It wasn't that big of shock... She knew it was going to happen... Sometime. But she never suspected it would be after only knowing him a year. She was heartbroken... It just wasn't fair!
"Ashes to ashes... Dust to dust..." she whispered. The expression was overused a lot, but it had truth in it, she supposed, but she didn't see it. Probably never would. _It's just not fair!_ the dark haired woman sighed, her eyes over cast at the sun's bright glare. She, along with her friends, stood in the cemetery in Angel Grove, standing in front of the grave. Her eyes watered, blurring the words it glared out in it's script on the hard cold stone. But she knew what it said.
A sudden sob broke out from behind them. She turned and watched as a blonde rushed over, dropping to her knees in front of the grave.
"It's all my fault. I'm so so sorry..." she sat in front of it, her head resting on her knees. Sniffling loudly, she heard the blonde mutter, "You should have taken ME!"
The brown haired woman looked at the grave, her eyes glowing with fresh tears. "Why was he buried here and not... his place?"
The minister, decked out in his black clothing, which seemed drearier that day, shrugged. "This was where his will requested. Where else would he have been buried?"
"Will?" she muttered. "He had a... Oh, never mind."
"Ashley?" the blonde whispered, looking behind her. "I.. Hav.. Have something for you."
Ashley Hammond wiped a Kleenex over eyes and looked over at her... And smiled indifferently, not sure what to say. Karone, his sister, was a traitor. She had killed him. It hadn't been intentional. And she knew that in her heart, but in her head, she couldn't believe it without getting angry. "Yeah, sure you do. My death sentence?"
Karone's voice gasped, making a sound as if she had slapped her. "Please... I am sorry.. I didn't mean to kill him.. I loved him."
"If you had loved him, why in hell did you KILL him?!" Ashley's voice croaked, as fresh tears sprang from her eyes. Turning on her heel, she left the cemetery, her voice breaking as she ran.
Cassie Chan watched her friend run off, and couldn't decide to follow her friend, or go over to Karone's quiet sobbing form. _Both need me.. I can't deal with this... Not now._ Cassie thought, tears for Andros springing to her eyes.
"Are you ok?" a soft voice from her right asked.
Cassie smiled weakly at her friend, TJ Johnson, and nodded. "I'll be fine. I just need a moment or two." she looked down at the ground then up at TJ. "Answer me something..."
"OK. What is it?"
"Do.. Oh never mind. I can't talk about it now." Cassie wiped a tear from her face and walked over to Karone. "Are you ok?"
Carlos Miranda watched as Cassie walked over to Karone. "Cassie?"
Cassie looked over at her friend, and noted his expression. "What's wrong?"
Carlos motioned her over to him. She gave him a blank look. "Cass, can we talk?"
"Sure Carlos... What is it?" she put an arm on Karone's shoulders and tried to soothe her friend's tears.
"In... Private I mean." Cassie nodded, excusing herself from Karone.
"Alright. I'm here. What is it?"
"Why did you desert Ashley... For THAT?" he demanded, his thumb jerking in Karone's general direction.
"Desert? I didn't desert her..."
"But you went to Karone's side instead of your best friend's side!"
"Carlos, look. Ash has all of us... Me, you, TJ and Zhane. Karone has who? Her brother is dead and her boyfriend wont talk to her. She needs a friend!"
"And you have to be that somebody? Don't you think Ashley is hurting too!?"
"I KNOW she is hurting. I can't just ignore Karone. Karone is my friend!"
Zhane watched them, his eyes dark and bitter. Karone had killed Andros. His BEST friend. He couldn't trust her... Like Ashley, he knew she hadn't meant to kill him, but every time he tried to say something, he got mad. VERY mad. Because of his lover, his girlfriend, he would never see him again. _This must have been how Andros felt when I almost died._ he thought with a twisted smile. _At least I know Andros' claim of "It was depressing not being able to talk to you!" was true.._
"Why?" he asked out loud.
"Why what?" Karone's voice asked in a whisper. "Why did I kill him?"
Zhane nodded. "That question DID cross my mind." he glared at her, his hands shaking.
"He... Asked me to kill him."
"Liar." Zhane said, his eyes darkening even more. "Andros did NOT want to die! You killed him!"
