It was nothing but a madhouse as Aura, Billy, Alex, Alaina, Azure, Adam, and Katia sorted through their baggage at the hotel. Aura sighed a little at her twin offspring. "Alex, Alaina, we need to unpack before you can go play!"
Azure looked at her niece and nephew as they bounced on the bed in what would be Billy and Aura's room. "Remind you of something? Or should I say, someone?"
"It is good to get away," Azure sighed, then quickly caught Alaina before the younger twin fell off the bed. "Woah there!"
Aura sighed, smiling. "Alaina! Your middle name should be 'active' instead of 'Azure', girl!"
"Sowwy," Alaina said, giving her mother a hurt puppy dog face she could have only learned from Adam. Aura smiled and hugged her daughter.
"It's okay, Alaina. Mommy's not mad at you!"
"Good!" Alaina hugged her, then ran off to play with her brother some more. Aura smiled at them, she had never imagined her life would be so happily full.
"I wonder if we were that much trouble when we were kids," she wondered.
"Mom and Dad would probably say yes!" Azure grinned very smally. Since their 'alternate' experience the day before, the four of them had felt closer than they ever had in their lives. They had all seen how much they needed the Rangers in their lives, and it had been unnerving, to say the least. Aura knew now her very life had depended on her being the Amber Ranger, as well as the life of the world.
"Most likely," Aura said dryly as she finished unpacking. "Now, time for some serious vacationing!" she glanced around. "Where are those kids of ours? I saw the twins heading out."
Adam entered the room. "They're in our room," he said, gesturing to the chamber he, Azure, and Katia would be in during their stay here. "They came in, started jumping, and then fell asleep!"
Aura giggled. "We'd better get someone to watch them, if they're going to sleep!" she decided. The four adults were going to the beach, but wouldn't leave their slumbering children unguarded.
"I'll call downstairs and see if the hotel can send up someone," Billy suggested. A phone call and five minutes later, a young woman appeared at their door.
"I'm the baby-sitter, Jewel," she said. "You asked for someone to watch your kids?"
Aura nodded. "Keep an eye on them, they can be active when they're awake!" _that's putting it mildly!_ As the baby-sitter settled in, Aura grabbed her things. "Okay, guys, let's go! I want to soak up a few rays!" she giggled, for some reason being here made her feel like a teenager again!
Adam glanced at Azure, with a small grin. "You do have a bathing suit in there somewhere, don't you?" at her nod, he asked, "Now, are you going to wear it?"
"Adam!" she was torn between laughing and smacking him. Adam put on his best innocent face and asked, "What?"
Azure shook her head and headed for the elevator, muttering uncomplimentary things about her husband's gender as she did so. Aura nodded as she joined her. "Men," she chuckled. "Can't live with them. Don't want to live without him," she glanced at Billy.
Billy smiled. "I wouldn't want to live without you, either."
Aura couldn't help but shiver for a moment. "I've seen what it would be like without you, and I don't like it one bit!"
Azure shook her head. "Let's go," was all she said. _Those
two are inseparable. And insatiable!_
On the beach, Azure leaned against a tree and watched Aura and Billy run up and down the shore. Azure sighed a little, not really reading the book in her hands. Adam spoke up from next to her.
"Nice out here, isn't it?" Azure nodded absently, she hadn't really noticed. Adam considered putting an arm around her, then decided against it. "You look good in that," he said instead.
"Adam!" Azure blushed a little. Adam insisted she did, and she sighed a little. She'd kept so much inside. . maybe it was time to let some of it out.
"Azure, is there something you want to talk about?" he asked finally. Azure nodded.
"A little, but not here," she glanced up to where Aura and Billy were playing like children in the waves. "Not where Aura can hear," she gestured down the beach. "There."
They wandered down the beach, Azure finally coming to rest on a large rock where she could watch the tides come in. "It is beautiful here, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Adam nodded. When Azure looked at him, he saw fear in her eyes.
"We need to talk."
A spear of panic impaled itself in his heart and stomach. "A. .about what?" he wondered. Azure waited before answering, waited until she could calm herself.
"Us. Me mostly," she told him at last. "What happened to me while I was in that dream, and my attitude towards you recently."
