"Kris, are you coming to the Youth Centre with me today?" Rocky asked, knocking lightly on Kris's bedroom door. When he got no response, he pushed the door open and entered her room. He found her lying on her back on her bed, staring absently up at the ceiling. Music was playing at a medium volume on the tape player in her room, and she didn't even acknowledge his presence as he approached her bed. "Kris?" She didn't even blink at the sound of his voice. "Kris, I know this has been hard for you, but you have to try to accept the fact that Christian's gone. But he's gone to a better place now. Please, come with me to the Youth Centre to see the others." Kris still said nothing, and the silence that fell between two songs seemed almost suffocating. Rocky sighed. "OK, I'll tell the others that we're not coming."
With that, he got up and left the room. Pressing a button on his communicator, he called for the others.
"What's up, Rocky?" Tommy's voice came across almost immediately.
"Kris and I aren't coming today, Tommy," Rocky told him apologetically.
"Why not?" Jason asked.
"She's still not talking. She's barely eaten, or slept, and she rarely gets up out of bed," Rocky explained.
"Can we do anything for you, Rocky?" Tanya inquired.
"No, I think we'll be all right up here," Rocky replied. "But thanks for the offer." He paused.
"Maybe all she needs is to be around her friends to come out of her shell," Adam commented to the others who stood around him.
"Rocky, did you hear that?" Tommy asked.
"I heard him, Tommy. Do you think that'll work, Adam?" Rocky asked.
"It can't hurt," Adam replied with a shrug he knew Rocky couldn't see.
"Well, come on over, then," Rocky said.
"We'll be there in a few minutes," Adam promised before the channel was closed.
"This isn't good," Kat said once the six of them were alone. "I feel so sorry for Kris. This can't be easy on her."
"It might make it easier if she's around her friends," Tanya stated. Kat and the others nodded.
"Let's get going," Tommy said.
"Kris?" Rocky called softly, sticking his head around the door into Kris's room. He sighed. She hasn't even moved! he thought worriedly. "Kris, Jason and the others are going to be here soon. You're going to come out and talk to them, right?" No answer. Oh this is going well. Rocky walked back into Kris's room, and sat down on the edge of Kris's bed. "Kris, please, just say something! Anything! I'm worried about you. I know that you loved him, but he's gone, Kris. Christian's dead." Kris flinched at the mention of Christian's name, and tears welled up in her eyes. Immediately, Rocky kicked himself for being so insensitive. "Kris, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to put it that way. Please, just come out of your room and say hi to the others when they get here, all right? That's all I ask." Still, Kris said and did nothing. Rocky sighed to himself, then got up off of her bed and left the room.
He went out to the kitchen, and leaned against the kitchen counter, elbows on the counter, head in his hands. Rocky stared at the wall, lost in thought. Suddenly, a knock interrupted him, and Rocky left the kitchen to answer the door.
"Hi everybody," he said, opening the door to admit his friends.
"How're you doing?" Adam asked him immediately. Rocky closed the door, and leaned against it momentarily.
"Well, better than Kris is, I guess," he replied finally. "Does anybody want anything?" Without waiting for an answer, he went into the kitchen and began pulling cans of pop out of the fridge. Once everybody, including himself, had one, he went back out into the living room, and sat down heavily in the chair near the door.
"Where is Kris, anyway?" Tanya asked, not spotting the younger girl anywhere.
"She's in the room," Rocky informed them all, setting his pop on the table beside him. "She hasn't left her room all day."
"Can we go see her?" Kat inquired.
"Better let me see if I can get her to leave her room, first," Rocky told her, getting up. "I'm not sure if having everybody in her room would make her feel better or claustrophobic." With that, he exited the room.
"He's taking this really hard," Adam commented, staring at the hallway where his friend had just gone.
"I don't blame him," Jason said quietly, speaking half to himself.
"I wish there was something we could do," Billy said.
"Maybe just being around her friends will help her," Tanya suggested with a shrug.
A minute or two later, Rocky returned, and gave his friends an apologetic look.
"Sorry, guys, but she didn't even blink when I went in there and told her that you guys were here," he explained. "But you're welcome to go in and see if you can get her to talk." Rocky led the way back down the hallway and into Kris's room. "Kris? There's some people here to see you."
Kris was laying stretched out on her bed, still staring up at the ceiling. Her tape was still playing in the background.
"She's been like this ever since..," Rocky trailed off.
Tanya and Kat moved forward in tandem toward the young girl.
"Hey, Kris. How're you doing?" Kat asked brightly, standing up near Kris's elbow. No response came. Kat gave Tanya a nervous glance.
"Come on, Kris, talk to us. We're your friends, and we want to help you get through all of this," Tanya persisted. Kat moved away, noticing a tape cover sitting on top of the CD player. She picked it up and idly began to read the contents of the tape. When she realized what was on it, she put a hand to her mouth.
"Did Christian mix this?" she asked Rocky, looking at him. He nodded somberly, knowing full well what was on it.
"Read the titles," Kat encouraged, still standing beside Kris's bed. Tanya took a deep breath before doing so.
"Side one: Remember Me, As Long As You Love Me, I Don't Want To Miss A Thing, Just To Be Close To You, How Do I Live, I'll Never Break Your Heart, Remember Me. Side two: Remember Me, Don't Wanna Lose You Now, All My Life, If I Don't Have You, You'll Be In My Heart, All I Have To Give, Message Of Love, You're Still The One, Remember Me." Tanya's voice had cracked partway through her recital of the song titles as she realized the content and the message Christian had been trying to convey, but she managed to list them all. Tanya, Kat and Rocky all had tears in their eyes, while the others looked as though they were back at Christian's funeral.
"Why did he put Remember Me on there so much?" Tommy inquired finally.
"It was Kris's all-time favourite song," Rocky told him glumly, staring down at the still form of his sister, her only movement caused by her breathing and the blinking of her eyes. Kat knelt down beside Kris's bed, taking her hand.
"Kris, is there anything we can do for you right now?" she asked softly, looking into Kris's vacant eyes. Kris, unsurprisingly, gave no reply. Rocky sighed then and left the room. Jason and Adam soon followed him, which prompted Tommy and Billy to come out as well, leaving Kat and Tanya alone with Kris.
"Are you all right?" Adam asked his best friend quietly as Rocky stared out across the balcony.
"No, I'm not all right! Why should I be all right? My sister's so depressed she hasn't talked for a week, and I have no idea what to do!" Rocky exploded, banging the side of his fist against the wall so hard it shook.
"Rocky, you know that none of this is your fault," Adam said reasonably, approaching the other young man. Rocky nodded somberly, holding his right hand in his left one, eyes constantly on the floor. His shoulders were slumped and his head was hanging.
"I know, but I feel so helpless! I can't do anything to help her get over him!" he muttered, moving over to flop down on his back on the couch.
"I'm sure that, deep inside, Kris wants to get over Christian, but it's going to take some time. They were friends for a long time, and then all of a sudden he was gone from her life. That has to hurt," Adam told him. Rocky simply groaned in reply.
Meanwhile, back in Kris's room, Remember Me was playing on the tape deck. Tanya and Kat exchanged glances when the song began, then looked down at Kris. As the first few guitar notes and drum beats were belted out from the sound system, tears began to roll down Kris's cheeks.
"Should we get Rocky?" Kat whispered to Tanya. Tanya shook her head.
"We shouldn't disturb her if she's making some kind of progress in recovering," she answered, then the two fell silent.
Kris tears began to fall harder now, though she barely even blinked to acknowledge their existence. You came to Angel Grove to find me and warn me against the Shock Waves, Christian. she thought miserably. You came here looking for me undercover of darkness, alone and probably terrified, but you knew that you had to warn me that the Shock Waves were in town.
You did give your life for me, though you never would have spoken a word about it, Kris thought. You showed me what love was all about, too. Why did you have to leave me like this? Why couldn't they have killed me instead?
I don't want to say goodbye!
I don't want to say goodbye!
I know you'll always be with me, Christian, I believe that with all my heart, and I will always remember you, no matter what happens.
Oh, Christian, I wish that I could see through your eyes. Then maybe I'd understand why this had to happen to you...to us! And how can I let go of my fears of being alone for the rest of my life? I can't live without you!
Christian, why did you have to leave me? I don't know if I can stand living with only the thought of you! She could almost feel his hands on her body as she laid there in bed in a nearly catatonic state.
"Christian," she murmured, almost inaudibly. The chorus ran through, then continued on.
Why did you have to leave me? Why?! You made the ultimate sacrifice for me, and I really, truly appreciate that, but I would rather have had us both injured that have one of us dead and one of us alive. I love you, Christian Brendan O'Leary, I love you so much! You were the first person I ever did love! Please come back to me!
Are you really out there somewhere, watching me, Christian? Or are spirits and ghosts just a myth? I'll always remember you, but is there anything of you left to remember me?
How can I not think of this as the end? You're dead! It doesn't get much more at the end than that!
As the song ended and merged into another one, Kris returned to her unspeaking, basically unmoving state while Kat and Tanya rushed out of the room.
"She talked!" Kat announced to the congregation of males in the living room. They all ran back into Kris's room with Rocky at the forefront of the pack.
"Kris?" he asked eagerly, crouching down beside her bed and taking her hand in his own. When she gave no reply, his face fell.
"She said something earlier, Rocky, honest!" Kat insisted.
"It sounded like she was muttering Christian's name," Tanya elaborated.
"It's a start," Kat told him, grasping at verbal straws.
"Maybe I should call a doctor or a psychiatrist or something. Maybe they'd know how to get her back to normal," Rocky continued, more or less oblivious to the fact that his friends had spoken.
"Rocky, just give her some more time before you do anything expensive," Billy told him wisely.
"All right, Billy, but I'm going to keep a close eye on her for as long as it takes," Rocky vowed.
Kris heard voices. Or at least, she thought she heard voices. She could hear definite murmuring, but she wasn't sure if it was coming from the blood rushing through her veins or from another source entirely. She thought that the voices, if that's even what the noise was, sounded familiar, but she couldn't place them. What's happened to me? she wondered idly as she laid there on her bed, unmoving and unresponsive. What the heck happened to make me this way?
"Thanks for coming, you guys," Rocky said as he ushered his friends out the door. "I'm sorry that Kris wasn't able to see you all. I'm sure she would have loved to know that you were all here."
"Don't worry, Rocky, we'll get her back to normal soon," Tommy said, leading his friends down the hall. Adam hung back a moment.
"You know my number if you need to talk," he said quietly before following the others. Rocky nodded gratefully, waved, then went back into his apartment. Well, that went well, he thought sarcastically, beginning to clean up the pop cans that were littered about the apartment.
Suddenly, he heard a shrill scream emitting from Kris's room. He dropped the cola cans he had been holding and ran down the hall into her room.
"Kris," someone whispered. Kris remained still on her bed. "Kris." Kris groaned and rolled onto her left side, her eyesight blurry. "Come on, Kris, wake up. It's me, Christian."
