Title: Close Your Eyes
Summary: Over a month later, Jen is still suffering from Alex's tragic death, and Wes wants to help...the only way he can.
Timeline: Directly after the episode Short Circuited
Disclaimer: I don't own Power Rangers, or any of the characters. I'm not making any monitary profit from this story, either, so please don't sue me!
A/N: First Power Rangers story since "Veritas" was completed a year or so ago! I've felt like writing a little oneshot for quite some time now, but it took me forever to come up with an idea. I hope you like it, please leave a review :)
The pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof of the Clock Tower gently roused Wes from his slumber, his breaths shortened and left behind their deep, even pattern, his eyelids blinked furiously for a couple seconds to clear his blurry vision. A startling clap of thunder rolled over the city and caused him to jump. He groaned miserably, knowing he would never be able to get back to sleep so long as the storm continued; with a sigh, he rolled off the cot and placed his barefeet on the cold, wooden floor, then rose to a stand and stretched out the stiff, sore muscles in his back and arms. He had always been careful to keep himself in good physical condition, but after six weeks of being the Red Ranger, even he was beginning to feel the aftereffects of their strenuous battles. He felt a pop behind his left shoulder and grimaced. Am I really only twenty?
Smirking at his own dry humor, he made his way down the ladder and away from the loft, over to the refrigerator to retrieve the bottle of V8 he had stored there earlier; the strong taste of mixed vegetables and fruit flooded his system and helped wake him further. He smacked his lips loudly, twisted the cap back on, and put the drink back into the refrigerator. Casting a glance up at the loft again, he noticed that the rest of the team slept through peacefully, blissfully unaware of the raging storm that caused another flash of lightning that lit up the room and once again made Wes jump in alarm. God, I hate storms...
As the thought died away, a realization dawned on him, and with it, a frown settled onto his face. Jen wasn't asleep. The side of the bed she shared with Katie was empty, and in fact showed no signs that anyone had been resting on it recently. So where was she? Instantly concerned, Wes went about searching the Tower for the Pink Ranger, trying to ignore the tightening feeling in his gut telling him something was wrong. The storm was raging fierely...was she outside? Swallowing, gritting his teeth, he descended the long flight of stairs and---grabbing a jacket to shoulder into---opened the door and stepped outside. Nearly immediately, he was soaked from head to toe. The rain was pouring down in huge drops from the dark, ominous clouds above that hovered around the nearly-full moon; a bolt of lightning shot down from the sky and hit the ground someplace too far away for Wes to see. Nevertheless, he flinched.
And then he spotted her.
Jen was standing with her back pressed against the wall, apparently unconcerned by the fact that she was dripping wet, and shivering; her thin arms were wrapped around her tiny frame, her face raised to face to the stinging rain, her eyes tightly closed. The pale pink pajamas she wore were clinging to her body, especially to her thighs and...Wes licked his lips, but flushed red and felt ashamed for his lustful thoughts. Even if Jen weren't still mourning her dead fiance, she would still be way out of his league. Oh sure, she wasn't the most beautiful woman he had ever seen...after all, he had seduced supermodels, but Jen had something about her that they lacked. The freckles on her nose and cheeks, her wide brown eyes and full lips that were emphasized by the red lipstick she wore...Wes shivered, a tingling sensation creeping up his spine and causing the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up. There was so much more to Jen than just her looks, she was strong---downright intimidating---and yet could be so very kind; she had been through hell but still managed to stand up and face the world, unafraid. He wished he had that kind of fortitude.
He cleared his throat and Jen's eyes flew open, only then did Wes see how red and puffy they were, it became clear...she was crying. Of course...what better time to let it out than during a thunderstorm? Right away, he felt awkward, knowing Jen hated to show any kind of weakness...especially to him. He decided to pretend he didn't notice anything was wrong. Putting on his usual light, carefree voice, he spoke: "What are you doing out here, Jen?"
"I, uh, need some air."
