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Bright Skies

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Wes caught the front door before Sky could shut it on him, frowning down at his son. "Bedroom. Now," he informed him shortly. "I'll come talk to you later."

"Whatever," his son muttered, marching off. He stopped at his door, glancing back with a furious scowl. "And I didn' do nothin' wrong!" he shouted, slamming the door shut behind him.

Wes sighed, running a hand over his face for a moment before pinching his nose.

"So what happened?"

He glanced up at Vanessa, who was already waiting for him at the dining room table with a cup of tea. He didn't used to drink it much, but ever since the incident at the bar that had led to Sky, he'd sworn off alcohol. After five years of living together, Vanessa had slowly gotten him hooked on this stuff instead.

He sat down and took a long, slow sip, trying to let the warmth soothe his temper. "Sky got suspended from school for a week."

She stared at him. "He's in kindergarten."

Wes nodded, scowling. "Elizabeth got two days, but Justin told me he'll probably make her wait until Sky goes back anyway. Mr. Hanson said it's the first time he's ever had to suspend kindergarteners."

"I'm almost afraid to ask what they did," she grumbled, rubbing her forehead with a sigh.

There was a long moment of silence as Wes took his time to answer, sipping at his tea and waiting for some sort of semblance of calm to finally reach him. At last he took a deep breath. "They got into a fight, and Sky dislocated another boy's shoulder."

Vanessa reared back. "He did *what*?!"

He sighed, pinching his nose again. "From what I can tell, that may have been an accident. But Sky won't apologize for it, and neither will Elizabeth. From what we've been able to get out of them, the other three were picking on Bridge. Elizabeth lost her temper, and Sky - "

"Always has Elizabeth's back," Vanessa finished. "How bad is Bridge?"

He shook his head. "Not good. Apparently that's what stopped the fight - he had another fit, and Sky went to protect him while Elizabeth kept everyone else away from them." He winced at the memory. "He was still shaking when Rocky carried him out."

"Poor thing," she murmured.

Wes just sighed again, staring down at his tea. "And Sky keeps insisting he hasn't done anything bad. He's acting like *I'm* the one who's wrong."

There was a long pause. "Well, it is your fault," Vanessa said finally.

His eyes snapped up to hers. "*What*?"

She shrugged a shoulder. "It is." She noticed his incredulous stare and sighed. "Wes, what would you do for your friends?"

He frowned. "What do you mean?"

She gave him one of her exasperated, 'Are you *really* that dense' looks. "Your team. What you do for the other Time Force Rangers?"

"Anything."

She nodded, as if that was exactly what she had expected to hear. "And the other Rangers at S.P.D.?"

He gave her an odd look, wondering where this was going. "Anything I could."

She paused at that, studying him for a moment. "Where do you think Sky might have learned something like that?" she asked finally.

He froze. "Are you saying he starting fighting because of *me*?"

She reached across the table to catch his hand, shaking her head. "It's not a bad thing, Wes. In fact, I think teaching him to protect his friends is one of the most honorable things you could teach our son. But Sky's too young to be rational about what it means to protect someone. And we both know Elizabeth is always the first to defend Bridge, whether it's with her mouth or her fists." She paused, frowning slightly. "Or both."

He sat still for a long moment, staring at the table. At last he leaned forward, lifting their joined hands to kiss the back of hers. "Thanks, Nes. You're the best, you know that?" He stood with a sigh. "I guess I'd better get this straightened out with Sky."

"Wes?"

He paused in the doorway, glancing back at her. "Yeah?"

The look she gave him was strangely intense, but gave nothing away as to what she was thinking. "What's the difference between anything, and anything you could?"

For a moment, he just stared back at her, wondering if she could possibly understand. "Anything means *anything*," he said at last. "For my team, I'd sacrifice anything, even my life. For my friends, anything I had to give away. But I can't promise to put them before civilian lives."

She frowned suddenly. "And Eric?"

He stiffened, but she didn't apologize for bringing him into the conversation. "Anything," he whispered finally. He walked away before she could ask him what he'd do for her; he still didn't know the answer to that.

****

He found Sky face down on his bed, face buried in his pillow. His heart clenched, and a sudden surge of guilt flooded through him. Logically, he knew he shouldn't; Sky wasn't completely blameless in this. But as a parent, it was hard to see his son upset and know that he was a part of the reason why.

He sat next to him, gently rubbing his back. "Hey, buddy," he murmured. "I think you and me need to have a serious talk, okay?"

"You gonna yell at me?" came the muffled response.

He sighed. "I'll try not to, if you try to listen too, okay?"

There was a moment of sitting there, waiting for a response. At last Sky slowly sat up, trying to discreetly rub at his eyes. "What?" he mumbled.

