Yuu turned from his conversation with Ken at Gackt's dismayed murmur, a frown crossing his face. "What's wrong, Gacchan?"
Gackt looked up from his Blackberry, shaking his head as he saw the entire Ranger team watching him in concern. "It's just... Ju-Ken wrote me an e-mail."
Ken cocked his head, confused. "Who?"
Tetsu nudged him. "GacktJOB's bassist! Remember? That guy we played with a lot, while we were practicing for that big joint concert we did? We only hung out with him for weeks on end."
"That guy? Huh. All this time, I've been calling him Juju."
Tetsu just rolled his eyes.
Yuu had approached Gackt during this exchange and taken a seat next to him on the floor. "What did he have to say?"
"I'd rather not repeat it in polite company."
ChaCha whistled lowly. "Ouch. He's pissed, huh?"
"You could say that," Gackt nodded grimly, handing Yuu the Blackberry.
Yuu winced as he read the short missive. "Worse than pissed. I didn't realize Ju-Ken knew words like this."
"We did treat him and Ryu rather badly. I have belatedly realized that we never got in touch with them after everything happened. Simply because they weren't playing with us during that last songand thus were not present for the events that followedwe shut them out, entirely. He has a right to be angry."
"What's the jist of what he said?" Hyde asked curiously.
Yuu lifted the Blackberry and read, editing the worst of it out. "Blank you, you blanking, selfish blanking blank blank blank arrogant blank. I blanking quit, as if it blanking matters. Go to hell and take blanking Yuu and Chachamaru with you."
Hyde whistled in admiration. "Damn, can I see that?"
Gackt sighed heavily. "I should talk to him. Ryu, as well, as I doubt he's any happier. How could we have overlooked them for so long? It's been weeks."
"We did have a lot on our minds," ChaCha pointed out, indicating the cavernous training room around them. "We're on a spaceship, in case it escaped your notice. We all have little magical balls"
Ken snorted. "Heh. Magical balls."
"Magical balls," Cha continued, sparing him only a quick glare, "that let us do magical things. And then there was the whole... incident." He looked sideways at the mostly-recovered Yukki, who casually averted his eyes. "So, you know. We've been busy."
"I know. But they are our friends and they deserved better." He stood and approached Tetsu, bowing formally as he always did whenever he spoke to the Pink Ranger as his commander rather than as his friend. "Tetsu-san, do I have your permission to inform Ju-Ken and Ryuichi of our... situation?"
"Err..." Tetsu looked unnerved, as he always did whenever Gackt addressed him as his commander rather than as his friend. "If you believe they can keep quiet about it, okay. You know them better than I do."
"Hey, wait, if he gets to tell them, I get to tell Megumi!" Hyde protested, poking at Tetsu's shoulder. "You know she won't say anything if I ask her not to!"
"Me, too!" Ken chimed in, poking Tetsu's other shoulder. "I get to tell... someone!"
"You can tell Yukki," Tetsu agreed drily.
"Ne, ne, Yukki!" Ken bounced over to the bemused drummer and tugged on his sleeve. "Guess what? I'm a Power Ranger!"
"Oh? I wouldn't have thought you'd pass the test."
"That's the beauty of it," Ken grinned. "There was no test!"
"Ah," Yukki nodded. "Then the world is doomed."
"Cut that out, you too, that's not funny!" Tetsu scolded them. "I'm surprised at you, Yukki!"
"Sorry, Tet." Yukki's lips twitched in amusement. "It's Ken's fault. He's a bad influence on me."
"And besides, there was a test," Tetsu continued. "We kicked Tanga ass when we were still just rock stars. I'd say that qualifies."
"Yes, oh fearless leader," Ken babbled, prostrating himself at Tetsu's feet. "You are right as always, oh fastidious one."
Tetsu kicked him. "What has gotten into you? Are you on alien drugs, again?"
