The New Santa
Last Revised: September 26, 2005
Summary: Sky gets chosen to be the new Santa, but before he can begin his new job, he's got to choose a Mrs. Claus. Can he make the right decision before it's too late?
Disclaimer: I don't own PR or the Movie "The Santa Claus 2", Disney does.
AN: Yes, this story is inspired by "The Santa Claus 2". I saw it on Encore one night and this idea suddenly popped into my head. I hope you like it. I'm posting this now, I know way earlier as it's September and Christmas is three months away, but if you want a sequel before Christmas, you'd better let me know before the end of October. --winks--
A big Thank You to NSYNC for Christmas music that helped push this story forward, and an even bigger thanks to Chrissy for being my sounding board, especially when we talked about those bittersweet Christmas memories in September as I was writing this --grins-- I hope you enjoy this one immensely!
In Dedication To: Those who believe in the magic of Christmas and the wonders it can bring. Those who believe in the magic of love and thefoundations it can build. Those who believe in magic itself and the worlds it opens up for them. And last but not least, to those who believe that anything's possible! Happy Holidays!
Italic scenes are Sky's flashbacks!
"Schuyler Tate, you've been chosen to be the next Santa Claus."
Sky's eyes popped open, his body shooting out of sleep more rapidly then it ever had before. Sitting up, he noticed his room was quiet, a lot quieter than it should have been. He immediately looked around, trying to find the other occupant of the room. When Sky's eyes landed on the figure by the door, sleeping comfortably on the rug, he smiled.
"Rocket," Sky breathed softly, causing the pure bred Golden Labrador to open its eyes and lift its head. Sighing in relief, Sky threw back the covers and moved to get out of bed. And that's when he saw it.
A letter lay on his desk, his name scrawled on it in elegant letters. Shakily, Sky moved to grab the envelope, ripping it open in a hurry.
You probably woke up this morning thinking last night was a dream. I hate to tell ya Bud, but you really are the new Santa Claus. You've got two days to find a Mrs. Claus, otherwise, Christmas will cease to exist.
Sky blinked and uttered an incoherent cry. "Oh God, Rocket, what am I gonna do?" he asked the dog, who sat up and cocked its head to one side. "I'm really the new Santa, and I've got to find a Mrs. Claus. How the heck am I supposed to find a wife in two days?"
The first thing Sky noticed when he entered the living room of his apartment was that there was Christmas music playing. The second thing he noticed was the Christmas decorations everywhere. The third thing he noticed happened to be the cheerful singing coming from the body currently tucked under his Christmas tree. All he could see was the nicely rounded bottom, encased in tight, faded blue jeans, swaying back and forth to the beat of the music.
"Santa that's my only wish this year…!" the figure sang softly with the music - an old Britney Spears song - carefully crawling out from under the tree then looking up at it to admire her handiwork.
"Syd?" Sky asked, confused as to why she was in his apartment, having apparently gotten the spare key from Bridge.
"SKY! You're up!" Syd cried out happily, bouncing up off the floor and looking startled and sheepish all at once. "I was expecting you to sleep in a little longer, guess I wasn't as quick as I thought I could be."
"What are you doing here?" he asked, clearly confused.
"Well, um, hiding some of your Christmas presents."
"Under my own tree?"
Sydney blushed. "Is there a better place?"
Sky gave her a look. "Didn't you think I'd notice them?"
"Well…I did hide them behind the ones Bridge had already placed under there, so no, I didn't think you'd notice. Are you mad?"
Sky shook his head before turning and heading for the kitchen, Syd following. Sky turned just in time to see Sydney kneel on the ground and reach out to scratch Rocket's stomach. The Lab stretched out and wriggled about as Syd scratched him in all the right spots. 'Gee, must be nice' Sky thought wryly, noting Syd kissing and hugging on his dog.
"Have you eaten?" Sky asked softly, not really wanting to disturb her.
"Actually, no. I was hoping to get your stuff over here and be gone before I had to report to the Academy. I was gonna catch something to eat on the way."