The lie was so absurd Wes couldn't hide the smile that jumped to his face. "Uh-huh," he grunted, dropping the subject, "well...could you use any company?"
Jen sniffed, wiping a hand across her wet face as she shook her head: "No, Wes...just go back to bed."
"Actually, I couldn't sleep," Wes said, truthfully, "storms keep me up."
Jen gave him a confused stare, hesitating for a moment before speaking again, surprising Wes with her admission. "Me too...back home, whenever there was a storm it meant all our work could be for nothing. I used to stay up at night and worry about whether or not our crops would still be there in the morning."
It was impossible for Wes to comprehend the kind of determination it would take to be a farmer, the ability to withstand a lifetime of hard work and pain. It was no wonder Jen had become the woman she was. He kept those thoughts to himself. Aloud, he said with a smile: "I didn't think there would still be farmers a thousand years from now."
"Why not? There were farmers a thousand years ago."
"Yeah...but I just figured they'd have machines or something to do the work." Wes shrugged.
"Well, we don't milk our cows by hand anymore." Jen smiled slightly, Wes couldn't help but see the lack of humor behind it. She seemed to sense his perception. "So," she said, quickly, "why don't you like storms?"
It was a difficult subjet, one he had never discussed with anyone before...not even his father. But Jen was being honest with him so... "My mother left during a storm," he said, softly, "I was eight and upstairs asleep...I heard my parents arguing but didn't think anything of it till I heard the front door slam." The memories returned...as vivid as they were the day after it happened. His voice dropped, so quiet Jen could barely hear him over the storm. "She never came back."
"Wow..." Jen shook her head, crossing her arms again. "I have to say, I've been wondering if you had a mom."
Wes snorted. "We all have them."
She rolled her eyes. "You know what I mean."
"Yeah, I know," Wes consented, "...I guess people just can't stand being around my dad. I know the feeling." Only a few weeks had passed since he had left home...it was still a shock waking up every morning to new surroundings, with somewhat unfamiliar people. He loved the team, they were his friends, but they were still very nearly strangers.
He looked up, realizing Jen had been watching him with an odd look in her eyes, they had grown soft, reflective...she was gazing at him like she didn't even see him, but instead saw someone else. He shuddered, knowing what she was looking at. In the rain, his hair looked dark and slick...
"Jen," he whispered.
She blinked once slowly, then twice more in rapid succession. Reality had returned and crushed her once again. "I'm sorry," she blurted out, stepping back and turning away in one movement, hiding the look of devastation that flickered across her face and ripped Wes apart inside.
"No, no...it's okay." I wish I could be him for you, Jen. "I...understand."
"It's just that sometimes..." her voice nearly broke.
"I look like him," Wes said for her, "it can't be easy for you."
Jen turned around, her lower lip was trembling precariously; a crack of thunder sounded nearby only a few seconds after another strike of lightning. The storm was getting closer. "I'm going back inside," she said, "you should, too." She attempted a wobbly smile as she walked forward and paused at his side, touching his sleeve. "Don't want you getting sick."
He returned her smile. "Goodnight, Jen."
Jen left and went inside, but Wes remained out in the rain for more than ten minutes after that, hugging himself and staring into the dark city; Jen's haunted, tear-filled eyes plagued him, he saw them everywhere, pleading with him to be someone else. Someone he could never be. Silently, he wondered what kind of man Alex was... Jen never spoke about him in detail, and the others rarely did as well, even then, it didn't seem like they'd had a close relationship with him. From what little Wes knew, Alex was a focused, driven individual who had dedicated his life to being a Time Force officer; he was hard, but fair, and apparently very well-loved by his comrades. He certainly must have been something special, to capture Jen's heart.
The rain was slowing down. The storm was nearly finished. With a quiet sigh, Wes headed back into the Tower to try to catch a few hours of sleep...