Ken rolled out of the Pink Ranger's reach and lay on his back, putting his hands behind his head. "Nope, just high on life. We're Power Rangers, Yukki's alive and wellthanks mostly to yours truly, I might addI'm in better shape than I have been in years from all this training, and I won our poker game last night! In your face!"
"I still say you cheated," ChaCha grumbled.
"You're just bitter because I now own your favorite guitar. But hey, maybe you'll win it back, someday. When you learn how to hold a decent poker-face."
"As fascinating as all this is," Yuu said loudly, one hand on Gackt's tense shoulder, "we do have some serious matters to think about. Gacchan, do you want Cha and me with you when you speak to Ju-Ken and Ryu?"
Gackt sighed and turned off the Blackberry, which he had been staring at in silence for the past few moments. "No, I don't believe that would be wise. He might perceive that we were ganging up on him. I will go alone."
Hyde approached as well, lowering himself to the floor on Gackt's other side, taking both of his hands in his own and kissing them gently. "I'm sorry, Gacchan, I know you're upset about this. Ju-Ken and Ryu will forgive you once you explain things, I'm sure of it."
"Thank you, Haidokun," Gackt said softly, briefly caressing his lover's lips with his own.
Ken made gagging noises until Yukki pounced on him and commenced a tickling fight. Tetsu, Yuu, and Cha just shared exasperated looks, wondering if Yukki's ordeal had somehow lowered his IQ by a few hundred points.
"Oishii," Hyde sighed, leaning back in his chair and rubbing his full belly contentedly. "Thank you, Megumi. You didn't have to cook for me, you know."
Megumi rolled her eyes as she stood and began clearing away the dinner plates. "Of course I didn't have to, Haidokun, I wanted to. You are my husband, after all."
"Hmm, yes." Hyde fidgeted a little in his chair, suddenly feeling guilty. "Umm, about that...."
"You do not eat my food and then divorce me, you baka," Megumi said, almost nonchalantly. "I know you came here for a reason. Do you have a new girlfriend, then? I wouldn't have thought you could get that serious about anyone so soon."
"Well, I, um...."
"And I have to say," Megumi continued, studiously scrubbing away at the dinner dishes, "It's somewhat insulting that it took you so long to come here. You nearly get killedby aliens, of all thingsand then you vanish utterly. It would be one thing if it were just mewe have an agreement, after allbut you have a daughter to think of!"
"Well, you see, I"
"She asks about you all the time. 'Where Daddy, where Daddy?' And I have to tell her I don't know. If you'd told me you were coming, I'd have kept her home from her sleepover." She finally turned from the sink and pointed a soapy finger at him, her eyes narrowed and dangerous. "But you will be back, ne?"
"Yes!" Hyde, his sense of self-preservation finely honed by his Ranger training, nodded as enthusiastically and as earnestly as he could manage. "Soon! But Megumi, I... I have something to tell you. Sit down, please?"
His wife's eyes widened then, going from angry and determined to frightened. "Oh my God, you're dying!"
"Those aliens did something to you and you're" She gasped, hand flying to her mouth as she teared up. "Oh, Hideto, I'm so sorry!"
The next thing Hyde knew, Megumi was curled at his feet, her head in his lap as she sobbed and clutched desperately at his arms. "No! Megumi, wait, I'm not dying, I swear! Please stop crying!"
She sniffled. "You're not dying? Really?"
"Really, truly. I do have something to tell you, and you should be sitting down for it, but I'm not dying. I promise."
She stood shakily and returned to the sink, where she dried her hands with the dish towel. Hyde had to settle for blotting at the soapy wet spots on his sleeves with his used table napkin. "Let's take this into the living room," Megumi suggested, still sounding shaken.
Hyde complied without comment, placing a hand on her back as they moved into the next room and settled on the couch.
"Alright, well," he began, wringing his hands in his lap as his wife waited with wide, wary eyes to hear what he had to say. "You see.... Ummm.... You know the aliens?"
Megumi nodded slowly.