"How about I make you something to eat, and you can help me with this little problem I seem to have developed since I talked to you last."
Sydney looked up, worried. "What's wrong, Sky?"
"Well, Syd, you're never gonna believe this, but I got an early visit from Santa."
The former Pink Ranger sat her fork down and took a sip of her orange juice, her eyes trained on Sky's frowning face. "Schuyler Tate, I've known you for more years than I care to admit. I know you better than anyone, Bridge included, and never once have I ever heard you lie about something. Why are you starting now?"
Frustrated, Sky jumped from his seat and paced. "Syd, I'm not lying. I'll go get the letter for you. Stay here!"
Sighing, Syd looked over at the dog. "Rocket, what's gotten into him?" she asked the two year old dog. Rocket let out a soft woof and went back to chewing on his bone.
"Here!" he said, handing it to her.
Sydney took the letter and read it over, her eyes widening. "Sky!"
"It was in this," Sky told her, handing the envelope over. Sydney knew that the handwriting was definitely not Sky's, and from her expert analysis, the ink wasn't from a computer printer.
Looking up, Syd shook her head. "You're serious? You really are the new Santa, and you have to find a wife in two days?"
Sky nodded and then slumped in his chair. "What am I gonna do, Syd? No girls I know would ever marry me and the two girls who ever associate with me are my best friends."
"Kat?" Syd suggested, taking her plate and his to the sink. "One of the Rangers?"
"SYD! You're not helping!" Sky whined. "How can I marry a complete stranger?"
Biting her lip, Syd refrained from telling him her idea. "Maybe you should talk to Z."
"Right!" he sarcastically growled. "What am I supposed to say? 'Hey Z, I need to marry you so I can be the next Santa. What do you say?' That'll go over well with Bridge, don't you think?"
"I don't know what to say, Sky. Ask the others for help, I'm fresh out of ideas." Sighing, Syd moved over to where he sat, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and leaning her head on top of his. She smiled when he wrapped his arms around her thighs, pulling her close. "I'm gonna miss you when you go to the North Pole," she whispered, tearing up.
"Sydney," he choked, watching her pull away and wipe away the tears.
"I'm gonna be late. In case I don't see you before you leave, have a nice life," she choked out, pecking an affectionate kiss to his cheek before she grabbed her purse and keys and ran from his apartment.
"What a mess you got yourself into," Z commented, reading the letter yet again as the team, minus Sydney, gathered in the common room. Something like this would make a normal person skeptical, but for people who'd piloted larger than life robots, who'd used devices to morph themselves into superheroes and capture criminals, and had defeated an evil alien race, Sky's problem was nothing but a piece of cake or a walk in the park. Sky Tate being chosen as the next Santa Claus was a little strange, cause no one who knows of him would think that would ever happen, and those who know him, know he had a soft side, just not a big enough soft side to be Santa Claus.
"Tell me about it!" Sky griped. "And to top it off, now Syd's upset with me." Bridge, Z and Jack all made faces at the Blue Ranger's words. "What?"
"Nothing," Jack started. "We didn't say a thing."
"No, but I've seen those looks before. What?"
Bridge moved from his spot next to Z to stand next to Sky. "Don't take this the wrong way, but I think what the three of us meant by that was that the answer to your problem, is, well, it's ummm, what I mean is.."
"What Bridge is trying to say is that, the answer to your problem is right under your nose," Z smiled, wondering if Syd would kill her later for telling Sky the long-kept secret.
Sky looked confused, which was nothing normal to Z. She saw Jack shake his head at the pitiful fact that Sky had no clue what she was talking about. Bridge had a confused look on his face as well, but for very different reasons.
Shaking her head. "Tate, look a little closer to the girls you know, one girl in particular."
"The only girls I know and hang out with are you, Kat, and Syd!" Sky bellowed, and then watched his friends give him the 'DUH! What do you think we meant?' look.
The sudden realization hit Sky like a ton of bricks. She'd been by his side for more years than he could count, always ready to defend and help, always positive, and always there, giving him the one thing he needed more than anything else, the one thing only she could give – love.
