Damn it. She belonged to him. Didn't she know that?
He took another drink. Well, he'd solve all that pretty soon. She was his wife and that snot nosed kid was his son. She may have thought she was going to get away with leaving him, but he'd show her.
He'd get them back.
His eyes burned as he watched the man reach out and lightly caress her cheek from across the booth they were sitting in. He would show her, he thought with a smirk. He would show her, and then she would never leave him again.
"Andros?" Ashley asked softly in the quiet stillness of their bedroom. The house was asleep for the night, but her mind refused to flow into the peaceful twilight of dreams.
Andros grunted slightly as he rolled over in bed to face her. She could clearly see his face in front of her despite the darkness of the room. Although she couldn't make out the color of his eyes, she knew they were the same mossy green color that she'd fallen in love with the day she'd first seen his face, twelve years ago.
He looked older now. They all did, she reflected as he reached over with an arm and gently pulled her closer to him. He knew her almost better than she knew herself, she couldn't help but think as she put her hand against his bare chest and curled her head into the crook below his chin.
"What's the matter, Ashley?" He asked softly. "You've been stewing over something all day, do you want to talk about it?"
"I'm not who I thought I was." She said shakily as he nuzzled the top of her head. "I learned something about myself last night when I went down stairs to get a glass of milk. Boy, doesn't that sound dumb. I went to get a glass of milk, and ended up losing my self identity." She said with a dry, humorless laugh.
"I don't understand." He said with a slight frown as he rubbed her back in slow lazy circles.
"Nigel is Phantom." Ashley said softly as Andros pulled her back slightly. When their eyes met, she could see the shock written on his face. "That's part of what I discovered last night. My cousin is Phantom."
"Are you sure?" He asked as he pulled her back to him.
"Well, considering the fact that I heard it directly from Dimitria's mouth, yeah, I'd say I'm pretty sure." Ashley said. "I wish I weren't, but I am."
"Dimitria? She was here last night?" He asked in disbelief. "Why would she be here talking to Phantom or Nigel or whatever his name is in the middle of the night? I don't understand."
"It gets better." Ashley said with a grim laugh as she snuggled closer to Andros. "Dimitria is Nigel's aunt." Her voice trickled off, as the tears in her eyes threatened to spill over.
"His aunt? How? Are you two really cousins then?" He asked doubtfully.
"Dimitria is my real mother." She said as the tears finally slipped from her eyes, landing on Andros' chest. "Zordon was my father, and I don't know what to think anymore."
He held her close in shock as the sobs wracked her body, and the tears fell sticky on his chest.
"What's the matter, Kelsey?" Kyle asked as he watched his new friend stare off into the horizon. Scruffy nuzzled his arm gently, begging for the other half of the baloney sandwich Nigel had given him for lunch, but Kyle ignored him in favor of looking at the girl beside him.
"Can't you hear it?" Kelsey asked as she turned her green eyes on him. Kyle frowned slightly as he strained his ears. He didn't hear anything, but as he was beginning to learn with Kelsey, that didn't mean a heck of a lot.
"No." He said as he grabbed Phantom's teddy arm and pulled himself closer to Kelsey. Scruffy took the opportunity to grab the rest of his sandwich out of his fingers. He smiled and then absently scratched the coyote behind the ears. "Why? What do you hear?"
Kelsey grabbed her new friend's arm and then closed her eyes. Kyle stared at her and then mimicked the action. With Kelsey, it was a lot easier to watch and follow rather than try and figure out what she was going to do.
"It's a new humming. Everyone with psychic powers hums. You hum, I hum, Uncle Nigel hums. Mom hums even though she's an Earther. But I can hear someone else humming. Can you hear it?" She asked.
Faintly, he explored his mind, and much to his growing amazement, he did hear humming! He heard Kelsey's hum next to him. He wasn't sure how he knew it was Kelsey's, it just was. He could faintly hear Nigel's coming from the kitchen, and on top of that he could hear someone else.
"Who is it?" He asked softly. Kelsey opened her eyes as she squinted out over the horizon.
"I don't know. But he's close." She said as Scruffy took the opportunity to lick the peanut butter she still had on her face. She giggled, breaking the quiet spell, and Kyle opened his eyes.
"Goofy dog." Kyle said as he picked up the ball beside Phantom. "Here Scruffy! Fetch!" He yelled as he threw the ball. The coyote dashed off after the tennis ball, and Kelsey laughed. Kyle looked once more over his shoulder at the horizon as the humming continued in his head. The hum felt...familiar, but at the same time not familiar.
"It's good to know that I wasn't the only one who got jilted in the parent department." Cassie said with a laugh as she turned to Nigel.
The sun was beginning to ride low in the in the horizon, and Cassie was still reeling from the day she had had. She had gotten the receptionist job, and with it came the keys to a new Lenny-free life. For the first time since the wave had gone throughout the universe, ending her time as a ranger, she felt at home, and at peace.
"Well, I don't know how good that is, but I know what you mean. Sometimes it's just hard to listen to other people talk about their parents when you know that yours are the scum of the universe." He said with a serious chuckle. "What were your parents like?"
