Disclaimer: Not a cent! Not a single cent! I'm not sure where I first heard Sydney's eye color referred to as 'cornflower blue', but it stuck with me.
Author's Note: Fall quarter is over! Whee!
It was protocol that all Rangers return to base after battle for a briefing, but thankfully this arrest had been fairly standard—just a sticky-fingered Triglycerarian with combustible body fumes—and the briefing had only taken fifteen minutes. After that, the team went more or less their own ways.
Sky had himself a brief shower to rinse off the sweat from his morning run, and then returned to his room. He was about to start his report for the arrest while the details were fresh in his mind when the door slid open. There stood Sydney, looking lovely in her gauze-and-silk dress, not a single blonde curl out of place even after a fight. She smiled hesitantly and asked for a favor.
"Can you give me a ride back to the country club?"
He looked puzzled. "No one can come pick you up?"
"It's faster this way."
Her expression was suspiciously hopeful, considering she'd been mad at him the last time they'd spoken. He shrugged nonchalantly and stood up, grabbing his uniform jacket and keys.
"Why are you in uniform?" she asked as they started down the hall. "You're not on duty."
He always wore his uniform when he was inside the Academy, even on weekends and his days off. Why not, he figured, since he had no reason for wearing anything else there. And you never knew when an emergency would spring up. Sydney knew all this.
"At least one of us has to be in uniform if we take out the patrol vehicles," he reminded her. She knew that too.
In the parking garage, he headed straight for his patrol cycle but she suddenly hung back, asking a little whiningly, "Can we take the jeep?"
"Why?" His cycle would get her where she wanted to go much faster than the jeep.
"I don't want my hair to get ruined."
He just looked at her for a moment; her shallower tendencies still amazed him sometimes.
"And I'm wearing a dress," she added, as if she thought he would honestly deny her request, however ridiculous it was. "There's no way I'm riding a motorcycle in a skirt."
Her mouth was set in a stubborn little pout, and all he could do was sigh in exasperation as he walked towards the driver's side of the jeep. She scurried into the passenger's seat, and after asking for general directions of where to go, they set off.
Fifteen traffic lights, six of them red, went by before the silence in the car was broken. Sky had been noticing how unusually small Syd looked in the seat beside him, probably because of the way she sat with her shoulders slightly hunched forward, her head pointed at her lap, and her hands clasped placidly on her knees. She chewed on her lower lip a good deal, as if she were deeply contemplating something. He also noticed the way the wind was blowing several locks of her hair astray in their roofless jeep, confirming his earlier suspicion that her excuse about her hair was a ruse.
At the sixteenth traffic light, the seventh red, Sydney caught the sidelong glance he was giving her and both of them quickly averted their eyes. He pretended to watch the light while Sydney—thankfully Sydney decided to break the uncomfortable silence.
"I'm sorry I got mad at you this morning," she said, a little morosely. "I just really wanted you to come to this luncheon with me."
That much he had figured out. He glanced over at her reluctantly, only to find her cornflower blue gaze already on him.
"Why?" he asked.
"Why do you think?" she asked back.
He sighed. Why couldn't girls ever just say exactly what they meant? "Syd…maybe it has to do with being a guy, but you're going to have to tell me exactly what it is you want from me."
She blinked, perhaps not expecting him to be so frank.
"Just you," she said, a little awkwardly as if that weren't quite right. "I just want you."
"Well, you have me." The light turned green again and he had to return his gaze to the road.
He had meant that she had him right there, present, in the flesh, tangible and right in front of her. She of course, had taken his words to mean something else.
"Yes." His gaze flickered towards her briefly. "I'm here, aren't I?"
She blew out her breath nosily, having to remind herself that men naturally came with slower brains.
"That's not what I meant. I meant—" her voice grew a little quieter. "I meant do you feel about me the way that I feel about you."
"The way I feel about you never changed." His answer was unexpectedly quick, which made her suspect he had already thought about the subject beforehand. "I'm not sure what it is I did to make you think otherwise, but I do care about you. It's just I'm happy with the way things are between us while you seem to want something more now."
