix and her shield faulted, resulting in her bearing the bulk of Lord Darkar's attack.

"Ah! Flora!" Helia shouted as he watched her collapse onto the ground. He strained against the incredible weight bearing down on him to try to get to her, but he just couldn't move. His heart poured as he was forced to watch her lie lifelessly on the ground just a few feet away from him. He just felt so helpless. Flora stirred slightly and her green eyes fluttered open as she sought out his face.

"'M okay," she whispered before coughing feebly, but in actual fact, Lord Darkar's attack had drained her of most her energy. It was an effort for her to just remain conscious and keep breathing, so there was no way she'd be able to help rescue Bloom anymore.

"I'm gonna make you pay for that, Darkar," Musa growled, glaring at the Shadow Phoenix murderously.

"How are you going to do that when you don't exist anymore?" Lord Darkar asked her, conjuring up another of his dark spells and hurling it at her. Not expecting to find herself in the path of the most powerful spell she had ever encountered, Musa froze like a deer in headlights. Panic took over her mind to the point that even the idea of putting up a shield to protect herself never even occurred to her and all Musa could do was scream.

"No!" Riven shouted as he watched Musa do nothing to try and avoid the attack. She had promised him that she was going to come out of this okay, and he sure as hell was going to make sure she kept that promise. With strength that he didn't know he had, Riven forced himself on his feet. His knees nearly buckled under the gravity and the damaged muscles in his right leg cramped painfully, but none of that registered in his mind. Running forward, Riven leapt in front of Musa at just the last second took the attack head on. His heart seized as if it was caught in an ice, cold vice and his mind flooded with shadow, and he knew no more.

"Riven!" Musa exclaimed in horror as the specialist dropped to the ground, unconscious. Dropping down next to him, Musa forgot all about Lord Darkar and the Ultimate Power as she reached out to touch Riven's lifeless face with a trembling hand. His skin was cold beneath her hand and his breathing was slow and shallow. Placing her hand on his chest, Musa searched for a heartbeat, and when she found it, it was dangerously faint. Gripping the front of his uniform tightly, Musa willed him to respond to her with all the power in her heart, but when he continued to sleep, tears started to gather in the navy pools of her eyes.

Lord Darkar, however, found Riven's demise to be amusing and laughed out loud. "I guess that fool was what they call loyal to the end."

The teenagers all glared at the Shadow Phoenix, their fingers just itching to rip that creep apart for all the evil he had done, but any chance for them to even insult him was cut off when a dark, twisted yet strangely familiar voice came from somewhere up above. "Unlike you, Darkar."

Lord Darkar paused for a second, and then placed the voice. "Is that you Icy?"

It was Icy, but at the same time, it was not. A figure emerged from the portal, and it was like nothing any of them had ever seen before. It was human, but it was black like a silhouette and surrounded by an aura of purple, crimson and icy blue light. On her arms were Darcy and Stormy's gloomix's, and around her neck was the gloomix that belonged to Icy. Her hair was done up in pig tails that almost reached the floor, and when she spoke, her voice was a combination and overlap of the three Trix sisters. "Nobody uses us!"

"What do you want?" Lord Darkar demanded, not trouble at all by their sudden arrival.

"We want the Ultimate Power, just like you!" the Trix screamed. Instead of replying, Lord Darkar simply threw a spell at them, but the Trix easily teleported themselves away from the attack and reappeared behind him. "Ha!"

With a blast of cold air, the Trix attacked their former master from behind, encasing him in a block of ice. Lord Darkar's entombment was short lived, however, and with a blast of dark flames, he smashed his way out of the ice.

"So, do you think she has a chance?" Layla asked after she had flicked the last of the sludge off her. Although she was now free, the sludge had drained her and Stella of their energy, making them too weak to even consider going up against Lord Darkar. All their chances now lay, oddly enough, with the Trix.

"Maybe," Tecna shrugged. The Trix weren't the most dangerous witches in the universe for nothing, after all. "But it's small."

"Five percent?" Timmy estimated off the top of his head.

"As long as she's distracting Darkar, she's buying us time to try and figure this out," Stella pointed out, looking over at Bloom who was still summoning the energy to call upon the Ultimate Power.

"What do we do if she actually beats him?" Flora asked, daring to explore the possibility of that actually happening.

But even that was not a good scenario, as Tecna pointed out. "If either of them gains complete control of the Ultimate Power there will be no way to stop them."

"So either way, we're screwed," Brandon finally said out loud, watched the Trix try to tie Lord Darkar up with their pigtails, but their hold on his was short lived. The Trix persisted though, and the fight continued.

The darkness was suffocating.

Lost in a sea of nothing, Riven continued to float through shadow without the slightest sense of awareness of anything that surrounded him. His mind was dazed and distant, and every breath he took was an effort. He wasn't aware of anything. Not the emptiness that pressed in around him. Not the cold that had seeped into every inch of his body. Not even the dull thud of his heartbeat that steadily grew slower and fainter.

All that existed was black nothingness.

Riven . . .

Stirring slightly at the sound, Riven mind managed to focus for a second, but then the darkness returned and he let himself fall further into the black abyss that surrounded him.

Riven . . .

There it was again. Shaking himself, Riven struggled to keep his mind from slipping back into thoughtlessness even though every move he made was slow, like he was moving underwater. Darkness pressed in on his mind again and the desire to just fall back out of time and remain in the blackness was almost overwhelming, but somewhere above him he sensed someone reaching out to him. All he lacked was the strength to find them.

Please . . . wake up . . .

Something warm wrapped around him and the embrace gave him strength. Forcing his mind upwards, Riven tried to reach whatever was calling to him but it was like swimming towards a surface that was too far out of his reach. His chest burned and his strength started to leave him, and when the darkness pressed in on him again, it started to feel very welcoming.

Riven . . .

With an incredible amount of effort, Riven forced his eyes open. Gone was the blackness, but the distance and unawareness of his mind remained. Unable to focus his eyes, Riven looked around him in a lost, groggy state. The desire to sleep again was very strong, and he had almost let himself slip into it again when he felt something warm and soft touch his lips. Blinking, Riven tried to discover what the sweet feeling was that made his chest feel so warm, but darkness flooded his vision again and he sunk back beneath its surface.

"All you ever did was sit around and give us orders!" the Trix raged as their fight with Lord Darkar continued. So far, Lord Darkar had been able to survive anything that the Trix had thrown at him, but the Trix were persistent – bless their little souls – and weren't about to give up. "Well guess what; we're now the boss of you!"

With a wicked sounding crack, the Trix blasted another hex at the Shadow Phoenix, but despite all their efforts, they didn't even make a dint in his armour. With an evil hiss, Lord Darkar began to summon up a terribly dark attack to counter the witches efforts, when Bloom suddenly let out a delighted, animal-like growl, which was just the signal Lord Darkar had been waiting for. "It's time to give us the Ultimate Power!" she screamed, her golden eyes burning with malicious intent.

"No Bloom!" Sky shouted, but she couldn't even hear him. "No!"

"I'll take that Bloom," the Trix told her, flying towards the dark fairy.

"No you won't," Darkar objected, blasting them from behind and sending them crashing into a pillar with terrible force. Knocked out cold, the Trix dropped to the ground in their combined state, and there they stayed for the rest of the battle. "No one's the boss of me!"

With a delighted growl, Bloom summoned the Ultimate Power. It burned between her hands in a bright purple and red light, and everyone who was still conscious could feel its power pulsate.

