When you feel all alone
And a loyal friend is hard to find
You're caught in a one way street
With the monsters in your head
When hopes and dreams are far away and
You feel like you can't face the day
"So you're my father." Her words had no emotion to them, even though there was a myriad of feelings swirling and flipping dizzily through her heart. There wasn't just one she could assign, so she'd opted for none of them to show. She brought her arms around her stomach in an instinctive motion of self protection.
This was her special place. This is where she came when things overwhelmed her so much that she couldn't stand to look at the real world anymore. This is where she went when the pain got to be too much.
But he had followed her here. She didn't want him here. This place was hers. This was her sanctuary. No one had ever come here but her, no one knew it existed but her. What right did he have to be here?
"Yes, I am your father. Cassie, I can explain." He said uncertainly as he walked towards her. She took a wary step back, and he stopped his advance on her. "Cassie, please."
She averted her eyes from his. He wanted to explain. She stared at the grass beneath her bare feet. Did she want him to explain? Would an explanation make any difference? An explanation couldn't change the past. It couldn't change who she was, who she had become. It couldn't erase the hurt of decades of anguish.
"Why did you follow me here? I don't want you here." She said stonily as she looked out across the tall grass of her prairie. She couldn't look at him. Not even as she was telling him to leave. To face him meant that she had to face herself, and she wasn't ready for that yet.
"If you really didn't want me here, I wouldn't be here." He said as he came a step closer, this time with more confidence. Cassie saw the movement out of the corner of her eye, but she didn't back up this time. Instead, she sank down onto the cool Earth beneath her feet. The tall grass only came to her shoulders, so she drew her knees close to her body and rested her forehead on them.
"I hate you." She said, the teary pain shaking in her unsteady voice. She stiffened as he sank to the ground beside her. She didn't want him this close. Having people this close was dangerous. She'd had that pounded lesson into her heart enough times to fracture it into pieces. She'd picked those pieces up, but she had made sure that the pieces would never be available to anyone again. She had hid them deep within herself. In this place, her safe place.
"You can't hate me, Cassie. You don't even know me." He said reasonably, as he sat quietly beside her. A small breeze whipped through the grasses, and she shivered at the rustling sound it made.
"I have more reason to hate you then not to hate you. Do you know how many times I tried to see you in my mind's eye and failed?" She asked belligerently.
"Probably about the same number of times I tried to picture you and couldn't." He said as the sun shone down on their heads. She didn't like the sun, so bright and cheery overhead in the sky. Usually it brightened her spirits and gave her a reason to keep going, but it annoyed her now. She smiled through her tears as clouds rolled in across the sky, leaving them in a shadowed world.
"Cassie, please talk to me." He reached out towards her, and she felt his hand gently touch her shoulder. She shook it off quickly, afraid of letting him get too close to the hidden pieces.
"I used to come here when I was younger, you know, and try to picture who you were. What you were like." She said as she turned her head away from him.
"Do you know where this place is?" He asked, and she abruptly turned her head back to him. Her eyes met his for the first time, and they flared in anger.
"This is my place. And you are not wanted here." She said, as a wind picked up, blowing her thick black hair out of her face. He turned his eyes from hers, unconcerned.
"This is KO-35." He said and she opened her mouth to object. He held up a hand, silencing her as he smiled bittersweetly over the tall prairie grasses. "Your mother loved these fields. She used to say that they made her feel invincible and small at the same time. I took her here for a picnic when we were still just kids dating. She spent half an hour just twirling in the grass, her feet bare, and her dress rippling in the breeze. She insisted I build our house over there." He said as he waved his hand.
She glared at him as the house appeared on the edge of the prairie grassland. He avoided her gaze, so she turned hers towards the house. It looked familiar. She stared sadly at it, and then sighed. It looked familiar, because she remembered it.
"I don't want to see this." She said softly as she shut her eyes tight and held her head in her hands. She felt his touch on her shoulders again. This time, she didn't have the strength to shrug it off.
"What are you so afraid of, Cassie? Just hear me out. You are my daughter. I would never hurt you. You can trust me on that." He said as he rubbed her shoulders. She watched, distantly, as a tear dropped off the tip of her nose, to land in the ground she was staring at so intently.