It was a shame that he couldn't focus or even really look at her as he spoke because his words might have been a little easier for her to interpret. As they were, they made her heart sink a little.
"You're happy just being friends?"
"No." He said it so readily it startled her. "I don't want to just be friends. I want you to be mine and to understand that I'm not a very sentimental person. I'm just not, but it doesn't mean I care any less about you."
"So you…do want us to be together?" she asked as if she weren't sure she'd heard him quite right.
"Yes." His eyes flickered towards her again, and he asked at length, "Do you?"
"Yes!" she exclaimed, and immediately blushed at her own eagerness. "Of course I do."
If she had still been uncertain about his meaning, then the subtle rise and fall of his shoulders in a silent sigh of relief would have dispelled any further doubt.
"How come you never said anything before?" she ventured curiously.
"We both seemed happy with the way things were. And like I said before, I'm not a very sentimental person, and I wasn't sure you'd understand."
"Sky, everyone knows you're not a sentimental person. What wouldn't I understand about that?"
"Why'd you get upset this morning then?"
"I told you. I really wanted you to be my date and something stupid got in the way."
"You were upset with me, Syd."
She fidgeted a little. "I wasn't sure whether or not you cared."
"Because I'm not demonstrative enough."
"…or at all."
"That's exactly my point," he muttered. "Girls always like that stuff."
"Stuff like—like moonlit walks and…needing to be told repeatedly that you're important to me. Like…" he gestured helplessly with one hand in the air as he struggled for words. "Like ways to be romantic," he said at last, directly quoting the title of the book Ree had gotten for him. "Girls always seem to need that stuff."
He seemed genuinely miffed, but there was just something incredibly funny about the ice king sputtering out his dislike for romantic fuzziness. Almost against her will, Sydney giggled, but she supposed his finally admitting that he cared for her had lifted a great weight off her spirit.
"Of course we do," she said simply. "If you don't like romance at all, how do you tell whether you like someone as a close friend or as something more?"
"Well." He glanced over his right shoulder suddenly, and in one smooth maneuver he steered the car over two lanes and pulled it into an empty spot along the sidewalk where the curb was painted red. He put the gear into 'park'.
"Sky?" she asked worriedly, his strange actions alarming her a little.
His hand lifted off the gearshift and touched her chin. Instinctively she leaned forward with it, only vaguely aware of him releasing his seatbelt and leaning towards her in one deft motion. He gave her the gentlest kiss she had ever received, and it sent a sweet, delicious shiver down her spine. To her disappointment, he drew away first after only a single moment, but maybe it was that ephemerality that had made it so much more powerful.
"Besides that," he said, a slight breathless quality to his voice that she had never heard before, "I knew you weren't a friend when I looked at you one day and thought to myself; you have no idea what I wouldn't do for you."
Her cheeks immediately flushed a rosy red, which made him smile in spite of himself.
"Sky." She honestly had no idea how her voice was functioning properly. "That was the most romantic thing anyone's ever said to me."
He just shrugged. "It's true."
A smile spread across her face as she released her own seatbelt and lunged at him, eager to get rid of the one-foot gap that separated them. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her still-warm face into his jacket when a giddy little giggle escaped. Clearly the movement startled him, but he merely mimicked her and put his arms around her in a secure embrace. The gesture was extremely reminiscent of the hug she'd received at her surprise birthday party, and a strong sense of déjà vu swept over her.
"You don't like moonlit strolls or being romantic, yet a kiss isn't too much for you?" she murmured amusedly, enjoying his warmth and clean male scent.
"If this sort of stuff made any sense…" He sounded quite serious, but she laughed anyway.
"Would you do it again if I asked you to?" She lifted her head and gave him an impish look. "Since there's nothing you wouldn't do for me…"
She didn't actually wait for an answer. She just caught his mouth with her own but he allowed it. Like the first one, this kiss was also gentle, tenderness defined, but a few satisfying moments longer.