"Wait for me, my dear," Lord Darkar grinned, transforming into his Shadow Phoenix form and flying up to his position behind Bloom, officially joining the powers of darkness and light. "Let's do it."

"Bloom! No!" Sky shouted, but she still didn't hear him. Sky's chest constricted as he watched his girlfriend get used by Lord Darkar for his own twisted purposes. He knew that this was never what Bloom had wanted. She was a good person. She had risked so much in the past for others and now, when she needed help the most there was no one there that could help her. She had saved the Realm of Magix from the Army of Decay the year before. She had braved Shadow Haunt to help rescue the pixies. And she had saved Sky when Icy had spelled him into a hundred year sleep, and he sure as hell wasn't going to let that debt be unpaid.

"The power is ours!" Lord Darkar cheered loudly. After years of planning and waiting, his dreams were finally being realised. He had spent decades torturing that cloud spirit to do his bidding. He had waited years for the heir to the throne of Sparx to realise her power and master it. And now, after all this time, the Ultimate Power was his.

"No!" Stella and Flora both screamed in unison, refusing to believe that this was how it was going to end.

"And now, Bloom will hand it over to me and I will rule all the realms!"

"Sky," Lockette begged, her little voice wavering, but Sky knew what she was asking him. He was the only one who could turn her back to the fairy that she once was. He was the only one who could reach her heart and connect her back to her true self. Only he could do it.

The question was, just how was he going to do that?

"If I can talk to her, maybe she'll listen and I can reach beyond the spell," Sky suggested. It was a long shot, but at the moment it was the only option open to them. Forcing himself onto his feet, Sky stood up and stumbled towards her. Lord Darkar's spell was still weighing heavily on him, but he endured the pain and pressure until he was standing directly in front of his girlfriend at the foot of the altar.

"Sky?" Brandon called, but Sky ignored him. All his attention was fixed on his girlfriend.

"What are you going to do? Ask her to the prom?" Lord Darkar taunted. "Sorry, she's busy."

"Bloom," Sky called, but again she didn't respond to his voice. Her mind was focused on the Ultimate Power.

"Give me the power now, Bloom!" Lord Darkar ordered, and Bloom began to comply. Doubt gnawed at Sky mind. What if he couldn't save her? Bloom and the universe as he knew it would be lost forever and it would be all his fault. How was he supposed to fight darkness that deep? He didn't have any magic. All he had was his sword and that was no use to him now. What the hell was he supposed to do? But then, deep at the back of his mind, a voice echoed, giving his strength.

You have a good heart, Prince Sky of Eraklyon . . . full of understanding and love . . . You will need it before this is over . . .

"Wait Bloom, try to listen to my voice," Sky begged. "It's me, your boyfriend."

"Huh?" Bloom grunted, and for a second, Sky thought that maybe he had finally gotten through to her, but then she laughed evilly again and he knew that he would have to try harder.

"Darkar put you under a spell."

"Ah?" Bloom growled, but he could see that there was a bit of confusion in her gold eyes.

"This is not who you are. You're not evil. You may not be able to see it now Bloom but you have a true heart," Sky told her.

"He doesn't know anything," Lord Darkar hissed at Bloom, trying to keep her focused on seizing the ultimate power, but that annoying little human was putting doubts in her head, and no matter how much dark magic Lord Darkar radiated, memories started returning to Bloom and he couldn't chase them away (3).

"I know what your heart is like," Sky continued. Bloom was watching him more intensely now, her expression a combination of confusion and irritation. "I've felt it. Your heart is full of light, Bloom. Your heart is so pure and good that it saved me."

"Huh?" Bloom grunted again, as an image of the boy speaking flashed in her mind, only in this picture he was lying cold and still at the base of an oversized set of scales.

"You didn't let me go and I'm not going to let you go so you have to fight this, Bloom. You have to break free. You have to come back because I . . . love you," Sky finally admitted. He had known it ever since that night in the Resort Realm when they had been listening to the herblasaurs cooing to one another, but he hadn't had the courage to speak it until now. Never in his life had he met a girl who affected him the way Bloom did. She challenged him to be a better person and gave him something to protect. Not that she really needed protecting, mind you. She was brave, strong, loyal and caring. In Sky's eyes there was no other girl in the universe that was on the same level as Bloom, and he just wanted her to know that before it was too late.

But it was getting to be too late. Sky suddenly felt exhausted as his strength left him after trying to fight Lord Darkar's spell for too long. His balance wavering, Sky was unable to stop his legs from giving way and suddenly collapsed to the ground, his body utterly spent.

"Sky!" Brandon cried as he watched his friend fall, but there was nothing that he could do to help him. There was nothing any of them could do now. Lord Darkar was going to get the Ultimate Power and there was no way they could change that. The universe was going to fall into shadow under the reign of the Lord of Shadow Haunt and there was nothing they could do about it.

Lord Darkar seemed to have realised this as well and was practically purring in evil delight. "It looks like his time is up. In fact, all your time is up!"

"Something's happening!" Lockette suddenly squealed, grabbing everyone's attention. No one could see what she was talking about and all assumed that Lord Darkar was beginning to seize control of the Ultimate Power, but that assumption ended when they noticed the Shadow Phoenix start to panic.

"Bloom! What are you doing?" Darkar suddenly exclaimed, watching in horror as the dark fairy beneath him started to glow a yellow aura so bright that it actually hurt his eyes. That horror turned to unbridled panic when her black outfit suddenly reverted back to pale blue and she lowered her hands from above her head, taking with them the Ultimate Power. "You can't take that!!"

"She's breaking free!" Lockette cheered, her big eyes glowing in happiness and relief. Lowering herself down off the pyramid, Bloom let the bright light surrounding her fade slightly, but there was still a warmth that radiated from her, and when her friends felt it, they felt their strength start to return to them.

Lord Darkar, however, was less than impressed. "You get back here!! That power's mine!!"

But no one was listening to him rage. They were all too preoccupied with the sudden change in Bloom. "How did she do it?" Stella wondered out loud.

Feeling her powers return to her, Flora got to her feet, beaming widely. "She used the power in her heart to fight the darkness."

"I can feel it," Timmy said as the heaviness that had been pushing down on him lifted and he was suddenly able to stand up again, and the others followed suit as soon as the spell wore off them.

Meanwhile, the darkness that had engulfed Riven began to dissolve and he slowly became conscious of his surroundings. He was aware of the fact that he was leaning against something warm and soft that smelt very good to him, and when he finally had the strength to lift his eyelids, he looked up to discover a pair of familiar navy eyes staring down at him.

"Musa?" he croaked weakly. For some reason, Musa freaked out when she saw him looking up at her, and suddenly scrambled out from underneath him so that she could crawl away from him. Her sudden departure resulted in Riven falling backwards and cracking his head on the stone floor beneath him to which his swore loudly. Rubbing the back of his head, Riven sat up slowly, but he was still too weak and disorientated to find his feet.

Not that anyone ever saw his suffering. All their attention was on Bloom and the Ultimate Power which flickered for a moment in Bloom's hands, before disappearing.

"No!!" Lord Darkar howled as he watched all his hopes and dream vanish before his very eyes. "What did you do to it?!"

"I gave it back. The Ultimate Power is staying in Realix where it belongs," Bloom informed everyone, her voice returned to its usual form. Descending to the ground, Bloom landed right in front of Sky, who was beginning to find that the strength in his legs was returning to him once more. Looking up slowly, Sky's blue eyes widened at the beautiful sight that awaited him.

"Bloom?" Sky gasped, almost afraid to believe it was really her standing in front of him.

