Timeline: When Zhane was still living aboard the Mega Ship, shortly before he went to help the rebels.
Thank you's: A big thank you to Jeremy for proofing this is, and for the encouraging words, and thanks to Trelliah and Robbie for the courage all around, just to finish it. :)
"Ashley! Where the heck were you?"
Ashley tensed at the tight grip her boyfriend held. "I got in some nasty traffic." She lied.
The grip tightened and Ashley felt tears silently roll down her cheek. This had to stop. She couldn't go on like this anymore.
"Don't lie to me. I know when you're lying. You're not good for anything you know that?"
Ashley swiftly pulled away from his death grip. "Then just leave me alone, alright? I don't love you anymore, and I know very well you don't have feelings for me anymore either!"
Ashley knew the punch was coming. It connected with her jaw and she fell back hitting her head on the concrete wall beside her.
"I don't ever want to hear you talking like that! You're my property. I'll do what ever I want with MY property!"
Ashley ignored the throbbing pain in her head and mouth and pulled herself up from the ground ready to end this nightmare once and for all. She'd been dating Chad for 2 months. He'd proved to be an over controlling, inconsiderate, abusive pig.
"Listen Chad. These two months with you have been a living hell for me! Do you like to see me suffer? I'm sick of this! It's over. I'm through. If you try to do anything to me, I'm calling the cops. Easy as that."
Ashley turned and walked out of the alley.
Chad grabbed her again and threw her to the ground. She could only remember the sickening crack her head made against the pavement, and then all was black.
End of Flash Back
Ashley woke up with a start. Her sheets clung to her like wet spaghetti. Her skin was cold and clammy. She quickly glanced around her room.
"It's ok. I'm aboard the Mega Ship. That was almost two years ago. You can't let it haunt you forever. Chad is locked up for a long, long time." Ashley whispered reassuringly to herself.
She lay back down and let her head clear the thoughts of her nightmare. She knew she'd never get asleep again. She pulled her sheet and blanket off and asked D.E.C.A. to turn her lights on.
They flickered on, blinding Ashley for a moment.
It is only 5:30. Are you sure you are ready to wake up?
"Yes. D.E.C.A. don't worry. There's no way I could fall back asleep anyway." Ashley answered. She pulled her flight suit on and walked out of her quarters.
All was quiet aboard the Mega Ship. Ashley made her way to the Bridge and flopped into a chair in front of the one of many control panels.
With all so silent, she let her mind take over and the flashbacks appeared once more.
"Oh Chad! It's beautiful!" Ashley exclaimed, everything but drooling as she stared at the sparkling silver necklace.
"It's 100% real." Chad answered proudly.
Ashley dropped the necklace to the table. "Real? How did you afford this?"
Chad looked uncomfortable for a moment and then answered, "I saved up for a long time."
"We've only been going out for two weeks." Ashley answered skeptically.
"Well.uh.I've liked you for a long time. I started saving up then, before I asked you out."
Ashley looked at him oddly and then turned her attention back to the necklace lying on the table. She picked it up and held it toward Chad shyly.
"Will you put it on?" She asked.
Chad grinned and leaned forward to fasten the clasp behind her. As he pulled back, his eyes held complete love. Ashley stared longingly into those eyes. She had liked Chad since the 8th grade. Now finally the two were a couple. She wouldn't have traded the moment for the world.
End Flash Back
Ashley reached up to brush a tear away that had escaped her eye. Things soon began to change after that.
"Again?" Ashley asked sadly.
"I'm sorry, Ashy. I really can't make it tonight. I have a ton of homework to do. Let's do something Saturday night, ok?" Chad answered through the phone.
Ashley could just picture him running his hand nervously through his short blond hair.
"Yeah, Saturday would be nice." She answered half-heartedly.
"You're the best, talk to you later."
The line went dead.
Ashley scowled at the phone in her hand. Not that it would help, but.
It was the third time in two weeks that he had canceled dates. She sighed deeply. Ever since the night he gave her the necklace. She desperately hoped that nothing was the matter. She liked Chad so much. She didn't want the relationship to end.
End Flash Back
Ashley scowled furiously through the stream of tears running down her face. She wished she had just broken up with him then. If she had, nothing would have ever happened.
"Ow! Chad you're hurting me!" Ashley screamed trying to pull away from her boyfriend's grip.
Something lit up in Chad's eyes. He suddenly let go. " Oh, I'm sorry Ashy. I didn't mean to hurt you. I just lost my temper. I had a really hard day at school. Let's just forget it ever happened ok?"
Ashley glanced down at the black and blue bruise forming around her upper arm. She rubbed it gingerly.
"It's ok.really. It was just an accident I'm sure." She answered quietly.
"Good. I'll just take you home now, ok?" Chad replied turning the car back on.
Ashley opened her mouth to say something but stopped. Would he lose his temper again? She decided against it and just leaned back into the car seat and closed her eyes.
She must have dozed off, because the next thing she remembered was Chad calling her name.
Her eyes fluttered open.
"We're at your house. Do you want me to walk you to the door?" Chad asked.
She saw the hurried look in his eyes. He must have something to do. Ashley thought quietly.
"That's ok. I can walk myself." She answered. She immediately saw a relieved look.
She opened the door and made her way quickly to the front door. Chad didn't even stay long enough to watch her get inside.
She brushed a worried tear away and walked into her family room. She found Cassie and her mom talking, laughing.
"Cass? What are you doing here?" Ashley asked uncertainly.
"Oh, hi Ash. I was just talking to your mom. But the reason I came over was to talk to you. Wanna go up to your room?" Cassie asked her facial expressions telling something was wrong.
"Yeah sure." Ashley replied.
The two retreated to Ashley's room.
Cassie plopped down onto the yellow flowered bed cover and Ashley settled onto her window seat overlooking the front yard.
She turned toward Cassie. "Ok what's going on? Monster in Angel Grove? Is Zordon ok?"
"No, no. Everything's fine in the Power Ranger world. I just wanted to talk." Cassie shrugged.
"Why did you look so worried down stairs?"
Cassie shrugged again. "I just wanted to talk-" Cassie stopped in mid-sentence. She jumped off the bed and rushed to Ashley's side. "Ash? What's this?" Cassie asked gently picking up her arm.
Ashley could feel her cheeks redden. She didn't want any one to find out. "It's nothing. I just bumped my arm getting out of Chad's car." She lied.
" I think not. You can plainly see the finger marks planted into your skin! Did Chad do this?"
"No! I told you! I just bumped my arm!" Ashley insisted.
Cassie looked hurt. "We're supposed to tell each other everything. That's what best friends do. If you don't want to tell me, I can leave."
Ashley immediately felt sorry. "Wait Cass. Don't go. Just promise you won't tell any one all right?"
Cassie looked unsure of that idea.
"Please Cass?" Ashley begged. "Chad promised it was just an accident."
"Ok, I promise. If it happens again, tell some one besides me, ok? Preferably an adult." Cassie ordered.
The two shared a breath smile and the burden was lifted.
End of Flash Back
Ashley let out a heart-wrenching sob. Why hadn't she just told some one then before it got any worse? She heard footsteps coming behind her and she quickly brushed her tears away.
Andros stumbled onto the Bridge, as he was pulling his hair back behind him. "Oh, hey Ash. Why are you up so early?" Andros asked.
Ashley kept her face downward trying to appear fascinated with the control panel in front of her.
He walked around the panel and looked down at her. Seeing the stained tears on her face took him a little by surprise. He'd never seen her cry before. He wasn't sure what to do.
"Uh.Ashley? Are you ok?" He asked nervously. Ashley looked up with a new stream of tears running down her face. Should she hide it any longer? Or just let it all out in hopes it would make her feel better. She chose choice one.
"I'm fine. Just a little tired." Ashley lied.
"That why you're crying?" Andros asked raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah. I just had a bad dream that's all."
"Do you wanna talk about it?"
"NO! I just want every one to leave me alone! It was a long time ago! It's over!" Ashley lost her temper with him. She ran from the Bridge and down to her quarters.
She flung herself onto the bed and buried her face into her pillow.
The tears flowed swiftly for a while and then finally stopped.
She sat up and lifted a shaky hand to her clammy skin.
She'd been having these nightmares for about 6 months. It was terrifying. After Chad went to jail she had felt relieved. Then six months ago, she started feeling like some one was watching her every move. It was scary. Then the nightmares came. Night after night, getting scarier and scarier.
Maybe she should visit the counselor at school.
No, she couldn't. She couldn't even tell Andros, how could she tell a complete stranger?
A knock at her door caused her to jump slightly. She looked toward the door for a second, silent, until saying, "Come in."
