Author's Note: This is one of my favorite episodes, but I always felt like they missed out on a crucial Shayla/Merrick moment. It was clear that he was rushing to see her, but we never got to see him with her! So, hopefully, this can fill the void for Merrick/Shayla fans like me. This takes place right after Cole had told Merrick that Shayla has fallen asleep. Enjoy!

"Princess Shayla is asleep."

Merrick was sprinting—pushing his body as hard as he could for as long as he could. He couldn't allow himself a moment of rest until he reached his destination. There was no time to contemplate what he would do when he actually got to the Animarium. He had never been a man with a plan and this crisis was no exception to that rule.

"I found her on the Animarium this morning."

How could this be happening? He was Princess Shayla's protector! The wind should've told him that something was wrong with the woman he had sworn to die for. Merrick felt ashamed that he had failed in his duty once again. He was not fit to guard a dog let alone the guardian of the Wild Zords!

"She's asleep again. Like she had been for 3,000 years."

Merrick remembered the last time that the Princess had slept. It was 3,000 years ago when the Warriors and Animus were battling Master Org. Merrick had been charged—as was his duty—to safely put the Princess on the Animarium with the Wild Zords and then wait until it had risen into the sky. The Princess had protested though and was nearly on the verge of crying when Merrick had finally laid her down in her bed, but he knew that her sleeping safely in the sky was the best place for the Princess, regardless of the feelings he felt for her. It had nearly killed him when the island was hidden among the clouds, but knowing that the Princess was safe kept him going through the rest of the battle with Master Org.

He had broken the golden rule of being a guardian warrior—he had fallen in love with his charge. But, how was he supposed to remain professional and stoic when the Princess he was protecting was so full of life and energy? It was impossible! Princess Shayla had this aura about her that made everyone feel important and happy. She was kind and caring and took her duty of protecting the Wild Zords seriously. Merrick would've had to have a heart of stone to not fall in love with her. And yet, he had failed her. He had failed all of the Rangers and Animus. He was a lousy excuse for a Ranger and a pathetic guardian.

He could hear his heartbeat pounding, but didn't let that stop him. Merrick couldn't rest until he saw her. Though he trusted Cole, he didn't want to believe that this had actually happened. He couldn't picture a woman so vibrant and full of life asleep for who knows how long.

"Merrick!"

Alyssa stood up from her chair, clearly startled and Merrick took a few shuddery breaths as he stepped closer. He couldn't see the Princess yet, but Alyssa's eyes were red and puffy from what Merrick assumed was crying.

"Is she . . .?" His voice faded as he failed to form the words he dreaded to say. Alyssa wiped a few remnants of tears from her eyes and stepped aside. Merrick cautiously stepped forward.

"I'm afraid so."

"Princess," As he saw her sleeping face, he felt like he had been punched. All his breath left him and he felt like his lungs were on fire. Pain filled him everywhere and he felt anger boil up within him. Why did this have to happen to her? She deserved so much more than this! "Princess Shayla."

"Without the Wild Zords," Alyssa began cautiously. "There's no reason for her to be awake."

It was a truth that Merrick had never wanted to acknowledge. Animus had taken their Wild Zords because they were undeserving of their power and because of that, they had lost their beloved Princess as well.

"How long?" Merrick questioned somberly as he moved some Princess Shayla's brown hair out of her face. The only consolation that Merrick could think of was that she looked so peaceful. He wondered if she was dreaming about anything. Did she realize that she might not ever wake up again? Or was she slumbering happily, leaving everyone else to suffer in her stead?

"About five hours," Alyssa informed him. "Cole found her this morning—"

"I know." Merrick interjected sharply. He saw Alyssa jump back a bit, frightened by the tone of his voice, but he didn't care. All that mattered was getting Princess Shayla back. He would apologize to Alyssa later.

"Merrick," Alyssa's voice was frightened and full of worry. "Will she wake up?"

It was a question that was on his mind. Without the Wild Zords, she would sleep eternally and Animus had made it pretty clear that he wasn't going to give them back. But, there had to be a way to convince Animus! If not for the Rangers' sake, then for Princess Shayla's!

"We have to get the Wild Zords," Merrick replied quietly. "We do that and she'll be fine."

"But Animus—!" Merrick stood and fought the urge to hold Shayla's hand within his own. It wouldn't be proper. He had told her that he was her guardian and nothing more. It was a lie, but as much as his heart ached, he had more pressing matters to deal with—getting Princess Shayla awake for one.

"I'll talk with him," Merrick assured the Ranger. "Maybe I can get him to change his mind." It was a desperate measure because despite the fact that Animus and Merrick had known each other for many years, once Animus made up his mind, he tended to never change it.

"And if you can't?" Alyssa raised the one fear that Merrick didn't want to hear. If he couldn't get Animus to change his mind, then Shayla would never open her eyes again. He would never go to see the Deer Zord with her and he would never get to hear her laugh or see her smile. He had to get Animus to give them back the Zords, even if it cost Merrick his life. He had to get Shayla awake! "Merrick?" Slowly, ever so slowly, he gently grabbed the Princess' hand and held it within his own. Her skin was so soft and Merrick didn't want to let her go. Quickly, he pressed his lips to her hand in a gentle kiss.

"I will get you awake again, Princess," He told her softly. "I promise."

And then he was gone—sprinting once more. He would succeed because she was counting on him. He would atone for his mistakes and make sure that she awoke to see her precious Rangers and the Wild Zords that she cared so much about.

Or he would die trying.

Author's Note: Review please!