Chapter 1: A Surprise Visitor
In the weeks following their trip to Corinth, Jayden found himself fighting to remember the truth. It was easiest when Antonio left to visit 'friends', intending to come back on Christmas Day to be with the team, barring an emergency. He didn't have to deal with Ji's silent reproach for not swearing Antonio to Shiba House. He tried to remember that they were fighting a war, but the Christmas spirit carried him away, and he forgot, in the quest to cover Mike with bows and bells that not everything was what it seemed.
He forgot what was coming so thoroughly that when someone knocked on the door, he let Emily race to open it, expecting Antonio. Instead, he busied himself with pinning Mike down so that Kevin could tie a red bow off one of the presents around his head. "So these are the famous Samurai Rangers," a sharp, female voice said.
Jayden jerked up, a voice he'd never heard, a face he'd never seen, but he knew. Yes, he knew who this woman was, dressed in a crisp black business suit with a red jacket, not because of the season, but for the color itself. Jayden scrambled to his feet, looking beyond the woman for a brief moment, to see Ji looking shocked, and Emily curious. "Who are you?" Mike asked and Jayden winced.
"This is Mikayla," Ji said, "the Eighteenth Lady of Shiba House."
"Jayden?" Mike asked and Jayden closed his eyes, briefly.
"I presume you have told them nothing," Mikayla said in a sharp voice.
"That is what a secret is," Jayden said, "nothing to be shared." Maybe, a small voice whispered in the back of his mind, maybe she acts so out of nerves. When we are alone, maybe, it will be different.
"During the last rise of Master Xandred," Ji said, "The Red Ranger, Michael of Shiba Clan, saw his family attacked by Nighloks to distract him. Officially, only his youngest child, a son born out of wedlock, survived. Jayden is that child. The truth is that Michael's eldest child, his true born daughter, Mikayla, was smuggled out of the house and under cover of the chaos spirited away until the war was over. He left specific instructions, however. Should Michael fail to stop Xandred at the cost of his own life, Jayden was to be raised openly as the heir to the sealing power and Mikayla would be raised in hiding, that she might be taught the sealing symbol and gain full mastery. It was our hope that we would not have to summon you four until after Mikayla was ready, but Xandred's forces were growing too strong to fast."
"What happens now?" Mike asked.
Jayden regretted the lack of a Samurai Ranger in Mike's life. The others kept silent out of training that Mike had never received. Still, he pulled his Samuraizer out, "Lady Mikayla is the true Red Ranger," he said. "You have all fought honorably and well." He turned and held the Samuraizer out to Mikayla, "I know that you will protect and serve the Lady as well as you have served me."
Mikayla accepted the Samuraizer with an almost regal nod. "I'm sure everyone has training to do," she said. "Jayden, I would speak with you, alone."
"Of course," Jayden said. Now she'll act like a sister, he thought.
He followed his sister down the hall to his room, where they shut the door. "The green ranger has a mouth on him," Mikayla commented, "You've let him speak out of turn often, I presume?"
Jayden blinked, "I," he began, "I guess I have. Mikayla."
"We'll have to fix that," Mikayla said, speaking over him. "And the yellow one, she looked young. I was under the impression that Serena and I were of the same age."
"Serena is ill," Jayden said, "Emily is her younger sister. We have heard that Serena is slowly getting better from Emily, but there is no sign that she will be taking up her duties in the near future."
"Of course," Mikayla replied with a sigh. "The other two, Kevin and Mia, I presume."
"We aren't normally like this," Jayden blurted out, "It's just that it's Christmas and I thought it fair that they be allowed to let loose for a change."
"We see," Mikayla replied. She glanced around the room, "This would be the master's room, is it not?"
"Yes," Jayden said, and then the reason for the question swept over him. "I, uh, I'll get my things moved out. I had no idea you were coming or it would have been taken care of."
"Of course," Mikayla said again. She looked away for a moment then turned, "Jayden, the sixth Samurai, who is he?"
"A friend," Jayden replied, "I met him years ago, and he decided he was going to join us back then. I gave him the Octozord as a present and when he came back, he had his own morpher. Antonio is a loyal and dedicated fighter. We've needed him."
"He is sworn to Shiba House then, good." Mikayla said with a nod.
Jayden couldn't bring himself to explain, to say that Antonio was not sworn to the house, that Antonio would never be sworn to the house. Instead he just bowed his head, "I'll have the room cleared within the hour," he told his sister.
"See that you do," Mikayla replied.
Chapter 2: Gold Returns
Antonio frowned as he walked through the gates at Shiba House. He'd gotten a speeding ticket on his way back from visiting his friends after a low grade anxiety had over taken him. Now actually on the grounds of the Samurai base, he could feel it. Something was wrong. People were tense and unhappy, and as Antonio fingered the earring he had finally managed to replace, he decided not to announce his arrival.
With the familiarity of a childhood spent sneaking through Shiba House and it's ground, he slipped around to the back of the house, frowning as he found footsteps in the snow leading to the jogging path the Rangers used in good weather. None of them was likely to volunteer to run on a snowy Christmas morning, but there were the tracks, unmistakable. Antonio slipped up to the house and inside, careful to make no noise.
Ninja training guided him down the darkened back hallway to Jayden's room, and shock kept him still when he got there.
Jayden was standing by his bed, putting clothes in a backpack. On the bed were a frame, probably with a photo in it, and a small statue that Antonio recognized as something he'd given his friend when they were kids. "Jayden," Antonio finally managed as Jayden put the statue in his bag.
Jayden spun, "Antonio," he replied, "what are you doing here?"
"I just got back," Antonio replied, stepping into Jayden's room and closing the door. "Why are you packing?"
Jayden closed his eyes, and a look of intense pain and vulnerability crossed his face, only to vanish behind an emotionless mask when he opened his eyes. "Mikayla came back," he said.
"Mikayla," Antonio said, "as in your dead sister?" He still remembered Jayden showing him the picture, and telling him the story, back when they were eight.
"She wasn't dead," Jayden replied, "she's been raised in hiding. She's the true Lady of Shiba House, and the Red Ranger. This is her room now."
"What, why?" Antonio asked.
"I'm the decoy," Jayden said in a hollow voice, "the cover. To make it believable, I had to behave in all ways like Lord of Shiba. Now that Mikayla has returned, I am stepping down to take my proper place."
"You grew up in this room," Antonio protested. "We had sleepovers; she can't just take your room!"
"It's not my room," Jayden replied, a hint of desperation in his voice. "It belongs to the head of the clan, which is Mikayla Shiba, not me." He zipped his bag shut and picked it up. "If you'll excuse me, I have to get settled in my new room."
Antonio caught Jayden's arm, "I don't understand," he said. "You're the Red Ranger, you lead the Samurai team."
"No I don't," Jayden replied, stepping back. "Not any more. That's Mikayla's place now. She'll lead the Samurai Rangers and do a better job than I did."
Antonio stared at his friend, taking in the way Jayden wouldn't meet his eyes, the rote way he spoke, and felt chilled at the conclusion. Jayden was in trouble, and Antonio knew no one else would see it. Whatever Mikayla had said or done, whatever had happened, it had hurt Jayden deeply. Emily couldn't fix this, she was too young. Bringing in Dustin or Kira wouldn't help Jayden. Dustin would irritate the Samurai just because of his ninja training and Kira didn't have the connection to the team that Jayden needed.
Antonio caught Jayden's arm, "Jay," he said, and reached out, hesitantly, to get his friend to meet his eyes, "do you trust me?"
Jayden's attempted smile made Antonio's heart ache. Especially when he realized how red Jayden's eyes were. "Of course, Antonio," he said.
"If I asked you to do something, no matter how strange, would you do it?" Antonio asked. "As long as it didn't hurt you or someone else, I mean."
"I think so," Jayden replied, confusion evident in his frown.
"Come stay with me," Antonio said, "get out of Shiba House for a while. It'll go easier on Mikayla if you aren't around for the others to compare her against. We won't be far away, but you can adjust and she can adjust."
Jayden hesitated, then nodded, "Ok," he said, "I think that would work."
"Good," Antonio replied, "let's get the rest of your things and go. We'll tell Ji later."
Jayden lifted the strap of his backpack, "This is all of it. I never kept much in the way of personal items."
The heart ache deepened. "Ok," Antonio said, "My jeep's outside." They made it through Shiba House without meeting anyone, although they heard someone that had to be Mikayla talking at one point.
When they got to Antonio's place, he took Jayden's bag into the spare room, and walked out to find Jayden standing in the middle of the living room, looking utterly lost. "Jay," Antonio began.
A wordless sob came out of Jayden, half choked by his closed lips, "She wouldn't talk to me," Jayden said after a moment. "She, she wouldn't even admit I was her brother. She just…she just showed up, I gave her the morpher, and she didn't even smile. I don't understand. She's my sister, Antonio."
Antonio hissed through his teeth and moved to hug his friend. It wasn't much, probably wasn't even close to the right thing, but Jayden clung to him after a moment. Antonio waited until Jayden relaxed and he said, "You should probably go use your eye drops, Jay, and lay down. I need to make a phone call."
"Ok," Jayden said.
Antonio watched his friend head into the bedroom and headed out on the back porch, where he could stare at the ocean. He speed dialed his favorite number and waited out the rings. "Hello?" A young voice said.
"Hey brat," Antonio said, projecting a smile he didn't feel in his tone, "it's Tony. Let me speak with Mom, ok?"
"Hold please," the little boy said. There was a thud as he dropped the phone and then Antonio could hear him shouting, "Mom! Mom! Tony's on the phone!"
Moments later, the phone was picked up, "Antonio?"
Antonio smiled, "Hi," he said, "how are things down there?"
"You just left this morning, is everything ok?" The woman on the other end asked.
"I may have a speeding ticket," Antonio replied, "and I'm about six minutes away from nobilicide, but other than that, everything's fine."
"So, Jay has an older sister everyone thought was dead," Antonio said, "She's not, by the way. She apparently showed up just before I got back, took Jayden's morpher, and then kicked him out of his room."
"What, why would she do that?"
"I don't really understand it all, but Jay was playing decoy so his sister could learn the symbol to defeat Xandred. The room was part of that, apparently." Antonio sat down on the porch steps, rubbing the back of his neck, "The girl, I haven't met her, but she made him cry. Jay said she didn't even acknowledge him as her brother. I don't know what to do. I got him out of the house, but, what do I do now?"
"You said he doesn't have the morpher anymore?"
"He said he gave it to her," Antonio confirmed. "I'm sorry, but I'll be damned if I follow this girl."
"Then come home, Tony. Bring Jayden and come home. We'll use Epsilon. A few days with us and Jayden will be thinking clearly."
Antonio smiled, sometimes; it was nice to have someone he could lean on. "I'll talk Jayden into it, and let Shiba House know. I have what, three hours?"
"That sounds about right."
"I'll see you then," Antonio said, and hung up the phone. He sat on the porch, thinking about how to talk Jayden into going with him. Finally, he stood up and walked inside. Jayden's door was open, so Antonio didn't hesitate to walk straight in. "Jay," he said, looking around.
Jayden stepped out of the en suite bathroom, eye drops in hand. "Yes, Antonio?"
"I have some people I want you to meet," Antonio said. "You don't have a morpher, and my first commitment is to you. We can leave in three hours, spend a few days, and come back. It'll be good for us. You've never left the city and thirty-six hours wasn't near enough time around my friends."
"I don't know," Jayden began. "I don't want to leave the team alone."
"We won't," Antonio replied. "I'll let Ji know where we're going, and we'll come back. Travel broadens the mind, Jay, come on."
Jayden looked away from Antonio, moving to put the eye drops back in his backpack. After a moment, he turned back, "All right. But you have to promise they'll know where we are."
Antonio smiled tightly, "I promise. They'll know." He gestured, "I'll go right now. A friend is flying up to give us a ride; he'll be here in three hours. You should try to sleep or eat or something. Just relax. Everything's going to be fine now."
Antonio turned away from his friend, mentally running through his plans for the inhabitants of Shiba House. He was a Samurai, a Ranger and a ninja; Shiba House was going to know exactly how he felt about the day's events.
Chapter 3: Red and Gold Explosion
Antonio returned to Shiba House quickly, using his ninja skills to make an undetected visit to a few places before openly walking into the front door. "Hey guys, I'm back!"
Kevin and Mia appeared out of the living room, looking worried, "Antonio, hi, Merry Christmas," Mia said, stepping forward to give him a hug.
"Merry Christmas," Antonio replied, "is everything ok?"
"We were just looking for Jayden," Kevin said.
"I saw him just now," Antonio replied, jerking his thumb over his shoulder. "He walked down to my place for some privacy. I heard about Mikayla. How are you handling it?"
"It's unusual," Kevin said hesitantly.
"If Jayden's ok with this," Mia added, "then I don't see where we have an objection."
"Antonio," Mike said, coming out of the back, followed by Emily.
As if angered by the voices, a woman came out of Jayden's room. She had honey blond hair and was dressed in a red and black business suit. She saw him and her eyes narrowed, as if she was judging him. "Merry Christmas," Antonio said, bumping fists with Mike and hugging Emily. "I heard you've had an interesting day."
