Wes sighed as he wandered down the hall. He was brooding and he knew it, but he couldn't help it. While B Squad was being debriefed about their newest enemy, so were the former Rangers.
Lacking substantial evidence or not, there was no doubt in his mind that Broodwing was still tied up with Grumm, even after the colossal 'failure' the Troobian Empire considered Aquitar to be. Just as there was no doubt that Broodwing was responsible for the kidnapping and eventual loss of Elizabeth and Jaz. Just as he knew for a *fact* that Broodwing had a hand in Mirloc.
He tried not to shudder at the name.
"Hey, Uncle Wes! What are you doing on this end of S.P.D.?" a voice called jubilantly.
He turned to find himself just outside the Squads common room, blinking at Bridge as the teen waved from where he'd braced himself upside down against the opposite wall. He sighed, smiling faintly as Bridge tended to make him do, and headed over to him. "Hey, Bridge. What are you thinking about?" he asked as he sat down.
"Meditating," Bridge returned cheerfully. "It's more comfortable like this."
"I'll take your word for it." He paused, studying the young Ranger more closely for a moment. "I heard you had a rough day. You okay?"
"Mmm ... Mostly. A bit bruised, but those are going away."
Wes sighed, looking down for a moment as once again, memories of Trip flickered through his mind. "And the other bruises?" he asked quietly. "The ones the Power doesn't heal?"
There was a pause.
"Even those fade eventually," Bridge said softly. He swallowed. "You know, Brawda taught me a lot about empathy, and learning to read through surface emotions. He always said that no matter what you *thought* a person might be feeling, if you really wanted to know, you'd have to dig deeper to see their 'true heart'." He paused, his voice quieting further. "I know the others are annoyed by me sometimes, but I know that doesn't mean they don't care at all."
Wes looked at him for a long moment. "You're an amazing person, Bridge," he said at last, reaching out to ruffle the boy's hair despite the awkward position. "You really are."
And in an instant, Bridge was back to his usual perky self. "Thanks, Uncle Wes."
"There you are. I was lookin' for you," a voice called.
Wes looked up as Jack wandered almost hesitantly into the room, stopping to flash a smile at Bridge. "I'm glad you're okay, Bridge," he told him, pausing to pat Jack's shoulder as he passed him. "I'll let you two talk."
He made a slight detour just outside the door, listening to their conversation with half an ear as he quietly keyed his morpher. "This is Time. I need anyone from the Carson family."
"What's wrong with Bridge?" came Adam's voice immediately. "I thought they said he was fine."
"Kat said she checked him out, and he was healing without any complications," Rocky agreed, sounding anxious.
"He is," Wes interrupted, knowing how much Rocky could build himself up into a frenzy if he was allowed to worry long enough. "But he sounds like he could use some reassurance." He paused, thinking of the best way to put it. "He's having an Adam Moment."
"Oh ... " Rocky, Zack, and Aisha murmured in unison.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Adam asked sharply.
"It's nothing, Adam," Rocky tried to reassure him. "I'll take care of it."
"I'm stuck in here for another hour before someone else shows up," Aisha sighed in frustration. "Zack, hug him for me, will you?"
"You got it."
"*What* are you all talking about?"
He ended the transmission without listening to the answer for Adam's frustrated question, leaning back against the wall for a moment.
Bridge was, without a doubt, his parents' child. He had Rocky's incredible charm and easy smile, Adam's quiet brilliance, Zack's energy, and Aisha's determination to get things done right - whether others agreed with him or not. It would have been easy to blame his perfect blend of personalities on his ability to absorb thoughts and emotions around him, but Wes doubted that was it. Somewhere underneath all the babble and seemingly random trains of thought, Bridge was entirely his own person.
Unfortunately, what Wes had labeled an 'Adam Moment' was a reference to the quiet way Bridge was forcing himself to forget that something had been bothering him, and move on. It was a horrible habit that Adam had developed long before he'd met him, and much to everyone's dismay, Bridge seemed to have inherited it along with Rocky's ability to fake a smile. Also unfortunately, just like with Adam, it was like pulling teeth to make him admit that something had ever been wrong at all.
The startled yell from inside the room made him spin, rushing back to the two teens. He found Jack flat on his face on the floor, moaning, and Bridge looking mildly concerned. "Are you okay, Cadet Landors?" Wes asked, crouching down beside him.
