Do I Make You Proud
By: Pink-Green-White-4ever
Last Revised: January 1, 2008

Summary: Everyone thought she had the perfect life, the perfect family, but on the anniversary of her greatest battle, she finds herself facing her past, her present, and her future.
Rated: M for language
Ships: SS, BZ, JA
Disclaimer: Don't own PR, if I did, I would have kept all my favorite characters on, and I'd have gotten the one thing I wanted most for Christmas – grins -- I don't own the song, it's by Taylor Hicks.

Dedication: To all the Syd and Sky fans out there, especially you Cat!

I've never been
The one to raise my hand
That was not me
And now that's who I am
Because of you
I am standing tall
My heart is full
Of endless gratitude
You were the one
The one to guide me through
Now I can see
And I believe
It's only just beginning

This is what we dream about
But the only question with me now
Is do I make you proud
Stronger than I've ever been now
Never been afraid of standing out
Do I make you proud

I guess I've learned
To question is to grow,
That you still have faith,
Is all I need to know,
I've learned to love,
Myself in spite of me,
And I've learned to
Walk on the road I believe.

Everybody needs to rise up
Everybody needs to be loved
To be loved
Everybody need to rise on
Everybody needs to be loved, to be loved

This is what we dream about
But the only question with me now
Is do I make you, do I make you proud
This is what we dream about
Never been afraid of standing out
Do I make you proud
Stronger than I've ever been
Never been afraid of standing out

Do I make you proud
Do I make you proud
-- Taylor Hicks, Do I Make You Proud --

--

She wanted to be in a party mood, she really did, but it was difficult when she saw all her friends with their families, including Z, who had finally found hers – her godparents and an aunt and two uncles she didn't realize she had had been found in Turtle Cove, just months after the team had defeated Gruumm. Sky was with his mother, Bridge had his parents present, and even Boom's parents had come for the occasion. It was the first anniversary of the defeat of Gruumm, and the whole academy was partying like no tomorrow. Unfortunately, Sydney's parents had both backed out of coming – her father was stuck in New York for an emergency board meeting and her mother had gone to a teacher's conference in Miami before heading to New York to join her dad. Standing by the windows, she stared out into the New Tech City skyline and wished for the party to be over with so she could crawl into bed and forget how lonely she'd been feeling as of late.

The Pink Ranger wasn't sure if it was her imagination, or if she was going crazy, but it seemed like her parents had been pulling away from her over the last year, as if they didn't feel the need to keep in touch with her. Her nineteenth birthday had passed with no acknowledgement, Fourth of July plans hadn't been made, nor had she been invited to come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It almost felt like she'd been abandoned, though she argued with herself that her parents were just incredibly busy, just as she had been. It hurt to think they could suddenly be so busy as to forget about her, and she wasn't about to bring it up with her teammates, especially with Z around, because she didn't want to offend her roommate, who had just found her family after years of not having one.

So she played the part of the happy, perky, spunky Pink Ranger while on the inside, she bled from each scratch inflicted on her relationship with her parents. She didn't want to admit it to anyone, especially herself, but her parents had been pulling away for years. It had started when she had announced her intentions to join SPD. They had been dead set against her being a Ranger, but she had wanted it badly enough that she had thought they figured she'd give up after a while. When she'd become the Pink Ranger, the phone calls had come less and less. Now she knew why – her parents had been part of SPD, part of creating the Ranger technology she used on an almost daily basis, and they'd wanted her to have nothing to do with the legacy they apparently weren't proud of.

The last time she'd actually seen then had been last Christmas, after Gruumm had been put away. No one knew she had come early from Christmas vacation, having had a nasty fight with them, nor did anyone know she had spent the best part of the holidays in the Command Center cleaning up old work files and working on unsolved cases. All of them had come back from the holidays and had just assumed she'd just come back a little early to get ready to get back to work.

Bridge, she knew, had suspicions, but he'd been so caught up in his work with D and C squad, as well as his budding relationship with Z, that he hadn't approached her about it. She was amazed she'd kept it from Z; the girl always seemed to know when something was bugging her. And then there was Sky, but Syd wasn't amazed that he didn't know – he was unusually dense when it came to her. If it didn't directly involve the team, he didn't want to know. She had no idea how wrong she was either, as she turned from the window and slowly made her way toward the door, hoping to go hide in her room until the night was over; she never saw the pair of deep blue eyes following her every move or the frown that marred the handsome features of the Red Ranger.

--

She flopped down on her bed and drew Peanuts to her chest, closing her eyes as she did. Images played in her head; ones of her childhood when her parents had spent as much time as they could with her. She remembered her mom teaching her to make cookies, to do gymnastics, to braid her hair, or her dad teaching her to ride a bike, to climb a tree, him teaching her martial arts. But looking back now, for the first time, she could say she saw the signs of them pulling away; the first time her hands turned to whatever element she'd been holding and the way her parents had recoiled in fear and disgust. She remembered meeting Kat and Doggie the first time, when she'd been taken to SPD for tests. She remembered the endless lessons, photo shoots, training sessions that her parents had made her endure afterward, hoping to push the subject of her powers from her mind, and theirs.

Tears trickled down from her clenched eyes when she remembered the horror and anger on their faces when she first mentioned her intentions of joining SPD to hone her powers, and her desire to become a Ranger. At the time, she had thought it was because she wanted to possibly risk her life that they were angry, now she knew differently. That hadn't been the reason. No, the reason they'd been angry and horrified is that they'd tried so hard to make her powers go away, and they had failed. What they saw as their failure also caused them to be distant from her as the years went on. Yes, they made a big deal out of her birthday, but that was only for outward appearance; as soon as the guests were gone, they reverted back to being cold and distant. To hide from the confusion and the pain, Sydney had thrown herself whole heartedly into the role of spoiled, pampered, rich princess.

She'd immersed herself so deep into the role, that until she'd become the Pink Ranger, she'd all but lost the person she really was. It was the mantle of Pink Ranger that had snapped her out of her funk, that had proven something to her about who she was; she found she was part of a wonderful legacy of strong, independent, capable women, some of whom were the most well known female Rangers in history and who had always been the heart and soul, the support and glue for their teams through times of crisis and misery. They were an eclectic group of women who she was more than proud to have followed. What's more, she learned from the lessons they'd taught – for a team of Rangers to succeed, each member had a part to play, and only when the team worked as a unified group, worked as one toward their goal, did they accomplish what they set out to do. Sydney knew she could point out when their team had finally learned that all powerful lesson – it had been during their SWAT training with Commander Silverback. Granted, it had taken a while to sink in, but that had been the turning point for them.

Her parents would never understand what she'd learned about herself or her teammates during their tenure as Rangers – they were family, and despite how different each of them was individually they would always be a family. She was saddened that her parents obviously had lost touch with that part of SPD, but she had vowed to herself that she wouldn't; she would always remember her teammates stood behind her one hundred percent, even if they weren't active Rangers together.

The shrill ringing of her cell phone caused her to almost jump out of her skin. Reaching over, she grabbed the device off the desk next to her and opened it. "This is Sydney, how can I help you?"

"Ms. Drew, this is Detective Casey of the NYPD. I'm afraid I have some bad news."

"What's wrong?"

"It's about your parents."