"That's one way of putting it," Mike agreed. He turned and stiffened slightly, "Lady Mikayla."
"You are the Gold Samurai," Mikayla said, not even looking at Mike.
"That's what they tell me," Antonio replied, rubbing his earring again.
For a brief moment, he felt something ripple across him and a silver aura lit Mikayla's eyes. "I am sure that your presence among us will be useful." Mikayla said.
Antonio grinned, "That's what Jayden said when I first got here." He made his way through the team and paced slowly towards Mikayla. "I've spent most of my life dreaming of being a Samurai, and when I made my morpher, I knew without a doubt that I was going to come back and find Jayden again. The team, they're like an extended family, which is what my friend says a ranger team should be like." He held out his hand, "My name is Antonio Garcia." Mikayla reached to take Antonio's hand. Antonio moved with all the speed a ninja, fist impacting with Mikayla's cheek and nose and sending her crashing to the ground, "I have never been more ashamed of that dream than I am now." He finished, all cheer gone from his voice.
"Antonio," Kevin said, scandalized.
"Kevin," Antonio replied, even as he stared down at Mikayla, "did you know that Jayden is physically incapable of crying? When he was five years old, Jayden had an accident playing in the park. His tear ducts are damaged to the point that they barely make enough moisture to keep his eyes healthy, much less to cry. He uses eye drops daily to be able to see, and contacts, and he's lucky that's all he needs. He was almost completely blind for nearly a year. Because of that, Jayden can find anything in his room in the dark and navigate most of Shiba House by memory."
"What does that have to do with anything?" Mikayla demanded as she stood up.
"I say this in part because Jayden would have cried if he could have. You drove him to that point, Lady Mikayla. Also, Jayden has had the same room since he left the nursery and he had to give it up today for this woman."
"Jayden knew," Mikayla began.
"He's a human being," Antonio snapped, his temper rising. "He has feelings and a heart and this is his home. More than that, Shiba House is Jayden's world. He doesn't remember living anywhere else. Because of his duty, Jayden has allowed himself few dreams and fantasies, besides the ones of seeing me again; meeting you was a favorite of his. When we were kids together, Jayden used to make up these stories about meeting his sister. He always described her as pretty, smart, and kind. All I can really say is that he was right, you are pretty." He stepped clear of the encircling Rangers, "I came here to say that Jayden and I are leaving for a while. Jayden needs to clear his head and heal his heart and I need to restrain my urge to commit regicide or whatever. We'll come back," he looked at Mike and Emily, "I'm not abandoning my team, but time apart will do Jayden a world of good."
"Where are you going?" Emily asked.
"Home," Antonio replied. "Hey Mike."
"What?" Mike asked.
"Don't be afraid of the monster under your bed, sometimes they just might know how to get where you're going, ok?" Antonio grinned, "All you have to do is ask nicely."
"I am the Lady Shiba," Mikayla announced.
"And I am not sworn to you nor your house," Antonio replied. "I am sworn to Jayden, the Earth and my team. My name is Antonio Garcia of Earth, Gold Samurai Ranger, Senior Gold Ranger, and you are not my leader." He turned and launched himself into a ninja streak, not stopping until he entered his own home. He had just dropped onto his couch when his phone went off. "Hello?" He asked.
"Tony," Joel Rawlings drawled, "so nice to hear from you."
"Sorry," Antonio said, "I've had a hard day. Where are you?"
"I just landed at the airport." Joel replied, "I was in the air when I got the epsilon call."
"We'll be there in five minutes," Antonio said, jumping to his feet. "Thank you Joel, I really appreciate this."
"Not a problem," Joel said.
Antonio hung up the phone and went to wake Jayden and collect their things. It was time to go home again.
Chapter 4: Come Home
The flight to Angel Grove was as smooth as Antonio could have wished, and even better, Jayden seemed to be coming out of the depression that had seized him. "You could just tell me," Jayden finally said.
"I could," Antonio agreed, "but it's more fun this way." He grinned across to Jayden, "All you really need to know is that I consider these people to be my family more than my dad ever was."
"You could give me names, do they know you're a Power Ranger, are they going to be ok with us showing up?"
"No, yes and yes," Antonio replied with a grin. "We're about to land, Jay, then all of your questions will be answered."
"Not all of them," Jayden replied, "why can you call me Jay but I can't call you Tony?"
"Do you not like it?" Antonio asked.
Jayden shrugged, "No one's ever called me that," he admitted.
"But does it bother you?" Antonio persisted.
"Not really," Jayden said. He hissed as the plane tilted and Antonio laughed. "What?" Jayden asked.
"We're almost there," Antonio said, "and you're still freaking out. We fly in the Zords all the time."
"Not the same thing," Jayden replied through clenched teeth.
Out of respect, Antonio fell silent, staring out the window as the buildings around the airport grew in size. Finally, they landed and began to taxi down the runway. "Someone will meet us here," Antonio said, "they should be waiting for us already."
"You've said that," Jayden replied, looking relieved to be on the ground, "five times."
"Sorry," Antonio replied, "I just want you to like them and for them to like you."
"If you think they're worth loving," Jayden said as the plane stopped, "then they're at least worth knowing."
Antonio was saved from saying anything to that by Joel appearing from the cockpit, "Ranger Air would like to thank you for flying with us today," Joel announced with a cheesy grin. "We have a few minutes before we can disembark if you'd like to gather your belongings."
"Thanks Joel," Antonio said, unfastening his seat belt and moving to get their backpacks from the luggage rack in the back. "I can't begin to tell you what this means to me."
"I have an idea," Joel replied, "besides, you're one of us. If you can't ask us for help, who can you ask?"
Jayden also stood, "I also appreciate this," he said, "Although I'm still not sure leaving was the best choice to make."
"It's fine," Joel said, "and it was nice to meet you, Jayden. I don't know the details of what happened, but Antonio and the others wouldn't have used Epsilon if they didn't feel it was necessary."
A burst of static called Joel back into the cockpit for a moment, and then he opened the door to the plane. "Bye Joel," Antonio said, and hugged the green ranger, "Thanks for the ride."
Joel squeezed him tight, "No problem, Tony." Then he shook Jayden's hand, "Welcome to the family, Jayden. Remember, once a Ranger, always a Ranger, and may the Power protect you."
"Same to you," Jayden said, uncertainly, and followed Antonio out into the winter sunlight.
Antonio hurried down the stairs, barely aware of Jayden behind him as he all but threw himself at the small figure waiting for him on the tarmac. "Hi Mom," he said as he pulled her into a hug.
"Hi Tony," his mom replied with a soft laugh. "You just left this morning, sweetie."
"I know," Antonio replied, "I just really needed a hug." He stepped back and turned as Jayden approached, "Jayden, I want you to meet my mom, Tanya Park. Tanya, this is Jayden, Samurai Red."
"Welcome to Angel Grove," Tanya said, offering her hand, "we're glad to have you."
"Thank you for inviting me," Jayden replied, and Antonio could see his friend struggling, both to appear normal and with questions that Antonio had been unable to answer.
"A friend of Tony's is family," Tanya said simply. "I left Adam with the kids, though. If we don't hurry, something's going to catch on fire." She waved to Joel, "Thanks for doing this, Joel."
"No problem, Tanya," Joel replied, "I'd stay longer, but I have to get back to my wife."
"Perfectly understandable," Tanya said, "say hi to Angela for me, and thank her for letting you go."
"I will," Joel said, and then helped the waiting airport worker close the door.
"Let's go," Tanya said and started back into the airport building.
Antonio slung his arm over Jayden's shoulder and steered him after Tanya, "Don't worry," Antonio said, "We'll be back before you know it. You just let Tanya and Trini put your head on straight and I'll make sure everything else goes smoothly."
"If you say so," Jayden replied after a moment. "I do want to know how you came to call Mrs. Park your mother."
"That's not a pretty story," Antonio said after a moment, "in fact, it gets downright ugly, but I'll tell you tonight. The short version is that Adam and Tanya saved me from hell; both by recognizing that something was wrong and then by giving me safe places to go to when I needed it."
"I should warn you," Tanya said as they walked out of the airport, "Paul and Nina overheard Adam and I talking, they know you're coming back. Nina wants a rematch before you leave."
"I'll make sure to do that," Antonio said with a grin. "I'll even get Paul and Jinx involved."
"Good," Tanya said, "you'll be using the standard bribes then."
"I figure I can manage one, maybe two more times before they demand a raise," Antonio agreed, "Just so long as you and Adam continue to pretend ignorance." He glanced at Jayden as they approached the Park family's van. "Paul, Nina and Julian are the Parks' children, but I call Julian Jinx most of the time. Paul and Nina are getting into the 'too cool for a little brother' stage, so I've taken to paying them to play with Jinx when I need to talk with Mom and Dad, or just to get them to spend time with the kid. Mom and Dad don't officially know about it, and Jinx hasn't figured it out yet, so everyone's happy."
"I don't know," Jayden said as they climbed in the van, "it sounds a little mean."
"Actually, it's not," Tanya said. "Julian gets to spend time with Paul and Nina, which he always wants, Paul and Nina get to play games with Julian which they secretly like to do but which isn't 'cool', and they get a little extra spending money without bothering me and Adam. Not to mention that it means Adam and I can spend time together or with Tony."
"Trust Tanya," Antonio said, "for all that she still calls me Tony, she knows what she's talking about."
Chapter 5: Memories and Life Lessons
WARNING: This chapter references child abuse in a non-graphic manner. If this is a problem for you, there is fluffy stuff at the end of the chapter you should skip to. Also, this is not a euphimsm, the sleeping was completely platonic. Antonio just has a lot in common with his zord.
Antonio and Jayden settled down on the pull out couch in the basement, having survived dinner with the Parks and Tanya's repeated apologies that they only had one free bed. Although Antonio had looked cautious, he had agreed when Jayden had said that it wouldn't be a problem. Now, however, the rest of the household was asleep, and Antonio was pacing. "If sharing the bed is going to be a problem," Jayden said as he watched his friend.
"No it's not that," Antonio replied, "I just don't know where to start my story."
"You don't have to tell me anything you don't want to," Jayden said, "although I am curious."
Antonio sighed and dropped onto the nearby recliner, "It's just not a good story, Jay." He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs. "We moved here after my mom died, if you remember, and my dad was struggling with her death." He paused, and shook his head, "I need to stop making excuses about this, I know better."
Jayden almost said something, but stopped with Antonio glanced up at him, "He started drinking, and alcohol made him mean. At first, it was mostly verbal, or he'd grab me hard enough to leave bruises. Back then, he didn't drink every night and when he was sober, he was just like he'd always been. Adam organized free defense lessons through the youth center back then, and Dad enrolled me when I asked." Antonio shifted his gaze to the floor, seeing demons Jayden knew were only in his mind. "It got worse though. He started hitting drunk and shouting sober. Adam started asking me if I was ok. I couldn't bring myself to admit something was wrong, even though it was."
Antonio stood up and turned away, moving to stand in front of the basement window as if the darkness outside would hold the answers he needed. "It got worse fast. One night, when I was eleven, I got up to get a drink of water. I was holding the glass when a car backfired in the street and I dropped it." He stopped talking, unhappiness clear in every inch of him.
"Tony was in a coma for nearly a week after we found him."
Jayden jumped, twisting on the couch to find Adam standing on the basement stairs. The quiet Korean hadn't said much at all before, but Jayden had been struck by the amount of caring he'd seen in the former Ranger. "Sorry," Adam said as he stepped off the stairs. "Tanya and I had just had Nina, so we moved heaven and earth to get custody of Tony. It wasn't easy, but after that, Tony only saw his dad when he wanted to, and only if the man was sober. He's ours."
"Thanks, Dad," Antonio said, allowing the older man to pull him into a quick hug.
"I actually came down to make sure you two had blankets and pillows," Adam said, "Tanya was fretting about it."
"We're fine," Antonio said firmly, "Although, I do want to talk to Jason tomorrow."
"He wants to talk to you too," Adam replied. He gripped Jayden's shoulder, "You boys sleep well."
"We will," Jayden replied.
Antonio woke up early, not that he was sure he'd actually managed to sleep at any point during the night. He slid out of bed to avoid waking Jayden up and headed upstairs.
Adam was sitting at the table with a mug, reading the paper, "Morning," Antonio said as he poured himself a cup of coffee.
"Good morning," Adam said, lowering the paper. "Tanya had to go into work today; she'll be back by noon though. Jason has the rest of the week off."
"I'll call him later then," Antonio said as he mixed cream and sugar into his cup.
"Something is bothering you," Adam said as Antonio sat down at the table. "I'm not Tanya, but I can tell."
Antonio looked at his mug for a moment, "I just keep thinking about Corinth," he said. "About who was there and who wasn't."
"What about it?" Adam asked.
Antonio sighed, "Nia, Paul, Jinx, and the K-Scotts all made it to Corinth." He glanced up to take in Adam's smile over the nickname everyone used for Jason and Trini's children. "You, Mom, Jason, and Trini died though. You covered the last of the evacuation here and died doing it."
