Disclaimer: Not mine
The interior of the Astro Megaship was a sharp contrast to the battle-scarred exterior. Inside, it was cool and quiet, the only noise the comforting whirring sound of the engines that Andros had long been accustomed to. That particular sound had lulled him to sleep more times than he could remember, but tonight there was nothing in the world that could convince him to sleep.
He was home. It had been two and a half long, dark years since he had set foot on a free, habited KO-35, but the war was over, and miraculously, they had won. He had returned to his homeworld, no longer carrying the pain that he once had, only to find that he had no place there any longer. Now he knew that his home was with the people that he cared for, people that cared for him in return.
Andros sighed heavily, and sat up in bed, shoving his dual-toned hair back out of his face, revealing to DECA's camera two deeply troubled hazel eyes. He rearranged his pillow, and sat back against it, finding it impossible to relax enough to be even remotely comfortable. Drawing his knees up, he sat motionlessly, almost forgetting to breathe as he contemplated what he was going to do with his life now.
There was a soft knock at his door. "Who's there?" he called, not at all surprised when he heard Ashley's voice on the other side. "Can I come in?"
"You don't have to ask," Andros said, crossing the room to greet his girlfriend. She was dressed in pajamas and her caramel hair was tousled, indicating that she, at least, had attempted some sleep. "Couldn't you sleep?"
Ashley shook her head and stepped into his room, her bare feet padding quietly on the floor. Andros reached out and fumbled with the manual controls, raising the lights enough to see by, not willing to completely surrender the safety of the darkness.
He sat down on his bed again, motioning for Ashley to join him, which she did, nuzzling close to him and taking his hand. Andros intertwined his fingers with hers, squeezing her hand slightly.
"Are you doing all right?" Ashley asked after several minutes of a comfortable silence. Andros shrugged his shoulders. "I'm really nervous, actually," he admitted a moment later, feeling himself tensing. Ashley did too, and she shifted, backing away from him slightly, giving him room to think. Grateful beyond words that she didn't press him, he opened up to her, doing his best to express his jumbled thoughts to her.
"It's not just that I left," he said slowly. "There wasn't any reason for me to stay on KO-35. They don't need rangers any longer. I'll get used to not fighting, but I don't know how to be any other than a ranger."
"Don't change who you are," Ashley told him softly. "And don't worry. You belong with us. Everything will work out in the end."
"I guess," Andros said, pacified, but not entirely reassured.
"It will," Ashley insisted firmly. "You'll see." She hesitated. "Andros... I don't want to sound insecure or anything like that, but what about us? When we get back to Earth, are you- will we- I mean... Andros-"
Despite himself, Andros laughed softly. Ashley stopped talking, and looked away again. When Andros glanced over at her, he could see that her face had flushed a deep red and her expression was one of extreme hurt. "I'm sorry, Ash," he said, instantly contrite. "I'm not laughing at you. It's just that I'd have to be an idiot to break up with you."
"Really?" Ashley looked at him with a half- smile. Andros nodded, too unsure of himself to look at her, surprised when he felt Ashley take his hand. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye.
"Ash, you're the most important person in the world to me."
"I am?" Ashley looked at him and he nodded his head firmly. Ashley leaned her head against his shoulder. "You're so sweet, Andros, do you know that?"
Startled, he turned completely to face her. "I am?" he asked her, suddenly overcome with shyness.
Ashley smiled and nodded. "At least, you're sweet to me," she said ruefully. "Not so much with everyone else."
"Everyone else isn't as caring as you," Andros said softly, looking down at his hands. Why was it that whenever he had something real to tell her, it was impossible for him to look her in the eye? "Or as understanding as you. . . or as beautiful."
Ashley flashed him a brilliant smile and laughed softly. "Would you believe that I used to hate being told that?"
"Why?" Andros asked curiously. "I thought all girls loved hearing how beautiful they were."
"Most girls," Ashley told him. She sighed, her smile fading. "It's stupid, really, but if you really want to know... " She glanced at him uncertainly, and he nodded. Ashley hesitated. "It's just that when most people look at me, they don't really see me. They see someone who's popular, and pretty. They just write me off as the rich little cheerleader, and don't bother to get to know me."
"They might look at you differently now," Andros said, trying to cheer her up. "Now you're the rich little cheerleader who saved the world."
"Saved the universe, you mean," Ashley corrected him. Andros shot her an innocent look, and she grinned. "Thanks," she said. "For not laughing at me."
"Why would I laugh?" Andros asked her. "The least you deserve is for everyone to see who you really are."