--

"Are you sure she came this way?" Z asked Sky, who nodded then pointed at Bridge, who's glove was off and waving in the air.

"She went to you guys' room," Bridge said, seconds before the trio heard a blood curdling scream that had them sprinting down the hallway to the Pink and Yellow Rangers' quarters.

The second the door slid open the three found Sydney in a heap on the floor, screaming and sobbing and slamming her tiny fists on the ground. Bridge gasped and stumbled back as Sydney's bared emotions slammed into him. Z quickly put herself between him and their Pink Ranger while Sky fairly flew across the small space and gathered Sydney into his arms. He noticed her cell phone lying on the floor beside her and heard a voice calling to her through it. Quickly, he reached down, grabbed the phone and brought it to his ear. "Hello?"

"I'm sorry, is Ms. Drew still there?"

"This is SPD's Red Ranger, what happened? What did you do to her?"

"And your name is?" the voice questioned.

"Sky Tate."

"Mr. Tate, my name is Detective Casey, NYPD. I'm afraid Ms. Drew's parents were killed in a plane crash at JFK a few hours ago."

Sky's heart shattered as he looked down at the sobbing Pink Ranger in his lap. "Oh God," he whispered. "Detective, can I call you back in a little bit? I need to….I have to make sure…"

"Of course. You can reach me at…"

"I'll be able to get back to you, don't worry. Thank you for calling," Sky responded, clapping the phone shut before he tossed it up on Sydney's bed and pulled her tighter to him.

"Sky! Make him take it back!" she sobbed when she realized who was holding her. "He's lying! They can't be dead! They just can't!"

The Red Ranger couldn't find the words to comfort her; he could only hold her tighter and kiss the top of her head, his eyes locked with Z and Bridge's shock and pain-filled ones. Bridge quickly put his gloves back on and then he and Z dropped to their knees, the three of them crushing Sydney in a group hug. Five minutes later, that's where they still were when Anubis, Kat, Boom and Jack came flying into the room, Sydney's sobs still echoing in the tiny space.

--

Z sat on the make-shift bed on her and Sydney's floor, her fingers combing through the tangled blonde curls that lay in her lap. Some hours after they'd learned about Syd's parents dying, her, Jack and Bridge had made a bed of blankets and pillows on the floor of the girls' room. Sky had held a sleeping Sydney while the others had crowded in around them. Every couple of hours, they had changed positions, so that each of them could hang onto their grieving Pink Ranger as she fitfully slept. Three hours before, Ally had joined her, Isinia, Kat and Boom when Jack, Sky and Bridge had gone with the Commander to New York to talk to Detective Casey about the accident.

Looking down at her teammate, roommate, her best friend, Z wondered why she'd never said anything to Syd about the obvious distance she'd noticed between the Pink Ranger and her now deceased parents. Part of her had wanted to give Syd her privacy, while part of her had wanted the Pink Ranger to seek her out and talk to her on her own terms, and yet another part of her had been selfishly immersed in having finally found her own family. Shaking her head and blinking back unwanted tears, Z made a promise to herself to do everything in her power to make sure Syd got through this and got back to being Syd, though deep down, Z knew nothing would ever be the same for the Pink Ranger.

"Z?" Kat's lilting voice broke the Yellow Ranger's thoughts.

"Yeah?" Z asked, her voice trembling as she reached up and wiped away her own tears.

"I just talked to the Commander."

"And?" Z stared at the feline scientist.

"There was ice on the wings; it really was an accident. The pilot, co-pilot and two members of the cabin crew survived. The Commander spoke to them at the hospital," Kat told her. "The four of them are heading back as soon as arrangements have been made to have the bodies brought back to New Tech."

"Who's handling the arrangements?" Z asked.

"Sky is."

That didn't surprise the Yellow Ranger in the least. It was not a secret to her how Sky felt about Syd, let alone how this had to have brought back bad memories for the Red Ranger of when his father died. If anyone knew what Syd would want, it would be Sky. "Good, I'm glad. Kat?"

"Yes Z?"

"Isn't there anything we can do for her?"

Kat looked helpless for the first time in Z's memory as she shook her head and blinked back tears. "Just be there for her, be understanding that the days to follow are going to make her feel at times like her life has completely fallen apart, know that she's going to need time and space and love. We're all she's got left, both sides of her family are pretty much dead and gone. Sydney may never be Sydney again, and we're all going to have to learn how to adjust and accept that."

Z's lips trembled with her emotions even as she nodded. A noise in the doorway snapped her head up, causing her to try and smile for Ally, who was carrying a tray with food on it. "I figured she'd wake up soon, might be good for her to eat."

"Good thinking," Z whispered as the two girls settled in.

"If you need me, Boom or Isinia, we'll be in the Command Center, preparing to make a statement from SPD about the accident."

"Sure."

--

Sighing, Sky leaned his head back against the headrest on his seat. He'd just gotten off the phone with is Mom, having needed a little comfort from the only person he knew could comfort him at the moment. Dealing with the death of Mr. and Mrs. Drew had been tough, and he had wondered how his mother had gotten through dealing with the arrangements and numerous other things that had been needed to be taken care of when his father had died. All she'd been able to tell him was that she'd taken it one step at a time, and that his grandparents had helped out more than she would ever be able to repay. She'd also told him to be strong, to be solid, and to not forget to remind Sydney that he knew what she was going through, that he understood what it was like to lose a parent. Most of all, his mother had told him now was the time to prove to Sydney that he loved her, to show her in every way possible that he was there for her and not going to let her be alone during this most difficult time in her life.

Jack and Doggie's voices melded together into a soft drone from the front of the shuttle where they talked to the men and women in the air traffic control tower. Bridge was next to him in one of the seats, his eyes shut as he tried to block out the world. It had been incredibly hard for the Blue Ranger to deal, first with Sydney's raging emotions, but everyone else's as well. The only reason, Sky knew, that Bridge had come along was simply that he had wanted to make sure, just as Sky had, that Sydney's parents were taken care of, that nothing screwed up the investigation. The official cause of the crash wouldn't be in for weeks as the Federal Aviation Authority and the National Transportation Safety Board, in conjunction with Space Patrol Delta, would be making sure that they dotted all their I's, crossed all their T's, and had covered every piece of evidence and gone down every avenue until they were positive. The unofficial cause was ice on the wingtips that the pilots hadn't known was there.

"I can't wait to get home," Bridge's voice softly announced. "I just want to curl up next to Z and shut the world out for a few hours."

Sky wished he could curl up with Sydney, but last time he'd talked to Kat, the Pink Ranger was still dead to the world and it didn't look like she'd be getting up anytime soon.

"You think Syd will be up when we get home?" Bridge asked.

"Probably not," Sky murmured. "Though, we've been gone nearly two days, so I don't know."

"Syd isn't like Jack, she can't sleep for days on end, not unless Dr. Felix has given her a sedative," Bridge yawned.

Sky just nodded and tried to get some sleep while Doggie and Jack piloted them the three hour trip home.

--

Rubbing a hand over his face, Sky walked from the shuttle bay toward the dorms. Jack had gone to the Command Center with Doggie before he'd gotten Ally and had gone home. Bridge had helped him unload the shuttle and then had gone to crash with Z in the boys' quarters. Sky, now finished with setting the shuttle back into its proper order, wanted nothing more than to sink into oblivion for a few hours, but he found himself heading for the girls' quarters. He didn't wait for anyone to answer, he just walked in.