The door opened and Andros walked in with a tray of breakfast.
"I.uh.thought you might be hungry," Andros stuttered staring down at the scrambled eggs.
Maybe it's time to tell some one. Ashley thought.
"Hey Andros. I'm sorry for snapping at you on the Bridge. I just need some time to think," She paused and took a deep breath. She was really going to do it. "Can I talk to you about something?"
Andros looked surprised. "Of course. You can talk about anything you want."
Ashley smiled and motioned for him to sit down on the bed beside her.
He sat down gingerly and placed the tray on her lap.
She laid it aside and opened her mouth to begin the story before she lost the sudden burst of courage.
"About two years ago, right after I had received the Yellow Turbo Powers from Tanya, a senior asked me out. His name was Chad.
I had, had a crush on him for a couple of years and was thrilled that he wanted to go out with me. Everything went fine. At first." Ashley stopped to brush a tear away, "About two weeks later, I realized something was going on with him. He kept giving me all these nice gifts that I knew he couldn't afford. Then he started breaking dates for really stupid reasons.
Pretty soon what dates we did go on ended in disaster. Him beating on me for just little things or because he felt like it. I didn't know what to do. Cassie found out immediately. She promised she wouldn't tell any one until it happened again. It did happen again but I hid it from her.
Having the Turbo Powers allowed all my injuries to heal very quickly. So what bruises I got were usually gone in a day. I wanted to break up with him, but couldn't bring myself to, in fear of what he would do to me.
One night after about 2 months of dating I finally told him it was over, and just like I thought, he blew up. He grabbed and threw me up against the wall and told me that I was his property and that whatever he wanted to do with me he would. I didn't let it scare me, I pushed away from him and started walking away, feeling as if a great burden had been lifted. That's when he grabbed me again and threw me onto the road. I fell unconscious. That's all I remember until I woke up in the hospital." Ashley paused and turned the back of her head toward Andros, "This is what happened." She told him lifting up her golden hair and revealing a long white scar.
Andros let out a sigh.
Ashley turned back to him. "After that, I found out that he had panicked after he'd realized I was unconscious and ran. The cops found him at a hide out in an alley somewhere in Angel Grove. It turns out that he'd been in a gang. He joined the gang shortly after he'd asked me out. He'd stolen all of the gifts he'd ever given me.
I was devastated, but also at the same time, glad. I didn't have to worry about him any more. He's still in Jail. Where if I have any say, he'll stay for a long, long time. So I did forget about him completely. Until about 5 or six months ago, I felt like I was being followed everywhere and I began having nightmares about him killing me over and over. Last night's was really bad. I don't know what's going on, but talking about it now, made me feel a little better. Thanks for listening."
Ashley smiled briefly at him and then looked down at her shaking hands. She felt Andros cup his hand under her chin and pull up toward him.
"Ash, I want you to know that you can talk to me about anything. Whenever you're feeling scared just come to me, ok? And when you have nightmares and you wanna talk about it you can come and wake me up. I won't mind at all." Andros promised.
A tear brimmed under Ashley's eye. Andros was more then she could ask for in a friend, or for that matter a boyfriend. "Thanks Andros. That means a whole lot to me." Ashley whispered.
Andros slowly leaned forward nervous at first and then wrapped his arms affectionately around her. With all the emotion Ashley was feeling it brought on a new set of tears.
Chadwick Morgan looked through the phone book. Where the heck did she live? He finally threw the phone book down in frustration. He'd find her some how, if it was the last thing he ever did. She was gonna see what had happened to him after 2 years in jail. She'd get just what she deserved.
"Hey Ash. Wanna go to the mall with me?" Ashley looked up from her magazine. "Sure Cassie. Lemme go change."
She stood up and smoothed the wrinkles of her jacket. Then she walked over to her closet. Why do I need all these clothes? She asked herself.
She shrugged and then pulled out a yellow tanktop and a pair of white jeans short. She grabbed her wallet and stuffed into her pocket. As she was going to open her door, some one knocked on it.
The door opened and Andros walked in smiling.
"Hey. I was wondering if you wanted to go out for dinner tonight." He asked nervously.
"Really? Yeah I'd love to!" Ashley answered happily.
Andros' eyes lit up with surprise. "Great. Be ready at 6:30 I'll meet you on the Bridge then." Ashley nodded and Andros practically bolted out of her room.
He ran down to Carlos' room. Carlos looked up from his laptop as Andros entered.
"Hey, Andros. What's the matter? You look pale!" Carlos greeted.
"Well, I just asked Ashley out on a date! And I don't have any thing appropriate to wear! Do you have something I can borrow? And could you give me an idea about an earthly custom of dating? Am I supposed to bring a gift or something?" Andros panicked.
Carlos laughed. "Hey man, don't worry about it. How bout a suit? And as for a gift, I think flowers would be nice or maybe just a nice plain necklace. You don't want to get overly serious on the first date. Here try this suit on." Carlos suggested standing up and pulling a plain black suit out of his closet.
Andros wrinkled his nose. "It's to.uh.fancy. I need something a little less."
Carlos nodded. "You're right, a Sport's jacket and a nice pair of pants would be a better choice for tonight. Where are you taking her?"
"That's what I thought. Let's go down to talk to T.J. he's better at this." Carlos grinned and herded Andros out the door.
"So Andros actually asked you out on a date?" Cassie asked, obviously flabbergasted.
"Uh-huh. What should I wear? I don't even know where he's taking me! How am I supposed to know what to wear, if I don't know where I'm going? At least Chad-" Ashley voice cut off suddenly and she clamped her hand tightly over her mouth.
"Are you ok, Ash?" Cassie asked uncertainly.
"I dunno. Last night's nightmare was REALLY bad! I ended up telling Andros about it, and that's when he just wrapped me in his arms. Not like Chad used to, Andros did it with true affection. It felt wonderful. I never thought I'd like some one after Chad. And now Andros. I don't want to get hurt again. I wou.I wouldn't be able to handle that."
Cassie draped her arm across Ashley shoulder. "It's going to be ok, I promise. Andros would never hurt you. I know how much he cares for you. He always has, always will. Chad is history. In jail. You don't have to worry about him at all."
"Thanks Cass. You're the best."
"I know." Cassie answered dramatically.
The two girls giggled and then exited the park in direction of the mall.
Chad Morgan watched on silently. He watched every move she made.
"She's gotten taller." Chad noticed, "And her hair is lighter."
He followed a safe distance behind as the girls weaved through the crowded mall on a Friday afternoon.
"Now I just have to find out where she lives and then I can make my move." Chad mumbled to himself gleefully.
"This is uncomfortable. Do I have to wear a tie?" Andros whined pulling at the maroon colored tied hanging down his middle.
"Yes, if you're taking her to Grimaldi's, you have to dress nice. A pair of dress pants, a sports jacket, a nice colored shirt and a tie!" T.J. finished looking over Andros outfit.
"I don't know if I can do this. I've never been on an earthly date before. What if I do something wrong?" Andros fretted.
"Trust me, if you mess up anything at all Ashley won't care. She's like that. A sweet caring person that doesn't let anything bother her." Carlos mumbled straightening the tie.
Andros frowned slightly. If they only knew.
"Ok, Carlos and I will go with you to the mall now to get your hair trimmed and to get a gift ok?" T.J. said breaking him away from the thought.
"What! Trim my hair?" Andros scowled.
"Cool it Andros. It's not like they're gonna take off a foot of hair! Just an inch, ok? You're starting to look like a sheep dog." Carlos scoffed.
"Sheep dog? Aren't those 2 different earthly animals?" Andros was clearly confused.
The boys laughed. "Just forget it."
Andros shrugged and followed the still laughing boys out to the bridge.
"I have nothing to wear!" Ashley screamed frustratingly. And to think only 2 hours ago she thought she had too much to wear.
"Ashley! Knock it off! I finally got Carlos to tell me where you guys are going. Grimaldi's." Cassie said simply walking into Ashley's room.
"Grimaldi's? How did he get reservations for that?" Ashley whirled around from her closet.
"It turns out that Carlos' Uncle is the manager of the one in Angel Grove. He got you reservations for 7:00."
"It's already 6:00, and I have nothing to wear!" Ashley whined flinging herself on to her bunk.
Cassie shook her head and walked over to her friends over flowing closet and pulled out a long strait black skirt and a yellow spaghetti strap top. She dropped the outfit onto whimpering heap of chestnut hair and settled back into a chair across the room.
Ashley stopped whining for a second and sat up to admire the outfit. "Hey! Where did this come from?"