Sky walked along the sidewalk, his arms tucked in his coat pockets to ward off the chill in the air. Christmas was less than a week away and he was in the biggest dilemma he'd ever found himself in. After his conversation with Z, Bridge and Jack, he'd decided to take a walk and get some fresh air.
Each shop he passed was decked out for the holidays. He smiled when he saw the comic shop, displays of Jack's favorite comic author, Trent Fernandez's newest comic in the large window. In the window of the music store he saw a display of the greatest hits album of Z's favorite singer – Kira Ford McKnight. The local computer store was having a sale on the new program Bridge wanted.
He made a mental note to come back and purchase their presents, knowing it could be the last time he ever did so if he actually ended up as Santa. The final shop he walked by on his way to the park was the book store, which had a big display of magazines featuring their "Where Are They Now?" issues, all of which featured Sydney. Shaking his head, Sky kept walking to the park.
The pond that they loved to picnic by was frozen over and kids and their parents and couples of all ages were there ice skating. Laughter rang out through the air, causing Sky to remember the first time Syd had tried to teach him and Bridge to skate.
"Come on Sky! It's easy!" Sydney laughed, tugging on fourteen year old Sky's arm. Eleven year old Bridge was already skating rings around them, even though twelve year old Sydney had just taught him to skate that afternoon. Syd's mom was off in the distance, watching over the rest of their class of cadets.
"This is stupid! I'm gonna hurt myself!" Sky whined even as Sydney tugged him closer to her. She moved her hands to his waist, then slid her arms around him, cuddling close and shivering. Sky looked down at her, her blonde head resting on his chest, and let his arms tighten around her. She always smelled like peppermint and cinnamon or vanilla and strawberries. "Syd, you okay?"
"Cold!" she told him, her teeth chattering. Sky took off his scarf real quick, the one his parents had gotten him the Christmas before his dad had died, and wrapped it around Sydney's neck.
"If we skate, it won't be so cold," she reasoned, taking a peek at him up through her eyes lashes.
Sky rolled his eyes and nodded, having learned long ago there was no saying no to Sydney when she was looking up at him with that wounded puppy dog expression on her face. "You're gonna have to pull me."
Syd smiled and nodded, pulling away from him. Before taking his hand, she moved to give back the scarf but he shook his head, indicating that she could keep up. "I'll get it back later; you need it more than I do."
Sky smiled now, remembering they had spent the whole afternoon skating. Sydney hadn't been satisfied until both he and Bridge could skate alone without her. Shaking his head, Sky walked past the skaters and further into the park. Sydney hadn't given up on him that afternoon like a lot of people were apt to do. She'd been persistent in her quest. It was just one of the many things he loved about her.
When Sky got to a large hill where kids and parents were sledding, he had to smile again, remembering another time with his two best friends.
"I'm scared!" Syd cried softly, looking at the sled and then down the giant hill. At ten, Syd was smaller than even nine year old Bridge, who was sitting on the front of the sled.
"I promise, Syd, nothing's gonna happen. You can sit between me and Bridge, I'll hold onto you and you hold onto him. We'll slide down and then do it over again. You won't fall off," Sky promised her, gesturing for her to get on the sled.
"No! I'm scared!" Syd cried again. Bridge shrugged his shoulders at Sky's pleading stare.
"Sydney Drew! Are you telling me you're gonna let Mara Jones beat you? She's already been down six times today and it's the first time she's been sledding!"
Syd's eyes flared angrily. "NO!"
If there was one thing Sky new, it was that Sydney Drew disliked Mara Jones more than anything because the older girl was always rubbing the fact that she got to do such cool things and wasn't scared of anything in Syd's face.
"Fine. Prove it."
Sydney scrambled forward and positioned herself behind Bridge, holding tightly onto the younger boy's waist. She shivered slightly when Sky sat behind her, one arm wrapped around her waist. "Here we go!" Sky laughed, pushing them off.