Jack grunted faintly. "Yeah ... Yeah, I'm fine." He groaned as Wes helped him to his feet. "Somebody remind me to never, ever do that again."
"Never, ever do that again, Jack," Bridge repeated obligingly.
Jack sighed, his head dropping for a moment. "Thanks, Bridge."
"Why, Cadet Landors. You have the look of someone who's been 'Bridged'," Rocky said cheerfully as he passed them, heading straight for his son.
"'Bridged'?" Jack repeated warily.
"Don't ask," Zack advised, clapping the teen's shoulder and making him start in surprise. "It's a Rocky thing."
"What's a rocky thing?" Jack wondered.
Bridge, to Wes' surprise, laughed as he launched himself easily out of his handstand and back to his feet. "No, not rocky as in uncertain. Rocky as in my dad - Rocky DeSantos." He gestured to Rocky with a broad smile. "And then this is my dad, Zack Taylor."
"And your dad Adam Park, who still wants to know what an 'Adam Moment' is," the third male parent of the Carson clan muttered, moving to hug his son.
Zack snickered at the look on Jack's face. "It's not as complicated as it sounds," he assured him.
"Don't bet on it," Wes murmured with a faint smirk, unable to resist.
Zack reached out to swat him. "Technically, Bridge has two dads - Rocky and Adam."
"Three!" Bridge corrected in a muffled voice, somewhere from where he'd been sandwiched between said parents.
Zack chuckled. "Let me finish, Bridge. Rocky and Adam are Bridge's biological parents," he went on, looking at Jack again. "I'm the dad who helped raised him, partly because I'm married to his mom."
"And because you helped him birth him!" Rocky retorted in much the same tone as Bridge had used.
Zack sighed, shaking his head. "My wife is Bridge's mom because she was the surrogate mother for Rocky and Adam, and she's the one who actually gave birth to him. So because he's Bridge and it's just easier that way, he calls her mom and all three of us dad."
"Easier for all of you, you mean," Wes pointed out.
Zack waved a hand. "Whatever. Got it?" he added to Jack.
"Uh ... "
"Good." He patted Jack's shoulder again absently before moving to the trio in front of them. "All right, move aside, make some room. I gotta give hugs for two, you know."
Wes smiled as Jack looked at him helplessly. "Simple version?" he offered.
"Bridge is a tribal baby. He was raised by four people; three dads, one mom. Same with his sister." Wes explained.
Jack threw his hands up. "Why couldn't he have just said that?" he demanded. "Is he the one where the Bridge Talk comes from?"
"No, that's just Bridge." Wes paused. "Maybe a little Cam."
"Cam? Who's Cam?"
"Um ... that's ... not important. Don't worry about it." He smiled, reaching out to wrap an arm around Jack's shoulder and direct him back toward the door. "Let's let them be for awhile, shall we?"
"Is there something going on here that I'm not allowed to know about?" Jack demanded even as he followed.
Wes sighed, glancing back over his shoulder to make sure they were well out of ear-shot. "Bridge had a Green Day. He just needs a little reassurance, is all."
"What's a 'Green Day'?"
"Well, at S.P.D. we sort of have a habit of stereotyping Ranger Colors," he admitted. "With Green, there's technically two types: the trouble magnets, and the ones who like to fade into the background so they can take care of everyone else. Bridge is sort of a little of both unfortunately, and today was kind of a sample of that."
Jack looked at him oddly. "You can stereotype our colors?"
"Oh, sure. It's pretty easy, actually. Reds are stubborn leaders, and bad things tend to happen around us. Blues are even more stubborn than Red, and tend to be the smart ones. Yellows are the ones who try to make you feel better, but they won't take no for an answer if you try and avoid them. Pinks are bold and pushy, but loving ... " He thought for a moment, then decided against mentioning anyone else: Jack really only needed to worry about the colors he was working with now.
Jack was silent for a moment. "Am I a good Red?" he asked quietly. "I ... I don't ... trust my team very well. And I'm still working on the whole 'leader' thing .... "
Wes stopped him, not caring that they were in the middle of the hall. "Jack," he interrupted quietly. "You're trying, aren't you? And you're learning. That counts for a lot more than you think it does."
Jack looked up almost shyly, reminding him once again, that he was really just a young kid from the streets, still trying to learn how to do the right thing. He hadn't asked for this, hadn't wanted it, was barely earning it. But he still tried. "It does?"
He smiled at him. "Yeah. It does."