The Pink Astro Ranger, who was busy searching through a cardboard box on the floor, tilted her head upwards to answer TJ's question. She ran her fingers through her long raven tresses, kissed with gentle accents of radiant dark brown, so she could make eye contact. "Hmm... check the closet, Teej."
TJ nodded in response, and Cassie returned to rummaging through the bin. His dark gaze was fixed on her for a moment, drinking in the delicate waves of dark hair that poured over her shoulders and down her back like an ebony waterfall. An admiring smile crept onto his face until Cassie tilted her head up again.
"Is something wrong?" she asked, obviously feeling the weight of his stare.
TJ shook his head quickly, his eyes locking once again with hers. "No problem at all."
I get lost in your eyes
And I feel my spirits rise
And soar like the wind...
Is it love that I am in?
TJ managed to pull himself out of the whirlpool of Cassie's eyes, and walked over to the closet. He could feel the heat in his cheeks, caused from the embarrassment of being caught admiring her like that. Fortunately for him, his dark complexion hid the blush from the untrained eye.
After a minute or so of searching, TJ pulled the mop from its hiding place, and brought it to the bucket of warm water and suds he had prepared earlier. As he dropped the thin gray ropes of the mop into the water, he imagined Carlos chuckling at him for cleaning when it wasn't his turn. Carlos probably didn't realize why TJ had volunteered to help Cassie.
No, it wasn't because TJ loved cleaning. In fact, he hated it. His room at home was always a mess, with baseball cards, comic books, magazines, clothes, and even pizza boxes strewn haphazardly around the plush red carpet. His mother couldn't get him to mop the kitchen floor if she paid him. He just never appreciated the proverb "Cleanliness is next to Godliness". In his opinion, cleanliness didn't matter much at all-- so long as you took your daily shower you were okay.
It wasn't because he didn't want to go with the others either. Andros, Ashley, and Carlos went on an exploratory mission of the planet the Megaship was presently orbiting, searching for any clues to Zordon's whereabouts. TJ felt that the team was once again on a wild goose hunt following rumors of Zordon-sightings. At this pace, the team would never find him in time. But, it certainly wasn't an option to give up searching. Although TJ never knew Zordon like the majority of the various Power Rangers from Earth, he respected him as a sage advisor and diligent warrior against corruption and evil.
Typically, he would love to go on a trip to an alien planet, to see the sights of a world so unlike Earth. But even curiosity wasn't going to pull him from helping with the housekeeping.
What was it? Well, the answer is crystal clear. TJ wanted to have some time alone with Cassie. And, just like food is the proverbial route to a man's heart, kindness and consideration are the ways into a woman's heart. At least, that's what he was counting on.
I get weak in a glance
Isn't that what's called romance?
And now I know
'Cause when I'm lost I can't let go
As the mop glided across the floor of the dining area of the Megaship, TJ boldly stole another glance at Cassie. Now, she was wiping the tabletop with a soaked sponge, her hands moving in a deliberate slow circular motion. She was bending forward, causing her long locks to spill over her shoulders to frame her pale face, touched with a whisper of light pink blush for a fresh, energetic look. Something like a pink rose in spring.
Yet, despite the beauty of her face, the grace of her walk, the curves of her body, or the shine of her flowing hair, the feature that entranced TJ was without a doubt her eyes. Dark and mysterious, yet with a twinkle of life and happiness behind them. In his opinion, they shone brighter than the stars, and were far more beautiful than any other shade. There was a clear difference between light eyes and bright eyes. Cassie's eyes were dark and bright... with inner energy and spirit. Light eyes could be dull, with a cloud of sorrow cast over them. Andros had light, yet dull eyes. Whenever he locked eyes with Andros, TJ felt a little depressed, like he could see the pain of Andros' life in his eyes. But whenever he locked eyes with Cassie, he felt like flying.
I don't mind not knowing what I'm headed for
You can take me to the skies...
It's like being lost in heaven
When I'm lost in your eyes
As he mopped the room in silence, TJ decided to take that time to reflect on the last few months, in order to discern exactly when he fell in love with Cassie Chan. He didn't love her at first sight... at least, not in the conventional fairy tale way. Sure, she made quite an impression on him when they first met, on the bus headed for Angel Grove. They talked a while during the trip, and even spent the time at the pit stop shopping around for sunglasses together. TJ immediately knew he had met someone special, the first friend in his new home.
