By Rachel Lynn
Kat lay on her back under the shade of one of Angel Grove Park's great old oak trees, and let out a sigh of relief. She hated running. In all the different forms of exercising, running was definitely the worst in her estimation. But since Tommy enjoyed it so much, she occasionally gave in when he begged her to go jogging with him.
Of course, Kat thought to herself, he never had to beg very hard. Since she wasn't as fast as he was, she often spent the majority of the time lagging behind her boyfriend. From that vantage point, she had ample opportunity to study his physic without him realizing it. Kat allowed a goofy grin to light her face. His rear wiggled in the cutest way when he ran. The view was about the only thing that kept her going.
Kat's daydreaming was cut short though, as something big wet and slobbery enthusiastically licked her face. Kat knew without looking what it was. She was going to get Rocky for this. He knew she didn't like random walk by slobberings.
"Angus, get off me." Kat said as she tried to shove the 125 pound great dane off her stomach. Angus ignored her demands, and gave her another affectionate lick on the face for her efforts. "Rocky! Call off your mutt!" Kat yelled with a giggle as the yellow dog started to thump his tail happily against her leg.
"Angus! I said unattached females. You're supposed to sit on unattached females. Kat's taken remember?" Rocky said as he teasingly reprimanded his large ungainly dog. Angus 'woofed' in response. Kat giggled.
"Rocky, somehow I don't think getting your big goof of a dog to sit on some poor unsuspecting female is a good way to meet girls." Kat said as she managed to shove the big animal off her. Angus looked at the two humans for a moment, and then took off at top speed after a squirrel half way across the park. "He's not going to get into any trouble is he?"
"Nah, Angus is a veritable angel." Rocky said as he easily dismissed the dog. Kat lifted an eyebrow to say otherwise. "Okay, so he's not an angel, but he usually behaves himself in the park. Besides, he's usually a good turn off to girls. They take one look at how big and slobbery he is and take off in the other direction." Rocky sighed as he sat down and leaned against the big oak's trunk.
"Okay, call me dumb, but don't most guys want to attract girls?" Kat asked as she looked at her teammate in surprise. Rocky snorted in response.
"Not this guy. Love stinks." Rocky snorted in disdain. He'd called Jennifer Peterson, the girl he'd been dating recently, last night only to have her chew him out. Just like every other girl he'd dated since becoming a Power Ranger. Rocky sighed. She said she hadn't wanted to date someone who had to continually leave in the middle of a date or sometimes didn't show up for them at all. She had said she was sick of his lame excuses of there being some kind of 'emergency' he had to attend to. The words hadn't depressed Rocky so much, it was the fact that he'd heard them so many times in the last two years that had him upset. In the last six months alone, he'd heard them from Emily, Stephanie, Brittany, Ashley, Lisette, Tiffany, and now Jennifer. Why couldn't he find someone like Tommy and Adam had found?
Rocky stopped himself for a moment. He couldn't find someone like his two teammates had. Kat and Tanya were on the team, they understood what the 'emergencies' were, and there was no need to keep secrets. Unfortunately, that left him out in the cold, because Tanya and Kat were the only females on the team.
"Jennifer called things off didn't she?" Kat said sympathetically as she gave her friend a small rub on the shoulder. Rocky nodded. "I didn't like her much anyway, Rocky. She was always so stuck up and preppy."
Rocky raised an eyebrow as he glanced at Kat. It had been her idea in the first place that he ask Jennifer out, but he wasn't going to point that out now. He knew Kat was only trying to be supportive. However, he had enough of the opposite sex. He'd reached the end of his proverbial rope with romance, it just wasn't worth the effort.
"Angus! Go slobber on somebody else! No. Angus! Oomph."
Rock's head snapped up at the sound of his dog's name, and almost groaned as he watched his very big, very dumb dog put his paws up onto Tommy Oliver's sister and push her to the ground with an over enthusiastic lick.
"I think Angus just found you an unattached girl." Kat said as she pointed to her boyfriend's younger sister. This time Rocky did groan as he got up from under the tree and walked towards the petite brunette his dog was currently sitting on.
"Zoe? Zoe are you all right? Angus, ya big dumb mutt, get off of her." Rocky said as he wrapped his arms around Angus and hauled him off the laughing girl. Zoe smiled up at him as he stuck out a hand and helped her to her feet.
"You gonna be okay, kiddo? I'm really sorry, Angus is usually a bit more well behaved then this." Rocky apologized.
"Yeah, I'm fine, don't worry about it." Zoe said as she bit back a grimace. She was a year younger than her adopted older brother, but Tommy and his friends all acted like she was ten. She was a sophomore in high school and they were juniors, but they treated her like she was still in middle school.
"Thanks Zoe. I'll catch you later, okay?" Rocky said as he grabbed Angus' collar and dragged the great dane back to the big oak. Zoe watched as the big dog threw a couple of longing glances in her direction. She really did like Angus. If she ever had a dog, she thought, she'd want it to be like Angus. Of course, if she were really honest with herself, Zoe thought, she'd admit that one of the reasons she liked the friendly animal so much was because he was Rocky's dog, and she really liked Rocky. Not that he'd ever know that. Rocky probably didn't even realize she existed in the romantic sense. She was just his friend's little kid sister.
* * *
"Hey Rocky, was that your mutt I saw mauling my baby sis a while ago?" Tommy asked mischievously as he plopped himself down on the grass next to his girlfriend. Kat laughed and elbowed him in the ribs. Angus picked himself up off of the ground and gave Tommy a greeting lick, and then proceeded to sit on the muscular boy.
"I was only kidding, Angus, get off me. Go sit on your master, it seems like he's the only person here that you haven't sat on yet." Tommy said as he shoved the big dog off his lap. Angus moved a few paces away from the group and fell with a thump into a relaxed position in the shade.
"How was your run, bro?" Rocky asked. Tommy was dripping from head to toe in sweat, and he looked pleasantly exhausted.
"Well, it got kind of boring once Kat sat down. It's much more exciting to run when she's there to watch my rear." Tommy said with a grin. Her cheeks flushed and she smacked him on the arm. Tommy, in retaliation, snaked an arm out and trapped his girlfriend in a sweaty bear hug. Rocky rolled his eyes at his friends' antics, but sighed inwardly as he watched the two. He wanted something like that, but there was no way he was going to find it in the near future, not with the demands rangering made on his free time. He let his mind stray as his two teammates teased each other. Angus whined slightly, and Rocky followed his line of sight. His dog was staring straight at Zoe Oliver, who was currently doing homework at a picnic bench. Rocky stared at the girl for a moment. He'd seen Zoe around a lot, she was Tommy's sister after all, and she and Clara, his younger sister, seemed to be really good friends. When had she stopped running around in pigtails? When had she stopped coming over to see Clara so they could talk about the latest sixth grade dance? Rocky dismissed the questions from his mind after a moment, and sighed as he lay his head down on Angus' chest. He had just gotten comfortable, when a familiar beep sounded. All three teens groaned in unison.
"Zordon, come in." Tommy asked as he lifted his wrist to his mouth. Zordon's voice boomed back.
"Mondo has released a new monster. His name is Mower Mangler, and he is creating havoc at the beach. You must go and stop him Rangers."
"We're on it, Zordon." Tommy answered back, and then closed off the communication channel.
"Ten bucks says it's an overgrown lawn mower with an attitude." Rocky said as he climbed to his feet. "Guys, what am I going to do with Angus? I can't take him with me." Rocky said as he motioned to his drooling dog.
"Why don't you get Zoe to take him back to your house. She knows where Rocky lives, doesn't she, Tommy?" Kat asked as she turned to look at the long, dark haired teen beside her. Tommy nodded.
* * *
Rocky ran a hand through his short brown hair as he walked down the street towards his house. The sun had set about an hour ago, but the bright white lights of the street lamps overhead lit the residential road. He winced slightly as he let his hand fall back to his side. Mower Mangler had gotten one of his sharp blades past his defenses, and his side was now paying the price. That was why he was walking home by himself. The others had left the Power Chamber shortly after returning to touch base with Zordon. He'd had to stay behind so Alpha could doctor him up a little. Rocky hadn't bothered the others with it, the wound was a paltry one compared to some of the injuries they'd sustained before. Although that knowledge didn't seem to make the stinging sensation in his side feel any less painful, he acknowledged with a wry grin. Alpha had suggested he teleport home, but the walk home had appealed to him. It was a way to work out some of the tension in his muscles. He felt like he'd run the gauntlet of monsters in the past week. It had seemed like every time they'd turned around, the machine empire was sending some warped electronic creature their way.
Rocky sighed. He was tired, and he was looking forward to a nice hot shower once he got home. He just hoped Clara hadn't used up all the hot water trying to get ready for her date. Of course Rocky thought with a odd smile, there was a good point to all of this, at least he didn't have to call Jennifer up tonight and try to explain why he was once again late picking her up for their date.
Rocky turned the corner. He could see the lights from his house down the street. His mouth watered at the thought of the leftover enchiladas he knew were in the fridge just waiting to be eaten. Rocky's stomach growled, but the sound was drowned out by the sudden appearance of a squad of cogs, and Gasket.
