The Wolf Galactabeast, to who Maya had been chatting with, growled and grunted a reply with something resembling a grin spread across its mouth.
"No!" Maya gasped in surprise, also grinning now. "Lion and Wildcat?"
Her zord nodded an anxious and happy answer to the Yellow Ranger's question.
Maya jumped down from her perch on a branch high up in the tree and laughed, gazing up at her friend. "Wait 'til Leo and Karone hear about this!"
"...nine, ten! Ready or not, here I come!" Leo Corbett announced loudly, lifting his head up from his arms Slowly, climbing from the chair he had been sitting in, he glanced around the empty-looking park.
"Where is everyone?" he feigned a bit of confusion, and when he did a few giggles emerged from behind a bush a few feet away from him. Leo grinned to himself in silent triumph. "Now," he crept towards the bushes and peeked behind them to see two children crouching, trying to stifle their giggles, "see! I found you!"
The two children tried running away, but Leo scooped them up into his arms and swung them around once before setting them down on the grass. They scurried away giggling, as the young man went on with his job of finding the rest of the hiding kids.
"Yoohoo!" he cupped his hands around his mouth and hollered. He spotted three more kids behind a park bench and moved towards them, trying not to let on that he knew where they were. "Come out, come out wherever you are!"
Creeping on his tiptoes, Leo stealthy surprise the little children by crying out, "Here you are!"
"Hey!" one little girl climbed up on the bench and stood nose to chest with the Red Galaxy Ranger. "You cheated!"
"What?!" Leo sputtered out in shock, laughing.
Before the girl could answer, an older voice called out, "Molly! Time to go!"
Leo spun around to see a group of parents heading towards them, while most of the kids started jumping out of their hiding places and ran to meet their parents. "Bye!" he waved good-bye to all of his little friends, while some of the parents and children also waved good-bye.
Once they had all gone and the small area of the park where they had been playing was pretty sparce, Leo sighed and plopped onto the ground happily. "Looks I won the game today," he chuckled softly to himself, running a hand through his hair.
For a minute or two, he just sat there musing upon the day's events when a whisper gently caressed his ear. "You haven't found me yet..." the voice trailed off in a teasing manner.
A slow, deliberate grin curved onto his lips. "You know that really drives me crazy," he remarked, his voice soft and smooth. "It's not fair. You have magic and I don't."
"Deal with it," the feminine voice retorted playfully. "If you come and find me...I'll stop."
Leo did as the voice demanded of him and stood up off the ground, brushing some of the grass off of his jeans. "Where are you?"
"Leo, we're playing 'Hide and Seek'. The point is for you to find me without telling you!"
"Oh, alright," he relented with a small laugh, as he started looking around the area for his hiding friend. He wandered around the small area for a few minutes, looking behind each tree, bush and bench and didn't find her. "I give up!" he exclaimed with a sigh, falling onto his back underneath a tree. He gazed upwards, and then let out a whoop of laughter.
Up in the branches of the tree was the elusive Karone.
"You didn't look hard enough," she teased, jumping from the tree and landing directly beside Leo's lying form. She kneeled beside him and gently brushed his bangs away from his forehead with her fingers.
"You always say I don't look hard enough," Leo whispered gently into her ear, pulling Karone down to lay beside him. He took her hand into his own, caressing it softly.
"And you always complain about it," she murmured back, rolling her hand through his hair, gently messing it.
They both were silent for awhile, relishing the loving touches each was giving the other. Then slowly, Leo slid him arm around Karone's waist, pulled her in closely and kissed her passionately. Karone had expected the gesture and quickly retaliated by returning the kiss full-force with her own equal passion.
The two rolled around in the grass like mad lovers for a long time, kissing each other anywhere they could find a piece of bare skin. Soon enough, Karone pulled away and rested against Leo's chest. Her breath ragged, she murmured softly, "Maybe we should go somewhere?"
Karone brushed her lips gently against the base of Leo's neck and his eyes slowly flickered open to stare up at the clear ideal blue sky of the Ocean Dome. Gradually, he could feel her lips glide up the side of his neck and jaw. "Hey, Sleepyhead," she murmured with a sweet smile, her tongue drawing along his lips.
Leo grinned happily, planting a kiss upon her forehead. "Hey to you too," he whispered softly, slipping her arm around her bare back. He sighed in content as blonde wisps of her hair flew upwards, stroking his cheek.
The two laid quietly on the beach for a long time, until Karone finally blinked in confusion and looked down at herself. "What is going on here?!" she shrieked wildly, jumping off of Leo's body and onto the sand.
Startled by the Pink Ranger's scream, Leo also glanced at himself and Karone, a sudden light dawning upon him. He slowly sat up, reaching behind himself to sweep the sand off of his back. "We were playing Hide and Seek, I kissed you and we came here..." he trailed off, blushing a powerfully bright red. "Oh, no...I can't believe it."
Karone, who had instantly run to retrieve her clothes, stood a few feet away from him. "Well, believe it!" she retorted while struggling to squeeze herself back into her leather pants. "It MUST have happened...I mean, both of us were nude, TOGETHER."
Leo shook his head, still somewhat dazed at the entire thought of him and Karone being...intimate with one another. "Look, I don't know what actually compelled me to kiss you, but I'm sorry," Leo apologized in a flustered fashion, running his fingers through his hair over and over again. "I'm sorry about this entire...incident."
"I'm sorry too," she replied, now slipping her leather top back on and tying it. "It wasn't only you back there. I could have pulled away from the kiss, but I simply didn't. It was like I wasn't in control at all," the former villainess mused lightly, thinking back to the moment when Leo had kissed her.
"Same thing here," he piped up with a deep sigh. "I just wish I could go back and stop it all. Everything is going to be all awkward now..."
Now fully dressed, Karone locked her solemn gaze upon Leo as he sat there gazing off into the horizon, completely confused and screwed up. He was cute...in that boyish way, and she did like him. But she wasn't ready for any type of relationship or commitment. Coming off of her broken engagement with Zhane...she hadn't wanted to deal with the complexities of men and sex for awhile, but she ended up having to. What was worse was she KNEW that this had been Leo's first time...
"Leo, you had better get dressed before anybody comes out here and sees you," she finally spoke up softly, tossing Leo's red tank top in his direction. He slowly turned to look at her. "I'm going to get going, alright?"
Leo nodded mutely, returning his eyes to the ocean. Karone frowned to herself sadly, picking up her boots and running up the shore to the paved path that led out of the Ocean Dome. They had teleported to the dome earlier and Karone almost thought about teleporting out of there herself, but decided on walking instead.
She needed time to think.
Leo could hear Karone run up to the path as her feet kicked up the sand and carried her away. Once he could no longer hear her, he grabbed his clothes and put them back on. Slowly, he began to wander down the ocean's shore.
He tried desperately to make sense of the jumbled emotions, thoughts and memories from the last four hours, but it was simply an impossible task for him. The easiest things were escaping the powerful Red Galaxy Ranger's mind...they weren't COMPLEX things, and yet Leo couldn't decipher them at all.
He knew he ached terribly. That was the only thing he probably knew at that very moment. Not his body, but his heart ached. Karone had seemed so cold to him when she had left him alone on the beach...the girl he had a crush on, the girl he had lost his virginity to, didn't give a damn about him.
"Maybe it's better off this way," Leo muttered to himself as the tide slowly nipped at his toes while he continued to walk along. "This whole thing was a mistake after all. If she knew that I liked her as more than a friend..."
His mind flashed back to Karone's initial reaction to the thought of them together. "She'd just be more angry," he told himself, watching the sun gradually begin to descend behind the horizon.
Leo gazed down at the sand and kicked some of it up with his foot. "I wish this would have never happened!" he cried out angrily, tossing his shoes a few feet away from him. In his moment of anger, he collapsed to the sand to lie down on his back once more. "Why does all this bad stuff happen to me?"
"Maya?" Karone stumbled into the darkened quarters she shared with the Yellow Ranger. "Maya, are you here? I've REALLY got to talk to someone," she moaned, her feet terribly sore.
"Computer, lights," she ordered and the lights dawned upon the room allowing the blonde to navigate her way to the sofa and collapse onto it.