The little girl in blue jeans and a pink coat and hat screamed as they went down the hill, tears streaming down her face. She gasped softly when they slid into a snow bank and stopped. Bridge and Sky were laughing as they got up, but Syd wasn't.
"Sydney, what'd you think?" Sky asked, but Bridge looked upset. Turning to face her, Sky saw the tears welling in her eyes and the ones already dripping down her red tinted cheeks and off her chin. "Oh Sydney, I'm sorry!"
The little blonde cried harder when Sky and Bridge hugged her. They hadn't meant to scare her. "I promise, we won't make you go again."
"But it was fun! I'm okay; it was just a little scary!" Sydney protested, whipping the tears from her face with her pink gloved hand. "It'll get better each time I go down, right?"
Sydney nodded and the three trudged up the hill over and over again the entire afternoon until Bridge's dad had told them it was time to go home.
"God, we had so much fun that afternoon," Sky murmured to himself, shaking his head to rid himself of thoughts of the past. How many years had Sydney, and Bridge, been beside him, helping him grow into the man he was, the man that was about to become Santa Claus?
Sky felt like he hadn't accomplished anything but a trip down memory lane. Ok, so what was Z getting at? Yes, he loved Sydney, but not like that. Right? It didn't matter that Sydney had been the only girl he'd ever hung out with and was able to be himself around, until Z. It's not like they'd tried dating before and he was hung up on her. So, what was Z getting at?
Slowly making his way back down the street toward the Academy, Sky found himself drawn to a display window of a sports shop. Inside, there was a mannequin on skis, wearing a pink and white ski outfit. For some reason, the display reminded him of a ski trip they'd taken a few years ago.
"Hey!" Sky laughed, plopping down on the comfortable suede couch in the Ski Lodge.
Sky shot Sydney a look. He'd been worried about her before, when he'd seen her standing in the window while he and Dru had tried to teach Bridge to ski. She hadn't come to join them, or their parents, and he knew that wasn't like her. When it came to sports, winter ones especially, she loved to at least try. He'd noticed she'd been particularly silent most of the trip so far. They were spending their two and a half week Christmas vacation away from the Academy and with their parents, all courtesy of Syd's dad, at a resort in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Sky had to admit, over the years, Sydney had retained that child-like innocence he'd felt he'd lost a long time ago. It was what endured her to his heart, he surmised. But since they'd left the Academy two days ago, she'd been distant, moody, and quiet. She hadn't been Syd.
"What's wrong? You've been like this for two days now," he started, scooting closer to her.
"Nothing's wrong. Why aren't you out there trying to teach Bridge to ski? Or with Dru drooling over girls in tight outfits?" she asked, changing the subject.
Sky decided to let her hide for a few moments and turned his attention to Bridge, which made him smile. Fifteen year old Bridge was currently trying to impress a pretty ski instructor on the Bunny Hill.
"Bridge's out trying to impress a pretty girl; I figured he didn't need me cramping his style. And Dru went up to take a nap. Besides, I missed you. You haven't gone out with us at all. What gives?"
Sky knew that teenage girls cried all the time for reasons unknown to him, but sixteen year old Syd hardly ever cried these days unless it was something truly serious. But here she was, crying silently while staring into the fire before them. "Syd?"
"Am I so repulsive that guys just don't think of me as anything but the little sister?" she abruptly questioned, throwing Sky for a loop.
"I asked a simple question, Schuyler. Am I so repulsive that guys don't find me attractive enough, smart enough, to be anything other than a little sister figure to them?"
Now Sky knew he hadn't been imagining her question. His first instinct was to kick the ass of whoever had put this thought into her head. Sydney Drew not attractive? What a load of crap! She had been on the cover of every major magazine in the last six months as the top story of the year apparently – Shipping Tycoon's Model-Singer-Olympic Champion daughter entering a more intense phase of training at S.P.D., to hopefully be followed one day by becoming a Power Ranger – not to mention for her modeling and singing careers, which had taken off faster than she could have imagined even with her being at S.P.D.
"Who the hell stuck that thought in your head?" he roared, staring at her.