"What did happen?" Adam almost regretted asking that as the full tale of the dream spilled out at last. He was assaulted by every emotion, from joy to fear to anger to rage to laughter to nurturing love. Azure took a deep breath as her recitation came to an end.
"The scary thing is, what Eric did to me in that dream, part of me liked it."
Purest love filled his voice as he looked at her. "Oh, Azure. It wasn't real. . ."
"I know," she nodded. "But it seemed too real! And it won't leave me alone," she glanced at him. "That's the main reason you've been sleeping on the couch. I couldn't face you with what was going on. I haven't had a decent night's sleep since that happened."
"Azure," Adam whispered. "I wish I knew something to say."
Azure shook her head lightly. "I don't expect you to."
Adam almost took her hand, but knew somehow it was too soon, far too soon. "I love you, Azure. I think that spell they had you under, found the worst parts of what you are, the things you know could've been, but aren't, and made them worse, made them real."
"And made me hurt you," Azure shivered a little, remembering. "That's the part that scared me the most, that and seeing that knife, in Billy's hands, going into Aura. It brought back painful memories," _memories about Eric. About what he did._
"It wasn't real," Adam insisted. "None of it was."
Azure spat out, "It was the same knife! The knife that I threw into the lake, the knife that Eric used on me!"
"Oh, man!" Adam's eyes were wide in shock. There was a look in Azure's own eyes, that spoke eloquently of the desire she had for wanting his arm around her. He knew she wouldn't make the first move, though. She was too scared right now.
"Adam," she whispered. "I'm sorry for my behavior this past month."
Adam nodded as he enfolded her into a warm hug. "I understand, Azure. You went through quite literally your worst nightmare."
"And barely survived," Azure whispered. "I'm glad you found the cure."
"So am I," Adam told her. "Oh, so am I!" he hugged her even tighter as she leaned against him.
"I. . .oh, Adam," she whispered, tears sliding down her cheeks.
"I love you, Azure."
Billy looked up as Adam and Azure headed out. He smiled as he hugged Aura. "It's about time they talked."
Aura nodded. "I'm glad for them."
Billy sighed a little. "They're not the only ones. We need to talk. About what happened with what the Spirit showed us."
Aura bit her lip, trembling. "Yeah."
"Some of the things I saw. . .Aura, I don't know what she showed you, Adam, and Azure, but she showed me how you died in that timeline."
Aura shivered as Billy continued. "The Spirit told me Eric killed me."
Billy nodded. "He shot you, when he raped Azure. The first time, he had a gun."
"That was true," Aura remembered. "But I moved out of the way before he could get the shot off."
"Not this time," Billy held her close to him as Aura shook, remembering that first time.
"It was being the Amber Ranger, wasn't it? And sort of 'knowing' one day that I'd be needed that helped me move so fast," Aura took a deep breath. "I saw you, Billy. . .you were a hacker."
Billy sighed. "I know. What else did you see?"
"Adam, a drunk," Aura whispered as she leaned against him. Billy raised an eyebrow in shock.
"Adam? A drunk?" Aura explained quickly what the Spirit had told her. Billy sighed. "Man, who would have known that we needed the Rangers so much in our own lives?"
"I don't know about you guys, but I saw what would have happened if I'd never come home from Kalakan."
Billy shook his head lightly. "That we never saw. What would have happened?"
It was a long few moments before Aura answered. "You. . you suicided. I saw the date on the tombstone, it was the day I did come back!" Billy looked down, and she took his hand. "What aren't you telling me?"
Billy's pause was almost as long as her own. "I. . .almost did suicide. Adam interrupted me that day, and then you came back. But I couldn't bear to live without you."
"Would you have gone through with it, if Adam hadn't interrupted you?"
"I don't know," Billy said finally. "I like to think I wouldn't have. But I don't know."
Aura sighed. "I didn't know you cared that much."
"I do," Billy held her close to him, noticing she still shaking. "I love you more than anything."
"I love you," she whispered in return. When she didn't' say anything for a time, he looked at her.
"Aura? Anything else you want to talk to me about?"
She didn't say anything else for a time. Finally, "I. . .I saw what would've happened to me."
As Billy walked her to where Azure and Adam had sat before going down the beach, Aura began to tell him. "I. ..was married."
"To who?" when she whispered the name, it was so low, he couldn't hear her. "Who?"