Sydney was sitting on her bed, knees pulled to her chest, head resting on them. Her eyes were shut, but the tear tracks were still visible. Sky felt his heart go out to her. "Hey," he murmured, sinking down on the end of her bed, facing her.

Her eyes opened and she shifted so she could look at him. "Sky."

"I'm right here," he assured her when he heard the tone of her voice. He watched her with worried eyes as she unfolded herself and crawled into his lap, her arms wrapping around his waist and her face burying in his shoulder. "Have you eaten?" he asked her softly.

"Ally made me a grilled cheese sandwich earlier," she told him.

He didn't argue, instead, he chose to simply repeat the question, knowing that if someone didn't force her to eat, she wouldn't. "Have you eaten?"

"Half a sandwich."

"Do you want anything?" he asked softly, holding her close.

Sydney shook her head no and cuddled closer to him. They sat there quietly until Sky gathered her in his arms and moved to the head of her bed. Carefully, he sat down, stretched his legs out over her bed, and situated Sydney in his lap. The two of them simply sat in silence, knowing that now they shared something heartbreaking in common – the loss of a parent. Before long, the simple pleasure and understanding in their embrace lulled the two tired Rangers into a light sleep.

That's how Kat found them a few hours later when she came in to check on Sydney. Smiling sadly, Kat carefully backed out of the room, knowing no one better could be with the distraught Pink Ranger than the man she loved.

--

The alarms blaring sent the four Rangers scurrying for the Command Center. "Sir?" Sky asked as the four person team lined up in front of Doggie, their minds clicking quickly to the job before them.

"We have an armed robbery in progress. Tate, Carson and Delgado – go but be careful."

"Sir?" Sydney protested.

"Cadet Drew, given the recent events…" he started.

"Sir, am I, or am I not, still part of B Squad?" she demanded.

Anubis looked at her and saw her desire to do something normal to give her something else other than her pain to think about. "Cadet, are you sure?"

"Sir, my personal problem will not have an effect on my job, I promise you," Syd assured him, her eyes pleading.

The big blue dog's eyes shifted to the Red Ranger, who looked antsy himself. "Sky, this is your call, your Squad."

Sky and Syd's eyes met and Sky nodded his agreement when he saw the plea in her eyes. "I think it'll do her some good to go."

"Very well. Get going!"

--

Bridge grinned under his helmet when one of the bad guys decided to pick on Syd. The Blue Ranger figured before the encounter was over, the guy would think twice about insinuating girls couldn't be Power Rangers. "Man, she is not a happy camper," the guy Sky and Bridge had a hold of muttered.

"Well, see, female Rangers generally don't like being told they're not strong enough, fast enough, or smart enough to be Rangers," Bridge explained to him.

"You're lucky you didn't make the same comment your friend did, because our Yellow Ranger is just as scary as our Pink Ranger," Sky let him know.

"Syd's worse," Z quipped, dropping her hand cuffed suspect on his butt next to his friend.

The two suspects flinched when they heard their friend yelp and then saw him being carried over the Pink Ranger's shoulder before she unceremoniously dropped him on the curb next to them. "Sit down, take a load off," she told him.

"I'll sue! You attacked me!" he accused, wiggling around trying to get free.

In a flash, Syd's morph was gone and she crouched in front of him. "I have six eye witnesses who can place that nasty little illegal laser in your hands, and my superiors record every battle, through my helmet camera, every time I morph," she informed him. "They have video evidence of me telling you to drop the weapon not once, not twice, but THREE times before you fired on me and I disarmed you. You don't have a leg to stand on, buddy."

He tried to lunge for her and felt a hand grip his shoulder painfully. Looking back, he saw the Red Ranger before Sky let his morph go. "You don't want to try that again, I have no where near Syd's patience."

--

Sam peeked into the doorway, hoping Sydney was in her and Z's room. Word around the academy was that the usually perky Pink Ranger had lost her parents, and Sam had the urge to check in on her, the same way she always seemed to come check on him. "Syd?" he carefully called out.

"Come in Sam," her soft voice beckoned. He saw her sitting on her bed, writing in a slim pink journal that she quickly shut and stuck on her nightstand.

"Want some company?" he ventured.

"Sure," she grinned. The younger boy noticed the smile never reached her eyes. Quietly, he moved to the bed and then did something unexpected – he cuddled close to her like he usually only did with Z.

Sydney let out a deep sigh as she slipped her arms around him. "Don't you have classes?" she asked.

"It's lunch time," he offered.

"Then why aren't you out playing soccer or basketball?" she teased.

Sam looked up at her. "Z said you were sad, because you're like her, me, and Jack now."

Sydney sighed, trying to think of a good way to word her response. "The three of you are a lot stronger than I am; I've got a long way to go before I'm like you."

The younger boy looked down at his lap before looking up at her, confusion in his eyes. "Syd…"

Smiling, Sydney leaned forward and kissed his forehead. "I'll be fine, Sam, you'll see."

Someone clearing their throat startled the two. They looked up and saw Sky leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed over his chest. "Hey Sky!" Sam chirped.

"I see how it is," Sky teased. "I spring you from KP duty and you come in here to make time with my girl. Some protégé you turned out to be."

Sydney's jaw dropped open when Sam laughed and held on tighter. "Technically, she's not yours. Besides, Bridge took Z, who else would put with me other than Syd?"

Sky raised an eyebrow and then jerked his thumb to the door. "Out with you, I wanna make time with my Pink Ranger."

Grinning, Sam sat up, kissed Syd's cheek and then scampered out. "YOUR Pink Ranger?" Syd asked when Sky crawled onto her bed and laid his head on her lap.

"Yeah, mine," he yawned. "Are you, or are you not part of B Squad, which is under my Command?" Syd just nodded. "Therefore, you are my Pink Ranger. Mind if I nap with you?" The Pink Ranger just shook her head at him.

Sydney gazed down at him, watching him relax against her. Smiling, she combed her fingers through his hair. Like a little boy, he rubbed his face against her leg before settling down to sleep. Not for the first time did she realized just how lucky she was to have friends and teammates like Sky. They made everything she was going through a little easier to deal with.

Her parents' funeral was tomorrow, and Commander Cruger had given the whole team the day off so that they could stick together. She'd argued for several hours with Z, Bridge and Sky about them coming; she didn't want them touched by what was going on any more than they already had been. Then Sky had all but used his leverage as Red Ranger to get her to be quiet before he'd quietly stated that the team would be together at the funeral and that was that. To add to it, Z had informed them that Jack and Ally would also be there. For all her protests to keep them from the funeral, she was suddenly very glad they'd be there. She had no idea how well she was going to be able to handle all the questions, all the looks, and all the prying eyes of those who were sure to attend the double funeral.

She couldn't help it, but her thoughts wandered back to the man who was currently using her lap as a pillow. She'd known him for almost five years, since she'd come to SPD, and every time she turned around, he was changing on her. He'd been so supportive the last few days. Every time she'd cried, every time she just needed to be held, every time she couldn't bear the silence anymore, all she had to do was turn and he was there, lending her a shoulder to lean on, giving her space to breath and yet, making her smile, and always, always being the arms that wrapped around her to remind her that someone was there for her.

