The Weakest Color
Bridge was floating in a sea of darkness. There was nothing above or below him except for black, unending, infinite space. He felt strangely calm, at peace with himself and the world.
'Am I dead?' he wondered. He didn't feel dead. But he'd never been dead before, so it was hard to tell.
A tiny blue light spun and flickered above him. As he reached for it, the light brightened, consuming the darkness in a blinding flash. He looked away but the light remained, burning hot and bright behind his eyes.
An irresistible force tugged at him. He snapped back into his own body with a gasp. He felt the soft fabric of a blanket beneath his fingers and heard the steady beep of a heart monitor.
There were footsteps nearby and he pried his eyes open. Two doctors in white coats stood beside his bed, talking to each other in low voices. One of them noticed he was awake and bent in closer.
"Where am I?" Bridge tried to ask. It came out more like a croak, but they seemed to understand.
"You're in SPD headquarters," one replied. He squinted at her, trying to make out her features. All he could see was a halo of brown hair. "You've been asleep for four days."
"Oh." His thoughts were slow and fuzzy, like they were moving through molasses. His mouth was dry from thirst. "Water, please..."
The doctor handed him a glass and stared at him while he drank. Her colleague left the room and the door locked behind him with a conspicuous click. This was a jail cell, then, of some kind. Or a holding room in the infirmary, at least.
The door opened and Kat walked briskly into the room. "Hello, Bridge. How are you feeling?"
"Better," Bridge said. He tried to remember the battle, but everything was blurry and faint. "How... ? I thought... I thought I was dying."
"You were," Kat replied. "You were too badly injured and had given too much of your own energy back to the morphing grid." Her voice softened.
"But Sky... Sky risked his life to save you. It turns out that your powers connect you, not only to the morphing grid, but to each other. He gave you his energy to keep you alive."
"Is he okay?" Bridge asked anxiously.
Kat nodded. "Yes. Although, Sky has been receiving mild empathic impressions from people. Who knows? You might be able to create a weak shield, if you tried. Fortunately, the effect seems to be temporary."
Bridge breathed a sigh of relief. It had taken him years of hard work and suffering to control his powers. He wouldn't wish that on anyone. Well, maybe Broodwing. A little more empathy might do the bat some good.
"It's also thanks to Sky - and Z - that you're not in a containment card," Kat added, with a stern look. "When you're feeling up for it, I think we'd all like to hear the whole story, from the beginning."
And so he told them everything. He thought it would be difficult, but after keeping so many secrets for so long, it was almost a relief.
He told them about the super-weapon, and the terrible bargain he made with the Troobians.
About Mora and Invisor, and the duel he had fought in the alter-verse.
About his powers and visions, and the upgrade.
About stealing the files from Kat's lab.
He told them about Broodwing, and the bat's sinister plots.
And finally, about the last battle, ending with the moment he transferred his powers through the morphing grid, in the hope that someone, anyone, would help.
"I don't really remember much after that," Bridge said. He remembered, but only distantly, defeating Gruumm and confining Mora. He remembered the light.
There was a long silence when he finished his story.
"Why didn't you tell us?" Syd asked at last, hurt by his lack of trust. "We would have helped you."
Bridge hung his head. "I couldn't."
The silence stretched on.
"Bridge," Cruger said. Bridge reluctantly met his eyes. "I don't agree with some of the choices that you made. But I believe that everything that you did, you did to save the Earth. That counts for a great deal. Under the circumstance, I plan to recommend to the Supreme Commander that you receive community service instead of containment."
Bridge shook his head. "I broke the law. A lot of people got hurt because of me, and I don't think they'll be able to forgive me... or that I'll be able to forgive myself. I should be carded."
"And then what?" Cruger countered. "You won't be able to help anyone from prison. I think that the people of Newtech City deserve better than that."
"We all make mistakes," Kat said, "but running away won't help anything. Stay, Bridge, and help us rebuild. The city needs you. We need you."
If Cruger and Kat wanted him to stay, then he would stay. He owed them both more than he could ever repay.