Cassie laughed. "Just put it on. It's perfect. I'll do your hair, ok?"
Ashley nodded and slipped the skirt and top on.
"Andros! Stop squirming! You're worse then a little kid!" T.J. ordered, amused as he watched his striped hair friend fidget while a hairdresser ATTAMPTED to cut his hair.
"Is she taking too much off?" Andros voice was high pitched and nervous.
Carlos and T.J. laughed. "Don't worry! We gave her strict orders to only take an inch off!"
Andros seemed to calm down, as did the hairdresser and went on finishing up the trim.
She finally did finish and blow dried his hair and then stuck a lollypop in his hand. "Thank you for being such a good boy." She said a smile tugging at her features.
The boys collapsed in immature giggles as Andros' face reddened.
The two finally regained their composure and paid the lady and then exited the store out into the courtyard of the mall.
"Ok, let's go get some flowers. That's the last thing we have to do, then we can go back to the ship." Andros nodded and followed the boys off to the floral shop.
Chad had lost site of Ashley and her friend, who he remembered to be named Cassie.
It made him mad and he had stomped all over the mall trying to find her again. But she was gone. Poof. Just like that.
He'd been sitting on a bench when three boys a bit younger then him had walked out of the mall floral shop with a bouquet of red roses. He heard them mention Ashley, and he started listening more closely.
"She'll love these!" The tall Mexican boy exclaimed.
"I hope so. I want this to go perfect!" Chad looked over the boy for a moment. He seemed a bit nervous. And what was worse, he had blond stripes in his shoulder length brown hair! He scowled.
"Why are you so worried, Andros?" The Black African boy asked smiling.
Andros stopped and took a deep shaky breath. "She told me about her old boyfriend. I want her to feel safe with me. I promised her this morning I'd never let anything happen to her again."
The dark colored skin froze in place his eyes went wide. "She actually talked to you about him? I thought she'd never talk about it again!"
Andros nodded. "I can't believe anybody could be a big enough jerk to actually hit some one! Especially a girl much younger and more vulnerable then herself!" Andros was clearly steaming.
The Mexican boy turned to him. "Yeah, Chad was a real jerk. I always worried about Ash, when she was going out with him."
Chad jumped up from the bench at the mention of his name. If Carlos, as he remembered now, and T.J. recognized him, they'd surely call the cops and have him arrested again. He stood a safe distance behind the group straining to hear their conversation. He finally picked up that Andros was taking Ashley to Grimaldi's.
He smiled happily to himself and turned around, leaving.
Ashley sat nervously on her bunk, staring at the mirror across from her. She was so worried about her appearance. She kept thinking that something was going to happen. She'd say something wrong, or she'd spill something.
Cassie entered her room then interrupting her thoughts.
"Are you ready, Ash?"
"Wha? Oh, yeah. I'm ready."
Cassie saw the uncertain look in her friend's eyes and sat down next to her on the bunk.
"Ashley, it's going to be ok. It's been a long time since you've been on a date, I know that, but you'll be fine."
"I know. I'm just worried."
"Well.uh.there's uh.oh jeez, I guess there's nothing to be worried about, huh?"
Cassie laughed and hugged her teammate. "You're right. You're going to have a great evening. I know you will, just promise me one thing."
"You have to fill me in on everything!"
Cassie winked at Ashley.
Chad ran his hand through the now jet black hair. He decided it would be good to change his identity a little. He'd also bought color contacts, and his baby blue eyes were now dark brown.
He sat outside Grimaldi's waiting for Ashley and Andros to show up. He would open the door for the couple, hopefully finding time to stick the threatening note he'd typed up, into her purse.
It would work. It had to!
He folded his hands in his lap and tapped his foot nervously on the sidewalk.
Ashley walked onto the Bridge her hands fumbling with her small hand purse.
Andros turned at the noise, and he stopped, staring, everything but dropping his jaw. He regained his composure quickly and walked over to her holding out the roses. Five red ones, and a yellow one in the center.
Ashley gasped slightly as she admired the beautiful flowers.
"Andros they're gorgeous!" Ashley exclaimed leaning forward into them, to smell the sweet fragrance.
Andros smiled proudly. He'd done the right thing. So far, so good.
"Ready? We have reservations for 7:00." Andros said primly.
Ashley grinned, and took his hand. The couple teleported out.
They hadn't known the rest of the group had been standing at one door recording the whole thing.
T.J. pushed stop on the recorder and laughed. "They're gonna kill us!"
"No they won't. They might for a sec, but they'll be glad they have their first date where they can always play it!" Cassie said a known sparkle in her eye. She was thrilled to see her best friend finally moving on with her life.
"You know what we should do? Ash's Birthday is in 3 weeks. We can play it then!" Zhane said mischievously.
"Yeah, that's a good idea!" Carlos agreed. He might be upset that Ashley didn't like him any more, but he was still happy for her.
Ashley and Andros walked up the sidewalk laughing. Chad threw his head up and tried not to stare. Ashley looked so pretty. What did I give up? He questioned for a sec, and then shook the thought away. He was getting his revenge.
His eyes darted down to her purse, and his good spirits dropped. The purse was barely bigger then the folded piece of paper!
Now I gotta figure somethin else out. He thought angrily. He got up and stomped away. He brushed roughly against Ashley on the way accidentally knocking the purse from her hand. He kept walking not stopping to apologize.
"Hey!" Ashley squealed. She turned around and stared as the man walked off.
"That was rude." Andros mumbled leaning over to pick Ashley's purse up.
"Tell me about it." Ashley answered. She was rubbing her arm where the man had bumped her hardly with his elbow.
"Are you ok?" He looked genuinely concerned.
"Yeah, I'll be ok. I'm used to getting thrown around." She clamped her hand over her mouth. Had she really said that? Was she used to getting beaten? She shuddered visibly at the thought.
Andros wrapped his arm around her. "C'mon, forget about it, ok? We're gonna have a wonderful evening."
Ashley smiled warmly, forgetting completely about the incident.
Chad stopped a few blocks away and slumped down into a bench. He was mad, to say the least. He was tempted to get a gun with a silencer and just kill her next time he saw her. But the gun he had been expensive enough. He didn't have enough money to buy a gun with a silencer.
He bolted upward. Bait! But wait..how could he work that one out?
What would he use for bait? Nothing came to mind. But I'm not going to give up on the thought. I'll figure something out. Find something for bait to lure Ashley to me, and then I'll have my revenge! But still, what could I use for bait?
He looked up, his roaming around the scene in front of him. Downtown Angel Grove. A gas station, Burger King, Grocery Store, Angel Grove Home for Children, bookstore.his head swiveled back to the Home for children. That little kid that Ashley used to hang out with! What was his name?
He searched his mind for the answer. Justin! Yeah, Justin. He could never understand why Ashley was so attached to the little booger. Perfect little bait, he would make. But was he still at the orphanage?
Only one way to find out.
Chad stood up and looking both ways, crossed the street toward the large brick building.
"Andros, I had a wonderful evening. Thanks so much for dinner." Ashley breathed happily. Dinner had gone off without a hitch. They had talked through the whole meal, never feeling uncomfortable. Just before their dessert had come, Andros had shakily brought out a small yellow box.
Ashley had received it, and slowly pulled the lid off the box. Her gasp had filled the moment of silence. Inside was a small silver dolphin charm hooked to chain. Ashley had stared at it for a long moment before a tear seeped from her eye. Andros had jumped up and went to her chair trying to comfort her.
"No, it's ok Andros", she had said, "I'm crying because I'm so happy. It's beautiful. Thank you." Ashley had wrapped her arms around Andros neck and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
When they had separated Andros was bright scarlet. Ashley had grinned and asked him if he wanted some powder to hide the redness. They had laughed, and it had lifted the moment.
Now back aboard the Mega Ship standing in front of Ashley's quarters Ashley had thanked Andros.
"I had a wonderful time, too. We'll have to do it again. Soon." Andros answered boldly.
Ashley's eyes sparkled. She nodded.
Andros wondered if it would be ok to kiss her. T.J. had told him, if they had a great time, kiss her. And they had, had a great time! Andros bravely wrapped his arms around Ashley's middle and pulled her forward leaning over to kiss her.
Ashley warmly accepted the kiss, and it broke away slowly, neither of them wanting it to end. Ashley smiled and pulled away gently. She didn't want to go to far, to fast. "Good night, Andros."
Andros caught the hint. "G'night Ash." He watched Ashley retreat into her room closing the drop down door behind her.
Andros was proud of himself. He let himself open up to some one. It was definitely the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
For the second time that day, Chad threw the phone book down, frustrated. He couldn't find Justin any where! He'd left the orphanage with his dad, but the stupid workers wouldn't tell them where he lived now. It was none of his concern if he wasn't a relative.
