Disclaimer: Power Rangers belongs to Saban.
Layla dabbed Charlie's elbow with Elandra's collected tears, and the Red Ranger watched as pinkish-brown pigment spread across his skin. He blinked, and his eyes went from red to brown, and he let out a long breath.
"Why do they call this skin color white? I was white five seconds ago; this is not it," he said. Layla shrugged, and set the vial aside. All five Monster Rangers were in the sparring room, though all of the weapons had been removed. The Stellar Rangers had politely taken their morphers away and locked them inside.
It was currently very early morning, and Heather and Joe were already asleep. Jacob was partway there, but watching his other two teammates re-humanize themselves through slitted eyelids.
"What are we going to do now?" Layla asked, folding her hands in her lap and looking to Charlie. The Red Ranger shook his head.
"Run, maybe. We'd be a lot more help to the galaxy fighting evil on its doorstep than locked up in prison somewhere," he said.
"Would they pursue us?" Layla asked.
"Maybe, depending on whether they believed us," Charlie said.
"It sounds cowardly," Layla said. Charlie gave her a sideways glance, brow furrowed. "Besides, we'd probably never get to see our families again."
Charlie let out a little, bitter laugh. "Not an issue for me thanks to Ivan Ooze."
"What?" Layla asked sharply.
"My mom was a witness, so Ivan got rid of her," Charlie said. Jacob heard a soft sound, and opened his eyes to see Layla put a hand on Charlie's shoulder.
"If I had known, I would have joined you in trying to destroy him," she said quietly.
"Would you really?" Charlie asked flatly.
"In a heartbeat."
"I wish I'd thought of that before," Charlie said, with an audible smile. Then he switched to a businesslike tone. "So, UN Demi-Zords come to take us to their base tomorrow morning. Are we going to stay for them?"
"Everyone should have a say in this," Layla said. Charlie nodded, and reached over to wake up Heather and Joe. Rubbing his eyes, Jacob pushed himself up on an elbow before Layla could try to rouse him.
Charlie re-explained the situation, and Jacob tried to keep his eyes open. He waited just until Charlie finished talking.
"We should stay," he said. "Who knows, maybe if you tell them your idea they'll make it our community service or something, and we'll still get to see our families again before that."
"I do not want to go into deep space," Joe said, shaking his head emphatically. Heather gave Charlie a sympathetic look.
"I'm just tired of being the bad guy," she said. Slowly, Charlie nodded.
"Okay, then. Get some rest," he said. Gratefully, Jacob lay back down and pillowed his head on his arm. He was asleep in seconds.
Jacob glanced up at the sound of the door opening, and saw the Red Stellar Ranger enter. The UN Demi-Zord force—Zeuth—officers had been civil, but quite clear; the Monster Rangers were prisoners until further notice. They'd all been locked up separately, but had gotten fair treatment.
Rex walked inside, not even glancing at the two-way mirror, and sat in the chair across from Jacob. The former Black Ranger wished his teammates were there (or at least Heather), sighed and sat up straight on the bunk.
"What happens to us now?" He asked.
"You're in a very unique circumstance," Rex said, leaning forward and folding his arms. "You've caused a lot of property damage, and more than a few deaths, but it's clear you were all under coercion, and several of you tried to help us. So, I've got an offer for you. Join Zeuth. We need experienced people; you need some way to pay back the world."
Jacob blinked. He'd already come up with a few different future scenarios, but joining the UN had not been one of them. Rex raised his eyebrows, and waited.
"S-sure," Jacob stammered. He shook his head, and said more firmly, "Yes." Rex grinned.
"Good, I thought you would. You're free to go now—and I mean really go. You've got two weeks' leave. Here," he pulled out a slip of paper and passed it to Jacob. "Be at this address on the eighteenth, eight o'clock on the dot."
Jacob stared at the address. He noticed Rex get up and leave, but didn't really comprehend it. The Red Ranger paused at the door.
"Oh, you may want to start by leaving the room; that usually works for me," he said. "It's kind of a maze out there, so go down the hallway to the third door on your left, number 44."
"Huh? Oh, sure," Jacob said, springing up. Rex held the door for him, and Jacob mumbled a thanks. His mind was still trying to grasp what had just happened.
The switch from yellowy fluorescent light to blue-white daylight was jolting, and Jacob just stood there in the hallway for a moment. Uniformed men and women went by on various jobs, not so much as glancing at him. There were skylights all along the hallway ceilings, as they branched off in different directions.
Jacob began to walk. Third door on the left it was. He wondered exactly where this Zeuth base was—and more importantly, how close to home. His dad had worried about him for long enough.
The door in question was ajar, and Jacob pushed it open. It looked like a meeting room, and someone else was already inside, looking out the panoramic window on the far wall. He was a grayish man, in his forties or early fifties by the looks of it—and then it hit Jacob. His mouth went dry.
"Dad?" The man turned around, and froze when he saw Jacob. The two stared at each other. Maybe it was the light, but Hank Anderson looked older than Jacob remembered.
"Jacob?" Slipping around the table, he looked his son up and down in disbelief.
"Hi, Dad," Jacob said at last. Then he shrugged. "I'm back."
With a joyful cry, Hank Anderson seized his son in a bear hug. They both staggered, but didn't let go. Only now did it really hit Jacob that he was really free of the Alchemist. His eyes prickled, and he tried to blink it away. No, I am not going to cry. I'm not.
