Disclaimer: Okay . . . here we go again . . . Saban, the tyrant of the fanfic world, owns the rangers and all the characters and settings that we all see on TV. This fic takes place after "Brothers and Sisters". Oops, I forgot . . . I don't own the song either. It's "Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin.

Author’s note: I love this song, even though its one of the saddest songs I've ever listened to, and I thought I'd try and make a fic out of it. I hope I didn't kill it too much. :) Any and all comments are always welcome. ( I *love* email. :) Thanks for taking the time to read this. . .

Cat's in the Cradle
By Rachel Lynn

A child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking 'fore I knew it and as he grew
He'd say, "I'm gonna be just like you, Dad
You know I'm gonna be like you"

Ashley looked around the small cubicle room in frustration. There were no openings, no ducts to attempt an escape out of, and no doors. _How did I get into this mess? What's more, how did I get into this mess with Mr. Velasquez? What a way to spend my one year anniversary. Andros is probably crawling up a wall with worry._

"Didn't you kids already destroy all the evil in the universe a couple of months ago? Who were those guys?" The middle aged Hispanic man in the room asked as he gave a slight thump on the walls as if trying to find a weak point in the structure. Ashley sighed.

"Yes, we did destroy all the evil in the universe a couple of months ago, but the physcos weren't a part of that destruction. They were lying dormant on five key cards, and when NASADA got a hold of them, they didn't realize what they were. To make a long story short, they accidentally brought them back to life." Ashley said in a slightly condescending tone. _His son is a ranger. You'd think he'd know these things. All the rest of the parents do, but no, Mr. Velasquez is always the exception to that rule._

Rick Velasquez raised an eyebrow at the tone of her voice. Unconsciously he ran a hand through his thick, short black hair that was turning gray at the temples, and loosened the tie around his neck. _Hey chica, don't take this out on me, its not *my* fault we're stuck in a room with no way out. I wonder if her parents are aware of how rudely she treats adults._

"So you're the pink ranger right?" He asked after a couple of minutes as the silence began to grate on his nerves. Her head snapped up, and the look on her face was one of pure annoyance and disgust that only a teenage girl could pass off.

"You're a real piece of work, Mr. Velasquez, you know that?" She said as she crossed her arms over her chest. "I'm the yellow ranger, your son is the black ranger. Our friend Cassie is the pink ranger." She added with a sneer. Rick glared back.

"Listen little Miss Pris, its not my fault we're trapped in here, there's no use in getting snippety with me. Its not going to get us anywhere." The Hispanic man retorted as he began to pace along one of the room's walls.

"You think being in here is what I'm upset about? Buddy, I hate to break this to you, but I've been in worse jams then this. This is nothing in comparison to what the rest of the team has been through. I'm upset, no, I'm furious, that I have to be trapped in a place like this with the likes of you." Ashley spit out angrily. Rick was taken aback for a minute by the open hostility in the brunette's blazing eyes.

"What have I ever done to you? You've been snapping at me ever since we ended up in this place, and I'd like to know why." Rick said irately as he placed his hands on his hips and regarded the teenage girl in yellow.

"It's not what you've done to me. Its what you've done to your sons that has me so ticked off." She retorted as she rolled her eyes.

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, "Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let's play
Can you teach me to throw," I said, "Not today
I've got a lot to do," he said, "That's okay"
And then he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And he said, "I'm gonna be just like him, yeah,
You know I'm gonna be like him"

"I don't know what you're talking about, young lady. Those boys have everything they could possibly want." Rick said as he tiredly slid down onto the floor. If it was possible, Ashley's expression grew even darker.

"They have everything they could possibly want but you. I have to confess, Mr. Velasquez, I've known Carlos since we were ten, and in the eight years that I've known him, he's never said a word against you. But dammit, I was there. I saw the disappointment in his eyes every time he told me that you were going off on another business trip, or that you couldn't go camping with him because you had work to do. You should have seen how many times he searched the bleachers looking for your face when he and the AGH soccer team made it to the championships. For some unknown reason, he and Manny think you walk on water, although I can't possibly see why. I mean, honestly Mr. Velasquez, how much do you know about your sons' private lives?" Ashley asked accusingly. Rick stared back blankly for a second.