She kicked off her boots, which she had put on halfway through her walk when her feet started to blister, and leaned heavily into the cushions of the sofa. "I wish I knew where everyone was," she complained, scanning her eyes around the room. That's when her eyes caught upon a piece of paper hanging off the kitchen counter.
Hesitant to stand, Karone simply waved her hand and pulled the note towards her with the use of her telekinesis. The note fell gently into her lap and she picked it up, reading it out loud:
We were waiting for you and Leo to meet us at the Mountain Dome for some training exercises, but neither of you showed up. So we went on without you. We came back here to see if you guys were here, but no one was so I'm leaving this note. All of us are in my quarters.
"The guys quarters?" Karone groaned unhappily. That meant she'd have to stand up again! "Oh well. I'd rather be there than all alone in here," she muttered, standing up and pulling her boots back on. "I just hope Leo doesn't decide to show up...I really don't want to see him right now."
Leo felt his heart beat faster and faster as Karone's lips roamed body. His hormones were raging and he was moaning like there was no tomorrow. "Karone..." he gasped as she nuzzled into his neck deeply.
"Yes?" she replied playfully, her voice touched with seductive overtones as she laid on top of him. "Did you want something?" she winked, dragging her fingers down his chest.
He nodded eagerly, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close. "I want you," he groaned heatedly, kissing her strongly and fervently.
Leo was abruptly knocked out of his remising when the elevator lift came to a stop on Deck Two and the doors swished open, allowing two GSA officers inside the lift.
He grunted, almost unpleasantly, when he was forced to stop drooling over his memory. He watched the woman cautiously as she announced, "Computer, Deck Three."
Ultimately, Leo gave himself a good mental slap that he hoped would last for the rest of the ride up to the quarters he shared with Kai and Damon. He knew he would need it desperately after his last flashback.
After recovering from his initial anger about his encounter - as he had chosen to call it - with Karone, he realized just how much he had enjoyed it. He sort of understood why men were called pigs when it came to sex finally. He thought the term kind of fit actually...and was partially ashamed to admit he was one.
He felt even worse about how his encounter with Karone had taken place. It hadn't happened because of this deep love they both shared, but it had happened because of a little sexual tension and an immense loss of self-control on both of their parts. It gave him this awful gut-wrenching feeling to know he had taken advantage of Karone. She probably felt worse because she was the older of the two of them, he reasoned earlier to himself.
Leo was jarred out of his thoughts once more when the elevator stopped at Deck Three and the two GSA officers exited, leaving him alone once again. When he didn't leave the lift, the doors closed and it resumed its course up to Deck Four.
He tried thinking about everything and anything BUT what had happened only a matter of hours ago between him and Karone. He thought of the last battle he had fought against Trakeena's Stingwingers...and how Karone had been there and how she looked absolutely gorgeous in their form-fitting suits...
"NO!" Leo shouted out loud, his voice echoing through the small room. "I have to stop thinking about her. Maybe I should go talk to Mike or something..."
The elevator stopped for the third time at Deck Four and this time Leo exited it and began walking down the corridor towards his quarters. He hoped desperately for Mike to be there. If anyone, he could talk to his brother about this...
"Karone!" he yelped out for the second time in the last five minutes. He couldn't help it though. There she was, getting ready to ring the doorchime to his quarters.
"Leo?!" Karone snapped her head to ogle at Leo, completely flustered. She quickly covered that expression up with a cold glare. "Why are you here?" she huffed, slightly annoyed.
He quickly made his way to the door and pushed the doorchime for her. "These are MY quarters," he scoffed gently, also covering for the awkwardness he was feeling. "What are you doing here?"
Before Karone had a chance to answer his question, the door slid open and Damon Henderson appeared before the couple. "It's about time you two got here!" he greeted exasperatedly, grabbing them and dragging them inside.
"Yeah, we thought you two got lost or something," Mike Corbett chuckled as leaned back against the sofa, Maya sitting beside him and nodding in agreement.
Both Leo and Karone grinned uneasily as they stood side by side. "So what did keep you guys?" Kai Chen asked incredulously as he stood in front of the stove in the kitchen, stirring something in a pot.
They were quiet for a moment, searching their minds for the perfect excuse. "Uhhh..." Karone stalled for time, racking her brain.
"Ummmm...we were helping Alpha fixing something and..." Leo began to weave the lie, hoping his companion would continue it.
Funny enough, Kai shrugged and took the lie at face value, not at all suspecting. "Oh," he replied as Karone zipped off to sit next to Maya on the sofa and Leo sat beside Mike.
"So...did we miss out on anything this afternoon?" Karone asked hurriedly, trying to strike up a conversation to distract everyone's attention.
Damon sat down his bunk and stretched slowly. "Nothing much. Just same old routine," he answered with a slight yawn.
"Well, it was same old routine until you..." Karone slowly tuned out Kai as he started to chew out Damon again. She had gotten the exact distraction she had wanted.
She leaned over discreetly and whispered into Maya's ear, "I need to talk to you. Alone. In private."
Maya was considerably startled by Karone's request. "Why?" she whispered back.
"I had sex with Leo this afternoon."
"What?!" Maya hissed in utter unbelievable shock, at the thought of Leo and Karone intimately together and the fact that the Pink Ranger had been so blunt her in telling.
"I'll tell you when we get back to our quarters," Karone retorted sounding very much annoyed with herself.
Leo studied the two girls as the walked out of their quarters, Karone feigning illness as the reason for leaving so soon. Of course, Leo knew better and he was actually quite thankful towards the blonde for finding a legitimate means of "escape". Now, he could talk to Mike without feeling all tingly and flustered with her around.
For a few moments, Leo sat beside his brother in utter silence, debating himself on how he was going to explain it all. Then, he slowly spoke up. "Mike?"
Mike quickly turned his attention to his little brother. "Yeah, Leo?"
"I need to talk to you about something," Leo declared, experiencing a small bout of embarrassment. "It's about this afternoon...why me and Karone were late."
The older Corbett brother sensed the embarrassment in Leo's voice and almost immediately knew what had taken place between the two. "Come with me," he tugged on his little brother's arm, pulling him off of the sofa and towards the door. Mike glanced at Kai and Damon, who were hovering over the pot of food that was still cooking. "We'll be right back," he told them in a neutral voice.
"Sure," Damon acknowledged as the two walked out into the corridor, the door sliding shut behind them.
The two walked down the corridor in silence until they came upon Mike's quarters. The senior GSA officer pushed the button below the doorchime, allowing the door to the room to slide open easily. He then entered and motioned for Leo to follow him inside.
"Computer, lights," Mike ordered with a soft and rather tired voice. Once lights illuminated their surroundings, Mike sat down upon a stool and stared at his little brother who was standing awkwardly before him. "Care to tell me the entire story, Leo?" he questioned with a tinge of disappointment in his voice.
Leo met his brother's gaze. "It's not what you think," were the first words that he blurted out.
"Try me," Mike remarked, leaning against the counter beside him.
"Alright," the Red Ranger sighed. This wasn't exactly how he planned to talk. The LAST thing he needed was to recount what had happened during his "encounter" with Karone. Every touch and feel...nope! He really did not need to go there at that moment. "Well, Karone and I were playing with some of the kids and the daycare center earlier today. We were playing Hide and Seek when the kids' parents arrived and they all left. Karone and I were still playing Hide and Seek...when things got a little out of hand..." he trailed off uneasily, glancing Mike's way.
"Who kissed who?"
"I kissed her and it kinda just dominoed from there," Leo admitted, without going into deep detail. "Neither of us had meant to though. It was an accident!"
A hush fell over the two and Mike took that quietness to consider his brother's words. Mike knew his little brother damn well and knew Leo wasn't the type to take advantage of a girl. Besides, the way Leo felt so awkward and sheepish about what had taken place...Mike was pretty sure Leo was telling the truth.
Not that he doubted his brother, but ever since Leo had told him he had a crush on Karone, he had felt very uncomfortable about it. Mike liked Karone too, but he felt sort of protective for his brother. She was a woman with a longing for her childhood, while on the other hand Leo was just simply still a kid at times.
"I take it you want my advice on how to deal with her?"
