Disclaimer: Not mine. Not Jenny's. Not AH/AY's. But we should buy it someday. :D
Author's Note: Grr... I hate this holiday so much... Who's with me?
Author's Note 2: More fluff, but there's almost a plot here...
Valentine's Day Special
Andros sighed inwardly as the blue ranger's voice reached his ears. While he'd grown accustomed to having a team and sharing the Megaship with said team, the tendency to hide had never quite left him.
"Hi, TJ," he said quietly, slowly descending down the access ladder in the engine room to stand beside the blue and black rangers. "Carlos. Did you need something?"
"We came to talk to you, actually," TJ said, continuing on without missing a beat. "Have you ever heard of Valentine's Day?"
"Should I have?"
The glance shared by the other two was not lost on Andros. "We-ell..." Carlos said slowly. "For couples, like you and Ash are, it's the most important day of the year besides your anniversary and her birthday."
"It... it is?" Andros swallowed nervously. "Why?"
TJ shrugged and grinned ruefully. "We'll never know."
"It's all about her," TJ enlightened him. "You have to buy her at least one box of candy and ten million roses."
"And jewelry never hurts," Carlos put in. With a grimace he added, "Or one of those tiny little teddy bears with red hearts all over them."
"Candy?" Andros repeated, relaxing just a bit. Candy and flowers he could do. "What kind of candy does Ashley like?"
The other two looked at each other and then back at him, shrugging. "You're her boyfriend," Carlos said, just the tiniest bit of bitterness in his voice. "You should know."
"But I - "
"Anyway, candy isn't enough," Carlos insisted. "That's just extra. You need to do something nice for her. You need a surprise for her."
"What kind of surprise?"
"Something romantic," Carlos said. "Something that tells her how much you love her."
"Take her to dinner," TJ suggested. "To one of those fancy restaurants where you can hire a violinist to play for you while you eat."
"Why can't I just take her to the Simudeck?"
"You could," TJ relented. "But... well, you live here. You're supposed to go out of your way for her."
Andros sighed. "Well... what does Ashley normally do for Valentine's Day?"
"Guys have a habit of breaking up with her on Valentine's Day," Carlos explained. "You'd better not."
"I'm not breaking up with her," Andros exclaimed, wondering if he was only imagining Carlos's look of disappointment.
"You'd better not," Carlos repeated, the disappointment replaced by something else that Andros had trouble placing. "You mean more to Ashley than any of those other guys."
Not at all sure how he should respond to that, Andros settled for asking, "When is Valentine's Day, anyway?"
"Today," TJ said with a grin. "Good luck."
"Hey, Andros," Ashley said cheerily, a bright smile playing on her lips as the doors to the Megalift slid shut behind her. Her mood sobered some as she took a second look at her boyfriend and she sighed inwardly. He was seated in the center seat, slumped forward over the console, his chin pillowed on his forearms. His blond-streaked hair was loose for once, nearly obscuring his face completely from her view, and though she couldn't see his eyes, Ashley knew that they were dark and pensive.
"Hi, Ashley," he replied after a long minute of heavy silence, straightening up to glance over his shoulder at her before turning away. Casting a sad look at the back of his head, she came forward to lean over the back of his seat, slipping her arms around his neck.
"What's wrong?" she murmured in his ear. He didn't answer right away and she sighed silently, resting her chin atop his head as she waited patiently for him to reply.
"Nothing," he muttered finally, causing her to roll her eyes up at the ceiling. "I'm fine."
"You sure?" she asked skeptically, toying with the ends of his hair. He nodded slowly, shifting his weight around a few times. Something was definitely bothering him, she'd been sure of that the moment she'd laid eyes on him, but Ashley knew there was nothing she could do to force it out of him. If Andros wanted to tell her, then he'd do so whenever he was ready, and as frustrating as it could be when he isolated himself, there was nothing Ashley could do but give him his space.
"I'm sure," he said firmly, surprising her by covering her fingers with his own. "But... thanks."
"You're welcome," she said faintly, her eyebrows arching up in surprise. Now convinced that there was definitely something wrong, Ashley stared down at the back of his head with her eyes narrowed, wishing that he would just... open up to her. Trust her.
Andros pulled out of her arms then, and she let him slip away. Opening her mouth, she tried to think up an excuse to leave. She was just about to tell him she had too much work to do when he stood, finally facing her. Her mouth fell closed as his opened, his voice cautious and hesitant.
"Would you... want to have dinner with me tonight?" he asked shyly.
