"Please" the tiny boy begged, as he watched his sister think it over.
For the past week he had been unable to go outside. The normally energetic child had been confined to his bed, and was just now getting over a very bad case of the flu. Their mother had given them strict instructions for the day, but Joshua knew if he asked enough his sister would give in.
"Please Ashy, I don't want to stay in bed no more" the five year old pleaded.
She felt the walls around her began to crumble as she took in her brothers pleas. How many times had she been in this position, and how many times did he always convince her to let him get away with something. Smiling slightly, the little girl with carmel colored hair made her way over to the tiny oak dresser and pulled out some warm clothes.
"Yeah" Josh bellowed, but quickly closed his mouth as Ashley frantically looked towards the door of his room.
"Quiet silly, or Miss Carol will come in here and catch us" whispered Ashley, as she helped her brother change from his pajama's into some play clothes.
Even though her and Josh constantly fought over ever little thing, Ashley still couldn't refuse her brother, who was only a year younger, anything. She loved him so much, even despite their mother's unyielding love for him and not for her.
"Arms up" she called out, but was met with a resistance. "I can dress myself Ashy, I don't need no girls help" the sandy blonde headed boy replied, as he crawled to the end of his bed.
"I don't think so Joshua, if I let you dress yourself you'd be wearing shorts and that darn batman cape of yours" the young child chastised, as she helped him back to the front of the bed.
"Do you want momma to find out I let you outside, when I promised her I wouldn't" she spoke softly, knowing what would happen if she did get caught.
Casting his eyes downward, Josh shook his head slowly as he remembered what had happened the last time his sister had gotten in trouble. "Here" she grinned slightly, handing him the rest of his clothes, as he took them instantly.
After tying his shoe lace, the tiny girl lifted her brother off the bed and carefully set him down on the floor. "Wait" she whispered, grabbing onto his arm softly as he jumped up and down, unable to control himself any longer.
"Mom will be home for lunch, so that mean's you only got a little while to play" she instructed, watching her brother closely to make sure he heard her clearly. Excitement glittered in his young eye's as he nodded his head.
"Ok" she smiled and watched as the boy before her sprinted out of his room and then out the front door. A few moments later, Ashley made her way towards the front door herself as she grabbed the multi-colored ball that was in the closet, then stepped out into the sun.
"Again Ashy, again" the little boy cried out, as he waited anxiously for the ball to be thrown to him.
"Last time Joshua and I mean it" she giggled, as she watched her brother make faces at her until she threw the ball.
For the past half and hour the two children played as hard as they could. Josh was trying to make up a weeks worth of playing in just that short time, and Ashley was more than willing to let him try. However, it was almost lunch time and she knew her mother would be getting home soon and this was the last thing she and Josh were supposed to be doing.
"Heads up" she called out, when a sudden gust of wind caught ahold of the ball, as it flew up and over Josh's head and out towards the street.
"I got it Ashy" Josh shouted, as he made his way after the ball.
"Joshua wait" the tiny girl so full of life hollered, as she took off across the grass in the direction of her brother.
She followed his movements as he made his way into the street and then bend down to put up the ball they had both received as a Christmas present last year. Suddenly a sickening shriek of tire's squealing on the pavement caused Ashley to break eye contact with her brother as she glanced a few yards away to see a car heading right for him.
"JOSHUA" screamed the little girl who was grief stricken, as she watched the horrible events play out in front of her.
"JOSHUA" Ashley screamed, as she bolted straight up from her bed.
Tears streamed down the yellow rangers face as she tried to once again calm herself from the nightmare that would haunt her for the rest of her life. Slowly, Ashley pulled away the sweat soaked sheets from her body as she glided her legs to the edge of the bed and then placed them on the floor. Carefully she pulled herself up off the bed, staggering slightly as she made her way towards the bathroom. With shaky hands, the young woman tried to splash some cold water on her face. Sparing a look in the mirror, Ashley sighed quietly as she turned away and grabbed a towel from the rack. Deciding once again that sleep was not an option, she tossed the towel away and walked back out of the bathroom and towards her closet. A fresh uniform later, Ashley slid quietly out of her room and prepared to start the day, like she had been since her past returned with a vengeance.
Normally it was odd for her to be up before the rest of her teammates, but the past week had been less than friendly to the yellow ranger. Ashley sat quietly at the far end of the table, casually picking at the eggs on her plate. The sound of the door opening told her that someone else was also up. She wasn't at all surprised to see Andros entering with a smile on his face that could light up the world. He was always an early riser, why should things change that much.
