Title: Normalcy
Summary: What does a retired Ranger do when they're tired of being normal? - Tommy's point of view on Kira leaving for Operation Overdrive.
Disclaimer: If I owned it, it would be cannon. The song is by Barlow Girls.
Setting: This takes place during Operation Overdrive, but I don't really think you need to have seen that episode to understand.


Tommy walks in to the unexpected sight of his girlfriend sprawled lazily on the couch. Her feet are up along the head of the couch and her head is tilted towards the floor. The remote is in her hand and she's staring intently at the television, barely blinking as the channels whiz by. Her free hand holds a glass of some red liquid, which she sips from slowly but steadily, her throat barely moving.

"Kira," he says slowly. "What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to find something to watch," she says, not removing her gaze from the screen. "But there's nothing on."

He watches in silence as she speeds through all four hundred and eight-seven channels in less than a minute. The flashing colors make him dizzy and he blinks, disoriented, and squints at her, wondering why they even have as many channels as they do. Neither of them watch television very often; he usually has too much work to do, and she would rather write. Shaking his head to rid himself of the lingering sensation, he takes the remote out of her hand and shuts the machine off.

"Since when do you watch TV?" he asks, setting the remote down on the television.

"Since there's nothing better to do," she answers curtly, swinging her legs off of the couch and retrieving the remote. She throws herself back down on the couch and clicks it back on.

He looks at her for a moment and has to fight back a sigh. The only time she ever watches television is when she hits a serious case of writer's block. The last time it happened so severely was shortly before the senior prom. Having first thought she was nervous about performing in front of her peers, he later discovered that she was worried about the final battle with Mesogog. Fearful, to be more exact, that the team would not make it back.

Reaching down, he takes the remote from her a second time and turns the television back off. As the sound dies, he knees down in front of her, placing the remote on the floor. He searches out her eyes, but she avoids him, tensing her legs to rise. She gets to her feet and takes two steps to his right before he grabs her ankle to keep her from moving anymore.

To his surprise, she doesn't protest. Doesn't yell at him, or hit him on the head, or possibly give him a well-aimed kick in the arm. She stares flatly at the wall opposite them and when she does speak, her voice is equally flat and empty. "I'm just so bored, Tommy."

"I get that, but – "

She shakes her head, her hair bouncing around her shoulder. "I don't mean just right this minutes," she says, her voice heavy with a sigh. "It's been two whole years. You're still teaching. Conner is working on becoming a soccer player, and Trent's in art school. Ethan is studying – well, God and science geeks only know what Ethan is studying, and I'm recording a new album. It's been two years. Everything is so quiet. No one attacks us. Our life is so... so..."

"Normal," he supplies, his own voice as flat as hers was.

"Yeah," Kira turns to look at him finally, and their eyes meet, but they don't connect. "But what if I'm bored of being normal?"

Tommy released her ankle and finally has to look away from her as well, because the answer to her question is one that can't be explained in words. He doesn't know the answer himself, but he lives it every day, and he's mad at himself for not seeing this coming sooner, and when he says nothing, Kira plods up the stairs and into their room and shuts the door. It's the loneliest sound in the world.

---
She couldn't take one more day
Home was more her prison now
Independence called out
She had to get it

A fight was all she needed
To give her reason
She slammed the door with no goodbye
And knew that it was time
---

"Aren't you coming?" she asked, her voice playful.

He shook his head firmly. "I'll pass. You go, I'll stay here and watch."

"Tommy, I didn't bring you here so that you could stand here like a fossil and watch."

"Watching is fun."

Kira laughed. "Actually doing it is even more fun."

He would not do it, that he had already confirmed to himself numerous times. He may have agreed to bring her, but she would never get him to join her. He was smugly opening his mouth to inform her of this, but the words wouldn't come out when she began to approach him. His mouth snapped shut and all of his instincts yelled at him to run, because she was planning his downfall.

