Ogawa Tetsuya flinched away from yet another explosion, the concussion of the blast knocking him off his feet to land painfully on his already bruised posterior. The explosion was quickly followed by a burst of laser fire, which he dodged with more speed and agility than he knew he possessed, taking a flying leap and landing in a crumpled heap behind a fallen and smoking speaker. He groaned as he landed badly on his wrist, and lamented that he actually hadn't been as agile as he could have been. Fast, though. Very, very fast.
His mind whirled as he rolled quickly to his feet again, snatching up a length of electrical wire and using it to simultaneously strangle and electrocute the alien that was trying to kill him. At least he thought it was an alien. It certainly wasn't human. For one thing, it didn't seem to have any kind of mouth. Tetsu couldn't imagine living without a mouth, but apparently, it was quite common in alien-land.
Tetsu laughed somewhat hysterically as he let the twitching body fall to the stage at his feet. His eyes flicked over to the deserted seats where the audience had been. Apparently, they'd all gotten out safely, which was more than he could say for himself. "Oh, yes, Hyde," he mumbled to himself, snatching up the defeated alien's laser gun and going to town on the five of its fellows that began to converge on him. "This certainly is a show no one will ever forget. Out of this world, even." One of the aliens was looking at him funny, so he maliciously shot it in the eye.
"Damn, Tetsu," Ken panted, running past him with three aliens on his heels. "Who pissed in your cornflakes?"
"In case you haven't noticed," Tetsu shrieked, "There are aliens trying to kill us!"
"Well, yeah," Ken yelled back, stopping suddenly and ducking to let all three aliens fly over his back. "But still...."
Yukihiro, who was more than holding his own by doing unspeakable things with a pair of drumsticks, rolled his eyes at the both of them. "Less talking, more fighting!"
Gackt shot past them, doing some sort of weird, acrobatic, kung-fu flippy-kicky thing and dispatching aliens left-and-right. Tetsu scowled at him as he confiscated another laser gun and started shooting two-handed. "Show-off," he mumbled. Why in the world had he ever agreed to do a show with the man? Hyde must have been doing the puppy-eyes again.
Gackt landed gracefully on both feet. "Pardon?" He nonchalantly punched an alien that had tried to sneak up behind him.
"Oh, nothing, Gackt-sama," Tetsu replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm, "Please do carry on."
"Ah. Thank you," Gackt replied, and flipped away.
Tetsu growled at him and raised both guns.
"Tetsu!" Hyde shrieked, coming out of nowhere and grabbing both of Tetsu's arms, sending the laser blasts harmlessly into the stage floor. "Don't shoot Gackt, shoot the aliens!"
"He IS an alien," Tetsu retorted.
Hyde looked disapproving at that. "Tetsu...."
"Don't you 'Tetsu' me! This is all your fault!" He shot the two aliens coming up behind Hyde just as the smaller man lunged forward to punch the ones at Tetsu's back. "You're the one who dragged me to this stupid concert. I didn't want anything to do with it!"
"That's not fair! Okay, so this was mostly my idea, but you agreed to it! You said it would be the best publicity we'd ever generated!"
Had he said that? Tetsu frowned. It sounded like something he'd say, but that would mean he'd have to take some of the blame for this fiasco.
"And who could have predicted aliens, anyway?" Hyde continued, his brows drawn together in annoyance. "What kind of aliens decide to conquer the Earth starting with a rock concert in Tokyo?"
"Apparently, they hate our music," Yukihiro deadpanned, doing yet another unspeakable thing with his drumsticks. Tetsu cringed, making a mental note never to get Yukki mad. Ever.
"Damn, how many of these guys are there?" GacktJOB guitarist and violinist, Yuu, shouted in frustration, kicking one viciously in the head.
"Not as many as there used to be," Chachamaru answered, coming up behind Tetsu so suddenly he almost got his head lasered off. "Oi!"
"Do NOT sneak up on the guy with the laser guns!" Tetsu shrieked, painfully aware of how hysterical he sounded.
"Oi! Chill!" Ken snatched the guns away from him and gestured sharply. "Look!"
Tetsu looked. The stage was deserted apart from the seven of them. Not even the bodies of the defeated aliens remained. "Oh."
Ken rolled his eyes. "Psycho."
ChaCha groaned and let himself slide to the floor, putting a hand to his head and grimacing as his fingers came away bloody. "I can't believe we just got attacked by aliens and we all managed to live through it!"
"Never say things like that," Hyde managed tiredly, flopping down next to him. "It always means something will go horribly wrong."
Tetsu suddenly lost all feeling in his legs and would have landed quite painfully if it hadn't been for Gackt catching him and lowering him gently to the floor. He glared up at the man, too worn out and shell-shocked to do anything more. "Show-off," he muttered again. Gackt just gave him an empty, mysterious smile. Tetsu closed his eyes and decided to try to pretend the world didn't exist. Or, better yet, the world still existed, but Gackt didn't. And neither did that flash of light he saw even behind his closed eyelids that caused Gackt to stiffen behind him and Hyde to let out an undignified yelp. His injured wrist began to throb painfully.
"Ah," said an unfamiliar voice. "I see my tardiness has not inconvenienced you too greatly."
"Not inconvenienced us?"
Tetsu was glad he had his eyes closed. Ken's voice indicated that the look on his face must be pretty scary.
"Not inconve.... Yukki, how many years will I get if I kill this guy?"
"Six months, tops," Yukki replied.
The man chuckled. "Pardon me, I can see that you were, in fact, inconvenienced. However, you have managed to defeat your foes quite thoroughly. You should all be proud."
Tetsu finally opened his eyes, just so he could glare effectively. The glare was lost, however, on the diminuitive, positively ancient man in a brown woolen tunic who was standing in the center of the stage, smiling benevolently down on all of them. "And you are?"
"You may call me Hikaru. I have come here from a distant planet"
"Of course, a distant planet," ChaCha nodded.
"on a quest to stop the very beings you have so handily defeated."
"Bit late, weren't you?" Tetsu grumbled.
"As a race," Hikaru explained, ignoring the both of them, "they are a vicious and warlike people, and have set their sights on the Earth. They plan to conquer it and make it their new home."
"Well, they failed, didn't they?" Hyde asked hopefully.
"I'm afraid not," Hikaru answered grimly. "This was merely a small force, likely sent to strike fear into the people of Earth in one swift and deadly attack. Their failure will serve as a message to their commander, and a new, more brutal attack will be launched. They will not be deterred from their plans for your planet."
Yuu groaned loudly. "Great. Just great. I knew when I woke up this morning that today was gonna suck."
"No, you didn't," Gackt corrected him. "You woke up in a wonderful mood. You made pancakes."
ChaCha snort-laughed at Yuu's annoyed huff. Tetsu just sighed and closed his eyes again. "So, we're all doomed, is that it?" He asked rhetorically. "Alien food."
"No, my friend, all is not lost. I have brought with me the means to defeat this menace; a great power that can completely eliminate the threat from their race, for all eternity. And I believe that you are the ones destined to wield that power."
"Oh, come on," Ken snapped, thoroughly out of patience. "Next you're going to be telling us we're Power Rangers."
Silence. Tetsu's eyes flew open in shock as he gaped at the grinning Hikaru.
Yuu barked out a disbelieving laugh. "What?! You're kidding right? We're rock stars!"
"And besides," ChaCha added, "There's no such thing as Power Rangers!"
"This morning, you would have said that there were no such things as aliens, ne?" Hikaru asked, still grinning. ChaCha didn't have an answer for that.
Gackt excused himself softly and transferred Tetsu's weight from his arms to the floor. Tetsu let him do it, feeling strangely lethargic. The floor felt nice. Cold.
He watched as Gackt slowly approached Hikaru, then bowed formally before him. "Hikaru-sensei," the big loon said politely, "are you certain we are the ones meant to hold this power?"
Hikaru returned the bow. "Quite certain." He reached into his tunic and removed a small, silver sphere, holding it reverently in the palm of his hand. Gackt stared at it consideringly before taking it gingerly. "You will know what to do," Hikaru intoned gravely.
Tetsu struggled to sit up, curious despite himself. He winced as he put too much weight on his injured wrist, and would have fallen back to the floor if ChaCha hadn't made a quick grab for him. He nodded his thanks and turned back to Gackt and Hikaru. Gackt was still standing there staring at the sphere. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, but then a look of determination stole across his face and he closed his fingers over the sphere, lifting it high into the air and shouting, "Black Ranger! Rokku!" And suddenly there was a black Power Ranger standing where Gackt had been.
Tetsu's brain shorted out.
When he came to, he was lying on his back on the floor, and the others were all crowded around the Black Ranger, oohing and aahing over his outfit. Hyde, the little hentai, seemed especially taken by the way the tight black spandex flattered Gackt's physique.
Hikaru's face suddenly popped into view as the old man knelt beside him. "Are you alright, Tetsuya-san?"
Tetsu blinked. "How'd you know my name?"
"I asked Ken-san," came the simple answer. "Are you hurt?"
"Probably. Yes. My wrist. And my brain. Is this a dream? Nightmare. Has to be. Going back to sleep."
Hikaru chuckled and took his hand, placing another of the silver spheres within it. Tetsu immediately felt a wave of energy course through him, warming him from the inside and calming the throbbing pain in his wrist. "Much better, ne?" Hikaru asked.
Tetsu sat up slowly, staring at the sphere in wonder. "Yes...."
"You are disturbed," Hikaru guessed, shifting to sit crossed-legged facing Tetsu. "Why?"
"Well.... Aliens. Power Rangers. Isn't that enough?"
"Do you not wish to be a Ranger?"
"I have no idea." He stared down at the sphere in his hand, suddenly feeling a little bit sick at the thought of giving it up. That in itself scared him.