"Morning Ash" he called out over his shoulder, as he headed towards the synthetron.
Scowling slightly at his back Ashley managed a small "morning" in return, as he punched his selection into the Synthetron. Within seconds Andros retrieved his breakfast and made his way over to the table, setting down his plate as he took a seat across from his girlfriend.
"Why are you so happy this early in the morning?" Ashley muttered, "did you win the Lotto or something?"
"What's a Lotto?" Andros asked, while putting ketchup on his eggs. God he's been taking lessons from TJ, she thought as she rolled her eyes, not responding.
"Actually Karone and I were up talking until just a few hours ago. After all this time, I still can't believe I have her back finally!" The pure joy in his voice made Ashley want to hurt him.
Casting a glance up, his happy glow faded slightly as he found Ashley just staring at her plate. Having been around the yellow ranger for almost 2 years now, Andros could clearly see the annoyed and tired look that played across her face.
"What's wrong with you this morning Ashley? You don't seem to be yourself, and you're usually the last to get to breakfast" he smiled, trying to get her to open up.
"I'm sorry Andros," she lashed out suddenly, slamming her fork down on the table. "I forgot that you're the authority on being happy! Oops, I need to ask your permission before I dare decide to try an eat in peace!!" she yelled, unable to stop the rage inside her. Spinning around quickly Ashley stormed out of the room, leaving in her wake a totally speechless leader.
Silently Cassie entered the Simu-deck and smiled at the familiar settings she was met with. However her unexpected arrival startled a flock of birds from their leisurely stroll across the grass. Seconds later they were airborne, and still singing as they went. A soft hiss alerted the girl in pink that the door closed behind her, followed by its disappearance.
Inhaling deeply, Cassie glanced around the park when her eyes rested on a figure in yellow sitting on the ground as she leaned heavily against a large elm tree a few yards away. Carefully Cassie approached her best friend as the girl quietly watched her advance.
"Hey, mind if I join you?"
"Sure, it's a free Simu-deck" Ashley replied, attempting to be funny but failing miserably, as Cassie took a seat next to her. The pink ranger couldn't help but see how worn out her friend looked as she studied her profile.
"What's going on with you, Ashley? For the past week you've been so distant. It's almost like you're not part of the team."
"It's not like we're needed. I mean all the evils been supposedly destroyed. You heard from Phantom the other day, and he'll probably be back soon" she mumbled. "Andros finally found his long lost sister, both of them along with Zhane decided to stay. Everything's great, right?" Ashley protested, as she turned away from the pleading look on her friends face.
"Everything's NOT all right if you're acting like this" snapped Cassie suddenly. "Why won't you tell us what's wrong? Whatever it is, we can help!" she finished, as her tone became softer.
"Get off it Cassie!" Ashley shouted, catching her best friend off-guard.
"Not everything can be 'made all better' with the swish of a hand! I'm sorry I haven't been all chummy or the worlds best teammate lately. But unlike Andros, the one thing I want most I can never have back!", she choked out.
For a moment, Cassie just sat there unsure of what to say next, but before she even had a chance to respond Ashley beat her to the punch. "If you don't mind, could everyone just leave me alone for a while? I'm sick of you all asking if I'm okay and trying to cheer me up."
A hurt looked crossed the young Asians face as she slowly rose to her feet. "Fine, if you need me, you know where I am. Sometimes I wish we were back on earth too, you know?" Taking one last look around the simulated 'Angel Grove Park' Cassie sighed quietly before leaving.
After a few hours of being by herself Ashley finally wondered out of the simu-deck, and into the deserted halls of the Megaship. For some strange reason she found herself stopping in front of one of her teammates room. She hesitated for just a brief moment before knocking lightly on their door.
"Just a second" a slightly muffled voice called out from behind the closed door. Ashley waited quietly as she heard sounds of movement coming from the resident of the room. A moment later the door slid open.
"Ashley, what can I do for you?" A surprised Zhane muttered softly, while trying to rub the sleep from his eyes.
"I'm sorry to wake you up Zhane" she whispered quietly, "but I really need to talk to someone. Can I..." unable to finish her sentence as her eyes drop to the floor.
Compassion filled the young man as he caught the look the made it's way across her face before she adverted her eyes. "Sure, Come on in" he smiled, taking ahold of her arm gently, as he ushered her into the room, leaving his door opened so no one got the wrong idea.
At that same moment Andros was making his way down the corridor returning to his quarters after a quick snack from the Synthetron. He was only a few steps away from his room when a pair of familiar voices greeted his ears. Seeing that Zhane's door was open and the light from it shined out into the hall way, caused the red ranger to quietly eases a little closer, as he tried to make out what they are saying.
