Note: A serious Winx oneshot. I do love Diaspro, actually, so this was something I'd decided to write. It ties in with stuff from season one and a subplot from season three. I do hope you'll enjoy; I worked hard on it. :D

Disclaimer: I own nothing, darlings.


"Prince Sky, Prince Sky!"

He'd stopped and let his shoulders droop with a sigh, a tiny hand pulling him back. Her tiny fingers clutched his sleeve and he'd turn to wide, eager eyes as they surveyed him in wonder. "Won't you ask if you can play with me?"

"Play with you?" Sky repeated. Warily he stared at the rows of empty-eyed dolls built to look just like this lovely child before him: curly luscious locks of gold arranged on a porcelain face and a small body dressed in lace from neck to toe. These dolls frightened him, with their blank stares and hollow eyes. He kicked one at his feet and shivered. "I don't know, Diaspro, I think I'm leaving soon anyway—"

"B-but you have to play let me with you!" Her lip trembled and he braced himself for the cries that were sure to come. "Don't you love me, Sky? Don't you want to spend every moment with me? Shouldn't we practice being king and queen? Here. You be the prince and I'll be the princess." A tiny model of a man was placed in his hands, and Sky stared at it dumbly. "It's a ball," Diaspro explained matter-of-factly. At six years old, she had decided she would make their decisions from now on; Sky never decided anything, he was just too quiet. "You have to ask my girl to dance. And she'll dance with your boy, and they'll fall in love and get married."

What Sky didn't say was how lifeless this boy-doll looked, and how he couldn't shake the empty light in its eyes that resembled anything but love.

"Isn't Diaspro growing up to be a fine young lady?"

Sky frowned as his parents smiled down on him expectantly. Across the way a lovely, curved figure leaned against a balcony, and she held her body in such a way that he could see the smooth curve of her cheek, the fiery light in her eyes, the way the silk hugged her waist to accentuate her hour-glass form.

"She's very pretty," he admits as he turns away. But ice is pretty, and it can cut you; the ocean is pretty, and it can drown you. "Listen, do you know if the guards are—?"

"You and the guards, Sky!" his father disapproved. "Some days I wonder if you're training to become a king or a knight, what with all this fraternizing you do with the royal guards. It worries me. At fourteen, I'd expect you to have more balanced priorities. Princess Diaspro came all the way here to see you. Shouldn't you host her as best as you know how?"

Sky never had to be the one to initiate a greeting. At the mere sound of his footsteps, she turned her head and her mouth broke out into a dazzling smile. "Prince Sky! It's lovely to see you. How are you this afternoon?"

"Fine, Diaspro, and you?" The words came out forced, fake. He listened on just as forcedly, all her chattering white noise in his ears.

"Well, there was this lovely vacation to the Resort Realm," the princess continued, "but they didn't have the right place for a royal to stay overnight—sleeping in tents, can you imagine? However, the beach was divine. I'd rather have gone to one of my family's holiday cabins, though. Much more high end." Suddenly her eyes lit up with an idea. "You should come with us one day! You'd adore it, honestly."

"Oh, I don't know. I like the rugged outdoors, myself."

The conversation died at that, and they kept on walking, Sky avoiding eye contact desperately. Engagement. Engagement. When he had been eight, he hadn't known what that word meant—not quite. Now staring at this beautiful creature only shot thousands of unwanted words into his head: honeymoon, marriage, commitment, until death do you part. "I do" wasn't a promise; it was a death sentence.

"So!" Her voice cut through all his doubts and fears. "Tell me about how you've been." Diaspro gazed at him curiously and he shook his head in helplessness.

"Me? I'm…well…"

"Sky, there you are!" The sound of ragged breathing reached them as a tall figure approached: his laughing eyes turned from Diaspro to Sky, and he brushed back his brown hair from where it had flown into his face. "Hey, man, I've been looking all over for you. There's an emergency over in the armory."

"What do you mean, Brandon?" Sky inquired, a slight whine coming from Diaspro's throat. Her hand wrapped itself around him protectively, but he did not return it. Her skin was cold to the touch.

"You just need to see it yourself. It's important," Brandon insisted.

"Sky! You're not going to leave me for some guard's errand, are you?" Diaspro moaned. Her eyes bored into his, pleading, but then he shrugged her off as she were nothing but a fly.