"Christian?" Kris asked groggily, her eyes gradually beginning to focus. There was movement in the head area of the figure.
"It's me, Kris," he asserted. Kris focused completely. And screamed.
She was still screaming when Rocky raced into her room. He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her, all the while frantically calling her name.
"Kris! Kris, what's wrong? What happened?" he asked her anxiously, nearly shouting over her continued screaming. Rocky shook her harder, and eventually Kris stopped screaming. However, when she did so, her eyes went glassy and unfocused, and she became unresponsive once more. "Come on, Kris, don't leave me now! You were back for a minute."
"Christian?" Kris asked groggily, staring at the end of her bed. Rocky glanced over his shoulder, almost expecting to see the young man, but saw no one.
"No, Kris, it's me. It's Rocky," her brother told her gently.
"Yes, Kris, it's me," Christian said as he stood at the foot of Kris's bed. He smiled warmly at her. "How are you feeling?"
"Christian, what happened? I thought you were dead," Kris mumbled, tears welling up in her eyes.
"I'm here, aren't I?" Christian said lightly.
"You have no idea how glad I am to see you," Kris admitted.
"Kris, who are you talking to?" Rocky asked, breaking Kris's concentration.
"Christian. He's right there," Kris said, pointing to the end of her bed. Rocky looked over his shoulder again, but saw no one.
"Kris, there's nobody there," he told her gently.
"Sure there is. Come on, Rocky, he's right there," Kris argued, pointing to the spot at the end of her bed. This time, Rocky didn't even bother turning around.
"Maybe you should try to get some sleep, Kris," he said, hugging her tightly. "You'll feel better once you've gotten some rest."
"I feel fine," Kris protested. "I don't need to get any sleep. I just want to talk to Christian."
"You can talk to him after you've slept," Rocky told her soothingly, pushing her gently down onto her back and pulling the comforter up over her torso.
"But what if he leaves? I won't know where to find him," Kris complained, beginning to rise. However, Rocky pushed her back down.
"Sleep," he ordered her, leaving the room and closing the door behind him.
"Christian, why couldn't he see you?" Kris asked Christian as she laid in bed, her eyes already beginning to slam shut.
"You're the only one who can see me now, Kris," Christian replied, sitting on the edge of her bed. Though the comforter she had on her bed was fluffy, the areas around Christian made no indentation marks whatsoever that Kris could discern.
"But why me?" Kris asked softly. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that I can talk to you and see you, even though you're supposed to be dead, but why me and not anyone else?"
"Because you and I were so close that our minds bonded with one another to carry a link beyond death," Christian told her. "At least, that's what I think happened."
"Just as long as you're around, everything is fine," Kris said with a yawn. She closed her eyes, and nestled into bed. Christian got up and walked over to her, then laid down beside her and put his arms around her.
"I'm always going to be with you," he told her softly just before she drifted off to sleep, a smile on her face.
Two days later, while Rocky was sitting in the living room watching some Saturday morning cartoons, Kris padded noiselessly into the living room and collapsed on the chair nearest the door.
"Kris! You're awake! How're you feeling?" Rocky asked as soon as he saw her, sitting forward anxiously on the couch.
"Better than I've felt in a very, very long time," she told him, smiling.
"I'm so glad to hear you say that...to hear you say anything," Rocky confessed, tossing her a relieved grin.
"Yep, everything is fine now that I can see Christian again," Kris confirmed, closing her eyes and letting the smile deepen as she settled into the chair near the door. Rocky's grin turned into a frown of concern.
"Kris, what are you talking about?" he asked her cautiously.
"Christian. I can see him," Kris told him simply.
"Kris, you know that Christian is dead, right?"
"Of course I know he's dead. I was there, you know," she snapped.
"Then you know that he can't be here with you."
"He's not here physically. His spirit is here."
"Uh, Kris, I think you should talk to someone about this. Tell them about all of what's gone on in the past few weeks."
"Rocky, I'm not crazy. I know what I saw." Kris's voice was deadly calm and her eyes remained closed throughout the entire exchange.
"Still, maybe it'd make you feel better if you could talk to someone about Christian's death."
"I'm not going to a psychologist just to tell them that Christian died but his spirit is with me."
"OK, Kris, if you say so."
"Thank you. Now then, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go have a shower." With that, Kris got up and walked down to the bathroom, shutting the door behind her.
"He thinks you're crazy, you know," came a familiar voice as Kris began to disrobe. Pausing with her nightshirt lifted to her waist, Kris turned and saw Christian leaning against the door to the bathroom casually. She let the nightshirt fall back to her thighs, blushing. "Oh come on, I've seen you before."
"I know," Kris murmured, still red-faced. "And he doesn't think I'm crazy, he just doesn't believe that I can see you."
"In other words, he thinks you're crazy," Christian repeated. He stood up straight and walked towards Kris, holding her tenderly in his arms when he reached her. "But I know you're sane."
"Of course I'm sane," Kris said snappishly. Then she sighed and leaned heavily against Christian. "Sorry about that. I guess I'm still a little edgy."
"That's understandable," Christian told her reasonably. He lowered his head until it was resting on her shoulders. His lips brushed her neck while he spoke, sending waves of delight through her body. "You always did like it when I did that."
"'Always?' Christian, you only found that out during...that night that we shared," Kris finished, blushing even redder.
"It was enough," Christian whispered into her ear. Kris giggled.
"Hey, do you think I could have some privacy? I want to have a shower," she told him, turning to face him.
"Sure. I'll be back a little later. Right now, I think I'm going to go appear in a vat of salsa in Mexico. See you later, Kristina," Christian said. After hugging her close and kissing her gently on the lips, he vanished into thin air. Kris smiled, then stepped under the hot water.
When she emerged, dressed in only a bathrobe and a towel wrapped around her wet hair, she found Christian lounging on his back on her bed. When he saw her, he smiled and gave her a little wave.
"That was a quick appearance in Mexico," Kris noted, bending at the waist to give her hair a vigorous toweling.
"They weren't any fun," Christian replied with a shrug Kris couldn't see. "They'd seen too many faces in their salsa before for me to be a surprise." Kris giggled, then felt a presence behind her.
"You're not too fond of personal spaces, are you?" she teased, dropping the towel on the floor and turning to face... "Rocky?"
"Kris, you were talking to yourself. Are you all right?" he asked her, a look of concern on his handsome face.
"I wasn't talking to myself, I was talking to Christian," Kris informed him, bending down to pick up the discarded towel.
"Kris, you have to face the fact that Christian is dead," Rocky told her bluntly, laying a hand on her shoulder.
"I know he's dead, but his spirit is still alive," Kris told him with a hint of a frown on her lips. Rocky opened his mouth to say something else, but Kris beat him to it. "Don't you dare say that it's impossible. After all, most people would think that witches and robots living on the moon, attacking the Earth with monsters that can grow over 100 feet tall and that there are 5 or 6 teenagers in spandex-like suits that can defeat these monsters in giant robots of their own exist, but they all do. Inter-dimensional beings and intelligent, self-aware robots are supposed to be impossible, too, but if they are then how do you explain Zordon and Alpha with today's technology?" For once, Rocky had nothing to say. "Exactly. So don't say that it's impossible for Christian's spirit to exist because, in retrospect, it's quite feasible."
"OK, Kris, if you say so. But if you ever want to talk about any of this, you know you can always talk to me or one of the others," Rocky said uncertainly. Kris smiled.
"I know. Thanks, big brother," she said warmly. Rocky smiled back and left her room, less reassured than he had be when he had gone in there in the first place.
Standing in the hallway, he sighed silently to himself and leaned against the wall. Why won't she let go? he wondered, closing his eyes and leaning his head against the wall. Why does she have to be so stubborn? Why can't she accept that he's gone? I know that she loved him and that they knew each other for a long time, but after a week and a half, you'd think that she would have come to the realization that he's gone and nothing we say or do will bring him back.
"What are you doing out here?" Kris asked him as she walked by him in the hallway.
"Oh, nothing, just thinking," Rocky replied dismissively. "Where are you going?"
"Just gonna go for a walk in the park," Kris told him, retrieving a bottle of water from the fridge and putting it into her purse. "It's too nice to stay cooped up inside."
"I'm coming with you," Rocky said immediately.
"Rocky, I'm 17, I don't need you watching over me every minute of the day," Kris scolded him lightly, the twinkle in her eyes belying the tone of her voice. "Besides, I'm just going to the park. What could possibly go wrong?" Rocky just looked at her. Kris sighed. "All right, all right, you can come with me. Just hurry up, I want to get going."
"You're going out like that?" Rocky asked skeptically, eying her black denim low-rise shorts and dark grey V-neck T-shirt.
"Rocky, it's nearly 85ř Fahrenheit in the shade! I'll be nice and comfy like this, I promise," Kris protested, smiling slightly. "Now quit acting like my father and come on! I want to go before it gets dark."
Maybe it was all just a phase or a hallucination or something, Rocky thought, gazing at his sister. She was smiling and looked perfectly healthy, like nothing was wrong in the world.
"Come on, let's go," he said, shaking himself from his thoughts.
"So, the little Silver Ranger is going through a tough time in her life, eh?" King Mondo murmured to himself, watching the congregation of people in Rocky and Kris's apartment.
"She sure is," Sprocket readily agreed. "Ever since that guy Christian got killed, she hasn't been the same. I think she really misses him. I think she thought he was perfect or something."
"Well, it looks like we might not have to intervene this time," Mondo observed. "Christian's ghost might do all the work for us."
"You mean everybody will think she's crazy because she says she can see him?" Sprocket asked.
"Exactly," Mondo agreed. "This could be interesting."
Back down on Earth, two unsuspecting teens walked through the lush vegetation of the park in silence. Rocky was about to say something to his sister, but she beat him to it.
"I'm going to go refill my water bottle. I'll be right back," she told him as she jogged away, leaving Rocky speechless.
Over at the water fountain, Kris held the bottle under the stream of water and watched as it slowly filled up.
"Hot day, isn't it?" came a familiar voice. Kris jumped and whirled, dropping the water bottle into the basin of the water fountain.
"Christian! You scared me!" she exclaimed, smiling widely.
"Sorry," he apologized quickly. Kris hugged him impulsively.
"Don't worry about it. I don't mind, especially if it's you," she told him quietly, her smile remaining.
"How are you doing?" Christian asked her, a concerned look on his face.
"I'm doing fine, why do you ask?" Kris asked him, puzzled.
"Because I love you," he replied without hesitating.
"You're just too good to me, you know that, right?" Kris told him, blushing.
"That's what you get for falling in love with me," Christian retorted lightly.
"Hmm, I think I can deal with that," Kris said, grinning.
"Kris, who are you talking to?" Rocky asked as he jogged over to join his younger sister.
"Christian. You're standing right beside him. Can't you see him?" Kris asked, looking between her brother and her former fianc‚.