"A lot of Rangers died," Adam said, "we all heard that."
"Yeah, but Jinx," Antonio paused, "Jinx made it safe. He worked for Project Ranger until they let the lab teams go, then he did weapons research with Hailey. He was safe."
Adam reached over and squeezed Antonio's wrist, "You can tell me."
"A building collapsed during a monster attack," Antonio said, "Jinx was on the sidewalk in front of it."
"Tony," Adam said, "our family has been lucky. We never lost anyone to a monster attack. Most of the Rangers can say the same. The majority of the injuries to our families are because of us, or because they are involved with the Rangers. Ever since we learned about your future, we prepared you for that idea. The thing is, sometimes, accidents happen. People get hurt during attacks and we can't do anything about it. When Rangers fight, they go into battle intending to end it as fast as they can so no one else gets hurt, but it doesn't happen that way every time. It's not your fault someone gets hurt. Even a deliberate attack isn't your fault. It's the fault of your enemy, for choosing to go after an innocent for being connected to you."
The kitchen door swung open and Jinx stumbled in, "Hi Daddy," he grumbled as he careened across the floor.
"Morning Julian," Adam said, catching his son and lifting him into a chair, "Sleep well?"
Jinx shrugged as he rubbed his eye, "Hey Jinx," Antonio offered with a little wave.
"Hi Tony," Jinx replied, "Hi Mister Tony's Friend."
Tony turned to find Jayden standing in the door to the basement. "Morning Jayden," he said with a smile, "did you sleep well?"
"Well enough," Jayden replied as he sat next to Tony. He regarded him for a moment, "You cuddle in your sleep, did you know that?"
Chapter 6: Talks and Revelations
Jason and Antonio met in Jason's study. As nervous as Antonio was, he couldn't help glancing around at the chaotic room that Jason claimed as his sanctuary. "What did you need to talk to me about?" Jason asked.
Antonio swallowed, hard, "I," he began, settling into one of the chairs, "I didn't tell you everything about Corinth, sir."
Jason tilted his head forward, "Oh?"
"Mike told me some things," Antonio said, "he couldn't be specific, but he said that things were 'going to go south' and he asked me for one thing, told me one thing and passed on two messages from my older self."
"Go on," Jason said.
"He asked me not to abandon the team," Antonio said, "which I'm not. I'm planning to head back as soon as I can think about the Lady Shiba without homicidal impulses. He told me to take care of Jayden, which is why I brought him here, because Tanya and Trini can help him better than any other yellow I know. The first message from me was to fix the broken Samurai morphers. I did some checking; Ji has the morphers that Jayden's dad and his team used. They were never fixed; who ever sent them back included the morphers they use now. The…altered…morphers."
"All right," Jason said, "did you?"
"I'm still working on the red one," Antonio replied. "I brought it with me, in fact." He couldn't look away from Jason, but he couldn't bring himself to speak.
"What was the other message, Antonio?" Jason finally asked.
"I- he told Mike to give me this." Antonio said and pulled the container out of his pocket. "I didn't say anything because I didn't understand. I think I do now." He put the container on the desk.
Jason opened the box and looked inside, "What message," he asked, closing the box, "could that possibly be."
"It took me a bit to think about it, and I had to meet Mikayla," Antonio replied, "but if it wasn't for Dustin I wouldn't understand."
He could see Jason thinking that over, and the moment he really understood. In the RPM future, Dustin had never reconciled with his team, had never dated Hunter, and had missed the yellow reunions in favor of his work. In their timeline, Dustin had met Antonio in the aftermath of the time travel and had recognized a rare gift, one that was most likely to fall under the purple spectrum, but which showed up elsewhere.
Antonio had empathy, particularly to Rangers and most especially towards his team.
That empathy made Antonio's feeling for people deeper and more genuine, and made him feel keenly how his team was affected by events. It hadn't been discovered until an oblivious Antonio had run into Dustin fresh from communing with the Earth after his experiences in Corinth. Dustin's unintentional awakening of Antonio's empathy had made a great impact on Antonio. "You sensed something from Mikayla," Jason said finally, "something your counterpart wouldn't have been aware of."
"Right," Antonio replied. "Jason, just given what happened; I could have used that if I didn't see the rest of it. Mikayla is scared out of her mind, and she's trying to prove herself, not to mention that she really isn't a Red at all. I wouldn't have looked if it weren't for those."
"You're sure about her not being a Red?" Jason asked as he stood up.
"I'm positive," Antonio replied firmly.
Jayden watched Antonio head across the lawn to Jason's house, not quite able to quell the anxiety of being alone with a house full of strangers. "Is everything all right?" Tanya asked from behind him.
Jayden turned, slowly, "Yes," he said, fighting to smile, "Just looking outside."
Tanya smiled, "You don't have to worry about Tony, Jayden. He's the best trained Ranger to wear an Earthian morpher." She tilted her head a little, "I know it doesn't help sometimes, but it is true."
Jayden swallowed, "I don't," he began, and then stopped because he didn't know how to finish that sentence.
"It's ok," Tanya said, "you don't have to know how you feel about Tony, although someone could make certain assumptions. Tony cares for you deeply; I could safely say he loves you, although it would be a great hubris to assume what kind of love he feels for you."
Jayden blushed and looked at the floor, eyes following the grain of the hardwood as he formed his answer. "I can't say that I love Antonio," he said softly, "but I do care for him. There was a time when he was as much my brother as my best friend. Sometimes now, I feel as if we've never been apart, and others I feel like I'm on one side of the Grand Canyon, and he's on the other."
Tanya nodded slightly, "Jayden, I'm a yellow ranger, which means I'm a healer. My specialty is soul healing. Trini, Jason's wife, is also a yellow, but her specialty is mind healing. That's why she became a psychiatrist. Tony brought you here because he thinks you need our help. Maybe you do, maybe you don't, but if there's anything you want to talk about, and I mean anything both Trini and I will be more than willing to listen."
Jayden nodded slightly, remembering on the plane how Tony, Antonio, had commented that it was easier to open up to a stranger. Then he chuckled, "I hope Antonio can deal with being called Tony," he said out loud, "Even I'm starting to think of him that way."
Tanya grinned, "He's used to it. We've all called him Tony. It wasn't until he went to the Academy that people started calling him Antonio again. Apparently, there was an Anthony and a Tony at the Academy who were water ninjas."
The phone rang, making Jayden jump. After a second ring, however, it fell silent. "Paul answered it," Tanya said, "no worries." She paused, "I hope Paul answered it."
"Mom," Paul said walking into the room, "Brett's on the phone. He heard that Tony was in town."
Tanya sighed, "Tell Brett that Tony is out of the house, but we'll let Tony know that he called."
"Ok," Paul replied and headed back out.
Tanya glanced at Jayden and her lips quirked, "Brett Hilliard and his wife Kailey were at the Academy with Tony. The three of them served as a ninja trio before Tony was tapped for Samurai training. Although Brett doesn't know all the details, his older sister Kat was the Pink Zeo Ranger. Although Brett and Kailey are older than Tony is, they're good friends. Which is probably the reason why Brett called looking for Tony."
Jayden wasn't quite sure why that statement made him feel a lot better than hearing about Brett in the first place.
Chapter 7: Cry Havoc
Mike closed the door to his room softly and glanced around. Mikayla, he was learning, had ears like a cat and slept lightly, unlike Jayden. Jayden, they used to say, could sleep through a small war. Tennis shoes in hand, he crept down the hallway to the front door, freezing when Kevin moaned. Mike looked into Kevin's room, but the blue ranger was still sleeping. Mike closed his eyes, and then continued making his way down the hall. He reached the front doors and eased them open.
Outside, Mike paused long enough to put his shoes on and to grab the backpack he'd hidden behind one of the topiary in the front yard. He looked back one last time as he slid out the gate, only to freeze as he turned. Emily was waiting for him. "Mike," she said, softly.
"Emily," Mike replied, "what are you doing?"
"I could ask you the same thing," Emily replied, she looked at his bag, "are you leaving to?"
"No," Mike replied. "I just needed to get away from the house for a few hours." He slid the backpack on and nodded, "Walk with me?"
"Ok," Emily replied. They started down the hill, taking the walking path over the side of the mountain and into the more populated area near the harbor. "What's with the backpack, if you aren't leaving?" Emily finally asked.
"Antonio left it under my bed," Mike said. "I was going to take it to his place and see what was in it. How did you know I would be leaving?"
"I saw you hide the backpack," Emily replied, "I was on the jogging path."
"Oh," Mike said, "I guess it wasn't very subtle was it?"
"You could have gotten away with it," Emily said, "if I hadn't of seen you."
There wasn't anything Mike could say to that, so he let the conversation fall off as they walked side by side to the beach. Finally, they reached Antonio's house and by mutual agreement moved around to sit on the front porch steps. "Now, let's see what kind of monster Antonio hid under my bed," Mike muttered after using the spare key and setting the bag on the step between them. He unzipped it and pulled it open to reveal a wooden box, with gentle hands; he pulled it out and set it on his knees.
Emily scooted closer and leaned against his shoulder as Mike ran his fingers over the box. Suddenly, the middle of the lid lifted up and a red circle began to glow on the inside, "Green Ranger, Identify," a soft, computerized voice said.
Mike glanced at Emily, "Uh, Mike," he said.
"Identity confirmed," the box replied and the lid opened fully. "Please state your question."
Mike looked over at Emily again, "State your purpose, please," he finally said.
"I was created to assist the Green Samurai Ranger in his duties at the Shiba House and to guide him to the Gold Ranger should the situation at Shiba House become untenable. My name is GRETA." The box replied, "I am a limited action artificial intelligence designed by the Yellow Wind Ranger and programmed by the Gold Samurai Ranger."
"Cam did say he was incredible with technology," Emily said after a moment.
"Unknown speaker, identify," GRETA stated.
"Emily," Emily said firmly, "Yellow Samurai Ranger."
"Green Ranger, is this woman approved to know of me?" GRETA asked.
"Of course she is," Mike said firmly, "Emily and I keep very few secrets from each other. Help her as you are supposed to help me."
"Such a situation is possible," GRETA agreed after a brief moment. "I would like to know how things proceed at Shiba House, if you please."
Mike cleared his throat and looked at Emily who squeezed his arm lightly, "It's difficult," she said, "Mikayla is a wonderful warrior, but has little experience fighting with a team, much less leading one. She is trying too hard to be the leader that she forgets to be part of a team. The rest of us have been able to compensate so far, but it is possible that we won't be able to do so forever."
"Report received," GRETA said, "Incoming message from Antonio Gold Ranger. Do you wish to accept?"
"Yes," Mike said.
A screen lifted out of the box and resolved into Antonio, "Hey Mike, Emily," Antonio said with a shy smile.
"Antonio, is everything all right?" Emily asked, leaning a little closer to Mike to see the screen.
"Everything's fine," Antonio replied, he looked away briefly, "Jayden's been adopted by my family, which is better than I'd expected. I'm thinking about heading back north in a few days, see how things were going."
"We miss you," Emily said.
"Lady Mikayla is a total poser," Mike added, "she couldn't lead her way out of a paper bag, and that's considering if someone wanted to follow her."
Antonio shook his head, "You guys need to get to know her," he said. "I have this feeling that she's a better person than she seems right now."
"Easy for you to say," Mike replied.
Emily squeezed his arm, "It's good to see you, Antonio, but I'll be right back."
Mike turned to watch Emily go inside, "Mike," Antonio said, "is everything ok besides Mikayla's questionable leadership skills?"
"We're holding against the Nighloks," Mike replied, "but the Lady has some kind of grudge against Emily. She says she's fine and she can handle it, but it's getting ridiculous. Not to mention her random verbal jabs at me about my attitude and the way she went after Mia's cooking. Kevin seems to be the only one in her good graces, but then, Kevin's the most 'dedicated' of us all. Kevin says we need to do our best and things will get better, but I'm really not sure they will."
Antonio closed his eyes and whispered something that sounded a lot like "Power protect me." Then he opened his eyes, "Mike, you are a Green Ranger."
"Duh," Mike replied.
"No, Mike, you're a Green Ranger," Antonio said, "Do something about it."
"Like what?" Mike asked.
Antonio face palmed, then glared at him, "Green Rangers, the team's fighting spirit. You don't like what Mikayla's doing, then fight back, Green Ranger style. Prank her to within an inch of her life. Get her off balance and uncertain. Don't drive her out of the House, but get her focused on something other than Emily. I'm working things from my end, I think I know a way to make this end the way it should. Can you help me?"
"Yes," Mike said slowly, "it's been a while though."
Antonio grinned, "If you need any help, let me know, there's a green ranger down here who could help, or ask Cam. There's another green that lives in Briarwood who would probably love the chance to help, just don't let the fact that he flirts with anyone breathing put you off. His heart is in the right place."
"I'll talk to Cam," Mike replied, "but Emily and I should probably get back. We kind of snuck out of the House to see what you'd left me."
"Where are you anyways?" Antonio asked.
"We went to your place," Mike said, "I think Emily's using your bathroom."
"That's cool," Antonio said, "nice to know someone's looking out for the place. I'll see you soon, Mike, I promise."
