Power Rangers S.P.D. with reference to Rangers from other seasons.
(Bright Skies Universe)
Characters: Jack Landers and Keri Johnson
Pairings: Sky/Jack, T.J./OC
Disclaimer: I want to own the Power Rangers, so I can make it make sense, and appease confused fans everywhere. But all I have are pretty-shiny toys ... -Sniffles-
Summary: Jack finds himself confronted over a glass of water, and forced to deal with a family member he's not ready to have.
Author's Notes: Love to phantomblue for beta work, and encouraging me both to post this, and turn it into a mini-series.
Fish Talk: Jack and Keri
"Stupid piece of - " He slammed a hand against the food synthesizer. Every since Sophie had arrived, it had been showing extreme prejudice in who it was willing to work for - namely anyone that wasn't B Squad. "I just want some water!"
A hand reached past him, pressing a series of buttons that received the water he'd been fighting for. Then it promptly stole the drink and took it for its own.
"Hey!" He turned to glare, and found himself staring at none other than Keri Johnson.
She regarded him coolly, her eyes never leaving his as she took a long, slow sip of his water.
"That's mine," he said at last, feeling stupid.
She shrugged and handed it back, moving around him to the synthesizer. "Whatever."
He watched her out of the corner of his eye for a moment as she entered a code he wasn't familiar with that produced a mug of something that clinked as she took it. He looked back down at his water as she turned, and scowled. She'd left him half of it. "Thanks," he grumbled irritably.
She rolled her eyes at him. "Have some of mine then, you big baby."
He accepted her mug when she offered it, ignoring the way she watched him as he took a long drink. It was pleasantly spiced, and he took a moment to savor the unfamiliar flavor. "Not bad," he murmured, more to himself than her. "Hey, what's the code for this? I think I want some." He glanced up to find her looking amused. "What?"
"That's a spiced cider from Gannos. It's the spiciest drink S.P.D. is willing to program into the synthesizers," she informed him. She shook her head, smirking faintly. "I've never met anyone that could drink it who didn't have Gannosian blood in them."
He stiffened, shoving the mug back at her abruptly. "Well, apparently I do," he muttered crankily, grabbing his water.
There was a long silence as they sipped at their drinks and studiously avoided looking at one another.
His eyes lingered on the fish tank in the corner of the common room, and the single black fish swimming in it. He wondered absently why there was only one fish. Did someone accidentally kill off the others of something? Probably Boom, he decided after a moment. Maybe Bridge, but most likely Boom.
He started at the sudden voice, nearly spilling his water. "What?" he asked, blinking at Keri.
"Zordon," she repeated. She nodded towards the tank. "The fish. His name is Zordon. He's sort of a tradition around here."
He raised his eyebrows at her.
"I'm serious. When they first started up S.P.D., The Happy People decided that the Squad Common Room needed some life to it. So, they got a fish." Her eyes were distant as she watched the fish swimming around. "Uncle Zhane named it Zordon, and said that he'd always be watching over us. So over the years, there's always been a fish in that tank, and it's always named Zordon."
Zordon ... He searched his memory for a moment. Zordon was ... Wasn't he in the S.P.D. Handbook somewhere or something?
"Zordon mentored the first four Ranger teams on Earth. He eventually sacrificed his life in the name of good. If it wasn't for him, a lot of people would have died." Keri informed him quietly. "Dad being one of them."
His stomach clenched at another reminder of the very thing he'd been carefully avoiding for weeks now. "Oh," he said finally. "Thanks for the explanation."
He glanced down at his cup and realized it was empty, going to return it with a sigh.
"Do you really hate us that much?"
He stopped. "What?"
Turning around was a mistake; Keri was staring at him with an angry expression and suspiciously shiny eyes. "Do you hate us that much?" she repeated. "We didn't find you fast enough, so now you won't even acknowledge us? Is that it? Or do you just want to be someone else now? Being a Johnson isn't enough for you? What? What is it?!"
"Whoa, stop right there!" he interrupted, holding up a hand. "Look, I don't even know you people. How am I supposed to miss someone I don't even know?"
She flinched slightly. "So you forgot about us completely?"
He nodded reluctantly, and her eyes flashed. "So it doesn't matter that we want you home. You don't know who we are, so you don't have to care, is that it?"
"What is your problem?" he demanded.
"I want my brother back!" she shouted at him.
He froze as a lone tear slipped down her cheek. His heart felt like it was being squeezed for some reason. "Keri ... Keri, don't ... Don't cry," he pleaded weakly.
"I'm not crying," she snapped back, sniffling slightly. "I don't cry."
He sighed, his anger and frustration fading at the look on her face. He stepped closer despite of himself, reaching out to brush one of the tears away. "Then you've got a serious leakage problem," he told her quietly. "You should have that looked at."
She rubbed at her eyes, looking away. "I'm the Red Silver Star Ranger," she said at last, her voice sounding firmer than it had a moment ago. "I don't cry."
