Race Against Time
Epilogue: The Finish Line
Last Revised: April 19, 2006
Summary: Spoilers for Endings Pt. 2 - 5 yrs. post Endings Pt. 2, and the infamous B Squad Rangers are invited to celebrate Cruger's reassignment to General and head of SPD HQ and Sky's promotion to Commander, but something goes awry, and they have to race against the clock to save one of their friends before it's too late.
Ships: Syd/Sky, Bridge/Z, Jack/Ally, Cruger/Isinia, Kat/Boom
Rating: M – changed for Adult Themed Situation.
AN: All italics scenes are flashbacks!
AN2: Well, this is the end of the line folks. Thanks for joining me for the ride! Also, there will be a MA version of this chapter as soon as I can get some time to write the good scene -winks-
Dedications: BloomingViolets thank you for pushing me, encouraging me, and for flat out enjoying this story. Etcetera Kit thank you for being such a lovely new friend who pushes me to my limits and beyond. Thank you both for believing in me!
The room was muted in candlelight. The atmosphere was calm, the air almost quiet except for the sad melody coming from the piano in the corner. It was an old wooden upright, scarred by years of use. It reflected the man playing it in many ways; both had seen their fair share of good and bad, and everything in between.
The man sitting on the wooden bench looked more like a starving artist and college student then the Commander of the New Tech City SPD Academy. His hair was tousled, his face was covered in a day's worth of stubble, and he looked a little hollowed in the cheeks, like he hadn't slept in a few days. A ratty looking sweatshirt, one that had seen him through many an emotional storm, graced his lean torso. A pair of tight, ripped in all the right places, jeans were ranged over narrow hips and long legs. His feet were bare, crossed at the ankles, and tucked under the bench he was sitting on.
On top of the piano was an open bottle of wine, a half full glass, and picture frames that held snap shots of his family and friends, all of them smiling at him. His fingers caressed the ivory keys, creating a melody now imprinted on his heart. It was sad sounding, but spoke of the path he'd taken to get where he was. He was so engrossed in the song that he didn't see the figure standing in the arch of the hallway watching him, nor did he seem to notice when the figure moved toward him.
He didn't jump when soft arms wrapped around him, gentle hands caressing his chest as they slid under his sweatshirt. He couldn't help but grin at her timing – he was just getting to the part in the song where the fear, danger and strife lessened and happiness truly started.
"Are you coming to bed anytime soon?"
Sky grinned and turned his head, his lips connecting with her soft lips even as he continued to play. "As soon as I'm done," he whispered, feeling the soft giggle from his companion. She'd helped him write this song shortly before they'd gotten married. He'd played it for her at their wedding, on their honeymoon, and just about every day if he got the chance.
"If I'm not in the bedroom, you know where to find me." The words were whispered against his ear, causing him to shiver. Nearly three years of marriage had yet to dim how she made him feel.
Ten minutes later, satisfied that he'd done the song justice and having made sure the downstairs was secure, Sky wandered up the staircase. He went straight to his room, just to see if she was there. Noticing it was vacant he shook his head and then headed down the hall to the only other room that was being occupied on this floor.
He stopped in the doorway, leaned against the frame, and just watched the two of them. The baby was nursing quietly, eyes closed as he drifted back to sleep. Sky marveled at the tiny miracle for the millionth time. He'd never believed he'd ever get the family he'd always wanted, let alone with who he'd gotten it with.
Looking up, Sky took in his wife. Her long hair was pulled back in a ponytail, so the baby couldn't grab it if he woke up. She was wearing one of his button-up shirts, because it made nursing the baby easier at night. Sky had to smile when he saw the position the two were in. She had the baby curled in one arm and raised to her breast, her other hand caressing his cheek, while her legs were tucked under her, making her look smaller than she already was.
"You enjoy staring at me, don't you? Especially when I'm nursing him."
"No it's not," she laughed softly, the sound of her voice warming his heart. "Sky."
