Disclaimer: Buena Vista Entertainment owns the rights to Power Rangers SPD. This story involves characters and concepts from PRSPD. Chapters are, naturally, connected to the episodes for which they are named.
Though the Dragon Waits
Chapter 1: "Abridged"
Syd was up first, and no wonder. Her bathroom rituals would stretch for days if she didn't have to work in between. She completely ignored him the first time she passed, and the second. The third time she was actually dressed, and she gave him a funny look on her way to the mess, but she didn't say anything.
Bridge wandered by next. He gave Sky a funny look, paused in the hallway, and considered the situation. Then he surprised Sky by coming out with the obvious question.
"Hey, Sky," he said. "What are you doing standing in the hall outside Jack's room?"
Sky glanced at him without moving. "Waiting to talk to Jack."
"Oh, yeah," Bridge said, nodding once. "That makes sense."
He wandered off toward the mess too, apparently satisfied with the obvious answer. Bridge wasn't at his best first thing in the morning. Or really any other time.
Z walked by third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. Her first self looked startled and vaguely suspicious to see him standing there. Her other selves came by at intervals after that, each time from the same direction, checking up on him every five minutes or so.
The fourth Z asked why he was waiting to talk to Jack, which he assumed meant she and Bridge were eating breakfast together. He thought about telling her to ask Bridge to bring him some orange juice, but she didn't look like she was in the mood to do him any favors. So he told her it was none of her business instead.
It was almost eight o'clock when Syd hurried past again, looking worried.
By now thoroughly bored, Sky remarked, "You're going the wrong way."
"I need my lucky barrette!" she called back, disappearing into the room she shared with Z. He frowned, wondering what she could have heard at breakfast that would call for the pink kitty barrette.
"What's going on?" he demanded when she emerged again.
"There." She was clipping the barrette into her curls, and she stopped in front of him just long enough to pose. "How do I look?"
He opened his mouth to ask again, and she waved her hand dismissively. "Oh, you're a guy; what do you know. Z!"
Yet another Z poked her head out of their room, and Syd put her hands on her hips. "How's my hair?" she wanted to know. "Is the barrette too much?"
"Princess," Z said dryly, "it's not the barrette."
Syd turned around and flounced off, but she didn't ignore Sky again when he called after her, "Syd! What's going on?"
"Kat's wearing nail polish!" Her voice drifted back to him as she turned the corner, and he frowned. That was serious. The only good thing about nail polish was that it meant they probably weren't the ones in trouble.
"That supposed to mean something?" Z asked, studying him.
He spared her a quick glance. "The commander can't stand the smell of nail polish. He can scent it two floors away. Kat never wears it, not unless she's pissed at him for something."
"Huh." Z kept staring at him. "So you gonna let Jack make you late or what?"
Sky snorted. "Not likely."
"Likely," she countered. "You know he's still in bed."
He eyed her. "Jack's been up early before." Which was the only reason he'd been standing here so long: Jack made unpredictability a habit.
She lifted her left wrist, giving it a pointed look despite the fact there was no watch there. Yes, he could see that today wasn't one of those days. "Don't you have somewhere to be?" he asked testily.
Z shot him a skeptical look. "Don't you?"
She vanished into thin air before he could answer.
Four minutes before eight o'clock and a noise behind the door alerted him just in time. With a quick wave of his hand, he shoved the edge of his field flush against Jack's door and held it there. It shimmered blue a second later as a non-corporeal body walked straight into it, and he heard Jack curse.
"Sky!" Jack's voice shouted from inside the room. "Cut it out!"
He smirked. He deserved some reward for standing out here all morning. "Make me," he taunted, just as the door slid open.
Jacket in one hand, the other braced against the doorframe, Jack glared at him from inside the room. Then his gaze dropped, a frankly assessing look that took in all of Sky before returning to his face. "Damn," he said. "Are you still on night watch?"
"I want to talk to you," Sky said stiffly. Nothing about that was funny, so he was going to ignore it in its entirety.
Jack put out a tentative hand, but the space in front of his door was normal again and he withdrew the hand to cover his mouth when he yawned. "Well," he said, stepping out into the hallway, "it's Monday morning. We're all going to the same place."
"Before we get there," Sky clarified, shortening his stride as he fell in beside Jack. "I think the commander's making a mistake."
"Oh, do you now." Jack stifled another yawn.
"We should go after A Squad," Sky insisted. "They sent a distress call. They're in trouble and we can help."
Jack was already shaking his head. "If the commander thought we could help, he would have sent us already."
"Maybe he's just waiting for us to prove ourselves by asking," Sky said, giving him a sideways glance as they waited for the lift. Everyone knew Jack had had to ask--not once, but twice--before he was given the Red morpher.
"So ask," Jack retorted.
Sky folded his arms, frowning at the closed doors. "I did."
"What?" Jack turned to glare at him. "You asked Cruger to send us after A Squad?"
Sky shrugged. "They need help."
"You don't even like A Squad." Jack sounded very sure of that for someone who'd only known him a few weeks, and he'd be lying if he said the certainty didn't rankle.
"I don't like Charlie," he snapped. "I don't have a problem with A Squad as a whole. And anyway, that's not the point."
"No," Jack agreed, idly waving him into the lift first when the doors opened. "The point is that you went behind my back with Cruger, and when he told you no, you decided to get me in trouble by convincing me to harass him for you."
"I did not--"
"Command," Jack told the lift. "Sky, just out of curiosity, when was the last time you slept?"
Sky stared at him, baffled. "Who said that was any of your business?"
"Take the day off," Jack told him. "Night watch is making you harder to live with than usual. And frankly, I didn't think that was possible."
"I can't take the day off!" Just the thought was horrifying. He would never hear the end of it.
"So take the afternoon off. You have, what, squad training and the interpreter seminar after patrol?" Jack didn't wait for an answer. "You're dismissed from training, and we're all going to the seminar. Syd'll take notes for you. Get some sleep or something."
"This isn't about--"
Jack interrupted him again. "I'm not kidding, Sky."
"--sleep, or time off; if I wanted time off, believe me, I'd tell you..."
"You're no good to us if you can't focus." Jack didn't even try to cut him off, just kept talking over top of him. "And this is not you focused, this is you wired from lack of sleep and obsessed with whatever's in your head, so let it go and for once just do what I tell you!"
The lift chimed, signaling its presence outside of Command, and they had a second to exchange glances before the doors opened. Even if everyone was already inside, the commander would have been able to hear them arguing as the lift arrived. That was a lecture neither of them needed to hear again.
Jack poked his head out first when the doors opened, and they looked up and down the hall. Empty. "I don't need the afternoon off," Sky muttered under his breath, right behind him as they headed for Command.
"Tough," Jack whispered back.
The digital display on the console beside the door said 07:59:36 when they walked in, and Cruger didn't say a word. Sky felt something brush against his wrist as he and Jack lined up beside their teammates. His hand closed around the bottle of orange juice Bridge passed him, hiding it behind his back, and he definitely hadn't been getting enough sleep because he was struck by the insane urge to smile.
That urge was long gone by the time Cruger told them that A Squad was officially MIA. Before he could say anything, though, Jack spoke up. "Send us," he said, not looking at Sky. "We'll find them, sir."
The answer he got was no different from the one Sky had been given several times already: B Squad was needed on Earth. And fine, maybe it was irresponsible to send the planet's second line of defense the way of its first. But he couldn't help thinking that someday it was going to be him out there on the front lines, without base or backup. If his radio went dead, who would come to find out why?