She glared. "You didn't know the half of it. He DID want to die."
Zhane looked at Karone once more before turning on his heel. Karone heard the word, "Traitor!" muttered and she broke into fresh sobs. Nobody was going to understand. They wouldn't listen. It wasn't fair to her OR them, but what could she do?
***In another life, in another place
"Stupid music," Ashley muttered. She glared at her radio and wiped her arm across her teary eyed face. She quickly flipped the radio station.See girl, I've been watching you
Ashley cocked her head to the side, instantly recognizing the group. She shuddered, realizing it was the Back Street Boys. She quickly reached over and changed stations. "That group is evil," she muttered.Don't leave me
Ashley glared at the radio, as another BSB song came over it. "What is this? A conspiracy?!" She changed stations once again, praying that the apparent BSB craze was not everywhere.It's tearing up my heart when I'm with you
Ashley sighed as she listened to N Sync's popular "Tearin' Up My Heart." It was a good song, but it reminded her of Andros. All of those songs did. Fresh tears sprung to her eyes. _I miss him so much._ She stood up and listened to the music as she walked across her room.Baby don't misunderstand
_Running out of time._ she repeated in her head. She smiled bitterly. _What time? He's dead._ She stood in front of the mirror and gazed at her reflection. "Why am I getting so worked up about his death? I mean, it's not like we knew each other for that long of a time."
_Because you loved him?_
"I did love him. He was my love... He was so special." fresh tears came to her eyes, and she sighed. "I loved him so much."Can you feel the love tonight?
"Disney songs," Ashley made a face as she wiped tears from her cheeks. She smiled faintly, remembering Andros' reaction to the cartoon movies.
"A movie with talking animals?" he had asked. He had grinned slightly. "KO-35 doesn't have anything like this."
"No cartoons?" she had asked in surprise.
"Nope. We're a lot more serious then you all on earth are."
"Oh.. Well what do you think?"
"Cute. Most... Entertaining."
Ashley walked back over to her bed and fell against it, crying into her arms once again.
***I'll be your dream, I'll be your wish,
Carlos walked into his house and heard the radio playing. His younger sister, Maria, was listening to her "ultimate favorite" group again...
"Turn that off," he told her coming to the kitchen table where she sat with a open tablet and pencil. "What are you doing, anyway?"
"Writing a lov--- Writing an essay." Carlos smiled at her blush when she stopped herself from saying love.
"Sounds fun." he walked over to the boom box and turned it off. "Please no... Music right now. This isn't the time for that,"
"Why don't you like Ashley anymore?" Maria asked suddenly.
Carlos turned back to his sister. "Why do you say that?"
"You went out with her once... Then you never did again. Do you not like her?"
"No... I love her.." he said softly.
"Then why are you not there for her now when she lost.. Andros?" For being only 12, Maria was pretty good at figuring him out.
"I don't know.. I didn't think she needed ME of all people to help her."
"Oh... Well, I think you should go help her. She probably needs you."
"Maybe," Carlos sighed and left the room as her sister flipped back on the boom box.
I want to stand with you on a mountain
I want to bathe with you in the sea
I wanna lay like this forever
Until the sky falls down on me
It was a week later, and Angel Grove was still mourning the loss of Andros. And of the Red Ranger, who had reportedly been missing, so said the other Rangers at a Press Conference... The week had dragged on, nothing special had happened. With Astronema now as Karone and the other villains returned to human forms, evil no longer existed. Which was just fine in Ashley's opinion.
Ashley Hammond strode out of Angel Grove High, her book back shoved over her left shoulder, and onto the paved road. She wasn't very cheerful, as she still terribly missed Andros.
"Hey Ash! Ready for cheerleading practice?" came a cheerful voice. Ashley turned around and found her co-captain Hallie Parker.
"Hi Hal.. I don't think I'm coming."
Hallie gaped at Ashley. "But you have to! The District Cheerleader Competition is in a week! We can't win without you!"
"I'm sorry. I'm just not up for it. Get someone else to take my place... I don't think I will be coming back."
Ashley walked away before Hallie could say another word.
All day long I think of you,
I can't even think of things to do,
Wishing' all of my daydreams come true,
Now baby what am I to do.