Leo wandered over to the window, gazing out at the mysterious and unfamiliar stars littering the background of space. "I was hoping for a little bit of advice," he mumbled, reaching with his fingers to touch at the glass somewhat longingly. "That, and I just needed to get it off of my chest." He turned around, his face filled with an unusual devastation. "After we "woke" up, Karone she was just...this totally different person. She was so cold and shut off...she wasn't the same person I knew."
Mike leisurely approached his brother's side, letting Leo muse for a little bit. "You've only known Karone for a month," he pointed out as set his hand on Leo's shoulder. "You don't exactly know her every reaction and mood. Besides, she was the QUEEN of Evil at one time in her life; she's bound to have a dark side. And what if she was just so shocked, she didn't know how to react so she shut herself off?"
"Maybe..." Leo took Mike's words to heart. "It felt like something else though."
Mike chuckled softly at his brother. "Leo, with women, EVERYTHING is something else..."
"You're kidding me, right?"
Those were first words out of Maya's mouth as the door to her and Karone's quarters slid shut behind her. "You and Leo? Together?"
Karone moaned out, "Yes" and then quickly kicked off her boots, moving to lie down on the sofa.
Maya literally skipped over to where Karone was and sat down on the floor. "So this isn't a joke?" she queried one more time, simply making sure. The thought was simply mind-blowing!
"Part of me wishes it was," she replied, lying back and propping her feet up with a pillow on the other side of the sofa. "The other part of me savors what happened on that beach and wants more. Least to say, I'm suppressing that part."
"So what happened?" Maya prodded slightly, knowing Karone was eventually going to tell her anyways. She had managed to become semi-serious about the subject now that her mind had stopped running wildly.
Karone sighed, closing her eyes. "You know how me and Leo sometimes hang out at the daycare center, playing with the kids?"
"Well, we were over there this afternoon playing Hide and Seek with the kids. Then their parents showed up and we kept on playing between the two of us; Leo was looking for me and found me. Then he kissed me, and I kissed him back. The kiss was pretty good, now that I think about it," she let a small smile play upon her lips at that memory. "Next thing I know, we're both nude on one of the abandoned beaches in the Ocean Dome."
Karone turned onto her side and propped her head up with her arm, looking over at Maya. "You know what was the strange thing about the experience, Maya?" she remarked lightly, while just recalling a little fact. "When we first kissed, I felt this blast emotions run through me and NONE of them were mine!"
It took a second for it dawn upon Maya, but when it did, she was gawking. "Oh my..." she muttered, placing a hand to her open mouth. She glanced at Karone, who was confused by her friend's reaction. "I am SO sorry!"
"What?!" Karone was now sitting up on the sofa, still in the dark.
"I meant to tell you and Leo this earlier, but it slipped my mind," she gasped. "The Lion and Wildcat Galactabeasts are in a relationship together."
Even with this new information, the Pink Ranger was still stumped. "And that means...?"
"The Galactabeasts have a kind of mental connection to their "masters", as they call us," Maya tried explaining, so she could get her point across. "They can reflect emotions onto us sometimes. Emotions like love."
Finally taking in all of the facts, Karone gasped and held her head in her hands. "So you mean, this whole thing with Leo probably happened because of our Galactabeats?" her voice shuddered in shock.
Maya nodded solemnly as Karone collapsed backwards onto the sofa.
Karone tossed and turned as she tried to sleep that night, but her thoughts wouldn't relent and quietly go to sleep like she wanted them to. They ran rampant, stimulating every part of her brain and driving her to the point where she thought she was going to go insane.
One common thread that her thoughts had all contained was one person...
Leo was always there. She recalled him fighting Stingwingers and helping her out of a tight spot. She remembered him smiling and laughing when he found her hiding in the tree. Sometimes, she even thought of his kisses and how smooth and hot they were.
Basically put, she had FAR too much of Leo on her mind.
"Probably an effect Wildcat is having on me," Karone muttered quietly to herself, turning onto her side on her bunk.
For awhile she remained silent, slowly watching the many Leo-oriented thoughts pop up into her mind. She was like that until she simply decided enough was enough. Karone crawled out of her bunk and headed towards her closet to grab some decent clothes.
Usually she'd wear her leather top and pants, but for once in a very long time, she didn't feel like wearing the material that felt like second skin to her. After all, she had worn for most of her life. So instead, she pulled out another familiar set of clothing and quickly slipped them on.
For a second, Karone turned to glance into the mirror next to the closet and sighed. "Oh, Zhane," she murmured, sliding her hands down her skirt colored in earth tones. "If you only knew about this lovely mess I've gotten into. You'd have a ball with it."
She smiled sadly at her reflection on the shiny object. It was pitiful to know that what had taken place between her and Leo was simply a reflection of love. Maybe, just maybe, when she had been ready for love again, Karone would have thought of Leo in that manner...on her own. Right now, there was no way to tell what was going on in her mind. Was Wildcat in control or was she?
After slipping on her sandals, she crept towards the door quietly trying her best not to possibly jerk Maya out of her peaceful sleep. That and Karone didn't want Maya thinking she was going to Leo or something.
Once she was out of her quarters and standing in the nearly empty corridor, she sighed contentedly. "Just me and the walls," she exuberated, striding down the corridor with a slight spring in her step. "Exactly what I was looking forward to."
Karone quickly wandered over to one of the elevators on the deck and stepped in, the doors whooshing shut after her. She was merely looking for the solitude she could find anywhere. At that moment, she found solitude inside the silent moving elevator.
"This is great," she moaned, closing her eyes and leaning against the railing behind her. "No thoughts about Leo, no thoughts about sex, no thoughts about anything. A blank mind."
Her happiness quickly flew out the door when it opened up to Deck Five and the one person she had thought she had escaped from entered. "Not again..." Leo moaned, stopping directly in the middle of the elevator's doorway.
"I think we have magnets in us," Karone groaned, equally disappointed. "You're south and I'm north."
"I think I'll agree with that," Leo nodded, entering the small room and standing beside her in the elevator as it began its decent.
The two stood quietly and stiffly in the elevator as it slowly rolled downwards back towards Deck Four. For them, the time it took for the elevator to even start moving downwards FROM Deck Five felt like an eternity. From then on, the sexual tension between the couple grew stronger and stronger until finally Karone simply couldn't take it anymore.
"Geez, this is totally insane..." Karone muttered as she grabbed Leo by the shoulders and pushed him up against the wall, kissing him as hard as she could possible with all her strength.
Leo let out a stunned cry that was muffled by their kiss and slowly faded away. He slid his arms around her and sunk to the cold floor, Karone in his lap. They kissed wildly and freely, hands and lips roaming each other's bodies wherever they pleased.
That is until the doors of the elevator swooshed open to reveal Deck Four's corridor to their view once again. They broke away from their intimate touches and stared out at the low-lit and empty deck. "To hell with it," Karone mumbled fiercely, literally overridden by the intoxicating feelings of love and lust. "I want you," she panted to Leo, their foreheads leaning against each other. "Right here, right now."
Leo breathed his response just as the doors shut, gently lying Karone to the floor and kissing her.
Sometime later, the common sense hit Leo to groan out, "Computer, seal elevator doors!"
"I can't believe we did it again!"
"And this time you don't have yourself to blame for initiating it," Karone remarked unhappily, leaning against the wall as she pulled on her skirt. "Why is Wildcat having this much of an effect on me?!"
Tugging his red shirt up and over his head, Leo peeked out at the blonde in confusion. "What do you mean by Wildcat having an effect on you?" his voice was piqued with interest about his companion's words.
Karone smoothed out her skirt now that she was fully dressed and slowly replied him, suddenly shy about the situation they were tangled in. "Well, I kinda told Maya what happened between us yesterday..."
"Maya knows about the beach?!"
"Yes! Calm down, would you? It's not like she's going to spread the news all over Terra Venture or something!"
Leo sighed, slightly reluctant. He should have known that Karone would tell Maya. She was close to the Yellow Ranger and besides, if he had needed to talk to Mike about what happened, what Karone did should have been expected by him. "I guess you're right," he shrugged, feeling stupid in a way because of not considering Karone's needs to express her jumbled emotions. "I told Mike about what happened too."
He looked awkwardly towards her, the flush of embarrassment rising in his cheeks, yet to be surprised with the gentle smile that had graced Karone's face. "I figured you would tell him."