"Kris, there's nobody here but you and me," Rocky told her gently. Kris turned to where Christian was.
"Why can't he see you?" she asked him.
"You've always been more in tune with realms other than the physical. He can't see me because he can't see past the physical dimensions," Christian explained.
"In English, please?" Kris asked wryly, grinning.
"He can't see me because I'm a spirit," Christian said bluntly.
"Now that make sense," Kris commented.
"What makes sense?" asked a very confused Rocky.
"Why you can't see Christian," Kris told him.
"Why can't I?" Rocky asked, deciding to play along for the moment.
"Because Christian is a spirit, and you apparently can't see beyond the physical realm," Kris explained simply.
"Kris, you're telling me that Christian is a ghost that only you can see?" Rocky asked skeptically.
"No, he's not a ghost, he's a spirit. There's a difference. And other people can see him, but you can't," Kris corrected.
"Uh-huh. If you say so, Kris," Rocky said indifferently. He took her gently by the elbow and began to steer her back towards the apartment. "Come on, I think you should get some rest."
Kris, however, would have none of the kid-gloves treatment. She pulled her arm away from Rocky and stood defiantly next to Christian, arms crossed over her chest and a stern look on her face.
"Rocky, I feel fine. Look, just because you can't see Christian and I can doesn't make me the crazy one that you think I am," she told him frankly. "I'm perfectly sane. Why won't you believe me?"
"Kris, I think maybe we should have you talk to someone. A professional," Rocky told her. Kris threw up her hands in exasperation.
"You do think I'm crazy! Great! Nice support from my big brother," she said sarcastically. She turned to Christian. "Isn't there any way that you can make him see you?"
"The only way he'd be able to see me is if he opened his mind to see past the physical dimension, but very few are able to accomplish that task," Christian explained.
"But there has to be some way to convince him that I'm not crazy," Kris protested. "Come on, Christian, can't you figure out some way for Rocky to see you?"
"Kris, I think we had better be getting you back inside," Rocky interjected, taking Kris's arm again and he began to pull her back towards the apartment, this time making sure his grip was firm.
"Christian!" Kris shouted, reaching out for him with her free hand. Christian latched onto her hand and tried to pull her back to her. Rocky pulled harder, however, and succeeded in freeing Kris from Christian's grip. Not that he had seen him take her, mind you. "Christian!"
"Don't you get it?" Rocky demanded, stopping dead in his tracks and turning to look at his younger sister. "Christian is dead! You're not seeing him right now, and nothing you say or do will bring him back."
Kris took one look at Rocky and burst into tears out of frustration, anger and sadness. At that point, Rocky could have kicked himself. How could you be so insensitive? he asked himself mentally. He gathered Kris into his arms and held her while she sobbed.
"Kris, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that," he told her softly.
"It doesn't matter what you meant. The fact is that you think I'm crazy because I can see Christian and you can't," she told him, her voice broken up with emotion. Rocky, since he couldn't deny those allegations, simply stood there and held her until she stepped away from him. "Now, if you don't mind, I'd kind of like to be alone."
"I don't want to leave you alone, Kris. You're too emotional," Rocky told her firmly.
"Fine," she replied flatly, shrugging her shoulders.
"Well then? Come on!" Rocky said, exasperated, when Kris paused and glanced over her shoulder.
"I was just looking for Christian, relax," Kris snapped, looking around.
"Kris," Rocky said in a warning tone.
"Oh, chill! He's gone!" Kris told him with a glare. She started walking again and caught up with Rocky, who had to hurry to keep up with her stride.
"Look, Kris, I'm sorry about what I said earlier, but I just can't believe that Christian is still alive," he told her quietly.
"He's not alive," Kris informed him. "He was killed, but his spirit lives on, and will until it gets born into another body again."
"You seriously believe in all of that stuff? Reincarnation?" Rocky asked, raising an eyebrow at her.
"Why not? Everything else in this world is recycled; water, air, food. Why can't the human spirit live in cycles as well?" Kris countered. "Simply because it isn't tangible?"
Rocky couldn't answer that, and wisely stayed silent.
The following Monday, Kris finally decided to return to school. Rocky kept a close eye on her wherever he could, and had the others do so when he couldn't.
"You people are treating me like I'm twelve!" Kris exclaimed once when she was surrounded by her friends as they were walking down the hall.
"We're just trying to look out for you," Tanya explained.
"Look out for me in case of what, exactly?" Kris asked wryly, raising an eyebrow.
"Just in case you need someone to talk to," Kat said smoothly when nobody else could come up with a response. Kris let out a coarse laugh.
"Yeah, right, I'm sure that's it," she said dryly, shaking her head as she and the others halted just shy of the door into a classroom.
"Kris, are you sure you're going to be all right?" Rocky asked her worriedly.
"Rocky, read my lips: I'm. Fine."
"OK, if you say so."
"I've said so a dozen times, and you didn't believe me."
"I still don't."
"Oh, now, that's reassuring."
Just then, the bell rang.
"Don't you guys have a class to get to?" Kris asked, raising an eyebrow and putting her hands on her hips as students rushed past them in an attempt to not be marked late on the attendance sheets.
"We're going, we're going," Rocky told her. "But call me if you need me."
"Go!" Kris exclaimed with an exasperated laugh, pushing her brother away down the hall.
"All right, all right! Boy, you sure are stubborn," Rocky called to her as he started jogging down the hall with Tommy, Kat and Tanya around him.
"It runs in the family!" Kris retorted, chuckling, before she and Jason wandered into their English room. They received a reproving stare from their teacher. "Um, sorry, Ms. Doyle." She waved them to their seats, and class began.
Meanwhile, Christian had returned, and was sitting at the back of the room, watching Kris's every move while she was in class. I miss her so much, he thought. I just want to touch her, feel her...
With that, Christian got up and walked over to where Kris was sitting. Stopping beside her, he ran his fingertips lightly along his arm, ignoring any of the repercussions. God, I love her.
As she felt the gentle pressure of a hand on her arm, Kris turned around in her seat to face Jason.
"What's up?" she asked him, her voice hushed.
"Um, not much," Jason replied, sounding a bit confused.
"Didn't you touch me on the arm to get my attention?" Kris asked, her brow creasing slightly in confusion.
"No," Jason told her.
"Huh. I must have imagined it. Sorry," she said, turning back around.
"Kris, are you all right?" Jason whispered in her ear.
"Of course I am," Kris responded lightly. "I was just feeling things. Don't panic."
"You weren't imagining it," Christian murmured in her ear, crouching down on Kris's left. She immediately twisted around, surprise registering clear on her face.
"Christian? What are you doing here?" she asked him, keeping her voice low.
"Kris, who are you talking to?" Jason asked urgently, trying not to let their teacher hear him. However, Kris didn't hear him; apparently, she was too involved in her conversation with...whoever or whatever she saw in front of her.
"I came to see you," Christian told her.
"Christian, I'm in class," Kris told him, glancing around to see if her teacher was watching her. Fortunately for Kris, she wasn't, and neither was anybody else, except Jason, but he didn't register in her consciousness as she returned her gaze to Christian.
"So what?" Christian asked her with a shrug.
"So...I'm not supposed to have "visitors" while I'm here. I'm supposed to be paying attention," Kris told him, glancing a look over to the TV, where the movie "Macbeth" was playing.
"Ditch class and come with me. I'm sure I can keep your attention," Christian told her, giving her an inviting smile.
"I can't! She knows I'm here! Besides, it's already second period; I'll be out of school in a few hours. Once I've been dismissed, we can spend most of the night together," Kris reasoned.
"I don't want to wait," Christian informed her. "I want to be with you now."
"I can't. I'm sorry," Kris said, looking down at him apologetically. Christian stood up and looked down at her reproachfully.
"Fine, then. It's apparent you don't love me anymore," he told her, raising his voice to a normal level.
"That's not true," Kris hissed, looking up at him.
"It must be if you won't even miss a little school to be with me," Christian tossed off.
"But..." Kris began, then trailed off. "Fine, after this class, meet me at the fountain at the entrance of the park that's closest to the school, and we'll spend the afternoon together."
Christian smiled at her.
"That's my girl," he told her, just before vanishing into thin air.
"Kris, is there something you'd like to share with the class?" Ms. Doyle called from across the darkened room. Kris blushed and shook her head as the rest of the class stared at her.
"No, ma'am," she replied meekly.
"Kris, what's wrong?" Jason urgently whispered in her ear as soon as the coast was clear.
"Christian and I just had a little bit of an argument," Kris informed him, keeping her eyes affixed on the TV screen, not eager to get called on once more.
"Christian was here?" Jason asked skeptically. Kris simply nodded in reply. "Kris, maybe you shouldn't be here today. I think you're still a little worn out from...what happened a while ago."
"I'm fine," Kris insisted, rolling her eyes. "You worry to much."
"Only because I care about you," Jason said before he could stop himself.
"I care about you, too, but you should take my word for it when I tell you I'm fine," Kris told him, not really taking Jason's comment as deeply as he had meant it. Jason wasn't sure if that was a bad thing or not, but he didn't have time to dwell on it.
"Kristina, Jason, please!" their teacher called sternly.
"Sorry, ma'am," they called back in unison, turning identical shades of crimson.
After class, Kris was confronted by the rest of her friends, and escorted to her locker.
"Guys, with all due respect, go away!" Kris said finally in exasperation, slamming her locker door shut and turning to face them. "I mean, I love the attention, but can't I have any time to myself today?"
"No," Rocky told her bluntly.
"Well, let me put it to all of you this way," Kris said, taking another approach. "I have to go to the bathroom, and that's where I'm going to go right now. Any questions, concerns, complains can be written down and mailed to later, when I might care." Smiling sweetly, Kris threw her backpack over her shoulder, slung her denim jacket over one arm and walked off.
"Kris, wait!" Tanya and Kat called, starting after her. Uh-oh, Kris thought, quickening her pace. If they catch up with me, I'm never going to be able to escape. Glancing over her shoulder and discovering that Kat and Tanya were catching up, Kris reached back to hold her backpack, then started jogging down the crowded hallways, calling apologies as she went and hearing the two young women following her do the same. Kris skidded around a corner, narrowly missing a pair of teachers who were deep in conversation.
"Young lady, slow down!" one of them called to her sternly.
"Sorry!" Kris called back, slowing to a walk. When she was out of sight, however, she started jogging again.
"Kris!" she heard Tanya call.
"Oh, give it up," Kris muttered under her breath.
"We just want to talk to you!" Kat called, still in pursuit of the younger girl.
"Sorry, I don't have the time! I have a very important appointment!" Kris lied. Spotting a door that led outside, Kris made a beeline for it. Then, once she was outside, she broke into a run. Behind her, she heard the footsteps of those who were pursuing her slow, then stop. But she didn't even bother looking back as she ran towards the park. I'll be right there, she thought, wondering if Christian could hear her.
"Should we follow her?" Kat asked, breathing heavily.