"Aw, man! Don't you guys ever give up? We've spent the whole week wiping the floor with what you've been dishing out. Don't you have anything better do? Like regroup?" Rocky said with disdain. Prince Gasket had the good grace to looked miffed at his questions.
"I've just been keeping you pests busy while I devised one of my best plans ever. You tell your fearless leader that if he ever wants to see his little sister again, he will surrender to me." Gasket said in his best fiendish mechanical voice. Rocky glared angrily at the mechanical man. Zoe was a nice kid, she didn't deserve to be set up in some loony hostage situation with the forces of evil. Tommy was going to hit the roof when he found out what had happened.
"Oh, and you need not worry about the little Oliver girl being lonely. Your dog is keeping her company in the cell I've placed her in." Gasket said with a sly smile, breaking the train of Rocky's thoughts. Rocky saw red. Angus had been a present from his father on his tenth birthday. The great dane had also been the last present Rocky had ever received from his father.
Gasket laughed at the hatred displayed on the young man's face. Destroying the Rangers was proving to be more entertaining and satisfying then he ever thought possible. A sardonic smile lit his face and with a motion of his hand, he disappeared along with the cogs.
Rocky recognized the look in the robot's eyes just soon enough to realize that they were about to transport out of his reach. An uncontrollable urge to lash out at the unfairness of the situation grabbed him, and without a second thought he lashed out at a cog with a kick a split second before they disappeared. The next thing Rocky knew, he was in a metal chamber with the small squad of cogs that had accompanied Gasket to earth. There was no sign of the villain anywhere, but Rocky knew where he was all the same. Somehow, he'd gotten caught in the teleportation beam when he'd kicked that cog. Rocky shrugged his shoulders, and then put up his fists to do battle with the remaining cogs.
* * *
"Argh. I can't believe this. When I get my hands on Tommy! Grr. This is all his fault." Zoe said half heartedly to the great dane as she paced back and forth in the small cubic cell. Silently, she admitted to herself that none of this was her older brother's fault. She was proud of him, and she looked up to him. However, if she weren't his sister, she would be in a holding cell with Rocky's dog. Zoe sighed in frustration. There was nothing Tommy could have done to prevent this. Not that that would stop him from blaming himself, she noted with a grimace. If she could just get herself out of here without anyone being any the wiser, she'd have it made, her older brother and his friends would never find out she knew anything.
"Oh Angus, how are we going to get out of here? There has to be some way." Zoe said as she lowered her voice to a whisper. There were two cogs guarding the cell's door, and she had searched the room for hours trying to find some escape route or device that would help her free herself and the dog. So far all she had to show for her troubles was bloody fingers from where she'd tried to pry off the air vent with her bare hands. Zoe vainly surveyed the tiny room again. The search left her empty handed. There was nothing in the cell except for her, the vent, and Angus.
Zoe stopped for a second. Angus. Hurriedly she scrambled over to where the dog was laying and looked to see if he was still wearing his collar. Sure enough, Angus' blue collar was still wrapped securely around his neck. For the first time since the whole thing had begun, Zoe smiled. She quickly took off the collar and scrambled over to the vent. After a couple of attempts, she managed to use the buckle on the collar to undo the bolts holding the vent's grill in place. As quietly as possible, Zoe tried to shove the great dane through the square hole in the wall. Angus, however, was having no part in the escape attempt through the vent.
"Squirrel, Angus, squirrel!"
Zoe's head snapped up at the sound of a voice coming from within the vent, and all of the sudden she wasn't too sure she wanted to escape through the hole in the wall. Angus, however, leapt into the opening with a happy 'woof' at the mention of squirrels. Zoe had no choice but to follow him. As she fitted the vent back on the wall behind her, she prayed that the cogs hadn't heard Angus' enthusiastic bark.
Cautiously, Zoe followed Angus' wagging tail as he followed the voice at the other end of the small tunnel. She saw a light ahead of Angus, and before she knew it, Angus had jumped out of the vent.
"Haven't you ever heard of looking before you leap?" Zoe muttered under her breath at the great dane as she jumped out of the duct and onto the floor in what appeared to be a storage room of machine parts. Zoe noticed two things as she landed with a thump. One, Angus was peeing on what appeared to be the dismembered parts of a cog. Two, the blue Zeo Power ranger was standing in front of her.
Zoe eyed him warily. She'd lived in Angel Grove long enough to know that the forces of evil were capable of creating "bad" clones of earth's defenders. Had the cogs heard her crawling through the duct system? Was this an attempt on their part to recapture her and the dog? How did she know that this was the real blue Zeo Power Ranger?
"Rocky?" she questioned softly. The figure in blue stopped cold, and then cocked his head to the side in confusion. _Not a good sign._ Zoe curled her hands into fists at her side. She had to be prepared for anything.
"Miss? I think you have the wrong person. I'm the blue Zeo Ranger, I'm here to rescue you." The Ranger in blue answered. Oh boy. She was in trouble. There was no way that this was Rocky. Rocky was never this polite. Never. The Rocky she knew was never this diplomatic either. The guy called his sister flipper and his little brother rugrat. He had a nickname for everyone he knew. He'd probably croak before he ever called any girl 'Miss', it just wasn't in his personality.
"Okay pal. I don't know who you are, but don't come any closer. I'm warning you." Zoe said as she took a small step back. Rocky frowned under his helmet. What on Earth was wrong with Zoe? He was the good guy. She was supposed to be happy to see him. Wasn't she? And how did she know it was him? Rocky shook it off. He was tired. He wanted to take a hot shower, and then he wanted to go to bed. First, he had to rescue Tommy's cute kid sister. All he had to do was grab her wrist, and then teleport them out. Rocky took a step forward, and reached for Zoe's wrist.
It was the biggest mistake of his entire life.
The girl he'd always thought of as a petite, docile younger sister, sidekicked him in the ribs. It wasn't any girlie sidekick either. She nailed him good, not that he would ever admit that to another living soul. He groaned and grabbed his side with one hand. She'd also managed to get the same side that Mower Mangler had gotten with his blades earlier. Briefly, he made a mental note to himself to ask Tommy for advice on exactly what he wasn't doing that left that side open to attack.
"What was that for?" he managed to bite out once the air had reentered his lungs. Zoe gave him an uncertain look. "Do you always kick the good guys, Midge? Or am I just a special case?" Rocky said as he lightly massaged his aching side. Zoe's eyes widened. The bad guys wouldn't know that Rocky always called her Midget, would they?
"Rocky? Rocky, is that really you?" Zoe asked as she took a cautious step towards the doubled over teen in blue.
"Power down." Rocky said quietly as he crossed his arms in front of himself. The blue spandex uniform melted away to reveal Rocky dressed in blue jeans and a simple blue T-shirt. Zoe cringed. She had sidekicked the good guy. Angus chose that moment to recognize his master, and came bounding over from the corner of the room. "No, Angus. Sit. No. Angus! Oomph." The huge great dane pushed Rocky to the ground with one enthusiastic leap. "Damn dog thinks he's a lap dog." He muttered under his breath as Zoe shoved Angus off of him.
"Rocky, are you all right? I'm so sorry. I thought you were an evil clone." Zoe said worriedly as she helped the tall teen to his feet. Rocky gave her a skeptical look as he gingerly held his side. He felt dampness between his fingers, and he knew Zoe had ripped open the stitches Alpha had put in with her sidekick. "How could you let me kick you!" She said as she slugged him on the shoulder. He grabbed her fist before she could smack him again.
"Let you kick me?!" Rocky said in disbelief. "I came to rescue you. Most people I rescue are happy to see me. You are the first one who has ever kicked me. I'm sorry, but I just wasn't expecting the damsel in distress to try and clean my clock. Call me strange, but there you are." Rocky said as he let go of her fist with a frustrated gesture. Zoe, however, hadn't heard a word of what he'd just said. Her eyes were glued on the damp red spot on his side.
"You're hurt." She said as she moved to his side. Rocky sighed. It was high time they got out of this loony bin and back to Earth. He grabbed her wrist, bent down and slung an arm around Angus' neck and then punched the teleportation button on his communicator. They all disappeared in a beam of blue light.
The group landed with a small thud on the floor of the Command Center. Zoe looked around her with wide eyes. She was finally getting to see where her brother flitted off to when he was saving the planet. Angus, however was not phased at all by his surroundings, he immediately took off after the short robot standing near the control panel. Rocky dived for his dog. Once he had an arm secured around the mutt, he turned back to Zoe.
"I'll be right back. Don't move."
"No, wait Rocky." Zoe said as she watched the two disappear. "You're hurt." she finished lamely as she addressed an empty room. Zoe looked around her, well, maybe it wasn't quite so empty, she thought. There was a robot near what appeared to be a computer console, waving his hands and repeating, 'Ai Ai Ai' over and over again. Then she noticed the floating head.
"Wow. You must be Zordon." Zoe said with a revered whisper. "My name's Zoe Oliver, I'm Tommy's younger sister." she said politely as she introduced herself.
* * *
Rocky teleported back to find Zoe talking excitedly to Zordon. She stopped the moment she saw him. With a huge grin on her face, she gave a small hop and a skip, and then stood at his side.