Unfortunately for Leo, he quickly watched the smile flop off of her face. Her light gleeful mood disappeared and the disappointed and frustrated mood returned to Karone. She ripped her gaze away from him and stared towards the cold floor. "I wish Wildcat would stop doing that," she groaned unpleasantly. She then glared up at Leo, not so much angry as she was upset: upset with him, upset with Wildcat, and upset with herself for falling prey once again to the GalactaZord's emotions.
"What are you talking about Karone?" Leo prodded once more. Why did she keep on mentioning her Galactabeast? "What does Wildcat have to do with anything?"
As the elevator continued on its rise up to Deck Four, Karone hesitated on telling Leo about the Galactabeasts' involvement. There was an uneasy pause as she debated over the subject. If she didn't tell him...well, the encounters that had gone on between them could continue. If she did tell him, he could just totally call her crazy and that would be the end of the conversation itself. She couldn't help but think that it sounded crazy too...the Galactabeasts making them have their primal urges of lust?
She was going to tell him anyway. It didn't really matter if he thought she was crazy...Karone already felt like she was going insane! Two different emotions fighting control over her mind and body; sometimes it was just simply too much for her. "Leo," she finally voiced, getting his attention. "Maya told me something last night about Wildcat and Lion."
"Does it have something to do with us?" he asked deliberately, trying not to be forceful in any way.
"Yes," she allowed the answer to escape her mouth gradually. "Lion and Wildcat apparently are in a relationship together. All of our Galactabeasts have a kind of telepathic connection to us and sometimes through this link they can reflect emotions that they are feeling. Even love."
Leo gaped for a moment, until he felt the elevator stop beneath his feet. Quickly, he announced, "Computer, unseal elevator doors."
The doors instantly unlocked themselves and slid open to show to the two a dim view of Deck Four, still empty. Leo took Karone's hand and pulled her out of the elevator, into the corridor. "Come on," he tugged her gently in the direction of her quarters. "I wanna go talk to Maya. We need her to find out if there's a way to stop this from happening from Lion and Wildcat. They've gotta have an answer."
Karone followed him down the corridors silently. She suddenly felt so awkward being with Leo and not feeling anger or love towards him. She felt like...herself again.
As the neared her quarters, Leo also felt the awkwardness that Karone was feeling. He simply suppressed the feeling, something that he always usually did. Leo would much rather look strong than show any weakness. That hadn't been the case since yesterday. He felt defenseless in a way around Karone. He probably knew him better than anyone else did...even Mike. That little piece of information nagged at him now; it bothered him.
Soon enough, the two of them stepped to stand in front of Karone's front door and she pressed the keypad, allowing the door to slide open. "Maya?" Karone called out in the darkness.
"Yeah?" Maya's voice quickly replied her roommate's. "Hold on a second. Computer, lights." The lights instantly flashed on at the brunette's command, shedding light onto the room and revealing Maya. She sat expectantly on the sofa, fully dressed, as if she was awaiting Karone's return.
Karone blinked in part confusion, part surprise. "I thought you were sleeping!"
Maya simply shrugged an answer. "I'm a light sleeper." She gave the couple a soft smile. "Besides, I kinda put two and two together and..." the Yellow Ranger trailed off knowingly, but not with one of those "I told you so" grins. She looked more solemn about the fact that her friends were in such emotional turmoil over the entire mess.
Leo winced slightly at Maya's comment and at the reality of his situation. They really needed to figure out how to stop this madness. Karone and him couldn't go around having sex when they pleased, wherever they pleased! "Maya," his voice was tender, calling for help, "we really need your help. You've got to talk to Lion and Wildcat. We need to know if there's a way to stop them from inadvertently reflecting their emotions upon us."
"Are you guys okay?" Maya's face took on more concern while her gaze flashed between Karone and Leo.
Karone nodded. "We're fine," she sighed, almost sounding as if she wished she wasn't fine. "We just did it in an elevator this time."
Maya hastily swallowed the urge to let out a giant gasp. She suddenly felt as if time was of the essence and that if her friends didn't get help soon there could be an...outcome, from it all. "Why don't I go talk to them right now?" she suggested, standing up from the sofa. "I mean, it's not like they should be sleeping...at least I don't think they are."
Leo, who had been standing next to Karone awkwardly with his hands clasped behind his back, immediately piped up, "Sounds like a plan. I'll go with you," he insisted anxiously, his wandering gaze falling upon Maya.
With a nod of her head, she acknowledged Leo's words and then glanced towards Karone. The Pink Ranger looked rather uneasy more than awkward. "Karone," Maya gently questioned her blonde friend. "Do you feel alright? Maybe you should stay here."
"Maybe that'd be a good idea," she spoke softly with a tired voice. Karone moved achingly towards the sofa and plopped down on it, peeking up at Maya and Leo. "You guys go ahead and find out what we can do about this. I'm just gonna take a nap."
"Alright, if you say so," Leo reluctantly agreed as he and Maya headed towards the front door once more. He wasn't exactly ecstatic about leaving Karone by herself, especially when she looked ill, but he truly had no choice this time.
For all Leo knew, if he stayed, he would probably loose ALL self control.
Karone eagerly kicked off her sandals after her two friends left and padded her way over to her bunk, lying down. Slowly, she navigated her way to slip underneath her blankets and relaxed her head on her pillow.
Closing her eyes, she let her mind wander to important thoughts; thoughts that needed to be thought about. "What am I going to do about Leo?" she moaned out softly, her eyes still delicately closed.
Karone knew if Wildcat and Lion knew a way to kind of "block" their reflections of emotions upon Leo and herself, things would be awkward between them, to say the least. It was already awkward. It was just going to worse and forge a gap in her friendship with Leo.
The last thing she wanted to loose was her friendship with Leo, in spite of all the things that had taken place during the last twenty-four hours. But she was prepared to loose his friendship because she had had first-hand experience that when you have sex, there was no turning back.
Zhane had been her first-hand experience. Before she had decided to on her "crusade" of sorts, Karone had been engaged to Zhane. They were blissfully in love and never wanted to be apart. That was, until Karone felt the need to right all of her wrongs done as Astronema by doing good across the universe.
She had come absolutely close to convincing Zhane to come along with her, telling him it was something she needed to do with him by her side. In the end, Zhane resisted her offer to come along, surprising Karone. She had always thought he loved the fight of being a Power Ranger and traveling through space; what she had planned was nearly just that, but somewhat different.
Her fiancÚ rejected her offer straight out, claiming that the wild life was no longer for him. That he had experienced it already and that he wanted her to stay on Earth with him.
Karone knew she didn't want to stay on Earth. She had spent her life as Astronema roaming the universe; she wanted a chance to roam the universe as Karone. So, on one fateful night, Karone left with a small bag of her belongings and ended up on Aquitar.
She stayed on Aquitar for a few months before hearing the news about the Pink Quasar Saber being in the wrong hands on Onyx. Without a second thought, she dropped everything and caught the next transport that would pass by Onyx. "And here I am," she sighed softly to herself, opening her eyes and staring up at the bunk above hers. "Maybe if I had stayed on Earth with Zhane, this wouldn't have happened."
As she rolled over onto her side, Karone dismissed the thought quickly. If she had stayed on Earth, she would have never experienced the many wonderful things she had. The good definitely outweighed the bad in her situation.
Karone was silent for sometime, trying to calm her thoughts so that she could go to sleep. But that was hard because of the odd feeling that she felt within her; it was that feeling that was causing her to feel ill. She couldn't pinpoint the exact feeling or what was triggering it, but the magic in her blood was telling her something was going on inside her. Something new, something different.
The magic in her blood just wasn't sure WHAT it was.
As Leo drove the little car down the dark empty streets of the City
Dome heading towards the Mountain Dome, he broke the silence that had
fallen upon him and his passenger. "I hope Karone is feeling better,"
he commented nonchalantly, trying to strike up some kind of
Maya nodded her head gently in the darkness. "Your feelings for Karone go deeper that the Galatcabeasts' emotions, don't they?" she questioned softly, not trying to put Leo on the spot but simply trying to confirm one of her hunches. The car quickly rolled through the connector tunnel that linked the City Dome to the Mountain Dome.