"No, I don't think so," Tanya replied. "If she wants to be alone that much, we should give her the space." Together, they walked back to where the guys were waiting for them.
"You didn't catch up to her, did you?" Rocky asked, noting that only two of the young women returned.
"Sorry, Rocky," Kat said, shrugging her should apologetically.
"We have been keeping a close eye on her for the past few days. Maybe she just needed some time alone," Tanya suggested.
"If she's not back by the end of lunch, though, I'm going after her," Rocky told the others in a determined voice. The others accepted this wordlessly, and the six of them went to lunch.
However, for the duration of the period, Rocky remained almost entirely silent, consumed by worry for his sister. Jason wasn't doing much better for much the same reason.
Finally, unable to sit still, Rocky pushed himself up from the grass upon which he'd been sitting and stalked away. The rest of his friends looked ready to get up and go after him, but Jason stopped them.
"I'll go talk to him," he said, getting up and going after his team mate. "Rocky!" Not surprisingly, the other young man didn't answer. Jason caught up with him quickly and fell into step beside him.
"Say what you have to say and leave. I'm not really in the mood to talk right now," Rocky told him bluntly.
"Rocky, I know you're worried, but nothing's going to happen to her," Jason replied, only half-believing his own words. "She can take care of herself."
"Not if she's mentally unstable," Rocky threw back dully.
"What?" Jason didn't quite understand, and wasn't sure if Rocky was being sarcastic or not.
"I seriously think she's cracking up, Jase," Rocky confided. He stopped walked and leaned against a nearby tree. "Ever since Christian's death, she says she's been seeing him and talking to him." Rocky paused and shut his eyes, When he spoke again, his voice was close to cracking. "She needs help, and I don't know what to do."
"What if we convinced her to talk to one of the school's counselors?" Jason suggested, feeling nearly as helpless as the one he was trying to console. "They might be able to help her."
"I already asked her about that," Rocky replied. "She said she didn't want to talk to anyone and have them think she's crazy when she's perfectly fine." Rocky opened his eyes suddenly, having had a sudden flash of inspiration. "Jason, what if you talked to her?"
"Me?" Jason asked, startled.
"Yeah. Kris likes you, and I'm almost sure she'd talk to you faster than she'd talk to any of the rest of us," Rocky explained. Besides, I'm much rather have her fall for you than some hallucination. But he left that thought unsaid. "Please, Jason? You're one of the only options I have left right now."
"Sure, I'll do it," Jason agreed, with a little hesitation.
"Be subtle, though," Rocky told him. "I don't want her to think I put you up to doing this, or she'll shut us all out and we won't get anywhere."
"Christian?" Kris called quietly, standing near the fountain. "Christian, where are you?"
"Right here," he replied. Kris turned and saw him floating atop the micro-geyser erupting at the top of the fountain.
"So it's true; men think they really do walk on water in the eyes of a woman," Kris teased.
"In your case, this one does," Christian replied with a smile.
"I see death hasn't humbled you at all," Kris retorted, grinning. Christian descended from the top of the fountain to stand before her. He reached out and hugged her close to him. She gratefully fell into his embrace, hoping to enjoy the warm, safe feeling she'd always felt before. This time, tough, something was different. He didn't seem as relaxed as he normally did. "Is something wrong?"
"I just feel badly about what happened earlier," Christian admitted to her. "Ever since my body died, I've been having trouble controlling myself."
"That kind of makes sense," Kris told him. "You don't have a physical way to vent your emotions."
"I guess you're right, but it doesn't explain my behaviour towards you earlier," Christian told her.
"Dying has matured you too much," Kris told him bluntly. "Go back to sounding our age, all right?"
"Deal," Christian replied with a smile.
"Kris!" someone called. Kris whirled at the sound of her name, breaking contact with Christian momentarily before she reached back and took his hand.
"What are you doing here?" Kris asked.
"You had us all pretty worried when you ran off after class," Jason told her.
"I just came out here to be with-"
"Christian," they finished in unison. Kris gave him a weird look. "He's all you've been talking about lately."
"Can you blame me?" Kris asked him, raising an eyebrow.
"No," Jason said slowly. "But maybe you're holding onto his memory too tightly."
"What are you talking about? I know Christian's dead physically, but his spirit is still alive."
"You tell him," Christian whispered encouragingly in her ear. "Make him understand so they'll quit questioning my existence."
"I'm trying," Kris replied, frustrated.
"Trying to what?" Jason asked, slightly confused.
"Trying to make you understand," Kris informed him.
"All I understand is that Christian's dead and you can't seem to grasp that," Jason answered, a little more harshly than he would have liked.
"I have grasped that he's dead," Kris argued. "He died in my arms!"
"Then why do you keep saying that you see him?"
"Because I do!"
"How the hell should I know? I'm not dead!"
Kris wasn't prepared for that one. She hesitated, then relaxed a little and chuckled.
"So are you going to come back to school now?" Jason asked. Kris glanced back over her shoulder.
"I guess I should go back," Kris said, half to Jason and half to Christian. "But I want to stay with Christian." She looked between the two men.
"Go back to school," Christian advised. "I'll come find you later."
"Thanks, Christian," Kris said with a smile. "You're the greatest." She hugged him for a second, then they broke apart and Kris walked with Jason back towards the school.
When they got back to the school, they found the others at a picnic table beneath the shade of a huge oak tree.
"Hey, guys," Kris said brightly, smiling and waving to her friends.
"Hey Kris, Jason," came the calls as they were greeted by their friends.
"Where did you guys go?" Rocky asked around a mouthful of food.
"Just over to the park," Kris replied, sitting down next to him and stealing a French fry from the basket in front of him on the table.
"How's Christian?" Tanya asked, ignoring the glare Rocky shot at her from across the table.
"He's fine, thanks," Kris answered, flashing a grateful, at-least-someone-believes-me look at her brother. He sighed and popped another fry into his mouth.
"What'd you say that for?" Rocky whispered harshly to Tanya once Kat had engrossed Kris in another conversation.
"Because maybe all she needs is a little support," Tanya explained. "She's probably still grieving over, um, you-know-who, and the more we try to deny his "existence," the stronger she might hold on to this hallucination."
"Well, let's hope someone gets through to her before she completely loses it," Rocky replied.
"She just needs time to cope," Tanya assured him. "I've dealt with loss before, I'm pretty sure I know what I'm talking about."
Later that day, Kris had excused herself from class to go to the ladies' room. She was leaning over a sink in front of a mirror, touching up her lip gloss when she suddenly felt a presence behind her.
"Hi, Lauryn," she said, smiling as a girl she had become friends with upon arriving at Angel Grove High entered the room.
"Hey, Kris," Lauryn Chan replied, shutting herself into a stall. "What class do you have now?"
"Only music, and you?" Kris called back, putting the lid back onto her contained of gloss.
"Ech, political sciences," Lauryn answered.
"Gee, sounds like fun," Kris remarked, grinning.
"Oh, simply thrilling," Lauryn retorted, chuckling. "But it'll be worth it once I've passed my Bar Exam and become a criminal lawyer."
"At least you know what you want to do with your life," Kris told her. "I'm clueless!"
"You'll figure something out," Lauryn assured her. "Go into marketing; you could sell a deaf man a stereo system!" They laughed together, the sound reverberating off the walls.
"Or a buffet to a dead man," came a familiar male voice. Kris whirled, and saw Christian leaning against the closed door of the stall Lauryn was in.
"You're nuts," Kris informed him, leaning casually against the sink.
"I know," both Christian and Lauryn replied at the same time.
"So what are you doing here?" Kris asked him as Lauryn flushed.
"I came to see you," Christian told her. "I miss you."
"I miss you too, but you can't just pop in on me at school at any old time," Kris said to him gently. "Nobody else can see you, and people are going to think I'm talking to myself and going crazy."
"You say something, Kris?" Lauryn called once the room had quieted down.
"Uh, no, Lauryn," Kris called back. To Christian, she said, "You see?"
"See what?" Lauryn asked, exiting the stall. In the process of doing so, she walked directly through Christian, causing Kris to shiver. "Is something wrong?"
"No, not at all," Kris replied with a forced smile. "Just felt a draft, I think."
"Oh, this school is so old, I'm surprised it hasn't fallen apart yet," Lauryn kidded, turning off the water and drying her hands on some paper towel. "Anyway, it's back to class for me. See ya later, Kris!"
"Have fun," Kris tossed off lightly. Lauryn stuck her tongue out at Kris before leaving the ladies' room. "You couldn't have waited until she was gone to appear? If I wasn't such a quick thinker, I might have had a problem!"
"I'm sorry, but I had to see you," Christian told her. "My time in this realm isn't infinite, and I want to spend as much time with you as I can before we both have to wait a very long time to see one another again."
"How long?" Kris asked curiously, stepping towards him with a sly grin on her face.
"It's against the rules to tell," Christian said apologetically.
"You're no fun," Kris told him with an exaggerated pout.
"Hey, I'd rather have you find out on your own and have both of us go upstairs than end up down below," Christian retorted gently.
"There's a heaven and hell?" Kris asked, intrigued. Christian made a face.
"Not exactly. It's more like...," he trailed off, frustrated. "I can't explain it, you have to wait and see."
"Death is a lot more complicated than I thought," Kris muttered. She paused, then looked at him again. "So why did you come back? Do you have unfinished business to take care of or something?"
"Why don't we discuss something other than death?" Christian suggested suddenly.
"You have a better idea?" Kris asked him.
"Not really, but death is just so...depressing, to some people," Christian replied with a shrug.
"Depressing, but intriguing when you get to talk to the dead," Kris countered, giving him a small smile.
"The girl finds death intriguing...very interesting. I'm sure there are psychiatrists who would love to get their hands on you," Christian teased.
"You wouldn't mind that?" Kris asked him, batting her eyelashes.
"I meant that figuratively!" Christian protested.
"I kinda figured," Kris replied, chuckling. "Anyway, I should get back to class before they send out a search party. Come find me later, when I'm at home."
"I'll do that," Christian promised, just before disappearing. As soon as he was completely gone, Kris exited the ladies' room. The second she was out the door, Brenda McClure, Angel Grove High's gossip queen, opened the door to her stall. With an evil chuckle, she reached into her bag, uncapped a felt tip pen, and set to work.
After school, Kris wandered leisurely down the hall, accompanied by an entourage consisting of Rocky, Tanya and Kat as they headed for their lockers. Kris gradually became aware that many of the people she passed stopped talking when she went by, then started whispering madly when her back was turned.
"Kat, do I have something on my back?" Kris whispered to her. Kat dropped back, then caught up again and shook her head. "That's weird. I feel like everybody's staring and talking about me."
"You're probably imagining it," Kat advised her.
"Maybe you're right," Kris conceded.
As they turned the corner to where their lockers where, however, Kris gasped and stopped dead in her tracks. A group had gathered around the general area of her locker, and parted when they saw her coming. Most of them were snickering, or laughing outright, and others were looking at her sympathetically. Across Kris's locker, in black block letters, were the words, "Kris talks to ghosts" and "Ghost lover." Kris's hands clenched into tight fists as she held back all emotion. However, she couldn't say the same for her brother, who looked ready to kill someone.
