It gets a little weird around the end as it kind of got away from me- but I needed something to balance the story out. And I figure, since Wes could drop some pretty cheesy lines, Alex could manage the same thing once in awhile. But he'd detest it.

----

"Fall in line."

The soon to depart Rangers looked at Alex, surprised to see him there. True, he had been making himself scarce outside of the preparatory plans for this mission, but if he missed saying goodbye to any of them, he'd never forgive himself.

And that's what it was. Goodbye.

One by one the Rangers fell into step beside one another, straight, shoulders square, facing dead ahead, though he could see their eyes upon him. For some reason Alex felt like smirking. Clasping behind his back, he issued another command. "At ease."

The five of them shifted in unison, hands behind their backs, legs spread at a comfortable distance, and now they were looking fully at him.

Alex stopped before Trip first, as he was the closest one in line. The young Xybrian, no more than sixteen in human years, had always impressed Alex with his quick mind. Though all Xybrians were gifted with the power of telepathy and foresight, Trip's intellectual prowess wasn't always that common among any being, alien or human. "Trip. I'm sure the tech labs and the High Aq will miss your skills."

Trip smiled, and Alex got the eerie feeling he usually got whenever a Xybrian peered into his mind. "I know. Sometimes it can be hard to find the right thing to say. I'll miss you too, Alex."

Ghosting a smile, Alex laid a hand on Trip's head, a show of affection that just seemed to come naturally. Moving on, he stopped again in front of Lucas. Two people stood before one another that, for some reason, simply rubbed each other the wrong way, no matter the situation. Despite that, Alex always admired Lucas for his perceptiveness, even if everything else about the man annoyed the hell out of him. "Did you ever wonder why we never could manage a friendship?"

"No," Lucas admitted, and his entire stance seemed to smirk at Alex. Lucas surprised Alex by suddenly giving him a friendly thump on the shoulder. "Stay cool."

Unsure as to whether or not he had been complimented or insulted, Alex dismissed Lucas's words for future rumination as he stopped next in front of Marcus. "Are you sure you're willing to do this?"

"Of course. I refuse to let some crusty old ideas scare me out of anything. Besides," he added, looking somewhat mischievous, "in a way, it hasn't even happened yet. I feel optimistic."

Alex was smiling now. "First rule of being a Ranger. Never give up." Alex held up his hand aloft towards Marcus, forearm straight, elbow down, and Marcus mirrored the gesture, gripping Alex's hand. A common show of comradery between Rangers, dating back to the time of the first settlements on KO-35.

Releasing Marcus, Alex paused before Katie. "And are you ready for this?" he asked.

"Yes sir," Katie replied loftily. "It's still hard, but it's also slightly easier this time, because I got to say my goodbyes. The best way I can look at it is if I realize that by going back, I'll assure my family a future."

"I know how you feel," Alex admitted. "I'll miss you, Katie." Somehow it was easier to admit to her than anyone else.

Smiling in a Trip-like fashion, suddenly Katie looked crushed. "I'll miss you too." Katie then did something she had never done to Alex before, ever. She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. Alex, unprepared for any display of affection- especially from one such as Katie- yelped like a puppy. He could almost hear his spine being crushed. He fought to pull his arms up so he could push at her, but his muscles protested, his bones groaned and his organs squished. Alex wheezed. "Katie!"

"Oops!" Katie backed off. "Sorry."

Finally, after assuring Katie it was all right, Alex had reached Jen. He was silent, simply gazing at her. She offered him a shaky smile.

"I feel like I have so much to make up for."

"No, you don't," Jen said earnestly. "It's not your fault that any of this happened. It's not you; it's me."

"Well, there's a line I'm glad I didn't receive." Alex reached out, coaxing her to give up her hands from behind her back and held them together. "You still mean a lot to me."

Jen nodded. "I never stopped caring about you. It's just... different now."

"I know." Alex was silent a moment. "Be good to him."

Blinking at this, Jen took a little time to reply. "I will."

Alex paused again, staring down at their hands. Once upon a time, he wouldn't have been able to tell whose were whose. Now he saw the differences, from the length of the fingers to the gradual changes in skin tone.

Looking back up, Alex leaned forward and kissed Jen-

...on the cheek.

Drawing back, he regarded her expression. Shock, surprise... and nothing. Alex relinquished her hands. "Goodbye Jen."

Eyes watering, Jen didn't break her gaze. "Goodbye Alex."

Standing back from the five Rangers, Alex regarded them. "You five are the best Rangers I have had the pleasure of working with. Never forget that. Good luck to-"

A commotion in the corridor stopped Alex short and drew his and the others' attention. Shouts of "Stop her!" echoed throughout the base, clashing with the sound of several people running.

"Lucas!" Nadira burst into the room, huffing, looking almost wild. The poofy white faux-fur coat trailing to the floor only sort of covering her pink spangled mini-dress and high heeled black knee boots didn't help the appearance of sanity, either. Searching the room, her eyes lit on the startled blue Ranger and she hurled herself at him.

She rocketed into Lucas, hitting him dead on and clutching, causing him to stumble back and nearly lose his balance. Wrapping his arms around the oddly dressed girl, Lucas barely managed to keep them from crashing to the ground. "Nadira! What're you doing here?"