"I'm asking a simple question Sky. Could you please answer it for me?"
"Sydney, of course you're attractive! What they hell's gotten into you? You're one of the most attractive girls I've ever met!" Sky blushed after he said that. The young woman he'd just said that to was practically his little sister, his partner in crime in everything since they'd been able to walk and talk.
"Then why the hell won't the boy I like kiss me?" Syd shot back, her eyes flaring with fire and her cheeks burning.
"I don't know. Are you sure he's not an idiot?" Sky argued back. "And who, by the way, are we talking about?" Sky felt the need to pummel whoever it was, especially if he was a lower level cadet at the academy, for making her feel like this.
Sydney seemed to think about that before she said anything. "Forget it. It's not worth ruining my vacation over. I'm going for a walk."
Sky remembered watching her walk out of the lodge and into the coolness of the outdoors; all the while he'd been confused as hell about her behavior. It hadn't been until nearly two weeks later, on New Years Eve that he'd realized she'd spent their entire vacation sick over what had happened between her and the unknown boy. And God, and then what had happened between them that had put awkwardness between them for weeks after going back to the Academy - Sky almost didn't want to think about that, though he had to admit, it had been one phenomenal kiss. He'd never kissed a girl sense and felt what he felt when he'd kissed Syd; it had felt like he'd come home.
"Why are you out here by yourself? I'd have thought you'd be in the middle of the celebrations?" Sky asked as he approached the lone figure standing on the deck, looking up at the full moon above.
"I don't feel much like celebrating," she told him softly, running her fingertips along the railing of the deck they were standing on.
"Still upset about what we talked about before?" he asked, leaning his back against the rail and looking down at her. He had a cup of hot chocolate in his hands, which he took a sip from. She'd been overly quiet the two weeks following their talk.
"Maybe. I'm lonely, Sky, more lonely then I ever thought I could feel. All of my friends have guys to be with, even at the Academy. I'm the only one who doesn't. I want someone who could be with me, on nights like this, celebrating those special moments in life, like New Years," she spoke softly, blinking back the tears.
"Instead, I'm a sixteen year old girl who's training to be a member of one of the most elite fighting forces on Earth, who has special powers she never would have wanted cause all they make me feel like is a freak, and to top it off, I've never been kissed. ME! Sydney Drew. Model, Singer, Olympic Champion, and at sixteen, I've never been kissed by a member of the opposite sex."
"Kissing isn't all it's cracked up to be, unless you're with the right person."
"Have you ever been with the right person?" Sydney asked him, trying to keep her voice light so he couldn't tell she was about to loose her battle with her emotions.
Sky wanted to lie to her and say yes, but the imploring look she gave him stopped him. "Believe it or not, no; I haven't found the right girl yet. I've been so focused on being Red Ranger the last couple of years that all my girlfriends haven't been able to stand taking a back seat to that."
"Just once, Sky, just once, I wish I knew what it felt like, even if it wasn't with the right person, to be kissed."
Sky pondered her wish and took another sip of his rapidly cooling hot chocolate. An idea popped into his head, but he pushed it away as absurd. There was no way in hell he could kiss her, right? Right! Syd was his little sister, maybe not in blood, but they'd been best friends long enough for it to seem like it.
However, the thought that he should kiss her kept popping into his head even as he tried to push it away, silently counting the thousands of reasons why he shouldn't. Of course, one reason kept coming up as to why he should – because he knew he could make her first kiss special, and memorable. He knew he was a pretty good kisser, he was just vain enough to believe that. The question was, would Sydney agree to it even if he brought it up to her?
"Hmm?" she hummed, her voice broken even in the small noise. Sky's heart ached at the sound. If there was one thing he couldn't stand, it was seeing Sydney sad.
"I have an idea, but I'll understand if you don't want to go through with it," he started, swallowing hard. Why was he nervous all of a sudden? It was just Sydney for crying out loud. Of course, his inner self yelled, you're about to suggest she let you kiss her. No, there's no reason for you to be nervous. -- insert sarcasm --
They turned to face one another, Sky setting his cup on the railing and taking her hands in his. "What if...what if I kissed you?"