"Oh my God," Kris heard Kat and Tanya whisper, almost in unison.
"Someone's gonna die," Kris muttered quietly so nobody else could hear her. Head held high, she proceeded to walk through the crowd that had thinned upon her arrival to her locker, where she proceeded to dial in the numbers of her combination. Rocky, Kat and Tanya were quick to follow her and surrounded her. They glared out at the crowd of people while Kris went through the motions of emptying out her bag and packing the things she'd need to take home. She had turned and was about to say something to her brother when she saw the crowd part again to allow Tommy, Jason, Billy and Adam through.
"Who did this?" Jason asked quietly once he and the others had reached Kris and her mock-entourage.
"Whoever it was is going to pay dearly once I get my hands on them," Rocky said, his voice low and murderous.
"Not if there's nothing left once I'm through with them," Kris told him, her tone matching his. Her voice, however, was on the verge of cracking. She cleared her throat and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "Well, are you guys ready to go? I know I sure as hell am." With that, she turned and faced the direction she needed to go in order to get to the student parking lot. Rocky and Jason walked ahead and off to her left and right sides, respectively. Tanya and Kat took up positions on either side of Kris while Adam and Tommy followed their girlfriends and Billy took up the read. The friends made an effective protective barrier around Kris, and the crowd of milling students who had come to watch Kris's reaction to the graffiti on her locker parted as a pair of large, well-built, scowling males walked with obvious determination reflected in their expressions.
"Kris? Are you all right?" Rocky asked her gently as they were walking outside in the parking lot. His sister had grown quiet, understandably.
"I can't believe someone would do that," she said, her voice almost a whisper. "Nobody knew about Christian, except our doctor, my counselor at school...and you guys." Kris stopped dead in her tracks and turned harsh, accusing eyes on those that surrounded her. "You guys are the only ones who know about Christian!"
"Kris, we didn't tell anybody about him," Rocky assured her, facing her.
"One of you must have! I know I didn't tell anyone," Kris retorted. "So, which one of you was it?" She glared at all of those that were standing around her in turn. "Come on, who did it?"
"None of us did! Kris, you're over-reacting," Rocky told her. "You know we wouldn't do anything like this to you, or anybody!"
"It was probably just a joke," Kat threw in. "Somebody heard about the relationship you and Christian had, and wrote that stuff on your locker."
"I doubt it," Kris said sourly. "Whoever wrote that knew that I could see Christian even after his physical death."
"Well, I'm sure that who it is will leave you alone from now on," Tanya told her, laying a friendly hand on Kris's arm. "The school will clean the writing off your locker, and by tomorrow, everybody will be talking about something else completely." Kris sighed.
"Maybe you're right. I'm sorry, guys, but I've been under a lot of stress and pressure lately." She cracked a weak smile.
"Don't worry about it; we understand," Tanya smiled back. "You should go home and get some rest."
"Are you kidding? I have a mountain of homework to do!" Kris sighed again. "Teachers obviously don't understand that we have lives, too!"
"They figure they don't have lives, so we shouldn't, either," Rocky joked. "Come on, I'll drive."
"My car? Are you nuts? No way, I'll take my chances behind the wheel," Kris retorted with a wide grin. The others chuckled while Rocky took on a mock-offended look.
"You don't trust me?" he asked, clutching the area over his heart.
"No comment, your honour!" Kris replied, fishing her keys out of her bag.
"We'll see you guys tomorrow," Rocky said as he and his sister started walking away from the others. They waved and called back to him, then the group went their separate ways.
That evening, true to her word, Kris was sitting on her bed with several textbooks and binders sitting scattered around her, joined by assorted school supplies. She yawned and checked her watch. No wonder my back hurts so much, Kris thought. She'd been sitting there for over two hours. I wonder if Rocky left any food in the fridge? I really don't want to go out looking like this. Kris's hair was tied back on top of her head in a loose ponytail, and stray wisps were floating around her face. Getting up off the bed carefully so as not to lose any of the pens or other assorted supplies that were sitting in the midst of her books and covers, she stood beside her bed and stretched her arms high over her head.
"Ooh, that feels good," the groaned to herself as she felt her back crack pleasantly. A little more comfortable now, she padded out past the living room and into the kitchen. Opening up the fridge door, Kris saw very little that was appetizing. "Rocky, when was the last time you went grocery shopping?"
"About two weeks ago," he answered, startling Kris, who hadn't heard his approach. "I haven't had time lately."
"There's nothing here, and I'm starving," Kris complained, shutting the refrigerator door and leaning against it.
"So go out and buy a few things. We could use it," Rocky told her.
"Looking like this?" Kris asked incredulously, gesturing at her current state. "No way. You go."
"Me? Why me?" Rocky demanded.
"Because you're the older brother who's supposed to take care of his poor little sister," Kris replied, shooting Rocky a puppy-dog look. He glared at her for a minute, then relaxed and sighed.
"OK, OK, I'm going," he told her. "But if I bring back a bunch of stuff you don't like, you can't complain."
"Just go," Kris told him. She turned him around and pushed him towards the door.
When he was gone, she leaned against the door and laughed to herself.
"Something funny?" asked an amused voice.
"Huh? Oh, nothing much," Kris replied. She pushed herself up off the door and wandered over the stand in front of the couch where Christian was sitting. "To what do I owe the honour of your presence?"
"Ooh, I see studying Shakespeare is beginning to rub off on you," Christian commented. Kris made a face at him. "I just decided to drop by and see how you were doing. I saw what happened today."
"Just a bunch of bullies at work," Kris replied with a shrug, looking out the window. Truthfully, what had happened was bothering her more than she cared to admit.
"Are you all right?" Christian asked, concerned. He got up and stood behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders.
"Yea, I'm fine," Kris assured him. "Just hungry, that's all."
"As long as you're sure," Christian replied uncertainly.
"I'm fine," Kris repeated. "So, haunted any good mansions lately?"
"Naw, they have me on assignment in Mexico in a vat of guacamole," Christian answered, shrugging his shoulders. "Not the most glamorous assignment, but we all have to start somewhere, right?"
"I guess so, but I'll find out when I get to...wherever the heck you go when you disappear," Kris replied lightly. An uncomfortable silence followed. "Christian?"
"What's...what's death like? Was it scary? Did it hurt?"
"Kris, I couldn't even begin to describe the entire event. It's too...I can't even put it into words."
"I'll tell you one thing, though. Don't be in a hurry to experience it. No matter how great life after death can be, nothing can really compare to actually being alive."
"Well, I'll just have to try my hardest to prolong this existence as long as possible, huh?"
"You'd better," he told her.
"Or what?" Kris retorted, turning to give him a wry look. "You'll haunt me?!"
"Hmm, touche," Christian replied, amused.
Just then, the phone rang.
"I'll be right back," Kris said, crossing the room to grab the phone off the hook in the kitchen. "Hello?"
"Hey, Kris, it's Jason," came a familiar male voice.
"Um, hi," Kris replied, somewhat surprised to hear from him. "What's up?"
"Not much. I was just wondering if..." Jason trailed off nervously. Just then, Christian snuck up behind Kris and tickled her in the soft spots. She jumped and let out a small squeak. "Kris? Are you all right?"
"What? Yea, Jason, I'm fine," she replied, using her one free hand to swat at Christian as he tried to attack her again. "Christian's just being annoying, that's all." Christian glared at her and tickled her again.
"Oh, he's there?" Jason said, his spirits sinking.
"Yea, but don't worry, he's not listening in," Kris assured him. "So, what were you going to say before I was so rudely interrupted?"
"Nothing, don't worry about it," Jason replied quickly, disappointment showing through in his voice. "I'll talk to you tomorrow at school."
"Um, all right. Have a good night," Kris bade him farewell before replacing the phone on the receiver. "Now, come here, you."
"I don't think so," Christian replied, floating to the ceiling.
"Oh, that's fair," Kris retorted, glaring up at him, hands-on-hips.
"Nobody ever said life was fair," he said sweetly.
"Apparently the afterlife is the same," Kris remarked. She walked back into her room and retrieved the bag of chocolate chip cookies she kept hidden in the drawer of the table that sat beside her bed. She picked two out, then replaced the bag and closed the drawer. Munching on a cookie, she wandered back out into the living room, where Christian was again reclining on the couch. "Don't you have a vat of salsa to haunt in Mexico or something?"
"It's guacamole, and are you trying to get rid of me?" Christian asked, pretending to be wounded.
"Of course not," Kris replied, her demeanor immediately softening. "I'm just not used to having the love of my life, who is now a ghost, hanging around my apartment when my brother, who doesn't believe the love of my life really is a ghost, could be back any minute."
"Well, as long as it's nothing complicated," Christian joked. Kris threw a chocolate chip at him. It went right through him and landed on the seat cushion. Christian picked it up and threw it back at her. It bounced off Kris's forehead and hit the ground, rolling under the couch.
"Hey!" She rubbed her forehead and scanned the ground for the chocolate projectile. "Nice shot."
"Thank you," Christian replied humbly, smiling at her.
Just then, a key scraped in the lock and clicked.
"Uh oh, time for me to go," Christian said.
"You don't have to," Kris protested, getting to her feet as Christian did.
"I don't think Rocky would appreciate having me around when he got back," Christian replied. "He may be really understanding and everything, but I think he might see my being here as an intrusion." At Kris's unhappy expression, Christian quickly crossed the room and enveloped her in a hug. "I'll be back soon, I promise." And, with that, he was gone.
"Hey, Kris! I brought food!" Rocky called as he opened the door.
"'Kay," she mumbled, going into her room and letting the door rest on the doorjamb. Rocky looked after her, confused.
The next morning, Rocky was dressed and ready to go to school before Kris even left her room. Concerned, he knocked on her door and pushed it open. He found her sitting on her bed, reading a book.
"Kris, school?" he reminded her, tapping his watch.
"I'm not going," she informed him, not looking up.
"Why not? Are you feeling OK?" Rocky asked.
"I feel fine now, but it'll be completely different once I get there," she replied.
"What do you mean?"
"I can't face them, Rocky," Kris answered, finally looking at him. "If I go there today, everybody's going to be talking about the stuff that was put on my locker and there's going to be so many rumors floating around... I just can't take that." Rocky crossed the room and sat beside his sister on her bed.
"Kris, it doesn't matter what everybody else thinks," he told her. "I mean, so what if they say things? You and I, and the others, all know the truth about what happened. Everybody else is just bored and unfeeling." Kris sighed.
"Look, I'll go for the morning and if it gets to be too much for me to handle, I'm coming home," she told him in defeat.
"No problem," Rocky replied. "Now hurry up. I don't want to be late." Kris raised an eyebrow.