"Yes, well, they, um... They're trying to take over the world. We stopped them before, at the concert. The guys and me, I mean. It turns out that Tetsu's really good with a gun. And Yukki was taking them out with drumsticks"
"Wait." Megumi stopped him, her furrowed brow and crinkled nose transforming her from an unearthly beauty into an adorable girl-next-door. "I thought Gackt-san said the Power Rangers defeated the aliens?"
"Yes, umm.... About that." He paused, suddenly wondering why he had been so eager to tell his wife the big secret. "You see, we are"
Just then, the front door exploded inward and a squadron of Tangas swarmed the room.
Megumi screamed in terror and Hyde leapt to his feet, palming his sphere immediately.
"White Ranger! Rokku!"
And the fight was on.
The first thing he did was sweep Megumi into his arms and deposit her behind the couch, away from the approaching Tangas. "Stay down," he hissed, and she nodded, curling into a tiny ball on the floor.
Once she was out of the way, he fought like a madman, inwardly flinching as their home and their belongings were systematically destroyed in the battle. Where were the others, anyway? Surely someone was aware of this attack. All he had to do was hang on until the reinforcements arrived.
He might have done alright if one of the Tangas hadn't figured out that they could go around the couch to get to Megumi.
He didn't noticed what had happened until Megumi shrieked, and he could only watch in horror as she leapt to her feet and started to run, while the Tanga behind her lifted a large, wicked-looking gun.
Hyde didn't even think. In the space of a split second, he had teleported from one end of the room to the other, depositing himself directly in front of his wife just in time to be shot square in the belly with a large, silvery ball of energy.
Megumi screamed again as it hit him, and he flinched, waiting for the pain to it. It didn't. He cautiously opened eyes he hadn't realized he'd closed and looked down at himself. No damage. He looked back up at the Tanga, who seemed just about as confused as he was.
Then, finally, his reinforcements arrived.
"White Ranger!" Tetsu panted, sprinting over to the two of them. "Are you alright?!"
Hyde sighed and turned to Megumi, wrapping his arms around her. "It's fine, Tetsu. She knows, she saw me transform. I'm getting her out of here."
He only dimly heard Tetsu's quiet, "Oh," behind him as he teleported his wife to relative safety, at Yukki's empty apartment. He knew the drummer wouldn't mind the imposition, and his home would be the cleanest. Well, aside from Gackt's, but that would be rather awkward.
They stood together for a long moment when they landed, Megumi sobbing quietly into his white-clad shoulder. Finally, she lifted her face and stared into his helmet, visibly composing herself. "White Ranger, huh?"
"You should get back there. Tetsu and... the others...?"
He nodded. "All of us except Cha. And he's our healer."
"I see. Well, they'll need you, I guess."
"Yeah." He hesitated. "It's alright, isn't it? My being.... This?"
"It has to be, doesn't it? I couldn't change anything."
"No, I guess not." He shuffled awkwardly. "I'll be careful, I promise."
"You'd better. I love you, you baka." She pressed her lips briefly to the lips of his helmet, then carefully wiped off the lipstick. "Go on. And you'll tell me later about your new girlfriend."
After the battle ended successfully and the few remaining Tangas had retreated back to their base, Hyde found himself confined to the medi-ward as ChaCha fluttered about, frantically trying to figure out what sort of damage the giant gun had caused. Cha was mumbling to himself as every diagnostic scan he did came up negative. "Doesn't make any sense. Whoever heard of a gun that does nothing? He's perfectly healthy. I've got to be missing something."
Gackt sat quietly in a chair by the door, his face blank. Hyde had tried to speak with him after the battle, but Gackt had rebuffed any attempt at conversation. Hyde wasn't sure if he was upset about his conversation with Ju-Ken (Gackt hadn't yet told anyone how that had gone) or about Hyde's still-comfortable relationship with his wife. He supposed either one would be enough to put a bit of a strain on the younger man.
Yukki wandered into the ward after Hyde had suffered through about ten minutes of Gackt's silence and ChaCha's frustration, with no end in sight. "Oh, Hyde, still here?" He gave Gackt a smile and wave, which was answered with a short nod.