Sky remembered the look on her face as he closed his eyes now. She'd looked so startled at his suggestion, but when he'd try to take it back, to explain it away, she'd reached up and placed one icy fingertip on his lips to quiet him. And her words, God, had they shocked the hell out of him.
"Would you really do that for me?" she softly questioned, looking at their joined hands before bringing her head up to stare into his deep, clear blue eyes.
Sky nodded, not trusting his voice to not crack if he replied.
"Are you sure?"
Syd bit her lip and nodded at him, the corners of her mouth tipping up slightly in a smile. Sky pulled her close to him, as close as he dared with their parents just beyond the doors to the lodge behind them. From inside, the pair could hear the others counting down with the television to the New Year.
On the count of one, Sky leaned forward and whispered, "Happy New Year, Sydney," before he settled his lips on hers. It felt like fireworks exploding behind his closed eyes as his warm lips caressed her rose petal soft ones. He'd never felt anything like that before.
Without realizing it, Sky had pulled her against his chest and tipped her head back, bending her over the arm he'd slid around her waist and secured her to his body with. They slanted their heads in mutual agreement, holding the kiss for a long time. They pulled back to breath briefly before Sky lost his control and swooped in to kiss her again. This time, his tongue sought permission to enter her mouth, which she gave with a muffled moan against his lips. Their tongues danced together, caressing each other with a passion neither of them knew where it had come from. Their mouths weren't the only things straining for contact and pleasure.
Sky found himself thrusting his hips against her stomach, his rapidly hardening sex poking the softness of Sydney's tummy. Syd responded in kind, snaking her arms up from between them and around his neck, pulling him closer to her. For every thrust he made against her, Syd would moan or sigh into his mouth and thrust back.
They broke apart, ripping their mouths away from each other's at Bridge's yell. They stared at each other in shock, realizing that they'd just taken a very simple gesture from Sky and gone beyond what most couples would. Syd curled instinctively against Sky's chest as Bridge approached them, knowing that their older friend was embarrassed by the state of his arousal and neither of them wanted to explain the state of Sky's body to Bridge.
"What's wrong Bridge?" Sky shakily asked, looking at his friend.
"You missed the countdown," Bridge told them, grinning as he saw Sky hugging Sydney close. Sky had to wonder about Bridge's smile, the younger boy looked like he knew more than he was letting on.
"We heard it, Bridgey," Sydney murmured. "We're just enjoying watching the moon and the stars instead."
"Is everything ok?"
"We're fine!" the two of them responded.
Sky shook his head to clear the images and feelings he still remembered from that night. When he'd gone to bed that night, both Dru and Bridge had been hounding him about what he and Syd had talked about. Not to mention, Dru had been a little more aware of the state of certain parts of Sky's body than Bridge and had snickered about it for hours until Sky had thrown up a shield so he could ignore them.
'I haven't kissed anyone since that night, not like that,' he thought. The fact that just thinking about that kiss had aroused him made him confused. 'She's my sister! I'm not supposed to have impure thoughts about her!'
Sighing, Sky soon found himself standing in front of the Academy, where dozens of younger cadets were shoveling snow and having snowball fights, which brought another memory to mind that made him smile.
"ICK! I hate snow!" Z whined, trying to get the slush off her gloves. Jack was standing beside her, nodding in agreement.
"Oh come on guys!" Syd laughed, pouncing on Bridge's back as he twirled her around and around. "It's snow! It's fun!"
"Whatever you say, Princess," Z muttered.
Sky could only laugh as Bridge and Syd tumbled to the ground and then made snow angels. Walking over, he reached down and helped both of them up, Sydney instantly seeking the warmth of his arms. "Cold?"
"Y-yes!" Syd shivered and her teeth chattered as she snuggled close to him. "Reminds me of when we were little though."
Z and Jack shot looks of interest over at the Pink and Blue Rangers as they laughed. "When you were little? I don't understand?" Jack asked.