"Sky!" Bloom cried, throwing her arms around him and squeezing him tightly. Sky blinked for a moment, still not willing to let himself believe that this was really true, but when the dream didn't dissolve, he quickly returned the hug, taking in the delight of finally having her back in his arms.

"She's back!" Stella cheered, unable to contain herself.

"I just knew you'd come back to us!" Lockette told Bloom and everyone cheered loudly.

"Yeah!" Brandon shouted, unable to keep a smile off his face. Still grinning, the squire jogged over to help Helia drag Riven to his feet. "You alright, man?"

"'M fine. I'm fine," Riven waved off, but he paused when he got a good look at his surroundings. "Where the hell are we?"

But there was no time to kick-start Riven's memory, because at that moment, Codatorta, Ms. Faragonda and Professor Griffin passed through the portal, and the combat instructor instantly began barking orders at his students. "There they are. Ideina Formation, boys!"

"Let's go!" all the boys shouted at once. They may have been a tad giddy from the delight of having Bloom back on their side or may have been still gathering their wits after being knocked out cold, but they were still heroes and quickly got themselves into a defensive position just as their instructor ordered. Lord Darkar was desperate and dangerous, and he still had the most powerful dark magic in the universe.

"It doesn't have to end this way!" Lord Darkar told them, giving them a chance to accept his mercy. "Give me Bloom and I'll spare you!"

In response to his offer, Timmy pulled out his bee kicker blaster, Brandon grabbed his double beam sabre, Sky removed his sword and shield, Riven extended his sabre and Helia had his laser gloves ready. And in case that wasn't clear enough, Sky told him a strong "No!" as he extended his sword. Surrounding the girls, the boys were willing to take on anything in order to protect them, even if it was the Shadow Phoenix himself.

"I'm really looking forward to taking this guy down," Layla admitted.

"It's going to take all six of us giving everything we have," Stella told her fellow Winx Club members.

"We'll use our charmix," Flora suggested.

"The power of six charmix converging at once," Bloom grinned. That was going to be some serious magic.

But Lord Darkar would not be denied. "I'm going to take Bloom!"

"You stay away from my girl!" Sky shouted back at the oversized pigeon.

"Ready Faragonda?" Professor Griffin asked in an oddly clam voice.

"More than ready," the elderly Headmistress of Alfea smirked, looking as though she was really going to enjoy this. With a blast of dark energy from his beak, Lord Darkar fired an attack directly at the group, but the group of heroes in training easily deflected it with their weapons.

While simultaneously spinning his double edge light sabre to block Lord Darkar's attack, Brandon glanced back over his shoulder to address the girls who were all focusing their magic and minds in order to pull off a successful convergence. "Go for it! We'll cover you."

With a flap of his giant wings, Lord Darkar flew over to hover in front of Ms. Faragonda and Professor Griffin, who he believed would be the only real threat as far as magic went. Even with Bloom, what did those high school fairies think they could accomplish? "Bloom belongs to me!" Darkar shouted, attacking the two Headmistresses.

"Go-oxus!" the witch and fairy spelled together, and a shield suddenly erected itself, protecting all of them. "Contago!"

"Ready?" Layla asked, looking at her friends.

"We have to put all our power into this so we'll only have one shot," Musa reminded them all. Lord Darkar was still incredibly powerful, so it was going to take all their magic to take him out.

"We're going to need complete and total synchronicity," Tecna told them.

"And we'll need absolute trust," Stella added, but they were the Winx Club, and they had all that even without having to think about it.

"Let's do it!" Flora cheered.

"Charmix time!" Bloom shouted, and in a blast of white light, the fairies all activated their charmix's.

"I sure hope this works," Brandon whispered through gritted teeth as the six fairies all joined hands in a circle and started to concentrate all their power into their last attack.

"Trust 'em, bro. They got it," Sky replied confidently. When the Winx Club all joined together, there was nothing they couldn't do. In the centre of their circle, an intense concentration of energy was forming, and it was powerful enough to even challenge Lord Darkar.

"Winx Club Charmix Convergence!" the girls all cried at once. The spell reached its full strength and moved out from the centre of the fairies. The boys all felt it as it past over them, but it was a warm and loving feeling that was so apart of what the Winx Club embodies. With a powerful sweep, the spell past out of the shield and hit Lord Darkar head on.

"No!! This can't be happening!!" Lord Darkar screamed as the positive, white magic hit him, tearing apart his shadow powers. Writhing in terrible agony, Lord Darkar tried desperately to escape the attack, but there was no stopping anything that came out of the Winx Club. "No!! No!! Nooo!!!"

With one final scream, Lord Darkar of Shadow Haunt vanished, never to be seen again.

"Yes!" Sky grinned widely to himself, but that grin faded slightly when it became apparent that the Realm of Realix had only remained open to them because of the energy that Lord Darkar had received when he had activated the Codex. Without Lord Darkar, the Realm of Realix and the very foundations of Shadow Haunt began to fall apart. In a flicker, the Realm of Realix vanished and they were all returned to Darkar's throne room which was shuttering dangerously as the castle began to collapse.

"Is he gone?" Chatta asked, peering around the room, but there was no sign of Lord Darkar, or the Trix for that matter.

"Yes. Darkar is over," Ms. Faragonda told her, sounding very relieved.

"It is time for us to leave," Concorda told them as another violent tremor ripped through the fortress.

"Come on! This way!" Sky shouted over the noise, heading off down the tunnel towards where they had left the squad ship.

"Let's go!" Bloom urged, as everyone bolted after him. The cavern groaned as large boulders came loose from the ceiling and stalactites dropped down dangerously. Luckily, the squad ship hadn't been hit by too big a rock when they had returned to it, and before Timmy was even properly seated he was punching in the codes for take off.

"You think Amentia got out okay?" Brandon asked at the door to the ship closed.

"I wouldn't worry about her," Layla said again. "I'm sure those Down Landers know what to do in case of a cavern collapse."

"Alright guys, let's go home!" Timmy suggested as the engines kicked into gear. And with one final blast, the ship took off and sped out of Shadow Haunt, just as the fortress collapsed in on itself.

"So you really remember nothing about Realix?" Timmy asked Riven as they and the rest of their squad sat around waiting for the girls to make an entrance at the prom. They had all returned back home safe and sound, and as soon as they were showered and fed, the boys had headed over to Alfea for prom, which was once again being conveniently held after all the danger had passed.

"I remember entering the portal and then next thing I knew those two were dragging me to my feet," Riven said, jerking his head in Brandon and Helia's direction who were sitting to the left of him. "Between that; totally blank. Why? Did I miss something good?"

His friends all exchanged sly looks, but it was Brandon who answered. "Yeah, Dark Bloom. Even though she was technically evil, she still looked totally hot in that outfit!" Brandon told him enthusiastically. He suddenly felt someone glaring daggers into him, and it turned out to be his prince. "What? It's a compliment, dude."

"And yet strangely, I don't feel flattered in any way," Sky noted. "How would you like it if I said something like that about Stella?"

"I think it'd be great. Then we can have big long conversations that go for hours about how gorgeous she looks."

"Are you talking about me, Brandon?" a voice asked, and everyone looked up to discover that Queen Amentia and Sponsus were standing in front of them, the former of which had been the one to speak. Under Ms. Faragonda's invitation, the witches of Cloud Tower and the trogs of Down Land had been encouraged to attend this year's prom and they had both agreed. A few fairies had disagreed with the arrival of witches at their party, and Brandon had been less than thrilled when Amentia had accepted her invitation. "I'm sorry, Brandon, but there is no way we shall ever be together. Sponsus is my husband and you are just unworthy of me."