"I don't trust anyone. Not completely." She said. "And even if I did, why should I trust you? You of all people? People are born trusting. I was born trusting. But you were the first to betray me. I have more reason not to trust you than anyone." She said dejectedly as she absently watched another tear slip off the tip of her nose.
"A life without trust is a hard, lonely life." Larent said softly, as he gently kneaded her tense shoulders. "Even as Ecliptor, I couldn't live without it. I had to trust in Astronema, believe in her, or my life didn't have a purpose. Everyone has to trust someone." He said slowly as she lifted her chin up and stared off over the grasses.
"I trust my friends. Ashley, Andros, Carlos, TJ, Zhane, Carone. I trusted them with my life, but I could never tell them everything." She said as she flipped her gaze back to Larent. Her eyes slowly met Larent's. "Maybe I couldn't tell them everything because I didn't understand everything. But I think I'm beginning to."
"Tell me." He said in a sort of half plea, she turned her gaze from him again. "I want to understand. I want to know what went so wrong with the beautiful happy little girl I once had."
She turned to look at him, and something in her heart twinged a little at the longing look in his eyes. He did want to understand. And as she thought about it, she wanted him to understand too. She wanted him to feel what she had felt, she wanted him to know where she was coming from.
She sighed heavily as she let the grasses of her imagination slip into the tiny cramped bathroom of her memories. She was probably just a bit younger then Kyle was in this particular memory, and she was standing in front of the mirror while her mother stood behind her. Cassie listened as her mother asked her younger self to get the hairbrush for her.
Her mother grabbed the floating hairbrush out of midair, and slammed it down on the bathroom sink in anger. Cassie shivered slightly at the look in the woman's eyes as she turned on the dark haired girl beside her. Larent stepped closer, putting an arm around her shoulder as he too watched the scene unfold before them.
Her mother's eyes were shadowed, the circles under them accentuating the large, scared brown eyes. They were always scared. Sometimes it was simply a terrified scared, one that made her mother make mewling sound of fear. And sometimes it was an angry sort of scared. One that brought her mother's wrath down on her.
"You can't do stuff like this, Cassie." Her mother said bitterly as she picked up the brush and began wrenching the bristles through her long black hair. Her eyes teared as the bristles caught on snarls, but she didn't voice the hurt aloud.
"I'm sorry, Mama. I didn't mean to." She said softly as she looked away from her reflection in the mirror. She knew what she looked like. A skinny brat with black hair. A short little nobody with brown eyes. A freak of nature.
"That doesn't cut it." Her mother said, and she cringed at the edgy terror she heard just over her mother's anger. "You can't do this. It's wrong. None of your friends can do this, can they?"
"No Mama." She answered because it was expected of her.
"I'm sorry, Cassie, but I'm going to have to punish you for this. I told you never to use those powers, ever. And you deliberately disobeyed me. I'm sorry, but you can't go to Suzette's birthday party. And once I finish brushing your hair, you are going straight to your room to think about what you've done."
"I'm sorry, Mama. Please let me go to Suzette's party. Please. I won't ever do it again. I promise." Cassie pleaded tearfully. Suzette was the only friend she had managed to make in her kindergarten class. She'd been looking forward to this party all week long. She had her party dress on, the present was wrapped, and her mom was braiding her hair especially for the occasion.
"No." Her mother said shortly as she quickly wrapped her daughter's hair in a ponytail. She whipped her head around to get a better look at her mother's expression. It seemed sad, apologetic even, but there was also a determined edge to it. She knew that protesting wouldn't get her anywhere. "Now go on up to your room and change. You have to learn, Cassie. You can't use powers like this. It makes you abnormal, it brings people's attention to you. Now march, young lady."
Cassie sniffed loudly as the tears pooled in her eyes. Her mother's face remained just as unforgiving, though. So slowly, Cassie walked out of the bathroom and down the hall to her room. In a fit of anger she flung the door shut, but even the sound of it slamming didn't make her feel any better.
She flung herself down on the bed, the tears flowing fast and hard until she hiccuped with them like only a small child could. Her mom was right, she was a freak. Suzette couldn't make things float in the air. Her friend had laughed when she'd even suggested it. She never saw any of the rest of the kids doing anything like what she could do. In fact, none of the adults she knew could do it either. Her mother included.