"Of course I would," she exclaimed, leaping forward to fling her arms around his neck before she thought better of it. Andros surprised her even further by returning the hug without hesitation. Ashley smiled into his neck, wondering if she'd been wrong. Maybe he was opening up to her, after all.
"Is seven a good time for you?" he asked, still not releasing her. "Or if you'd rather - "
"Seven's fine," she assured him. "Where are we going?"
"Is the Simudeck all right with you?"
"Why wouldn't it be?" she asked, faintly surprised. "We've had dinner there before, haven't we?"
"Well, yeah, but..." Andros hesitated. "I live here."
"So?" she replied, now completely confused. "So do I, half the time. What's that got to do with dinner?"
"Doesn't that make it less... less special?"
"Make dinner less special?" she asked, guessing at what he meant more than following his train of thought. "Of course not!"
"All right, what's going on?" she demanded, fixing him with a long, searching look. "Andros, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," he said hastily, inching away from her. "Just forget about it. Please?"
There was something so pleading in his tone, something almost... desperate. Ashley still had no idea what was troubling him, but after taking one look at his face, she would have felt horrible for pressuring him to explain.
"Sure," she agreed distantly. "Whatever you like."
"I'll meet you at seven, all right?" Andros muttered, before practically fleeing the bridge.
"Come in, Ash," came the muffled voice of her best friend. Ashley slipped inside the pink ranger's room and flopped down on her bed with a heavy sigh.
"All right, what's wrong?"
"I don't know," Ashley admitted, burying her face in Cassie's pillow. "But Andros was acting so weird..."
"Weird how?" Cassie asked, sitting down somewhere in the vicinity of Ashley's feet. "His normal weird?"
Ashley raised her head off of the pillow to glare indignantly at her best friend. "Andros is not weird!"
"Whatever you say, Ash." Cassie grinned. "Weird how?"
"There was something bothering him," Ashley said, frowning up at the ceiling.
"He wouldn't tell you?"
"No." Ashley shook her head. "And then he asked me if I wanted to have dinner with him, but when I said yes... he said something about him living here made dinner less special because we were going to the Simudeck."
"Yeah." Ashley paused. "I wish he'd just tell me what's bothering him! Whenever I ask him what's wrong, he always says nothing, like I can't see that he's unhappy. I wish... I wish he'd just... trust me."
"I think he does," Cassie said slowly. "He's let you get close to him, hasn't he?"
"Sometimes." Ashley sighed. "But other times... it's like it was when we first met, when he didn't want anything to do with me."
"You should talk to him," Cassie urged. "Just tell him that you feel like he's pushing you away. Maybe he doesn't even know he's doing it."
"How could he not know?" Ashley bit her lip and rolled onto her side, meeting Cassie's eyes for the first time, her face gone silghtly dreamy. "Cass... I think I've fallen in love with him."
"Wow..." Cassie thought for a moment. "You should tell him that, too."
"I can't," Ashley protested immediately. "Not when I don't know if he loves me."
"You - "
Cassie broke off as there was a sudden knock at the door. "Who is it?"
"It's me," TJ's voice said.
"Just a minute," Cassie called back.
Ashley grinned. "Would now be a good time for me to go to the bathroom?"
Cassie laughed. "Nah, just stay here... Deca, let him in. Hey, Teej."
"Hey, Cassie," he greeted her. "Hi, Ashley."
"Hi," she said without much enthusiasm.
Cassie hopped up to wrap her boyfriend in a hug. "Did you need something?"
"Actually, I just came to remind you that our reservations are for eight," TJ said with a grin.
"Do you really think I'd forget?" Cassie asked indignantly. TJ grinned and glanced around the room for a quick change of topic, his eyes landing on Ashley.
"So, Ash," he said hastily. "Is Andros taking you anywhere for Valentine's Day?"
Ashley's head snapped up at that. "It's Valentine's Day?"
"You didn't know that?" Cassie glanced at her in surprise.
Ashley shook her head. "I completely forgot."
"Hey, do you think maybe that's why Andros was being weird?" Cassie wondered. "I mean, he - "
"I don't think so," Ashley said, sitting up at last. "I don't see how he'd know."
"You didn't tell him about Valentine's Day?"
"Cass, how am I supposed to tell Andros that he's supposed to buy me presents and candy and flowers and take me to dinner?" Ashley said, shaking her head. "I don't want to make him feel that he has to do all that."