"Give it a try," Hikaru urged, standing gracefully. "Say the words to release the power."
Tetsu took a deep breath and stood, marvelling that every ache and pain from the fight was now gone. "Okay, here goes." He raised the sphere into the air, hearing the sudden hush as the others all turned to watch his transformation. Then his heart sank as the correct words materialized in his mind. He dropped his arm abruptly. "NO WAY!"
Hikaru looked startled. "I beg your pardon?"
"PINK Ranger?! You want me to be a PINK Ranger?!"
Ken started to laugh. Loudly. Tetsu only barely resisted the urge to strange him.
Hikaru caughed. "Yes, well.... You see, the sphere chooses the color when it 'meets' its new owner. I was... not aware you would be a Pink Ranger."
Tetsu glowered at the sphere. "You chose PINK?! Why?!" The sphere just glowed with pink light twice, sending pulses of warmth into his fingers and down his arm. His annoyance evaporated. "For the love of...." It pulsed once more, almost hopefully.
"Oh, fine." He raised his arm and shouted, "Pink Ranger! Rokku!"
This time, the warmth exploded outward, filling him up and blasting all of his nerve endings at once, almost like a full-body orgasm. Then, in a split second, it was over, leaving him shaky, exhilarated, and.... pink. He looked around at his friends, who were all staring strangely at him. "Tell me I'm not wearing a skirt."
"You're not wearing a skirt," Yuu answered obediently.
"Ken-kun, am I really wearing a skirt and he just said that because I said to tell me I wasn't wearing a skirt?"
Ken nodded, smirking. "Yup."
Hyde rolled his eyes. "Tetsu, you're really not wearing a skirt. Just look down, you baka."
Tetsu slowly looked down. No skirt. Just lots of pink spandex. "Well, thank goodness for that. Though I don't know that this is much of an improvement."
"Excuse me," Yukki said softly. "How many of those spheres do you have?"
Hikaru smiled sadly. "Only five, I'm afraid."
Ken, Yuu, ChaCha, Hyde, and Yukki all looked at one another. ChaCha spoke quickly. "I don't want one."
Gackt stepped forward, startled. "ChaCha?"
"I'm sorry, Gackt," the guitarist said ruefully. "I just... really don't like fighting very much. It's kind of a relief that I don't have to be one."
"I see." The Black Ranger nodded slowly, his expression hidden under the helmet.
"It's... alright, isn't it?" ChaCha looked uncharacteristically apprehensive. "My not wanting...."
"Of course it is." Gackt cut him off, making a sharp gesture with his hand. "It's fine."
ChaCha stared at him for a moment, then smiled nervously. "Al... alright."
"Well," Yuu said, eyes darting between ChaCha and Gackt, "I can't really leave Gacchan stranded in the middle of Laruku, can I? I'd like to be a Ranger too, if I can."
"You can," Yukki nodded. "I don't need a sphere."
Tetsu gaped at him. "But, Yukki! The fight...! You...! Drumsticks!"
Yukki chuckled, apparently having decoded Tetsu's garbled protest. "I know, I didn't know I had it in me. But no, it doesn't feel right, somehow. I think the remaining spheres are meant for these guys." He stepped up to Hikaru. "May I?"
Hikaru nodded, smiling knowingly as he removed the last three spheres from his tunic. Yukki reached out a hand toward the spheres, stopping just short of touching each one. Then he shook his head and stepped away. "I was right. None of them are for me."
"You can tell that? Without even touching them?" Hyde stared at his friend with newfound admiration.
Yukki just shrugged. "Yeah. Yours is the middle one."
Hyde's face brightened and he stepped up to Hikaru, looking to the man for permission before taking the center sphere. A wide range of emotions crossed the vocalist's face the second he touched the sphere, and Tetsu grinned beneath his helmet, knowing exactly what Hyde was experiencing. Then Hyde raised his arm into the air and shouted, "White Ranger! Rokku!"
Hyde looked really good in white spandex. Tetsu mentally smacked himself for noticing that.
"Which one's mine?" Ken asked eagerly, looking and sounding like a little kid.
"On the left," Yukki told him, grinning.
"And mine's on the right," Yuu concluded.
Both guitarists took their spheres at once. Ken morphed first. "Green Ranger! Rokku!"
Then Yuu did the same. "Blue Ranger! Rokku!"
Tetsu looked around at his fellow Rangers, at Yukki and ChaCha, who stood off to the side and somehow looked right doing it, and at Hikaru-sensei, who was proudly beaming at all of them. The power pulsed happily within him, and he grinned.
This concert hadn't turned out too badly, after all.
II: Welcome to the Real World
ChaCha stood watching the new Ranger team somewhat wistfully, not quite regretting his decision but feeling unsettled and left out, nonetheless. "Did we do the right thing?" He asked Yukihiro quietly, seeing his own melancholy mirrored in the others' eyes.
"Yes, you did," Hikaru answered for him, stepping up to the two of them. He kept his voice soft, as well, keeping them from the Rangers' notice. "Tell me, why did you refuse the power?"
ChaCha hung his head, ashamed. "I just... didn't want it. I guess it was selfish...."
"No." Hikaru shook his head, smiling gently. "A Power Ranger must devote all of himself to his quest, or he will endanger himself and the rest of his teammates. If you had taken one of the spheres despite your misgivings, one of the true Rangers would not have come into being, and it is likely that this planet would be lost."
"But there is something for us to do, isn't there?" Yukihiro asked knowingly. "Yuu's sphere.... I felt like it was telling me to wait."
"There is indeed. In any war, there are warriors, yes, but there are also strategists, and healers. I believe I have one of each right here in front of me, ne?"
ChaCha gaped at him. "You do?"
Yukki nodded. "I'm the strategist. You're the healer."
"Since when? I've never even taken a first aid class!"
Hikaru chuckled. "No matter, young one. I will assist you in that." He turned and clapped his hands to get the Rangers' attention. "Rangers! Gather around, please, there is much I need to explain to you."
The five quickly obeyed, and ChaCha noted with some amusement that they seemed to naturally fall into formation, with the Pink Ranger front and center, Black and White Rangers behind him to either side, and the Blue and Green Rangers to the rear.
"There is much we need to do to prepare you to face this threat. I must ask you all to return with me to my ship, where I can"
"Excuse me, sensei," Yukihiro interrupted, quietly but firmly. "But I'm afraid we can't do that just yet."
Hikaru frowned at him, annoyed. "And why not? What I need to say is of vital importance."
"Yes, it is. But all of us have responsibilities here, as well." He gestured to the closed doors of the concert hall. "Everyone out there likely thinks we're dead, and we each have family and friends who suffer every second we remain here. I simply ask that you give us some time to reassure them, and to make the necessary arrangements to leave our lives here for a long period of time."
Hikaru looked shocked, then apologetic as he nodded. "Of course, Yukihiro-san. I apologize to all of you. I had not taken into account the more mundane sacrifices you would be making. By all means, go. You will all come together again in two nights, ne? And I will collect you then to go to my ship. Is this acceptable?"
Yukki looked to Tetsu and Gackt, both of whom nodded slowly in acquiescence. "Yes," he answered for all of them.
"Where should we meet?" ChaCha asked. "Here?" The thought didn't much appeal to him. He had a feeling he'd never be able to play this hall again.
"No, anywhere you like," Hikaru answered. "I can find you by the power in your spheres."
"Alright," Tetsu nodded. "Rangers, power down!"
Surprisingly, they all did. Then Ken seemed to realize what he'd done and scowled, annoyed. "Who died and made you leader?"
"Umm...." Tetsu shrugged sheepishly. "Dunno."
Hikaru patted Ken on the back. "All if as it should be, Green Ranger. Trust in him, he will not lead you astray." And he was gone in a flash of greyish light.
"Never heard of the Pink Ranger being the leader," Yuu remarked thoughtfully, staring at Tetsu. Then he shrugged, unconcerned. "Well, we don't have a red one, so I guess pink is close enough."
Tetsu's cheeks were flaming as pink as his spandex had been. "Can we just go, please?"
"Yes, oh fearless leader," Hyde teased, smacking Tetsu on the behind as he passed.
ChaCha grinned as he followed the smaller man toward the exit, hearing Tetsu's indignant spluttering behind them. His grin faded as Gackt fell into step beside him, his face grim. "Errr.... Gackt...."
"Don't," Gackt said shortly, keeping his face studiously forward. "I... am disappointed, but... I understand. I know you made the right decision, and I will remain your friend." He sighed, closing his eyes briefly before finally looking ChaCha in the face. "Nothing will change that, ne?"
ChaCha smiled, relieved. "Right. Come on, we have fans to reassure."
Hyde had reached the concert hall door and was struggling to pry them open. "I think... the hinges are... messed up," he panted, making no headway at all.
"Hang on," Tetsu said, morphing quickly. He pulled two pink laser pistols out of thin air and used them to burn through the ruined hinges, causing the doors to fall to the floor. "There." He put the pistols back... wherever they'd been... and powered down. Then he seemed to noticed them staring at him. "What?"
ChaCha just shook his head. "Nothing, man. Pink guns. Just... odd."
Tetsu flushed again. "Oh, for...." He stepped through the doorway in a huff, Hyde following with a huge grin on his face. ChaCha shook his head again as he followed the rest of the Rangers, Yukki at his side.
"Still feeling bad?" Yukki asked conversationally, voice lowered.
"No," ChaCha answered truthfully. "I don't get this whole 'healer' thing, but I'll take your word for it. And Gackt will come around, he meant it when he said we'd stay friends. He's upset, but that'll pass. I'm not worried."
"Good." Yukki gave him a friendly smile. "We'll make a good team. All of us."