Cassie leaned back and took a sip of her mountain dew as she contemplated the question. "My mother wasn't a bad person, she was just weak I think. I resented her something fierce for that, too. My biological father abandoned us when I was just a baby, and when I was three, Mom remarried."
"My stepfather was an asshole. He was always smacking my Mom around. He never touched me, but it still left scars to have to watch him do that to her. She was never strong enough to leave him. I hated her for that. Ironic isn't it? I fell into the same pattern she did without even blinking. I hated her for not being strong enough to leave him, but in the end I was just as much of a coward as she was." She said as she stared off at the horizon.
"No, you're not Cassie. You were strong enough to leave, don't sell yourself short on that." Nigel said emphatically.
"Did your parents ever get better?" She asked, neatly avoiding the compliment he had just paid her.
"Yeah, When I became an adult, they both went through a mid-life crisis. Even though they weren't together, they hadn't been for a long time, they talked to each other and realized what they had been doing to me all my life."
"That doesn't make it any easier though. I hated them for not accepting my nature as a child. They wanted me to be a certain way, and I could never live up to that expectation. It's hard to forget all those times they tried to push me into being something I wasn't, and to then forgive them for the pain that caused." He said heavily as Cassie rubbed his arm consolingly.
He gazed up at the horizon. Phantom. They had named him Phantom with the hopes that he would grow to strike fear in the hearts of everything good.
The joke had been on them though, two of the universe's most vile evil doers gave birth to a boy with an inherently good soul. He was everything they had ever detested, and they had never let him forget that.
"Yeah, I suppose I know what you mean." Cassie said as she flashed a bittersweet smile. "My Mom died when I was fifteen. I took off cause there was no way I was going to live with my stepfather. I ended up here, and I'll admit I had great experiences. But I was angry at her for dying and leaving me alone in the world. It was like she'd taken the easy way out without any concern for me. It was like she didn't even care about what would happen to me if she left. I don't think I've ever completely forgiven her for that." Cassie said as she took another sip of her mountain dew.
Nigel smiled as he regarded her. She may not have thought so, but he knew she had one of the strongest souls he'd ever seen. Maybe that was part of what drew him to her. Maybe it was that part of her he identified with the most.
They had both been to hell and had survived.
Twilight had fallen on the outskirts of Angel Grove. It was a picture perfect Californian night. Stars twinkled innocently in the deep indigo sky, and the mellowed noises of the night filled the crisp autumn air.
But as far as Andros was concerned, it could be pouring rain. The ambiance of the night had no effect on his mood or his mind set. What he had learned was just too big, too important for the simple harmony of the night to have any influence over him.
He stood in the shadows of the porch as he watched Nigel from behind. Andros found it hard to think of him as Phantom as he sat there and drank a mountain dew.
"I know you're there, Andros. What's bugging you?"
He started slightly as Nigel asked the question without even bothering to turn around.
"Ashley told you, didn't she." Nigel continued softly as he stared out over the expanse of desert before him.
"Yeah, she told me." Andros shoved himself away from the house and moved to sit down beside Nigel. His answer had come out surly, even to his own ears. But his emotions were bubbling so close to the surface, that it was next to impossible to assume the aloof demeanor he had used so often as the red ranger in his teenage years.
"So you know I'm Phantom." Nigel said, the discomfort evident in his voice. Andros nodded in the dusky light.
"Look, Nigel. I won't pretend that I understand what's going on, because truthfully, I don't. All I want to know is why. Why did you lie to us?" The question came out angry, but he was beyond caring.
"What was I supposed to do? Just show up here one day, announce that I was the Phantom ranger? Tell you all that I was Ashley's cousin and that her parents were really Dimitria and Zordon of Eltare? You wouldn't have believed me, and even if you did you would have hated me for it." Nigel said bitterly before taking another sip of mountain dew.
"So that makes lying to us okay?" Andros demanded with a frown. "I trusted you, Nigel. You were the best sparring partner I ever had. You were a friend, and you became a part of my family. Kelsey, Justin, and Melody all love you. But learning this is like a kick in the face. You're not at all who I thought you were." He added furiously.
"Geez, you make it sound so cold blooded. It wasn't like I purposely went out to gain the trust of you and your family so I could then go and destroy it. Honestly, I didn't think you all could handle the truth. I still don't think you can." Nigel's face contorted in irritation.
"We deserved to know, Nigel. Can't you understand how I might feel betrayed by this?" Andros asked abruptly.
"Yeah, yeah I know you both feel betrayed." Nigel said in defeat as he looked out over the inky sky. "But when I first met you, I just couldn't tell you. God, you both were so happy here. Kelsey was just a toddler, and I could watch you with her and know that that little girl was loved. Your world was just so stable, and I was loathe to say anything that would disturb it. Then you and Ashley invited me to be a part of it, and I didn't want to tell you." He added as he ran a hand through his hair.
"I'm still the same person I was, Andros, but I can't change the past and I can't change who my parents are." Nigel's defensive retort blended into the silence of the night.