"I know you really loved him, but sometimes you do have to come to the realization that no matter how hard you look or try he's not going to come back" replied Zhane softly.
"I just keep thinking there must have been something I could have done to keep it from happening" she whimpered quietly, trying her best to keep her emotions in check.
"It's not your fault Ash" insisted the silver ranger, as he touched her hand briefly. "But I'm here if you need me to listen or anything."
The young man before her couldn't help but frown slightly. There was so much pain this poor girl was holding inside, and how much it must hurt her to see Andros so happy now. For the young man who has taken her heart, had gotten something back that she never could.
Stepping back towards his room, Andros began to feel the heat in his face rise. Why is Ashley in *his* room? What would she be able to talk to Zhane about that she can't talk to *me* about?" he wondered.
Suddenly Andros realized the voices were getting closer to the door. Quietly he slipped into his darkened room just as Ashley stepped into the hallway. He could hear the slight swish of Zhane's door closing behind her. From his position in his room Andros was unable to close his door, for Ashley would have known he was out there seconds ago.
Encased in the shadows, Andros was still able to see her as she stood in front of Zhane's room, with her back leaning against his door. The young man could almost feel her sadness, as he watched her take in a few deep breathe's before pushing herself away from the cold metal door, and turn in the direction of his sleeping quarters. Ashley slowly approached the open door.
"Andros?" she called quietly. Upon getting no response, she frowned briefly before turning away and heading for her own quarters. Watching his girlfriend walk away, Andros was finally able to let out the breath he didn't even realize he had been holding.
The following afternoon Ashley busied herself with tons of work. If she could keep her mind on something else, than she believed everything would be ok. However, almost everything she tried doing reminded her of him in some way.. At the present time, she was doing some maintenance work on her glider. Not paying attention, she accidentally burned her finger slightly from the mini torch.. Why can't I get him off my mind?, she frowned sticking her finger into her mouth. The echoing of light footsteps alerted Ashley to the presence of someone coming.
"Hi Ashley, are you busy?" a quiet voice called out. Not getting a response, Karone continued on.
"Zhane, Carlos and Andros took me down to a place called the 'Surf Spot' for lunch. We thought that you might like one of these Milkshake thingy's." Karone said softly, as she held the drink out in front of her, offering it to the silent girl. "I hope chocolate's all right, Andros said it was your favorite."
Finally looking up from the data pad in her hand that she had exchanged with the torch, Ashley tried to give the newest member of their team a smile. "Thanks Karone, but I'm not in the mood for a shake, why don't you drink it!" the yellow ranger replied, as she immediately returned to the project before her.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I just thought that.. since you haven't really been eating much lately..." Ashley's head snapped up, as a harsh glare cut the girls words off..
"If you're trying to be my mother, you're A LONG way off!" Ashley replied through clenched teeth, as she rose from her seat making her way around the work station.
"Ashley, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that..." Ashley's fuse was already short from her previous encounters, that she didn't wait for Karone to finish.
"Karone, get out of my fucking sight, the last thing I need is a reminder of what I lost because of my own stupidity! I don't need you and Andros flaunting it in my face every other second of the day!" she yelled, her body already starting to tremble. A streak of blue came tearing into the holding bay, alerting both girls of TJ appearance.
"What's going on in here? I could hear you loud and clear from the engine room!" the former leader declared, as he looked between the room's two original occupants. Karone's shocked expression at Ashleys outburst, didn't help TJ's patience, as she stood there, still holding the shake.
"Ashley, would you mind explaining this?" he insisted, before crossing his arms in front of his chest.
"Why do I have to explain everything to everyone?!" She lashed out, trying desperately to keep her pain private.
TJ took a step towards her, "Well, from where I'm standing, you seem to be the one with the chip on your shoulder! Now why were you yelling at Karone, Ashley? What's going on?"
Yanking her safety glasses off, Ashley threw them at the young man not two feet in front of her. "I wish everyone would just mind their own damn business! I don't have a problem and I don't want to talk about it!" Fueled by anger, Ashley didn't care as she shoved her way between Karone and TJ. Her unexpected departure caught Karone's arm knocking the shake out of her hand as it's contents spilled onto the floor.
"Do you really think this is a good idea?" voiced Zhane, as he watched the other members of his team, shake their heads in agreement.
"You've seen it Zhane, I mean we've all seen the way she's been acting" Carlos sighed.
