Disclaimer: I don't own the Power Rangers.
Insomnia had never been a problem of his. It had always taken him awhile to fall asleep, but never had he not been able to sleep. For the third night in a row now he found himself tossing and turning, exhausted and drained but not the least bit sleepy.
Andros rubbed his locket between his palms, pensive. Not for the first time in recent days he wished that Zhane was still around. There was no one else that he'd ever been able to talk to about his sister, and the other Rangers weren't exactly thrilled with his intentions of breaking through Astronema to find Karone.
They doubted that he could actually do it. Their lack of faith in him stung, but they didn't understand. He'd given over years of his life to searching for her. Now that he'd finally found her, Andros wasn't about to give up on his sister. Karone was in there, somewhere. She had to be.
He turned over onto his stomach, one hand still tightly clutching his locket. The sheets rumpled as he sprawled out and tried to make himself comfortable, first drawing one knee up towards his chest and then straightening it out again, before groaning and rolling all the way over onto his back.
Enough was enough; he gave up. Andros pushed himself up in bed and tucked his locket safely beneath his shirt. Without bothering to flick on the lights, he stood and made his way to his dresser, finding his sweatsuit exactly where he knew it would be. He changed quickly in the dark, for an instant blinded by the dim lights of the hall as he left his room.
He never did make it to the Simudeck. Someone called his name as he passed by the glider bay, and even as he started at the unexpected sound, he smiled a little. "Ashley, what are you doing here?"
"I wanted some hot chocolate before bed," she said, watching him curiously over the rim of her mug. "What are you doing awake?"
He hesitated a few moments with his answer. "I couldn't sleep," he said finally. "I thought I'd run a few programs on the Simudeck."
"You look tired," Ashley said, concern for him creeping into her expression. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine." It was an automatic answer that sounded as flat to him as it probably did to her. Andros frowned down at the table in front of him. "I couldn't sleep," he sighed again.
Ashley didn't answer right away, setting down her mug to squeeze his hand. "Is there something bothering you?"
There was a knowing sort of look on her face as she asked, and it occurred to him suddenly that she knew very well that there was something on his mind. It wouldn't have surprised him if she could tell him exactly what it was, either, not after how he'd acted the last few days.
But knowing wasn't the same as understanding. Andros stared down at their clasped hands with an uncertain sigh. "Ashley..."
He didn't know what to say, and she watched him silently for a few moments. "What are you thinking about?" she finally asked.
He stared down at the table. That was a simple enough question, wasn't it? "Karone," he muttered, and felt her hand tighten on his.
"You'll get through to her," she said quietly. "I know you will."
He frowned at her. Only a few days before, she'd been asking if he thought there was any good left in Astronema. "You don't believe that."
"I don't want her to hurt you," she said. "But if anyone can get through to her, you can. You're her brother."
"And that doesn't mean anything to her."
Ashley made a sad face at him, sliding off of her stool to come wrap her arms around him. "We'll help you if you need it," she promised. "She just needs some time."
Startled, but too comforted by the hug to push her away, Andros closed his eyes. "I've been looking for her since the day she disappeared."
"It's a lot for her to get used to so soon," she said quietly. "And it wasn't your fault."
"It doesn't matter."
Ashley's arms tightened around him, and her lips brushed the side of his head. "Where would you look for her?"
Andros felt the strangest impulse to laugh. "Everywhere I went I was looking for her, hoping that... And she's been right there in front of me the whole time.
"I promised my parents I'd find her," he said, swallowing as a lump formed in his throat. "I don't know if they even made it off of KO-35."
"I hope they did," she murmured.
"The last time I saw them was a week before the attack," he said. Ashley nodded as she waited for him to go on, and he stared down at the table with a frown. He was telling her more than he wanted to know, but he couldn't seem to stop talking. "They wanted to see me. Zhane kept telling me I could take a break for a few hours... I didn't listen."
"I'm sorry." Her voice was soft as she stroked his hair, and he sighed.
"Andros," she said softly. "Are you going to be all right?"
"I'll be fine," he muttered. "Don't worry about me."
"Too late for that." She squeezed him hard with a little laugh.
He found that oddly pleasing. He felt selfish for it a moment later, but for two years he'd had no one to care for him. Andros smiled faintly as he moved to wrap one arm around her waist, whispering, "Thank you."
"What else are friends for?"
He slid off of the stool when she unwound her arms from around him. "I thought we were more than friends," he said carefully, blinking in surprise when she laughed.
"Well, yeah." Ashley caught his hand and squeezed hard, still smiling. "Of course we are--but we were friends first, weren't we?"
He watched her kiss his fingers, slowly nodding his head yes. "I guess we were," he said ruefully. To think that he'd tried so hard not to let any of them close, her most of all. He was immeasurably grateful now that he hadn't succeeded.
He saw Ashley stifle a yawn, and pulled his hand from hers. "Go to bed," he told her. "I'll be fine."
"Try and get some sleep," she insisted. "You look like you could use it."
When he didn't protest, she wrapped one arm around his waist, hugging him close as she lead him towards the bedrooms. He followed her silently, feeling a rush of disappointment when they paused in front of his door and she stepped back.
"Night," she said softly. "I'll see you in the morning."
"Night," he echoed quietly. He almost called after her as she turned and disappeared into her own room. The door slid shut behind her and he sighed, unhappy.
Andros frowned down at the floor, torn between knocking on her door and walking the few steps towards his own room. He supposed he should probably do the latter--he didn't know why he wanted to see her, and she probably wanted to sleep. But he couldn't quite seem to tear himself away, and just stood there.
He jumped when the door opened again, blushing guiltily and not having any idea of why. Eyes lowered, he watched Ashley watch him. She smiled at him a moment later, stepping back as she gestured for him to come inside.
"What's wrong?" she wanted to know.
He shook his head. "I don't know."
Ashley lifted a hand to stroke his cheek. "Do you want to sit down for awhile?"
Her touch was gentle and he closed his eyes, reassured that it would be okay. "Please."
She gave him a gentle push towards her bed. He sat, scooting closer to the wall when she pulled down the pillow from the upper bunk and settled herself next to him. Andros let out a deep breath when Ashley draped an arm loosely around his shoulders, her chin bumping his shoulder.
"Not sleepy?" She rubbed his shoulder sympathetically when he shook his head. "Something else on your mind?"
"No." He closed his eyes with another sigh. "Karone is all."
Ashley kissed his cheek, and he slowly opened his eyes. He turned to face her, reaching out with one hand to touch her face. He watched her eyes widen in surprise, but when he leaned to kiss her forehead he saw only a smile on her face.
Andros drew away and then, impulsively, leaned forward again to kiss her mouth. He pressed his lips to hers and then quickly straightened up again, feeling his cheeks flush when she giggled softly.
Ashley caught his shoulders and pulled him close to her. Her kiss was warm, a tender brush of her lips across his. He couldn't keep from grinning when she released him and she beamed at him in reply.
Unsure what to do with himself now, he just sat there smiling at her until Ashley pushed the pillows flat. She caught his hand and pulled him down beside her, her arm around him as he tucked his head against her shoulder.
He never did fall asleep that night. Ashley stroked his hair until she drifted off and then he just lay there in the darkness, his hand in hers. He kissed her fingers and tucked the covers around her more securely. She stirred in her sleep and he smiled, comforted that he was no longer alone.
Author's Note: This one is a (belated, it was yesterday) birthday fic for Tal aka DarkHonda. I'm really sorry it's a little late, but I hope you had a happy birthday. ::hugs:: Love ya. I hope Andros was cute enough for you. :)