Hank finally broke the embrace, and looked at his son. He was already in tears, and that only made Jacob worse. Even so, he couldn't stop grinning, which didn't help.
"I thought I would never see you again," Mr. Anderson said. "Even after they found you, I…"
"Me too," Jacob said, and swiped at the stupid tears. "Oh, I've got so much to tell you, Dad."
"Well, we've got time," Hank Anderson said with a laugh. Jacob looked around, grabbed a chair and sat, his father following suit. He laughed shakily.
"I don't know where to start! You go first," he said. "Yours is probably shorter."
Hank Anderson paused. His expression saddened a little as he slipped back into his memories. "I heard about the attack on the news, the normal way, and looked for you in the footage. The next day I got the call, that you were missing presumed—dead." The last word stuck in his mouth. He hurried on. "That you'd been doing your duty, and saved a civilian's life—her name's Jackie Peters, actually, she came over after getting out of the hospital to personally thank me. She started coming over about once a week from then on."
"Then, right about the time the Purple Ranger showed up, Zeuth released your name, and put out some searches for the others—similar people from the area who'd disappeared without a trace. After that, I watched every single fight you were in. During the one in Stone Canyon last week, I was standing on the roof with binoculars," he paused, and shivered. "I thought you were dead. Again."
"So did I," Jacob admitted.
"Zeuth kept giving out little bits of information. When they said you weren't really on the Alchemist's side, I just told everyone that I knew it, you couldn't just turn evil like that," Hank said, with a gleam of pride in his eye. "Then they called me up this morning and said to come down here. And here we are."
Jacob rested his head on his hand, and let it all sink in. Hank let him, still not taking his eyes off his long-lost son. At last, he spoke up again. "It's your turn."
Jacob blew out a slow breath, and organized his thoughts. "Okay. Well, the last thing I remembered from the accident was the roof falling in, and then I woke up…"
Jacob walked out onto the landing pad of the Zeuth base, at night. There was only the tiniest sliver of the moon showing, but the stars were bright. It was cold and windy, but Jacob ignored it. It was nice just to be outside without having to go blow something up, for once. He spotted Joe standing on the far side of the pad, and walked over.
The teen was tense and very quiet, only nodding or grunting to any questions. For a while, Jacob tried to watch the sky. Then he shook his head.
"What's wrong?" He asked. Joe sighed through his teeth.
"It wasn't entirely the Angels. I liked fighting," he said.
"Why?" Jacob asked.
"It was fun—the giant robots, the fights, even the explosions. I liked them," Joe said.
"Guess what, that's kind of normal for a Power Ranger," Jacob said, with a wry grin.
"And I still have dreams about the Weeping Angels," Joe said. "I don't think they'll ever go away entirely."
"Maybe not," Jacob said. "But dreams are just dreams. Not really that big a deal."
"Maybe," Joe said, sounding unconvinced. Jacob turned to fully face him.
"Joe, it's ended. You can start trying to get over it now," he said. Joe's expression was stony. Jacob shook his head and ran his hands through his hair. He tried again. "Look, there have been—and are right now—Rangers out there with worse pasts than you and me put together. Out of all of us, you have probably the least to feel guilty about right now. So please, stop agonizing over it. And weird dreams can come in handy."
Joe shoved his hands into his pockets, nodding, turned and walked away. Jacob watched him for a little while, and made a mental note to get him some help. He'd heard the Yellow Stellar Ranger was pretty good at dealing with angst.
Then Jacob heard footsteps, and turned to see Heather coming towards him. It took him a moment to recognize her, now that she wasn't green anymore. Jacob stood, feeling suddenly awkward.
"Hey," Heather said, stopping beside Jacob. Her breath was visible.
"Hey," he replied, clasping his hands behind his back. "You've joined, too?"
"Yeah," Heather said. "We all did—I've been exploring, and you were the last one I found."
"Good," Jacob said, and looked up at the stars. After the long conversation with his father—he'd had to keep stopping and explaining things throughout—he'd been talked out. Besides, he couldn't think of anything to say.
Heather folded her arms and looked up at the sky. "My parents and I met your dad, too. He's nice."
"I know," Jacob said, smiling a little.
"So…you switched sides because Marco told you to destroy Stellar Pink," Heather said. Jacob looked at her, startled.
"Wanting to not murder someone and crushing on them are two different things, Heather!" He said. She flushed, but still looked ill at ease.
"We're both different now," Heather said.
"Oh for Pete's sake," Jacob said, and wrapping his arms around Heather, kissed her. Their teeth clinked. Her arms snaked around him, and the wind blew her hair against his cheek. At last, they broke apart.
"Satisfied?" Jacob asked, a little breathless.
"Yeah," Heather said. Her face was pinkish. She pulled her hair back, tucking it over her ears.
"Good," Jacob said. "So, would you like to try a normal date sometime, or should we just stick to sparring sessions?" Heather smiled.
"Let's do something normal, just to shake things up," she said.
"Great," Jacob said, grinning. Seriously, he added, "It was never a lack of options, Heather."
"Really?" Heather asked skeptically.
"Okay, fine, at first," Jacob admitted. Heather laughed, and they started back inside.
Trivia: The woman Jacob saved is named after Jackie and Pete Tyler, because I just needed another Doctor Who reference!
A/N: Woohoo, I'm done! It was a lot of fun, but I'm very glad to have completed these stories at last!