It couldn't have been easy for him, not after everything she knew he'd gone through with losing his own parent. She'd seen the look in his eyes the last couple of times he'd wrapped his arms around her; memories, however long ago the events had happened, had a habit of sneaking up on you and stealing your breath away. More than once, she couldn't help but wonder if Sky had been holding onto her as much for his own sake as he was hers.

Her eyes drifted back to his face and she found her attention latching onto those full, kissable lips of his. Suddenly, she found herself blinking. Kissable? SKY? But even as she asked herself that, she realized how true it was. He was very kissable, when he wasn't being an ornery ogre demanding they train every waking second. Of course, to be fair, he hadn't been that bad after he became Red Ranger. They trained just as hard as they had under Jack, but Sky also knew when to lighten things up and let them goof off a bit. Thinking back on it now, in the last two years, she's grown closer to him than any other man she's acquainted with. Granted, Bridge and Jack she practically considered her brothers, but Sky, he was different, in a completely different category.

All of a sudden, she found herself blinking back more tears and bringing a hand to her mouth. When had she fallen in love with him? Had it been while he'd dealt with the pain from being Blue Ranger or was it when Mirloc had been set free to terrorize Earth and he'd learned that the alien had been responsible for his father's death? Could it have been before that, when they'd been just simply B Squad cadets, before Ranger colors and duties and new teammates had crowded in on their time, space and attention? Maybe it had happened in the year since he'd been made Red Ranger, or perhaps the moment a year ago when Doggie had asked him if he'd follow her into battle if she'd been given the Red morpher and he'd said he'd follow whoever the Commander had found worthy of being Red Ranger?

Remarkably, she found it didn't matter when it had happened, only that it had, and Sydney knew that while she'd loved others before him, that there was something different about loving Sky. Sky was solid, dependable, she knew him better than she'd ever known anyone. She could almost imagine a future with him, being Power Rangers, then finally retiring and having a family. She'd never been able to imagine a family with any of the other men she'd ever loved, not even her first love. With Sky, the future was limitless and bright, even with the shadow that was hanging over her at the moment. And even if he didn't feel the same way, Sydney somehow knew that her heart would be safe with him, if she gave it to him to hold and cherish. However, rejection loomed in the background, another shadow on her soul, and she wondered if she should say something to him.

Should she take a chance and tell him, walking the thin line that could either bring them closer together or tear them apart, or should she just keep the knowledge deep in her heart and go on as she had with him, friends and teammates?

While Sydney was pondering those very questions, she never saw the two, deep blue eyes that were slowly revealed as Sky woke from his nap. Her legs had moved once too often and he'd finally found himself awake, and staring into tear-filled eyes. At first, he was going to ask if it was because of her parents, but he saw her close her eyes, shake her head, and let out a deep breath while smiling. He didn't think she'd be smiling if she was thinking about her parents, and his thoughts were almost confirmed when she opened her eyes again. Apparently, she was so lost in thought she never realized he was awake and looking straight at her.

He was surprised to find her staring at him so intently, a tender look in her eyes, one he'd never seen before, and to realize she didn't see that he was awake. What's more, he watched her face as if it were a movie screen, displaying everything she was feeling as if those feelings were actors and actresses playing a part in some big production. For a second, he almost couldn't breathe when he realized why she was staring at him the way she was. She was in love with him.

Leaning forward ever so slightly, Sky let his lips come into contact with the skin just above the back of her knee, where her shorts had crept up a bit. The second his lips touched her skin, Syd blinked rapidly and looked down at him, as if seeing him for the first time. They stared at each other for several long, quiet moments, both of them aware of the position they were in and the intimacy of Sky's kiss. "Hey," she whispered, reaching out to brush his bangs back out of his face. "I thought you were asleep."

"I was trying to, you keep moving," he teased, nuzzling his nose against the side of her leg.

Sydney blushed. "Sorry."

"What were you just thinking about?" he asked, even if he had a pretty good idea about it. "You looked almost like you had a moment of peace going on there."

"Sky, have you ever been in love before?"

His eyebrows shot up at her question. Carefully, he maneuvered his arms so that they were on either side of Sydney's legs and pushed himself up into a sitting position while Sydney folded her legs in front of her. "Why do you ask?"

She bit her lip gently, unconsciously striking a pose that had him trying not to groan. "I was just….thinking…..I can't ever remember being in love, not the way, say the Commander and Mrs. Cruger are, or the way my parents were, or Jack is with Ally. I guess, what I mean is, I think I might be, but how do I know for sure?" she asked, looking up earnestly into his eyes.

Sitting back a bit, Sky pondered how to answer her. His thoughts drifted back to when he realized he was in love with her. It had been just shortly after he'd become Red Ranger. He'd gone to talk to his mother, to sort everything out in his life. Somehow, he'd gotten to going on and on about Sydney and how she stood up to Mirloc for him and how even though Z had too, he was confused by what he'd felt when he'd pulled Syd out of danger in the park and then to hear her stick up for him and his father. He hadn't felt the same hearing Z stand up for him. His mother had just sat there, a wistful look on her face, and when he'd finished telling her how he'd brought in Mirloc, she'd just shaken her head and had said five simple words. 'You're in love with Sydney.'

It had hit him like a ton of bricks, even as he'd made a feeble protest that while he did love Sydney, as sister, as teammate, as friend, he was not in love with her. His mother just softly chuckled and continued to stare at him. Then she asked a bunch of random questions. Syd's favorite color – pink; what was her shoe size – six; favorite magazine – Cosmo; favorite perfume – Victoria Secret's Love Spell body splash; favorite food – grilled chicken and white rice; favorite pair of pajamas – her pink flannel p.j. set that she'd gotten from Z for her birthday last year. He'd answered absently, and then stopped and watched his mother give him a knowing look that said she didn't believe for one second he'd know all that and not be in love with the bubbly Pink Ranger. Pressing his lips together, he had stared at his mother and hated to admit she was right. When he finally did, she just chuckled and wrapped an arm around him, leaning her head against his. Her advice was to slowly start showing Sydney that he loved her, in hopes of winning her over, and when the time was right, tell her. Too bad in the ten months that had followed he'd been too much of a chicken to do it.

"Sky?"

"Uh….well….hmmm," he started, staring at her. "I can't say for sure, Syd, because, to be honest, I've only been in love once, really in love, and I've never told the girl."

"Only once?" she asked softly.

He nodded. "The only one that's ever counted," he murmured, staring right into her eyes. "I've had crushes, infatuations, lust before for other girls, but only one have I ever loved so much that I would give the world just to see her smile."

Sky bit his lip, watching as realization seeped into the crystal blue eyes he knew so well. Her delicate mouth formed an 'o' shape but no sound came out. For a few seconds, the Red Ranger wondered if he'd said too much too fast, especially when once again, tears welled in her eyes and her lips started to tremble. "Sydney, say something, please," he whispered.

She stared at him even as she reached up to wipe away her own tears and the first genuine smile she'd had in days reached not only her lips but her eyes as well. "Why did you wait so long to tell me?"

He chuckled and then reached out to wipe the tears that kept falling. "You terrify me."

Even as she laughed, more rebellious tears leaked from her eyes. "Oh Sky," she breathed, shaking her head even as she moved to throw her arms around his neck. "God, I was so scared. I was just sitting here, watching you sleep and it hit me full on."