"G. . .Galan," she finally said. Billy wrapped warm arms about her, comforting her to the best of his ability,
"I'm glad you came back then."
Aura nodded. "Me too. Because we were getting ready to invade Earth to. . .to kill you all."
"From what you told me, it would have been too late for me," Billy observed. Aura stared at him for a second.
"I was evil, Billy," she told him. "And I was going to have Galan's child!" she had never forgotten the mental agony of thinking Shaya was Galan's.
"You didn't," Billy reassured her. "And you're here, in our timeframe. The only one that matters to us at the moment."
Aura smiled a little and hugged him. "I know, and I'm glad, and I love you."
As she gazed into his eyes, she barely noticed Azure and Adam walking back hand in hand. Azure's eyes were red and tear-streaked, but she was also smiling just a trifle.
"Hey, guys," Aura said softly. "Azure, are you okay?"
"I'll be fine," her sister replied softly. "Eventually."
Aura smiled gently, as Adam looked up. "Let's head back to the hotel. It looks like it's going to storm."
Gathering their things, they headed back to the hotel. Everything was
all right now, they all felt, or would be soon. Nothing could spoil this
vacation, nothing at all.
"This is too easy!" Rita simply couldn't believe what she was seeing!
"They've almost given those brats to us!" Vile agreed. Rita nodded.
"Now we will have four heirs to the empire!" she declared. This was so much easier than having offspring of her own: just take it from someone else, and if that someone else happened to be a Power Ranger: so be it!
"Yes! We will raise them to be even more evil and viscious than us!"
Rita peered down at the hotel room. "And those Rangers can't do anything about it!"
"No one can do anything about it!" Vile corrected her. Rita nodded, and raised her wand
"Come, my Tenga! Bring them to me!" she declared, restoring
the Tenga that had been disguised as the baby-sitter to its natural form.
Oh, this was going to be far too easy!
Alaina ran as fast as she could away from the big black bird the baby-sitter had turned into. The Tenga squawked as he chased her, "Come here you little. .. ."
"Can't catch me!" Alaina giggled. This was a fun game!
"I'm going to take you and your brother and sister on a fun trip!" the Tenga promised. Alaina shook her head, not slowing down in the least.
"No! I want my mommy!" she declared. Alex looked up from where he was playing with the babies.
"Where is Mommy?" he wondered.
"Your mommy wanted me to watch you kids!" the Tenga tried to grab the swift-footed Alaina again. Alex shook his head in eerie imitation of his sister.
"You're not Rocky!"
The Tenga hissed, "He couldn't make it! He wanted to, though! Now come here!" he grabbed for the baby Shaya, knowing she couldn't get away!"
Alex screamed and kicked at him as hard as he could. "Leave my sister alone!"
"And what are you going to do about it, little boy?" the Tenga grabbed Alex by an arm as he struggled to get away.
"Lemme go!" he whined. The Tenga shook his head.
"Nope! There's a couple of people who want to see you kids!" he scooped up Katia in one wing, then looked around the room. "Now where's that last one at?"
The Tenga prowled up and down the rooms, trying to find Alaina. Finally, after ten unsuccessful minutes, he shrugged his feathery shoulders. "Oh, I've got three! That'll do!"
In a blaze of white light, the Tenga, Alex, Shaya, and Katia all vanished.
Alaina, hiding under the bed in her parents' room, shuddered and cried.
"Mommy. .." she whispered. "Mommy. . ."
Azure was the first into their rooms, and her heart almost stopped when she saw black feathers everywhere. "Hello?" she looked around. "What happened here? Adam, Aura, Billy! Come here!"
Aura joined her quickly. "What is. . what's with all the feathers?"
"Where are the kids?" Azure's voice was the very essence of worry. "Alex? Alaina?"
"Alaina! Alex!" Aura managed to keep her tears in. "Shaya! Katia!"
A little head poked out from under the bed. "Mommy?" Alaina trembled. Aura nodded, coming down next to the bed.
"Alaina, it's me!"
Billy joined his wife. "Alaina, what happened? Where are your brother, sister, and cousin?"
Alaina sniffled a little. "Baby-sitter turned into bird and took them!"
Aura held her arms out to her daughter. "You can come out now, Alaina," she reassured her. As what Alaina said hit her, she stiffened. "Turned. .. .into what?"