"Take care of yourself," Mike replied.
"I'm in one of the safest places in the world," Antonio replied, "worry about yourself, ok?"
"I already do," Mike said.
Chapter 8: It Begins
Mike, by nature, was not actually a prankster. He never really felt the need to do things to humiliate other people. Besides, as an older brother, he was supposed to set a good example for his brothers, and as the eldest cousin, he had to be the role model. He was the person his relatives compared the others too, and so had never fully given in to the urge to humiliate the others. That didn't meant he couldn't be creative when he had to be.
Once Emily was safe in her room, Mike got started. Drawing on a history of having friends who were pranksters, he searched out all the plastic cups in the house and a five gallon bucket of water. Then he carefully, and quietly, filled each cup and placed it in an appropriate place. The sturdy glasses formed the base of his pyramid, filling the door to Mikayla's room; with the cheap throw away cups forming the crown. He had to refill the bucket, but he pulled it off. Mikayla was now guaranteed to get soaked when she walked out her door if she wasn't paying attention.
Mike sat back after he'd placed the final glass and allowed himself a brief grin. It wasn't a thousand glasses, exactly, but it was nearly a hundred and with the trip wire, he'd thought to add at the last moment, but it was a start. He stood up, put the bucket away and slipped into his room, checked his alarm, and fell into a deep sleep. The war to get Mikayla to see them as human beings and not just puppets in her war had begun.
Jayden found Antonio sitting on the back porch, "What's going on?" He asked, walking across the deck to where Antonio was perched on the railing, staring back into the house.
"I think I may have made a mistake," Antonio replied, jerking a little in surprise.
"What did you do?" Jayden asked, trying to think of things he'd seen Antonio do lately. There was nothing he would qualify as a mistake, at least nothing that Jayden could think of off the top of his head.
"I told Mike he should prank Mikayla," Antonio said, "I told him that he was the Green Ranger and he should fight."
Jayden eased onto the railing beside Antonio and nudged him with a shoulder, "That's not the end of the world, Tony."
Antonio blinked then twisted to look at him with an odd, twisted smile, "You called me Tony."
Jayden blinked, "I did? I'm sorry, I know you said, but everyone here calls you that." He glanced back at the house out of reflex, but no one was looking outside at them although he could see Nina doing dishes in the kitchen.
Antonio laughed, "Its ok Jayden. I'm not going to blow up at you. It just surprised me is all." He reached over and rested his hand on Jayden's knee, "I promise, I'm not mad."
Antonio's hand burned like a brand, and it took all of Jayden's willpower not to stare at it. "How are things going up there?" He asked finally.
"Mikayla's making a mess of things," Antonio said in a tone that was the cross of reluctant and eager, "they're winning the battles still, obviously, but otherwise, things seem pretty tense. Honestly, I think Mike would have blown his top even if I hadn't of pointed out that he is a greenie."
Jayden smiled, "I think he would have self destructed first, personally. He has a history of it."
"No," Antonio said, "Mike will self destruct if it's about him, with Emily, I think he'll lash out." He bumped Jayden's shoulder, "He really likes her you know."
"Somehow, I got that impression," Jayden said looking at Antonio's face. For a long moment, he looked at Antonio's mouth, then jerked his eyes up to Antonio's eyes, barely visible as dark pools in the porch light. "He was really jealous of Scott."
"I picked that up," Antonio said, "but Flynn and Summer set him straight."
"He did seem more relaxed when you guys got back," Jayden replied. He leaned against Antonio a little, "You're planning something, aren't you?"
"Me?" Antonio said, "Not really." He drew his knee up, "I just asked a friend to look into something for me. I have a vague idea, and if what I'm hoping he finds out is there then we can start a plan of some sort."
"How long do you expect to hang around here?" Jayden asked.
"Me? A few more days maybe, I want to get back up there in case they need me. I think you should stay though. Mom and Dad have already adopted you for one thing and it might be better for everyone if you weren't there if Mikayla and I have a smack down." Antonio said, his tone so matter of fact that it took a moment for the meaning to sink in.
"You wouldn't really," Jayden began.
"If she makes me mad enough, yes," Antonio said, "but I don't intend to go back looking for trouble."
"People like you never go looking for trouble," Jayden muttered.
"It can find us all by its lonesome," Antonio finished. "Now I know the family has adopted you, you're calling me Tony and capping our phrases." He grinned, "How do you feel about this."
"I find myself unable to reject the offer of family," Jayden said, leaning a little more, trying to actually see Antonio's eyes in the shadow.
"Just so you know," Antonio said, staring down at him with an odd air of sincerity, "I don't think I'd think of you as my brother."
Emboldened by the darkness and shadows, Jayden licked his lips and replied, "Funny, I was thinking the same thing."
It was probably just his imagination that Antonio was leaning closer, tilting his head just a little. It certainly was his imagination that he saw Antonio's eyes closing even as his own slid shut.
"Antonio, dishes are done. Mom says we can play extreme karaoke," Jinx shouted as he bolted out the back door.
Antonio slid off the railing to catch Jinx and flip him upside down to the child's delight, but Jayden was now looking at the back door. Adam stood there, as if waiting for Jayden to see him. He nodded once when he was sure Jayden could see him, then walked away. "Come on Jayden," Antonio said as he slung Jinx over his shoulder, "let's go play extreme karaoke."
"What," Jayden asked, sliding off the railing, "is extreme karaoke?"
Chapter 9: Returning Gold
Two days later, Antonio returned to Shiba House. Although he did not actually enter the gate, he did make sure that his team knew he was there. A fishing pole that doubled as a long bow had been effective the first time he tried it and Antonio saw no reason to try something else.
Being in town, looking after his place, and checking up on the others kept Antonio from focusing on his other frustration. Despite his best efforts, every chance Antonio had tried to talk to Jayden about how he felt, his family interrupted. From something Jayden muttered that morning, when they'd been awoken by Jinx jumping on them; Jayden thought that his dad was at fault.
Standing on his porch, wanting to call Jayden but afraid of what his parents would say, Antonio was ready to blame anyone. Then he muttered something that he wasn't supposed to know, pulled out the morpher, and called home. "Hello?" Nina asked after a moment.
"Hey Nina," Antonio said.
"Tony?" Nina squealed.
"Yeah, it me," Antonio replied, "can I talk to Mom or Dad, please?"
"Sure," Nina said and there was a brief pause.
"Tony?" Adam said.
"Hi Dad," Antonio said with a smile, "Just calling in a report."
"No email?" Adam said dryly.
"I know Jayden's going to be worried," Antonio replied, "so I figured two birds with one stone."
"If you say so," Adam said, "so how are things up there?"
"There's more battle damage," Antonio replied, "Master Xandred hasn't given up, but the Rangers are still fighting. I didn't talk to them yet, although I let them know I was here. From what I saw of them, they are having issues with Mikayla still. Although given that Mikayla has lovely, bright pink hair at the moment, I'd say Mike is fighting back."
Adam laughed, "Go green."
"So," Antonio said, "can I talk to Jayden?"
"Sure," Adam said, "he just walked into the kitchen in fact." His voice changed as if he was holding the phone away from his mouth, "Jayden, Antonio would like to talk to you." Then his voice cleared up, "Tony, we'll talk later, ok? Take care of yourself."
"You bet, Dad." Antonio replied, "I love you."
"Love you to," Adam said, "here's Jayden."
"Antonio?" Jayden said.
"Hey Jay," Antonio said, unable to keep from smiling, "do me a favor and take the phone onto the back porch, ok?"
"Sure," Jayden said, "how's the team?"
"They looked ok," Antonio replied, "I haven't actually talked to them yet though. Mikayla had pink hair."
Jayden laughed a little, "Ok, I'm safe outside," he said, "What did you want to talk about?"
"Oh, not much," Antonio replied, "I've just been thinking and I agree. My parents are going out of their way to keep us from talking alone." He settled on his steps, "I just wanted to make a point that we can talk in private." He leaned against the railing with a smile.
"I see," Jayden said, his tone proving that he really didn't.
Antonio sighed, "It's funny, but I miss you. It's weird being up here and not having you up at Shiba House."
"I miss you too," Jayden said, "your siblings have been trying to reassure me that you'd be fine."
"I told you when I left," Antonio said, "I'm not going to fight unless they need me and I will not fight for Mikayla."
"I'm not worried about that," Jayden said, "I know I can trust you. I'm just worried."
"That irrational fear," Antonio said knowingly, "that comes from being away from someone you lo…care for deeply." Mentally, he cursed himself for the slip.
Jayden was silent for a long time, and Antonio just listened the waves, letting the power inherit in them sooth him. "Tony," Jayden said finally, "what are we?"
A million answers swarmed into Antonio's mind, banishing the tranquility he'd just begun to achieve. "Antonio!" A woman exclaimed, giving him a two second warning before Emily fell to her knees beside him and hugged him tightly, "You are back."
"Hey Emily," Antonio said, hugging her one handed.
"It's a conspiracy," Jayden muttered in his ear.
"Is Jayden here?" Mike asked from his spot at the corner of the porch.
"No, Mike," Antonio said, he held up his hand, "Jayden, Mike and Emily are here. I'm giving Emily the phone. We can talk later."
"Ok," Jayden said.
Antonio offered the phone to Emily, "Here," he said, "it's Jayden."
"Jayden!" Emily squealed as she put the phone to her ear.
Antonio eased out of her one armed hug and headed over to Mike, "Hey," he said simply.
"You're back," Mike said, "not Jayden."
Antonio shook his head slightly, "Jayden isn't quite ready to face Mikayla yet. I promise, though, he's in the hands of the first yellow ranger, and noted psychiatrist, as well as my foster mom, who was third yellow who masquerades as a radio talk show host. At heart, she's a soul healer. Believe me, if anyone can help Jayden come to terms or whatever, it's those two. You'll notice I didn't repeat my attack on Mikayla while I was hanging around today."
"Is he ok though?" Mike persisted.
"He's fine," Antonio replied, "as weird as home is, they haven't suffered from aliens, or what have you, for over a decade. Besides, he's got four Rangers who still have their full powers hovering over him. The only danger Jayden is in right now is a fear that my foster brother will jump on him when he wakes him up or my foster sister will deafen him in excess of excitement."
Mike studied his face for a moment then nodded, "So, what's your family like?"
Antonio grinned, "They're great. My dad, foster dad I mean, he's real quiet most of the time. He was the second black ranger and they call him 'the quiet poet'. He teaches martial arts at his dojo and sometimes he recommends students to the Ninja Academy. Dad studied there when he was young, although he had to stop when he became a Ranger. They allowed him to come back and finish his training after he was finished so he's a water master now. Dad's also the second green ranger, but most people don't believe it. He's very subtle, most of the time you don't realize he's pranked you until someone asks why your hair is green, or tells you there's a hole in your jeans."
Mike laughed, "Sounds like someone I wouldn't mind meeting."
"He'd like you," Antonio said, "you remind me of his best friend, Rocky. All earnest energy and golden soul. Rocky was second red, second blue and he lives on another planet. He came back a few years ago for a visit with his parents." He leaned against the railing, "My mom, well, you've heard of my foster mom. Tanya Sloan on KWIND."
"Seriously?" Mike said, "I love her show."
"I know," Antonio said, "she's great. She's not as loud at home, but she is louder than Dad is most of the time. Mom's the one everyone talks to, because even if she doesn't understand all that's wrong, she's willing to listen and try to help." He looked at the siding for a moment, "She's the first one I came out to."
Mike clapped his shoulder, "I'm glad she took it so well, then. I'm going to go steal the phone from Emily."
Antonio turned and stared out at the water, his first teammate had gone well.
Chapter 10: A Great Mistake
Jayden had gotten used to the freedom of visiting the Scott household with little more than a phone call. He liked talking with Jason, who was the only other Gold Ranger on Earth as well as being the first Red Ranger. The other man often made sense of things that had left Jayden wondering about his childhood friend, and seemed to understand things about Jayden himself that had always made him feel weird. When he called two days after Antonio's departure to check on the rest of the team, however, all Jason said was, "Please come over, Jayden. I have some information that Antonio's been waiting for that you can let him know about." Before hanging up.
Jayden checked his clothes and hurried next door without saying anything to the Parks. They knew where he'd be.
When Jayden walked into Jason's kitchen, he found Trini waiting for him, "Dr Kwan," he said.
Trini smiled, "Again, Jayden, you may call me Trini. Jason and his messenger are waiting in his study." She bit her lip, "I trust you to take care of yourself, Jayden."
"Always," Jayden said, wondering how much trouble he could get in, sitting in Jason's study. He headed across the kitchen and down the short hallway into Jason's study. Jason was leaning against his desk, talking to a man wearing glasses and spiky dark hair. "Good morning, Jason," Jayden said politely.
"Jayden, this is Tommy Oliver," Jason said with an amused smile, "an old friend of mine. Tommy, this is Jayden, one of the Samurai Red Rangers."
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Jayden said, offering his hand to Tommy.
"Right back at you kid," Tommy said with a grin to match Jason.
