Author's Note: This isn't part of the 'Rangers in Romance' timeline. This idea sat in my head for two months until I wrote it up. It takes place in the PRT timeline, not long after 'Passing of the Torch Part 2'. This is rated PG for slightly suggestive scenes, including Carlos in the shower. This isn't really a vignette, I think...I guess it would qualify as a short story...
Had it only been a week? Had that been how long it had been since it had happened? Since a major attack had come to Angel Grove, launched by Divatox, and he had helped his friend Ashley get some kids to safety? Since he had found himself teleported to a strange and confusing place, and heard Adam Park's voice telling him that he was going to be the Green Turbo Ranger. It had been something he'd never dreamed would happen, until it did.
He sighed deeply, but happily. In the last week he'd found more purpose to his life than he had ever dreamed could be. He had saved lives, he had helped people, and he had formed the tightest of bonds with four people. It didn't matter that T.J. and Cassie were new to the area; it didn't matter that Justin was the youngest of them, or that only he and Ashley had known each other for more than a few hours before they had received their powers. They were a team now, and one that would do anything for each other.
Carlos smiled to himself as he started to towel himself off. They had done just about anything for each other, saving each other's lives, helping in time of homework and time of danger, everything they could do, they had done. Whenever they morphed, it was the most exciting rush of power and skill through every part of their bodies. . .not to mention what it does to the bodies. He knew he wasn't the most heavily muscled guy on the team, that honor belonged to the Red Ranger, but when they were morphed, he could most likely bench press a car, if he really had to. A large car.
And the suits don't look half-bad on us either. He remembered how he'd felt the first time he'd seen Ashley fully morphed, when he wasn't in a rush of shock at having been chosen as a new Ranger. If he hadn't been morphed himself at the time, he knew he would've embarrassed himself greatly. I think I'm in love with her. ..his mind quite literally caressed the very thought of Ashley. But she had barely looked at him ever since the day he'd walked her home after soccer and cheerleading practice. Oh, sure, they'd talked a few times, but no dates. Not even a hint of a date. And he wanted to ask her out so desperately. . .
Tomorrow. He told himself as he did every night, slipping into his pajamas and sliding into bed. I'll ask her to the movies tomorrow.
As he began to fall asleep, the tiny periscope that had moved from watching him from the bathroom sink to the half-finished soda he'd had to leave earlier pulled itself back in and vanished.
Men, not boys. She had casually dismissed the very thought of looking at Justin from the moment she had discovered he was the Blue Ranger. Maybe in ten years or so, when he'd grown up and put some muscle on. Not now, not as scrawny as he was. She confined her peeping to Carlos and T.J.; once they gave up their powers, Rangers were of no further interest to her.
Ah, but the two that were there now. . .they were of interest to her. Or more specifically, Carlos was of interest to her. She'd seen him back before his Ranger days, and he'd been rather tantalizing then too. But only he'd donned the spandex had she really gotten a good look at him, and what she'd seen had darn near made her eyes fall out.
It had stirred up parts of her that she'd practically forgotten existed, even when she had been chasing down Maligore. Parts that she wanted to remember. She took another quick peek at the now-sleeping Carlos, and made up her mind.
"Porto!" she shouted, not caring that she was interrupting his ugly sleep. She was very much pleased when he popped right next to her. "Porto, I need you to make me a monster!"
The creature blinked briefly. "Of course, my queen! What sort of monster do you have in mind? I have one already done you could use, a perfectly horrid little thing I call the ScratchBlaster; it shoots out a spray that makes people itch horribly!"
Divatox wanted to smack him. "I've got something a little different in mind this time, Porto. I don't want a monster to destroy the Rangers. I want one to make one of them fall in love with me."
Her scientific chief blinked at her, not quite understanding for a moment. She was tempted to repeat herself, punctuated with a few laser blasts, when he nodded. "Yes, my queen! I think I know just the one to do it for you too!" He waved his hand towards the main doors, summoning the creature from wherever it was they stayed when they weren't getting their carcasses kicked by the forces of good.
The doors swung open, and in them came a tall, well-built monster with small sharp spikes all over, bat-like wings, cloven hooves, and heavy eyebrows that all combined to give it a fairly demonic aspect. In it's hands it carried a short bow and a quiver of black-tipped arrows, by it's side was a heavy sword. "This is Dark Cupid, my liege, the ultimate in evil love. One shot of his arrows on a human, and whoever is wounded by it will fall in love with the first being of evil of the opposite gender that he sees."
Divatox smiled coldly. "And what else can you do? Once I've got my husband, I'm certainly not going to want the rest of the batch of Rangers around to interfere again."
Dark Cupid bowed low. "I am perfectly capable of destroying all the other Rangers, once your chosen one is under my spell. A warning, however: should anything ever happen to me, the spell will be broken."
"Don't worry about it," Divatox waved one hand airily. "Once you've destroyed the Rangers, then you can retire to some nice back country planet or whatever it is you like. First thing in the morning.. .you're going to attack the Green Turbo Ranger." She rubbed her hands together eagerly, peering at the sleeping form of Carlos one more time. "And make him mine forever. .."