Ohh ohh whoa whoa
Tears came to Ashley's eyes as she heard music from some random person's boom box from the park she was headed to. _This is getting harder by the day._ she wiped the tears from her eyes before anyone came near her and see her crying.
"Ash?" a soft voice asked. Ashley looked towards the voice and found Carlos.
"Hi," she whispered back. She looked up at him. "Is there something you wanted?"
"No... Well, yeah... Cassie, TJ, Zhane and I were talking earlier. We think you need to go to the MegaShip and collect your things and go through some of Andros' things... Maybe that will help close up your pain."
"No.. I can't." tears rolled down her cheek and Carlos took her into his arms. "I can't do that.."
"You NEED to do it." Carlos stroked her hair and hugged her tightly to him. "I can go with you.."
"You'd do that for me?" she asked turning her head up and looking at him.
"I'd... Do Anything for you."
Ashley smiled faintly, her heart fluttering. _It's that feeling again... The one I had so long ago.._
Carlos smiled and took her hand, and in one swift movement, they teleported out.
At the MegaShip...
DECA's eyes scanned the silent perimeters, sighing in her own mechanical way. "Alpha, do you detect any evil in Sector 741.485163?"
"No DECA. Like the other Sectors, there is no evil. The Rangers killed it all!"
"I can't believe this.. It's so quiet." a soft female voice whispered.
"Intruders on the premises." DECA's voice automatically stated as the 'unfamiliar' body vibes entered.
"Shhh!" Alpha hissed. "It sounds like.. Ashley and Carlos!"
"Do you hear that?" Carlos asked Ashley as they walked through the silent ship to the Bridge.
"Sounds like Alpha and DECA," Ashley shrugged her gaze remaining to the ground of the darkened path. They entered the bridge.
"Carlos! Ashley!" Alpha squeaked. "It's so good to see you two!"
Carlos smiled at Alpha. "It's good to see you too."
"Afternoon, Carlos. Ashley." DECA responded automatically.
Carlos talked a moment with Alpha then guided Ashley to the bedroom chambers. "Ready?"
Ashley nodded, her eyes down cast once again as they approached Ashley's chamber. "I don't need to get much.. As I didn't bring much here." she looked around the room, her eyes landing on her desk where a stack of papers and framed pictures sat.
"You're right.." Carlos nodded looking around. Ashley was right.. She didn't have much here. "Well, I'll leave you alone in here and go get some of my things then we can go together to Andros' room?"
Ashley nodded, "Okay, that sounds alright." Ashley watched as he left and she walked over to the desk. She picked up a picture frame and noticed that it was of her and Andros... On their first date. She smiled as new tears came to her eyes. _Won't I ever stop crying?_ she asked herself sadly as she set the picture onto her bed. She picked up the next frame and it was also of her and Andros.. This time from when they had taken Andros to the beach for the first time, well outside from the times they had fought monsters there.
"Why do you have beaches?" Andros asked Carlos as they waited for the girls to meet them on the Bridge so they could go to the beach.
"To have fun.." Carlos responded with a smile. "Don't let Cass or Ash hear this, but it's also so we can see them in practically nothing and not get into trouble!"
TJ smacked Carlos on the arm. "Shut up. You know how Cassie and Ashley don't think that!"
"Ow!" Carlos muttered, rubbing his arm.
"Serves you right," Cassie retorted as she and Ashley walked onto the Bridge.
Andros swallowed hard when he saw Ashley in short shorts and a yellow tank top. "Hey Ash," he murmured with a smile.
Ashley smiled back. "Hey," she looked at Carlos with a glare but did not say anything. "Are we ready to go?"
"Yeah," TJ agreed. He glanced at Cassie, who was wearing a short pink and white sun dress and sandals. He quickly looked away when she caught his gaze on her.
On the beach, Ashley and Cassie were trying to explain the concept of volleyball to him. But they were not having much luck.
"Carlos, Teej, come help us," Cassie called out. "We want to start a game."
"TJ, you be on Andros' team," Ashley directed. "Cassie you be on their team too." Cassie nodded, as she led Andros to the opposite side of the net.
