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show me joy; flower through disarray

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Show me joy, flower through disarray

Let's destroy, each mistake that we made

Oh my lover, my lover, my love

We can never go back

We can only do our best to recreate

Don't turn over, turn over the page

We should rip it straight out

-Bastille, Fake It

 

You were never meant to be a soldier.

-

Your whole life, you dreamed of becoming an actor, but at a young age you learned that there aren’t roles for guys that look like you. The most you could hope for is a bit part as a martial artist or a wise mentor or a villain or a monk. There are no heroes that look like you, no main parts that you can even audition for, much less win.

So what do you do? Well, you’re a good athlete with not much of a regard for your own physical health, and you love movies. Your job choice is a no-brainer.

-

You've been doing the stunt-double thing for a few years by the time you meet Frankie, your Soulmate, and he’s not an actor, he’s a math nerd, but the two of you have spent years fanboying over the Lord of the Rings movies (you over the cinematography and him over the history and both of you at all of the good-looking actors). You know he's proud of you.

He shows up at one of your shoots while you're in New Zealand, and at first you don't know who this strange, tall guy with red curls, a dorky smile, and a nerdy satchel is, but then you step off the set for your break and he asks, "Dax Lo? I think you're late for a meeting."

You raise an eyebrow. "I don't have any meetings today."

If it's possible, the guy's smile gets wider and his arm shifts slightly, revealing familiar blue and red handwriting. Your eyes go wide. "Did I forget to write you about it?"

"Frankie!" You practically shout, and fly at him to wrap him in a hug. He laughs and hugs you back, and you have your Soulmate in your arms.

-

You’re together for a year and a half, sharing an apartment in New Zealand, where Frankie is from and where you won't leave (because there are plenty of acting jobs in New Zealand because it's so cheap to film there and Frankie's still in college, so keeping your priorities straight and all), before you get an offer for a pretty big job being a stunt double for an actual Hollywood celebrity.

The thing is, the shoot’s in Blue Bay Harbor, California. As in America. And you’re not sure if Frankie will want to go all the way there just for your job-

“You’re the most loveable idiot I’ve ever met,” Frankie says when you finally tell him about it. “Your shoot’s not going to be until September. I can study abroad there next semester- my senior year’s going to start and you know I’ve been eyeing up the programs at UC Berkeley.”

You tackle him with kisses and he laughs. Frankie’s got a gorgeous laugh and even prettier eyes, and he returns the kisses with the same level of enthusiasm.

-

You’ve been in Blue Bay Harbor for about three weeks, enough to get rather familiar with news reports about Power Rangers and their battles, when you and Frankie go out to the park.

“You mind grabbing some coffee, love?” Frankie asks, not even looking up from laptop on the wire table between you, “This paper’s kicking my ass.”

Of course you don’t mind- this is your one off day this week and you know how much Frankie’s Theoretical Calculus class is fucking him over. You get up from the table, dropping a kiss on his forehead as you walk by. Then you go into the cafe to grab coffees for the two of you, and when you get back, he’s lying on the ground with a strange collar around his neck and skin cold.

You call 911, practically screaming for a response, but you’re not fast enough.

They tell you that it was an aneurysm caused by the way the collar interacted with his brain stem. They tell you that there was nothing you could have done, that two other people had the same reaction, that it was lucky that the Power Rangers had interfered before anyone else died, but Frankie’s dead. You’ve had less than two years with him and he’s gone .

You go back to your hotel room with your things and the business card of a local mortician, and you drown your sorrows in a bottle of beer. You don’t want to remember anything.

-

You never wanted to fight. You never wanted to be a soldier, to learn how to fight monsters, but Mr. Hartford shows up and gives you superpowers and you think of Frankie, dead because of a monster in a town that wasn’t even your own, and you can’t help but take the Morpher. You can stop deaths like Frankie's, make his ghost proud of you.

You meet Rose and Mack, who don’t have Soulmates, and you feel like you’re not so alone anymore. Sure, Rose has no interest in romance whatsoever, and Mack- well, Mack’s only interested in girls. When you ask him out, a few weeks in, he lets you down easy in that awkward way of his, and you can’t really bring yourself to feel embarrassed. Frankie died four years ago, and you’ve gone out on a few dates in your time. (Mostly, you had one night stands, if you’re honest, but there’s nothing wrong with that.)

So you’re not a soldier, you’re not good at dealing with the nightmares or the orders or the fighting, but you are good with your teammates. You like all of them a lot, despite their respective flaws. Sure, Will’s a bit prickly and Rose sometimes doesn’t get all of their Soulmate discussions and Ronny’s headstrong and Mack’s hella naive, but they’re your friends. You haven’t had any of those in ages, probably since before Frankie.

And most of the time, looking at Will and Ronny doesn’t hurt. When they hold hands, when they kiss, when their heads are bent together in the game room as they engage in a heated discussion, your heart can mostly handle itself.