"Okay. I'll do my best," Bridge vowed and stifled a yawn. As if on cue, the doctor returned and shooed the other rangers out of the room. Sky trailed behind the others, like there was something he needed to say, before changing his mind and leaving as well.
Bridge felt a pang of regret. He wished Sky had stayed, because there were so many questions, so many things left unsaid between them. At least now, he would have another chance to make things right. Bridge turned on his side and managed to drift off into a fitful sleep.
Z was his first visitor the next morning. "Hey. How are you feeling?"
"Okay," Bridge said and hesitated. "Z, I'm really sorry about what happened." But the apology seemed painfully inadequate.
"It's okay," Z said. She sat on the edge of the bed. "When we fought, I was so angry. I just couldn't believe that you had turned evil, that you had betrayed us. Then you touched me and I knew... I knew everything." She paused for a moment, lost in the memory. "I understand why you had to do it, and I forgive you."
"But what if you hadn't woken up?" Bridge said. He didn't want her to forgive him. He wanted her to scream at him, to punish him for all the crimes he had committed. "I could have killed you!"
"But you didn't," Z pointed out. "And in the end, you saved my life, and everyone else's too. That's what's important. So get well soon, because I want to see you back on the team. It isn't the same without you."
"I will." He managed a weak smile. "Thanks."
He could barely understand Syd during her visit. She hovered next to his bed for a moment before bursting into tears.
"I thought I was dead... and you hated all of us... and ... and..." Syd sniffled. "Don't ever do that again!" She punched his good shoulder hard.
"Ow!" Bridge said. "I won't!"
Syd blinked away the last of her tears and enfolded him in a hug, careful to avoid his injuries.
"Hello, Boom," Bridge said softly.
Boom looked vulnerable and scared. He hovered near the door, keeping a wide distance between them.
"Honestly, I don't know how I feel about all of this," Boom said. He scuffed his shoes on the tiles. "You used me. I lost everything, my job, my friends. The Supreme Commander almost put me on trial, you know. I keep telling myself that it wasn't personal, but... it still hurts."
"I never meant to hurt you," Bridge said. Cruger was right. Confinement would have been easier, far easier than facing the people who he had hurt. "I'm sorry."
"I know. I'm just - I'm not sure that I can be friends with you anymore." Boom fidgeted some more before glancing at Bridge. "But - I'd like to work on it. Maybe we can take it slowly, one step at a time. Please?"
"Boom, it's okay," Bridge said, wanting to reassure him. "I understand. I hope we can be friends again, one day."
Boom relaxed a tiny bit. "I hope so, too."
The lights had dimmed in an approximation of nighttime when the door clicked open again. The figured who entered was tall and dignified. Bridge had never met her - he had barely even seen her - but he recognized her instantly.
"My name is Isinia. Isinia Cruger." Isinia folded her hands in her robes. "I wanted to thank you for saving me from Broodwing."
"You don't have to thank me," Bridge said. "It was nothing." If anyone deserved to be happy, it was Cruger and Isinia.
"No, it wasn't. Doggie told me everything. We Sirians have very long memories, and I won't forget what you did for me." Isinia graced him with a slight smile and padded from the room.
They released Bridge from the infirmary the next day. He still felt stiff and sore, and the doctor assured him he would feel that way for a while. His ribs ached and his arm was strapped tightly in a split.
He asked when he would be put back on active duty. The doctor looked affronted.
"Modern medicine can only help so much, you know," she said with a long-suffering sniff. "You still have to finish healing naturally. Not even the morphing grid can change that." She then read off a long list of things he was not to do, on threat of being confined indefinitely to the hospital room.
He thanked her and hobbled away as fast as he could. The first thing he did was to look for Jack. He found the red ranger sitting in front of a glass wall, partially concealed by plants.
"Z told me that I might find you here," Bridge said. He sat next to Jack on the edge of the bench. The red ranger gave him a stiff nod of acknowledgement.
"Cruger told me that he wants you back on the team," Jack said. "But he left the final decision up to me." A muscle twitched in his jaw. "I won't lie to you, Bridge. I've been avoiding you."