He bit his lip and kept gazing at her. The look on his face reminded her of the time they'd sat up all night, feeling sorry for themselves, along with Bridge, Z, and Jack when they'd thought Cruger had preferred A Squad over them.
"He's asleep," Sky murmured, finally coming into the room and kneeling in front of her. He reached out and let one finger lightly caress his son's tiny cheek. The baby's mouth had stopped moving, indicating he was done nursing.
"Takes after his dad," she teased, alluding to their nighttime activities from earlier in the evening. The doctor had finally declared her completely healed from giving birth, and she and Sky had taken advantage of the baby's frequent naps. Smiling, she lifted her son up and settled him on her shoulder, patting his back ever so gently to burp him.
"Funny, Babe. Real funny." She smiled at Sky lovingly when he gently took their son into his arms and moved to lay him in his crib. Sky couldn't help the sigh of relief he let out when she burrowed herself against his side. "I still can't believe we have him."
She laughed; her voice was light like a bell. "Believe it. We waited long enough for him, didn't we?"
"He's almost three months old," Sky announced, sounding pained at the thought. It had been so wonderful and awe inspiring when the doctor had placed his son in his arms for the first time, and now here he was three months later, growing in leaps in bounds.
"I know. Amazing isn't it? Before we know it, he'll be thirty and starting his own family." Sky just glared down at her. "Come on, let's let him sleep."
They carefully tip toed back to their room before they dove at each other. Sky's lips latched onto her neck as he towered over her on their bed, causing her to moan and sigh in response.
"Sky," she cooed, her hands smoothing over his back, sliding under the sweatshirt before pulling it up and off him.
"Make love to me," she begged.
A deep chuckle was his response. "Sydney?"
"Hmm?" she made a noise in her throat, her body arching against his.
"I love you."
"Good morning, Commander," Marie called out when Sky walked into the Command Center, looking happy, relaxed, and whistling a tune. The Rangers moved from their computer consoles and stood in line, waiting to be briefed by their commanding officer.
"Good morning. What's on the agenda today, Kat?" Sky called out, and then smiled. Kat was moving a bit slower these days, considering the noticeable bulge in her stomach.
Kat smiled and looked down at her data pad. "B Squad has Zord training in an hour. General Cruger is arriving for the Planetary SPD Inspection. You and Bridge have a new cadet orientation at 2, and don't forget the demonstration with D Squad."
Sky shook his head. "Rangers, I'd like you to be present for the demonstration with D Squad and for the orientation. Right now, go get ready for your training session."
"Yes sir!" the five called out, saluting him before they rushed from the room.
"Don't forget the McKnights are arriving at five, for the picnic," Kat said, leaning against one of the chairs near the holo-computer.
"I won't. Hard to believe it's been nearly two years since we saw Nova," Sky grinned.
"Hard to believe it's been three years this weekend since that battle," Kat whispered, reaching out to take Sky's hand.
The sandy haired man nodded, his eyes darkening with emotions he kept safely guarded. Three years ago, all of their lives had changed drastically...more so than when Sydney had initially disappeared.
His body throbbed. It was the only way to describe they way he felt. It was as if his entire body was caught in one big cramp. Every muscle screamed as he rolled to his back, his eyes staring up at the ceiling, which now featured a skylight that hadn't been there before the battle.
Once he was aware that he was breathing, that he hurt, and that he was alive, Sky managed to push himself into a sitting position. His muscles shook from the simple act of sitting up. His blurry vision took in his surroundings while he could feel the blood beat a steady rhythm behind his eyes. The others lay further back behind him, all unmoving. Shakily, he closed his eyes and hoped they were alive. When he opened them again, his eyes saw that the rest of the team was starting to move – Bridge and Z's hands were clasped, Jack's leg was coming up, Sam and Doggie's chests were starting to lift and fall with their breathing.
