Title: To Love and To Sin 
Relationship: Shane C/Hunter B
Rating: PG
Warning:Violence
Word Count: 4,755
Prompt: Peace
Author's Note: This fic was written for prsw22 and is beta'd by lilyleia78 ; who has not only proofed the chapter, but also provided advice, support and encouragement during the lengthy process of its creation. As a beta and friend she is a true credit and so I dedicate this chapter to her.

Disclaimer: I have no claim to the power rangers series, characters or anything else recognisable as being a part of the power rangers concept. There is no money being made from this work of fiction.


It was still early when Hunter awoke; the clock on his bedside table proclaimed in blinking red light that it was 3:45 am. Through the thin wall the deep, even sounds of his brother’s breathing filtered in to him, and he knew that the younger boy was not yet awake. He lay still, waiting for his eyes to grow accustomed to the darkness and listening to the sounds that filtered in through the open window.

Slipping out of bed, he quickly showered and dressed, being careful all the while not to make more noise than was necessary, aware of his brother’s need for the extra time to sleep. The small apartment they shared was comfortable enough for two, but with the addition of the training equipment both boys required, it had become somewhat of an exercise in stealth to move from his room to the door of the apartment without making too much noise. Hunter didn’t mind though, he welcomed the opportunity to practice; not as light footed as Blake, the ability to move undetected didn’t come easily to the crimson ranger and it was something he was working very hard to improve upon.

Carrying his running shoes in one hand, he crept silently across the floor. Twice he found loose floorboards and waited for some indication that he had woken his brother before creeping carefully on. Beside the door a dark red sweater had been left thrown over the back of a chair and he pulled it on, anticipating the morning’s chill, before slipping out the door and closing it quietly behind him.

He set a light pace as he made his way through the deserted streets, giving his muscles time to warm gradually; the rhythmic fall of his sneakers on asphalt occasionally broken by the rustle of fallen leaves still damp from the rainfall a few hours previous.

The skies were lightening with the predawn, and the first harmony of birdsong carried on the cool morning breeze as Hunter reached the line of trees at the edge of the woods. He always ran here in the early morning. Too active to sit in quiet meditation like Blake, the older youth preferred the kind of peace that came with light exercise and looked forward to this daily routine. Taking a moment to center himself before entering the magically charged woodland, the youth began to slowly move through his warm up sequence, feeling the easy movement of toned muscle; his breathing deep and even as he relaxed into the familiar mantra.

Shane arrived just as the other boy was completing his stretches and, having already taken the time to warm up, waited patiently for Hunter to indicate the direction they would take. Like Hunter, he had opted for light running pants and the inevitable red shirt. A grey sweater was tied securely round his waist, accentuating the narrow hips and the broad expanse of his upper torso, and the red ranger adjusted it as he waited, looking doubtfully at the gathering clouds as he did so. He flashed a grin at Hunter as the crimson ranger finished his last stretch and lifted his chin to indicate the weather was turning; not that it ever bothered them, but Cam would not be happy if they trailed mud into ninja-ops. The other boy returned the greeting with a shake of his head, he didn’t think it would start before they reached their destination and gestured to indicate the right hand path.

Within the shaded recess of the woods the air was cool and filled with the rich scent of damp earth and leaf mulch. Above them, the canopy was thinning with the progression of autumn and a light rain filtered through the branches. The two boys ran, soft earth underfoot, trusting their enhanced senses to detect any hidden dangers on the woodland floor.

Beyond the tree line, woodland gave way to the wide expanse of a large lake; steel blue waters reflecting the cast of the dark igneous rock that bordered it on two sides and fed by the smooth flow of a waterfall on the southern shore. The boys paused at the edge of the clearing to catch their breath, listening to the increasing rainfall beyond their small shelter.

Shane stood facing out towards the lake, his eyes closed and his face lifted to the cool breeze that filtered in to them. Hunter knew that the wind ninjas considered the connection to their elements a personal thing; and although he didn’t understand it, having been taught differently himself, nevertheless respectfully turned aside when he saw the other boy begin to settle into the familiar pose of meditation that indicated he was connecting with the source of his power.