"He's right" Andros insisted as he shifted from one foot to another. "Ashley's been very moody and spiteful lately, and a day off is exactly what she needs."
Zhane couldn't help but silently agree with them, but he also knew what horrible demons were plaguing his teammate and friend. He knew why she was acting the way she was, and it wasn't his place to inform the others, for her secrets were her own. He had been surprised when she had come to talk to him the other night. Out of all her teammates, she had come to him for help.
Returning back to the present, Zhane nodded in acceptance as he followed his fellow rangers off the bridge, as they split up in search for their friend.
In an attempt to get Ashley to relax a little, the gang had decided it was high time for a picnic in Angel Grove Park. After being there for only a short time, Ashley slowly rose from her seat on the blanket and slipped off quietly, undetected by her friends as she went for a walk. When they finally realized that the guest of honor had disappeared on them, Carlos assured everyone that Ashley probably just needed some time to herself, and that she would be alright as the six split up into teams for a game of volley ball.
A heaviness hung in her heart as Ashley made her way through the tiny cemetery that rested just on the otherside of Angel Grove Park. She had not planned on going there, but her feet had seemed to take her anyway. How long had it been since she had visited him. Years of heartache had kept her away. But now, for some strange reason she could not shake the feeling that this was right.
Slowly she made her way over to where her brother lay at rest. The moisture of un-shed tears lay in wait as she carefully knelt down in front of his tombstone. Reaching out a timid hand, Ashley traced the in-scrawled writing that reminded her of the life she could never get back. The life she felt she had failed. She had failed to protect him, like she promised, and she had failed to save him like her mother insisted every chance she got.
The tears she had managed to hold back, now flowed freely down her face as she thought about all the horrible things her mother had said to her and never took back. Things that a six year old should never have to hear, but Ashley had heard those words far more times than she could remember.
Tiny sobs wracked her body as she cried into her hands. Years of mental and physical abuse all came rushing back to her. Days and weeks of being locked in her room without any food, the only source of water being from her bathroom faucet. Hours upon hours of being yelled at and cursed at, every day for months on end. So much so, it eventually lead to her father leaving. Another tragedy her mother blamed on her.
School was a luxury Ashley rarely had, for her mother made her stay home. Not wanting people to give her any kind of attention or sorrow for the lose of her brother, for she drilled it into Ashley's head that it was all her fault. That Josh would still be alive if it wasn't for her carelessness. Eventually she was taken out of it completely. Love was something Ashley never received until she was finally able to go back to school.
For almost ten years, she had to live the life of a hermit. One who never received any love or attention from her mother, only hatred and anger. It was by the grace of god that her grandmother had come to visit, and forced Margarette into allowing Ashley back into school. Some much time had gone by for her, that Ashley had been afraid of being out in the real world again.
Is that what I am doing again she wondered. Shaking off the grizzly thoughts from her past, Ashley couldn't help but realize that she indeed was becoming like she had over ten years ago. Closed off from everyone, vulgar and mean. Things that her mother had been like towards her.
"No" she stated loudly, as she pulled herself up off the ground. "I will not become like her" she declared, wiping away the tears that had been held in for too long. Taking one last look, Ashley re-read the inscription for her brother, before she turned and made her way back towards the park.
"Oh please, you have got to be kidding me that was totally in bounds" Cassie argued, as she and Carlos tried to determine what was fair and what was not.
"Cassie get real, that ball landed way out of bounds" the black ranger insisted, as he looked to his teammates for reassurance.
"I'm gonna have to go with Carlos on this one, it clearly looked out of bounds to me, but that's not to say it wasn't a good hit" Zhane replied with a dashing grin, as he tried to lighten the mood.
"I'm sorry Cass, but I'm gonna have to side with my teammates, the ball did appear to go out of bounds" Karone said softly, from her position behind Zhane.
"That's just because our point would have won sis, and don't try and deny it" Andros accused playfully, as he watched the smile on Karone's face widen.
All eyes turned to the last player, as they waited for TJ to voice his opinion. The young man in blue couldn't help but smile at the way his teammates were acting, it was something they were long overdue for.
"Honestly I thought it was in, so were does that leave us" TJ chuckled, as the other team groaned loudly.
"Up the creek without a puddle" Zhane sighed, which caused several strange looks to be cast in his direction.
Glancing around, he couldn't understand what he had said wrong. "What?"
"I think you mean, up the creek without a paddle" Cassie replied, barely able to hold back a laugh.
Zhane grinned sheepishly as the others let their laughter role forward.