Leo had a look of unbelievable surprise on his face, which he hastily tried to disguise from her view. It was already too late though because she had been paying close attention to Leo's expression and had been able to discern it even in the dimness. "It's alright," she ensured. Leo was able to hear the true sincerity in her voice. "I won't hold it against you. Does Karone know?"
"No, she doesn't." He glanced over in the Yellow Galaxy Ranger's direction for a moment, driving straight ahead. "I sort of don't want her to know though; especially with all of this stuff that had just happened recently."
"I understand," Maya reassured him in her comforting way. "You don't want Karone to think..."
"...that I have a one-track mind," he filled in as they entered the Mountain Dome, the unpaved dirt road rubbing against the vehicle's tires. A sudden thought entered Leo's mind at right about that moment, one he was quite surprised that hadn't occurred to him to ask even Karone before. "Maya?"
"Has Karone ever, well, talked to you about her former...boyfriends?" The uneasiness his voice could be clearly heard, but Leo wasn't quite worried about that anymore. He wanted to know about Karone's sexual past; he kind of felt in an odd way he DESERVED to know about it.
Quite stunned by her companion's question, Maya looked to Leo and realized he was actually pretty serious. She considered flat-out refusing to answer his question because of the privacy she shared with Karone. They had had a few chats at the beginning when Karone was trying to adjust to life on Terra Venture: the Pink Ranger explaining her tainted past to the only person on Terra Venture who had never experienced her wrath.
Maya also saw where Leo was coming from although, and knew he would eventually hear it from Karone when the time was right. It wasn't her place to stick her nose where it most certainly did not belong. "It would be better if Karone told you that, Leo," she paused as the car came to a stop along the side of the dirt road near a grove of trees. "She'll tell you when she deems it fit."
"Alright," Leo easily sided with her decision. He respected Maya's respect for Karone's privacy and he hoped one day, after their mess was taken care of, that he could be privileged to be able to have that respect for Karone.
He turned off the car and the two undid their seatbelts quickly, climbing out of the car and heading into the grove of trees before them. Soon enough, they came out of the gathering of trees to stand at the very periphery of a large grass field, which was where all the Galactabeasts resided.
"Wildcat?" Maya called out to the animal. "Lion? Wake up!"
Leo heard a few snorts and grunts resound from far away, while Maya heard words. He turned to see her shaking her head, almost disapprovingly. "I KNOW you're awake...Leo and Karone are awake too because of you two!" she replied the grunts.
A grunt that almost sounded like a surprised exclamation to Leo's ears sounded once again and Lion and Wildcat padded into the two rangers' view finally. Lion growled a few times and snorted towards Leo, leaving him confused. Leo instantly turned to Maya, who translated, "He says sorry."
"All that to say sorry!?" Leo muttered off to the side, before gazing up towards his Galactabeast and replying. "Can you possibly stop this from happening? Karone and I don't exactly...savor it as much as you and Wildcat may."
This time Wildcat was growling at Maya; Leo guessed that she was answering his question for her lover. "What'd she say?"
Maya laid her eyes upon his and he quickly noticed that they weren't exactly looking hopeful. "Wildcat says there is no way to block the telepathy bond. She said the last Galaxy Rangers never had this problem," the brunette sourly recounted. "I'm really sorry, Leo."
"It's alright," Leo declared in a rather monotonous tone. He let a small courteous smile grace his features, returning his gaze to the two Galactabeasts. "Thanks for your help anyway," he acknowledged.
Wildcat roared softly, replying Leo's pain with a comforting "word" of her own. "Come on, we'd better get going," he prompted Maya, dejectedly heading back into the grove of trees. "I might as well face Karone and tell her there's no way to stopping this madness. If I tell her now, maybe she might not feel the need to kill me with one of her reflected moods later."
Leo sighed pathetically to himself, obviously very disappointed by his fallen hopes. "Leo," Maya's voice called out to him and that's when he realized that she hadn't been following him back to the car. "Leo, can you come back here please?"
Leo sighed heavily, his shoulders slouching. "Maya, I'm really tired and I just want to go home and get some sleep. Do you-"
"Leo..." a familiar voice whispered gently, a ghost-like feel to it.
The young man instantly spun around at the sound of the voice and gawked. "I can't believe it," he breathed, creeping closer to Maya. "It can't be..."
There, bridging the gap between him and Maya, was Kendrix Morgan.
Trakeena rose from her bed without a second thought and glided across her chambers to activate her viewscreen which monitored all ranger activity on Terra Venture. She had this...feeling that something was brewing down on the human colony.
"What are you doing, Trakeena?" a voice called to her as she sat before the viewscreen.
"Checking up on the rangers, that's all," she dismissed, pressing her fingers along the console.
Soon enough, the blank viewscreen lit up with a picture of the Mountain Dome, near where Leo and Maya were presently. She quickly took notice of their silhouettes in the dark picture and zoomed in on them. That was when she finally saw the ghostly figure floating between them. She balled her hand into a fist and slammed it on the console fiercely. "Damn that girl! Damn her!"
Her companion jumped up from where he lay on Trakeena's bed, startled. "Who is it, Trakeena?"
The young villainess swiveled around, her face coated his anger. "That Pink Ranger - the one who died - she is speaking with the Red and Yellow Rangers!" she cried out in resentment. "Helping them, most likely. Something I do not need her doing!"
"May I suggest sending down a group of Stingwingers?" he suggested, trying to calm down the might rage of his queen.
A smirk befell Trakeena's lips and her anger melted away, revealing a conniving woman. "That would be an excellent suggestion, Villamax. A very good one indeed..."
"It is me," Kendrix grinned, as she floated before him. "Not exactly in the flesh, but it's me; Kendrix!"
Leo crept even closer, finally believing what was being shown to him. "Kendrix!" he cried, stumbling around for words until, "Whoa!" finally came out.
The three of them all laughed together at Leo's clumsy excitement. "It's wonderful to see you again, Kendrix," Maya whispered happily once their laughter died away. She struggled to hold back the slow-forming tears in her eyes.
Kendrix smiled widely at her close friend. "It's wonderful to be seen again," she replied humorously, "but as much as I may wish I was here for a social call, I'm not. I'm here to help you guys out."
"Help us?" Leo repeated, not quite comprehending until he actually thought for a second. "Oh, you mean about the situation between me and Karone..."
Kendrix nodded, almost in mild regret. A little part within her good soul yearned and wished she had been in Karone's place at that moment. For Kendrix cared ever so deeply for Leo, but had never gotten the chance to speak her feelings to him. However, now that she was no longer restrained to a corporal body, Kendrix could go back and forth through time and she knew that Fate had never meant for Leo to be hers. He was destined to live a long and loving life with another woman.
That didn't matter at that moment though. Right now, she was there to help her friends and help them she was. "Yeah, there is a way you can control yourself against the emotions from telepathy bond," she began to explain to Leo slowly, but before she could continue, a group of Stingwingers descended upon the vicinity.
"Stingwingers!" Maya cried out in sheer surprise.
Kendrix quickly floated farther away from her two friends and towards the trees, as she watched them prepare to morph. "Quick!" Leo shouted, and near moments later Maya's voice joined him.
Within flashes of bright red and yellow lights, Maya and Leo morphed into their Power Ranger uniforms and started kicking Stingwingers left and right. Even as they fought hard, Kendrix noticed more of Trakeena's henchmen flying towards the battle scene and realized that the Yellow and Red Rangers' were going to be overwhelmed soon if they didn't get help.
So, Kendrix did the ONLY thing she could do: Get help.
It had only been about a half-hour after Karone had finally drifted off into the magical and wondrous place of dreamland, when a resounding voice echoed through her head.
"Karone!" the voice, feminine, yelled hollowly. "Wake up, Karone!"
The Pink Ranger murmured incoherently in her sleep and tossed herself onto her side, trying to block the voice out of her mind and get some more rest. As hard as Karone tried though, the voice continued to plead. "Karone!" it cried frantically. "You've got to wake up and help Leo and Maya!"
"What?" the blonde nearly popped up in her bunk, almost hitting her head on the bunk above hers. Karone didn't even question the voice, for she could sense the faint vibe of trouble in the air now that she was fully aware.