What did it say it's name was. ..oh, that's right, Dark Cupi...he began to feel even sicker when his mythology lessons began to come back to him. Cupid was the god of love...Oh, no...this can't be happening. . .
His head twisted quickly to look at the monster, which hadn't done any fighting, it had merely waved the Piranatrons towards them and stood on a hill observing the battle. Dark Cupid, while having the aspect of the most fearsome of warriors, appeared to be wanting something in particular, more than just smashing them to shreds. Remembering what he had about the real Cupid, and Divatox's preference for twisted and pun-like names for her creations, Carlos began to feel the sudden and panicky need to get the heck out of here, before something worse than getting injured in battle happened.
Carlos opened his mouth to call the Power Chamber and get a reading on Dark Cupid's powers, when he saw Divatox appearing in that flashy jet of flame she tended to use to announce her teleportations. He stared for a moment, not quite certain of what was about to happen, but feeling the most unusual sense of dread. "Guys---" he muttered, his eyes wide and fastened totally against his will on Divatox. "I think---"
"Now, Dark Cupid, now!" Divatox's voice shattered over the battlefield, and brought everything to a halt. The creature moved smoothly and quickly, pulling the bow out and nocking a black-tipped arrow. Carlos started backing up the moment the monster pointed it at him, only to find himself seized by a pair of burly Piranatrons.
"Lemme go, you fish-heads!" the Green Ranger shouted, and managed to catch a glimpse of the others, being held away by a line of Piranatrons, Rygog, and Elgar. "Let me go!"
Dark Cupid ignored all of Carlos' screams, however, and everyone watched in either joy and horror, depending on their orientation, as the arrow sped towards him. Carlos stared down for a moment at the bolt poking out from the center of his chest, right over his heart. The wound, if there even was one, was completely painless. He glanced down, then looked back up, his eyes once again meeting Divatox's. ..
The beautiful Divatox's. . .beautiful, no that wasn't the word, ravishing, exquisite, flawless, the very essence of perfection and love. He didn't notice as his uniform vanished off him in a shower of emerald sparkles, all he was noticing was Divatox as he walked over to her. He heard small cries behind him, but paid no attention. The only voice he wanted to hear was her sweet tones.
"I love you." he said softly, kneeling in front of her. "I love only you, Queen Divatox."
Divatox smiled frostily and triumphantly as she put a hand on his head and motioned for him to stand up. "I know you do, my Carlos." she turned to the others with a chilling expression in her eyes. "One down, four to go."
Then she, Carlos, and all the monsters and Piranatrons vanished.
"The Dark Cupid's arrows possess the power to cause whoever is struck by them to fall in love with the first being of evil of the opposite gender whom they see once they struck by them." Dimitria told them. "The only known way to free them is to destroy the monster."
"But how can we, without Carlos?" T.J. wondered. The Red Ranger was absolutely panicking, but managed to keep it under control. This was the first time he, as leader, had lost any of the team to their enemy, and he was determined to get him back.
Dimitria shook her head. "That I do not know. It is up to you to find a way out of this."
He looked back at the others. Ashley was still trying to cope with it; Cassie was helping out Justin and Alpha. His eyes flicked back to Ashley; she seemed to be having much more of a reaction than he thought she would be if it had been any of the others. With instincts he hadn't been aware he possessed, he went over to touch her shoulder with a feather-light finger. "Ashley?"
"Oh. ..hi...T.J.," she glanced up, wiping her eyes, and he somehow wasn't surprised to see that she had been crying. "I'll be okay."
He shook his head. "You won't be, none of us will be, until we get Carlos back. We need him back." He might've missed what she murmured if he hadn't been listening for her voice.
"I need him."
T.J. looked at her. "Ashley?"
She peered up at him again, slowly meeting his eyes. What he saw in hers wasn't the anger that would come from just a friend, or even a close friend, being taken the way Carlos had been. What Ashley was experiencing was one of the most powerful emotions it was possible to have, at any age: jealousy. Jealousy and thwarted love. "I love him, T.J."
Never had she truly had someone with her who loved her. It didn't matter that Carlos was staring at her like a love-sick puppy because of Dark Cupid's arrow. All that mattered was that he belonged to her, now and forever. She turned to look at him, and was once again struck by the adoration in his eyes. He's so handsome. And he's mine, all mine, forever!
She sat down on the bed, then sat him next to her. "Do you love me, Carlos?" she couldn't get enough of hearing the words. She had told her entire court not to bother them until she said otherwise. They would be alone for quite some time. . .wonder if I should go meet my future in-laws. ..she thought insanely.
"I love you, Divatox." he said, his voice slightly stilted. "I will always love you."
She nodded, running a hand down his chest, unbuttoning the shirt as she did so. "You're very handsome, Carlos." she uttered huskily, pushing him back onto the bed. "So very handsome. . ."
She gasped as his hands came up to her, and he slowly pulled her head down to his own, kissing her softly and tenderly. Both of them remained that way for a few moments, then Divatox rolled on top of him, and they didn't have anything else to say for quite some time.