"Yes," Hyde answered glumly, wincing as Cha poked him with some kind of blinking stick. Apparently, the answering blinks meant there was still nothing wrong with him, because Cha threw his hands into the air and continued muttering about inept aliens who invented a stupid do-nothing gun and wasted his time.
Yukki climbed onto one of the other diagnostic tables and waited, kicking his feet back and forth idly. "I hate that thing," he said conversationally, indicating the blinking stick. "I still have these check-ups every two days and he always pokes me with it."
"What does it do?" Hyde asked, now craning his neck to try to catch a glimpse of the annoying instrument.
"Dunno. But I guess it means something to Cha. He always hums at it and looks pleased with himself whenever he pokes me."
"Are you... better?" Hyde looked critically at his friend. Yukki was thinner than before, which was saying something, considering he'd always been slim. He was also a bit paler, and had the barest hint of discolored bags beneath his eyes. But he wasn't shaking anymore, as he had for the first several days after his near-death, and he was able to train with the rest of them, even if he did tire out sooner than he would like.
Yukki smiled patiently. "Better, yes. Every day. Cha says I'll be fully recovered within a few weeks, if I'm careful."
"I'm glad," Hyde said earnestly. "You"
"I give up," ChaCha exploded, startling all three of them. Even Gackt jumped slightly. "I can't find a single thing wrong with you, Hyde. It must have malfunctioned, or something. Come see me if you start to feel weird, or anything."
"Sure." Hyde jumped down from the diagnostic table, stumbling a little as he landed. Funny, he felt off-balance, somehow, and wondered if that qualified as "weird."
Yukki frowned at him as he passed. "Wait a second." Yukki jumped down from his own table and stood just in front of Hyde, looking up at him in alarm. Hyde's eyes widened. Why was Yukki looking up at him?
"Oh," ChaCha said. "Well, damn."
Gackt pursed his lips and didn't say a word.
"What the hell?"
Hyde sighed in annoyance.
Cha had summoned all of the Rangers into the medi-ward to discuss their latest problem. Ken, upon learning that Hyde was now an even 180 cm, and thus just slightly taller than him, hadn't taken the news particularly well.
"Why would they want to make you taller? That makes no sense! Yukki, you're the strategist, explain!"
Yukki looked startled. "Well, I...." He frowned. "They could have.... But no, they aimed at Megu no. Maybe they no, that can't.... Oh! They.... No." He was quickly becoming agitated, his movements becoming jerky.
Tetsu was starting to look concerned. "Don't worry about it, Yukki. Really, it's alright"
"But there has to be they couldn't have just you don't make a weapon without a reason for maybe they wanted to make us clumsy no, that's stupid. Or they wait...."
"Maybe it didn't work right!" Ken burst out desperately, guilty eyes on Yukki's shaking hands.
Yukki froze, his gaze becoming unfocused. "Didn't work right? Wait a minute...."
ChaCha surrepticiously poked him with the blinking stickwhich he apparently kept on his person at all timesand frowned at the results.
"That's it!" Yukki looked and sounded greatly relieved. "They must have been trying to make a shrink ray, but it malfunctioned and did the reverse, somehow. It's the only thing that makes sense."
"Yes, yes." ChaCha took Yukki by the elbow and began steering him to one of the diagnostic tables. "Sit down, I think you need a protein drink."
Yukki balked, digging his heels in and leaning all of his weight in the opposite direction. "No, I'm fine, see?" he held up a steady hand. "I just got a little excited. No harm done!"
"Sit," Cha repeated.
Yukki sat, heaving a resigned sigh. "I hate those," he whined quietly, pouting at his dangling feet.
Ken, radiating shame and remorse, sat next to him. "Um... I'll have one, too." He leaned in close to Yukki, whispering somewhat loudly. "Are they horrible?"
"Hideous," Yukki answered. "They taste like.... wood. And styrofoam. And ash."