"Well, I, um, oh yeah, Manny's dating some girl named Alison Hillard." Rick said brightly. _I know some about my sons' private lives. They're my sons, and I'm a part of their lives. This silly little twit doesn't know a thing about this family. I really have to talk to her parents about her rudeness._

"Her name's not Alison, its Alicia, and Manny isn't just dating her anymore, he's engaged to her. But then, you wouldn't know that, now would you? You want to know how I know? My older brother Drew and your son Manny are best friends, almost like brothers. Manny came to *my* father for advice on how to pop the question. He and Drew went out together to pick out engagement rings for Alicia and LeeAnn. But then, you wouldn't have a clue as to who LeeAnn is, now would you? She's Drew's fiancé, and she's going to be present at Manny's wedding because its a double wedding, but you wouldn't know that either. I'll bet you don't even know that the wedding is in two months, May 20, to be exact, and I'll even bet that its not from a lack of trying on Manny's part that you don't know. I'm sure he's tried to tell you on numerous occasions that he's getting married, but I'll wager you were too busy to listen every time. Manny was probably reduced to sending a wedding invitation to your office so you would finally find out." Ashley said condescendingly as she stood over the older man. Rick looked at her in complete shock. _She's right on every count. Even about the invitation, its sitting back on my desk at the office, unopened. Oh Lord, how did it come to this?_ He ran a hand through his hair again and opened his mouth to say something, but Ashley cut him off.

"Then there's my best friend Carlos. He's your youngest, in case you should happen to wonder. He was a ranger for two years, and you never even suspected it, did you? He started spending nights on the Megaship half way through our senior year in high school, but once again, you wouldn't know that. He's currently enrolled in Angel Grove University with the rest of us. He's majoring in Engineering, just in case you're interested. NASADA has offered all of us jobs once we're finished with college, and you'd think that any father would be bursting with pride over that, telling everyone he knows in that really annoying adult way of bragging. But I bet you don't because you didn't even know. Then there's Carlos' love life. Something that most guys are inclined to talk about with their fathers, believe me I know, I've eavesdropped on enough of my brother's conversations with my own father to know. But Carlos doesn't come to you does he? He doesn’t come to you for anything. He can't because you won't listen. Instead, he talks to me. He's head over heels for his friend's younger sister, Lindsey Park." Ashley added as she sunk to the floor beside the older man.

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, Dad
I don't know when
But we'll get together then, son,
You know we'll have a good time then

"All right, All right! I admit it! I'm not a good father! You don't think I know that? I can't do this on my own. Dammit, Cristina! I can't do this on my own anymore!" Rick yelled at the ceiling as he stood up, ignoring the startled teen beside him. “Are you happy now? I'm not a good father. There, I said it." He growled as he looked down at Ashley. Ashley looked up at the proud, yet thwarted older man. His eyes were bright with unshed tears, and there was a look of complete desolation written on his face.

"Cristina was your wife, wasn't she?" Ashley asked softly, realizing that she'd pushed him too far as the older man slowly sank to the ground in defeat. He nodded silently, and for a moment, neither said a word.

"She was my wife for fifteen glorious, wonderful years. She . . . she was like a bright light, one that you were sure would never burn out. She was always so full of energy, so vibrant. I used to get tired just watching her. When she laughed, it sounded like someone was killing a frog. Funny thing is its one of the things that I miss the most about her, that insane laugh. I'd almost give anything to hear that laugh one more time." He said quietly as he allowed himself a small chuckle. Ashley tilted her head, trying to read the expression on the man's face.

"You retreated into your work, didn't you? Its an escape of sorts. A place where you can do various things until you're so exhausted you fall into an dreamless sleep." She analyzed. He nodded solemnly. She'd pegged his lifestyle, and he had to bow to her anyalization.

"I know I didn't handle her death right. The boys looked to me to for support, and I let them down because I was so wrapped up in my own grief. I haven't been there for them, and now, well, now its too late." He said sadly as he ran both of his hands through his hair in frustrated acceptance.

I've long since retired, my son's moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind"
He said, "I'd love to Dad if I could find the time
You see, my new job's a hassle and the kids have the flu
But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad,
It's sure been nice talking to you"
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me, my boy had grown up just like me

"I'm not letting you give up that easily, Mr.Velasquez. It is *not* too late." Ashley said as she placed a hand on his shoulder, opening a connection. She felt the emotions flowing between them, and she bit her lip, hard, to keep from sobbing at his anguish. As she released his shoulder, she knew she had given him the one thing he had lacked before. She had given him hope when she'd returned his grief. "There is still time to get to know your sons better. You could start by getting involved in Manny's wedding. It would really mean a lot to him. You still have a chance to become a part of their lives." Ashley said matter of factly as she stood up again. Rick slowly climbed to his feet too.

"Do you think they'll forgive me?"

"I know they will. I think they understand you better than you think." Ashley said with conviction.

"Thanks Ashley." He said somberly, and then as the moment passed away, he turned and surveyed the box like room. "How are we going to get out of here?" Ashley gave a small smile at his profoundly worried face.

"Come on, Mr. Velasquez, have a little faith. Your son and my boyfriend will get us out of here. Eventually."

The End