Soon, they had a game going.. Though it seemed slightly off with two experts on each side and a amateur on the other.
"This is fun," Andros panted as he watched Cassie run off to the volleyball, which had 'flown' down by the shore.
"It is," TJ agreed.
Ashley smiled at Andros from across the net. "You're pretty good,"
Andros shook his head, amusedly. "No I'm not."
"Ash.. You ok?" Ashley squeaked in surprised and turned and found Carlos behind her.
"Oh.. Sorry I was spacing out,"
"It's ok.. Really. So... Are you ready to go over to his room?"
Ashley sucked in a breath but nodded. "Yeah, I am." Carlos gently took her hand, and guided her from her own room and over to Andros' room, across the hall.
Ashley took a deep breath then let it out as Carlos opened the door. She gasped automatically as the dark scent hit her.. It smelled of dust and dirt... And of loneliness... Ashley knew there was no real smell for 'loneliness' but she did suspect the room was lonely for the occupant who would never return. Tears, once again, came to her eyes as she walked in, Carlos shortly behind her.
Her eyes wandered... Past his double bed with the red and black comforter, past his desk where, like her, numerous picture frames sat. Her eyes landed on his dresser, where a small book, which was red and black, sat. "What book is this?" she wondered out loud. She walked over to the dresser and picked it up.
"Maybe a diary?" Carlos asked as Ashley ran a hand down the smooth cover.
"Yeah.." Ashley nodded as she noticed the broken lock. She hesitantly opened it to the first page.
August 31, 1997
It's official.. There's a party for me to crash soon. Dark Specter is having a party... But I can't let it happen! For all the good in me and the others, I can't! If evil rules supreme once again... Well, the only slight good thing about evil ruling would mean I'm not out of a job.. But I still don't want evil attacking...
It's still a no-go on finding Karone. I'm still at ground zero. Not a single person can cross my mind of who would want to kidnap my sister! Maybe I should just give up... This is getting way too painful... But I can't give up. I love my sister dearly. And she wouldn't want me to give up, as I don't really want to.
My illness.. It's slowly coming.
"Illness?" Ashley looked up at Carlos, who was reading over her shoulder. "Andros was sick?"
"I didn't think he was," Carlos shrugged. "He did keep a lot of secrets from us..."
It's strange... You'd think I was in perfect shape, but I'm not. I hate being a Kerovian. Well, being male anyway. Stupid curse. 'At age 18, you will die from this disease. I'm sorry but there is nothing we can do about it.' That's what my doctor had said so long ago.. From what I read about this disease, I will be experiencing what earth people do on the day they would die from cancer... And from what I understand, that's pretty painful. The worse part is... It only happens to one out of twenty males. *bitter smile*
I remember I asked Karone to kill me whenever the disease is supposed to attack, but will she remember so many years later after being kidnapped? Will she even get to see me again before this happens? I love her so much... I hope she knows this.
On another note, the pain of losing the others is dimming. I still miss them a lot, especially Alanna, but the pain is ebbing slightly... I still have that dream about Lanna, but that other dream.. Of meeting a brunette and falling in love is also occurring. What does it mean?
"Skip ahead," Carlos told her. Ashley nodded and turned the journal a few pages, closer to the end.
I was rereading the first entry... And I was amazed with all my emotions. Karone is back.. Oh God, which I am so grateful for. I love my sister so much. It's so good to have her back.. But I can't believe we had been fighting her from the beginning. If I had known that... I would have tried to stop this long ago.
You know, that brunette I had mentioned before? I think that is Ashley... She is beautiful. I love her so much. She is perfect... Funny, smart, pretty... She listens to me and tries to help when she can... I'm in love... And it hurts.. Which I was told true love did. I remember feeling this way towards Lanna.. And I feel guilty about not loving Lanna for the rest of my life... But then again, I think Lanna would approve of Ash. She always told me that if she were to ever die, she didn't want me to wait around for forever and not ever love again.
If you ever are reading this Lanna... I love you so much. Please forgive me for falling in love with Ashley.
Ashley wiped the tears from her eyes and closed the book quickly. She felt Carlos wrap his arms around her in a hug.
"Are you ok?" Carlos asked in a whisper.