His arms tightened around her as he brought her to sit in his lap. He felt relieved that even though neither of them had said the words, they both felt the same way. "I love you," he whispered into her hair, feeling her warm breath tickle the side of his neck. "There isn't anything I wouldn't do to make you smile again, especially now. If I could, I'd make it stop hurting."

"You're off to a really good start," she whispered back to him. "I know you love me; I just wish I hadn't taken so long to realize I felt the same way."

"Sydney," his voice sounded hopeful as they pulled back enough to stare at each other.

"I love you," she gave to him, watching him smile a smile she'd never seen on his face before. "Thank you for being here, for going through this with me."

"We're going to get through this, I promise," he told her, watching her nod. "I know it hurts, a lot, and I know, from experience, it never stops hurting, but it will get easier to live with." She nodded and then leaned forward, so that their lips were just centimeters apart. Sensing her desire, her intent, Sky closed the tiny space between them, their lips meshing together in a kiss that rocked them both right down to their souls.

When they pulled back, they were both panting heavily. "Oh wow," Syd giggled before she leaned forward and pressed a chaster kiss to his lips.

"You really should get some sleep," he told her softly.

"All I've done in the last four days is sleep, and I'm sick of sitting here, because all it's doing is make me think about my parents."

"Hmm," Sky started, before he smiled. "Wanna go for a walk, maybe on the beach, and then maybe out to dinner? We both have the rest of the evening off, and I know Z went to the funeral home to take care of some last minute details."

"I know, I asked her to go. I tried dealing with them this morning and it just….it drove me crazy. They're so heartless, Sky. They don't care that I loved my parents, they just want definite decisions," she started crying again, even as he held her to him.

They sat in silence for a long time before Sky spoke up again. "Go take a shower, I'll round up the others, and then we'll go eat," Sky gently told her. He couldn't think of anything that would make her feel better, but knew from experience the best medicine was to be with friends.

"And here I thought you wanted me all to yourself," she teased, wiping away the latest crying jag. She hated the fact that all she seemed to be able to do was cry.

Sky chuckled. "I do, but I also know the best thing for you right now is to be with friends."

"Casual or fancy?"

"Casual," he grinned. "I'll come get you in an hour or so, okay?"

Syd nodded, kissed him gently, their lips lingering, and then slowly crawled out of his lap. "Why do I get the feeling I'm going to win a lot of arguments like that?" she teased.

Sky arched an eyebrow at her, grinned, and shrugged. "Cause you're sneaky like that."

Sydney shook her head, letting her laughter echo as she bounded into the bathroom.

--

Z looked ready to scream when she stormed into the Common Room. Bridge was out of his seat in a second, his arms going around her in hopes of calming her down. "What's wrong?" Sky asked from his spot on the couch as the pair pulled apart a few seconds later.

"Its no wonder Syd was in tears after talking to those JACKALS!" Z hissed the last word. "If they treated her as bad as they did me, I can understand how upset she'd be."

Sky was about to say something but Syd chose that moment to enter the room, dressed in black jeans and a black and pink t-shirt. The Pink Ranger took one look at Z's face and felt horrible. "I'm sorry," she started.

The Yellow Ranger disentangled herself from her boyfriend and moved to hug her friend. "Don't worry about it," Z assured her. "Everything's set for tomorrow. I talked to Kat when I came back; she got us a room at the country club for the brunch thingy. Funeral starts at ten, then we'll have brunch at twelve thirty. The grave side service is scheduled for three. Okay?"

Syd nodded and blinked back a fresh round of tears that had Z hugging her tightly. "Thanks Z."

"You're more than welcome," Z whispered. "Okay, so, where are we going for dinner?"

"Somewhere where we can eat good food, maybe get a round of drinks, and hang out," Bridge grinned, his eyes darting to Sky, who he knew was about to veto the idea.

Sky just raised an inquiring eyebrow at his roommate. "You three are still underage, no drinking for you."

Syd's twinkling laughter was accompanied by Bridge's grin and Z pouting for all she was worth. "No matter how long I'm around him, he still acts like a stick in the mud sometimes," Z teased.

The Red Ranger gave her a look before he moved over to stand with them. "Z, do you need to change or are you ready?"

"I'm ready, oh fearless leader; let's get some food!"

--

After a heated debate on where to go for dinner, the quartet ended up at their favorite pizza joint, crammed into a booth at the back. Both Bridge and Z looked startled when Sky drew Sydney, who was sitting next to him, to his side, letting her head rest on his shoulder, his arm over the back of the seat.

"Hey guys!" the waiter greeted. His name was Andrew, and they got him almost every time they came in. They also knew him because his younger brother was on C Squad.

"Hi Andrew," Sky, Z and Bridge responded.

He grinned at all of them before his eyes latched onto the downcast Sydney. "Why the long face, Syd?" When her eyes filled with tears and she buried her face against Sky's shoulder, Andrew looked like he wanted nothing more than to take the question back.

"It's okay," Sky murmured, bringing his arm down from the seat and pulling her close while his other hand cradled her face.

"Her parents were killed in that plane accident at JFK," Bridge murmured.

Andrew looked dumbstruck before his face crumbled in sympathy. "God, Syd, I'm sorry."

"Thanks Andrew," she shakily responded when she turned her face from Sky's shoulder.

He nodded and tried not to make her feel any worse. "Do you guys want a few minutes or no?"

"We'll take our regular," Z said. Andrew scribbled down the order – two large pizzas, one a veggie and the other a meat lovers. "And I want a banana shake."

"Cherry coke," Sky responded.

Bridge smiled and looked up at him. "Ice tea, please."

"Syd?"

"Raspberry lemonade, please."

Andrew scribbled their drink order down and then headed back to fill it and turn in the pizza order. Once he was gone, the Rangers tried to relax. Sky sat back, his arm once again on the back of the seat, while Syd leaned against him, practically sitting in his lap. Bridge and Z leaned back and studied them, each with grins on their faces. "So, is it official yet or not?" Z teasingly asked.

Both Syd and Sky looked startled by the question. "Huh?" Syd choked.

"You heard me," Z smirked while Syd blushed and Sky chuckled.

"We haven't discussed it yet, nosy," Sky started. "We need to get through tomorrow first."

Bridge and Z shared a look before nodding, knowing before long the status of that particular relationship was going to be all over the academy, spreading like wild fire once one of the younger cadets found out.

--

Yawning, Sky got out of bed and headed for the Common Room for a bottle of water. Outside, the rain was pouring in sheets, soaking everything in sight, not to mention the thunder was loud enough to wake the dead. He figured it was only fitting on tonight of all nights that the heavens had opened up and were crying right along in pain with his Sydney. When he entered the room, he found a familiar figured standing by the windows, arms wrapped around her waist. Shaking his head, he moved over and got his water before moving to her. "Can't sleep?" he asked gently.

"I'm exhausted; you would think I'd be out like a light," she started. "But I lay awake in bed for two hours before I gave up. I'm just…I can't stop thinking, and it feels like everything's falling apart around me!"

Nodding, Sky set the bottle on the floor and then wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her back to his chest and resting his chin on her shoulder. "When my dad died, I remember going every day until I was so exhausted I couldn't keep my eyes open. Then my grandma sat down and lectured me but good."