Red light suddenly stole over Jayden's vision, and an odd tingling feeling rolled over him.
When the light faded, Jayden took a defensive stance even as Jason began laughing. The room had changed, becoming a futuristic bridge that bore some resemblance to what Jayden remembered from the few videos of the Megaship Mark II. "Welcome to the Red Dragon," Tommy said, slapping his shoulder hard enough to make Jayden step out of stance to keep his balance.
"The thing is," Jason said, "we want the universe to know that you are the Ranger's Choice for Red Samurai. The best way to do that is to bring you to the Haven and let people get a look at you. Several of the other reds will be meeting us there."
Jayden swallowed a little, and then nodded to them, "All right."
Antonio got back home just after lunch, planning to spend time with Jayden as well as checking with Jason about the information he was looking for. "Mom," he called as he walked in.
"Antonio," Tanya said in surprise, "what are you doing here?"
"I just needed to get away for a few hours," Antonio said. "I wanted to check on Jayden and see if Jason had the information."
"Oh," Tanya said, "you picked the worse day to come home if that's what you're after."
"Why?" Antonio asked.
"Jason and Tommy took Jayden to the Haven for some Red Ranger bonding." Tanya said, "They probably won't be back before tomorrow."
"You let them," Antonio began.
"I don't let those two do anything," Tanya said tartly.
"Is Cole going to be there," Antonio said.
"I think so," Tanya said, "why?"
"Shit," Antonio muttered.
"Antonio Garcia," Tanya snapped.
"Remember that half-Nighlok that was chasing Jayden around?" Antonio said, "He looked just like Cole. If they get Jayden, who doesn't drink at all, ever, near Cole, he isn't going to see the Red Wild Whatever Ranger. He's going to see Dekker the half-Nighlok who spent the better part of a year threatening to kill him in an ultimate duel." He pressed a hand to his forehead, "I can't believe they didn't ask me about this. At least they could have been prepared."
"Honey, I'm sure," Tanya began.
"Jayden took on Dekker when he was exhausted, bone deep exhausted, injured and reeling from getting his morpher fully powered, and he won." Antonio replied, "If Jayden thinks he's going up against Dekker, drunk or not, it's entirely possible that he'll use that Samuraizer I gave him."
"You gave him a Samuraizer?" Tanya repeated.
"I fixed the broken set of Samurai morphers," Antonio said, "I accidently took the Red morpher with me when we came down, and so I fixed it and gave it to Jay so he wouldn't feel vulnerable. He would have had it with him when Jason dragged him off planet."
"Are you sure Jayden didn't tell Jason about this?" Tanya asked.
"I don't know," Antonio wailed, "I just didn't want Xandred or someone getting ideas that Jayden was vulnerable. I was trying to help."
"Of course you were," Tanya said. "Let me call Adam and we'll go to the Haven to make sure that everything's all right.
Antonio let Tanya give him a quick hug even as his mind raced over all the possible outcomes of Jayden, drinking and a working morpher.
Of course, none of them was what he expected when he got there. Adam, who had insisted on coming with them, flew them in his private shuttle and they arrived just as Jayden identified Cole as Dekker. "I killed you," Jayden said in a confused and sad tone. "I didn't want to."
All the Reds looked at each other in confusion and Antonio slung his arm over Jayden's shoulder, "I know buddy," he said calmly, shooting a look at Jason. "Come on; let's go see if we can get some water." With that, he steered Jayden away.
"I need to apologize," Jayden began a whine to his voice.
Antonio sighed, "You can do so after you drink the water."
"But I'm in Mexico right? You don't drink the water in Mexico," Jayden said.
Antonio sighed as they finally reached the bar, sliding between a group of humans doing a shot contest and some sort of human-cat creature drinking a beer. "What can I get you?" The woman behind the counter asked.
"Water for my friend," Antonio said, "he's not going to be drinking anymore."
Jayden leaned against Antonio, alcohol laced breath teasing his nose, making Antonio want to just move away, but he didn't. "Antonio," Jayden said.
"Yeah Jay?" Antonio asked.
"I just wanted to," Jayden began, and kissed him.
Chapter 11: A Meeting of Minds
After getting Jayden settled safely onboard the Red Dragon, Antonio met with Jason, Adam, Tanya, Cole, and Merrick in a private room at the Haven. "Sorry about that," he told Cole, "if I had known you were dragging Jayden off the planet," he glared at Jason, "I would have warned you about Dekker."
"Who is Dekker?" Cole asked.
"He was a human once," Antonio replied, remember Mia's face as she explained Dayu's dream. "On his wedding night, his home caught fire and his bride dragged him out. Desperate to save him she made a deal with Master Xandred. She became Dayu, a formidable Nighlok and he became half-Nighlok, half-human. Dayu could remember everything that happened to her and to Dekker. Dekker had no memory of what he had been. He only knew that his sword, Urumasa, drove him to seek the ultimate duel. He found it with Jayden. He also looks exceptionally like you, Cole."
"I see," Cole said, "he is dead then?"
Antonio couldn't stop the devilish smile that graced his face, "At least, that's what everyone at Shiba thinks."
"You have a plan," Jason said.
"I'm thinking," Antonio replied, "that Mikayla has no clue about Dekker and we have a green ranger on the team." He crossed his arms, "Pending approval and agreement from everyone here and your team, I'd like to use that."
"Why?" Cole asked, exchanging a glance with Merrick.
"I'm an Empath," Antonio said, "it's strongest with my team. When I spoke to and touched Mikayla, I knew she was team. I also knew she wasn't a red. I have no way to explain all of that, but there it is."
"How do we fit into this?" Merrick asked.
"Zhane has a party trick," Antonio said, "he can flair his aura and make everyone's Ranger color visible."
Adam snickered, "Remember when he did that at Julian's first birthday?"
Antonio raised an eyebrow as Jason also laughed. Tanya, seeing his expression, explained, "If Julian were ever to pick up a morpher, it would be a pink morpher."
"There's nothing wrong with that," Antonio said firmly, "I wondered if he'd be gold, but pink works too. He's already got the heart for it."
"That's why you are Julian's godfather," Tanya told him, "instead of hyena boy." She glared at Jason who calmed down after a moment.
"I can do that," Merrick said, "if that's your question."
Antonio smiled, "Then let me spin you a story." He sat back in his chair and stared at the table, "What if Cole were possessed by Dekker when he comes to visit me in a few days because Dekker only thought Jayden was his ultimate duel? What if he was seeking Mikayla for that duel, but when he made a play for it, I showed up with Merrick to stop him. Merrick uses his aura of light to cast the spirit from Cole, causing all the Ranger auras to flare up. That would reveal that Mikayla isn't meant to be a red ranger."
"You know what color she is," Merrick said after a long moment of silence.
Antonio peered through his lashes at the silver ranger and nodded slightly, "I think I do," he admitted.
"Why didn't you tell me that?" Jason asked.
Antonio hunched his shoulders a little, "I could be wrong. I didn't want to say, 'I think Mikayla is a purple,' and then be wrong because you would have done something based on that information."
A firm hand squeezed his shoulder, "It's ok, Antonio," Jason said. "I understand. Your plan is a little elaborate, isn't it?"
Antonio looked at his friend, "Mikayla doesn't like me very much; probably because I punched her. How do you think she'd take being told she wasn't a red ranger? This way, it seems like a happy accident that I can back up with research."
"What kind of research?" Cole asked.
Antonio grinned, "Cam's cousin, on his mom's side, she came through for me. She's bringing the information herself, but the Shiba Lords that locked away Xandred the longest weren't the Red Rangers." His grin faded as he met Jason's eyes squarely, "Having been a Ranger, I know, we use so much symbol power in battle that there's no way a Red could manage more than twenty years of blocking him. However, they couldn't finish the job because they didn't have enough power." He looked around the room, "My hypothesis is that a Lord of Shiba who is also a Ranger in terms of power and morphing, but not a primary team member stands the greatest chance of sealing Xandred away."
"You just need our help," Cole said, "to see if it's true." Antonio nodded.
"What if you're wrong?" Merrick asked.
Antonio turned to Merrick, "Moogers started attacking again within fifteen years of the last battle. The longest we've gone between attacks is fifty years. If I'm right, our grandchildren will be breathing easy. If I'm wrong, we'll know before we need to consider passing on the Power to the next generation and something else can be tried."
Jason nodded, "It could use some work, but it's a good plan." He turned to Cole and Merrick, "The choice is yours."
"Jayden too," Antonio said firmly. "I haven't discussed this with him, he has the right to have a say. It's Jayden's team."
"Speaking of Jayden," Jason said, "he has a morpher?"
Antonio nodded, "I didn't want him to feel vulnerable, and since I did bring the broken Samuraizer with me when we left, it just made sense." He looked from Jason to Adam and Tanya, "I didn't say anything because I don't want Xandred to go after Jayden. We all know Jayden's red enough to have ticked Xandred off quite handedly even if they've never met face to face."
Jason chuckled, "That is a red trait. We are going to talk about the things you haven't been telling us."
"If you say so," Antonio replied. He glanced around the table, "Do you need to think about this?"
Cole glanced at Merrick, "Our team is in orbit right now," he said, turning to Antonio, "we'll talk to them and let you know."
"All right," Antonio agreed.
"On that note," Tanya said, "we left Trini with all six kids when we left. We should go recue her."
"I promise Mike I'd be there tomorrow," Antonio added.
The group began to stand and split up, but Merrick caught Antonio's elbow before he could catch up with them. "She's not a purple," he said, practically breathing in Antonio's ear. "I know that much."
Antonio shifted so that his face couldn't be seen by the Earth Rangers, "Maybe she isn't," he said in an equally soft voice, "but you are one of four who can prove me right or wrong." He stepped back and smirked a little, "You just never know until you look."
Chapter 12: What is to Come
Mike sighed in relief when he saw the lights on at Antonio's place. The gold ranger had left two days before, saying he'd be back in the morning but had vanished. Now, Mike knocked on the door eagerly, wondering where Antonio had been and what had kept him. When Jayden opened the door, Mike froze, "Jayden?" He said.
Jayden smiled, "Hi Mike, come on in."
"What are you doing here?" Mike asked as he moved around Jayden into the house.
"Being stupid," Antonio called from the kitchen where he was loading his dish washer.
"I wanted to see everyone," Jayden said, "make sure you were all ok."
"We're fine," Mike said, "Emily was worried about you though. She had to stay at Shiba House tonight, though. The Nighlok we fought today shook Mia up badly and Emily wasn't about to leave her."
"What happened?" Jayden asked sharply as Antonio closed the dishwasher and joined them.
"The Nighlok made people believe their worst fears were coming true," Mike said, "Mia was at the community center for her cooking class and he caught her by surprise. We helped her pull herself together enough to defeat him, but she's shaken up."
Jayden looked at Antonio, who shook his head, "We can't risk it, Jay. You're vulnerable enough here, going to Shiba House would be waving a red flag at a bull."
"Vulnerable?" Mike asked.
"Master Xandred," Jayden said. "Antonio's afraid he'll come after me because I'm not the Red Ranger any more. You know, take revenge on me for all the trouble I caused him before Mikayla arrived."
"Let's sit down," Antonio said, "we shouldn't keep Mike here too long or someone will wonder."
"Are you guys leaving tonight?" Mike asked as he settled on a chair in Antonio's living room.
"No," Antonio said as he and Jayden sat on his couch, "our ride will be here tomorrow at noon. Depending on how it looks in the morning we might swing by the House long enough to say hi before we leave."
"So tomorrow it will be ok to come by, but not tonight?" Mike replied.
"Tomorrow," Antonio replied, "we'll be out of here before Xandred can react. I'm glad you came down, though. There is something we need your help with."
"Although we'd prefer you not to tell the whole story," Jayden continued, "you can tell the team some of this, but not Mikayla."
"All right," Mike said, "I can do that."
"Mikayla isn't a red ranger," Antonio said after a glance at Jayden. "She's a Ranger, and she's Lady Shiba, but the morpher only works for her through blood sympathy. We have a way of proving this to her that is elaborate and underhanded, but necessary."
"If she isn't a red, what color is she?" Mike asked.
"We don't know," Jayden said, "that's part of what our plan is about."
"There's also this," Antonio said, "I had someone do some research at Shiba House in Japan. Shiba Lords have been fighting Xandred for 18 generations, but not all generations actually fought him and not all of the Lords were rangers. If you match the rangers with uprisings from the Nighloks, there is conclusive proof that there is more time between uprisings when the Red Ranger is a sibling or cousin to the Lord and not the Lord himself. My theory is that we use so much symbol power as Rangers that the Shiba Lords don't have enough left to properly power the seal, letting Xandred break it easily. When they are Rangers, they have more power available, but they lack the boost that Morphin' Power gives them. My hypothesis is that a Shiba Lord, or Lady, who is a Ranger, but not Red and not called on to participate in every battle, will be able to seal Xandred away for good."
Mike blinked and looked from Jayden to Antonio, "What does this have to do with me?"
"You are pivotal to the plan," Jayden said, "and what you have to do is very simple."
"What's that?" Mike asked.
"You have to tell Mikayla that the stranger in the white clothes that is following her around is Dekker," Antonio replied.