"Yeah... I'm fine." Ashley said with a small smile. After rereading that... Her pain felt slightly closed. She no longer blamed Karone for his death, as his request was right there, in his own words. She didn't know if she would ever be able to go back to Karone's friendship, of best friends, like they had been briefly before, but she knew she could go to her with anything... Like friends should.
"Are you ready to go?" Ashley nodded, as she silently picked up the book and the picture that sat on the dresser... It was of her and Andros' first kiss, only two weeks before. It had been so special. And she was grateful for memories.
"Let's go," Ashley slipped her hand into Carlos' and they left the room.
Say my name
Sun shines through the rain
A whole life so lonely
And then you come and ease the pain
I don't want to lose this feeling
***I need a lover to give me
Zhane sighed, laying across the bed in the guest room in TJ's house, who he was currently staying with so he didn't have to be alone on the MegaShip. _That place is spooky,_ Zhane shuddered thinking about the home he had once shared with Andros.
"Zhane, are you ok?" TJ walked into the room where Zhane sat, staring up at the ceiling.
"I'm... No, I'm not. I miss Andros." he said sadly. He sighed. "I also miss Karone, even though I am so mad at her."
"That's because you love her," TJ said quietly. "I think you should talk to her... Tell her what you feel and listen to her. During this past week, Cassie and I have been her only friends. She needs you! She hasn't said it, but you can tell it in the way she has acted. Just talk to her."
Zhane nodded. "Maybe I should.." he rolled over facing the wall. "But not now... Later."
***Would you know my name
Karone walked in the park, silently listening to her walk man as she looked for a tree to sit beneath. She sighed, thinking of Andros, who no longer was with them. Her heart broke, knowing it was herself who had killed him. It wasn't like she WANTED to do it, but he had asked her, as he hadn't wanted the others to see him that way. They did it in secret, during a time when the others had gone on vacation from the Ship with their families.
"Karone, please do this for me.. I can't let them see me like this. I don't want their last memory of me being hurt and dying."
"But Andros... They love you. Don't you want to be with the people you love in your last few moments?"
"I'm with you. Your my sister. You are all I *really* love in this place.. I want you to do this.. Please." Andros looked at her, his eyes begging her to agree to his request. "Please."
"I can't..." she sighed at his look, tears springing to her eyes. "I don't want to lose you, Andros. I just discovered you. Isn't there ANYTHING we can do to save you?"
Andros shook his eyes, as tears came to his own eyes. "No. I even talked to Earth doctors, who said I had only a few days left. Please do this for me. I really don't want them to see me this way." he took something from his pocket. "Give this to Ashley, later on, will you?" he handed her the necklace he had always wore. "I want her to have it."
Karone nodded, slipping it into her pocket. She took the next object from him, and sighed. She leaned up and hugged him tightly, not wanting to let him go. After a moment he placed a kiss on her cheek and moved away. She lifted the Astro Blaster from her side, closed her eyes and took a deep breath, and pulled it's trigger.
"I love you, Ashley... You too Karone... And Zhane, who has always been there for me..."
Then there was silence.
Cassie walked up the walkway of TJ's house and knocked. When TJ appeared she smiled and shyly said, "Hi."
TJ smiled back. "Hey Cass," he looked her quickly up and down and looked away before she could comment. "Was there.. Something you wanted?"
"I was just wondering.. Would you like to walk in the park with me?"
TJ nodded. "Sure... Let me grab my jacket." he ducked inside shutting the door and came back out a moment later, his worn jean jacket thrown over his shoulder.
Together, they walked down the walkway and onto the graying sidewalk. "How.. Have you been doing?" he asked her gently. "I know his death had an impact on you too."
Cassie smiled weakly. "I'm doing ok. It hurts, but after what Karone explained to us over the week, I know he's better off being up.. There then here and in pain."
TJ nodded in agreement. "I don't know if this is the best time to bring this topic up.. But..."
"But what?" Cassie asked turning to look at him.