"That's THE Zordon." she announced with reverence. Rocky gave her a strange look.
"I know." Rocky said, and then he looked at Alpha, the robot merely shrugged it's shoulders. "How do you know that, though? Zordon's never been mentioned in the news as far as I know."
"Rocky, I will have Alpha call the other Rangers here. While Zoe is telling her story, Alpha will restitch your injury." Zordon said in a fatherly manner. Rocky looked as if he wanted to protest, and Zoe did.
"Zordon, I really don't want Tommy to know I know." she said with flushed cheeks. The moving head frowned slightly.
"It is in the best interest of the Rangers, and in the defense of this planet that they are aware of your knowledge of them and the Machine Empire." Zordon said with authority. Both Rocky and Zoe grimaced.
* * *
Tommy, Katherine, Adam, and Tanya all stood before there mentor with confused looks on their faces. Zordon had never called them to the Command Center after dark before. Tommy stepped forward, his face pensive. In his mind he was convinced that this could not be a good thing.
"Rocky, take the shirt off."
"I am not taking the shirt off. Forget it."
"You're going to have to take it off if Alpha's going to restitch your side. And don't give me the 'its a paltry wound' speech again. Its a five inch gash, and that's nothing to sneeze at. Now sit."
Tommy couldn't believe his eyes or his ears. His little sister was standing in front of him, in the Command Center, demanding that his best friend take off his shirt. Furthermore, his friend apparently was injured, and injured pretty seriously if the blood stains on his shirt were any indication. The world had gone completely mad. Zoe stopped abruptly when she saw her older brother, and the rest of his friends.
Rocky groaned. He didn't want to explain to them why he had stitches in his side. Tommy was going to throw a fit because he didn't report it, and Adam was going to be hurt because he hadn't felt the need to tell him. Most importantly, he didn't want to explain how Zoe had ended up in the Power Chamber. Tommy's face was turning bright red, and he didn't look at all happy to see her. Zoe shifted nervously on her feet beside Rocky.
"Tommy, I can explain everything."
* * *
"Then, she kicked me."
Zoe gave the teen beside her a disgruntled look. "I believe you've already mentioned that three of four times now, Rocky. Give it a rest. " Zoe said with a grin as she rolled her eyes. Her eyes lingered for a moment on his bare chest, but out of the corner of her eye she saw Kat give a quizzical look. Reluctantly she turned her attention away from the teen in blue jeans, and let her gaze fall on Tommy. It had taken fifteen minutes just to calm her brother down to the point where he'd listen to her tell about being kidnapped by the Machine Empire, and now the turncoat was laughing at her. Zoe glared at him good naturedly. "I thought he was an evil clone." she said defensively. "I apologized afterwards." That just sent the group into fits of laughter again. And they were all teasing Rocky, who was sitting impaitentiantly beside Alpha. The robot was slowly, but surely, stitching the five inch gash on the teen's side back together again.
"What I don't understand, Zoe, was how did you know it was Rocky?" Kat asked after a while. The group turned to face her and looked at her expectantly. Zoe avoided eye contact with her brother.
"I've known who you guys were ever since Tommy became a Ranger. Once I knew he was one, it wasn't very hard to tell who the rest were. I mean for Pete's sake you all have a certain fetish for wearing your respective colors." Zoe said with a shrug.
"It comes with the powers." Rocky said wryly as he gingerly struggled back into his blue T-shirt. The rest nodded in agreement.
"But I still don't understand, Zoe, how did you know I was a Ranger?" Tommy asked his younger sister in confusion. Zoe looked up at him with wide green eyes. Her brother still didn't remember. Well, Rita's magic had been a powerful thing to behold, she acknowledged to herself. In the back of her mind she knew he didn't remember, and she was kind of happy that her brother had had no knowledge of it up until now. However, when Gasket had kidnapped her, he'd opened up a veritable can of worms. Zoe took a deep breath. Here went nothing.
"Tommy, you remember when we first moved here right?" Zoe questioned. Tommy nodded. How could he forget? He'd been turned into the evil green Ranger shortly after having started classes at Angel Grove High. " Well, then you'll remember that nasty black eye I had. You know the one that I told Mom and Dad I'd gotten by accident at the playground?" Tommy nodded again. Of course he remembered. The whole side of Zoe's face had been a nasty purplish, yellow color. It had taken weeks for the bruising and the swelling to go down. "Tommy, I lied to Mom and Dad. You gave me the black eye." Zoe watched as her brother's face turned pale. "I'd gotten home from school that day, and we'd been watching the news in class to see how the Power Rangers had fared in the fight against Goldar. I was so excited. We had heroes right here in Angel Grove. Well, I wanted to know what you thought of them. So I went into your room where you were working out on the bench press Mom and Dad had gotten for you at Christmas. I gushed and gushed about the Rangers until you put your weights down and, well, Tommy, then you punched me." Zoe paused for a second. It wasn't one of her greatest memories of her brother, but she reminded herself once again that Tommy had been under a spell at the time. He never would have laid a finger on her otherwise.
"Well, as I sat on the floor in your room, trying hard not to ball my eyes out, you explained to me that you were the evil green Ranger that the Power Rangers had been fighting. You told me their names and their respective colors, and then you told me how you were going to annihilate each and everyone of them." He'd also given her a pretty nasty kick in the ribs afterwards too, but as Zoe watched her older brother struggle with the information she had just given him, she decided he didn't need to know that. He was going to beat himself up enough over this, there was no sense in adding more fuel to the fire.
"I think I'm going to be sick." Tommy said, and with that he got up and left the room. Kat watched him for a split second and then took off after him. Zoe bit her lip. Rocky watched her out of the corner of his eye. She'd gained his respect in the last couple of hours. She was a lot more mature then he'd originally thought. It was obvious to everyone there that the reason she'd never told them that she knew their secret before now, was because she didn't want to have to explain to her brother how she'd found out. For some odd reason, he felt a surge of protectiveness towards her as he watched her struggle with her admission. As he watched her bite her lip in worry, he decided to change the subject.
"So, how'd you know about Zordon?" he asked casually. She hadn't mentioned their mentor at all in the story, so he assumed she'd heard about him later on. Zoe gave him a small smile.
"Tommy talks incessantly in his sleep. He carries on one sided conversations with each of you guys, or with Rita and Zedd. Once I was sure he was on the side of good again, I would sneak into his room, and ask him questions while he was asleep. He answered everyone of them and never remembered ever telling me anything in the morning. That's how I found out about his being under a magic spell, and about Zordon." Zoe said with a shrug.
* * *
"Tommy, don't." Kat said as she placed a hand on her boyfriend's shoulder. He was sitting outside the Command Center with a glazed look in his eyes, staring off out into the empty desert surroundings. Kat sat down beside him, but he made no indication that he'd even heard her. Her brow wrinkled with worry. There were times when Tommy was depressed. Times that he would look back on his stint as the evil green Ranger and feel guilty at the destruction he had caused, Kat reflected. But she'd never seen him like this before.
"Tommy? Talk to me." She said quietly as she grabbed a hold of his hand. Tommy turned to look at her. Kat almost wished he hadn't.
"How could I have done that, Kat?" he managed to say hoarsely. "To my own sister? Geez, when I think back on it, she gave me so many signs that she knew. You know, I always wondered why she wouldn't come into my room unless she thought I was asleep." Tommy shuddered.
"Tommy, you know that it wasn't your fault. You weren't yourself. Evil spells do have a way of warping your personality. Trust me." Kat said dryly. Tommy shrugged unconvincingly. The logical part of his brain acknowledged that Kat was right. Rita's spell had changed everything about him. But, in his heart he felt nothing but a sickening sense of dread at what he had done.
"I know Kat. I still feel responsible though. It feels like I violated that one unsaid duty of being the oldest. I failed to protect a younger sibling." Tommy took a deep breath. He was supposed to protect those that were smaller or weaker than him, but instead he'd socked his sister. "I hit her, and it wasn't any pansy boy hit, either. I really socked her, if the bruise she had for a month was any indication. I hit her hard enough to chip a tooth! I hit my defenseless baby sister!" Tommy said angrily, as he tossed a nearby pebble at a cactus a few feet away. "I still can't believe Zordon let me stay a Power Ranger. After all the things I've done, all the innocent people I've hurt, how could he still think I'd make a good leader for this team?"
"It's probably because he sees what I see when I look at you Tommy. You are a great leader. You care deeply for your friends, and your teammates. You know the difference between right and wrong, and you always do what you think to be right in your heart. I know you do. And that isn't something that just everyone can do. There is nothing you can say that would convince me that you would ever intentionally hit another person in anything other than self defense. You are just not that type of person Tommy, and you never will be." Kat said as she wrapped her arms around her boyfriend. Tommy sighed as he wrapped an arm around his girlfriend's waist.
"Yeah, I guess you're right Kat. It just came as a shock. I mean I thought I already knew all the transgressions I'd committed as the evil green ranger. This is going to take a little while to come to grips with." he said with a shrug. Kat nodded in agreement. It was going to take some time.