The only time your heart really takes a blow is at night. When you fall asleep in the Hartford mansion, you dream of your old apartment in New Zealand, the one you shared with Frankie back when you both were young and in love and alive. 

When Mack is revealed to be an android, you don’t see him any different. He’s still the same earnest, goody-two shoes who was the only one to stay when the team lost their powers. He's still a good man, the best kind of man, and his enthusiasm kind of reminds you of Frankie, in Mack's own way.

(It does make you wonder, though, about his Soulmate and how he doesn't have one because he's an Android that didn't exist before two years ago. Does he really have no Soulmate or did Mr. Hartford build a block in for the Soulmate relationship? Because it's a well-known fact that as long as one of the people in a destined relationship are biologically human, then the Soulmarks should show up on everyone fated to be together.

So, that's a thought that occasionally haunts your nightmares, along with the image of Frankie's dead body.)

The final battle happens, and when the monsters have all been defeated you can’t help but cheer. You don’t have to be a soldier anymore. You don’t have to fight. You’ve kept the world safe, preventing deaths like Frankie’s.

Then you look over and Mack is on the ground, collapsed and not breathing.

The breath leaves your lungs. You’ve failed. You’re not a soldier and that has led you to witnessing someone else you care about dying in front of your very eyes.

But then Sentinel Knight manages to turn Mack into a human, and he’s alive, and you hug him, face threatening to split from how wide you’re grinning.

And then Mack moves back slightly, mouth still rambling, and your gaze falls on his arm. His jacket sleeve's been cut away to the elbows to give access to the wires in his wrists, and where metal and oil used to be now lays smooth, warm skin- and yellow and purple handwriting.

Ronny gasps. “Holy shit!”

Your feelings are torn. On the one hand, you want to be happy for his friend, but on the other your heart is screaming out. Your Soulmate, your Frankie, is dead, and you never got another Soulmate. And Mack now has two sets of names on his arm, girls named Emily and Kendall, and you have nothing but a gravestone with Frankie's name on it.

So you smile to his face and then quickly beat a retreat.

An hour later finds you curled up on the sofa, an afghan draped over your body as you watch Ocean's Eleven, Frankie's favorite movie.

Rose walks over and sits down next to you. She wraps an arm around your shoulder and pulls you in towards her, and she just holds you.

You are not a soldier. You don't know how to shoulder the pain. You don’t know how to bury your sobs in a place where no one else will see them.

You cry into Rose's shoulders, body shuddering. “He's dead,” you sob, because it’s been five years but you’re still not over the fact that your Soulmate’s dead. You’ve moved on, mostly, but sometimes, like now, everything seems to be falling apart around you.

“I know, Dax,” she says, nothing but sympathy in her voice as she runs her fingers through your hair. “I know he’s gone.”

She doesn't tell you it's going to be alright, because Rose can't make that promise to you. Only you can.

-

Everyone moves out of the Hartford mansion, because of course they do, because the team was just a team in order to save the world and now that the mission's over there's no reason to stay. 

You go back to the movie industry, but this time you go out for bigger roles. You've been a Power Ranger, fought monsters from other galaxies and helped take down empires- racism is still something that affects you, but you can't bring yourself to care. It's not bravery, really, because you don't give enough of a shit to be afraid.

Then you get the biggest break of your life and you don't know if it's because they want you or because they want an-ex Power Ranger on the cast list, and for now, you're not sure how to feel.

You head back to an empty apartment. Frankie’s not there, because he hasn’t been there in years, and you grab a bottle of beer from the fridge and down half of it over the course of a heist-movie binge. It tastes bitter in your mouth and burns going down your throat, just like the taste of grief has for years.

When you wake up, you chuck the bottle in the trash can and don't buy any more. You don't want to need them.

You take the role, but you decide to start working on some behind-the-scenes projects. You don't really feel like being in front of the camera anymore, not after a year of constant interviews about the team, and it's taken you awhile to realize you don't really want to be the center of attention. Now, though, you still want to work on movies- they've been one of your two great loves since you were a kid, and Frankie's dead so movies are what you have left- but you don't want to have your face and actions scrutinized.

You think you're growing up.

-

You sometimes meet up with your old teammates at Power Rangers reunions, because they're your friends and it's hard to meet face to face as a group but fuck it, you're going to try.

You meet Rose in New York, Will and Ronny in Italy, Tyzonn in New Zealand, and Mack here in California. Every time you meet up with one of them, your heart feels a little lighter. It turns out it's not as easy as you thought to just go back to being lonely like you were before the team.

It’s at one of these meetings that you meet Taylor Earhardt, and she is a soldier. She is the perfect Ranger, an actual member of the military, a strong leader and warrior. Nowadays, she’s non-active duty air force, with a role training new recruits from an officer’s position, but she’s no less intimidating than she’s said to have been during her days as the Wild Force Yellow Ranger.