"I don't know if you feel the same way, but from the moment we met I felt something towards you.. I don't mean to be saying this to you while you are still mourning for Andros, but I just had to tell you. I understand if you don't ever--"
"Teej?" she leaned over and kissed him before he could say another word. He wrapped an arm around her and kissed her back longingly. A moment later she broke apart and smiled at him. "I've felt the same way... I think we were beginning to have something there, but when I met Phantom Ranger, it was just a crush.. I think on the concept of never getting to actually meet him, then I got scared that you possibly wouldn't love.. like me anymore after that stunt."
TJ smiled at her. "I fell in love with you long ago, and you wouldn't have been able to get rid of me THAT easily." he leaned over and drew her closer, kissing her lightly.
Cassie fell on top of him, both toppling to the green grass under a tree in TJ's yard. _Man, we sure didn't make it far to that park,_ TJ noted as he kissed Cassie back.
Cassie smiled, and realized even though they did lose a teammate, everything was going to work out okay...
Cassie and TJ quickly jumped apart at the sound of a door banging shut. Zhane came bounding down the stairs, a scowl and a dark glare on his face.
"Zhane?" TJ questioned, watching his friend in concern. "Are you okay?"
"No," he growled. "My best friend is dead and his sister, my GIRLFRIEND, did it!!"
"Zhane, listen..." TJ gazed at the trembling Kerovian. "Karone... She didn't mean it. You, of ALL people, should know that!"
"She might not have meant to kill him, but it still happened!" Zhane retorted.
"Why are you so angry?" Cassie wondered out loud. He glared at her. Cassie couldn't help but being slightly scared of him. He looked as psycho as he had under the Psycho Rangers' control once upon a time ago!
"Angry?" he asked. "I'm not angry... I'm furious!"
Cassie took a step back from him, and TJ put a comforting arm on her shoulder, as if telling her it would be okay. "Zhane, listen to us," TJ started.
"NO!" he shouted. "I'm sick and tired of listening to you! You think everything in your little world is perfect! Well, it's NOT! Karone KILLED Andros! And you expect me to forgive her like _that_?! If that's what you think I will do, guess again!"
Cassie exchanged looks with TJ. What in the world was going on?
"We want to help you," Cassie said tentatively.
"No, you don't," he sneered. "You're fearless leader is gone, so now you want to play hero to make sure I don't do something stupid," he turned on his heel after one last leer and left the driveway.
"What are we going to do? He looks like he could kill.." Cassie trailed off on her own words and then looked up at TJ.
"KARONE!" they both shouted. If they didn't hurry, they might lose one of their good friends...
"Ashley! Carlos!" Ashley looked up at TJ's voice. He and Cassie came running at them.
"What's wrong?" Ashley asked, looking from one urgent face to the other.
"It's Zhane... He's..." Cassie didn't finish but with the look on her face, Ashley knew it wasn't good.
"We need to find Karone," TJ told them. "Like NOW!"
"Right, TJ." Carlos said. "Where is she?"
"Park," Cassie told them. "She was going to go... Swimming,"
The four took of running, in the general direction of the park. "Do you think we'll find her?" Ashley asked breathlessly.
"We can't try," TJ retorted. "We HAVE to find her!"
Three Hours Later...
The Rangers finally stopped in front of the lake.. Tired and dirty from their unlucky search.
"We never found her..." Cassie trailed off at a form in the lake. "There she is!!"
TJ looked over at the unmoving form, "Oh Shit!" he jumped up and dived into the water. After a few minutes, he came back, his arms holding a very limp Karone. "She's not... Moving,"
Quickly, he set her down and checked for a pulse, which he did not find... Spreading her mouth slightly apart, he began mouth-to-mouth.. After a heavy moment of silence she finally came to, coughing up water.
"KARONE!" Cassie cried and reached down and hugged her friend tightly.
"I'm sorry.." Karone cried, as tears trickled down her cheeks. "But I couldn't live with the fact what I did to him.."
"It's okay," Ashley said quietly. "We know you didn't mean anything, when you... Killed him."
TJ looked at his friends then away from them, "We need to talk a lot in the next couple of weeks.. Get everyone's emotions stable once again,"
"I know.." Karone said in a half whisper, half sob.
TJ smiled wanly, "But we will all be okay... Even.. Zhane will be okay, just give him time,"
They all helped Karone up and left the lake shore, knowing that things will be okay... Eventually.