"There's something wrong with me." She whispered to her stuffed dragon, Tipper. The stuffed dragon seemed to wink back at her and Cassie pulled the brilliantly colored toy close to her chest. Tipper understood her, she may only have been a silly stuffed dragon, but she understood her.
Cassie sat up Indian style on her bed and placed the purple dragon before her. Tipper was about the size of a normal stuffed bear, but the reptile's fur was still thick and soft despite many years of wear and tear. Her eyes were a bright shade of blue that swirled slightly when Cassie moved the stones in the light. Tipper's large wings were an iridescent shade of white, which to her eyes, seemed to glow with life.
"Mama won't let me go to Suzette's party. Suzette's going to think I don't like her." Cassie said as she sniffed loudly. To her, the dragon seemed to nod sympathetically. Cassie concentrated on the stuffed animal, and the white wings unfurled. She bit her lip in concentration, and the dragon's body lifted up off her bedspread.
She didn't understand what was so wrong about this. She wasn't hurting anyone, and it seemed, well, it was natural. A part of her was the happiest when she was doing this, playing like this. This was who she was, not doing this would be like not breathing.
"You understand, don't you, Tipper." She brought the dragon closer and rubbed noses with it, and then let it float back to where she had had it before.
The dragon instantly dropped back down onto the pink bedspread, and Cassie cringed as her mother stormed into the room. The woman reached down and snatched Tipper off the bed. She yelped as she scrambled off the bed after her mother as the woman stalked out of the room. The door slammed shut.
"Mama! No!" Cassie sobbed as she yanked at the door knob. It refused to budge and her tears gathered strength. "Mama! Gimme back Tipper. Please!" She yelled. The room was silent with the exception of her sniffles. "Gimme back Tipper." She sobbed softly as she slid to the floor and rested her head against the door.
Cassie watched, disconnected, as the bedroom faded away and was replaced by her field. Larent stood beside her, his face unreadable. She snuck a glance at him as she pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. He was still staring off at where the younger her had been sobbing on the floor of her bedroom.
"She never did give me Tipper back, but it was just a stuffed dragon. I never did use my powers again after that though. It's amazing, but you can live without breathing." She whispered as the grasses rustled softly at her knees.
"I gave you that dragon." He said as he turned to her, and she saw tears in his eyes. That startled her, and made her feel slightly uncomfortable. She hadn't expected him to be moved by the memory, she hadn't expected him to be affected at all.
"She knew." He said with a sigh. "She knew why I never returned that day. She knew she would never see me again, people were disappearing without a trace all the time. They all had had their telekinetic powers in common. She knew what I was capable of. She must have taken you and fled to Earth. She didn't want you using your powers because she was scared they'd find you and take you too."
"She was scared a lot." Cassie shrugged as she struggled to not be affected by what he was telling her. She let the comforting field fade away once more.
The grasses were replaced by the old grey linoleum of a shabby looking kitchen. Her mother was leaning on the counter, looking worried. Her step-father was pacing the length of the kitchen, ignoring both mother and daughter.
"How could you get fired, Roy? We need the money. How are we going to make ends meet?" Her mother asked, and Roy glared at her as he paced.
"Does it look like I know?" He asked angrily. Her mother seemed to shrink back slightly from that, but she still had a determined look in her eyes.
"Well we have to figure out what we're going to do somehow. Cassie needs new shoes and school starts up next week. She's going to need new school supplies. The rent's due in two weeks, and we still have to pay for the phone, electricity, and groceries." She said as Roy walked over to her.
"Well what do you want me to do about it?" He yelled directly in her face.
"Get a new job?" Her mother suggested. Roy's face turned red as he grabbed the woman's arm and wrenched her away from the kitchen counter.
"Are you trying to say that I'm not man enough to get the one I had back?" He yelled, his face turning purple. Her mother winced as he increased the pressure on her upper arm.
"Mama?" She asked hesitantly from her spot at the kitchen table.
"Stay out of this, Cassie honey." Her mother replied, and Cassie shivered at the raw edge the voice had to it.