* * *
"Tommy, go on your date with Kat." Zoe ordered in her best 'I'm in charge' voice. Her older brother ignored her completely. She'd pulled him aside earlier when he'd announced that he was going to forego his date with his blond girlfriend in order to take her home.
"Zoe, I'm taking you home, and then I'm going to stay there to make sure nothing happens. The Machine Empire isn't going to be to happy when they discover you and Angus escaped. They're going to come after you, its inevitable. I plan on being there for you this time, so live with it." Tommy said as he lightly shoved his sister back into the main chamber.
"Tommy! Grr. I'm not helpless, you know, and for the record, I'm as old as Adam is, so quit treating me like I'm ten!" Zoe protested. Tommy merely gave her a quick pat on the head as he walked over to Kat. Zoe glared at him, but Tommy's attention was focused on the tall blond.
"Kat, I'm sorry about tonight. Can we do it another time?" Tommy said in a soft voice as he gave the willowy girl an apologetic smile. Kat smiled back as she shyly shrugged her shoulders.
"That's okay . . ." Kat was interrupted by Zoe, who had chosen to wait until that moment to she launched herself at her tall, muscular brother's back. Zoe wrapped her arms around his neck in an ineffectual choke hold. Tommy merely looked annoyed and tried to shake his small sister off.
"Don't, oomph, worry Kat. Tommy's gonna, ouch! take you on that, dammit Tommy, date." Zoe panted as she clung for dear life to the brown haired teen's back. Suddenly, Zoe felt someone pluck her off Tommy's back. "Hey! This is between me and the moron!" Zoe spit out angrily as Rocky put her on the ground. Her brother glared at her, as he brushed his fingers through his messed up hair. Rocky smiled as he watched Zoe scowl back at Tommy, the situation almost reminded him of the time he'd tried to tell Clara she was too young to date.
"Listen, Tommy, I'll take Midget home, and watch after her until you're done with your date, how does that sound?" Rocky said as he gingerly wrapped an arm around Zoe's neck, and rubbed his knuckles over her dark brown hair. Zoe rolled her eyes, but stilled as she remembered his injury. From his spot next to Kat, Tommy looked uncertain.
"I don't know Rocky, you're still injured. Maybe you should just go home and take it easy. Or do you still have that date tonight with Jennifer?" Tommy asked innocently. Kat elbowed him in the side, she'd forgotten to tell her boyfriend not to say anything about Rocky's love life. Rocky caught the movement out of the corner of his eye, and almost groaned. He really didn't need the rest of the team feeling sorry for him because he was dateless on a Friday night.
"Jen's history, she wanted me to do all that lovey dovey junk. You know, poems, flowers, chocolates. Please, I do have some self respect." Rocky said as he chose his favorite diversionary tactic, pretending to hate romance. "I'm up to the job, oh fearless leader, you can count on me." He finished as he gave Tommy a mock salute. Adam and Tanya laughed in the background, and Tommy cracked a smile.
"Well," Tommy hedged for a moment, "I guess, but promise me you'll call for back up, if even one cog shows up." He said sternly as he shook at finger at his teammate. Rocky grinned at him in amusement.
"Aye, Aye captain. I'll protect the girl with me life." Rocky said in his best British accent. Everyone in the room groaned good naturedly.
* * *
"So . . . what do you want to do?" Zoe asked as she tucked a wayward strand of curly brown hair behind her ear, and fidgeted with the hem of her green shirt. Rocky looked around the Oliver's family room desperately for something to do. Anything.
"You want to . . . umm . . . oh hey cool! Playdoh!" Rocky said as he picked up the yellow plastic jar. He pulled off the blue lid and pulled out the colored dough that he knew would smell funky, but he knew from experience would taste even worse. Zoe watched in amusement as the six foot guy who was supposed to be protecting her from the evils of the universe, made a long misshapen worm with a goofy grin. "Do you have any other colors?" Zoe laughed and nodded.
Ten minutes later, she and Rocky were sitting at the kitchen table with a rainbow of Playdoh. Zoe smiled as she added the finishing touches on the small dragon she had made out of purple dough. Rocky was hunched over his own little creations.
"What are those?" Zoe asked as she watched Rocky mold a red blob into a red blob with appendages. Rocky looked up at her with innocent eyes.
"Well, this one is Adam." He said as he picked up a rather plump green blob. Zoe didn't think Adam looked anything like the green ball with legs that barely held it's pudgy body upright. "This one is Kat." Rocky brought a skinny, pink, tube like dough creature next to the green blob. Zoe laughed, the pink tube was about twice as tall as the green blob, and as far as she knew, in real life, Kat was at least two or three inches shorter than Adam. "Oh yeah, and here's Tanya." Rocky placed a yellow tube similar to the pink one next to the green blob's other side. He took great care in smushing a yellow tube arm into a fat green one. "And this is Tommy. He's not done yet." Rocky said as he lifted up a red pickle shaped person that was missing a head and arms.
"My brother's headless?" Zoe took the red pickle gently out of Rocky's hand. A leg fell off though as Zoe tried to position him back on the table next to the pink tube. Red Pickle Tommy refused to cooperate with her efforts to reattach the leg, after a few moments of attempting to fuse the short red leg to the long curved body, Zoe gave up. "Lord love me, he's stubborn even when he's made out of Playdoh!" She said in exasperation. Rocky laughed as he moved over to help Red Pickle Tommy. His hand brushed against hers, and both stilled at the touch. Zoe's luminous green eyes met his. Rocky gulped audibly. Zoe stood up abruptly, and walked around the circular table to where he was sitting. Rocky stood up quickly, knocking the chair over in his haste.
"Rocky?" She asked hesitantly as he bent down and righted the chair. Zoe took a deep breath. The boy was never gonna know how she felt if she didn't make the first move. She put her hand on his shoulder, and before he could straighten to his full height, she moved in.
Rocky's eyebrows shot to his hairline as he felt Zoe's lips against his. They were soft, but as light as a feather as they brushed against his lips. The kiss was over as quickly as it had started, but it felt like the world had come to a screeching halt. When had Tommy's kid sister, stopped being Tommy's kid sister? Zoe's face was bright red, and she avoided his astonished gaze. In all of his years, he never would have expected her to do anything like that. He hadn't even really thought of her in a romantic sense before, she had just been a good friend he could horse around with if he had time on his hands. But when he thought about it, there was a lot he liked about her, and a great deal of it went past the bounds of mere friendship or honorary siblinghood.
"Um, Listen Rocky, Sorry about . . ." Zoe's sentence was cut off as Rocky put a finger against her lips. Zoe's eyes widen in surprise. Slowly, Rocky moved his hand to the nape of her neck, and bent his lips down onto hers. Zoe's eyebrows shot up into her hairline as he kissed her. His kiss was nothing like the kiss she'd just given him. This one was more intense, more involved. Better. Zoe wrapped her arms around his neck, and instantly felt his arms around her waist. She sighed happily as she gave into the new sensations.
"Zoe, we're home."
The kiss ended instantly.
"Um, I'm in the, ah, kitchen." Zoe answered back as she tried to get her mind to work. She was pretty sure her face was bright red, but as she looked over at Rocky's she felt relieved. His face was flushed also, but there was a satisfied grin playing at his lips. Zoe smiled shyly back.
"Oh hello Rocky, Where's Tommy?" Mr. Oliver asked as he opened the kitchen door and found the two teens standing next to the kitchen table. His wife walked in behind him and stood by his side. She took in at one glance the two teens' flushed faces.
"He's out on a date with Kat, Dad." Zoe said softly as she inspected the hem of her shirt. Mr. Oliver's face filled with confusion.
"Then what's Rocky doing here? Oomph." He asked as his wife elbowed him in the ribs. Suddenly he noticed what had only taken his wife seconds to realize. The two teens had been kissing when they'd come home. "Oh. Okay. I'm going to go watch TV, hon." Mr. Oliver made a beeline out of the kitchen. Mrs. Oliver chuckled, and after she gave her daughter a quick wink, followed her husband into the family room. Zoe watched as her parents departed from the kitchen, and then breathed a sigh of relief.
"They have really lousy timing." She muttered to herself, and she turned back to face Rocky. "So. . ." She said as she scuffed the edge of her shoe against the kitchen linoleum, breaking the silence. Rocky gave a characteristic DeSantos grin.
"Midge, I've know you for like forever. You're not getting shy on me now are you?" He asked as he sat back down at the kitchen table. Zoe laughed as she sat back down opposite him at the table, but her mind was spinning in confusion. Did he mean to kiss her? Or was he just testing the waters like all the girls at school said he did? He still didn't think of her as Tommy's pig-tailed little bratty sister did he?!
"You've known me for like three years, Rocky. That doesn't count as forever." She said as she picked up her purple Playdoh dragon, and fidgeted with its tail. Rocky picked up Red Pickle Tommy, and nervously fiddled with the unattached red head. He hadn't meant to say that. He hadn't known her forever, and tonight definitely had convinced him that there were a lot of things about her that he wanted to explore a great deal farther.
"You're right, I haven't known you forever, but I'd like to know you better. You, um, are you doing anything this Friday? Cause if you aren't then well, maybe we could go to the, um, planetarium?" Rocky asked as he focused his brown eyes on her green ones.
