Two figures watched the young man in green as he cried over the face of a pale Ashley Hammond in sleep. Dry tears on her cheeks contrasted the young man's face, swollen up from the tears he shed for the unresponsive girl. "He really does love her, doesn't he?" the figured in a red cloak whispered.
The other figure, dressed in a silver cloak chuckled, "Since he met her, he's always loved her."
The figure in red looked longingly at the girl in yellow, "Why didn't he say anything?"
"He didn't want to interfere with her happiness," the other in silver sighed, "He thought you were her happiness."
The one in red looked at his friend, "Was I so wrong to ask for her? I guess I can't go back though huh?"
"She doesn't belong to you, she belongs to another," the figure in silver sighed sadly, "But for you, time will tell." The silver figure took out a pouch, throwing out some of it's contents onto the girl in yellow. "It's time to begin the Imarta. Time for you to heal her soul, as well as yourself."
He lowered his head, "For her sake..I will do it."
The figure in silver murmured, "Kei ana teral...march..ints...orata.." (May heart and soul be awaken to the truth foretold.) The room flashed in a white light, dimming to an unearthly glow.
Ashley looked at the desert area surrounding her. Her eyes focused on a figure, with their back turned to her. The blond and brown hair glistening gold in the sun, made him look like an Angel. "An...Andros?" Ashley whispered, her voice full of tears and anguish. The man turned around, and smiled.
"Hey love," he grinning, his eye sparkling blue sapphire.
The Yellow Ranger ran into Andros' open arms, hugging him tight, "Oh God, I miss you so much!!"
Andros looked at Ashley sadly, "I miss you too Ashley. But...... You don't belong to me."
Ashley frowned, "But we are together now..."
Andros looked deeply into those brown eyes and felt his heart pounding. "No Ashley, we are not right now...." He waved his hand over a pool of water and Ashley looked down into it.
She saw a young man crying, over what looked like a sleeping body. To Ashley's shock and surprise, she found that the body was her's. The young man had long black hair, and wore the Ranger gray uniform suit, and a black shirt. The outfit looked like it had been slept in, and unkempt. As the Yellow Ranger looked closer she saw that his hair was in a disarray as well. He turned his head, and moaned, crying silently some more. "Carlos??" Ashley looked at Andros in confusion, then back at the pool of water.
"I...can't lose you Ashley....please...I love...you..you're my one true Angel, Ashley...don't leave please." She listened carefully, her eyes widening as she put a hand to her mouth. Carlos' cheeks were tear-streaked, his eyes were swollen, and his sobs were heart wrenching. Oh my God, I never knew.....
Andros looksed at Ashley, smoothing the back her hair. "You have someone waiting for you Ashley. He always was there for you...before me." Andros slowly backed away from Ashley, "Live on, be happy...trust me Ashley...he love you ...more then I ever could.." Ashley looked back at the water, then at Andros," Go to him Ash, he needs you."
Ashley nodded her head and felt her surroundings disappeared. Andros' image begin to fade and he placeed his hand to his mouth to blow a final kiss to Ashley. "Live Ashley live."
Ashley felt herself wakening up in her room, and saw Carlos asleep, his face still red from all the crying he had done. Why didn't I notice him before? Slowly, she reached out to caress Carlos' cheek unconsciously. But as she realized what she had done, she pulled her hand back as if it had been burned.
Carlos moaned in his sleep, "As...h..ley." He shifted a little and his hand went searching for her's. She froze and felt his hand takes hers as he fell into a deeper sleep.
The Yellow Ranger looked at Carlos with new eyes as she slowly brushed his hair off his face. "How long did you stay and watch me?" she whispered, feeling her heart slowly beat with a dull ache. "How long did you stay in the shadows watching while I stood in the light?"
Her eyes clouded over with memory or her and Carlos.
Ashley stood in front of the cheerleading squad, her body posed ready. The cheerleader recruiter gave the signal. She quickly did the steps, feeling herself move to the music. One, two, three, kick. One, two, three, twirl.... She continued to mentally count out the steps. Before she knew it, the routine was over.
She looked around for her best friend Carlos, quickly spotting him in the shadows of the hallway. He had been watching her do her routine, and he gave a supporting grin and thumbs up. She saw him mouth out, *You made it, I know it.*
She smiled happily at him when it was time to announce who had made the squad. Ashley stood still in anticipation as she waited to hear who had made it. The recruiter finally called out her name.... as the head cheerleader!! Ashley's eyes widened and she jumped up and down. She turned to look for Carlos, instead the Captain of the football team came up to congratulate her. She was so happy at the attention, and glanced over to where she had seen Carlos. He was smiling at her, but there was a shadow of sadness in his eyes.
