Disclaimer: I don't own the Power Rangers.

Held Together

He slept on while awareness drifted back to her. She blinked through sleepy eyes, disbelief her first reaction upon seeing him there beside her, curled up and fast asleep. A smile touched her lips as she took a few precious moments to etch forever into her mind that look of utter peace on his face.

Never before had she seen him so relaxed, so unguarded, so... vulnerable. He looked oddly young as she watched him, or maybe it was just that he'd always looked older than he was. It made her heart ache to think of how much he had seen in so short a time, how many loved ones he had lost.

Ashley let out her breath in a sigh, shaking her head. There was nothing that would infuriate him more than her pity, and by some miracle his immediate family had survived the war. He hadn't seen his parents since KO-35 had evacuated when he was fifteen, but Andros talked to them every other day and had every intention of moving back home as soon as his obligations here on Earth were out of the way.

Giddy nervousness bubbled up within her as she remembered his words to her the night before. She would be going with him when he left, to live her life on a world that was not her own. Scary? Terrifying, but...

Ashley couldn't resist reaching up to brush one long, blond lock out of his face. There was just something about him, about them, that made it worth it. So she'd said yes.

He stirred when she ran her fingers through his hair and she paused, her heart pounding away in her chest. As much as she wanted to see the look on his face as he opened his eyes, she couldn't help but feel a twinge or two of uncertainty. She didn't really think that he would regret what they'd done, but... she suddenly wasn't so sure of herself.

Andros groaned softly as he stretched and Ashley sucked in her breath as his skin moved against hers. He froze at the soft sound and carefully opened his eyes, blinking away sleep as his gaze fixed itself on her.

Ashley leaned in before she could lose her nerve, kissing him on the mouth. He made no reaction and she drew away to stare at him anxiously.

"Morning," she murmured. Her heartbeat drummed loudly in her ears. "Sleep well?"

He blinked at her almost in confusion, his lips curving slowly into a smile. "Morning," he whispered back, and leaned forward to kiss her.

Ashley sighed happily when he pulled away, lifting a hand to stroke his hair. "This is nice."

Andros nodded slowly in agreement. His nose wrinkled as she twirled his hair around her finger and she let out a quiet giggle, tugging playfully. He had absolutely beautiful hair and--having seen all of him, no matter how dark the room had been--the rest of him was no less gorgeous.

She was tempted to tell him so just to see him blush. If he hadn't looked so vaguely self-conscious to begin with then she might have, but snuggling a little closer was suddenly a much more appealing idea.

Andros swallowed visibly.

Ashley giggled nervously as his skin rubbed against hers, biting down on her lip. She closed her mouth and lowered her eyes, rubbing the edge of the blanket between her fingers.

Andros watched her for a moment longer before he sighed and shifted away, his hair spilling over his bare shoulders as he propped himself up on one elbow. "You're beautiful," he said quietly.

She caught her breath when he brushed his knuckles over her cheek, his fingers slowly tracing her jaw. Ashley felt the tension melt away as he leaned down to press his mouth to hers, that kiss comforting in its familiarity.

Andros was more confident as he drew away, though chagrin touched his face now. "I was supposed to get you a ring, wasn't I?" he sighed. "That's how you do it here on Earth."

"Well..." She hesitated just long enough that he started to look nervous. "I don't need one."

"But you want one."

"Well, yeah," she admitted, catching the hand he'd lifted to stroke her hair. "It'd be nice."

Worried, he stared at her for a moment longer before he nodded. Ashley sighed and slid her fingers between his, kissing the back of his hand.

"Last night was perfect," she said firmly. She hesitated a moment. "We still need to talk about some things."

Sighing, Andros nodded. "I know."

"It can wait awhile," she murmured, and snuggled closer. "Want me to teach you how to make pancakes for breakfast?"

Andros let out a soft laugh and lowered himself back onto his side. He wrapped an arm around her and held her close, and Ashley knew that everything was going to be all right.

The night before

"I need to talk to you."

"So talk," Ashley murmured back breathlessly, nibbling on his earlobe. "I'm listening."

"It's important," he insisted, his voice not half as steady as she suspected he'd intended for it to be. "Ash."

He sounded serious enough that she slid off of his lap, resting her chin on his shoulder instead. Now that she thought of it... "You were acting funny during dinner," she said. "Is everything all right?"

"There's something I need to talk to you about," he said. "Ash... I've been thinking about going back to KO-35."

"You... are?"

"Yes." He shot her a worried look as he nodded. "I mean permanently."