After that, they were pulled into a dire situation when TJ saw smoke pouring from a nearby hill. His curiosity and sense of duty led him to find out what was happening, and if anyone could use his help. Cassie voiced her disapproval, but went along nonetheless. She stuck by his side during their encounter with the Pirahnatrons, helping Katherine, and even finding and saving Tommy from falling into the Vortex of Despair. TJ was ready to go it alone. Cassie didn't owe him anything, so he had no reason to expect her assistance. However, after climbing a hill towards the cave which imprisoned the missing young man, Cassie stood by the entrance, her face dirty from dust and smoke from their recent adventure, but smiling nonetheless. He had asked her why she was there... why she was willing to risk her life to help him. And her answer?
"Friends don't let friends down. And we're friends, right?"
Simple reasoning, yet very powerful. As he shook her hand, TJ knew that Cassie Chan was going to be an important part in his life from that day on.
Okay... then maybe it was love at first sight.
As clich‚ and silly as it seemed to him, TJ knew it was the truth. He didn't even believe love at first sight was possible, but he couldn't escape from its clutches... or embrace, depending on your outlook.
There was no point in pondering it, understanding it, or even questioning it. Love goes beyond the realms of reason, into something far greater, and even more abstract.
I just fell, don't know why
Something's there we can't deny...
And when I first knew
Was when I first looked at you
As Cassie ran a dry towel over freshly-cleaned benches at the dining table, she glanced up at TJ. He was obviously distracted, pulling along the mop in a routine fashion rather than paying attention to which spots needed cleaning more. If it were Ashley helping her clean, Cassie would probably have reprimanded her for her carelessness. But frankly, she enjoyed TJ's distraction. It gave her the perfect opportunity to just watch him for awhile, with less chance of being spotted.
She felt his gaze on her when she was wiping down the table. Usually, she didn't like being watched. It made her feel antsy or indisposed. But TJ's gentle observation was more admiring than scrutinous. Instead of making her upset, it made her feel flattered, and even appreciated.
When she looked up at him, she noticed the embarrassment on his face. It was quite charming, and barely observable to the untrained eye. However, considering how she had memorized TJ's face, the blush was quite blatant.
She had smiled gently when he tried to explain himself, and then returned to his search for the mop. She appreciated his company, as well as his help with the cleaning. She knew he didn't much like such chores, but he was considerate enough to offer his assistance. He was very considerate, as a matter of fact.
Add that to his boyish charm, sense of humor, love of life, muscular form, and wide, bright smile, and you have the winner of Earth's Most Perfect Guy Award.
And of course, one mustn't forget the pools of chocolate that serve as his eyes. They reflect honesty, strength, courage, and purity. His eyes laughed with excitement, shone with respect, and glinted with determination, sometimes all within a duration of a few minutes.
The most incredible eyes Cassie had ever seen...
And if I can't find my way
If salvation seems worlds away
Oh, I'll be found
When I am lost in your eyes
Cassie was almost certain TJ liked her. She thought she saw it in his eyes, in his gentle manner, and consideration of her opinion. He seemed to like being around her, and the time they spent together was always fun. And she was certain she liked him.
...but what was keeping them apart?
The fact was, Cassie wasn't entirely sure TJ was interested. He never tried to express it. He never asked her out, or anything of that sort. It was very possible that the gentility and kindness that Cassie interpreted as love was simply friendship, or something of that manner. It certainly didn't have to be romantic love.
I just don't know what's going on in that head of his, she reflected, As far as I can tell, there are only three possible reasons why he hasn't made a move yet. One, he's a shy violet. Two, he just sees me as a friend. And three, maybe that whole Phantom Ranger thing scared him off...
An ironic smile tugged at Cassie's rose pink lips. True, during the months of her career as the Pink Turbo Ranger, she had grown quite fond of the mysterious Phantom Ranger, who on more than one occasion came to the aid of the Turbo Rangers, and her personally from time to time. She even thought that she loved him. However, it didn't take very long for her to realize that nothing would ever come of that. Her attraction to him was more of curiosity than anything else. After all, who knew what species he was? She had never seen his face, or even held a conversation with him. It was something like a story book romance... certainly not something solid or stable. Nothing with a foundation to build on, to form the lasting companionship necessary for a happy relationship. So, nothing could have come from that attraction. Her crush on him almost evaporated completely once the team joined Andros in the spaceways. Out of sight, out of mind.