Tetsu led them just to the outer doors of the building, then stopped, looking grimly around at each of them. A large crowd could be heard even through the doors, indicating to all of them what kind of bedlam they would be walking into. "You guys ready for this?" He asked.
Ken grimaced at that. "Not especially, but do we really have a choice?"
"Yeah," Yuu answered glumly. "We can let everybody go on thinking we're dead and just do the Ranger thing from now on, in secret."
"I don't believe that is much of a choice," Gackt mumbled, staring broodingly at the closed door.
"For once, I agree with Gackt," Tetsu sighed. "Let's go, then. Happy faces."
They all obediently pasted on stage grins.
"Not that happy," Tetsu clarified, rolling his eyes as he opened the door.
ChaCha flinched despite himself as the noise rose to a near unbearable level. Then, all at once, it hushed, utterly. The seven of them stood there, in front of a massive crowd of fans, reporters, and gawkers, all of whom were staring at them in open-mouthed, dumbstruck silence. One of the reporters near the front actually dropped his microphone in shock.
"What do we do now?" Ken muttered out of the side of his face, trying to talk without moving his lips.
"You're the leader, Tetsu, say something," Yuu suggested, taking a discrete step back and hiding behind Gackt.
"Who died and made me leader?" Tetsu protested, weakly parroting Ken's earlier words.
"Well, somebody say something," ChaCha hissed as the crowd slowly began buzzing with whispers and shocked exclamations. "It's going to get crazy in a second."
Then a teenage girl somewhere in the crowd suddenly screamed, "Gaaaaaaackt!" And ChaCha's prediction came true. The whole crowd surged forward toward them, exploding into shouts and hurried questions all at once, and he yelped, taking a startled and instinctive step backward.
"Don't!" Tetsu flung out a hand and stopped them all in their tracks. "I have an idea!"
"What?!" Ken was poised with one foot in the air, ready to bolt. "What plan could you possibly have at a time like this?!"
"We tell the truth," Tetsu said simply. "Or rather, Gackt does. Leave us out of it."
And with that, the crowd was on them. They were surrounded, questions being screamed in their faces from all directions, but ChaCha hardly noticed. He was staring with reluctant admiration at Tetsu. It was the perfect plan. As much as he loved his friend, even he could admit that Camui Gackt was a bit... well... odd. And if Gackt were to say that the Power Rangers had shown up, no one would think anything of it and the subject was likely to be entirely dropped. Hell, the man had all but admitted to lusting after Hyde on several occasions and was completely ignored. It was utter brilliance.
Apparently, Tetsu really was meant to be the leader.
"Excuse me," Gackt was saying now, cooly and politely, "I would be happy to explain everything, please lower your voices." They did, unsurprisingly, holding out their microphones with eager eyes.
"Ah." Gackt stroked his chin thoughtfully. "You wish to know how we survived? Well, it is true that we were trapped on the stage by the... attackers. We were fighting them off as best we couldboth Hyde and I have studied the martial arts, as you know, and I was pleasantly surprised at how skillfully the others fought as well. And then, of course, the Power Rangers arrived."
Another hushed silence. One of the reporters boldly asked the question they were all dying to ask. "Err, pardon me, Gackt-san. Did you say Power Rangers?"
"Of course," Gackt nodded, seemingly oblivious to their incredulity. "Five of them. They fought very well."
ChaCha had to hold back a laugh. Gackt had told the absolute truth, just as Tetsu had asked him to, and had played up his oblivious, spacey reputation to a tee. All of the reporters looked almost afraid to question him any further.
"I see," said the brave one. "What, ah.... What color Rangers were they?"
"Hmm," Gackt pretended to think about it. "Black. White. Green, Blue. Pink."
The reporter's eyes slid across each of them in turn. "Is that so?"
Gackt's lips started twitching. The reporter eyed him suspiciously. "No good?" Gackt asked, turning back to the rest of them.
"There's usually a red one," Ken said helpfully.
"But there wasn't." Gackt frowned. "There was only Black, White, Green, Blue, and Pink."
"Sure thing," Ken nodded. "But there is usually a red one."
"You know," Tetsu cut in, "This has been a really tiring day for all of us, and I think it's obvious that Gackt-san is a bit tired and not quite himself, so could we...?"
ChaCha bit back a laugh as Gackt shot Tetsu an annoyed look. The reporters didn't miss it, either, and several flash-bulbs went off immediately.
"Excuse us. Let us through, please, thanks." Tetsu led the way through the crowd, dragging Gackt by the arm and pretending to be very concerned. They managed to meet up with their respective security teams eventually, and were hustled into the two specially-outfitted tour busses that had earlier been made ready to take them back to their hotel. Of course, L'Arc were placed in one van while Gackt, ChaCha, and Yuu were ushered into the other. "Feel better, Gackt-san!" Tetsu yelled, waving cheerfully as he disappeared into his own van.
Gackt let out an uncharacteristic growl, causing ChaCha to finally break into the laughter he'd been holding in since his friend had first opened his mouth. Gackt glared at him. "I'm sorry, Gackt," he managed, "But it was funny!"
"He intentionally made a fool of me!"
"Gacchan," Yuu said soothingly, placing a hand on one tense shoulder, "You knew exactly what his plan was before you started talking. You were being deliberately obtuse with those reporters, and you wouldn't have been if you hadn't realized exactly what he was doing."
"Look, Gackt," ChaCha managed through his chuckles, "Try to have a sense of humor about it, alright? Yeah, he was being kind of an ass, but the plan worked, right? I promise you, no one will think anything of it come tomorrow."
"No, of course not. Camui Gackt is just being his usual, crazy self again," Gackt spat, wrenching his arm away from Yuu.
"Gacchan," Yuu just replaced his hand patiently. "Relax, alright? Please?"
ChaCha shuffled closer to Gackt's other side, mirroring Yuu's gesture on the other shoulder. "I'm sorry I laughed, Gackt. I didn't realize it bothered you so much. We know you're not crazy. Or, Hell, maybe we're all bonkers. You know what I saw today? A bunch of aliens and five Power Rangers! If that isn't nuts, I don't know what is."
Gackt stared incredulously at him for a moment, then sighed and smiled reluctantly. "I... apologize for my overreaction. You're right of course. I knew what he wanted me to do, and I did it. I know how people think of me. It just bothers me, some of the time."
"None of us are entirely normal, Gacchan," Yuu assured him, resting his head on Gackt's shoulder. "Try not to dwell on it."
The three of them rode back to the hotel in companionable silence.
III: Making Adjustments
Kitamura Ken exited the room he shared with Yukki, yawning and scratching his crotch.
"You're disgusting, Ken, you know that?" Yukki greeted him with a grimace, already seated in the suite's kitchenette.
Ken gave him a rude gesture. "Good morning to you, too." He joined Yukki at the table and stole a quick drink from his mug of coffee. "You drink this stuff way too bitter, you know," he complained, putting the mug down and making a face.
Yukki rolled his eyes. "Get your own, then, you can drown it in milk and sugar as you always do. And take a shower, you smell."
Ken shrugged. "Hyde got in there first. Little bastard tripped me on the way in. You'll just have to deal."
"Wonderful." Yukki stood and went to the sink to wash his mug. "He'll be in there forever. Why a suite this big doesn't have two washrooms is beyond me."
"I could try to borrow GacktJOB's shower...." Ken shook his head, answering himself. "Nah, never mind. How much you wanna bet Gackt spends even more time in the shower than Hyde?"
"That's a sucker bet," Tetsu answered, wandering into the room and inserting himself right into their conversation. "'Morning." He crossed straight to the coffee maker and poured himself a mug, drinking it black in almost one gulp. Then he poured another.
Yukki glanced at Ken before asking quietly, "He's still not talking to you?"
Tetsu sighed angrily. "No. How many times do I have to apologize, anyway?"
"It's not Hyde who deserves the apology," Yukki shrugged. "You'll do it today, ne?"
"Yes, yes." Tetsu threw himself into Yukki's deserted chair, looking thoroughly miserable. "How was I supposed to know it was a touchy subject?"
"You couldn't have," Ken assured him, finally getting up to fix his own mug of coffee. "Hyde's just overly sensitive about him right now. It's kind of cute, really. He's such a dumbass when he has a crush."
"He had a crush on me once, you know," Tetsu remarked, sighing wistfully. "Back in the day, before his highness came into the picture."
Ken exchanged a glance with Yukki. "Um, Tetsu.... You're straight."
"Yeah, I know. But it's still nice to be appreciated." He sipped miserably at his coffee. "I feel like if it came down to me or him, he'd win. How fair is that? We've been friends for years, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer. Then some pretty boy comes along and it's 'Tetsu, who?' Baka."
Ken rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on! The only baka I see in here is you. Get over it, already. You were an ass, so apologize. He'll forgive you, so will Hyde, the end. Problem solved. Can we quit it with the angsting, now?"
Tetsu glared at him and stood, the chair scraping backward on the floor. "You," he said, with great dignity and poise, "can go fuck yourself." And he stalked back into his room, slamming the door behind him.
Ken sighed and looked pleadingly at Yukki. "Tell me I'm dreaming this and half our band has not been replaced by PMSing females."
Yukki shook his head. "Sorry to disappoint."
"Wonderful." He collapsed back into his chair and leaned back, closing his eyes. "Do you think this whole Power Ranger thing is going to work? I mean, can we really get along well enough to work as a team? I don't want the planet to be destroyed because we couldn't act like adults and just deal."
"It'll be fine." Yukki drew back the chair next to him and sat, resting both elbows on the table. "Everyone's just nervous and tense, not knowing what to expect. We'll get used to things and everyone will start acting their ages."
