Most of the time Mike would get annoyed with his roommate for waking up so early; while he always tried to snag extra sleep, Richard always got up at what was to Mike the crack of dawn. Never mind that that the green ranger had classes at 8:00, he would sleep in as late as possible before dashing across the campus grounds to make it to his early morning science.

However, on a particular Friday morning, Mike was appreciative of Richard's awakening. If he had tried to sleep in as late as usual, he would have missed Mia's call.

Mike had been lying in bed, just barely closing his eyes from the noise that had roused him when his phone went off. A second earlier and the phone would've gone spiraling to the floor from Mike's outstretched hand, but now he was awake enough to sit up, his sheets twisted about him, and fumbling for the phone before finally grabbing it and answering the call.

"He…." He yawned. "Hello?"

"Hi Mike!" a perky voice from the other end. It was familiar, but startled Mike a bit.

"Mia?"

He had been expecting to see her later that day, but certainly not at 7 in the morning. That weekend, he, along with all of the other Samurai rangers, had been planning to meet up at Emily's house, where she and Jayden would already be, and then go to Paranorma City to just be together. Mia had been going to culinary school, but had been staying with Kevin for a little bit. The two of them were supposed to pick Mike up from college- not being in possession of a car, he didn't particularly want to walk to the bus station.

Which, as he discovered a few minutes later, he would have to do regardless.

"So, Mike, how's college been?" Mia asked warmly after hearing his confused response. The best her cheerful voice did, though, was prompt Mike to rise from bed.

"Mia, it's way too early for you to be sounding so upbeat…" Mike groaned. He flipped on the lights Richard had so courteously flipped off en route to the bathroom a few minutes ago. The bright lights were blinding, but at least it helped Mike wake up and sound not so groggy over the phone. And it illuminated the messy dorm room, so Mike didn't trip in the middle of the conversation.

"Okay, I know you're not a morning person, so I'll make it quick." Mia compromised. "I know Kevin and I were supposed to pick you up today to drive to Emily's, but we can't. I'm really sorry! Something came up!"

"What?" Mike's mind processed the thought. He'd have to walk to the bus station anyway- crap. And, of course, why Mia and Kevin were going back on their plans… "What came up? You really consider going on one last romantic date with Kevin before being stuck with us lot is more important than picking up, if we're considering you the big sister of the team, your car-less little brother and driving him to a reunion of friends?"

"No, no, definitely not!" Mia exclaimed. "No- actually, it's a surprise. I'm really sorry, Mike, and Kevin is too. You'll be able to make it to the bus station, right?"

"Yeah…" Mike responded.

"Okay, that's great. Don't worry, part of it is that I have to buy ingredients and make a really special dinner for everyone!"

Mike could almost feel last night's cold pizza coming up. "Um, Mia, you really don't have to. I mean, if you have another surprise, or something, then I'm sure we can order food, or go out, or something…"

"No, I've got it down. I've been to culinary school, remember?" Mia replied. Mike figured that maybe after a few months at school, her cooking had improved a bit. It didn't hurt to hope, at least.

"Well, you probably have early classes, so I'll leave it at that. Once again, I'm really sorry! See you later Mike- it was really good talking to you,"

"Nice talking to you too," Mike agreed, before hearing the click on the end of the line. Dropping the cell phone on his bed, Mike let out another enormous yawn. So he'd have to walk to the bus station and sit on a bus all the way to Emily's house.

That wasn't really the problem. The walk wasn't exactly that far, and it wasn't like Mike didn't have money to spare for the bus fare- he did have a job. He didn't know exactly what prevented Mia and Kevin from picking him up, but he was almost certain that they surrounded the blue ranger proposing to the pink, or something like that.

And that wasn't a bad thing. Heck, if that were the case, Mike was thrilled for the two of them, as he'd seen it coming. But- and even Mike knew this was selfish- it also showed how easily they were moving on, starting a new life and slipping easily into it.

With Mike, that wasn't exactly the case. He had been running in place, locked in a fixed position. The tumble from Samurai life into college had been a hard, rough one, and moving onto to solid relationships beyond what he had with the other rangers would be just as tumultuous.

Of course, if those two were getting in engaged- well, a certain red ranger and a certain yellow ranger wouldn't be far behind, Mike could imagine. The universe seemed to mock him with the fact that bright yellow and red were the first colors he saw, two of Richard's shirts on the floor, presenting themselves in front of him side-by-side. That was simply the universe spiting him. Seriously.

But of course, that wasn't a problem for Mike either- if Emily and Jayden married, fine! And Lauren and Antonio- what the heck? He had a life outside of past injuries!

A life of eight o'clock classes, small dorm rooms (thank goodness he had gotten over claustrophobia) feeling bad for making his mom pay for his college expenses since he couldn't get a scholarship, an upcoming frantic sprint across the campus- Mike had a life, one that suited him fine.

The green Samurai hustled into the back of his first class of the day, Biology. It was held in an auditorium to accommodate the large number of students, and Mike strained his ears to listen to the speaker. It was difficult, considering his position.

He swung his bag over to his shoulder as he shifted to one foot to another. As he did that, he heard an exclamation of "Ow!" behind him, and turned around to see what he had managed to hit that morning.