But before he could take even a step backwards, her slender arms wound around his neck. She would have been fully pressed against him, but the low wall separating them kept everything from their waists below apart and he was completely grateful for it when she looked up at him, her eyes sparkling. Her head tilted slightly in that cute way that made his knees weak and she leaned up, gently brushing her lips against his.

The next thing Tommy knew, he was putting down ten bucks for ice skate rental and reluctantly slipping the bladed boots on before cautiously making his way over to the entrance of the rink. There he lingered, holding tightly onto the side, before he carefully put first one foot and then the other on the slippery ice. He held onto the wall as tightly as possible and pulled himself along, keeping his feet rigid.

"Aren't you going to get away from the edge?" Kira asked, performing a small spin. She grinned at him, pushing her hair out of her eyes.

"I'd rather not," he said, reaching out his hand to pull himself along another few inches.

Her eyes widened suddenly and she cocked her head, biting at her lip in that way that meant she was trying not to laugh. "Tommy, don't tell me you can't ice skate."

He gave her a look that could have melted the ice they stood on and said, "I haven't even roller bladed in about ten years, Kira, much less ice skated."

Kira smiled with the innocence of a child whose hand is in the cookie jar. "I'm sorry; I just assumed that the legendary Power Ranger would be able to keep his balance on ice. I guess we all have weaknesses, after all!"

"Kira."

"Yes, honey?" she said sweetly, the laughter in her eyes far too obvious.

"Shut up – ARGH!" Tommy let out a shout as one of his ankles wobbled and slipped. He tried to keep a grasp on the rail as his feet shot out from under him and failed, ending up on flat on his back on a very cold surface.

"You know, I'd probably feel a bit more threatened if you could actually stand on your own two feet," she said and smirked as she leaned over him.

He glared at her for a second time and pulled himself up using the rail, mentally thanking whichever god was listening that he still retained a good amount of upper body strength, then clamped on, holding on even tighter than before. Giggling, Kira took one of his hands and lightly tugged on it, trying to make him release his grip.

"I'm not letting go, if that's what you're thinking," he said.

She rolled her eyes and successfully intertwined the fingers. "Come on. I'll show you how to skate."

Even then, he refused to let go, and she had to literally drag him away from the railing. First by waiting until the inevitable came and he fell, and then by grabbing his arm and pulling him away before he could reach the rail. Even then, it took a good two hours and numerous bruises between them before she was able to let go without too much worry about him falling.

About an hour after that, she left the ice to retrieve some hot chocolate. When she returned, Tommy took his cup and wrapped an arm around her waist, kissing her for real this time. "Today was fun," he admitted when they pulled apart.

She took a sip of her drink, smiling. "I knew you'd like it."

"Let's never go skating again," he said.

Her smile grew bigger and she twisted around, wincing slightly as one of her bruises protested, so that she could touch his hand. "Agreed."

.....

He sits in the same spot that he's been in for the last three hours, staring vacantly at the wall. His mind is equally blank, numbly repeating the simple words printed on the piece of paper crumpled in his hand. He doesn't need to read the paper anymore. The words are permanently drilled into his mind, and even when he closes his eyes, he can see them there, the delicate black ink that destroys his world.

Tommy, I've been called back into action. I'll come back as soon as I can.

Honestly, he's not surprised at all, but it doesn't stop the shock and denial and horror from ravaging through him. The first time he saw that simple piece of paper lying on the table, he didn't bother to read it. He just dropped his briefcase and the coffee he was holding and ran to the bedroom. But it was too late – a handful of her personal items were already gone, most notably her guitar.

After that, he'd come back to the kitchen, where he read the note and memorized the words within seconds. But he'd kept reading it, and reading it, as if praying that it was going to change. He still looks down at it sometimes, wondering, hoping that if he opens it again, it will change. Except it won't, so he doesn't open it, so that he can hope that it will.

Consciously, he knows that there is no stopping her from doing this. He knows that even if he had seen her before she left, she still would have left. He knows, because he is a Ranger, too, and if he had been called he would have gone too. But for different reasons. He, because the world needs someone who can protect them. She, because she needs to remember what it's like on the other side: needs to realize that the whole reason that they fight is so that they can have normalcy.