"About?"

Sky sighed, his mind slipping back to the night when his grandma had come into his bedroom and sat on his bed, looking as solemn as he'd ever seen her. He almost flinched when he remembered the sound of her voice – disappointment. His grandma had never been disappointed with him. "She told me how I was upsetting my mom, how Mom was worrying about me on top of the funeral and how she wasn't sleeping. It made me feel really guilty."

"How come?" Syd asked. "You were only a little boy."

"True, but the last thing my dad asked me to do was to take care of and protect my mom. My grandma told me in not so many words that I pretty much wasn't doing what he'd asked me to. You know me, Syd; I hate to think I've let him down now, can you imagine how it was then?"

Turning around in his arms, Sydney let her natural instinct to comfort him kick in. "Sky, honestly, you haven't…"

"I know that, now. I also know you're feeling the same way," he told her gently. "I know you and your parents had a falling out this last year, but Syd, they loved you. Just like my dad loved me."

"THEY HATED ME!" she cried suddenly, holding up her hands for him to see. "They detested my powers and my choice to do something good with them. I was their failure!"

"SYDNEY!" Sky barked, causing her to flinch even as her body shook from her cries. He reached up with one hand and grabbed both of hers, bringing them to rest over his heart. "You aren't a failure," he breathed. "Your parents lost touch with the whole reason they helped create the morphers, but not before they instilled those beliefs and ideals in you. I don't ever, EVER want to hear you say your failed them, or anyone; not when you've stayed true to your heart."

"I MISS THEM!" she sobbed, causing Sky to wrap her back in his arms and pull her to his chest. "Oh God! It's hurts so much! I miss them!"

Sky felt his heart break. "I know, Baby, I know," he whispered in her ear, rubbing his hands up and down her back.

"It's not fair, Sky! It's just not fair! I need them! I'm all alone now! I don't have any family!" she cried incoherently as he held her tighter.

The Red Ranger blinked back his own tears as he let her cry out her heartbreak. Unfortunately, he knew sorta where she was coming from. "They loved you, Sydney, even if it didn't seem like it all the time. And you aren't alone, you have a family here who loves you, one you made on your own through teamwork, love, determination, but most importantly, by choice," he breathed out in her ear, feeling her shudder in his arms.

They stayed locked together for a long time as Sydney continued to cry and Sky found himself only able to offer silent support. He held her quivering body until he felt her stop crying and relax against him, a sure sign that she was falling asleep now. "Syd?"

"Hmm?" she murmured softly.

"Want me to tuck you in?"

"Yeah…"

"Okay," he grinned at her sleepy answer, pulling away from her long enough to bend down and grab his bottle of water. When he stood up, he quickly scooped her up. "Up we go."

Quietly, Sky carried her to her room and tucked her in to her bed. "Sky," she whispered sleepily.

"Get some sleep," he responded, watching her drift off. Carefully, he bent over and kissed her forehead. "I love you, remember that."

--

Z emerged from the bathroom, showered and dressed in her dress uniform, and saw Sydney staring down at the clothes on her bed. One outfit was a demure black dress, appropriate for a funeral, and the other was her dress uniform. "What's wrong?" Z carefully questioned.

"I can't decide what to wear."

"What do you feel like wearing?"

Syd gave a small smile. "Sky's t-shirt?" she offered.

The Yellow Ranger couldn't help but chuckle. "Look, I'm not into fashion the way you are, but do you want my opinion anyway?"

Sydney nodded. "Please?"

"Wear what you want, not what you think everyone wants to see you in."

"Thanks Z."

"You're welcome. I'm going to go see if Jack and Ally are here yet, then I'm going to go check on the boys."

Sydney nodded and took a deep breath as Z left. Looking down at her two choices, she reached for the one her heart was telling her she needed to wear.

--

Doggie, Isinia, Kat, Boom, Jack, Ally, Z, Bridge and Sky stood in the lobby about a half hour later, waiting for Sydney. "Maybe one of us should go get her," Bridge spoke up.

"She'll come when she's ready," Doggie assured them, knowing that Sydney probably needed time to compose herself.

As soon as he spoke, the group turned and watched Sydney come down the walkway toward them. They all smiled when they saw her hair pinned back and her dress uniform on. She looked every bit the dignified SPD officer.

"Nice choice," Z grinned. The others smiled the agreement while Bridge gave her a thumbs up.

Sydney gave them a shy smile. "I'm proud to have earned the color on this uniform, so what better choice than to wear it, even if my parents didn't always approve of my job."

The team nodded in understanding. Sky moved forward first and took her hand. "Ready?"

She took a deep breath. "As I'll ever be."

--

When the SPD caravan pulled up at the funeral home, there were already people waiting for Sydney. Her grip on Sky's hand tightened when her parents' best friends approached her. "Sydney," her mother's childhood friend Brianna murmured, reaching for her free hand. "How are you holding up, Sweetheart?"

"I've been better," she responded softly, attempting to smile but frowned when she saw the man walking toward her. "If you'll excuse me, the funeral director is coming over here to speak with me."

The woman nodded and watched the Pink Ranger walk with her head held high, the young man in red and gray by her side like a sentinel knight. "Ms. Drew, we're ready when you are," the man said.

"That's fine. I want my friends, my family, seated up front with me," she all but hissed at him, indicating the group that was right behind her.

"Of course," he agreed, watching the group eye him. When his eyes landed on Z, he flinched. "If you'll follow me."

When the got into the large room where the funeral was being held, Sky sat on one side of her while Z sat on the other. Jack and Ally sat on Sky's free side while Bridge sat next to Z. In the next row, Doggie and Isinia sat right behind Syd and Sky, with Kat and Boom right behind Bridge and Z.

The Pastor of the church Sydney's parents had attended came to the front and began the sad, sad service with a prayer.

--

Sydney cried throughout the whole ceremony. She squeezed Z's hand, felt Isinia's paw on her shoulder, and leaned on Sky's shoulder with his head against hers, and every once in a while he'd turn and kiss her forehead. Her parents' friends shared a lifetime of memories with those gathered before it was her turn to stand before them. With a last squeeze from Sky and Z, she shakily made her way to the microphone to speak.

"My relationship with my parents the last couple of years has been far from perfect," she told those gathered. "No matter how much they tried to hide it, I knew I disappointed them by following the path I have. What many of you might not be aware of is that my parents' own history set me on that path. They were among the first humans to work with Space Patrol Delta."

As she stood before the assembled group, she saw some shock from those who didn't know, understanding from those who did, and love from those closest to her. "My parents were generous with both time and money. My father loved working to build homes for those in need while my mother loved spending time with disadvantaged youth. That's what they did other than teaching and running a Fortune 500 company. They also had a hand in creating the morpher technology used by myself and the rest of the Rangers, so you could say they had a hand in defeating Gruumm for good as well. I'm proud of the work they did, and of the kind of people they were. In the days, weeks and even years to come, I can only hope that I live up to the standards they set, and everyone's expectations of me." Finished, she moved to sit down with those she now considered her family, her eyes on the double caskets at the front of the room.