"I must be rubbing off on you," she joked. "Now, get out! I've got to get dressed!" Rocky chuckled and left the room.
By lunchtime that same day, both Kris and Rocky were ready to hurt something...or someone. Rumors, as well as notes, had been flying all morning. Many of the Rangers had heard things and had quickly tried to stop the gossip from going any further, but to no avail.
"That's it!" Kris exclaimed at lunch, sitting at a picnic table in the sun. She put her arm on the table and rested her head on her arm. "I'm transferring schools. Who's with me?!"
"Just give it the weekend to die down, Kris," Rocky told her, laying a hand on her arm. She glared up at him. "Er, bad choice of words. But you know what I mean!"
"I know what you mean, I just don't think I can go back in there ever again!" Kris replied, moaning.
"Worry about that later. Just relax, for now," Tanya said, sitting down next to her.
"Relax? What's that mean?" Kris kidded. "Hey, Jason?"
"Yeah?" he answered, perhaps a little too eagerly.
"Can I borrow your jacket? I wanna lay in the sun, maybe burn to a crisp or evaporate or something," she requested.
"Oh, um, sure," he replied. He shed his denim layer and handed it across the table to the younger girl. She accepted it gratefully and got up from the table, spreading the jacket on the ground in a clean sunny patch. Then she laid down on her back and closed her eyes, slipping a pair of sunglasses over her nose. Her friends ate their lunches, keeping a close eye on the younger girl. The glares of five large teenage males and two smaller yet equally lethal teenage females managed to deter even the nastiest, most talkative scum that inhabited Angel Grove High, thereby ensuring Kris a relaxing lunch period in the sun.
"I think it's just about time to attack Angel Grove," King Mondo said thoughtfully, gazing down at the city scape.
"Kris is certainly vulnerable right now, as are the rest of the Rangers," Sprocket agreed. Mondo nodded, still looking down at Earth.
After a rather hectic day at school, Kris was incredibly eager to get home. She was on the verge of dragging Rocky by the lapels of his shirt away from the rest of their friends. However, she restrained herself and began rooting through her bag for a novel when she realized she had forgotten something in her locker. Saying she'd be right back, and that Rocky had better be ready by the time she returned, Kris jogged off in the direction of her locker.
When she got there, she saw that more writing had appeared on the surface of her locker. Morons, she thought, dialing the combination and yanking the lock open. Spotting the notebook she needed to do an essay for one of her classes, Kris pulling it out of her locker then shut the door and clicked her lock shut. It was at about that point that she realized she wasn't alone. Turning her head slightly to the right, she became aware of at least three people standing beside her. This is just what I don't need right now, Kris thought with a silent sigh. Without making eye contact with those that were standing behind her, Kris started to walk away. However, one of the teenagers jumped in front of her.
"What's your hurry?" he asked her. "We want you to stick around."
"I don't even know you," Kris replied, still not looking him in the eyes.
"Ooh, Danny, I think she might be scared of us," the only girl in the group said loudly, chuckling slightly.
"Of us?" the guy standing in front of Kris said, shocked. "But why?"
"I just don't understand it, either," the girl replied. She sneered at Kris. "Enlighten us."
"I'm not scared of you," Kris replied, expressing much less intimidation than she felt. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have other places to be."
"Like with your ghost of a boyfriend?" Danny asked. The other two snickered.
"It's none of your business," Kris informed him.
"Oh, but I think it is," Danny replied smoothly. "After all, if there are crazy kids going to this school, we should know about it so we can get rid of them."
"Your definition of crazy is someone who can use three-syllable words," Kris muttered.
"Are you getting smart with me?" Danny asked, his voice low.
"How would you know?" Kris retorted. Danny glared at her.
"You're going to pay for that one," he told her.
"Just as soon as you figure out what it means, I'm sure," Kris replied evenly. "Now, if you'll excuse me..." She tried to step around the large teen, but he stepped in front of her again and his two friends blocked her in against the lockers. This can't be good, Kris thought.
"All it means, kid, is that you're going to regret saying it," the other guy said in Kris's ear. She recoiled as she felt his hot breath on her neck. He chuckled as he saw her reaction.
"Look, just leave me alone," Kris said, trying to find an opening between the three students she could get through. Unfortunately, she didn't find one.
"And why should we do that?" Danny asked her. "After all, it's the responsibility of the students at Angel Grove High to take care of each other and protect one another from any threats."
"And you consider me a threat?" Kris asked incredulously. She would have laughed if the situation hadn't been so grave. Pardon the pun.
"Of course. After all, there's no telling what a psychopath like yourself might do to the rest of us," the girl told her. Kris rolled her eyes. They're calling me the psychopath, she thought wryly.
"Right, I'm completely unstable," she agreed. "There, I admitted it. Now will you leave me alone and let me go home?"
"Not until the threat has been neutralized," Danny replied, cracking his knuckles threateningly. I'm not liking where this is going, Kris thought, shrinking back against the lockers.
"Didn't they ever tell you that different is bad?" the girl said with an evil smile.
However, before any of the three of them could lay a finger on Kris, they were interrupted by an angry shout from down the hall that had come from Rocky. He was accompanied by Jason, and the two of them began jogging down the hall as they saw Kris surrounded by a small gang of teens much larger than her.
"Let's get outta here," the girl said, eyeing the approaching duo nervously. The three of them ran off, but not before Danny could hook a leg behind an unsuspecting Kris and yank her to the ground. They took off, laughing, while Kris hit the hard, cold ground with an audible thud. Her notebook and papers went flying across the ground.
"Kris, are you all right?" Rocky asked upon arriving at his younger sister's side. He helped her get to her feet while Jason collected her things.
"A little ticked off, a little sore, but other than that, fine," she told him. "Ya know, this is really starting to get annoying. Thank you," she said, smiling at Jason as he handed her the notebook she had dropped.
"Come on, we'll go home," Rocky told her, taking her arm and steering her in the direction they had come.
"Actually, I'd kind of like to go to the Youth Centre, if that's OK with you," she replied as they started walking. Jason fell into step beside the siblings, and Kris slipped her arm through his. "There, now let's see anybody try to mess with me when I have this kind of escort." She paused. "I feel so short!" Kris was a head shorter than Rocky, and at least that plus a couple of inches shorter than Jason.
Rocky, Jason and Kris rejoined their friends and walked over to the Youth Centre. Kris sat down at the table briefly before leaning over and whispering something to Jason, who had sat down next to her. He nodded in reply and the two of them continued their conversation, nodding occasionally. Kris got out her notebook and started scribbling things in the margin. She thanked Jason, then closed her notebook and put it back into her bag, tucking the pen she had been using behind one ear.
"What?" she asked, confused, as she saw Rocky looking at her weirdly. He just shook his head.
"Nothing," he replied.
Just then, Jason got up and went over to talk to Ernie, who was wiping the bar down with a damn cloth. He talked to the owner briefly before returning to the table. He quietly said something to Kris, who nodded and smiled.
"What are you two up to?" Tanya asked Kris quietly as the others began discussing some sport.
"Nothing," Kris replied.
"If you say so," Tanya answered with a shrug.
That evening, Kris put a few things into a duffel bag and left her room.
"I'll be back in a bit," she called to Rocky, who was in his own room.
"Where are you going?" Rocky asked, poking his head out.
"Just going out for a little while. Don't worry, I'm meeting someone somewhere," Kris assured him.
"You're not meeting Christian, are you?" Rocky asked with a worried look.
"No, someone from school," Kris replied truthfully.
"Well, all right, but don't be too late," Rocky told her.
"Yes, dad," Kris teased. Rocky rolled his eyes and went back into his room as Kris left the apartment, car keys in hand.
When she arrived at the Youth Centre, she saw the lights were still on and a red Jeep was parked out front. Kris locked her own little Honda and went inside. The gym/Juice Bar was brightly lit as Kris entered.
"Sorry I'm late," she called to the figure laying underneath the bar of the bench press.
"No problem," he called back, resting the bar on the protrusions on either side of the bench and sitting up.
"Just let me go change and I'll be right there," Kris promised. "Somehow, I don't think Rocky would have understood if I'd left the apartment in baggy shorts and an old T-shirt." They both chuckled.
"No problem," he replied. "Take your time; I'll be here."
When Kris returned, she was clad in a pair of Rocky's old gym shorts and an old grey T-shirt with the words, "Angel Grove Athletics" written across the front in forest green block lettering.
"OK, so I haven't exactly had the urge to go shopping for gym clothes," she said with a chuckle, tossing her bag and the rest of her belongings on the ground next to her friend's. "So, where do we start?"
"We'll work on your legs first, since that requires the most energy," he replied. The two of them moved over to a machine with a long padded bench and a small tower with weights behind it. Kris was instructed to sit down and slip her feet beneath the jutting padded bar. Her mentor/friend slipped the pin onto an easy 10-pound plate. "Lift." Kris tried to extend her legs and found the resistance to be rather great.
"This is going to be harder than I thought," she said with a rueful grin. "But I really appreciate you taking the time to help me with this, Jason."
"It's nothing," Jason replied nonchalantly.
"I just felt really intimidated when those guys were ganging up on me in the hallway earlier, and I've never felt that way," Kris confessed. "It was kinda scary, but I figure this is a good way to make myself feel better."
"It won't happen overnight, though," Jason reminded her. "It's going to take a couple of weeks before you notice a real difference."
"I don't care, I want to do this," Kris replied.
For the remainder of the evening, Kris was subjected to a bunch of exercises, from leg extensions or stomach crunches, bench pressing to triceps work. By the end of it all, she was completely exhausted.
"My muscles feel like limp spaghetti!" she complained, collapsing on a floor mat in the middle of the room.
"That's good," Jason commented, sitting on the edge of a bench. Kris opened an eye and looked at him.
"Good?" she replied, unable to even lift her head. "Are you nuts?! I'm going to be one big bruise tomorrow morning!"
"It just means your muscle fibers have ripped apart," Jason told her.
"Oh, that sounds healthy!"
"It's how you build muscle. The fibers rip apart then heal. Kind of like scar tissue," Jason explained.
"Thank you, Mr. Universe." She groaned and stretched, feeling a bunch of her muscles stretch even further. "Right now, I need a hot shower and about 12 hours sleep!"
"Do you want a drive home?" Jason asked.
"Oh, I'd love one! I don't think I'd make it home if I walked!" Kris exclaimed. "Just let me peel myself off of this mat, and I'll be right with you!"
Later that evening, when Kris arrived home at around 11:30, she found Rocky pacing the floors, looking somewhat haggard.
"Where have you been?" he demanded as soon as she stepped through the threshold.
"What? I told you, I went out," she replied vaguely, shutting the door behind her and tucking her keys into her bag.
"Where? With who?" Rocky asked.
"Rocky, I was perfectly safe, and with someone we both know," Kris assured him with a smile that did anything but reassure her brother.
"As long as you're safe," he grumbled. "You weren't with Christian, were you?"