Instead the blonde youth focused on the cascade of ripples forming across the lake in a dazzling array of light and motion; smiling at the thought that, whilst the other rangers only saw the dark brooding side of him, somehow in the short time that he had known the other youth Shane had brought out the side of him that could be relaxed and at ease with himself and others. Whilst he had felt resentful when Shane had first suggested running together, only grudgingly giving up his time of solitude in the interests of ‘team-building’, he had come to appreciate the quiet dignity Shane responded to him with when they were alone and away from the influence of their friends. It turned out he wasn’t the only one who hid behind a façade. Kelly didn’t know about Shane’s family life, his family didn’t know about his ranger duties and his friends only knew what he cared to project; which begged the question: did anybody really know him?

Sneaking a peek at the dark skinned youth beside him from the corner of his eye, Hunter was struck by the look of peace and contentment in the usually guarded features. For the first time he saw not just the red-ranger, leader of a powerful team, but the youth Shane could have been if not for the shattered reality in which the rangers existed. He saw a person who was open to all of life and who took joy in all they could find. Something inside him stirred as he watched the warm smile spread across Shane’s full lips. Guiltily he looked away again.

With a satisfied sigh, the air ninja completed his communion and opened his eyes, sinking into the first pose of their cool down sequence. Feeling the change in his friend’s focus, Hunter moved to accompany him.

They worked slowly, their breath coming in perfect unison as they moved through the forms. Hunter’s motions had a surprisingly light quality as he flowed from one position to the next, and Shane found his eye drawn to the smooth movement beneath the other boy’s shirt, taking in the controlled strength that seemed to radiate from him and the gather and ease of muscle, lithe and powerful as a jungle cat. Despite the relaxing influence of the active meditation, he felt his pulse increase. With the fluid grace of an air ninja, Shane smoothly turned into the next sequence and forcefully returned his attention back to the rhythm of his breathing.

The pair completed their cool down in silence before turning and falling into step as they walked towards the lake. At the water’s edge they stopped for a moment, taking in its glass-like countenance and listening to the idle greeting of birds through the still woods around them. As one they stepped out onto the lake’s smooth surface.

--------------------------------------------

Shane gratefully accepted the steaming cup Dustin passed to him and curled his hands around the small vessel, savoring its warmth. He raised it to inhale the sweet fragrance of the tea and sighed appreciatively, hearing the echo from across the table as Hunter did the same, before they settled into a comfortable silence; the only sound the constant drumming of rain on the window panes.

These were the mornings Shane had come to look forward to the most; days when there were no demands being made on their time: no school, no homework and most of all, no Lothor. Since the day they had first accepted their morphers these mornings had been few and far between, and the youth had quickly come to cherish them when they came around, content just to pass the time in the company of his friends.

Cam sat at the console, monitoring transmissions from his surveillance cameras secured at different locations throughout the bay area. His brow furrowed in concentration as keen eyes darted from one window to the next. Occasionally he would start, honed reflexes narrowing in and hands flying across the keypad; rapidly calling up the enlargement of a location that had caught his eye and evaluating data from the spectrum analysis before settling back to continue his vigil. He barely looked up when Dustin placed the cup beside him, completely missing the frustrated glance as the other boy retrieved the previous beverage, untouched. But nothing was said; the earth ninja would continue to replace each cup as the older boy worked the same as he did every morning.

Once the yellow ranger finally sat at his side of the table, placing his cup down with exaggerated care after the previous week’s fiasco, he grinned up at the other two boys, shaking the unruly crop of dark hair from his face, and asked with his usual enthusiasm “So like, what are you guys doing today?”

Hunter said he was planning to head into Storm Chargers to see if Kelly needed an extra hand for the day, and if he wasn’t needed he was going to take the bike for a bit of off-roading. Naturally, Dustin seized on this topic, and Shane rolled his eyes as the two motocross riders started getting into full flow, comparing the local off-road tracks and planning a joint trip to somewhere further afield. He didn’t really follow half of the conversation; just let it wash over him, deciding it was far more important that this was one of those rare occasions when the blonde was actually engaging without the need for some immediate activity like running to act as a buffer.

Hunter had begun to relate an event from a previous years racing and Shane watched as in the telling Hunter’s face seemed to change. The shadow that hung over his face melted away, his eyes lightened and the smile that broke out was like the sun bursting forth from behind a cloud bank. He was captivated by the way the crimson ranger’s face suddenly became animated with the memory of some foolhardy stunt of Blake’s and he smiled in response to the easy laughter that seemed to flow over him like a warm breeze. It was a shame Hunter wasn’t inclined to be like this more often, he thought and wondered if maybe in his own unassuming way Dustin was responsible for this change in the usually reticent youth. Trying hard not to think about why this last part affected him the way it did, he didn’t realize that the conversation had turned to him until Dustin’s voice broke into his thoughts.