"With artificial strawberry-banana flavoring," ChaCha added, handing them each a glass of bubbling, smoking, sickly-pink liquid. "Bottoms up!"
Gackt frowned as Hyde suddenly grew another three cm, officially edging past him in height.
Being tall was annoying, Hyde decided, as he banged his head walking into yet another doorway. He'd always thought it would be fun, being able to look down at people, but really, he was tired of the tops of his friends' heads. Good thing none of them were balding yet, or he'd have been totally distracted.
And who could have guessed that all of his friends would be so damned shallow? Nobody would talk to him, anymore. Well, that wasn't entirely true. It was really just Ken and Gackt who weren't speaking to him anymore, but it still hurt. Worse yet, he wasn't even sure exactly why they were acting this way. It wasn't as if it was his fault he'd gotten taller than them. And
"Ouch!" He banged his head on yet another doorway, having been paying very little attention to his surroundings as he walked.
"You might try ducking," Yuu suggested helpfully, looking up at Hyde as he rubbed irritably at his forehead.
"Yes, thank you, I hadn't thought of that," Hyde responded acidly. He sighed as he made his way further into the roomthe same sitting room where they had learned all about the Tangatetrines, the first time Hikaru had brought them to his ship. Yuu was seated on the couch, nursing a tall glass of that light, fruity soda he loved so much.
Yuu just smiled crookedly at him as he lowered himself to the floornone of the chairs were big enough for him anymore. "Having a bad day?"
"Bad couple of days." Hyde answered, leaning back against the armchair and closing his eyes.
Hey, take the couch," Yuu offered. Hyde heard the shifting of cloth as the other man started to stand. "I'll grab a chair."
"No," he said quickly, raising a hand to stop him. "I'm fine. I'm already down here, I don't want to move." He paused, then opened his eyes again. Yuu was staring at him in obvious concern. "I'm fine, really. Sit."
Yuu did so, somewhat hesitantly. "Any news, yet?"
"No. Cha's still doing tests on me every day, but he never finds anything out of the ordinary. We're not sure why I keep growing, it just happens. We're not sure how big I'll get, either. I'm afraid I eventually won't even fit anywhere but in the training room."
"Hmmm." Yuu was frowning into his soda glass. "Has Cha gotten in touch with Sensei?"
"Yeah. He didn't know anything about that weapon, either. Said it must be a new one, but he'd look into it. We haven't heard back, yet. And the Tangas are being too quiet. That's scary in itself."
"I wonder if they know what's happening to you?"
"Who knows? I haven't left the ship since the battle, so unless they tested it themselves, they might not."
"They know," ChaCha said, coming into the room and walking straight up to Hyde to poke him with the blinking stick. "Hmmm, no change. You're 9 cm taller than you were this morning, though."
Hyde just sighed. The gradual tightening of the huge sweatpants he was wearing had been a good clue. Tetsu had already made six trips back to Earth to buy bigger and bigger clothes. He hadn't felt this dumpy since... well, ever.
"The Tangas know?" Yuu asked, leaning forward slightly. "Why do you say that?"
"Hikaru-Sensei got in contact with me a short time ago. He showed Yukki and me how to use some of the equipment in the Command Post to see into the Tanga's base. I came to find you two, we're having a group meeting in the Command Post." He looked critically up at Hyde. "Yes, the Command Post. It'll be a bit tight, but you'll fit."
Hyde could only sigh again.
Yukki pointed to the large flatscreen showing a surprisingly clear view of the inside of the Tanga's base. "This is the room where they're keeping that gun. You can see it there, over toward the left. You'll notice that they have four Tangas guarding it, but none of the four are actually facing the gun, and there's a huge gap in their defense right here." This time he used a long pointer to lightly tap the screen directly over the spot in question. "We need one volunteer to go in there and get it, then get out as quickly as possible."
"Just one?" Yuu frowned doubtfully. "But you said we should never do anything alone."
"Yeah," Ken agreed. "You said crazy heroics would only get us killed."