Sighing in relief, Sky turned his head and his gaze landed on Nova's prone form. Pushing up to his hands and knees, Sky crawled across the dirt floor to the tiny body near him. His breath shuddered out of him when he felt a pulse at the side of her neck beat against his stiff fingers. Once he was sure she was ok, he turned his attention to the fallen body not far from hers, and continued crawling toward where his heart lay, unmoving.
His breath hitched when his eyes landed on her and he noticed her chest wasn't moving. He couldn't remember reaching for her, but he must have since she was in his arms. He couldn't remember crying, but he knew he was since his cheeks were wet and his eyes were burning. His hands shook like never before as he fumbled for one of her delicate wrists. No pulse could be found. There was no outward sign that her heart still beat with the sign of life.
He was dimly aware of the voice calling his name but his main focus was on the body cradled against his. How he'd found the strength for the trek across the room, he'd never know. Perhaps it had come from that hidden well deep inside each of them that made them Rangers; that made them human. Or perhaps, love had pushed him. But what good was love without her to share it with?
The voice had grown to several, all familiar and yet, so foreign. His attention, his sole focus was on the face composed in what he knew was eternal sleep; knowing that Sydney dead, and not merely sleeping off her exhaustion made him want to die just to be with her. How could life go on when she'd been ripped so cruelly from them?
"Sydney!" Sky gasped. "Oh Syd! NO!"
The others found him, bruised and bloody, rocking back and forth, cradling her still body against his own. Tears ran a river down his dirty cheeks, dripping into her hair, but none of that mattered. What mattered was that their Pink Ranger no longer drew a breath through her cracked and blood stained lips.
Z's voice. He recognized Z's voice. Z, calm, comforting Z, who had loved Sydney nearly as much as he, who had suffered just as much as he had when Sydney had disappeared.
Bridge; insightful, reassuring, Bridge. He and Bridge had been the first to expect more from her, to see the woman at the heart of her, not the woman she let everyone else see.
"Nova's still breathing!"
Jack; stable, strong Jack, who had left SPD but hadn't left their hearts. Jack, who had shared a birthday with her, who had treated her like a little sister, who had loved her, just as they all had.
Sam and Anubis. Little brother and father to them all.
"She's really gone, isn't she?" Z's question ignited a ball of burning anger in his stomach. For a moment, everything around him seemed to crystallize.
Z and Bridge were holding each other. Anubis and Sam were murmuring softly to the semi-conscious Nova. Jack was sitting next to him. The former Red Ranger's eyes were bloodshot, and full of tears, and focused on Syd's face. Sydney was in his arms, her body limp, her heart no longer beating, her chest no longer rising, her eyes shut to the world.
The clarity he'd achieved shattered the second he finally accepted she was gone. A mournful howl escaped his lips when he threw his head back and cried to the sky his pain and loss.
"Welcome to the New Tech City S.P.D. Academy. I am Commander Schuyler Tate. This is Lt. Commander Bridge Carson, my right hand, Lt. Commander Elizabeth Carson, our public relations liaison, Dr. Katherine Manx, our director of technology, and our gadget tester, Aaron "Boom" Manx," Sky announced to the newest recruits of the SPD Academy. The group on the stage smiled when he announced Boom's name. Since he and Kat had married, Boom had taken her last name, as was of the culture of her home world.
There were sixty of new cadets total. Some would go own to be Rangers, others patrol officers and still others would fill other various roles around the academy and throughout the SPD system. "The five individuals standing to my left are the SPD Power Rangers, otherwise known as B Squad. They will be your trainers, your confidants, your teachers, but more importantly, they will be your friends."
Bridge, Z, Boom, and Kat grinned at each other, thinking how stuffy Sky was sounding on the podium. They knew that the new cadets were feeling apprehensive, but they also knew Sky would lighten up in a moment and put them at ease. "Many of you may think SPD is all about duty, honor, loyalty; you are correct. SPD stands for duty, honor, and loyalty, but it is also much more. As a member of SPD, you are a member of a family dedicated to protecting the universe. Your job is to be the best you that you can be, to honor what SPD stands for. Cadets, welcome to SPD. I turn you over now to your resident advisors, but I must remind you that General Cruger will be arriving momentarily, be on your best behavior."