So even though he knows, and understands, why does he still wish that she was home?

.......

Even though Kira had graduated the year before, she had been asked to come back and perform at the prom anyway. The job was extremely low pay, and no one would have been surprised if the singer had turned it down. She was getting more popular by the day, with two singles, an album due out in a few months, and a job as the opening act for a band going on a nation-wide tour. But when she was asked, she laughed and nodded and agreed to do it for free under the stipulation that other bands from the school could perform as well. After all, it was partially due to her own prom that she was getting to be famous, so it was only fair that someone else have a similar chance.

It was because of this that Tommy did not bother to bring an official date with him when he agreed to chaperone the dance. It was a decision that he quickly grew to regret within the first half hour. Her name was Julia Hotzgerald, and she was a biology teacher who had only begun teaching at the school in the past year. She was stunningly pretty, with shoulder-length copper hair currently pinned up in a bun. The clingy teal gown she wore caused more than a few stares.

"Tommy, I'm surprised to see you here without a date," she said lightly, placing a hand on his arm. "I thought you would have been able to snag one without any trouble at all." Without waiting for him to respond, she casually added, "My date cancelled on me at the very last minute."

Tommy may not have been the most observant man in the world, but he was a former Ranger, and he knew trouble when he saw it coming. He backed away just enough to make it uncomfortable for Julia to keep her arm on his, and said, "Whenever I chaperone the dances, I find it's better to keep my eyes on the kids."

She laughed. "But you can have a little fun, right?"

"Principal Randall," he called out, not bothering to answer. He beckoned to Elsa when she glanced up at him. "The dance is fantastic this year."

"He's right. Well done," Julia said, but now her voice was downright unfriendly.

Elsa's eyes flicked between the two of them, and then she smiled a little, understanding the situation perfectly. "Why thank you, Dr. Oliver, Ms. Hotzgerald. I'd love to stay and chat, but I have a couple of things I must attend to before time gets away from me. Please enjoy the dance."

Tommy glowered at the woman's back as she turned and walked swiftly away. He growled under his breath when he saw Elsa's shoulders shaking from laughter and wondered if the woman still had strains of evil in her as Julia placed her hand on his arm yet again. He glanced down at her hand, and then up at Julia. A sigh he hadn't realized he'd been holding escaped when he saw familiar blonde curls approaching behind the woman.

"Found you," she teased, smiling. The strands of hair that normally framed her face were pinned back with a small yellow clip. The rest of her hair flowed around her shoulders, complimenting the simple, knee-length black dress she was wearing. Around her waist was a yellow ribbon that was neatly tied at the small of her back. The only jewelry she wore were simple black stone earrings and a gold chain that had a black guitar pick with a tiny yellow pterodactyl stitched on it strung on it. It had been his last birthday gift to her.

"Hey, Kira," he said, grinning. The simplicity of her outfit made her stand out in an era of fancy, beaded garments.

There was a pointed cough behind him and he winced slightly, abruptly reminded of the fact that he and Kira were most definitely not alone. He turned, allowing her to see Julia for the first time. Kira's eyes darted between them the same way that Elsa's had, and she quickly came to the same conclusion. Only this time, there was no mischievous smile in sight – only a slight frown.

"Hello, I'm Kira. Are you one of the new teachers?" she asked politely, extending her hand. With the amount of strange happenings that had occurred in the last year, several teachers had resigned. The school board had had to scramble to find enough new teachers to cover the school's curriculum, and even now, there weren't really enough teachers to go around.

"Ms. Hotzgerald," Julia said dismissively, ignoring Kira's outstretched hand. She glanced at Tommy and smiled. "You didn't tell me your sister was coming, Tommy. She looks just like you."

This time he winced visibly. "She's not my sister."

"No? Your niece?"

