Disclaimer: Power Rangers... not mine.
Author's Note: I'm warning you now, this story will have its darker moments and lots of them. (The dark moments have nothing to do with the rating. I'm not that sick and twisted.) If you don't like heavy angst and lots of drama that turns fluffy towards the end, then you'll probably want to pass on this fic. Other than that, enjoy!
Author's Note 2: This story is dedicated to Marieke for the plot, the song, the help with the random little details, and probably about a million other things; to Jenny for being a wonderfully awesome reviewer (I swear, it's worth writing this stuff just to hear you babble on about, well, absolutely nothing); and to Melissa for being an awesome friend.
Andros stretched his arms and leaned back against the rough bark of the ancient oak tree, relaxing under the shade provided by its old and gnarled branches, only a few dots of light breaking through the canopy of leaves, the sunlight dimmed by the overcast day. His hazel eyes took no notice of the natural beauty, however, and fixed themselves upon a different vision, one far more entrancing.
Ashley glanced up from her food, chewing carefully around the edge of a chicken wing before dropping it down onto her plate. The wind picked up just the slightest bit, whipping through her caramel-toned hair. She looked stunning even in the yellow zip-up sweatshirt she was wearing as protection against the breeze, and her long legs were bare. Her bright eyes sparkled as she looked up at him, and for a moment, Andros thought he might just melt away.
Ashley blushed slightly under Andros's intense stare, and he snapped out of his daze, though he didn't avert his eyes completely.
"Nothing," he replied a moment later, his eyes darting back to her no matter where he looked. "I was just thinking about how beautiful you are."
Ashley flashed him her radiant smile at his words, and Andros relaxed again, not even noticing that he'd tensed in the first place. He was always like this around Ashley; always slightly on the edge whenever he paid her a compliment, afraid of how she might react.
He sighed inwardly and wished that he could just relax around her, and be as completely at ease as she was. Ever since he'd decided to return to Earth with his teammates instead of remaining on KO-35, he and Ashley had grown closer than ever. He had let her into his heart, there was no question of that, and she had never judged him or thrown his past back at him into his face as so many people in his life had done before, but his mind refused to belive that it would stay that way forever.
"Are you all right?" Ashley's voice was suddenly much closer than it had been only a moment before, and Andros had to only turn his head a fraction of an inch to the left to find her staring at him with just a hint of worry in her warm eyes. "You looked pretty far away for a minute."
"I was just... thinking, I guess," Andros said, trying to focus back on reality. Back on Ashley, who was still staring at him curiously. "It's nothing."
Ashley shrugged her shoulders at him, and sat down again, but not moving back to where she had been the minute before. Andros found himself staring at her again, wishing for the thousandth time that he could just tell her that he loved her.
"Andros, you're staring at me again," Ashley said, amused, as Andros gazed at her.
"Sorry," Andros muttered, finally tearing his eyes away from her, staring down at his hands.
"It's all right," Ashley said, scooting closer to him. "I don't mind."
Andros carefully raised his head again, his eyes meeting hers. There were only inches between their faces now, and slowly, Andros shortenend that distance, until his lips brushed against hers. Ashley reacted immediately, deepening the kiss, shifting into a more comfortable position, her arms sliding around his neck. Andros had one arm wrapped securely around her waist as his other hand unzipped her sweatshirt.
Underneath, she was only wearing a yellow spaghetti strap, and Andros let his arm snake around her, his hand pressing itself against her back, holding her closer to him. Andros groaned softly as Ashley slid her tongue inside his mouth, feeling his insides grow weak, and the desire to have her grow stronger. He rotated his body and slowly pushed Ashley over backwards, setting her down carefully on the blanket. Ashley's grip on his neck grew stronger as he lay down on his stomach as close to her as he could without actually being on top of her.
Ashley was starting to wish that they had picked a more private place for their picnic than Angel Grove Park. At this moment, Andros was her entire universe; the only thought in her mind. She thought she could spend forever with him just as they were now, but even as she relaxed against him, other thoughts began to surface on the edges of her mind, slowly working their way forward to the surface of her consciousness.
No, Ashley thought, trying to banish the unpleasant memories and surround herself with Andros once again, but the nightmarish images only grew ever stronger instead of fading, and Ashley felt herself drowning in a sudden wave of panic. She placed both her hands on Andros's shoulders, intending to push him away only to find that he had already pulled back, and was staring at her with his eyes filled with worry.