“Yo, du-ude! Earth to Shane, Come in Shane!” The yellow ranger was waving a hand in front of his face and Shane brushed it aside with a self-depreciating smile. “You like, were totally zoning out there! Sorry if we got carried away, but now you can tell us what you’re gonna do today!” Dustin sat back, smiling brightly at him and Shane fumbled for something to say. He hadn’t really given it much thought; preferring to live each minute as it came.

Finally he said “I think I might just enjoy having some peace and quiet for a while; maybe catch up on some reading.” At the incredulous looks from the other two, Shane affected a scowl at them. “What? I read!” he insisted, trying to sound affronted. When that failed he resorted to diving at Dustin, who had thankfully just replaced his cup on the table, and then proceeded to first wrestle the younger boy beneath him before taking advantage of this rare opportunity to tickle the yellow ranger until he turned pink. Between ineffectual swats at his more robust friend and choking laughter, Dustin called for Hunter to back him up but the older boy just shook his head and watched indulgently, trying to remember the last time he had involved himself in those games. Blake had always enjoyed it when they were younger, he thought; Before.

“What was that about peace and quiet?” Cam called from the console, throwing an accusing look at Shane before indicating the screen in front of him. “Just had to say it, didn’t you?”

Sighing, knowing that meant their plans of a quiet morning were shattered, the rangers gathered around the computer; Shane leaning over Cam’s shoulder and Dustin standing to the other side of the chair. Hunter stood back a little, preferring not to crowd the station.

On screen a large contingent of kelzack warriors was forming up in an old quarry on the town’s outskirts, small bands circling the main force and patrolling the overlooking bluff. While kelzacks always presented a formidable foe not to be taken lightly, it was especially disquieting to see so many gathering in one area and apparently preparing for engagement.

“Dude,” Dustin breathed, the tone conveying what each in the room was thinking. “Where’d they all come from?”

“I don’t like this,” Shane murmured, voice pitched low as his eyes focused intently on the screen.

“You never do.” Hunter observed dryly; he was graced with a scowl for his efforts.

“I mean, it’s like a staff meeting or something,” Dustin carried on to himself “or they could be on strike. Do kelzacks strike?” Frowning, he decided that they would probably make very effective protesters if this was anything to go by and with a shiver, returned his attention to the main point of conversation.

“There’s something not right about this” Shane persisted, shaking his head and turning back to glare at the screen as if expecting it to surrender some hidden answer, “there’s nothing there for them to fight, guard or steal. No monsters, no sign of Zurgane or the gruesome twosome….”

Hunter moved forward to see for himself; Dustin stepping aside to make room at the console. He studied the images for a moment; eyes the colour of deep water flicking over the screen, weighing up what he could see against his greater knowledge of Lothor’s personal army. A deep frown marred his brow as he came to the same conclusion “You’re right,” he said finally, “there’s something wrong with this picture.” He looked over at Shane, a grin of anticipation breaking out. “But, if they’re up to something I want to know what it is.”

It looked as though the dark haired youth was about to disagree. Not answering immediately, he closed his eyes for a moment, quickly analysing the situation in his mind. Finally, he nodded and turned to address the team.

“Okay,” he conceded “but we go in full force; I’m not taking any chances.” Dustin nodded, whilst Hunter inclined his head slightly. Shane looked up at Cam “we need you to keep watching for any other signs of disturbance; it may be that Lothor has ordered this as a distraction.”

“I’ll contact Tori and Blake and have them meet you there.” The older boy was already turning back to his computer, “And I’ll monitor the fight from ninja-ops.”

Nodding an acknowledgment, Shane stepped back to join his fellow rangers, trying not to show how deeply concerned he still was. Ignoring the chill that had started creeping up the back of his neck, he called the team into action.

Cam paused in his work as he heard them go, hands hovering over the keyboard. With a sigh, he shook it off and started to call up various spectrum analyses for the area the team had just teleported to, seeking calm in the familiar task.

___________________________________________________

“Does anyone else get the feeling they’re just toying with us?” Tori shouted as she dodged a cutting blow from a kelzack, catching hold of its arm and using the momentum to barrel it into the three locked in combat with Hunter.

Without a pause, the crimson ranger leapt over the resulting pile to join her and engaged the next foe before it could land a lucky strike against the blue clad water ninja. If there was one thing he hated it was a dishonorable attack from behind. “What do you mean?” He responded to the girl’s question with one of his own as he dealt a series of heavy blows to his next kelzack.