So she’s a soldier, and you’re not, but she knows the things you do. She knows what it's like to wake up every morning still expecting to see a Soulmate who’s been dead for years, what it’s like to dream in rainbows and in blood, what it’s like to be a Ranger and to not know how to feel about it, even after the Big Bad has been defeated.

You two hook up once, then twice, then it turns into dates and soon enough you’re actually in a relationship with a woman who could probably kill you if she didn’t like you so much.

And to be honest, you have no idea why she likes you so much, but you’re just glad that she does. Because there’s nothing more beautiful to you than when she smiles at one of your jokes and you get that warm feeling in your chest.

You don’t feel guilty about moving on. Frankie would want you to be happy, you know, because that's what you would have wanted for him if he had been the one to go into that café.

You can’t deny it is sometimes strange, though, waking up in bed sometimes to find a long blond hair and boobs and curves on the person next to you rather than a head of curly red hair and freckles and straight angles.

Then Taylor's alarm will go off and she'll wake up. You'll be able to smell her morning breath before you'll see her smile, and you know that you could live a good number of years having late night dates that end up with sex at one of your apartments, if all of that means waking up to this incredible woman.

"You're an idiot," Taylor tells you, a fond smile on her face as she does so, and you can't help but smile back. Taylor's hard edges and sharp words where Frankie was soft teasing and prolonged cuddles, but you still work well. You're a different person than you used to be. You fit well with Taylor now in a way that you fit well with Frankie back in the day.

"I accept that," you say, and you lean in to kiss her.

-

You've been dating for a year when you finally decide to write your final goodbye to Frankie. He's been dead for ten years, now, and it’s time to take the final step in moving on.

Dear Frankie, you write on your arm, I will always love you, but you’re dead and gone and I’ve fallen in love again. I’m happy with her and I hope you’re happy wherever you are now. Goodbye, Dax.

You’re gonna wash the ink off in the shower that evening, but for now it feels right to carry the message to Frankie around on your skin. One last Soulmark, for one more day, and then you’ll be completely good to move on.

So you go about your business like usual for the rest of the day. You work on that script for Hansen, a director you worked with a few months back, go get groceries, go to the gym, and take a brief call from Mack, who is a few months away from meeting his Soulmates for the first time.

And then Taylor calls.

“Dax, you idiot,” Taylor practically shouts over the phone, her voice a breathless giggle like it sometimes gets while you're making out, and you raise an eyebrow.

“Yeah?” you ask, confused by her tone, and you can practically hear her rolling her eyes when she replies.

“Have you checked your arm recently?”

No, you haven't, because you’ve worn long sleeves for ten years and you don’t see your arms except when you shower or change, and you haven’t looked since you left that note this morning.

Nonetheless, Taylor is your girlfriend, and you know not to question her when she speaks in that tone, so you pull up your sleeve and stare disbelievingly at what you see there.

Are you fucking with me? The black writing on your arm reads, and for a moment you are so, so confused because Frankie wrote in red ink.

“Your Marks showed up on my skin earlier,” Taylor says, and your breath hiccups in your chest. You know you’re not Kara, her dead Soulmate, and she knows she’s never going to be Frankie. But you know the two of you work, somehow, and that you though you haven’t said it yet you know that you love her.

“These are from you, Taylor?” you ask.

“Yeah,” she says, “And I’m thinking that the question I’d been thinking about asking you about moving into one apartment is going to have a much quicker answer than I'd anticipated."

You can't stop smiling.

-

You call Rose. “Taylor’s my Soulmate,” you say, excitement practically bubbling from your voice. “We found out today.”

“Congratulations,” she says, a smile in her voice, and you believe her. You know Rose is UnBonded (not Soulless, she’s told you plenty of times, because “Soulless” is a derogatory term or something like that) with no interest in romance, but her happiness for you isn’t insincere. “I’m glad you’re happy.”

“I really am,” you say, because you have a date with Taylor tonight and Taylor's Marks on your wrist and the world ahead of you.

-

So it’s been ten years, and maybe you are a soldier, because you’re a fighter, and when you talk to Taylor about her day at work you understand the reasons why she stays even after watching so many good men and women go.

“I love you,” you say the night you both collapse into bed after you’ve moved your shit into her apartment, and she smiles at you. And her smile isn’t Frankie’s, soft at the edges- Taylor’s smile is made of sharp curves.

She raises a hand to your cheek and leans forward to kiss you. “I love you too, you ridiculous man.”

-

You were never meant to be a soldier, but you became one, and then your life changed. And you became something a bit more, a bit different.

Sometimes you wonder if Frankie's ghost would recognize you, and sometimes you wonder if he would still love you. And you know the answer to both, just like you know the answer to whether or not Taylor loves you.

It's the same answer, after all.

 

The same kind of music haunts her bedroom

I'm almost me again, she's almost you

And I wouldn't know where to start

Sweet music playin' in the dark

Be still my foolish heart

Let's get lost and let the good times roll

-Almost (Sweet Music), Hozier