"Oh how will I ever live with the rejection?" Brandon pondered aloud in a deadpanned voice. All his friends knew he was being sarcastic, but it didn't register to the two Down Landers.

"You'll just have to learn."

"Thank you very much for inviting us to the party," Sponsus said in his dreamy voice. "Your school's really quite lovely."

"It's not our school," Brandon told him bluntly, earning him an elbow to the ribs from Sky, but Sponsus was so docile that he didn't take offence.

"What a pity. This school glows like the hemian crystals, and I sense the spirits surrounding this place are very peaceful," Sponsus continued to drone on. "And I much prefer being Up World while the sun is away. The moon does not drain our energy so quickly, which will allow us to stay at the party for longer."

"But not too long," Amentia said firmly, much to Brandon's delight. "We still have to return home and complete the post Up World cleansing routine. Spirits knows how many germs and diseases we could pick up in this cess pool. Which reminds me; I've brought gifts for you all."

Amentia snapped her fingers, and in an instant two of her entourage appeared out of nowhere, and they each held three small boxes made out of some kind of clay like substance. Hesitantly, the boys accepted the boxes and after a moments pause and several worried glances at one another, they lifted the lid to the box and peered inside.

"Oh, how sweet," Sky forced a smile as he removed his gift. "You got us all bar soap."

"Let me guess; antibacterial?" Brandon asked.

"Is there anything better?" Amentia questioned, and it took to boys a moment before they realised she was being completely serious. "They're from my private stores and they all have Down Land's royal seal etched into them. They'll work so much better than that body wash the yellow haired wench brought you, Brandon. If you ever want any more, just come to Down Land and I might spare you some."

"How very kind of you."

"Brandon, be nice," Sky growled before looking back at Queen Amentia with another forced smile. "Thank you very much, Your Majesty. It's an honour."

"Well, of course," Amentia said with a flick of her hair. "Now, if you boys excuse me, my husband and I must meet with the headmasters of your schools here to discuss how they intend to honour Down Land in its contribution to the downfall of Lord Darkar."

"Wow," Helia breathed as soon as the two trogs left them.

Riven nodded. "That girl is seven different levels of crazy."

"And Brandon was almost married to her," Timmy reminded everyone.

"Not by choice! As if I would ever choose that pale, self-centred, control freak over my beautiful, loving, fabulous Stella," Brandon said stiffly, but his expression changed dramatically when he caught sight of his girlfriend stepping out of the front entrance of her school with the rest of her friends. "Especially when she looks that good in that dress."

"Snookums!" Stella squealed as soon as she noticed him. With a wide smile, she ran up to him and threw herself into his lap, giggling like a delighted child. Not even noticing the sudden pain in his legs, Brandon wrapped one arm tightly around her waist while the other cupped her face so that he could capture her lips with his. Tilting her head to allow him better access to her lips, Stella returned the kiss with equal passion, not caring at all that they were currently sitting in the middle of all his friends. With her manicured nails digging into his jacket, Stella tormented her boyfriend with a skilled combination of lips, tongue and teeth. Unable to hold back a quiet moan, Brandon subtly rubbed her body against his and he chased her tongue around both their mouths. Her taste was more intoxicating than wine and when he ran his hands across the soft skin that her gorgeous outfit exposed, Brandon utterly forgot about the rest of the world.

That was until he felt a shove from Sky.

"Brandon! For gods sake, you're in public," Sky reminded his squire sharply, but he only managed to distract Brandon long enough so that he could shoot a sly smile at his prince before he returned to ravishing his girlfriend.

"This is exactly why you should have let me bring alcohol," Riven commented to Sky, his expression slightly nauseous as Brandon and Stella continued to express their affection for one another.

"You're just jealous," Stella grinned, tilting her head backwards so she could look at Riven upside-down while Brandon grazed on her neck.

"I think the word you're looking for is traumatised."

"Alright guys, knock it off," Sky put his foot down. "You can find some secluded, dark corner later and then you can amuse yourselves all you want."

"Can I take that as a royal command, my prince?" Brandon asked slyly, causing Sky's ears to turn red. The squire laughed loudly at his friend's prudish nature, but he did stop making out with his girlfriend while the others were around. She did, however, remain seated in his lap.

"This party's going off," Layla noted, looking around her at all the other guests. She had never seen Alfea this crowded before. "I mean, check out this place. Witches, trogs and ogres."

"Oh my!" Bloom grinned, getting amusement out of her comment that the others missed.

"This is the first time that the students from Cloud Tower have attended Alfea's prom ever since the schools both started," Tecna informed everyone. "This is a very auspicious occasion."

"Well, I'm just glad to be spending it with all of you guys. Especially Bloom," Flora smiled sweetly. "It's great to have you back."

"It's great to be back," Bloom told them, her voice sincere. "I would have never been able to fight Lord Darkar's spell without you guys, and it was the combined strength of all of us that ended up defeating him and saving the universe. I could have never done it alone."

"Well, we've always got your back, Bloom. No matter what," Musa promised her.

"Winx Club forever!" Chatta cheered.

"And pixies too!" Amore added.

"And as long as we're all together, no one's gonna be getting their hands on the Ultimate Power on our watch," Stella grinned.

"Speaking of the Ultimate Power, we have a question for Bloom," Timmy suddenly spoke up.

Bloom blinked. "Oh?"

"It's a very serious question," Riven warned her.

"It's practically divided our school," Helia added.

"What we were wondering, was that for that brief moment that you had the Ultimate Power, did you happen find out who would win the ultimate battle; pirates or ninjas?" Brandon asked.

"You're kidding me right?" Bloom asked, staring at the boys in disbelief, but the expression they all wore was one hundred percent serious.

"No, we're not," Sky assured her in a serious voice. "Who would win the ultimate battle; pirates or ninjas?"

"Well no offence, but I think you're ignoring the bigger picture here; Pirate Ninjas. How cool would that be?" Bloom said. The boys all stared at her in total awe as they all suddenly saw the light.

"Pirate Ninjas," Brandon repeated. "Of course. It makes perfect sense."

"The ultimate battle would be won by the ultimate warrior," Timmy agreed. "We have to tell the others."

"And we better do it soon. There have been fist fights over this debate. It's only a matter of time before its out and out war," Sky predicted.

"The universe could be at stake," Riven pointed out.


"These are the universes future heroes?" Layla asked, her expression one of shock. She'd admit that the boys had earned more of her respect than they had at the start of the year, but when they started going on about pirate ninjas she started to think less of them again.

"Apparently," Musa shrugged.

"Makes you wonder if they're actually learning anything in that school of theirs," Stella smirked at Brandon, who squeezed her tight enough so that she squealed. With a devilish little laugh, Stella jumped to her feet before turning around to drag Brandon to his own. "Now let's party!"

Sky wasn't sure how it happened, but about two hours after prom had officially kicked off, he found himself trapped in a conversation about laundry detergent with the trog Sponsus. Needless to say that it was Sponsus who did most of the talking since Sky had never actually had to do his own laundry prior to attending Red Fountain, but by the time Queen Amentia marched over to them and demanded that her husband ask her to dance so she could show these Up Worlders how it was done, Sky was willing to go a round with the merged Trix Sisters if it meant not having to endure hearing about another of Sponsus's washing techniques.