"I still can't believe we actually pulled this off," Ken marveled, shaking his head. "And what kind of magic did Tetsu have to work, to get the record company to agree to this?"
"No magic," Yukki smiled. "Just common sense. You know Tetsu, he can be a flake at times, but he knows business, and he knows how to get what he wants, when he wants it. He made them think it was their idea that we take a nice, long break to 'recover from our ordeal.' Sometimes I worship that man."
Ken looked doubtfully at the closed bedroom door. "That man?"
Yukki gave a wry shrug. "Only sometimes."
Hyde finally finished in the bathroom about ten minutes later, and Ken hurried in before Tetsu could come out of his snit and steal his place in line. It was another hour before all four of them were showered, dressed, and relatively presentable.
"Can we go now?" Hyde asked irritably, brushing a lock of flyaway hair behind his hair. "We're going to be late."
Tetsu pursed his lips, very visibly holding back a rude comment. "Yes, we can go now. Are we going together, or meeting them there?" His question was answered by a knock on the door. "Together, then." Tetsu took a deep breath. "Right. I'll get it."
He crossed awkwardly to the door and opened it, motioning Yuu and ChaCha inside. "Good morning, nice to see you, hope you're well. Gackt, can I talk to you?" He grabbed the other musician by the arm and pulled him off down the hall, closing the door behind them.
Yuu and ChaCha looked shell-shocked. Ken decided to break the ice. "Well, good morning! It's a lovely day, isn't it? You both look well. Coffee, anyone? We have a nearly fresh pot."
Yuu blinked slowly, as if coming out of a trance. "What just happened?"
"Tetsu's apologizing," Yukki answered, taking a seat on the couch to wait. "You may as well sit down."
They did so, somewhat hesitantly. "That's... good," ChaCha said slowly. "I didn't think he was aware that his actions had... made an impact."
"He wasn't," Ken supplied. "Hyde told him. Repeatedly. Annoyingly. And sometimes in a rather high-pitched voice."
"I don't have a high-pitched voice," Hyde protested hotly. "Besides, he was deliberately being mean."
"He wasn't, and you know it. But I refuse to get involved in your girly cat-fights, so never mind."
ChaCha cleared his throat, obviously uncomfortable. "So, did you guys get everything settled? As far as taking a break, I mean?"
Yukki accepted the change in topic gratefully. "Tetsu handled it. We're on indefinite hiatus. You?"
"Us, as well," Yuu answered. "They actually requested we take a break. I think they were concerned about Gacchan's mental state."
Ken made a face. "Whoops. Oh well, it works out for us, anyway. We get to disappear, no questions asked. Is he seriously pissed?"
"Not as much as he was. Besides, Tetsu's apology will help. If he means it, that is. Gacchan will see right through him, if not. He's uncanny that way."
Just then the door opened and Gackt walked in, Tetsu following behind. Both looked a bit subdued. "Everyone ready?" Tetsu asked, going right to the point. "We're a little late to meet Hikaru-sensei."
They all stood, exchanging glances but no one willing to be the one to ask the obvious question.
"Good. Let's do it, then."
Ken sighed as he palmed his sphere and lifted his arm, the other four doing the same.
"Pink Ranger! Rokku!"
"Black Ranger! Rokku!"
"White Ranger! Rokku!
"Blue Ranger! Rokku!
"Green Ranger! Rokku!"
"You think anybody heard that?" ChaCha asked Yukki, staring at the five of them.
"Not sure. They were kind of loud."
"Grab onto Ken, Yukki," Tetsu ordered. "ChaCha, Gackt can take you. Teleporting now."
"Who died and made you" ChaCha began lamely, in an obvious effort to diffuse the awkward tension, but the teleportation cut him off.
Ken had to catch Yukki when they arrived at the agreed-upon locationan isolated, abandoned parkas his friend stumbled and almost fell. He looked positively green. ChaCha, too, looked in bad shape. "What's wrong?" he demanded, shaking Yukki slightly. "Look at me!"
Yukki groaned and pushed at his arms. "Don't. Gonna throw up."
Ken let him go immediately and stepped back, holding up his hands to ward off any impending bodily fluids. "Hey, now, none of that!"
"Oh, I do apologize," Hikaru said worriedly, appearing out of nowhere and rushing forward to put an arm around Yukki. "I had forgotten the effect teleportation has on non-Rangers." He took Yukki's hand and placed something in it; Ken craned his neck but couldn't see what it was.
Yukki straightened almost immediately, the green tinge to his face rapidly receding. He looked down at his palm, brow furrowed. "This is...?"
"Yes," Hikaru answered, holding out his hand. "And I must give it to its rightful owner, quickly."
Yukki handed it back with a nod and Hikaru hurried over to ChaCha, who was crouched on the ground trying not to retch, while Gackt obligingly held his hair back. "Take this, Chachamaru-san," Hikaru ordered. "It will ease your stomach."
ChaCha made a desperate grab for the whatever it was, and all of them were immediately blinded by a flash of lavendar light.
Tetsu shrieked like a girl.
When Ken could see again, ChaCha was standing, staring down at a small silver sphere very much like the ones all of the Rangers had. "I thought you said there were only five Ranger spheres!" he accused hotly. _So why does ChaCha have one now and where does that leave Yukki?_ He left those thoughts unsaid.
Hikaru only chuckled, holding up a hand and shaking his head. "No, Green Ranger, that is not a Ranger sphere. It is a healing sphere."
"A healing sphere?" Yuu leaned in close to ChaCha, who held the sphere up higher so everyone could see it.
"That is correct." Hikaru gestured for them all to come closer, and they obediently gathered around him in a close circle. "There is much to explain, RangersI include Chachamaru-san and Yukihiro-san when I say thatso let us go to my ship. I am afraid you will need to teleport again, but it will be easier this time, since you have the healing sphere. Stay in contact with Chachamaru-san as we go, Yukihiro-san, and you will not become ill."
Yukki nodded his acceptance.
"All of you, join hands. Tetsuya-san, place one hand on my shoulder, please."
They did as they were told and Hikaru closed his eyes, bowing his head. The next thing Ken knew, they were somewhere else.
Hikaru's ship looked much as Ken might have imagined a spaceship would look. Apparently, "Star Trek" was fairly accurate, after all. There was what looked like a control panel on the side of the room in which they had appeared, and a large window through which they could see the inky, star-dotted vastness of outer-space. Hyde was staring out that window now, and though he couldn't see the vocalist's face because of the White Ranger helmet, Ken was pretty sure his mouth must be hanging open. His own was, after all.
"Welcome to my ship," Hikaru said, bowing formally. "May I get you something to drink?"
Hikaru led them down a long hallway and into a room that was much more familiar to the group of Earthlings. At least, the large couch in the center of the room was. Yuu sank down onto it gratefully, leaning his head back. Apparently, teleporting twice in a matter of moments left one feeling somewhat drained.
"Can we power down?" Tetsu wanted to know. "It's weird not being able to see people's faces."
"Ah, of course," Hikaru answered, turning away from the small kitchenette where he was currently pouring drinks from what looked like a space-age soda fountain. "Please do. Soon, when you have trained properly, you will not need to morph in order to teleport."
The five of them powered-down immediately, casting relieved looks around the room. Tetsu was right, Yuu thought. It *was* disconcerting talking to his friends with that featureless helmet in the way. It must be five times worse for Yukki and ChaCha, being left out. He resolved to find some time to talk to ChaCha, to make sure he was truly okay with not being a Ranger. But first, he should probably actually listen to what Hikaru was saying. He forced his wandering thoughts to the back of his mind and concentrated.
"of what makes them a dangerous foe," Hikaru was saying as he handed out the drinks.
Whoops, that last bit was probably important.
"So you're saying none of those freak shows we killed are actually dead?" Ken asked, his frustration and disbelief audible in his voice.
"I'm afraid not. Their regenerative and healing powers are simply too great. They can only be completely destroyed by Power Rangers."
Yuu took a sip of his beverage. It was very good. Sort of soda-like, but light and fruity. He took a bigger sip.
"How will we know they are truly defeated?" Gackt asked, leaning forward as he always did when a conversation was truly interesting him.
"It is very simple," Hikaru answered, taking a seat on an easy chair opposite the couch. "They explode."
Yuu spat out his soda.
Once everyone had calmed down and stopped laughing, and Yuu was sufficiently clean of soda-spray, Hikaru continued.
"As I was saying, the Tangatetrines can only be destroyed by a Power Ranger. In addition, they possess advanced weaponry and are trained to be skilled fighters from a very young age. I admit to some surprise that the seven of you managed to defeat that scouting party. That is how I knew you were destined to be my Rangers."
"But we are not all Rangers," Gackt pointed out, speaking slowly and obviously choosing his words carefully. "Are we to assume you have tasks for Yukihiro and ChaCha, as well?"
"You are correct, Gackt-san," Hikaru answered, looking pleased. "I spoke to Chachamaru-san and Yukihiro-san the other day, while the five of you were otherwise occupied. They are both aware of their roles, and will be of great service to you in your quest. You will not be victorious without them."
"This has something to do with that healing sphere you gave to ChaCha, doesn't it?" Yuu guessed, leaning over to examine the sphere in ChaCha's hand. The guitarist opened his fingers slightly to allow him a better view.
"Indeed," Hikaru confirmed. "You see, Yukihiro-san will be our strategist, while Chachamaru-san will be our healer. The sphere I have given him will strengthen his innate healing powers while giving him all of the knowledge he will need to perform his duties."
ChaCha frowned, staring doubtfully down at the sphere. "I really don't know what you mean by 'innate healing powers.' Are you sure you have the right guy?"
"It's you, ChaCha," Yukki assured him. "I could tell the moment I touched that sphere. It's meant for you."
