Sky strode down the hallway of the SPD headquarters with a look of determination on his face. That was really nothing new; he always had an intense, determined look about him. What was important was figuring out if you were the one he was going after with that determined look. Most cadets heaved a sigh of relief when he passed them by without a second look.
Sky's long strides took him swiftly past the common area into the dorm. The halls were relatively quiet – it was late enough for the younger cadets to be sleeping, and early enough that those on the night shift were still diligent in their duties, and those not on duty to be engaged in their studies. He approached his destination with single-minded purpose, but internally a war was raging.
This really isn't any of my business. He argued with himself. But the part of him that had been training his whole life to be an SPD Ranger was much louder than the voice of his self-doubt. It is my business because it affects the team. If one of us is not performing to our highest potential, then all of us are affected!
It was much easier to hide behind the by-the-book code of Ranger behavior than to actually admit what spurred him on was genuine concern. Oh, he knew how the others saw him – he was aloof and stand-offish. He was wound too tight and always played by the rules. Sky saw nothing wrong with that if that attitude brought down the bad guys and kept him or his teammates from getting killed. And that was at the crux of his mental debate – what was going on did have the potential of getting someone killed or hurt, and if Sky could help prevent that, then it was his duty to do so.
Maybe I'm just overreacting, the voice of doubt continued. Maybe, the Ranger voice concurred, but if you're not, and you don't do something, it could be bad for everyone.
With an internal sigh, Sky gave up the argument. He had reached his destination. He raised his hand to knock on the door and wasn't really surprised when Bridge opened the door immediately. Bridge, however, was surprised to see him.
"We need to talk." Sky stated.
"Okay…" answered Bridge. His brows furrowed as he asked, "We can't talk in the morning?"
"No." was Sky's flat reply. He stood stoically in the doorway with his arms crossed over his chest. It took Bridge a moment to realize that Sky wasn't going to just walk in; he needed to be asked.
Bridge smiled as he stepped to the side giving Sky room to get past him. "Well, come on in. Let's talk." He paused and looked quizzically at Sky. "Want some toast?"
Sky repressed an eye roll. "No, I'm not here to eat."
"Why are you here?" asked Bridge. "Why are any of us here? I mean, not just here at the SPD here, but you know…Here." He walked across the room toward his computer desk and took a deep breath. Sky could tell he was about to launch into "Bridge speak" which he had far less patience for than Syd did. The guy might be a genius, but the babbling!
"Why aren't you sleeping?" Sky demanded ever the one to cut to the chase.
The question caught Bridge completely off guard. His mouth snapped shut, and before he turned away from Sky he saw a look of shame flit across Bridge's face. Damn, it's worse than I thought. Now it is my business.
Ever since they'd been promoted to B Squad, Sky had been keeping a careful eye on his teammates. Initially most of his focus was on Jack; waiting for him to falter allowing Sky to step up and prove he should be the Red Ranger. That urge had eased somewhat, and Sky had widened his scope. He watched as the team bonded; saw how the girls got along as roommates; watched as Jack apologized to Bridge for doubting his ability with his genetic power. It was actually that encounter that brought Bridge's situation into focus for Sky.
Jack's reaction to Bridge's abilities was that they were a joke, not to be trusted. Maybe he believed that Bridge's power was not strong enough. But as Sky started watching Bridge he'd come to the conclusion that Bridge's power was stronger than any of them had realized, and he was in a dangerous position with the introduction of Emperor Grumm to their galaxy. Bridge's ability was to track evil through his psychic senses; there was nothing more evil in their universe than Emperor Grumm. That was to say nothing of all of his henchmen.
As they continued to battle Grumm and his forces, Sky noticed that Bridge seemed to be getting less and less sleep. He was looking more disheveled every day – and to say that about Bridge was saying a lot. Throughout the day Bridge had all sorts of tricks he could use to tune out the psychic noise of everyone around him; but at night, when he had to let down his defenses in order to sleep…that was the problem.
"Look," Sky stated abruptly, "I think I can help."
Bridge shook his head as he sat on the edge of his bed. "Nothing helps. I've tried everything – warm milk, counting sheep, fuzzy slippers…" He pointed to his feet and faltered as he saw Sky's expression. "What? When my feet are cold I can't sleep and my mom gave me these fuzzy slippers. Not only are they cozy, but they keep my toes toasty. I like toasty." He grinned disarmingly.
Sky leaned against the edge of the computer desk facing Bridge. "Falling asleep isn't the problem, though."
Bridge's grin slipped and he looked away. Then he stared down at his gloved hands. His voice took on a sad and serious tone Sky had never heard from him. "It used to be that I'd only pick up stuff if I touched it. It's why I wear the gloves all the time." He showed his hands to Sky who nodded in understanding. Bridge shook his head and looked despondently down at his hands again. "But it's been changing. There's this feeling all around now. It gets a little worse every day. I can deal with it when I'm awake, when I'm surrounded by people. But at night…"
"Why didn't you tell anyone?"
"What good would that do? I didn't want to risk being taken off active duty as a Ranger. For what? So I could sit at home and feel this way and not be able to do anything at all about it? If I talk to Miss Kat, then Cruger automatically knows… what if they take my morpher? What good will I be to anyone then?"
If there was one thing Sky could relate to, it was the desire to be a Ranger. He decided to do what he'd come here for. "You're a good Ranger, Bridge. And we're not going to lose you over something like this. I have an idea."
Sometimes what a person believes is more important that what he knows.
Sky's father's words echoed in his head as he set about convincing Bridge that he could do exactly what he proposed to do. Sky sat down on the bed next to Bridge. "Here's the problem as I understand it. At night, after you fall asleep, you can't stay asleep because there's too much negative feeling, which I can only assume comes from Grumm."
Bridge nodded at Sky's assessment. "Nightmares?" asked Sky, jumping to a conclusion.
"Bad ones." Bridge gave an involuntary shiver.
"During the day you can block a lot of those feeling out because you're consciously in control; but at night those walls come down and it's harder to keep the feelings out."
"Yeah." agreed Bridge glumly.
"Well, if there's anyone who knows about building walls, it's me." Sky stated. Then he paused, hoping Bridge would come to the conclusion that Sky wanted him to. He has to believe it. He has to believe I can do this or it won't work.
The dawning hope on Bridge's face was enough to convince Sky that he did believe Sky's idea could work.
"You mean…you could, you know…" Bridge waved his hand around in an imitation of Sky creating a shield. "You would do that for me?" Bridge looked utterly flabbergasted.
Sky was a little insulted. "We're a team. If we're going to function as a team, all the parts have to work together. We can't do that if you pass out on us." It didn't come out exactly the way Sky intended, and Bridge did look a little hurt, but he got the point across.
"When can we try it?" asked Bridge excitedly.
"A week from Tuesday." answered Sky sarcastically. "Why do you think I came here tonight?"
"Oh, yeah. Sure, I get it." Bridge answered brightly. He jumped up as if he was trying to run in four directions at once. Sky was amazed to watch his feet and limbs go in three different directions. "What are you doing, Bridge?"
"I've got to get ready for bed!"
"You are ready for bed." Sky pointed out his pajamas and fuzzy slippers.
"Okay, let's get to work!"
Sky suppressed another eye roll and wondered just exactly what he'd gotten himself into.
TBC - just another chapter or two. It was supposed to be a one-shot...didn't work out that way :-)