"Permanently?" Her heart seized up when Andros nodded another time. "B--but Andros..."

"I love you, Ash," he said softly. "Just let me explain."

Her throat closed as she tried to return the words. Ashley drew away from him to stare in disbelief, shaking her head. "What happened to 'my home is with you?'"

"It's still how I feel," he said, hurt clear in his eyes. "Ashley..."

"But you're still leaving." She lowered her head before he could see the tears forming in her eyes, clenching her fists in her lap. She'd thought he was happy here...

"Yeah," Andros said quietly, and reached for her hand again. "But I--I... would you come with me?"

"But--what?" The ache in her throat lessened as she gaped at him, chills rolling across her arms. Feeling a stab of guilt in her stomach for doubting him, she swallowed hard and tried to speak."You--you want me to..."

"I want you to come with me to KO-35," he said, nodding his head firmly. "I want us to be together."

"That's what I want too," she said softly, slowly reaching for his hand. "But Andros..."

Her voice trailed off as she felt him grasp her fingers. He'd had a life back on KO-35, one that he'd given up for her. He was asking her now if she would do the same for him.

Ashley swallowed, rubbing his fingers between her palms as she stalled for an answer. "I want to be with you," she said, and his grip on her fingers tightened. "That's what I want more than anything, but Andros..."

"It's a big decision," he finished for her, tentatively moving closer to her. "I know. You have time to decide."

"How much time?"

"At least a year and a half," he said, and she turned to stare at him in surprise. Andros shrugged. "NASADA asked me to do some more work for them."

Ashley slowly closed her mouth. She knew that he'd finished everything that he'd agreed to do for NASADA and was nearly done with assisting in the creation of some diplomatic relations between Earth and the rest of the universe. He hadn't needed to take on any more work.

"I want to finish college," she said, her mind racing too quickly for her to think straight. "That's going to take more than a year and a half."

"I can wait." Andros lifted her hands and brought them to his lips, dusting kisses across her fingers. "I know it's important to you. I'm not sure how much your education would mean on KO-35, though," he added, frowning in thought.

"But what would I do there?" she asked. Ashley couldn't help but smile a little when he kissed the tip of her thumb, squeezing his fingers hard. "Really, what is there to do?"

He looked startled at the question, but thought for a moment. "What do you want to do?"

"I--I'm not sure," she was forced to admit. "I mean, I know I said I wanted to be a designer, but I'm not sure that's what I want to do anymore..."

"If you decide that's what you want to do, you can do it on KO-35," he said confidently. "And if it's not, I'll help you find what you do want."

"That's sweet of you," she murmured. "But... I don't know."

"You've got time to think about it," he said. "If you want to."

"I--I want to be with you," she said again, and stared at their clasped hands with a sigh. "Do you really think this could work?"

"I really think you'd like it there, and you'd be able to come back to Earth for a visit whenever you wanted." Andros looked at her hopefully. "I'm going back for a few weeks to see my parents, and if you'd want to come with me..."

"Of course I will." Ashley smiled and leaned over to kiss his cheek, knowing then that she could never ask him to stay here. "I'd love to."

When his face lit up in a smile, she leaned her head on his shoulder and sighed. Zhane and Karone both had gone back to KO-35 and both his parents were alive and well... now that she thought of it, she wasn't surprised he was suddenly homesick.

Ashley closed her eyes, slowly letting out a deep breath. "Andros?" she whispered. She brought both her arms up and wrapped them around his shoulders, hugging him tight. "I don't need to think about it anymore."

"But Ash--" He stopped and sighed, tense as he nodded. "A--are you sure?"

"Yeah, I am." She heard her voice shake and almost laughed, a giggle escaping as she drew back to look at him. "You'd be unhappy here."

"I'm sorry," he said, and she shook her head.

"I know you tried." Ashley smiled and caught his arm, holding his hand between both of hers. His skin was warm beneath hers as she wrapped her fingers around his, trailing kisses across his fingertips. "I love you, and I don't want to see you miserable."

His fingers curled reflexively, his palm sweaty against hers. "And what about you, Ash?"

She let out a slow, steadying breath, and nodded firmly. "My home is with you."

Andros's hand clenched almost painfully on hers. "You've hardly had time to think about it."

Ashley shook her head, lightly touching her lips to his. "And how much time did you have, when the Megaship was about to take off?"

His face relaxed as he nodded, and she caught her breath at the way joy shone so clearly on his face. That expression rarely graced his face and she knew then just how much he'd wanted to hear her say yes.

