Disclaimer: The usual. Don't own anything you recognize.
BEHIND THE CLOUDS
By Etcetera Kit
Epilogue: Twilight's Dawn
Twelve Years Later – Year 2033
"Do I have to go to bed?"
The little girl stood on her bed, giving her father a mournful look that, in her opinion, probably relayed the injustice of the situation. After all, she wasn't ready to go to bed, so why was her father insisting upon it? Her father stood before her, a stern expression on his face, but a twinkle in his blue-gray eyes.
"Yes," he replied, then swooped down to pick her up, using a modified combat move that effectively had her lying down on her bed. She giggled, grinning at her father. He pulled the covers on her bed over her, tucking her in.
"Can we hear a story?" her older sister asked from her own bed.
The two girls' father gave them appraising looks. "Which story?"
"The one about the SPD Rangers!" the younger girl said happily.
"All right," he agreed. "But you have to lie down and stay quiet." The girls gave murmurs of assent, both looking eagerly at him for the story. "This is the story about the SPD Rangers," he started. "Sky and Syd, Bridge and Z…"
Sky looked up at the dorm skeptically. This was the place that Newtech University expected Bridge to live for four years? It was utilitarian, red brick – probably to prevent fires from wild parties destroying the building. He sighed. This would just have to be done. Bridge had asked him to help him move into the dorm – not his parents or Z, but him. It would be weird, going back to SPD without them. Syd had enrolled at UCLA last semester and was now an education major. Bridge and Z were both starting at Newtech U this semester.
His younger brother – moving up and away from him, the only one of them to remain at SPD… Syd was in LA, Paris and Trent had gone to New York. Conner and Kira had moved to Washington state where Conner had opened a series of soccer camps and Kira had resumed her career as a singer. Ethan had gotten a job with the GSA and moved to Mirinoi. Austin had gone to Canada. Now that Bridge and Z were gone – he was alone at SPD.
The last year had not been without surprises. The one that stood out in his mind was the son that Conner and Kira had. The baby had been named Schuyler Bridge… Sky never thought that having a namesake would be so special, but, it was. He still smiled to think about it.
"Sky? You all right?"
He turned to Bridge, forcing a smile. "Let's get this stuff inside," he said, motioning to his car, which was full of Bridge's belongings. It was a lifetime – it was a second, before they had moved all the stuff into the small single room that Bridge had. He perched on the bed amongst all the junk, trying to resist the urge to act like an overprotective parent.
"Sky, I'm going to be fine," Bridge said, picking up on his emotions. "I'm only, like, five minutes from the academy. It's not like I'm halfway around the world."
"Good grief – having you here is almost worse than having my mom."
"Very funny," he replied dryly, standing up and embracing his best friend.
Later, when he was on his way back to the academy, he let himself feel the grief and loneliness of the people closest to him moving away.
His voice remained even and calm, lulling the girls into a sound sleep. They would spend time arguing about how much of the story each of them remained awake for, but all that mattered now was that they were settled and in bed.
Distant babbling from their baby brother's room told him that this night – and bedtime ritual – was far from over. Once he was sure the girls were asleep, he had to go wrestle his son to sleep. His most precious possessions, his children…
Four years – had it really been that long? Had it been that long since they had started to disperse, go their own paths? He missed the others, their constant laughter and chatter, the way they made him leave work to do something fun, the way going out for coffee had become a cause for celebration… It had been four long years of burying himself in work and his rank, trying to forge ahead without them.
A-Squad Red Ranger – how long had he wanted that, wanted to be the highest ranking officer at SPD? Too long and now that he had the rank, the importance was gone. Doctor Oliver had given him that rank, knowing he could do the job. Lots of paperwork, but gone was the days of patrolling the streets and beating up the bad guys. Had this job been like this when Conner held the rank? He made a mental note to ask.
Sky let out a long breath, staring at the paperwork on his desk. The long years and endless days seemed to fade – the others were coming home. Syd had just gotten her teacher's certification and a job at Newtech Elementary. Bridge and Z were coming back to SPD – Bridge taking over what had once been Kat Manx's job and Z becoming their CPS liaison.
Nothing had been easy, especially in his love life. He and Syd loved each other, were committed to each other, but she had been in LA and he remained in Newtech City with more responsibilities than ever. The few weekends and vacations they had managed to spend together cemented in his mind what he had known for a long time.
Sighing, and knowing that he wasn't going to get any paperwork done, he reached into his pocket, pulling out a small box and leaning back in his chair.
Opening the small velvet box, he took in the ring he had bought so long ago. Set in white gold, the pale pink and blue stones glittered under the fluorescent lights. It didn't matter that he was now a Red Ranger – she knew what the blue meant. He shut the box, setting it on the corner of his desk. Did he even dare to hope?