"Zoe! Rocky! I'm home!" Tommy's voice boomed through the kitchen as he burst through the door. Rocky and Zoe looked up guiltily, as the teen in red sat between them at the table. "Anything interesting happen while I was gone?" He asked. Zoe and Rocky traded looks.
"Oh, we just, um, hung out. Nothing that would be worth mentioning." Zoe said with a flustered wave of her hand. _At least it was nothing worth mentioning to him. In fact, the less her older brother knew, the happier she would be. Although she knew Tommy wouldn't be able to intimidate Rocky like he did everyone else, she didn't want to listen to Tommy lecture him on how she was still just a 'little girl'. _
Rocky gave her a hurt look. It was nice to know she thought his kisses weren't worth mentioning, he thought bitterly to himself. Well, that was what he got for thinking that a girl might actually take him seriously. After all, Jen had just said she'd dated him for practice because she was intent on chasing after the current football team captain. Word had gotten around after he'd moved to Angel Grove and joined the Ranger team, that he was fun to date occasionally, but he was buzzard bait when it came to being boyfriend material. It honestly made him wonder how Zack had managed to pull things off with Angela without falling into the same trap he had.
"Rocky, are you feeling okay?" Zoe asked quietly, breaking him out of his reverie. "How's your side holding up?" She asked, instantly reminding him of the dull twinges that were radiating from the five inch gash.
"It's fine. Nothing to worry about." He said as he lifted up his shirt a little to inspect the wound. "It looks like its healing okay." He added as he gently poked at the stitching.
"Stop that, man. I am not taking you back to the Power Chamber so Alpha can restitch that sucker for the third time. Why don't you go home and get some sleep. You look beat, bro." Tommy said as he put his feet up on the kitchen table. "I'll take over the midget watching duty." He added with a grin. Zoe glared at him, and then in retaliation, shoved his feet off the table. It took all of Tommy's coordination skills to keep from landing ungracefully onto the linoleum floor.
"The moron's right, Rocky. You should get some sleep so that gash can heal." She said as she stood up. Rocky stood up slowly, and gave her an unreadable look. Was she going to give him an answer or not? Should he say anything, or just let it pass? Zoe walked over to his side of the table, smacking her brother lightly upside the head in the process, and then dodging just out of his reach before he could retaliate.
"Oh boy, are you asking for it Midget." Tommy said with a glare as he got up and moved toward the kitchen door. "You coming Rocky?" He asked before he walked out the kitchen door.
"He'll be right there." Zoe interjected for Rocky. He looked down at her in surprise. Tommy merely shrugged and walked out the door. The moment he was out of sight, Zoe focused all her attention on the tall Hispanic teen in front of her. She leaned up and shyly gave him a light kiss on the lips. For the second time in the same evening , she had totally taken him by surprise.
"What time on Friday?" She asked softly. She hoped he didn't think she was being too forward, but never in her wildest dreams, did she ever think that he would like her back. She hadn't even told Clara how she had felt about Rocky, and she told Clara everything. Of course, he could just be playing around with her, she thought dismally, and then it really wouldn't matter if she were too forward or not because the whole thing would probably just be one big joke on her.
Rocky eyes widen a fraction. _So she had taken his offer seriously. What was he supposed to do now?_
"Um, how about I pick you up around five?" He said finally. He figured that by then, it would be too late in the evening for Mondo to consider sending a monster to Earth, and he wouldn't have to call her up to apologize for not showing. Of course, if she stood him up, none of that would matter, he thought to himself. Zoe merely nodded and shot him a brilliant smile.
"Rocky! Are you coming or what?!" Tommy's voice boomed from somewhere within the rest of the house.
"Yeah, I'm coming. Keep your shirt on!" Rocky hollered back. "Catch ya later, Midge." He said quietly as he walked through the kitchen door.
Zoe waited until she heard the front door close, and then made a mad dash for the phone.
"Clara? You'll never guess what just happened!"
* * *
"But still! I mean ew, I don't want to think of him that way! Oh, come on."
Rocky heard Clara's voice filter through the upstairs hallway as he made his way to the bathroom in hopes of taking the warm shower he'd been craving all evening. He smiled as Clara gave a small screech on the telephone. Who ever it was, he felt sorry for them. Clara's screeches were painful enough to the ear when you were face to face with her. He didn't want to imagine what they would be like if they were amplified by the phone right into your ear.
"Flipper, keep it down, before you leave the poor person on the other line deaf." He said as he gave her door a passing rap. Clara instantly stuck her head out of her room and into the hallway.
"Hey lover lips, I heard you've been making the moves on a certain someone's little sister." She said with a huge smile. "Rocky's got a girlfriend." She chanted in a sing-song voice. Rocky glared at her, and then he heard a screech that rivaled Clara's coming form the other end of the phone in his sister's hand.
"Geez girl, you just about blew my eardrum out . . . What secrecy? He's my brother! You didn't expect me to keep this to myself did you?" Clara replied back into the phone. Rocky leaned back against the doorjamb and watched his sister try to squirm her way out of her friend's wrath for a moment. He suddenly felt better about his up coming date with Zoe, he thought with a grin as he finally left Clara's bedroom and moved down the hallway towards the bathroom.
"His chest?! Zoe, please don't go into any detail! . . . . Oh lord, this is Rocky we're talking about. You know . . . the goof, the guy who put frogs in my bed when we were kids, . . . Adam? Why would Adam put frogs in my bed? You're not making any sense. No! Don't go back to describing him! I don't even want to picture him in that sense . . . Zoe!" Clara's voice muffled as Rocky shut the bathroom door behind him. Rocky smiled softly to himself as he ran the water. He couldn't wait for next Friday. For once in a long, long time, he was looking forward to going out on a date.
* * *
"Hey Rocky, you've been on cloud nine all day, what's up?" Adam asked as he sat down next to his friend in blue. Rocky just gave him a huge grin as he propped his feet up on the small circular table in front of them.
"Rocky, for the hundredth time, get your feet off the table, I'm not running a stable here." Ernie called from behind the juice bar. Rocky reluctantly took his feet off the table, but the grin never left his face.
"Sorry, Ernie." He called back, and then focused his attention back on the question that Adam had asked him. "I have a date." He finally confided. "In fact, I'm going to pick her up in exactly 3 hours, 42 minutes, and 38 seconds." He added as he looked down at his watch. Adam raised an eyebrow in amusement.
"Oh really? Is it anyone I know?"
"Is what with anyone we know?" Tanya asked as she joined the two teens in their conversation. Rocky shot her a blinding smile, and Adam rolled his eyes good naturedly.
"So what's new about that?" She asked. "You go out on dates all the time, Rocky. What's so special about this one?" She asked with an amused smile as Rocky shrugged his shoulders.
"I dunno. It's hard to describe. I just think this one might work out in the end." He answered with uncharacteristic seriousness. "She's just a little different than the other girls I've ever dated. I really like her." Rocky said with a private smile. Zoe had taken him seriously, despite the rumors she'd probably heard about him in school, and that made her very different from the other girls he'd dated.
"Does she feel the same about you?" Adam asked, not wanting to burst his friend's bubble, but at the same time, trying to ensure that Rocky didn't get hurt farther on down the line by some girl that was merely playing with him.
"Yeah, I think so." Rocky replied. If the conversation Clara had been carrying on last night was any indication, he'd say that Zoe was as much into him as he was into her. "I'm going to get something to eat. Do you lovebirds want anything?" He asked. Both Tanya and Adam gave a negative nod, and then waited until their friend in blue was out of earshot.
"So who do you think it is?" Tanya asked with a bemused expression on her face. "I sure hope it isn't Jennifer." She added with a grimace. "I'm pretty sure she dumped him last weekend, but you never know. If she comes around us one more time to perform that lame cheerleading cheer for Rocky, I'm going to pop her one, so for her sake, I hope she isn't the one going out with him tonight." She finished. Adam grinned as his girlfriend made a mock punching motion into the air.
"Well, Tommy and I will probably be right behind you if Jen comes around again. Her cheers were awful. But I'm pretty sure it's not her." Adam laughed as Tanya gave a sigh of relief. "Its funny though, this is the most psyched I've seen Rocky for a date in a long, long time. I just hope Rangering doesn't screw this one up too." Adam whispered as Rocky returned with a huge plate of french fries and a bottle of ketchup. "Refilling your hollow leg?" He asked with a grin as friend in blue tore into the hapless french fries with vigor. Rocky rolled his eyes, but nodded in agreement as he shoved another fry into his mouth.
"Guys, we've got trouble in the park." Tommy announced as he and Kat skidded to a halt in front of the small circular table. The three teens groaned in unison, but each jumped up and followed Tommy and Kat to the secluded spot behind the lockers. Rocky gave his fries one last longing glance before they vanished from sight.
* * *
"Alpha! Help us, Rocky's been hurt." Tommy yelled as the group of teens teleported in supporting a barely conscious teen in blue.Alpha hurriedly led the group into the medical lab and muttered worriedly as Tommy and Adam shoved Rocky up onto the examining table.