"You'll really come?" he said eagerly. "You really want to?"

"Silly," she murmured. "There's just one thing I want to know first."

"Anything," he promised, and then she did laugh.

"Well," she started, a bit nervous, "you're asking me to stay with you permanently, aren't you?"

He nodded, and she continued. "Then we... I mean... about us."

Andros's smile faded some but didn't disappear, and he suddenly looked anxious all over again. "There's something else I meant to ask you."

She nodded slowly, frowning when he gently pushed her off of his lap. He stood and turned to face her, briefly closing his eyes. Ashley saw him swallow, but as he dropped down onto one knee in front of her, he met her eye and smiled equal parts shyness and pride.

"Ashley," he started, and it was only then that she realized what he was doing.

"A--andros," she whispered, warm from the inside out as she tried not to either laugh or cry.

"I love you," he said simply, and smiled at her. "Ashley, will you marry me?"

Marry him. Ashley felt her smile split her face as she just stared at him, laughing in delight. He'd just asked her to marry him. Marry him. Spend the rest of her life with him.

Ashley reached to take his hand, somewhere in the dazed confusion that was her mind wondering why her fingers trembled. Her throat too tight to speak, she nodded her head fiercely and tugged until he'd stood and then joined him, her heart thudding furiously as she found herself in his arms.

"Yes," she finally managed to whisper. "Yes. I'll marry you."

She felt him exhale slowly, and laughed silently to herself at his relief. "I love you," she murmured, laughing suddenly as her voice broke. "Oh god, Andros..."

"I love you too," he said quietly, gently stroking her hair.

She couldn't stop smiling long enough to kiss him. Andros laughed softly and brushed his lips over her forehead, her cheek, across her jawline to her ear. "Ash," she heard him whisper, his breath tickling her neck.

She tilted her head to the side and he brushed her hair off her shoulders. Ashley closed her eyes as soft kisses moved down her neck, without a word catching both of his hands and pushing him back. He looked at her, startled, understanding dawning as she took a step towards her room and pulled him with her.

For a moment she thought he wouldn't follow. He moved more slowly, then stepped closer and kissed her hard as they reached her bedroom. Ashley locked the door behind her and turned slowly to face him, meeting his dark eyes with a nervous grin. He caught the hand she stretched out to him, keeping her close as they sank down onto her bed.

Hands gripping his shoulders, Ashley tilted her head against his and kissed him, breathing heavily as his hands tentatively caressed the small of her back. She closed her eyes, shivering as his touch slid up her spine and then back down again.

Straightening, she caught the hem of her shirt with shaky fingers. Andros's eyes widened, his thumbs tracing her collarbone. "You're beautiful," he murmured breathlessly, and a small smile formed. "Red."

She couldn't help laughing a little as her face flushed, glancing down at herself. "Red," she said in sheepish agreement. "It matched my shirt."

"I like it," he declared boldly, cheeks coloring.

As she grinned, she felt him relax beneath her and bent to kiss him. Andros wrapped his arms around her and nearly rolled them onto the floor. The leg he braced against the floor kept them from falling and Ashley tried not to laugh as she squirmed back towards the center of the bed.

"I think we'll need a bigger bed," she murmured, her palms slowly sliding beneath his shirt and up his body.

His laughter died into a moan as her fingers brushed against his chest, his breath quickening as he slipped out of his shirt. They didn't speak for awhile after that, caught in up touching and feeling, in a slow exploration of each other.

Ashley closed her eyes with a groan as he kissed her breasts, arching upwards as his hands slid across her belly and lower. Slow kisses trailed across her burning skin to her bellybutton and then back up to her mouth, their mouths meeting in a kiss that stole her breath away.

"Andros," she whispered.

His body bore down gently on hers, his skin burning warm as her fingers walked down his chest. He trembled when her fingertips just barely brushed soft, smooth skin, some quiet noise sounding deep in his throat. She curled her fingers and he groaned aloud, his head dropping forward onto her shoulder.

She stroked her hand back up his spine to grip his shoulders as he shifted on top of her. He tilted his forehead against hers and she smiled, and wrapped her arms tight around him and didn't let go.


Author's Note: Happy birthday, Marieke! This one didn't turn out at all how I'd meant it to, but I hope you like it anyway... I love you, and I hope you have a fun and happy last four and a half hours of birthday. :P ::hugs::

I hope the rest of you liked it too, and now that I'm done with this thing, I'll be updating my other stories this weekend. Please review!