With his new found freedom from fabric softeners, Sky slipped through the crowd in search of his girlfriend. When he couldn't spot her amongst all the other fairies, heroes and witches, Sky started checking out more secluded parts of the school. He thought that she might have been hanging out by the wishing well like she had been doing during last years prom, but the person he did find there wasn't the Last Princess of Sparx.

"Good evening, Prince Sky," Avalon greeted formally, his cobalt eyes glancing at the prince for a second before returning to the glass of wine he was swirling in his hand. Normally, there was a strict no alcohol on campus rule that even the teachers had to abide too – although there was still some question into what exactly went into those 'milkshakes' of theirs – but no one was going to deny a man who had spent the last year held hostage in Shadow Haunt a drink.

"Good evening, professor," Sky replied politely, but he couldn't help but feel a little awkward around the paladin. After all, he had spent the last year hating the man who had called himself Avalon and although that man turned out to be an impostor, Sky still felt as cautious around this Avalon as he did around the fake one. Or maybe it had something to do with the tragic end of the impostor Dusja, Sky couldn't be sure. All he knew was that the longer the silence dragged out, the more uncomfortable he became.

Sky was on the edge of making up some made up and probably unbelievable excuse to slink off when Avalon suddenly spoke, making Sky jump slightly.

"You're one of the ones who went to Shadow Haunt, were you not?" Avalon asked, his eyes still fixed on his wine.

"Yes sir," Sky answered formally.

"I see. Did you . . ." Avalon started, but then he stopped so he could reword his question. "While you were down there, you didn't happen to find out what happened to the cloud spirit that had been impersonating me all this year, now did you?"

"You mean Dusja? Yeah, we saw him," Sky answered hesitantly. Avalon looked up at the mention of the cloud spirit's real name, but his expression remained unreadable. For his part, Sky felt rather uncomfortable discussing Lord Darkar's servant with a man who shared the same face of the man in question. The prince was also troubled by the cloud spirit's death and the knowledge of what a horrible life he must have lived, so he paused briefly before adding, "Unfortunately, he died."

A strange emotion flickered across Avalon's face at the news. There was an obvious level of shock which Sky could easily identify, but there was also some other emotion there and it wasn't until Avalon returned his gaze to his drink that Sky recognized it; grief.

"You knew him," Sky said suddenly, causing the paladin to look up again. "Didn't you?"

"Dusja? Yes, I knew him," Avalon answered, his eyes becoming distant. "He was one of the most noble cloud spirits I had ever met. His heart was so pure and his dedication to protecting others from darkness was something to be admired, even though it was most likely the reason for him to venture to Shadow Haunt in the first place. I guess he must have sensed what was growing down there and went to stop it. That's just like Dusja to want to stop evil in all its forms. He had built a very successful career doing just that."

"Until he ran into the Shadow Phoenix," Sky noted quietly.

Avalon fell silent again, staring off into the distance. He took a long drink of his wine before sighing deeply. "Just over twenty years."


"Just over twenty years," Avalon said again. "That's how long it's been since Dusja vanished. It was no coincidence that Lord Darkar chose this year to target Bloom and her powers. He's been aware of whom she was and the power that she was destined to wheeled ever since Sparx was destroyed. He had waited decades for everything to fall into place. He had successfully broken Dusja, kidnapped me to steal my identity and Bloom was aware of her power though still inexperienced with it, making it all the more easier for him to manipulate. My own fear now is that there is something else out there, waiting for its perfect chance to strike."

Avalon fell silent at that stage, and Sky had no idea of how to respond it something like that. Here was a man who had had his life stolen by a dear friend who everyone believed had vanished when in actual fact was being brutally tortured by Lord Darkar, and now he was predicting more danger in their future. What could an adolescent teenager say to something like that?

Suddenly, Avalon snapped out of his trance and looked over at the prince with a soft smile that would make his female students swoon. "But you shouldn't spend your night listening to an old man like me. You are young, so go and enjoy yourself. These moments are fleeting – even in the long life of a paladin – so you must embrace it while you can, and I'm sure that your girlfriend is expecting at least one dance out of you tonight."

"Yeah, I just gotta find her. Goodnight, professor."


Sky turned and walked away a few steps, but then he suddenly stopped and looked back over his shoulder at the paladin. "Just so you know, Dusja died saving me and my friends from a surprise attack by a shadow monster."

The only response was a small flutter of a smile at the corner of Avalon's lips, but Sky could tell that that little bit of information was greatly appreciated by him. "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

Even though all enemies had been defeated, there was still one final battle that needed to be fought on the grounds of Alfea. Sliding on his gloves and placing his goggles over his eyes, Timmy shot a challenging grin over at Tecna whose blood was pulsing with the fire of competition.

"Watch out Timmy," Tecna warned, her voice serious and her mind focused. "Last time I played this game I set a new record."

"Well I like a good challenge," Timmy admitted to her, but just because they were now technically dating, didn't mean that he was going to go easy on her.

"Go Tecna!" Digit cheered as the video game started up. Tecna was good at video games, but there were students at Red Fountain who treated gaming like a sport, and Timmy was one of them so that the end result was incredibly close. However, there could only be one winner, and to Tecna's great surprise, it wasn't her.

"Well Timmy. I'm impressed," Tecna admitted, sliding her goggles off. "I thought I knew most of the moves in that game, but I never seen that move where you blasted a fire element into the ground and caused magma to explode out of the ground."

"Not many people know the codes to do that, but it's easy to learn," Timmy told her, removing his own goggles and running his hand through his hair. "I've got a whole bunch of cheat sheets back in my room at Windox."

"You'll have to teach them to me sometime," Tecna said coyly, and Timmy suddenly had a mental image of having Tecna alone in his room back at home, and the thoughts that entered his mind after that was enough to make his ears turn a light shade of red. Timmy coughed nervously at the thought, but that didn't stop a smile from creeping across his face.

"I'd teach you, but then I'd have to kill you," he joked, and Tecna's turquoise eyes twinkled in amusement.

"Oh really?"

"Afraid so."

"Surely there must be some way to change your mind?" Tecna pondered, edging closer to him.

"There might be," Timmy told her, his eyes flicking between her eyes and her lips. Finally, unable to keep up this little game of theirs, Timmy moved forward and kissed her boldly, to which Tecna responded eagerly. Wrapping her arms around Timmy's neck, Tecna moved her lips against his with the passion that had built up between them over the last two years. To an outsider, the kiss may have seemed rather tame – especially when compared to the public displays of affection Brandon and Stella put on – but for Timmy and Tecna, the kiss was more mind-blowing than the latest technological advances.

"Did that sway you mind?" Tecna asked slyly when the pair had parted.

Timmy shrugged offhandedly. "I might be tempted to spare your life."

Despite Timmy's casual response, Tecna grinned. "I'm the only one who actually understands you when you start talking about programs and computes. How would you manage without me?"

"I wouldn't," Timmy admitted with a laugh, and with wide smile he pulled Tecna in to another affectionate kiss.

Brandon could not believe how much of a fool he had been all year. Here he was dancing with the most beautiful girl to ever grace the halls of Alfea – in his opinion – and he had almost thrown that all away so carelessly. Well, as long as there was breathe in his body, Brandon vowed to never to let himself take Stella for grated again.

"You look beautiful, Snookums," Brandon told her as she spun her across the dance floor. He was well aware that most of the people lining the dance floor were watching them, and with Stella looking as radiant as she was, Brandon couldn't blame them.

Her eyes shinning merrily, Stella gave him a dazzling smile that made Brandon feel light headed. "And you look handsome, Sugar Bear."