"Observe," Hikaru interrupted, standing suddenly and approaching ChaCha. Then, without warning, he pulled a wicked-looking knife from his belt and opened a wide gash in his own palm. Yuu yelped, instinctively reaching out to assist, but ChaCha was faster. Before anyone could react, he had knocked the knife away and taken Hikaru's injured hand in his own. Both of ChaCha's hands began to glow with a warm, lavender light, and then it was over. He released Hikaru, looking somewhat confused and disoriented, as Hikaru lifted his unblemished hand in triumph. "Do you still have doubts, Chachamaru-san?"
Poor ChaCha looked shell-shocked. Yuu stood and put both hands on the guitarist's shoulders, guiding him back down to a seated position on the couch. "Cha?" he prompted worriedly. Gackt leaned forward and put a hand on ChaCha's knee.
"I.... I'm fine. It just.. surprised me."
"You will be able to heal minor wounds like mine with little to no effort," Hikaru told him, returning to his easy chair. "More serious injuries will take more time, but you will find you are able to handle most challenges. You cannot, however, regenerate amputated limbs or bring back those who are already dead. Do not try, Chachamaru-san. It will only destroy you, as well."
Tetsu went utterly white. "Are you saying we should expect one another to get dismembered and killed?"
Hyde swallowed loudly and scooted closer to the bassist. Ken actually did the same on his other side.
"Oh, no," Hikaru assured him. "One must simply be prepared."
"Great," Tetsu muttered, folding his arms across his chest. "Is it too late to change my mind on this whole Ranger thing? Ow!" He suddenly clutched his chest in pain. "Okay, okay, forget I said anything!"
Hyde looked at him strangely and asked the very question on Yuu's mind. "Um, Tetsu? Who are you talking to?"
"My power sphere," Tetsu mumbled, obviously embarrassed. "She's so sensitive!"
Yuu startled at that. Tetsu's sphere had a personality? His had never spoken to him that way....
"Each of the spheres is different," Hikaru told them, as if reading his mind. "Tetsuya-san's sphere is, indeed, somewhat more sentient than the others. Gackt-san's, as well, has exhibited independent behavior in the past. It is entirely possible that the others have the same capability, but have chosen not to show them as of yet. You will come into your your powers gradually, and your sphere will reveal more of its power to you as time goes on."
"Excuse me, sensei, but were you a Ranger, at some point, then?" Yukki asked politely.
Hikaru chuckled. "I was, indeed, Yukihiro-san. I held the very sphere that Tetsuya-san holds now. It chose for me the color yellow."
Yukki nodded. "I had guessed as much. You said you'd forgotten the effect teleportation had on non-Rangers. Since you weren't ill, I thought you must be a Ranger." Then he frowned, considering. "But Tetsu has your sphere...."
"Ah, but the answer to that is simple, Yukihiro-san. Once one has been a Ranger, one will always be a Ranger. I can no longer morph, but I still hold a power within me. That sphere will always be with me, and I with it. We cannot be parted, even in death."
Tetsu actually glowed pink for a moment at that, causing all of them, even Yukki, who was normally a bit more serious, to burst into laughter. Tetsu just glared angrily at them, his face flaming.
Hikaru chuckled. "I apologize, Tetsuya-san. I well remember how embarrassing it could be when she showed her pleasure that way. I find myself glad, now, that I was a yellow Ranger rather than a pink one! Now, we have the explanations done. I will show you where you will begin your training."
"What about us?" ChaCha asked, indicating himself and Yukki.
"You will train with the Rangers, Chachamaru-san. You will need to be able to defend yourselves should the need arise. You will also be needed to heal any injuries the Rangers receive during training. Yukihiro-san, you will observe their fighting styles in order to formulate a series of battle plans."
Yukki nodded in understanding. "How much time will we have? I find myself surprised that the... what was their name, sensei?"
"That the Tangatetrines haven't attacked again, yet. It would be tactically sound to attack while we are still weak and untrained." He ignored the incredulous and slightly frightened look Hyde gave him.
"Indeed," Hikaru nodded. "However, one of their fatal flaws is that they rarely do what is tactically sound. Their commander, Emperor Rehyghator, has no mind for strategy. He fancies himself a great general and often spends many days planning an assault, but his plans are poorly executed and often completely unrealistic. His troops rely on brute force for much of the time."
Yukki gave a positively scary grin. "Good. Then we WILL defeat them."
"Yes," Hikaru agreed, "you will. Now, come with me. The training room is this way."
V: First Battle
Awaji Yukihiro watched in amusement as the five Rangers ran their practice drills in Hikaru's cavernous training room. Well, three of the five ran their practice drills. The other two, however, were off in a corner, flirting madly as Gackt tried with little success to coach Hyde on how to properly pronounce "Tangatetrines." It seemed that the best Hyde could do was "Tanga-te-tu-leen-su." Gackt seemed to think that leaning in close to Hyde and over-enunciating the word while gently cradling the smaller vocalist's jaw and stroking his cheek with one thumb would inspire him into getting it right. Hyde was having too much fun being molested to bother, however, and pronounced it worse every single time.
Tetsu was watching the two of them, silently fuming, while Ken and Yuu subtly shifted farther and farther away from him with each repetition of their drills. Yukki leaned back against the wall and waited. Any second now, Tetsu would crack and they would all be treated to yet another highly amusing display of bright pink temper. Well, amusing to everyone except Gackt and Hyde. One would think that after Tetsu had thrashed them five days in a row, they'd get the point.
Sure enough, only about ten seconds passed before Tetsu dropped all pretense of running his drill, growled lowly and extended both hands toward the Black and White Rangers, shouting, "Pink Sparkle Attack!"
Yukki nearly fell over in shock as a cloud of pink sparkles burst from Tetsu's spread fingers and swarmed around the Black and White Rangers, causing both of them to shout in pain and drop to the floor. "Owwww, Tetsu," Hyde whined as soon as the cloud of menacing glitter had faded, "That stings!"
Tetsu ignored him and simply returned to his drills, his movements sharper and more precise as they always were when he was pissed off. Gackt put a hand on Hyde's shoulder as they stood and shook his head, bowing slightly in Tetsu's direction. "My apologies, Ogawa-san. You are, of course, correct. Haido-kun, shall we resume our drills?"
Hyde sighed and jammed his helmet back on, somehow managing to look petulant even with his face hidden. "Yeah, I know. And it still bothers me that you insist on calling him 'Ogawa-san'."
"He has not given me leave to call him otherwise," Gackt answered simply.
"I know, but" Hyde began, and Yukki tuned them both out at that point, having heard several different variations on that argument already. At least they were finally doing the drills, even if they persisted in conversing the whole time.
He chose instead to focus his attention on the still-fuming Tetsu, approaching slowly and seamlessly entering into a sparring session with the pink-clad bassist. "Pink Sparkle Attack?" he asked, deftly dodging a punch at his head and delivering one back at the Pink Ranger's midsection.
Tetsu's helmet hid what was likely a furious blush. "First thing that popped into my head," he muttered. "It worked, didn't it?"
Yukki shook his head, bemused. "They always do."
That was an interesting thing about the power. Apparently, the Rangers could do just about anything they wanted, as long as the spheres contained enough power to pull it off. They had discovered this by accident, as every time Yukki came up with a new specialty attack for one of the Rangers, it worked flawlessly. Then the Rangers jokingly began making up sillier and sillier attacks of their own, such as Ken's "Green Marshmallow Fluff Pit" and Hyde's "White Chocolate Bunny Attack." The latter was surprisingly effective, as it turned out. It had taken Yuu quite a long time to get rid of all of the bunnies, as they multiplied faster than he could destroy them. He'd finally just melted them all with a well-placed "Blue Fire Tornado Attack."
The other interesting thing was that every weapon and every attack were the exact same color as the Ranger attempting them. Tetsu had created a "Bass Guitar Sonic Wave Attack," but when he'd pulled out a bright pink bass, he'd just shuddered and put it away without even testing it out.
"You shouldn't worry about them so much, you know," Yukki tried, taking a quick glance over at the Black and White Rangers. "Look at them, they're both doing their drills flawlessly."
"I know that," Tetsu sighed, stopping Yukki's punch and ending the sparring match by simply grabbing onto his fist and not letting go. "It's just frustrating. It's like they don't take any of this seriously. The rest of us are working our asses off, and they're off groping each other in the corner."
Yukki held back a smile through sheer force of will. "They've been dancing around each other for ages. Of course they're going to be a bit over-the-top now that they're finally acknowledging things between them."
"But this is serious, Yukki! You heard what Hikaru-sensei said! This isn't playtime, this is a real war, and people can get hurt, even killed. What if"
"There is absolutely no point in dwelling on what-ifs," Yukki told him firmly, wrenching his fist out of Tetsu's grasp. "They'll come through when it counts. Try talking to them when you're calm, they'll understand where you're coming from. And for God's sake, what is going on with you and Gackt? I thought you'd kissed and made up."
"I apologized, he accepted my apology. There was no kissing involved."
Tetsu." Yukki paused, considering his words carefully. "You are the leader of this team, but you can't act as such unless you have the respect of each of the team's members. You've been leading a band for years, you know how it works. This is no different. How can you lead him in battle if you can't even face him here, in the training rooms?"
Tetsu sighed heavily, his shoulder slumping. "I know, Yukki, but...."
"No 'buts'." Yukki patted the Pink Ranger reassuringly on the shoulder. "Just go over there and talk to them, alright? Lay down your pride for the good of the team. It will only make them respect you more."
"This stupid pink outfit does not command respect."
Yukki ignored the angry flare of pink that welled up after that statement, simply nodding his agreement. "No, it doesn't. That's why YOU have to."