"I have a duty, Diaspro. Brandon, take me to the armory." And as they sprinted off to the palace, he shouted to his friend, "Way to come late, dude. I almost had to talk to her for a whole hour."

"Next time you tell me to bail you from a date-with-disaster, specify which garden it is, then!" he laughed back.

Diaspro, meanwhile, walked the palace grounds alone.

He'd known ever since Brandon first described a school for heroes that he wanted to go to Red Fountain. Sky had listened, spellbound, as his friend recounted all the rumors he'd heard, the stories he read, about boys as old as himself taming dragons, wielding swords against creatures of the dark, and working alongside beings of magic.

Not living as a prince. Living as someone new: a hero.

"If you don't protect my son, Brandon," the king had threatened, "I'll slit your useless throat. I need an absolute guarantee that he will be safe. You understand?"

With that fond good-bye, Sky, for the first time in his life, found himself alone. The prince took in the sights around him: brilliant blue sky, shining sun, vivid green grass. He drank it all in, snapped an image of that moment to remember forever. "Brandon, can you believe we're actually here?"

"Brandon?" he'd repeated, amused. "That's Prince Sky to you, peasant!"

"Forgive me, my liege!" Sky replied with a broad grin. "I forget to whom I am speaking. It won't happen again, I swear on my honor."

Together they laughed, both suddenly free from their own burdens, and walked to their dorm with a lightness neither had ever known.

No one found the postcard from a young princess, wishing the good Prince Sky "four good prosperous years of schooling" in her very best handwriting.

No one ever wrote back.

In Red Fountain, no one ever bowed to Sky. No one was afraid of displeasing him, and no one expected him to act one way or the other. Even the thrill of a rival was open to him, as Riven poured his heart and soul into defeating his rival for best-in-class.

In short, Sky was enamored with this new life. So whenever the past was dredged up, even for the simplest reason, he found himself paralyzed with fear. He couldn't let go of this lie. Not yet.

"Hey, who's the babe?" Riven waved a photo from Sky's suitcase and smirked. "Some blonde girlfriend you paid off, Brandon?"

Immediately Sky lunged for the glossy picture of Diaspro, her lips puckered and eyes leading as they stayed frozen in time. "She's not my girlfriend," he hissed. "She's…just some stupid girl."

"Stupid girl, huh? So she broke up with you."

In answer, the blonde tore it and tore it until the photo was naught but numerous snowflakes of color on the ground as he growled, "I wish. Oh, God, do I wish."

"Sky must be so busy at school." Diaspro sat still, as a princess should, while her attendants tended to each curl and strand of her silky hair. "I hear he's the best in his class, isn't that something? If he can't write back to me, that's only because he's so terribly busy becoming the best prince he can be. And that comes before being a devoted fiancé, I suppose."

She eyed herself in the mirror and smiled at what she saw: beauty, perfection, seduction. A goddess at fifteen. The servants backed away as she stood tall, pacing in front of her closet. So many gowns, so much silk, so little time. She whirled about in one then another, all the while imagining Sky's arms about her, holding her close. Which color would best match his eyes, she wondered? What flower would make him draw closer to drink in her fragrance?

"He's so gorgeous," the other princesses and the duchesses swooned. "What I wouldn't give to get a guy like that on a silver platter. And he's so well-mannered, and kind, and he's royal! How lucky can you get, Diaspro?"

And indeed, how lucky could she be, to get what every girl dreamed of?

"Your Highness, the guest list for your coming-of-age ball has been finalized," a messenger called as he entered into her room. "We've received RSVPs from all over Magix."

"Oh, lovely!" Diaspro exclaimed, clapping her hands together. "And does my dearest Prince Sky know of the traditional dance between betrothed?"

The tiniest hint of discomfort crossed his face before he smiled awkwardly at his princess—almost apologetically. "Your Majesty…he shan't be able to make it. Your father will be dancing with you, I'm afraid."

Silence filled her throat, her eyes wide as they stared at him, uncomprehending. "Oh. Well. He's busy." She nodded her head, turning to her attendants knowingly. "How else can he be best in his class, if he isn't studying? I understand. Completely."

Diaspro waited until they all left her alone before she cried away all the makeup that had just been meticulously applied to her face, letting selfish tears blind her as Sky danced in Alfea's halls with a young Earth girl she didn't know existed.

