The cries of the young karate students sounded clearly in the ears of Rocky DeSantos as he watched them perform the movements over and over. This particular class was doing very well, and he was quite proud of them.
He clenched his fists as a pain rocketed up his spine and radiated all through his body. I am NOT in pain, he reminded himself harshly. I can't be. That was a long time ago.
Not so long, he knew. A few weeks. Not quite two months. Two months since the arrival of Divatox. Eight weeks since the practice session where he had fallen out of the ring and severely damaged himself. Fifty-six days since he had been a Ranger. Who knew how many hours since he had given the power to a pre-teen boy who, so far, had done a very good job.
Better than I did, he thought bitterly. And I didn't exactly notice any of them saying 'please stay, Rocky, we want you around.'. Not even Adam.
In some ways, that hurt the most. His former best friend, who had stuck by him through everything for the past ten years, hadn't so much as looked twice at him since the day of the accident. Then again, it hasn't been the same since Aisha left, Rocky reminded himself, shifting a little and trying not to think about how much that hurt. Tanya was. . is. ..nice. ..but she can't replace Aisha, not really.
He clenched his fists, thinking about how much that had hurt him. He, Aisha, and Adam had been a team for years, and Aisha had just abandoned everything. .. and for what? To help animals in Africa. He knew that to be a vetrinarian was one of her biggest dreams, but she'd barely said good-bye! She hadn't even bothered to tell them anything really!
Tears sparkled in his eyes for a moment as he gestured for the class to end. None of the students so much as gave their teacher a glance as they wandered to the showers. That, among other things, caused yet another knife to twist inside Rocky's heart.
The Rangers don't even come by and say hi anymore. Adam hasn't spoken to me in over a month. Aisha literally abandoned everyone and everything. Wait. . .a thought occured to him, and he reached for the phone. If they won't talk to me, I'll talk to them!! I'm not going to let this go down the drain!
A few quick motions and the phone at the Park house was ringing off the hook. While he was waiting for someone to answer, he fumbled a painkiller out of the bottle in his desk. He hadn't told anyone he was still experiencing pain from the accident, and he wasn't going to. He had no intensions of spending months in therapy when he could be doing something useful with his life.
Useful. Hah. I don't teach this school, I just run it, he reminded himself harshly. He'd hired a few teachers, sat back, and watched the money. . .run away. I haven't made a decent profit in two months. These students. . .he practically winced at the thought of them, and in memory of those kids he had taught at the Youth Center. Why are things so different here? he wondered. Is there a difference in Stone Canyon and Angel Grove?
Yes, he'd moved back to his old hometown after graduation. There'd been very little keeping him in Angel Grove after he'd quit the team, and with his former teammates seemingly giving him the cold shoulder, things had seemed a lot better here. But the quality of kids he got to teach wasn't exactly the highest. . .
More like the lowest, he thought, glancing through the records and still waiting for someone to answer. He sat up suddenly when the phone on the other end was picked up. "Hello?"
"Mrs. Park, this is Rocky," he said. "Can I talk to Adam?" don't let him be out saving the world!
"Oh, hi, Rocky!" Adam's mother sounded as perky as she always had. "I wish I could put Adam on, but didn't he tell you? He moved into his own apartment after graduation."
She might have said more, possibly even given him his friend's number, but Rocky didn't hear it. He quietly sat the phone down on the cradle, told his teachers they were all fired and the school was shutting down and for them to contact the students, packed up what few things he wanted to keep, and headed out of the dojo, never to return to it.
He could never have said how long he wandered or how much ground he covered during the course of those wanderings. All he knew was that inside he felt as cold and empty as the deepest depths of Anarctica. He was alone. For the first time in his life, he was totally alone. His friends had abandoned him, his family hadn't been in touch with him since he'd moved. . .what had gone wrong? Why was he so suddenly despised by them.
Without quite knowing how, he found himself in Angel Grove. He didn't know how much time had passed since he had left the dojo, and he found that he really didn't care. Something had led his steps back here, and he wasn't going to argue with it. For the first time since his fall in the practice arena, Rocky DeSantos felt the call of fate, and he had never been one to argue with it.
"And there they are, folks, the Power Rangers Turbo, saving our fair city once again!" the voice of a tour guide broke into his thoughts as Rocky wandered down a street in a semi-daze. At the words 'Power Rangers', his eyes snapped wide open and he looked up to see the Turbo MegaZord standing over the shattered remains of what could only have been a monster, and was now a nasty memory. His eyes darkened at the sight before him.
Good enough to save a city and be heroes, the words held a thick, bitter, nasty taste to them even in his mind. But NOT good enough to keep in touch with me, I guess! Without the Power, I must not be good enough for their high and mighty standards!
He took several deep breaths, trying to calm his nerves. "That's just how things go," he muttered to himself. He didn't want to take so much personally, but the resentment had built up without his even realizing it.
"It doesn't have to be like that, though," another voice said. He almost jumped out of his skin to see a face next to him that he'd never imagined to see again.
"Jason?" his eyes widened. "Jason, it's good to see you! Where have you been?"
The former Gold Ranger smiled faintly, with just the slightest touch of grimness to it. "Being avoided, just like you. What about you, I thought you were running your dojo in Stone Canyon?"
He shrugged. "Things didn't work out that well. I've been kind of drifting for. ..well, a while I guess. I'm not even sure what day it is."
"The day before the Pan Globals in Florida," Jason said dryly, gesturing for his fellow former Ranger to walk with him. "That's where I'm going, actually. I. . .don't think I'll be coming back, either."
Rocky heard the words coming out of his mouth almost before his brain had registered the fact he was going to speak. "Think the plane has room for one more?"
Jason stopped in his tracks, quite literally. "Rocky?" his voice held concern and friendship, real friendship, the likes of which the former Blue Zeo Ranger hadn't heard in quite some time. "I'm going down there to be with Kim, and maybe make a fresh start in my life. You've got. ..-"
"Nothing here," he said firmly. "And Kim is my friend, too. I want to see her performing just as much as you do," sensing what Jason's next question or objection might be, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a credit card. "I got it a few weeks ago, and my credit is very good. I just have to get a plane ticket and hope it's on your flight, or one close enough to yours so we can get there about the same time."
Jason closed his mouth rather abruptly, then just nodded, gesturing to a pay phone that almost seemed to have appeared conveniently. "Let's get moving then," he smiled.
Neither of them looked back eight hours later as the plane lifted off from Angel Grove International, piercing the bright California sky. Jason glanced to his seatmate, amazed that not only had the plane had enough empty seats for Rocky to still get one, but that it was right next to his. Both of them had one way tickets, there was absolutely nothing in Angel Grove they wanted to go back to anyway.
Ahead of them in Florida, however, was the destiny that they had truly been born for. And both of them felt it.