Author's note:I got the idea for this when I was searching through Cynthia's "Les Archives D'Idylle". These two characters struck me then as having a specail something to their relationship that, when veiwed a certain way, could be construed as romance. However, this is just my idea of what it might of been like had Cassie and Carlos loved each other. ^.^
It wasn't that he had a problem with his teammates new found happiness with one another. And it wasn't that he had any major problems with couples being affectionate in public. After all, he'd grown up with his parents. They stole kisses in the kitchen and they'd held hands in the grocery store. They had never seemed able to get enough of each other, and he could tell as he watched them, whether it be during the Sunday afternoon football game or Thanksgiving dinner, no two people could love each other more.
He sighed as he leaned against the wall of his bedroom as his thoughts turned back to the two couples. No, it definitely wasn't that he begrudged his teammates any for their newfound happiness. And, if he were completely honest with himself, he knew that his lack of comfort around the kissing couples stemmed from the fact that he envied them.
He envied them for having found one another, and for having been courageous enough to take those first steps that had made them a couple. Ashley had been brave enough to see through Andros' independent facade, and Zhane had been daring enough to ask his one true enemy out on a date. It took courage to take a step towards some one you liked, possibly even loved, and overlook the obstacles that had been set in place against you.
It was a courage he didn't have.
He gave a disgusted snort as he pushed himself away from the wall. A sneer of self disgust worked its way into his features as he laid down on his bed. All that stood in his way was a Phantom. A Phantom and his own cowardice.
He'd thought about Cassie and her Phantom many, many times here in his room. He tried to understand how desperately in love Cassie might be with someone she had never actually seen face to real face. And in the end, he had given up trying to understand. It was infatuation on her part and he could see it as clear as day from where he was siting. And it was an infatuation that clearly was not reciprocated.
He flipped over on his side facing the wall. He had tried to give Phantom the shadow of the doubt, and nothing he could think of could excuse the ranger's behavior had he actually felt some affection for Cassie. Only in the darkened privacy of his own room, Carlos could admit that if he even thought Cassie might, by the slightest strand of hope, like him even a little in the romantic sense and he had told her he would "See her soon", nothing short of death itself would have kept him away from her for more than one night, let alone three months.
He sighed again as he angrily hit a pillow this time. It wasn't him that Cassie loved though. It was Phantom. No matter how undeserving of her affection the masked ranger had proven himself to be.
Restlessly, Carlos sat up in bed and reached under his pillow and pulled out a small velvet box. He wasn't deserving of her affection either. They had celebrated her eighteenth birthday yesterday. But he hadn't given her the box that was currently in his hands.
Instead he'd given her a fire extinguisher, much like the one he'd given Ashley. It was what the team had expected of him. A gag gift. One that was supposed to bring laughs and a few memories of other birthday parties in the past.
"Coward." He told himself out loud as he flipped the lid of the box open. He had loved Cassie Chan for quite some time now. She was the only other girl he had felt truly comfortable around in his entire life other than Ashley. But she was very different from Ashley. He'd know the yellow ranger since they'd both been in diapers. It was impossible for him to feel anything more towards Ashley than brotherly affection.
Cassie had been different. She had laughed at all of his jokes. Even the incredibly stupid ones that only elicited a groan out of everyone else. She was the only one who was able to see through his charades when he was trying to cover his wounded feelings. She had always been the first to come and seek him out when he had isolated himself from everyone longer than usual.
It had nearly killed him to have broken her arm. Even if it had been an accident. It was still hard to swallow his guilt after all this time. It hadn't mattered then and it didn't mattered now that she was a ranger, and that she knew the dangers of battle. He had violated his own personal code of chivalry. It didn't matter to him that these were time of political correctness and times where females could do anything they set their minds out to do. He was sure that Cassie could and that she would.
But it didn't ease his mind any. He'd still broken a girl's arm. A girl that was smaller, and more delicately built than he. It also happened to be the girl that he loved and that he had wanted to protect with all his might. Nothing could change the fact that he had been the one who had inflicted physical pain on her.
In the warm comfort of his own room, he cringed slightly as he felt a shiver of shame climb up his spine. Some things, he figured, you regretted for your entire life.
And he was sure that the gift in the box would be one thing he would always regret. But he couldn't make himself do anything to remedy the situation. Too many things had happened, and too many opportunities had been passed up. If they had been meant to be, they would have been a long time ago.
Cassie smiled absently as she made her way past the simuldeck where Andros and Ashley were doing their best to not come up for air. She loved the fact that her best friend had found happiness with her other best friend. It left a satisfied glow of joy to know that they had found each other. But it also left her with a hollow sense of emptiness inside her own heart.
Her last naive proverbial bubble had been popped. She now knew the truth about Phantom, and the knowledge only served to add to her growing sense of discomfort with the situation.
Phantom was a man old enough to be her father, and he was happily married. He had been, she had discovered, for twenty five years. He also had five children, the oldest of which was three years older than herself.
He had seen her as a surrogate daughter all this time. Nothing more nothing less. And while that did make her feel loved, it also made her feel incredibly embarrassed about the way she had carried on.