Grinning widely, Brandon spun Stella around again, delighting in the way her blonde hair fluttered out behind her like a beautiful, golden wave. The scent of her perfume tickled his nose and made his mind swim and he still marvelled at how soft her skin was as he rubbed his fingers against hers while they danced. But when his fingers brushed across something metallic, Brandon shifted his eyes from hers down to her hands. "You're wearing the ring I gave you again."

"Of course I am," Stella said, glossing over the fact that she hadn't been wearing it since their fight. "After all, I love it."

"And I love you," Brandon told her again before kissing her soundly. The dancing forgotten, Stella stood up on tippy-toes and threw her arms around his neck. With an undisguised groan of satisfaction, Stella pressed her body firmly against his and bit down on his bottom lip. Pain translated into pleasure, and Brandon wrapped his arms tightly around her waist and lifted her feet off the ground. Stella's tongue was taunting and teasing and always just out of Brandon's reach, but he would never give up the chase. Not when the prize was so great.

The cut of her dress gave Brandon access to the soft skin at the small of her back and he got strange feeling of satisfaction when he once again realised that the span of his hand reached all the way across her back. Stella's fingers had found their way into his hair and her nails scraped against the tender skin of his scalp, spending bolts of pleasure shooting down his spine. His lips tingled as the pressure on them grew to be borderline too much, but he wouldn't stop even for a whole year of examination passes.

He was considering suggesting to Stella that they sneak off and find that dark corner Sky had suggested earlier when an alarming roaring sound filled his ears and the couple found themselves in the centre of a spinning vortex of air. Brandon's first thought was of Stormy, but his panic dropped a little when he saw a familiar flash of violet and burgundy circulating around them.

"Hello," Dominique greeted as soon as she slowed enough to be seen. Her sea grey eyes shone with malicious amusement when she saw the irritation in Brandon's face at being interrupted like that, and she looked like she was really enjoying herself.

"Hello Dominique," Brandon replied, barely able to keep the acid out of his voice. "What a delight it is to see you again."

"I know," Dominique grinned with the wicked confidence only a witch could properly pull off. "I just came to show you my jeans. They look good, don't they?"

"Very nice," Brandon agreed, a sly smile spreading across his face at the memory of the last time he saw them. "The only shame is that they cover your lovely legs."

"All the better to torment you boys with," Dominique informed him before her grey eyes shifted to Stella. The witch's expression instantly changed to a slightly defensive one as she regarded the fairy, but Dominique was a smart girl and she knew she was a guest in this school, so she kept her tongue civil. "Congratulations on defeating Lord Darkar. The universe owes you and your friends a debt of gratitude."

"No big. That's just what we fairies do," Stella told her with a flick of her golden hair. Dominique's eyes turned stony and the muscles in her jaw tightened in an effort to keep her mouth shut. Realising the that the witch didn't find Stella's sense of humour to be at all funny, Stella fell on her fall back subject of conversation; fashion. "Oh, cute boots."

"They're dragon hind," Dominique informed her, glancing down at the boots that her friend Calleigh had finally agreed to let her borrow.

"Cute," Stella said again. "Not that I would ever buy a pair, but they're not bad . . . for a witch."

"Thank you," Dominique replied in such a way that it was impossible to tell if she was insulted or not. With cold eyes, the witch regarded Stella's outfit and she was silent for a frightening amount of time before making a comment. "Your dress is very nice . . . for a fairy."

"So you'd never be caught dead in it?" Stella asked with a sly grin that the witch surprisingly enough returned.


"There you are," a voice breathed, and a second later Lex stumbled up to them. He looked exhausted, as if he had just run a marathon and since he was Dominique's boyfriend that probably wasn't far from the truth. Dominique stilled as she glanced at him and then, moving so quickly that if you had blinked you would have missed it, she vanished in a flash, leading Lex off in another chase. Lex groaned loudly. "She's been doing that to me all night."

With a tragic sigh, Lex jogged off in the direction the blur had vanished. He'd never be able to catch her unless she wanted him too, but the short Red Fountain student would never stop chasing her.

"They're a weird couple," Stella commented after they had left.

"They're weird people," Brandon reminded her. But they couldn't stand around in the middle of the dance floor discussing the oddities of people, so at Brandon's invitation, the pair started to dance again. After all, the night was still young and that darkened corner wasn't going anywhere.

Even though romance in the air and end of year hook-ups were occurring in every pocket of the school, there was one pairing that no one could have anticipated.

Grasping each others hand across the table, Codatorta strained against the unyielding strength of the ogre Knut as they participated in a traditional arm wrestle. The pride of both Red Fountain and Alfea were on the line, and neither faculty member was willing to let their school down.

Finally, with a painful sounding bang, Codatorta overpowered Knut and sent his big, yellow fist slamming down onto the table.

"Yeah! I beat the ogre!" Codatorta cheered loudly while Knut sulked. Standing not far from the two of them, Riven shook his head at the way his professor was carrying on. Wasn't it Codatorta who was always lecturing him about bad sportsmanship?

"Can you believe the two of them?" Riven asked Jared, who he had somehow ended up with. "It's pathetic."

"Even more pathetic than you standing here when you'd rather be off with Musa?" Jared asked boldly. Riven shot his classmate a hard look, but Jared refused to be intimidated by it. Jared had accepted the fact that Musa had feelings for someone else, but he wasn't about to stand around and let Riven hesitate over something that plenty of other guys would love to have. "Why don't you just ask her to dance?"

"I can't ask her to dance 'cause I can't dance," Riven informed him with a filthy look that indicated that there was no way the journalist was going to change his mind about it. But even as Jared tried to construct an argument in his mind, Layla put her own plan in motion to get Musa what she wanted for prom. Twirling herself around until she was standing right in front of the two specialists, she reached out and grabbed an unsuspecting Riven by the wrist.

"C'mere!" Layla ordered, dragging Riven forward. Completely unprepared, Riven helplessly followed her lead, dropping the can of drink he had in his hand in the process. His violet eyes turned slightly panicked when Layla released him and flung him directly into Musa's awaiting arms on the dance floor. Her fingers intertwined with his and Riven felt his pulse quicken, but whether it was from how close his face was to hers or from what he knew Layla had dragged him out here to do, he couldn't tell.

"I can't dance," Riven admitted quickly, hoping beyond hope that she would take pity on him and let him go. But instead all she did was laugh.

"I'll teach you," Musa offered, pushing him backwards so that they weren't right in the centre of the dance floor. Once they had their own space, Musa place one of Riven's hands on her hip and then place her free hand on his shoulder. Even though the pair had only three points of contact, Musa could tell that Riven's body was completely tense. "Just relax."

"I am," Riven assured her, even though he was as anxious as a person who was going into surgery without anaesthetic might be.

"Yeah, I don't believe that for a second."

"I had a feeling you'd say something like that."

"C'mon! It'll be fun!" Musa grinned, leading him off in a dance. Riven might have been actually been pretty good at dancing given all the footwork he had had to learn with his sword work and thievery, but he was that nervous and uncomfortable that any chance he had was ripped to shreds. He kept tripping over his own feet and stepping on Musa's, and nothing he did seemed to make it any easier. "Riven, don't look at your feet."

"Why not?" Riven asked, looking Musa in the eye. It made perfect sense to him that if he watched his feet, it would lessen the chance on him stepping on them.

"Because if you look at the ground, you'll end up on it," Musa repeated what her dance teacher had told her when she was nine years old. "Just chillax. You're doing fine."