"Syd?" He drew back only a hair's width away, and she could feel his breath warm on her skin as he spoke.
"We're parked in a red zone."
"Well, if it ain't Mary Poppins," remarked Z as Sydney all but floated into the rec room that evening after returning from the country club.
"Sans the umbrella," Bridge pointed out.
"Doesn't look like she needs one."
It was true the Pink Ranger hadn't been in this good of a mood all week as she came around to settle onto the couch behind Z. She held a pink box tied with white ribbon in her lap.
"Have a good party?" asked Jack, who had been snoozing on a neighboring couch with a comic book draped over his face.
"It was great!" Sydney chirped. "I got tons and tons of presents, lots of expensive ones, too. And Daddy said he's getting me the new stereo that I wanted."
Z made a face that said she wasn't impressed, but Jack smiled indulgently at Sydney. "Good for you, Syd."
"Here," Sydney picked up the pink box in her lap and held it out to him. "I brought you guys something from the party. The best cream puffs in the entire world."
That got everyone's attention. Jack accepted the box with interest and sat up, untying the white ribbon bow on top. He took out one of the five pastries that sat nestled inside on wax paper and then passed the box to Bridge, who took out a puff and passed the box along to Z.
"Where's Sky?" asked Sydney when the box returned to her, the two remaining cream puffs sitting close together inside.
"Dunno," said Z around a mouthful of pastry. "I haven't seen him since after the fight today."
Bridge and Jack nodded in concurrence, and Sydney groaned.
"You know," Jack licked a bit of cream off his palm. "You could always call him with your morpher if you want to talk to him."
It was kind of amazing that no one had ever mentioned that possibility in the entire week. Sydney in particular was thunderstruck that she'd forgotten all Rangers were connected by a mere push of a button, with the additional benefit that Sky would never ignore a call on his morpher.
"I'll think about it," she said as casually as she could, setting down the pastry box and standing up. "I need to shower and change. See you guys later."
She walked out of the room with considerably more purpose than she'd had walking in.
"Ah, I'm a genius," said Jack satisfactorily, popping his last bit of cream puff in his mouth.
"She never thought of that before?" Bridge looked at Z in genuine perplexity.
The Yellow Ranger just shrugged and reached for another cream puff from the box.
Sydney paced her room a good long while, absently brushing her hair while she contemplated whether or not she wanted to use her morpher to find their errant Blue Ranger. They needed to talk after what happened that afternoon, but Sky would be irritated that she'd used her morpher for personal matters. After all, whenever the little device rang, it was usually bad news, so she'd be putting him on guard unnecessarily by using it. Also, there really wasn't anything so desperate she needed to say to him to be so persistent in finding him. But since when did a girl ever need a reason to see her boyfriend?
Is that what we are?
She wasn't sure, and that was why she was so anxious to see him again.
With an effort, she shut down the ongoing debate in her head and pressed the button on her morpher.
"Can you meet me on the northeast deck?"
"Why? What's wrong? Is something going on?"
"Nothing, and no. I just need to talk to you."
She couldn't help wincing a little when the Blue Ranger's tone turned exasperated. "I'm kind of in the mid—"
He cut off very abruptly after a curious hiss in the background. There was a pause and then…
"I'll head there now."
"Okay." She shut her morpher, suddenly dreading the encounter and wishing she hadn't called him. At this point though, it would be worse to chicken out, and she had the entire short lift ride up to think of an excuse for pulling him away from his—from whatever he was doing.
The northeast deck was a favorite leisure spot in the Academy, especially during the warmer seasons. Tables and chairs would be procured from somewhere and dragged out onto the wide stone terrace, and cadets and staff alike would spend their mealtimes there, relaxing and sunning themselves. The terrace was barren now, but it probably wouldn't be for long since the cusp of spring was nigh.
Sydney found Sky standing in front of the glass-paneled wall that looked out onto the deck, perfectly centered between the two exit doors. He was still in uniform, with his hands clasped in the small of his back, standing quite motionless. Rather sentinel-like, she thought. He made a nice picture, him and that extraordinarily clean glass wall, and the city in the distance that would have been prettier if not for the fluorescent lighting inside the base.