"Roy, be reasonable, you can't get that job back. They fired you. Can't you just look for a new one?" She asked hesitantly. He whipped her back around and threw her against the counter. She winced as she heard her mother's back connect with the counter top. Roy let go of her mother's arm, and she doubled over as she slid to the floor.
"I'll get it back." Roy said determinedly as he reached for another beer from the fridge.
"They aren't going to give you the job back." Her mother said between harsh gasps of air. He slammed the beer down on the table in front of her, and Cassie watched with terrified eyes as he went after her mother.
There was a flash of brilliant white and Cassie stumbled back against Larent as the scene abruptly changed to another kitchen. This time, it wasn't her mother cowering before her step-father, it was her shrinking away from Lenny.
They were arguing about the phone bill. He was telling her that she called Angel Grove too often, that it was too expensive. He was yelling, screaming at her as he advanced on her.
"It's only a couple of bucks, Lenny. It's not like its going to cost a hundred bucks." She tried to point out reasonably. "This bill's only ten bucks more then the last one was."
"What, and I'm just made of money?" He yelled. She regretted having brought up the subject. It was now obvious to her that he'd had more than a little to drink. She hadn't realized that though when she'd brought the mail in. He drank so often that his expression drunk versus sober were getting harder and harder to read at a first glance.
"It's just ten bucks, I'll pay for it out of my salary." She said with a sigh.
"So what? I'm not man enough for you?" He thundered as he pushed her hard against the kitchen counter.
"No, I didn't say that." She said as he raised his hand. She instinctively put her hand up and blocked the blow before he could hit her. He howled in frustration at that. She tried to scramble out of the way as his face turned a motley shade of purple and red.
He managed to kick her feet out from under her though, as his fist finally connected with her face. She fell backwards, and she heard more than felt her skull connect with the kitchen counter before utter darkness overtook her.
Cassie stumbled back and landed on the ground with a thump as the memory rapidly blinked back into the lush grasses of her prairie. She hadn't meant to show him that. She'd never meant to show anyone that.
"Cassie, are you okay?" Larent asked as he bent down beside her. She couldn't look at him, not now. Too many old emotions were swirling through her, coursing unchecked through her veins.
She could still taste the sweaty feeling of fear on the tip of her tongue. In the beginning she had believed in Lenny. After all it was only natural. He had been the man she'd married. He had vowed to honor her and protect her. Maybe that's why his sudden bursts of violence had always been that much more terrifying. When she had been a ranger, the monsters had looked like monsters. There was a distinct line between them and her. She hadn't lived with them on a daily basis in the same house. She hadn't considered them her friend, her lover, or anyone close to her for that matter.
Their inherent evilness had been easy to recognize. Lenny's had not. His was more insidious, more crafty. He'd led her to believe in him, he'd let her think that he was a fairly decent, honorable guy. And then he'd dashed all those dreams by hitting her. Of course, he would regain his sobriety the next morning, and he would lead her on the same merry little chase all over again. I'm sorry, Cassie. I don't know what came over me...It'll never happen again. And every time, she'd believed he'd meant it.
Maybe that's why the shame always seemed to sidle up close to her heart when she recalled incidents such as this. For God's sake, she had been a Power Ranger. One of the strongest super-heros in the universe, but she hadn't had enough strength of mind or of will to object to the vicious cycle of her marriage to Lenny. Maybe deep inside her she thought that that was the way relationships between a man and woman should be, maybe a part of her felt she deserved the beatings.
"Cassie, are you going to be okay?"
She looked up only to discover that Larent had an arm wrapped protectively around her shoulder. She blinked with surprise as she looked into his deep brown eyes. They were so much like her own, she couldn't help but think.
"Hey, I'll be fine. It's all water under the bridge anyway, right?" She said as she gave a shaky laugh. He smiled sadly down at her.
"Yeah, I suppose. Those times for you are over, Princess. I think that between me and your friends we'll be able to help you work through it all." He said softly. "But until we have that time to sit and discuss things, I think we need to go back to the real world and get Kyle."
Cassie came back into reality just as the tires of Nigel's Explorer grinded to a halt in front of one of Angel Grove's more shadier motels. She undid her seat beat dazedly as everyone else climbed out of the SUV.