With that, Sky stepped from the stage, followed by the Rangers, Bridge, Kat, Z, and Boom. "Commander?"
"We have to go and greet General Cruger. Once we're done, I want the five of you to return to the dorms and help the RA's get everyone settled. The picnic is at six, at the park, don't forget you five are on duty at five thirty, I expect you to stay alert while the rest of us are gone. Understood?"
"Yes sir!" the five spoke in unison even as the group moved to the shuttle bay to great Anubis and Isinia.
"GENERAL ON DECK!" Sky called moments later when Anubis and Isinia walked off the shuttle.
"At ease," Anubis commanded, smiling as he and Isinia began walking with the Rangers. "Sky."
"Welcome back to Earth, General. If you'll follow us, we'll get you settled."
"Of course. How are your wife and son?"
Sky grinned. "Wonderful. Z and Bridge's daughter is spending the day at the park with them, otherwise she'd be here."
Anubis nodded. He knew with Z and Bridge having to work all day that Sydney would take care of their little girl for them. "Z, Bridge, how old is J.C. now?"
Z laughed and smiled, moving to hug Anubis and Isinia. "Two, and going through that rotten, terrible two phase. About the only person she doesn't act up for is her Aunt."
"Will she be at the picnic?" Isinia inquired.
"And the others?"
Sky motioned for them all to go up the escalator. "Jack, Ally and Trevor will meet us at the park, and the McKnights will be arriving around five o'clock. It'll be the first time all of us have been together since..."
"Since J.C. was born and you and Syd got married," Bridge finished. The twelve of them silently slipped into memories of the past as they went further into the base.
"We should get out of here before the place collapses on us. We don't know how unstable Syd and Nova's last attack has left the foundation," Jack whispered, just loud enough for everyone but Sky to hear.
"Nova needs medical attention. We don't know how extensive her injuries are," Z responded. Sam and Anubis were still crouched next to Nova and Bridge was sitting with Sky, the two silently mourning Sydney.
Jack and Z shared a look. "We need to get something flat to get her out of here on; we don't know what kind of injuries she sustained during the fight."
"Yeah, but what?" Z asked, frustration mounting. Jack watched with shock as Z turned from him and began throwing up.
"Z!" Bridge's voice echoed as he rushed to his wife, who was slumping down to her knees. "Honey, are you alright?"
Bridge didn't get an answer, just more retching sounds as Z continued to throw up. "Ok, we need to get moving, and now," Jack muttered. "Sam, how'd you guys get here?"
"The jeep. It's parked about a mile from here, and then we walked."
Jack nodded, before as an idea came to him. "Think you can teleport me to the jeep and then back? I need to find something to stabilize Nova's back with."
The younger male nodded, and demorphed. "Jack, contact us as soon as you do. We need to get everyone out of here, soon," Anubis told him, watching as the young man nodded. Jack shot Z and Bridge a look, waiting as they both looked back – unspoken words flowing between them, and then they looked to Sky who was cradling Syd's limp body. A pain rose in the former Red Ranger's chest that made it unbearable to watch his friends.
"Here goes," Sam whispered, pointing his fingers at Jack and closing his eyes, only to open them seconds later when Jack disappeared.
"Bridge, you help Z. Sam and I will help Jack with Nova," Anubis ordered.
Z and Bridge nodded, but Z's eyes strayed to Sky. "Think he's in any shape to carry her?"
Anubis looked pained, as did Sam. "I am not about to question whether or not he is, he's been through enough. Maybe, just maybe, carrying Syd from this place will do him some good."
The former Green and Yellow Rangers shared a look with their commander that pretty much summed up what they wouldn't say – nothing would do Sky any good now that Syd was gone.
"Sam, I found one! Teleport me back!"
