Sky stood patiently as he watched the red ball go bouncing across the room; Ric enthusiastically chased it. The sound of the doors to the rec room swooshing open didn't really register with Sky, he just happily picked up the ball Ric dropped at his feet and tossed it again.
"Sky?" questioned Bridge by his shoulder. "Weren't you playing with Ric a few hours ago?"
"Yep." answered Sky. "And, I'm still playing with him." He retrieved and tossed the ball again. "I promised Ric I'd play until he got tired. After all, if it weren't for him, I'd be toast." Sky glanced at Bridge guiltily. "You would be too."
Bridge nodded in understanding, if not agreement even as he replied. "I know, but…Ric's a robot. He won't get tired. He can probably play a lot longer than you can."
Sky pondered Bridge's statement. It was obviously true, but a promise was a promise – and if there was one thing Sky stood behind, it was his word; even if his word was given to a robot. "That's true. There's always tomorrow. I'll just throw one more."
The sound of breaking glass accompanied Ric's enthusiastic pursuit of the bouncing ball. Sky and Bridge shared a glance. Then they looked back at Ric; he was doggedly pursuing the ball though it had disappeared down a vacuum vent. The Rangers shared a glance again. In unspoken agreement, they ran for the door. At the doorway, Sky hesitated, but Bridge called out "This way!" Bridge was smaller than Sky, but he was fast!
Together the boys ran through the SPD hallways, occasionally throwing glances over their shoulders to see if their flight had been noticed. They made it back to their room unopposed. Bridge stopped short upon entering their room causing Sky to crash into him. It didn't seem to bother Bridge, who was doubled over attempting to catch his breath; between sprinting and laughing, the Green Ranger was having trouble taking a deep breath.
Bridge good-naturedly shoved Sky and the Blue Ranger crashed onto his neatly made bed. "Did you see Ric?" Bridge gasped. "His nose was stuck so far down that vacuum hole…I think he thought if he tried to create enough reverse pressure the ball would come back to him."
Sky chuckled, though he didn't find Ric's situation as amusing as Bridge did. "What was funny was that first-year cadet you hurdled over as he came out of the cafeteria. I don't know how you managed to save his tray and keep on running."
"I'm just that talented." grinned Bridge standing upright. The sprint and the laughing had relaxed him; even better it had relaxed Sky who'd been spiking cycles of guilt and anxiety ever since he'd swapped bodies back with Wootox. The Blue Ranger was rarely unguarded with his emotions, but since the Wootox incident, Bridge could feel Sky attempting to let down some walls. The experience had changed him, but it wasn't clear yet in what ways.
In companionable silence the Rangers began their nightly routines. Even with their Ranger duties, they still had schedules to follow, and Cruger was adamant that sleep be a top priority; that was, whenever it was possible. Bridge went out to the showers down the hall first, leaving Sky to take care of whatever he needed to. They had never discussed it specifically, but Sky understood that Bridge needed some time alone to unwind at the end of the day. With them alternating their shower schedule, Bridge had that much more time alone to let go of everything and prepare himself for sleep.
Sky found himself thinking about what exactly it was Bridge could do – how grateful he was that Bridge had recognized him though on the outside he wore the body of Wootox; and he wondered just how much of his confusion and guilt about the incident Bridge was picking up. And – following that train of thought – if Bridge was picking up on his feelings, wouldn't it be better for him to talk about them instead of keeping it all bottled up? Sky sighed. He didn't enjoy analyzing his feelings let alone talk about them, but he was bothered so much he was very tempted to just unload on Bridge.
Bridge returned from the shower in the sweats and SPD shirt he preferred to wear to bed. He rubbed his wet head vigorously with a towel. Sky's attention was caught by Bridge's gloveless hands. It wasn't often the Green Ranger was without his gloves, there was too much residual energy all around for him to allow himself to be unprotected; but here in his own space he could let down his guard a little, as long as he touched his own stuff and not Sky's. Sky started to say something, and then changed his mind. Bridge needed a little peace at the end of the day – he could talk after he took his own shower.
By the time Sky had returned to the room, Bridge was settled on his bed, seated with his legs crossed and back against the wall. His eyes were closed and he looked like he was meditating. The gloves were back on. That had never made sense to Sky; why did Bridge wear the gloves when he was sleeping? Not that it really mattered; Bridge just had to do whatever it was he needed to do to keep himself functioning properly.
Usually, when Sky returned from showering, and Bridge was doing his meditation thing, Bridge would start chatting. The topics varied, but the chatting was kind of a staple for the end of the day. Tonight was different; Bridge was silent, and that sort of unsettled Sky. At first he just went about his routine – putting his kit away, checking his uniform for the next day, organizing his shoes. But as he continued to work, Bridge remained quiet, and eventually Sky couldn't take it anymore. He never noticed Bridge's quick satisfied smile when he began talking because he was too busy turning down his bed.
"Bridge?" began Sky as he turned to sit heavily on the edge of his bed. He was seated facing Bridge, but not looking at him; he gazed intently at some spot on the floor as he as speaking. "I just wanted to say I'm really sorry about what happened, you know, with Wootox and everything."
Bridge immediately jumped in to reassure Sky. "I know Sky. But, it's really not your fault."