Tetsu was quiet for a long moment before he reached up and removed his helmet, smiling crookedly at Yukki with sad and troubled eyes. "You're right, as always. Alright, here goes." He turned away, then stopped abruptly, turning back and bowing solemnly. "Thank you."
Yukki bowed respectfully back. "You're welcome."
He watched Tetsu approach the two errant Rangers, his posture strong but humble. Good. He was thinking clearly again and would do whatever it took to bring this team together. He had been a good choice for leader, Yukki thought, after his years of experience with L'Arc.
When he had joined the band, it had been Tetsu who had made him feel most welcome, going out of his way to show a shy young newcomer that he was not only needed for his skills as a drummer, but also appreciated as a human being and a friend. Not that Ken and Hyde had been unwelcoming, per se, they just hadn't seemed to realize how out-of-place he'd felt. Ken, in particular, had constantly compared him with ex-drummer Sakura for the first few weeks, not out of maliciousness, he knew, but simply not realizing how inadequate it made Yukki feel. Tetsu had finally pulled Ken aside one day, much to Yukki's embarrassment, and it had never happened again. Ken had been a bit quiet around him for a few days after that, but Ken being Ken, the whole thing was all but forgotten within a week. Now, he counted Ken as one of his dearest friends.
Yukki glanced over at said friend, who was happily sparring with Yuu and trying out what looked like a new attack made entirely of green feathers. Ken waved enthusiastically at him, pointing gleefully at the frantically struggling Yuu. Yukki waved back, shaking his head in bemusement. How that would come in handy in battle, he wasn't sure. Maybe if the aliens were allergic....
"What the hell is Ken doing with those feathers?" ChaCha asked suddenly from behind him.
Yukki jumped, startled. "Where did you come from?"
"I've been here for almost five minutes," ChaCha answered, amused. "What were you thinking about so seriously, anyway?"
"Hmmm. Just... group dynamics." He leaned back against the wall, shifting slightly to give ChaCha more space to settle beside him. "And what have you been doing all morning?"
"Hikaru-sensei's been showing me around the medi-ward. He's got an amazing set-upeverything you'd find in a hospital, and more. Of course, I don't know how any of it works, but he insists I'll just know when I need to." He frowned at that. "I really don't want to need to."
"I know." Yukki nodded. "It will be difficult, being stuck here while they go out to fight. Part of me wants to be out there with them, and the other part of me wants to just tell Hikaru-sensei we made a mistake and he should find a different group of Rangers."
"I keep thinking, 'what-if'? What if someone gets really badly hurt and I can't do anything?"
"I'll tell you the same thing I told Tetsu. There's no point in 'what-ifs.' We'll deal with what happens when it happens. Don't borrow trouble."
ChaCha grunted his assent, folding his arms across his chest and watching the Rangers as they sparred one another, Tetsu and Gackt ganging up on a protesting Hyde while Yuu had Ken tied up on the floor with a large, glowing blue rope. "I just have a bad feeling that I don't need to borrow it. It's already on its way."
Yukki opened his mouth to respond but was interrupted by a loud, piercing alarm. He flinched and clapped both hands over his ears as ChaCha leapt off the wall and went completely white. "What is going on?!"
"RANGERS!" Hikaru's amplified voice boomed out of the walls, loud enough to be heard over the alarm. "THE NEXT WAVE OF ATTACKS HAS BEGUN. TELEPORT TO THE MAIN COMMAND POST."
"Rangers!" Tetsu shouted, and the five fell immediately into formation before teleporting out of the training room.
ChaCha took Yukki's hand. "Come on, I can teleport you, it's halfway across the ship."
"They couldn't have waited for us?" Yukki grumbled, closing his eyes as ChaCha activated his healing sphere and deposited them in the center of the Command Post.
"Rangers," Hikaru was saying as they arrived, "The Tangatetrines have sent a force to Earth." He gestured with one hard toward a large screen on the wall as he punched several buttons on a console. After a moment of static, an image materialized.
"Hey, that's our hotel!" Hyde exclaimed, pointing at the building where scored of Tangatetrines were swarming around, attacking innocent bystanders.
"We have to get down there before anyone else gets hurt," Yuu said, his hands tightening into fists.
"Be careful, Rangers," Hikaru intoned gravely. "May the Power protect you."
Tetsu stepped forward. "We will, Sensei. Rangers! Rokku!"
"Rokku!" The other four chorused, and in a flash of multi-colored light, they teleported into battle.
Yukki stood quietly beside, ChaCha, tensely watching on the screen as the five Rangers were deposited in the center of all the mayhem. Once they arrived, the Tangatetrines stopped attacking innocents and instead focused all of their attention on the Rangers. This was a good thing in that it gave the bystanders time to escape, but a bad thing in that the Rangers were getting thrashed.
Yukki winced as Ken took a particularly hard hit. "Come on, Ken, pull yourself together," he muttered to himself. "Get up!"
The Green Ranger staggered to his feet only to get smacked down again.
"They're not fighting together," ChaCha observed quietly, his angular face tight with tension. "They're panicking."
Yukki abruptly turned to Hikaru. "Sensei, can we communicate with them somehow?"
Hikaru nodded and waved Yukki over to another console, where he activated a microphone. "Speak into this."
"Rangers," Yukki barked, making his voice firm enough to grab their attention. "Get into formation, work together. Green and Blue, pair up and take the South. Black, take the North. White, West. Pink, East. GO!"
His harsh tone seemed to do the trick. The Tangatetrines were taken by surprise as the Rangers suddenly began acting like a team, watching one anothers' backs and expertly beating back their opponents. The tide of the battle began to turn. Yuu caused the first alien casualty, using a wicked-looking blue blade to run his opponent through. The alien staggered once as he yanked the sword from its midsection, then vanished in a firey explosion.
"Yes!" ChaCha crowed, pumping his fist in the air. "First blood goes to GacktJOB!"
Yukki rolled his eyes, some of the tension leaving him as the Rangers began to prove that Hikaru-sensei's faith in them had been deserved.
It was only after nearly every alien had been dispatched that everything went pear-shaped. It was a little girl who started it. She had been hiding behind a stone bench, apparently having been left behind when the rest of the bystanders had fled, but her hiding place was destroyed by a misplaced laser blast from one of the remaining Tangatetrines. She shrieked and started to rundirectly into the path of the White Ranger's flying kick.
The White Ranger somehow managed to pull the attack, twisting his body in midair and missing the child by mere inches, but he landed hard, obviously stunned. The Tangatetrine he had been attacking quickly raised its spear for the kill, and Yukki and ChaCha could only watch helplessly as the blade arced downwardand impacted the Black Ranger's chest as he teleported directly into its path.
Before Yukki could even begin to think of what to do, ChaCha had leapt into action, activating another of the many consoles and force-teleporting the Black Ranger back to the ship. Gackt landed hard and demorphed instantly, his face pale and his shirt stained with blood. ChaCha immediately fell to his knees next to him and began muttering to himself, stripping off the shirt and placing his glowing hands over the wound.
The gash began to close up immediately, but Yukki barely noticed. His eyes were riveted on the black power sphere, which had appeared in a flash of black over Gackt's torso as he demorphed. The sphere was pulsing now, rotating slowly and reflecting the soft lavender glow from ChaCha's healing hands. It seemed to be calling to him.
Yukki took a step toward it, then stopped, shaking his head in confusion. The sphere pulsed again, urging him forward. "But.... I can't," he whispered, trying desperately to resist the pull. "Gackt needs you now.... Doesn't he?"
He gasped, looking down at Gackt, whose eyes were open now, clouded with pain.
"Take it. The other Rangers need you...."
Yukki glanced at the viewing screen. The Tangatetrines had sent reinforcements once the Black Ranger had vanished, and while the remaining four Rangers were fighting valiantly, it was starting to look like a losing battle.
The sphere was floating directly in front of him now, pulsing with every breath he took. In a daze, he reached toward it.
The power filled him immediately, causing him to gasp as tendrils of fire seemed to spread out along every vein in his body. He clenched his teeth against the pain and shouted, "Gold Ranger! Rokku!"
The battle site was chaos. Yuu and Hyde were both fighting like madmenit was taking every ounce of Tetsu's and Ken's energy just to watch their backs, since the two of them were too upset to bother watching their own. Yukki didn't waste any time, raising both hands as soon as his feet impacted the ground. "Gold Ranger Flying Drumstick Attack!"
"Yukki?!" Tetsu gasped as what seemed like hundreds of glowing golden drumsticks exploded from Yukki's fingers, impaling every Tangatetrine they touched and causing more than half of them to explode on impact. Even more amazing were the drumsticks that flew straight through the oblivious Hyde and Yuu without causing any damage. "What happened? Is Gackt"
"He's fine, ChaCha's got him." Yukki summoned a long broadsword and brandished it menacingly at the advancing formation of Tangas. "Let's finish this so we can get back to the ship!"
The tide of the battle turned again, news of Gackt's survival calming Yuu and Hyde enough to begin to use their minds again, their fighting styles immediately improving and allowing Tetsu and Ken to move from the defensive to the offensive.
Yukki soon found himself breathing hard, every movement sending more of that golden fire pulsing through his body. It wasn't supposed to feel like this, was it? Tetsu had described it as a pleasant feeling, and none of the others had ever seemed to be in pain when they morphed.
He stumbled and nearly fell as a particularly searing pain caused his vision to flicker. Then Hikaru's voice sounded worriedly in his head. "Yukihiro-san, you must return to the ship. We have made a grave error. You were not meant to hold that sphere; not while it is still bonded to its present owner."
Yukki grunted, lifting the broadsword to block one of the Tangatetrines' spears, the force of the strike sending him tumbling to the ground. He thought he heard Ken call his name, but his ears had begun to buzz and he couldn't be sure. All of his energy was consumed in beating back the Tangas who were suddenly focusing all of their attention on him, sensing his weakness and eagerly taking advantage of it.