The room was filled with a flash of light and then Jack reappeared, carrying a standard issue backboard that was in all SPD regulation jeeps and what looked like a neck brace. Jack quickly moved toward Nova while Sam and Anubis helped him slip the neck brace he'd found on her as well as get the back board under her, before strapping her to it. Z sat on the floor, her head between her knees, while Bridge moved toward Sky.
Unbeknownst to any of them, Sky was well aware of what had been going on. With a sickening dread, he began gathering Sydney's body in his arms so that he could stand up and carry her home. She deserved to be treated like a hero, but he knew Sydney better than anyone. She'd want to go out with quiet acknowledgement from her friends and family. The same way he would have if it had been him to go.
Sky shook his head at Bridge's silent question to offer him help and pushed himself to his feet, his precious cargo tucked neatly in his arms. He carried her princess style, though her arms were limp and her head lightly rested against his shoulder, her face turned to his neck, instead of her beaming up at him.
"I'm ready when you are," Sky spoke, his voice hoarse and cracking on ever other word. Bridge moved to help Z up, sliding her arm around his shoulders and one of his around her waist. As one, Sam, Jack and Anubis stood, hoisting Nova's stable body up with them.
"Let's go," Jack commanded, taking charge of the team. Quickly and carefully, they made it out of one of the holes in the walls and headed up the stair case.
As they carefully picked their way through the hallways, they shot each other worried glances when the Earth beneath their feet shifted and moved, and the ceilings occasionally rained sand down on their heads. "We've got to hurry! I think the cave's going to collapse!" Jack called out.
"MOVE IT GUYS! THE HALLWAY IS COLLAPSING BEHIND US!" Sky shouted over the roaring sound that started seconds after Jack had spoken up. Summoning whatever energy they had left, the team rushed forward, finally finding the entrance to the cave. Sam, Anubis, and Jack got Nova clear before a loud explosion occurred, throwing Bridge, Z, Sky and Syd forward into the sand.
Bridge and Z landed on their stomachs, each groaning as they did. Sky landed on his back, his arms locked around Sydney, and rolled away from the group as a huge cloud of dust and sand emerged from the collapsing cave. When Sky stopped rolling, Sydney's body was underneath his. For a second, he almost thought about apologizing to her until he remembered she hadn't felt a thing. Blinking back a new onslaught of tears, Sky moved to push himself off Sydney's body when he heard a groan in his ear. Shaking his head, Sky pushed off her, his heart constricting as he told himself he was just hearing things.
"Sky? You okay?" Jack called.
"Not so loud," a voice croaked, causing Sky to sit back, his eyes glued to the woman he'd just been laying on.
"Damn, I feel like a freight train hit me," she croaked.
"Sky..." Sky felt his heart drop out as he watched her head loll to the side, her eyes rolling back in their sockets before they closed but her breathing was steady. She was alive.
"Sky? What's wrong?" Anubis called, worried about the former Blue and Red Ranger.
Quickly, Sky gathered Sydney into his arms, sobbing in relief as he held her to him, their bodies rocking back and forth. Even through their clothes he could now feel the steady beat of her heart. How could he have missed the life sustaining pulse or the rise and fall of her chest before?
"Sky?" Jack called.
Jack, Sam and Anubis almost dropped Nova's still body, their jaws dropping instead at Sky's news. Bridge and Z, who were on their knees not far from Syd and Sky, looked as dumb struck as the others. "How's that possible?" Z cried.
"I don't know!" Sky responded, continuing to rock back and forth while holding Sydney close. "But I don't care! She's alive!"
"You're kidding right?" Z asked, looking confused. "Bridge?"
The former Green Ranger used his teeth to rip off his glove before he waved it over Syd and Sky, his face turning from serious to joyful in less than a second. "SHE'S ALIVE! I CAN SENSE HER AURA!"
"Let's get her back to base! Sky! Grab her and let's go!"