"Dekker is dead," Mike said bluntly.
"We know that," Jayden replied, "but one of the other red rangers looks exactly like Dekker. I actually thought he was at first glance."
"I thought Dekker was Cole the first time I saw him," Antonio said, "except he wasn't wearing red and he was carrying what turned out to be a sword. He also didn't recognize me."
"What does Dekker have to do with Mikayla?" Mike asked finally.
"Cole is going to pretend to be possessed by Dekker," Jayden said, "because Dekker only thought I was to be his ultimate duel. His real duel has to be with Mikayla. When he confronts Mikayla, his teammate Merric will intervene."
"Merric is a silver ranger," Antonio continued, "They have the ability to make power auras become visible. Zhane calls it a 'party trick'. Merric will get between Mikayla and Cole, saying things to Cole about being possessed. Then he'll light up his aura to 'drive out the spirit', leaving Mikayla blinded. When he lights up, he'll light everybody's aura and we'll know Mikayla's true color."
"I just have to convince the team to tell Mikayla that it sounds like she's seeing Dekker," Mike said, "I think I can do that."
"Good, thank you," Jayden said.
Mike hesitated, "So," he said, "how are things going for you two?"
"Good," Jayden replied, a little quickly.
"Fine," Antonio added just as quickly.
They stared at him for a long moment, "Why?" They finally asked in unison.
"You haven't let go of each other since you sat down," Mike replied. "Is something going on?"
Jayden and Antonio stared down at their linked hands and then at each other. Jayden blushed and Antonio bit his lip. "We're," Jayden said, he sighed, "it's complicated."
Antonio smiled a little, and Mike laughed, "Of course it is," he said. "But are you dating, together, what? Have you kissed?"
"So many questions," Antonio said teasingly, "have you turned into Emily when we weren't looking?"
"I just want to win the bet," Mike said firmly.
"What bet?" Jayden asked.
Mike rolled his eyes, "You two stared at each other like love struck teenagers the day you met. We had bets going within ten minutes of you meeting each other."
Antonio leaned against Jayden for a moment, "We have kissed, the once, but we haven't actually talked it all out."
"It's a conspiracy," Jayden stated, "every time we start talking, something happens to interrupt us."
"My dad," Antonio said, "he was probably doing it as a joke."
"I thought," Mike began, and then trailed off.
"My foster father," Antonio said simply, "not my blood father. My blood father is the one who died."
Mike noticed that Jayden had a dark look on his face and his hand tightened for a long moment on Antonio's hand. "You didn't help either," Jayden added, his levity sounding forced.
"That's right," Antonio said, "you and Emily interrupted us once too. I was talking to Jayden on the phone, remember?"
"Yes," Mike said, "you were talking about what, dating?"
"At the least," Antonio said firmly.
"You're ok with this?" Jayden asked, catching his eyes.
"I don't have a problem with it," Mike replied. "I don't swing that way, but it doesn't bother me. Emily thinks you two are going to be more than adorable if you ever got together, Mia wants you to be happy, Jayden and Kevin just doesn't want anyone to hit on him." He grinned a little, "Like I said, we've talked about it before. What you two decide to do, we are going to support you without a question."
Chapter 13: A Flying Visit
Mike tried his best to act calm the morning after seeing Jayden and Antonio. He didn't want to give away his friends to Master Xandred, but knowing that the two of them would be coming made him even more distracted than normal. Naturally, he paid for his distraction with bruises from Emily, but he counted them well worth it. 'Better bruises now, than blood later,' his mother had told him once.
"Mike," Mikayla said sharply, "your attention has been wandering all morning. Perhaps you'd like to share your thoughts with the team?"
Mike blinked and glanced around for a brief moment, "I was thinking about my mother," he said finally. "You haven't released us for time off and I'm sure she's worried about me."
"I am sure Jayden has explained how dangerous it is for you to see your families," Mikayla replied.
"I don't go see her," Mike replied hiding the satisfaction he got at addressing her without the familiarity that Ji, among others, insisted on using. "She moved to Georgia with my step-dad when I was summoned. I use my time to go down to the coffee shop and call her on Skype so she knows I'm in one piece. My brother's birthday is coming up too, I wanted to find and mail him a gift."
"Lady Shiba," Ji said, stepping onto the back deck, "we have visitors."
"Who?" Mikayla asked, turning to him.
Jayden and Antonio stepped onto the back porch, Jayden looking emotionless while Antonio stared at Mikayla with a smirk on his face. "Hi," Jayden said.
"Jayden," Mikayla said, "where have you been?"
"Why?" Jayden asked, "I haven't been plotting to take the morpher back or anything."
"If Master Xandred," Mikayla began.
"Xandred couldn't find me where I was," Jayden shrugged, "and even if he did, I had some highly efficient and dedicated protectors." He laughed, "The only place on Earth I could have been safer would have been a ninja academy."
"Not to mention that I've been with him most of the time," Antonio added. He glanced at his watch, "We don't have much time, Jay."
"I know," Jayden replied, he stepped off the porch, pointedly stepped around Mikayla, and smiled at Emily, "Hey, Emi, I heard you finally mastered that double blade technique."
Emily launched herself at Jayden, "I did, and it was just as easy as you said. I'm glad you're here even if you can't stay, we really missed you."
"I miss you guys too," Jayden replied. He squeezed Emily tightly, and then turned to Mike, "How's it going?"
"Better now," Mike replied as they gripped hands and slapped each other's shoulders. "Too bad you can't stay."
"I know," Jayden said. He turned to Mia and Kevin, "Hi," he offered.
Mia smiled and gave him a quick hug, "It's good to see you," she said.
"Heard from your parents lately?" Jayden asked as they stepped back.
"I got a letter from Mom yesterday," Mia replied. "Dad's surgery went well, now all he has to do is get through physical therapy. Dad claims he's already ready for the Boston Marathon next year."
"That's great," Jayden, said, "I was thinking about him. I was also thinking that I need to get better at email, what with me staying with Tony's family for now. Excuse me, Antonio's family."
"I'll set it up," Antonio called from the porch. Mike thought it looked like he was having a staring contest with Mikayla, which was better than the two of them actually fighting each other over Jayden.
"Kevin," Jayden said, "how are you?"
Mike turned back to see Kevin shrugged, "I'm ok. It's been different since you left."
"More disciplined," Jayden offered. "You don't have to feel bad, Kev. I know you are a dedicated and disciplined Samurai."
"Thank you," Kevin said. Mike saw the smile Kevin tried to hide and scratched his nose to hide his own grin. Kevin might be Mikayla's favorite for his discipline, but Kevin's first loyalty had been to Jayden. Jayden's obvious pride in the blue ranger probably did more for Kevin then any one of Mikayla's grudging, one word compliments.
A six-tone beep brought everyone's attention to Antonio, who pulled out his morpher. "Joel's here," he told Jayden. "We should head up to the airport." He paused as his morpher alerted again, "Angela's with him."
"Right," Jayden said, he gripped Kevin's shoulder for a moment, hugged Mia, and Emily then turned to Mike.
Mike grinned and hugged Jayden tightly, "Come back to us," he whispered in Jayden's ear, "Before I do something we'll regret."
"I'll be back," Jayden promised. He walked around Mikayla, staring at his feet, and then jumped the porch steps to stand beside Antonio. "We'll see everyone soon," Jayden said.
"Bye," Antonio added and the pair headed into Shiba House.
Mikayla seemed to jerk out of her silent, frozen stance, "Jayden," she said and sprinted after them.
Mike turned to the team, "Do you trust me?" He asked them softly.
"Of course," Emily said and Mia nodded.
"Sometimes," Kevin replied.
"Will you follow my lead, even if you don't understand what's happening, for Jayden?" Mike said. "If you don't want to, will you at least not contradict me? I'll explain when I can, but I need help."
"You can count on me," Emily said.
"Me too," Mia added.
Kevin stared at him for a moment then sighed, "Fine."
They were sparing again by the time a clearly upset and frustrated Mikayla rejoined them. Mike, up against Emily, deliberately skewed his block so that she smacked his side. "I'm so sorry!" Emily said.
"It's ok," Mike replied. "I didn't block right. Better bruises now than blood later, right?"
"You shouldn't go easy on her," Mikayla said, right on cue.
Mike stared at her for a moment, "Go easy on Emily? I can barely keep up with her. After Jayden, Emily is the best with a sword. I only put Jayden first because of Dekker really."
"Who is Dekker?" Mikayla asked.
Mike widened his eyes slightly, "No one told you about Dekker? I thought Ji was filling you in on everything."
"The name isn't familiar," Mikayla said.
"Dekker was a half-Nighlok," Mia said, joining them, "and it wasn't even by his choice. He was cursed to wander the globe, looking for the ultimate duel for his sword, Urumasa."
"Right," Mike said, "and he picked Jayden for that duel. It was weird; he kept saving Jayden and even healed him once, so that the duel would be between equals."
"Did they have that duel?" Mikayla asked.
"Well yes," Kevin said, "and Jayden won."
"So Dekker is dead," Mikayla said with a nod, "Good."
Mike shrugged, "Jayden won, Dekker's gone, his body vanished though. It didn't blow up it just;" he shrugged, "disappeared."
Mikayla was quiet for a long moment then she blinked, "We aren't done training, Samurai. Emily, you're with me while Mike ices his ribs."
Mike turned a little to wink at Emily to reassure her, then he bowed, "Yes ma'am." He racked his weapon and headed inside, making sure not to appear too healthy until he was out of sight. Safe in his room, Mike studied his side in the mirror for a moment, then fixed his shirt and checked under his bed. Sure enough, there was another bag beside GRETA. He started to reach for it, then pulled back. He'd wait for Emily before he opened it. She deserved to be with him after missing last night, after all.
Chapter 14: Blue View
Kevin had lived a disciplined life for as long as he could remember. He's structured his days to optimum efficiency by the time he was six years old. His dedication to the Samurai arts had led to his swim training, and his efficient training methods and link to the water element had made him a serious contender for a spot on the U.S. Olympic swim team before he had been called to his true job. It had never been in question for him, he'd always known he would trade swimming for fighting when the time was right, he'd just never known when the time was.
Being Samurai wasn't as hard as he'd thought it would be, but it wasn't easy either. They weren't the same ages, which, ok he could understand that, and they had different personalities, again, something he had anticipated, but it was the seeming lack of dedication that bothered him.
Mia worried as much about her cooking as she did her fighting skills, sometimes even more. Mike didn't focus on being a Samurai as much as he did eating, video games and lately, pranking. Emily was a kid, the backup, and while she was easily one of the better sword fighters, she was young. Jayden had been the only other person with a strong self-discipline, who had admired his swimming career without implying it had been a waste of time.
This was the team Kevin had adjusted to, had been able to see himself fighting Mister Xandred and the Nighloks with.
Antonio had really shaken him, and maybe he had been harsh on the Gold Ranger, but it was because he didn't want an amateur on the team. Learning about Antonio's past, from his father to his training at the hands of the Watanabe family, plus seeing his utter devotion to Jayden had shown Kevin there was a lot more to the light hearted Gold Ranger than met the eye.
Kevin could see Antonio as part of the team, with the way he looked after Mike and Emily, and deftly steered Mia about cooking. He definitely knew that Antonio knew his way around a battle field.
Then there was Mikayla, who had come out of nowhere, without warning, and had flipped the team upside down. While Kevin could admire her devotion to the battle, and understand the costs, he didn't feel the same connection with her as he did Jayden. She had turned the team from their more relaxed off periods to near constant training, pushing them harder at every turn. She ordered Mia out of the kitchen, and took away Mike's video games and laptop, but it was Emily and to a lesser extent Kevin, who felt her tongue.
Mikayla always compared Emily to Serena, although Mikayla had admittedly never met the elder sister, she seemed to believe that Serena would have been so much better than Emily was. Sometimes, Emily would insist, even through her tears that Mikayla didn't mean to drive her down. Even in Mikayla, Emily was looking for the good.
Kevin, on the other hand, had made the mistake of mentioning his Olympic dream, and had been treated to a lecture on how he should have been devoting his time to being a better Samurai. She claimed that if Kevin hadn't spent all that time swimming, he would have caught the swordfish zord faster, and he would be better at his symbol power. The lecture had been issued in private, and Kevin never mentioned it, but now when he looked at Mikayla, he could hear her dismissive and offensive tone.
All of this was in the back of his mind the day Mike asked for help, for back up in a plan for Jayden. It was the reason he said yes, because he would have followed Jayden to the Sanzu River to fight Master Xandred, but he wasn't sure he'd follow Mikayla.
The night after Jayden came to see them, Mike came into Kevin's room. "Kevin," he said, holding up a letter, "I wanted to ask you about working with me tomorrow. My high side kick is weak and I was hoping you could help me out."
"Sure," Kevin said, taking the letter from Mike, "During free training, in the outer training yard?"
"Perfect," Mike said, "thanks. Lady Mikayla was…telling me…I needed to work on it."
Kevin smiled, "It's not a problem, Mike. Thanks for asking."