She jumped out from underneath her blankets and quickly activated her communicator/morpher, which was still strapped to her wrist. "Kai! Mike! Damon!" she alerted her fellow teammates through the speaker. "Leo and Maya are in trouble!"
Leo quickly jabbed a Stingwinger in the midsection with elbow, releasing himself from the bug's clawed grip. He ran over to Maya's side to help her get rid of the many henchmen that had descended upon her.
"There are too many!" she shouted over the buzzing noises the Stingwingers were producing. "We need help!"
"Well then, help has arrived!" Damon's voice boomed from behind them.
Leo and Maya snapped their heads around to look behind them to see Damon, Kai, Mike and Karone fighting off the many Stingwingers that had retreated from them and started attacking the four new arrivals.
Unfortunately for the Stingwingers, they quickly and easily became overpowered by the strength of the six rangers together and flew off into the darkness of the night. "What was that all about?" Mike muttered with a tired yawn as he lowered his sword.
"I have no idea," Leo replied in truthful amazement. "How did you guys know we were in trouble? We couldn't even get to our communicators before they attacked us!"
"Karone called us and told us you two were in trouble," Kai replied clearly, motioning towards Leo and Maya.
The Red Ranger's gaze shifted to fall upon Karone, who in turn, looked directly at Maya. "I sensed something in the air," she shrugged absently, as if it was no big deal. "I guess having magic has its advantages."
For a moment, the group was simply quiet and in the darkness of their surroundings crickets and other nocturnal animals could be heard as they went about their own business. "What were you two doing out here anyways?" Damon finally yawned, speaking up for himself, Kai and Mike who were nearly oblivious to what was going on.
Before Maya could even speak up to spit out the truth, Leo responded to the question in record time. "Maya thought she heard something funny with the Galactabeasts. I was up when she called, so I decided to come with her to check things out."
Fortunately for Maya, none of them could see her face filled with guilt of lying beneath her helmet. "When we came out here I realized it was nothing," she quickly backed up Leo's alibi.
Kai and Damon once again excepted Leo's lie at face value while Mike knew something was going on with his little brother. He wasn't about to pry at Leo just then though. Mike knew he was going through a lot of stuff at that time. "Come on," the Magna Defender urged his friends, "it's almost sunrise and we've all got things to do."
Everyone sort of quietly agreed with Mike as they began walking through the grove of trees once more...everyone but Leo. He hung back uncomfortably, looking around the small clearing, hoping to find any indication that Kendrix's spirit was still there. He badly needed to know, wanted to know, what could stop his meaningless drive of emotions that caused him to feel for Karone the way he did.
Karone could sense Leo's desperation. It was the same kind of desperation that she herself felt, but refused to let out. Magic was kind to a person in these ways, letting them conceal certain emotions to an extent. But simply knowing Leo was just as desperate as she was, she couldn't help but see him as a kindred spirit...as a friend wading through the same exact muck that she was, but having a harder time of it.
The Pink Ranger after walking about halfway through the cluster of trees, hearing her own footsteps swish through the fresh grass, turned around completely and started heading back towards where Leo was back out on the empty field. "Karone!" Maya whispered quietly as the blonde lingered away, trying to stop her friend from making another mistake. She grabbed for Karone's arm, but Maya's fingers narrowly missed her.
Another arm closed on Maya's shoulder and she spun around to find herself staring into the Magna Defender's helmet. "Let her go, Maya," Mike advised gently as they continued to walk forward. "Leo and Karone need time to talk alone."
The Yellow Galaxy Ranger gawked for a second, realizing Mike knew almost everything she did. "But what if they..."
He shook his head and hushed her. "They NEED this time. We just have to have a little trust in them."
"Kendrix?" Leo hissed softly, roaming around the small area. "Are you still here?"
He silenced himself for some time, listening for a response. "Leo?"
He literally jumped, half expecting to see Kendrix, but instead saw Karone standing before him with her helmet head securely beneath her arm. She appeared almost like a lost little child, wandering absently, looking endlessly for her parents. "You're looking for Kendrix?" she spoke with a delicate tone sounding as if she spoke louder Terra Venture would crumble to pieces.
"How did you know?"
"She called to me in my sleep," she confessed the truth to him. "Kendrix told me you and Maya were in trouble."
"That was kind of her," he shrugged, letting Karone's words roll off of him. He hadn't wanted to deal with Karone, and yet there he was. Did Fate have it out for him?
Karone stood silently, watching Leo as he searched high and low for the former Pink Ranger's spirit. "Did you want any help?"
"No thanks," Leo commonly brushed her off again, hoping she would take a hint and leave him, but Karone was playing dense. She wasn't about to leave especially when she knew she could help somehow. She didn't care what Leo thought; she wanted to be there with him.
"Leo!" a voice scolded the Red Ranger. "Since when did you ignore people? Maybe I should ignore you!"
Both Leo and Karone snapped around to see Kendrix floating delicately before them. "Kendrix! I've been looking for you-" Leo was instantaneously cut off by the beautiful and young spirit.
"The first thing to blocking the telepathy bond is restoring your friendship with Karone. Now, that's not going to exactly work out if you keep on ignoring her," Kendrix berated in a gentle manner. Leo gaped beneath his helmet, almost mortified.
Karone grinned faintly, touching his shoulder with her hand assuring him that she hadn't been offended by his actions. "So, there is a way to fix this?" she asked the former Pink Ranger confidently. "We can stop this from happening again?"
"There is a remedy," Kendrix answered, a small grin tugging at her light lips. "Before it can work though, you've both got to fix everything; the rift that's forged between you and ruined your friendship. You have to be able to trust one another again."
Leo unlatched his helmet, and gazed up at his friend with his brown eyes filled with bleakness. "How can we trust each other if we both know that at any moment either one of us could loose control?" He spoke truthfully, though knowing that he could no longer trust his OWN instincts tore him apart.
Kendrix bowed her slightly, a grim straight line now upon her mouth. "That's all part of trust, Leo," she replied, her voice echoing as she slowly faded into the darkness. "You must find it in your heart to trust each other again for everything to be set right..."
The couple silently watched as their friend gradually faded away, her words left for them to ponder upon.
For the longest time, the two of them stood there in the silence of the trees until Leo glanced at Karone's hand set upon his shoulder, and then met her gaze. He could see how Karone's beautiful eyes pleaded with him, begging for him to try and learn to trust her once more.
Solemnly, Leo nudged her hand from his shoulder and walked off into the morning dawn alone.
"This is interesting," Trakeena grinned wickedly, her nails tapping upon the console before her as she lounged back in the chair she had a seat in over twenty minutes before.
"What is interesting?" Villamax queried curiously, finally vacating the bed he had been laying in and coming up beside Trakeena.
"It seems as if Karone and the Red Ranger are having "trust" issues," she commented flippantly, ideas churning within her mind. "I think I may know a way to deal with this."
Trakeena smirked, resting her hand beneath her chin. "Let it play out, of course," she relayed to Villamax quite easily, his hand sliding to rest upon her shoulder. "You, of all people, should know that the weakness AND strength of any team of Power Rangers is trust. It is what binds them when strong and what exposes them when weak."
"Karone's here! Karone's here! Karone's here!"
Karone couldn't help but let a gigantic grin light up her dreary face as she walked up the paved path that lead towards the daycare center, the little children sitting at the window anxiously waiting her arrival so they could have someone to play with.
Back in her normal leather clothes, the blonde opened the door to the center and was literally sucked inside by all the children's hands. "Whoa!" she cried out, shutting the door behind her. She quickly glanced across the room to see the other two teachers that worked at the daycare and waved to them.
For awhile, the kids were content with simply tugging at Karone's arms until one little boy shouted out, "Where's Leo?"
Soon enough, ALL the children started chanting, "Where's Leo? Where's Leo? Where's Leo?"
Karone quickly bit on her lip, forcing herself to not get all emotional over what had happened between Leo and her mere hours ago. She kneeled down to the children's height and motioned with her hands to them to calm down, which they immediately did. "Leo's not coming here anymore," she gently relayed to them.
Instantly, all the children looked somewhat sad. "Why?" another little girl piped up.