"And you're lying. I'm doing horribly," Riven said even though it was bleeding obvious for anyone with eyes. Sliding out of Musa's grasp, Riven made his escape from the dance floor. "Just go back to dancing with Layla."

"Riven!" Musa protested, chasing after him. She didn't want to dance with Layla. She wanted him to stop running away from her.

"Go on, you'll have more fun with her," Riven waved off, moving away from the crowed dance floor.

"Riven!" Musa said again, catching up with him and grabbing hold of his hand. Riven tried to slip out of her grasp once again, but she held on and tugged him back with more force than Riven had been anticipating. Stumbling backwards, Riven was pulled back around until his body collided softly into her. She kept a firm hold of his hand to stop him from running off again, though there really wasn't any need for it. Her proximity and blazing navy eyes were enough to keep Riven frozen in place and clear his mind of all common sense. "Now listen you, I've – "

Whatever she was going to say was silenced when Riven acted on impulse and pressed his lips to hers. Not expecting that in the slightest, Musa inhaled sharply and tensed which Riven took as a negative reaction to his advance and he instantly recoiled, an apologetic look on his face.

"'M sorry," Riven stammered, cringing at his own stupidity. He was so caught up in his foolishness that he didn't realised that Musa's navy eyes had glazed over in pleasure and she frozen as if in some delightful trance. "I didn't mean to . . . I-I-I dunno wha – "

This time, it was Musa who cut Riven off. Grabbing his head, Musa dragged his face down to her level and pressed her mouth firmly to his. Riven blinked and stared at her cross-eyed for a moment, more than a bit shocked at Musa's uncharacteristic boldness, but desire quickly spilled over disbelief and Riven found himself drowning in pleasure as something that had been waiting to be ignited ever since they had first laid eyes on each other burst into flames. And he sure as hell wasn't about to fight it.

Wrapping his arms round her waist, Riven pulled Musa up close to him, delighting in the way that her tiny body fitted so perfectly against his. Everything about her was completely intoxicating. The way she tasted. The way she smelt. The way her skin felt against his. Everything about her was enough to completely cloud his mind. He had thought that Darcy had been addictive, but when compared to Musa, the witch had the addictiveness of a breath-mint.

At some point Riven had backed Musa up against a wall – or she had dragged him back into it, Riven really couldn't remember – allowing him to just lean right into her an explore her in a way that he had been wanting to do for so long but for some stupid reason kept denying himself the pleasure. One of Musa's hands had found its way under the back of his shirt while his fingertips dared to touch her dark, midnight locks. He knew that Stella didn't like Musa's pigtails, but Riven had always been rather fond of them and now he knew that her hair was just as soft as he had always imagined it to be.

"Not bad," Riven panted when the need for oxygen just became too much for them to ignore. Resting his forehead against hers, Riven stared down into her eyes, a rather foolish grin on his face. "For a pixie."

"Thanks," Musa gasped, her eyes sparkling cheekily. "I've had better."

"Yeah right," Riven grinned, dropping his face to recapture her lips, to which Musa was more that eagre to comply to.

Moonlight wasn't the best light for drawing, but when Helia saw how breathtakingly stunning Flora looked in the silver light, Helia felt compelled to capture that image forever in the form of a sketch. His mother used to always scold him and tell him that he was going to ruin his eyesight whenever she caught him reading, writing or drawing in poor light, but there were certain moments when he felt obligated to do one or more of these things and they couldn't be postponed until he found suitable lighting.

Flora, for her part, endured his desire to sketch her happily, but as time went on, she started to become bored with modelling and began to wish Helia would find some other way to spend his time with her. She was still a bit shy about expressing her feelings with him, but the memory of how his lips felt against hers was still fresh in her mind and she was eagre to relive that experience.

"Why don't you put that pencil down and come watch the moon with me, Helia?" Flora suggested, looking back over her shoulder at him. Helia lifted his wide cobalt eyes from his sketch and locked them onto Flora's shinning green ones. A foolish looking smile spread across his lips as he held her gaze and was utterly captivated, so much so that Flora got the feeling that he wasn't even conscious of the fact that his pencil slipped out of his fingers and dropped to the ground.

Forgetting his sketch, Helia got to his feet and made his way over to stand directly behind Flora, whose shyness had returned so she quickly turned her gaze back to the moon. But she couldn't stop herself from smiling when Helia snaked his hands around her waist and pulled her close.

"It's beautiful," Flora said, looking up at the moon.

"Yes," Helia agreed, but he never once lifted his eyes skywards. Brushing Flora's hair aside, Helia dropped his head and lightly kissed her exposed neck, inhaling the scent of jasmine that surrounded the girl. She shivered under his lips, but he felt her lean back into him, warming immediately into his touch. Growing bolder, Helia began to suck on Flora's neck with more intensity until a light mark bruised itself across her bronzed skin, but no matter how tender the bruise was, Flora didn't flinch away from it.

"Helia," Flora whispered, causing Helia to lift his slightly glazed over eyes to look into hers. Gently, Helia cupped one side of her face and tenderly rubbed his thumb across her lower lip. A small, pleading sound escaped Flora's throat and not wanting to deny her anything, Helia quickly dropped his face to cover her mouth. At Helia's gentle prompting, Flora twisted in his arms without breaking the kiss so that she was now facing him. Backed up against the pillar, Flora let herself get completely engulfed by Helia's body and she in turn melted hers against his. Flora's hands developed a life of their own and started exploring Helia's body. Through her fingertips she was able to memorise just how powerful his chest felt, the way he shivered when she ran her hand up his spine and the strange sense of pleasure she got when she lightly groped his behind. She was slightly aware of the fact that he was tracing the curves of her body with his own hands, but her all her mental awareness was clouded by the taste of Helia's lips.

Panting, Helia regretfully pulled back and started into Flora's eyes which were glazed like his. Her lips her wet and swollen, but that didn't stop her from stretching herself upwards to tenderly kiss him one more time.

"Okay, this is getting ridiculous," Sky sighed to himself. He had searched every inch of this party, and although he had managed to grab glimpses of all his other friends – whose hormones all seemed to be going crazy for some reason – he was yet to spot one fiery red hair on Bloom's head. He had seen a blur which he assumed was Dominique and he had hoped that maybe she be able to use her directional crystal to locate Bloom for him, but he gave up on that idea when it dawned on him that there was no way he was going to be able to slow her down long enough to talk to her.

So, he was forced to do it the old fashioned way; look.

"Bloom?" Sky called as he pushed his way between two Red Fountain boys. "Anyone seen Bloom?"

"Nope," Bourne answered with a shake of his head. "Sorry man."

Suppressing a growl, Sky stalked through the crowd, his eyes darting back and forth as he looked for his girlfriend. Finally, he was able to spot someone he recognised. It wasn't Bloom, but it was someone who could help; Lockette. "Where's Bloom?"

"I don't know," Lockette admitted, even though she was Bloom's bonded pixie and the Pixie of Portal. "I haven't seen her all night."

"Stella!" Sky quickly called as she and Brandon happened to be dancing by. "I really need to take to Bloom. Do you know where she is?"

"Actually, Bloom needs to talk to you, Sky," Stella told him as she and Brandon paused in their dancing so that they could talk to him. Her honey eyes had that knowing glow that she had been directing at him ever since Realix and she was wearing that shrewd little smile of hers that kind of annoyed Sky for some reason. It was almost as if he could hear her silently congratulation herself for introducing him to Bloom.

"That's right. She's right over there," Brandon said, nodding his head in Bloom's direction. "She's been waiting for you."