He snapped to attention. Syd was standing in the door to his office, wearing white Capri's with a short pink jacket. She had a bemused look on her face.
"Syd!" he replied. "You're early."
She smiled. "Someone has to make sure you don't bury yourself in paperwork on Friday afternoon." She paused. "You do remember that Paris and Trent's wedding is tomorrow?"
"Yes." He stood up, rounding his desk and pulling Syd all the way into his office, shutting the door. He had been planning on asking her tonight, over dinner, but now… this felt like the right time. "Syd," he started. "We've been dating for five years."
"Sky, I know you can keep track of time."
"No, it's just that—" Shit, the speech thing wasn't going to work. He took a deep breath, dropping to one knee. "Will you marry me?" He opened the jewelry box, holding it up to her.
A single tear slid down her cheek. "Oh, Schuyler," she breathed. He knew the weight of her feelings now – she only called him by his given name when she was upset, serious or in the middle of an orgasm. She grasped his forearms, pulling him to his feet. "Yes," she whispered, pressing her lips to his.
He slipped the ring onto her finger, knowing that their future was bright.
The girls were sleeping, their even breathing the only sound in the room. They had only lasted through the proposal this time… he smiled, making sure their night-light was on and gently shutting the door behind him. He moved down the short hall to his son's room.
The baby was awake when he entered and began babbling happily when he saw him. He shook his head and picked the baby up. Sitting down in the rocking chair, he took in his youngest child, realizing that their children were the pinnacles of their lives.
Trent felt like he had been living a nightmare – and that nightmare started almost a week ago, when Paris had gone into labor. The pregnancy, in and of itself, had been accidental. Neither of them particularly wanted children, but, now that it was here, they knew they would make the best of the situation, care for the baby. Then they found out that the baby was a set of identical twins.
Two weeks early – no one was worried. The labor seemed to be going normal enough, until Paris lost consciousness. The girls had been pronounced healthy, a little underweight, but healthy nonetheless. And Paris… she had slipped into a coma. He fought the tears that were burning his eyes as he gazed at his still wife. This was not supposed to have happened! She was supposed to be all right.
Getting up from the hard, plastic chair, he knelt beside her bed. "God, Paris," he whispered. "You have to wake up – I can't do this without you." He suppressed a sob, trying to control himself and trying to think logically. If Paris never came out of this coma, then he had the twins to care for – those babies needed someone and… a tear slipped down his cheek. So long ago he had given up the idea of having a family. When he and Paris initially married, neither of them had been planning on having children.
"I love you," he said to Paris. "I can't do this without you…"
He kept rocking, smiling as his son fell asleep. Paris had made it out of that coma – and seemed to become even better for it. The twins, Melissa and Ivy, each took after their parents in some way… each wild, yet empathetic at the same time. But it was Bridge and Z, who, in every sense of the term, viewed their daughter as a miracle…
Z smiled, running one finger down Bridge's bare chest. Their honeymoon… her smile grew wider as her husband shifted in his sleep, moving closer to her. She moved her hand from his chest to his hip, tracing the Celtic-knot heart there. The shades of green still seemed bright, although they had gotten the tattoos almost five years ago.
"I can't believe it," Bridge murmured in his sleep.
"What?" she asked.
"That we're married."
"Was there any doubt in your mind?"
He didn't reply, just leaned forward and pressed a soft, innocent kiss to her lips. She smiled against his lips, but he pulled back and frowned. Z knew that he had just picked up on the storm that was brewing within her – had been brewing, but she hadn't known how to tell any of the things to Bridge.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
She sighed. Perhaps the bluntest route was the best. "The doctors aren't sure if I'll be able to have children," she said softly. "Something about too much scar tissue."
He brought his hand to the side of her face, gently stroking her face. "It's all right," he whispered. "There's more to marriage than kids."
"You're taking this really well."
"How else am I supposed to take it?"
Her hand was still on his hip as he shifted their positions so he was over her. He leaned in for another kiss, his hand going to her tattoo. Despite what the doctors had said, she couldn't help but feel an overwhelming joy. Somehow, her and Bridge would have a child – there was only a possibility and they had both overcome the odds before.
The baby was asleep. He thought to his sisters – five and three. Their 'cousin' was three as well, while the twins were six. His family, his life… For so long, he had buried himself in work, in becoming the Red Ranger. But now… if he died tomorrow, he would be happy.
Z paced the bathroom, catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror every so often. Her yellow tank top and gray shorts seemed almost out of place with what she was doing. How long did it take a pregnancy test to render a verdict? This was ridiculous…
She and Bridge had been trying for three years to have a child. Now, she was convinced that this was an actual pregnancy and not a false alarm. However, the day she managed to get the test and use it, Bridge had to work late from a minor explosion in the lab. Why did all kinds of circumstances coincide against her?