"But he asked you to dinner, didn't he?" Cassie pointed out. "There are people in the world besides you, Ash. Someone else could have told him."
"I'll kill them," Ashley muttered. "If I wanted Andros to know, I'd have told him myself."
TJ shifted guiltily. "Umm..."
"What did you do?" Cassie demanded, eyeing him warily. "Teej..."
He sighed. "Well, Carlos was feeling jealous, and I... well, I thought it'd be kinda funny..."
"You thought what would be kind of funny?" Ashley prompted, her normally calm brown eyes suddenly blazing and very menacing. It wasn't until this moment that TJ realized that the fierce protectiveness Andros displayed towards her was mutual.
"Carlos told him that Valentine's Day was one of the most important days of the year," he said, now feeling rather sheepish. "And that he should buy you jewelry and one of those teddy bear things with the hearts all over it, and then he basically said that if Andros didn't know what kind of candy you liked, then he was a bad boyfriend... oh, and he was the one that said Andros needed a surprise for you."
Ashley listened to TJ's explanation calmly. "And what did you say?"
"All I said was that candy and roses made good gifts," TJ said quickly. "And when Carlos said he needed to surprise you, I said dinner would be a nice surprise."
"Which one of you made him think we couldn't eat on the Simudeck?"
"Oh," TJ said. "That was probably me. I told him... I think I said he was supposed to go out of his way for you..."
"You said what?" Ashley exclaimed, pushing herself up into a sitting position. "What's wrong with you?"
"Teej, this is Andros we're talking about," Cassie put in, although she didn't look nearly as upset as Ashley did. "He's confused enough as it is."
Ashley shot Cassie a half-hearted glare. "Deca, where's Andros?"
"Andros is in his room," Deca replied.
"I'm going to talk to him," she said, standing up. "Teej... do me a favor and next time prank Zhane."
Ashley waited patiently for a reply, but none came. Rolling her eyes, she called his name again, loudly. Though he still refused to answer, his door slid open, and she darted inside before he could change his mind.
"Hey," she said softly, feeling her way across the room to his bed. Careful not to sit on him, she grasped his hand between both of hers, stroking his fingers lightly as she sank down alongside him. "Are you all right?"
She sighed loudly, dropping his hand as she stared at him. "Andros, what did TJ and Carlos tell you?"
Andros pushed himself up until he was fully sitting, avoiding her gaze. "You know about that?"
Ashley nodded, slipping her fingers under his chin, tilting his face back to her. "Yeah."
"Oh." Andros shifted uncomfortably, finally asking, "Ash, why didn't you just tell me I was supposed to buy you stuff?"
"Well I…" Ashley shifted slightly and sighed softly. "I didn't want you to feel… obliged to do stuff for me. And I still don't expect you to do anything!" she added quickly, seeing the guilty look on his face that must come from feeling like he was being a bad boyfriend.
Andros glanced at her and smiled faintly. "Ash, I don't mind doing that stuff for you… you… you deserve it," he mumbled softly.
Smiling lovingly at his words, Ashley leaned towards him and wrapped her arms around him in a sideways hug. "Thanks," she murmured.
"You're welcome…" Taking a deep breath, Andros decided that if today was the most important day for 'couples like Ashley and him' and he was supposed to 'go out of his way' to surprise her…
"Hmm?" She looked up at him, a lazy, content smile on her face.
"I… I love you," he blurted out, blushing immediately and vaguely considering the idea of running away upon seeing the shocked and… happy? Though blurry, he could almost see tears shining in her eyes. And somehow, he knew she wasn't sad.
"Y-You do?" she breathed, feeling as light as a feather.
Nodding, Andros turned his head away, once again feeling like he had blown everything he'd gained. To his surprise, he felt a gentle hand touch his cheek and gently, but insistently, turn his head towards her.
"I love you too," she told him, with the most caring, loving smile he'd ever seen.
"Happy Valentine's Day," she added, hesitantly leaning forward and brushing her lips against his. As she made to pull away, he held her back into a loving embrace.
"Happy Valentine's Day," he replied with a tone that could only be evoked by the deep emotions he was feeling right now, holding the one girl he had ever truly loved.
And even though it wasn't a picturesquescene with the gentle background music of soft violins and lit by romantic candlelight, it was the most perfect thing that could happen to her, the most perfect thought in her mind, the love she felt making up for any past heartbreaks.
"So how about that dinner now?"
Author's Note 3: Happy Valentine's Day everyone!
JAP (Jenny, AH/AY, Phantom Rogue)