After four years of Rangering, two years of being alone, and a year of company on the MegaShip. . .he had fallen in love. Fallen was the correct term for it, too. He had been riding high on a wave of silence and impassiveness, not wanting anyone, not needing anyone. Until the first moment he had looked into her eyes.
It had hit him like a lightning bolt in that moment. He hadn't wanted to admit it, even to himself, however. He had only wanted to remain alone. He had already lost everything and everyone that had really mattered to him. His home. His family. His friends. All he had was the driving need for revenge and to defeat the enemy.
If you lose sight of what you're fighting for. . .you become the enemy you hate. Those were words his father had told him during his training, in the days before he had taken on the mantle of Red Ranger. But his father had never had all that he cherished ripped from him. His father had lived a happy life, and died peacefully three days before the first attack on KO-35.
Andros leaned against the wall, removing his helmet and letting the Battelized Armor fade away. He had only needed it to get up here. Now he had to wait until morning before doing anything else. It was too dangerous to move around too much right now. All he could do was wait and hope that he wasn't found. Once morning came, he would find his sister and do all he could to bring her back to the side of good where she belonged.
The image of a pair of eyes came to him as he sat there, still and silent and lost in his thoughts. Warm eyes full of laughter and concern for him. Concern for all of them. I love you, Ashley, he thought, wishing he'd said that before he'd left. Wishing he'd said something more than what he had. More than just a promise to come back.
He wished he had kissed her. He had been yearning to for so long now he was no longer certain when it had started. At times he thought he could remember being five years old and wanting her to kiss him.
Andros wished he could have told her he was doing this for her. Well, if he was truly honest with himself, he was doing it for the entire universe. But he also didn't want to see her hurt. He knew she would be in the battle the next day, if it happened. But if he could get to Astro--, no, to Karone, he wouldn't even let himself think of her as Astronema, Astronema was just a mockery of his sister, Karone was who he would see when he got there, no matter what she looked like. If he let himself be blinded by the hate again. . .who knew what would happen.
He gulped just a little. He knew what would happen. He would die, and the universe would fall. The odds were fairly good that it would happen anyway if he failed, or even if he didn't. So he got Karone back. . .Ecliptor could hand out evil orders just as well as she could. For a moment, Andros let himself remember what his sister's bodyguard had been like once. He had almost liked the warrior he had fought so many times.
He made certain we got away. . .and look what happened to him because of it. Andros remembered the glance that had passed between the two of them on the jungle planet. For the first time, one of mutual respect. Andros had always known Ecliptor's fighting skills. ..now he had had a glimpse of his enemy's heart, and it was not . .or had not been. .made completely of evil stone.
Ecliptor gave up his freedom and probably a large amount of his self-will to get Karone to safety. Now they're both slaves to evil. ..a tear made it's way unnoticed down Andros' cheek. I'll save Karone...and Ecliptor if I can. . .so they won't ever hurt anyone else. ..they won't hurt Ashley. ..
The thought of her name made him smile even through the other emotions that were dancing about in his heart. He loved her so much. He knew he had to get through this, in order to tell her how he felt. And he would tell her, he knew. He decided it in that moment. When he returned to Earth, he would tell her how he felt.
He closed his eyes briefly, reaching for a few seconds of sleep that he needed so badly. In the last twenty-four hours, things had escalated so badly that he hadn't slept since the previous night. They had almost woken up to the news of the battles being lost all over the universe. If Dark Spectre had tried this at the beginning. ..who knows what would have happened. He tried not to think about it. But he knew what he would have done.
Andros, Red Ranger of KO-35, leader of the Astro Rangers, would have went down fighting. To defend everything he loved, and most especially these days the woman he loved, was worth it all.
He smiled. I can't ever stop thinking about you, Ashley. I don't even want to. Even if I don't make it out of here. ..if I can change Karone back, then it will be worth it. To keep you safe. To keep the universe safe. They're the same thing for me. You ARE my universe, Ashley. You changed the universe for me.
How in the world had she done it? He'd treated her so badly in the beginning, when they had first met. He'd been like that towards all of them, but almost from the start, she had been the only one who had been able to work through his cold-hearted exterior. But she had shone the sun of her friendship and love upon him, and all the ice had melted.
She insisted I come to Earth. ..she taught me pool. ..and how to have fun. ..in the years between Zhane's injury and when the four of them had met, he had forgotten what it was like to have fun. All he'd ever known was the fight. The endless rage and the endless battle, running and fighting, fighting and running. He stopped seldom for fuel for the ship, only doing it when it would have been death not to, and he had almost lost his humanity.
Ashley had given it all back to him. She had shattered his mental and emotional walls, and just as she had fallen in love with his mystery, he had fallen in love with her openness. What he was doing now, he did for her, in thanks and in love. The old him would have done this for revenge, would have cut out Astronema's heart and screamed his triumph across the heavens. . .and would have lost everything that made him what he was.
Instead, he was doing this for love. . .for love of her. For love of all his friends, which he could return now as he never had before. For love of his sister, which he had never thought he would have. For love of the entire universe, a universe which he had finally learned was not against him. A universe which had given him Ashley Hammond, Yellow Astro Ranger.
A universe which he would thank by saving it, as much as he could.
Andros slowly stood up. It was almost morning. He had to find Karone's quarters and do everything within his power to save her. To save Ashley, Carlos, T.J., Cassie, and Zhane. To save Angel Grove and Earth. Their entire universe was at stake here, and he wouldn't let them down. For them. ..for love. ..and if the price of it was his life, then so be it.
"For you, Ashley," he whispered to himself, sliding his helmet back on. I love you.