Now what was he supposed to do? He stomped out of the phone booth and walked down the sidewalk. The only thing that lighted his path was the overhead lamps every 50 feet or so.
He finally gets out of jail, and he couldn't even get his revenge. He went off in search of hotel to stay at.
"Chad, stop! Ow! Let go of me!" Ashley pulled against her boyfriend, who was again dead drunk. He had come to her house, because he knew that her parent's would be gone for the weekend.
He kept hitting her with the chimney poker as if he hadn't heard. "You're seeing some other guy, ain't ya!" His words slurred, "Carlos? Is it Carlos?!"
Ashley screamed in pain before answering. "No! I'm not seeing anybody!" She cried.
Chad threw her onto the couch and glared at her his eyes glazed and rolling around viscously. "You're not worth it you pig!" He insisted. "I'm through with you. Consider this relationship over!"
He picked her up off the couch and held her unbearably close. Ashley pushed against him, but to no avail. Chad was much stronger then her. He leaned forward and gave her sloppy kiss and then threw her down her hip hitting the edge of her coffee table. She shrieked and bit her lip knowing if she cried it would only make Chad angrier. It always did. He thought she should be as tough as he was, and often claimed the beatings were for her own benefit. To become stronger.
"A kiss for the old time." He told her and left.
She only wished it were true. Him breaking up with her would be the best thing he could do. But he did this so often that she had come to accept the beatings thinking it was something she had done. She tried not to think it, but why else would he beat her?
Ashley woke up from the nightmare sweating horribly. She realized she'd been thrashing around because her blankets were thrown from the bed.
She wiped the tears she shed unknowingly and reached over to pull the blankets back up. This nightmare was by far the worst, because it was so vivid. Just the way it had happened that night a week before Ashley had broken up with him. Her parent's were always away on the weekends for business and Chad had somehow found out. He showed up every Friday night drunk. One time after he had passed out she went to call 9-1-1 but before she could Chad awoke and grabbed the phone away from her. He locked her in the closet, and stayed over night on the couch and let her out in the morning. He told her it was a lesson. She would never disobey him again. And she didn't. She let him beat her when he got mad thinking it was something she had done.
How could she have thought that?! It wasn't her fault. A counselor had told her so. Chad had a problem, and he was gonna be gone for a long time correcting it. She remembered telling the counselor that he beat her because it would make her stronger. So it had made her think that was the reason. Cause she wasn't strong enough. It took a long time to get rid of that thought and get on with her life.
She had finally recovered from the two months with Chad, and now she was having these nightmares! And feeling she was being stalked.
She felt like running to Andros and telling him about this, but turning toward her glowing clock, she went against it. It was 1:30 in the morning. She certainly didn't want to bother him now.
She curled up under her blankets and tried to fall back asleep.
Andros' eyes flew open to the sound of screaming.
"Ashley", He realized and jumped up throwing his blankets off.
The screaming was almost unbearable as Andros ran down the corridor to Ashley's room. He fumbled hitting the door opener, and then rushed in. Ashley had obviously fallen off her bed during the nightmare, because she was thrashing around on the floor. He kneeled down next to her and shook her, trying to wake her.
Nothing worked; it was if she'd slipped too deep in the nightmare to even awaken.
"Ahhh jeez.I have to do something!" He cried loudly, looking frantically around the room.
Cassie entered then, her eyes wide with worry. "What's wrong with her? I heard her screaming all the way in my room!" Cassie was the farthest away from Ashley's room, and Andros was surprised she showed up before the boys.
"I don't know! A nightmare or something, I can't wake her up! What should we do?" Andros had to scream loudly to be heard over Ashley.
Cassie shrugged. "Maybe we should sedate her!" She suggested.
"Anything to help her!"
Andros ran out of the room while Cassie held Ashley down so she wouldn't hurt herself. Andros returned moments later with syringe and a bottle of medicine. He quickly stuck the needle in the bottle and drew the amount needed.
He kneeled down again and placed the needle gently into her arm. Almost immediately the screaming and thrashings stopped. Andros sat back, relieved.
Cassie shook her head sadly. "This is getting worse and worse. We have to do something before she goes completely insane from these nightmares."
"I'll talk to her about it when she wakes up. Maybe I'll take her to Angel Grove so she can talk to a counselor." Andros answered.
"Good luck. I could barely get her to see one after she broke up with Chad. And even then I had a lot of help to get her there."
"I've at least got to try."
She nodded then and stood up. "Aren't you going back to bed?"
"No. I'm gonna stay with her until she wakes up." Andros replied stubbornly.
"Suit yourself, I need sleep and that sedative will have her out for the next ten hours."
Cassie exited the room then, and Andros looked back down at Ashley. Her face held no emotion whatsoever and her hands twitched ever few seconds. The sedative would at least get rid of the nightmares, for now.
He put his arms under her back and knees and lifted her slowly upward toward the bunk. He laid her gently in the bunk and picked the blankets up off the floor and draped them over her. Then he pulled Ashley's desk chair up and sat down next to the bed.
It would be a long night.
Andros, it's 7:30.
Andros opened his eyes to D.E.C.A. 's voice. Where was he?
He pushed himself onto his elbows and looked around. Oh, yeah. Ashley's room.
He'd fallen asleep and his head had slipped down onto Ashley's bed; his body still on the chair. He got up and stretched and then looked down at Ashley. She was still sleeping. And would be for another 6 hours. He smiled down at her and then exited the room.
He changed from the sweatpants and T-shirt into his flightsuit and went down to their small cafeteria for breakfast.
He was greeted with mutterings that sounded slightly like 'g'mornin'.
"Hey Andros. How's Ash?" Carlos asked as Andros wandered over to the synthetron.
"Sleeping." He replied.
"Sorry we didn't come in to help last night. We never even heard her, I guess I was more tired then I thought." Zhane apologized from the other end of the table.
"It's ok. I handled it. But I don't know what to tell the teachers when they ask where she is."
"Just tell 'em she's sick. They'll drop it at that." T.J. explained.
Andros nodded. He had just sat down when the alarm went off. An echo of groans came from around the table.
"Jeez.she can't even wait until we're awake!" Cassie mumbled.
They took their respective places in front of their jump tubes.
"Let's Rocket!" Their leader cried and they disappeared down their tubes.
When they rematerialized on earth the scene was a somewhat familiar one. Angel Grove Citizens were running everywhere screaming and an army of Quantrons terrorizing them.
"All right guys. Let's get this over with" Andros ordered the team.
The rest of the members murmured their agreement and threw themselves into the fight.
Andros saw two Quantrons advancing on him and he quickly flipped backward toward a park bench. He landed on it flawlessly and taunted the two metal heads to come closer.
Confused, they did, and as soon as they were close enough Andros grabbed their two heads and smashed them together.
Andros laughed and kicked the Quantrons forward into a tree.
Cassie was busy entertaining a few Quantrons with an amazing show of kicks. The Quantrons watched, mesmerized.
One by one she kicked them away and went to help Carlos who was struggling to a fight a dozen of Astronema's lackeys by himself.
"Need a hand Carlos?" She asked drop-sweeping one of the Quantrons.
"Sure could" Carlos said. His breath was heavy from the strenuous fighting.
The five teens soon found the Quantrons defeated, lucky for them, since they were getting tired.
"What? No monster?" Zhane scoffed.
The others laughed. "We should be happy. Now we'll still be able to get to school on time!" Cassie realized happily.
"Yipp-ee." Zhane said twirling a gloved finger in the air. "Well I have a History test first period, and want the whole time to do it." T.J. explained and teleported out.
The rest of the group followed suit.
As they met in on the Bridge five minutes later, Andros' eyes held a worried look. "I feel really bad about leaving her here like this. What if she wakes up and doesn't know where she is?"
"Andros, stop worrying. D.E.C.A. will alert us if anything happens, you know that." Cassie reassured.
Andros didn't look totally convinced, but said nothing less as they were teleported to the school.
The voice was mumbled, full of sleep. Ashley shoved back her blankets and looked around. Why did she say Andros? She shrugged slightly and got out of bed. A few stretches later, she went down to the cafeteria in search of breakfast.
"Goodmorn-," Ashley stopped in mid-sentence staring at the empty jump bay. "D.E.C.A. what time is it?"
"What? Why didn't any one wake me up?"
"We couldn't. We gave you a sleeping sedative."
Ashley whirled around to the familiar voice. "Andros! What's going on? What sedative?"