"What happened?" The small robot asked as he hovered anxiously around the table. Tommy grimaced as he deactivated Rocky's zeonizer, and the shredded blue uniform melted away.
"He got caught in the crossfire. Weed Wacker just tore into the suit like it wasn't even there." Adam said as he pushed away Rocky's torn, bloody blue shirt to reveal row after row of bleeding lacerations. "He got slammed against the old oak tree in the park when the monster blew. The rest of us managed to get out with only a couple of cuts and bruises, but Rocky . . . well, he took a couple of really hard hits." Adam noted as he noticed his friend's right arm. From the angle it was bent at, it was obvious to everyone in the room that it was broken. Adam then cringed as he glanced down at his friend's leg. How Rocky had managed to keep that injury hidden from them until now, he wasn't sure. Either his friend had a great deal of courage, or a very high tolerance for pain.
"Oh my god." Kat uttered as her breath caught in her throat. The blue ranger's shin was covered with a slick sheen of blood, and slightly protruding from the center of the red pool, was a jagged section of white solid, that could only be identified as a piece of bone. "Do you think we should take him to the hospital?" She asked hoarsely.
"We will be better able to care for Rocky here under the protection of the power, Katherine. Do the rest of you require medical attention, or will you be able to aide Alpha in resetting Rocky's bones?" Zordon's voice boomed through the chamber. The young teens demorphed and gave themselves a quick once over check for injuries.
"Kat and Adam both have gashes that could use stitches, but other than that, we're okay. Rocky was the one who took the brunt of the attack." Tommy announced. "Tanya and I can stay here and help Alpha while you two go to the ER and get those things sewn up." He added as he turned away from Kat and Adam and focused his attention on the now unconscious blue ranger. Adam was about to protest when he felt a light touch on his arm.
"I know you want to stay and help Adam, but both you and I know that we need medical attention, and Alpha's too busy with Rocky right now to do a quick stitch up job. Tommy and Tanya will make sure nothing happens to him." She said softly as she lead a somewhat reluctant Adam out of the medical lab.
"I guess you're right." Adam finally conceded. "What excuse are we going to use this time? Accident in shop class? We were picking up pieces of glass in our backyard and got cut? Oh, and then there's the classic Rocky excuse, 'I tripped and fell, and I just happened to land on the kitchen knife I left on the floor'. It amazes me what excuses they'll buy at the emergency room." Adam muttered, half to himself and half to Kat as they teleported out of the Power Chamber. He gave his friend one last worried look before they disappeared from view.
* * *
Zoe kicked listlessly at the dirt as she swung idly back and forth on the old rope swing hanging from the oak tree in her backyard. He hadn't shown. She felt a tear slide down her face and then another. She had been so sure, so certain that his red jeep would pull into the driveway at five o'clock. But six o'clock had passed, then seven, and by nine o'clock, she'd retreated from the couch facing the big bay window, and moved out onto the swing in the backyard.
Had he just asked her out on a date as a joke? Had he been kidding when he'd asked her to go to the planetarium, and she'd accidentally taken him seriously? Zoe sniffled softly, as the tears began to gather in strength. Of course it had been a joke, she told herself harshly. How could she have been so stupid? She didn't even want to think of what she must have sounded like to him, how amused he must have been when she'd just kissed him out of the blue. She was just Tommy's little kid sister to him. How could she have possibly been so dumb?
"Hey chipmunk, what are you up to? Mom said you came out here about an hour ago."
Zoe looked up at the sound of her older brother's deep voice. She didn't want to explain everything to Tommy. He'd probably just laugh at her and agree with the conclusion that she'd just reached. Besides, Rocky was his friend, and she had no desire to open that can of worms.
"Oh nothing, I, um, just came out here to think." She replied as she tried to subtly dry the tears from her eyes, and waited for some wisecrack from Tommy. She was surprised though as Tommy plopped down on the ground in front of her.
"Your mascara is running." Tommy said as he regarded his younger sister. She grimaced, and he waited patiently for her to explain to him what his mother had already told him. She remained silent though, and she avoided his gaze. "What happened Zoe?" He finally asked gently when it became obvious that she wasn't going to volunteer any information on her own.
"I had a date tonight, but he never showed." She said softly, unable to stop herself from spilling the story. "He said he'd pick me up at five, but he didn't come. I gave up waiting at about nine o'clock, and came out here. I must have sounded so stupid to him." Zoe said angrily as she kicked the dirt under the swing in frustration. " When I think of all the things I said, all the things I did . . . Argh. He probably thought it all was one really great joke. I'm such an idiot." She said as the tears welled up in her eyes once again. She waited for Tommy to make some lame crack about how she was still just a kid, and that it wasn't that big of a deal, but it never came.
"Aw, chipmunk." Tommy said sympathetically as he stood up and grabbed his sister in a huge bear hug. Zoe tensed for a moment and then looked up at her older brother in confusion. "If this guy thinks its funny to ask girls out and then never show for the dates, then he's an first rate jerk, and I don't want you dating him anyway." Tommy said as he rubbed his sister's back comfortingly as she cried on his shirt. "What's his name? Just for future reference of course." Tommy asked. Zoe gave a small hiccup/laugh against his chest. She wasn't going to tell Tommy that his best friend had just stood her up, that was for sure.
"Its not important Tommy." She said out loud as she dried her eyes. "When did you get to be so sensitive anyway?" She asked with a bleary eyed smile. Tommy rolled his eyes.
"I can be somebody other than your annoying older brother, Zoe. I know this may come as a shock, but I'm actually a human being too. I can empathize." Tommy said as he threw an arm around his sister's neck. Zoe gave an annoyed snort, but threw her arms around her brother's waist anyway.
"Thanks Tommy." She said simply as the brief hug ended and she sat back down on the old rope swing. Tommy sat down on the ground once again, and stared up at his sister.
"Zoe, I, um, never had a chance to, uh, apologize to you. I've been trying to word it in my head all week, but it never sounded right." He said as he ran a hand through his long hair. He had bounced a couple ideas off Kat during the week, but none of the situations he had imagined had prepared him for the actual moment. He waited for Zoe to chew him out, to tell him how he'd disappointed her, how he'd hurt her.
"Apologize for what?" She asked innocently instead. Tommy scratched the back of his neck in agitation. She was going to make him do it the hard way.
"I'm sorry I hit you." He said quickly, the words falling heavily in the twilight air. Zoe regarded him with a puzzled look for a moment.
"You mean the whole thing where you were evil?" She asked. He nodded, and then braced himself for what he was sure was going to be a pretty nasty rebuttal. "Tommy, I forgave you years ago." Zoe said with a odd smile. "It wasn't even your fault really. Why can't you forgive yourself?"
"Its not that easy." He said with a disbelieving shake of his head. How could she be so calm about the entire thing? After what he had done to her, he had been so sure that she would hate him, that she wouldn't trust him. "I don't know how you can forgive me, more or less how I can forgive myself. I mean, I know we're not related by blood, but you are my little sister in every way that counts. Its my responsibility as the oldest to watch over you, and make sure nothing happens to you. I failed in that, and what's worse, I was the one who hurt you, and in my book, that's unforgivable." Tommy said as he stood up again and began to pace. "I made a promise when I first started karate, that I would never hurt anyone that was weaker than me. I mean, its my job to protect anyone who can't protect themselves, and when you're a ranger, that's pretty much everybody." He said as he stopped pacing. Zoe rolled her eyes and smiled at her brother.
"For the record, I am not helpless." Zoe said as she put up a hand to stop Tommy from disagreeing with her. "You can't save everyone, Tommy. You're only human. I admire you, and I'm proud to call you my brother, but you are not the appointed savior of everyone. Me especially. I'm not a little girl anymore, and it is not your responsibility to take care of me. Don't get me wrong, it gives me warm fuzzies to know that you care enough about me to feel that way, but I can take care of myself. As for that incident when you were the evil ranger. It wasn't your fault. If anything, I'm glad it happened because I got to know you better than I ever would have if I had been in the dark about your rangering. Its really a part of who you are, and with the exception of the rest of the rangers, no one gets to see that side of you. In all, I feel closer to you because you hit me, as weird as that is, I mean, I'd hate to be as sheltered as Mom and Dad are to the whole thing cause I think you're pretty much a stranger to them, and they don't even know it." Zoe ended. Tommy just stared at her with an amazed look on his face. "Don't you dare give me that look. You know I'm right." Zoe said defensively.
"I . . . I never knew you felt that way. Geez girl, would you quit doing that to me! Every time I think I have you pegged, that I know you pretty well, you say something so out of the blue that I realize that I don't know you half as well as I thought I did." Tommy said with a lopsided smile as he stood up and turned to go. "Thanks for letting me clear the air, Midget. You wouldn't by any chance have reconsidered giving me that dumb shmuck's name? Just in case I happen to, oh say, meet him in a dark alley somewhere. I mean I want to be able to be sure I'm dealing the right shmoe who was stupid enough to stand up my little sister."
"It's a secret I'm taking with me to the grave, bro. Give it up." Zoe said with a giggle as she pushed herself off the swing and headed towards the house with her brother.