One of them finally knocked the broadsword out of his hand and lifted its spear, its body blurring and doubling in front of his eyes as he stared blearily up at it.
Then he was surrounded by a thick green mist, obscuring the Tangas from his sight and presumably him from theirs, as the expected attack never came. "I am teleporting you back to the ship," he heard dimly, and the pain flared again as his vision was dazzled with golden light.
When the light cleared, he was in an unfamiliar room on Hikaru's ship, the medi-ward, most likely. He sat up slowly and turned his head, looking for Gackt, but a wave of dizziness sent him tumbling back to the floor. The last thing he saw before the world winked out of existence was ChaCha's terrified face.
The ceiling had 6,542 tiles in it. Hyde let out a frustrated sigh as he counted the last one, then decided to start counting the partial tiles along the walls as halves so he could add them to the total.
It was a sign of ChaCha's own exhaustion that he had ordered them all to bed in the first place. Yes, they were driving him crazy, haunting the medi-ward and asking constant questions, but did he really think anyone could sleep? Well, Ken had managed it, but only after two doses of pharmaceutical assistance. As tempting as it was to resort to the same technique, Tetsu had requested that the remainder of the team should remain available should the Tangas decide to attack again. Hyde fervently hoped that they wouldn't. None of them were in any shape to deal with another battle so soon.
Unlike Ken and himself, Tetsu and Yuu hadn't even attempted to sleep, instead electing to work through their volatile emotions by beating the crap out of each other. When he'd left them an hour or two before, they had both been sporting multiple bruises, Tetsu's lower lip was split, and Yuu was favoring his left leg. Who knew what kind of shape they were in by now. He wondered if Tetsu had thought about the effect their "training" would have if they were called out to fight again. Probably not. Tetsu wasn't thinking entirely clearly since they'd returned to find out what had happened to Yukki.
He glanced enviously over at the oblivious Ken, who was lying completely still, even his usual tossing and turning negated by the drugs. Hyde frowned. Come to think of it, Ken hadn't moved at all in ages. He leapt out of bed, suddenly overwhelmed with fear. What if
He grimaced and wiped his wet fingers on the sheets. Ken was definitely alive. Dead people didn't drool like that.
Hyde stared down at Ken, who actually looked vaguely content. Maybe he should take a couple of pills. It would give him several hours of blissful, dreamless sleep, and he wouldn't have to think about Yukki at all, at least for a little while. The chances of the Tangas attacking again so soon were slim, anyway. Hikaru-sensei had predicted that it would take at least a few more days for Emperor Rehyghator to come up with another "plan."
Decision made, he tossed on a thin robe and hurried from the room, deciding to use the long walk to the medi-ward to clear his head. It had only been a few hours since the end of the battle, but it seemed like much longer than that. The battle itself had been a disaster, despite that fact that they'd managed to destroy all but a few of the attacking Tangas in the end. How could they count it as anything but a disaster when it ended with two of their friends and teammates badly injured?
Hyde shuddered and closed his eyes, stopping in the middle of the long hallway and leaning against the wall for support as the memories overwhelmed him. Why hadn't he thought to teleport out of the path of that Tanga's spear? Why had Gackt taken the hit in his place? Why had Yukki taken Gackt's sphere in the first place? Why was the sphere itself now turning against him?
There were so many questions, most of which he couldn't even hope to find an answer for.
He opened his eyes wearily and resumed the long walk to the medi-ward. There was at least one question he could get the answer to. If Gackt was awake, he would ask him why he'd done it. He wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answer. He doubted that even Megumi would have done anything like it and she was, at least legally, his other half. He wondered how she was doing. They were still friends, despite the fact that they had long since fallen out of love and agreed to have an open marriage. He doubted they had ever really been in love in the first place. True love didn't fade like that. True love... would jump in front of a spear for you.
He shook his head against that thought. That probably wasn't it, at all. It was probably just a Ranger thing. They had ChaCha, after all. Gackt had probably gone into it knowing he would suffer no permanent ill effects.
He quickened his step a bit as he turned the last corner that would lead him to his destination. He hoped Gackt was still awake. And maybe Yukki had improved, some. After all, what was that American saying? "No news is good news."
The door to the medi-ward was open, so he stepped in quietly, just in case everyone was asleep. "Ga" he began, then cut himself off, slapping a hand over his mouth. Gackt was awake, but he was sitting on the edge of his bed, deep in conversation with ChaCha.
ChaCha looked utterly exhausted. He was seated next to Gackt, both of then facing the softly glowing stasis chamber where Yukki lay in a state of suspended animation; every bodily function stilled in an effort to cheat the death that hovered only moments away. The light from the chamber illuminated both of their faces with an eerie glow, accentuating the bags under ChaCha's drooping eyes.
Hyde stayed completely still for a moment, not even breathing, until it became obvious that neither of the two men had heard him. He was just about to turn around and leave when he heard his name. Natural curiosity made him stay, stepping further into the medi-ward to hear what was being said.
"will not work," Gackt was saying. "How could it?" He gestured to the stasis chamber. "They are close, all four of them. How can he face me, knowing that this is my fault?"
"It isn't your fault," ChaCha insisted, his tone indicating that it wasn't the first time he was saying it. "I was there, remember? Yes, you told him to go ahead and take the sphere, but he was already reaching for it. The sphere itself was floating right over his hand. He"
"I know that! But Haido.... I shouldn't have been so reckless. I saw him there, and something inside me snapped. I didn't think. And now Yukihiro-san is paying for my lack of foresight."
Hyde frowned, debating whether or not he should make his presence known. He'd had no idea Gackt was feeling so responsible for what had happened. And was he talking about their burgeoning relationship? That they would break up, now, because of this? He started to take a step forward, then stopped as ChaCha spoke patiently.
"Gackt, listen to me. No one foresaw this! Not even Sensei knew this would happen! You're not thinking clearly at all. Try to be logical, alright? Look at the facts. One: Sensei used to be a Ranger. Two: he used to hold Tetsu's sphere. Three: Tetsu now holds that same sphere with no ill effects. Four: Sensei was there when your sphere left you and reached out to Yukki, and didn't say anything. Now, add all that together and what do you get?"
Hyde held his breath as Gackt sat quietly for a long moment, his eyes fixed on the floor. Finally, he sighed and nodded slightly. "I couldn't have foreseen it and it wasn't my fault."
Hyde nearly collapsed in relief.
"Thank you," ChaCha said, sliding off the bed and approaching the stasis chamber wearily, checking the instrument panel on its side. "I know it's hard, Gackt, but blaming yourself unnecessarily doesn't help anything. None of the others blame you, either, and if Yukihiro was able, I know he would tell you the same thing."
"But he isn't able," Gackt said simply. "I'm here, talking to you, and he's there. I can't help but feel badly."
"We all feel badly. I've grown to like him a lot, these past few weeks. We're going to do everything we can." ChaCha turned back to Gackt. "How's your sphere?"
"It is still in distress," Gackt told him, putting a hand to his chest. "It is reaching out for him, and while he is in stasis, it cannot reach him."
ChaCha nodded grimly. "Let me see it?"
Gackt palmed the sphere and held it out to ChaCha. Hyde had to hold back a shocked gasp. The sphere was pulsing with a sickly brownish light, with arcs of black and gold electricity sparking angrily from it. He felt his own sphere pulse in sympathetic reaction.
ChaCha frowned at it as he took hold of it. "How long has it been like this? Are you in pain?"
"It has been getting steadily worse," Gackt answered, "since Yukihiro-san was placed in stasis."
"Why didn't you say anything?" ChaCha snapped, taking out his own sphere and attempting to soothe Gackt's with its healing energies. "I can't help you if you don't"
The sphere chose that moment to loudly crack down one side.
Hyde let out a shocked gasp that was drowned out by Gackt's cry of pain. The white power flared within him, and he morphed instinctively without even saying the words, the white power sphere straining to join its distressed brother. He sprinted into the room and to Gackt's side, unsurprised as Tetsu and Yuu, also already morphed, teleported in as well.
"We felt the black power cry out," Tetsu snapped. "What's going on?"
Hikaru appeared only an instant later, heading straight for ChaCha and gingerly taking the sphere from his hand and examining it worriedly. "Rangers, the black and gold sphere is being split apart by its bondage to two Rangers," he explained. "You can all feel it, ne? It can no longer be content with only Gackt-san; it cries out for its bond with Yukihiro-san, as well. However, it cannot support two Rangers at once. That is why Yukihiro-san was weakened so dangerously. I fear that the only way to preserve the power of this sphere will be to remove Yukihiro-san from the stasis. The sphere will once again attempt to bond with him, and...." He trailed off, the implications obvious.
"No." Hyde spoke before Tetsu could, his fingers tightening on Gackt's arm. "We all know what will happen if we do that. We can't just let him die!"
"But if we do not, we have no chance of saving the sphere," Hikaru explained, his eyes apologetic. "And with only four Rangers, there is little hope of saving your planet."
The crack widened slightly, and the white power once again flared painfully. Hyde flinched, but couldn't bring himself to agree to Hikaru's plan. "And if we do, then what? The sphere is still bonded to two people, one of whom is.... not available.... and it splits, anyway. It's not worth it. There has to be another way."
"Hyde-san, once Yukihiro-san has passed, his bond to the sphere will change. If the spheres were bonded in the same way to all of their past owners as they were to the present ones, all of them would have cracked and broken long ago. No, Yukihiro-san's spirit will join all of the Rangers of the past, and he will be forever bonded with them and with this sphere." He paused and looked at each of them in turn, his face stern but sympathetic. "Rangers, would you truly sacrifice your entire planet to preserve the life of one man?"