"Huh?" Sky grunted, looking behind him and finally he spotted his girlfriend. She was standing alone – something he had come to realise was something that Bloom did from time to time – and the pale blue dress she was wearing had blended into the silver moonlight perfectly, which was why it had taken him so long for Sky to find her.

Relieved to have finally found his quarry after such a long search, Sky wasted no time heading over to her, but he was halfway there when he suddenly faulted in his step. He hadn't really spoken with Bloom since Realix, and he wasn't really sure how she had taken his confession of love. Sure, it had returned her to the light and ended up saving the universe, but Bloom had never had a chance to reply to him. That gap had allowed countless dark thoughts to enter Sky's mind – what if she didn't love him in return? What if he scared her off? What if she suddenly turned around and said 'sorry Sky. I was just hoping for a little bit of fun, you know. I don't wonna get involved in anything serious just yet so maybe I'll look you up in a couple of years when I'm ready to settle down. See ya' – and he was starting to get a bit panicky.

Trying to outrun his fear, Sky broke into a jog to reach Bloom who was standing with her rabbit, Kiko, before his nerve gave out.

"Hey! There you are," Sky grinned in order to cover his nervousness. Kiko was gurgling happily as Bloom stroked his stomach, but all of Sky attention rested solely on Bloom.

"Hey, I'm glad you found me Sky," Bloom smiled warmly, chasing away his fears. But those fears returned when she added, "We need to talk about what happened in Realix."

Sky's heart pounded loudly in his ears, and he was so nervous that he didn't even notice Kiko start to hover in the air, confirming once and for all that the little rabbit from earth was actually a pixie pet.

"Er, do you remember what I said to you?" Sky asked, his legs suddenly feeling weak. After all, the only being outside his family he had ever said he had loved was Lady, and she had replied by turning around to bite an itch that was occurring near the base of her tail.

Bloom's reaction, however, was nothing like that. "Of course I remember. What you said to me was totally sweet."

Sky was utterly relieved, but he still wasn't sure how she felt about him admitting that he loved her. Swallowing hard, Sky pushed forward in a situation that scared him more than he cared to admit. "So then . . . um . . . you like what I said? Using the L word and all?"

Bloom smiled softly, but not in a patronising or pitiful way like Sky had been dreading, and when she spoke, Sky knew that she was being utterly honest and not just saying it because she had. "I love you too."

Filled with more delight than Sky could put into word, Sky abandoned the idea of speech and simply moved in to wrap his arm around her waist and pull her into a kiss. The second his lips touched hers, Bloom's bones seemed to have turned to jelly and Sky got the impression that she would have swooned if she didn't have him to help support her. Running his tongue along her lower lip, Sky tried to memorise the way she felt against him, the way her lips tasted and exactly what her perfume smelt like. Sky had grown up believing that he was never going to have the freedom to fall in love with a person and be with them. He had been committed to a loveless engagement to Diaspro without any of his own input, dashing any chance of him to experience the trails of romance and dating that he had seen so many people go through. It was still a thrill for him to be given the chance to find out what that was like, but to find a person who loved him in return . . .

Sky could not believe his luck.

"Sky!" Timmy suddenly called, making the prince curse his luck. "Bloom! Get over here for pictures!"

Pulling back from Bloom, Sky glared back at Timmy. That guy couldn't have picked worse timing if he had tried. The only consolation Sky felt was that Helia and Riven looked just as annoyed from being pulled away from their private moments with their girlfriends as he was. "Do you think we should go?" Sky asked.

"Sure," Bloom grinned, forgetting her annoyance.

"I was kind hoping you'd say no," Sky admitted.

Bloom feigned shock and outrage, but the smile tugging at her corners of her lips gave away her jesting. "Why Sky, you shall set the neighbours tongues a-wagging with that kind of talk."

"That's the plan," Sky grinned slyly, and to his great delight, she returned it.

But no matter how tempting in might be, they wouldn't just blow off their friends like that. Under Timmy's direction, they had all lined up and were shuffling into frame. Musa and Riven stood furthest to the left with Brandon and Stella to their right. Flora and Helia were next to them and Tecna stood furthest to the right, waiting for Timmy to get out from behind the camera and join her.

"Closer guys," Timmy directed. "That's great."

"C'mon," Sky said, seizing Bloom's hand in his. "Let's go!"

With a soft giggle for Bloom, the couple ran over to their friends that each valued and loved beyond words. Although people always assumed that Bloom was the leader of the Winx Club and Sky was the leader of his squad, the truth was that neither of them ever considered themselves as leaders. They knew that each of their friends had their own unique skills and quirks that they bought to the group and without them, neither Bloom nor Sky would have been as successful as they had been over the last two years.

They were who they were because of their friends, and they wouldn't change that for the world.

"Everybody smile. This one's for the year book," Timmy told them before running around to stand beside Tecna. Layla ran in at the last moment and threw her arms around Musa and Riven's shoulders, earning her a delighted laugh from Musa and an odd look from Riven.

"Wait for us!" Bloom cried, and just as she and Sky ran in front of the camera, the flash went off, resulting in a photo of just her and Sky blocking out the rest of their friends in the background. There were plenty of other photos from that night including a few extreme close ups of the pixies, some shots of some witches and one or two of a few members of the Winx Club doing some slightly suggestive things with fruit, but there was one photo that all the boys all kept copies of.

They weren't sure which fairy had taken the photo, but she had just snapped it without much posing, giving it a more candid look that some of the other photos lacked. The five of them were leaning up against one of the stone railings that lined Alfea's front porch. Helia was furthest to the left, with his arm resting on Riven's shoulder, who for once in his life didn't look agitated or scowling. Brandon was in the middle, his mouth slightly open since he had been talking when the photo was taken, but there was still a smile on his face which radiated the squire's youthful, upbeat attitude on life. Sky stood to the left of him, looking as if he was trying not to grin too widely at whatever Brandon was staying. Timmy stood furthest to the right and judging from the wide, unbridled grin on his face that exposed him teeth, he was laughing.

It was a simple photo, but to the five of them, it was invaluable and spoke volumes. They were five strangers – a prince, a pacifist, a lowly squire, a thief and a computer nerd – from four different realms with seemingly nothing in common, and yet they had all somehow formed a friendship that had deepened into a love that couldn't have been stronger if they were blood related. They had had their disagreements and times that had tested their friendship, but at the end of it all they still considered themselves as brothers, and they couldn't imagine their lives without one another.

The End.

(1) The inconsistency of what the monsters are made up of in the show really annoyed me. One episode they're just made up of shadows and vanish whenever they're vanquished and the next they're made up of flesh and bone and leave carcases behind them when they die. I went with the shadow idea because I didn't want the boys getting all bloodied and dirty

(2) I don't get why everyone was so worried about keeping the pieces of the Codex away from Lord Darkar and why they fretted when they lost them if they had a spare key the whole time. Poor Lord Darkar had to go to incredible effort to get those for pieces of the Codex when all he had to do was find some hair pins and brooches

(3) In the Rai version of this episode they showed Bloom having flashbacks of her relationship with Sky that 4kids didn't end up including in their version of the episode. And now I'm stealing that idea off Rai

Oh my god! It's done! It's finally freakin' done! I feel like I need a holiday or something after that. But hey, a massive thanks too everyone who came along with me on this story, especially Darev for catching all the horrible spelling that slipped past me. Massive love to everyone who ever reviewed to this and I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it.

Love ya all!

Cheers, tears-in-rain