Twenty minutes later, found the entire team in the infirmary being checked out. Kat moved from bed to bed, tear tracks on her cheeks even as she smiled at each of her friends. Boom and the younger Rangers stood back out of the way, while Isinia spoke with Bridge, Z, and Anubis. The McKnights were locked in a tight hug, watching Sam sitting next to their daughter, Nova's tiny hand clutched in his own.
Every once in a while, someone would shoot a glance at Sky, but he didn't return their looks. Instead, his eyes were glued to Sydney's face. The Pink Ranger had kept coming in and out of consciousness during the trip back to the base, but she never stayed awake for long.
"Sky, really, I'd like to get a look at you," Dr. Felix spoke pointedly, pinning Sky with a withering glare.
"According to the others, you were the closest to Sydney and Nova when whatever it was that they did threw all of you off your feet. I want to check you out."
"I SAID I'M FINE!" Sky yelled, swinging around to face Dr. Felix.
The others winced, before Kat moved to touch Felix's arm. "Let him be, I'll look at him later. Why don't you check the test results you ran on Z?"
Dr. Felix nodded and strode away, leaving Kat to give Sky a look. It was the same look she'd given him for years whenever he started acting like a jerk. "Save it Kat, I don't need the lecture."
"Biting everyone's heads off isn't going to help Sydney's condition one bit," Kat started. "Everyone here is just as worried about her as you are, remember that." Sky rolled his eyes but nodded none the less before he turned back and sat down next to Syd.
"Well?" Bridge asked Dr. Felix, who moved to stand before the pair, smiling widely as he did.
"Congratulations, Bridge, Z."
"On what?" Z asked, thoroughly confused.
Kat and Sky swung around from what they were doing, shocked smiles on their faces. Everyone else looked to the soon to be parents and smiled. "Oh MY GOD!" Z and Bridge blurted out together.
"I still can't believe you're going to be parents," Syd giggled as she and Z walked into another boutique to shop for baby things. Z had been conned by Sky into letting Syd help decorate the baby's nursery so she stayed out of trouble. It had been nearly four months since the final battle with Master Vile, and Sydney was finally healthy enough to leave the base without Sky watching her every move, or making sure she was with one of the others at all times.
"What I can't believe is that we're planning your and Sky's wedding!" Z laughed. A week past, the team had received the news that after the birth of Z and Bridge's child, Sydney and Sky would be getting married.
"Yeah, me either," Syd smiled, picking up a beautiful pastel yellow baby dress.
"We still don't know the sex of the baby," Z pointed out, grinning.
Syd shot a knowing smile at her best friend. "Let's just say Auntie Syd has a hunch."
Z just laughed and continued to look at christening outfits before she turned and proposed a question. "Have you and Sky thought about getting a house off base?"
The Pink Ranger nodded. "My dad's looking into that for us right now. I think we're gonna wait though. Getting married is going to be enough upheaval, the last thing we need to add to it is moving."
Z grinned in understanding. Between them finding out she was pregnant, Sydney getting better, and she and Bridge moving back from New Zealand, Z had experienced enough upheaval for her to understand where Sydney was coming from. "Have you started thinking about your dress yet?"
"Z, I've been thinking about my dress since I was a little girl!" Sydney laughed, spinning around, her arms above her head. "But, I don't think I'm going to go with my childhood dream. I don't need a big, splashy, fancy wedding. As long as the people who mean the most to me are there and Sky's with me, I don't care what kind of wedding I have."
"Honey? You still here?" Sky called out when he, Bridge and Z entered the house. He wasn't sure if Sydney was still home or she'd taken the kids and left for the park already.
"IN HERE!" Sydney called from down the hallway. The three shared a look when they heard the baby cooing, J.C. giggling, and Sydney cursing mildly.
"I don't want to ask," Z laughed, walking down the hallway to Sky and Syd's home office, Bridge and Sky in tow.
The three stood in the doorway, watching the scene before them. Baby Eric was in his swing, cooing and reaching for things. J.C. was sitting in Sky's desk chair, spinning around and around. And then there was Sydney, on her hands and knees, her butt stuck up in the air, digging through the closet.