"No, I haven't talked to him since before I went out," Kris replied truthfully. That helped to assuage some of Rocky's fears. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have a shower and go to bed." That said, Kris went into her room and dumped her belongings, pausing only long enough to retrieve a clean shirt and a pair of boxer shorts before entering the bathroom and closing the door behind her.
"There's my buff girl," came a voice.
"Right now, all I am is a sore girl," Kris replied, pausing in mid-shirt removal. "Now, was there something in particular you wanted, or are you just here to torment me?"
"I actually came to talk to you, but it can wait until after your shower," Christian replied. With that, he floated through the door and went into Kris's room. She started the water and had the fastest shower known to man, then dried off and nearly sprinted into her room. There, she found Christian pacing the floor nervously.
"Between you and Rocky, the entire apartment is going to collapse," she kidded, tossing her wet towel on the bed. "So, what's up?" Christian hesitated long enough before speaking to make Kris somewhat uneasy.
"I'm not going to be around much longer," he confessed finally.
"What?" Kris said, her brow furrowing in confusion.
"They want me to crossover to the other realm as soon as I can. They don't think I've tried to distance myself from my life at all," Christian explained.
"But who are they to tell you what to do? You're dead, what can they do to you?" Kris demanded. "I don't want you to leave!"
"And I don't want to go," Christian replied quickly, sitting down on the bed next to her. "But I don't have much of a choice. The only reason they've allowed me to stay around this long is because they feel I still have some unfinished business to take care of, but they won't tell me what that is."
"Unfinished business? But that's good, isn't it? I mean, if you manage to never take care of whatever is holding you back from crossing over, you won't ever have to leave!" Kris said excitedly.
"It doesn't work that way, Kris," Christian told her. "I have to finish soon, or else I risk not being allowed to ever cross over."
"Oh, I see," Kris replied quietly. "Do you have any idea what it is you're supposed to take care of?"
"No idea," Christian answered honestly. "But whatever it is, it had better be resolved soon."
"I'm sure things will be okay for you, but I wish you never had to leave me," Kris replied, eyes downcast.
Just then, there came a knock at her door.
"Kris? Are you all right?" Rocky's voice came through muffled.
"I'm fine, I'm just talking with Christian," Kris replied without much enthusiasm. At that, Rocky opened the door and entered Kris's room. "Hey, what are you doing?!"
"Kris, I've tried to hide it, but I'm really worried about you," Rocky confessed. "I thought that, if I just left you alone, you'd realize that Christian has never been here, but that hasn't worked. You're still talking to him as if he's really around!"
"But he is!" Kris replied.
"Kris, I know that's what you want to believe, but you and I both know that Christian is dead, and nothing can change that," Rocky told her.
"I know he's dead, but he's still here!" Kris insisted. Rocky sighed sadly.
"I didn't want to have to do this, Kris, but I'm taking you to see a doctor," he told her, almost regretfully.
"But I'm fine!" Kris persisted. "Really!"
"I'd like to believe that, but as long as you keep saying Christian is still here...well, I can't believe you," Rocky replied.
"That's it! Everybody, get out!" Kris yelled. Rocky and Christian were both taken aback at her outburst. "You heard me! Leave!" However, neither men made a move to depart. "Just go away! Leave me alone!" Tears began falling down Kris's face and she turned around to face a wall, frustrated by the sight of the two people who cared so deeply for her. "Get out!"
"I'm not leaving you like this, Kris," Christian told her.
"You're not helping me, here," she told him bluntly. "Leave me alone." She turned slightly. "You too, Rocky." Her brother stepped towards her, however, and tried to touch her arm, but Kris flung his hand away, screaming, "Get out!"
My God, she's completely lost it, Rocky thought in horror. The sight of his younger sister in hysterics made him realize how far out of control this whole situation had gone.
Now, Christian tried to touch the woman he loved, but she would have none of it. She back fisted him, but her arm sailed right through his upper torso. The sight of it sent her even further over the edge, and she began sobbing audibly now. Her entire body shook.
"Why are you both doing this to me?" she asked, her gaze encompassing both Christian and Rocky. She looked directly at Christian. "You came here and told me we'd always be together. Then you die and tell me you can't stick around because if you stay you'll never be able to, and I quote, cross over? That's garbage! You're just bored with me! Hell, you've probably found someone else wherever the hell you are, and you don't want me to know about her!"
"Kris, that's not true!" Christian said, appalled that she could even think such a thing. "You know I love you and only you!"
"And you!" Kris screamed at Rocky, not acknowledging Christian's words. "You never believed in me from the moment we met again! You probably think I've been making everything I've said about Christian up! You didn't even like the guy when I brought him here! Even after he saved my life!" Kris knew, somewhere in the recesses of her brain, that she was over reacting, but all the pent up emotion, combined with a lack of sleep, had taken its toll on her and she had snapped. "Both of you, just leave!" She paused when neither of them moved. "Better yet, I'll leave!" Kris tried to run past Rocky, but he grabbed her and held her tightly with one hand while hitting a button on his communicator with the other hand.
"Jason, Adam, I need you guys at my apartment now!" he shouted over his sister's hysterics. He closed the channel before they could respond and tried to soothe Kris. Almost instantly, the two young men he had summoned appeared at the door to Kris's room. They quickly assessed the situation and hurried to help Rocky hold on to Kris. She had broken away from him and bolted for the door, but ran into Jason's broad chest. He grabbed her and looked at Rocky, unsure of what to do.
Just then, Adam's communicator sounded, emitting a familiar six-tone phrase.
"Not now!" Rocky exclaimed angrily. "You guys go see what's wrong. I'm taking Kris to the hospital. I'll meet you as soon as I can." Jason and Adam exchanged worried glances, then nodded and teleported away, leaving Rocky to hang on to his younger sister. Without meeting much resistance, he hauled her over to her bed and pushed her down after kicking the door shut. She stayed down and sobbed uncontrollably.
Just then, Rocky's communicator beeped. Frustrated, he slapped at the buttons.
"What?" he demanded irritably.
"Rocky, you and your sister are direly needed on the battle field. The other Rangers need you," Zordon said.
"Zordon, I've got problems with my sister right now. Neither of us is in any shape to fight," Rocky informed the inter-dimensional being.
"I am sorry, Rocky, but the fate of Angel Grove is at stake. You must pull yourselves together and go fight with the others," Zordon said, expressing as much sympathy as he ever did. Rocky cursed quietly under his breath.
"I'll be there in a minute," he growled. Turning to face his sister, he approached her bed side quietly and knelt down near her head. "Kris?"
"Leave me alone," she sobbed, burying her face in the comforter beneath her body.
"Kris, the Rangers need us," Rocky told her softly.
"They need you, you mean."
"No. Zordon asked for you."
"What?" Kris raised her head and looked at her brother with blurry, red-rimmed eyes. "But I'm not a Ranger."
"You're supposed to have The Power within you. I guess Zordon thinks it's time you tried using it," Rocky replied with a shrug.
"Forget it, I can't leave," Kris said, collapsing once more. "I don't ever want to leave here again!"
"Kris-" Rocky began, but she cut him off.
"No! If I don't leave, Christian can't take care of his unfinished business and he'll never have to leave me," Kris replied stubbornly, fresh tears beginning to fall. Rocky was tired of hearing about someone he could no longer see, and frustration took over.
"Kristina, get up," he ordered her. She looked at him, shocked to hear the tone of his voice change so dramatically. "Get up and get moving. We're going to go help our friends fight to save Angel Grove." Kris was speechless. Rocky grabbed her arm and teleported the two of them out to join their friends in the Power Chamber.
"Zordon, what's going on?" Tommy asked as he and the others arrived seconds apart in the Power Chamber.
"King Mondo has sent down an army of cogs," Zordon explained. "Where is Rocky?"
"He had to take care of some things at home," Adam replied. "He'll be here as soon as he can."
"It's morphin time!"
"Zeo Ranger One, Pink!"
"Zeo Ranger Two, Yellow!"
"Zeo Ranger Four, Green!"
"Zeo Ranger Five, Red!"
"Gold Ranger Power!"
Scant moments later, the Rangers appeared in the park on the outskirts of Angel Grove where the cogs were running around. The Rangers sprinted into the fray, taking down cogs left and right as they went. There were too many cogs, though, and the Rangers soon found themselves surrounded, breathing heavily from the exertion of working so hard.
Suddenly, in a flash of blue and white light, two more figures appeared on the battlefield.
"Rocky!" Adam exclaimed, relieved to see his friend.
"Kris?" Jason whispered under his breath.
"Why did he bring her?" Tommy demanded.
"Wait and see," Tanya said simply.
"We may not have the time to wait," Tommy replied, eyeing the cogs apprehensively.
"Come on, Kris, you can do this!" Rocky insisted, facing his sister while keeping an eye on the monster and the cogs that surrounded their friends.
"How can you be so sure?" Kris demanded. "For all you know, I'm completely powerless and useless. I might end up getting killed out here!"
"Just try! What have you got to lose?" Rocky demanded, exasperated. "You don't have anything to lose, but your friends do. Don't you want to help them?"
"Of course I do!" Kris retorted. "I just don't see how I can!"
"Try to morph," Rocky told her. "Just follow my lead." Kris looked at him dubiously. "Geez, just do it!" Kris still looked at him strangely, but Rocky didn't have any more time to try to convince her as a small group of cogs were advancing on their position.
"Zeo Ranger Three, Blue!" Rocky shouted. Before the eyes of all those present, he went from being an ordinary teenager to becoming a Power Ranger, sworn to protect the citizens of Earth against all evil forces. "What are you waiting for, Kris? Do it!" However, Kris hung back, staying out of the way as Rocky engaged the cogs. The other Rangers took this opportunity to commence fighting as well. Kris ran away as a cog got thrown near her position and she hid behind a group of bushes. "Kris, where are you? We need you!"
"Rocky, what happened to Kris?" Jason called, his strong baritone voice carrying across the clearing.
"I don't know!" Rocky shouted back, worry plain in his voice. He took a split second to look around, and in that instant he was picked up from behind and thrown a good twenty feet by a pair of cogs who had teamed up against him.
"This is perfect!" Mondo crowed. "She's completely vulnerable and terrified! Send down some cogs to capture her!" His order was obeyed, and he sat back to watch the results, nearly ecstatic with what was happening.
A piercing shriek sailed across the clearing, causing all those that heard it to hesitate.
"Kris!" Rocky shouted, running towards the source of the sound with several cogs in tow. The other Rangers took care of the cogs they had been fighting and followed him, knocking the cogs following their friend away. They all stopped short, however, as they saw Kris in the metal clutches of several more cogs.
"Put her down," Rocky ordered, his voice deadly calm and low. The cogs didn't answer, just continued tormenting Kris by making faces at her and jerking her around now and then. She whimpered and looked desperately at the Rangers for help.
"Get away from me, please!" she begged, struggling to escape her captors.
"Kris, try to morph," Rocky called to her.