Both men sat for a moment in uncomfortable silence as the sound of coyotes in the distance echoed across the desert. Nigel quietly drank the rest of his mountain dew while Andros just stared at his hands.
"So is Nigel even your real name?" Andros asked, breaking the oppressive silence.
"Well, then what is it?" Andros asked, irritated all over again. Nigel sighed as he then turned his blue eyed gaze on Andros.
"My real name is Phantom." Nigel answered back, equally rankled by the question.
"So how'd you come up with Nigel?" Andros demanded. Nigel looked away in annoyance.
"Just tell me. You owe me this."
Nigel heaved a sigh as he shot Andros a pained look. "Monty Python. I heard Cassie mention it once when we were in battle as rangers. I wanted to learn more about her, so I found out all I could about it. Somewhere along the way, I developed a passing fancy for British things. It seemed like a good cover when I first met you and Ashley. I didn't want you to suspect who I truly was. I mean you all didn't expect Phantom to come walking back into your lives with a sense of humor and a British accent." Nigel said as he flashed Andros an irked look.
"Monty Python?" Andros asked as his lips quirked slightly in a grin. Nigel glared at him.
"Yeah, I memorized the whole Holy Grail movie and a couple of their better skits." Nigel admitted much to his chagrin. He reluctantly looked over at Andros. The man was doing his best to stifle his laughter.
"I knew it! I knew you'd laugh!" Nigel said accusingly as he stood up.
"Recite the Black Knight scene." Andros said between gales of laughter.
"Hell no." Nigel ground out as he sat back down on the porch steps.
"C'mon! You can be the black knight, and I'll be King Arthur." Andros' coax fell short of its mark, though, as Nigel let out a snort of disgust. "Castle Anthrax then? I'll be Gallahad, and you can be Zute."
"Why don't you be the "I'm not dead yet!" guy, so I can clobber you." Nigel suggested malevolently. Andros chuckled.
"Maybe you're right Nigel, you still are the same person I knew before I learned you were Phantom. Are you sure you won't quote the Castle Anthrax scene?" Andros asked in much better humor than he had had earlier. Nigel shot him a dark look.
"It'll be a cold day in hell, Red Ranger, when I squeal "A spanking! A spanking!" with girlish laughter."
Carone frowned as she looked at her watch. It was 10:30 at night, and someone was knocking on the front door of her Angel Grovite suburban house.
Justin and Melody were tucked away in bed, sound asleep, she knew, because she had just checked on them. Zhane was currently sleeping in front of their huge TV, which reminded her an awful lot of DECA's viewing screen. She frowned to herself, lost in thought, as she then turned the knob and opened the door.
"Can I help you?" The words came out of her mouth automatically as the Asian man standing on the front step stared at her. She stared back at him in confusion.
He was dressed in jeans and a green T-shirt that looked fairly new. He wasn't much taller than she was, but he was definitely much older. There were streaks of gray at his temples and his face wrinkled slightly as he smiled at her. Overall, Carone estimated the man to be in his late fifties.
None of that explained why he was knocking at her door at 10:30 at night though. She frowned at him slightly. He had a strange aura, one that really wasn't too typical for Earthers. It was odd to see anyone from this planet practically glow with their inner energy, but he was sending off brilliant shades of emerald green.
"You don't recognize me, do you?" He said with a friendly grin.
"No. Should I?"
"Well, I practically raised you, Princess." He said as her face lit with understanding.
No words were needed as she launched herself into his open arms.
Kyle yawned groggily as he climbed out of his bed. It was still dark outside, so he was pretty sure it was too early to wake up Nigel, and since Kelsey hadn't woken him up, he was pretty sure she was asleep too.
Quietly, he grabbed Phantom's teddy arm and padded out of the bedroom. The hall would have been pitch black, but Kelsey's Mom had a habit of putting nightlights in every plug-in she could find.
He thought it was weird that an adult was actually scared of the dark, but looking at the hall, it was a little funny too. At night, the hallway looked like a mini-runway with lights lining both sides. He grinned sleepily as he thought of a plane coming in for a landing in the middle of the house. Maybe later, he'd wake up Kelsey and they could play "airport".
He was thirsty, he realized, and he wasn't feeling all that tired anymore. He padded softly towards the kitchen pantry. A mountain dew was just what he needed. Then he could probably go into the den and watch TV until Kelsey and everyone else woke up.
The kitchen was lit, but not as brightly as the hallway. There were only two available plug-ins in the kitchen for Kelsey's Mom to use, and as a result, only two nightlights cast an errie glow on the smooth linoleum floor. He hefted Phantom higher up in his arms as he moved to open the pantry door.
He hadn't even noticed the shadowy figure hidden in the depths of the darkness that the light failed to touch. Therefore, he hadn't even had the opportunity to scream as the hand clamped down over his mouth and the burly arm wrapped around his tiny body.
Phantom made little noise as he tumbled to the dimly lit floor, and his
blue button teddy eyes stared up unseeingly as the figure dragged the small
dark haired boy out of the kitchen and out the back door.