Behind him was a girl with dark brown hair, a shade close to black and brown eyes. She was dressed in black jeans and a white t-shirt that was mainly obscured by a black jacket. She was cute, but Mike's mind couldn't come up with anything intelligent to say to her after hitting her with his bag, and any attempts he had tried before had failed miserably. She also looked indignant and sleep-deprived; as Mike himself was (maybe his need for more sleep came from staying way too late playing video games- he'd never confess to it, though).

"I'm sorry," Mike sighed. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm okay," the girl replied. Mike began to breathe a sigh of relief, until she added, "Can't you even look behind you when you're swinging all your crap around?"

"Excuse me?" Mike said, any semblance of a flirtatious thought gone from his head. "A little testy in the morning, aren't you? I apologized!"

"Testy?" the girl repeated, a bit red in the face as she rubbed her head. Mike could've sworn he hadn't hit her that hard. "You're the one who's so dazed you hit me in the head! What should I say, Mr. Morning Guy- thanks?"

"A simple 'yes, I'm all right' would suffice- and it did!" Mike replied, now facing the girl and not paying attention to any glances they were getting.

"'Yes, I'm all right,'" the girl said, half-mockingly, although Mike couldn't really tell.

The two of them averted their eyes from each other as an awkward silence fell over them. Finally, Mike turned towards the girl. She'd ticked him off, that was for sure, but for some reason her comments both stung and bounced off of him. It felt half-hearted, like friendly fights with one of the fellow Samurai.

"I'm Mike," he finally said as they both listened to the Biology lecture.

"I'm Abby," she replied back. "And before you say anything, I'm sorry, but I don't take kindly to being hit by things early in the morning by fellow freshmen, so if you could-…"

"Excuse me, could you two please be quiet?" a voice asked sharply from behind them.

"Yes, sorry," Abby replied. Mike wanted to gape at that, but instead thought to himself, I can't really tell how she acts on a daily basis…but for some reason she was polite to him and not to me…oh, screw it. Why is it that in college I still don't get girls? Oh, right, because no one does.

Still, Mike found himself talking to Abby throughout the lecture- she was full of witty remarks or something sarcastic to say. Even though their initial meeting had been a disaster, and they could still probably find more pointless things to disagree on, Mike couldn't disregard the feeling of happiness when Abby wrote down her number for him, and vice-versa.

"We'll always have something to talk about," Abby had told him offhandedly. "or at least, it seems that way with you."

From the moment Mia had told him he'd have to go to Emily's on his own, Mike thought there wouldn't be much to look forward to that day, at least not until he actually got to said house, but a several numbers had managed to make it all the better.

Mike approached the door to Emily's house, finishing the candy bar that was in his hand, one of several he had eaten on his bus trip. The school day had finally ended, and he'd packed his things for the weekend in quick succession before heading for the bus stop, not even minding the walk- well, not really. Now that he was in front of the door to the house, Mike steeled himself. He'd talked to each member of the team many times since he'd gone to college, emailed them too, but now that he was about to be confronted with them, he wasn't really sure what to expect.

With Emily, he'd probably get her gentle affection and questions about everything concerning college, and her willingness to listen. It hurt a little, to think about it, so Mike imagined everyone else. It'd be good to see Jayden again- even though their personalities had clashed, Mike still enjoyed being around the red ranger. As for Antonio- would there be a prank? Lauren- oh God, Lauren, he didn't even know what to say to her. Kevin and Mia wouldn't be there yet, he was pretty sure. Still, there'd be bad cooking and energetic friendliness from Mia and teasing from Mike, to Kevin, just like the old days.

Except not quite.

Mike didn't want to stand around all day on Emily's porch, though, so with his bag in one hand, he knocked on the door.

A few moments passed, and then it was flung open. And then it all came in, all at once. Right in front of Mike was Emily, with her blond hair and bright eyes and caring smile, saying his name warmly and excitedly. Right in front of him was everything he had ever loved, and all the flaws too, which he'd accepted. The nostalgia nearly choked him, but Mike managed to smile, which gradually grew larger. Anything sad of his never stayed that way for long in the presence of Emily.

Then Jayden appeared behind her. Emily had apparently led him, by hand, all the way down the hall to come greet him at the door. For a split second, Mike smiled and returned Jayden's 'hey' with complete satisfaction because Emily looked impossibly happy at that moment, and it was kind of hard for resentment to wedge its way into Mike.

But it did. The second passed, and Mike suddenly felt a coldness, traveling through up his spine and into his mind. It froze his smile in place, but etched a small trace of jealousy into his heart at the sign of those entwined hands.

What was the matter with him? He was done with it; he'd given Emily up and was fine with it. Mike felt slightly disgusted with himself. Especially at how the envy towards those special shared smiles and hands grasped so tightly still remained.

As Emily invited Mike inside, asking questions and talking about what had changed since they had seen each other last, Mike cast one last glance over his shoulder. The day was bright and clear outside, but a looming tree still cast a shadow. It looked…thick and oily, and generally not at all like a shadow. The tree's branches seemed to stretch, and the shadow on the ground seemed to do the same, each arm reaching out and nearly winding around Mike's ankle.

And then the door closed shut, blocking Mike off from the shadow, but not leaving him completely reassured.