"You had a seriously bad nightmare last night, and I couldn't wake you up. So I decided to give you some drugs." Andros answered uncertainly. He hoped she wasn't mad.
Her face dropped. "Really? I didn't know it was getting so bad."
"It might be a good idea if we go see a doctor."
"No!" With the one word, she backed away from the Kerovian teen.
"Ashley, please! You need help! More then I can give you! I don't want to see you hurting any longer!" Andros was beginning to lose his cool.
"You can not make me do anything I don't want to! No one will ever do that to me again!" Ashley's eyes were close to tears.
Andros saw his mistake. "Ashley.that's not what I meant. I'm not going to make you do anything. I promise. I just want you to talk to some one."
"Please, Andros.don't make me talk to any one.I'm ok."
The soft, pitiful voice turned Andros' heart. He let a loud sigh. "Ok, Ashley. I'll play it by your rules for a little longer. But if you ONE more nightmare like that, and I'm taking you to a doctor. Whether you like it or not." He ordered, doing his best to sound firm.
Ashley nodded. "Ok. I'll do that."
Andros closed the distance in-between them by wrapping his arms around her. Ashley collapsed in the arms, grateful for the warmth of his red clad body.
"Aww.ain't it a Kod-iak moment!"
Ashley and Andros turned to see the rest of their comrades. Ashley ducked her head, blushing slightly.
"How are you feeling, Ash?" Cassie asked.
"A lot better, thanks. I promised Andros, if it happened again, I'd go see a Doctor." Ashley replied.
"Good. That's what you need." Carlos agreed.
Ashley nodded. "Yeah, I guess."
"Ok, think Morgan, think!"
Chad was pacing back and forth in his small motel room. He hadn't slept all night. He kept thinking of ways to get Ashley to come to him. He slumped down at the small table and opened his suitcase taking out the scrapbook he had made for him and Ashley.
Back when he had TRULY loved her, he had started making a scrapbook. He planned to give it to her on their six-month anniversary. They never made it that far. He only had half of it filled.
Pictures of her and him, pictures of her friends. He stopped to look closer at one of Ashley's best friend, Cassie.
It showed Cassie, Justin, and Ashley standing in front of the gate of the zoo. Ashley had her arms draped over Justin's shoulders, and Cassie stood next to them her arm around Ashley.
"Hmmm.I never even thought about Cassie. She's smaller then Ashley. Shouldn't be hard to control." Cassie wouldn't be quite as easy as Justin, but close.
"Why didn't I think of this earlier? It's perfect."
He snatched the picture out and tucked into his jacket pocket. He'd find her tonight. He had found a school schedule. There was a spring dance. She was bound to be there.
"Do I look all right?" Ashley asked nervously.
"Jeez, girl. We're going to a dance! A stupid school dance. Not Cinderella's ball!" Cassie snorted.
"It's my first dance with Andros, ok?" Ashley replied defensively.
Cassie laughed. "Ok, then. You look great! You always do!"
"There.that's what I want to hear!" Ashley smiled.
A knock came at the door. "Are you guys ready? You've been in there forever!"
"Yes, T.J., we're ready." Cassie answered opening the door.
T.J. wore a simple pair of tan Khakis and a black polo shirt.
T.J. and Cassie were going together, Carlos was going with some girl from school and Zhane was going with his girlfriend, Lindsey.
Ashley and Cassie followed T.J. down to the Bridge where the rest of their teammates were waiting. Andros looked up and let his eyes run down Ashley's yellow outfit and then met her eyes, smiling. She smiled back and took his hand.
They soon found themselves down behind the school gym, where the dance was being held. Carlos and Zhane ran off to find their dates, and the others melted into the crowd of dancers.
Chad stood off to one side of the building watching the entrance to the door. He quietly puffed at his cigarette, waiting for the petite Oriental girl to show up.
His patient waiting paid off, and he soon spotted Cassie and Ashley with their dates entering the gym. He smiled happily and dropped his cigarette to the ground, smothering it with the toe of his shoe.
Slowly, Chad sauntered into the gym, trying not to look his 20 years of age. He needed to blend in, not stand out.
First he went to the refreshment table and took a glass of punch. He needed to find a place away from the dancers so he could watch Cassie.
He found that in one corner of the gym, hidden in shadows he watched the couples drift through dancing, and eating and talking. He soon spotted Cassie along with T.J. danicng off toward the center of the room. He said something, and Cassie laughed. The sparkle met her eyes, and made her look incrediably attractive.
Now he only had to figure out how to get her out of her without any one noticing. That could be a bit more challeneging. But, hey! He was already for a challenge.
"T.J., it's getting really stuffy in here. I'm just going to go outside for 2 seconds to get some fresh air, ok?" Cassie told her date.
"I'll join you in a second. I wanted to tell Andros something." T.J. answered.
The couple parted, T.J. farther into the crowd, and Cassie toward the door.
Chad noticed this and chuckled slightly to himself. "Maybe it's not going to be as hard as I thought!" He muttered.
Cassie took in the fresh southern Californian air greeedily. She was beginning to wonder if she should ask T.J. if he wanted to go for a drive. That would be much more enjoyable then stadning around in their school gym, watching teens try to spike the punch.
The Pink Astro Ranger spun around to the voice. When she saw the owner, her own voice seemed to fail. The only thing she could manage to do was back up toward the street. Her eyes darted around, looking for help.
"What's the matter, Cass?" Chad scoffed.
Cassie shook her head. "D-don't try anything Chadwick. I'll scream bloody murder and the whole school will be out here in 5 seconds flat."
"Enough time for me to whip out a gun and kill you. You wouldn't want that, would you?" Chad chided advancing toward the scared teen.
Cassie bit her lower lip and spun around bolting away. Chad obviously had the advantage against Cassie who was wearing platforms. He tackled her to the ground and reached around in his jacket pocket looking for the cloth he'd soaked in clorfill only moments before. He held it up against her face and waited the few seconds it took for her to stop struggling.
He stuffed the cloth back in his pocket and stood up. He looked over the unconscious girl on the concrete below him. Her carefully done hair was fluttering in the soft breeze. He glanced around and then stooped over to pick the girl up. Having her securely in his arms he set off toward his car, humming a joyful little tune.
"Hey guys, have you seen Cassie?"
Andros and Ashley looked up to find T.J., flustered.
"No we haven't. We assumed she'd be with you, since she is YOUR date." Andros joked.
"This is serious! She went outside to get some fresh air and I told her I'd meet her in a minute, I was going to ask you something, but ended up just talking to Carlos and his date for about 5 minutes. When I went out to find her, she was gone!"
"Now calm down, T.J. Did you try to reach her on her communicator?" Ashley questioned quietly.
"Yes! There was no answer!" T.J. insisted, becoming more worried by the second.
Andros and Ashley eyed each other for a second, and then stood up. "Let's go look for her outside. She might have gone to get something." Andros suggested. But it didn't sound like Cassie, leaving without telling anybody where she was going.
The 3 hurried outside and then split up looking around for any sign of Cassie.
A few moments later Andros and T.J. heard an 'epp' from Ashley and quickly ran to where she was standing.
There on the ground lay 2 of Cassie's butterfly clips, crushed into the dirt. They could also see signs of a struggle in the thin layer of dirt covering areas of the concrete.
T.J. rubbed his hands up and down his pant legs trying to calm himself. Ashley looked near tears.
"Could this have been something done by Astronema?" Ashley whispered.
Andros shook his head. "Alpha would have alerted us as soon as they stepped foot on earth."
"You mean, this was done by a normal human being?" T.J. asked quietly, his voice trembling.
Before any one could answer that Carlos and Zhane showed up beside them. "What's going on guys?" Questioned Zhane glancing around at the sullen faces.
"We've got to get up to the ship," Andros ordered, ignoring Zhane's comment, "We might be able to trace her."
Andros glanced around before teleporting out, the 4 others followed.
Chad looked around the apartment that he'd just rented today. It was an already furnished three room living situation.
Cassie was still in his arms, beginning to stir. He had plenty of rope to tie her up with, but where was the question.
The biggest room served as a family room, kitchen, and small dinette. Then a small bathroom and a bedroom.
He decided on the bedroom. He laid her gently on the bed and glanced over her. He had no intention of harming her in any way. He was saving all his strength to beat the pulp out of Ashley.
He grabbed the length of rope off the dresser and quickly wound it around her wrists, securing it to the bed posts.
He quickly took the duct tape he'd bouth and pressed a piece over her mouth. She wouldn't be able to make much noise this way. Hoepfully no neighbors would get suspicious.
He quietly closed the bedroom door and retreated into the family room and plopped down onto the couch. His mind wondered why his new disguise hadn't worked. Cassie had known it was him right away. Maybe it was his voice. But he really couldn't change that.