Ashley felt a tear slip down her cheek. "I was so stupid not to notice your love for me." She brushed away the tears that kept falling from her eyes.. "How could I be so blind, not to see you there waiting for me." How could I be so stupid? You even helped me in cheerleading.....
Ashley turned around as she heard her name being called. She was getting ready for her date with Jet, the football Captain of Angel Grove's team.
"Hey Ash, you coming to the soccer game?" asked Carlos, dressed up in his soccer uniform, and holding a gym bag in his right hand.
Ashley smacked her head, "Oh Carlos! I totally forgot! You see, I've got a date with Jet tonight....." She was so preoccupied with the problem that she barely saw the pained look in Carlos' eyes.
Carlos gave her a faint smile, "That's okay Ash. Have fun with Jet okay?" Without another word, he headed out to the soccer field.
"Okay Carlos," she called back, "Win one for me...."
The Yellow Ranger shook head, looking at the exhausted Carlos. "Was I that naive not to notice you waiting for me? She looked at the pictures on the walls; there were more that had her and Carlos together than her and Andros. "You helped me so much, and were there so often for me. But I wasn't there for you. I don't know how you could have waited for so long. I never was there for you, but you stayed. Ashley slowly removed her hand from Carlos', taking out a yellow blanket to cover him. "I was so cruel to you, and so self organized, that I didn't see you right under my nose." Slowly, she got up from her bed and walked over to the wall that held pictures of the Astro team. She looked at Andros' picture, "I never knew you felt so strongly about me Carlos. You even tried to push Andros in front of me just to make me happy." You were right Andros, he did love me. Her thoughts went back to the dream she had about Andros.
She touched the picture that held Andros in it, then looked at the picture of Carlos. "I don't know why you would even be interested in a person like me......" She felt her hands tremble, the tears falling down her cheeks once again.
"Because I love you Ashley, plain and simple," came the quiet answer. The Yellow Ranger yelped, startled enough to lose her balance momentarily before Carlos caught her. "I'm sorry for startling you Ashley," he whispered, his eyes filled with remorse and pain.
Ashley looked up at the Black Ranger, her hands trembling as she placed them on Carlos' face. "How can you stand to be near me?" How can you even love me at all? came the bitter thoughts.
His chocolate brown eyes looked at with total love and devotion, "I love you. I only care for what makes you happy, that's all Ashley."
Ashley sobbed eve more, "I was so cruel to you!! I went after every guy I met, yet I never saw you at all." Why are you still here? She watched at Carlos looked at her more deeply.
He gently brushed her away her tears, "I wanted you to be happy. I didn't care if you didn't notice me. I know you don't love me Ashley, but I've always still held a glint of hope." He sighed, "It was the only thing that really kept me sane I guess..... The only thing that made me dream."
"I am so sorry...... so sorry." What am I? I must be a monster to act this way to him. She looked away from Carlos.
He held her, "I need you Ashley..... I don't want to lose you..... I need you..... we all need you." He raised her head, "Please don't leave us. Please, live." Please God, please don't let me lose her now. Carlos prayed to whoever was watching over them to help.
Ashley heard the faint echo of words in her head, *Live Ash....live for Carlos, the man who loves you.* Ashley looked at Carlos through tearful eye," I will live Carlos...for you....and only for you." She saw surprise in Carlos's eyes and the hope that flowed through those chocolate orbs.
" I will always be here Ashley...." he whispered, "I will always be here, because I love you."
Ashley looked at Carlos, her eyes swollen from crying," I...I...love you too..."
Carlos looked at Ashley in shock, "Are you sure Ash? Please, don't play games with my heart." He looked pleadingly at her; his soul was bared for her to see into.
"I am sure Carlos," she whispered, "I had this dream...." Her body trembled, and he drew her into his arms.
"Please tell me love." he whispered into her hair.
Ashley shivered, "I dreamt that Andros came. He told me that you loved me...that you were waiting for me." She looked at him, "He said that I couldn't die and leave you...because you needed me."
Carlos closed his eyes, "I love you Ashley Hammond...forever...even after we are gone. I will never leave you." He hugged her tight he felt his soul healing in the words he heard her say:
"I love you, Carlos...."