"Where's Ashley when we need her" Carlos wondered aloud, as they each took a turn in glancing around the park. A tale tell sign of yellow caught Zhanes eye, as he watched her slowly make her way back over to them.
Lost in her own thoughts, Ashley barely saw the speeding red disc that flew past her. Whipping her head up, she noticed two young children. To look at them it was clear they were brother and sister, and an all to familiar pang of loneliness shot through her as she watched them playing with a frisbee at the edge of the park, striking close to the edge of the road.
The others had stopped searching for her, when Zhane motioned in her direction. They all followed her gaze to the pair a few yards away. Smiles lit up everyone's face, except Zhane, who had a strange feeling stirring in the pit of his stomach. A moment later, the plastic disc sailed through the air, flying effortlessly over the tiny boy's head as it landed on the blacktop behind him.
"I'll get it Missy!" the boy hollered, as he sprinted forward to retrieve the toy.
Within a fraction of a second, the deafening sound of screeching brakes filled the air. Fear paralyzed the youngster, as the oncoming car tried desperately to stop. Strong arms gripped the boy tightly around the waist as he was pulled out of harms way, just in the nick of time. Suddenly a bloodcurdling shrill pierced the air as all eyes turned to it's owner - Ashley.
"Joshua! Watch out!!" she screamed, as her eyes took in the horrible events of twelve years ago.
She watched grief stricken as the tiny boys body, was thrown into the air and just as fast, it slammed down onto the concrete. Sobs wracked her whole body, as the past came rushing cruelly back to her.
"Oh God, please don't take him! NO!! I'll be good, I promise. Just don't take him away!" Ashley begged, as her legs started to buckle under the shock.
Thankfully Zhane had rushed to her side when she had cried out, and caught her swiftly. With great tenderness the silver ranger eased his distraught friend to the ground, as he carefully pulled her onto his lap.
"It's all right Ashley, Carlos got him out of the way he's fine" Zhane whispered softly, trying to sooth her fears. "Look, he's playing again!" Zhane replied, pointing to where the siblings had resumed their playing much farther into the park this time. It was clear to the others, that the young woman in yellow hadn't heard a word Zhane said, as she continued to ramble.
"Josh, please don't leave me! I didn't mean it yesterday when I said that I hated you and I hoped you would die... I didn't even like that doll! Joshua..." Her words dissolving into uncontrollable sobs.
It took her awhile to finally calm down, but when she did Ashley realized that she was wrapped in someone's arms, as they gently rocked her back and forth. Slowly she opened eyes, as they focused on the closest thing near her. Five pairs of shoes. She forced herself to look up, and found them all watching her with interest.
Oh god, what have I done? Ripping herself out of the warm embrace of Zhanes arms, Ashley scrambled quickly to her feet and took off running before anyone had a chance to stop her. It caused the others more confusion than before, as Andros attempted to chase after her, only to be stopped by a strong grip on his arm. Turning his eyes onto the individual, Andros wasn't surprised as to who it was.
"Let her go" Zhane replied, releasing the hold he had on his best friends arm. He knew better than to keep restraining him from the look in his eyes.
"Ashley could probably use some time to sort things out" he insisted, answering everyone's silent question as to why he was holding back the red ranger.
"What do you know about this?" Andros snapped suddenly, as his anger started to get the better of him.
"Just give her some space Andros" the blonde Kerovian replied, looking his best friend in the eyes sternly, before turning his attention to Karone.
"Would you care to walk by the lake with me?"
"I'd like that" Karone replied softly, looking to her brother for indication to stay but received none. Hand in hand, they walk off in the opposite direction leaving behind one very angry and very confused young man.
For hours, the four of them had waited in the park for her to return. Their concern grew when Karone had contacted Cassie to say that her and Zhane were back on the Megaship, and confirmed that Ashley had not returned there either. On Earth, it was now beginning to get dark out.
"Where could she be?" Cassie wondered aloud, the worry clearly evident in her voice. Shaking his head slightly, TJ was beginning to get really worried himself.
"We've searched this entire park and haven't even turned up a sign of her!" he stated softly, trying to keep his own emotions under control.
"Why don't you guys return to the Megaship, we still need to get the shields re-aligned. I'm gonna stay and look in a few other places" Andros declared, his heart was beginning to ache something fierce.
"Are you sure you don't want us to stay and help?" Carlos questioned cautiously, as he traded a look with both the other rangers.
"No, it's ok - I'm gonna have DECA scan for her" the red ranger informed, clearly not focusing on them as he turned away and flipped the latch on his morpher.