* * *
"Oh man, what hit me?" Rocky moaned as he struggled to open his eyes. He knew from the flat, rock hard bed beneath him, that he wasn't at home. That only left one place, the Power Chamber, he thought grimly as he tried to sit up. He felt a hand on his shoulder keeping him down on the bed, and he knew then, through the haze, that he was injured. It was the only explanation given the circumstances.
"Rocky? How are you feeling?" Adam asked, his voice laced with concern, as Rocky eyes finally opened and focused. "Damn, you gave us a good scare today." The teen in green said softly.
"So what did I end up injuring?" Rocky asked as he carefully tried to sit up for the second time. Adam frowned, but helped his friend to a sitting position on the medical bed.
"You have a broken tibia, a fractured ulna, a couple of broken ribs, and about seventy stitches worth of deep cuts. You're lucky the power makes the healing process about fifty time faster than normal. I had to call your Mom, as it is, and tell her you were spending the weekend with me. Everything will probably be pretty sore for the next two weeks, but at least the major broken bones should be mostly healed by Monday."
"Thanks Doctor Adam." Rocky responded with a grin. The teen in green frowned at his friend for the second time in the space of minutes.
"Next time you plan on leaping without looking, could you give us some warning in advance? The girls and I have a hard enough time trying to keep Tommy from jumping in over his head without having to worry about you too. Just what were you trying to do anyway?" Adam asked accusingly.
"I was trying to speed things up so I could make it to my date on time." Rocky said flippantly. "I don't know why I bothered though, I missed it anyway. I doubt she'll ever talk to me again." He said sullenly as he turned his face toward the wall. Even if she had taken him seriously before this, he doubted she would now, not when he'd just lived up to his reputation of not showing for a date. Adam merely stared at his friend in shock.
"You did it for a date? You risked life and limb for one lousy date? Are you totally insane? No, don't answer that. Its just crazy enough to be something you'd do." Adam said as he realized how hard he was coming down on his friend. "If she's really worth it, Rocky, she'll forgive you and give you another chance. If she doesn't, then she wasn't worth dating in the first place." He added gently. "What's her name? I'll go improvise an explanation, and smooth things over for you." Adam said as he propped his feet up on the edge of Rocky's bed.
"I can't, Adam. It's not a good idea. There's no fixing this." Rocky said as he stifled a yawn. The last thing he needed or wanted at the moment, was to have to explain how he felt about Zoe to the rest of the gang, which would be what he'd end up doing if he told Adam. His friend was too bent on helping him out, to keep something like that a secret. Besides, he needed time to come to grips with the fact that he'd screwed up again. It wasn't everyday you lost something before you even had it, he thought morosely. Zoe was pretty understanding, but she probably believed what the rest of the world believed about the power rangers. They were invincible, undefeatable. They could leap tall buildings in a single bound. But none of it was true. They did get hurt, they did get defeated, and the last time he'd checked, he couldn't leap over a parking meter, more or less a whole building. She wouldn't understand why he'd been laid up an entire weekend, he thought bitterly, by now she was probably convinced that he was the player that all the rumors made him out to be. He doubted she'd even listen if he had the guts to actually call her up and explain. Rocky spared Adam a quick glance. The were dark circles under his friend’s eyes, and if it weren't for the chair he was sitting on, Rocky was sure Adam would have fallen onto the floor long before now. "Hey buddy, how long are you going to stick around here anyway? I mean, I'm fine for now, you can quit baby-sitting me and get some shut eye. You look like you're about to fall asleep where you sit. Alpha and Zordon can call you if there are any problems." Rocky coaxed as he saw his friend's eyelids droop. Adam managed to hold out for a whole minute before his tired body finally caved in to Rocky's suggestion for him. There was a rather loud crash as the teen in green fell out of the chair he'd been sitting in.
"Ow. I guess you're right." Adam sighed as he rubbed his sore rear and stood up. He wasn't much help here he realized, he couldn't even sit upright in his own chair. "I'll go, but you have to swear that if you even begin to have any problems, you'll have Zordon contact one of us." Adam added as he reluctantly turned to go.
"I swear already. Go home and get some sleep!" Rocky said with a painful laugh as the motion disturbed the broken ribs. Adam gave a absent nodded and then left. Rocky sighed as he watched his friend leave, ignoring the thousands of sharp twinges that assaulted his senses every time he moved. Dispassionately, he closed his eyes, and tried to get his mind off of what was quickly becoming the biggest regret of his entire life.
* * *
"Adam? I didn't wake you up did I?" Zoe asked as she anxiously clutched the phone to her ear. She had called Clara around nine o'clock in the morning, and had woken her friend up out of her sleep too. She had waited until eleven before she had called Adam. But she couldn't help but wonder at how they all seemed to be content sleeping away half the day. Didn't anybody else get up at a decent hour on Saturday mornings?
"Hum, wha? up? Who is this?" Adam's garbled voice came across the phone line.
"Sorry, Adam. This is Zoe. I'm calling to see if Rocky's over at your place. I talked to Clara, and she said that he was spending the weekend over there. I'm really sorry I woke you up, but I really need to talk to him. Is he there?" Zoe asked in one breath. She waited for a couple minutes for Adam to respond, and when he didn't she began to worry. "Adam? Adam are you there?"
"Uh, wha? Zoe? Is that you?" Adam asked. His words were punctuated by a rather loud crash in the background. "Ouch. Who decided to put the sofa there?" He mumbled into the phone. Zoe raised an eyebrow. Either Adam was a little tipsy or he hadn't had enough sleep. She was banking on the latter, he didn't strike her as someone who went out on the weekends and got drunk.
"You know what, Adam, nevermind. I'm coming over. I'll be there in a couple of minutes." Zoe said, and then hung up the phone. She was going to get some answers if she had to hunt Rocky down to the ends of the Earth, she thought determinedly as she snatched the keys to Tommy's truck off the kitchen table and headed out the door.
* * *
Adam groggily ran a hand through his unruly, uncombed hair as he watched Zoe pull up in Tommy's pick up truck. He gave his pajamas a quick once over, and decided that they were acceptable enough to be seen by his friend's sister. As he watched Zoe walk up the sidewalk that lead to his front door, he couldn't help but frown as he tried to recall the gist of the conversation he'd had with her on the phone. All that had penetrated through his sleepy haze it seemed, had been the fact that she was coming over, which left him even more confused then he had been at receiving the call in the first place. He opened the door before Zoe could ring the doorbell, and waited patiently for her to explain what was going on.
"I'm sorry I woke you up Adam. Can I talk to Rocky? Clara said he was over here. Nice pjs." She said with a grin as she stepped onto the foyer. Adam blushed slightly and rolled his eyes as he shut the front door.
"Hey, I'm decent, and that's all that counts. Does Tommy know you drove his truck over here?" Adam asked as he peered out the window once more to make sure he hadn't imagined the vehicle.
"No. He was asleep, and being the nice wonderful sister that I am, I decided not to disturb his beauty slumber." Zoe said with a grin. "I think I might have striped a couple of the gears though, and I'm pretty sure I left the transmission behind on Oak street. You know, driving a stick shift wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be, lucky for me there weren't very many people on the road. How do you get it not to stall at a stop light anyway?" She asked. Adam blinked once, and then laughed.
"Tommy is going to be spitting bullets when he finds out what you did to his baby. What possessed you to come over here this early to look for Rocky?" Adam asked as he regarded the short brown haired girl with amusement. Zoe bit her lip as she took a moment to word exactly what she was going to say. She didn't want Adam's pity if Rocky had stood her up as a joke, but she also didn't want him to think she was out to stalk his best friend.
"It's almost noon, Adam. That isn't early." She said as she stalled. Adam rolled his eyes, but waited for her to continue. "I was, uh, supposed to meet Rocky last night, and he never showed up. I was wondering if something was up, or if he just forgot. Is he around? Can I talk to him?" She asked a little uncertainly as Adam gaped at her. She gave him an odd look as he continued to stare at her. "What?" She asked, as the stare began to unnerve her.
"You were the one he was so thrilled about taking on a date?" He finally asked in disbelief. Zoe lifted an eyebrow. She wasn't sure quite how to take that. Did all of Tommy's friends think she was ten or what? Yes, she was the one Rocky had asked on a date, was it really that surprising? Zoe pushed the questions into the back of her mind, though, and nodded.
"He was supposed to pick me up at five, but he never showed. What is going on, Adam? Where is he?” Zoe asked as she resisted the urge to take a fistful of Adam’s shirt and shake him. The boy wasn’t giving her any answers, and he couldn’t seem to get the look of complete astonishment off his face, she noted with frustration. “What happened last night?” She asked between gritted teeth. The tone of the question seemed to jolt Adam out of his stupor, and he quickly grabbed Zoe’s wrist and dragged her out of the view of the front door.
“Rocky got pretty bashed up in the fight we had with Weed Wacker yesterday afternoon. I’m taking you to the power chamber, he can explain the rest to you.” Adam said as he punched a button on his communicator before Zoe could respond.
* * *
Rocky woke with a start as he felt something soft touch his bare shoulder. Groggily he opened his eyes to the harsh fluorescent lights of the medical lab, and came face to face with a pair of worried green eyes.