“They’re not – using their full force,” the blonde girl replied, employing the same tactic as previously and hauling another kelzack into the press about them. They were strong, but the lights were clearly not all on upstairs. “It’s like they’re keeping us occupied; waiting for something.”

Across the quarry, Dustin traded blows with a brace of the silent warriors and for the moment had the upper hand, which in itself was quite telling as kelzacks were known for their superior strength. He was startled by an explosion of sound behind him.

“What now?” Blake demanded, darting glances between blows at the low rise to his left; Dustin, fighting almost back to back with the navy ranger, tensed more from his tone than the actual words. There was a dry anger in his voice that the taller youth had never heard from his companion before and, dreading what he would find, he forced his opponent to the side with his next lunge, giving himself time to look up at whatever had caught the other boy’s attention.

Dressed in black robes and grinning with vindictive pleasure, Lothor stood watching them; his henchmen gathered in a semi-circle around him all as silent as statues, which was unusual to say the least and very unsettling.

“Cam, we got a problem!” Shane called through to ninja-ops, expecting the youth to be aware of their situation and ready to offer advice; but there was only silence on the other end.

“Cam, you there?” Dustin tried, raising the com to his lips between exchanges and frowning when there was no response. “Cam!” he tried again, concern coloring his words; but the only reply was the harsh crackle of static.

Lothor laughed and the sound carried over the melee, filled with cruel satisfaction.

“Bad connection, rangers?” His voice boomed out in mockery. “Perhaps you should try another provider. Sign up with me.”

“Not likely” Shane yelled. Signaling his intentions to the rest of the team, the red ranger called the morph, hearing the others follow suit.

Anticipating the surge of energy that came with the summoning of their ranger powers, he was stopped cold as he realised that something was very wrong. His connection to the morphing grid was somehow being diverted; he could feel the prickling of his skin as it passed over him, failing to take hold. A quick glance behind him confirmed that none of the others had succeeded either and he felt the firm grip of apprehension as he realised the full extent of their predicament; they were separated from ninja-ops, un-morphed and outnumbered.

They weren’t given time to recover from the shock before the kelzacks renewed their attack and despite feeling the exhaustion that came with prolonged fighting, the rangers were forced to fight on.

Shane blocked an incoming uppercut, narrowly avoiding the blow aimed at his head, and glanced around him trying to locate his teammates. All he could see was a wall of grey and red as kelzacks came at him from every side. Straining muscles protesting with every movement, his world faded until all that existed was the parry and counter thrust; yet still over the melee he listened for the sounds of his comrades.

A short distance away and barely holding his ground, Dustin cried out as he felt the next blow connect with his collar bone. He could have avoided that last one, but it would have exposed Blake behind him and the yellow ranger wasn’t about to let that happen. Concerned for the unconscious thunder ninja at his feet, he had no way of telling just how extensive the damage was and frustration powered every blow he dealt. He fiercely pushed away the thought that came unbidden; they were fighting a losing battle.

Mara’s eyes were as large as saucers as she carried forward the heavy wooden box her uncle had signalled for; and for once, her incessant chatter had stilled with the breathless awe of ceremony. The box was cracked with age and despite the distance between them, the ninjas could sense the ancient magic it contained. With something akin to reverence, Lothor lifted the lid and ran his hand over the scrolls stored there, selecting five of the seven frayed yellow parchments and nodding in approval before passing the other two to Kapri with a whispered command. The space ninja nodded and with a significant glance at her sister departed with the scrolls.

Turning away from the chest to face the rangers, holding the five scrolls he had chosen, Lothor began a low chanting. The language didn’t sound like anything human and Shane felt a shudder of apprehension beginning as despite himself he listened to the cascade of intonations. With a flourish the evil space ninja cast the scrolls upwards and they hung above the rangers menacingly for a moment, before they unfurled with a loud crack.

Lightning struck the ground all around them, the sky drawing dark and the kelzacks fell away as the rainfall of a few moments ago became a twisting vortex of bright light. Gold and the dark red of heart’s blood, ruby and sapphire and the midnight hues of deep ice; the colors shifted and swirled around them, disorienting them and the ground seemed to tip and heave beneath their feet. As it gained momentum the rangers had to press tightly together to avoid being swept into the maelstrom and the increasing pressure within the vortex forced them to their knees. Hunter crouched low and swung an arm around Tori, drawing her against him to offer what little protection his powerful body afforded against such vehemence and for once she didn’t argue.