Bloom had never been taught how to sit when eating dinner. Bloom had never slept in the astonishingly comfy sheets of a castle's bed. Bloom didn't know what was right and what was wrong in this crazy world of magic.

And Sky loved that. So much.

He had known immediately, when first exposed to her disarming grin, that she had never been pressured to be something she wasn't. On Earth, arranged marriages were an unheard of rarity. In Gardenia, princes were in fairy tales. But in the realm of Magix, Bloom's eyes would become aglow with wonder as she let every new discovery amaze her.

"I can't imagine growing up in this place," she'd sighed wistfully. "Everything's so incredible here."

"It's not so incredible after a while," Sky replied softly. "I'd rather see you on Earth any day, Bloom. It sounds pretty incredible itself."

Bloom had laughed at that, red curls bouncing. "Earth? There's no magic there, Brandon!"

But there's freedom, he wanted to say. There's a choice. You have a say in fate.

And while he said nothing to Bloom, Sky couldn't help but wonder whether or not he, if he'd been born on such a forgiving planet, would have turned out the same. If he'd have become someone not restricted by royal codes and promises. If he'd have met Bloom in a place where he'd never have to lie to her, where he'd never have to pretend to be someone allowed to love her.

Diaspro had arrived at Red Fountain's display as the talk of all the impressionable freshmen boys: a beauty found only on the cover of a magazine. Her heart had pounded inside her body with the heat of anticipation, as she awaited her Sky with what she could only imagine was love.

She had left the campus humiliated, confused, and empty. Her hair—oh, her lovely hair!—was now tousled and tangled, and her clothes caked with dust. "Who was that fairy?" Diaspro spat at what should have been her support, her right-hand. "Who was that crazy Alfea girl?"

"Don't talk about Bloom like that!" Sky retorted heatedly. Bloom, he'd called her. Not 'that fairy,' but Bloom. Immediately jealousy coursed through her; had he ever spoken her name so fondly?

"She could have killed me, Prince Sky! Why are you taking her side? Why aren't you paying me any attention? Why are you doing this to me?" She tried to stare him down, but he stood far too tall for her, so her voice rose instead, reaching where her height could not. "You're promised to me, Sky! Don't you remember? I'm supposed to be your bride! Me. Princess Diaspro. Not…not…some Alfea trash!"

Don't do this to me, is what she wanted to cry. Don't rip away the one thing I have. Don't leave me. I couldn't handle it. I wouldn't know what to do with myself.

He took her hands in his own, and for a moment, Diaspro believed everything to be fine, that all would be fixed. She pressed her head into the crook of his shoulder and sighed; this was how it should be. This was what fate had intended.

His voice reached her ears softly, as Sky whispered, "I'm sorry. This…isn't working. It never has been. I need more freedom than this, Diaspro. I can't be engaged to someone I don't love. I…I'm sorry."

Something shattered, and Diaspro swore it was her heart, as the sharp pain of a thousand slicing knives cut through whatever was left of her future's certainty.

Maybe she'd never loved Sky, Diaspro conceded to herself as she sat in her bedroom chamber. She'd never lit up as Bloom had at his touch, nor had he ever stared at her with such tender, honest eyes. Everything had been cold between them: forced. But even a life built upon a forced love was a life. Take what held that life up away, and nothing was left for it to stand upon.

"Princess, the engagement has swept across the media," a messenger called, and Diaspro shut her eyes, blocking an image of a certain redhead girl from her mind. Maybe the fairy did love him. Maybe he even loved her back. And maybe Diaspro knew she had never laid claim to that emotion.

But once, she'd laid claim to him: this handsome, wonderful man so many wished to possess. Once, he'd been firmly in her grasp; her future been laid on a well-trodden path; no uncertainties waited ahead. She wanted it all back: the stability, the certainty, the pleasure of owning what so many desired.

So now, as she met her fiancé's hypnotized eyes, Diaspro tucked away her bottle of love-potion and returned Sky's loveless doll's gaze with one equally empty. "It's a ball," she announced. "You have to ask me to dance. And I'll dance with you, and we'll fall in love and get married."

But even as she spoke the words, she knew them to be that of a child. For only a child prefers the company of puppets to the love of a living, breathing, human being.