If she admitted the truth to herself, she would have to admit that she was embarrassed to having been so blind to her own ill conceived infatuation to a man she barely knew. She could concede now, that the infatuation had sprung up from a deep seated wish that she'd always had about being romantically whisked off her feet by someone "tall, dark, and handsome". She had been so willing to indulge in that fantasy that she'd immediately placed Phantom in the role when she had first laid eyes on him.
She'd been an idiot. She'd also made a complete ninny out of herself.
She made a disgusted face as she recalled out upset she'd been when he had never gotten back in touch after the incident at Utoba. If she remembered it right, it had been a month after he'd told her he'd "See her soon" when she had completely fallen apart. It had devastated her then to think that her tall, dark, and handsome man did not feel the same about her as she had about him.
It had also been Carlos that she had gone to for comfort. Out of all her friends on the team, she felt closer to him than she felt to anyone. It had only seemed natural for her to take her broken heart to him first.
He'd been patient as she had tearfully spilled her guts, and he'd been compassionate when she had cried all over his shirt. And it was then, that she first remembered wishing that Phantom was Carlos.
She let out a frustrated sigh and her bangs blew up out of her face slightly as she leaned against the hallway to think for a moment. It had been somewhere among her tears, when he'd held her close to his chest, kissed her forehead, and told her that Phantom was a fool if he didn't love her. It was then too, that she realized just how easy it might be to fall in love with her Hispanic teammate.
But there was no way that Carlos loved her. Well, loved her the way she had grown to love him in the past two months. He thought of her as a friend. Nothing more, nothing less.
The fire extinguisher had clinched any doubt she might have had. It had taken every acting effort within her to laugh at the gag gift and tease him about having given it to her. It wasn't that she had wanted him to give her some expensive gift accompanied with a declaration of undying love. Even she wasn't naive enough to think that was possible.
But the fire extinguisher had been such an impersonal gift. Such a platonic gift, that it had almost broken her heart to accept it from him.
She drew a deep sigh as she gathered up her courage enough to knock on his door. Even if he didn't love her, he was still her best confidant. And right now, she needed to tell someone the truth about Phantom. Even if she was in love with that someone.
Her knock drew no immediate response so she hit the door release button and walked into the dimly lit room. Carlos was sitting in the middle of his bed lost in thought, staring at a small velvet box in his right hand.
"Carlos?" She asked hesitantly, as his startled gaze immediately flew to hers. "Is this a bad time, or can I talk to you?"
He seemed momentarily uncertain as to what to do, and dazedly, he nodded his head as she made her way over to his bed. "Sure, Cassie. I'm always here if you need to talk." He finally managed to stutter out as he desperately hoped that his feelings for her weren't shining his eyes.
"What do you have there in that box?" She asked curiously as she sat down next to him on the bed. She watched hesitantly as anger, sadness, and hesitation flitted trough his gaze. Almost immediately, she regretted the question as the silence between them began to drag out.
Finally, he snapped the lid shut, before she could catch a good glimpse of what the box held. "I suppose I've been a coward long enough. And I suppose this day has been spoiling to happen between us for a while now." He said with a hint of fear and sadness lingering in his eyes. He turned the small box deftly around in his hands and extended it towards her.
"Happy Birthday, Cassie."
Her mouth gaped open as she took the small box into her own hands, and a thousand thoughts filtered through her head. Slowly, she popped open the lid, and nestled in the black velvet interior, lay a necklace. It was a thin, delicate silver chain with a single pendant. The pendant itself was a small and rather dainty piece of rose quartz, teardrop shaped with a border of silver around it. It was perfect.
"I know what you're thinking." Carlos said with a smile that she knew didn't quite reach his eyes. "You're thinking, "This is really weird. How do I tell him I don't feel the same without hurting his feelings?" Let me just put your mind at ease now, Cassie. I already know you don't feel the same, and I'm not expecting you to say or do anything in return. That's why I didn't give it to you yesterday." He said as he then took a ragged breath.
"I've loved you for a long time. Even though I know you don't feel the same. You are my best friend in the entire world Cassie, and as much as I love you, I didn't want to risk losing that. That's why I never planned on giving you that necklace. But now that I have, I'm hoping against hope that you won't feel so uncomfortable that we won't be friends anymore." He finished as he pinned sanguine, questioning eyes on her.
Her eyes brimmed with tears for a moment, and he felt like the world's lowest snake as a single drop escaped its confines and trailed down her cheek. It had been a mistake giving her the necklace, he acknowledged morosely.
It was then that she threw herself at him. Her arms wrapped tightly around his neck and her face was partially buried in his shoulder.
"Phantom's a fifty year old married guy with kids." She said as she pulled away slightly to look into his eyes. Carlos felt as if someone had just offered him the world on a platter, and then kicked him in the gut.
"I'm so--" He started to say as she placed a finger on his lips.
"No." She said. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for not having told you sooner that I didn't love Phantom and that I actually never did." She said softly. He sat in mute bewilderment.
"Fact is Carlos, I love you. You're more than just my best friend in my heart, and I think you always have been." She said uncertainly as she withdrew slightly.
Tentatively, he put his hands on her arms and bent down until their foreheads were touching. He looked into her eyes for a moment, and then pulled her into a tight hug.
"And I love you back, Cassie."