Jen lay down on the couch instead of going back up the ladder to rejoin Katie, she was shaking from both the cold and the emotions that were assaulting her; it was bad enough that she missed Alex so bad she literally ached, but to have to look into his eyes everyday and know it wasn't really him? Sometimes she wondered if she could last one more day...
You have to, her inner voice scolded, harshly, you promised Alex.
Alex wouldn't want this for me! another voice cried out.
She knew it was true. Alex had always been fiercely protective of her, to the point where he would jump down someone's throat just for glancing at her "the wrong way"; she would reprimand him for his temper, but secretly, she enjoyed it. No one had ever taken that much interest in her before, had cared that much. Oh sure, her parents were good people, and they loved her... but they were very strict, and they believed one should bear their own burdens and put up with them, no matter how hard. It felt good to be near Alex and let him take care of her.
"Alex... " the word came out in a quiet sob, and she turned her face into the rough cushion of the couch to hide her tears.
Sleep came slowly, and when it did she found herself haunted by horrible dreams where Alex slipped away from her time and time again; his trembling body was pressed to hers and she heard every single gasp for air, every breath that rattled in his chest, every tiny cry of pain. He looked at her with those beautiful blue eyes, full of agony, pleading with her to make it stop, and there was nothing she could do. Then finally, the light drained out of his eyes and breathed his last, going limp in her arms and shattering her world. It happened over and over and over again...
Jen didn't know that she was crying aloud, but Wes heard her from his bed and immediately came down to check on her; she felt his gentle hands grip hers, then heard his voice, Alex's voice, calling her name: "Jen. Jen, wake up. It's just a nightmare."
Sniffling, Jen blinked a few times and opened her eyes, but wasn't anywhere near awake, Wes could tell; she looked at him, her eyes devoid of any recognition for a moment, but then she broke out into a grin. "I thought you were dead," she gasped, before throwing her arms around his neck and burying her wet face into his shoulder. Wes relented, slowly embracing her back for a moment before talking:
"Jen, it's me... it's Wes."
She pulled away quickly, obviously confused. "I... " she began.
"Wes," she sighed, speaking his name as if it were a curse of some kind and not the name of her friend. "I'm sorry... I was dreaming and... it's just... "
Wes stared at her, his entire body radiating sympathy for the hurting young woman. "I wish I could help you," he said.
Jen looked back at him again, longing to see the man she loved.
"I have an idea, Jen," he said, gently, "let me... " his voice trailed off, but Jen seemed to understand. At first, she was hesitant, unsure, but then he climbed onto the reclined couch with her and put his arms around her; he wasn't insistent, it was clear he would let go if she wanted him to, but he felt so much like Alex...
"Close your eyes... let me be him."
She did, surrendering herself to the sensation of being curled up in the love of her life's arms once again, knowing it would be the last time; she hadn't gotten that before, she had bid a brief farewell to Alex fully expecting to see him in a few hours, and then to spend a lifetime with him. Neither of them had known. How could they?
She was so tired... sleep closed in on her quickly, and reality began to dim, became a fantasy; she was with Alex again, and he was with her. Protecting her. Loving her. A content smile played on her lips and she brought her hand over his, gripping it as if she would never let it go; she felt his hot breath against the back of her neck, felt the beating of his heart, the strength in his body. She knew no harm could come to her as long as she was with him.
"Alex," she murmured, sleepily.
He grunted a response, lazily brushing back a strand of her hair that had fallen onto her forehead, then placing his hand on her arm and rubbing it.
"Alex," she repeated, " ... I miss you."
A pause. Then a soft kiss to her cheek and a thumb to wipe away her tear. "I'll never leave you," he said, his voice deep and reassuring. "I love you, Jen... now get some rest."
She knew it wasn't really him, and the pain that came with that knowledge was so great it felt like someone was stabbing her repeatedly with the dullest knife possible; but it felt like Alex, and that was the best that she could have. So she allowed herself to escape for the night, to pretend she never had to wake up and leave the stability of his arms, the comfort of his love... she never had to face the world again, and go on fighting.
She closed her eyes.