"Sydney, what the hell are you doing?" Sky asked, amused and a little aroused to see his wife's butt wiggling in the air the way it was.
Z and Sky shared amused smiles, while Bridge looked slightly confused. "Um, Syd, what exactly...I mean, what are you..."
"I was looking for this!" Syd laughed, pushing up off hands and knees, a thick white binder in her hands.
"You're wedding album, why?" Z asked, moving to scoop her daughter up so Syd could sit down in the desk chair. J.C. giggled and laughed before throwing her arms around Z's neck, her lips finding her mother's cheek. Z and Syd laughed when J.C. gave her mother a wet slobbery kiss.
"Melody hasn't seen this yet," Syd smiled. "We need to stop by and get J.C.'s baby album. I have Eric's upstairs on my bed. I talked to her this afternoon; she wants to see the pictures."
Z nodded, understanding. While the youngest Ranger had been present for both events, she still hadn't seen the pictures from either. "I think I put her baby book in the top of our closet," Z murmured, rubbing her nose against her daughter's soft cheek. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yeah. Sky, go grab the diaper bag and the baby album, they're on our bed," Syd told him. She handed their wedding album to Bridge and moved to grab Eric out of his swing. "Everything but the food and what's upstairs is packed in the car."
"I'll take the album and J.C. out to Syd's car. Bridge, I'll ride with Syd," Z told her husband, who nodded.
"I'll take Sky with me; we can load the food and whatnot into the back of the jeep."
Sky simply shrugged, kissed his son on the cheek and then pressed a light kiss to his wife's tempting lips. "Get going, we'll meet you guys at the park in a bit."
"Okay. Bye guys!" Syd laughed, following Z and a giggling J.C. out to her car, her son cradled in her arms.
"Oh wow!" Melody laughed from her spot in Sam's lap. The group was gathered under one of the large oak trees in the par, Sydney and Sky's wedding album and both of the babies' baby books spread out in front of them. Isinia and Anubis were sitting together, talking softly with Conner and Kira. Kat and Boom were sitting together, Boom's hands soothing the growing roundness of his wife's stomach. Bridge was whispering something in J.C.'s ear, making his daughter look at him and nod. Z was sitting next to them, pointing to a picture. Jack and Ally sat together, their three and a half year old son Trevor running circles around the group. Sky sat against the tree, Sydney in his lap, and baby Eric in her arms.
"Tell me about it. I can't believe Sydney caught me making that face!" Z laughed.
"As I recall, you kept flipping Bridge off while you were pushing too. You're lucky I didn't get that on camera," Syd told her best friend, laughing.
Bridge made a face while he cuddled J.C. to him. "I seem to remember Z flipping me off myself. I thought I was going to pass out though, with all the emotions rolling off everyone."
"Not to mention your own," Sky reminded him, shooting Jack a look that had the former Red Ranger laughing in agreement. They had both tried vainly to get Bridge to calm down during the birth of his daughter. Sky frowned when his son started whimpering. "Want me to take him?"
Sydney looked over her shoulder and grinned. "Sure. I think he's had enough of Mom for today, unless he decides he's hungry again."
Happily, Sky took his son, cradling the tiny body against his chest. "I love that picture of Bridge that Syd took when the doctor handed J.C. to him the first time."
"Me?" J.C. giggled, pointing at the book sitting in front of her mother and her aunts.
"Me see!" the little girl giggled, jumping forward, feet landing on the book.
"JAMIE CHRISTINA!" Z reprimanded loudly, shocking her daughter right onto her butt. Little blue eyes looked up through dark brown hair while tiny lips quivered. "You do not step or stand on that book."
The little girl nodded her head, before turning and seeking comfort in her father's arms. The others gave Z looks, to which Z just glared back.
"I want to see the wedding pictures!" Melody laughed, leaning back against Sam. Her parents had laid out the ground rules as far as she and Sam were concerned. They weren't officially allowed to date until she was fifteen, but the few times the McKnight family had made it back to New Tech City, Melody had found every excuse to be with Sam.