Kira gave the woman a look that meant she had crossed the line and stepped closer to him as he was opening his mouth to explain. Before he could say a word, the singer pressed herself against him and went up on her tip-toes to kiss him. It wasn't a long kiss, but nor was it the restrained ones they normally shared in public. When she pulled back, the teacher dimly noticed that quite a few people were staring, and that Elsa was having to lean against a table to hold herself up, because she was laughing so hard. He made a mental note to kill her and looked down at Kira, who was smirking.

"Try his girlfriend," she said, with an inordinate amount of possessiveness and no cowardice whatsoever.

Tommy never had to worry about being hit on by Julie Hotzgerald – or anyone else, for that matter – for the rest of the year.

....

He jumps when the phone rings without warning. He hasn't spoken to anyone in the past couple of days. For a second, he contemplates just letting the phone ring, but he doesn't exactly fancy having a panicked Conner thinking he's dead and trying to break into his house, so he drags himself away from his work and walks over to the counter. He answers the phone reluctantly.

"Hello?" he says, his voice hoarse.

"Hey, Tommy!" a familiar voice shouts.

"Adam?" he asks in disbelief, and is suddenly relieved he didn't just let it ring. "Is that you?"

"Yup!" An even more familiar laugh came down the line. "What are you up to, man? I heard you're a teacher now. Driving those poor kids crazy, I bet."

Tommy smiles a little. "Something like that," he says. "What about you? What are you up to?"

"Actually, that's why I called," Adam says. "I've been called back."

His smile disappears and he looks down at the phone. It's only the knowledge that it would be wrong to hang up on a teammate stops him from doing it. "Really?"

Adam asks him if he knows where Alpha was stored. Tommy is curious – more so than he ever thought he could be – but he doesn't bother to ask. He has been a Ranger long enough that he knows Adam can't reveal anything about what he's doing. As far as the others are concerned, Tommy is just another civilian, and if Adam had had any other option, he would not be calling Tommy right now. He knows that, but it's still a hard to pill to swallow.

"Thanks man, I owe you," Adam says cheerfully.

"No problem," Tommy mutters, and it's at that second that the idea strikes him. "Actually, could you do something for me, Adam?" He doesn't wait for his friend to reply, but forges onward. "One of the people with you – she's from the Dino team, right?"

There is silence for a long period of time, and Tommy knows that Adam is wondering if he can answer that question. He twines the phone's cord around his fingers as he waits, not caring about how bad that is or that if she were there she'd scold him for it. And when Adam's reply finally comes (either he's decided he can, or he can't and he doesn't really care), he breathes a quiet sigh of relief.

"The girl? Kira? Yeah, she was the one who told me all about you being part of that team. Can't you ever learn to retire, man?"

"I wish," Tommy said humorlessly. "Do me a favor, Adam. Just..." he trails off for a second, wondering if he should even bother. She would kill him with her bare hands if she ever found out. No, first she'd treat him to an hour-long lecture on why she is perfectly capable of handling herself in the field of battle, and how it was kind of him to worry but she didn't need to be worried about, thank you very much. Still... "Just... watch over her."

.....

She told him she needed a change, that she was just tired of it and that she needed to try something new. He told her that he liked it the way it was, that it might go wrong, and that she shouldn't mess with a good thing. She told him to go to hell. He told her he knew it had been a lost cause from the start.

Kira was dying her hair.

His eyes strayed to the clock. It had been an hour and a half since had been taken in by the woman, and she still wasn't back yet. He glanced away and scanned the room for something that could entertain him until she came back out, but all he saw were the same piles of hairstyle magazines he'd been staring at for the past ninety minutes. Sighing deeply, he grabbed the first magazine off of the closest stack and flipped it open.

"Hot new hair colors," he read out loud, turning to a random page. It was one explaining what extreme hair color would suit you best. He made a face, wondering if he should even bother. But then he remembered that he didn't have many choices, and he sighed for a second time, settling in to read.

Once he had finished, he stared at the book, shaking his head slowly. "Fiery red?"