"I know. And I realize that this probably doesn't mean much to you now, but for what it's worth, I'm sorry," Bridge said. The others rangers had tried to confine him, but Jack had truly wanted to kill him. Emotions that intense were slow to fade.
Bridge looked out over the city. He could see the damage from the battle, but also a bustle of activity in the places that were already being rebuilt. "I wish there was something I could do to take it back, but there isn't. So I just have to go on, and do what I can to fix things."
"I know," Jack said. He studied Bridge through dark, burdened eyes. "I just don't know if I can forgive you, or ever learn to trust you again."
The words hung between them for a long, tense moment. Jack sighed and spoke again. "But, for all of our sakes, I will try. Welcome back, Bridge."
The details of the battle were not official knowledge. But rumors flew faster than light at the Academy and within a day everyone knew - or thought they knew - exactly what had happened. A group of cadets shot him furtive glances and whispered as he passed.
"Did he really save the rangers?"
"Can you believe that the commander pardoned him?"
"Well, I heard that he died and was brought back to life by, like, some crazy morphing grid magic."
"He should be in prison." That one echoed. He heard it everywhere he went. "It's not right."
A few audacious cadets followed him right up to his dorm room. Bridge turned and stared at them, and the culprits tried to look uninterested before slinking away.
He knocked and opened the door. His side of the room was just the way he had left it. Bridge tried to hide his surprise. He had expected it to be empty.
"I guess, on some level, I hoped that you would come back," Sky said, answering his unspoken question. He put down the datapad he was studying. "I heard that Jack let you back on the team."
"He did. Sky..."
"You don't have to apologize," Sky said. "I know how you feel. I mean - we were connected. I think we still are, a little bit. Kat says it's because we saved each other."
"I don't understand," Bridge said. "Why did you save me? I betrayed SPD. I betrayed you."
"I know. I wanted to hate you, I really did." Sky bit his lip and struggled to find the words. "But..."
Bridge caught a wisp of feeling. "But... you care about me."
Sky looked very uncomfortable. "Well, yes. And I guess I just realized that everyone deserves a second chance."
"It's not official, yet. Me being back on the team, I mean," Bridge said. "There are lots of other things I can do at SPD. If you don't want me to come back, I understand."
Sky was quiet for a long time. Long enough that Bridge began to wonder if he should be looking for a position in science or maybe on the city clean-up crew.
"No, I want you back on the team," Sky said abruptly, startling him.
He would have to get used to that. Sensing the emotions of others came second nature to him, but it was strange being read by someone else.
"I just wish..." Sky trailed off. "I just wish things were like they were before. You've changed. Maybe we both have. Just promise me one thing, okay? No more secrets?"
"No more secrets," Bridge promised.
Sky nodded. The hard knot of pain that he held within his heart began to loosen. "I'm sorry." The words tumbled out. "I'm sorry that I didn't do something sooner. I'm sorry that I wasn't able to help you." I'm sorry that I failed you.
Bridge was stunned. Why was Sky was apologizing to him? "Sky, it wasn't your fault. The Troobians..."
"... would have destroyed the Earth. I know. And if they had chosen me, I might have done the same thing." Then Sky spoke so quietly, Bridge almost missed it. "Are we still friends?"
"Of course," Bridge said with a warm smile. He was relieved when Sky smiled tentatively back. This was what mattered. This moment, this connection. They were friends, and he suddenly knew that they always would be.
~ The End ~
A/N: The end. Those are two strange, amazing and scary words to write. I first wanted to thank everyone for all of your wonderful reviews and encouragement. You kept me writing during the long gaps between updates, and without you, I might not have finished this story. I'm so glad that we got to complete it together! :) By the way, if you've been reading and enjoying this story, and you haven't left a review yet, please do so now.
I'll miss this story, but I look forward to writing new adventures with Sky and Bridge. The next one I'm working on is tentatively called Parallels. It's a Sky/Bridge friendship fic (of course!) which follows Sky as he travels through a series of parallel universes. Keep an eye out and/or add me to your author alert to be notified when it's posted. Happy reading and writing and, to borrow a phrase from Ghostwriter, catch you on the flip side!