"You just want to see the picture of you and Sam dancing that I snapped," Kat laughed, nudging her young friend, who had the grace to blush. "Oh!"
Everyone was startled by the noise Kat made, especially Boom. "Sweetheart, are you alright?"
"The baby...it's moving," Kat murmured in awe, pressing her hands down on top of Boom's. She turned her head slightly and watched Boom's face light up when he felt their child moving inside of her.
"Baby!" J.C. giggled, scrambling over to her aunt. Kat smiled and took her hand, placing it over where her baby was kicking. "Baby!" The group laughed at J.C.'s giggling antics as she leaned forward and kissed Kat's belly.
"I almost hate to start packing this stuff up," Z complained softly a few minutes later when the sun started to disappear and the group began packing up what was left of their barbeque.
Nods and smiles were shared. "Can we get together again before we have to leave?" Melody asked softly, looking at her parents with puppy dog eyes.
"I'm sure that won't be a problem, but remember, Sky, Bridge, Z, Kat, Boom, and Anubis have to work still this weekend," Kira reassured her daughter, drawing Melody against her side.
"How about we go out to dinner tomorrow? I'm sure we can get a baby sitter for J.C. and Eric," Syd grinned, opening her arms to her young friend. Melody looked up at her mom, who nodded, before she rushed forward and wrapped her arms around Sydney. "I've missed you, kiddo."
"I know, I've missed you too," Melody sighed, feeling safe with her best friend. "Did Mom and Dad tell you?"
"No, what?" Sydney asked softly.
"When I start high school next year, I won't be going to a normal high school. I'm coming to the academy."
Syd's eyes widened as she looked up to see Kira standing there with Conner, staring at her, smiling. "Are you sure?"
Kira nodded. "It's her choice, Sydney. Besides, Conner and I are both reassured knowing that you and the others will be here if she needs something. She's growing up on me, she's not my baby any longer, so I'm letting her spread her wings a little bit at a time."
The blonde Pink Ranger looked down and winked at Melody. "Especially since I'll be back at work full time by then." Melody grinned back at her. "So, how about I give you guys a call tomorrow morning and we go shopping while Mom and Dad go sightseeing or something, and then we'll round everyone up for dinner."
After a round of goodbyes, everyone got into their vehicles and headed home for the night.
"Is he asleep?"
Sky nodded and yawned. Carefully he toed his shoes off at the foot of their bed before he turned and grabbed his sweats off the wood chest his mother had given them after they'd moved into the house. Sydney had insisted on position it at the end of the bed, so more often than not it was used as a place to sit or where he tossed his pajamas.
"He was out like a light by the time I got him into bed," Sky called from the bathroom. When he reemerged, he found Sydney sitting on the bed in his old, blue SPD t-shirt and nothing else. Their wedding album was in her lap, opened to the first picture the photographer had taken of them after their vows. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. Why?" she asked softly, closing the book and looking up at him. Her eyes shown in the lamplight, sparkling with life and a love he thought, once upon a time, he'd never see again. Thank God, Angels had been watching over them that night three years ago. He couldn't possibly imagine what life would be like without her, or all the things she'd given him. "Sky?"
"I love you."
Her face lit up with a giant smile as she set the book on the bedside table before holding her arms open to him. Sky crawled onto the bed and into her arms, burying his face against her neck as she held him. "I love you, Sky, more than you will ever know."
Without words, they shifted around until they were laying on the bed, ready for sleep. Each leaned over and shut off their bedside lights, before wrapping their arms around each other. "What's wrong, honey?"
Syd giggled softly, rubbing her face against his chest. The baby monitor was sitting on Sky's side of the bed, the red light lit to show it was on. "I was just thinking, it feels like we've crossed the finish line of a really long race, you know?"
Sky chuckled. "One race may be over, but a new one's just around the corner."