Mike left and Kevin sat down on his desk, opened the book he'd been reading and unfolded the letter.
I don't know the details, but Jayden and Antonio say that Mikayla isn't a Red Ranger. She is who she says she is, but her Ranger Color isn't Red. Since Mikayla's about as likely to listen to Mr. Ed, as she is Antonio, they're going to use an elaborate plan to prove it to her. All you really need to do, besides burn this, is tell Mikayla that the guy who looks like Dekker, well, looks like Dekker.
Kevin turned a page in his book and stared at it as he carefully tore the letter into shreds in his lap.
Three days later, Kevin was jogging behind Mikayla when she stopped suddenly. Only Ranger reflexes kept him from hitting her, "Lady?" He asked.
Mikayla pointed, "Who is that? I've seen him around before."
Kevin followed Mikayla's finger and frowned, "If I didn't know better," he said slowly, "I would have said it was Dekker." Standing on a hill off the jogging path was a man with dark hair, wearing tattered white clothes. He had a white band holding his hair back from his face, but otherwise looked remarkable like the half-Nighlok warrior in his human form. As if seeing that Kevin and Mikayla had spotted him, the man nodded to them once, turned around and walked away.
"But Dekker is dead," Mikayla replied, "you said so yourself."
"He is," Kevin agreed, with a shrug, "all I know is that he looks like Dekker, except he's not carrying Urumasa."
"Maybe we should follow him," Mikayla began.
"If you want to," Kevin began, but when Mikayla glared at him, he altered his words, "I mean, if my lady wishes."
Mikayla hesitated a moment then took off, "Let's find out who he is," she said. Kevin jogged after her, unwilling to let her go alone, but uneasy with the thought of confronting the pseudo-Dekker.
When they reached the top of the hill, however, the man had vanished. The hill sloped down about twenty feet before falling away to a river bed. The drop from the edge of the hill to the bed was steep, though a good climber could possibly have handled it, Kevin didn't think the man could have made it and gotten out of sight before they got there without help.
Mikayla glared at the drop for a long moment and then turned to Kevin, "I will find out who that man is," she stated, "whoever he is."
"As you wish," Kevin replied.
For a brief moment, he thought he saw Mikayla's lips twitch, but she turned away, "Let's go."
As Kevin followed her back down the path to Shiba House, he thought about that flash of a twitch. He also thought about how Mikayla reacted to the pranks that Mike set up. She often seemed furious during the aftermath of a prank, but even when it was clearly something Mike had done, the punishments were never as harsh as they could have been.
Chapter 15: Chaos and Climbing Trees
Antonio found Jayden running through a kata in Adam's dojo, being watched by a beginner group that looked as if they'd not quite started class. "Want to spar?" He called to Jayden as he toed his shoes off.
"Sure," Jayden replied, "Give the kids a show huh?"
Antonio grinned, dropped his backpack, and stepped onto the mat, "Go easy on me so I can loosen up, hey? Bike riding and running up and down stairs aren't the best warm ups around."
"As easy as you go on me," Jayden replied and kicked.
Antonio dodged the kick and swung a punch with a grin of his own. They moved around each other easily, mixing flashy show moves with the more serious, and getting bolder as they warmed up. Suddenly, just as Antonio launched himself for a spinning heel kick, he felt his knee buckle and he went down hard, unassisted, "Are you ok?" Jayden asked.
Antonio looked up, he was facing the door, and standing there, looking far too amused, were Tanya and Jinx. "I'm fine," Antonio said and stood up. "Hi Tanya, hi Jinx, time for class?"
"Yup," Tanya replied.
"Hi Tony," Jinx said and started to run towards him.
Tanya, who still had Jinx's hand, stopped him, "Shoes, Julian," she said firmly.
Antonio stepped off the mat and scooped Jinx up, "Shoes? We don't need shoes!" He flipped Jinx, who shrieked as Antonio tickled him lightly. "Do we need shoes?"
"No!" Jinx managed, "Put me down!"
Antonio flipped Jinx over his shoulder, "I don't think so, Jinx. Hey Jay, grab my bag. We should get going."
"Not with my son," Adam said, appearing behind Antonio, "hand him over please."
Antonio clasped his free hand to his chest, "Adam! How did you do that?"
"I'm a ninja, remember," Adam said, "my child."
Antonio slid the wiggling Jinx onto his hip, "What do I get for him? I hear the gypsies pay well."
"How about I don't charge you for mat time?" Adam suggested, "You and Jayden."
"Here you go," Antonio said, and handed Jinx to Adam. Turning, he saw Jayden sliding his shoes on, "So, are you doing anything right now, Jay?"
Jayden shrugged, "Not really, why?"
"I wanted to have an adventure, and I need a partner," Antonio replied and slid his own shoes on before grabbing his backpack.
"Sure," Jayden said, "I'm game for an adventure."
"Great," Antonio said, "we'll be back for supper, Mom, Dad." He headed out with Jayden right behind him.
"So where are we going?" Jayden asked as they crossed the dojo's parking lot.
"Angel Grove Park," Antonio replied. "I finally replaced my camera and I want to break it in."
"Ok," Jayden replied.
It wasn't far from the dojo to the park and Antonio felt something in him unwind as they started down one of the jogging paths. "Back when my parents were in high school this place used to be deserted a lot," he commented as he headed for a group of trees.
"Why is that?" Jayden asked.
"It's where the monsters used to show up," Antonio replied. "Most of the damage has been landscaped out, but some of it isn't. There's a statue or two around here too. The originals they put down town, but the Zeos and the Turbos are here in the park. The Astros wouldn't let them do statues of their team, because they weren't technically Earth Rangers, but the others didn't have a choice." He pointed, "There, that one's perfect." He turned off the path and wove through a few trees to an older oak.
"Perfect for what?" Jayden asked as he followed him.
"Climbing," Antonio replied. He jumped up, caught the lower branch, and hoisted himself up. "Come on up," he told Jayden as he sat on the branch, "we can get very high in this one, I'd bet." He looked up, picked his next target, and started to climb. After a moment, he looked down to see Jayden watching him, "Come on, Jayden! I can't take good pictures of myself!"
"Why should I?" Jayden asked.
"Because it's fun," Antonio replied.
"You know, I've never climbed a tree in my life," Jayden said.
"Never?" Antonio repeated, "Man, what the hell is wrong with Ji? He never let you do anything as a kid."
"He let me do plenty," Jayden objected.
"Jayden, the tree we vowed to kill before we were ten is now planted in the mediation area," Antonio replied, "our initials are still carved in it too. You probably didn't play a single game after I left."
Jayden sighed, "I had nobody to play them with."
"You have me now," Antonio said, "now get up here; I know you can climb a tree."
Jayden hesitated a moment longer, then began to make his way up the tree to set beside Antonio, "Happy?" He asked.
Antonio reached into the side pocket of his backpack and pulled out his new camera, "Almost," he replied, waiting for the camera to come on. Once it was ready, he snapped Antonio's picture. "There," he said and held out the camera, "Now take mine."
Jayden took the camera, holding it easily. Antonio smirked and wiggled his fingers as the picture was taken. "Good?" Jayden asked, showing Antonio the screen.
"Perfect," Antonio replied, taking the camera back. He held it out, "I want one more," he said, and leaned over to kiss Jayden.
Of course, the picture for that one was horrible, but you could see both of them and the kiss, so Antonio privately counted it a win. After he put the camera up, he watched Jayden stare into the tree for a long moment, "Do you think it will work?" Jayden asked finally.
"Will what work?" Antonio asked, although he suspected he already knew.
"Mikayla," Jayden replied, "and Dek- Cole. Will it work?"
"There is no reason why it wouldn't," Antonio replied and took Jayden's hand in both of his. "I don't know a lot of things, Jay," he said as he began to message Jayden's palm, "but I know that Mikayla's one of ours. She's a Ranger now, and she's a Samurai. All we have to do is prove that to her."
"Do you think we can?" Jayden asked.
"We're Rangers," Antonio said, "We don't know how to fail. If you ever doubt that, just look at Angel Grove. Five years of monster attacks and the city's not only still here, but also it's thriving. There's Mariner Bay, Silver Hills, Turtle Cove, Blue Bay Harbor, Reefside, Briarwood, San Angeles, and Ocean Bluff that are still there. Many of them have rebuilt themselves. Think of Scott and the others, they haven't given up yet, even though they had to fight from the other side of things. Proving to Mikayla that she isn't a Red, but still ours will be a walk in the park, figuratively speaking."
Jayden sighed and freed his hand, "I can only hope that nothing makes you eat those words."
Antonio rolled his eyes, and shifted, "Come on, let's go find some more climbing trees. This one's boring."
"Boring?" Jayden replied even as he followed Antonio in climbing down the tree.
"Yeah, we already climbed it," Antonio replied. He landed on the ground lightly and looked up, "Although take your time," he added, tilting his head.
"Why?" Jayden asked, pausing to look down at Antonio, "What are you doing anyways?"
Antonio smiled, "I'm admiring the view, of course." He crossed his arms, "It's the best view around.
Chapter 16: A Little Sister
The only thing about being a girl in the 'boys club' was that they forgot things. Things like the fact that Emily was only human. Things like the fact that even Emily had limits. Things like the fact that Emily could be pushed too far.
It was nearly two weeks into the 'Dekker' plan that Emily finally lost her temper with Mikayla. She'd been trying so hard to keep up a cheerful front, to act as if Mikayla's casual taunts didn't affect her, and retreating into her music when she needed to find her emotional balance. Of course, that was where Mikayla found her just before dinner. "You play the flute beautifully," Mikayla said, "did Serena teach you that?"
Emily froze for a brief moment, then something in her snapped. "Serena! Is that all you can talk about? Serena this, and Serena that," she jumped to her feet, whirling to face Mikayla. "I'm not Serena, I'mEmily." Some small part of her noted and was satisfied by the shock on Mikayla's face. "I'm sick of hearing you talk about my sister like you know her. You don't know her. You don't know me. You don't know anything about any of us! You treat us as if we're pawns in your game, but I'm not a pawn, I'm a human being. More than that, I am a Power Ranger. I'm sorry, I know I'm not Serena, you don't have to keep reminding me about it." She paused, and nodded, "In fact," she took her Samuraizer from her pocket, "why don't you just go get Serena to be your yellow ranger since I'm clearly not good enough. I'm sure when my sister dies trying to be the yellow ranger you want you'll be happy." She threw the Samuraizer at Mikayla's feet before shoving past her and into the house.
Mike was standing just inside the back door, "Emily," he began.
"I'm leaving," Emily said, "you can't stop me."
"If you feel that strongly," Mike replied, "I'm not going to try." He eased forward, "Would it kill you to hug me good bye first?"
Emily smiled a little and threw her arms around Mike, "Of course not," she whispered.
"Good," Mike said, equally softly. He hesitated a moment, "Antonio's family lives in Angel Grove, Adam and Tanya Park," he whispered in her ear.
Emily nodded and released Mike. She nearly ran down the hall, skidding past Mia and Kevin and slamming the door to her room against the sound of Mikayla's voice. She threw her clothes in her backpack and slung her purse over her shoulder, checking to make sure her money was tucked into her wallet. She hesitated, listening as Mikayla's agitated voice was joined by the others. "Bye guys," she whispered and slid out the window.
Emily Carter hadn't always been the bright and friendly girl they knew. She'd climbed out of (and into) her share of windows back home in Canada. She ran to the gate and slid out just as the front door started to swing open. "First," she murmured as she ran down the street, "Angel Grove, then back to Canada."
Emily sighed as the taxi stopped in front of a house, "This is the address," the man said.
"Thank you," Emily replied and passed forward the fare and a tip. "I appreciate this." It had been a long trip from Shiba House. She'd gone to Blue Bay Harbor first, remembering the stories from the ninjas, she had found Storm Chargers, and the lady who owned it, Kelly. Kelly had gotten her in touch with Shane after telling Emily that Dustin had already left for England. Shane had seemed to accept her story of wanting to see Jayden and Antonio at face value and provided her the address after she shamefully admitted that she had snuck out behind Mikayla's back.
Now, standing in front of the house that was supposed to belong to Antonio's home, Emily could only hope that she was doing the right thing. She slid her backpack onto her shoulders and walked up to the front door, after a brief wait, she pressed the doorbell and shifted her feet awkwardly.
She was beginning to worry that nobody was home when the door opened to reveal an older Asian woman, "May I help you?" She asked politely.
"I'm sorry," Emily said, "are you- are you Tanya Park?"
"No," the woman said, almost gently. "The Parks live next door. Are you ok?"
"Yes," Emily said and tried to smile, "I've just had a long trip. Which house is it?"
The woman pointed, "It's that one there, dear. I think Adam is home, but if he isn't, you can come back here. I'm Trini Scott."
"Thank you," Emily said and turned away.
At the house next door, she again pressed the doorbell. Moments later, a slender, Asian man opened the door, "Are- are you Adam Park?" Emily asked tentatively.
"I am, can I help you?" Adam asked.
Emily sighed in relief and said quickly, "I'm Emily, Antonio's t-teammate, yellow, I was looking for him or Jayden are they here? Mike said they were and I really need to talk to one or both of them."