"I know what I said," Yukki replied, shrugging nonchalantly. "I probably shouldn't have said 'never.' This is a unique situation. One Ranger has the best chance of getting in and out quickly and without harm."
"Hmmm." Yuu was staring critically at the screen, observing the Tangas' movements. "So who should it be? Hyde, of course, is too big. Yukki, you're the fastest of us, but your suit is too bright. So is Tetsu's." Tetsu actually cringed. "Ken is too loud." Ken didn't even bother to protest. "I might be able to"
"I'll do it," Gackt interrupted grimly.
"What?!" Hyde burst out suddenly, startling them all. "But you hateI mean, um...." He was blushing furiously. "Sorry. Never mind."
Gackt ignored him. "I can easily get into and out of the Tanga base without being detected. Watch." With that, he palmed his sphere, morphed, and immediately faded to invisibility in the shadows of the Command Post.
Yukki let out a low whistle. "Impressive, Gackkun. I hadn't seen that technique, yet."
Gackt became visible again. "That is because I only thought of it just now. Should I go immediately?"
"If you want." Yukki motioned him forward and pointed again to the gap in the Tangas' defense. "If you can teleport into this general area, you'll only have to move a few meters forward to take the gun, and get right back out. If you're able to be even more precise, you can teleport directly into this spot, where the shadows are darkest."
Gackt nodded in understanding. "I can do it. Teleporting now."
The others watched the screen intently as a telltale streak of black announced the Black Ranger's arrival. Luckily, none of the Tangas in the room were facing in that direction, and Gackt blended with the shadows so quickly that when one of the did turn for a brief momentpossibly investigating the slight whooshing sound made by a teleportationit didn't see anything and turned right back around. Gackt's arm became visible again as he reached out of the shadows to take the gun, but the moment his fingers closed around it, he teleported out again.
He arrived back in the Command Post, gun in hand, mere seconds after he had left.
Yukki, grinning, took the gun from him. "Thank you, Black Ranger! Cha, we have some research to do."
"Whoops," Tetsu said, pointing at the screen. "I think just Cha has some research to do. The Tangas just noticed the theft and it looks like they're mobilizing for a fight."
"Damn, I was hoping it would take them longer," Yukki groused. "Rotten luck, I guess. Cha, can you...?"
"I've got it." Cha took the gun gingerly and hurried from the room. "Hyde," he called absentmindedly. "I'll contact you when I've figured it out!"
"Yeah, okay," Hyde muttered, watching the screen with the rest of the Rangers.
"Alright, then," Tetsu nodded, pumping one fist in the air. "Let's do this!"
Five of the six Rangers fell into formation, Yukki taking Hyde's normal place since he was too big to fit without throwing everything off.
"Pink Ranger, Rokku!"
"Blue Ranger, Rokku!"
"Green Ranger! Rokku!"
"Gold Ranger! Rokku!"
They all looked at Hyde, who was staring apprehensively down at his sphere. "What if it doesn't work?"
"It'll work, Hyde. Go ahead," Yuu assured him.
Hyde closed his hand around his sphere and whispered, "White Ranger.... Rokku?"
There was a flash of white light and a giant-sized White Ranger sat in his place.
"Alright, we'll kick their asses!" Ken cheered. "You can just step on 'em!"
"I'm not that big, yet," Hyde groused, but he had to crawl over to meet the others, since he was now too big to stand up.
Tetsu glanced back at the screen, but all it showed now was the Tangas' nearly-empty base. "Yukki, can you show us where the Tangas are launching their attack?"
"Yeah." The Gold Ranger hurried to the console and punched what looked like a number of random keys. The screen went dark with static briefly before refocusing on a familiar hotel in downtown Tokyo.
"I cannot believe they're attacking the exact same hotel again!" Ken exclaimed as the Tangas onscreen gleefully menaced a group of cowering tourists.
"Rangers!" Tetsu barked.
"Rokku!" They all responded, and the group vanished in a splash of muticolored light.