All right – the correct amount of time had passed. She glanced at the test and then glanced back at the box, with the results' key. She pressed her hand to her mouth, stifling a joyful shriek as it erupted from her. She was pregnant! Her hand went to her belly, her fingers splayed as she realized the new life – the life that she and Bridge had managed to create! She wasn't sure what to do…
The front door opened. "Z?" she heard Bridge call.
She burst out of the bathroom and raced downstairs. Bridge looked a little surprised at her antics. She brandished the little stick from the test in front of him. "I'm pregnant!" she squealed.
"Wha—what?" he stammered, taking the stick and frowning at it.
"I'm pregnant," she repeated more slowly.
A smile slowly broke out over Bridge's face as he pulled her close, giving her a long, hard kiss. His hands roamed from her sides to her stomach, his fingers seeking out their child. She smiled, covering his hands with hers. She could remember when he wore gloves all the time, trying to block out images, but he had grown, learned to control his powers and cope with what that meant. It had meant so much to get a simple touch from him…
"Bridge, you can't feel the baby yet," she said with a smile.
He gave her a bored look. "Want to bet?"
She shook her head, pulling away from him. "I need to make a doctor's appointment," she said, moving into the kitchen. He followed her and, as she made the phone call, he remained quiet, his brow furrowed in worry. Hanging up the phone, she went to him. "What's wrong?" she asked, wrapping her arms around him.
"Nothing," he replied with a tense smile.
Later that night, she woke up and realized that Bridge wasn't in bed with her. He was standing by the large window in their room, gazing out at the night sky. She got up and stood next to him. "Bridge?" she asked.
"She needs us, Z," he whispered. "She needs us so much."
"Who? The baby?" He nodded. "It's too early to know if it's a boy or girl."
"Trust me, it's a girl," he replied.
Z smiled, wrapping an arm around his waist. He moved so that she was against his chest, holding her tightly. "Of course she needs us," she whispered. "She's going to be completely dependent on us." She paused. "We've wanted her for so long…"
"We have, haven't we?"
Now that his son was sleeping, his own eyelids began to feel heavy. When his wife had first insisted that rocking their oldest would put her to sleep, he had scoffed. But it worked like a charm and the kids were out like lights when he rocked them. The baby was asleep – he should settle him in the crib, but couldn't bring himself to move his son just yet.
"She was early and a little underweight, but, otherwise, she's completely healthy."
Bridge let out a sigh of relief, smiling as Z cradled Hope in her arms. 'A little early' was the understatement of the year. Last time he checked, a month early was not something to be sneezed at, but Z was all right and Hope was fine… and he hadn't had a heart attack in the process. There had been so much panic and anxiety in the delivery room that he had had to fight to keep himself from being lost in the emotion, not to mention he had to deal with his own overwhelming panic and worry.
Z had sensed that, despite having just given birth. They had held Hope, but then she was taken for a quick examination by the doctor. Z had been taken care of and moved to a private room. He knelt by the side of her bed as she ran her fingers through his hair while he desperately tried to regain his equilibrium.
The doctor left and Bridge sat on the edge of the bed beside Z, gently stroking Hope's downy soft hair, amazed at the miracle they had created. Against all odds… it seemed like they had spent so much time beating the odds…
"Looks like we missed all the fun."
He grinned as Sky and Syd entered the room. Sky was holding their two-year old daughter, Dallas, while Syd was extremely pregnant with their second child. "You have a weird definition of fun," Bridge told him.
"He is weird," Syd said, taking a chair next to Z and cooing over Hope. "You look a whole lot more calm than Sky was when Dallas was born," she added.
"Let's, please, not talk about that," Sky retorted dryly.
Bridge shook his head, having heard the story of Sky in a highly panicked state almost putting the entire hospital into chaos. He felt Z lean closer to him as they listened to Sky and Syd's playful banter and news about the upcoming birth of their second daughter.
He felt his eyes close. He didn't see his wife standing in the doorway, smiling at both of them and shaking her head. He tightened his grip on his son…
"You think what?" Syd asked sharply.
Sky mumbled something, fixing his gaze at a spot somewhere beyond her left shoulder. A high flush had risen to his cheeks and he looked disgruntled. Saturday afternoon – Dallas was attending a birthday party for one of her friends and Ally was taking a nap upstairs. And he had just suggested that they have another child.
She shook her head. "We already have two – your oldest daughter is four or did you miss that somewhere? And I'm the one that has to have them!"
"Then why? Why do you want another child?"
His reply was nonsensical.