“Hey Adam, I think he’s awake.” Zoe said in a loud whisper as she motioned the teen in green pajamas over to the bed. Rocky jumped as he realized who was leaning over him. What was she doing here? How was he ever going to explain? Hadn’t any of them ever heard of sleeping in?!
“Zoe?” He managed to ask as he swept out the remainder of the cobwebs of sleep. “Am I dreaming this? Quick somebody pinch me.” He said as he began to wonder if it was all a figment of his depressed unconscious. “Ouch. Thanks Adam.” He muttered as his friend obliged him. Nope, he finally decided as he rubbed the sore spot on his arm, it definitely wasn’t a dream. He watched as Zoe scowled at Adam and gave him a light smack on the arm.
“You weren’t actually supposed to pinch him! He’s injured.” She announced sternly as the Asian teen rolled his eyes. Rocky had made it through the night okay, and as far as Adam was concerned, his Hispanic friend would be as good as new in a couple of days.
“He’ll be up and hobbling around by tonight.” Adam predicted as Zoe shot him a rather skeptical look. “And if he knows what’s good for him, he’ll quit leaping without thinking like he did yesterday. You’d be an awfully hard person to replace, Rocky.” Adam said sincerely as his friend gave an apologetic nod. “I’m assuming you’re going to want some time to talk to Zoe alone, so I’m going to go back home and get some more sleep. Buzz me if you need anything.” Adam added as he walked out of the medical lab. Rocky waited until his friend left before he focused all his attention on the girl beside him.
“Zoe, before you say anything, let me explain.” He pleaded as he held up his hands. “Now I’m sure you’re probably convinced I’m the world’s biggest con. But believe me, I never had any intention of standing you up. I’m not invincible. If I’ve learned anything from being a ranger, its that. If I could have, I would have been there. Please, believe me.” Rocky stopped as Zoe put a finger to his lips.
“If you start apologizing for trying to save the world, I’m going to have to throttle you.” Zoe declared with a teary-eyed smile. His mouth opened in shock as he watched her turn red with embarrassment as she brushed away her tears. She was making a complete idiot out of herself, she knew, but she couldn’t seem to help herself. She knew that the rangers risked life and limb to save the planet, but somehow she’d never realized that they could get injured or even killed. Until now.
Rocky tried to stamp down his unreasonable panic as Zoe knuckled away the tears that were gathering in force. What the heck was he supposed to do? He contemplated for a few seconds on demanding her to stop crying, but he discarded the idea. It would probably upset her more than she already was. He settled on sitting up with the intent of putting an arm around her shoulder, although he would have climbed ten mountains, if it would have gotten her to stop crying, he though to himself. Her horrified gasp as the sheet that had been covering his battle scared chest slipped off, however, wasn’t what he’d been hoping for.
“Oh no, Rocky.” She whispered hoarsely as she lightly traced the five inch scar he’d gotten from Mower Mangler that was now criss-crossed by four newly stitched slashes. Rocky wrapped his uninjured arm around her as she sniffed loudly.
“It doesn’t hurt that much. Adam was right, I’ll probably be up and walking around by tonight. The powers speed up healing quite a bit.” He said as she sank down onto the edge of the bed. Slowly he pulled her close, and leaned her head against an injure free section of his chest just below his throat. “Are you going to be okay?” He asked uncertainly. Zoe’s head whipped up, and collided with his chin. He gave a small grunt of pain as his teeth slammed together in one jarring motion.
“I’m so sorry, Rocky! Oh lord, here you are trying to recover, and I’m trying to clutz my way into hurting you more.” She said in a panic as she lightly pushed him back down onto the bed. Rocky smiled at her distress, ignoring the numb feeling in his jaw.
“I’m fine. Don’t worry. C’mere.” He said with a smile as he pulled her down beside him. “Can you forgive me for not showing up?” He asked as he focused his brown eyes on her green ones. Zoe nodded solemnly, and Rocky smiled. “Do you, um, want to go to see the tar pits with me next Friday? We could get dinner afterwards and then take a walk down by the beach.” Rocky coaxed.
“The tar pits?” Zoe asked as she cracked a smile.
“They’re really cool.” Rocky said sheepishly as Zoe grinned at him.
“I’d love to.” She added with a laugh, as Rocky sighed with obvious relief. “Oh no! What time is it? Tommy’s going to kill me, if I don’t have that truck back before he wakes up. I’ve gotta go, Rocky. I’ll see you in school on Monday?” She asked as she hopped off the bed. “Bye.” She said shyly as she bent down and brought her lips to his. Rocky threw his good arm around her and deepened the kiss. Both were reluctant to break the contact, but eventually they did. Zoe gave a small wave as she walked out of the medical lab in search of Alpha, and Rocky gave a contented sigh as he watched her walk away.
* * *
“Hey Zoe, what’s up?” Tommy asked as he sailed past his sister’s bedroom on his way down the hall towards his own bedroom door.
“I’m putting on make-up.” Her muffled response reached his ears. Tommy stopped abruptly in his tracks. Make-up? His sister never wore make-up. He frowned. It was a Friday night and his sister was grooming?
“Zoe? Do you have a date?” He asked in his best ‘older brother’ voice. He walked back to her bedroom door and peered in. His sister was wearing a green plaid skirt that only came to about mid thigh and a form fitting white short sleeved shirt that left an inch or two of her mid-drift when she reached up. A delicate silver chain was suspended around her throat, and her shoulder length glossy brown hair was swept up in a pert ponytail. She’d also taken the time to curl her bangs, he noted.
“Yeah, I have a date.” She said as she nervously smoothed a pleat in her skirt. “Do you think this is too dressy? We’re going to the tar pits, out to eat, and then to the beach. I think I’m going to bring along a pair of jeans though for the beach. You know how windy it gets along Los Vedas cliffs.” She said absently as she rummaged through her drawers.
Tommy gaped at his sister. He decided immediately that she was dressed all wrong. The skirt was too short, and the white shirt wasn’t covering enough of her middle. This was his baby sister! Wasn’t she still supposed to be running around in pigtails and overalls? She was way to young to date, right? Tommy scowled.
“Midge, I think you should change. I mean these clothes are a little revealing. You don’t want to give this guy the wrong idea do you?” He asked sternly. “Who is this guy anyway? You know most guys have only one thing on their minds. I think I should meet him first, just to make sure he’s okay.” Tommy finished as he folded his arms across his chest. Zoe raised an eyebrow. Her brother was strange.
“Are you my brother or my father?” She asked as she pushed her way past him and headed for the family room. “At least Dad didn’t try to tell me that all guys have sex on their minds.” She muttered under her breath. Her mother was sitting on the couch reading a book when she walked in.
“Mom does this look okay?”
“You look gorgeous, hon. Knock ‘em dead.”
Tommy’s eyes bugged out. “You’re not going to let her out of the house like that are you, Mom?” He asked in utter disbelief. His mother raised an eyebrow and gave him a confused look.
“Tommy there’s nothing wrong with the way you’re sister is dressed. Are you feeling okay?” His mother asked with a bit of concern. Tommy rolled his eyes, but nodded anyway.
“But Mom, I mean, she’s . . . well, she’s a kid . . .” Tommy sputtered. The doorbell, however, interrupted his indignant comeback. “I’ll get it.” He grumbled. Tommy walked out of the family room and onto the foyer. He opened the front door, and to his immense relief, found Rocky and not Zoe’s date. There was still time to get her to change.
“Hey Rocky, come on in. Maybe you can help me out. The females of this household have completely lost their minds.” He said as he led the Hispanic teen into the family room. Rocky would back him up. He had younger sisters, and Tommy was sure he would sympathize. Rocky stilled at the doorway as Tommy plowed right on in.
“Don’t you think Zoe should change? She has a date tonight. I mean, you know what most guys our age would think, right? Its for your own safety, Zoe.” Tommy went on, oblivious to everything. Zoe and Rocky were both glaring at him, and Mrs. Oliver seemed highly amused by the whole situation.
“I think she looks beautiful.” Rocky announced, ignoring the horrified look on Tommy’s face as he walked over to the petite brunette. “These are for you.” He said as he handed her a small bouquet of daisies. Zoe flashed him a brilliant smile.
“They’re beautiful. I love daisies.” She said as she brought them to her nose and inhaled deeply. “Thank you, Rocky.”
“Here hon. I’ll go put them in water.” Mrs. Oliver said as she plucked the flowers out of her daughters hands. She chuckled as she caught the confused look on Tommy’s face out of the corner of her eye.
“Thanks Mom. We’ll try to be back before midnight, okay?” Zoe said happily as she hooked her hand in the crook of the arm Rocky had offered her. Her mother smiled.
“Okay, hon. As long as you too stay out of trouble.”
“I’ll take good care of her Mrs. Oliver.” Rocky said, and with that escorted Zoe out the door. Tommy turned to his mother in confusion.
“Where’s Midge going with Rocky? I thought she said she had a date.”
“Son, I love you, but sometimes, you’re as dense as a post.” Mrs. Oliver said with a laugh as she saw the realization in Tommy face.