Carlos smiled, hugging Ashley closely. Gently, he picked her up, and laid her down on her bed, covering her with a blanket. He was prepared to leave when he felt Ashley's hand grabbed him.
"Please stay..." There was fear in her eyes.
Carlos looked at Ashley, and nodded his head. He laid down on the bed, and drew Ashley into a hug. "I'm here Ashley, for as long as you need me."
Ashley whispered, "I need you forever Carlos...."
Carlos felt a tear of happiness in his eye; he whispered hoarsely, "Then forever I shall stay, Ash."
They both fell asleep in a deep trance not noticing TJ and Cassie outside their doorway looking in. Cassie looked at TJ and smiled. She then motioned for the Blue Ranger to come into her room.
TJ walked into Cassie's room and they both sat down. The Pink Ranger slowly rubbed her tear soaked eyes. "Do you think she'll be alright?
TJ nodded his head, "I hope so Cassie." TJ then looked up, "I miss him."
"I miss him too TJ," replied Cassie. She slowly rubbed her arms as she looked at the handsome young man, "We survived a war, but one of us dies from faulty machinery. It just seems so....."
"Unfair," sighed TJ, "I know Cassie. Unfortunately, that's how life is."
Cassie looked away trying to blink away more tears, "I hope Karone is alright."
"She just found her family, was returned to normal.... and now loses her only brother," TJ rubbed his head, "She must be hurting."
"I don't want there to be hurting anymore!!" Cassie suddenly blurted out. Just as quickly, she looked ashamed.
TJ looked at his friend in concern, "Are you okay Cassie?" She began to nod, but suddenly shook her head, bursting into tears. TJ pulled the Pink Ranger into a hug, "What else is bothering you Cass?" He felt her tremble in his arms.
"I can't take it anymore." She slides out of TJ's arms and slide further to the other side of her bed up in a defensive posture with her arms over her chest. "If this ruins our friend relationship so be it I can't keep this inside anymore." Cassie said in a ranting voice.
TJ looked confused at the infuriated pink ranger, "What is it?" He felt hope leap up in his soul when he heard her words.
Cassie spun around and looked at TJ like a wounded animal, "I LOVE YOU!!" She then buried her head in her pillows.
TJ felt like a big jackhammer slammed into his head. She loves me....the beautiful infuriating pink ranger loves me!!! He looked at Cassie happily and taps, her on the shoulder. She turns her head warily and squeaked when TJ pulled her into a hard kiss. *Mmppph* She muttered out, her arms slid around TJ's neck automatically. They both parted for breath and she started wide-eyed at TJ. "I love you, Cassie."
TJ saw her blink in shock at his happy grin. She shook her head and looked at TJ like he just lost it, "Okay who are you and what have you done with my TJ."
TJ chuckles at her and pulls her into a hug, "I am TJ and I've always been in love with you." He sighed, "I just thought you were in love with the Phantom Ranger."
He felt her freeze in his arms and draw away from him, "I only did that to make sure I wouldn't get hurt TJ." She looked away and sighed.
"But why Cassie?" TJ looked at her in puzzlement.
She looked at him, "When I lived back home I use to like this guy, but...he.." Instant clarification hit TJ in the head.
"So you were afraid to open up because of him and because of your family." He watched her nod her head to what he was saying. "Oh Cass if only you knew that I was pulling every red light in front of me because I thought I couldn't have you." He sighed," I know that feeling of fear Cass, I've been there before. I know that you feel like you are all alone and you try to hide."
He saw her watching him curiously, "You had this thing happen too?"
TJ nodded his head," It is the way some of us live life, but we should never give up hope."
Cassie looked down, "I've was always the coward running away."
TJ looked at Cassie, "But you're not running anymore..you told me how you felt."
Cassie looked up shyly at TJ," I guess I'm not running anymore." She then hugged TJ and felt comforted in his arms.
TJ yawned tiredly and felt Cassie mutter a yawn herself, "Come on let's go to bed."
Cassie nodded her head keeping a tight grip on TJ," Umm....Cassie you have to let go of me so that I can go to my own room to sleep."
TJ felt her shake her head." Un un...stay..." He felt her yawn more and snuggle into him. He sighed happily and lay down with Cassie in his arms. "Sleep well my beloved Cassie."
He heard Cassie murmur out, "Nite nite..."
They both then fell asleep feeling the reassurance that they weren't