"Too obnoxious," a voice behind him said. He could practically hear the smirk on her face. "Go for something more subtle, like dark green tips?" Her hand brushed over his head.

"Very funny..." he trailed off and stared when she stepped into his view.

Her long blonde curls were gone. There was nothing to even indicate they'd been there. Her hair had been cut into a layered style that suited her face, and then straightened, giving it the deception of more length. But the most distinct change wasn't the style. It was the color. The previous golden blonde had been replaced with a light chestnut color that emphasized her hazel eyes.

"You like?" she asked, beaming. "I told the stylist I wanted an older look."

Suddenly, Tommy didn't mind Kira's need for a change.

.....

Tommy lets out a sigh as he approaches his house. The school year is going to begin with the next two weeks, and thus, his days are packed with lesson plans and meetings. Shaking his head, he opens the door and slips his shoes off. However, he doesn't take more than two steps into the house before he freezes. The house is completely silent.

When he left the house earlier that day, the radio had been playing. There is no chance that he simply forgot to turn it on. Tommy absolutely hates coming home to an empty house filled with silence. Normally, Kira is here practicing or writing or listening to some kind of music. So when she's gone, he leaves the radio on so that he can pretend the house isn't empty, after all. He discovered this when Kira left to perform for the first time.

He frowns and looks around warily, searching for something out of place. He lowers his briefcase to the ground and calmly asks who's there. There's no reply, of course, and he wonders why he bothered to ask, because they never answer. And once he makes sure that no one is downstairs, he begins the trek up to the second floor.

His search lasts for only a few more seconds. The culprit is sitting on his bed, facing away from him, with her knees drawn tightly to her chest. He notices that she's wearing a pair of yellow underwear and one of his old black T-shirts (which she is practically swimming in). Her chestnut hair spills across her shoulders in a messy wave. He can see a hint of the curl she used to have, and he realizes she just got out of the shower. Guilt touches him for not being home when she returned.

It only takes a single step into the room, the lightest pressure on the carpet, for her to leap up from her position on the bed. She spins around to face him with her arms up in a defensive pose, her hazel eyes wide and ready. When she sees him, she starts, as if suddenly coming back to the world, and her arms drop quickly to her sides.

"Don't do that," she admonishes him. "You really scared me."

He thinks about gently reminding her that she's now in Reefside, where the biggest dangerous is attending Conner's soccer practices. Instead, he decides against it. It took him a good month, at least, to stop jumping at even the slightest movement after the mission to destroy the Machine Empire. "Sorry," he says, looking across the room at her.

She shakes her head, smiles grimly. "No, I overreacted. I'm the one that should be sorry."

There's an awkward pause. He's dying to fly across the room and scoop her into his arms. The bed has been so empty and cold without her sweet warmth right beside him. He hesitates, though: the wary look in her eyes and the tense way she stands tells him that she would probably send him flying across the room at such an unexpected movement.

"When did you get back?" he asks, more to break the silence than anything.

"About an hour or two ago," she replies. "Adam dropped me off." She fights back a yawn as she speaks and he realizes for the first time how incredibly exhausted she looks. Her eyes are slightly bloodshot, and bags have begun to form under them. Her posture is heavy, the fatigue in her slender form is apparent to anyone who looks.

"Why don't you get some sleep?" he suggests.

She shakes her head. "I'm fine," she lies, even as a yawn breaks through.

"Sleep," he insists. "We can talk after you get some rest."

Kira looks doubtful, but in the end, the thought of getting some peaceful sleep wins out. She backs up and sits down on the bed again, swinging her legs up onto the sheets. Her head hits the pillow and she closes her eyes, letting out a tiny sigh. He shuts off the light and starts to leave.

"Tommy?" her soft voice calls him back.

"Yeah?"

"Stay with me?" her voice whispers into the room, and she sounds both very young and very old at the same time. He can tell she's embarrassed by her request from the way she keeps her eyes firmly on the wall.

A gentle smile brushes his lips, and he's by her side in seconds. "Of course."

......