Chad picked up the pad of paper off the coffee table and began writing his note to Ashley.
"We have a lock on her!" 5 sets of feet pounded to where Alpha stood at a control panel.
"Where is she?" Ashley asked frantically.
"In an apartment, down town Angel Grove." The robot answered.
"Is she ok?" T.J. asked.
"She seems to be fine. She's unconscious, but nothing else."
"Who took her?" Zhane demanded. He too, loooked ready to beat up anybody that would take a teammate from them.
"The apartment is owned by," there was a slight pause while Alpha went through a few files on the computer, "Chadwick Daniel Morgan. Age 20. Male, 6'1" 190 lbs. That's all this file tells me."
The name alone, was enough for Ashley. Her eyes fluttered for a moment and then a slow moan escaped from her mouth before her legs crumpled beneath her, only to be caught by Andros.
Cassie's eyes opened slowly. Her head felt fuzzy. She couldn't seem to remember what had happened.
She reached up to rub her eyes and realized that her hands were tied securely to section of wood. She let out a scream, and that's when she realized the duct tape that covered her mouth. This brought on a whole new set of screams as she thrased about the bed making as much racket as possible.
The door burst open a moment later to reveal the only face she wouldn't want to see.
"Quiet! Don't make me drug you again, Cassie. Because I will," Chad promised sitting down on the bed next to her and forcefully holding her still.
The last thing she needed was to have more drugs running through her system. She quieted down and was relieved to feel Chad's hands leave her legs. She still felt violated. Now she was scared. There was no way for her to morph. Emotion spilled over and she felt the tears spill.
Chad raised an eyebrow.
Cassie looked away from him as the tears came faster. She soon found her nosy clouded and it was hard for her to breath. She moaned and started moving again.
Chad immediately had his hands on her again, he glared at her this time until he saw what was wrong. He certainly couldn't let her suffocate. What good was dead bait?
"If I take this tape off, and you scream or make a lot of noise, I won't hesitate to give you the beating of your life. You are only bait. I don't want to hurt you, and I certainly can't kill bait. So please just cooperate with me, ok?"
Cassie nodded. Bait? She was only bait? Oh, good.wait. Not good! It had to mean bait for Ashley! Oh no. She just couldn't let him hurt her again.
"Please don't hurt Ashley," Cassie pleaded once the tape was off her face.
"What I do to Ashley is none of your concern," Chad explained.
"She's my best friend!" Cassie cried, a little too loudly.
Chad clamped his hand over the pink ranger's mouth. "Shut up," He hissed.
Cassie wriggled out beneath his grip. "I have to go to the bathroom."
Chad sighed loudly, but just the same, began to untie her wrists.
"I'm serious Cassie. One false move." He left the sentence hanging.
Cassie nodded and slid her feet off the bed. He grabbed her arm just enough to hurt her and steered her off in the direction of the bathroom.
He shoved her in roughly and closed the door.
"I'm right here Cassie. Don't try anything stupid."
Cassie scowled and slumped down to edge of the tub. She didn't really have to go to the bathroom, but it was the only thing she could think of. She pulled her communicator up to her mouth and pushed her teleportation button.
"Blast!" Cassie cursed.
Perfect timing. She must have crushed it in her struggled with Chad. Oh, jeez, this was so not the time.
The door burst open causing Cassie to drop her arm to her lap and glare at Chad.
"Why the heck were you yelling? These are thin walls!" Chad hissed grabbing Cassie's arm again.
"Ow." Cassie voiced.
"Shut up. One more mistake and I'll make you regret it. It's a promise."
The Pink Astro ranger quieted at the threat and instead took in her surroundings. She was in a pretty nice apartment. Already furnished, obviously.
Once in the bedroom, Chad picked up the rope again and told Cassie to lie down on the bed.
"Please, I won't make any more noise. Please don't tie me up again." She whimpered.
Chad shook his head. He pulled the .45 out of his jeans and motioned with it to the bed.
Cassie for a second wondered if the power would protect her from a bullet. Probably, but until he harmed her it was probably better to just do as he say.
She climbed up on the high bed and paused to take the dreaded platforms off her feet. She rubbed her feet for a second while Chad watched impatiently, and realized she was cold. The pink silky dress she wore was barely half way down her thigh. Not to mention it was low and only had thin spaghetti straps. The stockings she wore were ripped beyond repair.
She looked up at Chad unexpectantly. She took in a shaky breath. "Uh, is it possible I could have a sweat shirt or jacket?"
Chad looked highly annoyed. He reached in a drawer and pulled out his only sweatshirt.
Cassie cringed at the smell of smoke as she slipped it on, but was greatful for the warmth. She now leaned back on the bed and let Chad wrap the rope around her wrists to the bedposts.
This was not like her in the slightest. She never let anyone scare her. Not even Astronema. But she had seen what Chad had done to Ashley. She was already surprised that Chad hadn't beaten her senseless for just squirming. Maybe the time in prison had done some good after all. That was another thing. Why on earth was he not in jail? The last she had heard, he was to serve a 10 year sentence! There was no way he could get out in just two years.
She hoped he would forget to gag her. The tape was horrible. She didn't hope hard enough. As soon as Chad had finished tying her ankels together he reached for another piece of tape and pressed it down firmly across her face.
Their eyes met as Chad stood up. Cassie saw the anger build up in his eyes and watched in horror as he reached for the whip that she had eyed earlier. He held it in his hand and looked down at her exposed legs.
He cracked it once over her upper legs, causing her to scream. The whip had already started forming a welt.
Tears threatened Cassie features as the pain coursed through her body. Chad leaned down unbearably close to her face and took her chin in his hand.
"Don't give me any more trouble, got it?"
It sounded more like a demand to the trembling teen. She nodded and Chad grinned. "Good."
He pinched her cheek roughly and then left leaving Cassie, scareder then she'd ever been in her life, and in a whole lot of pain.
"Guys. We can't just teleport down there! We could Cassie's life further in danger!" Andros insisted. The boys nodded. "But what do we do?" T.J. asked. He had no intention of leaving her in the hands of Chad.
" I don't think Chad will hurt Cassie, since it's got to be Ashley, he wants," Andros spoke, more to himself then the group.
"We can't let him get Ashley either!" Carlos voiced.
"Obviously. But right now, while we have a clear reading on Cassie, and she's not harmed-" The words had no sooner come from their leader's mouth when a faint beepind came from the control panel where Alpha was working.
The four teens scurried over to him looking over his shoulder. It should Cassie's vital signs, which had been previously interupted.
"She has just been inflicted with pain, somehow. Nothing vital, but she is in pain." Alpha relayed.
"That Son of-" T.J. muttered.
"T.J." Andros broke in warily.
T.J. glared at him. "If he does one more thing that's gonna hurt her, I'm gonna morph and go pull out his heart with my bare hands."
With that he stalked from the Bridge in the direction of the Simu deck. Probably to pound the daylights out of some craterites. Right now, better them, then Chad.
Andros went to check on Ashley in the Med bay, and Carlos and Zhane slumped down into chairs to share some of their better ideas for the matter.
"Hey," Andros greeted, "How are you feeling?"
"Just dizzy. Did I pass out?" questioned Ashley.
"Yeah." Was all he said.
"What's going on with Cassie?" Ashley demanded.
Andros wasn't gonna lie to her. "Alpha has picked up readings of abuse. Nothing too serious."
As if on cue, Ashley began crying. Andros sat down on the cot next to her and wrapped his arms around the Yellow Ranger.
Ashley pulled away, much to Andros' surprise. "Not now.I just can't be touched right now." She mumbled.
A look of hurt passed through Andros' face.
"Nothing personal, Andros I promise." Ashley reassured.
Ashley stood up from the cot and exited the Med Bay.
Andros ran his hand over the imprint her body had made on the bed and sighed loudly.
Ashley reached the Bridge in full anger.
"Ok, where is she?" She hissed.
"Ashley, calm down," Zhane recommended, "We're doing everything we can."
Ashley slammed her fist down on the console nearest her. "I don't give a crap about what you're doing! Just tell me where she is!"
Carlos advanced slowly toward the pale girl. "Ashley," he started hesitently, "I know what you're going to do, and we can't let you. We don't need you getting hurt. Chad only hurt Cassie because she bugged him, I'm sure."
Ashley's eye twitched angrily. "If you're not going to help me, I'll just find her myself." She whispered.
She stalked toward the computer pushing Alpha away.
T.J. came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, pulling the yellow ranger away from the computer.