He turned as soon as her reflection appeared in the glass, and she came to stand beside him with a shy smile.
"Hey," she said, wanting to lean against his arm.
"Is everything all right?" he asked immediately, his brow furrowed and a little on the stern side. She had to hide a sigh. She shouldn't have used the morpher.
"Everything's fine," she assured him, resisting the urge to shuffle. Only around Sky was it uncomfortable to stand around without a particular purpose. "Do I need a reason to want to see you?"
"Most people usually have one. You said you wanted to talk?"
"Yeah. I just don't know what about." He gave her a strange look and she sighed. "I feel like we didn't really finish our talk this afternoon."
"I didn't realize we were ever cut off."
"I guess we weren't. But I—I think this is one of those times you have to remind me how important I am to you again."
"Already?" But to her relief, he actually looked a little amused. His arm came around her and gave her a little squeeze, like he'd done unexpectedly that day she fretted she was becoming old. Unlike that time though, this time they didn't separate. She put her arm around his waist and leaned against his side.
"You're very important to me," he replied as they both gazed out at Newtech in the distance. "I want you safe, I want you happy, and I'm glad you're able to give me cues about what to do."
She laughed softly. "You know, for a self-proclaimed ice king, you're pretty good at the sweet talk."
He frowned. "Ice king?"
She just smiled angelically and gave his middle a squeeze. "Not all romance has to give you cavities."
"I was serious about the cues though."
"I'll do my best," she replied with a smile. "In fact, you know what we need to do?"
"Go on our first date. What are you doing tomorrow?"
He thought about the airbrushing she had dragged him away from. "Something…"
"No. The correct answer is, 'Nothing. I'd love to go on a date with you tomorrow.'"
He raised an eyebrow at her. "You're trying to mold me."
"You missed the cue."
He actually laughed, and subsequently, so did she.
"What were you in the middle of when I called you?"
"That project I'm doing with Ree."
The name didn't sound familiar to her, but then again, she only knew a handful of C-level cadets by face, and even fewer by name. The B squad ran simulations with the D cadets every so often, but C cadets were trained enough that their activities were mostly independent of the B squad's.
"Still? How long does it take to come up with a new checkpoint plan for the Academy?"
"She's a perfectionist," he said mildly.
It wasn't that she thought he was being dishonest, but his constant elusiveness about the subject bothered her. The nagging feeling that there was something else going on that he wasn't saying wouldn't go away. "So are you."
"That must be why this is taking so long then."
"It's just strange that you hardly ever even talk to other cadets, and suddenly you're bending over backwards to help this one out. I figure she must be significant in some way, unless she blackmailed you or tricked you into doing this somehow."
He rolled his eyes. "Like anyone in the Academy can manage that. Look, the reason I'm willing to help her out is because she's my sister, okay?"
"Your sister's here at the Academy too?" She vaguely remembered Sky mentioning once that he had a sibling, but it was a long time ago, and since he didn't like to talk about his family, she never brought it up again. His father's death probably had a lot to do with it, but considering the man had been a Ranger, maybe it wasn't so unusual that both the kids ended up in SPD.
He nodded. "Now will you stop being so antsy about her?"
She blushed. "How come you didn't just say so before?"
"She doesn't like for people to know we're related. She thinks it'll make people have misconceptions about her and made me promise not to say anything."
"But you just told me."
He gave her a look, and she ducked her head sheepishly. "I assume that you're sworn to secrecy now too."
"My lips are sealed." After a pause, she glanced up at him from beneath her lashes. "Sorry."
He rubbed her shoulder companionably. "Now will you let me get back to my work?"
Admittedly, she did feel a lot better now. "Only if you give me a kiss first."
The request startled him, but she looked unabashed.
"Cue," she said quietly.
The corner of his lips twitched, and with a mock sigh of exasperation, he leaned down and granted her request.