"I don't care about everyone anymore," Ashley said quietly, fixing him with an intent, but unusually unreadable expression. She hesitated before continuing. "Andros... whenever I'm with you, you make me feel like nothing else matters but me. No one's ever even come close to making me feel as beautiful as you make me feel, or as lo-"
She broke off in midword, and looked away. After a moment, Andros realized what she'd almost said. "Or as loved?" he finished quietly. Ashley nodded her head wordlessly, and Andros exhaled slowly, using the time to think. The room suddenly seemed to have grown much warmer in the last five seconds.
"I love you, Andros," Ashley said suddenly, softly, and for a moment, he wasn't sure if she'd really said it. "I love you," she repeated, more boldly, and drew her head up to look him in the eye.
"Ash, I -" Andros started to speak, then stopped, the words vanishing somewhere between his mind and his mouth, lost. "I-" he tried again, but any and all understandable, coherent speech seemed to have deserted him, and instead, he gave her a helpless sort of look before staring carefully down at his pillow. "I love you."
The words came out much more easily than he had expected them to. Truth be told, he hadn't expected to be able to say them at all. For days now, more like weeks, he had looked at her, knowing how much he loved her, but no matter how many times he had formed the words in his head, they had vanished by the time his mouth had opened to say them aloud.
"You do?" A wide smile crept along Ashley's face as he nodded. "I wasn't sure you'd ever tell me," she said, smiling a little sheepishly at him.
"Neither was I," Andros admitted. He laughed a little as he said, "Ash, I've been trying to tell you for weeks how I felt about you, but I could never say it."
Andros nodded, and pulled her into his arms. "I love you, Ashley, and I'll never stop loving you." He paused. "I came back for you," he admitted.
"For me?" Ashley repeated softly. Andros nodded. "That's..." Ashley tried to speak and stopped, tears flooding suddenly into her eyes.
"What's wrong?" Andros asked, as Ashley started to cry. "Did I say something wrong?"
Ashley shook her head as she wiped her eyes. "I'm sorry," she muttered, blushing a dark red. "I didn't mean to cry. That you would give up your home for me... I don't think I'm worth that, but I love you so much, and if you love me that much, it's just so...All I've ever wanted is to be loved, and you..."
Andros let her babble for a few minutes, unable to make any sense of what she was saying, but getting the gist of it all. When she finally stopped, she stood up, not quite meeting his eye. "I'm sorry," Ashley said. "I didn't mean to... I'll go now."
"Ash, wait," Andros said, standing up. He caught her by the hand as she turned to go and pulled her into his arms, kissing her with all the love he felt for her. "You're worth it," he said softly, his forehead resting against hers. "My home is with you, and don't ever doubt that."
At his words, Ashley beamed up at him, her eyes shining. Andros smirked at her for a moment before claiming her lips with his once again, this time much more intensely. As Ashley returned the kiss, Andros held her face in his hands, his thumbs gently caressing her cheeks.
"I think I should go now," Ashley whispered, gazing into his eyes as if in a trance .
"You should go now," Andros agreed. Slowly, he leaned in and kissed her one more time. Softly, he breathed into her ear, "But don't think I'll let you."
Ashley pulled back and stared up at him, and for a moment, Andros thought he'd gone too far. Then Ashley smiled coyly at him, her chocolate eyes sparkling seductively. "Oh?" she asked, trailing her fingers through his hair. "And just how are you planning on keeping me here?"
"Like this," Andros said, lifting her up off of her feet.
"Put me down!" Ashley insisted through peals of laughter. "Andros!"
"If you say so," Andros agreed, setting her down gently on his bed. Ashley grasped the neck of his shirt firmly and drew him to her, their lips meeting passionately but at the same time sweetly. Gradually, Andros let his mind shut down, and relied solely on instinct, the instinct that let him immerse himself completely in the moment, in her touch, in her love.
When they finally pulled apart, Andros drew his blanket up over them both. He closed his eyes and slipped his arms securely around Ashley's waist as she curled up in his arms, already fast asleep. Sleep claimed him more easily than it ever had before, and tonight it was not the ambient sounds of the Megaship that soothed him to sleep, but the soft, even breathing of the woman that he loved.
A/N: It should be the 30th by the time most of you read this. This is my birthday present to Ashley Hammond/Astro Yellow, so you all better be nice and wish her a happy birthday. :P
AH/AY: Happy birthday, and keep writing! I know that's what Jenny says, but it's your birthday, so I can't say what I normally say, because it's always a threat of some sort telling you to update. So happy birthday.