"Whoa," Adam said, holding up his hand, "Emily, come on in, it's ok. Antonio and Jayden are here, they're down in the basement at the moment. You look like you had a hard trip."
"It was just long," Emily replied as she stepped into the house. "Thank you."
"I can imagine," Adam said, he gestured, "the basement door's in the kitchen down here. Why didn't you call? I know Mike has the house number at least."
"I-I had," Emily stopped, swallowing; "I had to leave."
"It's ok," Adam said, "whatever it was, you're safe here, and Tanya will be home soon." He led her down to the basement. Jayden and Antonio were playing some sort of board game, "Tony, guest," Adam called as they cleared the stairs.
Antonio and Jayden looked up, "Emily?" They said in unison.
Emily couldn't help it, she burst into tears. "I'm sorry," she wailed before a pair of strong arms pulled her into a tight hug.
"It's ok Emily," Jayden said firmly. "We'll figure this out."
Antonio, holding her, squeezed lightly, "You're safe here, Emily. Whatever happened, we'll fix it."
Emily calmed herself down, even if she wasn't ready to escape Antonio's hold, "I'm sorry," she said softly.
"It's cool," Antonio said, "come sit down, take your backpack off, and tell us what happened." He eased his embrace and steered her over to a couch. Emily slid her backpack off and let him push her down into the middle of the couch. Then he sat down beside her with his arm resting on her back. Jayden sat down on her other side after Antonio looked at him.
"It was Mikayla," Emily said after a long moment. "I just, she's always asking about Serena, if Serena could do this or that, had Serena taught me something. She didn't care about what I could do. I just, I lost it. I'm sorry, I was trying not to let it bother me, but it did. I-I told her she should just give the morpher to Serena, threw it at her and left."
Antonio laughed, "That's one way to quit a job. Not the best way, but it's certainly creative."
"Mike told me to come here," Emily said, looking at Jayden, "and Shane Clarke, the ninja, he gave me the address."
Chapter 17: Who's Your Boss?
Jayden paced around the basement while Antonio and Emily watched, "What?" Antonio asked.
"Emily, you can't just take off like that," Jayden said, "your contract."
"Contract?" Antonio asked.
"My contract," Emily said as she leaned back, "stipulates that I work for Jayden Shiba, not Mikayla. You ordered us to work for Mikayla, but at no point were the actual contracts dissolved. Kevin and Mia apparently have no problems working for Mikayla, and Mike is prepared to tough it out as long as you need him, but I see no reason why I have to put up with her attitude when I don't work for her."
Jayden opened and closed his mouth like a landed fish.
"What contract?" Antonio asked, looking between them.
Emily shrugged, "This is America, Antonio, we can't just call ourselves Jayden's sworn warriors, or what have you. We're all licensed bodyguards with contracts and everything." Emily paused, "Well, I'm not really, I'm not old enough yet to be an actual bodyguard. I'm more of a PA, right Jayden?"
"I think so," Jayden managed. "Ji handled the contracts. Are you sure they aren't for Mikayla?"
"Positive," Emily said firmly. "I read mine very carefully when I got hired and Mia let me read hers too, so that I'd know what to expect."
"What about Mike? You and he are the same age right?" Antonio asked.
"He's also a PA," Emily said. "We have to be twenty-one to be bodyguards, but we can be personal assistants with handgun license at eighteen. Go figure, right?"
"The contracts are a legal formality," Jayden said, "a way for us to continue to legally have retainers."
"That makes sense," Antonio agreed, "but it is kind of weird too. Is that why Ji kept talking about swearing me into your service?"
"Ji's old fashioned," Jayden replied, "but yes, he wanted your name on a contract. I didn't want to see you forced to serve Mikayla because of a piece of paper."
"I wouldn't serve Mikayla," Antonio said, standing and catching Jayden's arm. "I fight with you, Jayden. I promised you I'd be a Samurai and fight the Nighloks with you. That's my oath. 'When you're Red Ranger, I'll come back and be a Samurai to.'"
Jayden smiled, "I am grateful every day that you came back, Tony."
Antonio wrinkled his nose a little and kissed Jayden lightly, "I would be anywhere else."
Emily cleared her throat and Antonio jumped back, "Just wanted you two to remember I'm here," Emily said brightly.
"You know," Antonio said, "I wonder how Mikayla's taking your departure, Emily."
"We'll ask Mike later," Jayden said. "Right now, we need to get Emily up to date on the plan with Dekker. Maybe she can help us with that."
The three Rangers settled down and began to plan.
"What do you mean she can do that?" Mikayla demanded.
"I mean Ji never wrote up contracts in your name," Mike replied harshly. "We're contracted to work for Jayden. He's ordered us to work for you, and we are, but Jayden is our boss. Because of that, I won't tell you where Jayden and Antonio are, or as best guess as I have, and because of that, you can't fire Emily for violating her contract. You don't have the authority."
"I hate to say it," Kevin said, "but Mike's right."
"And unless we agree," Mike continued, struggling to hide his glee, "and Jayden agrees, those contracts can't be dissolved or rewritten."
"How did this even happen?" Mikayla said.
"It was to protect you," Mia replied, "that's what we believe. Ji wrote the contracts to Jayden to perpetuate the belief that Jayden was the Lord Shiba. Our oaths might be to the head of Shiba House, but this is America. Legally, Jayden is our boss. He made it clear that we shouldn't have a conflict of interest in protecting and serving you, but Emily clearly disagreed."
"What about you?" Mikayla asked.
"At the moment?" Mia replied, "I took up my morpher to fight Nighloks. You are fighting Nighloks with the red morpher. Jayden said serve you. I see no conflict of interest. If Jayden were still here, or you weren't fighting Nighloks, then yes, we might have a problem."
"I agree with Mia," Kevin said. "My duty as a Samurai and a vassal of Shiba House dictates I serve you, and so I do. My contract says I do what Jayden says, and he said serve you. I see no conflict of interest."
Mike shrugged, "Jayden wants me here, and I'm here."
Mikayla nodded, "Clearly Emily was too young, if Serena."
"You know, you really do sound like a broken record," Mike interrupted her. "That was Emily's issue. She's spent her entire life in the shadow of her brother Ben, your father's Yellow Ranger, and Serena, and yes, maybe Serena was supposed to be your Yellow, but she isn't. Emily is. Emily, who wasn't supposed to get a morpher, Emily, who was supposed to go to college and then join the family business, Emily, who is a great yellow ranger, and embodies one of the rarest 'types' of Yellow." He slid his hands in his pockets and frowned at them, "I talk to the other Greenies, you know. One of them is more commonly known as the Black Astro Ranger, Carlos Vargas. He says Dustin told Ashley that Emily is like her, she doesn't just focus on one type of healing, she's good at all three; body, mind and soul. The triple healer is very rare, point in fact, Ashley Hammond is the only one associated with Earth. You should be proud that she's on this team, instead of hitting her weak point over and over to see if she would break."
Mikayla looked stunned, "I-," she began.
"Mike," Kevin said.
"I'm done," Mike said, "Except for this, Lady Mikayla. I'm a Green Ranger. We're not just pranksters; we embody a team's fighting spirit. Not just against our enemies, but for our friends. I know for a fact that there is a future time where Emi and I get married. I've been told that particular future is defunct, but marrying Emily? It's a future I wouldn't mind being a part of, if she agrees with me. That makes Emily more the team, that makes her family, and nobody makes my family cry." He turned and walked away. As he closed the door to his room, however, Mike could only hope that he hadn't just managed to single handedly destroy Jayden and Antonio's careful plans.
Cole stood watching Shiba House. For once he'd fore gone the white garbs of Dekker for a more natural look that enabled him to all but vanish from sight. This wasn't the rain forest he'd grown up in, but Cole had trained to be invisible by masters. "Are you ready?" Merrick asked, stepping up from behind him silently.
Chapter 18: The Lady's Color
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Antonio, Jayden and a reluctantly Emily, arrived at Antonio's place early in the morning. "I don't see why I'm here," Emily told them as sat down on Antonio's couch.
"Because you need to be with the team," Jayden told her, "Whatever happens today, the team has to remain intact with a Red Ranger." He sat down on the couch with her, twisting to keep an eye on Antonio at the same time.
Antonio nodded distractedly as he opened the front blinds. "We all need to be here today, Emily." He said quietly.
"What's wrong, Tony?" Jayden asked.
Antonio sighed, "I just have a feeling that today isn't going to end well." He shrugged, "I'm just worried about Mikayla's color."
"Why?" Emily asked.
Antonio shrugged, "It's nothing, I just can't decide how Mikayla will react to being whatever color she is."
"I'm sure Mikayla will be able to handle it," Jayden said firmly, "She's a Ranger, after all." He watched as Antonio stared out the window for a long moment before turning away, "What?" Jayden asked.
"We've got a couple of hours to kill," Antonio replied with a big grin, "what should we do first?"
They left Emily at Antonio's place when Merric arrived, she had fallen asleep, and so they left her sleeping peacefully on the couch. Merric took the two Rangers to a place where they could watch the coming confrontation without Mikayla noticing. Merric had just vanished to get to his place when Mikayla appeared, alone, carrying a staff. "Right on time," Antonio murmured as the Lady Red began to train.
"This is not going to be easy, is it?" Jayden asked.
"Once we know her color," Antonio replied, "all the other Rangers that match are going to gang up on her and make her face facts. That and the research should help, and you're a good man, you won't let her feel like anything less than a valued member of the team and your big sister."
"You'll be nice to her too," Jayden said.
Antonio pointed, "There's Cole."
"Oh, that's not creepy at all," Jayden replied, staring at the Red Ranger in his Dekker disguise.
They couldn't hear what was going down between Mikayla and Cole, but Merric wasn't even trying to be subtle when he showed up. He teleported in, a streak of silver that cleared to show the other Ranger, unmorphed, standing between Mikayla and Cole with his back to Mikayla and his hands up in a halt gesture. "Cole!" He shouted, "Stop!" Then he turned slightly to say something to Mikayla.
"I wish we could hear them," Jayden muttered.
"Me to," Antonio replied. He glanced down in surprise to find that Jayden had taken his hand. They exchanged shy smiles before focusing on the action as Merric began to glow. "Um, close your eyes," he told Jayden. The warning came none too soon, because mere seconds after they'd closed their eyes then a bright flash of light erupted in front of them.
Antonio opened his eyes and grinned at the sight of the gold aura around his hand. He glanced over at Jayden, whose red aura was equally distinctive. Finally, Antonio looked down in to the valley.
Mikayla was on the ground, a bright silver aura around her. "Oh no," Antonio breathed and started to scramble up, yanking his hand free from Jayden's hand as he did.
"What?" Jayden asked.
"Antonio!" Merric bellowed angrily.
"She's Silver," Antonio told Jayden as he threw himself down the slope.
"Is that bad?" Jayden asked as he followed.
"Only in that using the Red morpher could have killed her," Antonio replied as he gave up on running down the slope safely and launching into a streak.
"Why didn't you tell me she was Silver?" Merric demanded when Antonio reached him.
"I swear, I didn't know," Antonio replied, looking from Merric to Cole and then down to Mikayla. "I really didn't know, Merric. She just, I didn't think she was the type."
"We have to take her to Eltare," Cole said. "That means you to, Antonio."
"I know," Antonio replied. He knelt and pulled Jayden's morpher from Mikayla's pocket. "Let me grab my bag and explain… Jayden doesn't know."
"Make it fast," Merric growled.
"Yes sir," Antonio replied, he ran back to Jayden. "Here," He shoved the morpher at his friend, who caught it. "Jayden, we're taking Mikayla to Eltare. Use your morpher and stay with the Samurai."
"What's going on?" Jayden asked.
"I don't have time to explain," Antonio said, "just trust me that everything's going to be all right." He wasn't going to say good bye, wasn't going to admit that he might never see Jayden again, instead, he just kissed Jayden and whispered, "I love you," before taking off to get his bag.
Thankfully, he didn't wake up Emily when he got to the house, and he made it back with no incidents. Jayden was now arguing with Cole and Andros, while Zhane waited nearby. Merric and Mikayla were not in sight, so Antonio decided they were already on the Mark II. "Ready?" Zhane asked.
Antonio ducked his head, "Yes sir," he replied and tried not to shudder when Zhane rested his hand on Antonio's shoulder.
"Let's go then," he said. "Andros, Cole."
"Wait," Jayden began, "Antonio."
Antonio couldn't look at his best friend, and he couldn't stop himself from wondering if Jayden would forgive him if Mikayla died.
The golden light of the teleportation seemed almost cold and Antonio kept himself from hunching in on himself after the trip by force of will. "We're not mad at you," Zhane began.
Antonio winced a little, because he could tell, they were, and they'd all forgotten he was empathic to boot. "Just," Antonio said, "where am I going to be out of the way?" Zhane pointed to a chair which Antonio took and tried to put up his best shields as the Mark II pulled out of orbit on its way to Eltare.
A bend in the road is not the end of the road... unless you fail to make the turn. ~Author Unknown
Also known as the title source. I thought it fit the story. Until next time!