Wes looked at him, and tried not to surrender to the urge to hug him close until the redness in his face went away. "You ready to try and tell me what those kids said to you now?"

Sky's eyes darkened instantly. "It wasn' me an' Bethie. It was Bridge."

"What did they say to Bridge?" he asked gently.

There was a long silence as Sky seemed to be trying to fight with himself over what to say. At last he muttered something under his breath.

Wes lifted his chin slightly. "Want to try that again? Maybe so I can hear you this time?"

"They said special kids hafta go to special schools!" Sky snapped. He sat still for a moment, blinking rapidly.

Wes froze. Oh, Sky ...

Sky took a deep breath. "An' then Bridge tried to say he wasn' like that, an' they called him a freak. So Bethie yelled at him to take it back, an' he said she was a freak too, and so was everyone who worked at S.P.D." He bit his lip, staring at the floor. "Bridge started to cry, an' then Bethie jumped on the kid who said it. The other kid pulled her hair, so I went to help and ... "

"How did that boy hurt his shoulder?" he asked quietly.

Sky winced. "I didn' mean to. I tried to pull it 'hind his back, like when you an' Uncle Adam spar. But he moved, an' there was this noise an' - " He broke off, shivering. "His arm didn' look right no more."

Wes wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him closer. "Accidents like that can happen in a fight," he agreed, rubbing Sky's arm soothingly. "That's why we have to train so hard, so we can make sure they don't. Because it's hard to control your strength when you're still learning, especially when the other person isn't as strong as you."

Sky buried his face against his father's chest, hands fisting in his shirt. "M' sorry I hurt him," he whispered, his voice muffled once again. "But ... I'm not sorry for what I did! He hurt Bridge!"

Wes sighed, reaching up to stroke Sky's hair. "Sky? I'm going to be totally honest with you about something and I want you to listen, okay?"

Sky pulled away again, sniffling slightly as he looked up. "'kay."

"I used to get picked on as a kid, too. All the time. Remember the special place where Grandma is?"

Sky blinked, nodding slowly and frowning. "Yeah ... "

"Well, a lot of people knew about that. And they used to tease me because Grandma wasn't well. They thought I was sick too, even though I wasn't."

"That's not fair!" Sky protested.

"No, it isn't," Wes agreed, shaking his head. "But people can be really mean sometimes. I didn't know that then, and I got into a lot of fights trying to prove them wrong."

"Did you win?"

He gave him a disapproving look. "That's not the point, Sky." He sighed, taking a moment to think of a different direction to take this. "Do you know why I can't fight those people anymore?"

Sky's answer was instantaneous, his eyes shining with admiration. "Because you're a Power Ranger."

He nodded. "And Power Rangers protect people; we don't hurt them. And one of the most important things about being a Ranger is to never escalate a battle."

"But we didn' start it!" Sky protested. "They - "

"I know you didn't start it," he interrupted. "But you finished it with a lot more force than they started with."

Sky scowled. "Then what's the Megazord supposed to be?"

Wes rubbed his head, trying not to groan. He really wasn't any good at this; he'd always been the type to *cause* trouble, not try to stop it. "Sky ... There's a big difference between fighting against someone who wants to hurt everyone on the planet, and someone who says mean things just because they can."

"Not much o' one." Sky muttered.

"Yes, there is," Wes told him with a frown. Arguing with Sky was starting to give him a headache. "And someday when you're older, you'll have to learn what that difference is. Until then, no more fighting at school. If someone starts picking on one of you again, you walk away and tell a teacher, okay?"

Sky's scowl darkened. "So now I hafta be a tattletale?"

"A tattletale is better than hurting someone by accident because they don't know how to defend themselves from an attack." Wes pointed out, and Sky winced.

"Bottom line is that you're not allowed to beat up other kids at school," came Vanessa's voice from the doorway. "If you want to protect people weaker than you, become a Power Ranger. Until then, no fighting unless it's for training, and that's only if your teachers have approved it first."

"But that's not fair!"

"I'm the mommy. I don't have to play fair," Vanessa informed him. "And while you're suspended, you go to bed earlier. No TV, no games, and no Elizabeth."

"But - !"

"That's what happens when you're in trouble," she cut in. "Whether or not it was for a good purpose, you handled today badly, and you need to be reminded of why that was." She ignored his furious glare, waiting for Wes join her.

He tried to squeeze Sky's shoulder, but he shrugged it off angrily, and Wes sighed as they shut the door behind them.

Vanessa raised an eyebrow at him. "Never let you take care of the punishments again, right?"

He laid his head back against the wall with a quiet groan. "Please. I don't do discipline so well." He hesitated before muttering "Not when I would have done the exact same thing."

"Now *there's* a surprise," she said dryly, patting his shoulder as she headed back to the kitchen.