She was slightly taken aback by the question herself. Karone hadn't expected them to actually need an actual justification of why Leo wasn't coming around anymore. She knew WHY he wasn't coming around anymore, but it's not like she could tell the children what he had told her...
"Leo?" Karone looked quite surprised at his presence at her door. "What are you doing here? Do you want to come in?"
He leaned casually against the doorframe, dressed in his normal uniform of blue jeans and his leather jacket. Karone wanted so badly to reach out and touch him, hug him and for him to say that everything was okay; that they were still the closest of friends. But the next words that came out of his mouth somehow told her that wasn't simply to be.
"No," he replied with a somewhat detached voice. "I'm not going to be working at the daycare center anymore, Karone."
Karone instantly looked stunned. "Don't tell me this is because of what...happened yesterday," she groaned slightly. "Leo, please don't distance yourself away from me. If anything we've got to work this out and Kendrix said..."
"Never mind what Kendrix said."
"But Leo, the kids love you!"
For a moment, Karone watched as an unsure look overrode his cold, stony disposition for a split second and then disappeared. The look in his eyes told her that he didn't want to leave the kids, that he loved the children at the daycare center too. But she knew his mind told him that being with her was a no-no and simply could not happen. His mind overruled his emotions in this case. "They'll just have to love you now, Karone," he simply shrugged with a monotonous voice and walked away from the door, down the corridor.
"...Leo had to go do some other stuff for awhile," Karone blandly told the children. After all the time she had spent as Astronema, she still was horrible at coming up with lies. Luckily, they didn't even notice. "He may come back later on though."
"YaY!" the chorus of high-pitched voices cried as the went scampering all around the room once more to where they were playing. A few children stayed behind and tugged on Karone's hand.
"What's up?" She pushed Leo to the back of her mind quickly, turning her attention to the boys and girls. They were here now, Leo wasn't.
"Can we go play "Hide And Seek" in the park?" Molly chirped giddily. "Leo cheated yesterday!"
Karone couldn't help but grimace at the innocent suggestion from the child. Last thing she wanted to do was revisit the park, but Molly and the other kids wanted to and she wasn't about to deprive them of their fun just because she was uncomfortable. "He sure did cheat," she muttered lowly underneath her breath and then spoke up happily, "Sure! Let's go out there right now!"
Leo inhaled the fresh breeze as it passed by him as he sat atop a beautiful black horse, letting it trot around the dirt track. He sighed quietly, not exactly content but not exactly unhappy. "This is much better than being around Karone constantly," he muttered, just loud enough that the horse could faintly hear him.
After Leo had left Karone, the first place he headed to was Terra Venture Stables. Maya worked there part-time as well as at Terra Venture Gardens, and after his connecting with the one of the horses there who helped him nearly defeat one of Scorpius' lackey monsters, Leo realized he rather liked the stables. Of course, he had never followed up on the chance to work there until that morning when he came to the final conclusion he could NOT work alongside Karone anymore.
He talked with the owner of the stables, and lucky for Leo, the owner took quick to his anxious attitude and gave him a job on the spot following a little bit of paperwork. Leo would basically be working an early shift from the morning to the mid-afternoon, taking care of some of the horse's needs. Not too much of a job, but one that Leo jumped at eagerly.
"Karone doesn't like animals," he mumbled once again, stroking the soft, combed mane of the horse. Karone had told him that once and said it was because of the way she was raised as a child. She never really saw animals before she was freed from the evil that possessed her. Somehow, the thought of knowing that Karone would never come around to the stables reassured the Red Ranger.
Leo wasn't angry with Karone, not in the least, but he was almost positive that she thought he was after the way he confronted her at her quarters.
Leo was simply hurt and confused.
Kendrix had told him to try and trust Karone again, but the words never even registered in Leo's mind. What was trust? Had Karone and him HAD trust before their encounter? Could he trust? Did he even know HOW to trust someone? Those were the questions that continued to haunt his thoughts.
As far as Leo could remember, he had been a very friendly and open child when he was younger. Mike even told him stories about when he was little and used to run up to strangers in the street and right there would start conversations with them. He would have trusted Trakeena if he had known her back then.
Something hardened him though. Leo was never really sure what had caused him to become that way, but when he got older he just was like that. He learned to be wary of certain people, bad people supposedly. But nothing hardened him more than what had happened to him only a few months ago.
Leo trembled visibly for a few moments as he recalled the experience that had caused him to be so wary and skeptical. Of course, it didn't show when he was around his friends...of all people he didn't want them to know about what had taken place. They would hover around him like someone who had been through something horribly life-changing.
The experience was life-changing, but simply not THAT much. Or at least he believed that.
The days flew by swiftly, much to the surprise of both Karone and Leo. For an entire two weeks they had managed to avoid each other completely. Two weeks without the sight of one another didn't do much for their thoughts, which were continuously occupied with the thoughts about each other.
Karone became more solemn and Leo became more shut-off. The more the two denied what had happened between them, choosing to not make amends, the more they weighed upon each others mind...and the more the telepathy bond had influence over them.
Of course, Karone wasn't avoiding Leo by her choice. If she had it her way, she and Leo wouldn't be avoiding each other. They would be talking, trying get past what had happened in their encounter and salvaging their relationship. But then, at that time she had NOTHING going her way.
Ever since that night she had felt something new and vibrant within her, she had felt sick to her stomach. The loving and warm feeling and turned into somewhat of a wretched feeling as Karone continually felt as if she was going to vomit, but never really did. She simply dismissed it as a side-affect of the telepathy bond: nothing too bad to worry about. Karone had enough to bog her down already with Leo.
Leo, on the other hand, had become cold and silent. The isolation from Karone had literally caused him to shut himself off from everyone. He had to become hard and rough to block out the pain, hurt and loss or it would simply penetrate him and kill him softly.
Kai stirred at his newest culinary delight brewing inside of a large pot sitting upon the stove as the front door slid open and let Damon inside. "What for dinner this time?" he queried, laying his tool belt aside and moving over to the sink.
"Something new I found while searching through some databases late last night," Kai commented, setting the wooden spoon on top of the pot and sitting down on a stool. "Speaking of last night, have you seen Leo around today?"
Damon flipped on the kitchen faucet, water pouring down upon his hands as he washed them thoroughly of the grease and grime that he had been working with. "No, actually," he answered his friend, to his own surprise. "Usually I see Leo everyday, but lately...I haven't seen much, if any of him!"
"Neither have I," the GSA officer agreed and was about to go when suddenly the subject of their conversation stormed into their quarters with Mike hot on his trail.
The two young men fell silent staring at Leo as he stomped halfway through the room and then turned around, sneering at Mike in irritation. "Why can't you just back off, Mike?!" he yelled crossly. "It's none of your business!"
"It is my business, Leo!" Mike snapped back insistently, grabbing the younger Corbett by the shoulders and giving him a good jerk. "You're my little brother! This thing is tearing you up, but you aren't doing anything to solve the problem; you're only making it worse!"
The Red Ranger gritted his teeth, trying the best to keep his anger to a minimum and not make a scene, while also trying to not hit his brother at the same time. "Well then, if I CHOOSE to do what I am doing then that's my choice, now isn't it!" he yapped back, pulling away from Mike and literally running out of the quarters once again.
Kai and Damon watched dumbfounded as the front door slid shut behind Leo's escape. "Mike?" Damon gawked at the Magna Defender, trying to warrant some kind of answer from him.
Mike sighed heavily and plopped down onto the sofa before he answered the question. "I can't explain what just happened without telling you guys everything, and I think it's about time you guys heard everything so...here I go."
For the next fifteen minutes or so, Mike went about in detail describing what circumstances had unfolded between Leo and Karone in the last two weeks, starting with their encounter and ending with the argument that Mike had had with Leo. It had been about the same thing they had continuously argued over for the last few days: him choosing to not deal with Karone.
"That doesn't sound like Leo at all," Kai mumbled as he slowly absorbed all the information that had thrown in his direction. "I mean, he'll usually take the blame maybe, but got off his handle like that?"
Mike nodded in agreement. "It ISN'T Leo, and his whole new attitude towards Karone didn't just evolve from what happened between them. I have a feeling it goes past that, maybe to something else that happened to him. I'm sure nothing bad happened to him when we were on Earth, so must of happened while he was on Terra Venture."