The rest of the funeral was a blur for her. When it was time to say goodbye, Syd sat rooted in her chair, clutching Z and Sky's hands until the room was empty save for the group of ten. Quietly, the others said their goodbyes until Syd and Sky were the only ones left. Moving gingerly, Sky led Syd to the two caskets.

"I'm sorry I couldn't be who you needed me to be, who you wanted me to be. I'll always love you, and I'll never forget you," Sydney whispered before she turned and fled the room.

Sky stayed put a moment longer. "You raised an intelligent, kind, caring, wonderful woman. Underneath it all, I hope you were ultimately proud of who she is, not what she is." That said, he turned and followed the others.

--

Dressed in sweats and a red SPD t-shirt, Sky headed for the Common Room. Boom and Bridge were engaged in a battle of the minds over a chessboard while discussing the finer points of laser types. Z and Ally had Jack sandwiched between them on one of the couches, the girls poking fun at the former Red Ranger. Looking around, Sky noticed Syd curled into a ball with Peanuts on another of the couches. His mind made up, he went and got a cup of hot chocolate and then moved toward his beautiful Pink Ranger.

Said Pink Ranger's gaze was on the window, where the rain continued to pour down as it had been all night. Setting his cup on the table, Sky reached out to pick her up. She jerked when he touched her, causing a momentary look of hurt to filter onto his features. "Sorry, you scared me," she whispered. Quickly, she sat up so he could sit with her, and once he had, she curled into his side. It was fast becoming her favorite place to be.

"What are you thinking about?" he asked quietly.

"What Brianna said to me at the luncheon thing," she told him, looking up at him from her spot on his shoulder.

"What did she say to you?" Z inquired. "You looked pretty shell-shocked after they left."

Sitting up, Syd scrubbed the incessant tears from her face. "They said I was wrong. They told me that while my parents hated my powers, they always talked about how proud of me they were; that they were happy I found something that fulfilled me."

The others grinned. "See," Z said in that 'I told you so' tone of voice.

"Why didn't they ever tell me then?" Syd asked, her voice cracking as she did.

Ally shifted away from Jack so she could scoot forward and face Syd better. "Maybe because it's easier for some people to tell others how proud they are of those they loved than it is to tell the ones the loved. What matters is that your parents, in the end, were proud of you."

Sydney nodded and leaned against Sky again. "I guess so."

"When are you supposed to meet with the executor of their wills and the vice president of your dad's company?" Boom asked.

"Monday. It's a planning meeting, to see what's going on with the investigation. It'll be a few weeks yet before everything's finalized. Because of all the legalities, I have no clue when I'll get to see their wills."

Jack looked thoughtful. "You mean you don't know what's in them already?"

Syd shook her head. "That was a private matter between them and the lawyer; I was not to be included in those discussions."

"You'll know soon enough," Sky told her, kissing the side of her head.

--

Dressed in her work uniform, Sydney strode into the lawyer's office nearly a month later and walked up to his new receptionist's desk. Her walk from the jeep to his office had resulted in a lot of looks from people in the building, looks she just rolled her eyes at. One would almost think that they'd never seen a member of SPD before.

"Can I help you, Officer?"

"I have an appointment with Mr. Vance."

"May I tell him your name?" the red-head asked.

Syd smirked. "Sydney Drew."

The woman's eyes widened even as she picked up the phone to let her boss know his appointment was there. "Mr. Vance, Ms. Drew is here." There was indistinct noise from the phone before she hung up. "Go ahead, he's ready for you."

"Thank you," Syd said before she strode through the door and was greeted by her parents' lawyer and her honorary uncle, the vice president of her father's company.

Both men stood and hugged her. "Thanks for agreeing to come in, Sydney," Jim Vance told her.

"It's not a problem," she smiled. "What's up? Your message sounded pretty urgent."

"Well, as I said before, your parents left strict instructions in their will for you. Now that the investigation has been closed, we need to get busy with this," he told her.

Sydney blew out a breath and nodded, suddenly wishing Sky was with her. "Syd, honey, relax," the other gentleman told her.

"Uncle Al, you know as well as I do that I disappointed them by joining SPD, but I will give up my inheritance before I leave my team. I finally found my place, I'm making a difference, but I can't do it the way they so desperately wanted me to," she told him.

Both Jim and Al shared a look. "Syd, your parents' instructions were clear," Jim told her, opening the will.

"Okay."

"You get everything they owned, no questions asked. Your parents want you to continue their work with their various charities, and when you're ready, they want you to take over Drew Industries, but they want you to stay at SPD until you're ready to leave," he told her, watching the tears flood her eyes and the relief splash onto her face. "You have a trust fund that will afford you an allowance until you turn thirty, at which time you'll have full control over that to do with as you please."

"Are you sure?" Syd asked, her tone filled with shock.

Jim nodded. "Your father wants Al to remain with the company until you're completely ready to take over."

"Absolutely," Syd agreed, and then turned to her surrogate uncle. "Don't expect to go anywhere, I need you."

Al nodded and smiled. "I'm at your disposal, Kiddo."

Sydney smiled and managed to blink back the tears. "Thank you, both of you."

"My last pieces of business are these," Jim spoke, producing two letters. "Your parents wrote you a new one every year. These were written a couple of months before they died."

The Pink Ranger nodded and took the two envelops. "Can I wait to open them or do I need to read them here?"

"Take them home," Jim told her. "What do you want to do with the house, because we do need to start thinking about that?"

"I need to talk it over with my superiors and I want to talk to Elena and Mr. Hobbs about staying on and taking care of everything. I'm probably going to move back home, but I have to get permission to live off academy grounds."

"Let me know," Jim smiled. "I'm in the process of transferring everything into your name."

Standing, Sydney shook his hand and hugged her uncle. "I have to head back, thank you for everything. Uncle Al, keep me updated."

As she strode from the room, the two men shared a smile. "She's going to be just fine," Al spoke.

"Yes she will be; she's a tough woman."

--

D Squad noticed that the B Squad Red Ranger was distracted almost a full minute into their workout. Instead of talking them through it, or barking at them, he was overly quiet. One of the younger cadets was about to say something when Sky's face lit up at the sight of a familiar figure in gray and pink that was headed their way.

"Okay, next time I go easy on them, no yelling at me," Syd teased as she approached them and noticed the lack of activity from them all.

"Very funny," Sky uttered, looking at her expectantly. He wanted to know, badly, how the meeting had gone with the lawyer since he hadn't been able to go with her.

Syd grinned at him, stopping when she was a foot from him. "How much longer until you're off?"

"We've got two courses to run before I hand them over to Bridge. Why?" he asked, and then barked at the cadets, "QUIT EVASDROPPING AND GET BUSY!"

The Pink Ranger rolled her eyes at him. "When you get out of here, meet me at the pond, by the bridge," she smiled.

Sky nodded and watched her walk away, unsure why he had a ball of nerves in his stomach.

--

My dearest Sydney,

If you're reading this, then it means I'm dead, or comatose. I hope you can forgive me for whatever has facilitated you having to read this, I'm sure it wasn't intentional. I'm sitting on the patio by the pool as I write this. Your dad and I were just reminiscing the other day about when you were little; it's hard to believe you're nineteen now. I know Daddy and I didn't do anything for you this year, so I'll apologize for that as well. It's not going to repair whatever hurt I'm sure it caused, but I am sorry.