"Did I do something wrong?" he asked her as he rolled away, giving her room to sit up. Ashley shook her head slowly, taking her sweet time to zip up her sweatshirt again as she shivered, suddenly very cold on a mildly cool day.
"It's nothing that you did," Ashley murmured softly, looking anywhere but at him. "I'm sorry. Andros, I - "
"Hey," he interrupted gently, laying his hand on her arm. "It's all right, Ash. Don't worry about it."
"You're not angry?" Ashley stared at him, scrutinizing his face for even the smallest hint of anger or annoyance towards her, but she saw none.
"I don't think I could be angry with you if I tried," Andros confessed quietly. At this moment he certainly couldn't imagine it, especially when he felt that he had somehow taken advantage of her.
"You don't know that," Ashley muttered, feeling her face burning red as she tried frantically to blink back tears. "I'm not perfect, Andros."
"Neither am I, Ash," Andros said, his fingers grasping her chin gently and lifting her face up to his. "And I don't want you to be."
Ashley offered him a small smile in return for his words, and he smiled back, tentatively. Something wasn't quite right here, but he couldn't pinpoint what the problem was, and Ashley was certainly in no hurry to tell him.
Andros wrapped his arms around her then, giving her plently of room to pull back if she chose to do so, but Ashley practically fell into his embrace, and as Andros tightened his hold on her, Ashley could feel herself finally starting to warm up again.
For a few minutes, they sat there in silence, completely content in each others arms. Ashley closed her eyes as she rested her head against Andros's shoulder, smiling as his hair tickled her cheeks whenever the wind picked up. She could feel herself growing drowsy, and doubted that Andros would have any objections to her falling asleep right there in his arms. The thought was enough to make her come wide awake at once, and Andros released her the moment he felt her tense.
"Are you all right, Ash?" Andros asked, one of her hands in his. He ran his thumb over her fingers, lightly caressing her knuckles before dropping her hand. Ashley was spared from having to think up a reply when her cell phone rang.
Sighing, she pulled it out of the pocket of her sweatshirt, and glanced quickly at the number. It was from home. Ashley grimaced inwardly as she answered it. Calls from home were never good, especially if it was one of her parents in place of her brother.
"Hello?" she said, praying it would be Jeff and not her mother or Terry. She sighed with relief as she heard her brother, even if his voice was edged with irritation.
"Ash, where are you?" he asked. "I've got a class in an hour, and I need to stop somewhere first."
"I'm so sorry," Ashley blurted out. "I didn't know it was so late. I'll be right there."
"Normally I don't mind, Ash," Jeff said, a little more warmly. "You know that, and I'll always be here for you, as long as you don't flake out on me, all right?"
"I know," Ashley said, turning away from Andros so he wouldn't see the tears shining in her eyes. "I'm sorry. I'll be there in ten minutes, all right?"
"See you then," Jeff said, and Ashley hung up, swallowing the lump in her throat before turning back to Andros.
"I was supposed to be home about half an hour ago," she said apologetically. "I've got to go."
"I'll walk you home, if you want," Andros offered, and Ashley quickly shook her head.
"That's all right," she said, smiling to show that she was grateful for the offer. "But if my mom or my stepfather see that I was with you when I should have been at home, they won't exactly approve."
"Sorry if I got you into trouble," Andros said, standing up as well.
"You didn't," Ashley assured him, his sweetness making her guilt triple. "I'll see you sometime tonight, I guess."
Andros brushed his lips over hers in a gentle kiss goodbye. "I'll see you later, Ash," he said, looking a little disappointed, and Ashley couldn't blame him. He'd been looking forward to spending the entire afternoon with her. "Bye."
"Bye," Ashley said, walking at what she thought was a normal pace out of the park. However, once she was out of his sight, she began running as fast as she could, slowing only as she arrived in sight of her house. Jeff's car was gone, and her heart nearly stopped when she saw her stepfather's car in the driveway. Jeff must have left once Terry had shown up, she figured.
Now that there was someone else in the house, there was no real reason for her to be there, and Ashley debated whether or not to teleport herself to the Megaship, and spent the rest of the day with Andros. It took her several minutes, but in the end, she decided against it. She had a major responsibility here at home, and it wasn't fair to lay the burden on everyone else.
Sighing heavily, Ashley fitted her key into the lock and entered her house as quietly as she could, but she might as well have come crashing in. Terry was standing directly in front of the door, his arms crossed, glaring at her. Ashely met his gaze defiantly, although her heart was pounding uncontrollably in her chest.
"Upstairs," he snapped. "Now."