Sky nodded as if he was agreeing, but the rest of his body language indicated that he wasn't going for it. Bridge waited – under normal circumstances this is where the conversation would end. Sky wasn't big on apologies, and more than that, he wasn't a big conversationalist. But Bridge had the feeling that Sky had more to say; so he bit his tongue and waited. And waited. Being deliberately silent twice in one night was almost too much for Bridge, but his silence was soon rewarded.
Sky shook his head as if responding to an internal debate of his own. "I always need to do more, to be better. I insisted that I could take Wootox in alone. Jack wanted to help, I wouldn't let him. And because I'm so stubborn, look what happened." Sky looked up for the first time and made eye-contact with Bridge. "That does make it my fault."
Bridge was glad he was sitting across the room from Sky and not any closer; his distressed gaze hit Bridge like a blow. Sky's self-doubt and remorse were as clear to Bridge as if he'd been reading Sky without his gloves on. Whoa, this is way more serious than I thought. Bridge blinked as he tried to regroup, he tried to figure out what to say, but once more Sky filled the silence with his own thoughts.
Sky once again returned his intense gaze to the floor. His voice was low and rough with emotion "You could've been killed Bridge. I would never be able to forgive myself if that had happened. If Ric hadn't…" He couldn't continue.
Bridge felt it was time to intervene. "Sky," he uncrossed his legs and slid forward to the edge of his own bed. He repeated himself trying to get the Blue Ranger's attention. "Sky…I wasn't killed. Wootox didn't win. Everything's okay. Rangers win the day!" Bridge tried to sound much more upbeat than he was actually feeling. But his cheery "we won" attitude wasn't getting through to Sky. He decided to try another tactic.
"Sky, I wasn't the only one in trouble today." Bridge slid his foot forward and kicked Sky so he'd look over at him. "No one knows better than me what you were willing to do this afternoon. I was reading you the whole time. You were waiting for Wootox to get close enough so you could kill him yourself; you were willing to sacrifice your own body, your whole life, for the safety of everyone else. That's not the action of an irresponsible person."
Sky wasn't ready to lay down the burden of guilt, though it was harder to hang onto it in the face of Bridge's unswerving support. "I never should have…"
"What, Sky?" Bridge interrupted. "You shouldn't have what? You didn't do anything today you wouldn't have done on any other day. Neither did Jack or any of the rest of us. We all put our lives on the line every day. Our lives are at risk in the line of duty – every day." Bridge wished he could take off his gloves without the Velcro making such a distracting noise because he really wanted to be able to read Sky when he asked the next question. "What made today so much worse?"
"He had my face." Sky whispered. Bridge watched as Sky unsuccessfully suppressed a shudder. Sky's fists were clenched resting on his legs "When I saw the look on his…on my face…that was the worst part, seeing the way I looked. Not just at the end of the day when… it was every time I ran into him. He looked so condescending and smug. I never thought I could look like that. But then, when he threatened to kill you…" Sky looked away from Bridge and took a deep breath trying to get himself under control. "I'm so sorry, Bridge."
Bridge tried to pour as much support and understanding into his words as he could when he answered, "It wasn't you, Sky. You didn't hurt or threaten me. I can't imagine how weird it must have been for you to see that, the way you did, outside but watching yourself. I mean, in a way it must have been strange but kind of cool. To be in a fight and watch yourself fight – I mean not yourself but Wootox as you as one of us but not. It wouldn't be like watching video because you were there but we didn't know it was you so we treated you like you but it wasn't. And then when you were…you know."
Sky actually cracked a smile; if Bridge could happily babble like that, he definitely wasn't holding a grudge. "Would you let me know?" Sky asked.
Bridge blinked. Usually other people couldn't follow him in a conversation, but this time he had no idea what Sky had just asked him. His expression clearly read Huh?
Sky smiled again, but his face was serious. "Would you let me know if I looked like that again? That condescending…ugly…look. I don't want to be that person, Bridge."
Bridge nodded in equal seriousness. "I'll let you know. Okay?"
"Okay." Sky nodded, and even with his gloves on Bridge could read a change in Sky's psyche. He'd carry the memory of this day for a long time, but in the end it would make him a better man, and a better Ranger.
The two Rangers silently got into bed and Bridge turned the lights off. Usually at this point of the night, Sky was threatening to staple Bridge's mouth shut so he'd stop talking. When they first started rooming together Sky's threats were much more serious; now, it was just part of the routine they had for ending the day.
The darkness and silence deepened as the two Rangers drifted toward sleep, both thinking about the events of the day. Bridge was nearly asleep when Sky broke the silence. The Blue Ranger's voice was sleepy, but it was clear he wanted to get one more thing off his chest. "Thanks for what you said today."
Bridge furrowed his brow in the darkness trying to recall out of the various things he'd said during the day what Sky might be referring to. "Uh…"
"I snagged Wootox in a corridor of the Delta base. You guys came running up and you said, "Let our friend go."
Bridge was confused not understanding why Sky would have thought he would have said anything else. "You are my friend, Sky." he mumbled sleepily.
"I know." was the content reply as the Blue Ranger rolled over and fell deeply asleep. Happy to have that cleared up, Bridge settled back down and in moments was asleep as well.
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