"Big black bird!" Alaina cried as she came out from under the bed. Aura took a deep breath, tears threatening to spill out.
"A Tenga," she whispered. Azure, on the edge of the bed, looked ready to cry.
"Why can't they leave us alone? Why take our kids?" she protested. Adam came over to hold her.
"We'll get them back!" he had forgotten how many times he had spoken those words.
Aura growled, "And I might know how."
"How?" Azure looked up, hope in her eyes.
"The Spirit of Earth. She is the ultimate mother, and no one messes with the mother of Earth itself!"
Billy nodded. "Let's go."
Azure sighed. "I'll stay here with Alaina."
"I don't have to go anywhere!" Aura reminded them. "The Spirit is in me, remember. She's part of me."
When the Spirit appeared, Aura ran straight to her. "Rita and Vile have kidnapped our children. Alaina was the only one they didn't get. Can you help us get them back?"
"I will," the Spirit nodded. "But I will need to know where they are being held. It isn't on Earth."
Aura nodded. "Maybe where I was?"
Adam stood up. "Let's get to the Command Center, just to make sure."
Azure shook her head as Adam looked at her. "I'll stay here with Alaina."
They were all gone a moment later, leaving Azure and Alaina alone. Azure took a deep breath, then went to the closet and took a bag out.
"Aunt Azure, you going somewhere?" Alaina asked, looking at her with liquid gray eyes.
"Not yet," Azure shook her head. "But I will be."
Azure sat back down on the bed and looked at her. "It's hard to explain, but it's for the best."
"Is it cause of the monsters?"
Azure nodded. "It's part of it."
"Uncle Adam loves you," Alaina told her. "Are you gonna leave him too?"
Azure sighed. "I love him too. But sometimes, love just isn't enough."
"Mommy says love saved her life," Alaina reflected. Azure nodded.
"On more than one occasion," she remembered. "But it's not always the answer."
"Do you love Uncle Adam?"
Azure took Alaina's hands, crying. "Yes, I do!"
"Then why are you gonna leave him?"
"It's me," Azure admitted. "I can't do it anymore."
Azure picked her up and set her on her knee. "There are things that happened to me, that I need time to face alone, without Uncle Adam."
"Are you gonna come back?"
Azure sighed. "I don't know. Alaina, I'm taking Katia with me."
Alaina cried. "I like to play with Katia!"
"Alaina, this isn't going to be easy on any of us. I'm sorry," Azure almost thought Alaina would be angry at her, but instead, the girl hugged her hard.
"I love you, Aunt Azure!"
Azure whispered softly, "I love you, too," she returned the
hug. "I hope Adam will forgive me for this."
Aura and Billy worked together to pinpoint their offspring's' location, while Adam paced back and forth in he little worn area of the Command Center. Rocky muttered to himself, "If they even hurt those kids. .. "
Aura turned to him. "Then none of us have to worry ever again about fighting them! I'll see to that!"
"We'd better find them," Kat murmured. Adam looked from face to face, worried in the extreme, then jerked up as Aura shouted.
"Found them! I was right, they're where I was!"
The Spirit nodded. "I will go get them," she was gone a moment
before Aura could utter her thanks. She fell into Billy's arms, wanting
him to hold her. _Bring our children home, my other half! Please!_
Rita looked at Katia, who was crying in her arms. She realized suddenly why she hated kids so much: they were noisy! She looked at her father, who had a tight grip on Alex's arm, and almost asked why they had done this again.
"Remind me again why we wanted these brats, Rita?" Vile groaned as Alex delivered a powerful kick to his shins.
"What?" Rita groaned at Katia's wailing cries. They were both startled, and a trifle relieved, when the Spirit of Earth appeared in all her furious glory.
"You dare to abduct these innocent children! Is there no depth to which you will not sink?" she roared.
Vile replied, "NO!" _Oh, good, she's going to get these terrors away from us! This Amber brat won't stop kicking me, and the babies just scream! This was a bad idea to start with! But we must keep up appearances!_
"I wanna go home!" Alex wailed as he held his youngest sister tightly. The Spirit strode over and removed Katia from Rita's arms.
"And I shall take you home," the Spirit told her as Alex joined her. "Your family is worried about you, young man! It's time to go home," she glared at Vile and Rita. "Your time will come!" she promised.