"How?" she demanded, momentarily forgetting her position.
"Just like I showed you earlier," Rocky replied. "I know you can do this, Kris." Kris looked at him dubiously, but realized she really didn't have much to lose. So, after saying a small prayer to whomever might be listening in, she straightened as much as she could and opened her mouth.
"Silver Ranger Power!" she yelled with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. Almost instantly, a blinding silver-white light surrounded the young girl. The cogs dropped back, powerless, and the Rangers watched in amazement. Seconds later, however, the transformation was over. Standing there in front of them all was Kris, only she was clad in a remarkably familiar Ranger uniform. It was a dark silver-grey with black trim. Across her shoulders she wore a shield similar to the one Jason had across his shoulders. Her helmet's visor was in the shape of a sideways hourglass, and the helmet was the same silver-grey as her uniform. "Well, that was quite a rush."
"NO!" Mondo shouted. His minions around him cringed and stepped away from their thoroughly-annoyed ruler. "How could she have done that? She was supposed to be too vulnerable!"
"She sure doesn't look vulnerable," Sprocket commented, watching what was going on far below them. Mondo whacked him upside the head.
"Shut up," he growled. "We just have to hope that she's too weak and unaccustomed to having this kind of power that she'll be completely useless."
Back down on Earth, Kris felt incredible. She felt more powerful, more alive, than she ever had before. The surge of power that had gone through her veins when she had powered up was the most amazing experience she had ever encountered.
"Does it always feel like this?" she asked rocky, the person standing closest to her. He nodded.
"Yup, but you get used to it after a while," he replied. "Now, what's say we kick some metallic ass?"
"Sounds good to me!" Kris answered. She and Rocky charged into battle, knocking down cogs left and right. Shortly thereafter, the cogs had been defeated.
"Looks like Mondo underestimated us again," Tommy noted once the metal carcasses had disappeared.
"I don't think he was expecting Kris to get into battle the way she did," Rocky replied proudly, throwing an arm around his sister's shoulders. She received praises from the rest of the Rangers as they acknowledged her presence in the fight.
"I don't know what came over me," she confessed, blushing beneath her helmet. "All of a sudden, I was overcome with enough power to light up the tri-city area!" The others chuckles.
"Come on, we should go back to the Power Chamber," Tommy said. "Zordon will probably want to talk to you." With that, the seven of them teleported in multicolored columns of light.
At the Power Chamber, Kris received more praises from both Zordon and Alpha. This time, her blush could be seen since her helmet was on the edge of a computer console behind her.
"You are awake, Kristina, that you cannot abuse this power, or it will be taken from you forever," Zordon told her sternly.
"I know, Zordon," Kris replied humbly. "And I know not to tell anyone who we all are, and that I can't use it for my own personal use." Zordon looked down at her, slightly speechless. Rocky chuckled.
"I think you beat him to the punch line," he kidded, nudging his sister. She looked up sheepishly.
"Sorry," she replied. Zordon smiled at her.
"This is incredible!" Alpha exclaimed, unable to remain quiet for any longer. "Another Ranger! Oh, we're going to need a bigger Power Chamber if this keeps up!" The Rangers laughed at the little android.
"I think we've just about collected everybody, Alpha," Tommy assured the little 'droid.
"Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm exhausted!" Kris said around a yawn she tried to stifle with a white-gloved hand. "I'm going back to my apartment and I'm sleeping 'til noon!"
"Only?" Rocky teased.
"Listen, Mr. Van Winkle-" Kris began, but she interrupted herself with another yawn. "Oh, to hell with it. I'll see you guys later!" With that, she powered down and, after waiting for Rocky to do the same, teleported back to her shared apartment.
"I'm starving!" Rocky exclaimed once they had arrived.
"I second that. Bring on the macaroni and cheese!" Kris agreed, heading immediately for the kitchen.
"I'm going to take a quick shower," Rocky told her, heading off in the opposite direction. Kris filled a pot with water and set it on the burner to boil. Then she hopped up on the counter and grabbed a book to pass the time.
Mere minutes later, after putting the noodles into the boiling water and turning the burner down to a simmer, Kris heard a noise out in the living room. Looking up from her position on the counter, she saw that the bathroom door was still closed and she could still hear the water running. Curiously, Kris stuck her bookmark into her novel and set it down on the counter. She hopped down quietly and wandered into the living room, wondering what she'd find.
In the living room, she saw Christian standing there, looking lost, worried and remorseful, all at the same time.
"What's wrong?" Kris demanded as soon as she saw the expression on his face.
"I have to go," he said simply, though his tone of voice belied the emotion that had escaped his words. Kris looked at him, confused.
"Go where?" she asked, not understanding.
"Go as in leave you," Christian replied. "My time here is up. I have to leave."
"No. You can't leave me, not again," Kris whispered, shaking her head in disbelief.
"I'm sorry, Kristina. I'm so, so sorry," Christian replied quietly, stepping towards her. He enfolded her in his arms.
"But I need you here!" Kris protested.
"You know I wouldn't leave you if I had a choice in the matter, but I don't," Christian told her. "We both knew that I wasn't going to be able to stick around forever when I first came back."
"But I figured you'd be around for at least a month or so!" Kris replied.
"So did I, but apparently, it hasn't taken that long for me to take care of my unfinished business," Christian answered. "I think I needed you to take a step forward in your life, and you did, by finally accepting the power that you possess."
"I'll give the power to anybody if it means you can stay here," Kris told him vehemently.
"I can't let you do that," Christian said. "You were meant to have this, and you can't give it up now. You're just learning about it. It'll be good for you, I promise."
"You sound like you want to leave," Kris said quietly, unable to meet his eyes until Christian put a hand under her chin and made her look at him.
"You know I don't want to leave, but I don't have a choice in the matter," he told her. "But no matter what happens, I will never, ever stop loving you. Do you understand that?" Kris could only nod, having lost her voice to the roiling emotions within her body. Christian lowered his lips to hers for one last kiss. Trembling all over, Kris closed her eyes and leaned against Christian's body, even as it began to dematerialize in her grasp.
Rocky, who had come out of the shower a minute before, was watching silently from the door frame. He witnessed everything, as Christian's body began to become translucent, and then transparent. Finally, his image faded away into nothingness, and as it did, Kris collapsed onto the carpeted floor. She was crying so hard she was shaking, and she just wanted to curl into a little ball and die, leaving all these negative emotions behind her. Rocky quickly crossed the room and knelt down beside her, gathering her into his arms. She grabbed onto his left arm and clung to it like she'd never let go, burying her face into the towel that hung around her brother's neck. Rocky gentled rocked her back and forth, her sobs the only sound in the quiet apartment. Rocky settled back and sat on the ground and Kris fell with him, curling herself against his body with a desire to feel protected and warm. Rocky couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't make things worse, so he remained quiet, allowing his sister to fill the void for both of them.
When Kris felt her brother approach, she wasn't sure if she wanted him to stay with her or leave, but as soon as she felt his touch, she grabbed onto him, feeling like she would never let go. She pressed herself against his chest, and cried harder than ever before. She had not lost the love of her love once, but twice! Why was she being dealt such an unfair hand? Barely able to form a coherent thought, Kris allowed herself to be overwhelmed by emotion. Silently, she thanked her brother for staying with her as she went through all of this.
Several minutes after Christian had left, for good this time, Kris had fallen asleep in Rocky's arms, emotionally and physically exhausted. He easily lifted her up and carried her into her bedroom. There, he laid her down on the bed gently and pulled the comforter up over her body. Then he left the room, shutting the door behind him tightly so his sister could get some much-deserved rest. He immediately went into the living room and sat down on the couch beside the phone. He wondered if he should tell the others about what had just happened. Should I tell them so that she doesn't have to answer any questions when she goes back to school, or should I let her tell them? Rocky wondered, staring at the phone. Mentally going through his reasons either way, Rocky picked up the phone and began dialing.
"Hey, Jason? It's Rocky."
"Hi, Rocky. What's wrong?"
"I need you to get in touch with the others. Tell them to teleport here. I need to talk to them. And tell them to be quiet. I don't want to wake Kris."
"Um, all right. We'll be right there."
With that, both Jason and Rocky hung up their respective phones. Not soon after, six teenagers arrived in Rocky and Kris's living room.
"Where's Kris?" Kat asked upon arriving, looking around and not finding the younger girl.
"She's asleep in her room," Rocky answered dully. "I called you all here because there's something you all need to know, but you can't let Kris know that I told you any of this. I'm not sure if she'd want to tell you, or if she'd want me to do it, so I'm letting her have it both ways." Rocky paused and looked at all his friends before continuing, eyes on the floor. "Christian's gone, and he's never coming back."
"He crossed over?" Tanya asked, her voice seeming loud in the silence that followed Rocky's statement.
"Whatever you want to call it, he did. I saw it myself," Rocky replied.
"Poor Kris," Kat murmured.
"Don't let on that you know anything," Rocky said, raising his eyes to look at all his friends in turn. "I just wanted to warn you all in case Kris starts behaving weird." They all nodded. "Thanks for coming, guys."
"We'll see you when you get back to school," Tommy said. He and most of the others teleported back to their own homes, but Jason and Adam remained behind.
"Do you guys think you could cover for us at school?" Rocky requested, standing up and facing his friends. "Tell them we had a death in the family, or something, and we're not sure when we're going to be back." Jason and Adam nodded in tandem. "Thanks, you guys. I really appreciate it."
"Do you want us to stick around or anything?" Adam offered. Rocky considered it for a moment, then shook his head.
"No thanks. I think Kris might just want to be alone when she wakes up. She'll probably ask me to leave, too," he replied. "But I'll talk to you guys later." The two young men nodded again, then looked at each other and teleported away, leaving Rocky alone with an emotionally-wrecked sister and his own thoughts. Great company, he thought wryly, settling back down onto the couch. He reached over and took the remote off the cushion beside him and flicked the T.V. set on. At that point, he wanted to lose himself in someone else's problems and forget about those that surrounded him.
When he couldn't find anything that even remotely seemed interesting, Rocky turned the set off and went to stand on the balcony. He tilted his head back and looked up at the night sky that was filled with twinkling white stars. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught movement and looked just in time to see a brilliant shooting star sail across the sky and disappear into the blackness of space once more. Without really realizing it, Rocky made a wish.
God, I know you're up there. Please watch over my sister. She's been through so much in her life, I don't know how much more she can take. Don't subject her to anything more. I just got her back into my life and I don't want to lose her. Please, just let us both be happy. Amen.
As he finished his thought, Rocky continued to gaze skyward. As he did so, another shooting star shot across the sky, almost as if Rocky was getting a sign to say that his prayer would be answered. He smiled a little and went back inside. His prayers had already been answered once before; his sister was back in his life. Let's hope that whoever was watching down on Rocky from above was willing to grant him this as well. Rocky raised the pop can he had retrieved from the fridge in a silent toast, and before taking the first sip, a single thought ran through his mind: Here's to hope.