This fight was very different from the first one. The six Rangers had all trained well, with the lessons from that first experience foremost in their minds. The first thing they did was split up; Yuu and Ken took charge of making sure all bystanders were removed to a safe location while the other four Rangers engaged the Tanga force to make sure they didn't interfere with the rescue efforts. Then, once they had secured the area, the Blue and Green Rangers joined the fight with their teammates.
No matter what techniques the Tangas tried, they were beaten back. Hyde's size proved a disadvantage to them as well, as none of their attacks had much of an effect on him. He simply batted them away like flies, causing more Tanga explosions every time he made contact.
"It's King Kong returned!" Ken teased as he ducked underneath a flying Tanga.
"Shut up," Hyde responded irritably, and grew another three cm. Luckily, his Ranger suit adapted well and grew with him.
"Tetsu!" Yukki called suddenly, pointing to a small group of Tangas who had congregated on the outskirts of the skirmish. "They're planning something!"
"Right!" Tetsu sprinted toward the small group, motioning to Gackt to join him. They had noticed too late, however. Before Tetsu had moved more than a few meters, a beam of light shot from the sky and struck the four huddled Tangas. Tetsu slid to a stop, causing Gackt to slam into him from behind. "What the-?"
His answer came less than a second later, as the group of Tangas immediately began to grow.
"Damn!" Ken cried. "They perfected the grow ray!"
The Rangers could only watch in horrified disbelief as they were suddenly faced with four skyscraper-tall enemiesand no way to fight them.
"We're screwed," Yuu murmured.
"Run!" Tetsu ordered, as the nearest giant-sized Tanga raised its foot to squash them like bugs.
"Don't have to tell me twice," Ken panted, already streaking past as even the normal-sized Tangas around them scattered in a panic. "Over there, with all those trees!"
"Cha!" Yukki cried, hoping that ChaCha had a receiver in whatever room he'd taken that gun. "We could use some help, here!"
"You have to ask your spheres," came the harried response. "Hikaru-sensei says they'll know what to do!"
"Ask them what?!" Yuu shrieked, stumbling as he made it past the tree line just in time to narrowly avoid becoming a Blue Ranger pancake.
Yukki palmed his sphere and raised it to the sky, shouting, "Gold Ranger! Um... Zord!"
At first, nothing happened.
Then, they all saw a glint of gold on the horizon.
"Did it work?" Yuu asked, squinting into the sun as he tried to focus his eyes on whatever was coming their way. "What is that?"
Ken let out a low whistle. "It's a giant King Cobra Zord!"
The Gold Cobra Zord reared up and hissed menacingly, its hood flaring out and blocking the bright rays of the sun. The four giant Tangas turned to face it, and one of them actually squeaked in terror.
"Rangers!" Tetsu ordered, his eyes narrowing with a renewed fighting spirit. "Call on your Zords!"
"Black Ranger! Zord!"
"White Ranger! Zord!"
"Blue Ranger! Zord!"
"Green Ranger! Zord!"
"Pink Ranger! Zord!"
There was a flash of multicolored light just over the horizon, at the same spot from which the Gold Cobra Zord had appeared. The Zords approached in the order they had been called, each Ranger straining his eyes to find out what animal his sphere had chosen for him. Tetsu's fists were clenched tight, his eyes closed as he murmured, "Please don't give me a flamingo. Please don't give me a flamingo."
Gackt's Black Panther Zord was the first to arrive, roaring mightily as it swiped a powerful paw at its Tanga enemies. Hyde's White Fox followed, its sharp fangs bared in a fierce, anticipatory grin. The Blue Tarantula Zord and Green Shark Zord came together, the Tarantula entrapping the Tangas in its webbing as the Shark opened its mouth to have a snack.
"Errr, Tetsu," Hyde said quietly as the Pink Zord made its first appearance.
"Tell me it's not a flamingo."
"It's worse," Gackt said grimly.
"What could possibly be worse than a" Tetsu opened his eyes and his mouth dropped open in horrified disbelief. "Butterfly?"