Rita hissed, "So will yours!" as the Spirit vanished, taking
the kids with her. Rita leaned against her father briefly. "I am so
glad they're gone!"
Adam did his usual pacing back and forth, wanting his kid back. He didn't know how Billy and Aura could be so calm! Suddenly, the tension was gone as the Spirit appeared with the kids in tow.
"Katia!" he took his daughter from her. "Oh, Katia!"
"Where Alaina?" Alex wanted to know as he joined his parents. Aura smiled as she hugged him.
"She's with Aunt Azure," she told him, then looked up at Adam and Billy. "Come on, guys, let's go tell Azure everything's okay."
"Guys, before you go," Rocky interrupted suddenly. He was holding Kat's hand, and there was a light in both their eyes, more than just their love for each other.
"What is it?" Aura wondered. Her eyes widened suddenly as she took her first good look at Kat in weeks. _Could it be?_
"There's something we need to tell you," Kat continued. Rocky nodded.
"We're expecting!" Everyone's mouth dropped open at that! Then, each of them started to congratulate the happy couple. Adam asked, "How far along are you, Kat?"
"About four months or so," Kat told them. Adam smiled and patted Rocky on the back congratulatory.
"You sly dog!" he laughed. He had never really doubted that Rocky would be a father, and a great one, one day!
"I wanna go to sleep," Alex whined a little. He didn't care one bit about what was going on with his baby-sitter and his baby-sitter's girlfriend. Aura smiled.
"We'll go pick up your sister, then you can go straight to bed!"
she promised him. Alex was one kid who didn't mind going for naps. . .most
of the time!
"We're back!" Azure looked up as Aura and the others appeared. "We got them back!"
Azure ran over and took Katia from Adam. "Oh, Katia! Mommy missed you!" she gazed lovingly into her daughter's eyes.
Alaina looked from her brother and sister to her aunt. "Aunt Azure leaving now?" she looked a little sad. Adam's eyes widened.
Azure sighed as she threw a glance to her niece. "We need to talk," she said softly. "Alone."
"Yeah, I think we do!" Adam wanted to know what this talk of leaving was all about!"
They went into their room, where Adam's eyes flew wide at the sight of her packed suitcases. "Azure. .you. .you're leaving me?" he stuttered.
"For now," she couldn't look at him.
"For how long?"
Azure sighed deeply. "I don't know. I wish I could tell you," the next part was the hardest. "I want to take Katia with me."
"Why?" Adam did not believe what she was telling him. Quietly she told him what she had said to Alaina, that she needed time to think, time to decide if this really was what she wanted in her life. Adam stared at the ceiling in shock. "Azure. . I. ..I don't know what to say."
"Understand my reasons," Azure begged him. "Rita and Vile taking Katia was my breaking point. I don't want her in that kind of danger. That's why I want her to come with me."
"Where will you go?"
Azure shook her head. "I don't know. We're leaving tomorrow morning. When you get back to Angel Grove, my stuff, most of it anyway, will be gone."
Adam sat on the bed, his head din his hands. "Azure. . ."
"Adam, please understand," she whispered. She hoped he wouldn't try and stop her from going, but knew he would at least try and convince her not to.
"Please, don't go, Azure!" he begged, tears in his eyes. "I can help, we can do something, maybe Billy can find a way so they can't ever find you and her, I'll ask him to start working on it!"
Azure shook her head. "No, it's not going to work. I'm sorry," it was all she could do not to cry herself.
"Please, Azure," he wept openly. " Please stay . You're everything tome, you and Katia!"
Azure touched his face gently. "You will survive. Adam, IH have to do this, if not for my own sanity, but to save us from a terrible fate."
Adam touched her cheek. "Azure, I will always love you forever."
"I know," she held his hand lightly. "But I'm still leaving," he kissed her, which she returned gently, then pulled away. "Our plane leaves at eight tomorrow morning. I'll be gone before you get up."
Adam nodded brokenly, looking as if all the life had drained out of
him already. Azure ran from the room, crying, and locked herself in the
bathroom, crying with all her heart.
"Azure?" Aura knocked on the bathroom door a few moments later.
Aura growled, "I am not going away! What's going on?"