Andros didn't even notice the brilliant display of colors as the others teleported out. It was getting late, and there was a distinct chill in the air. The young warrior needed to find her soon.
"Ashley" Andros called again, nearly stumbling over an exposed tree root. Still he received no response, as he brought his communicator to his mouth.
"DECA, how far is Ashley from my position?"
"Ashley is 2 « Meters forward" answered the MegaShips onboard computer.
Squinting slightly into the remaining daylight, he caught a glimpse of something bright yellow. Taking a few steps toward it, Andros realized that it was one of Ashley's shoes.
"I've got her!" he announced to his wrist, immediately ending the transmission as he headed for her hiding spot.
Carefully Andros rounded the tree to find Ashley curled up asleep on the ground. Her red puffy eyes and tear stained cheeks were a dead give-a-way to the young man in red, that she's been crying. Crouching down directly in front of her, Andros silently observed her sleeping form for just a moment.
"Ashley.... Ash?"he called out softly, as he gently reached out to shake her awake.
Through a haze induced sleep, Ashley managed to open her eyes, fluttering slightly as she focused directly on the man in front of her. She allowed him to help her into a sitting position as she rubbed her eyes, trying to get the sleep out of them.
"What are you doing here?" She asked, a little taken back by his sudden presence.
"I was about to ask you the same thing" he confessed, pausing slightly before continuing on.
"You had us concerned, we've all been looking for you for hours" he finished, keeping his tone soft.
"I'm sorry" she mumbled, unable to make eye contact with him. "I didn't mean to make you guys worry about me. How did you find me anyway?" was the only reply she could think of.
"I had DECA scan for you. Ashley, who's Josh?"
Ashley heard the concern in his voice, but it still caused her to flinch at hearing her brothers name. Not wanting to get into to it, she casually acted as though she didn't even hear the last question and decided to try and distract him.
"What happened with the boy earlier?" she asked, just above a whisper. Moments ago the rain began to filter it's way through the treetops, settling on the two young people, who didn't even realize it at first.
"He just fine, he went back to playing with his sister a few minutes after Carlos came back to the group" he informed her, but was not gonna let his other question go unanswered.
"Ash, please, I need to know who Josh is."
She had to close her eyes that time as she heard his named mentioned one more time. The pain it was causing, forced the young woman to shutter involuntarily. As she opened her eyes, it finally dawned on her, that it was no longer light out, and a chill was starting to overtake her. She barely even registered that it was raining.
"It's getting late, maybe we should get back to the others so they don't think you got lost too" she suggested, hoping that he wouldn't press her anymore with that horrible question.
"I sent them back to the Megaship and I informed DECA that I had found you, so I'm sure she has filled the others in" Andros replied, frowning slightly as he watched the girl before him go completely pale.
"What is it Ashley, why have you been acting so... cold and nasty this last week?"
"I really don't wanna talk about it now" she hissed, quickly raising to her feet as she brushed a few stray leaves and twigs from her side.
"Oh, that explains a lot, thanks Ash!" Andros snapped, unable to keep the sarcastic tone from his voice as he followed her up.
She felt like a knife had just been shoved into her, as she listened to the anger in his voice. "Can we just talk about this later please? I'm kinda hungry and I've got a ton of stuff I need to do" she pleaded softly, turning away from her soulmate, as she felt the all to familiar pressure behind her eyes waiting to be unleashed again.
Slowly Andros took ahold of her hand as he gently turned her around to face him. Silently he willed her to look at him and was rewarded as her hazel eye's sought out his own. "No Ashley, I don't think this can wait any longer" he insisted softly.
"I'm not sure what you were telling Zhane about the other night, but I know that whatever it is, it's eating you up inside. Why won't you tell me?"
"You won't understand Andros! You haven't gone through what I have!" Ashley almost screamed, as the un-shed tears began to win another battle.
"Would you at least try me?" he pleaded.
Ashley tried hard to momentarily pull herself together "You wanna know who Josh is? He was my brother" she barely finished the sentence before breaking down again. Andros pulled her swiftly into his arms to comfort her.
"Lets get you back to the MegaShip, we need some dry clothes and food are in order. We can talk about this after you eat" he soothed softly, but suddenly felt her stiffen in his embrace.
Ashley pulled away from him quickly taking a step back, "I can't go back there, I can't face everyone after the way I treated them. I've been horrible to them and to you... I can't believe your even talking to me still. I don't deserve it!" she sobbed, as her body shook with violent trembles.
"Then we could teleport directly to your room, that way you don't have to see anyone right away. It won't do any good for you to get ill from standing in the rain" Andros declared softly.