Furious at being forced into such a predicament, Shane fought to regain his footing and was thrown backwards, landing between the blue and crimson rangers. Automatically, he put a hand on Tori’s knee, seeking a status report. There was a determined set to her mouth as she nodded that she was ok, but her eyes showed strain and one hand hovered protectively over her left side; bruised ribs probably. Hunter didn’t appear to be in any pain, although with him it was hard to tell. He tried to see past the dizzying reel of magic for any sign of Blake or Dustin, but his vision had begun to slide in and out of focus.

“Stay together,” he yelled above the roar of the cyclone, instinctively attempting to draw a shielding flow of air around them, already knowing it would not be enough to withstand the relentless force pressing in. As the air ninja tried to channel the currents of his power, he felt the turbulence take hold of him and realised with sudden foreboding that in reaching out to the elements around him he had exposed himself to the tides of Lothor’s magic. A chill ran through his arms, spreading into his chest, and followed by a flare of heat. He shook as he continued to try and hold back the swirling mass of power and he knew that his strength would not hold out much longer.

An arm encircled his waist and he was pulled firmly against Hunter’s chest. Through the thin material of his shirt he could feel the other boy’s heartbeat strong and sure against his back, as if willing his own strength into the tired red ranger. In those moments the world slowed and faded as if he were looking at it from far away, and the roar of the cyclone seemed muted to a distant whirr.

Later, he could not recall how he did it, it was a skill that was only taught to the most advanced students at the academy; yet through some instinct he reached deep inside himself to tap into the raw power that was housed there and pulled. In an explosion of sensation he felt the currents of his power reaching out to make contact with the atmosphere around them, his consciousness expanding outwards, taking all that was his element and drawing it inside himself until it filled every fibre of his being and he merged into it.

Moving as one with the shifting currents of air, Shane suddenly found that he was able to wield his power with far more precision in this form than he ever had before and immediately set to work strengthening his shield. Though his consciousness was merged with the air around them there must have been a remaining connection to his body, for Shane was aware that Hunter still held him close.

The crimson ranger had closed his eyes, his breathing deep and focused and Shane could sense the energy the other boy was building; the air around him was alive with the power’s resonance. As the pulse of energy began to peak, Hunter placed a strong hand over Shane’s heart to direct its flow and the air ninja could feel the strength of thunder reinforcing his shield alleviating slightly the strain of maintaining it. Threads of crimson static raced through the currents he was directing against the walls of magic closing in around them and the air glowed red like a blade pulled fresh from the forge.

The red ranger reached out with his senses, feeling the crimson respond and they drew their powers together, forming through heat and force a sword of fiery light which scorched through the air as they wielded it to deliver a blazing strike. The impact rang through Hunter’s arms as if he held the physical blade and instinctively he pushed back with a concussive wave of thunder. They failed to break the ring of magic, but beneath their combined power it was forced to expand outwards.

Through their bond, the crimson ranger felt the air ninja’s satisfaction in that small victory and allowed himself a wry grin. Then he felt Shane’s mood shift again and confused, looked around for the source of his friends consternation.

The text on the scrolls was glowing, and seemed to writhe on the page, coalescing into balls of color which began to peel away from the parchment into spheres of crackling energy. The smallest was an electric shade of blue with an aura so pale it was almost white. It blazed towards the small group and was upon them before anyone could react, striking Tori in the chest. Her head snapped back and she screamed, but the sound was cut off as a burst of energy seemed to illuminate her body from within and a corona of blue light surrounded her.

In that same moment, the spheres of gold and midnight had sped away from the others; spinning around each other in chaotic dance. Their tails were cream and black, both flecked with the sparkle of diamond and they twisted around each other to become one as the spheres arced upwards, before reaching their zenith. Then the terrible orbs plummeted into a downward curve, trailing tails of brilliant light like falling stars, driving into the hard packed ground with such force that the earth roared in protest.

Hunter was thrown backwards as the dark crimson sphere ploughed into him, his cry of pain cut short by the blinding red light that formed around him. Through their bond, Shane felt the impact resounding through him and then the shudder of his shielding as his connection with Hunter was severed. So intent was he in forcing the barrier to hold against the tempest’s might that he didn’t think to protect himself from the final sphere that blazed to meet him, burning into the currents that supported him.

Red heat seared through his awareness and reflexively Shane pulled inwards, the connection with his element failing.

With a sickening lurch, the ground rushed up to meet him and then there was only darkness 
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