"Then you're stronger than me," he returned simply. He didn't know why, but he suddenly felt the need to share something with her that he'd never admitted to anyone before. Except Z, but she didn't count. "I cry all the time. I cried the day after I became S.P.D. Red, because I was stuck in some strange place with a morpher I barely knew how to use, and I was responsible for people I didn't even know, and it terrified me. I cried the day my team didn't want me anymore, when I realized for the first time that I wanted them to want me. I cried the day I almost killed my boyfriend because I couldn't tell the difference between him and someone else." He hesitated, because this was something even Z didn't know. "I cried the day I found out the only sister I've ever known found her real family because she didn't need me anymore, and then I cried again when I found out I had a family all along, and no one ever bothered to tell me about it."
There was silence, broken at last by another quiet sniffle.
"I heard Mama cry once." She spoke quietly, almost hesitantly. "I wasn't supposed to be up, but I saw her standing in her room once day, and she was just ... crying. And eventually I realized she was looking at a picture I hadn't seen before. And that night, I saw Daddy cry when he was out watching the stars, after Mama said she was going to bed." She shook her head. "I never told either of them I knew." She looked up at him finally, and another tear made its way down her cheek. "I don't understand ... Why would you let us suffer like that? You're alive, after all these years of searching, and you don't even want to know who they are? Do you know how cruel that is?"
"Keri ... " He faltered, swallowing hard to try and get his voice under control. "I'm sorry. I really am. But you're not thinking about this from my point of view, either."
Another hand scrubbed at her nose. "How's that?"
He sighed again, resisting the urge to rub his forehead. "The first memory I have," he began slowly, keeping his eyes on the floor, "Is sleeping in a cardboard box. I don't know how I got there, or why. I just knew that I was cold, and hungry, and I was alone. I spent more years like that than I can remember, because I didn't even know how to count them. When Mama Danny found me and took me in, I was so sick and underfed he told me later he was amazed I was still alive. He had to home school me because I barely knew how to read. And I couldn't understand why he'd get upset if I didn't show up every night for dinner. I couldn't understand why he even cared, because no one ever had, and it scared me.
"You know, the only person I've ever completely trusted is Z. She's been there for me through everything - when I needed help, she was there even when Mama Danny wasn't. We looked out for each other, had each other's back. And eventually it got to be more than that. She was the only person I loved. And she and Mama Danny and Papa Max were the only reasons I knew what love was.
"In the seven months that I've been at S.P.D., people are always shoving in my face that I don't know what I'm doing, or trying to take something away from me. All I've had is Z, and my squad. And sometimes I'm not even sure if that's enough to keep me here. And then ... " He shook his head, clenching his fists as his eyes burned for what had to be the fifth time since he'd learned the truth. "I find out that all these people who have said they're here for me if I need anything, even the people I thought were my friends, knew things about me that I've never had the chance to know. They know my birthday. How old I am. Who my parents are. Why the heck I woke up in a dang cardboard box and can't remember why!"
He was shaking, he noticed vaguely. He was shaking, but he didn't care. Because he was angry, and he was hurt, and everyone kept expecting things of him he didn't know how to give.
"You say you want your brother back," he said at last, keeping his voice carefully controlled. "But I don't even know who I am, Keri. I'm not sure if I ever have. Whoever you've been looking for all this time ... he isn't me."
There was a long silence.
At last he took a deep breath, heading for the door. He probably shouldn't have told her all that. He didn't even know if she'd understood any of it. But it was all he could give her. It was all he knew how to give her.
A hand caught his arm, and something settled against his back.
"I was too young to remember the day I lost my brother," Keri said softly. "I was only three years old. I have nightmares sometimes about people that look like cats, and prison bars, and screaming for someone who never comes. I wake up in tears, and I can never explain why. All I know is that I need something that isn't there."
"You can't have that with me," he murmured back.
Arms came up to squeeze him almost tentatively. "You say that, but somehow I feel like I already do."
He couldn't blame her for that. He didn't know this girl, and he wasn't completely sure if he wanted to, but just seeing her in tears had tugged at his heart in a way only Z had managed to do. He wasn't in the market for another sister; the one he had was trouble enough. And he definitely wasn't looking for a family outside of the people he fought beside every day.
But then ... he hadn't been looking to become a Power Ranger the day he'd gotten arrested by a hot, uptight blond and his slightly nicer companions.
"I can't promise you anything," he sighed finally, even as his hand came up to settle over one of hers.
"I'm not asking for promises," she returned. "I'm asking to know you."
He closed his eyes, wishing he didn't feel like he was making one of the biggest mistakes of his life as he surrendered to the inevitable. "Okay," he whispered at last. "I'll try."
She snuggled against his back, and he battled between the urges to break free and run, or turn around and hold her. "Me, too. I'll try, too."