Syd sighed and closed the space between them, her hand going to cup his cheek. "Schuyler," she said softly. "Just give me a substantial reason why you want to have a third child and we can talk about it."
She stepped back. "Never mind – I do know why you want another one." She stood on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his lips. "We'll talk about it tonight – right now, you can go pick Dallas up from the birthday party."
That night, once the girls were in bed, she watched Sky move jerkily around their bedroom, still upset about her reaction. It wasn't like this was a touchy subject. She sat down on their bed, following him with her blue-eyed gaze. "Sky?" she asked softly. He turned to her, his eyes wary. "Can you sit down so we can talk?"
He sat down next to her on their bed, the lack of movement a little jarring. She cocked her head towards him. "You want a boy," she said.
"Yes," he replied shortly, probably upset that his ruse had been called out.
"You do realize that the first two being girls was your fault?"
"And if the third one is a girl that would also be your fault?"
She laughed, settling herself in his lap. His arms went around her, cradling her against his chest. He desperately wanted a son. Oh, she knew that he loved her, Dallas and Ally dearly, but he still wanted a boy. Playing catch in the backyard and all the other images – he had that in his mind, but she wanted some promises from him first.
"Sky," she said. "You have to promise that, if the baby ends up a boy, you will not try to force him into being macho and ridiculous."
"Come on, he'll have two crazy older sisters."
"And you will not insist he go to SPD and become a ranger – and, if when's he's in college or something, he wants to be an artist, you will not disown him or be stubborn about it."
"Syd," he whined. "You're making me look heartless."
"Do you promise?"
"Yes." He paused. "It doesn't matter what they'll turn out as."
"All right, then let's have this third child."
"You spoil them rotten."
He jerked his eyes open, smiling at Syd. She had taken Eric from his arms and put him in his crib. He was sleeping peacefully. Eric Phillips… it had only seemed right to name his son after his father and the butler that had helped him integrate his biological family with his adopted family. "If the shoe fits," he replied.
"Sky," she said, taking his hand and leading him from the room, down the hall to their room. "I love you," she whispered.
"I love you too," he replied.
And he meant it – this was his life, forever and always.
There is always light behind the clouds.
Author's Note: Just so y'all know, this epilogue was a pain in the butt to write. (What's more, I had so many moments in mind that it was difficult to pick which ones made the final cut!) And here we come to the end of yet another piece. I sincerely hope that everyone who has read this piece enjoyed it (and, if you didn't, why did you continue to read?) Really, this piece was a collection of situations I wanted to write about and you can definitely see how this is much more in episodic form rather than one continuous piece. This is also the first relatively full-length sequel piece that I have finished, so cheers to that. I've also realized that I project a lot of myself onto Sky... I guess that works within the context of this piece.
But, moving right along, to my reviewers: alexis (emogeek1), Anastasia Athene, AngelMouse5, Ani, asendedones, Blake-Tori88, BloomingViolets, BrandonB, CamFan4Ever, Crimson Mystery, CT, Darkchilde, Funky In Fishnet, garnetred, Gear's Girl, Giannola, Islandgurlie12, jedi4jesus19, Jeremy, MagCat, missy, Moi, Part of the Queue, pikachucranstongirl, Pink-Green-White-4ever, prettynpink8, PRNewLegacy, ptime, redandblack 4eva, Samurai-Nashie, Satori Blackthorn, Silver Warrior, sky's girl forever, the real vampire, Trey Miller, vi, Warstock-Leonhart and Weesta. You guys have left great feedback and it's been so much fun to read the reviews! Seriously, all of you are the reasons behind these stories. If I had time, I would thank all of you individually - it's been awesome!
And, as usual: Anastasia Athene, BloomingViolets and Weesta, thanks!
I've got a couple different ideas for future pieces. Of You definitely needs a few more drabbles in order to come to something resembling a stopping point and to give it a sense of closure. Bond Enforcement is in the early stages of re-writing. (And, yes, BloomingViolets, I know that you especially want to see that piece revived.) I'd also like to do a holiday one-shot in this AU and I've got a couple of other ideas for one-shots within the SPD realm. And for those of you who've been reading my work since I landed in the PR fandom, you know that I adore doing color-coded team-ups using only a few rangers of a color. I've done red and yellow... blue will be next! (I'm not going to say which rangers - that is a surprise!)
But, seriously, thank you all for continuing to read and support my efforts! All the comments, praise and criticism are greatly appreciated. As a side note, I am up for some awards over at Guardians of the Earth. Voting is now up and will be up until December 10. There's a lot of great work over there and, as much as I would love for you to vote for me, vote for who you feel really deserves the award. (Although I would be absolutely thrilled if I won the OC award for Paris...) At any rate, thank you so much and I'll see you all around! EK