Sky grinned and hugged Syd closer to him to help warm her. "We grew up together, which makes me wonder now why we never made the connection between Syd and Bridge's parents and S.P.D. before Cruger told us," Sky laughed. "Anyways, we always spent Christmas vacation together."
Bridge and Syd laughed as Bridge tried to get the snow out of his gloves. "Ok, that's not good."
Sky, Z and Jack could only laugh along until Sky pulled a small, green and yellow wrapped package out of his coat pocket. "Then I guess you'd better open this one early, Bridge," Sky told him, tossing the Green Ranger the package.
The others look puzzled until Bridge ripped the paper off and found a new pair of leather gloves, these ones in green, black, and white, inside the package. "Thanks Sky!" Bridge grinned, ripping the outer covering off the gloves and then quickly putting the new gloves on. "Much better."
"You're welcome. Here guys!" Sky laughed, tossing Z and Jack similar packages, Z's in more yellow and less green, and Jack's done in red and white.
"Cool!" Jack laughed, holding up tickets for the five of them to the comic convention to be held in two weeks, after Christmas.
"Awww!" Z smiled, holding up a small necklace. The charms on the necklace were all their initials, done in their signature color.
"You're welcome. I figured we could all open on before Christmas. I got you each something else too."
"You didn't need to do that," Z laughed, Sky merely shrugging then looking down at Sydney who was smiling and cuddling close to him.
"Forgetting someone?" Jack asked, nodding to Syd. Sky merely shook his head no. Reaching into his pants pocket, he pulled out a small box, much like the one Z's necklace had come in, but it wasn't wrapped. He used his thumb to open the box and then he lifted it up for Syd to see. He felt her gasp and heard her utter a smile cry when she saw the tiny, silver chain, and the thumb sized silver star locket.
"Open it," Sky whispered for her ears only, as the others gathered around and Syd opened it. Inside were two pictures. One was of him, her and Bridge from when they'd gone sledding, and the other was a picture Bridge had taken of just him and her the night before they'd left the Resort a few years back – the night he'd kissed her. The two of them were standing on the deck, Sky's arms wrapped around her while she leaned back against his chest, her arms over his and her head tucked neatly under his chin.
"Cute!" Z laughed.
"I remember that picture!" Bridge exclaimed.
Jack smiled. "There's definitely a story behind that one, one I want to hear."
Syd and Sky ignored them, looking only at each other as Sky slipped his arms from around her and fastened the locket around her neck. "Thank you, Sky," she murmured, brushing away the tears and fingering the locket.
"Merry Christmas, Sydney," he whispered back, hugging her tightly. The next thing they knew, the Pink and Blue Rangers felt themselves bombarded with snow balls.
"Enough mush! Let's play!" Jack laughed, causing all of them to jump into the snow ball fight.
Sky shook his head to clear it, and walked past the cadets and into the Academy. He didn't stop until he found himself in front of one of the classrooms, where he saw Sydney teaching a group of younger cadets. He watched her for a few moments and then he saw it. She'd just turned from the board and was facing the door's window, and she was wearing the locket.
If felt to Sky, like something just seemed to click into place. Z was right, and now he knew why he'd been taking a trip down memory lane all day. Now he knew why Z had mentioned Sydney earlier that day. He felt stupid, now that he thought about it. Why hadn't he realized it sooner?
"Great, now all I can do is wait, and see."
Sydney looked like she wanted to be anywhere but where she was. Z noticed that the former Pink Ranger had been extremely reluctant to come with her, Bridge and Jack to say goodbye to Sky.
"Cheer up, Syd. Maybe he won't need to stay there all year long, only during the holidays," Z suggested, though Syd didn't look like she'd heard a word the former Yellow Ranger had just said.
"We're here," Jack announced, pulling up in front of Sky's building. The four trudged up the stairs, each of their hearts heavy with having to say goodbye to their friend, or in Bridge and Syd's case, their best friend.
"Hey guys!" Sky greeted, opening the door to them. "What are you doing here?"