Still, TJ might not know that. He might actually think she loved the Phantom Ranger, and therefore would turn down any of his advances. Could that really be what's holding him back?
Or it could be one of those other reasons, she reminded herself, glancing up at him. I guess there's only one way to find out. The question is... do I want to take the chance?
Cassie Chan was a brave young woman. She'd risked her life for her friends, her family, her ideals, and her planet dozens of times. She knew she'd do it even without her powers, and she'd proven it before she ever became Katherine's successor. She was brave enough to strive for a music career, despite the fact that so few teenagers with dreams really make it big. She was a risk taker, and she liked it.
Yet, one thing she never, ever risked was her heart. Emotional wounds were the hardest to heal from, and if she was hurt pursuing a relationship with a fellow Astro Ranger, who knew what the consequences might be? It could seriously interfere with their duties as heroes, and could even cost them victory over evil. Or in the very least, it would make her extremely uncomfortable around one of her best friends, and only companions on the ship. It was easy to avoid a person on Earth, but on a ship?
But how much longer could she wait? Keep her river of conflicting emotions trapped by a dam of uncertainty? After all, isn't it said "T'is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all"?
"Only one way to find out if it's true or not," she whispered to herself, tossing the rag she was cleaning with in a bucket of suds, "After all, you only live once..."
I don't mind not knowing what I'm headed for
You can take me to the skies...
Oh it's like being lost in heaven
When I'm lost in your eyes
TJ walked toward the bucket of soapy water, and dunked the mop in to freshen the tool for the rest of the floor. He wasn't paying much attention to his chore, for his mind was too occupied planning out how he could possibly open up to Cassie without appearing too awkward. He was so rapped in his own thoughts that he didn't notice her standing beside him, until he suddenly smelled the delicate floral perfume she wore at an increased intensity.
"What's up?" he asked, turning to meet her dark gaze. He could tell she was nervous about something, but she still didn't turn her gaze from his. He puzzled over what that could mean for a few moments, until Cassie opened her mouth to reply.
"Uh..." she started, feeling her body tensing, "you... you already mopped that spot."
TJ blinked in surprise, and glanced down at his work. Sure enough he had indeed already cleaned that area, as well as the rest of the floor. He didn't even realize he had finished his task.
"I... was just going over it again," he recovered, feeling the embarrassment return, "You know, just to pick up whatever I didn't quite get the first time around."
"I don't think this floor's been cleaner," Cassie commented, observing his work quickly, "Thanks for your help."
"No problem," he said with his characteristic grin, "Glad I could be of service."
Although his grin didn't fall, his eyes widened slightly. My God, please tell me that didn't sound as dumb to her as it did to me!
Cassie returned his grin with a warm smile. Well, now's my chance... So, how about some lunch? The others will probably be gone for a couple more hours, at least."
TJ felt the excitement build, but reality soon struck. "Uh, we just cleaned the dining room."
"No problem," she said, letting her arms hang weakly at her side, "we could always eat in the Simudeck. It's more interesting than the drab dining lounge anyway. How about a picnic on a beach in Cancun? Or in the Hanging Gardens?"
Cassie felt the heat rise in her cheeks. Was she being too forward? Can't take it back now...
TJ's grin widened. "Sounds almost like... a date." I don't believe I just said that!!
"Yeah, I guess it does," Cassie conceded, a little weakly.
"Sounds great," TJ said. He could almost hear Cassie exhale in relief. "Let's say we each get cleaned up, and meet at the Simudeck in twenty minutes?"
"See you then," Cassie said, as the pair began to walk toward the door. They both turned in opposite directions, towards their separate rooms, when in unison they turned around slowly. Once again, their eyes met. Yet for once, neither bothered to pull away in embarrassment. Uncertainty didn't win over the attraction. Just for a few moments, yet for what seemed like so much more, Cassie and TJ just continued to gaze into each other's eyes, gentle smiles on both their faces.
I get weak in a glance
Isn't this what's called romance?
Oh, I'll be found
When I am lost