Azure slowly unlocked the door, then returned to the corner and cried some more. She had never imagined she had so many years in her. Aura closed the door behind her. "Azure, what's wrong?"
"He hates me. . .," her sister whispered. "Adam hates me now."
"What?" Aura wasn't believing that. "No way!"
"It's all my fault too!"
Aura sighed. "Talk to me, Azure, please!" Aura wanted to hear the full story. "What's going on?"
Azure looked at her sister with tear-streaked face and tear-filled eyes. "I'm leaving."
"I don't know."
Aura nodded, her logical side coming to the fore. "And you think that made him hate you?"
"I'm taking Katia with me."
Aura raised an eyebrow. "I see. But I still don't think that would make him hate you!"
Azure shook her head. "Aura, you don't know what it's been like this past month!"
"Then tell me!"
Her sister did. "Adam's' spent most of it sleeping on the couch. I've shut him out, everything turns into an argument!"
Aura closed her eyes, and though. "Do you love him?" she asked finally. Azure considered for a long moment. Finally, she replied.
"Are you leaving to just get your head on straight about all this?"
"Among other things," Azure nodded.
"To decide if staying with him and loving him, is worth all that comes with it."
"And for Katia's safety," Azure said just as Aura added, "And you want Katia to be safe, that's why you're taking her."
Azure looked at her sister, smiling a little at their mutual speech. "How did you manage those two months you left? Being away from them?"
"It wasn't easy," Aura sighed. "I missed them all so much."
"I'll miss you so much."
Aura smiled and touched her sister's arm. "How can you miss me? I'm a part of you, remember?"
"I remember," Azure smiled. Aura nodded and continued talking al little sense into her sister.
"Adam doesn't hate you, Azure. He never could, anymore than you could hate him."
"I did once," Azure mumbled. Aura knew at once what that meant.
"When everyone thought I was dead?"
Azure agreed. "I hated them all, even before I knew about Kalakan's exploding. I hated them for driving you away from me."
Aura spoke logically. "Did you hate them, or what you thought they'd done to me?"
"I. . .," Azure paused for a moment. "I don't know."
"Maybe that's something else you should figure out," Aura suggested. Azure nodded and stood up.
"I will. I guess I should go get comfortable on the couch," _and I'm not looking forward to that, either!_
Aura smiled and shook her head. "Maybe you should go to your room, and spend one last night with your husband before you go."
Azure smiled, and went back to the room she'd shared with Adam. "Adam?" she said softly. He had been crying on the bed. "Mind if I come in?"
Adam looked up. "A. . .Azure?" she sat on the bed carefully, looking at him. "Are you still going?"
"I have to," she said without looking at him.
"I won't stop you," he said finally. "But I'll be waiting every minute for you to come back."
"I want to know," Azure smiled. "Deep down, that you are enjoying your life while I'm gone. Don't do what Billy did when Aura was gone. Have fun."
Adam sighed. "I'll do what I can, but I'll still miss you."
"As I will miss you," Azure slipped into a nightgown and into the bed next to him.
"I love you, Azure," he whispered, holding her tightly. She kissed him with more passion and love and sorrow than he had ever dreamed possible.
"I love you, Adam."
They were all up early, despite what Azure had originally thought, to see her off. "I'm going to miss you, you know that," Adam told her.
"I'll miss you too," Azure nodded. "We both will."
Adam kissed his daughter. "I love you both, but I really do understand you need some time away."
Azure smiled, then looked to her sister. "I know. Aura, make sure he gets out of the house more than Billy did while you were gone!"
"I will!" Aura nodded. "If I have to drag him out!"
A moment later, her flight was announced. "I'll see you all when I get back!" she told them. "I'll try to call, but I'm not promising!"
Adam hugged her warmly. "I love you, Azure."
Azure returned the embrace as final boarding was called. "I gotta go! I love you, Adam!" she said as she started towards the plane, tears in her eyes. Aura looked after her.
"I'm going to miss her! But she needs time away!"
Adam nodded. "I know." Aura placed a hand on his shoulder gently.
"Come on," she said. "Let's go back to the hotel. We still have a while left on our vacation. Let's enjoy it while we can."
Adam nodded, then looked to where the plane was taxiing off. "I'll miss you, Azure Park. Hurry home."