"Could we go to your quarters instead? I'm not sure I even want to be in my room yet - I just don't want to be alone", she muttered softly, trying her best to stop herself from sobbing. Hugging her again, Andros agreed readily.
"My quarters it is - as long as we talk more about this later, deal?" after a slight hesitation, she shakes her head 'yes'. Andros entered in the teleportation sequence, and seconds later, they both disappear in a haze of red and yellow.
After Shooing Ashley into the bathroom to dry her hair, Andros headed out towards the room that housed the jump-tubes, along with the Synthetron. After a few moments, he carefully took ahold of a couple of sandwiches and two drinks. Re-entering his quarters, he carefully set down their make-shift dinners on his desk.
"Ashley, I brought back a sandwich and juice for you when your done. I'm going to get your clothes, be back in a few" he explained through the bathroom door, getting nothing more than a mumble for a response.
Upon entering the yellow rangers room, Andros quickly looked around before directly moving over to Ashley's closet. He was mildly surprised when he opened it up, to find the amount of clothing she had brought with her. Her closet was completely filled up with clothing, so much so, that it was literally crammed in there.
As Andros scanned the other contents of the cramped storage area, a small speck of bright blue
on the back wall caught his eye through the hangers. Moving the items out of his way, Andros
found a small worn out picture taped to the smooth surface of the wall. Instantly he noticed the
Tearing his eyes away from the photo, Andros closed the door, and slowly approached her dresser. Reaching for the top drawer, he suddenly stopped as a slight blush tinged his checks, for he wasn't sure what he was going to find in her draws, especially of the 'personal nature'.
"DECA, do you know where Ashley keeps her socks?" he asked, hoping desperately that she would know.
Almost immediately, the computer responded in her normal steady tone. "Per last laundry day, Ashley's socks are still kept in the third drawer."
Letting out a brief sigh, Andros retrieved a pair of thick white socks while grabbing her brush from the top of the dresser. Andros found himself taking one final look around the room before heading back. Compared to the few times he had stood in Cassie's room, Ashley's room somehow seemed more homey, but less personal at the same time.
Recalling the huge collage of photo's and Newspaper clippings that graced the Pink rangers wall. Ashley on the other hand, had more books, magazines, CD's and other little nicknacks she had picked up over the past two years aboard the Megaship, than everyone else put together. But the lack of family photos, or stacks of printed E-mails from loved ones bothered him deep down. Sure, she had a picture of the team taken during a party at the 'Surf Spot' stuck in her mirror frame, but that was the only sign of happiness to grace the room.
"Where's Ashley?" A quiet female voice asks from behind him.
Shaken from his thoughts, Andros turned to see his sister standing in the doorway.
"She's in my room, I just came to in to get her some dry clothes", he answered quietly.
"Looks like you must have gotten rained on" she grinned slightly, referring to her brothers wet appearance. However, the grin only lasted a second or so, before she continued on.
"How is she? Is there anything I can do to help" the former pawn of evil asked, as she watched her brother closely.
Approaching the door, Andros switched off the lights and stepped out into the hallway, before answering her.
"Ashley is safe now and I need to get these to her." Turning his back to his sister he walked away without another word. Karone watched as her brother entered his room with the door closing silently behind him.
Andros stepped into his quarters quietly, and to his surprise he found Ashley fast asleep on his bed. She was wearing his red sweat pants and his T-shirt that had been sitting on his chair from the day before. Not having the heart to wake her, the one time leader of the power rangers changed into dry clothes himself, and carefully laid beside her pulling the blanket over both of them. Within seconds, Andros felt her snuggle up against him in her sleep.
The little girl tip-toed down the long hallway, stopping at the last door. She peered through the keyhole. At the first sight of the rooms dark blue walls with space border, a faint cheerful laugh filtered through her memory. The young caramel-haired girl grasped the polished brass doorknob, turning it slowly until she heard the latch click. As she pushed the door open, dusty still air filled her nostrils, causing her to slightly sneeze. The afternoon sun filtered through the curtains, casting a soft warm glow across the floor.
Stepping onto the pillowy black carpet, Ashley's eyes came to rest upon a brightly colored ball sitting on the end of the bed. Reaching out, she picked it up cautiously, as though at any moment it would disintegrate in her fingers. A warm glow flowed through the girl as memories of playing in the front yard or the park danced in her mind.
Glancing around the room, her eyes fell upon a framed picture on the night stand. Having returned the ball to it's place, she walked around to the other side of the bed. Extending her hand, the girls frail fingers lightly brushed over the image. The happy thoughts of life before the accident deserted her, as months of unshed tears threatened to surface.