It had only been a few months into their relationship when Tommy made his decision. He made sure not to tell anyone, not even Hayley, who knew pretty much everything about his life. Anyone he told would undoubtedly spill it to Kira, and then she would try to stop him. That was the last thing he wanted. So he packed a single bag and then slipped out when the house was empty.

He knew he was taking the coward's way out, and that hurt his Ranger pride in a way, but he could see no other options. Talking to her was out, because she would just tell him to stop being foolish. She just didn't understand. Not only was he seven years older than she was and her Ranger mentor to boot, he was her former science teacher as well. Their relationship just wasn't right. She was young, and she would find someone better suited to her soon enough. Someone like Trent, who he was pretty sure was still single.

He had briefly considered leaving her a note to explain what was going on, but that idea had been quickly discarded. Notes and letters were not the best form of communication, as he well remembered, and he decided to just call her after a couple days. Calls were safest, anyway. She couldn't punch him over the phone.

Tommy made it all the way to the airport, parked his car, and was ten feet away from the entrance when he spotted her. She was planted in front of the entrance with her arms crossed and a scowl that could melt ice on her face. Her clothing consisted of a pair of black sweatpants and a red tank top, and her hair was thrown up into a messy ponytail. She wasn't wearing any make-up, either. He could tell that she had probably raced out the door as soon as she had heard.

He walked over to her and stood in front of her without saying anything. It was strange to see her without her Ranger color somewhere on her body, but he had the feeling that if he pointed it out, she would kick him. He frowned, trying to figure out how she possibly could have known. His plan had been completely flawless.

"Elsa called me," she said quietly, yet he didn't have any trouble hearing. "She wanted to know if I happened to know why you had called her up in the middle of the evening to tell her you were quitting without giving any notice."

He flinched. Make that almost flawless.

"Give me one good reason why I should let you get on that plane to wherever," Kira said, her eyes dark. "And my age and your being my former teacher or Ranger mentor are not good reasons."

"You deserve better," he said, but somehow the words didn't sound as convincing as they had before.

She rolled her eyes. "Good one. Get your ass in the car. I have screaming to do."

......

Considering how swiftly Kira sinks into sleep, Tommy figures it's been a while since she got a good night's sleep. He knows that when you're on active duty, you have to be ready at a moment's notice. There is no peace, and it's even worse when you're just filling in for someone. Then, you don't even know the villain's pattern of attack. When they had battled Mesogog, Kira had had some idea of when he would and wouldn't attack. Of course, villains are never completely see-through anyway, but the Overdrive Rangers don't even have that luxury. There are too many enemies for that, so Kira had been running on the blind.

He glances down at the sleeping girl and smiles. Her head rests against his chest, one hand cushioning his cheek, and the other arm loosely wrapped around him. Her mouth is open slightly and her breathing is deep and regular. His hand brushed against her soft hair and gently strokes it once, then trails down to her waist and pulls her closer to him.

To say Tommy had not been worried while she was gone would be a lie. From the second he had found the note, fear followed him. Because, he knows exactly how strong Kira is. Out of the team, Trent has overcome the most. Ethan has grown the most. Conner has the most power. But there is no doubt that Kira is the strongest. She has to be. The power in a Ranger team traditionally went to the males, while the girls were meant to be back-up. To be their equals, girls have always had to work the most and train the hardest.

Unlike the others, and like so many female Rangers before her, Kira had not become a Ranger because she was strong. It was being a Ranger that made her strong.

Even knowing this hasn't help Tommy's mind while she was gone. Because while good always triumphed over evil, there was always that small chance. That chance that something would happen and Kira would be wounded or worse. That chance that the Rangers would not be strong enough. He knows from experience that the chances of that happening are very, very slim, but he has gone through too much to no doubt that it would always turn out okay.

Because it's all about the costs. People always talk about how amazing and wonderful it is to be a Ranger: to have the glory and power that comes from it. But Tommy finds it rather amusing that no one ever mentions the damage and pain that comes with the power. He suspects that's why Zordon choose teenagers in the first place. Old enough to fight, young enough to not understand what you were giving up.