"How do we know where Lenny's holding him?" Cassie asked as she finally landed on the asphalt of the parking lot. A part of her didn't even know how they'd discovered that this was the particular motel was the one. Andros had said it was like Kyle was a mini-tracking device. She shook her head slightly, she didn't care how they knew, she decided. She just wanted her son back, unharmed. And she wanted Lenny forever out of their lives.
"Scruffy can sniff out which room they're in." Andros said absently as he let down the back hatch to Nigel's Explorer. The coyote leaped out, and immediately began sniffing. Cassie watched the dog with mixed apprehension and hope.
"It's almost over." Nigel whispered to her as he drew her into a quick hug before the coyote leaped off towards the door to the room at the end of the outdoor hallway. Andros was the first to make it to the door, and he pounded his fist against it in two hard knocks.
Nigel didn't wait for a response to Andros' knocks though. He bent his shoulder in slightly and rammed the rickety door in, connecting solidly with a body on the other side. Nigel felt a certain satisfaction as he looked down to see Lenny blearily picking himself off the ground. Quickly he scanned the room, and his gaze fell on the little dark haired boy huddled on the single double bed.
"Nigel! Mom!" Kyle cried out as he then flung himself off the bed and towards his mother's already open arms. Cassie had tears flowing down her cheeks, but as Nigel caught a glance at Kyle's face, he felt anger pump through his blood.
The boy's jaw was obviously swollen, and there was a nasty gash three inch gash at the corner of his lip that was covered in dried blood. Nigel shifted his gaze to Lenny's fists as the man struggled to his feet. The bastard had managed jab Kyle with one of the rather nasty looking rings on his fat fingers.
In the back of his mind, Nigel felt the vein in his neck bulge as he glared at the man in front of him. How could a grown person, an adult, physically hit a child? How could anyone inflict pain like that on someone that young, that innocent? Vaguely he heard himself growl as he advanced on Lenny.
Children were supposed to be cherished, loved by their parents. His Aunt and his Uncle had unwittingly taught him that. His eyes narrowed as he picked Lenny off the ground telepathically. What kind of a monster did it take to beat on someone so helpless, someone so incapable of defending themselves?
What kind of monster ordered their own son's death? Absently, his hand went to the old scar on his side that was covered by his shirt. What kind of parents beat on their children at every opportunity? He reached up and rubbed the bump on his nose slightly as if to remind himself of all the times he'd had it broken for him.
His gaze narrowed on Lenny's neck and he started applying mental pressure as the floating man began protesting with more enthusiasm. Dimly, he acknowledged that his main fight wasn't with the man in front of him, it was with two other people. But he shrugged off the niggling bit of conscious. Lenny, his parents. As far as he was concerned, there was no difference.
He had scared nicks that lined his ribcage from where lasers had sliced through young flesh. He had nightmares at night of falling into the ocean and not being able to swim a stroke. Sometimes, he thought he could even feel the panic rise in his chest as a hand shoved him down, keeping him from reaching the oxygen at the surface. He even had scar tissue on his right shoulder that belied an experience with fire punishment.
He wanted to get even. He wanted to inflict as much pain and damage as he had received. He wanted to lash out and destroy those who had no respect for the defenseless. He wanted to kill those who had shown him no mercy.
Lenny's face turned a blotched shade of red as his oxygen supply was slowly cut off. Nigel smiled coldly as he ignored the growing protests from those behind him. It felt cleansing almost, to let out the bitterness and anger of years past. It was like pulling a lever on his heart and releasing the floodgates that held back poisonous thoughts.
In the back of his mind, he realized it was wrong. No matter how damn good it felt. It was wrong. He was using his powers on someone who was defenseless against them. In a way, he was doing the very thing that he despised.
But something inside him had snapped when he'd seen Kyle's face. He was out of control, and he was past caring how it ended. He wanted the little boy inside his heart to feel vindicated for the wrongs done to him. He wanted revenge for the pain he had been put through, for the pain Kyle had been put through. Most of all he wanted these feelings to come to the surface. They had festered for so long inside his heart, like pus beneath the skin. He wanted to be at peace.