Suddenly, two security officers burst into the room, breathing hard and clearly annoyed. "Lieutenant! She doesn't have clearance!" one of them shouted through pants.

The other one seemed more annoyed than the first, perhaps feeling stupid for being outrun by a girl- in heels, no less. "And she's just a crimina-"

"Hey," Lucas said, looking more than a little threatening, holding tight to a weeping Nadira. "Watch it."

"You don't-" Trip began.

"What do you think-" Katie blazed.

"She isn't-" Jen started.

"Nadira? Isn't she-" Marcus contemplated.

"She's fine," Alex stated, managing to silence them all. He turned to the two officers and nodded once at them. "You are dismissed." The officers stared at him, appalled. Alex narrowed his eyes. "I gave you an order." At that they stiffened, glared at Nadira and shoved off, grumbling.

Lucas tilted Nadira's chin up. "What's wrong? I sa-"

"How can I just let you leave?" Nadira demanded, voice shrill and emotional. "You'll leave, and I'll never see you again!" Trip, Katie, Jen, Marcus and even Alex watched the scene unfolding before them, all of them both surprised and confused.

"I explained to you-"

"I know you did! That doesn't mean I have to accept it!" Nadira said, countering his unfinished statement. "How can this be so easy for you? I'll-"

"But it's not easy," Lucas said quietly. "It's probably the most difficult thing I've ever done."

"Then don't," Nadira replied, just as quietly. "Stay. Please."

"Nadira..." Lucas gazed at Nadira, expression pained. "I can't. You know that."

"I don't know what to do anymore..."

Lucas seemed to whisper something to Nadira. Nadira jerked back, eyes wide and her lips trembled as Lucas returned her gaze solemnly.

Nothing they had seen and heard, however, could have prepared any of the Rangers in the room for what happened next. Letting out a choked sob, Nadira leaned up and kissed Lucas full on the mouth. Not only did Lucas accept this, but he also closed his eyes and realigned himself to fit against Nadira better.

Quiet pandemonium broke out around the two lovebirds. Trip threw up his arms in a gesture that screamed "Since WHEN?" Katie shrugged wildly and looked at Jen. Jen stared at Katie and made faces. Marcus looked back and forth, trying to figure out why everyone was freaking out. Katie turned back to Trip, and they all turned to Alex as if he might know, but he was simply displaying signs of shock.

When the kiss finally broke- and this took some time- Nadira looked at Lucas tearfully. "I still don't understand why you can't stay-"

"He can't stay," Alex broke in, coming up behind Nadira as she and Lucas seperated, startled and gripping each other's hands, "because he has a mission. I'm sure he's explained it to you, and I think I now know why you're so... reluctant to let him go. It's very difficult to leave anyone behind, but sometimes you have to."

"...Alex is right," Jen said softly, wrapping her arms around herself. "Sometimes you have to let go."

"Think of it more as him protecting a future that assures you two... being... together," Katie added.

Trip jumped on the bandwagon as well. "If he never went back, none of this might have happened, and then where would you be?"

"As long as you keep him in your memory, you'll never be apart," Alex finished.

Nadira looked around at everyone before returning her attention to Lucas. "You never put it like that."

"I told you it was hard," Lucas said defensively. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay." Nadira managed to force a small smile.

"We'll miss you too," Trip said.

"Oh, Trip!" Nadira broke away from Lucas and hugged the Xybrian. "I'll miss you too." Katie, unable to stand it, rushed over to join the hug.

When they disentangled, Nadira looked at Jen. Raising her eyebrows, Jen considered her options and shrugged. "Just this once," she said, and she walked over and hugged Nadira too.

Stepping back from Jen afterwards and patting a slightly confused Marcus on the head like one might when reassuring a small child, Nadira turned back to Lucas and hugged him again, tightly, which he returned no less tightly. Just as everyone started thinking they might actually have to pry the two apart, they finally let go of each other.

"Goodbye Lucas."

Lucas stroked her cheek. "Goodbye Nadira."

Alex managed to pull Nadira back beside him. Turning his full attention to the others, he tried to finish his farewell speech, but could not for the life of him remember where he had left off. So instead he gave them one final word. "Godspeed." Snapping to attention, he saluted them as Nadira looked on. Trip, Lucas, Marcus, Katie and Jen threw up their own salutes in response.

----

Time ship launch. Alex and Nadira watched it from afar, watching as the massive mecha swung its metallic fist and drove it down the tarmac into the portal like a spike.

And so it ended, making way for newer things. Strange that he felt relieved. Somewhere, he had finally accepted the fact that his love had become unrequited.

As the time ship flew into the portal and fell into the past, Nadira spoke. "They're gone."

"Not entirely," Alex replied. "They're out there, somewhere."

Nadira turned and gave Alex an odd look, and something seemed to spark in her eyes. Smiling briefly, Nadira turned to consider the time portal for a moment longer before leaving the observation deck.

As she left, Alex felt the night thickening around him, and the hum and flicker of the city around him became like the crash of waves on a shore.

Had he been another man, he might have been waxing poetic about the beauty of a sacred and lost love. But Alex wasn't a poet. He was a realist. He was a soldier.

Drawing himself up straight, Alex turned away from the white noise and flickering lights and headed back inside Headquarters.

He had a future to protect, after all.