They were all silent for a long moment before Tetsu finally spoke, his voice choked. "No. Yukki would... be very angry with us."
Hikaru nodded and placed a hand on his arm. "I understand what you are going through, Pink Ranger. All of my friends and teammates have already passed on, and I miss them greatly. But I can feel them still with me, through all of your spheres, and I know that I will see them again when I pass. That gives me comfort. Your friend served well, and he will not be forgotten. Please, we must do this quickly. If the sphere is allowed to split apart completely, it will be lost to us forever."
Tetsu nodded jerkily and stepped back. Hyde could only watch in shocked silence, still clinging to Gackt's arm, as Hikaru began to deactivate the stasis chamber.
The lights within it flickered and then went out as the glass cover opened slowly with a hiss of stale air. Yukki stirred slightly, a grimace of pain crossing his face as he labored to breathe.
"I can't watch this," Hyde muttered, turning away and resting his helmet against Gackt's chest. Gackt lifted a shaking hand and rested it on his back, not speaking. There really wasn't anything to say.
The strained near-silence was broken by the whoosh of teleportation, and Hyde turned, startled, watching an obviously groggy Ken nearly fall to the floor as he materialized.
"Big green fish poked me," he mumbled, staggering to the stasis chamber and palming his sphere. "Said, 'go and give Yukki some love.'" He took Yukki's limp hand and turned it palm-up, gave him the green sphere, and immediately fell to the floor in a deep, drugged sleep.
Yukki's breathing hitched, then evened out slightly. ChaCha stared at the control panel, his eyes growing wide. "I don't believe it. His vital signs just improved."
That was all the prompting Hyde needed. He demorphed immediately and stepped over Ken, placing his own sphere with the green one Yukki's hand. Tetsu, Yuu, and even ChaCha did the same, and Hikaru then took the still-sparking black sphere and carefully placed it with the others on the top of the small pile. Yukki's fingers curled slightly to better grip the large handful, but his eyes remained closed.
"Come on, Yukki," Hyde whispered, feeling the energy sluggishly draining from his sphere. "Please...."
The green sphere, at the bottom of the pile, began to shake slightly, glowing softly. The others slowly followed suit. Then the glow expanded and became what looked like hundreds of tiny glowing ghost-spheres, all of which began to circle the black sphere, slowly healing the hairline crack.
Hikaru gasped suddenly, and Hyde turned to him, shocked to see tears running down their mentor's face. "Rangers," he managed, "These are all of the Rangers from the past, returned to help us. I see my friends, all of them!" Four of the ghost-spheres separated themselves from the rest and hovered around Hikaru, lighting his face with a rainbow of colors. He smiled through his tears, lifting his hand to touch each of them in turn. "Thank you, my friends. You are doing a great thing."
"Wait, something's wrong," Yuu said, pointing fearfully at the black sphere. "It's cracking again!"
Hyde turned back just in time to see the black sphere, lifted into the air by the Rangers of the past, crack cleanly down the middle. Gackt gasped, his hand leaving Hyde's back to reach out vainly for his sphere.
"No, look!" Tetsu excitedly clamped one hand on Hyde's shoulder and the other on Gackt's. "It's splitting into two spheres!"
Hyde looked. Sure enough, where the black sphere had been, there were now two smaller spheresone glowing black and the other goldeach one rapidly growing back to full size as the ghost spheres circled. The glow of each grew brighter and brighter before culminating in a flash that forced them all to shield their eyes.
When Hyde could see again, his own sphere was hovering in front of his face, radiating a mixture of relief and self-satisfied pleasure. He smiled as he took hold of it, looking around to see the others doing the same. The green sphere was hovering over Ken, rhythmically poking him on the arm and shoulder in a vain attempt to wake him. Tetsu finally took pity on it and grabbed hold of it, opening Ken's fingers and forcibly closing them around the sphere. ChaCha took charge of dragging Ken out of the way and lifting him onto another of the medi-beds in the corner of the room.
Gackt was staring in wonder, first at his own sphere, then at the gold one that was still resting in Yukki's hand.
"Are you alright, Gacchan?" Hyde asked quietly, torn between staying with Gackt and running to Yukki's side.
"Yes," Gackt answered. "I just.... It feels different. I can feel the gold sphere as well as my own."
"You are linked, now," Hikaru informed him, still red-eyed but otherwise composed. "Your two spheres were born from one. That makes you brothers in the Power."
"I always wanted a brother," came a weak voice from the deactivated stasis chamber.
Hyde hurried forward, using his smaller size to full advantage as he squeezed in between ChaCha and Hikaru to grab the prime spot in the middle of Yukki's line of sight. "Yukki!"
"Hyde," Yukki acknowledged, blinking sleepily. "I feel like shit."
"You're getting healthier by the minute, though," ChaCha told him, unable to stop grinning. "Welcome back."
"Thank you. Is this a Ranger sphere in my hand? My Ranger sphere?"
"Yup." Tetsu's eyes were suspiciously wet. "Welcome to the team, Gold Ranger."
"Thanks." Yukki tightened his fingers around his new sphere and smiled ruefully. "For my first act as a full-fledged Ranger, I'm going to take a nap."
"Sleep well, brother," Gackt said quietly, sounding almost shy.
"Mmm-hmm." Yukki smiled at him as he closed his eyes. "You, too."
Hyde stepped back, putting one arm around Gackt's waist and the other around Tetsu's. "Ken's going to shit a brick when he finds out what he missed."
Yuu snorted a surprised laugh. "I thought you were going to say something profound!"
"Who, Hyde?" Tetsu shook his head. "I don't think so. Profane, maybe."
Hyde cuffed him on the side of the head, grinning. "Fuckin' A," he agreed. Everything was finally right with the world.
"A big green fish?!"
Gackt drew himself up short as Kitamura-san'she mentally corrected himselfKen's indignant shriek echoed through the medi-ward.
"That's what ChaCha told me," Yukihiro chuckled, having graduated from the stasis chamber to a normal medi-bed. He was sitting up now, his face no longer as pale and drawn as it had been at first.
Gackt stood uncertainly in the doorway, unsure whether or not he should leave and come back later. However, the others were all in the training rooms running drills, and he didn't much feel like joining them, nor did the thought of returning to their rooms by himself appeal. He decided to stay and wait until an opportune time to make his presence known.
"I don't believe you," Ken was saying, shaking his head. "I don't remember any of this."
"Of course you don't, you were unconscious. I still can't believe you did that. Alien drugs? And two doses, no less!"
Ken shrugged sheepishly. "You know drugs don't work on me. I figured I'd get a couple hours of sleep, tops."
"Human drugs don't work on you. I repeat, these were alien drugs. I'm surprised ChaCha let you take them, at all!"
Yukihiro's mouth dropped open. "Kitamura Ken, are you telling me you stole alien drugs?!"
"I wouldn't say I stole them, exactly."
"Did you take them in secret, without permission and with no form of restitution?"
"Then you stole them. I can't believe you. You're as bad as... Well, no one's as bad as you."
Gackt smiled to himself as the two continued to bicker good-naturedly. The four members of L'Arc seemed to be very close. They were all like this, very comfortable with each other, very open and loving. His own relationships with ChaCha and especially with Yuu were similar, but he envied the four, anyway. They were a unit in a way he could barely fathom, even in comparison to his own friendships. He guessed it was because they were a band while he had a band. As close as he was to the individual members of GacktJOB, it just wasn't the same thing. Not that he'd ever say that to Yuu and Cha. Who knew how they'd take it?
But then again, Hyde always sang lead for L'Arc. In a way, they other three could be considered his band. Maybe it was all in the way they thought of one another. Maybe all he had to do was stop thinking of himself as separate from GacktJOB. He frowned slightly, letting the thought simmer for a bit. It was probably a moot point for now, anyway, since they had all temporarily dropped their musical careers to concentrate on saving the planet.
A voice behind him startled him and he turned, bowing slightly. "Ogawa-san. I was"
"I would appreciate it if you would call me Tetsu, from now on."
"Oh." He felt unaccountably warm. "Of course, Tetsu. Thank you."
"Sure." Tetsu gave him a mischievous smile previously reserved only for the other members of L'Arc. "Anyway, I'm surprised to find you here. I thought Hyde was our resident eavesdropper. Is he rubbing off on you?" He paused, then added slyly, "No pun intended."
Gackt felt his cheeks heat up and ferverently hoped he wasn't actually blushing. "I was not eavesdropping. I was simply waiting until Yukihiro was ready to receive me."
"Right," Tetsu nodded. "Of course. Well, I'm just going to go interrupt them. Feel free to join me, if you like."
Gackt watched as Tetsu strode into the room and effortlessly inserted himself into his bandmates' conversation. Soon, the three of them were joking and laughing loudly, wondering if Hikaru had any Zords stashed away and jokingly throwing around suggestions as to what each Zord should look like.
"I want a green dolphin!" Ken said, flapping his arms in what Gackt assumed was supposed to be an imitation of flippers.
"I want somethings vicious," Tetsu added, "Like a lion, or a... a... jackal!"
"A pink jackal?" Yukihiro sounded doubtful. "I don't think so. I bet you'll get stuck with a flamingo, or something."
"A flamingo?" Tetsu said in an impressive whine. "Oh, come on, Yukki! That's just too cruel."
Gackt smiled to himself as he watched them, suddenly selfishly glad their concert had been interrupted the way it had. He had gained a lover, two new friends, a brother, and a mentor, all from that one catastrophic event. And maybe sometime soon he would get a giant robot to play with.
"I would like a raven," he called, and stepped out to join them.
Next: Episode One: Haidokun's Big Adventure