Being a Ranger means you don't get a normal life. You have to sacrifice any friendships outside of the team. Relationships with families suffer and sometimes are severed completely. Your school grades or work rate plummets. And even after all of the fighting is finished, a Ranger rarely finds peace.

It had taken Tommy a long time after his retirement from the Turbo team to stop waking up to nightmares about the destruction of Earth. It had taken him even longer to accept that there was simply nothing else he could do. But it wasn't until he went with the other Red Rangers to destroy the remains of the Machine Empire, did he finally understand why so many branches of Rangers existed. He had gotten so addicted to the rush, to the ability to stand up and help others, that he had forgotten what they were fighting for.

The title of Power Ranger meant that you fought for peace, for the chance to have a normal life for everyone, including yourself. But if you never experienced that normal life, than you could not fight for it. If you forgot what it was like, you couldn't protect it. Just like if you forgot what it's like to fight for it, you can't enjoy a normal life.

There's a slight shift beside him, stirring him out of his thoughts, and he looks down to see warm hazel eyes staring back at him. He smiles down at her and she grins back in that way that makes a hand squeeze very tightly around his heart.

"Hey," she says.

"Hey, yourself," he responds. He's anxious to ask about her mission, but he can tell she's not ready to talk. "Ready to get up?" he asks instead.

"No," she says, burying her face in his shirt. "Can't we stay like this forever?"

He chuckles. "Not forever, but for a while, sure," he says, kissing the top of her head.

She smiles again him and whispers, "I love you."

His heart skips a beat when she speaks, and he realizes how much he missed the sound of those words. "I love you, too," he says, his voice slightly choked.

He was wrong. It wasn't about costs, it was about balance. The balance between being a Ranger and being a normal human was very delicate. Tommy has crossed that line many times in his life, but each time, someone was there to pull him back. Perhaps that is why Ranger teams are more like families. They are a team, a group that can depend on each other when they're in trouble. There are many branches of the Ranger team, but each one is closer than anyone can imagine. It's how being a Ranger is bearable.

After all, the only way for any Ranger to have a shred of normalcy is for the burden to be passed onto someone else. It's not fair, and it's not right, but he's grateful anyway. Particularly then, when he's lying beside the woman he loves, and she's cuddling up as close to him as she can get. He wonders if she is grateful, wants to ask, but this is something else that will remain unspoken between them.

Her body moves against him a little and her face appears between the folds of his shirt. She's smiling a little, her expression a little rueful, as if there's something she suddenly remembers. He can't help giving her a surprised look, having thought she was asleep. Her smile grows and she arches her slender form, reaching up to kiss him softly. He has missed those lips and responds eagerly.

Kira draws away before anything else can happen. Her hand touches his cheek, gently tracing the contours of his face. "I'm not bored anymore," she whispers, the ends of her hair tickling his neck. Her voice cracks for a second, but smoothes out so quickly he wonders if he imagined it. "I won't be bored again."

He reaches up, pulls her down against him, resting his head on top of her hair. It smells sweet and he closes his eyes, breathing in her scent. She fits in his arms so perfectly, like a completed puzzle. Only through fighting as a Ranger has he come to realize and value what he has when he holds Kira in his arms. From the way her hands are clutching at his arms, he thinks she now knows the same.

Tell her we love her
Tell her she's wanted
One more thing God
Tell her please come home
Please come home

The choice is yours alone now
Tell me how this story ends

She Walked Away – Barlow Girls


Note: This fic started as something completely different, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided the story needed to be told. The glory side of being a Ranger is always shown so brightly, and they're always willing to go back and fight ("Once a ranger, always a ranger"), but I don't think people ever consider the darker side of the story. Nobody ever thinks about WHY the Rangers really fight. There is so much more to being a Ranger than saving the world in bad spandex.

Thanks to Chibi for Beta-ing, even though she would have much rather been writing her story.