"I'm sorry Joshua" she whimpered softly to herself.
"What in the hell do you think you're doing?" A voice demanded from the doorway. The girl shook violently at the realization of having been caught. Unable to stop herself, Ashley began to cry as the fearful images of what was to come filled her 6 year old mind.
"Answer me this minute you little shit! What made you even think that you could come in here?" The woman screeched as she advanced towards the youngster.
"I'm sorry Mama, I just wanted to..." Fear closed off the girl's throat, making it impossible for her to finish the sentence. Instead, she took a step back from the approaching figure of her mother, accidentally knocking into the night stand causing the tiny framed picture to fall forward onto it's surface.
Quick as lightening the woman lunged for the girl, grasping her upper arms tightly as she lifts her completely off the floor. "You knocked the picture over on purpose, didn't you?"
"It was an accident" pleaded Ashley, through frightened sobs.
"What were you doing in here? You were going to steal something, weren't you?!"
"No, I wasn't!" Ashley insisted, though it did no good.
"You're lying to me again, aren't you!" her mother screamed, as she shook her daughter harder.
"I'm not lying Mama!" The little girl let out a shriek as she was carried roughly out of her brother's room, down the hall and into her own brightly painted peach and yellow bedroom.
"When are you going to learn that *my* son's room and belongings are not for you to put your dirty little hands on?" Margarette yelled loudly into Ashley's wet face.
"All you ever do is mess things up! You killed Joshua and you made your father leave us!"
Standing a few feet from the tiny bed, she heaved the young girl down, her head barely missing the headboard. Immediately Ashley realized sitting back up was a mistake, but it was too late as her mother's hand made solid contact with her temple. The impact sent the small child tumbling over the foot of her bed, her face colliding with the corner of the metal toy chest which rested at the base of it. Laying on top of the metal box as though she was a broken and now bleeding china doll, the room faded slightly as Ashley once again felt her wrists being seized and herself hauled to her feet.
"You are such a burden. You can't do anything right!" hissed her mother as she took a step backwards. When suddenly a tiny cracking sound reached her ears. Lifting her foot, Margarette caught sight of the now broken white crayon.
"I thought I told you to clean this mess up yesterday? Look, now you're getting blood all over my expensive carpet! You can't even handle a simple task I as of you, like cleaning up your room!" The steely-eyed woman huffed.
"But I did put everything away yesterday. I did just like you asked" Ashley mumbled, her words hardly audible through her sobs.
"Don't backtalk me you little brat. Why did I just step on a crayon then? Obviously, you didn't do it good enough, did you?" she complained, shoving the little girl to her knees.
"You can just forget about meals from now on! And I don't want to even hear so much as a peep from this room until I decide to let you out, is that clear?" she demanded.
Not waiting for a response the towering adult intentionally brought her foot down on top of her daughters small hand. There was the unmistakable sound of cracking bones as she stepped over the girl on her way out of the room, leaving behind in her wake, a tiny sobbing figure curled up on the floor. The last thing to reach Ashley's tiny ears was the unmistakable sound of her deadbolt lock clicking into place from the outside.
A sudden jab to the ribs forced Andros to come awake immediately as he caught sight of Ashley thrashing about, followed by her heart wrenching cries.
"No, I didn't mean to... Why don't you love me?... I promise I'll be a good girl... just please let me out of my room!" sobbed the young woman, who appeared to be fighting against an invisible enemy.
"Ashley, wake up" Andros called out quietly as he began to shake her gently, but then had to dodge out of the way of getting hit.
"It's Andros, please Ashley wake up" he called out a little louder.
He watched with fear as a moment later, she rolled away from him, curling up into a fetal position and continued to sob.
"DECA, raise lights 1/4 power" he ordered, immediately turning his attention back to the sweaty and shaking girl next to him. "Ash?"
She was clutching onto the blanket as though it was her only protection. Sweeping her up into his arms, Andros gently rocked the girl who had stole his heart, as he listened to her continue to weep.
"It's all my fault... My fault.... I should've been able to save him."
Shifting slighty to get a better hold on her, Andros suddenly found himself in a death grip, as Ashley released the hold she had on her blanket and turned it onto him.
"Please don't leave me" she begged.
Feeling as though his heart was about to burst, Andros hugged her tighter. "I won't Ashley, I won't leave you...not ever" came the whispered promise, as the former leader of the power rangers held onto the only person who had ever truly made him feel alive.