It gets harder every year, Sydney, to see you at SPD. I don't agree with Cruger and how he runs things anymore, and I'm afraid I've taken quite a bit of that frustration out on you the last few years. The last thing I ever wanted was for you to follow our footsteps and join SPD, which is another reason I've pulled away. I know it's hurt you, and for that I can only apologize and ask for your forgiveness. Even Moms aren't flawless.

Despite all of that, Sydney, I want you to know that I love you, with all my heart. The day the doctor put you on my tummy, all squirmy and crying, and you looked up at me with those big blue eyes of yours, my heart has been yours. I've watched you grow, and over the years my heart has soared for your accomplishments, been saddened by your tears, and struggled to reassure you when your fears became my own. There isn't anything I wouldn't have done for you, I hope you know that. I LOVE YOU.

I may have not always been happy about you being at SPD, but I'm proud to know that you found something meaningful to do with your life. You've grown up so much in just the last two years; it still amazes me that you've become such an extraordinary young woman. My heart stopped every time I saw you on television fighting Gruumm and his many goons, but my pride in you has always been greater than that fear, I just wish I could have found a way to show it more. I hope you know how PROUD Daddy and I are of what you've accomplished in your short life – model, singer, Olympian, Power Ranger. The last two are roles only a select few every get the change to be, I hope you take pride that you were both.

My hope for your future is that you find things that fulfill you, whether it is work, family, or hobbies. I wish I could be there to see you get married, have a family, or to just be, but I firmly believe even if I'm not there with you in body, I'll be there in spirit. Keep doing what you love, Sydney. Even if I didn't always agree, I'd have to be blind to not see that being at SPD and being a Ranger, being the Pink Ranger, makes you happy. Of course, that incredibly hunky Red Ranger of yours doesn't hurt, right? winks I love you, baby girl, never forget that.

Love always,

Mommy

Sydney set the letter on the ground besides her and buried her face in her hands. Of all the things she'd expected for her parents to write her, she hadn't anticipated the heartfelt words of hope and love, especially after what had transpired in the last year. She gave over to her tears until she felt like she was all cried out. Wiping the evidence from her cheeks, she shakily reached for the letter from her father, opening it just as carefully as she had the one from her mother.

Sydney,

My baby, my beautiful baby. I'm afraid if you're reading this particular letter, it means I've gone to meet our Lord in heaven. I'm so sorry to leave you like this, at such a young age, where you're on the cusp of leaving your childhood behind and becoming a true adult, but you can't argue with death, can you? Though, to be fair, you left your childhood behind the day you joined SPD and became and adult the day you first morphed into the Pink Ranger, huh? Fighting evil space aliens has the tendency to do that.

Sydney, the last few years have been a test of faith, for you, and for me and your mom. You've finally found your place in this world, even if your mom and I don't completely agree with it. I know we've been distant, and that's our faults, not yours. I don't ever want you to think it was your fault or your doing. Yes, your mother and I were part of SPD at one time, and yes we helped create the morpher technology you use on an almost daily basis, but we weren't cut out to be part of a police organization. Decisions were made by our superiors that we didn't always agree with. That's why we left, and why we disapproved of your joining SPD.

Syd, I know you think we were horrified by your powers, but in reality, we were more terrified of what they symbolized for us – they meant you belonged at SPD, meant you were to help keep the world safe. Your mom and I love you so much, and the thought of us losing you was unbearable. You are our baby, our sunshine, our princess, and to come to the realization that being a Power Ranger was your destiny was something we've struggled with since you joined SPD. We were also upset that we were the reason you couldn't be normal like the other kids, and I'm sorry if we over-compensated in some areas and lacked in others.

You've always been a source of pride and joy for us. Despite our reservations about your life's calling, neither of us could be happier that you've found what you want to do with your life. I know you probably miss me like crazy, but I'm always with you, even if you can see or feel me. I love you, and I'm so proud to have you as my daughter, and to see the woman you've become.

All my love, always,

Daddy

Sydney let out a harsh sob as she set the letter from her father with the one from her mother. Guilt speared through her; she'd always thought and assumed the worst when it came to how her parents felt about her and her job, when in reality they were just terrified that their own choices would mean they would lose her. It felt like she had to mourn her parents all over again, months after they were gone.

Sky found her sitting there a half hour later, knees pulled to her chest, chin resting on them and her eyes locked on the pond below her. Very carefully, he sat down beside her. Not sure whether or not to bug her, he sat quietly with his hands between his knees and feet dangling off the bridge. After a half hour of silence, Sky finally couldn't take it anymore. "At the risk of pissing you off, are you okay?" he asked, knowing that she was sick to death of people asking that question.

"Jim gave me two letters today."

The Red Ranger tilted his head toward her. "Oh?"

She turned so her eyes met his. "From my parents, to be given to me in case of their deaths."

Sky nodded. "Do I dare ask what they said?" When Sydney smiled brightly through her tears, Sky felt a weight lift off his shoulders. She hadn't smiled like that in regards to her parents in well over a year. It was nice to see her smile, even if she was kinda crying. "Syd?"

"They said that they were proud of me, even if they were against my being at SPD and they knew I was happy. Both of them apologize for pulling away."

He nodded, knowing she needed to get this off her chest. "And?"

"They want me to stay, if it makes me happy, or go. They just want me happy."

"Good, I'm glad," he smiled at her.

"Mom made a crack about the hunky Red Ranger being a definite plus in the staying department," she teased, watching him carefully.

When Sky's ears and face went bright red, Sydney's laughter showered the two of them. It was the freest sound Sky had heard her make in weeks. They'd been taking their time with their relationship, taking each day as it came, so Sydney had time to adjust to all the changes around her. Some days had been better than others. She was almost back to her old self when she was on patrol, but on her time off she was still quiet and withdrawn. They hadn't gone out much, simply electing to hang out on base with Bridge and Z, or just together. It was nice to sit with her, but Sky wanted his bubbly, bright, spontaneous Sydney back.

"I'm sorry I've been so hard to deal with lately," she apologized, obviously recognizing the look on his face.

"Syd, I understand, completely," he told her, nudging her leg with his knee. "I just, I want my Syd back, soon," he honestly told her.

Her lips trembled at his words. "I can stop feeling guilty now, about this whole ordeal with my parents, and I can get on with my life. Before today, I didn't think I would ever be able to."

"Life likes to go on despite everything," he told her, his eyes sincere.

Syd smiled and leaned against him. "So, would the hunky Red Ranger perhaps like to go out on a real date with me?"

Sky's face was scarlet red again when she looked up at him. "On one condition."

"What?" she asked, trying her hardest not to laugh.

"Stop calling me hunky."

"But Sky, you're SOOOOO HOT!" she teased him, mocking several members of his fan club, which consisted of younger female cadets at the academy.

"Very funny, Sydney, very funny," he grumbled.

Syd just smiled. "Sky?"

"What?" he muttered.

"Thank you."

He looked down at her and smiled. "You're welcome. I'm glad you're okay now. And Syd?"

"Hmm?"

"I love you," he whispered.

"I love you too," she grinned, letting him wrap his arm around her as they watched the sunset. It had been a long, difficult road, and she knew from Sky's personal experience and story, that the pain of having lost her parents would fade, but it would always be there. But the biggest question in regards to them had been answered – she knew she'd made them proud of her.