Jack smiled. "We came to wait with you until Santa came to take you away."
Sky smiled and nodded. "He's supposed to be here soon, come on in."
The four newly arrived former Rangers noticed Sky hadn't packed anything for the trip. "So, like, are you gonna get to come back and visit or what?" Z asked, hoping to cheer up Syd and Bridge, who was now frowning and squeezing her hand tightly. He hated separations, and with Sky nearly like a big brother to him, it was hurting him immensely.
"Actually, yeah. I only have to be there from like October to New Years," Sky laughed, though the happiness in his voice didn't reach his eyes, which were trained on Syd. "Syd?"
"Hmm?" she asked, distracted, and turned her head toward him. He flinched when he saw the look in her eyes – they were no longer lively, brilliant or sparkling, they were dead and dull. Sky felt his heart break, but prayed what he had to ask her before he left would bring back his Syd.
"Fine. Look, I have to get back to the Academy soon, is he gonna get here or not?" she grumbled. The three who'd come with her shook their heads at her, knowing full well she didn't need to be at the academy, while Sky looked hurt, though he brushed it off quickly.
The sudden knock on the door startled all of them, telling them that the time to say goodbye had come. Sky moved toward the door, opened it, and the team saw an old man standing there in a pair of jeans and a red coat. "Schuyler."
"Santa. Come on in," Sky motioned.
"Well, looks like you have company. Unfortunately, we don't have much time. Did you do what you were supposed to?" the jolly looking man asked. He smiled at Sky, who smiled and half nodded.
"Not quite. I was just about to when you knocked."
"Then get to it, boy-o, you ain't got much time left."
Sky smiled and then turned to his friends, hugging each of them except Sydney. He and Bridge held onto each other a little tighter than he did with the other two, and Bridge whispered something to him. "It's about time you realized, she's had feelings for you forever."
The former Blue Ranger watched his green counterpart smirk before stepping back to stand with Z and Jack. Sky nodded and approached Sydney, who was looking at him like a dear caught in the headlights of a vehicle. "Syd?"
The former Pink Ranger could do nothing but bring a delicate hand up to cover her mouth as tears streaked down her face and her sobs started to become louder and louder. "Sydney, listen to me…."
"SKY! DON'T GO!" she cried, throwing herself into his arms. "I don't want you to go! I love you!"
Sky had to bit his lip to keep the tears at bay as he heard her proclamation. His arms banded around her tightly, crushing her to his chest. "Oh Syd," he murmured into her hair, kissing the top of her head. "I've known that, deep down, and all along. You've always loved me."
"Not like that!" she told him. "I mean it, I love you! I'm in love with you! I have been, since..."
"Since the night I kissed you when you were sixteen, that night at the lodge on New Years?"
Syd looked up at him in shock but nodded just the same. "Yeah."
"You know what?" Sky asked, reaching up to softly caress her cheeks, his thumbs gently wiping away her tears. "I realized yesterday afternoon that I've been in love with you since the day Bridge and I took you sledding. I just didn't know it, until now."
Sydney cried and smiled up at him. "Don't go."
"I have to," he told her softly, leaning down to kiss her. "Can I ask you something?"
"Will you be my Mrs. Claus?"
Z, Bridge and Jack felt their jaws drop when Sky asked Sydney the question. They'd been hoping, and now their wishes had come true. Santa himself stood off near the door, smiling widely. It was December 23, and he knew Christmas would go on as planned.
"Oh Sky!" Sydney giggled and nodded. "I thought you'd never ask!"
"Marry me, Sydney?" he asked, pulling a box out of his pocket as he sunk to one knee. "Marry me, be with me forever? I can't imagine life without you."
Sydney was full blown crying then as she nodded her head vigorously and let Sky slip the pink diamond engagement ring on her finger. Sky kissed her hand right where the ring was before he stood up and swept her into his arms and kissed her soundly.
"It's time to go, Sky, Sydney," Santa smiled. "You'll come back once your work is done, I promise."
The pair nodded, hugged their friends, and then dashed off out the door with Santa.