All three men mused for awhile, until slowly Damon slipped, "Well, we never DID find out what Trakeena did to Leo for those three days he was captured..."
Kai literally jumped up from the chair he had sat in during Mike's retelling of events. "That kinda explains what was going on with Leo last night," he piped up, his features taking on a worried expression for his friend.
"What DID happen to him last night?" Damon queried, glancing at the Blue Ranger. "You were about to tell me before Mike and Leo ran in."
"Right," Kai acknowledged Damon's words. "Well, I was up late last night sorting through Terra Venture's database as well the Astro MegaShip's when I heard Leo mumbling his sleep.
"At first I kinda dismissed it, since lots of people talked in their sleep sometimes...even Leo. But a few minutes later, I actually heard Leo sobbing in his sleep," the Blue Ranger paused, watching their skeptical reactions. "I didn't believe it either until I walked by Leo and saw him. Tears were pouring out of his eyes and he kept on mumbling the words, "No, Trakeena, no!" over and over again. After awhile he calmed down and fell back into his sleep.
"I didn't want to mention it to him this morning because I was sure he'd think I was sticking my nose into his business, but now that you've mentioned it Mike, I'm worried about him," Kai finished his explanation, tugging at his sleeves awkwardly.
Mike looked thoughtful for a moment, staring beyond where Kai and Damon sat in front of him and at the wall. The emotions splayed across his face were hard to discern, but it was fairly clear that one of them was sadness. "I'm glad you told me," he allowed softly, as if distracted by other larger thoughts; which he was. Mike quickly stood up from his chair and headed out of the quarters. "I'd better get going, I've got a meeting with Commander Stanton soon."
The older Corbett brother vacated the room quickly, the doors shutting behind him. "It is me or does Mike look worried about Leo?" Damon chimed softly, his face full of concern for his friend.
Kai glanced the mechanic's way. "It's not just Mike, it's all of us..."
Karone came stumbling out of the bathroom late the next morning; face pale and clutching her stomach painfully. She sorely managed to walk over to the sofa and fall onto the piece of furniture, moaning sickly. "I don't think I should have eaten those eggs..."
"Did I cook them wrong?" Maya queried, sounding absolutely guilty for Karone's sickness.
"No, you didn't," the blonde weakly smiled, assuring her friend. "You've cooked them before and I haven't gotten sick like this. I don't know, maybe I ate something wrong yesterday."
Maya's faced lightened slightly with some hope. "Well, I hate to leave you like this, but I'd better get going," she told Karone. "Do you need anything before I leave or anything? I can stay if you want."
Karone faintly smiled at her friend's generosity and kindness. "I think I'll be able to manage. What did I do to deserve a friend like you, Maya?"
Maya blushed gently as she headed towards the door. "Don't worry about it, Karone. You're such a good friend; I'm simply returning the favor."
The blonde woman nodded her head, waving as Maya exited their quarters and headed off to her job.
After a few minutes of relaxing on the sofa in complete silence, the urge to vomit came over Karone once more and she rushed to the bathroom, regurgitating what was left of her dinner from last night. "Aughhhh..." she moaned for a second time, moving over to the bathroom sink and splashing her face with fresh cold water.
She grabbed a nearby towel and patted her face dry, looking directly into the mirror that was above the sink. Karone stared at herself and sighed heavily. She looked awful...actually she looked far worse than awful. Her flat blonde hair limply framed her wan face as her tired eyes expressed the deep hurt that she carried within her. "There's no possible way I'm going to work looking like this," she laughed pathetically at her reflection in the mirror.
Karone turned to stumble out of the bathroom once more, moving towards her bed to lay down, but instead found herself walking into the living room and picking up a picture of her and Leo that had been standing on the coffee table. It had been taken a few days after her becoming the Pink Galaxy Ranger; the first day she started work at the daycare center.
Her weak fingers ran across the smooth surface, almost as if caressing the picture. Then, with all of the strength she possessed within her, Karone hurled the picture frame to the other side of the room, allowing it to land to land on the carpeted floor with a soft thump.
Suddenly, she collapsed to the ground, all of her energy sapped from her. She didn't WANT to hold it in anymore. She was sick of being strong for her own good and trying to play by Leo's rules. Karone wanted him to come to her and realize what an idiot he had been for the last two weeks. She wanted him to beg her for forgiveness and tell her that they could still be the best of friends. Those were her rules.
She just wished badly Leo could follow them.
The young GSA officer stopped striding down the corridor and spun around to see Maya jogging up to where he stood. Soon enough, she was standing at his side and they began walking together. "How is Leo?"
Mike couldn't help but heave a heavy sigh at the mention of the Red Galaxy Ranger's name. The two of them came to a stop in front of the elevator and stood waiting. "He's no better than he was yesterday morning," Mike grumbled, slightly irritated with the younger Corbett. "I just wish he'd stop being so...stubborn about it! I mean, if he has a problem, why doesn't he just let us know; we can help him get through it!"
"Well..." Maya trailed off abruptly as the elevator doors slid open and a few people exited it, allowing them to enter. Once they both were inside by themselves and the elevator had started to move upwards, she began to speak again. "Well, I haven't known Leo for a long time, but for the time I HAVE known him, he always had some sort of valid reason for his actions. He must have a reason behind not telling us about his problem."
Mike nodded his agreement, but his face still remained sour. "I know that, but this is tearing Karone apart! His actions...he hasn't yet seen the full result of them and Karone has made sure he won't," he paused, leaning against the small room's wall.
"Karone respects Leo's choice, no matter how much it hurts her."
"She's going to keep on getting hurt if she doesn't fight back against Leo!"
Maya stared intently at her companion, somewhat appalled by his recommendation. "Computer, stop elevator," she ordered and the machine came to a halt. "You don't understand, do you Mike?"
"Of course I understand!" Mike's eyes blazed with a fierce anger. His anger was not directed at Maya though. Mike was simply angry and frustrated with the situation his brother and Karone had gotten into. He cared for them both deeply, and watching them endure the pain over their choices made him hurt just as much. He wanted to do something, ANYTHING, to help, but they weren't letting him and THAT was the source of his anger. "Leo's acting like a gigantic idiot and Karone's taking the repercussions without a fight. They've got to do something...and if they won't do it on their own, I'll help them. Heck, I'll FORCE them to make amends and fix this!"
The brunette shook her head vigorously, her long curls sweeping into her face. "No, you DON'T understand," she spoke with a petite and hushed tone, which instantly calmed Mike down to a degree. "Karone has spent half her life as a servant to evil. She fought long and hard against good, never succeeding in her many attempts. Only when she finally STOPPED fighting, did she really win.
"Karone has CHOSEN not to fight Leo because she knows she can only win that way," Maya explained softly, still staring Mike down, but with a soft gaze now.
Mike absorbed her words, before countering them with his own thoughts on the subject. "If you don't fight, that always doesn't get you anywhere either. You can't just expect the things that you want to always come to you!
"It's just like when we fight Trakeena. We fight, because we know it will help us stay free for another day. And usually we DO succeed! You can fight and still win...Karone must at least know that!"
Maya was quiet and a dead silence fell over the two. "Computer, resume elevator," she at last voiced naturally. The elevator began to move upwards once more to Deck Five and she looked at him. "Fighting works, but Karone has her own way. I don't exactly see eye to eye with her decision either, but I DO respect it and understand that she needs to do things her way," Maya searched for some sort of acceptance from Mike in his eyes. "Can you respect it too?"
The elevator suddenly stopped and the doors slid open to reveal the brightly lit corridor of Deck Five. Mike nodded gently. "I can respect it," he replied Maya in assurance. "It hurts seeing two of my friends so torn up though. I feel like I need to help."
"So do I, but they've got to sort it out on their own terms or it just doesn't work," Maya sighed in agreement, folding her arms across her stomach somewhat sadly.
She watched as a solemn Mike exited the elevator and the doors slid closed after him, the elevator lowering her down once more. Realizing she was alone, the Yellow Galaxy Ranger propped herself up against the cold wall and let soft, small frown coat her lips. She frowned because she knew one thing was for certain.
Leo and Karone were in for a long bumpy ride.