"How!?" Ashley almost jumped out of her skin, and did jump out of her chair in shock. "What do I have to do?"
The robot pulled out a sheaf of papers from the computer. "According to this, there are two ways to free Carlos. Number one, you could try and destroy the Dark Cupid monster."
T.J. shook his head. "Not possible with only four Zords."
"So what's number two?"
The robot paged through the papers. "Number two is if someone who truly loves him kisses him."
Ashley went beet-red at the very thought. She loved him, but to do in front of everyone. . .Wait, Alpha's still talking. "We have to hurry, though. If we haven't rescued him from the love spell within twenty-four hours of it being cast, then it will become permanent. Not even destroying Dark Cupid would do anything to help him."
The Yellow Ranger went from beet-red to chalk-white. Slowly, she said, "How can we get Carlos back on Earth?"
"Do you think you can help him, Ashley?" Dimitria asked quietly. The young woman looked back at her mentor, and whispered three words.
"I love him."
"You're so incredible." he whispered to her. "I love you so much, Divatox."
She brushed the hair back from his face. "I love you, Carlos." the words felt hollow in her heart, though. Hollow and false. For the first time in her life, however, a lie felt sour on her tongue, instead of sweet and tasty. What's wrong with me? she wondered. Was this what it was like to be honest? I don't like it.
"Your Majesty!" Rygog's fists pounded on the door. "Your Majesty, the Yellow Ranger is by herself in the park, alone and vulnerable!"
Divatox was going to shout for him just to send some Piranatrons and be done with it, when Carlos touched her arm. "Let me deal with this, beloved. I want to make them understand that I'm never going back to them."
She smiled. "All right, Carlos. But be careful; I don't want to lose you." She lost herself momentarily, however, in his warm and tight embrace. "Come back to me soon," she whispered softly. But as he vanished in a somewhat darker shade of green light, she wondered why she felt as if she would never see him again, as they had just been.
"All by yourself, Yellow Ranger?" an icy voice spoke from behind her. She turned slowly to see Carlos back there, just as he had been before. With one difference: she could almost smell Divatox on him. It made her sick to her stomach, in a thousand different ways and for a thousand different reasons. For a moment, she clenched her fists, wondering if she could do this now. She loved him, she knew it in her soul, but if they had done that.
He's under a love spell. Reality reasserted itself sharply into her mind. He's under a love spell that makes him think Divatox is the most gorgeous being in creation. He's not acting under his own power.
"Carlos." she said quietly, standing up to look at him. "What have you been doing?"
"Being with my beloved Divatox." He replied just as quietly. "Once we've finished celebrating our being together, we're going to be destroying the rest of the Rangers."
Something about the way he said that made it perfectly clear that she wasn't going to be one of the 'rest'. He intended to take care of her right then and there. She slipped a hand down to touch her communicator; not calling the others just yet. She knew they would come if she needed them; she was hoping they wouldn't need her. "You don't want to do this, Carlos. You really don't. Divatox just had that monster shoot you with a love arrow. You don't love her!"
The Green Ranger laughed, a chilling and near-demonic sound. "You're jealous, because I found a real woman, not you."
Ashley reacted out of sheer instinct, sheer female instinct. She jumped across the space between them and slapped him across the face. "You're under a spell, Carlos!" she told him, her voice filling with tears. "You're with a woman who doesn't love you, she only loves the fact you're male! She doesn't love you!" her voice almost broke. "I. . .I love you."
Her friend stood there, shocked into silence more from what she'd said than what she had done. Ashley slowly stared up at him, then touched his cheek where she had just slapped with the most delicate of fingers. "I love you, Carlos Santiago. I will always love only you."
Carlos stared as she pulled his head closer down, as he had with Divatox's, and their lips slowly met into a deep kiss. He offered no protest; it was as if he were frozen in place. As the fact registered in his brain that he was kissing Ashley, he felt as if a strange fire was rushing all through him, a fire that swept away the passion Divatox had filled him with and replaced it with a gentle, deep, and lasting flame.
They moved apart gently, and she gazed up into his eyes, now clear and bright, yet touched with a sadness as he remembered what had happened with Divatox. "Ashley. . . I...I'm sorry."
She smiled briefly. "I love you."
His eyes went wide, then he smiled just as calmly and shortly as she had. "I love you too, Ashley." The look on her face was practically comical! "I've wanted to say that for quite a long time."
"So have I." Ashley smiled up at him. "I thought..oh, Carlos, I thought I lost you!"
His arms tightened around her. "Never going to happen. I love you forever."
When she opened her eyes, they were the same steel-cold ones they always had been and always would be. There would be no revenge. No seeking out after him endlessly, no making a fool of herself. All she wanted now was just what she had wanted before: the conquest of Earth. It was all she had now. It was all she would ever have.
But as she looked back down at Carlos and Ashley, she couldn't help
say one last thing, so soft and so completely under her breath that no
could hear it at all. "Congratulations, Ashley. The best woman won."