The Butterfly Zord flapped its giant, sparkly, pink wings, stirring up a focused hurricane of epic proportions and sending the four already battered Tangas flying. The entire Tanga force decided it had taken enough abuse at that point and teleported away in chastened defeat.
Tetsu just continued to stare at his Zord. "Butterfly?"
"Um.... At least it's not a flamingo?" Hyde said. The White Fox whined in sympathy.
"Butterfly," Tetsu was muttering to himself, shaking his head as he stared angrily at the sphere in his palm. "I can't believe you gave me a butterfly." He paused as the sphere pulsed in his hand. "Of course I saw the hurricane, that's not the point!"
Hyde, lying on his stomach across the entire length of the training room, tilted his head slightly until he could see Gackt, standing a few meters from the side of his head. "I think he's still in shock," he said, trying to make conversation.
"Hmmm," Gackt replied, nodding slightly. "It would seem so."
Hyde shifted his body slightly, grunting as his feet hit the opposite wall, restricting his movements. "Gacchan, it's not my fault I'm like this. I miss you, and.... I wish you would...." He felt his throat start to close up and stopped talking abruptly, unwilling to show that sort of weakness.
"I'm a guy!" Tetsu burst out. "A man! Men don't ride around in giant sparkly pink butterflies!"
"Haidokun...." Gackt approached slowly and placed a hand on Hyde's elbow, squeezing lightly. "You're right. I'm sorry. I've been selfish. I"
"No, getting rid of the sparkles will not help!"
"Err...." Gackt blinked, disconcerted.
"Well, maybe it will, a little," Tetsu relented, still pouting.
Hyde sighed again, utterly wiped out, both physically and emotionally. "Forget it, Gackt. It doesn't matter. I'm tired."
"No, Haidokun, it does matter." Gackt hesitated, then climbed up onto Hyde's arm and crawled up until he reached Hyde's shoulder. Hyde moved his hand slightly to accomodate him, and Gackt sat with his back leaning against the side of Hyde's face. "I have been upset over many things. Ju-Ken and Ryuichi were not inclined to forgive our oversight in not including them. Just after returning from that disastrous meeting, I was forcefully reminded that there is another you hold dear in your heart. One with whom I can never compete, no matter how hard I try. She is the mother of your child, after all. I could see how much you still care for her in the way you held her. You fit together in a way we never have. I suppose I.... I have been jealous. All this time, when I should have been here for you, I have instead been sulking over my own misfortune, and I apologize for that. Perhaps.... Perhaps I am simply not deserving of your love."
Hyde was quiet for a long while, listening to the low hum of the others' conversations, peppered now and again by exclamations for Tetsu's one-sided argument with his stubborn sphere. "Gacchan.... I don't think any of us really deserve love. That's kind of what makes it special, ne?"
Gackt had to shift his position as Hyde noticeably grew even larger, forcing him to pull his elbows closer to his body. He held on until the movement stopped, though, and then leaned in to kiss Hyde's cheek lightly. "Hai. Soudesu.*"
"Hyde, weHoly crap!" ChaCha yelled, skidding to a stop the second he burst into the training room. Yukki nearly ran into his back.
Hyde couldn't even turn his head to respond. "For the love of God, just fix me!"
Yukki stepped around Cha, hefted the large gun, and aimed carefully. "You've got it. Hold still."
Mere seconds later, Hyde found himself lying naked on the floor of the training room, cradled in strong arms as he stared up at his lover's relieved face. He could see the large cloth he'd been using to preserve what was left of his modesty, puddled on the floor a few meters away. "Gacchan? Am I...?"
"Perfect," Gackt answered, leaning down to kiss him.
Yuu cheered while Cha gave a wolf-whistle and leered at them both. Ken pretended to throw up again until Yukki tackled him to the floor. Tetsu, oblivious to it all, shouted, "I'll even take a flamingo!"
* Hai. Soudesu. = Yes. That's true.
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