Ashley bucked violently and screamed. Andros, who heard this, came running onto the Bridge and looked from Carlos' face to Ashley's.
"Let go of me T.J.!" Ashley shouted.
T.J. didn't, but hauled her off toward the corridor.
"She's trying to get to Chad. She's mad enough to kill him I'm sure, and as much as I'd like to, we can't." T.J. explained yelling over Ashley's high pitched screams.
Andros bit his lip. "Lemme try to calm her down." He volunteered.
T.J. nodded and handed over the struggling girl to Andros.
Ashley began beating her small fists against Andros' chest. "You don't understand! He's gonna kill her, I know he will! That's why I have to kill him first!" With one last pitiful yelp she stoped fighting against the arms that held her, and fell into them sobbing.
Andros stumbled back at the sudden weight, but held her just the same.
The boys looked on, worriedly.
"She's really serious about killing him," Zhane realized.
"We have to stop her from finding out where he is," Carlos added.
"Do you mean restrain her?!" Andros looked mortified.
"Well.Andros. Maybe we should." T.J. ventured on the delicate subject carefully.
"No! I will not restrain my girlfriend!" Andros shouted.
Ashley seemed oblivous to all this, content in crying into Andros' jacket.
"Andros, you know we have to, you know it!" Carlos reasoned.
Andros broke down slowly. "Fine.but let me tell her. I'm gonna go take her down to her room."
He picked up the still sniffling teen and exited the Bridge in direction of their sleeping quarters.
"Andros where are you taking me?" Ashley asked from his arms.
"Down to your room."
She was silent then, and he came to her room moments later. He lay her down gently on her bunk and draped the yellow blanket over her.
He looked over her face, searching for emotion.
"I'm sorry for hitting you," She apologized.
"That's ok." He stopped for a moment and then continued, "Ashley, the others have decided that we're gonna restrain you, just until we can get Cassie back."
Ashley bolted up from the bed. "What? Restrain me? As in tie me to a bed?"
Andros shook his head quickly. "Oh no. Just keep you in a room, by your self for a few days?" He said it as more of a request.
Ashley opened her mouth to protest, but an idea popped into her head. She stared at him blankly for a second, and then spoke. "Ok, Andros. Maybe you're right. I wouldn't want to do anything I'd regret."
Andros raised his eyebrow. She gave in already?
Tears rose in Ashley's eyes again. "Please Andros, just hold me close tonight, don't put me away yet."
She made herself sound like Christmas decorations. "Ok, Ashley. If you want me to, I will."
Ashley nodded and pulled her blanket up allowing Andros to come in.
Andros grinned and slipped his black boots off before slipping beneath the heavy blanket and taking the girl into his arms.
Ashley eagerly welcomed the warmth of his body. She almost fel ready to fall asleep, but that would ruin her plan. 'Just wait until Andros falls asleep, then I can leave,' Ashely pondered.
Andros was quiet as he slowly ran his hands through her hair, smelling the different types of shampoo and perfume she had on that day.
Ashley lay completely still and made her breathing harder so Andros would believe she was asleep. A moment later he stopped playing with her hair and gently lay his hand down next to him. Taking one more glance at his beautiful girlfriend, he closed his eyes, and let the tiredness of the day take over him.
Ashley's eyes popped open when she felt Andros heavy breathing against her cheek. She grinned and pulled the blanket away from her body so she could slip out.
Andros stirred but did not awaken as she left the bed and exited the room. She was lucky to find that the others had headed off to bed, as she entered the Bridge. Alpha was in his hibernation chamber, undisterible. She walked to the main computer and pulled up the files that the boys had been looking at earlier.
It showed the address of Chad's apartment. Ashley took a deep breath and teleported down to earth.
Chad finished up the letter and folded into fourths. He would have to find Ashley's locker number and put in the slots tomorrow. He stood up and stretched, ready to get some sleep.
As he was exiting the room to go check on Cassie a knock came at the door. Chad stopped, waiting, making sure Cassie didn't begin to fuss.
Then slowly, he made his way toward the door wondering who on earth would be here. As soon as he opened the door he was knocked backwards by an upper cut to his jaw.
As he hit the ground a body fell on top of him beating him with a great force.
Chad blindly blocked the punches still not able to look at his asslaint.
"Cassie!" The voice screamed.
Chad immediately knew who it was, and with a renewed strength he flipped Ashley over and sat down on her stomach holding her hands down abover her head.
Ashley groaned from the weight on top of her but didn't move.
Chad smirked and thoughtfully stroked Ashley's cheek. "I've been waiting so long, Ashy, so long."
Ashley took in a shaky breath and twisted her head just enough so she could clamp her teeth down on Chad's rugged fingers.
Chad yelped and raised a hand to slap her. Quick thinking from the Yellow Astro and she punched him where the sun don't shine.
Chad yipped again, much more high pitched this time and rolled off of her. Ashley jumped up and ran down the short hall throwing the bedroom door open.
Cassie looked shocked and relieved all at the same time to see her. Ashley quickly worked at the ropes, praying Chad hadn't recovered yet.
"My, my, Ashy. I don't remember you being this fiesty. A little more spite, eh?" Chad spoke cooly from the door, causing Ashley to stop her work.
"Chadwick Morgan, don't even take another step. I've already called the cops. They'll be here any minute," Ashley lied still not turning to face him.
Chad let out a small sigh. "No way, Ashy. You wouldn't have time to call the cops. Just come over here, and maybe I won't hurt Cassie."
At that Ashley whirrled around. "Won't hurt Cassie?? You've already hurt more then Cassie. You've hurt her family, friends, and me! You're just a selfish little-" Her nasty word broke off when Chad raised a gun and pointed it at Cassie, his finger on the trigger.
"Get the frick over her Ashy, now." He demanded.
Ashley bit her bottom lip and stepped to the side so she was blocking Cassie from the aim of the gun. She bravely crossed her arms over her chest and smiled.
"Go ahead, Chad, shoot me." She dared. Chad looked slightly startled.
"Don't give me a bunch of crap, Ashy. I won't deal with it."
Ashley shrugged keeping her stare cemented in place with Chad's eyes.
"Fine, you're gonna be difficult, I'm gonna hurt you like you deserve." Chad reached down and picked up the short leather whip.
Ashley's smile disappeared as memories of so many Friday nights that he had used that exact whip on her as a punishment. Emotional illness set in and her eyes fuzzed before her knees buckled and she dropped to the floor vomiting.
As soon as she dropped to the carpet Chad was by her cracking the whip against her back again and again as Ashley screamed.
The beating didn't last long and she found herself being roughly picked up and dropped on the bed back first. She let out a small shriek of pain, and bit the tears back as Chad looked down at her.
"Well, what do you have to say for yourself?" Chad asked.
"How did you find me?"
Chad slapped her. "Don't give me that. How did you know?"
"I just did, ok?"
"No that's not good enough. Do I have to prove my point?"
Ashley shook her head.
"You know I'm going to kill you, don't you Ashy?"
"Yeah, I know."
"Are you scared?"
"Should I be?"
"Yeah, I think you should." Chad answered quietly, thoughtfully running his hands through her hair.
Ashley trembled uncontrollably but didn't make a sound.
He leaned forward thrusting his mouth against her's. Ashley was mortified when he stuck his slimy tongue in along with it.
"Let her go Chad."
Chad stopped kissing Ashley and sat up pulling Ashley with him. He grabbed his gun and jammed into Ashley's temple.
There in the door way stood Andros. His hair still down, his eyes crusted with sleep.
"What do you want, Skunk Boy?" Chad questioned, not pulling the gun away.
"I want you to get your hands off my girlfriend for starters, there's more. Would you like me to continue?" Andros asked calmly.
"No, and I want your butt out of this room, before I blow your head off."
"Wouldn't that be to easy?"
"What do you mean easy? I'm doing it the fun way."
"Wouldn't you rather do it like a man?"
"Are you hinting hand to hand combat?"
"You are quite slow, aren't you."
Chad grunted. "Fine. Ashy, don't move. You stay on this bed. Got it?"
Ashley nodded and Chad kissed her roughly on the cheek before taking the gun away and shoving her back to the bed.
She landed on top of Cassie, and immediately finished unting her friend.
Andros dropped back into a fighting stance and looked expectantly at Chad. Chad threw a sloppy punch which Andros easily blocked.
Andros knew better then to fight like this, but when it came to Ashley, he would lay his life down.
By now Ashley and Cassie were inching toward the door, knowing that Andros was a big boy and could handle this while they called the cops.
Chad fought blindly, as if he was drunk. Andros blocked all of these, but didn't hit back.
"What's the matter skunk boy? Afraid to hit me?" Chad taunted.
"I wouldn't want to hurt you," Andros mumbled.
A moment later, Chad dove for his gun and pointed it at Ashley who had just made it to the front door. Chad pulled back the safety and aimed.
"Ashley!" Andros screamed, at the same time jumping in front of Chad's aim.
Ashley turned back just in time to see Chad pull the trigger on his .45, and Andros jump in front of the gun. The shot was ear piercing.
Andros fell to the ground in a heap.
Chad looked disappointed. Ashley could vaguely hear him say, "Darn, I missed." Then he shrugged and pointed the gun back at Ashley.
"Bye, bye Ashy." He grinned.
Ashley was frozen in place. Then her eyes darted to Andros' crumpled body on the floor. He stirred and she watched as his hand groped across the floor toward Chad's leg. He grabbed his target and pulled.
Chad looked surprised as he fell forwards. Andros jumped at the oppurtunity and crawled onto Chad's back snatching up the gun and pointing it at Chad's neck.
"Who's in charge, now?" He asked innocently.
At that exact second, cops flooded into the apartment. "Everybody, hands behind your head!" One of them shouted.
Cassie and Ashley obeyed, and a cop took over for Andros.
After being searched, another cop took Cassie outside for questioning.
Ashley ran for Andros and pulled him into a hug.
He groaned in pain and looked down at his chest. Blood had stained most of the left side of his white T-shirt and his red flannel jacket.
Ashley immediately paled. She looked up into Andros' eyes.
"You took that bullet for me. You saved my life," She whispered.
"Glad to do it," He muttered, swaying slightly.
"Help! We need an ambulence," Ashley shouted at a cop.
A cop came over and helped Andros to lay down on the couch until the ambulence got there. The cop pulled off Andros' jacket and T-shirt pressing the stained T-shirt down on the gun shot wound.
Andros jumped as the pain coursed through his body and Ashley reached for his hand squeezing it tightly. Andros smiled lightly and then let his eyes droop forward.
The cop's hand darted forward to check his pulse, and when he found none, his head jerked toward the crowd of cops.
"We're losing him!" He informed loudly. With the yell two other cops raced to the couch and picked up Andros laying him down on the floor, starting the procedure of CPR.
Another cop pulled Ashley away from the couch and out of the apartment.
"Wait, I want to see if he's ok!" Ashley requested of the cop.
"There's nothing you can do for him right now." The cop answered his attention turning over to Ashley's battered yellow T-shirt.
"Did Morgan do this to you?" The cop asked her gently.
Ashley's eyes flooded with tears. "Yes sir." It seemed like such a small injury compared to Andros'.
"Let me take a look at it. And call me John." John smiled, trying to cheer the girl up.
Ashley allowed herself to be led down the hall to an awaiting gurney. John helped her onto it and lifted up the back of her shirt, or what was left of it.
"Oh jeez. He really did a number on you. You're gonna need a lot of stitches for this, sweetie."
Ashley turned back to John and threw her arms around his neck.
"He did it for me! That was supposed to be my bullet!" She sobbed.
John wrapped his arms loosely around the teen and let her cry.
A few minutes later another gurney was pulled out of the apartment.
They rushed past. Ashley didn't even notice.
The chief police stopped by John and Ashley. "We got his pulse back, but there could be some brain damage. It doesn't look good."
John nodded. Ashley still didn't hear anything.
"Is this is his girlfriend?" Chief asked.
"Yeah, he took the bullet for her."
"Can I try to talk to her?"
"Go ahead." John gently unwrapped Ashley's arms from his neck and turned her in the direction of the Chief.
The chief lay his hands lightly on the girls knees. "Can you tell me what happened?"
The shaking teen took in a deep breath. "From the beginning?"
"Well, we already know what Morgan did to you two years ago. When did he show up again?"
"Well, I felt like I was being followed starting about 5 months back. Then I kept having mightmares about the time with him and him coming back for his revenge. Then he just showed up. He took Cassie from a school dance. Foolishly I found out and somehow got Apartment owners to give me information about an young adult who just rented an apartment today," She wasn't surprised with how easily the lie rolled of her toungue, "I got here, and started beating up Chad. Then he turned on me. I kicked him.well.you know.and ran to get Cassie. That's where he whipped me. Andros showed up after Chad tried to have his way with me and began fighting with Chad. Andros never punched back at Chad, only blocked. He saw me and Cassie trying to get away and grabbed his gun. Andros jumped in front of him and saved my life. Now he's gonna die, isn't he?" Ashley asked tearfully.
"Not if we can help it hon. Now let's get you down to the ER, ok? Cassie is already there, and your friends have been contacted," Chief explained.
Ashley allowed hersefl to be put in an amblulence and taken to the hospital. There, she received 27 stitched in her back. The doctor said she was lucky it didn't hit anything vital.
Carlos and Zhane came into see her and gave her a sweat shirt.
They both hugged her and said the surgeon was doing everything humanly possible to help Andros.
"How's Cassie?" Ashley finally asked.
"A tad case of shock. She's got a pretty bad lacaration across her legs, and they found out she's highly allergic to the chollorphyll that Chad gave her. They're keeping her here for a few days." Zhane replied.
"T.J. is with her?"
"Do you want to go wait in the waiting room for news about Andros, or go home?" Carlos asked.
"Definitely wait for Andros," Ashley replied a matter-of-factly.
She jumped off the examining table and started to leave.
"Ashley, hold on. Here are your pills. Take them every 4 hours. And remember to be back in a week to get the stitches out," Doctor Micheal's explained.
Ashley nodded. "Thanks for everything."
They walked out of the ER and down to the waiting room nearest Andros.
Ashley sat down gingerly not leaning her back against the chair. She rested her head in her hands and waited for Zhane and Carlos to sit down on either side of her before she started crying.
Both boys reached to hug her, and Zhane got there first. He let her cry, knowing she needed to.
When Zhane's shirt was almost fully wet, Ashley turned to Carlos and buried her head into her old boyfriend's neck.
This is how she stayed until the swinging doors opened to reveal a doctor his front covered in blood.
"Are you Ashley?" He asked, motioning at the now controlled girl.
"Yes," came the answer.
"Andros is calling for you. It's a miracle he's still alive. He had a punctured lung, it was cutting off blood flow to the brain. His gardian angel sure was with him tonight. You can go see him now, one at a time, though."
Ashley bolted for the doors and disappeared. The doctor smiled after her.
Ashley entered the room quietly. Andros lay in a bed, his chest rising and falling with the oxegyn that was being pumped into his lungs.
She tip toed over to the bed and took Andros' pale hand into hers.
His eyes fluttered open and he smiled.
"Hey, Ash. How are you feeling?"
Ashley giggled. "How are you feeling, is more like it."
"Great, actually. Good 'ol power protected me. I hope the doctors don't get suspicious."
"I hope you can come home soon."
A nurse walked in then, "I don't think so, hon. You're gonna be here a week at least. You just had a major surgery."
"So? I feel great."
"That's the drugs talking. Now take these pills and get some sleep. You're girlfriend can come back in the morning."
Before Andros could argue with the nurse some more, Ashley reached down and kissed him tenderly on the lips.
"I love you Andros," Ashley admitted.
Andros took a deap breath and yanked on her hand making her stumble down again. Andros kissed her, and then answered, "I love you too, Ash."
3 weeks later
"It's so beautiful out here," Ashley breathed.
"Not nearly as beautiful as you," Andros promised. He looked down at her, and she nuzzled under Andros' arm leaning into the warmth.
The couple had grown unbelievably close over the last 3 weeks. Today had been Ashley's surprise party at the Surf Spot. Later at the Mega Ship the rest of the gang had shown the tape of their first date. They were surprised at first, but then both admitted that they were glad they would be able to remember it. They had gone to court last week to witness against Chad. He wasn't ever supposed to be out of jail in the first place. It was a mixed up file. Now Mr. Morgan is going to be spending a long, long time in small little cell.
Cassie and Ashley were seeing the counselor at school to sort out the feelings. Cassie was shocked beyond belief and was having problems getting over it.
Andros only ended up in the hospital for 3 days. He fought so much with the nurses that the doctor let him go. He was fine anyway.
Suddenly, Andros stopped. Ashley looked at him oddly as he kneeled down in front of her and reached into his pocket to pull out Ashley's Birthday present. Ashley couldn't see what it was until he opened it revealing a thin silver band and two small diamonds in the center.
"Ashley Hammond, will you marry me?" Andros asked boldly.
Ashley gasped and covered her hand over her mouth. She searched for her voice. She finally found it to the relief of Andros.
"Yes, I will."